Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The wisdom of the Unconscious

Whoa, nelly. I'd just like to put it on record that upon falling asleep after writing the last post, the one where I tearfully confessed to desiring a real old-fashioned proposal of matrimony, I dreamed the following dream:

The ex-boyfriend and I were going on a trip. He had set up a very crafty plan wherein he doused the truck we were driving in thoroughly with gasoline, and set up some wires so that when the truck started moving, it would explode in an enormous fireball, killing everybody nearby. The plan was that after this apocalypse, we would miraculously be thrown into a raging river, full of dangerous currents, large flesh-eating animals, and industrial waste, with no vehicle, no clothing, and no sunscreen. We would emerge unscathed, far down the river, having fooled everybody.

So we set off in the truck; I wasn't entirely sure how we were to survive the flaming explosion, but trusted him completely. Many people were walking around in the parking garage where we were, and the ex was pleased that they would all shortly die in a fireball. As we moved the wheels caught fire, but unfortunately for the ex, the car didn't explode.

Suddenly we had switched to MY truck, which wasn't booby-trapped; this was a bad thing, we must get rid of it immediately. Fortunately a crazy man came running up and tried to steal it from us. This suited the ex quite well; he drove the truck into a convenient obstacle in the path, threw us out of it, and cleverly let the crazy man drive off with it.

Now came time to throw ourselves into the raging torrent. A huge, fiery-eyed wolf riding a gigantic boar came floating up and glared at us. I was glad that I was too brave and experienced to be scared; I knew we'd come out okay in the end, but I kind of wished that my truck wasn't gone. I was all set to jump into the undertow, despite the large jagged chunks of industrial debris being flung around like guillotines, but suddenly remembered that I hadn't put on any sunscreen before jumping out of the truck. All this and sunburn too? I woke up with the skin on the back of my neck prickling.

This would seem too straightforward to require much Jungian analysis. Thank you, subconscious. The spell hath been broken. My ex is, simply, a raging lunatic and I am well shot of him.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Caroline brought me a big bunch of flowers. Her students gave her about a barnful of them for a Christmas present. I'm literally carrying mine from room to room with me as I work around the house, so as to spend as much time with them as possible--the two red roses and one pink one, the pink and orange lilies, the Gerber daisies and assorted exotic waxy-stemmed things. This may sound silly, but I have been CRAVING flowers ever since I brought my beautiful vase home from my dead gallery two months ago; I scrubbed the vase very carefully with a toothbrush and set it in the window, where the light catches it, and wished for flowers every day at breakfast, but could not justify the expense. I'm afraid Caroline thought my reaction was a bit over the top.

Last week I think I hit the Holiday Nadir. At least, I hope it doesn't get any worse than that. It's sort of frightening, how closely my mood is now allied with my work; if my painting is going well, I answer the phone with a delighted trill, and wish the telemarketer a happy holiday, and am not interested in movies. If my painting is stalled and bleak and bland and I can't see my way out of the pit, I start thinking about the Man That Done Me Wrong, and cry a whole lot, and sleep even more, and the world dwindles down to haunting guilt feelings over owning two healthy ficus plants when I very well may be out on the street in another few months.

I have never been one of those people who hates holidays, a priori. Among my group of friends I consider myself radical, original and wildly creative for actually doing Christmas. "You're so *traditional*," sneered Sarah-from-Hell, my (thankfully) ex-roommate, when I came home with a tree one year and commenced stringing lights, mulling cider, and baking cookies. Traditional? Me? How so? *Traditional* Christmas activities, at least among my segment of Generation X, involve sinking into profound states of angst, carping about wage slavery, refusing to buy gifts on principle, going bowling, making arch comments involving 'happy winter solstice holiday,' and escaping from oppressive familial atmosphere to somewhere one can get laid with sleazy strangers. My habits of playing Anglican choir music, drinking eggnog, and reading Dickens can only be seen as charmingly retro, bizarre but basically harmless. Or at least, that's what I used to think.

But last year really took it out of me. I have never yet written down the story of What Happened Last Year; I'm not sure I'm capable of it, truthfully. Each little bit sounds so trivial, petty even. "This friend came to stay with me. She whined. She took all of her money out of her bank account and forced it on me, leaving me no choice but to pay her train fares, museum entrances, dinner tab and cab to the airport. She complained that there wasn't any sugar, she didn't like honey, the soap made her face break out, the cat was staring at her and she couldn't sleep. She didn't like my toothpaste, she had to go buy some Crest RIGHT NOW. She was afraid to take the train alone, even though she had no problem with walking up to a stranger in a yarmulke and saying, 'what's that little hat called? We don't HAVE Jewish people where I come from.' She wanted to do whatever I wanted, only whatever we did, she was loudly miserable about doing it."

And after weeks of preparation, of apartment-cleaning, wreath-hanging, light-stringing, grocery-shopping, menu-planning, laundry-washing, not to mention running a double business single-handed during my first commercial holiday season, I could not handle it. On the sixth whine of Christmas, my houseguest moved in with Caroline. "Serena yelled at me because I had cramps," whimpered the houseguest. "Serena just snapped," said lovely, patient, understanding Caroline.

It's not like I have an agenda, not really. I just figure that well, peace, love and understanding, and lots of wine and cookies, what's not to like? It baffled me and brought me to my knees, having someone in my home who evidently believed that Courtesy=Martyrdom. Loud, 'extroverted' martyrdom. And then there was the boyfriend, Scrooge Junior--it made me laugh, with tragic irony, when I later remembered that I'd invited the houseguest in the first place because I'd thought that her sunny, bawdy, spiritual nature would offset his determined negativity. Ha. At least, when I showed up on his doorstep two days after Christmas, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, he condescended to snuggle me a bit.

Now it's a year later, and it's not as cold as last year, but plenty cold enough, and dark, and rainy. I am no longer a Christmas Holiday Merchant, which makes me glad, but I no longer have an income, which causes me to wake in the middle of the night with my heart thumping wildly. I get up in the morning and I can either work in the studio or not work in the studio; if I do go to work, I still have no income, only maybe possibly, if I don't totally screw up this very expensive piece of linen, someone might pay for it, a few years from now, maybe.

And every now and then I have this stupid memory of once, sort of hoping, I mean I just kind of imagined in a wild flight of retro fantasy, that, like, I don't know, someone might, well, you know, ask me to marry him. You know, fireplace, little antique platinum ring with, you know, sapphires, something unique, nothing boring and conventional. I can't believe I was so stupid and it makes my stomach shrivel up just thinking. Not that I am a total asshole who believes that men should support women financially, not at all. It just seemed like a romantic adventure to fall in love and actually work things out together, as partners, for better and worse and everything in between.

But anyway I've been kind of slow in getting the decorations out of the box at the bottom of the armoire, this year. Over the weekend I got out the Anglican choir CD, listened to five seconds, shut it down and tuned to WNYC instead. The painting is going better. Caroline liked it. Maybe by next weekend I will have perked up and made the cookies.

Sunday, December 05, 2004


I found a ladybug in the arugula. It must have been in the fridge for at least three days. It was an amazingly stalwart little beetle--as soon as I put it on the china doll, it commenced munching away upon the infestation of prehistoric-looking mites that has plagued my household in recent months. That was three evenings ago, and it is now basking on the underside of a leaf, replete and toasty. I can't tell you what satisfaction this gives me.

PMS has struck with a vengeance. Last night I hit the wall with the painting I have been working on all week; the joy went out of the process like someone had turned on a great spiritual vacuum cleaner. I chewed my nails and blundered around for the whole duration of "Prairie Home Companion," searching for the precise shade of blue-gray to interpolate between the barium-orange sun and the deep purple shadows, and when I finally found it, I didn't even care. I slapped it on in an uninspired manner for another hour and a half, but finally concluded that if *I'm* not feeling the joy while painting, the viewer will not feel it while viewing. So I made corn bread and watched "Muriel's Wedding" instead.

As further proof of the PMS diagnosis, I offer this list of movie moments that have induced actual tears, during the last week:

1) "Music from another room," where Jennifer Tilly, as the blind sister, tells Anna, "Danny's love for you is SO ENORMOUS that it spilled over onto the rest of us," and I had a flashback to my now-ex-boyfriend telling me, "You are scattering sunshine all over everyone," and yet a year later he was so unbelieveably horrible to me that it does not bear belaboring.

2) "Laws of Attraction," despite the fact that the script was every bit as lame as the critics said it was; where Pierce Brosnan, as Daniel Rafferty says, "I'll give you a divorce, because I happen to believe that when you care deeply for someone, you give them what they want." I really enjoyed the fact that the male character was the decent, stable one, and that Julianne Moore was psycho and committment-phobic. Come to think of it, though, Bridget Jones was like this too. Maybe it's Republican backlash propaganda--"Look, WE MEN are noble and decent, and love women even though they are scatty and foolish and deluded about the idea that they need careers." But I don't think I'll pursue that. People who rant about the dangerous social implications of Really Good Stories irritate me. Good stories are always relevant; it's when people put the moral before the story that it all falls to pieces.

3) "A Cinderella Story," the ball scene, in general. I suppose the fact that I'm even watching these movies at all is a dead giveaway.

"Muriel's Wedding" didn't make me cry too terribly much, though I did cackle and whoop during the Abba lip-synching scene. Living alone is NOT making me strange, I have always been this easily manipulated.

Yesterday I biked into Manhattan for breakfast at the Lotus Cafe, which was a disappointment. The whole point of biking across bridges for breakfast is the cozy, tingling feeling you get after braving traffic and freezing temperatures so that you can snuggle down in the window seat with a cup of coffee, bagel and good book; the experience falls to the ground when you cannot ever get warm. Evidently the Lotus Cafe does not make enough money to heat itself properly, or even to serve decent coffee, if it comes to that. After forty-five minutes of still not being able to feel my feet, I re-boarded my steed and raced home to a hot shower and a nap on the couch. This may sound like sloth, but you cannot be too careful during flu season. I stick to the Tea Lounge until spring.

