Tei

Last week an artist named Tei asked me to contribute an article to his website. He suggested that I write something relevant to men and women, something “serious.” It appears that ipod eulogies, dialogues with dead poets, and tributes to imaginary women named Dinah, (the stuff I know), wouldn’t appeal to his audience.

If Tei had asked me to write about crunchy Cheetos vs. puffy Cheetos, the top five mascaras, the benefits of sugar-free Red Bull, the difference between Burt’s Bees lip balm and Chapstick, plucking gray hairs and pretending that they never existed, finishing an undergraduate degree in eight years, getting home safely after ten rounds of tequila, reusing take-out containers as dinnerware, pretending to work at work, being conned by transsexual psychics, the first season of Fraggle Rock, or living almost entirely inside one’s mind, I would’ve been all over the article. I could have even written about Noah’s final days and how he suffered from dehydration (irrational fear of water), or the special kinds of thistle that make good floating baskets for babies, but something relevant for men and women, and I’m at a loss.

What do I know about non-platonic men/women relationships? Nada, Rien, ничего, Zilch, 没有, Nothing. My friend Tan has told me repeatedly that I’m a “late bloomer,” and clearly she means decades late (at first I thought she was talking about my breasts and hips, but now I know she means everything). I’m still struggling to learn something about “Love,” and it’s worse than third-grade fractions (never learned those either): Woman/Man + Conversation – Love = ? (Woman over man plus conversation minus love equals what?).

I could, at length, write articles about going home with strangers and watching Afrocentric movies, going home with strangers and drinking vodka, hitchhiking in the rain and getting a patdown, refusing to give it up to the best eye candy ever (and regretting it), refusing to give it up and not regretting it, having great first, second, and then “please lose my number” third dates, the inability to actually connect with men under sixty, drunk dialing tendencies which in the millenium has become drunk texting, ridiculous obsessions with guys who can’t like me, and my disease of over-flirting (flirting while under the influence).

Someday, I will write an article for Tei’s site, and hopefully it’s earth-shattering and rapture-filled, but first I have to learn something about relationships. So, here’s the plan (what’s written must manifest):

1) Move to Paris in August.
2) Reinvent myself as a “normal” person; stay quiet, very quiet.
3) Learn various smiles: mysterious, coquettish, “I have tricks up my sleeve,” “I’m so much fun, and not insane,” “You’re so amusing,” “I would speak, but this smile says it all.”
4) Start baking; it’s come to my attention that men like baked goods.
5) Borrow some of the vanilla extract from the brownies I’m gonna bake, and rub it all over me. It’s come to my attention that men like the scent of vanilla.
6) Hang out; it’s come to my attention that it’ll be easier to meet someone if I’m not snuggled up on the couch watching romantic comedies on Netflix.
7) Stop drinking tequila… it’d be nice to remember what goes down.

Then maybe:

Old and New and Newer Older V

Though I have some work to do, I’ve spent this rainy morning looking through the documents in my “fun” folder. The “fun” folder that’s saved on my desktop includes amusing email correspondences, wacky photos of friends, forwarded jokes, and events that I hope to accomplish. It’s always interesting to compare one’s plans from the past with those of the future. My favorite things to do list was written a few years ago, and I reference it often to see what was done, what’s still left to do, and if my interests have since changed.

Here’s the old list (absolutely unchanged):

july and august have 31 days, so my 31 things to do this summer:

1) learn french (rosetta stone promises basic fluency in 8 weeks)
2) write creatively everyday (by aug should have a short story)
3) buy a sketchpad and some paints
4) pay macys bill off in its entirety
5) get a box of godivas and eat them all guilt-free
6) bake double fudge brownies (buy a pan)
7) see a play
8) buy a cheap bicycle and ride in branchbrook park
9) practice yoga (still dvds)
10) go sailing
11) attend a performance (dance or music)
12) go to a sporting event
13) take a fun class that requires no mental ability
14) rent annie, west side story and the way we were
15) early one saturday, go to greyhound and take the first bus leaving (ticket under $50)– spend the day in that town
16) visit walden
17) get some goldfish and a small tank
18) have a picnic near a lake w/ a picnic basket that includes
cheeses/wine/strawberries/cold chicken and chocolate cake
19) go to the zoo
20) go to the botanical gardens
21) go to a fair or coney island
22) read war and peace or crime and punishment past page seven
23) take a trip to jamaica
24) travel to europe (received 2 emails about copenhagen this week)
25) turn off the phone on mondays
26) volunteer
27) practice complete silence once a week
28) fast once a week
29) clean apt and donate to the salvation army
30) visit more museums
31) read more osho

