Archive for March, 2007

Mar 31 2007

Coincidentally

Published by under Detroit

A lot o’ people don’t realize what’s really going on. They view life as a bunch o’ unconnected incidents ‘n things. They don’t realize that there’s this, like, lattice o’ coincidence that lays on top o’ everything. Give you an example; show you what I mean: suppose you’re thinkin’ about a plate o’ shrimp. Suddenly someone’ll say, like, plate, or shrimp, or plate o’ shrimp out of the blue, no explanation. No point in lookin’ for one, either. It’s all part of a cosmic unconciousness.

— Tracey Walter as Miller, Repo Man

I’ve been feeling slightly chilled for the past few days, like a young Beaujolais* (or an old lady). Hopefully, that’s just a coincidence, like all the other coincidences this week:

  • I was listening to the Everly Brothers when I read a passage in Richard Ford’s latest novel, The Lay of the Land, in which the hero wonders which Everly Brother is Don (Don’s the older one, in case you, too, were wondering).
  • Finished watching the final episode of Monk’s first season, in which Tim Daly was a guest star, and started watching a new Law & Order in which Tim Daly was the guest star.
  • Finished reading the Halle Berry interview in the April InStyle, put on CNN, and there was Miss Berry being interviewed.
  • Finished watching a 50 year old episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and while idly flipping through the TV channels afterwards, came across Jeopardy, showing a clue to which the correct answer (or question, depending on how you look at it) was, you guessed it, Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Weird, don’t you think? Also it sounds like I do nothing but read, drink, and watch TV. I do walk the dog, too, you know.

As for the suspense I left you in:

  • The cable guy showed up. He wasn’t crazy or a TV addict (as far as I know), and he kept all romantic advice to himself. So much better in real life than the Jim Carrey one in the movies. Of course, someone at the office was supposed to flip a switch and didn’t, so the cable still wasn’t working when I got back from Detroit, but that was solved with a phone call and a ten minute wait on hold.
  • The trip was a success from a business standpoint, but not from a personal one, since the delightful Kathleen was (temporarily, thank goodness) on the DL. Detroit without Kathleen is like coffee without caffeine.
  • If you’re wondering where the beautiful people (other than Miss K) are in Detroit, I can tell you from experience that they are in a certain real estate office downtown. The landlord of our soon to d?but Detroit office lent us his conference room for the meeting marathon. Two of the loveliest girls I had ever seen brought us coffee and water. As soon as they left, my boss and I looked at each other and said, “Wow.” A few minutes later, another beauty passed the glass doors of the conference room, and then the ravishing receptionist came in to tell us the first candidate was there. After she left, I said, “This is ridiculous!” in admiration, and my boss said, “I can see what one of their hiring criteria is!” And what a sight it was.
  • In keeping with the beauty theme, all the Michigan-based managers we interviewed were incredibly sharp dressers (though sadly, not up to the standard set by the bevy of realty beauties). I have never seen so many men with subtly monogrammed cuffs, exquisite cufflinks, daring ties, and flawless manicures in my life. Definitely the most remarkable part of the trip.
  • *Before you start thinking that I’m the type of girl who’d drink P?trus on the rocks, let me assure you that light red wines should be drunk at about 50 degrees – that’s “room temperature” in the bad old pre-central heating days, or slightly chilled in these halcyon, heated ones.

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Mar 20 2007

Lady In Waiting

Published by under Uncategorized

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What else to do on the last morning of this winter but wait for the cable guy? Hopefully, he’ll be a little more efficient and a little less scary than this one.

I’m already bored, and it’s not quite 10 am. You know how I feel about boredom.

I wish I could tell my boss I’d be in sometime between 8 and 12 (or, even better, 10 and 2), and not have to call if I’m late or don’t bother to show up, as is often the perfidious way of cable guys. They have time to waste, and it’s all yours.

In other ennui-related news, I’m heading to Detroit in a couple of days. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not Detroit that’s boring – quite the opposite – but I’m going for another money manager interview marathon, and with my classic bad timing, I picked a day that my dear and amusing Kathleen is out of town, being dear and amusing elsewhere instead of with me. There’s always next time – and I’m pretty sure there will be a next time. Maybe not soon enough, though.