I have been struggling, lately, to articulate my notions about envy. It's nonsense that there are no taboo subjects in our modern, liberated society. Shame is the biggest, and envy is not far behind. I have gotten hate mail for even attempting the subject. The painful and dangerous conclusion I have come to, lately, is that 1) people, close friends even, have gotten envious of me; and 2) this can cause, has caused, serious problems in my life.

It has taken years to arrive at these conclusions. I have had periodic, painful fallings-out with intimate friends at intervals over the last twenty years, and these have always been accompanied by a great deal of soul-searching, minute examination of my own character, as to what fatal flaw might be there that I could correct. It is only after writing reams of exhaustive speculation as to what horrible thing I could possibly have done, what thoughtlessness on my part, what blind spot in my character, motivated this dear person to seduce my lover, befriend my ex's new girlfriend and invite her everywhere, stop returning my phone calls when I've been beaten up in the street and am homeless, forget to introduce me to her art dealer, leave my manuscript unread on the coffee table for a year and a half--that the awful possibility begins to dawn on me. It seems a terrible thing to think of anyone--that they would be JEALOUS? Of ME? WHY? And that they would act with malice and passive-aggressive spite because of this? Surely this could never be. Surely I am an evil person for daring to think so.

And yet, this seems perfectly natural to a large segment of society. I remember back in art school, explaining in shocked bewilderment to my tutorial advisor, how my closest friend had suddenly gone berserk, hauling out every vicious personal insult in the broom closet of her brain, knocking me down and literally clawing my throat, when all I did was mention that some guy had called me up and offered to curate a show for me and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. She replied blandly, "Oh, she's just jealous," as though this excused everything. In later years this particular advisor became "a second mother" in promoting my ex-friend's career, while pointedly avoiding me when I dropped in to say hello.

In fact, even mentioning the topic can be seen as bragging. In theatre circles, "I hate you" is a compliment. All this, and envy too! The icing on the cake! How dare you complain?

THIS IS HORRIBLE. It is horrible when your friends rejoice in your failures and mope at your successes. I actually confronted someone about this, once; about how, when I called to let her know that my boyfriend was cheating, I got evicted from my apartment, or my work had been turned down for the fifth time in a month, a note of unmistakable glee would creep into her cries of commiseration. Whereas when I had some positive news to impart, I had to be careful how I broke it to her, and cringe at the wail of misery it usually provoked. It got so that I was exaggerating my problems and concealing my joys when talking to her, as though I had no right to be happy until every one of my friends was married to Prince Charming and living in a castle in Spain. When I finally brought up the subject, she burst into tears, hung up and did not call again, which was, by then, a great relief.

So I just don't see it. For me, envy is fundamentally an error in perception. I do not believe that life is in any way a competition, or I might have begun this story like this:

"I found a live beetle in the lettuce. I screamed, made my boyfriend come kill it, and threw the lettuce out. I won't be shopping at THAT co-op again! Ugh. There are mites on the houseplants, too. Living in Brooklyn is just so gross. Better get some insecticide at Home Depot this weekend."

Dear reader, of course I know that if you hung out with Valley Girls, you wouldn't be my friend. But it is surprising how not-obvious it is that all facts are relative to the perceiver, not to one another.

After, as I mentioned, a great deal of soul-searching and discussion of the issue with my wise and infinitely trusted sister, we concluded that the only way to cope with envious people is simply to avoid them. Living a life of habitual gratitude helps to ward them off. There are a lot of people, posing as politically correct progressives, who think that if you dared to have a happy childhood, a loving family, and enough money to live on, that you owe them your boyfriend, your apartment, your car, your career and your peace of mind. Can I just point out that this attitude is unloving, illiberal, irrational, and bad karma? Life is not a zero-sum equation. When you dim your light so that another may shine, the whole world gets darker. And so on.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

High style

Just returned from attending a free screening of the 1925 silent film classic, "Lady Windermere's Fan," accompanied by live accordion improvisation, at Barbes. Incidental expenses included one glass of Rioja, tips for bartender and accordion player; total outlay less than feature film at cinema, and the people sitting behind me smelled like lavender and entered into jovial conversation. I asked the girl what her perfume was--she does it herself, lavender oil with a bit of mint and shea butter.

It occurred to me that I could start wearing perfume again, even make one for myself, now that I'm not dating Mister Whiny Hyper-Sensitivity To Nearly Everything Nice, who broke out in hives at the scent of lavender or rose or patchouli, or 'J'adore,' or cats, or spicy food or bacon or goat cheese, or most of life's simple pleasures. In fact, it occurred to me this weekend that I could be sexy, now. Now that I'm not dating Mister 'The Only Sexy Women Are Psychotic Alcoholic Schizophrenic Nymphomanics And Certainly Not You,' which is kind of bad for a person's self-image and psycho-spiritual libido, I can wear clothes that make me feel like a Woman, in my own odd and inimitable way, and nobody is around to contradict me. Or to yell, "You look like an old Polish grandmother with cow-hoofs for feet," even.

In fact I was inspired by Badger, who made a flying visit over the holiday. I was able to give her six hours' in-law respite, and we did fascinating fun things like drive back and forth in traffic in the rain, and wrap paintings in bubble wrap, and deliver them to a bare apartment in Crown Heights, and it is a testament to the brilliance of Badger's mind that this was not boring for one single second. We discussed Art and Sex and Jealousy, and the search for expression of the ineffable, and a lot of other things that shall not be repeated. She said one thing that I knew, of course, but had to re-remember just how true it is; "Most people don't realize that art is happening Now." We had been bemoaning the fact that, respectively, people who go to galleries don't know how to look, and people who go to poetry readings don't know how to listen. Even the big-ass art dealers, most of them, would not know a great painting if it reached out of the wall and throttled them. Evidently the poetry scene is not much better. I think that it shakes down in the end, usually, but meanwhile the great artists and poets of today are eating a lot of rice and beans, and a lot of con artists are living in lofts to die for.

(In fact, I no longer trust any artist who lives in Manhattan. Either they have a trust fund, are married to a stockbroker, or spend more time schmoozing than they do in the studio. Brooklyn is where it is at, now.)

Anyway, I digress. Badger inspired me with her arm warmers. I'd read about them on her blog, but they made much more sense in person--striped children's tube socks, cut and sewn so that a loop hooks over your hand between thumb and forefinger, sort of an extended fingerless glove. Eureka! Fashion Innovation of the Year! When, on Sunday, Caroline called and wanted to go shopping, of all radical enterprises, I grabbed a couple of pairs of designer socks for the chopping block. Unfortunately, I forgot they needed to be TUBE socks; two pairs of socks with heels yielded three pairs of creatively stitched wrist warmers, after extensive clipping and patching.

Caroline and I ended up at Old Navy, where I became aware of the bizarre and somewhat offensive, to me, commercial innovation of mass-producing tee-shirts that are replicas of random samples from the Salvation Army twenty-five cent bin, complete with holes and faded, cryptic slogans, and charging $16.50 for them. Now I understand why Salvation Army has suddenly become unaffordable. But even though it was Caroline's idea to shop in the first place, I was the one who got sucked in. I found a 'tiny-fit' purple tee-shirt that makes me look, actually, HOT, plus two pairs of pants that make me look bodaciously curvular instead of merely stalwart. Upon returning home I ransacked my closet and divided the contents into "sexy" and "not-sexy", and vowed to prioritize the former pile in future.

Such trivial vanities, you say, why is she boring us with this shit? Where are the deep, pithy insights we have come to expect? Oh, I'll get to those.

Not that you are, probably, interested in the fact that I think I'm starting to become myself. I don't know how to put it any better than that. Badger's comment about "living in the Now," as much as this has been repeated by all the vaguely Buddhist-related books I've read for years and years, and tried to practice through Zen and yoga and running up big tall hills, somehow hit a deeper place, the way a Zen master will nudge a student into enlightenment by whispering, "See those stars? There you are!" at precisely the right moment. Whoa! Yeah, you're RIGHT, Badger.

Why, I have always dated men that I had to push against in order to stand upright, and the tension thus created was a dark cloud over my perceptions. This evening, walking to and from Barbes, I saw a hundred things I'd never seen before. I even found a whole bar that I didn't know existed, with a wondrously elaborate tin wall pattern, and sailor's chairs, and little glowing lamps. I looked into people's windows without wanting to own their houses. When I came home, my apartment smelled like orange oil and patchouli.

Rhapsodizing over orange oil and patchouli does not pay the rent, of course. I wonder sometimes why I'm not in a greater state of panic. Over the weekend I found a journal written about six years ago, and could not believe it was six whole years--"frantically worried about money," I wrote, working three jobs and going to school and working out and building an MT practice, and desperately scraping out a few hours per week to paint. Oh, yeah. I wore myself to dust trying to earn a living and make art; I didn't make the living OR the art. So now I'm making the art and trusting God for the living.

Had a minor crisis last week, when I discovered that my mail carrier had been returning my mail to sender for the last month, for no good reason and without informing me. Pitched an enormous fit at the post office which did nobody any good. Remembered just how many potentially important pieces of mail with life-or-death news in them might have been lost forever; pictured a $10,000 check from the Segal Foundation winging its way back to source, bearing an "undeliverable, addressee unknown" label--wondered if my unconscious mind somehow created this to block success, again and still. Realized I would have to make some uncomfortable phone calls, come Monday. Actually they weren't so horrible. The person who answers the phone at the Pollock-Krasner foundation is not a scary mean person who sneers at you for DARING to ask for twenty thousand dollars to support your crappy art--who do you think you ARE? She is a nice, competent young person who checks the file and confirms that yes, your application is here, and yes, it's still pending.

