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Met with Sophia (my mentee) today. A lot of talking, a lot of laughing, some writing, some planning for Saturday’s workshop. After we hugged goodbye, I walked up the street, headed back to my office.

Coming toward me down the block was a group of five adolescent boys, a couple of tall ones and three small ones. They were all bunched together and doing something that had their arms in all kinds of odd raised and bent positions. I couldn’t make any sense of them at first. Then I realized one of the small ones had a can of Reddi Wip (which I didn’t know until just now is spelled this way). He was sharing it with the others. Sharing how, you might ask. Yeah. He sprayed whipped cream directly into the mouth of one friend, into the hands of another (yuck!), and — most alarming — into the Red Bull can of another! (Double yuck!) As I passed them, one of the tall boys had splayed himself against a wall with his mouth open, ready to get sprayed.

Boys be weird, yo.

I turned off that street to head over to my building. There were two women walking behind me. Content Warning: This story contains … ahem … mention of genitalia!

“You know, this is something I can do for myself. So, if I’m going to pay someone to do it, I’m going to give a big tip.”

“Do what?”

“My nails. This is — what do you call that, when you could do it yourself but you get someone else to do it?”

“Lazy?” [Laughter.]

“No, like … it’s a luxury. It’s some messy job I could do but don’t want to. So I give a big tip.”

“Cause you feel guilty.”

“I guess. A little, maybe. Like, if I wasn’t doing it myself, if I was paying some woman to wax my vagina, I’d give her a BIG tip. I’m saying.”

Ouch!

Grown women be weird, too!
__________
That title? It’s from a long-ago comment, from the first time I wanted to name a post “Overheard.”



It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices!

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Determined to write more than two sentences tonight, I went back through the daily writing prompts that Lisa (aka Satsumaart) sent me a couple of years ago to see what would catch my eye. The first prompt I saw had me composing my post even before I clicked onto this page: Moving

I’ve moved a lot. I moved once a year for the first six years that I lived in New York. I once moved after only nine months.  I hate moving house, and yet nothing seemed strange about the fact that I was changing apartments so often.

The place a moved to from my mother’s house was an apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, on the edge of Chinatown. An apartment I shared with a friend and a guy I didn’t know who was eventually swapped out for a woman I didn’t know. It was a great place — an almost 1600sf loft with lots of sunlight and a roof we could hang out on. I loved living down there, but I left so I could look for a place my sister, Fox, and I could share. I found a big, cheap, two-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights: $50 less rent than I’d been paying for my one room on Ludlow Street! That was when we started calling ourselves The Poverty Twins. We had so much nothing. One chair, futons on the floor, my old stereo, and the cast iron skillet we found in the apartment. We were a little pathetic, but we had a good time living there, a good time living together. We left when we learned that we were living above drug dealers who didn’t hesitate to murder one neighbor as an object lesson for the rest of us. That was a lesson we learned quickly. We moved to Brooklyn.

That first Brooklyn apartment remains, to this day, the biggest, most extraordinarily beautiful place I’ve lived.  It was the bottom 2/3 of a house. The house was bigger than a brownstone, maybe half again as wide, and Fox and I had the parlor floor, the ground floor, the basement and the back yard (complete with grape vines!). We had more room than our furniture-less selves knew what to do with: two bedrooms, living room, formal dining room, sun porch, and mud room. We had ceiling fans, built in book shelves and desks in the bedrooms, decorative and working fireplaces and a fabulously-appointed kitchen with an extra large fridge, tons of counter space, windows onto the back yard and counter space for miles (seriously, about fifteen feet of counter, plus an extra little 2-foot side counter and a counter top in the pass-through to the dining room that was bigger than the entire cook space in Jill Santopietro’s kitchen 4b cooking videos). We also had what a friend of mine called a “love-making tub” … a big, jacuzzi-like thing in a room with dark wood and slate-tiled walls and little sconces with soft-glowing bulbs that were great for ambiance (but crap for putting on make up).

