Last time I felt these cobblestones fit my arches,
we stopped in front of a seminary where I let you
take. my. pic.ture.
with the Virgin Mary.
It was warmer then-
before I needed this scarf wrapped around my throat,
before I swallowed this fishing hook.
Drexel University, voted ugliest campus…again.
Philadelphia has been rated ugliest, fattest, most depressed, with highest crime rate on top of carrying the shame of crap sports teams. The native me would make like a tourist and whip out the I-heart-NY tshirt and Yankee cap. I would revert to the Jersey City ‘aw’ (dramatizing words like coffee, salt and dog) and cross three lanes at a time on the parkway (otherwise known as the Jersey slide) on my way to Belmar to pick up some dudes with blowouts.
But then there’s the part of me that thinks ‘hey! Damn it, I live here!’ Sure, it’s hard coming from the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps, the financial/fashion/culture capital of the world, the greatest place on earth, but I’ve learned that Philadelphia is not just the Liberty Bell, Pennsylvania not just for the Amish, and Drexel not just for engineers.
For instance, if you’re looking for a good picnic area on Drexel’s campus, you could go to…
Philadelphia has really great… uh… hm.
Or, or you could go visit...
SO WHAT if I haven’t been to anywhere in PA besides, well, Amish country!! (10 years ago with my grandparents to get us city kids out for some fresh air)
Look, if you want trees, go to Maine. You want smarts? Seattle. Want pretty people? Slut your way over to LA. If you like playing the underdog, Philly’s the place. If Philadelphia were a human personification, it would be Elliot Smith- ugly, depressed, perhaps with bad cholesterol (but not fat), and fucking brilliant. It’s got its own melody. It’s slow and sad, but damn it we all can’t be Britneys. We’re too real, man.
(with Philly’s crime rate, there’s a good chance we’ll have the same end as Elliot)
You want to hug Philadelphia, pat it on the butt and tell it “you’ll get up next time, slugger.” When Travel & Leisure magazine picked their dodgeball team, we didn’t get picked last. We weren’t *that* kid; we’re not Pittsburgh. We all know from high school that people like Philly grow up to be important (Seattle’s a yuppie, New York grew its hair out and started a band, Vegas is turning tricks and LA probably OD’ed).
I got mad L.O.V.E for Philly, fo’real- so gutter, so gritty, so hood.
So go ahead, run your tubby ass up those Art Museum stairs a la Rocky. Throw your arms up when (if) you get to the top. You’re alright in my book, Killa.
---You didn’t think I could go a whole post on Philly without mentioning Rocky, did you? And while I’m at it- Ben Franklin, Ben Franklin, Ben Franklin!
A slow waterfall of drool spilled over her lip and down her chin. I think she’s smiling. Hard to tell with cheeks that fat, that amply pad the toothless gums and tongue she’s got in there. Or rather the bubblegum tongue she likes sticking out to make a sad excuse for a raspberry. I’m glad my momentary wide-eyed gasp could be so entertaining as to cause an uncontrollable giggle.
Her head’s a perfectly round peach, fuzzy and soft. A peach with a Gerber cowlick in the front. Her mama tells me that she tried to matte it down this morning when her corn silk strands were wet and freshly washed. Should just let it curl. I like curls (naturally, given my own pin straight locks). I could recognize that Johnson and Johnson no-tears baby shampoo smell anywhere. They should make no-tears shampoo for grown ups. At what age did someone decide we didn’t need it anymore? Is it because we stop crying? Or that they assumed we don’t get shampoo in our eyes anymore? Because I have/do/will do again. I’d like to have a word with this person who made such brash assumptions.
And that’s not the only thing. I openly admit that I miss bathing in the kitchen sink. I miss the freedom of sitting nude in the same sink where the dinner greens were washed, in the same room where we met for breakfast and watched the birds. Enjoying a delicious juice out of a cup that doesn’t spill. Enjoying the feel of someone else’s hands running a soapy cloth down your back, around your neck, behind your ears, because honestly, do you really pay that much attention to the space behind your ears? Has anyone since you sat in the kitchen sink?
