Thursday, September 29, 2011

24 Years Ago Today

On September 29, 1987, I started my first real job.  Naturally, there had been plenty of other jobs but they were part time or seasonal and I didn't need them to actually support myself.  They were just there to pay for my 1980s vices (let's not discuss those here, ahem). 

I'm honestly not really sure how I got the job.  Even then, I didn't remember sending them a resume but a phone call and an interview later, I was working for the local newspaper.

Maybe it's the rain today that's making me so nostalgic or maybe it was facebook reminding me of the owner's birthday.  Or maybe it's because it's Thursday and I was online reading the columnists like I do every week but it's been on my mind all day.   In a good way.  Sometimes that type of nostalgia can be very melancholy but not this time.

I've been reminded of the man who gave me the world's best cheesecake recipe.  And the woman who gave me the pattern for my favorite baby sweater.  I've looked around my office today and realized how different it is and yet, somehow, work is the same.  

I remember so clearly the columnist for the paper who stood at my desk and recited the last two pages of The Great Gatsby to me from  memory.  When he was dying, I wrote him a note to tell him how special that was to me.  I don't know if he ever got it but it instilled in me a lifelong commitment to eulogizing the people that I love while they're still alive to hear it.  

And I still tell the story of the day that one of the reporters--after a particularly nasty fight over something--wrote Fuck You in foot high red letters on a length of green bar paper and left it draped over their adversaries desk.  (It's funny to me that I felt I needed to add a link to green bar paper because a lot of people probably don't remember it at all.  It seemed so space aged at the time.)

I have habits that I can track back directly to that job.  Our advertising manager used to say "It's clean up time" at 4:45 every day.  I still do that.  Even if I'm not going home until 6:00 or 7:00 I still tidy my desk at 4:45. 

I fold 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper in half.  Almost compulsively.  Because that's what we did at the paper.  It was folded to be 8 1/2 by 5 1/2 to go into the copy baskets.  All of my knitting patterns--folded in half.  Directions to anywhere--folded in half.  I probably have 20 pieces of paper folded in half in my purse right now.   

I clearly distinguish between house and home.  There's a difference in the meaning of those two words.  I never say the bride or the baby was beautiful--all brides and babies are beautiful.

I laughed when I read one of the columns in today's edition.  It was about Twitter.  This from a woman who, once we started using computers, refused to have one in the front office because she didn't like the way it looked.  In 1987, birds tweeted.  Not people.  I still have the little bookmark that she gave me for a Christmas present one year.  I love to read and it was a perfect gift for me.  It's a little gilded monkey holding a bell.   Is it a reminder of a simpler time?  I don't know.  I just know that it makes me happy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I'm Slowly Emerging

When we last spoke, I had had a crappy-doodle day.  Although nothing else dramatic has happened since then, I'm not really sure how to describe this week.  The word maze keeps coming up but that's not exactly right.  I haven't hit any walls or been chased through the snow by Jack Nicholson. 

Maybe catacombs is a better word for it (although not the definitions with the graves).  Lots of twists and turns and I feel like I'm in the dark a bit.  But there are lights--in my mind they are very gothic torches--along the way.

So here's how it's gone:

1.  Big leadership change at work.
2.  Supposed to go to knitting group and cast on a Baby Surprise Sweater.
3.  Skip knitting group and knitting to go back to work and meet with our night shift.
4.  Deal with a bunch of other issues while I'm there.
5.  Home and crash.  No cast on yet.
6.  Ridiculously early meeting.  Bring yarn and needles to work just in case I have time.
7.  Meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings.  And not a knittable one among them.
8.  Home and cast on.  Knit some.  It's going. 
9.  Saturday morning wake up early early early.   Knock out a big chunk of the sweater while my HandyMan sleeps. 
10.  Lose a bunch of knitting time because BrattyGirl is bored and lonely and wants to have lunch. 
11.  Discover that the grocery store in a Hassidic neighborhood is paradise on a Saturday afternoon.  Very few people and lots of good food.
12.  Got the cart with the OUTRAGEOUSLY squeaky wheel.
13.  Home.  Clean.  Cook. 
14.  Sunday morning--see number 9.
15.  Clean carpets.  Not sure why but I found this oddly stressy. 
16.  More early days and late nights at work.  Some knitting but not enough.
17.  Had a "damn it" moment.  I can knock out a Baby Surprise with my eyes closed.  Realize that stressy=unfocused.

Am planting my ass on the couch tonight.  This sweater is just too magical to let it get under my skin.  I actually made up a line by line spreadsheet for the pattern ages ago so that I don't have to pay attention to anything but the pure genius of the engineering of this sweater. 

I'm aiming to have some photos up soon.  The yarn is a new one from Manos and I really like it so far (although I did hit a knot).  I'll report on it when the sweater is done.

