Sunday, September 20, 2009

When You're Least Expecting

I've had the weirdest week. I'm usually a very upbeat person and typically greet the day with a smile on my face and a light air of happiness. This past week saw the other side of me come out though, starting on Wednesday morning with the maintenance men. I can't narrate the story of the maintenance for you or I will start to simmer again. Given my previous history with the maintenance men in this building - including the one who ASSAULTED my friend in my apartment and subsequently plead guilty to some misdemeanor version of the charge - Wednesday could have been worse. Seeing that the aforementioned man was at my building to work on the emergency plumbing fix (which caused them to turn off the hot water with no notification to any of us) was definitely the worst part. He said nothing to me - just smiled. Creepy. But it actually was the other man who I dealt with to fix the minor problems in my bathroom that irritated me the longest. And the no hot water. I hadn't showered yet.

So Wednesday morning sucked. A lot.

Then the strangest thing happened: I found out I was being hired two days on a union voucher for work, which means that now I will be able to join the union. I have been working for this for 15 months and had all but given up hope. Conceding that I can not survive on non-union wage alone, I was preparing to go back to a corporate job and actually had a meeting arranged for that afternoon with a placement agency. And then completely out of the blue, I found out my good fortune.

I was so overwhelmed and surprised by it that I couldn't truly celebrate! My energy was stuck in that bitter, angry spin cycle where the next innocent passer-by may get knifed. I mean, they say it's going to happen when you're not looking for it. Well, they say this about love. So I think they must mean it about all amazing surprises. You're not expecting any new cash coming in and then you receive a random refund check from your credit card company. You go with your friend to an audition and they like your look so you read - then you book a national commercial. You walk around the corner, broccoli in your teeth, stringy, unwashed hair, no makeup on to cover up the three new zits that sprung up overnight, and you walk into your soul mate. (I'm testing this last one out by regularly going for walks looking my worst - I don't even brush my teeth - but so far the only men I've walked into was a garbage man and a gay dog-walker. The dog-walker sort of foundered backwards. I think he caught a whiff of my morning breath.) Well, not only was I not looking for the voucher success; I was deaf, dumb and blind to it. I have no idea how it happened. And I'm not sure if it's really hit me yet.

Wednesday morning: low. Wednesday afternoon: high. Thursday I worked (union!) and was in a slight fog all day. I think I was afraid they might change their minds while I was there and inform me I'd only be earning the non-union wage or something. Friday I was on edge, waiting for confirmation that I was working (union!) on Monday again. I did get confirmation and then heaved a big sigh of relief. But I haven't been able to shake this whole feeling of frustration that started Wednesday. I thought when the time came that I earned all the prerequisites to join the union, I'd be over the moon. I have yet to do my full spontaneous joy song/happy dance. I am going to do it soon though, I am. Here is how it goes:

Yeeeeeeeeeahhhh!!! I'm joining the union! I did it! (double fist-pump, kick, kick, kick)

Oh my God!!!! I'm going to be union! Yay meeee!! (fist-pump, kick, fist-pump, kick)

You know what? That felt good. I'm actually already feeling a bit better. Maybe I'll stand up and do a few kick-pumps.

Yay me!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Parking Rage

I'm going to go back to school. I'm going to earn my Ph.D in Psychology and I'm going to write my thesis on "Parking Rage" and I'm going to publish it in all the leading psychology journals and I'm going to become famous for my theory on its cause and how to solve it. I'm going to become known as Dr. Parking.

In my small apartment building (12 apartments), each apartment is assigned one space. One apartment, who has crowded a family of anywhere between four and seven depending on the week it seems, has at least three cars in its possession and has blatantly hijacked at least one of the spots in our rear driveway. I'll call them the Smiths. They can only get away with this because one apartment is currently vacant. That, and they're yellers. Trust me, I've been on the receiving end. That's a random story for another time. I'll call that one "A Day Late and a Holler Short". Anyway, with each apartment having one parking spot to itself, it would seem there wouldn't be much room for confusion here. And yet there is. The people I mention above are the worst consistent offenders. But the tenant who irritates me the most is the Christian man upstairs.