Not that I'm actually counting on getting twenty thousand dollars from Pollock-Krasner this year, and indeed I don't know how I am to survive, but I am painting every day, on linen canvas, no less. Linen is extraordinary. Linen with one coat of gesso has, already, more energy to it than cotton duck with ten hand-applied layers. Linen looks like a Degas. In fact I started pulling all my art books off the shelf, to see if I could figure out how many coats of gesso to put on, and fully apprehended what I had been lacking, not painting on linen. It scarcely needs gesso at all. The remainder of the roll of cotton duck in my studio has now been demoted to the status of spare drop cloth.

This was unbearably intimidating at first, but I'll get over it. I am planning out a painting, one among many, called "Rain," which I will seriously enter in the Onassis Competition next spring, and seriously avoid showing it until 2006, just in case I actually win. First prize is something like a hundred thousand euros, which is ridiculous for one painting, and how DARE I even think of winning? But I think the thing is, I'm no longer afraid of NOT winning. I'll just do my best, and try again. Now is now.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

They're here!

The new stretcher bars came! The ones I ordered from Jerry's Art-a-rama! Along with 10 yards of real Polish linen! Oh my God, they're SO BEAUTIFUL! I've just been putting them together. You match the slots up, tap them with a hammer, and the corners are all smooth and square; you put some glue on the corner keys and slide them in and they stay, all square like that; you notch the cross braces and put them down and they fit exactly, you add a little glue and nail them down with a couple of brads and they're done, like frozen pie crust. They're drying in my studio now. The front edges are all gloriously and perfectly beveled, and sanded, and mitred. I petted them.

Of course, this all cost a jillion dollars on my credit card, but I DON'T CARE. I tried to be thrifty, I was resourceful, clever and daring. I put a note on Craigslist for any carpenter in the Brooklyn area who was willing to build stretcher bars in exchange for free massage, I emailed my entire client list with the same offer, I canvassed friends and friends of friends, and the guys in the woodshop next to Galapagos. You would think that any decent carpenter would be just dying for bodywork, in return for such an easy job as building stretcher bars, but you would be wrong. I did get a call from a guy who owns a frame shop up in Westchester, who checked out my website and was remarkably persistent--so when these beautiful paintings on these beautiful stretcher bars are finally complete and in an exhibition, they will have FRAMES TOO. It's all too much.

For the last week I think I have been suffering from post-election flu. I know I'm among sympathetic people here, so I am not afraid to admit that I became completely hysterical while ill-advisedly watching Shrub's acceptance speech. The country really is in the grip of a right-wing backlash, no shit no joke. Election day I woke up so happy. "I'm going to go VOTE!" I sang to the cats. I bicycled up and down the avenues, carolling "I'm going to VOTE for KERRY, have you VOTED today?" I really thought he'd win, and the nightmare would be over, and we'd all go back to loving one another, like the police state and suicide bombs and director of CARE International getting kidnapped and brutally murdered on video had never, would never happen. I VOTED, then I went home to PAINT, happy day, leaving my bicycle chained to the fence downstairs, since I was planning on taking it out again to watch the returns at Barbés.

When I came down, someone had stolen the rear wheel of my bicycle. A bad omen, almost a really bad metaphor. I walked to Barbés. The gathered crowd welcomed me like a neighbor, which is what I am, unlike the pretentious twits at Galapagos, which is where I didn't go, because I figured that there was a 99% chance that the ex would be there. He never wanders far from his rathole, sorry, home. Anyway, a very nice, handsome guy at Barbés immediately transferred his full and complete attention from the election returns to me, which was mildly gratifying, particularly as he didn't try to get me to go home with him right then. He just remarked calmly, at various intervals, that I was beautiful, and smart, and calm, and grounded, and a good listener. And beautiful. He wanted to see me again; I said maybe, I'm not dating just now, but thanks. Really, I mean it, thanks.

The day after the election I didn't get much done. I put a bicycle wheel on my credit card, and wandered around aimlessly, feeling sort of swollen. The next morning I was still in an unmotivated funk when the phone rang. "This is Mike at Jerry's Art-a-rama. Sorry to bother you agin, but how do you want these cross braces notched? the long ones on the bottom and the short ones on the top, thank yew, that's all Ah needed to know." This made my entire day, I kid you not. Too many employees of mail-order art supply stores would have just notched the cross braces all wrong, or not at all, and slammed them uncaringly into the box, leaving me to perhaps weeks of fury, phone calls, returns and adjusted bills.

We mortified Kerry supporters must be strong. There is a great spiritual challenge ahead of us. We must reach out to the backward fascist right-wing morons with compassion, tolerance and understanding. We must try to get inside their tiny little minds and communicate, we must not give up to alienation and separation, we must not all flee the country at once, or the world will only continue to get darker. This would have been easier if the wise, compassionate, informed and open-minded candidate had won, instead of the fanatical, aggressive, bigoted moron. But it warms my heart in a small way to imagine that perhaps Mike, of Jerry's Art-a-rama, voted Republican. Don't laugh. Leave me my hope that even Republicans are human.

Last week I saw one of my regular clients, an oddly buttoned-up and frighteningly driven woman who used to work for W magazine, and who now owns a clothing store that sells $100 T-shirts that people actually buy. She looked searchingly at me and said, "You look really good. You look better than I've ever seen you. You look like a burden has come off of you." Coming from someone in the New York fashion industry, that was a real compliment. I am still not sure that I agree with her--when I look in the mirror, too often I look older to myself, the sadder-but-wiser girl, the girl for nobody. But my APARTMENT looks really good, that I'm sure of. I have fully disemboweled, cleaned and re-organized nearly every space in it, now--the studio, the space-under-the-loft which is now my office, the inside hallway, the landing, the closet, the living room, even the bathroom. And today I stopped off at Lowe's to pick up some nails, spackle and odorless paint thinner, and came home instead with a matching incandescent torchiere and buffet lamp, which means that I never have to turn on the overhead fluorescent lights in the kitchen or bathroom ever again. This may not seem like such a big deal to you non-kinesthetic, non-energy-healer folks out there, but to me it feels like I have finally claimed my own home.

It is ironic, in fact, that I'm now on better terms with Phil the Neanderthal than with the former love of my life. Phil came over yesterday to install a carbon monoxide detector, said nothing about the fact that my landing is almost completely blocked with paintings, bicycle and massage table, and promised me a new dishwasher. It goes to show you that the surest way to inner peace and good relationships is to have no expectations of people whatsoever.

Do you know what? I am no longer going to be abashed about my spiritual stuff. I am doing Course in Miracles exercises daily, and they are saving my heart and my sanity, SO THERE. I have had it UP TO HERE with idiot boyfriends who scream and rant that I am headed for a CULT, that they WORRY about me, as though I were like, STUPID or something for believing in this shit, which obviously only exists for manipulating morons into going into the army and dying for oil interests. I say to these idiot boyfriends, not GO TO HELL, but that YOU ARE IN HELL ALREADY, and hell is your own mind and your own choice, and you can stay there without me, thank you very much. So maybe I will choose to write a weekly treatise on whatever Course in Miracles exercise I am working on, and YOU DON'T HAVE TO READ IT.

That last paragraph was very un-Course in Miracles, I'll have you know. According to the Course, there is no separation among minds, in reality; all this stuff with bodies and wars and Republicans is just a delusion of the ego. Which is a great relief. In reality, all is peace and bliss and eternal love in the Mind of God, which may sound like the most mind-bogglingly, took-way-too-much-acid-before-I-was-ten sort of shit, real want-to-slap-you-in-the-face denial, but which, in its essence, corresponds closely with what Buddhists, shamans and assorted mystics have been telling us for thousands of years. And everybody knows that Gandhi and the Dalai Lama are really, really politically correct, and not cults at all. So give me a break already.

I dreamed the other night, actually, that this guy I met at a Course in Miracles meeting called up to ask me out, only he didn't leave his phone number. I tried to dial *69 to call him back, but I couldn't because this old friend of mine whose contact information I had accidentally-on-purpose lost, because she complained more than 80% of the time in casual conversation, had called after he did, and in fact had shown up unexpectedly, uninvited, for the weekend. She was explaining to me how I was easy to track down, she'd just called my friend in Canada, and meanwhile I was frantically trying to email the guy from Course in Miracles, saying I'm so sorry, I'd really like to see you, and the keyboard wouldn't work, and I woke up still trying to type. The guy from Course in Miracles really is great except that he's, like, probably, seven years younger than me, and I can't, can't, can't go there. But why in the world would that be represented by a whiny girlfriend? Any ideas?

Friday, October 29, 2004

The awful truth

For those of you who know my identity (and if you don't know my identity, why are you reading this boring blog?), go check out my web page. I've spent most of the last four days on it. Surprising how little it seems, now.

So I'm officially out of the gallery, the healing space, my ex-boyfriend's building and his life. The last moments produced a torrential meltdown, as the ex-boyfriend distinguished himself by chatting casually and in a self-congratulatory manner about who he was going to rent the space out to next, and for how much, and by bringing out the bicycle he fixed up for me--the one I rode on all those times we biked across the bridge together for coffee and bagels in Manhattan, in bitter winter weather, and through the parks around the waterfront in summer--that bicycle, which for some reason he locked down in the basement last winter without consulting me--he brought that bicycle out and proceeded to discuss how he was going to readjust it for Jean, his friend's wife, who just had a baby and who came over to pick out the plants I was giving her for a housewarming gift. Not that I begrudge Jean the bicycle, but how tacky and tactless can you get?

Anyway, thank God for Neneng-girl, who literally hauled me back from the brink of hysteria, got my desk home, helped with all the heavy moving and forced me to go out to dinner with her afterward. I had plenty of groceries in the fridge, and no money to go out with, but it was probably for the best.

