Stick a fork in me.

It’s been a long, LONG week, and I am well and truly done. I’m beyond tired, too tired to write either of the posts I thought I’d like to write today. So instead, I’ve taken a tip from Slice of Life Story Challenges past: I fired up the old random words generator and will now write something about each of the words I was given.

antique — I am remembering the fun of going to an auction in the Catskills and wishing I could buy just about everything in the room, particularly the gorgeously-maintained victrola with the stunning purple horn (which is also, quite wonderfully, called the “pavilion”).

milkshake — These need to be extra thick, vanilla, vanilla, and more vanilla. Mmmm … one of the best treats in the world.

wine — Each time I’ve thought about stocking up on anything for sheltering in place, I never remember to buy wine! What could possibly be wrong with me?

cemetery — I live very close to a huge, famous cemetery. But I live on the side where we aren’t welcome. Seriously. Every other side of this cemetery has a big, elaborate entrance. The side closest to my apartment? No entrance at all.

spire — The only thing that comes to mind is the Týn Church in the old town in Prague. It’s more than 30 years since I was last there, and that’s still the first image that flashes to the front of my brain.

emerald — Well, naturally what comes to mind here is that time my wonderful and brilliant aunt accidentally dyed her hair the most extraordinary, deep, dark, Disney-movie-villain emerald green. That was thing of beauty, and one of my family’s favorite stories to tell about her!

crisis — I guess I should be impressed that the generator would give me this word. Mostly, I wish I could have gotten away with one night not thinking about what’s happening all around us.

aquarium — I can’t help but think of Peach, the starfish in Finding Nemo, and that line (“Look! Scum angel!”) that still makes me laugh out loud.

migraine — I used to get migraines when I was in my 30s. At last once a week, sometimes more often. It was a horrible period of my life. They were so debilitating. I will ever be grateful that I no longer get them!

beer — I have never been a beer girl. I’ve never much liked the taste of it. This fact often distresses beer lovers. They always think I just haven’t tried the exact right beer yet. This isn’t true. What is true is that I don’t like beer. As simple as that. People sometimes, quite ridiculously, think that if I don’t drink beer, I am a prim teetotaler. This, also, isn’t true. I drink plenty of other things — cider, tequila, wine, slivovitz, sake, rum … What is true is that I don’t like beer.

I don’t like beer, but I do like silly, random posts like this one!

It’s March, which means it’s time for the
13th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Curious? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

Euphonious Exhortations

My voice is having one of its moments. These come around from time to time. This week I’ve been told not once, not twice, but five times that my voice … “has something.” This morning, I gave a family directions on the subway and both the mom and a random person who overheard me commented on how pretty and comforting my voice is. The homeless man I gave my half sandwich to in Grand Central Market yesterday said I sounded like a fairy godmother. A friend who wants to work with me on a film project hopes I’ll do some narration because I have a good voice. And the young woman who sells me my iced chai every morning told me on Monday that I talk like I’m singing.

I’ve had that last before. A woman once asked if I was a jazz singer because she said my voice sounded like I should be. A coworker once told me I should record bedtime stories because my voice is soothing. A friend’s baby sister told me I could scold her and it wouldn’t feel like scolding because I said everything “in a warm tone.”

It’s not always cute and sweet, however, the reactions to my voice. A man who was trying to date me (quite unsuccessfully, as this will illustrate) insisted I had to be faking my voice, that there was no way I could look like me and have this voice. Clearly, I have a face and figure made for radio! Another man said I should do audio porn, that my “Snow White sound” would make sexy text that much more titillating. Yup.

