Friday, March 31, 2006

From San Francisco

Call the office (why?) The Contessa says that all is fine. She told The Vice Boss that I was called away on to an emergency birth and the Vice Boss, said, Oh I didn't know Fritz's wife was pregnant. Then the Vice-Boss said, We have to send them flowers. The Contessa says that the Vice-Boss actually seemed excited and also forked over her credit card, so the Contessa played along. Also says, I sent a plant instead of cut flowers because because a plant isn't already dead, even though it might die. Thank her. (Privately think that not happily or optimistically put.) Tell her that niece Elizabeth is extremely cute though head a bit misshapen and face angry shade of purple, but am assured by Sigrid that this is normal. (!) The Contessa says, O yes, and adds impressively, Only cesarian section babies come out cute because they don't have to go through the birth canal.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Big News

All has been in fun disorder. The day before yesterday (Tuesday) am in copy room being lectured by Romeo about the third paper drawer. Eight and a half by eleven paper has been placed on top of eleven by eighteen paper. Ask, distractedly, Is that bad? Learn that it is very bad. If the paper had been drawn into the machine it would have broken the gears. You are very lucky that the machine isn't permenantly damaged, Romeo says. Feel--not for the first time, or, I'm afraid the last--a strange and exhausting mixture of guilt and disinterest. Promise Romeo that It Will Never Happen Again. The Romeo seems satisfied at this even though he shouldn't be. The Contesa bursts into room and grabs me by the arm. Shrieks, Come to the phone quick. Think that must have won internet sweepstakes or that Dave is dead. Rush to phone. It is Sigrid's husband who says Your sister's water broke and she wants you to come. Am very excited. Say, How about you, do you want me to come? in jokey way. There is an awkward pause. Pardon? He asks. Would like to attribute his reticience to his shy nature and not to any fault of mine. While call up American Airlines to see if can turn in miles for last minute ticket, think of all the reasons why brother-in-law might not like me. Think, also, of all the reasons I might like him. American Airlines representative tells me that all of the economy milage seats are sold out. So are first class. If I want, I can use even more miles thatn required for a firsst class seat to get an economy seat. This seems extremely unfair, so give represetnative my credit card number so that can purchase ticket. Go home, throw clothes in bag, pet Jenny, call Dave, and take car service to airport. In airport, see friend who since last saw has become a rock star. Tap him on shoulders. He turns around and asks, Do I know you? Say, No--as fortunately (in a way)--he is not the friend turned rock star. Yet feel blush creep up face and am mortified for rest of airplane trip. So mortified that am too distracted to become airsick. Rent car in airport and drive self to hospital. Sigrid in labor. Husband in labor with her. Very stern nurse forbids me from entering birthing room but Sigrid's screams can be heard. Ask if the screams are normal. She is one of the quieter one's I'd say, says the nurse. Read extremely old issue of People magazine and also Smithsonian Magazine which has article about Koko the gorilla before the breast baring scandal. In cafeteria eat tapioca pudding, small cup of vegetable soup, and oatmeal cookie. Am allowed into room, where Sigrid is sweaty and redfaced, but smiles when she sees me. What are you going ot name her? I ask. What do you think about Edith? She asks. Tell her that I do not care for Edith. Me neither, she says, I think we are going to call her Elizabeth. Brother in law nods.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Mexico more relaxing, fun, and beautiful than had hoped. On first day am perhaps a bit too enthusiastic about sun worshipping and end up with extremely nasty looking rash. Have grim thought that will have to stay out of sun for rest of visit and that trip is ruined, but fears turn out to be baseless (Dave calm throughout.) Water and weather equally ideal. Become accustomed to waking up and throwing self into waves, getting coffee at small restaurant at hotel (hotel consists of small number thatched huts grouped around larger central hut with restaurant.) We are very much in the jungle. And am very impresed with self when wake up to find very large insect crawling on face near eye and in one movement throw insect across room and roll over to go back to sleep. Because of mix up at hotel, end up sharing taxi with woman from Atlanta. Dave asks her if she had a good time. It is very beautiful, of course, she says, But it was too remote for her and she can't wait to get back to Civilization. See that we have nothing in common. Rest of trip to airport spent in icy silence. On plane trip back to New York, read Harper's article about why George Busyh should be impeached which presents very compelling case about how war in Iraq was decided in first days of presidency. Become very very airsick. Usual recourse to the Sky Mall ineffective. Try to sleep. As am exiting plane (face I am sure, tinged green) stewardess chirps, Did you have a nice nap? Sunday spent doing laundry and playing with Jenny, who the Contessa has once again spoiled. (Can tell because when sit down to have snack of cheese toast, Jenny leaps up onto lap and tries to lick plate.) Night alternates between bizarre dreams (Giselle and Leona Helmsley a lesbian couple who live in desert) and panicked thoughts about needing to do taxes, pay apartment insurance on time, and non-specific but very fearful thoughts about what awaits me at work. Wake up in foul mood. Am walking briskly down stairs to train when hear voice behind me saying, Excuse me, in tones of extreme irritation. Even though there is ample room on my left side for passing, squeeze over to right so that small woman can charge down stairs. Am filled with wicked glee when she tries to swipe her card and message of "insufficent fare" pops up on screen. Wickedness rewarded when sit down on train. It becomes clear that seat neighbor has not bathed in very long time. Try breathing through mouth and then not at all. See that am not going to be able to hold breath all the way to stop. Instead, try practicing compassion. Compassion severely tested when man puts his head down on my shoulder. Reach stop. Have not recovered from train experience at all when in front of school see man standing between two parked cars peeing on street. In the elevator, run into Libby who says, Your nose looks burned! Did you go somewhere? Yes.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Put in Place