I miss someone watching just to make sure I didn’t slip below the water’s surface, when splashing was a cute Polaroid moment rather than making a mess. At what age did our bathing evolve into an upright position? The infamous missing link.I miss pajamas with feet, the kind with the zipper that went from the knee to the chin. My feet still get cold, don’t yours? Wouldn’t you enjoy some warm traction control in the evenings? And if you’re looking to slide down the hardwood hallway, you can just throw some socks on top. Just watch out for the small desk in the foyer- the one with Grandma’s porcelain. The desk that was under the flower still-life with its paint so thick you could run your fingers over it and imagine that this is how yelling looked in Braille. Braille, whatever that is.
When did our chubby bloated hands become these spidery appendages, our knees now with caps not dimples? Our hair lacquered and colored. Our shoulders so pale in the summer.
I’ve carried bags of rice that have weighed more. I think she’s sleeping now. I can’t feel her little fingertips playing with the hem of my sleeve anymore. She knows I’m not her mother, not her aunt or grandmother, not a godmother or even a neighbor. Just a friend I guess. How trusting children are. How wonderful it must have been.Then came the waterfall again, over her lip, soaked up by my shirt.
Many have called me a Grinch.
And it's probably- to some extent- true, at least from Black Friday to December 20ish (especially on Black Friday). After that I'm right on par with the holiday spirit. During this time of giving, of new gadgets and sweaters, I encourage you to not buy me anything this year. I'm getting too big for my shell and my place is overflowing with things I no longer- or ever- need. When I moved from the third to the seventh floor of my building a couple months ago, I had to carry four armfuls of collared work shirts. Three changes of bedding. Two garbage bags of shoes. My pots and Frannie's bonsai treeee.
And I hope everyone forgives me, but I'm not buying you presents either. I did my little Secret Santa thing, I have something for Daddy. Everyone else is just getting a donation in their name. And if your conscience will not let you get away with a Christmas without buying me something (which some of you are prone to do) I have a solution. I've been working 50 hour weeks for a month now and all that overtime has afforded me to donate- in at least some capacity- to the below listed organizations:
This is probably my favorite gift to give of all time. This Christmas I'd like to buy a pig, or help bee harvesters, or help Uganda farmers overcome displacement.
A non-profit camp in NYC for girls ages 8-18. The program is founded on the proposition that music can serve as a powerful tool of self-expression and self-esteem-building. Rock on, bitches.
Teaching girls to expand their natural writing talents, develop independent creative voices, and build confidence in making healthy choices in school, career and life.
Works to eliminate the affects of malaria in Africa through distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, education, and treatment.
Summer day camp for children who may be coping with the HIV/AIDS infection of a family member, the death of one or both parents, or their own HIV/AIDS infection.
That being all said, I want to encourage everyone to consider an alternative gift this year: the gift of warm fuzzies for that person who has everything anyway.
And believe me, babe, I got it all. happy holidays, my friends, and a most fabulous new years.
When I was ten, my grandparents took me and my brother to the Bronx zoo.
We were promised elephants and giraffes and tigers and so far we just got to see where the Jews all lived. Some crumbly old bakeries that sold good bread. An alley where Pop played some game with a stick and a baseball whose red stitches were coming undone, wearing something called knickers. What ugly names Pop’s friends had. A Skip and a Walter. A Peggy and a Bernice. With names like Warren and Joan, it’s a wonder they named my father and uncle something normal like John and James- “good, strong bible names.”
This trip was a disaster already. And it was hot. August-in-New-York-City hot.
City heat is the worst kind of heat. It’s the kind that slithers off the pavement and makes mirages in the distance. The kind that caused the leather seats to cling to the back of my thighs and half of my calves. Little sweat beads were forming on my freckled brown nose and my freshly-trimmed bangs were starting to stick to my forehead. (Pop always had a pocket comb though for instances like this when Grandma declared we were starting to look and smell ‘gamey’) Justin was probably in oblivion looking out the window. I still wonder what he thinks about.
