SMELLY CAB

This is about adding insult to injury. Taking a taxi in Manhattan requires taking out a second mortgage on your house. If you had a house, which you don’t, because you live in Manhattan. Anyway, it’s pricey and will rattle your teeth and probably scare the bejesus out of you for good measure. So, what you don’t need is to have to smell something foul while contending with all that.

After waiting like a good New Yorker fifteen minutes for the 79th Street crosstown bus, in the subfreezing temp, I gave in to the inevitable and hailed a cab. I was meeting a friend on the East Side (I’d gotten my visa and all my papers were in order) and now, instead of being pleasantly early, I was running late. Which I hate.

Once inside the taxi, I took my first breath of other-than-icy air. Phew! It stunk! And holding my breath for the next ten to fifteen minutes didn’t seem like a really viable option. Where are the barf bags when you need them? If it had been even 40 degrees, I would have opened the windows and hung out like a dog.

I feel that body odor is a form of covert hostility. Don’t you? I was an imprisoned recipient of the driver’s aggressive stench. And there was absolutely nothing to do about it. Back in the day (1800’s?) women would have a perfumed hankie tucked in their wrist which they could press to their nose to help manage their contact with the fumes abounding in the great unwashed world. I wished for that hankie, but had to settle for sniffing the inside of my scarf and taking these furious notes.

Because I’m a congenital coward, I gave Mr. Stinky a tip. I just don’t want to make waves, especially when they are so noxious.

And here’s a weird post script. By the time I reached my destination I had begun to “adjust” to the smell. I remembered something an old friend, Dr. Jane, had told me. (She went back to school/Med. school after I had worked with her at a healthcare company – and actually became a doctor. She was full of scientific facts.) We adapt to our olfactory environment. And, when you get older, your feet don’t smell. (That was just an extra bit of wisdom. No extra charge.)

Loud crowd

I remember being sixteen, overflowing with zeal. Now I’m verging on being the nasty old codger.

Those kids – so loud! So bumpy! On the street, in the market. When I see a gaggle of five or six or more, I feel dread. Why? Because I know their en masse energy will trump my space. Whack. A thoughtless shoulder. Ear-splitting shrieks or rumbling newbass that I can feel in my body. Deafening.

A muzzle and a harness seem indicated.

I’ll cross the street to avoid them but sometimes there they are. Like in MM’s yesterday. Lunchtime – what was I thinking?

(Just a sidebar…What is with the repetition of things I really know better to not do? Like downloading anything random from the Internet. Like shopping in any store that makes sandwiches around school lunchtime…)

The private schools in my neighborhood release their great hungry penned-up student population to forage the land in a radius of two to three soon-to-be-depleted-of-edibles blocks. They had descended on the usually fairly civilized MM’s. (It’s not Fairway, thank God, where mayhem reigns most of the time.)

I needed some sliced turkey. Was it really a “need?” Or was it an unconscious wish to encounter an early episode of hell-to-come – you know, that soon to be released dark situation comedy that is destined to run for eternity.

As I approached the back of the store, the wave of adolescent mania hit me with a one-two punch. First it was the sound, then there were the jangly bodies, which kept intersecting with me – no matter how deft I was in my navigation. They were all of the boy persuasion. I really wanted that turkey, so I found a small piece of turf and held it, my antennae and flinch reflexes extended to the max. For a very long five minutes I ducked and swerved, but I felt that hands over ears would be a challenge to the burgeoning macho swirling around me. So I kept enduring the reverb.

The end was nearing and one by one they peeled off, to devour great heaps of meat and bread. In my mind, they just unhinged their jaws and shoved it down. Monster movie images had taken hold for me.

When the quiet returned, I almost fell to my knees in thanks. Didn’t. No desire to incite any Uh oh, we have a crazy! responses in the remaining shoppers.

Recovery, like the slow shedding of an itchy sweater, began once I was outside again. I spotted a few of the boys rounding the corner and then they were out of sight. Good-by loud crowd. Must be more vigilant and avoid you. I know I once was you, but now you are anathema.

(Do not un)FREE THE INTERNET.

In this second decade of the 21st century, the world relies on access to the land of everything via the magic (who really understands it?) of the internet. To put blinkers or hobbles on it would be like making a decision to return to the dark ages.

Taxing and regulations are the prescription for clenching of the now loose jaw through which any and all words and images may flow. As they say in the courtroom: Doesn’t the probative value outweigh any prejudicial effect?

You all know exactly what I mean. While it is true that freedom comes with a cost, unfreedom empties all coffers.

Cyberspace is the place to stand and fight the gathering forces of big brother. I want to say FUCK YOU to whomever I please, whenever I wish; and to say I LOVE YOU as well. And “yes” as well as “no.”

Let us not permit the undoing of Al Gore’s wonderful invention.

LIFE ENDS BADLY

But there’s an upside. Compassion rises; bullshit burns off.

