the result: clean as a whistle

Mr._Clean_logoSo, the cleaning people just left. While it was strange as all get out, I can’t argue with the results.

Both cats FREAKED OUT. I don’t know exactly why; we’ve had repair people and delivery people in the house before. George cowered and Freddie did too. I took them upstairs in the loft with me and the three of us hid there, feeling superfluous. George foolishly ventured down (they aren’t lying about curiosity and cats) and stayed down for the duration; when it was all over I found him cowering under a table. Fred stayed with me while I read “Deathly Hallows” and played Candy Crush upstairs.

When all is said and done, I have to say, this is pretty nice. The house is spotless. They cleaned everything. They cleaned things I didn’t know were dirty. It smells like a lemon exploded in here. Thank you Cleaning Girls, Inc. of Long Island. ūüôā

I still feel weird about having someone come to clean my house, but not so weird that I wouldn’t do it again.

toy story

I’m a grown-up. I have bills, a car, a job, and I pay taxes. I can rent a car, drink legally, and I get flyers in the mail from AARP occasionally (too soon!). Definitely a grown-up. But I also cannot deny this:

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I’ll say right off the bat that only some of them are mine. About two-thirds of them. But it doesn’t matter where they originated, because I’d never get rid of any of the members of our Stuffed Animal Collective now. I look at that shelf in the closet and think, yep, you guys are going to be with us to the end. Don’t worry. If I have a home, you have a home.

I’m not generally sentimental. I don’t tend towards the gushy. But you can only watch Toy Story so many times (or Toy Story 2, or Toy Story 3) before you absorb the idea that toys have lives of their own. Granted, I was a particularly susceptible subject for this philosophy. I used to make up entire soap-opera-worthy stories about the lives and times of my crayons, and I had the 64-pack and the caddy and everything. It was like Falcon Crest meets Crayola in there. Burnt Sienna was such a tramp.

But I can tell you exactly when my problem solidified, and when I knew I’d never be able to get rid of another stuffed animal again. It was when I saw that scene in Toy Story 2 with Jessie the Cowgirl — you know the one, with the sad (is there any other kind?) Sarah McLachlan song, showing some heartless wench ditching her formerly beloved toy in exchange for nail polish¬†and a pretty pink phone. Jessie basically gets put out with the trash. It’s gut-wrenching.

So, that’s all there is to it. I can’t do that to a toy, even if it is just an inanimate object (well, most of the time). They’ll be with me til I die. Now, it goes without saying that new stuffed animal purchases are strictly verboten, except in exceptional circumstances. After all, FredCo can only support so many dependents. But on the Pixar fade to black in our house, these guys have nothing to worry about.

all good things come to an end

IMG_1507… including summer.

It’s not officially over yet, but with August coming to a close and the fall upon us, schools re-opening and buses back on the streets, we’re getting there. For me, summer is at an end because our pool closes¬†this week.

This was the first summer of my life that I had a pool of my own — well, it belongs to the complex we live in, so sadly we have to share it, but you get what I mean. Every other year I’ve been a sporadic swimmer at best, sometimes getting to a pool only once or twice, sometimes not at all. (Beach? In Buffalo? Surely you jest.) But this year, it was every possible day for the entire summer. Am I sad to see it end? Yes… and no.

I like the pool, I do. It’s great for cooling off, though I’m also partial to central air for that, and it wasn’t that hot of a summer to begin with. I like having friends over to the pool, and I like hanging out there with Dave and our cousin Adam. I freely admit I don’t always like the other people, not when they’re rude, or loud, or just annoying. The Real Housewives of Long Island can be funny, but they can also be nauseating. And I’m huge fan of babies in the pool — they’re darn cute in those swimmie-contraptions they have these days, they¬†look like Baby Pool Armor, and they always seem to be having such a blast — but I am not quite as fond of preteens playing endless games of “toothpaste” and jumping in the pool right on top of my head.