Sadly, there are quite a few things that up until now that haven’t gotten done: I never bought that bicycle, took a “fun” class, wasn’t parenting material enough for a goldfish; never read War and Peace or Crime and Punishment; never had a picnic, visited Walden or the botanical gardens; never took a random Greyhound trip, baked brownies, or went to the zoo, etc.

However, it amazes me how many things were put into motion with that list; a friend suggested that we go to Berlin and Copenhagen that August and we went, two months later Jamaica called, New York Cares became a project for a few months, read tons of Osho, paid Macys and cut up the card, and best of all ate boxes of Godiva chocolates by myself. Boxes.

It amazes me that year after year French fluency has always been number one on my things to do list, and it’s actually going to happen this year, in France and not on a couch at home or a class at the Alliance.

So friends, here’s 2011′s list for the newer, older V:

1) learn french
2) read war and peace or watch war of the roses
3) visit amsterdam, madrid, helsinki, marseille
4) have a picnic in a park with a basket filled with grapes, cheeses, bread, wine, and a bowl of sardine surprise
5) lie all day on a beach…….all day
6) take a fun class in mime or jewelry design or pottery or photography
7) get paid doing something that i love
8) donate clothes to the salvation army
9) go to the zoo and pet the animals that won’t kill me
10) couchsurf (with friends and friends of friends)
11) cycle (on a bike or in a gym)
12) learn to cook a fancy dish, maybe a knockoff version of Ian’s beef stew by way of Julia Child
13) write a short story or a book or a poem or a play or a letter to a friend
14) see a play
15) visit a psychic
16) go on a retreat in the mountains
17) be happy with less

The world is open, receptive and waiting, and as always I’m extending the invitation to those of you who’d like to do some of these things with me.

Ipie

Ipie, my best friend and purple ipod, is dying. I’m afflicted with guilt, and struggling with the five stages of death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. As I reflect upon Ipie’s life, I wonder why s/he has to leave this earth so soon. There are so many music-filled hours to give.

I first met Ipie in 2008 at the Apple store on 14th Street. In a room full of ipods and electronic gadgets, Ipie stood out. I don’t know if it was Ipie’s purple sheen, compact size, or sleek physique, but s/he caught my eye. I wanted Ipie, and there was a glint in Ipie’s screen that let me know that I was also desired. Owning something is a big commitment, and I wondered if I was ready. Could I give Ipie the care s/he deserved? Could I be responsible with charging, syncing, uploading tunes? After careful consideration, I decided that I would take the plunge; it was time to be an ipod owner.

We had great moments in the sun. Yes, it’s easy to revel in sun, “everybody loves the sunshine,” thus it was the winter that was the true test of our relationship. Walking to the Path train in six-inch snow, with the wind slapping my face, and icicles in my bones, I hit play. Ipie offered encouragement, told me not to “worry about a thing,” “here comes the sun;” told me that I “must go on standing;” made me believe that someone would “show me all the magic that a perfect love can make;” let me see that even when I had no heat, “I got my friends, got my liver, got my tongue.” When I was bored, happy, depressed, poverty-stricken, joyful, manic, ridiculous, Ipie had a corresponding tale to relate in English, German, French, Portuguese; I didn’t always understand what Ipie was pouring in my ears, but I understood Ipie’s sentiment that life is more than “just another manic Monday.”

Denial: Ipie’s fallen twice. Now every time play is pressed, the song on the screen and the one in my ears don’t correspond. Then, Ipie freezes, and blasts the tune. Sometimes Ipie doesn’t do anything at all. This isn’t my fault…and it’s not Ipie’s fault. Who’s to blame?

Anger: Apple’s to blame! These devices should be sturdier, they should be able to withstand drops on concrete, accidental dunks in puddles, banging around in a purse. The anger I feel sounds like DMX’s “Rarararraaaa!”

