To pause before, between … a musical interlude is needed

There’s a beautiful, melancholy Johnny Mercer song about the end of October and the memories that time of year calls up. “When October Goes” is one of my favorite sad-and-lovely songs. I kind of want one for the end of November, too. This moment just before December catapults us into the big year-ending flourish of Christmas and the new year, this limbo when I’m in the emotional sugar crash of coming home from a holiday with my family … it needs some kind of wistful, musical pause. I need some hand-holding into the wild ride that’s about to start.

Years ago during a family vacation to Dublin, my mother, sister, and I took a day trip a couple hours out of the city. The tour company we chose had drivers who were known for singing on the trips. We didn’t know that until it happened, and I’m glad we didn’t. If I’d heard anything about singing drivers, I’d for-sure have chosen another tour company … and I’d have missed one of my favorite experiences from that excellent trip.

On our ride back into the city, our lovely driver, Jimmy Doyle (yes, really), began to sing “Dublin in the Rare Oul Times.” His voice was low and mournful, and it so fit both the song and our moods as we watched the countryside go past after a long touring day. We weren’t melancholy exactly, but we were, too. Our trip was almost over, everything was beautiful and would soon be left behind and so yes, a pretty, melancholy serenade from a gruff bus driver with a gorgeous voice was beyond perfect.

That’s what I want to draw things to a close before I start playing all my Christmas music. Because yes, I have lots of holiday songs I can’t wait to start singing. I have an advent calendar from Diamine Ink that I can’t wait to start opening (can’t wait!). I have Christmas cookies to bake and swap. I have presents to wrap. I’m not trying to sink into any kind of melancholia, but I want to honor this, this little moment in between. I want Jimmy Doyle singing me from one space into the next.

Ring a ring a rosie as the light declines / I remember Dublin city in the rare oul times.

Happy Endings

Tonight I saw Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog. I never saw the original production with Mos Def and Jeffrey Wright. I imagine it was magnificent.

I’ve never known the story of this play, so tonight was entirely fresh for me. Still, I knew that people really shouldn’t have been laughing — or at least not quite so uproariously — at certain turns in the plot. I knew very early on where we were headed.

Knowing didn’t make the experience any less powerful. Maybe gave it that much more weight. There are so many reasons that this story resonated deeply for me. But, beyond the feelings of personal connectedness with this story (which, of course, could not be less like anything in my own life, but still), there was the beautiful revelation of the actors’ performances.

Not surprise that Corey Hawkins and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II are good actors. I’ve known that for some time. But the nature of the play creates such an extraordinary space for two talents to expand in, so much room to stretch fully into the roles, into the electricity of playing off one another, into owning so much real estate on the stage.

I left needing some connection, some … something to shine its light on me. Not a happy ending. I don’t always need a happy ending. But something. My walk from the theater to the subway had no magic, however, and folks on my train were very drawn into themselves. I mean, of course, but I needed some energy from them, some of the random connection this city often tosses up.

And then we pulled into Dekalb. A bunch of people left the train. A man jumped up and crossed over to a seat A young woman had just vacated. He was shouting … because she’d left her fanny pack on the seat. She was walking away from the train, not hearing him or any of the other people who began shouting for her. Whatever was streaming through her earbuds did a good job of keeping her focused away from the train.

Trains don’t sit long in stations, so there wasn’t much time. Some people in the car told the guy to toss the bag onto the platform. A teenaged boy and I had left our seats and were standing in the doorway. We shouted almost in unison: “Lady with the green hat!” And she finally turned around and saw the man waving her bag in the air from the next door down the car. She ran over and grabbed it, the doors closed, and we continued on our way.

Thank you, my city. It was what I needed. I didn’t want to feel so anonymous in that moment and New York conjured up some we’re-all-family business for me.