Folks, I mention his religion for a very specific reason. My understanding of Christians include that they are to act like Christ; i.e., be loving, kind, show compassion, etc. So I expect a man who evangelizes to all new faces in the building the Lord's Message and tried hard for almost a year to get me to attend his church (where he informed me they 'don't hug or do anything weird like that') to be particularly kind and patient. Unfortunately, I also know there are many "people of faith" who have become so blinded by self-righteousness that they lose sight completely of what real faith and love for God is and become awful, Christ-less versions of religion. Feel free to slap me if you ever see me becoming one of them. This man, since he is advanced in age and though feisty, could be my grandfather, is not someone I can slap. So I am left to quietly seethe while he starts regularly parking in a non-space in our driveway: the area opposite my car, against the building's wall. And while I am usually able to get out well enough, pulling in is always a challenge when someone is parked there. And my friend visiting me right now spent 20 minutes the other day trying to get out of my parking spot, poor thing.

So today I decide no mas. Today I spoke with him, kindly and sweetly, and asked if he would please not park there, that it is not a parking space, and it is difficult for me to get in and out. He hesitated - he was silent for a good ten seconds - and then said "Sure." About ten minutes later he came downstairs and brought up the topic again to me, trying to explain that he'd worked out an arrangement with Mr. Smith to park there (opposite my car) only during certain hours of the day, when Mr. Smith is home from work. I held my ground, quite firmly but as nicely as I could muster with my waning patience. He acknowledged that it is illegal to park there. (Duh. That is why he was almost towed from the back driveway about a year and a half ago. He bribed the tow truck to leave without taking his car. He told me that night that it had happened because he'd broken his promise to God - his promise not to park back there ever again. I did not bring up this bit of history when speaking with him today. But I doubt God's forgotten it.)

The driveway is clear of extra cars, for now. I have a clear path to take when I leave here in an hour. I hate to say it, but I feel the odds are in favor of him parking there again. The thought of it makes me seethe...

My thesis, when I am Dr. Parking, Ph.D, is that our parking spaces become extensions of ourselves. When someone tries to take advantage of us by abusing our parking setup, we take personal offense to it. Men have been killed over less. Me, I plan on moving to a nicer apartment just as soon as I can swing it. It will be in the country and everyone will ride horses everywhere. There will be a barn out back where everyone has his own horse stall. And if anyone tries to squeeze his horse into my stall, so help me God-- I'm going to dump a load of horse shit on his front stoop.

As for the misguided Christian man upstairs... I will pray for him!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

B is for Booty

Several months ago I was... um, dating a guy. I call him Dave. I met Dave on set while working one day on a period piece. My first impressions of Dave were not favorable. He was wearing tights. Tights, some kind of froofie collar and an awful flat-haired wig. He latched on to me instantly and while I thought he was nice enough, I also thought he might be slow. He talked a lot about his dead grandmother. Not exactly the kind of conversation that makes you say Hey fella, you're turning me on! What do you say we shake off this Renaissance attire and really break a sweat together? (Ignoring the fact that I was so snapped, laced and strapped into my corset that removing any of my costume required professional help, of course.) The point is, I wasn't impressed. Then when we were leaving, I was a bit behind him. I noticed him waiting for me. He was trying to be discreet but I could tell. And when I checked out and walked by him he spun around as if our timing was pure kismet. We walked out to the garage together. I couldn't help but notice, something was very different. He has black, thick, choppy/spiky hair. He's actually very good looking. And he drives a motorcycle! All things to turn around my dweeby Norman Bates first impression to a date-worthy kind of guy.

We exchanged numbers and started to communicate. I use the word "communicate" because he seemed disinclined to talk on the phone, versus texting. He is, in fact, a serial texter. His most frequent text to me: "Hey."

But I digress. We started to communicate, which lead to hanging out, which lead to some wildly entertaining sex. He was a dirty boy... mama like! But he remained rather distant outside the bedroom and mama did not like that. I finally told him I didn't want to be just a booty call, that I was at the point of wanting to be with someone, to have a boyfriend and ultimately a husband. He listened thoughtfully and didn't say too much. A couple of days later he texted me that all he could handle right then was sex and so he thought it would be better if we were just friends. By the way, I give him credit for that! And that shows you how idiotic and thoughtless a lot of guys are. I was happier that he leveled with me than sad that he didn't want to be my boyfriend.

