Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I did some calculations

What I didn’t do: attend my 35th class reunion for my high school, a private college-preparatory school in Ladue, Missouri, a white suburb of St. Louis this past weekend.

What I did not wear: Tiffany Elsa Peretti rose gold Diamonds by the Yard® Drop Earrings; wedding and engagement rings; Rolex watch; Tiffany Link clasp bracelet in 18k rose gold; black Maison Mayle Guipure Lace Wrap Dress from Barney’s NY; black Cosmos Opposition side-buckled heels from Fluevog; Wolford Individual 10 soft control top hose; black Natori Feathers plunge bra; Hanky Panky organic cotton boy shorts, eye-makeup, insincere smile.  

What I did beforehand: I was born in Missouri, a place my parents told me was the midwest, pointedly and often. As an adult, I have discovered that lots of people think Missouri is part of the American South. If you remember your U.S. history, you’ll know that Missouri was admitted to the union as a slave state in 1820; Maine was to be a free state, and this agreement was known as the Missouri Compromise.  Does this make Missouri a southern state? What about that Missouri accent (the one my parents said was so undetectable that middle-Americans were preferred as national television news anchors)? When I went off to college in 1981, I found out that people on the east coast thought I had an accent, and though I did not set out to never live in St. Louis again, I decided over the next ten years, building the argument for myself, one prejudice at a time, acquired on the left coast and east. 

Who stayed home with me: my husband and youngest son and four houseguests, including some lesbians, which is something I normally wouldn’t tell you, but, for the purposes of this post, it might be relevant.

How I much would I have spent on tickets: dog sitter, at $50 per day; round trip airfare on Delta, out of LaGuardia, $405; town car to LaGuardia $123 each way; hotel, two nights Ritz Carlton, in Clayton (because if I’m going, I’m staying someplace really nice) $659 per night; car rental, Cadillac XTS or similar  $282.00; ticket to party $25. Total? $2351.

Why I stayed home: the last time I went, I got creeped out by a couple of guys from my class. You either understand this, or you don’t (maybe you would like to explain it to me). This time, I got two nicely printed paper invitations in the mail (one included a printed class mailing list with emails and phone numbers), a few prodding emails, and I was tagged along with a bunch of classmates in a Facebook post. I could not bring myself to respond to any of it until a classmate sent a simply worded, direct inquiry. My reply? “I will not be able to make it. Thanks.”

Yes, actually, this is what we wore to graduation
What I did instead: I added up what I would have spent on the reunion. I decided that the money would be better spent on donations to some non-profits doing work I believe in. 
The list below is in alphabetical order, with links.

Things that were sad: per federal law, I was unable to contribute to efforts to raise the minimum wage, the PACs for UNITE HERE (the Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union), or the United Auto Workers. You have to be a member to do that. 

Things that were funny: I enjoyed virtually shopping for this much more than I enjoy shopping in real life.

Things that were not funny: there are probably people I went to high school with who will disagree with my politics and have something to say about the organizations I have donated to. If any of them choose to comment about it here or on my Facebook wall, I will increase my donations in increments of 50%, to a maximum of 200% of my original donation. There may be a special bonus for the use of "brainwashed Libtard."

What it is: I have a few close friends from high school who I do a mediocre job of keeping in contact with. But they know how to reach me. It's easier than ever: email, DM on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and in the comments section of this blog. Outside of the close friends that I do miss, and would love to see as soon as possible, almost everyone else from high school falls into that category of people I'd hang out with if they reached out to me in a not-creepy way. We could go out to dinner in New York City, and/or maybe take in a show. I’m always up for that. Especially if it’s just like you and me for 90 minutes. Like, you know, a small production, off-Broadway, and not like a two hour and fifteen minute parade of one minute big production number conversations with 90 different people. 

Who should see it: my mother grew up in Clayton, a suburb of St. Louis, went to Clayton High School, and lived there her whole life. She stayed close to a core group of friends, organized and attended reunions, and enjoyed it. If that’s your thing, be like her. Knock yourself out. There are folks who prefer the big, lively spectacle of a Broadway show, too. I'm just finding out that I'm not one of them.