Pop must have seen me pouting in the backseat, bored at seeing nothing but brick buildings and concrete sidewalks because I heard him croon out the first line of my favorite sailor song: “Jamie’s a corker.” Naturally, I liked it because it was about me and I believed in my ten-year-old heart that Pop had specifically written it just for me... and the words were easy enough:
Jamie’s a corker
She’s a New Yorker
I buy her everything to keep her in style
She’s got a pair of hips,
just like two battleships
Hey boys, that’s where my money goes.
Singing about my eyes like custard pies, my nose like a big red rose, and legs like whiskey kegs was a perpetually funny image for me and my brother. We giggled like lunatics and put specific emphasis on the comparative items.
Then finally we rolled into a most magical place- almost. The parking lot was a mile long, but once past that, there was a big dome full of trees and shrubs. My brother and I looked at this thing, this giant playground bubble, our eyes so wide that they might have fallen out of our heads if it weren’t for the smallest sliver of eyelid.
With his grubby little hand in my grubby little hand, we turned to look at our grandmother, whose nod gave us the go-ahead. We both fit into one section of the revolving door and it was like walking into a tropical Artic. It was cold and beautiful but there was nothing but trees in there. No giraffes. No hippos. What kind of zoo is this? What trickery!
In our slump of disappointment, a big red butterfly floated onto Justin’s head. I screamed so he, in a panic, threw his hands on top of his head- crushing the butterfly- its guts and red dust all over his hands, parts of its wings mingled in his messy brown hair. He wiped his hands on his jeans. It was not just the one butterfly, but hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions. Again, our eyes opened so wide that they almost really did fall out this time.
This is what it looks like when you step into the wardrobe.
Ten years later, I’m going to the academy of natural sciences. And I’ll be in a room full of butterflies, but this time I’m going to remember to occasionally blink. And I won’t so much mind if they land in my hair. I think they’ll look pretty there.
I just wanted some more tea bags from downstairs. I had depleted all the Earl Grey, Lipton, and Chai and I will certainly not settle for “Cold Season” or “Snappy Lemon.” I was going for cup number three this morning with a week tea tally of 20.
Look up and watch the numbers light up- 5, 4, 3 and then a hard stop that made me grab the rail and hold my breath.
I tried pushing the second floor button. Nothing. So I pushed every other button. Nope. I sunk to the dirty elevator floor. At least I don’t have to pee.
I hit the alarm button a couple times, but that ringing is so annoying. Do you hit it staccato? Should you just hold it down? I was embarrassed just touching it. It brought back memories of hitting the alarm button in Towers’ elevators freshman year, especially when passing the 11th floor because that’s where Devious Dan lived. I hit that button on the 11th floor every time… until “the hot RA” told me to knock it off. Besides, if the front desk here is anything like Caneris, they’ll just roll their eyes anyway and turn up the volume.
[Love me, love me. Say that you’ll love me]
I felt like two hours passed. I examined closely the grates on the elevator ceiling, my belly button, turned all the numbers sideways. The buttons in Towers were always turned sideways. And melted like someone took a lighter to them. I think they’ve fixed that though.
“Don’t worry, Miss. Don’t be scared. It’ll be just one-a more minute, yes? Imma open the doors now. We get you out.”
He’s got a voice like Domenico from “A Shot at Love”- Italian, thick. Crowbar against the elevator door, the outer one. It hits the metal and makes a sound not so unlike tires screeching when you spin out. I know he has the doors open a little because it gets quiet… but then the doors slam shut again.
[Fool me, fool me. Go on and fool me]
The Bellevue on South Broad. Snazzy elevators with attendants to hold the door for you at the bottom. Offer you a paper or to call you a cab. Those elevators were a dark wood with nice carpet and lots of mirrors- which were great for those mornings when it rained or I had a poppy seed bagel. Check your hair, check your teeth. Sip your venti double mocha-choca non-fat sugar-free latte that some child in Guatamala labored to bring me. Fab. Doors open. Strut.