Not proudly I admit to you that I tried as hard as I could to get him to come over for one more Paso Doble in the sheets. (Hey, I'm like a camel! I have to store it up!) He reluctantly declined, siting the rareness of actual success between F Buddies staying just Buddies apart from the F. Whatever. I was crushed that he turned down my request for one more for the road, but what are you going to do.

Things initially progressed awkwardly between us. As I expected, he didn't seem too comfortable with being a friend! Attempts by me to get together somewhere in public for some innocent event, like coffee, went unaccepted. We saw each other at work occasionally and that seemed to help turn the tide. Then I took a friend to go hear him play out (he's an aspiring singer-songwriter too, did I mention??) and it was like good times at the old friends home. Very comfortable and loads of fun. Nice.

Last night while talking with a friend, fighting off sleep in between sentences because I was so tired, Mr. Dave texted me.

Dave: "Hey"

Me: "Hey"

"What are you doing?"

"Talking with a friend, about to hit the hay."

"Why don't I come over?" [Editor's note: spelling of "come" has been corrected here. Dave spelled it the vulgar way.] [January's note: I said he was a dirty boy!]

"I'm exhausted, worked long day. Gonna go to bed."

"Well how about I wake you up? ;)"

*Sigh.* Dave, you're about four months late. And you can't seem to spell. And your deep love for your dead grandmother makes me feel kind of icky. Plus your tongue ring really is amazing for some things [Editor's note: January is forbidden to expand on this remark] but really gross when I kiss you. So, no. No, you may not come over. No, I will not be your booty call. As a very wise woman once said, if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it.

And no, that doesn't include tongue rings.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Cheesecake

OK, so maybe I never made a cheesecake for the firemen. But while searching for an image to put at the top of my post "My Season of Baking", I stumbled onto this picture of classic New York cheesecake. I may need to resume my baking.

My Season of Baking

Seven years ago right now I was putting the first of my homemade cookies into the oven. I'd rushed home from work in the city to my apartment in Brooklyn Heights and baked a batch as fast as I could. I finished them some time before nine o'clock and then, wrapping them carefully, I walked over to the neighborhood firehouse, Engine 205, Ladder 118. I nervously knocked on the side door. The big, front door was down and there were no signs of life. I think I may have rung the bell. A young fireman greeted me. I told him I'd baked some cookies for them, and his eyes lit up and he welcomed me in and lead me to the back of the house, to the kitchen, where they were all gathering. Apparently firemen all eat together and sort of late, since their shift-change comes during normal dinner hours. They enthusiastically welcomed me to eat with them. I felt bad. I was there to bring comfort to them. I was feeling lousy myself and I could only imagine how they were feeling. But I stayed. I can still taste the ground beef-pasta creation (actually, I think I just burped some of it). A couple of the older guys sat with me at a table, the younger guys a bit shy to be talking with an attractive young woman bearing baked goods. Or maybe they had girlfriends, young wives - ? Either way, the older guys were comfortable enjoying my company, not shy or quiet at all.

As we started to eat, they all angled themselves to face the TV hanging from the wall in the corner. A documentary about 9/11 was about to come on. I was stunned. I hesitantly asked one of the guys next to me if they weren't kind of sick of seeing all the stuff about 9/11. It was a year. Their house lost eight men that day. He replied "Well, yeah, we are. But we're in this one." And so they were! The show narrated what happened to them on 9/11, interviewing some of them. The TV showed these firemen - in this firehouse - in this kitchen, with the same TV that I was now staring at in the same corner of the room. It was surreal. None of them were upset; I guess they had a year to cry and grieve about it. They were very brave men, as I learned after 9/11. One never really considers the bravery of a fireman until he actually dies in one of those burning buildings trying to save someone. 343 firemen were killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11. It's almost too much to think about, even eight years later.

