Thursday, June 3, 2010

Brown Baggin It

Because I haven't posted in 2 years, I have some stories saved up. There are notes everywhere, every loose piece of paper that isn't a bill or doesn't have directions on it, has some kind of 'n-kite' (narish-kite a.k.a. silliness in Yiddish) written on it.
For some reason I was thinking (you were thinking?!... ha ha). Yes, I was thinking, about bringing my lunch to school growing up and what an ordeal it was.
My mother stopped making lunches early on, like when I was in grade 5 (5th grade to the Americans).
Apparently I complained too much about how she made them, I can't imagine that, it simply doesn't fit the profile. I was however left to my own devices early on, a lot like Little Orphan Annie, but without the cute dog. I was the only one in my small private Yiddish/Hebrew school class of 14, to have a self made lunch.
My Mother always ahead of her time and a woman with self confessed life long food issues didn't allow any packaged sugared crap in the house and she sure as hell didn't bake. We had healthy food. There was no way of building a respectable/tradeable lunch out of what we had.
Not only did I have a powerful sweet tooth, but I was also desperate to fit in. Being one of 2 in my SCHOOL with a divorced family, I already stood out and felt a steady sting of humiliation from that, as well as having a working Mom and living in a condo and having a non-Jewish Step-Father... it just goes on, don't get me started.
So, making a lunch that fit in, so that I would fit in was difficult if not impossible, and frankly very important. My solution was to save my allowance and buy Halloween sized treats. I stored them under my bed, bringing one each day in my otherwise lame lunch. I was being the loving T.V. Mom to myself that I wished I had. When I was out of candy, I took to "forgetting" my lunch, impersonating a space case, and forcing my colleagues to donate, as they were required to do in such situations. They usually only gave up carrot sticks, but sometimes one would cough up a tin of pudding or a small bag of chips.
When I got into Junior High and High School, I needed to save my allowance for nachos and fries at the mall. For lunch, I would stuff a frozen muffin in my bag and pretend I was on a diet, nobody notice the incongruity of the diet with the nachos and fries. In University I went to Tortellini's everyday (the cool on campus eatery), with the beautiful girls who were my friends. I lived in the dorms and had access to a 'free' bag lunch, but no way, not for me. I was not going to stand out, meat tortellini with meat sauce for me- obviously pre-vegetarian.
I left out the time my Mother, Brother and I spent the day making sandwiches to freeze, something my Mother read about in Ms. It's just too sad, tuna and mayo don't defrost very well.
Being in New York is great for me, there is no way to fit in. Fitting in only means being yourself, it's a beautiful thing. There are days I don't know what to wear, I am not sure who I am, but I almost always know what to eat, or at least what to buy from the grocery store and I never buy the pre-packaged sugar crap, even if that's what everyone else is doing.


It's been 2 years since I posted anything. That doesn't mean that I haven't written. I have written, oh have I written. Circles and circles of affirmations and complaints, sucking out the contents of my brain, hoping for some clarity, some silence. Know what? It's working, or is that another affirmation? The lines get blurry and I am ok with that.
Sometimes I find inspiration on The Hills, that is frightening, but it's true, The City too for that matter, not so much from Whitney herself, but from Kelly Cutrone her mentor. I need a mentor, but I'm not sure I am mentorable. Perhaps that has changed. I have a had a big wall around me and throughout the past five or so years I have taken great pains to knocking the bitch down.
Is there a point to this post, you may ask? Nope, and I am cool with that.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Case in Point