So I have learned from my friend, R. He’s got cancer. This is not supposed to happen in my storyline – and not in his either. But it’s happened nonetheless. And he’s one of those rare people who is pretty much always authentic, so I’m graced with his real experience and responses to this new dire turn his life has taken.

How can I explain why I look forward to talking to him? Isn’t it a universal truth that we all want to avoid engaging the evidence of the grim reaper? And what could be more vivid evidence than cancer? But I’ve loved this guy, my dear friend, for thirty years or so. Because he tells it straight but with a lyrical twist. So, even cancer can be an engaging point of contact when he shares his truth. And his fear and sadness. And the physical changes he is experiencing.

I want to say I believe he will be okay – because I do. But, ultimately, we are not destined to be okay forever. We all have an expiration date. Should we turn leaden and stop living as we approach it? …if we know when it is, or can surmise that it’s getting close?

No fucking way. Let’s be like R. Honest, alive, full of piss and vinegar and every phase of the human spectrum. Staying in contact with self and others and hope and dread and whatever is real.

He tells me about what is happening in his body – not just clinically – but in a way so I can understand what it’s like for him. And he let’s me be how I truly am, which is sometimes freaked out by what I hear, and sometimes up to being full-on supportive. He gives more than he takes. But that’s always been the case.

HELLO, OCEAN. IT’S ME, KAREN.

Saturday, we had occasion to make a winter pilgrimage to my favorite place on earth, Fire Island. There was a real estate broker as an escort. He is California-laid back, which only added to the great glowing gift of the day.

Fair Harbor is a beach community I’ve spent a great deal of time in, over many decades. But I’ve seldom been there in the dead of winter. And, as we all know, this winter is at the nadir of deadwinterlyness. It was bone quiet. The charming walkways were absolutely empty – except for the three of us and Nick, our broker’s, blue truck and the clean snow that made white the most prominent color wherever you turned your eyes. There was one other entity which made it’s presence known: a quick brown fox, who skittered in a mindblink across our path.

As luck would have it, despite the howling cold of the past many days and the imminent snowstorm due that afternoon, we arrived in a lull of well being. The wind wasn’t blowing and it was tolerable cold (as opposed to the I can’t fucking stand it for another moment kind of cold we have been experiencing.) There was a house to look at and, after our purpose was fulfilled, I heard the ocean calling my name. I actually do experience the big water as having a voice, so I’m not just being apocryphal. I walked toward the ionic pull and the soothing seasmell, like a child about to be reunited with a lost mother. At the end of the concrete pathway is a small boardwalk which goes up and over the dunes. I ascended and there it was. The vast blue roiling waters; a wide swatch of sandy beach in between us. It was not the day to trek over the sand – I would have to commune from this distance.

Hello I said aloud. I’m here.

All my senses and my heart were full. The ocean, the magnificent Atlantic, was as it always is, a constant force and an ever-changing entity. It’s my true home, my brother and sister, my guide and, yes, what I believe in most in this world. Reforging the connection, for even those few minutes, was a powerup that will last me until Spring.

IT’S A VISION THING

I recently visited my soon-to-be nonagenarian mother. This was – as it turned out – an occasion for her to take me deep into the vault of her precious things.

Like most would assume about their parent, I thought I knew her – well, all my life, for a start. Just a regular kind of woman, special to me, of course. Having the early bird special with her friends down in Florida. But I didn’t know that she was, in fact, the Dowager Empress.

A blinding array of jewels were shown to me. Who are you? I thought when I heard her say…And this I got in Vienna… Spain…Russia. That’s where I bought the bracelet, ring, brooch…

Diamonds, amber, silver, gold, topaz…I was unable to retain the full magnitude of what I saw. I stood there, rapt and surprised. It went on for a long time. I knew she had travelled, with my father back in the day. But they went on tours like the other middle-class travelers who had saved and were “seeing the world.” I had no idea that these were journeys of acquisition.

I felt like a poseur, a plebian, a commoner. She was the real deal. As each gem was gently unwrapped and unveiled and presented, she showed me how the light caught the facets. I realized this woman was to the manor born. It matters not that the manor happened to have been in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Some people are just natural royalty. They have a royal turn of mind, of appetite – if not blood.

And so, I dipped my head just a little in acknowledgement of the Empress, my Empress.

We see, but through our old assumptions. It’s a vision thing. The challenge for children is to look at the familiar parent and see the new, and some of the old that was always blocked by our self-focused blinders.

CALL FOR ME – a brief reverie

I don’t remember any friend ringing my apartment bell when I was a young or pre-teen child. Because our second floor apartment faced the front, my friends could stand on the sidewalk and call for me. It went exactly like this:

Karen’s mother! Karen’s mother! Can Karen come out to play?

There was a protocol, you see. One of respect for the authority of parents.

And now, as I faced my recent quandary about the lack of an outer doorbell, buzzer or intercom, I wished my apartment again faced the front. Visitors, patients and tradespeople could call for me now.