What’s more, I’ve been that woman in the green hat. Years ago, I walked off a tram in Budapest without my purse. I ignored the shouts behind me and kept walking. Someone on that tram made the decision to fling my bag at me before the doors closed. And that lovely soul had a strong arm and great aim. My bag slammed into the back of my head, very definitely getting my attention. I was that woman just a few weeks ago. I took off my backpack at the grocery store and was walking away after checking out when the man behind me smacked my arm with my bag. I have been that woman a number of times between Budapest and Foodtown. And always, someone saves me from my foolishness.

So thank you again, my city. We’re all family, and I’m not in this alone. Wrapped in one random moment on a southbound express train. I’ll take it.

Isolated Impact

I’m thinking about ways isolation has chipped away at my social graces. Last week, I stepped into the elevator and met an adorable dog. I’ve never seen him before, and I was instantly charmed. He was kind of a beagle/Jack Russell/something, with the prettiest eyes! I immediately began talking to him through his people, two men I’ve never seen before, so I think they must be new/sort-of-new to the building. We parted as we came off the elevator, and only a couple of blocks later did I realize that I never actually spoke to the men, only to the dog. I didn’t introduce myself or try to interact with them in any way. I was just so focused on that sweet dog.

Today, I left for work and met the dog and his people again. I reintroduced myself to the dog and petted him for a minute or so, telling him how cute he is and how happy I was to see him again.

At least this time, I wished the men a nice day as I walked off.

I understand my focus on the dog — I love dogs — but usually I talk to the people, too. At least a little, even if it’s just to ask the dog’s name or breed. But I was so focused on that cute little guy that his people almost disappeared. I was happy to use them in my conversation with the dog, but talk? To them? Clearly not.

As I said above, I blame this on Covid, on the isolation of the last 2+ years. I haven’t had to maintain a regular practice in the social graces, haven’t had to remember how to behave with strangers. I’ve just puttered around tending to my own needs and maintaining a safe distance from everyone else.

This isn’t my behavior in every interaction with strangers these days. I still have some of my old niceties left, but my easier default definitely seems to be keeping interactions to a minimum. In my defense, I’ll add that neither of the dog’s people were wearing masks. I was wearing a mask. So maybe part of my behavior can be chalked up to not wanting their uncovered faces any closer to mine than they had to be? I’d lean into that as an excuse, but I know that’s not it, not the primary reason for my behavior. It’s really about me not being inclined to make nice with people.

I’m choosing to believe (hope against hope?) that all is not lost, that I’ll be able to relearn how to be “normal” with folks again, but it’s distressing to see how completely uninterested in connecting I am, how quickly I turn away from new people. One of my favorite things about living in this city has always been the random-and-fabulous encounters to be had with strangers. I don’t want that to be one more thing Covid has taken from me.


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Gratitude

I’m in Alaska at my writing residency. It’s lovely here, and I feel extraordinarily lucky to be here. My tourist day in town — the day before I came up to the residency itself — was studded with random moments when I’d be walking around and suddenly “Thank you,” would just bubble out of me. Out loud. Literally just saying it aloud as I walked on the beach, as I stood in the museum, as I sipped mead, as I stared up at the mountains. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve never had gratitude burst out of me before. It’s a curious feeling. I’d like to experience it some more!

I’m here to write. I’m here, most specifically, to work on “Fat Talk” essays. I am determined to shape that series into a collection. And, while I haven’t been away from the project for long, I kind of have, too. I did some writing in November, but never cleaned it up and posted it. I’ve been thinking about the project, but haven’t gotten any words on paper.

So these two weeks are time to pull this project back to the front of my brain and see what’s what.

