Monday, August 23, 2010

I’m walking into spider webs, so leave a message and I’ll call you back

I liked my new landlady – Lala -- immediately. And the longer she talks, the more I like her.

“I’m pro-spider,” she says, while pouring me a cup of coffee from beans smuggled into the country from Nicaragua – beans she ground herself this morning. She slams a pint of soy creamer in front of me and tosses a teaspoon in a glass sugar bowl like the one my mom reserved only for company. Today she’s wearing a royal-blue T-shirt that hugs a slender, athletic figure that appears – at least to me – a helluva lot more youthful than her 63 years.

“But all those webs start to make a house look, well, not so lived in,” Lala says. “So, I had to take a few down. I hate that.”

I kind of wish Lala had told me she was pro-spider before I rented the sunny yellow room overlooking a pretty, winding road – only three miles from campus – for the outrageously reasonable price of $550 a month including utilities. But on the other hand, my Grandma was pro-spider too, a woman who believed that spiders in your house brought luck.

For me, personally, it all depends. I grew up in a little house in rural Florida in the black, cool shadow of a great Oak that I am sure was already an adult when Hernando de Soto landed in Florida. We were constantly invaded by grey wood spiders as large as my hand is today – absolutely massive. I shudder now to think of it. But that also means that I’m not bothered much by the little guys – the smaller spiders most people see in their homes. I couldn’t care less about them.

Lala’s house is a cozy, old split level with a large deck over-looking a wild, green, wooded park. There’s at least one funky painting on every wall – three paintings in my bathroom alone. The parts of the house that are not covered in books are covered in plants – ivy spiraling its way toward the creaky, hardwood floors like a bored, naughty Rapunzel. I love it here.

Lala and I share the house with a young man I’ll call Hot Gary who lives, according to Lala, “under the kitchen.” Every once in a while, two fat, fluffy, white kitty cats named Pushkin and Charlie make an appearance.

Lala is tall, strong, and very attractive. She wears her hair in a short, blond wispy cut that manages to be both jaunty and chic. She has a booming voice – and appears to truly enjoy the company of others. She keeps seeking me out while I am desperately trying to put away my things. This is one of the few chicks I’ve ever met in my life who makes me look like a shrinking violet. And her laugh comes from some cave buried in the pit of her belly -- like the bellow of a lioness in her prime. Together, we’re loud as hell.

I soon learn that a conversation with Lala could go in any direction at any time. It’s sort of like riding Space Mountain. I’m sipping my coffee and trying to hang on.

“Ever notice how occult people are really wacky?” she asks me.

No, I think. You don’t say? Please DO go on. (If there’s anything I love more than crazy people, I honestly don’t know what it is.)

Somehow, my asking for directions to Target turns into her show-stopping description of trying to have shower sex with a boyfriend so paralyzed by obsessive compulsive disorder that he simply couldn’t get interested in her naked self until the towels were folded just right. And don’t even get her started on the inappropriate time outs for squeegee-ing.

“It was just not sexy,” Lala says.

“No,” I answer. “I can’t imagine how it would be.”

We laugh. We’re both horrifically loud. It’s only a matter of time before the neighbors file a noise complaint. Hot Gary may move out.

I return an hour later with red and white bags stuffed with new, white linens and blue hangers.

I set to work putting away half a dozen Space Bags filled with winter clothes I haven’t seen in eight years. That’s when the proverbial itsy-bitsy spider bungee jumps from a web attached to the ceiling and seems to stop right in front of my face – as if checking me out. It’s so teeny – about half the size of my pinky nail – that I’m neither alarmed nor afraid. I step around it, trying to respect Lala’s pro-spider household and hoping Grandma was right – that the pale little guy will bring me some luck.

I’m in an entirely different corner of the room when the same little spider dive bombs me again – twice now stopping right in front of my face – greeting me or giving me shit, depending on your perspective.