I did like the exercise more than I’ve liked any other exercise I’ve done in my life. I swam laps all summer, almost every day, working my way up to 30 a day. I would have liked to do more, but I’ll keep at it next summer. I also discovered I can float effortlessly and can tread water apparently forever (I got bored after 15 minutes and stopped, but don’t think the end was anywhere near), so if we’re ever on the Titanic, Dave can just hang onto me and we’re set.

I won’t miss the chlorine, though. I mean, god knows it’s necessary (all those kids, and no one ever gets out and goes into the bathroom in the clubhouse — you do the math), but the smell is icky. Every day when I get home Fred sniffs my hand disdainfully, and doesn’t warm up until I’ve had a chance to shower. My hair could do without the chemicals, too.

Overall, it was a good summer at the pool, but I confess I’m looking forward to a nice, long, harvesty autumn, and even a cozy warm winter by the fireplace, snug at home.

I may never leave the house again

Amazon_1It’s not true, of course. I’m not a hermit. I leave the house for work, for food, for movies, for friends, for family, for the pool. I might be willing to give up a few of those, but not all. Definitely not the pool. Or Chipotle. So I’ll leave the house again, and again, but one thing I almost never leave the house for anymore is shopping.

This is what we’ve bought from Amazon in the past two months: a mouse (the computer kind), dog shampoo (for a friend, or rather his dog), cat food, safety strips for the tub, a dustbuster, a hand mixer, cat litter, cake pans, garbage bags, a book, a step stool, an extension cord, socks, a hubcap, and batteries. We have Amazon Prime, and everything gets here about as quickly as the drones can bring it. The hand mixer arrived, regular shipping, 19 hours after we ordered it.

From Target, with the RedCard’s free shipping: clothes, a picture frame, Tide pods, gift cards, screening for the porch, a humidifier, a pillow, a phone, a bathing suit, and a baby gate for the cats.

And from Fresh Direct? Foods, foods, and more foods.

You have to understand: I just hate shopping. ¬†Unless it’s Wegmans, just the very idea of milling about in a store makes me exhausted. I don’t know what part of it is the worst (well, yes, I do) but it’s some combination of the huge, overheated stores, the lines, the people, the parking, the flourescent lighting, the people, the Muzak, the noise, and the people. Shopping online is so much easier, so much quieter, so much more pleasant. I click and a short time later it arrives, all without waiting in line, driving anywhere, parking, or even talking to anyone else. It’s wonderful.

I’m not a hermit, but I confess I wish I could at least play one on TV.

 

bright lights, bigger city

A few posts ago, I was talking about the the parts of New York City that are nothing like what you see on TV or in the movies. To be fair, I should mention that there are other parts that are, well, every bit as cool as they look. Central Park is amazing. The Metropolitan Museum really does have hieroglyphics that may, who knows, be an ancient cartoon strip about a character named Sphinxie. Watching¬†Good Morning, America¬†before work and thinking, that’s just a short traffic-laden drive away, that’s kind of cool. And the city at Christmastime really was something to see — that tree at Rockefeller Center is gorgeous. Restaurants, shopping, the High Line, Grand Central Station, the Cloisters, it’s all right there on that one little densely-packed island.

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All you want is a dinkle… What you envy is a schwang… A thing through which you can tinkle…To play with or simply let hang.

The other really great thing is the theatre. I saw a slew of shows in the city years and years ago. But when you live out of town, going to a Broadway show is a whole rigamarole. Getting tickets that fit your travel schedule means you can’t take advantage of most good sales, or catch something in a limited run. When you’re across the state, you just don’t hear about¬†a lot of great productions, off Broadway and on, and that’s probably for the best or I would have been even more pea green with envy than I was before. But being here, we can grab a great opportunity when it comes along, and I’m really excited about the shows we’re seeing.

My husband and brother-in-law have a subscription to MCC Theater at the Lucille Lortel Theatre on Christopher Street. If you’re a dork like me, the biggest thing that tickles you about that is that it’s where Joey sometimes¬†had his shows on Friends,¬†like the one where he fell for his leading lady before heading off to Blargon 7, or Freud! the Musical. But they actually do have a lot of great shows there — I went to one with them last fall that I really enjoyed and Dave has told me about others.