My voice is fine. It has probably gotten better with time. It certainly used to be glass-shatteringly high. My students used to tease me by repeating my instructions to one another in squeaky mouse voices. I don’t know that I really sounded that awful, but my voice is high. My dream of a Lauren Bacall or Kathleen Turner deep sexiness will never come true, but my voice is fine. Like I said, better with time. I’ve come to terms with it. I think of it the way I think of my face, thoughts perfectly articulated by this limerick:

As a beauty I’m not a star,
There are others more handsome by far.
But my face, I don’t mind it
For I am behind it.
It’s the people in front that I jar.*

I don’t think anyone is particularly horrified by the sight of my face. Certainly, the whole of me has elicited startled responses, but that’s generally about racism, and those folks can’t actually see my face. I’m not always aware of the reactions people have to my face, but reactions to my voice are much more noticeable. I can hear the change in other people’s voices when I’m on the phone, can see people turn and look when I’m out and about. And, of course, there are the folks who just tell me.

I like to say it doesn’t matter, that it’s just how I talk. I know I’m lying, however. I know how I respond to certain voices. And there would be no way to count the number of times I’ve successfully used my voice to impact a situation. It matters. And that seems so unfair. We can’t help the voices we wind up with. Yes, there are classes that teach people to sound different, but why should anyone have to take those classes when they already come equipped with perfectly serviceable voices?

I can’t change that random inequity. But I suppose I can try to use my gift for good, right? What does that mean? Well, maybe it means my friend with the film project is on the right track. That baby who told me that my scolding her didn’t feel like scolding because of my dreamy, “warm tone,” was the clue. Instead of only writing my anger, maybe it’s time to put my voice to it, time to start telling people all the ways they need to step up, just how they can straighten up and fly right, just how fiercely they can work at being anti-racist, at dismantling the structures of racism that are destroying us all.

Let me just clear my throat.


* This limerick credited both to Woodrow Wilson and a poet I never heard of named Anthony Euwer. I have no idea whose poem it actually is, but I am choosing to believe it is Euwer’s poem and that Wilson was known to recite it (I’ve seen two different stories of people saying Wilson recited it for them).

Sending a warm thank you to my friend Lisa at Her decision to start making space for short-but-with-a-whole-arc musings was a good push for me. My essays of late have been getting longer and longer and longer … so long that I cannot find my way to the end and so have nothing to post on this blog. So I’m going to try writing shorter pieces, no more than 1,000 words, and see if I can’t get through some of the topics on my pages-long list of essay ideas! If this works, I may catch up with my #52essays challenge by year’s end!

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Tiny Little Dirty Feet

I was out and about yesterday, which means I am flattened by exhaustion today … ergo, this post will be short and silly. (I really want to use “ipso facto” here instead of “ergo.” Thoughts?)

I managed to have three phone meetings today without falling asleep in the middle of any of them. I managed to get a few paragraphs written and submitted for a project at work. I did a LOT of napping.

Late in the afternoon, I decided to make myself move. I had trash to take out. I wanted to check my mail. I needed to give myself proof that I had not done a south Brooklyn take on Gregor Samsa and morphed into a giant slug.

On my way down the hall to the elevator, I noticed something weird was happening with the floor. An odd pattern of shiny splotches. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that they were bare baby footprints. Up the hall, pivoting, back down the hall. But what must she have stepped in before tottering down the hall? Baby oil?

I got my mail, then followed those shiny little prints back to my door. I really hope the next stop for my baby neighbor was the bathtub!

It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers! With hundreds of folks participating, there’s more than a little something for everyone … and plenty of room for you to join in!


Because I am beyond exhausted, I’ve decided to let a random work generator get me through tonight’s slice.