While I was waiting to hear if I was approved for my Visa, and was between jobs, I had a fabulous idea. This brilliant idea was born from wandering around the city and finding bathrooms the hard way. Stumbling in and out of stores, embarrassed to ask, and really having to go, I found good public bathrooms, that were not common knowledge to a newcomer.
This was how the idea of the New York bathroom book emerged. A guide, possibly with a cute “seat cover” on it (?) to camouflage it, to the best bathrooms in the city. Everyone I shared it with, loved the idea, and contributed their best ideas and encouragement.
I was obviously quite hush hush about it, I mean, what if it got out and someone else beat me to it? That would suck. I had to get to work immediately, the clock was ticking.
Union Square was covered, Barnes and Noble, Filenes, DSW and Whole Foods, not to mention Starbucks. Columbus Circle has the Time Warner Center, with not only great bathrooms, but amazing Dyson hand dryers to boot.
On Dafna's advice, who said there must be something out there like it, I did an internet search of bathroom databases and searched Borders and Barnes and Noble for existing guides and found that there was nothing that could compete with “Gotta Go- the New York bathroom guide”.
I realized that this venture would be HUGE, and that New York was only the beginning, I would be flown all over the world for bathroom books in Venice, London, Laos, Israel- EVERYWHERE! A goldmine and a great opportunity to travel!
SOHO seemed like a great place to start, why not, gotta start somewhere, and every tourist has to go to SOHO.
Day one, I met Aliza for breakfast at Balthazar, and started to pound the pavement.
SOHO presented a bit of a problem, because the whole place is a distraction. Too many cute shops, cafes and sales. I did find some good loos, the best being at a bathroom accessory store, with state of the art facilities. The worst was at CafĂ© Duke, where I USED to eat. I spent 40 minutes in a Swedish bed store, being shown the benefits of an all natural, $10,000 bed, by a very bored and sweet Swede. I checked out hotties at John Varvatos, played cool at the SOHO Grand, and pretended to be religious at the Tenth Church of Christ Science, all in the name of research. Bloomingdales and Crate and Barrel at Broadway and Houston are the best no hassle go-to’s, but I am not the first to discover that.
After two days covering SOHO, I had to make a geographical plan, I decided to start at the tip of the island and work my way up. I found a great map of the city, created a checklist, with cleanliness, handicapped access, towels, number of stalls, smell, etc.
I hit the financial district, zig-zagging through every street, no bathroom left unexamined. I took damning photos, cracked up when I came to the corner of Water and John, and even found a decent slice of pizza (not IN a bathroom- gross).
I spent a bunch of time on the phone with my Mom, who kept my sagging spirits up, as I dragged my ass from can to can-can.
Talking to a friend later that day, and telling him in strict confidence about my future bathroom dynasty, he informed me that there was already a book that listed all the bathrooms in Manhattan, called “Where to Go” by Vicki Rovere. Huh? I promptly went home, did a search, and found out he was right, it does exist (not that you can actually find it anywhere). This insane woman walked all the way up and down every street of Manhattan finding every available bathroom.
I was and AM so grateful to Miss Vicki, because frankly, and not surprising to most, it’s depressing going in and out of bathrooms all day and a smarter person would have realized that sooner. Sometimes, I get so excited by the marketing of an idea, that I don’t think about whether I actually want to do it or not. A case in point, is when I tried to rope my friend Leigh into doing laundry for film crews, because I saw a need, and like the name Laundro-babes. I thought we would make cute Laundro-babe's t-shirts with our silhouettes, and stick chipper notes and fortunes in people's jean pockets. I didn't consider that it would mean that I would be doing stranger's laundry all day, every day, probably not a good idea since I avoid my own laundry, until I have run out of socks and underwear.

p.s. if you are looking for a good bathroom in the financial district there is a really nice Starbucks, with excellent facilities on the corner of Pearl and Hanover, but really you shouldn’t be in the financial district unless you work there, and if you work there, then you probably have a bathroom at your office, and if you don’t, you should consider finding a new job, soon.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