For now, I’d settle for the cable guy being here now.

Update:

Turns out I was actually waiting for Godot. No cable guy, Carrey-esque or otherwise, deigned to show up.

I called the cable company, who told me that my appointment was for Thursday the 20th. I pointed out that Thursday was the 22nd and that I would not have booked anything for Thursday, since I’m going to Detroit that day. I further pointed out that I had confirmed today’s appointment twice with them. They said Thursday was the best they could do (also, apparently, both the least and the most), and I asked, quite reasonably, if they guaranteed that someone would show up before noon on Thursday.

Of course, they said, there are no guarantees.

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Mar 17 2007

The Way We Live Now

Published by under Uncategorized

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Dad and my brother Jonathan, circa 1965

While the rest of the world is celebrating St. Patrick’s death day, I am mourning my father’s birthday.

I wake up to the raucous clamor of birds in the tree outside my window, black against the white, still morning sky. They don?t do this every day, and my first thought is that they are singing for him. Dad loved birds, and kept track of all he saw from the age of five until he died, aged seventy. I slide my feet into my slippers and go to the kitchen to make coffee, wishing I had the luxury of calling him and saying ?Happy birthday? to him, instead of just in my heart.

Most of the people I know have fathers who are still living, but they don’t particularly want to call them, even though they can. Dads like Mike (and mine) are few and far between, it seems.

I realize how long he?s been gone: six years. I do this minor math problem with the same sense of slight shock and dismay as when I calculate my own age when asked (otherwise, I refuse to think about it and just feel like the permanent teenager I really am). I look back over the years that have passed away since he passed away, and am amazed we, his children, have all been able to weather the storm. At first, I thought I couldn?t survive the pain and loss. Now I think, Really? It?s been that long?

Sipping my coffee in the cold morning light, memories of Dad spin through my head:

When I was a child, waiting for him to come home from work, in his white lab coat smelling of mysterious and pungent chemicals. He’d sweep me into his arms and roll around on the floor, and end up with shaking me upside down, “to shake the nonsense out”, as he put it, though in this he never did quite succeed. Years later, there’s still plenty of nonsense left.

His mother telling me how Dad spent hours concocting exactly the correct proportion of cement dust to coal dust to make briquets that would last longer for heating and cooking during the dark, deprived days of WWII. Dad was about 10 at the time, and he and his family lived on the outskirts of London, where bombings were all too common. Indeed, the bombing once started when Dad was walking home from school one day. He was near the train station, and hid under bodies until it was over, finally walking home, blood-spattered, to his anxious mother.

The long, sunny days in Maine, those long ago summers when death hadn’t touched us and the world seemed a bright, safe place. We’d spend our days sailing, swimming, climbing mountains, having lobster for dinner (at that time, it was cheaper than hamburger, which was, as Dad put it, “the way it should be”).

The long, sunny days in England when death hadn’t just touched us, it had knocked us out, doing all the things everyone has to do when a family member dies, no matter how beloved or unbeloved. At the time, you don’t realize how lucky you are to be in shock and to have so many duties to perform, because once all that’s over and you go back to your newly altered life – the one you refer to as “normal”, though it isn’t anymore and never will be again – the realization hits you as hard as the Reaper’s scythe that it’s true, and this, my friend, is, as Trollope put it, The Way We Live Now.

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Mar 11 2007

You Can’t Get There from Here

Published by under Uncategorized

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The Empire State Building

Looks a little ominous, doesn’t it?

It looked that way to me, so I spent half a day trying to change my plane reservations to leave before the storm hit. The airline told me that they could change it for me, at a cost of $294, but if I waited until 24 hours before the plane left, I could do it on line for $40.

Seemed like an easy decision.

When the appointed time arrived, I tried to change the reservation on line, but couldn’t. Called tech support. They needed the credit card used to buy the tickets, which I didn’t have, since my boss bought them. Called him in Calfornia. Got number. Called tech support again with the number, only to be told that the reservation couldn’t be changed on line because it hadn’t been made on line.