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The set for Waiting for Godot, pre-show. Unlike the jerkwad in the row in front of me, I didn’t use my phone to take pictures during the performance.

For Valentine’s Day we went to see Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan in Waiting for Godot. I mean, look: Godot is a weird play, and not entirely easy. You’re meant to chuckle but mostly to think, a lot. And it was an excellent performance, but I’m not going to lie: I spent the entire time in a bliss-filled haze of thinking, “THAT’S PATRICK STEWART. AND IAN MCKELLAN. PICARD AND GANDALF ARE LESS THAN THIRTY FEET AWAY FROM ME. ACTING. TOGETHER. THIS IS THE COOLEST THING EVER.” Don’t even get me started on when Patrick Stewart walked past me on the way to his car, later. It was transformative.

 

In early May, we’re going to see Daniel Radcliffe in The Cripple of Inishmaan. I think we’re going to enjoy it, as it’s gotten excellent reviews in London. It’s a dark comedy, and with Dave, the darker the better, really. And yes, I imagine there will be a similar part of me thinking, “HARRY POTTER!!!”, but this time it’s more about making up for a previously missed opportunity. I was desperate to see Equus when Radcliffe was in it in 2009, and I couldn’t make it happen. That’s still disappointing, since it’s such a great play and also starred the now-departed Richard Griffiths, but I¬†at least we’ll be there this time around. And for Dave’s birthday, later that month, we’re going to the long-awaited revival of Hedwig and the Angry Itch, starring Neal Patrick Harris (go for Barney!). I can’t wait.

Years and years ago, I studied theatre and thought I wanted to spend my life working backstage. That didn’t work out, and it’s not something I want anymore. But living here and getting out to see shows, keeping on top of what’s coming up in venues¬†small and large, gives me back a little bit of something that I once wanted very badly, even if in the most tangential of ways. So if nothing else, that alone makes up for all the stinky subways and the sun setting at two o’clock and the traffic, even the traffic, ten times over.

do you know the way to santa fe?

88px-NY-347.svgI started a new job a couple weeks ago. I like it very much, and the hours are great. Apparently the woman I’m replacing — she retired — was a bona fide hoarder, however, and the office is filled with pile after pile of papers, folders, Sweet & Low packets, old used stamps, and sheets of yellowed labels. There is no rhyme or reason to it, and some of those piles contains fairly important things, including invoices, requisition forms, even (so far) two checks. It’s a disaster, and if you know me, you know every minute I’m around that kind of disorganization makes me want to jump out of my skin. So I’m trying to work my way through it, a little more cleaned out each day, but — good lord.

Anyhow, the thing that I’m noticing the most about my new job isn’t about the job at all. It’s about the drive back and forth, getting ready in the morning, coming home when I’m done. It’s the strangest thing, but it’s almost as if having a job is what’s finally making me feel at home here.

I don’t mean our apartment. I’m very at home there, and I remain as enamored of our laundry sorter, our balcony, and our fireplace as I was right from the get-go. I’m even happier at home now that our crazy-ass downstairs neighbor moved out to torture someone else. The new neighbors have two loud, noisy, yappy dogs, and it’s like heaven to us — normal people making normal noise, and not getting mad at us for walking across a carpeted floor in our socks at two in the afternoon. But I digress — our apartment has always felt like home, and I love it there.

It’s the neighborhood, I guess, that I felt strange in. The general area. I mean, I don’t usually know where I am. I sometimes get the general direction of where we’re going, but it’s all sort of vague. The city is thattaway. Dave’s mom’s is the opposite direction I think it’s in. The closest Chipotle is just way too far away, but doable in a pinch. Shop Rite is not where my GPS says it is (it’s just a bunch of trees! there’s no store in there, I checked), and on my way back from Astoria I spent a lot of time driving in circles in Flushing Meadows, because Apple Maps declared I had gone off the grid. In other words, I got so lost, satellites couldn’t find me.