Looking back, I see clearly that I never wanted to be running a fucking gallery. Does this surprise you? It shouldn't. Looking back, I see that all I ever wanted, all I needed, was a better workspace and a partner who loves me enough to commit. I should have realized it, in fact I DID realize it, after we'd been together a few months and things were still blissful and rosy, and my landlord threatened to evict me in May. Boyfriend led me on with the idea that HE wanted more space, *I* wanted more space, we both had some money to invest, why not go to Staten Island and look at real estate? Then when we got there, suddenly he was looking at APARTMENTS for me to RENT by MYSELF and get ROOMMATES, and I said what the fuck? I am not renting an apartment in Staten Island by myself, one year after moving to New York, what are you thinking? And we nearly had our first blowout argument in front of his friend Roy, who I'd just met, and quite liked, and didn't want to drag into things.

There is always a convenient caricature for men like my ex-boyfriend to impose on women like me--the desperate thirtysomething with the ticking biological clock. So I shut up. I said, "yes, you're right, we don't have to hurry, of course it's too soon to move in, what was I thinking? Sorry." And I continued doing my impersonation of Superwoman. No, he didn't charge me rent for running a business in his building; he just got free massages, free labor toward capital improvements, and a whip over my head. "The business will be financially viable if you're doing 15 clients a week, if you're not doing that by May we'll call it quits," he said.

And I would agree, without thinking--is that what this man WANTS for me? Three clients a day, five days a week, when three massages a day brushes my limit of physical endurance? Plus running the gallery, answering phone, designing web site and publicity and curating and installing? And commuting across town daily because he has a phobia about living with me? When am *I* supposed to paint? Doesn't he believe in me as an artist? Do I believe in myself?

The fact is, being an artist, a real artist, the kind I have always wanted to be, is a full-time job. I have just finished re-organizing my portfolios for the last few years, and I can see that they are not there yet, they are not good enough. This is partly due to lack of maturity, and partly due to me not taking it seriously enough, not on the inside where it counts. Because I do everything else first.

But anyway, of course the business was never going to work, because boyfriend with his fear of commitment would freak out and sabotage things every time it looked like I was investing enough energy to actually succeed. Who can forget the Valentine's Day episode, when I was throwing a party to commemorate the closing of the best-selling show yet, with performance art and film screenings and dancing, and the day before he screamed at me, "We don't have a RELATIONSHIP, I'm not ATTRACTED to you! We think very DIFFERENTLY!" What does a person say, what does a person do, in that situation? Bring out a list of dates, times, locations, tapes of direct quotes and ecstatic noises? Suggest therapy? He would strangle me! I suggested "mediation," and a two-week "break." He didn't find a "mediator," he just came in sheepishly on Valentine's day, hung over from a vodka binge, and said, "I'm sorry. Thank you for being my Valentine anyway." And thank YOU for these grey hairs.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming the ex-boyfriend for my lameness as an artist. I'm blaming my parents for that. No, no. I'm blaming my own erroneous habits of thinking. I was waiting for some sort of definitive, external confirmation of my talent and worthiness before I got behind myself a hundred percent. I believed in myself, sort of--it's just that I didn't believe that the world at large was going to agree with me.

Now, all my three faithful readers, I'm not looking for strokes, here. This is MY problem, and I take full responsibility for it. I have started to make the shift--I am a full-time artist, now. I get up, work out, make breakfast, then I paint, and paint, or apply for grants, or work on my web page, or think and make sketches. If I don't get the grants, my plan is to apply for them again. Repeat until successful, dead or bankrupt.

So really, what was the hideous thing I tried to do to my ex-boyfriend? Oh, it was terrible. Secretly, oh, deviously, I wanted him to be my partner. I wanted to help him fix up his two or three or four empty, decaying rental units in prime real estate territory, make them beautiful, rent them out, and find a building that both of us together could buy. He would make it functional, I would make it beautiful. We would rent out still more units, live in the best and biggest and brightest one, I would have a big beautiful studio and make big beautiful paintings all day long. I would run a small healing practice, too, and he would do whatever the hell he wanted--design electronics, design buildings, fix up old computers, go to school, go climb Everest, whatever. This was the living hell I had planned for my boyfriend--the love, I thought, of my life. I'm so ashamed.

(You might ask, well, what were two or three or four rental units doing, decaying and empty, in prime real estate territory in an unmortgaged building? Oops, do not look too closely. The state of the building mirrors the state of the soul.) The state of my ex-boyfriend's soul is none of my business, now. And the more the days go by, the more glad I am of this. We desperate biological clock women, we tend not to take phrases such as "fear of commitment" seriously. We think, "he's probably just never met someone as wonderful as me." And it's true, he hasn't. But that makes no difference. When a person runs their life in fear, the thing they fear most is a person who runs it in love.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Welcome to dinner

It's Friday evening at the Brooklyn Apartment, and we're having a European festival. Slow-cooked marinara on the stove, with Italian sausage and linguine, Edith Piaf on the stereo, bottle of merlot with Stilton and Carr's wafers for hors d'oeurves (is that how you spell 'hors d'oeurves'? Seems like that many vowels in a row shouldn't be allowed, but it LOOKS okay that way. That's how I spell, by appearance.) Anyway, to continue, at the Brooklyn Apartment the Art has recently been changed, to denote the official Closing of the Gallery, and now I am one of those Private Art Dealers where everything in my apartment is discreetly for sale.

Not really. There are a few pieces I won't part with, like the temple-shaped lacy-cut-out ceramic lamp, and the puppet from Java, and the flying pig. Most of the other stuff I'd let go for an easy grand. I put the big green sun painting above the couch, and lo! it may be sloppy, it may be weird, but it does the thing I painted it to do--it hits the viewer, or at least me the viewer, squarely in the solar plexus with an agreeably buzzy vibrator-like feeling, sort of pre-orgasmically. Subtly so. At least it helped me alleviate my rampant PMS this afternoon, when I hung it there, to the tune of my finally-re-discovered Widespread Panic tape, which had been lodged in the tape player in the gallery lo these many months, as I hunted for it high and low. Oh, I needed that album.

"They say, turn the bright lights on
And there you'll find the truth
They say, open up this book
And there you'll find the proof
If it feels like a can of worms
Keep the lid on tight, and they say
Don't let it get too bright...

I realize that I live my life as though a group of assorted Ph.D's, wastrel poets, French intellectuals and complicated performance artists were perennially invited to an informal supper, even when I'm all alone in my Brooklyn Apartment. I took those "Cosmopolitan" articles very seriously, the ones that say, "Never eat your meals standing up in front of the kitchen sink, or crouched in front of the refrigerator. Set a place at the table, light a candle, make an occasion out of eating alone." Man, I follow those instructions to the letter, every day of my life. I load the Herbie Hancock into the CD player, arrange the mood lighting, put a blend of sweet orange oil, lavender and patchouli into the aromatherapy ring, crack open a bottle of wine and make a date with Helen Santmeyer. "And Ladies of the Club" has been on my bookshelf for the last ten years. Every time I go into a used bookstore I see "And Ladies of the Club" in hardcover for, like, two dollars, and I think that I should get it and read it, then I remember that I've had it for ten years, and now I'm reading it. It's kind of slow.

"They tell me it takes sorrow, boy
To help you feel the joy
They say it takes poverty
To let you love a toy
No! You can't have the gold
Until you've shared the fight
And they say
Don't let her get too sad...

According to my informal personal calendar, I was supposed to go by the ex-Gallery today and pick up my desk, with the help of the ex-Boyfriend. Unfortunately, according to my biological calendar, it is one week before my period, which means that if I had followed my original plan, the ex-Boyfriend might now be hospitalized, and I might now be in jail. Or at the very least there would have been some nasty irreparable damage below the psycho-emotional waterline in one or both of us. I had a very explicit dream, just before waking, warning me of such, and so today I prudently went grocery shopping, and picked up my winter boot at the boot-repair place (the boot-repair guy, although old and foreign, butchered it) and polished the boots, and sewed up the spots where the cats have destroyed the living-room furniture, and sat for an hour with Janice's cat. Nice non-psycho-pre-menstrual stuff.

Now we have Jacques Brel.

"Ne me quitte pas
Il faut oublier
Tout peut s'oublier
Qui s'enfuit deja
Oublier le temps
Des malentendus
Et le temps perdu...

Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas.

Well, tu m'as quitte, ya. Fuck you. I'll bet, at this very moment, my ex-Boyfriend is eating raw carrots and hummus in his dank little Oliver Twist apartment, with the cracked, dingy, bare walls, the naked linoleum, the bare fluorescent light bulb, in his undershirt. With his miniscule dick hanging out. Oops. I promised myself that I would not realize any of those many and elaborate revenge fantasies, such as posting my ex-boyfriend's impotent dick size in all the ladies' rooms in Williamsburg. Oops.

So, okay, is it not equally pathetic to be eating elaborately alone, with candles and Jacques Brel, as in aforementioned dank little apartment under bare fluorescent bulb? With laptop and imaginary audience for company? Don't answer that.

I don't know how I got onto that track. I was going to use this evening's blog as an excuse for a discourse on the kinesthetics of painting, how painting for me is not primarily a visual phenomenon, but a full-body sort of thing, a dance, a physical relationship, but I think I got too drunk. This is what dinner alone will do for you. You forget to pace yourself, and suddenly you're more than halfway down the bottle of wine that Janice gave you for taking care of her cat. And you are not sufficiently articulate to articulate the paradox of manifesting a kinesthetic effect through a visual phenomenon. It's a bitch.

"Go! Put your work clothes on,
Go and leave your mark!

And they say
Don't let her get too dark...

I wouldn't want you to think I was really a sloppy painter. A narcissistic painter, a painter without regard to the intelligence or sophistication of her audience, an egoistic slob. No. I had something to say about details, about not insulting the intelligence of the viewer, but at the same time, not omitting anything important.

Moi je offrirai
Des perles de pluie
Venues de pays
Ou il ne pleut pas
Je creuserai la terre
Jusqu'apres ma mort
Pour couvrir ton corps
D'or et de lumiere
Je ferai un domaine
Ou l'amour sera roi
Ou l'amour sera loi
Et tu seras roi
Ne me quitte pas

I saw Fall last weekend. Neneng-girl got back from Indonesia and we went to her mansion upstate. I cooked all the meals. Halfway through the weekend, Neneng-girl halfheartedly said, "I'll cook for you this evening," but it was easy to convince her that cooking is not a hardship for me, I do it all the time, it's a pleasure to share the food with someone so I don't have to eat the same thing four days in a row.

