Strange Things Men Said

Or more accurately – Things Strange Men Said

Men

The guy waiting behind me in line for the Ladies Room at a bar: “That was really quick. You’re a pusher.” Simply delightful.

Ex-boyfriend when I didn’t feel well: “Maybe you have your period.” I think I would know. 

Ex-boss when trying to improve sales at a high-end department store: “You have assets. Stand at the front of the store.” As a teenager, I actually did what he said. 

Electrician, after asking my age: “You look really good for thirty-two.” How should one look at thirty-two? 

American friend I made while traveling: “You have tits like a fat girl but on a good body.” Why thank you, how very eloquent.

Different ex-boss whose friend called work and I picked up: “Are you horny?”
Me: “Not anymore.” 

Ex-boyfriend: “It’s not the beer that makes someone fat, it’s all the pizza afterwards.”

Random guy on the street in New York: “You got an ass like a black girl.” 

A takeout delivery guy on 49th Street: “Hhhhhhssssssssssss …..”
Me: “Are you really hissing at me?” Suddenly embarrassed, he walked faster. 

Yoga teacher in India when discussing how parents should interact with each other in front of their children: “What’s wrong with slapping?” He did however have a problem with kissing. 

Family member when talking about the lady-boys of Bangkok: “They’re better looking than real women.” My male role model.

Same yoga teacher when talking about sex before marriage: “Without marriage, what’s to stop someone from just taking [sex] whenever they want?” I’m pretty sure that’s the definition of rape.

Republican friend of an ex-boss: “We’ll be the laughing stock of the world if gay marriage passes in America.” Then he said it was likely to cause World War III with the Middle East. 

 

Picture 7Moonwalk Musing I have been purring down the phone like a cat lately. Everyday I receive a multitude of spam calls on the landline – salespeople calling about upgrading our phone account, political campaigns, insurance companies and menopause packages. Rather than my usual reactions, which include pressing the button twice to cut the ringing short or asking them how they have my number and suggesting that they find a more rewarding career path … I instead to decided to purr like a cat.

That’s right, I pick up the phone, roll my tongue and produce a long “PPPRRRRRRrrrrrrrr……” Satisfying for us both, if I may be so bold. 

 

 

 

 

Ladies Who Linger

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Sometimes I find myself waiting in tedious bathroom lines for years. Centuries wade past as precious moments of my life go by wasted, while loo-goers piss with the immediacy of dial up.

Perhaps they’re redecorating, switching the position of the wall mirror with the imitation Salvador Dali print, and placing the soap dispenser on the left side, rather than the right. 

As I stand in line I think about going back to my seat to continue a riveting conversation about the Koon’s exhibit over Syrah, but with each minute that goes by, I reassure myself they will emerge at any moment. I watch the clock hanging on the wall as the menacing second-hand ticks by . . . evaluate a cabinet of fresh vegan cookies, smile at waiters as they wander past me, then past me again, and then (somewhat embarrassingly) past me again. 

I can be in and out of a public bathroom in thirty seconds. I’ve counted – more than once. With people waiting, I can make it even faster. I’m fierce WC competition, although sadly it feels like nobody else is playing the game.

Out of the many competitions I have never entered, this one I could win. I’m certain of that. I have all the skills necessary: a yogi, multi-tasker, and dress-wearer. With time to spare I would generously change an empty paper roll and wipe down the sink.

Having made my way through life in various ladies rooms with upmost acceleration, it seems a shame that prize money is awarded to body builders and show cats when I possess such great talent.

What are they doing in there? I wonder. Did they die of cryptosporidiosis or have they moved in – setting up camp with a wood burning fire, reclining in an armchair with a full-bodied, oak noted Cabernet Sauvignon and reading the six-volume autobiographical novel by Knausgård?

At some point they will emerge with the nonchalance of an oblivious visitor who has overstayed their welcome. Meanwhile babies have been born at Mt Sinai and my potential conversation has disappeared into the ethers … As I dart towards the lavatory, lost time becomes as surreal as on Dali’s melting clock which is now positioned stoically above the towelettes. 

 

Picture 7Moonwalk Musing Do dogs know how elevators work?

 

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kids

Babes

“Schizoid behavior is a pretty common thing in children. It’s accepted, because all we adults have this unspoken agreement that children are lunatics.”
― Stephen King

The lowest moment came when he called me into the bathroom, my vision violated by a small white bottom held open by two tiny hands, as he asked me to wipe him clean. Surely a four-year-old can wipe his own bum, I know two-year-olds with more nous … Perhaps he can smell my fear and lack of experience, as potent as the little turd he has created, buoyant in the bowl next to us. I feel suspiciously like he is milking me for all he can get. “Can I call you back?” My phone call is cut short as I dubiously scrunch up a piece of loo paper and erase the small mess between his bottom cheeks.

