Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Trip Back in Time

Yesterday, I went back in time. Did you see a swoosh streak by you? That was me throttling back to last Friday where I completed the post I had begun the first time I was in last Friday.

However, in all my Polish glory, I didn't realize that the time stamp would, of course, be August 15th and would, ergo, post that same date on the site. In fact, I clicked on "Publish Post" no less than three times as I tried to figure out why there was nothing new showing on the site until I thought, "scroll down, fool" (yes, I admonish myself when I talk to - er - myself. Just keepin' it real.) There it was exactly where - and when - it should be.

I guess my flux capacitor was out of flux.

Back in the here and now, don't forget to scroll down to read the newest post. From last week.

It all makes sense if you're me.

Friday, August 22, 2008

In With the New

It's Couch Day at Casa Kiersten and I could not, could not, COULD NOT be more excited.

This past week, I've taken to turning on the kitchen light (there is no overhead light in my living room) so I can stand in the doorway to the living room and gaze at the empty space that will soon house my beautiful new brick red couch and arm chair.

Because I look good in red. That's why.

At times, I've wandered the room, patting the soon-to-be-hidden walls as I promise them excellent decorative enhancement. I've even just st00d in the middle of the room, surveying the unpacked videos and DVDs, the nearly cleared off top of my grandmother's coffee table, with a nowhere near faint sense of pleasure and anticipation. I've envisioned the exact parameters, surveyed the terrain, measured and remeasured to my heart's content. I've planned entire cat-repellent campaigns to avoid any arduous injury to my new decor, sent cell phone photos far and wide touting my furnishing coup and, I confess, spun around once or twice in glee.

Sigh. It's so satisfying becoming an adult. And it only took me 36 years.

How 'bout that.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Am I Wearing a Sign?

There are certain things that you expect to see if you spend a lot of time in Manhattan, or any major city really. Excessively pierced and/or tattooed individuals. Homeless people. Street theater and/or musicians. Rats the size of a small tiger. Flamboyantly dressed women or men pretending to be women. Women working to be treated like men. Tourists. The sidewalk preacher who may also a candidate for the loony bin. The Naked Cowboy. Activists passing out flyers. A fake baked chickie, her skin a dark-orange mess, walking like she was all that and a bag of Sun In. A professionally dressed couple macking on each other outside the World Trade Center at high noon. (Oh the stories I spun on that one!)

Public Urination.

For a while there during my tenure in NYC, I felt like I was wearing a sign that said "Please make my day and pee in front of me," because I seemed to be running into that a lot . Perhaps not surprisingly, these events occurred in and around the W. 4th Street subway station on the Blue Line as I was shuffling from work to classes at NYU. The Disneyfied area of midtown would never suffer such high jinx.

The first time was on a stormy day when the steps were slick with torrential rains. A clearly homeless woman had come down the first flight of stairs into the subway station to the covered midway landing and promptly squatted down and released a likewise torrential stream of urine. Just as I was coming up to that same landing from the subway.


Months later, walking up 4th Street towards NYU, a man drunkenly offered profuse apologies as I crossed the street and walked eastwards. "Sorry Miss, so sorry, sorry" he slurred at me. I couldn't figure out why he was apologizing to me until I notice that he was peeing against the side and bumper of a car right there in the middle of the street. I remember disgustedly saying to him "If you're sorry, don't do it," and walking swiftly by.

I mean, you kind of shrug that off as the price of doing business in the big city. But I haven't worked in the city for several years now and despite living in the fairly urban Weehawken for seven years, never had anything like that happen on this side of the Hudson River.

Until yesterday.

My new apartment is in a two-story house made up of two buildings that are connected by a second story bridge. The second building (not mine) houses the garage on the first floor and another apartment above it. It's actually quite and intriguing set up. Underneath the bridge and between the two buildings is an open breezeway connecting the front driveway to the backyard.

My landlord' s husband J looks like a tall Buddy Hackett. He's good natured and pleasant, just a tad odd and a bit eccentric. He seems to be around all the time, wandering around presumably doing upkeep things eschewing the backyard to take his rest in camp chairs set just outside our shared door in the breezeway.

Yesterday evening, I was out back in my own camp chair, enjoying the nearly forgotten pleasure of a summer evening in a backyard. My mosquito lamp was burning while I worked on my laptop in the company of a bottle of Vitamin water. I could hear J from time to time in the breezeway and wasn't surprised when he came through to the back yard. At the last minute, I decided not to acknowledge him as I knew he'd come over and jaw for a while and I wanted to keep writing while I was on a roll.

A few seconds later, I heard a faint buzz-like sound and looked around for any bees that might be swarming around. What I saw was J peeing into the weeds against the back wall of the garage. I confess I gaped for a minute, stupefied at what I was seeing. And then my first thought was "I am not telling my mother about this."

Apparently my new suburban landlord' s husband hasn't quite grasped the idea that there are "other people" living on the property now.

I'm choosing to believe that he didn't know I was there. I certainly didn't announce myself figuring it would only make the situation worse. I know that he likes to enjoy a beer or two once he gets back from his office cleaning job on Sunday, and I figure that probably impaired his awareness.

But come on!!!

What is the deal with people publicly peeing in front of me? Do I need to hang an occupancy sign in the back yard? A his and hers delineation line? A picture of a urinal with a line through it?