Suffice to say, I’m still not great at getting around on my own. I’ll probably be using my GPS for awhile, even if it evidently can’t always be trusted. But at least now I go back and forth most days to the same place. I stop at the same red lights, see the same businesses, go around the same bend. It’s only a few miles of road that have become familiar, most of it strip malls and developments and Whole Foods. But it’s mine, and it’s familiar, and that’s a start.

New York state of mind

300px-I_Love_New_York.svgI’ve been going to visit New York City for years, since my friend Amy moved there (or in the vicinity) ages ago. And I like the city. It can be fun. Living near it myself, now, there’s still a lot I enjoy. Last weekend, we saw Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan in Waiting for Godot. It was, in a word, thrilling — just to be there, just to be able to be there. Exciting things happen in New York, and living close by means I can see them, when I want to.

Having said that,it’s a little silly the way Hollywood likes to treat NYC, at least when it comes to lighter fare. All too often the city is depicted as some kind of jolly Mary Poppins-esque wonderland. In reality, the subways are not well-lit and charming. The streets are not that clean. Sometimes there’s a smell. Well, all the time. There’s always construction, there’s always traffic, and the sun sets in mid-afternoon. I mean, sure, sometimes they show us the grittier side. ¬†Taxi Driver is impeccably harsh, for example. Big shows Tom Hanks in that scary motel room. I’d also give good credit to Midnight Cowboy, Fame, and even Tootsie. But then there’s the brighter side of the street, apparently.

In When Harry Met Sally, everyone’s apartment is the size of the Met; it’s often adorably fall or the holidays, and the worst that can be said is that buying a Christmas tree for yourself is a fate worse than death. In The Object of My Affection, ¬†a lovely Brooklyn brownstone is “slumming it”, and showing that you want to “escape the Hamptons” is proof you still have a soul. Serendipity started a run on not just old copies of Love in the Time of Cholera but also the restaurant from which the movie got its name, as long as you don’t dwell on how many times they’ve been closed down for rat infestations. I can excuse a movie like The Devil Wears Prada because it takes place entirely in the world of fashionistas, but all the other romcoms set in the Big Apple have the same, nauseating… sameness.¬†¬†27 Dresses presents us with a city lacking any ethnicity whatsoever (except for one young boy, and they make sure you know it) and in 13 Going on 30, the sun always shines and there’s a photo shoot waiting to happen anywhere. Little Black Book, Maid in Manhattan, Made of Honor, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Sweet Home Alabama, Stepmom, and on and on. Everyone has an exciting job. Everyone has an unrealistically huge apartment. And the city is so damn picturesque you can barely resist packing up your worldly belongings and moving there immediately. The crowning achievement of Hollywood’s New York has got to be You’ve Got Mail, a movie that has charming baked right in with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in the lead roles. Here, New York is one giant street fair, filled with lovely (though possibly soon to be out of business) shops, literary parties, and friends singing Austrian folk songs together at Christmas.

There are a lot of great movies set in New York City. This list has some great examples to offer, culminating in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. Another personal favorite of mine is The Royal Tenenbaums, which is set in an odd, strangely archaic present-day New York that remains, weirdly enough, entirely recognizable. And it must be confessed that I enjoy the fluffier offerings on their own merit, so to speak. But if you’ve never been to the city before and those are your entire frame of reference, just be warned that you won’t find the subway to be nearly as quaint as you’ve been led to expect.

this is 41

The other day my good friend Rose posted a link to a blog post titled, “This is 45,” written by Emily Mendell. A great deal of it hit home with me, despite my being a few years short. I’ll be 42 this year, I just realized, and Dave confirmed. My inability to keep track of my age makes him laugh, but it makes me happy, too, because the numbers have stopped mattering.

You begin to realize that granting yourself permission to just “be” is one of the hardest things you will ever attempt.

