Monday, January 29, 2007

"It's a Remarkable Thing"

As of this afternoon, I'm a homeowner for the first time at age 45.

Tonight I walked over and let myself in. I looked around, imagined.

It's a small place. I confirmed with a tape measure what I've been suspecting: I'll have to downsize a little, get smaller, narrower versions of some things. Rectangular dining table with leaves will be replaced by square table with leaves. Low, wide dresser by tall, skinny dresser. That sort of thing.

Not exactly sure where the books will go!

But if New Yorkers can do it, so can I. I recently read an article in the New York Times about a couple of Manhattanites (he's an architect) and their baby who live stylishly in less square footage than I have.

I was starting to get tense about all the things that need doing -- changing the locks, having the grout cleaned in the kitchen floor, weatherstripping, painting. (I wasn't going to paint the walls right away, as they technically were just done, but suddenly they look very . . . gloppy. I want them to look nice.) Then I reminded myself: This is my chance to really make it my own for the first time. I can make a gem of it if I put my mind to it. Remember, I can light a fire.

Tonight I cleaned the floors. The smell of Murphy's Oil Soap is still with me.


They came around the corner, and there was Eeyore's house, looking as comfy as anything.

"There you are," said Piglet.

"Inside as well as outside," said Pooh proudly.

Eeyore went inside . . . and came out again.

"It's a remarkable thing," he said. "It is my house, and I built it where I said I did, so the wind must have blown it here. And the wind blew it right over the wood, and blew it down here, and here it is as good as ever. In fact, better in places."

"Much better," said Pooh and Piglet together.

"It just shows what can be done by taking a little trouble," said Eeyore. "Do you see, Pooh? Do you see, Piglet? Brains first and then Hard Work. Look at it! That's the way to build a house," said Eeyore proudly.

Some of What's Left

Rhubarb pie, rosemary, the smell from the furnace when it kicked in on the first cold morning of the fall, warm and softly metallic in the back of my nose, coffee even though I rarely drink it, paperwhites, yeast, my mother's Joy ("The Most Expensive Perfume in the World," which I understood to be a mysterious truth rather than an advertising slogan), clementines, warm milk when I can't sleep, the taste of a cut inside my mouth, as addictive to the busying tongue as it is painful, firewood smoke, Wurst mit Zwiebeln (wurst with onions) on the marketplace outside the Freiburg cathedral in 1982, the scent of otherness in a man's skin, memory, possibility.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


1. I like to fall asleep to the sound of the dishwasher running.

2. I used to hate the sound of snoring. My ex often snored, and I'd be like that whiny guy in the old Nyquil commercial, elbowing his wife in the ribs: "Honey, honey -- wake uuup." Now one of my favorite sounds is my dog P. snoring in bed. The bizarre part? I even enjoy it in humans now.

3. Motorcycles make me want to scream.

4. Have you noticed that certain trucks, when they're backing up, sound like the opening notes to
"Tainted Love"?

5. One of my favorite songs is
Emmylou Harris's "Boulder to Birmingham," just about the most beautiful musical expression of grief I know. She cowrote it after the death of her mentor (and lover? I assume so; I've never been quite able to get to the bottom of that) Gram Parsons. My favorite line: "And the hardest part is knowing I'll survive." *

6. Both of my ears are pierced, but I wear an earring only in my right. I had it repierced three years ago after both holes closed up following an extended period when I wore no earrings.

7. You know you've reached a new stage in life when the barber finishes up by running the clippers over your ears.**

8. One of my earliest memories is of sitting on my father's lap in a rocking chair while he sang the German song "Muss I Denn" to me.*** I don't remember him singing to me any other time.

9. I do a better job of making myself heard through writing than through speaking.

10. It's hard for me to hear people when they tell me I'm capable of accomplishing something that scares me. ****

* I just read a good novel, Case Histories, whose protagonist is also an Emmylou fan. There are several references to this song in the book, but it's repeatedly referred to as "From Boulder to Birmingham," which really bugged me.

** I will never be subjected to this humiliation again, as I started shaving my hair at home several months ago, my expat friend Francis S. will be happy to hear.

*** A Marlene Dietrich album containing this song was on fairly regular rotation on our hi-fi throughout my childhood. (Elvis Presley sang an English version called "Wooden Heart.")

**** I had lunch with my MacArthur genius former boss today. This man has never been anything but kind to, respectful of, and interested in me since the day I met him almost ten years ago. I worked for him for only a little more than a year; being treated like a king was, unfortunately, not enough to mitigate the fact that I was utterly unsuited to and bored by the job. Years have gone by when we haven't seen each other, though we've been in more regular touch in the last year or so. Anyway, today I told him about my biography project. Yes, I know I haven't blogged about that in months. That's because I haven't worked on it in months; my main excuse is that the condo hunt has distracted me. You've all been very polite not to bug me about how it's going (or even what it's about, which I still don't think I want to reveal in this public forum; nice how I want to have it both ways, huh? -- support and secrecy!) But some of you -- cough cough, Beth -- were in fact supposed to be bugging me about it! Anyway, my former boss
was very, very encouraging today. I felt sheepish, almost foolish, telling him about it -- at the same time that I was dying to tell him about it -- because he is an award-winning former investigative reporter and producer about ten years my senior, and as kind and respectful as he is, I always feel a little . . . well, not worthy. But like I said, he was hugely encouraging and offered some good advice. I thanked him and told him that I felt lucky to know him, and he said, "I feel the same about you." Did I hear him? Did I believe him?