What I saw on the way home: I woke up Sunday morning to find that it is suddenly fall in Bedhead Hills. The sky is gray. There are yellow leaves strewn on the green grass. We made breakfast sandwiches with local bacon and local eggs and sourdough english muffins I made from scratch. We got around to watching football and drinking beer. I cooked too many things for dinner, and we watched the "presidential" debate. I'm not interested in arguing with anyone about it. I was plenty creeped-out, though.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

I saw Sigur Rós

What I saw: the Icelandic band Sigur Rós at the recently restored and repurposed 1920s movie palace known as Kings Theater, on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. You can take the Q train, the B41 or B49 bus, or drive; there is a large, free parking lot behind the theater, shared with Sears.

What I wore: Chinese-made Australian boots, James jeans, indigo dyed Tanner belt; navy peasant blouse, pale blue jacket for non-persons, with royal blue ruffles that I got at Anthropology many years ago thinking it would be a cool thing to wear to concerts with jeans despite its obvious shortcoming of having no pockets. We saw others in attendance in jeans and t-shirts, some wearing their new, $65 band merch hoodies in the cold auditorium, but also a number of people in shiny silver pants or fancy cocktail dresses.

What I did beforehand: drove over two hours to get there in Friday rush-hour traffic, with disagreeing navigation programs. Our route took us into Manhattan, down the FDR, and thorough the Battery Park underpass and tunnel. There a number of cheap places to eat on Flatbush beforehand.

Who went with me: the Bacon Provider, and a 3,674 other excited strangers.

How I got tickets: online, in April. Tickets to their shows often sell out in minutes. 

Why I saw this show: I have been a fan of this band since I first heard them on KEXP in Seattle in 2002 or 2003. Other bands still on my need-to-see list include Wilco, Beck, and Air.

Where I sat: Row H, seat 3, behind Elmo’s sister, and between the Bacon Provider and a man with tiny, blue-tinted glasses, a blond mohawk and an arching scorpion tattooed on his head. This fellow told me that the Kings Theater was “like 100 years old, you know, from the 40s or 50s,” and that the renovation of the Kings Theater cost, “like a billion dollars. Or maybe a million.”  

Things that were sad: many people do not realize that a billion is a thousand million. A person with a billion dollars could give away 90% of what they had and still be left with one hundred million dollars, with which they could buy a castle, a jet, a yacht, some fine horses and staff to take care of them.

Things that were funny: during the last few songs I focused mostly on whether the drummer had taken his shirt off.

Things that were not funny: Hell is other people.

What it is: more post-modern than a rock band, louder than what I would consider most indie music, more glam than many alternative artists, more musical than most heavy metal, more incomprehensible than most American music, more appealing than almost all more mainstream bands. This was a fucking great show.

Who should see it: those who have transcended the need to understand song lyrics, diners at the Korean taco place, people with noise-reducing hearing protection, folks who like really cool lights shows, anyone who can tolerate strobe lighting effects, hipsters, Icelanders, KEXP-listeners, and me.

What I saw on the way home: a mini-van with all its doors open on the shoulder of where the Van Wyck Expressway becomes the Whitestone Expressway, which I said would be on fire in the movie version of our evening.  For the first half an hour I shouted at Google maps, "Why are we going east?" There was a dead baby possum in the road just a quarter mile from home.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

I saw “A Day By The Sea”

What I saw: “A Day By The Sea,” a play from 1953, staged by the Mint Theater Company at the Beckett Theater at 410 West 42nd Street, off-Broadway in NYC.

What I wore: Chinese-made Australian boots, James jeans, indigo-dyed Tanner belt, brown Eileen Fisher jersey top that I wear when I can’t think of anything better, taupe Garnet Hill fringed cardigan (a thing I sometimes love and other times hate to wear), mascara.

What I did beforehand:  walked and fed the dogs; had a riding lesson; took a shower; rode a train where I sat in the quiet car and people sat down next to me and argued loudly in two languages for 40 minutes, undeterred by occasional announcements that the last two cars are quiet cars; saw the dentist which was supposed to be quick and simple, but was less so; visited the Morgan Library to see my favorite baby Jesus again and the Dubuffet drawings which I gushed over; ate some food when the numbed teeth woke up.