I was hugely spoiled by living in that house.  I love where I live now, but I still think longingly of all the space I had there, of the craziness of our grapevines taking over the yard, of having our first Christmas tree (a tall, half-spindly thing that we made all the decorations for, including popcorn garlands), of how at home I felt immediately. Of how comfortable we were living there with all that space we didn’t need (we had two large rooms we never even used, that’s how much too much space we had).

We didn’t want to leave that place, but any thought of putting down roots were quashed almost immediately when our new landlords told us they wanted to sell. When we left, Fox moved to Eastern Parkway, and I moved across the street to my first on-my-own apartment. That apartment was a hot mess: fleas, collapsing walls, corroded plumbing, strangers with keys (a scary, early morning discovery!) and some creeping brown sludge that bubbled up from the baseboards and ruined my futon. That was the nine-months place … and only my complete lack of money made my occupancy last so long. I couldn’t afford to move.

When I finally left, I moved to a place on Lafayette that I really liked. That was the first apartment in which I had the thought of actually settling. I had good landlords — kind, considerate, attentive to problems — and the place got lots and lots of wonderful light. There wasn’t even half enough closet space for a near-hoarder like me, the floors slanted, and the bathroom was small and awkward and shower-only. Still. I loved it there. I had good neighbors, had both north and south-facing windows, including a room-wide picture window with a nice sitting ledge that the cats and I enjoyed equally. I probably could have lived there happily for years. It looked like this:

Two closets? And not even big closets? As if that would ever have worked for me. So that little room on the side, instead of being my bedroom, which would have made all the sense in the world, became my storage room. The room at the top was my giant I-could-cook-for-an-army-in-here kitchen, and the picture window room was my everything else room. I kept thinking of things I would do to make the place more like home: build an island for the kitchen, get bookshelves, paint, get carpeting, unpack the little room and set it up as my writing/craft space … so many plans that came to nothing. I unpacked hardly anything, and then it was time to move. A friend got me interested in the idea of sharing an apartment, and I liked the thought of paying less rent, so I left my pretty, sunny little place behind.

Next, it was on to Eastern Parkway (Fox had already left for Park Slope). My friend and I found a place right across from the Botanic Garden. I enlisted my brother and sister-in-law’s help, hired a man with a van (a funny Russian guy I got along with so well my brother thought he was a friend, not a hired hand) and schlepped my life over to a big duplex apartment with two bathrooms and a garden. The entrance was into the upper floor. My room mate took the bedroom on that level, a space she shared with the kitchen, bathroom and our living/dining room. Downstairs was a huge open space with a smaller, shower-only bathroom and the door leading to the garden. I took that space for my room. We had some wacky notion that we would eventually set things up so that we had a living room area downstairs, too, but in my heart I knew that was never going to happen. That would have meant I was living in public, and I wouldn’t have liked that. Basically we shared the upper floor, and I kept the downstairs to myself. A very uneven distribution of territory. I also got the garden, but that was mostly because I was the only one interested in working it.

After 18 months of swanky duplex living, an out of town friend came to visit and when I brought her down to my space, she gave me a funny look, asked how long I’d been living there. When I told her, she shook her head. This is kind of how our conversation went:

“Why haven’t you unpacked?”

“What are you talking about?  Of course I’ve unpacked.”

“Stacie.  Look around.  This space is full of boxes.”

“Oh that.  I just haven’t gotten to that yet.”

“In all the years I’ve known you, I’ve never seen you unpacked.  What do you think that’s about?”

In that moment, I thought it was about her being nuts. Of course I’d unpacked in every placed I’d lived … except then I thought about it and realized how very much that wasn’t true. Not only was I moving like I had the law on me, I was keeping my life in boxes so I’d be ready for the next move. So I freed my possessions. That was the first apartment into which I fully moved … and then I only stayed there another year and a half before moving to Park Slope. Fox had moved to DC, and I moved into her old apartment, with her old room mate.

I almost let myself believe that I’d learned my lesson about unpacking, that I should stay in boxes because obviously I was going to keep moving. Instead, I forced myself to unpack, to set up my bookshelves and find places on them for all my stuff. And I stayed there for about five years, so it was good to be unpacked, to walk into my rooms at night and see all my stuff.