Can you imagine, my ex-boyfriend actually thought, when I said we were going upstate, that I'd SLEEP in his BEDROOM. He said, "The sheets in the green room are clean." As if I'd take the room with acid-green walls, overlooking the DRIVEWAY, where he always sleeps, instead of the purple one with a view of the mountains and the pink handmade quilt on the bed? Men are such idiots. Taking the green room would only remind me of the last time we slept there, when he went up the day before and got the house clean and the boiler repaired and the fires lit and dinner ready, a romantic weekend with his girlfriend, while I spent my Saturday delivering art in Manhattan and then racing back to Williamsburg without food and giving four massages in a row, and then getting lost and driving three hours, and then being so tired my whole body hurt, while he stayed up in that acid-green room until about three-thirty, with the light on, making horrible torturing noises on the shortwave radio which kept me awake so long that by the time he finally turned the light out I had such bad stomach cramps from rage and frustration that I didn't sleep until 7 the next morning. I didn't actually think he'd dump me if I asked him, "WHY ARE YOU TORTURING ME?" but I didn't ask him and he dumped me anyway.

I am a fool and my next boyfriend will not be like that. My next boyfriend will not expect me to be anything more than an artist. Because this was my fault. I picked a man who matched my projections, inflicted by my parents--that I have to perform daily miracles in order to be accepted for who I am. That I have to run a financially successful gallery within two years of moving to New York City knowing no one, while simultaneously running a full-time healing practice, while simultaneously producing enough brilliant paintings for a one-woman show in any major gallery any time the major gallery happens to ask, while simultaneously being the ideal self-sufficient progressive girlfriend who maintains separate living quarters and is as good as a schizophrenic nymphomaniac in the sack. Or. else. I. get. dumped. And the scary thing is that I almost pulled it off.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Home improvement

Transcript of today's letter to my landlord, good ol' Phil the Neanderthal.

Dear Phil--

Here, at long last, is the list of problems in my apartment.

1. Heating system is kaput. Does not go on when needed. Is this clear? Heating DOES NOT WORK. Can’t tell if it is the thermostat’s fault, the heating cycle system, or what. But I need a Heating System Expert to come and take a look at it, pronto.

2. Dishwasher leaks huge floods of water on the floor when in use. I have solved this problem temporarily by not using the dishwasher. But it would be nice to have another one, or a decent seal on this one.

3. Drain pipe under sink is corroded with age and leaking. I have solved THIS problem temporarily with duct tape and sealant. But the longer it stays like that, the messier the problem YOU’LL have in the future.

4. Temperature control dial on oven shattered with age. I have solved this problem temporarily by stealing one off a discarded stove on the street, but it doesn’t match the old one, and thus I can’t tell how hot the oven is, and my bread comes out funny.

5. Floorboards in bedroom stink horribly with previous tenant’s cat pee. This problem cannot be solved without ripping out the floorboards and putting in new ones, and thus WILL not get solved until I move out. But just wanted to get it on record that this problem was not of my causing, and that I have doused the area with cat-pee-eradicating chemicals, enzymes, and sealants, repeatedly, all to no avail.

6. Cover over fluorescent lights in kitchen is missing. When you reonovate this apartment, I’d recommend getting rid of those horrible fluorescent fixtures entirely.

7. Several ceiling tiles are cracked, stained and broken. I can live with this. Again, for future renovational reference, CHANGE THE UGLY CEILING.

8. Security gates, allegedly ordered a year and a half ago, never arrived. I knew you were only bluffing. That’s okay, I don’t like feeling like I’m living in a cage. But for the record, they’re not there.

That’s it! Have a great day!

Monday, October 04, 2004

Tragedy strikes again

Richard Avedon *can't* be dead, dammit. He wasn't supposed to die until he'd photographed me for my big biographical interview in The New Yorker, tentatively entitled "The Healer". Where are all my ambitions, now? Dust, dust, everywhere I go.

Actually, the first time I saw Avedon's work it scared me shitless. As luck would have it, I came of age at the moment that the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art in Fort Worth, Texas, known principally for their (to me, totally uninteresting) collection of cowboy paintings, mounted an Avedon exhibition entitled something like "The American West," with soul-flaying portraits of drifters, carnies, oil-workers, prisoners, and blank-faced girls in Farrah Fawcett hairdos. My parents purchased the book for their coffee table. I knew then that if I ever saw Richard Avedon setting up shop at any carnival I attended, with camera and stark-white backdrop, I'd run the other way. Every distorting blow that life had dealt these people was highlighted in naked relief; to my teenage mind, tormented by a subscription to Seventeen magazine which had subliminally convinced me that nobody would ever love me if I didn't get a nose job, these photos were indecently cruel.

Nearly twenty years later, I think those same photos are beautiful, just like the fashion photos which revolutionized the medium, just like the celebrity shots, just like the New Yorker portraits which I will never be one of. The portait of Avedon in his obituary, standing in front of one of those grim oil-workers blown up twice his size, still scares me. This is a man who looked, and looked, and looked, and never stopped looking. He dropped in harness at 81, photographing a series of war wounded, in Texas. While I, finally living in New York, fret over my financial and matrimonial prospects and wait for my underpainting to dry. I wish I were a lot more like him. He will be sorely, deeply, irrevocably missed.

Yesterday I splurged on a ticket to a "New Yorker Festival" debate, "Art and Politics," with Adam Gopnik, Anna Deaver Smith, and some other noted intellectuals named Simon, Bernard, and Clive. The ticket was twenty bucks, and the mandatory "convenience fees" imposed by Ticketmaster came to eight-fifty. Scalping the intellectuals! Horrible! I nearly slammed down the phone. But opportunities like this were one of the major reasons I moved to New York, and for the last two years I've looked at the listings and reviews for plays, festivals, concerts, performances, and all the other wonders and promised myself that when my finances stabliized, I'd go. And this hasn't happened. Two years later I have yet to attend any of the cozy French bistros in Park Slope, let alone in Manhattan, nattering excitedly with my intellectual friends over the latest off-Broadway hit. I am not likely to see many familiar faces at Chelsea gallery openings, except those of people I'm sort of avoiding. I feel like I'm standing on a vortex of rent, heating bills, car insurance and parking tickets which is rapidly devouring my soul. Well, I suppose MOST aspiring artists who move to New York must feel this way, and few have already racked up their first dramatic, public failure, after only two years in the city.

But anyway, the debate made me very, very happy. Adam Gopnik said, at the end, "It's a measure of how interesting this was, that I was uncharacteristically silent." Indeed, Adam Gopnik in person is almost a stereotypically neurotic New Yorker; he talks too fast and has the physiognomy and mannerisms of a man with big psychological Issues that he has spent the last twenty years assiduously avoiding. But the debate was sheer bliss, because it was carried on by expressive, informed, intelligent people who think and argue for the sheer love of Stuff. Usually, when attending lectures entitled "Art and Politics" sponsored by lesser mortals (such as the SFAI faculty), I knaw at my fists for forty-five minutes before exploding into fluent and disgusted speechifying, after listening to dullards discuss whether Art is Political or Not, if Serious Art Should Say that War Is Bad, what the Responsibility of the Artist is in Response to AIDS, and other unbelieveably simplistic shit. During this debate I sat in rapt contentment as real humans chuckled over the unreliability of intellectuals, illustrated that transcendence is almost universally grounded in circumstance, and pointed out that many great artists have turned out to be political morons. Also that politics tends to come and get you wherever you're hiding. Nothing earth-shattering. Just conversant. I wandered out into the rain after the debate, basking in my love of the world in general, and New York in particular.

Then, oh then, I shopped. Sorry to shock you, but it's true. I had a GAP gift certificate from my sister, and I was set to savor it. I went to Barneys and found a display rack full of the very same hats that were hanging in my own personal gallery, one year ago, priced considerably higher than what they didn't particularly sell for last year. No, I wasn't bitter--well, I own three of those hats, acquired in barter at discount rates. And so my gallery WAS cutting-edge, and now I can prove it, and as an artist perhaps it's better to HAVE HAD a cutting-edge gallery then to still be running the damn thing, and thus have no time to make art.

Eventually, of course, I stumbled over a GAP, way sooner than the one I knew about at Astor Place. There are almost as many GAP stores in Manhattan as there are Starbucks, which is why my sister buys me gift certificates from there even though it is bland and arguably evil. Usually at the GAP I go to the sale rack and eke out my artist's budget on radically discounted, generic T-shirts and sweaters and linen pants, which I then wear with ethnic prints purchased from street vendors, until they become paint rags. Oh, this time I don't know what went wrong. I try to be immune to emotional manipulation by the GAP.

But the clearance rack depressed me. There was cute, cuddly postmodern lingerie on the clearance rack. You might think, having been recently dumped, that I'd want to splurge on some new lingerie, to re-affirm my erotic self, to clear away the cobwebs, to nurture the idea of future intimacy. I could not cope with the lingerie at all. Lifting it off the rack turned a knife in my heart. No, what my wounded limbic brain wanted was a preternaturally soft, bright white turtleneck sweater and a faux-shabby, fitted corduroy jacket lined with antique-looking cotton print fabric. The total price came to twice the amount of my gift certificate, but my limbic brain would not relinquish either item. It did the same thing in Philadelphia over a pair of crossed-lace men's snow boots. What appears to be the issue is that my emotional mind wants to feel comfortably, warmly, cozily armored. It wants clothes that will do the masculine job of protecting it, while not completely relinquishing femininity. Anything that smacks of intimacy freaks it the hell out.