Who went with me: plenty of old white folks, and a couple of my demons.

 How I got tickets: on line, in the middle of last Saturday night.

Why I saw this show: impulse, because it seems like a dentist appointment alone isn't reason enough to go to the city.

Where I sat: Row E, seat 2, between two men who were also there by themselves.

What it is: a play from the fifties, about loneliness, or the crisis of middle age, when so many of us realize that we are running out of time to correct the course our lives amidst the crushing accumulation of disappointments. 

Things that were sad:  see, “What it is.”

Things that were funny: there were many funny and/or poignant moments. According to the program, before serving in World War II, playwright N.C. Hunter wrote frothy comedies for the London stage. After, his works were more bittersweet, but not without humor. I believe there were more laughs in this script than the studious, elderly New York audience was willing to let loose. 

Things that were not funny: I laughed regularly, but alone. At one point, my giggles were joined by others’ chuckles, until an audience member on the other side of the theater shushed us.

Who should see it: people who laugh; fans of TV shows set in English manors in search of better-written plots, more interesting dialog, more honest interactions, and fully-fleshed-out human characters, who, like me, might have had to stop watching after the rape scene.

What I saw on the way home: turned my ankle avoiding the puddles of vomit on 42nd Street.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

I saw "Beautiful"

What I saw: "Beautiful," a biographical Broadway musical about the career of singer/songwriter Carole King, at the Stephen Sondheim Theater on the south side of West 43rd Street, between 6th Avenue and Broadway. 

What I wore: Fluevog stacked heel boots, black infantilizing Eileen Fisher pants (no pockets), green floral blouse/dress with a drawstring and long, dangly ties to give it shape, gold and black scarf that I snagged from my mother's closet before she was even dead, long black Patagonia rain coat that is nicely waterproof but not sophisticated enough in its fit and finish to feel like the right raincoat for New York City, fancy black Coach bag with cross-body strap.

What I did beforehand: riding lesson, shower, train, met a friend under the clock at Grand Central, walked up 5th Avenue in the drizzling rain, took the express elevator to the shoe department on the 8th floor at Saks, talked about my mother's 41 pairs of size 6 navy blue pumps, sat at the bar and drank a glass of wine at Épicerie Boulud under the Plaza Hotel, had dinner at Sardi's. 

Who went with me: my old friend A., who I met in a Northern California beach town in 1992. I was introduced to A. by a friend of her sister-in-law with whom I'd struck up a conversation on the beach. "I think you'll like her," she said, sizing me up. She was right.

How I got tickets: I attended as A.’s guest. 

Why I saw this show:  when you see about a show a week, and someone wants to join you, you let them choose.

Where I sat: between my friend and a woman who was singing along tunelessly to all the songs toward the end of the show. 

Things that were sad: Carole King's first husband was probably even a more self-absorbed man-baby than he is portrayed to be.

Things that were funny: the show relentlessly teases the audience by presenting each of Carole King’s early career hit songs with a crafty joke about its origins. 

Things that were not funny:  the dangly ties on my shirt dropped into the toilet at Sardi's, and there was a bathroom attendant, so I couldn't rinse them in the sink without explaining it to the woman attendant in there turning on the faucets and handing out towels and I couldn't bear to do it so I left them dangling wetly behind me. I gave her a dollar. She gave me a paper towel.

What it is: an enjoyable and well-constructed show for baby-boomers. Broadway musicals today all have fast-paced musical numbers with churning bodies and amplified singing. Some, like this one, manage to express some genuine human pathos in between the swelling strings and belted ballads. 

Who should see it: anyone born before 1965. Fans of Carole King should not miss this show. Thoughtful Americans who spend too much time thinking about politics will find plot points and themes reminiscent of the life of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

What I saw on the way home: 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

I left early

What I saw: the 2016 New England Dressage Association Fall Festival of Dressage, a Level 5 USEF Competition, held at the HITS showgrounds, in Saugerties, New York.

What I wore: show attire, including a new, “nude” sports bra under my show whites, because my mother didn’t raise me to wear a colored bra under a white shirt. 