After that it was a move downtown to a too-small apartment into which I should never have moved. I entered that place under a cloud: one of my cats had just been euthanized, my decision to move had put a strain on one of my best friendships, I’d just broken up with my crazy Russian boyfriend, my awful mover couldn’t get the job done until after midnight — which meant that, even before I was in the apartment, I’d had a fight with one of my new neighbors. I closed the door at the end of the move-in and sat down and cried.

I was never able to unpack in there. It was too small to hold all my things — I’d exiled almost all of my furniture to a storage unit in Vinegar Hill, and there wasn’t enough space to unpack the things I kept with me. I did the best I could, but still felt like I was living out of boxes. I hated that place, and yet I was there the longest I’d lived anywhere since leaving my family. Years of living in a place I hated simply because I couldn’t bear the thought of another move.

And now I’m here. While it’s true that I wouldn’t have found this  apartment if I’d left the last one any sooner, finding a place as nice as this one makes me that much more sad to have stayed in the last one as long as I did. But now I’ve lived here longer than any place since leaving home, and that feels just right.

Have I settled in here? Let’s see: I rescued all my furniture from storage (full disclosure: I opened that storage unit door and almost cried to see my things after seven years away from them!), I’ve bought book shelves, arm chairs and … a sleeper sofa! In my mind, that last is a real indicator of making the place you live into a home, having a sofa and having the ability to comfortably host sleepover guests must mean you have a real home, yes?



It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices!

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Spent my afternoon talking about David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. This is the first Malcolm Gladwell book I’ve read … well, heard. I didn’t read it, I listened to it. About three and a half times. It’s another book club pick I thought I wouldn’t enjoy, so I borrowed it as an ebook from the library.

“Enjoy” doesn’t seem like the right word at this point, as I work my way through listen number 4.

Book group met for hours today … and it wasn’t enough time to talk through everything we wanted to talk about in this book. We had a great discussion, and we still couldn’t fit the whole book in. I, for one, would have been happy to talk for a few more hours so we could discuss all the things. Well … not really, but I am sorry I won’t get to hear those aspects of the book examined by the smart ladies in my book group.

Have you read this book? Which section(s) did you find most compelling? Have you read others of Gladwell’s books? Which would you recommend I pick up next?



It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices!

Read Full Post »

Today I realized that one week from now is the 24 Hour Project. By the time this time rolls around on April 1st, I will be one or two photos from the end of my day-long extravaganza. I’ve only managed to do this successfully once, back in 2015. Last year, I had a training all day Saturday and knees that were on the path toward surgery, so walking the city for 24 hours just wasn’t in the cards. This year is different.

Yes, I am still recovering from my last knee surgery, but I think I’ll be able to make this work. I know ways and places that I can rest my leg during the day, and I think I’ll try to walk less and position myself strategically instead, find places where there will be enough random characters for me to photograph.

As is my wont, I will post my photos with super-short stories. If you’re curious, you can drop by on Instagram throughout the day to see the fruits of my labors. And at some point during the day, I’ll mosey over here and post my first poem for NaPoWriMo–because there never seems to be a possibility that I will say “no” to a challenge!

There is the lovely chance that a certain slicer might be joining me for all or part of the day, which will be so much fun. If you’re in New York on the 1st and want to get coffee with a very tired and achy street photographer, left me know!

For now, here are some of my favorites–in time order–from 2015:



It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices!

Read Full Post »

Tonight, my brain is fried, firing on only a couple of cylinders. I have been trying to do too many things. Big surprise.

Every March is like this. I start racing headlong into the month, I stay up late to read other slicers’ posts. I don’t pace myself. I don’t find time during the day to write my slices. And suddenly I get halfway to three-quarters through the month … and I’m ready to collapse. My bones feel heavy. I get cranky and snappish at work. My neck aches. I have nothing to say.