For Jay

Like many of the good people raised in Calgary, I am a skier, well, that’s not entirely true, since I haven’t skied in at least 15 years, but I used to ski a lot. There have been some bad runs, like when I wiped out, bouncing over moguls, skis and gloves trailing behind me, screaming “DADDY!!!”, while my brother and father nervously giggled below, relieved that I was finally moving forward, and not still standing at the top of the hill crying. There have been some good runs too, like when I finally managed to get off the chair without having a panic attack and needing the lift operators to slow it down, or the joy I felt when I realized that I could navigate on my new 180” s.
I started in the days of safety straps, with bindings so tight that the strong men I would ask to help me, visibly struggled to get them undone, “well, little girl” they would grunt, “those really are some tight bindings”, I was about 7. As I grew and moved from snow pants to stretchies and safety straps to brakes, I also became a better and braver skier. In part I have my brother to thank, we were on a run one day, and I was rallying for yet another hot chocolate break. Al wanted to continue skiing, and we weren’t allowed to separate. His argument was compelling, although at the time I pretended it repulsed me. He suggested, that someday a cute boy might ask me to go skiing, and I would be sorry if I didn’t know how. Simple, powerful and effective.
My junior high winters were all about skiing. Every Saturday I went to Norquay, famous for it’s black diamond run, The Lone Pine. Apparently someone once hit THE lone pine and died, which is pretty weird, because it really is the only tree on the run, and you would actually have to try to hit it for that to happen. Norquay is a second rate Banff hill, tied in its relative mediocrity with Fortress, the hill I went to on Saturday’s when I was in elementary school. Lake Louise and Sunshine are the diamonds of the cluster, but at least I wasn’t going to Paskapoo or Shaganappi, which any self respecting Calgarian knows are a joke, they’re within city limits and in those days consisted of rope tows.
I went to Norquay on Norm’s ski bus, which was organized through Norm’s Ski Hut, a store in the mall. Norm’s chartered a few Saturday buses, I was on “the Jewish bus “; go figure. The Steinberg’s chaperoned, and our bus was loaded with loud Hebrew school kids in turtlenecks, it was THE place to be for any young snowbound Semite.
It was necessary to wake up at some ungodly hour, to be at the bus before the sun rose. The Greyhound buses would idle in the parking lot, melting the layers of ice on the asphalt, kids tumbled out of wood paneled station wagons and Jeeps, dragging poles, skis, hats, goggles, comic books, and Walkmen, sleepy parents chatted while drinking coffee, still in their p.j’s. Every week I tried to get away with faking sick and sleeping in, and every week I was rudely forced out.
I was glad once I was on the bus, as is the way with most things in my life, if can just get out of bed to do it, I’m usually happy that I did.
Riding up to the mountain sitting with Danielle listening to ‘ Our Lips are Sealed’ or rocking out to ‘Pass the Dutchie’, I would mentally prepare for another ski day.
The day was divided into lessons and free ski, or if you were Danielle, Julie or I, free ski and free ski, with breaks for applying Lip Smackers, drinking hot chocolate and eating sour cream and onion rings.
One Saturday after we arrived at the hill, I spotted two cute boys from another bus, tall, blonde, adorable. I caught one’s eye, giggled, turned purple and then looked away. The other girls on my bus noticed too, they were after all, not blind.
Someone eventually spoke to the cute boys, and found out their names were Jay and Mark, it was probably Julie, she was good like that.
Did we have lunch with them? I’m not sure, it’s a blur, but what I do remember is Jay offering to carry my skis at the end of the day, I almost passed out. I was shy, and was emerging from a seriously awkward, awkward stage. I was used to boy’s attention coming in different ways, like stealing my pencil case and writing on it in liquid paper, making fun of my knees, snapping my new bra or laughing about how pale I was.
Jay carried my skis for all to see, and put them underneath the bus. Then he did something even braver, he asked permission for he and Mark, to ride on our bus back to the mall. This beautiful, polite, thirteen year old boy was definitely into me!
The Jewish Bus however, was not into Mark and Jay; they upset the fine balance of the ecosystem. My new love, Jay, sat in the back and he and Mark, were cross -examined as though they were absolutely without question, Hitler youth. I sat in shock, unable to mobilize and stand up for my ski-carrying hero. The boys definitely handled it well, but I am pretty sure it was not what they expected (or wanted) when they got on our bus hoping to mack on some nice uncomplicated girls.
I never saw Jay again and I hope that he and Mark weren't scarred by the experience. I strongly suspect they have recovered and are still out there opening doors, and carrying skis for all to see. Jay was the first boy to confidently show that he liked me, and for that I will always be grateful, and after 25 years, I still think of Jay and smile, that's pretty cool, right?