Because last year my now-ex-boyfriend dragged me into a coat shop in Greenpoint and thrust me into a royal blue, full-length down overcoat with a fur-trimmed hood and embroidery on the cuffs. When I protested that I couldn't afford a new winter coat, he paid for half. I put the hood up and the color matched my eyes and he said I was adorable. One afternoon he came into my gallery with a pair of flannel-lined jeans in my size. I felt like a beloved woman. This year I will have to wear that coat and those jeans because I can't afford to throw them away. I have to live with piles of gifts that he gave me, furniture and appliances and tools, which are too big and necessary to give back. I wish I could take a tractor and dump every bit of this in his yard and set fire to it, spray-paint the walls of his dank little apartment with obscenities, smash the windows of his van. I haven't done this yet and will probably be able to restrain myself. But don't you dare tell me I'm crazy and violent, don't you dare. Betrayal makes people crazy.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

He called me "sir"

I forgot to tell you--my friend Caroline bought a car. That's not the story. The car she ended up with is a perfectly fine Honda, blue, low mileage, kind of choppy ride but solid and reliable. Before that, though, she almost got shafted by a creep. The creep posted a really splendid '98 Saturn sedan on craigslist for suspiciously cheap. Caroline called me that evening and said "I think I've been really stupid, I'm obsessing."

She hadn't been stupid, of course. The creepy stuff only started happening AFTER she'd given him a $600 cash deposit on the splendid car. He didn't write out a proper receipt, couldn't come up with the proper VIN to do a check, acted shifty. He told her that a New Jersey title for a car with North Carolina plates that wasn't in his name would be accepted by the New York DMV, no problem. She called the DMV and there was a problem, the problem being that they wouldn't accept it, period. Caroline was really upset. She asked if I would go with her to get her money back.

Oh, woo-hoo, a Confrontation. I got dressed up. I wore my purple silk calico dress with a shawl collar, my new burgundy clogs, and tasteful feminine jewelry. I put my hair in a twist and wore lipstick. I drove Caroline to the appointed assignation zone, having carefully coached her not to mention anything amiss until we had the bastard cornered.

He was a creep, all right. As soon as Caroline said, "I'm having second thoughts," he got belligerent. Said he wasn't giving her money back, had turned away customers for her, blah duh blah duh. Caroline was gentle with him. I wasn't. "You are doing something ILLEGAL. Give her her money or she will make your life hell," I told him. "You stay out of this, sir, I mean ma'am, I'm talking to HER," said the creep.

Ha! Did you hear that? He called me "sir!" We won, of course. Got every penny. I can't tell you what a milestone this is, for me. Getting older has its advantages. Back in my teens and twenties I used to crumple when confronting creeps; they used to run right over me, get all my money, reduce me to tears and trembling. This one didn't even make me flinch. I'm getting to recognize and understand creep tactics, and to despise them, and to dominate them. Sir, indeed.

Monday, September 27, 2004


to all three of my fans for the fact that I haven't written in a month. I have been travelling. I went to Texas, Toronto, Jersey City, and Philadelphia. Which were all very nice. Unfortunately I just love Brooklyn. So here I am, again and still.

It's not entirely rational, I grant you. There are other places in the country, in the world, where a person can ride her bicycle a few breezy blocks to a place with Gen X music and battered couches, that serves forty kinds of tea, and a decent latte, and scones and bagels and beer, and put her feet on the furniture and type on a laptop or scribble in a journal without being asked impertinent questions, because everybody else in the room is doing more or less the same thing. There are bagels in other cities, and galleries, and theatres. Other cities have parks, too, and the rents are a lot lower. I guess I'm just as monogamous about cities as I am about lovers. Unfortunately, I say, for me.

While I was in Texas, my Little Kitty died. My Little Kitty was the only person in the world who just loved me, and nobody else. If I was there, my Little Kitty was perfectly happy; if I wasn't there, she was sad. This proposition was tested many times over fourteen years. She adopted me in Austin, Texas in 1990, came with me to San Francisco, and got us evicted from our first apartment on Haight Street by pissing on Andrea's comfortor. (Andrea deserved it.) Then we lived in the Mission, in Potrero Hill, in North Beach, and then Bayview, where the Little Kitty would ask to be let in by climbing the avocado tree, jumping across to the second-floor window box by the kitchen window, and scrabbling on the glass. Since the kitchen window was painted shut, I then had to go down the back staircase, open the door, and call to her, whereupon she jumped back to the tree, climbed down, crawled under the fence, and came up the stairs. She never minded.

When I got smeared into the asphalt in Bayview and had to move in with friends for awhile, I left my Little Kitty with Somebody Else for three weeks. She lost fur, she lost weight. When I came to visit her, she did not greet me, she did not purr. She went to the door like a forsaken mistress and asked coldly to be let out. Once through it, she turned and regarded me with an expression of heartrending grief and betrayal that I did not know a kitty's face was capable of. I visited her daily after that, just for a nap together on the couch, and both of us recovered.

When I moved to Mexico, I moved heaven and earth to take my Little Kitty with me. The day before we were to leave, we went to the vet for a final check-up, and the vet found tumors in her tail. She spent the night in the hospital, and came back with her tail wrapped in bright yellow fabric. We were staying in Pierre's apartment, and I have never seen my Little Kitty so angry. "First, you put me in this TINY APARTMENT with a STRANGE CAT and LEAVE for three weeks. THEN, you take me to the VET, and LEAVE me there ALL NIGHT, and they stick needles in me and CUT OPEN MY TAIL. Then you bring me back to this TINY APARTMENT where the STRANGE CAT still lives, and I can't even go OUTSIDE, there's just this horrible featureless HALLWAY on the other side of the door where the TREES are supposed to be. WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?!!!" When it was time to go into the kitty basket and get on the plane I feared the worst, but she settled right down. As long as her person was there, everything was fine.

Lately, my Little Kitty got very thin, and was throwing up all the time, and the tail tumors came back and got huge and disgusting. I wouldn't let the vets operate again, because they all wanted to cut her tail OFF and I didn't think my Little Kitty would appreciate that. She was diagnosed with a thyroid tumor and had to take pills twice a day. I will always wonder if the adoption of the Brat had something to do with this. My Little Kitty never got used to him; in her view, the Brat wanted to take her person away, and be the Little Kitty instead. I explained over and over that nobody could ever be my Little Kitty but her, but she kept throwing temper tantrums and trying to scratch the Brat's nose off.

I knew that probably we would have to move in with Other People soon, and that Other People would probably not love my Little Kitty as much as I did--enough not to mind having their stuff puked on. And I am seriously worried about money, and vets don't ask you before they do expensive blood tests and treatments and prescribe medication and hospitalizations. But that doesn't mean I shut her in the closet on purpose. I shut the door because I didn't want the cats in the closet while I was in Texas; there was too much stuff in there that I didn't want puked on. When I came home and there was no Little Kitty to greet me, I could not believe it.

We had a vigil for her in the living room, with candles, which they don't let you do if your Little Kitty dies in the hospital. I thanked her for being the best Little Kitty ever, for being the most faithful soul I've ever known. I asked her to forgive me for those last hours, alone in the closet.

There are times, I grant you, when it's just over the top. "My boyfriend dumped me, my business failed, I have no job, no career, I can't afford my apartment and THEN my kitty died." But the shift toward inner peace has been happening nevertheless, no thanks to the friend who wrote, "Yeah, you were kinda having problems. Are you all right with the breakup?" Hello? What do you want me to say? "NO, I'M NOT. BUT THANKS FOR ASKING." Sheesh. And Badger, my darling my dear, I know you are a rapid, creative and off-the-cuff thinker, and I love you for it, but I'm not desperate enough to move in with your in-laws and cook them dinner until I get a job. But thanks for the suggestion.

Instead, I am laboriously working my way through the Nolo Legal Guide to Starting and Running a Small Business, so that I can benefit from my mistakes and do it better next time. I am applying for every grant, residency, or fellowship that I qualify for, which is several. And I MAY have found a place to live. At the eleventh hour, the community network came through--the same friend who introduced me to my now-former boyfriend forwarded a listing from a performance art listserv. Two guys with a huge loft need a roommate who is a REAL artist and who will actually USE the studio with great big windows that they have so lovingly constructed. We met on Thursday. The guys said they LOVED the idea of cats and plants and massage therapy, and dinner parties, and artist salons, and someone who likes doing finish work. And the rent is fair, as opposed to those assholes with prime W-burg loft space who want someone to "move in" and pay their inordinate rent for them, without them having to move out. Someone who doesn't have friends or pets or furniture, and doesn't get paint on the floor or have parties or make noise or anything.

The loft is way the hell out past Bushwick, technically in Queens of all places, and gets kind of cold in winter, and the second-floor bedrooms get "unbearably hot" in summer, they say. But it's real live/work space with real people. Which is what I want. So I'm completely terrified.

And I'm still completely in love with my ex-boyfriend, in case you wanted to know. Don't worry, I'm not delusional, I'm not Refusing to Let Go, I have not called him or shown up sobbing on his doorstep in the middle of the night once. I'm just ACKNOWLEDGING the fact, okay? My friend in Toronto said, "He's not the one for you, otherwise he'd be with you. So, do you think I should get in touch with P.?" The guy who hasn't communicated with her in two years, who said he was definitively Not Interested, who got someone else pregnant and who has recently been rumored to be engaged or married? Sure, why not?

I managed to get back into the studio again, after being overcome with crushing inertia while working on a painting tentatively entitled "Rupture," of two dead shriveled-up rosebushes reaching toward one another, while the background burns blackly. The grief is finally emerging on the surface, like popping a zit. The other evening I worked steadily on the painting while playing track 8 on the new John Mayer album, 14 times in a row, weeping as steadily as I painted. My eyes were scarily puffy in the morning, when I was scheduled to meet the loft guys, and I worried that I looked really old, but they liked me anyway.