“Don’t flush it! I want to seeeeee!”

It would be an understatement to say that babysitting is a far cry from writing. Nothing could be further from the creative writing process than battling with the needs of babes. Yet somehow the juxtaposition between the lockdown to my keyboard, whilst immersed in thought-soup, and the sheer force of being pulled into the present moment with kids (poop and all) compliments both activities with intensified stark contrast. And for the record – writing and childcare are as demanding and difficult as each other. My metaphorical hat is tipped to nannies and stay-at-home parents.

Once upon a time I would bring novels and notepads with the (now laughable) assumption that I would read brilliant manuscripts by literary masters while the squirts would play happily by themselves. Instead I find myself in imaginary sword fights, cooking unwanted dinners and negotiating good behavior with dessert.

I eventually lay between equally exhausted small bodies on the colorful bed sheet printed with zooming cars and read stories of pirates and dragons and mischievous children. I reflect on these long afternoons of constant physical action that are not so different to the writing process after all. Releasing my monkey-mind and committing to the page, ultimately to embrace the creative flow, draws a parallel to these little physical monkeys who battle through the day with relentless defiance … until (like me) they eventually let go; peaceful warriors surrendering to their dreams.

“The soul is healed by being with children.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

heartsingMy Heart Sings For author interviews on NPR, the newly renovated Bowery Poetry Club on Monday evenings, New York summer … you’re here at long last! Vegetarian South Indian restaurants in Murray Hill NYC, my new desk / sewing machine

Soup

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I didn’t feel like eating the vegetable soup I made yesterday. It seemed old: cold celery and carrot bits floating around in the deep Le Creuset stockpot. Curry residue caked to the side. Well then, how old is soup in a can? Not as old as Warhol’s. A quick search will provide the answer: “Could be up to two years.” The soup in my refrigerator suddenly didn’t seem so bad. 

 

Picture 7Moonwalk Musing What would it be like to make love in the New York Public Library? Rather stimulating I would think … Legs spread open like pages in a book. Hammered next to Hemingway, poked by Proust … Mister Darcy running his fingers along the small of your back … 

Peanut Butter and other missing items

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I wonder why he can’t find things. 

Google tells me it’s the difference in vision between genders: Hunter / Gatherer. 

Gatherer can see many things at once: berries and babies and such, while Hunter focuses in on one single point for stalking mothering deer and wild squirrels in Prospect Park — the reason a quick perve by the Hunter is never particularly tactful. Innocent heads turn, discreet as Grand Central Station, to admire pairs of lengthy bare legs striding along Spring Street. Meanwhile, Gatherer can note shoe size and coffee brand with the mere bat of an eyelash. 

Hunters always seem to be looking for something … books, keys, peanut butter, weird tools and obscure gadgets — Gathering territory, I suppose, as I gravitate towards the missing items with the ease and grace of a bee to the blossom. I retrieve cello-tape and scissors and Chopin nocturnes and memories surface of bosses, teachers and lovers sharing the mayhem of focused eyesight. 

“Have you seen my _______?” Becomes the most commonly asked question. 

Peanut butter and strawberry jam sit patiently exposed on a shelf in the fridge but out of the visual periphery of male eyesight, each item distressingly camouflaged by its imposing neighbor. Menacing kombucha bottles and obstructive omega 3’s. Even in a studio apartment organized things appear to have gone awol. 

A real life (but more frustrating) game of Where’s Waldo begins! To the Hunter, a humble bookshelf is the New York Public Library and the refrigerator like a jungle of comestible obstacles. 

I finally understand why we have three jars of crunchy peanut butter.

 

Picture 7Moonwalk Musing If dogs ruled: everyone would have unfaltering enthusiasm. Sleep would be our definition of success. We’d stash used panties. Licking our bottoms in public would be encouraged, sniffing other’s bottoms would be a standard greeting. We’d bury our food. Then look for it later: retrieving old sandwiches, blueberry muffins and half-eaten apples from the garden or nearest park. Unbridled jumping-bounding-licking-twirling would be the acceptable way to welcome a loved-one home. 

 

 

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Brooklyn

White Girl

Yesterday I had a babysitting job in the great depths of Brooklyn. I assumed the area might be a kindred neighborhood to Park Slope or Cobble Hill: occupied by strollers and fashionable parents living in gut-renovated Brownstones on tree-lined streets with trendy cafes and tapas bars …

After passing ten or so stops outside of Manhattan, I exited the subway at Church Avenue. This was definitely a part of New York I had never seen before. Virgin blue eyes experiencing East Flatbush for the first-time. A white minority in a neighborhood of black faces and midnight hair.

Jeans and white sneakers. Low cars, tinted windows and dirty bass. NYPD cars circle the block while groups of youths haunt street corners. A man has his arm wrapped around a woman’s neck in a front porch and a child cries out. He releases her. She clutches her young daughter and takes her inside.