He transferred me to an agent.

This time, it was $278 to change the ticket, and I was informed that the $40 was fiction. I could go to the airport two hours before an earlier flight, and if there’s room, get a seat on that flight for $50. I decided to just stay with what I had, even though I suspected there would be problems.

There were.

The snow, drifting down picturesquely outside, was causing panic and chaos inside. When I arrived at the gate, it looked a lot like that LIRR train at rush hour. Nowhere to sit, people hollering into their phones, a feeling that there could be a riot anytime. My flight wasn’t ever listed as delayed, but considering it left over four hours late, I think we can safely say without fear of contradiction that it was.

At least it wasn’t cancelled, the doom that awaited the passengers of two other flights, who immediately stampeded the lone airline employee at the desk. I think the only person who hated his job more than that guy that day was the one driving the Crime Scene Clean Up Services van I’d seen earlier that day. I didn’t get to read everything written on the side of the van, but I did see “Homicides, Suicides, Body Decomposition” before it sped off to make the world a cleaner place.

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Mar 01 2007

No Gloves, No Love

Published by under Uncategorized

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The Toronto Maple Leafs, Nassau Coliseum

For some reason, some of us thought it would be a good idea to go to a hockey game the night before a day of meetings. This is what happens when all your co-workers are boys.

The game was in some distant, godforsaken place in Long Island. Before this, the only place I’d been to in Long Island was the Hamptons, and I’d recommend you keep it that way if you can. If you must venture to the dark side, be prepared, especially if you take the LIRR at about 5:30 in the afternoon.

Arriving at Penn Station after spending almost half an hour getting a cab (note: looking for a cab at 5:00 in midtown Manhattan is an exercise in both futility and frustration), I was horrified by the sight of all the people pouring into its narrow entrance, oddly located directly beneath Madison Square Garden. It looked like a giant anthill. I wanted to turn and flee, but braver hearts prevailed.

The worst was yet to come.

We shoehorned ourselves aboard the train. Trains are usually the most civilized way to travel, but not the LIRR*, and not at rush hour. It was standing room only in a manner that makes a sardine can look roomy. People stepped on my feet, hit me in the head with backpacks, hollered into their cellphones in unmellifluous accents. It was a long way to Westbury.

Took a cab to the Coliseum, which, as previously noted, is located in the middle of nowhere (or possibly the suburbs of nowhere). I still don’t know where it was. The Islanders defeated the Maple Leafs (no-one seems to know why it’s the Leafs and not the Leaves. It just is), but it took several hours, the game going to a shoot-out. For the uninitiated, that means they played all three regular periods, an overtime one, and had to resort to the shoot-out to decide who won, the scores being tied.

Leaving the stadium, I called the taxi company, and was told there’d be a taxi rank on the west side. Got directions to the west side. No taxi rank, but valet parking. The valet parkers said the taxis were on the other side of the building. Decided that it would be better to try the Marriott across the street, so we plodded across the vast concrete steppe in the cold rain and wind, only to discover that there were no cabs at the Marriott, only 30 or so disgruntled Leafs fans (the Islander aficionados all drove, of course).

It took 45 minutes to get a cab, and the trains only run once an hour at that late hour, so, yes, we missed it. For added fun, the station is locked at 6:00, so we had to stand out on the freezing platform and wait for the next train.

I searched my pockets for my gloves, and discovered one was missing. It was my favorite pair: buttery soft black leather, lined with cashmere, and adorned with two rows of tiny, pale pink suede bows. Italian, of course.

When I was a child, I was going somewhere by train with my father, somewhere in England. I don’t remember the details of the trip, but I vividly remember this: as the train pulled out of the station, the elegantly dressed woman sitting across from us looked out the train window and noticed her glove lying on the platform. She jumped to her feet, pulled open the window, and tossed the remaining glove to join its mate.

In the midnight dark and rain, 30 years and 3,000 miles later, I did the same thing.

*When I complained about this to my colleague who lives in civilized Irvington, on the civilized Hudson rail line, he sniffed and said very seriously of the LIRR riders, “They’re animals“.

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