What I did beforehand: years of riding, months of practice, and four horse shows this summer, with particular attention to rides in qualifying tests in pursuit of two scores above 63% at two different shows from two different judges. I had, in fact, received five scores above 63%, at three shows, from four judges. However, due to a mis-communication, I did not enter in time to get on the schedule to compete in the final championship class for my level. I was able to enter the show late, and was able to add three other classes, two on Thursday and one on Saturday. Everyone encouraged me to try to add more classes on Friday and Sunday, because there are usually openings left when people scratch and go home early. But there were no scratches for the coveted spots in the championship class. 

Who went with me: my new barn friends, who, along with my trainer, manage to demonstrate pride in their best rides without gloating, and show both a good-natured acceptance of their own mistakes in the ring and a sense of humor about their horses' mistakes. I think this is what what sportsmanship is. I am glad to know S. and K. and B. and C., who each helped me stay focused on what's important in this sport. I am grateful every day to have found my trainer, D.

How I ended up with five sparkly bun covers: I didn't see my hair stuff when I was packing for the show, and when I arrived I realized I might not have the sparkly nets I wear over my hair in the back. I rifled through my stuff and did not see them. So I found one of the vendors at the show and bought a blue one and a black one to replace the lost ones, and a dark brown one because I hadn't seen that color before. Then, later that night, when I was getting my suitcase out of my car, I found the helmet bag with the missing bun covers. I also found that I had a pair of rain pants but no raincoat with me. 

Something about this show: last year at this time, I had plans to take my young horse Mars to this show. I'd had him about two years and we had come a long way together, starting with the early days where he'd try to run down the long side of the arena. Last year, Mars came up lame about a week before this show; I sent him to a rehab facility in New Jersey where he spent the next three months healing, doing daily water-treadmill and treadmill work. When he came back to work he was pretty wild, and the second time he bucked me off, I got a concussion. When I heard my friend P. was looking for a project, I sold him to her. 

Where I sat: I am binding my latest quilt, so I sat on a grassy hill to watch and did some stitching by hand.

Things that were sad: my late entry meant I didn’t make it into the program. It also meant I could not compete on Friday. I stopped by the office a few times, looking for a spot, and they were pleasant and patient with me, but no spots emerged. I had a lesson and spent the day watching my friends. 

Things that were funny/not funny: the HITS showgrounds has two buildings with actual flush toilets and running-water sinks, but sometimes the walk is too far (especially right before you get on your horse). So, there are Port-a-Potties. I have a rule about Port-a-Potties that goes like this: if you are someplace where you are going to have to use the Port-a-Potty more than once, you pick one and keep using it. My theory is that you get the major horrors over with on the first visit, and fresh horrors are at least in the context of already processed ones. I chose the middle one. It was a random choice. It was no worse than any other I’ve seen at horse shows this summer. I tried not to touch anything, as you do. When everything was zipped back up and tucked back in, I went to unlatch the door. It’s not a complicated latch on a Port-a-Potty, just a simple sliding plastic latch to hold the door shut and spin the dial on the door to show the Port-a-Potty is occupied.  But I couldn’t make it budge. 

My first thought was: that I didn’t want to die in a Port-a-Potty. Not, I might get stuck in here, or How will I get out? Straight to I don't want to die in there.   No food, no water. Trapped in a hot plastic portable john. Death by exposure to scary blue liquid and a mountain of other peoples' crap. 

Things that were better than dying in a Port-a-Potty: when I persuaded the latch to slide, I stepped into the crisp air of early autumn and brilliant sunshine and was animated with the prickly skin and heightened attention of an adrenaline surge. And I had a pretty decent lesson on my horse. It's so good to be alive. 

What it is: after I rode on Saturday I stopped by the show office to see if there had been any scratches for Sunday. There hadn't. But the patient women in the show office who now knew what I wanted without my asking again said it would be OK to check back with them again, and I did, six more times on Saturday and twice on Sunday morning. Finally, on Sunday morning as the training level last class began without me securing a ride time, I gave in to the tears I'd been fighting on and off the whole show. I had had a great first full season, and I did not want to end it with feelings of disappointment. I found my trainer and thanked him and told him I wanted to go home. 