Takeaway joints and an old style barber shop. Discount stores and fried chicken.

I stand out, a white fool carrying a historic burden of shame. I’m not from America. I never acknowledged its deep past as part of my being, yet walking down Nostrand Avenue I can’t help but feel the collective consciousness: heavy, a full diaper loaded with shit. I realize how often I am part of the majority, an unearned occupancy I take for granted. White faces dominate shampoo bottles and movies and politics and ‘safe neighborhoods’. 

Behind the gated front and Fort Knox security is a beautiful Brownstone with a massive new kitchen and outdoor garden. Two blonde kids are revved up and ready to take on the new babysitter. I find myself inspired by the characterful old home and intrigued by the gritty street-life outside.

I leave the job at nine o’clock, exhausted and humbled from chasing four and two year old brothers. Radical tickle fights, mountains of laughter, cacophony of tears.

Before I go, the mom tells me about the neighborhood. She says for my own safety it’s best that I know the truth, she’s not gonna lie – there are guns in this neighborhood. Some innocent people got shot in the middle of the day a few months back, accidental victims of gang related crime. She wants me to know so that I have my wits about me. “Stay alert.” 

I walk two blocks to the subway along the main road. Low street lamps. Fluorescent signs. Ladies gossip in a halogen-lit nail bar. Kids sit out smoking cigarettes in the balmy heat. I am called “white girl” for the first time since living in New York. I slink down the subway steps and board the 2 train home. I feel somewhat altered. Neutral. 

… Back to sit the babes next Sunday.

heartsingMy Heart Sings For beautiful bookstore McNally Jackson, a vintage Porsche, Ayurveda Cafe on the Upper West Side, A Passage To India by E.M Forster, Bonobos

Just Kids

patti

“But secretly I knew I had been transformed, moved by the revelation that human beings create art, that to be an artist was to see what others could not.”
― Patti Smith, Just Kids

I finished reading Just Kids by Patti Smith last night. It left me rather speechless. Still. Poignant. Staring at the last page, left with sadness and satisfaction. Heartbroken. Inspired. She writes of a time in New York that I have romanticized: Janis Joplin at the Chelsea Hotel, drawling “man” after every sentence. Poets and writers and artists and musicians. Warhol and Bob Dylan. Jimi Hendrix. John Lennon. A time of creative and social revolution. A band of artists on a common mission. In the city that stirs. Drugs for creativity. She left me buzzing. Wondering – Am I from this time? Did I die a tragic death of self-abuse? I am nostalgic for a time I never lived through. Yet she painted it so clearly. Greenwich Village, Chelsea, 42nd Street. She describes it as I had always imagined. The tragedy. The beauty. Hustling. The common thread of youth chasing after their hearts … bounding before them. The bond between Patti and Robert Mapplethorpe. Master and muse. The connection of two artists. Trust. Companionship. Unnamable. Unlabel-able to the outside world. Invisible siamese connection.

Deeply personal. Generous to the reader. A most beautiful dedication. A most compelling story of love and art. 

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Don’t Worry Be Happy

“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” 
― Bob Dylan

Humbled on Sunday: by guitar (and not knowing)

My body rushed with inspiration and tears blurred my vision. I felt overcome with emotion – knowing I was in the right place.

We were sitting on cushions at a little café in the village of Bhagsu Nag in India and my fellow yoga student, Theresa, was kindly initiating me to guitar playing. I realized that I had a hidden fantasy of wanting to sing and play but it had always seemed too hard and out of my reach: impractical and expensive and frivolous. With softly spoken encouragement she showed me three chords to play and sing along to Don’t Worry Be Happy. My fingers tingled for days following.

I am moved by the pure desire of the human spirit. When we put aside our worries about being too old to learn something new or about time running out or having too many interests – that paradoxically when we continue to follow our heart we become younger and the time that we do have becomes more enriched.

Growing up I was totally hopeless at playing musical instruments, simply because I had no desire to learn. I tried playing the piano and flute and I was a horror at both. Practicing was like pulling teeth. When I held the guitar in my arms for the first time in Bhagsu Nag, I was amazed at how natural she felt. A long lost lover reunited at last. 

Coming home from California at midnight last week, I walked into our dim apartment to find the coffee table scattered with low-lit candles and the unmistakable shape of a guitar wrapped in pink wrapping paper with a large green ribbon: a gift from my husband for my birthday. Knowing my history with musical instruments, I was nervous if I could make the most of his thoughtful gift. 

Everyday I find that I am inspired to hold her in my arms and strum her delicate strings. I find myself dedicated to my practice. It’s easy and enjoyable. I am amazed by how my tastebuds have changed. 

I feel deeply humbled how we never know anything – even ourselves, perhaps especially ourselves – and when we let go of our stories, limitless plots become new pathways to explore. We are novels with no endings.