It was an efficient system.

I DON’T GET IT

This is not really a rant – more of a wonderment (nice new term, no?)

There are quite a number of things I just don’t get. They just don’t compute. When I encounter them, I just think, HUH? …

The USPS (post office) website: It may be a government thing. (No surprise there.) The other day my husband, needing to mail an envelope, asked for my help in determining how much it would cost to post something to Montreal. Twenty-five minutes and a great deal of circularity later, I gave up my superior smirk and joined him in his head scratching. Also, there was a seemingly simple question of how much “Forever” stamps cost. This, too, led to a mazelike set of unsatisfying responses. Guesses were hazarded in both instances. But why, I ask the great mindless postal entity, can’t there be simple answers to simple questions?

Resignation. No, I don’t mean quitting your job, I mean giving up or giving in to powerful but not insurmountable forces. Why not keep fighting, pushing, trying? I know. Disappointment, rejection, failure feel awful. But is it really more awful than hopelessness and helplessness? I have a bias, true. And it takes into account those actually impregnable barriers. Don’t bash your head against them. But they are not as plentiful as some think.

I don’t get body piercing. No. I’m not kidding. It’s your skin! Yuk. Okay, an earring I can see. But nose, eyebrows, nether regions. Double yuk. Now I have to intentionally erase those images from my mind.

Congressional and executive inaction. Right, I’m taking on the big dogs. Just for a moment. You spend your time energy and fortune getting elected. More than anything, you want the power to govern. But once you’ve got it, you do nothing. The country is on the skids. The populace is in fear and loathing. The world is one bad actor away from Armageddon. So what are you waiting for? I don’t get it.

 

PITY THE POOR PUPPIES: Part two of the theme…

Am I just an alliterative asshole, or can we construe my consonantal confluence as cleverness?

Really. The blog is like a license to kill.

Weather and outdoor plumbing. An old-fashioned combo we socially evolved humans think back on with disgust and horror. And yet we schlepp our shivering animals into the streets or gutter (not so much anymore in the City) or turn them out in our backyards (who has a backyard in my neighborhood?)

Their uncovered tushes have to make unfettered contact with the freezing wind and snow and sleet and slush, while we stand there all bundled up. Yes, they have fur. But how many of you have Huskies as pets? Few. Most are dogs bred for attributes other than thrashing through the tundra (it’s a tic, I think).

These beasts are not of burden, they are of laps and cuteness. Do they bitch and moan even when they shiver in the blast of realfeel below zero temps? No. They may hesitate a bit as they cross the threshold. (You give an extra tug.) They may look at you with eyes asking for compassion. (You don’t notice.) And then, you have the audacity to get quickly annoyed if they haven’t pooped and peed like little machines. Thirty seconds and you’re giving them the old – Come on FIDO, can’t you hurry it up?

So, when is someone going to devise an indoor dog toilet? No, not a friggin’ wee wee pad. I mean something that flushes. If we really loved our pets as much as we say we do, wouldn’t we have put our minds to that task a long time ago? Wouldn’t we have seen several competing prototypes on Shark Tank?

I mean cats, after all, have a nice cozy litter box. Some have even worked it out to balance on the edge of our human toilet seats. But cats would give us the middle finger if we tried to walk them in the bitter cold. They’d laugh their feline laugh at the hutzpah of their stupid biped feeders. What, they’d say, me stick my slinky body into six inches of snow. You must be delusional. Here, let me ignore you a little extra for the insult.

Our devoted doggies, on the other hand, are long-suffering and all too often willing to take a bullet for their masters. They are, indeed a higher level of “human” then we are. So, when are we going to treat them with the consideration they deserve?

Let’s hear it. Chant it with me. PITY THE POOR PUPPIES.

 

DOGFIT

No, not a canine convulsion – I’m talking clothing for pooches.

Cold weather is an opportunity to release the hounds of four-legged fashion. From the functional to the frou frou; from the pink and bedazzled to the hand-crocheted. It’s a pet passion of mine; I live for sightings of my furry friends encased ‪in cloth.

My absolute favorite is the sweatshirt with hood! I guess the incongruity is what I’m hankering for. The mix of unvarnished beast and drape – well I can’t take my eyes off it.  But now an even more adorable twist…Today, on a sleek greyhound, under one such charming garment, was a long-sleeved tee. Yes, layering! The skinny forelegs encased in dark blue cotton were a warm chuckle on a frigid day.

A word about dog shoes: I saw a little Pomeranian with three miniscule booties: one was missing. And the day was an post-snow,  iced-up one – so she was barely letting that fourth paw touch the ground. I had the same sad pit in my stomach I have when I see a toddler with only one mitten. Poor cold baby!

Headgear: A nice baseball cap or a knit with a pompom will make my day. But the Sherlock Holmes-style hat with flaps on the basset hound… You go too far!