OK. Now I’m annoyed. Because I am trying to get things done dammit and I don’t speak spider for crying out loud and I don’t know what this little guy wants from me. The spider is now reminding me of one of those people on the plane who keeps talking despite that fact that you have so obviously opened a book and are trying to read/ignore him.

I’m back at the closet, trying to decide if I really need my red velvet smoking jacket or if it can go under the bed for the time being -- I like it because it makes me feel like Hugh Hefner -- when the little spider makes a third appearance. Again, dropping right down in front of my face.

At this point, I’m really annoyed. Here, I had tried to respect this little spider’s space – but it was obviously just trying to fuck with me. I was over it. Who’s at the top of food chain here, anyway?

So I just grabbed that tee-tiny spider by its little web and cast it on the floor. I felt bad for the spider. I felt bad for Lala. And I hope I hadn’t damaged any good luck headed my way.

But I just dropped everything to be here -- and anything getting in my face right now is going to have hell to pay.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Notes on a new life: I look like shit

In the past 11 days, I’ve driven to Virginia, found a place to live, moved in, sold four pieces of Brandon’s furniture, helped move some of Brandon’s things, helped Brandon pack some of his things, met Brandon’s fiancé, visited campus, signed up for classes, called half a dozen yoga studios looking for a new place to practice, and lined up two interviews for part-time work to supplement my modest teaching stipend.

And I did it all while sleeping on Brandon’s couch. Which means, in short, I look like shit.

I’m so sleepy, I almost got into a car accident with a cop last night. For whatever reason, he took pity on me and let me go with a warning. But today I feel like I’m plowing through all my good karma with stupid traffic violations and I won’t have any left when the adorable French guy – mid 40s, divorced, grown kids – sits next to me in my non-fiction class. (I know this is going to happen because I’ve been meditating on it at yoga.)

I don't want to whine about being tired because, frankly, I'm living my dream -- and a lot of other people's dreams if what you tell me is true. Plus, as a western woman, I try to remember I don’t have a lot to complain about. Not really. Not when I have access to hot water, a toilet, a working automobile, and enough food to keep my rear end in its Kardashian-like glory. I think it’s vulgar to complain about little things when our sisters in the Congo are being systematically gang-raped as part of political maneuvering. I’m sure those girls would take a look at me in this luxury condo two blocks from the metro and say “Oh, poor thing. You tired on that couch? Well, I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night in the refugee camp, either, Bitch.”

But today I have to be more than grateful. I have to look halfway decent. And that's going to be a challenge. I have an interview for a part-time job. I don’t want to tell you all that much about it because I’m superstitious about these things. (I know you find this surprising – a gal who drops everything to write in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, who is addicted to yoga, who believes whole-heartedly in karma, and is trying to will a French lover into her life through meditation -- is also superstitious. I’m not even going to tell you how I feel about the dark.)

And since I don’t know where my hair dryer is, and my current look is starting to edge toward – how shall I say? Rastafarian? I booked an appointment for a shampoo and blow-out at a nearby salon.

I was put in the capable hands of Veronica, a tee-tiny little Romanian thing with big blue eyes and arms that would make Madonna seethe with jealousy. She asked me how I wanted my hair. I don’t like it when stylists ask this. I have no idea. Make me look like that Russian spy. That would be nice.

“Not like this," I told her. "Extra points if you make me look like a girl again.”

First, Veronica shampooed me, and I fell asleep in the sink. She woke me up to me in the chair at her station, where I promptly fell asleep again. That blow-dryer made the most delicious white noise and the cape was so warm. When I came too, Veronica's itty bitty self had wrestled my hair into shiny submission. I couldn’t believe it.

“Wow,” I said. “I can’t believe it.”

I left her a huge tip. She gave me her card.

“When you get settled in your new place, make a wish,” she said. “In Romania, that’s what we do. When you move into some place new, make a wish.”

“Did you make a wish,” I asked her.


“Did it come true?” I asked.

“Well, it’s sort of a long time thing.”

“I hear ya sister,” I said.