(My ex-boyfriend has a crazy, I mean literally crazy, ex-girlfriend who was convinced for awhile that she was married to John Mayer. After listening to Track 8 on "Heavier Things" 14 times, I can see how that could happen, to someone who has a hard time distinguishing between fantasy and reality. I'm not tempted, though. He's too damn young.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2004


Time out. Had a really, really lovely Sunday. A friend of my ex-boyfriend-before-last's girlfriend sent out a totally crazy email saying that she had $1.5 million dollars to spend making a movie, and did anybody have a decent screenplay? Hello. My ex-boyfriend forwarded it, saying that perhaps I'd read a book that would make such a screenplay. Hello. I have actual friends who write actual decent screenplays, and forwarded and recommended forthwith. Then I called the film producer and asked if she wanted to do brunch on Sunday. Time out.

Sunday was a day just like nearly all the days in Mexico, bright and hot but not too hot, balmy beautiful Sunday. I biked to the East Village, and basked on a corner listening to live jazz. The film producer was a thin person who, at the last minute, wanted to meet an hour later, because she had gone running in order to make herself thinner, but I liked her anyway. We had eggs Florentine in the sun and talked about film and travel and ex-boyfriends, and the fact that at age thirty-seven, neither of us ever wants to work for somebody else again. Someone I could be myself around.

The film producer had a stack of screenplays to plow through, so I planned on biking off again after brunch. But she had this one she wanted a second opinion on. I figured she wanted the opinion of someone with actual power and experience in filmmaking, but no, she just wanted the opinion of someone with the time and inclination to read it. Which would be me. There was a garden near her apartment, left over seemingly from when there were slacker hippie types living in the East Village, instead of hypercaffeinated filmmakers paying $3000 per. We found ourselves seats amongst the little rosebushes and tomato plants and pathways tiled with broken bottles, and read and read. Some of the ancient slacker hippie types invited us to a barbeque; I was foolish enough to accept, and narrowly escaped being shanghai'd into political activism and false eyelashes. The filmmaker prudently avoided them.

After a couple of halcyon hours, and a tense half-hour on my part hanging out with the hippies and wishing I hadn't, we decamped to a tea shop for script debriefing. I obligingly eviscerated my screenplay, complete with sarcastic renditions of bad dialogue, and penetrating assessments of structural weaknesses. She said I "nailed" it, and thanked me.

No problem. What a relief, to get out of my own miserable mind for a day. I biked home in the sunshine turning from gold to rose to lavender, feeling present for the first time in months. Living in the now is peace. No horrible past with former loves blasting me and my livelihood to shreds, no dank future schlepping press releases for crappy galleries and paying $3000 for inappropriately trendy housing. Just the breeze on my sunburn and dappled leaf shadows in Cobble Hill.

When I got home, I planned to watch an old ex-friend in a bit part on "Charmed." Saturday night I did my semi-annual bit of Web-stalking of various former associates, and discovered that my ex-friend the wannabe actress finally got on something. Not only that, but the rerun was airing actually tonight! I turned on the TV 45 minutes in advance, just to make sure that WB network came in okay. I don't watch the TV very often. During the preview, I caught a one-second glimpse of my old ex-friend, in the part of "female temple demon," hair all bouffed out, a familiar goofy leer on her dear familiar face.

Then the cat got sick. He'd been scratching in the litter box a bit too much lately, and I'd taken him to the vet a week ago, and he seemed to get better on his own. But twenty minutes into "Charmed," before my ex-friend's bit part took hold, he decided that he was in sufficient horrendous misery to claw urgently at stray papers all over the house, and strain for long periods over the litter box, and occasionally howl piteously. This was impossible to endure. I remembered, suddenly, that when this ex-friend was my roommate, she once dislocated a rib, and was in stark staring agony for hours and hours, and I couldn't stand it. I gave her massages, and hot honey lemon whiskey, and aspirin, and when none of that helped I moved heaven and earth and personal connections to get some illegal codeine out of a friend of a friend's apartment in the middle of the night, just so she wouldn't hurt so badly anymore. I knew that if the cat had a kidney stone, and his bladder burst while I was watching "Charmed," I would never ever forgive myself.

So I called the emergency vet, packed him into the carrier, and sat with him for three hours in the vet's office before getting attended to. Strangely, once he was in the carrier he stopped acting sick; it was as though he knew the problem was being addressed, and didn't have to complain about it any longer. He had a UTI but, thankfully, no blockage. Now TWO of my cats take pills twice a day. I am turning into a geriatric cat nurse.

My Zen glow from the biking and the screenplays even lasted through three fluorescent hours and a $200 vet bill. I felt at peace with my ex-friend the wannabe actress, for no reason, for the first time since we had our falling-out in 1999. We fell out, I always maintained, because the MFA program in drama at Columbia University turned my darling, goofy, supportive former roommate into a tearing bitch. She stopped being able to see the humor in things; she stopped moving her face when I was talking to her. Someone told me that monkeys throw feces at people who do that. It was horrendously unnerving; I felt as though my personality were continually bombing an audition. Later I realized that her professors must have been treating her that way, to toughen her up for the big leagues, but the friendship didn't survive it. I was upset about it for years.

Somewhere in the midst of my beautiful Zen Sunday, I came to a bit of clarity about my job/home/relationship/life dilemma; I realized that if the community I have been nurturing for the last two years is my true home, it ought to nurture me back. For the last two years I have given the best massage therapy in Brooklyn for the lowest price; I have thrown seven art openings without asking for drink donations; I have given my local art community free publicity, postcards, web design, and patient sympathy unlimited. I have paid New York City rents, broker's fees, car insurance, utilities, $10 movie tickets and $5 beers without (much) complaint. If my community loves me back, it will hold me up without draining me dry. If not, I can and must leave without regret.

Forthwith I sent out an email to my gallery mailing list, ditto a posting on craigslist, asking for a live/work, cat-friendly, affordable home with humans. So far I have gotten a few well-meaning but ineffectual notes, and one phone call from a bloodsucker. In my Zen state I am already convincing myself that Jersey City might not be so bad.

Sunday, August 22, 2004


If anybody has a genuine, cat-friendly live/work loft for rent for $1500 or less in the Williamsburg/Greenpoint area of Brooklyn, preferably shared with other cool, serious, friendly artist or healer-type people over the age of 30, I am officially desperate.

Oh God, what are these people THINKING?!!!!

First the guy didn't return my phone calls. Then he finally did, but turned down a free massage in an air-conditioned room. Bad signs. Went anyway, of course.

Yes, it is "the most beautiful loft in Williamsburg," uh-huh, absolutely. Gothic vaulted ceilings, heavy metal doors three times the normal width, floor-to-ceiling windows, polished and stained concrete floors. Claw-foot bathtub. Marble columns. Lots of marble, in fact. Including in the BED. And the kitchen table. And the statues of sylphs lit from within on either side of the blacklit stage with the disco ball on the floor. Wood panelling, too. Custom-built wood panelling with sixteen different antique cameras set into it. Gold and silver faux finishing. Stone caryatid faces. Eery green and blue liquid glass lamps glowing out of the blackness, underscored by a long blue neon tube. Long, low curlicued benches. Heavy hanging drapes. Glass bricks, malachite column, pink Formica cabinets in flourishing curves.


Then, of course, the rent. Fifteen hundred a month for one room, three thousand for two. Not that this would be offered to me, at any rate, because nobody is living or working in this 'live/work' mausoleum, nobody who paints big glorious messy oil paintings and cooks sloppy vegetarian Indian food for normal wholesome people and grows gargantuan houseplants and has a few too many cats. Nobody healthy like me.

The guy SAYS he's moving to Los Angeles, says he's taking the furniture with him, but I don't believe him. I don't think he's ready to let go; I think he wants to charge an obscene amount of rent to some other anal-retentive queer boy who will maintain it as a museum to Gothic kinkiness. At any rate, the creepiness has soaked into the very bones of the space. I could not FATHOM myself moving into it.

I also do not know what this guy is thinking, interviewing people individually for a space that MUST be shared by at least three people.

Fuck, fuck, fuck. In one week I will be officially without a source of income, isolated from the community I've spent the last year and a half immersed in, devastatingly heartbroken. I am beyond depression.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Benchmark events

Just returned the video of "Pierrot le Fou" to Reel Life, on my bicycle, in the rain, in the middle of the night. In honor of the last time I watched it, and because I did not want to have schlepped my bicycle down three flights of stairs in vain, I went to the Tea Lounge afterwards, had a glass of ludicrously expensive wine, and scribbled.

I am sorry to say that "Pierrot le Fou" did not live up to my memory of it. The last time I saw it was seventeen years ago, my junior year in college, on a Friday night when I had plans with about four different people who all stood me up, and a broken heart. (How few things have changed, in seventeen years.) "Pierrot le Fou," an obscure and pretentious Godard film, was playing at Hogg auditorium, and I sat amongst a smattering of snide French majors and had an epiphany. These people! Wandering around, doing random things as the spirit moved them, driving stolen cars into lakes just because, stabbing strange men for obscure reasons, scribbling cryptically in journals, pouting and smoking cigarettes. Eureka! Life is what you make it! We are all free! I emerged from the showing of "Pierrot le Fou" a changed soul. I went to the corner store, purchased a pack of Lucky Strikes (no, I DON'T smoke, never have, except in moments of emotional extremity and excessive intoxication), went to Captain Quackenbush's Intergalactic Coffee Shop and hammered cynical and surrealistic poetry into a pale blue spiral notebook until they threw me out at closing. Funny how I remember the notebook, after seventeen years of notebooks, the actual kinesthetic object.

I even remember bits of one of the poems I wrote that evening. It was a bitter indictment of man, as represented by the alcoholic, pseudointellectual contingent I was associating with at the time. "I could spend a lifetime under bricks./ I could live with you in Eden and never uncover my face./....I seem to see your hind's eyes/dying frightened in the woods, but it is one/ moment of fear against my steel lip/ curled savage over a day's journey/ and I do not pity you." My thesis advisor said that last line was very Sylvia Plath, there.