And that’s hard and stressful because a lot of what I want to write about it hard and stressful. Having to put into words the ways in which I have been mistreated is hard. Having to put into words the ways in which I have mistreated myself is harder. It’s good to be here to do this. To have time and silence to push through the rough pieces. To have a group of writers to sit with at dinner and feel embraced and heard. This. THis is why “thank you” just kept bubbling out of me on Saturday. The understanding and anticipation of the gift of this

I came up a day early so that I could recover from a 20-hour travel day and play tourist in Homer for a minute. I wish I could have come up a full week early. I enjoyed my day of wandering in the cold and rain, however. I was exhausted — arrived at 7:30 in the morning but couldn’t check into the hotel until 5, so I had to stay awake and do something all day. And I did. Walked on the beach, stared at the mountains, had a really good omelet, went to the very excellent and inspiring Pratt Museum — if you’re going to be in Homer, for-sure visit the Pratt. It’s small and lovely. After the museum, I walked over to the Sweetgale Meadworks to try mead for the first time. I sampled all the meads ( 😉 ) and even got pics of a visiting moose before it was time to head to the hotel. On the drive to the hotel, we passed a coffee klatch of bald eagles — six of them just hanging out on the beach. And then I discovered that I’m not too early for late daylight! I thought I’d miss the whole midnight sun extravaganza … and I will, but the sun sets after 10pm right now, so daylight just goes on and on. It’s magical.

Here are some pics from the last few days:

My first good look at Kachemak Bay, taken from the back deck of the hotel where I stayed the first night.
The flights of meads I sampled. The flight on the left had my favorites: Sweetgale, Nagoonberry, and Wildflower.
One of the two moose who came by the meadery as I was sipping mead.
The view from my hotel room … at about 9pm. Crazypants that it was still this bright out!
Hanging out at the Salty Dawg Saloon before heading out to the residency. (That Stella Cidre was good stuff!)
A piece of the view from my cabin window here at the residency. That’s Cook Inlet.
Running away to write. 10/10 highly recommend
A mated pair of Sandhill Cranes who were hanging around outside the main house when I walked up for breakfast yesterday.

And now it’s time to get back to work! ❤


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Pick and Mix

We have a serious package theft problem in my building. So many things have been stolen in the last two years. Deliveries went missing before the pandemic, yes, but these two years of financial hardship have amped up the stealing. I understand being desperate, but no one in this building has much money, and stealing isn’t cool any time.

As terrible as it is to say, I was actually glad when I learned that other people were being robbed. For a while, the thefts felt targeted. No one was talking about it, and I thought I was the only person losing packages.

Whoever is stealing my things must have such an interesting sense of who I am. One thing they for-sure know about me is that I’m a fat woman. They have stolen package after package of clothing orders. I am the fattest person I’ve ever seen in this building. By a significant degree. Why the fuck do the thieves keep taking clothes they can’t wear?!

So they know I’m “a person of size.” Here’s a shortlist of other things they’ve taken that maybe round out their picture of me:

  1. A DVD of The Godfather, Part II
  2. A pair of semiprecious pendulums, one onyx, one tourmaline
  3. A set of cookie cutters
  4. Fingering and laceweight yarn and some silk roving
  5. Vitamins and body lotion
  6. A set of markers and a couple of coloring books

Now, for all of these thefts but one, the shipper has either refunded or reshipped. So I have just about all of my purchases. It still sucks.

The gem store that I bought the pendulums from refused to reship or refund. We had a lengthy email exchange, but they wouldn’t budge. Their reasons? First, they were so sorry, but I couldn’t prove I didn’t receive the package, and I could easily be lying to them. And while that’s true, it’s pretty ugly. Also, how am I supposed to prove to you that I didn’t receive a package? Send you photos of my empty hands? What? Second, they asked me to understand their position as a small business. Those products were expensive, and it would be a hardship for them to refund my purchase. Excuse me? Yes, those pendulums were expensive. The thief had them. The shop had my money. The only person who got nothing in that exchange was me, and losing that money was no small thing for me, either. Obviously, I won’t be shopping there again.

Twice, the thieves have expressed their judgment of me and my shopping choices. Right before lockdown, I came home and found a bag on my doorknob. Inside was an opened package and a note saying the package had been delivered to another apartment by accident … um … except, packages don’t get delivered to our doors. And, even if they did, you’d figure out the error by looking at the label, right? You wouldn’t need to open the package — and open the inner packaging — to discover it wasn’t for you. I guess the slipcovers I bought for my chairs were particularly unappealing, so completely unappealing that the thief decided to give them to me. I’m guessing they wanted me to know how undesirable those slipcovers were so I’d step up my game and start buying more attractive and steal-worthy items.