When I left, I felt my hair bouncing in my wake. It felt good to have something in my life in order. I was grateful for that.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Notes on a new life: Toolbox

Call me Ishmael. I’m a whale of a pain in your ass.

That’s what I’m thinking while the zygote in the next room clad in his Virginia Tech T-shirt and fashionably-distressed khaki shorts looks over Brandon’s old particle-board desk. We put it on craigslist for $25 – and now the kid is looking at it under a jeweler’s loop.

“How old is it,” he asks. I don’t know how old the damn thing is. I’ve known Brandon10 years, and he’s had it that long. It’s safe to assume most of the furniture in Brandon’s apartment could be described as pre-Etruscan.

Ishmael is tiptoeing through a cavern of boxes because Brandon and I are both in various stages of moving. I’ve been crashing on the couch for more than a week after driving up from Florida. My suitcase is vomiting black T-shirts and denim next to the stack of bedding I fold up every day so the room has some semblance of order.

Occasionally, Ishmael will touch something, ask how much it is, and then how old it is. What the hell do I look like? Antiques Roadshow?

When I was looking for places to rent, the lady who chose me to move into her house said she liked me because I seemed laid back. Which I am. But now that I’m home wheeling and dealing while Brandon is at work – lucky duck -- I see what she means.

The desk is $25 for crying out loud. And the guy is acting like I’m asking for a testicle. What makes matters worse is that I can tell this is the kind of douche who will pay that much for a Grey Goose martini on U Street Saturday night.

Plus, I’m still thinking about the little incident in the parking garage. He refused to park on the street outside the condo and put his flashers on. So, I let him into the parking garage. Where he immediately drove into another car, bashing the shit out of it. Then, he checks out his own car, and walks off as if nothing happened. Bad karma. Bad karma everywhere. This is not the yoga way. I kind of wave my hands in front of my face to divert any bad energy. He looks at me as if I'm the one with the problem.

After an hour of my life I’ll never get back, Ishmael decides he’ll take the desk. But he needs a tool to take it apart to fit into his car. I think of about a dozen tool jokes in my head, but am proud of myself when I manage to keep them all between my ears. Then he asks if he can take Brandon’s screwdriver to put the desk back together when he gets home. Is he crazy? No, I tell him. You can’t. Brandon needs that. Jeebus.

Happy our little interlude is almost over, I help Ishmael haul the desk out of the condo, down the hall, into the elevator, and into his shiny new Honda SUV paid for by the folks. We get everything squared away and he goes to get into his SUV.

Then he turns, seems to think about something, and without a word pulls the screwdriver out of his pocket. That’s right. He almost stole the screwdriver I told him he couldn’t take. Why he gave it a second thought, I have no idea. I didn’t see him take it. He could have gotten away with it.

He hands it to me. I take it.

“Thanks,” I say, and walk away.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Notes on a new life: To protect and serve

I was driving back from lunch when I got stopped by a cop for making a U-turn.

I got distracted on my way back to the condo – I know, can you imagine? – missed my turn and ended up lost at the intersection of 495 and WTF.

It doesn’t help that I am the worst driver ever, a woman who honest-to-God lives in fear of the people driving behind her. I hate it when people ask me to drive them somewhere because they always cling to the dash and scream a little. That makes me even more nervous and my driving becomes even less tidy.

It also doesn’t help that my car is still packed with everything I own. It seriously looks like the opening credits of the Beverly Hillbillies. All I need is Granny.

Anyway, I was parked on the side of the road, my hair still wet from my shower, last night’s tank top on, rocking the Hillbilly-mobile – when I look up and into the most gorgeous brown eyes I’ve seen in a long time. This cop was seriously one hawt mofo, and I wasn’t even wearing my best bra.

I handed him my driver’s license and then hurled myself out my driver’s side window to watch him walk back to his cruiser. Hel-lo Fairfax PD.

Then I checked my own reflection. Day-am. I have had better days. Would it have killed me to put on mascara?

Before long, he was back at my window, checking out my pile of stuff.

