Friday, October 18, 2002

Didn’t get much of a look at the world outside today. Instead, I shuttled back and forth on a total of six trains (or will have, by day's end). And I can attest that, in order of relative states of yuckiness, NJ Transit is the nicest by far. The N/R train is the ugliest, most airless, and foulest-smelling (those last two are no doubt related). In between is the PATH, which wins points for relative lack of filth, but loses them for overcrowded conditions, not to mention unbearably hot tunnels.

Anyway, I was hauling uptown and back for allergy shots (yes, I’m one of those people who’d be Darwined out of existence in the natural order of things), and as I was rolling up every sleeve on my body (three on each arm) I began to ponder friendship.

It’s my vote for the key to happiness, and a good sized chunk of the reason we’re here. But let me rewind slightly, so you can see why I would be thinking about friendship in the allergist’s office when I’m just there to get little needles stuck into both arms.

There’s a nurse there whom I don’t get to see anymore, and I really miss her. She’s still alive and well, mind you, but my new commute has changed my shots schedule, and so I see a different nurse now. She gives the shots about as painfully as Lillian did, but without that wonderful dose of high spirits and twinkling companionship that I could always count on from Lil.

You ever meet one of those people who just Have It? You don’t know how or where they found it—maybe they were born with it—but their perfect positioning right on the groove of life, Right There, is written all over their faces. Lillian is one of those folks. She has a face like an angel, and when she dies, that face will look as different as different can be, because it’s Lillian’s wonderful personality that makes her so beautiful.

Physically, she is a nicely aging black lady with that appearance usually termed "ageless." She has a daughter somewhere in her thirties, so I speculate Lillian’s a bit older than my own mom. But there’s something about her that reminds me of my favorite (and departed) grandmother. A combination of sweetness and spunk, more than a hint of mischief in her expression.

Oh Lillian, my Lillian, when you were sticking needles in my arm, I swear I didn’t mind the Youch! And the wait in the waiting room was just an excuse to read, and the packed N train home was—well, it was the subway, and we know how much I love the subway. Yech.

But still, it was amazing how cheery an expedition my shots were when I got to see Lillian. Since I’ve switched schedules, I hardly make it there anymore. It’s cursory, a hassle, and I’m always looking around, listening for her voice.

See, that’s why we’re here. To meet our Lillians.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

In an inexplicably good mood (relative to yesterday, anyway) this morning. Thought I’d better write quick, before it dissipates, or gets chased away by the random icky flotsam that swirls about Manhattan. Maybe there are currents of emotion as well as currents of air. Other people’s nastiness just eddies around one till it infects your own mood, usually by virtue of some physcial altercation. Even the ones as small as being bumped on the stairway can have that effect.

Weird dreams again this morning. Almost slept through my train. You know you’re up with the birds when 6:10am=sleeping in.

The weather has cleared and people are again shuffling around the streets in a more relaxed fashion, though the usual New York White-Rabbit-must-hurry rule is still in effect. I guess it’s the body language that’s different when the sun’s out. People stride, and bounce, and swagger in good weather. In bad weather they crouch and scurry and cringe.

Personally, I like to mosey.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Not sure what to say about today. Thus far, it is an extremely mixed bag. One count of cab-dunking (that uniquely New Yorkian sport with which drivers amuse themselves by driving as quickly as possible through gutters a foot deep in uglywater, thereby drenching innocently shambling peds). One mishap at the train station. One unsuccessful shopping trip in search of some produce to accompany lunch.

Ever stop into a shop where you’re convinced they’re sneering at you? Where you get that aura that the staff believes you should be on your knees with gratitude for being allowed the privilege of forking over $5 for a bucket of blueberries? Makes me not want to buy anything. Gourmet Garage has crappy produce anyway. I don’t know what their problem is. Who buys wrinkled Washington State Pippins in October anyway, when crisp, luscious NY state Macouns and Jonathans could be had more easily for half the price? Well, not at GG, anyway. Stupid place. I am never bothering with them again.

Their cheese is raw, anyway. It’s mid-October and already I am pining for decent fruit. What is wrong with this picture? Land of plenty, my ass – New York is a third-world country crammed onto a single island off the coast of America.

Oh, I expect it's only Soho, land of designer eyeballs, that's the trouble. In the E. Village, or Queens, I am sure one could get lovely peaches fresh off the trees of Paraguay for a pittance. But that's not my point. What is my point? It's rainy and everything is bad.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

I dreamed last night that I was in France. I can’t figure out whether it was contemporary day or not. That is perhaps due to the longer-timescale nature of French countryside than American countryside, and perhaps due to the fact that the book I was reading is suddenly zapping back and forth between 17th century England and the present day. Which doesn’t exactly explain France’s appearance as a guest star in Valencia’s Dream, but there you have it.

I believe my sister was there, which doesn’t surprise me, as she and I have talked, in a desultory way, about journeying together in the near future (i.e., two years or so). This all looks very trivial on the page, as do most attempts to explain or even describe dreams. I imagine, somehow, that when I’ve died and am attempting to describe my life, it will come out much the same. Foggy and insubstantial, and I won’t be able to explain why it was so compelling to someone who wasn’t there at the time. Perhaps that is, in fact, why we dream now. Practice for that future frustration and nebulousness.

Not so much that we need practice in order to be frustrated, but perhaps an opportunity to practice pegging the ineffable with words, or gestures, or strange eye movements that have significance to those in the afterlife.

Does any of this make any sense to anyone else, or am I just dreaming again?

Monday, October 14, 2002

Working on Columbus Day is one of those peculiar tortures that makes you realize you have not managed to arrange an adequate life for yourself. Put it right up there with attending weddings alone and strolling through a college campus or coffeeshop in mid-day.

Just not adequate. I remember traveling slightly in my youth and having the same experience every youth does when overwhelmed by all that is unrecognizable and tantalizing and accented. "I will find a way to do this all the time. I will travel for years, until I have been to every continent."

Have I been back since? No. Well, a single week-long business trip with lots of work and little play. But essentially, no.

I know, I know, it’s no fun to read the whinings of a could-have-been. But really, it’s myself I’m kicking, not The World That Done Me Wrong. And if one doesn’t stop and do this sort of thing from time to time, well, then that trip around the world (or at least around somewhere else) will never get taken.