That’s true. Sometimes I feel as if I’ve spent all of my life trying to be something: smarter, thinner, prettier, more successful, richer, better liked. And there’s nothing wrong with any of those pursuits. I worked hard at them. Right now, though, I’m learning that it’s a lot harder to stop trying to be something I can’t. There are some aspects of my health that I can’t control, and I have to let myself be what I am. And in general, I have to love myself the way I am, even if it isn’t as good as I want to be. It helps to have a very wonderful man who says he loves me just the way I am; it really does. There are times I still struggle. I second-guess decisions I made years ago, I berate myself for bad choices. I agonize over decisions already made. But as Ms. Mendell says, there’s also a certain acceptance I have now, that this is the way life is, and that it’s okay.

I hope it’s also helped me to be more accepting of the world around me. If there’s one thing I know I’ve said more in my forties than I did in any other decade, it’s, “I don’t understand why you’re choosing to do that, but I accept it.” Friends, family, people we know — we can have opinions about what they do, of course, we can’t help it, if we care about them at all. But we can’t make their decisions for them, right or wrong. I hope that I’ve learned to simply accept that with or without my approval, people will choose to spend their lives a certain way. I won’t always agree, but I can respect their decision.

Acceptance doesn’t mean being a doormat, though.

At 45 your tolerance for mean people hits rock bottom. Life is too short to spend any energy on bullies. They are easier to eliminate from your life, while also easier to understand. You can’t help but pity people who hurt so much they have to make others feel badly, but you are smart enough to do so from a distance.

It’s true that I can understand, now, why someone is hurtful more so than I would have as a younger person. I know how hard the world is, and I know there a lot of people walking around in pain every day, inside and out. Sometimes I can see just how they got the way they are, and sometimes I can feel sympathy, or pity, but all the understanding in the world isn’t a good enough reason to stay around a person, a situation, that is toxic to me. And when I realize someone can’t seem to help but hurt anyone around them, I finally know enough to stay away.

It’s like the part of the Serenity Prayer that everyone knows says: “God grant me the serenity¬†to accept the things I cannot change;¬†courage to change the things I can;¬†and wisdom to know the difference.” The prayer goes on to talk about a pathway to peace and learning to be reasonably happy in this life, and that’s what I think being 41, or 45, is about — finding your way there.

Quietly folding laundry on a chilly Sunday afternoon as your family happily co-exists in this home you have built together trumps pretty much everything.

Now, that sounds exactly right. Those moments are well worth whatever it took for me to get here, new gray hairs, tiny wrinkles, forty-two candles and all.

****

(please read Ms. Mendell’s original blog post, as I have only quoted several of the truisms she provided and the full piece is well worth your time.)

home sweet home

I very much love my new home. For one thing, it has Dave in it. ¬†ūüôā Of course,¬†I missed my old home a lot when I moved; it was a good place to live — I lived there thirteen years, and had the best neighbors anyone in the world could ask for (our new home, btw, comes complete with a downstairs neighbor who apparently has super-hearing… it’s not at all as cool as living near a superhero should be). But I’m very happy here. I like it because it’s ours, I like it because we made it our home together. And a few other things, specifically:

IMG_19061. The closet.

I mean, it’s enormous. You could fit a Manhattan apartment in there. There are lots of shelves (including one for our stuffed animal residents) and then we got these great cloth bins as shower presents, and those keep the Wildebeest from kicking everything over.

I’ve never loved a closet before but sometimes I just want to hang out in mine and revel in all the spaciousness. You could take a nap in there if you wanted to, or sublet to a small family, or conceal a passage to Narnia somewhere. Which might explain where Freddie disappears to sometimes.

IMG_19112. Laundry.

I grew up with laundry in the basement, and that’s where it was in my old house — all thirteen years of climbing two flights of stairs each way just to do a single load of laundry. Add in a back injury and it’s nothing but torture. And the shame of it all is, I like doing laundry, in general. I like getting everything nice and clean and folded and put away. But not when it involved mountain climbing. Here, we’ve got this great little laundry closet off the kitchen, and it’s easy as anything to do. Add in the laundry sorter we got and it’s downright nifty. George likes to ride it from the closet to the laundry, though that might have something to do with the many twist ties he’s already managed to stash under the dryer.