The firemen at the house that night lifted my spirits so high, I no longer was feeling depressed. I was happy and so appreciative for the sacrifices these men made for us everyday. I was so happy that the next day, the first anniversary, I rushed home and baked for them again. And when I got to the house to deliver the baked goods, their main door was up, and a young fireman who wasn't there the prior evening thanked me for the cupcakes and I went on my way. A lot of other folks in the neighborhood had brought by baked goods and flowers. It was all really nice, and really appropriate, but I found myself thinking 'Wouldn't it be nice to do something special for them on other days, not just this anniversary?' So that began my baking for the firemen, something I continued for almost a year, until some gained weight made me reduce the frequency of my baking (I've never been able to resist chocolate chip cookie batter!) and a new boyfriend became the recipient of what rare baking I did. So ultimately, I baked for them for a season. My season of baking for the firemen... something I'll always be so happy I did. I wasn't able to take away the hurt for anyone I knew who was affected by the acts of 9/11, but I could certainly sweeten things a bit.

Revolution Number 9

Gee, is it Thursday already? How did I go this long without writing anything? I'm trying to be good about that. I'm trying to write every day. The more I do it, the better it feels. But it's easy not to write. It's easier not to do anything. It's easy to be a big fat f*ck. Excuse the expression. It's always just flowed so nicely.

Not that I am a big fat f*ck, thought I have been feeling overweight and unhappy with my body for some time now. How long is some time? Oh... three years. Three years. Ever since I moved here. How the hell does someone go for three years without liking her body, the very baseline of her self-esteem? Well, it's not nice, I've got to tell ya. But I'm being honest. I'm owning up to it. Here it is: I have body image issues. Most people look at my body and think it looks fine. I look slim enough; I have an attractive figure... Ironically, I've gotten more positive feedback about my ass recently than ever before. Me, I look at my body and think "My ass is too big. I can't fit into my pants anymore. My pants are literally ripping. I... can't... fit into my clothes. I've gained weight."

Moving to California, of all things, actually decreased the activity in my daily lifestyle. I've gained weight and I've kept it. It was a little slow, and then the last six months or so really pushed me over the line. How much weight am I talking about here? Thirty, forty... sixty pounds? No. Not even ten. So help me God I'm being held hostage by 9 pounds. Nine pounds is all it takes to drag my esteem through the gutter. What the hell is that. I'm an intelligent woman. I'm a sane woman. I know that's ridiculous. I know that's... unreasonable. But I can't help how I feel. And I feel... unattractive. And I feel upset, because so many of my clothes don't fit me. And I feel sad because I want nice clothes. I want cute little dresses. I want to wear fun skirts. And guess what? I've got a closet full of them. But I can't wear them. They don't fit. They look horrible. And - you know what? At this point I'm not even sure that they do look horrible. But I feel like they look horrible. Because I feel horrible. I'm being held hostage by nine freaking pounds.

I've read a lot of really interesting things over the years about women and their bodies. My favorite is probably the piece "Size Six: The Western Woman's Harem" by Fatema Mernissi, published by Ode magazine in August 2003. (Check it out: But all the well-written and really, really sensible articles you could read don't change what's inside you. If you've been drilled since birth that thin is in - and if in your lifetime skinny, flat dimensions became really ideal - it takes enormous strength and flawless sense of self to embrace your body and love it for each and every glorious inch and pound.

I have a lot of glorious inches. I may have some trouble loving them all today, but so help me, I'm going to love them all before I die and hopefully much sooner. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. I feel a revolution coming on!

I am beautiful! My body is beautiful! My cellulite is b-

Ah, let's not get carried away here. One inch at a time.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

January's Botanical Garden

(Left to Right) The stepchild, Cathy; the wounded Christmas Cactus; its healthy sibling.

The sign I'm hoping saves the day.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Green is the New Black Thumb

I have a black thumb. I have killed every plant I've ever owned. This mostly means I don't bring plants into my household. Being an avid decorator though, I long for the harmonic feng shui some living shrubbery would bring to my home. So every now and then I've tried.

A rather unsuspecting friend gave me two beautiful Christmas Cacti a few months ago when she was moving out of town. I didn't have the heart to tell her she should bid them adieu since she'd never again see such full, expectant, beautiful green plants. If she expected me to video-phone her the plants to see how they were faring, she had another thing coming. But then I had a strange turn of luck. They were too big to be inside, and she had kept them on her balcony, so I put them on mine. (Editor's note: January's balcony is actually the stoop outside her front door. She doesn't have a balcony.) Suddenly they were blossoming their beautiful hot-pink flowers. How did I fare before such creations of beauty grew outside my door?? I felt suddenly confident. Perhaps I could learn to grow plants like a professional. Perhaps green is the new black!