That’s where I usually saw the guy that looks like Henry Winkler. A dead ringer… and a silver fox, as they say. That’s where I met the mayor, but had no idea who he was. Then again, who else would randomly ask a stranger what they think about the new lights on Avenue of the Arts. “I’m not really sure. It’s like South Street on South Broad. The lights on the Wachovia building make it look cheap. I think it’s a travesty”
[Love me, love me. Pretend that you love me]
The floor moves a little and the outer doors are pried open. Definitely not what I expected that Italian guy to look like. His face was weathered. Maybe in his 50s. Wearing plaid flannel. The floor is shoulder high and he wants me to grab his hand so he can pull me up. Um no. Gimme a chair… and a god damn timpani roll. I get the chair and hurriedly pull myself out. I was waiting for the elevator to fall and cut me in two. I wonder if that would have made the news…
[Leave me, leave me. Just say that you need me.]
Weekly tea tally: 24 cups.
[I can’t care about anything but you]
[anything but you]
While doing my morning blog run, I came across a black woman’s love letter to her hair. She wrote about how she appreciates it as a source of expression, a symbol of her ethnicity and womanhood.
At first I thought “that’s way dumb.” I love my hair too, but I’m not going out of my way to write it a letter, loser… but maybe I should. Maybe I should take time out and write a love letter to some part of my body. Not that part. Or those. something more meaningful.
“Hey thanks for the support, knees!” Nah. “Oh, collarbones you’re so hip and trendy!” No. “God, I haven’t seen you in forever, bony hips.” Nay. So this is what I’ve come up with:
Dear Feet,I’ve been awful to you. Truly I have. Where would I be without you? (besides in a chair) I am so sorry that for years I’ve been binding you up in strappy sandals, plastic-y flip flops, and all round torturous shoes, (unless that’s what you’re into) but you know I’ve been working on it. When was the last time I went clubbing in Megan’s pumps, hmm? I feel I owe you a special apology for that time when I went walking around the city in new flip flops in the rain. I totally didn’t expect that to happen. At all. (see pic) I would have taken a cab if I weren’t a freshman devoid of cash. Me and cabs are good friends now you see.
I really do appreciate you and I think you’re beautiful. I used to think your pinkies were a little weird looking, but everyone’s pinkies are weird. You’re beautifully weird… like Molly Ringwald in “Sixteen Candles.” And your big toe isn’t really that big, honestly. I should show you off. I should celebrate you. I should let people touch you once in a while. I think it’s way cute that you get fuzzy when I wear new socks. I like that I can paint all toes neatly with my right hand. And I like that I can play that piggy game with you-
This little piggy went to the market
This little piggy stayed home
This little piggy had tofurkey
And this little piggy had none
And *this* little pig went wee wee wee wee wee!
Ah, that one never gets old. *knee slap* I’m straying. What I want to say, feet, is that I do appreciate you because you’ve always been there for me. And you’re as pretty as they come. I love you.
The ankles on up
p.s. IOU one pedi.
This morning I woke up in my makeup (which is kinda a relief. I like waking up and looking like a female). My mouth was dry, my legs sore from elliptical-ing, and my stomach felt like I had consumed too much wine the night before. Regardless, I showered, painted on my public face, and went to go donate blood.
I took the earliest appointment so I wouldn’t be late for work. Donating was fine. I like watching when they fill those little tubes. Blood moves way fast, yo. After giving the gift of life, I quickly grabbed my tea (which they had meanly taken away from me) and sped towards the train station. I got about a block before the thought of ‘this sprinting is not a good idea’ floated through my pillowy head. So I took one of my favorite forms of transportation: cab. I told the friendly driver to take me to 417 north 8th.
He said, “American Cross Center?”
I said, “close enough.”