This morning, spot Serena at oppose edge of park. As book not done, and likely never to be done, try to keep at least a tree between us. Jenny not helpful at all. Usually likes to poke around near back fence, but today is singleminded in her preference for wide-open spaces. Am quickly spotted. Serena strides across field, Oh there you are, she says. I was wondering if I'd see you. We have pleasant conversation about windy day, possible snowfall the day after next, which allows me to gloat that I will be in Mexico when of if the snow falls. We do not talk of the book at all. When at the end of convesation bring up, Serena says breezily, Hmm? Oh that. I guess you'll be done when you're done. Am reminded, once again, that others naturally much less interested in me than I am. But it still comes as a shock.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Have special lunch with the Contessa so that we can Discuss book. Am very nervous until the Contessa says that we should have wine. This takes away nervousness completely until realize that we don't get to just drink, we also have to discuss. The Contessa dives right in, before we've ordered or have even water. The Contessa says that she loves the book. Loves it. At one point it made her so scared that she had to hide it in the bathtub. (Why the bathtub? So that it couldn't get out. During the discussion itself, the logic of this statement makes sense but later, does not hold up at all.)At praise, feel surge of energy--water arrives and drink it down in one gulp--and brain produces highly unlikely sequence of events culminating in highly successful around the world trip with Dave (Jenny will stay with the Contessa and get fat.) Ask The Contessa if she has any suggestions. She has a few. She marked up the text--little grammatical errors, and the like. She's sure I know all the rules about commas, right? Nod head curtly, say, Of course I do. (What are the rules?) Ask Anything else? Well, she says, There are few Small Things. On further discussion it is reavealed that the Small Things are rather major structural issues. Become very, very depressed and bitter. Brain, this time less helpfully, provides alternate sequence of events which ends in sad and poorly attended funeral. You'll be able to do these changes in no time, the Contesa says brightly. Thank her for her help (try not to imagine that she is run down by recklessly driven taxi.)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Long Day

Give copy of manuscript to the Contessa this morning. With no ceremony whatsoever, she puts pages into her bag and starts talking about class she took that had focus of raw food. As coconut seems to be the basis of many of the dishes and cheese is forbidden, lose any visceral interest, but make noncommital noises as she talks what was learned in class and about new book purchased with aim of taking up raw food herself. For the rest of day brain, which sometimes can't even remember names of dear and close friends, recalls exact phrasing of vast number sentences in book. Unfortunately, only poorly written, dull, cringe-causing sentences are trotted out. Work up the courage to tell the Contessa that I've changed my mind and that I'd like the book back, please, but don't. Day stretches on until it is time to go. The Contessa says brightly I can't wait to read this book and feel at once terrified and grateful until I realize that she is talking about her new raw cookbook.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Jenny in the Park