And then one of them started wilting.

I don't know what happened. I watered them equally and not too often. The one stayed large and in charge. But the other one... well, it became pitiful.

One morning I went out to water them and upon touching the soil, realized they had already been watered. What?!?! Someone else was watering my plants?! Oh my God, someone was committing planticide -- they were being over-watered! This was very distressing to me. I thought about it, starting with the most obvious suspect: the old foreign semi-crazy lady across the courtyard. I'll call her Babushka. Babushka stores her mops in the flowerbed under her window and keeps various chairs outside her stoop depending on what she's discovered on the curb that week. She also regularly leaves an abandoned shopping cart in the courtyard after a particularly fruitful shopping trip and I always wait until dark and push it out to the sidewalk in front of the neighbor's building. Anyway, I asked Babushka's son one day (she doesn't speak English) if by chance she'd been watering my plants and if so could she stop. Her shrieks informed me it was not her.

My next probable suspect was the landscaping guys. They come weekly and though I hadn't seen it happen myself, I did note that my plants' dirt was moist on Mondays... So one day when a guy was out cutting the grass, I spoke with him, asking if he'd watered my plants. Bingo!! He said yes, they were dry. I said, they're cactuses idiot, they're suppose to be dry. Well no, I didn't say that. I would have said cacti. But actually I said thanks, but please don't anymore since I'm watering them. He smiled and answered that he wouldn't.

Last week my struggling cactus seemed to be perking up! Until after Monday, and then she wilted again. Her soil again was damp. Grrr... Now I'm thinking either that man is not the same one who always comes and/or there is a language issue going on since he and the other guys primarily speak Spanish. I am desperate to save my cactus! And I'm worried that the healthy one may go too. So I am taking the toro by the horns!! I have made signs to put up by my plants in English and Spanish. So help me Dios, this had better work. Mis plantas need an intervention here, and soon. Wish me luck.

(The editor wishes to include mention of January's third plant, evidently the stepchild, since she left it out. January and her mother went shopping for it when her parents were visiting. It is a Camellia Japonica Purity and it loves shade - perhaps the real issue with January's cacti. January named it "Cathy" after her mother. She's therefore holding very high hopes that she doesn't kill it.)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Days of Wine and Roses

I got a blast from the past tonight when my dear old friend Pete with whom I'd studied abroad our junior year of college popped up on my caller ID. We were rolling on set so I didn't pick up. And it turned out it wasn't him, but his friend who also studied there with us. Here's the voice message. Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

"Hi January, this is Tom O'Connell calling you. Perhaps you remember a little town in the south of France... on the ocean beach... tying me up in the bed... and having your way with me. 'Cause I sure remember it. And I think it was a damn good time. So, Pete and I are sitting here hanging out tonight, thinking about it. We both have a bunch of kids now, and are married, sitting in the doldrums of life, thinking back to the wonder years. So just wanted to call and say... thanks. Bye-bye!"

Um... ah... you're welcome? No, I mean... Damn you Tom O'Connell, you dirty mid-30's year old man!... Uh...

This guy is still smiling thinking about a lay he had in December 1993? I suppose I could point out how utterly pathetic that implies his sex life since has been. Or I could mention that I remember no details about it except that it didn't happen again and wouldn't have happened at all if my roommates hadn't gone to Barcelona that weekend. I could also go into some depth on the array of emotions this message brought about this good Catholic-raised contemporary woman: guilt, mortification and the giggles, not necessarily in that order. I should probably mention that Pete and I have always been friends. It's not like 16 years has passed since we've spoken. And he's extremely good-natured, so I believe there was nothing ill-spirited by this call. So... here's what I think:

They were very drunk.