Sunday, January 21, 2007


1. I've worn a silver ring on my pinkie finger for about fifteen years. If I forget to put it on in the morning, I miss the feeling of it throughout the day. For reasons I haven't quite figured out, I take the ring off as soon as I get home from work and rarely wear it on weekends.
2. Although I much prefer dogs to cats, I don't like the sensation of dog licks, especially on my face. But I quite enjoy the sandpapery feeling of a cat's tongue. I once sat for probably ten minutes while a cat "groomed" my bald spot.
3. I had lunch yesterday with a friend who said she doesn't bake because she hates the feeling of flour on her hands. I've never singled out the sensation of flour from the rest of the baking process, which has been one of my favorite activities for as long as I can remember.
4. I like bath water to be as hot as I can stand it.
5. Seeing two men holding hands in public never fails to lift my spirits.
6. I've touched more men's hands in the last year of two-stepping than in any other year of my life.
7. Some feel like little pillows.
8. I kissed a man for the first time in October 1990. If you don't know anything else about me, that might make you think I'm a good bit younger than I am. I don't have a problem with that.
9. For most of my life, I turned my bed pillow over to the cool side anytime I woke during the night. I recently became aware that I don't do this anymore, and I don't know when I stopped.
10. I still like stretching my feet into the cool part of the mattress, as long as there's a warm place to return to.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


1. The glasses in this picture are the ones I wore before I bought my most recent pair (which look sort of like this), though this picture was taken just two nights ago. I've started to wear these older ones again recently for a change of pace.

2. I take my contacts out and put my glasses on as soon as I get home from work.

3. The glasses in this picture, which are German and quite expensive, are remarkably similar to the first glasses I got, in the spring of 1970, which were, as far as I know, not German and probably not very expensive. When I walked into my third-grade classroom the next day, some kids put their rounded fingers to their faces in the universal symbol for "four eyes."

4. The picture is a self-portrait.

5. I got contacts over Christmas break during my freshman year of college. I was miserable for the first few weeks of second semester and was actually considering transferring till one of my friends laughed at me and said, "It's just the contacts." I didn't believe him, but he turned out to be right.

6. Everyone in my immediate family wears glasses. We've been known to get competitive about who is blinder than whom.

7. Once I went into one of those discount eyewear shops, and when the optician looked at my prescription, he laughed.

8. One of my sisters married an ophthalmologist.

9. It turns out I have less of a problem with anonymity than with invisibility.

10. I may see things differently tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Tuesday Evening, Unplugged

Monday, January 15, 2007

Goodnight Moon

Just saw Little Children. Holy crap. Way more intense than I expected. Not sure I'll sleep tonight. But what a good movie.

Friday, January 12, 2007


I recently received a review copy of The Zürau Aphorisms by Franz Kafka. I was a German major in college but hadn't before encountered these elliptical, fragmentary, sometimes surreal, sometimes very plain "aphorisms." I must have read "The Metamorphosis" (the story about the guy who wakes up transformed into bug) a dozen times during high school and college but never heard of these.

They're as fascinating as they are different from one another -- impossible to categorize individually or collectively. Gathered together for the first time in this edition, they were apparently each written on a separate slip of very thin paper (14.5 by 11.5 centimeters) during eight months Kafka spent at his sister's house in the village of Zürau.

Some are pretty near opaque, but here are a few I like:

"The variety of views that one may have, say, of an apple: the view of the small boy who has to crane his neck for a glimpse of the apple on the table, and the view of the master of the house who picks up the apple and hands it to a guest."

"I have never been here before: my breath comes differently, the sun is outshone by a star beside it."

"You can withdraw from the sufferings of the world -- that possibility is open to you and accords with your nature -- but perhaps that withdrawal is the only suffering you might be able to avoid."

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Morning Bus Ride

I love the layered look on a man. Discuss.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

New Stage

After a year and a half of off-and-on looking (with long periods of off), I'm happy to announce I've finally found a condo to buy. I saw it for the first time on December 29 and made an offer on New Year's Eve. All of this during a time of year when the real-estate market was supposedly -- and in fact -- dead. I lucked out: fabulous price and only a block and a half from where I live now. The proximity wasn't planned, but I have called this general area of the city home for more than eleven years, so I think it doesn't want to lose me.

My offer was accepted last Thursday, but I have been circumspect in trumpeting the news pending the results of an inspection that would reveal whether a discomfiting level of radon was seeping through the floorboards, as it was in my erstwhile almost-condo.

Got the results today, and we're good.

I haven't closed yet but expect to sometime in the next several weeks, with a tentative move-in date around March 1, I'm guessing. The place needs some work -- nothing too major. Just some tweaking and a couple of new appliances as well as visits by various Men With Butt Cracks. A little daunting for this longtime renter, but I will take it in . . . yes, steps.

There's a nice patio for the dogs (and me).




Longtime readers of this blog know I don't really have a fireplace, let alone a mantelpiece, just a stage prop. The new place has no mantelpiece either -- yet. Mind you, I'm not complaining. I consider this progress.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Bear with me. I haven't had the concentration to blog much lately. More soon!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


I wanted to post something reflective and retrospective about the past year before today. But I've been having trouble focusing. It seems as though there's little to say about 2006 that I haven't already reported or reflected on here. (Which of course isn't true.)

I have to say, above all else, the two-stepping stands out. You kind of have to know the story of my life -- or to have lived it -- to understand why. It's cool to feel joy, even occasionally a thrill, several times a week. Perhaps in 2007 I'll give leading a try.

Cheers to B. -- who I don't think even reads this blog, but I send it out anyway -- for getting me onto the dance floor exactly a year ago. (Nice to be back in touch.)

And to all of you -- whether leading or following -- best wishes for the coming year.