See Serena in park. Jenny adores Serena and pulls me toward her. Would like to think that Jenny is attracted to Serena's presence and Way, but cynical side reminds me that it is the liver treats that Serena keeps in her pocket that Jenny is excited about. Serena uncharacteristically bellows Fritz! in frighening tones, well aren't you about done yet with your book? Tell her yes, pretty much. Good, she says, why don't you send it to My Friend. Do not like to say that as haven't shown book to anyone, it may be a bit premature to show book to My Friend. But my friend turns out to be an agent who the other day said that what she really wanted was a mystery with decent prose and, Serena says, I feel certain that your mystery is well written if nothing else. Feel terrified and I am under no such illusion of having written anything decent at all, but have lost the use of my mouth so merely nod and try not to throw up. Jenny romps with Serena's great dane--both of them a bit slow moving and romp more like slow motion modern dance for dogs, and conversation turns to canine behavior--always amusing and frequently odd. Tell Dave about My Friend. Dave is very enthusiastic, and says that soon we will be able to quit our jobs, which follows my line of thinking exactly, but which know is unrealistic to the extreme. Tell The Contessa. She says That is great but--hmm. Ask her what Hmm means. She says, well you ought to get somebody to proofread it (have painful memory of first draft of book I showed her.) Ask, Who? It is too much to ask somebody to proofread a whole book. The Contessa says she will read it herself. She may not be good with budgets and what not (this point made very strongly later when we both try vociferously, and with strong opinions, but ultimately unsuccessfully to explain the contents of an excel spreadsheet to each other,) but she knows the rules of grammar and has a good eye.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


On Sunday, as trip to Mexico is in two weeks, take it upon self to find passports. This more difficult than had imagined. Have very clear picture of putting own passport in a Safe Place, but can't recall actual location. Search top drawer of dresser, file cabinet, under bed, in back of hall closet in travel pouch--find Dave's passport in pouch--but mine nowhere to be found. Take drawers out of dresser. Jenny turns frisky and scatters socks around room. Passport discovered wedged at back of dresser. Chase Jenny and reassemble dresser. When have passports in front of self, see that both of our passports have expired in the past year. Am despondent and imagine that trip to Mexico will have to be canceled. When Dave comes home, tell him in gloomy tones. Dave says impressively, We can make an appointment and get them on the same day. He makes the appointment for today. This problem solved, tell him that I have to have my hair cut before picture taken--am working on luxurious rat tail and hair very bushy, with wings. Dave says he will not cut hair, it looks Cute. Also, if he cut it now, it would look Too Short for the picture. Tell him I don't care if it looks too short. An impasse is reached. Would threaten to cut hair myself, but am afraid that will have to follow through on threat and will end up with bald patch. Yesterday, wake up with Jenny on new schedule, i.e. as the sun is coming up. While this worked in the dead of winter, do not feel that this pattern sustainable at all. Result is that in picture, hair in very very upsetting state, and area around eyes very baggy and wrinkled. Show Dave picture and ask, Can you see the lines around my eyes? He says, yes but they are Cute. Begin to suspect his use of the word cute. He says, Anyway, it doesn't matter, if we are traveling internationally, we'll probably look kind of tired anyway--we want to look like our passport pictures, right. Demand to see his pictures. He looks fresh and not a day over twenty two, so can well understand his breezy attitude. This morning arrive at appointment at Passport Agency very early, per usual. To pass the time, Dave and I have whispered fight--topic of unsuitability of hair recrudesces, as well as judgement that one of us (me) has been giving Jenny too much cheese, old fight about having maid comes up again, we violently debate the merits of getting HBO, etc. until come to end of things to disagree about. We sit in silence until we are Called into Room for the Interview, which sounds sinister, and have brief negative fantasy that bare bulbs and rubber hoses will come into play. Naturally, we are not interrogated, and except for having to spend vast amounts of money on expedited service fee on top of already large passport fee, emerge from agency with documents in order.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Human Interaction