Who should see it: about thirty minutes into the drive home I got a message on The Facebook from a friend who said they were adding adult amateurs to that training level class. I didn't see the message until I arrived home about an hour after that. 
Would I have turned back? I don't know. I might have. I think that there is a parallel space-time continuum where all the happy things we promote about ourselves on The Facebook are true and predominant, and here in Our Reality it's almost like our good news doesn't matter at all. But in that parallel universe, I rode in that class, and I broke 70%. Why not?

What I saw on the way home: there were dead baby raccoons on the shoulder of I-84, one after the other, and the Lusitania was torpedoed by U-boat 20 in the audiobook I was reading. I surprised my husband in the kitchen. He was packing for his next business trip, and wasn't sure he'd see me before he left. It was good to spend a couple of hours with him. On The Facebook, I saw that Mars won his first event with his new owner on the strength of his dressage score. If luck in this life is a zero-sum game, I'm satisfied mine got apportioned that way this weekend, because someone should get to have a happy ending.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

I saw "What Did You Expect?"

I saw "What Did You Expect?" off-Broadway at the Public Theater on Lafayette in NYC.

What I wore: Chinese-made Australian boots, gray mid-rise straight-legged jeans, black Lilith tank, black ATM cotton blouse, black Helmut Lang loose-knit sweater, gray and lime green Marimekko scarf, eye-makeup, ponytail, a look of bewilderment.

What I did beforehand: took a MetroNorth train to Grand Central, went to the dentist for that bad news, looked at my favorite Baby Jesus at the Morgan Library, ate, walked, counted the unsmiling people on Park Avenue (57 out of 60), talked to a guy with a dog named Barry (who did not give me high-five), arrived early at the theater, discovered I'd bought two tickets, called The Graduate to try to convince him to join me. 

Who went with me: 160 white strangers.

How I got tickets: online, with a member's discount.

Why I saw this show: it's the second part of the Gabriels play cycle: election year in the life of one family, by Richard Nelson. Part one was "Hungry," and my favorite play so far this year.

Where I sat: Row B seat 103, between an empty seat and a couple who knew the women behind me actors who've been friends since they met in a play where they were the only women in the cast, back in 1979. One of them misremembered the name of the man as "Donald," and had to tell him twice that it was all on account of politics. 

Things that were sad: I think I expected to like this play as much as the first of the cycle. But I didn't. It had all the same elements: the same set, the same actors, the same playwright.  It had similar moments of great poignancy. But it didn't sock me in the jaw with its verisimilitude, as the first had. It would be almost impossible to have done. So it will have to come in second place, behind the first. And, of course, I can hardly wait for the third and last play in the cycle, to open in November. 

Things that were funny: I objected to the way one character cut onions.

Things that were not funny: there is a man running for President of the United States of America with the full backing of one of our two main political parties that is overtly and proudly xenophobic, misogynistic, racist, tax-avoiding, bankruptcy-exploiting, fat-bashing, inarticulate, unprepared, unqualified, ungrammatical, and mean-spirited. And we have to take him seriously. 

What it is: a play, lasting one hour and forty-five minutes, without intermission. It features actors cooking and kitchen-table story-telling with some well-timed cussing, covering themes of economic inequality and the quiet desperation and loneliness of modern life. It includes a master class on script-writing, props and costuming, and features a cast of actors so subtle and real and honest in their performances that they tower above almost every other cast currently performing in New York. 

Who should see it: anyone who missed "Hungry." Anyone who should have seen "Hungry." Aspiring playwrights. Residents of Rhinebeck, New York. 

What I saw on the way home: it was very late. I stepped off the train with a chatty woman wearing a colorful scarf who wanted to go together to our cars. We had parked in different lots, and each of us had to walk alone. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I saw something in the woods


What I saw: the corner of a large, gray mattress, of custom dimensions similar to a full, with faint stains and white piping. Someone had driven a truck or van up our road, past the sign that says “NO LITTERING,” stopped, and thrown the mattress down an embankment into our woods.

Who went with me: the Bacon Provider was walking the dogs with me, his last day at home before heading out early for the first of twelve trips on his schedule between now and mid-December. I wished I found it alone, because he’s got enough to worry about.