Friday, December 7, 2007

TFC- too fucking cold

I am freaking cold, it’s not just me right? It’s cold! I know I should be tough, being that I grew up in Calgary, but I don’t think it really works that way, although I know how to layer, and wear cute boots. When I was in junior high, it was cool not to wear socks no matter how cold it got, and it got COLD. Stupid, but we did it anyway, no socks, and top-siders or penny loafers. Who did we think we were?
It was around the same time that Moon Unit Zappa came out with Valley Girl, and I learned the word Galleria. I had spent most of my life in one, but we just called it Chinook. I think that I got confused and thought I was from California and didn’t need socks.
I recall going to a school dance in a white mini skirt and turquoise ski pants, objectively not a good look, but I wasn’t allowed out without them (the ski pants, not the mini skirt). Things were bad, in fact I used to wait for the school bus in minus 40 degrees, no kidding. I think they call that child abuse now. We were tough, Lee Hirsh with his lisp, Peter Kitchen with his foggy glasses and his sister Sarah who always had dirt and snot on her face.
We would wait outside, on the wide open, sweeping, suburban plains of Lakeview, with scarves covering all but our eyes, and ice crystals hanging off the wool where the humidity escaped from our mouths. We wore mitts rather than gloves ‘cuz they were warmer, and you had the body heat from your other fingers for insulation- similar to the idea that if someone is suffering from hypothermia you are supposed to get in a sleeping bag naked with them, trust me, it’s true, I learned it on my three day trip to nature camp.
There were days that school was canceled because the pipes had frozen, those were good days, very good days, and we prayed for those.
Me and my Hebrew school posse would wait for the bus, leaving our houses at the last second so that we would have to wait as little as possible. Missing the bus sucked, because it meant I would have to ask my mother, or worse, my teacher Mrs. Unger who lived nearby, for a ride.
My Mother had to get to work, and my school was nowhere near where she worked, and frankly she was pretty uptight and angry for most of those years, so the margin for error was very slim. Mrs. Unger had a nasty demeanor and would growl “Garbage” anytime someone got a wrong answer in the math-ladder. I still attribute my panic around the times table, to her hard ass antiquated teaching style, although I must admit she was kind in the lesson of plagiarism, gently illuminating the definition after I penned the same story that she had shared with us that day.
Anyhow, my point is, that it was cold, Mrs. Unger was, for all practical purposes, a bitch, my Mother was under a lot of stress and wasn’t up for morning surprises like having to take me to school, and that waiting minutes longer than I had to for the school bus could mean the difference between life and death.
I know you are feeling really badly for me now and you should be, but remember that I did survive, and it only made me stronger.
It’s about 33 degrees today (1 celsius)in New York. I worked late, got up late and went out to drop of some dry cleaning and see if someone had turned in my ipod at the gym (I subsequently found it in my jacket pocket). My hair was looking especially good. I had straightened it the day before and just the right amount of moisture had crept back in to give it some bounce and not be total Jair (an expression I read once, referring to Jewish girls with straightened hair- LOVE IT).
I marched across 9th avenue tossing my fabulously coiffed hair and felt the frigid air hitting my cheeks and ears, my junior high school, sticker collecting, California dreaming, school bus waiting, galleria going self, confronted my adult, coffee carrying, parka wearing, taxi taking, scarf yielding, Manhattan self, and I reached in my pocket, pulled out my cap and made a choice. I took a moment and mourned the years of hard fought Farrah waves that died under many a toque, my cold top-sidered ankles, my mornings waiting with my crew for the yellow bus, the recesses forced to play outside, and I thought about how grateful I am to be here, and how maybe, just maybe, it's not actually that cold after all.