So I’m in the backseat chilling with my tea (which is now 10 degrees away from iced tea), watching the trees swoosh by. Picking at my chipped nail polish. Looking at my argyle shoes. Wondering what kinds of meetings I’ll have today:
a. conference call into Seattle begging them to work faster.
b. Lunch meeting… free lunch. Sweet.
c. Pharmaceutical creative meeting (oxymoron)… what’s a nicer way to say ‘Cope with Depression?’
d. All of the above.
We’re moseying on up 7th Street. My neck becomes jello, my head weightless, and the picture fades to black. I wake up and the driver is hovering over me. “Miss! Miss! I take you to the hospital.” I’m so thoroughly freaked out that a strange man is hovering over me that I just look at him wide-eyed. I’m disgusted that I’m laying in a cab (gross). I’m pissed that I have blood and tea on my favorite blazer. Where the fuck is my ‘Be Nice to Me. I Donated Today” sticker?! Oh, there it is.
I tell him I’m fine. He’s clearly upset and possibly on the verge of tears. I wonder if he thought I was on drugs. Nah the sticker gave it away probably, oh well. I try to sit up, and he tells me to stay. Uh, no, Complete Stranger. I will not stay lying in your cab. This prompts me to get up faster. I give him a twenty for a $10 ride… and the inconvenience of leaving the drivers seat.
So now I’m safety at work recovering from giving away some of my lifeblood. (which reminds me how Nana used to affectionately call me her ‘hearts blood.’ Kinda gruesome). Slowly I recover my strength, only a fraction faster than how work drains it away.
p.s. did you know that when you clean iodine off with soap and water it turns dark blue?! Way awesome!
p.p.s. i appreciate all your concern and sincerely hope you now understand how fragile my life is. dinner? sure. thats sweet of you.
I’ve always appreciated the power of a semi-drastic haircut. The wind on your exposed bulbish head, the funny things it does in the morning, the reduced amount of shampoo needed. I would say my hair is my second most defining physical feature. It means a lot to me and it’s been short ever since my sophomore year when I got my first pixie cut.
It had been getting quite bob-ish in the last couple of months and it was getting dreadfully… normal. So I took a picture of my favorite actress- Shannyn Sossamon- to Sabrina at the Saturn Club (shameless plug) and told her to have a ball. My only stipulation is that there exist no straight hard lines.
So I go home and really examine what has happened on my head.
And it looks like Brad Pitt circa 1998. Remember ‘Meet Joe Black’ with Anthony Hopkins? Mediocre, but Brad Pitt’s kinda sexy, I suppose. I've been told that I can pull off short hair (not like I have much of a choice at the moment) Clay tells me it’s nicely androgynous. Androgyny is kinda sexy too, but then why don’t I feel sexy? Maybe because this morning when I woke up and walked to the shower I caught a blurry-eyed view of another chisel-jawed hunk: Val Kilmer from “Top Gun.” Yeah, remember the Iceman who taunts Tom Cruise in the locker room?? That guy with the flattop. *sigh*
In the last 14ish hours these are the thoughts that have tinkered in this shorn head of mine:
• I hope I don’t bump into Shannyn Sossamon any time soon. She’d be totally freaked out. Brad Pitt too. And Val.
• My god. No straight, self-respecting man will ever find me attractive. Sadie Hawkins Day is coming up and it’s not like I much intended on asking someone out but if I did, it would be greeting with a firm ‘Uhh. Thanks. No.’ Totally blew my chances on this one.
• I should go to Woody’s tonight.
• Iceman: You two really are cowboys.
Maverick: What's your problem, Kazanski?
Iceman: You're everyone's problem. That's because every time you go up in the air, you're unsafe. I don't like you because you're dangerous.
Maverick: That's right! Ice... man. I am dangerous.
• Damn, Thanksgiving and Christmas are on their way. And so is trigger-happy Grandma with her camera.
So what is a girl to do? I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to be damn sexiest Brad Pitt-with-tits ever. Tyler Durden style, yo. I’m gunna be so hot that I’m going to melt you like sulfuric acid... or something like that.
But please, no autographs.