IMG_00193. When it snows, it’s someone else’s problem.

Mind you, it’s not like there’s generally much to worry about — I have a hard time not giggling over anyone calling this little bit of snow a blizzard. I’ve driven through white-outs where you can’t see the tail lights of the car ahead of you at times, and dug out my driveway and sidewalk with snowbanks so high it looked like the ice planet Hoth. It’s nowhere near as much, in comparison, out there today — but it could have been. It could have been ten feet of snow, instead of maybe about ten inches, and it wouldn’t have mattered, now that there are nice people who come and plow and shovel it all away. I can just enjoy the nice wintry view instead.

IMG_19124. And, most of all, Freddie has laid claim to new territory.

I worried about my Freddie adjusting to his new home. George, as predicted, has become a mighty hunter, intent on exploring his new jungle and taking out prey. But Fred seemed to take it harder. At first he often seemed kind of lost, not able to find his way around. But I think he’s got his bearings now. The back of the living sofa, in front of his fireplace, and here at the end of the bed, on his pillow, he appears to be right at home again — we all are.

 

play it again, sam

So when I wrote about the move last month, I actually left one big thing out. I was too depressed to write about it at the time, but now that it’s (spoiler alert) fixed, I can: the piano got damaged in the move.

IMG_1904Owning a piano when you move is like having a giant boulder chained to your ankle. You have to move, and the easiest thing to do would be to leave the boulder behind, but you can’t. You’re attached to it. I wanted a piano all my life. When my mother died, I used some of the money she left me to buy this piano, and I’ve loved it ever since. I can no more get rid of it than I could my left arm. Pianos are sentimental possessions, and that would be fine if they weren’t so damn unwieldy.

Having a piano professionally moved door-to-door from Buffalo to Long Island was, to put it mildly, cost prohibitive. Four-figures-prohibitive. We settled on a solution that still involved professional movers, but we’d be doing the freight ourselves in our U-Haul. It was a good (and professionally recommended) solution. And for the record, a perfectly good one. The piano was moved onto the truck, across the state, and off the truck and into the apartment with no problems. What went wrong? I was tired and not careful, that’s what, and the damage occurred less than a mile away from the house, and just because of forgetting to secure something at the last minute. No one’s fault but ours.

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*Piano only. George’s butt not included.

We were lucky: the damage was mostly cosmetic, and did not involve the mechanics of the piano. Firstly, one wheel broke, which was inconvenient, but not that difficult to have fixed, once we found the right guy for the job. That put us back at 100% fully functional, but there was still this unsightly gash, a few inches in diameter and an inch or so deep. It didn’t go through, and it was in fact going to be on the side of the piano that is up against the wall… but I couldn’t leave it that way.

I’ve been told that hiring a contractor is a nightmare — people don’t call you back, or if they do they’re unavailable, or if they promise you a quote they don’t give it, or if they do, they sometimes don’t show up when they’re supposed to start the job. Apparently finding a furniture repairman is the same way, because we searched and searched and¬†searched. We made calls and inquiries that never got answered, we spoke to people who said they couldn’t or wouldn’t help, we had no-shows and no-call-backs. We got one quote (pretty steep) and then couldn’t get the guy to set up an appointment. We were striking out everywhere. Frustrating.

IMG_1858Michael’s Furniture Service was our savior. The owner not only answered right away, and not only understand just what we needed, and not only gave us a reasonable quote, and not only came out and did the job¬†that very same day, he also did the one thing that’s really needed doing: he fixed the piano, and that fixed my peace of mind. All better. You can barely see where it was, and if you didn’t know there’s ever been damage, you wouldn’t know or see anything other than wood grain. We’re really grateful, and recommend their company to anyone in this area.

So, all better. Whew. Now I just need to practice a little more often. ūüôā