Walk from subway to work a bit chilly, wind biting, but office usually stuffy to the extreme, so try to enjoy being cold to the bone. In office, heater, very very unhelpfully not working and image of the Ingalls family (this time burning furniture) recrudesces. Heater repair men appear after call made to maintenence. One worker says in thick Russian accent and solemn tones something very involved, of which I don't understand one word. This does not, however, prevent me from nodding and agreeing pleasantly. He nods and agrees with me too, but this does not get the heater fixed. (Question: is much of human interaction similarly well intentioned but useless? Answer is too depressing to think about.) It is so cold in office that Contssa and I do not underess, but keep on all of our clothes including hats, and in the case of the Contessa, mittens. This makes it very difficult for her to answer the phone and since tip of her nose blue, handle all of phone calls myself. Speak to the Wine Shop. Wine Shop very agreeable about delivery times and brand of wine and at end of conversation calls me Kiddo. Have dark thought that word would not have been used if had been standing before Wine Shop, but am still gratified. Also speak to woman who says very firmly that she Only Wants to Hear about Events Having to do with Writers. Tell her that we are an art instutute and offer to transfer her to the Writing Program, but she is not satisfied by this. She would like to speak to my supervisor. Put her on hold. The Contessa says that she will be my supervisor. Hand her phone so that she can cradle it against her ear with her mitt. The Contessa does stunning imitiation of the Vice-Boss's breezy way of pretending to listen and promising unreliably that It Will Be Taken Care Of. The Vice-Boss herself walks in on the tail end of this performance. The Contessa blushes furiously and says O what a nice coat you have. The coat not nice at all--made of the fur of animal that looks suspiciously like wet Poodle. The Vice-Boss very proudly says that it is Persian Lamb, Would you like to Touch It? Would not like to touch it, but see self in horror stroking fur and purring How Soft. Only consolation is that the Contessa does the same. When the Vice-Boss goes into office, The Contessa says she needs to go wash her hands. She adds sinisterly that she knows for a fact that Persian Lamb is a euphamism for lamb fetus.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Poor etiquette

Walk to work on slushy ice (same also falling from sky.) dramatic pictures in head about slipping and tearing big hole in pants, or slipping and falling in dirty, icy puddle, or slipping and taking down old lady, slipping, falling in front of taxi cab. Images become more vivid and by time have reached school, have killed and buried self several times over. Although am in one piece am drenched, so go to bathroom to apply paper towels to neck and face. Bathroom hazy with what turns out to be marijuana smoke. Rather than try and conceal his presence, the smoker carries on inane telephone conversation about sports--conversation so technical that am not even positive which sport he is talkign about. Go back into office still very damp and in shock. Contessa says impressively, We should call security. Agree strongly and at length. But naturally, no move is made to call anybody at all. The Contessa says that in the women's bathroom the cell phone in the stall happens all the time. Next time go into bathroom--this time to put spider plant out of its misery--hear man in stall having brisk conversation about Israel and Palestine. Compose strongly worded letter to the editor but do not commit sentences to paper as come to conclusion that the Times likely not interested in topic.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Cold (never ending)

Feel very bad yesterday and stay home. Not going to work produces customary feelings of guilt, but probably best am home that as cough grave, snot pouring out of nose and weep uncontrollably while watching Starting Over. Call the contessa who says You sound like you are at the bottom of a well. Tell her that is how I feel. She suggest old home remedy of shot of scotch. Although, she says, the last time she tried it, she woke up the next morning feeling achey, a little nauseous, but by the afternoon she felt much better. Ask her, how much of the cure did you have? There is a silence. The Contessa says briskly, The vice-boss actually looked concerned when I told her you were sick. How did she look concerned, feeling highly suspicious. ON further questioning, the contessa admits that what actually happend is that when the vice-boss heard I was sick, she gave a shudder, covered her nose with her hand and then ran into her office. Am glad to know that all the same without me.