My home computer is still crashed and I am too broke to fix it or get a new one right now so I'm playing "hit and run internet access".  Maybe some money will fall out of the sky!  Is that too much too ask for?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Frankly, Frankie

Okay, are you ready for this one.  It's a good one.  And it's one of the reasons that my silly little life absolutely fascinates me. 

I live on a street that is about a quarter of a mile past a three block long commercial area.  We have a great corner store.  A terrific little market.  A bar. Another great corner store.  At least three banks.  A Chinese restaurant.  A Latin coffee shop.  A soon to be opened Japanese takeout joint.

And a pizza place.

If you are from the Y.O. you will understand the nuance of a "pizza place".  It's not a pizza shop.  Or a restaurant.  It's not a store.  It's a pizza place and it really is just that simple.  It's a place where you go for pizza.

When I was a kid, the pizza place was owned by a family name Triarsi.  I think that's how you spell it.  The whole family worked there.  Two sons and a daughter.  The mother and father.  And a sort of random guy named Patsy.  Mrs. Triarsi was one of the prettiest women I've ever seen.  She had a look that my family refers to as "La Strega"--the witch.  Olive skin, black hair and blue eyes.  She was gorgeous and she was nice.  They were all nice.  And for a buck you got two slices (on wax paper thank you very much) and an RC Cola. 

Eventually Patsy took the place over.  There was fire.  There was a move.  There was another move.  There was a change of ownership and for years and years now, it's been owned by a guy named Frankie. 

Frankie is what we lovingly refer to as "a character".  He wears his shirt open to his waist and clearly uses Pantene on his chest hair.  His hair is a dramatic dyed pompadour (there is a whole school of thought that it's a wig).  He wears a big gold medallion and shockingly sculpted facial hair.  He wears white patent leather shoes with a Cuban heel.  He makes a killer pie, great meatballs and a pasta with garlic, sausage and broccoli that makes you believe in true love.  He calls everyone sweetheart.

You know this is leading to something don't you?

I had a shitball of a day today.  Utter chaos would have been a walk in the park.  I had to go back to work (again) at 8:15 to talk to our night shift and dry a lot of tears.  I finally headed home around 9:30 (ish) and had a text from Pat (of the tomatoes).  Perfect.  I was going to stop at the pizza place and grab a chicken parm wedge for HandyMan and Pat lives right around the corner so she agreed to meet me for one glass of wine.

As I parked the car and headed over to the pizza place, I couldn't believe that yet another wall of shit had fallen on me.  The pizza place was closed.  All the lights were off.  I was hungry.  I knew my honey was hungry.  And goddammit the pizza place was closed.

But the door was open.  So I poked my head in and said "Hey--Frankie!  What?  Suddenly you're working bankers hours?"   Long story short, the stove was still lit and the oven was still on and 15 minutes later, I walked out with my sandwich and a pizza.

But here's where it gets good.  He wouldn't let me pay for it.  In his words, "It's the end of the night sweetheart.  You're a good customer.  If I can't feed you, I can't feed anyone."

I actually had tears in my eyes.  I started to say "Frankie, today was awful and you just turned the whole miserable mess around for me."  All I got out was "Frankie, today was awful."  He cut me short and said "Not anymore."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Things I Will Never Forget

As I prepare to spend a day with some good friends and family, I keep being inundated with the phrase "Never Forget".  And it feels very incomplete to me.  Never forget what?  For the people who were injured or lost loved ones, to tell them to "Never Forget" feels a little cruel to me.  To suggest that they could possibly forget what happened is naive.  I do hope that they have somehow been able to relearn how to live their lives after such a profound and public tragedy and that they have been able to embrace the future.  But they are the last people who should be reminded to "Never Forget".

So, what should I be reminded to "Never Forget".   The fact that hatred exists?  Nope, I don't need to be reminded of that.  I see it all the time when someone crosses the street when a young, black man is walking toward them  The fact that we live in a world divided?  Nope, don't need that either.  We live in a country divided. 

I think that, perhaps, the day we should remind each other to "Never Forget" is September 12th.  And the people we were that day.

1.  We grieved--individually and collectively.  I know that I normally fear grief.  It makes me uncomfortable because I know that I can't do anything about it.  In times of grief, I need a job.  I'll cook.  I'll clean.  Just please don't make me look it in the face.  On September 12th, we openly grieved together.  And by doing that we created unity.

2.  We took care of each other.  Hands were held.  Backs were rubbed.  We touched each other.  Normally, we don't hug each other as often as we should.  We don't hold hands because we don't know what people will think.  Our world is so convoluted that, often, touching is misconstrued as potentially sexual rather than as a simple human function.  There's a reason that we have the ability to feel each other.  I think it is because we are supposed to. 