Bargaining: This period of mourning will go on and on “all night ‘til the break of dawn.” Maybe if I shake Ipie…maybe if I press play harder…..maybe if I recharge Ipie overnight….

Depression: “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away, now they look as though there here to stay, oh I believe in yesterday.” When I thought Ipie couldn’t hold anymore versions of “Yesterday,” s/he opened up, “What about Marvin Gaye/En Vogue/Boyz to Men/Ray Charles/Bossa Nova versions?… We can do this all day.” There should be more time: “Time, time, time, what has become of [us]?” I don’t want to walk anywhere without Ipie in my pocket and ears protecting me from passers-by.

Acceptance: All good things end. I must learn to let go, and appreciate all the special moments that Ipie and I shared. There’ll never be another Ipie; if and when I go to the Apple store again, the ipod purchased will be green; Ipie may be replaced in my ears, but never in my heart:

In My Life (The Beatles)

There are places I’ll remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more


Ian

Ian is the third brother that I never knew that I wanted, but I’m lucky to have. He’s my eldest brother’s best friend from university days, and for longer than I can remember, he’s been a part of the family.

Last Saturday night, I slept over at Ian’s colorful apartment where I enjoyed a game of Rummy 500, in which I thoroughly trounced him. Rummy 500 has become a ritual with he and I; every meeting at his place means that a card game must ensue. My brother DJ and Ian taught me the game when I was in junior high (though, they have tinkered with the rules to their advantage since then). On that memorable first day, we sat on the floor of their Lower East Side apartment (they had no furniture), and the pack came out. Nine cards each were dealt, a fifty-piece bucket of Pluck U wings smothered in death sauce was divvied, and a tradition had begun.

On Saturday afternoon, DJ told me that Ian would be cooking dinner, so I should head to NYC. It took two hours to get to his place from my other brother’s home in Long Island, and it was with eager anticipation that I thought of the scrumptious wonders in store. I knocked and knocked and knocked on his door with no answer. I called his cell twice and his home phone. No answer. Almost faint, I started rapping on his door; “Had I been misled; is there no food here?” Thankfully, I’m no quitter, and after persistent knocking, Apt #808’s door swung open.

Friends, you should have seen the man who opened the door. Ian was in a gravy-stained shirt, crumpled jeans with the top button undone, and his eyes were half-open. It seems that the dish that he cooked had knocked him out, and he was suffering from exhaustion combined with the -itis. He had recently watched Julie and Julia, and impressed by the cinematic qualities of Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourgignon, he aimed to replicate it. It took him fours to prepare. Four hours. He could’ve flown to Montego Bay in four hours, written four chapters of his memoir, cleaned his apartment, hand-carved a cigar box for his favorite grand-uncle, learned twenty-four words of Spanish, joined and been kicked out of a seminary, painted a knock-off Matisse, watched the movie Julie and Julia twice more, etcetera, etcetera. Instead, he cooked beef stew. Admittedly the beef was good, but that could have been the bottle of red wine that he emptied into it.

After eating my portion of the beef stew with a boiled dumpling(French-Jamaican fusion), he retrieved the recipe from the kitchen and explained to me why the stew took so many hours to prepare. The cooking directions are intensive and a bit ridiculous (“Buy this bacon/not that bacon, buy these mushrooms/not those mushrooms/ cut this/slice that/drain this/yayaya”). It took him almost as long to tell me how to prepare the dish that I never will cook, as it took for him to make it. Then, I told him how to save himself time in the future by cooking a dish that I created, and of which I’m especially proud. It takes four minutes, and one will never break a sweat or fall into a drunken stupor after its preparation.

V’s Sardine Surprise:

1) Pour a box of cornflakes into a bowl (cereals with sugars or raisins cannot be used)

2) Empty a can of sardines onto the cereal (sardines in oil preferable)

3) Sprinkle a tablespoon of blue cheese onto the cereal and sardines (or however much blue cheese is in your fridge)

4) Add eight capers (not less than eight, and no more than ten)

5) Liberally add hot sauce

6) Grind all ingredients together for forty-four seconds and serve (with a spoon or fork, your choice)

Enjoy!