“Please search me, please search me, please search me,” I prayed. (I hope this was silent, but you never know.)

Then he started to speak.

“Blah, blah, blah,” he said, while I stared at his face, then his chest, then down at his thighs. “Blah, blah.”

“OK,” I said, not knowing what I was agreeing too, but feeling fairly comfortable I’d be up for anything he had in mind.

He let me go with a warning, which is so nice. But I still kicked myself for my total lack of game. I didn’t even try to force my number on him.

I eventually found my way back to the condo and e-mailed my friend Melissa.

“Are you crazy,” she said. “Why didn’t you tell him you were lost and needed a police escort back to your house?”

I don’t know, I replied. I’m disoriented. I’m not myself.

“If I had gotten him back here,” I said. “Maybe I could have convinced him that I am so confused from the move that I need help getting my clothes off.”

“Now you’re thinking,” she said.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What we choose to take

I’m sleeping on my best buddy’s couch, while the little green machine remains stuffed with everything I own five floors below in a parking garage in Vienna, Va.

Despite the fact that I’ve lived in D.C. before, have friends here, and know I will love it here – eventually, right now I feel like I just went from the Technicolor Oz to black and white Kansas. Except Oz is my home. I want to click my ruby slippers and go back. I miss the pink and yellow houses, the big, blue sky, the scarlet sunsets, and the lime-green margaritas. I’m also not used to everyone walking around looking so serious. And I haven’t seen one Guy Harvey T-shirt in days.

I’m disoriented.

The drive up was fine, except for the claustrophobia. My things were packed around me so tight I could barely move my arms.

I found, in a last-minute, last sweep of my apartment, a package of those massive overnight pads – the huge ones with wings -- each the size of a small duffel bag. I tossed them into the pile on back seat, and anytime I hit the brakes, one would go flying past my head like a missile wrapped for my protection.

I brought with me only things I decided I could not live without: clothes, bedding, towels, butterfly-shaped magazine rack, cowboy hat, yoga mat, wooden walking stick bought in Tanzania, blue and white teapot, magic wand, flat-screen TV, and jazz collection.

And, of course, the goblets.

My grandmother’s set of four, blue, Carnival Glass goblets have moved all over the world with me, since her death on October 31, 1993. I took them when my sister and I cleaned out her little green and white house.

They are a beautiful, iridescent blue, with a grape pattern stamped into the glass. My grandmother loved grapes. She liked the way the light kissed the small, purple globes. They are worth as little as $5 each on the Internet – so I won’t be taking them to Antiques Roadshow. But I doubt I would part with them at any price.

They’ve lived with me in Florida, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and London, England. I usually keep them in a rarely-used cabinet, fearing some sort of accidental tap will send them careening to the floor.

I love them so.

Once, I asked my mother if I should give them to my sister, since she is the one Grandma remembered. Not me. Grandma didn’t know me in the end. My sister has Grandma’s red hair, freckles, and profile, and was recognized as family. I look like my father.

My face became that of a stranger, just another thing – in the blurred tapestry of her life in its twilight – that confused her. Because I fixed her food and prepared warm water for her bath, she decided I was the maid.

It wasn’t always like that. When I was small and she was healthy, I was like a barnacle at her side, helping her plant tomatoes, admiring her sunflowers, watching her turn wild blackberries into homemade pie.

In her simple house, with its cheap, Corelle dinnerware and old, thrift store davenport, those goblets were one of her few luxuries, one of a handful of things she could hold to the light and watch sparkle.

One summer day when I had not yet reached the double-digits, she took them down from the cabinet where she kept them hidden, held them up toward the sun, and touched the grapes with a work-weary fingertip.

“Aren’t they pretty,” she said.

I looked at her eyes. I thought they were blue – as blue as the goblets -- but she said they were hazel. I watched her eyes sparkle alongside the glass.

“Yes, Grandma,” I said. “They are.”

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

You are moving. You think. Could be. Or maybe not.