During a weird moment of early Covid, I bought not one, not two, but … FOUR manual typewriters. (I’m not kidding. Let’s not even try to understand why.) It should only have been three. I fell in love with and bought a blue Royal Safari. Then I bought two similar blue typewriters because I thought the three would look so nice side by side displayed across the top of my bookcases.

But the Royal was stolen. Super-quickly, too. I got the delivery notification when I was on my way home from work, and the box was gone by the time I got home 30 minutes later. I was so mad about the theft, I went to eBay the second I got in the house, found and purchased another Safari. (Seriously. I am ridiculous, but I stay totally on-brand. It’s a really lovely typewriter … makes me think of Eero Saarinen and the TWA terminal, which does and doesn’t make sense.)

The next day, I opened my door and found the box on the threshold, open, all the packing materials spilling out, and my Royal sitting there, waiting for me.

That thief must have been so angry. They must have thought they’d really scored with such a nice, heavy box. I would have loved to see the look on their face when they got through the packaging and found a MANUAL TYPEWRITER!

I’m sure they cursed my name. I just wish that failed theft had inspired them to not steal from me, had put the fear of ugly slipcovers and typewriters into them. Alas.

On my floor — and I imagine this is happening on other floors, too — we’ve taken to bringing one another’s packages upstairs when we see them. I love this about my floor neighbors. It’s a little comical that, like the thieves, I am developing a clear sense of my neighbors’ shopping habits … and they’re learning about mine.

Maribel down the hall is an Amazon fanatic! The elderly couple next door to her buys paper goods in bulk (at a rate that I struggle to fathom). K across the hall reads a lot of uber-cool art and culture magazines that are too long to fit in the mailbox. And Yana at the other end of the hall has had several plant deliveries (it’s from bringing up her packages that I learned about the online plant store from which I’ve now acquired several new plants).

I appreciate this new way my floor neighbors and I are taking care of each other, but things still go missing. We can’t all be home all the time to catch deliveries before the thieves go shopping in the mailroom like at pick-and-mix.

When I cut my hair, I came home from the barber and had a moment of freak-out because I didn’t have a pick. I hadn’t owned a pick for decades, and I hadn’t thought at all about needing new tools. Naturally, I went right online to order something (yes, I have a shopping problem). I bought a very basic, cheesy one — metal teeth with a Black power fist on the handle. Of course. (Let me pause here to say how annoyed I was to find it called a “pik” or a “pic.” Are you kidding? Why would it make sense to drop a letter?)

I got the delivery notification mid-day yesterday, got home from work and found … nothing.

Great. It’s the first theft in a while. And it’s not earth-shattering. It just pisses m off. I wanted that pick. Obviously, I’ve been doing my hair for almost two wee sand have realized that I don’t really need the pick. But I wanted it. And now I don’t have it.

I am sympathetic about people having a rough time financially, especially during the last two years. But we’re neighbors. We’re supposed to be a community of some sort, and you’re so comfortable stealing from people you probably have the audacity to smile at in the elevator or hold the door for? Ugh.

Also, I know my sense of my building as a community is super naive. I know it.

But I’m right too. I had the ability to live with that belief for the ten years in my old apartment. Packages were left outside the house — sometimes half-hidden behind the trash cans, sometimes left in plain view — and I never lost a single one.

Yes, we were much more of a community there, but anyone and everyone could and did walk by the house. And somehow everyone managed not to steal anything. And yes, that wasn’t during the pandemic, but it was during the Great Recession.

Sigh. I have no cause and effect here. No real point, either. I just want people to stop stealing my stuff. Full stop. (And now Thieves in the Temple is in my head … a Prince earworm is never a bad thing, but I don’t want to associate that song with this mess.)


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Original Slicer - GirlGriot