What I did: when we got back, I called the local Bedhead Hills police non-emergency number. I spoke to a phone-answering marmalade cat, roused with a start from her early mid-afternoon nap, taking seriously her responsibility as the one who makes sure that real emergency calls go to 911. "I don't know if you're who I'm supposed to call," I said. Then I explained what I found.
"Hold on a moment," meowed the ginger cat.
It was more than a moment.
When she came back to the phone, she said, "You should call the Office of Gravel and Thoroughfares. When they open on Monday."
I asked for their number.

Things that were funny: on Monday, I had to wait until after Pilates to call. Then, I had to re-boot my phone because where we live in Bedhead Hills, we have little coverage mobile-phone-wise, so we use the wi-fi calling, and my mobile-phone company, being one of the last to add the feature of wi-fi, offers the most unreliable version of it. So then I called the Bedhead Hills Office of Gravel and Thoroughfares.
The phone was answered by a chipmunk.
"Bedhead Hills Office of Gravel and Thoroughfares, chipmunk speaking," she said, very high and very fast.
"Oh, hello," I said, stifling a yawn because Pilates is exhausting and I was not quite ready to talk on the sometimes-not-working phone to a chipmunk. "Hi, yes, ok, we found a mattress on our property yesterday. It wasn't there on Saturday, but then like I dunno someone must have thrown it out of their car and now it's there. I called the police and they said to call you?" I said it like that, asking, but not asking.
"Oh my gawd!" the chipmunk yelled before I finished talking, very loud and with great feeling. "What is it with people and the dumping!?" 

I said something to the effect that I don't know.
" Is it on the road?" asked the chipmunk.
"No, it's down the embankment, in our woods."
"Oh," said the chipmunk, "So here's the thing. If it's in the woods, I can't help you. But if it's on the road, I can send someone out today to get it. But I didn't tell you that. You never talked to me."
I forgot her name, thanked her, hung up, and changed my clothes.

What I wore: Asolo hiking boots that I bought to go to Italy in 2009 and had re-soled this past winter so they are both like-new and broken-in, heavy socks because my feet are long-suffering and weary, blue Ben Davis Union-made overalls that were a gift from my sister-in-law many years ago when we owned a farm in the San Juan Islands, an old and threadbare medium blue shirt from Barney's that was once the Bacon Provider's, work gloves. 

Why I saw this show: I pick up trash that people throw out the their cars onto my property as soon as I see it. 

How I got scratched: choosing between walking along the road and clambering down the embankment or bushwhacking through the dense, late-summer forest, I opted for the latter. It was harder to find than I thought it would be. The mattress was resting along the slope of the embankment. I tried to push it; an upholstered foam slab, it just sort of crumpled. I pinched the dingy white piping through my gloves and dragged it up behind me. It didn't smell as bad as I feared it would. 

Things that were not funny: had the litterbug left it on the shoulder of the road, they could have saved me the trouble. 

Things that were sad: having dragged it out of the woods, I saw that it left a wide area of crushed weeds. I did feel some of that satisfaction of doing something hard. Only later did I find the scratches on my arms.

Another thing that was funny: I tried to call the chipmunk at the Bedhead Hills Office of Gravel and Thoroughfares right away, but I had neither enough cell-phone bars from the sky-gods nor enough wi-fi signal from the house. So I walked back. Once at home I had to re-boot my phone again in order to make the call. My first attempt went to voice-mail. I was not leaving a message. 
I called again after changing out of the work clothes. 
The phone was answered by the chipmunk.

"Bedhead Hills Office of Gravel and Thoroughfares, Chipmunk speaking," she said, very high and very fast.
"Oh, hello," I said, with excitement. "Hi, yes, ok, I live in Bedhead Hills, and someone dumped like a mattress on our road. 
"Oh, I see," the chipmunk said, serious but with real feeling. "Where is it?" 
I described its location.

The chipmunk asked how big it was. 
I said it was similar to a full-sized mattress, adding, "It's not so heavy a 5'5" woman who's 53, but pretty strong because she does Pilates could lift it."
The chipmunk thought this was hilarious. 

What I didn't see: I went up to my sewing room, where I am working on a new quilt. I am listening to an audiobook, "The Feminine Mystique," by Betty Friedan, so I didn't hear when the truck came to take the mattress away.