And I was very good ;)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Paging Dr. Banner

I pride myself on being a calm, peaceful, fairly evolved human person. I keep an even keel. Rarely do things rattle me. I've even stopped cursing at people when I drive. Yet today I witnessed myself, from a painfully close proximity, go from Calm Happy to Angry Bitch in about five minutes time. Literally, like Bruce Banner, I morphed from a very happy woman who'd just seen a wonderful film (Julie & Julia, by the way - highly worth checking out. The cuisine was not the only masterpiece in the film. Exceptional performances by Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci stand out too) to an angry, upset person who could find nothing but fault with her parents. Five minutes. That's all it took for me to sell them to the devil. I was pissed.

The matter at hand is so insignificant that I have no choice but to believe the whole episode was another Opportunity From God that comes along every now and then to change something awful about myself. The more something irritates me, the more I probably need to check it out and ultimately let go of it. I've been having such a nice time with the Dlos. After the movie, to which we arrived about a half hour early, I noticed the time and realized we had seven minutes until our free parking expired. Seven minutes. Holy crap, seven minutes and the world was ending. It was a preview of 2012. It was insane. I felt overcome with the need to "pay" for the parking before it became un-free, so I waited until my Dad came out of the loo - five minutes now, and Mom was still in there - and told him I was going to pay the parking and to meet me at the car. I then ran across the mall... RAN. There, I clarified it: I was insane. I ran across the mall and down to the pay-machine and punched out for free with two minutes to spare. I then came back upstairs to wait for my parents, knowing Mom moves slow and figuring I'd see them as they approached and we would rendezvous sooner. I waited. And I waited. Ten minutes passed and they were no where to be seen. Then it started: the painful descent into Where the hell are they? and Really? Can she REALLY still be peeing? and SON OF A BITCH. DON'T THEY KNOW I ALREADY PAID OUT THE PARKING AND WE HAVE TO LEAVE THE MALL NOW??!!

Oh, Lord. I was so far gone, I didn't care who saw my flesh turn green or my pants rip open for my expanded muscles. Mom finally called me (Me: "Where are you??") and said they were at the car. Now, this should have been the end of the incident. But it got worse. I ran down the stairs... and couldn't find the car. Specifically, I couldn't remember where we'd parked.

Dick. Just call me Dick.

It probably took me no more than five minutes and two phone calls to Mom from that point to find them, and we left with no problem... but the damage had been done; I'd exploded in my head at them and was embarrassed by the jerk I'd become. Like a flash flood, I'd flash-assholed. I flasholed. They were calm and unfrazzled, I think because they knew how worked up I was. They've gotten very good at that, counter-balancing their children's moods. My brother especially has given them lots of practice. However, today was my turn. I felt bad about being at all bitchy to them. I felt worse to know this part of me still exists.

Before I found the car, once I'd realized I was lost and now was the one delaying us further, I had a quick talk with God. "Lord, I know I messed up here. I get it. I was impatient and now I'M the one screwing up! But seriously, I get it. Now, can you please help me find the freakin' car?? THANK YOU!"

Not my finest prayer. Sometimes I like to think He's up there enjoying the show and I take pleasure knowing at least someone's laughing. Other times I know He's just up there, gazing down at me, all "Oh, child. Ohhhhh, child.", nodding His head like the parent of a new puppy who's just chewed up his new slippers for the eighth time. Lots of love, lots of patience, some amusement and way more wisdom than the puppy - or I - has at this point in its life.

Please grant me patience, Lord. Help me be slow to anger and long on humor. Remind me that the insipid details of our earthly days, the $2.00 we may need to pay for overstaying our parking, are really, really not important at all. And if all else fails Lord, please trip me within the first twenty feet so at least I know right off the bat that I should throw in the towel. I promise my pride can take it.

Time Flies

The Dlos are visiting again. They're here for a week this time. It's lovely... and a real time-sucker. Not in a bad way, just in an Oh My God, It's the 1st and I Haven't Paid My Rent Yet kind of distracted way. So - I've got thoughts exploding to get out of my head but no time alone to write them. At this moment, Mom's in the shower and Dad's up and about, so I hopped online real quick. But this, alas, must be short and sweet.

I almost wrote last night but instead ending up watching "Ten Days That Changed America: Antietam" with the Dlos until about 11:00, at which time I roused myself - I'd fallen asleep twice - and we started talking about our plans for today.

My plan right now is to say TTFN (ta ta for now) and skedaddle since the shower's about to open up. At least I'm managing to keep up my hygiene.