Maybe a placard reading "To Pee or Not to Pee - There is NO QUESTION!"

Friday, August 15, 2008

Grammar Angels

I've had an odd week filled with conversations regarding words. As well as with words, which is helpful as wordless conversations, while fun, are much more difficult to carry on when not face to face.

It started Tuesday at my writing critique group when one of my partners commented that I use very old words. She'd industriously looked up the etymology of several words in my chapter and noted that they'd been around for several hundred years. I believe the example she gave was my use of the word shod. Her wise insight was that I should better consider my audience, that they may not share my appreciation of having to look up words when reading a novel. Her less helpful comment was that I might try writing more common.

I did not say "Have you met me?"

Such a comment isn't entirely new; I once had a colleague
(fondly, I'm sure) say that she needed to consult a dictionary in order to hold a conversation with me. But I'm not apologetic for it either. I personally enjoy keeping lists of the words I discover while reading for which I don't already know the meanings. I may not always get around to looking them up, but I've scraps of paper all over the place filled with driblets to of these days.

That's not everyone's cup of tea. Many would rather just dive into an enjoyable story and escape for a while. Lord knows I've been there too. But the books and stories I return to are the ones that challenge and engage me.

That same week, while waiting for an office birthday party to commence, my senior writer Doug asked me if the proper phrase was "a happy medium" or "a happy median". I said it's the first and, as he thought otherwise, there went 10 minutes of us in fervent debate about the matter. After which there was cake and laughter and smart-mouthed talk, because that's the kind of people I work with - for the most part.

About half an hour after returning to my office, pleasantly filled with the ooey gooey chocolate center of an ice-cream cake, there was Doug again. "OK, I've got one for you. Is it 'chomping at the bit' or 'champing at the bit'?" I said chomping and there went another 15 minutes of debate complete with Doug visualizing his point with an - um - evocative imitation of a horse chomping on its bit complete with foot stamping. It also
included a lively discussion of past tense, present tense, past present tense and so on. (BTW - Webster's backs me up in both instances.)

This is our idea of fun.

The phrase "get a life" comes to mind now.

Although the chomping imitation was not to be missed.

Then it was my turn.

"Is it 'You have another thing coming' or 'You have another think coming'?" This is one of my favorites. Doug,
like most people, said "thing coming." But no one would say "if you thing I'm going to do this, you have another thing coming." No, it's "if you think I'm going to do this, you have another think coming." (Though Judas Priest would disagree with me.) People never say it that way, though, because it doesn't feel natural, however accurate it may be. It's just one of those grammar things that trips us up if we think about it for too long.

As, apparently, I do.

I like thinking about and exploring these things. I don't want to write more common and, frankly, I don't think I should have to. If you have to look up the words I'm using, well then I'm doing my job so
buck up baby. I want to be challenging and provocative and to raise the bar in the conversational gauntlet. Too much of our lives are abbreviated, too many of our interactions are broken down to slang and text-acceptable tidbits. Too many times we don't think about what we're saying (though I never do that, oh no, not me.)

It's all quite wonky.

Pick up the glove and accept the challenge. Be adventurous. Buy a dictionary.

Or the Microsoft Word Thesaurus works in a pinch too.

The day after these grammatical deliberations I found myself using the phrase "chomping at the bit" in an e-mail. Of course, all I could see was Doug and his oh-so-special, horse-like demonstration. Damned if I didn't go back and change it (erroneously) to champing. Suddenly I had this grammar angel on my shoulder making me over think the smallest point till my brain wanted to weep.

I still can't figure out if it's my better or darker angel.

Guess I'll just have to settle for a happy medium.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Highs and the Lows

I have survived moving hell - just. Thanks to unimaginable help from all corners of my life, we are now moved into our new first floor apartment. It's a huge improvement over the third floor walk up that I've called home for seven years. I had 72 hours of floating on the highs before I got zonked by some unforeseen lows.

High: first floor = NO STAIRS!!
Low: first floor = people thumping above me; landlord outside my windows and front door all. the. time. 7am? yep. 9pm? yep. This morning, the rain kept him inside, but only for a very short while. My landlord kind of looks like a tall Buddy Hackett so you can imagine the joys of my morning especially mornings like today's when he's outside shirtless. My eyes! My eyes!

High: driveway = NO ON-STREET PARKING!! Woo Hoo!!
Low: driveway = landlord backed into my car on my very first morning. There's not much damage and he's paying for it, no question. But I spent seven years in the city with no accidents. First night in the suburbs and Boom!

High: living in suburbs = backyard and trees!!
Low: living in suburbs = trees that block my satellite access. No directv access available. Have to shell out for new Verizon Fios in order to get BBCAmerica and other cool channels necessary for my continued sanity. Installation is scheduled for August 11th. Meanwhile I'm about wearing out the Harry Potter oeuvre.

High: shorter commute = less commuting stress.
Low: shorter commute = more time at work.

High: new cell phones = no land line needed in new apt. for a phone no one is ever home to use.
Low: new cell phones = no phone as the building's structure is so dense, it keeps the wireless signal from penetrating. Now have to have Verizon work some magic or else make my office in the driveway. Right now, I have to sit in the car to have a conversation with any hope of not having the call lost.

Well, I knew the apartment was too good. There had to be a catch somewhere.

I think I found it...