Always be seeking, for you never know the discoveries that lay ahead. 

“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

heartsingMy Heart Sings For New movie Fading Gigolo directed by John Turturro, Lindt 90% dark chocolate, talking on the phone to my girlfriends for hours, watching Bob’s Burgers for a cheap laugh, the memoir Just Kids by Patti Smith, my new guitar

Culture Shock

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“The painter has the Universe in his mind and hands.”
― Leonardo da Vinci

Back to billboards and glossy magazine covers with skinny white women. Airbrushed legs and pornographic smiles. Men move around the streets in square shouldered suits like robots on remote control. People attached to phones and gadgets like umbilical cords, life support. The sound of the subway screeching to a halt. Gigantic American meals, big enough for a family of five. The problems of the west: obesity, materialism, depression.

Bhagsu Nag seems awfully far away. My friends who would sing on the street, hug when they greet, look me in the eye. Present. I wonder where they are right now. In conversation over tea and joints at low tables, making music, dancing, breaking bread. They carry no weight, a lightness and freedom in their being. I arrived back in New York two weeks ago from India, and it provides the culture shock I was warned about.

We wander into a guitar store on 4th Street in the village and I strum on a vintage guitar. My darling, he guides me in, he listens: the one I choose to share this artistic life with. He’s my Diego, my mentor. It’s out of tune, I strum softly, pretending I can play. Imagining I have a dancing audience with long skirts and hair and dangling love beads while I sing ‘Summertime’.

He tells me I can do anything, my darling. We are an island, you and me, where creativity is sacred and safe. Art comes first. We share this pure intention, this total dedication. It is certainly more difficult to navigate my path with the haunting costs and expectations of Manhattan living. But I realize it doesn’t matter where I am, no one can touch it or destroy it. No amount of brainwashing can take away the Art that’s inside me.

 

We are free spirits.

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Golden Mangoes and Dancing Elephants 

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” 
― Albert Einstein

The little Tibetan woman shuffles from table to table taking orders of chai masala and mint tea. Psychedelic fabric drapes across the ceiling like giant butterfly wings soaring above and dim lights hang heavy and glowing; ripe fruit, golden mangoes. There are no walls, just a few bamboo sticks mounting the roof with flimsy curtains attached like ribbons to a ponytail and exposing the shadow of the Himalayan mountain ranges.

New friends sit crossed-legged on cushions and lean on low tables over tea. My patterned blue skirt dancing with elephants drapes over my legs. Nearly bare breasts – free from the restriction of cups and straps and wires – just softly shielded with fine wool and lace.

Woodsmoke, tobacco, and spices gently hover like bees to honeycomb.

Hippies wander through carrying guitars and tambourines and exotic brass horns that I have never seen before. They wear wiry beards and embroidered Moroccan hats. Their hair has gone astray like a forgotten garden – wild and loose and natural. Naked faces and free smiles. They gather opposite us, close and carefree … strums and hums and rhythm … sweet music.

Sinking lower, knees kiss, dusty feet encrusted with black India, toe rings and spangly anklets. Gold bracelets jingle-jangle on my wrist, my moonstone ring rests gently on my finger (“It is sad,” said a crystal man, “jus five minit to clean.” I declined, and so there sits my moonstone; translucent and melancholy reminding me of my contagious pain). Kind eyes exchange glances. Shared gratitude.

“You become who you really are in India”, says Jay sitting to my left, and I couldn’t agree more. I had just extended my stay by one week but could quite easily stay for one year. Perhaps it is a bubble, a lifestyle that at some point must burst back into reality. But in the present moment the effect of India releases the bow lines. With no one to tell us the meaning of success, how to dress, act, eat, behave, we wipe the slate clean. The conditioning throughout our lives imprints on our psyches like a deep scar, becoming ever more prevalent with each white and middle-class dominated billboard and magazine and news channel and bank account figure and exam and parents-teachers-peers approval.

The effect of the hash loosens my laugh! I can’t hardly stop! Suddenly my conversation with Jay becomes incomprehensible, confusing … a state of collapse. Enormous invisible hands pin us down and imaginary colossal fingers tickle us fiercely. Too weak to fight back, we surrender … letting go into the depths of hungry ganja jaws … we laugh and laugh until the tickle monster finally gets bored and sets us free.

My mind sails effortlessly with the grace of a fish gliding through water … I’m fluid, euphoric, delayed … My surroundings become hyper-real. Deep, musky incense; a heavy inhale, the sweet taste of moussaka; creamy and rich, the vibrations of the hippies strumming, singing: “shakin’ that ass motherfucker, shakin’ that ass!” I had rather expected words about peace and love and wearing flowers in her hair … But shakin’ that ass motherfucker, is just fine with me …

“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun” 
― Pablo Picasso

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