You are moving. Or you should be moving. You are aware that at some point this week, all your things should be encased in boxes and ensconced in some ugly storage facility somewhere and that your little green car should be pointed north on the Florida Turnpike. This was supposed to happen Saturday. It is now Tuesday.

Today, you ran out of coffee and toilet paper – the only things you truly need to survive – and had to go to Publix. You linger over the two-for-one bins as if you could possibly need two big bottles of red pasta sauce or Crisco oil. You remember the toilet paper at the last minute, when you are in line with two tee-tiny bags of coffee and a Coke. You remember it as you gaze at the magazines – your personal crack, your heroin, and remember that you don’t have time to read a magazine because you are moving Goddammit.

You have moved before. You once moved to three states in one year. There was a time when you were a professional nomad. You don’t know what is wrong with you this time. The Kardashians aren’t that interesting – and yet you find yourself time and again sitting on the couch wondering what in the world Kourtney sees in Scott – although you have to admit he’s a snappy dresser. Perhaps you took The Secret too seriously, and are expecting the universe to pop into your Delray Beach crib like Mary Poppins and gather everything up in the few moments it takes to belt out an engaging little number about change.

What you are doing when you aren’t moving is answering the phone, answering texts, obsessively checking e-mail, and looking at everyone’s pictures on Facebook. You realize this is not moving. You realize you aren’t even having conversations about moving when you catch yourself Monday complaining about visiting a friend in Maine four years ago and the fact that he didn’t tell you about a Halloween party so you could bring a costume.

“Because hey, I’m festive,” you shout into the phone at your friend Betsy.

“You are festive,” said Betsy. “If someone asked me ‘Is Kelly festive?’ I would have no choice but to say yes.”

You yak for one more hour before telling Betsy, “I have to get off this phone. I am starting to think I am never, really going to leave.”

“Well, I can’t say your fears aren’t valid,” she says.

You finally hang up the phone. It rings again. On Monday, you take three more calls, make dinner plans, and, at 3 p.m., decide it is really, really time you get started moving Goddammit.

That is when Clemente arrives at your door – again.

“What up, Clem,” you say.

You’ve seen Clemente numerous times over the past several days. He works for Comcast, which is turning off the basic cable at your condo complex because so many people are in foreclosure that the condo association can no longer afford to pay the bill. Clemente is having a hard time wrapping his head around the fact that you don’t want cable anymore.

“Clemente, I’m moving,” you say.

Clemente looks over your shoulder and into your apartment and points his brown eyes at the two measly boxes sitting on the floor and then stares at you with suspicion.

“I really am,” you say.

“Jo-kay,” Clemente says finally. And you know he doesn’t believe you.

He hands you a piece of paper where the words “Notice of Discontent” are highlighted in yellow marker.

“What’s this?” you ask.

“Jur notice of deesconnect,” Clemente says.

You look at the paper again. Sure enough, it says Notice of Disconnect at the top.

You finally get rid of Clemente.

In the one hour you have before you have to get showered for dinner, you decide to concentrate on the kitchen. You are putting things in three piles: things you don’t want; things you want, but aren’t taking with you right now; and things you are taking with you right now, but have to be small enough to fit into aforementioned little green car.

You decide you can’t live without your rolling pin, cheese grater and massive, black Rabbit corkscrew given to you by a male friend who said “I always wanted to give you one good screw.”

You find the place card from the wedding of one of your best friends and wonder if it is junk or a memento. You kept it because it reads: Mr. Kelly Wolfe. This is funny because you were there when this couple shared their first kiss. You were there when they adopted a kid together. You danced drunk at their wedding, came onto their DJ, and referred to their 12-year-old as “your wingman” all night. These are people who know you well. And still, they think you are Chaz Bono. The place card goes into the keep pile.

With the last 30 minutes you have before showering for dinner, you decide to shred some old bank statements and bills you throw into a drawer and never look at again. You are happily whizzing away when one page catches your eye. It reads: This page intentionally left blank.

You put it into the keep pile, thinking it will make a nice epitaph one day.

Labels: ,