Tonight, having nothing to say reminded me of something. Reminded me of the autograph books we used to use as kids. At the end of the school year or the camp summer, we’d pass them around and have our friends write silly, sweet, clever things in them. (When we did this at camp, people wrote their addresses. Because we were young enough to be foolishly and perennially optimistic that we would stay in touch during the school year. So optimistic … despite the fact that this never actually happened.)

Are autograph books still a thing? Did you ever have one? What kinds of things did you write in your friends’ books? Do you remember any of the things they wrote in yours?

Things I can remember that kids wrote in my autograph books:

America is our nation. Roslyn is our station.
We go to school and act like fools
and call it education.

2 good
+2 be    
4 gotten

I was here, but now I’m gone.
I left my name to carry on.
Those who know me, know me well.
Those who don’t, can go to hell!

And the one that made me remember those books tonight:

Can’t think. Brain dumb.
Inspiration won’t come.
No ink. Bad pen.
That’s all. Amen.



It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices

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I have been trying to be more intentional about making time to spend with friends. This has and hasn’t worked. Tonight is one of the nights when it worked!

I thought I hadn’t seen Javi in over a year. When we traced back to the last time we got together, we realized it’s been more than two years. That right there? That’s ridiculous. Yes, sure, there were good reasons for our long time no see: family, dramas and complications, health problems, dissertation writing and defending. We’ve planned and canceled and planned and canceled. But finally tonight — when, in truth, I actually needed to cancel again — I refused to change plans, and we finally got together for drinks and dinner at Bogotá, one of my favorite drinks and dinner places.

Javi is one of those friends who unlocks a different side of me, a version of me that doesn’t come out and play often. I’ve missed the way I laugh with her, the way our conversations spool out so comfortably, the way she always knows the exact right thing to say about my hair.

I needed to come home tonight. I have a project that needs starting, that needs doing. But I couldn’t bear to cancel. And I’m so glad I didn’t. I needed to get home, but I needed this more, needed to be reminded of myself in this way. Now I have more energy to take on the work ahead!

A little fuzzily focused, but fine!



It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices

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Yesterday, I wrote an arun poem for the first time in forever. And a few people commented that it was a form they weren’t familiar with, so I thought I’d post about aruns tonight.

It’s no surprise that the arun isn’t a familiar form because … wait for it … I invented it! No, really. As crazy as that sounds, I did. For poetry month in 2012 the form I chose was the Zeno. When I read about it, I discovered that it was a fairly new form, created in 2009. And that surprised me. I’d never really thought about inventing a form, figured all the forms had already been invented. Or that inventing forms was someone else’s domain, certainly not mine. But there was the Zeno, only a few years old when I learned about it.

Then, in 2013, another slice-of-life writer introduced me to OULIPO and snowball poems (scroll down the page to see the description). Combining my thoughts about the Zeno with the idea of the snowball pushed me to play around with patterns I liked, and — voilà! — I came up with the arun with its specific syllable count but no rhyme scheme because I still haven’t quite reconciled myself to rhymes.

The arun: a 15-line poem with the syllable count 1/2/3/4/5 — 3x.

It still doesn’t seem possible that I created a form. That’s really should be, must be, someone else’s domain. But here we are, with the arun. “Arun” means “five” in Yoruba (according to The Google), and the name was chosen by popular vote in a little blog poll I put up. It’s not super sophisticated, but I like it.

Here’s one I found in a draft blog post from three years ago:

Play
this game —
eyes open
senses alert.
Listen for every
breath,
every
sighed exhale.
Don’t show your hand.
For now, in silence,
watch.
Keep still —
hold your breath.
Listen. Listen.
This is the reveal.

I have no idea what I was upset about on April 17, 2014, but this didn’t express it well enough. I like the one I posted on that day better than this one, but I wanted to share this one anyway. (It was languishing in my “Drafts” folder all this time, seemed only fair.)

Still not sure what form I’ll write next month, but wanted to clear up the mystery of “what’s an arun, and where did it come from?”

If you write an arun, I’d love to read it. If you link to it in the comments, I’ll be sure to check it out.

Or, perhaps, instead of writing an arun, you’ll create a form of your own! If you do, please share. I’d love to try my hand at your new form!



It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices

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