  • china — I have begun buying china — a plate here, a saucer there — all of it mismatched. There’s no reason for this. Nor is there a need. And yet I’ve found acquiring these pieces ridiculously satisfying. I’ve had four pieces (plate, rimmed soup bowl, saucer, bread and butter plate) for years. Now I have some sauce bowls, a couple of bread and butter plates, a few salad/luncheon plates … and the discovery a) of some patterns I love (Castleton’s “Mayfair,” for example) and b) that the Royal Doulton dinner plate I bought for $0.75 at a stoop sale is worth $55.
  • belt — I need a belt. I have a terrible one (too clunky, too stiff), and I need to spend some time hunting for a better one. I want something sturdy but supple, something feminine but not girlie.
  • seat — All I can think of is that this random word inspiration is me getting through today’s slice by the seat of my pants … though, in truth, I think what I actually mean is “by the skin of my teeth.”
  • orange — Back in the bad old days when I thought I could and should only wear black, I would never have imagined all of the color that lives in my current closet. If you had told me that I would own not one, not two, but six orange tops and two orange dresses, I would have laughed and laughed. Even if I could have been convinced back then that color was okay, I would never have seen myself in orange. Thank goodness those days are gone!
  • curry — I’m just going to say: Mali Thai Kitchen, pumpkin curry. Really. #thatisall
  • station — A couple of months ago, a video of a woman becoming violent on the subway went viral. As I watched the video, stunned by this woman’s horribleness, I realized that the scene of the escalation to violence had something distressingly familiar about it: it began as the train pulled out of my subway station. I could have been on that train!
  • porridge — One of my happy discoveries on my first trip to Jamaica was that Jamaicans make wonderful Cream of Wheat-style breakfast cereals, and they call them “porridge.” The magical revelation of plantain porridge changed my understanding of what the world could be. I’d only ever heard this word used in that old nursery rhyme (Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold, Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old…). What on earth is Pease Porridge, though? Yes, of course I went to The Google, where I found that it is likely that the term comes from Pease Pottage, which was also called Pease Pudding, which actually sounds like something I’d like to have some of right now, please.
  • file — Now that I have finished making sentences for each of my random words, I want to file this post away in the “Desperation Is the True Mother of Invention” box.

Um, yeah. That’s all I’ve got. Thank you for your patience. I now returned you to your regularly scheduled slicing.

It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers! With hundreds of folks participating, there’s more than a little something for everyone … and plenty of room for you to join in!

Perspectives, Perceptions …

This morning I waited for the bus downtown.  I was on my way to meet Alejna for cafe au laits on Court Street.  (Yes, She of the Amazing Pants was in town and yes, I got to see her for a minute.  I love that that can just randomly happen.)  As I stood at the bus stop, this caught my eye:

… and I was immediately humming that song.  What, do you really not know what song I’m talking about?  Happily, YouTube can help us out¹:

I remember loving this song when I was a kid.  It was cute and fun and included the wonderful notion of solo world travel for girls.  I remember all of my friends telling me that Melanie was not singing about roller skates and keys.  I had no idea what they were talking about.  What were they talking about?  And how did they know this song was about something other than skates and keys?  They were 3rd graders just as I was.  Humming the song this morning, I acknowledged that yes, my friends were probably right and Melanie’s words could have been heard differently … but I still like the face-value meaning, still like that — just as Melanie sang — I roller skated and biked and didn’t drive and managed to do a fair amount of traveling. (And I suppose I could mean that in other ways, too, but right now I don’t.)

I also remember my mother having little patience for Melanie as a singer.  She said Melanie’s fame was based on the fact that she couldn’t sing, that she was some kind of novelty because her voice was so bad. And I have always thought of Melanie as a bad singer … and then I listened to her this afternoon and had to do a kind of audio double take.  I like her voice.  Should she have been auditioning for the opera? No, but I love the way she sings.

I can’t remember what I thought of her singing before I was told that she couldn’t sing.  I probably didn’t think about it at all, just liked the song.  How easily my perception of her voice could be skewed.  One stamp of disapproval and my whole perspective shifted.

Huh.  Not sure where I’m headed with this.  Randomly-snapped photo, memory of song, discovery that I actually don’t think Melanie was a bad singer … Maybe the point will catch up with me later.  For tonight, I think I’m just looking to share … and still humming that song … ²

¹ In fact, YouTube even offers up this completely, fabulous and bizarre home made music video of same!
² And liking that photo more every time I look at it. My sidewalk? Yes, it’s dirty. Whatever. It’s also really beautiful!