3.  We showed our personal weaknesses.  We talked about things that we never would have otherwise.  We showed our wounds. 

4.  We accepted help.  This is often the hardest thing of all.  Our first responders helped.  The volunteers helped.  Everyone I know did everything they could think of to help.  And, in doing so, we all accepted the help of others.  Needing help is often seen as a sign of weakness.  On September 12th, we discovered that, if you say you need help, someone will help you.  It may be because I find asking for help so difficult that the acceptance of help really resonated with me.

5.  We were all on the same team.  I have a friend who was as far on the other side of the fence politically as I am, as a person possibly could be.  And we argued.  But, at the end of the day, we always hugged each other and went on our way.  Our arguments became debates.  And then our debates became conversations.  Before September 12th, we were on opposite teams.  Now, we realized, that we just played different positions on the same team.  And we achieved compromise.  And we learned so much from each other.  And we didn't say, "I told you so" when minds were changed.  We just kept working together.  Our friendship became stronger and I still cherish him.

And with all of these things, nothing bad happened.  The fear of touching, the fear of grieving, etc. etc. had no bad consequences.  In fact, they were all good things. Our vulnerability worked to our benefit as human beings.  So that is what I will never forget.  And I will do my best to do so with an open heart and an open mind.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I'm Just Planning on Celebrating the People I Love

This does not make me un-American.  Frankly, I think it makes me more of an American. I am sick to death of all the programming on TV about the 10th Anniversary of September 11th.  Mostly because I find so much of it profoundly disrespectful.  Really?  I need to see a show about "How Pop Culture Saved America"?  Are you kidding me?

If you had asked me on September 10th if I could have emotionally survived watching thousands of people die, I would have said "Absolutely Not!".   I assumed that I did not have the fortitude to handle something like that and that I would have had to be institutionalized.  But that didn't happen.  

What did happen was that it made me want to be a better person.  Like thousands, actually millions, of others, I just wanted to help.   I realized that we live in a turbulent world and that, perhaps, peace is a pipe dream.  But compromise and acceptance are not and I could embrace those in my own life.  It took a long time for me to articulate this.  September 11th was raw.  It was painful.  I felt the glass in the air when the second plane hit the towers.  I was so overwhelmed by the loss of the day that I actually focused on the pigeons that must have been killed in the plaza between the towers.  That was so much easier for me to handle than all of the people who were gone.  

Earlier this year, I was at a Bat Mitzvah and, since I couldn't understand the Hebrew portions of the ceremony, I read the prayer book.  And I found a prayer that said (and I paraphrase):  Don't pray for things that have never existed.  Don't pray for peace--instead pray for tolerance and communication.  Wow!  It rocked my world. 

In that moment, I realized that the idea of peace is totally individual.  I know what I think peace looks like.  You know what you think peace looks like.  And they are probably extremely different visions.  Because, since we have no real, global examples to hold it up to, peace is completely subjective.   

On the other hand, I have seen--and participated in--acts of kindness.  Moments of coming together.  Unique situations that could have gone terribly wrong but turned out just fine.  And I can seek those out and try to make them bigger and more common.

I will be watching one program on September 11th.  I will watch the 48 Hours coverage of the day.  Do you know why?  I will watch them because they were there.  And I will pray for all of the people who were there and not watching from up-river like I was.  And, on September 11th, I will shine a white light out of the very bottom of my soul for all of the people who are remembering loved ones lost.  And all of those who stepped up and became a better person that day.

And in their honor, I will live my life to the fullest. I will do my best to live every day as if it is my last.  And I will try my hardest to be kind and loving. And (and I know that there are people in the world who will have a problem with this), I will include the people who did this horrible act in my prayers.  Their lives were lost as well and I am deeply saddened that there are so many people in the world who are so profoundly hateful and unhappy that they see acts of terrorism as the best option for themselves. 

I double parked my car at the post office today and, as I was hopping out of the car to run to the mailbox, a man who was crossing the street took my mail out of my hand, added it to the pile he was carrying, gave me a little wave and took it all across the street and dropped it in the box. 

I think that we should start a new tradition of making "September 11th Resolutions".  Mine is to try to be like that man who took my mail today and do one, small act of kindness every day. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

It's Better Than Saying That I Sit Like A Man

The other day, I tried to explain to someone that I had a certain way of sitting when I knit.  I only sit this way at home on my couch but, since that's where I do most of my knitting, I pretty much consider it my stance.

What I said was, "I sit like Whitney Houston singing 'I Will Always Love You'".  They didn't get it.

Elbows on my knees.  Yarn between my feet.  The big difference is that I'm usually not wearing lipstick, my hair is in a pony tail (I shed), I have no body guard and I haven't just pimp slapped Bobby Brown.  I do, however, usually take my bra off so me and the Whitster have that in common as well.