This time around the movie was sort of boring. These people, wandering around doing stupid things for no reason, writing cryptic and pretentious things in journals, dying at random. I even wondered whether the whole thing was supposed to be a hallucination of the main character, who has all the time never left his staid domestic existence, but has simply taken to his bed and dreamed it all; one split-second clip seemed to indicate this. At any rate it didn't hold my attention. I wonder if I've outgrown my enthusiasm for life, or whether this is the true beginning of maturity? I don't know.

And I haven't had any surrealistic poetry in me, in years. Journal entries are no longer veiled and dire, but direct and mundane. "Desperate to get out of gallery, out of apartment, move will be a pain but probably good for me. Perhaps some sweat will get me through the grief and apathy and I'll actually be motivated again." I wondered if "Pierrot le Fou" failed to inspire me this time because I am no longer such a mystery to myself. Or perhaps it was simply that I've DONE those extreme, seemingly random things--pulled up roots and moved to another country, left my glamorous French lover in a fit of petulance (bless you, Pierre), had affairs, been an itinerant gypsy, committed to a life of Art without much external remuneration. I have even frisked through the woods singing silly songs to my lover. It's not so radical after all, and now what's the point?

One pretentious line from the movie that I liked; "Once we figure out who we are and where we are going, the tragedy is that this is all we know; the rest of life remains a mystery." This sort of seemed to mean something, but the annoying thing about French films is that you can never quite tell. I decided that now I know, more or less, who I am and where I am going, the only thing that interests me is creation, and other people.

Have spent the last five days or so, generally, in an apathetic stupor, mostly asleep. Having a cold was just the excuse. I am not even bothering to feel guilty for not exercising, drinking bourbon, beer or tequila, eating sugar, bacon, and carbohydrates, doing anything to avoid my studio. I have gone all the way into "what is the FUCKING POINT" and hung out there, trusting to boredom and economic duress to eventually bring me out of it. It is surprising how hard it is to waste a lot of time. There are only so many movies you can see, so many side streets to bike up and down, so much you can overeat, so many comas you can drink yourself into. At some point it's simply less work to get on with working. I have not yet rediscovered my joy in life, but I suppose it will happen eventually. At least, the idea of suicide holds no present attractions.

Spent the afternoon in a panic, trying to generate decent-quality JPEGs of old paintings to send to the editor of an online poetry journal, which is featuring my work in their summer issue (thank you, Badger.) The editor selected a number of pieces which I'd forgotten I even painted, and due to various computer crashes, upgrades, and thefts, I no longer had any high-quality images of them. Funny how other people see such different things in my work than I do--the image selected for the cover was one I frankly can't stand, and had been planning to paint over, for lack of money and new canvas. I ended up re-photographing the ones I still own, downloading others from a forgotten old site and tweaking them in Photoshop, and sending back-up "alternate" images just in case. Looking at all this old work I realized that 1) I am not as lazy as I think I am; 2) there is a reason I fall into long periods of bleak career despair, having so many ENTIRE BODIES of work which have gone into storage or dumpsters, largely under-sold, under-exhibited and un-reviewed; 3) my current paintings carry all the weight and information of these years of study, and thus I can feel less diffident about SHAMELESSLY PROMOTING MYSELF, not as shamelessly as my sometime friend the artist/curator (see below, keyword "narcissist") but sheesh, I need to at least APPLY for shit.

This is one of the conclusions that I've come to, about this break-up--I should have been pursuing my own thing more. I'm not beating myself up about it, by any means. I don't think I was dysfunctional and dependent enough to deserve getting dumped the way I did, not by a long shot. But at least for the last ten years or so, a voice in my head has been telling me that I can't possibly earn a decent living with my art. So WHY NOT put too much energy into sustaining relationships with closed, crippled souls? Why not put my own work on the back burner while promoting other people's?

I don't know exactly what this is. It's not low self-esteem, at least not in the ordinary sense. One of the emotional things I'm noting in myself is sheer rage, the kind I have not felt since getting jilted by whatsis-face, seventeen years ago, ironically enough. There is no doubt at all in my mind that whoever gets me is getting the billion-dollar jackpot, in anybody's book. Come on, I am all the usual list of attributes, plus I bake bread from scratch, ditto vegetarian Indian food! I am a sublime masseuse! I am hilarious! I laugh at other people's jokes, and listen to them talk, and let them know I heard! I am ambitious but kind, informed but not insufferable, I know how to garden! I have long silken blonde hair, enormous bedroom blue eyes, and a figure that won't quit! What the hell is WRONG with these people?

Er, hem, not sure where I was going with that. Anyway, you know as well as I do that these things don't really matter, we are all perfect in spirit, blah-de-blah-de-blah. I think, though, that a deep part of me does not want to succeed alone, because this would be a Pyrrhic victory. I'm not one of those artists to whom art is sufficient for a mate; anyway, you notice that MALE artists like that get laid a whole lot, whereas female artists...I have two words for you...'Emily Dickinson'. Aiiiiiieeeeeeeeegh!!!!

Christ, maybe I'll go put on skimpy dresses and pout. "I vant to leeeeve, I just want to LIVE." (J'envie VIVRE, seulemente vivre.)

Monday, August 09, 2004

Little things

are what trigger the major meltdowns. Yesterday was ripe. It was Saturday night, which for me is Friday night, since I work Tuesdays through Saturdays. But essentially it was Friday AND Saturday night combined, in my little psyche, and I have a thing about weekends stemming back from high school, when I spent them babysitting, without boyfriends, booze or cable, while my peers partied their carefree youth away. So now that I am a glamourous artist in the big city instead of a dork in a suburb, I still freak out on Saturday nights when nobody is taking me to a fancy French restaurant and then to an off-Broadway production and then to drinks at the Algonquin to map out the film we're going to write and direct together. I never consciously remember this, though, until it's too late to plan ahead.

My ex-boyfriend gave himself a cold in order to prevent himself from going rock-climbing upstate. He thought he wanted to go, but his unconscious knew better. When I arrived at work in the morning and saw his van in the same spot, I didn't even call or ask, just trundled off to the store for juice and Sprite and chicken soup, and dumped them outside his apartment. Tactically this was a terrible idea, but I don't do tactics very well. Tactically speaking, when someone breaks your heart and dumps you cruelly and throws you out of the gallery you have spent a year restoring lovingly by hand, the best thing to do is ignore him while he stews in his own miserable phlegm, the bastard. Fetching Sprite and chicken soup is akin to lying prostrate in the gutter and begging him to wipe his feet on your face while his new girlfriends spit in your general direction. It's just pathetic. But I did it anyway, stupid me, because I love him and getting dumped didn't change that, and it hurts more to withhold love than to go ahead and get the groceries.

So ex-boyfriend swallowed his phlegm long enough to come down and try to pay me for the groceries, which was an insult, and sit around boring the hell out of me and my 6 PM client for an hour, with the result that we didn't get started till 7:30. I noticed more strongly the way my ex-boyfriend talks AT people rather than WITH them, the way he tells the same angry stories over and over, the way he lets nothing and nobody in, but tries to manage and manipulate everything as though the world were his own personal Punch and Judy show. I felt like I was floating unmoored in a sea of dirty cotton, and I wondered how I could have spent a year and a half of my life with someone so irremediably damaged, and whether I was every bit as damaged myself to even try. I finished with my client at 9 PM; my ex-boyfriend had disappeared into his shop, I was tired, and dateless, and it was Saturday night.

I've been pretty good lately at avoiding numb-out tactics, but this was an emergency. I fetched a bottle of wine and one of Jim Beam from Park Slope liquors, "Things you know just by looking at her" from Reel Life video, and went home for a zombie-a-thon. To my credit I opened the wine and not the Jim Beam, steamed an artichoke and some Edamame instead of going for straight macaroni and cheese, and set my computer to upload a bunch of garantuan digital images to be made into slides. Moderation in all things.

Then the VCR wouldn't work. It would play properly for a minute or two, then the sound and the color would go out simultaneously. I could get them back by stopping the tape and starting it again, but this never lasted. I ate dinner sitting on the floor in front of the TV, my finger on the "stop" button, since I've lost the remote. I tried to be patient, but it was a slow film anyhow, and it was a toss-up as to whether all this effort was even worth it. I tried taking the tape out and blowing on the tape heads. Nada. I stopped and started for a good hour before I broke down and called the ex, who for all his faults, knows how to fix things.

"Is there some thing I can just jiggle?" I asked him. He told me to insert another tape, press "play" and fast-forward simultaneously for a few minutes, till the schmutz came off the tape heads. This I did; the other tape worked fine. The tape of "Things you know just by looking at her" didn't. Around 1 AM I was forced to conclude that it just wasn't happening. Two hours of stopping and starting and drinking California Zin had frayed my nerves to irrational two-year-old hysterical hair-triggers.

I knew I shouldn't do it, I knew it knew it knew it, but I did it anyway. I called the ex again. "Dr. Video," he answered. "It won't work," I sobbed. "I'm asleep," he anwered. "Sorry," I said. He hung up. I might have called him back and had the kind of torrential psycho-stalker meltdown that gives emotionally stunted ex-boyfriends permanent ammunition for calling the psychiatric police and never ever dealing with their shit because obviously YOU'RE the one who's CRAZY, but thank God I'd opened the wine instead of, as I've mentioned, the Jim Beam. I called my friend in Las Vegas instead. She didn't pick up. I tried her cell phone. I tried her land line again. I didn't leave a message, because by then I was in the kind of state that freaks people out unneccesarily when it's too late to call you back. And it was way too late to call anybody who lived closer than Las Vegas.

Even in the depths of my despair, I set up the laptop to continue uploading on the land line. Slide-quality files take a hell of a long time to transfer on a 56K modem. Then I went into the studio with my Course in Miracles and my journal and proceeded to abandon myself to heaving tearing grief. I grieved for the love of my life, who has turned on me as though I were his alcoholic abusive carping excuse for a dead mother, reincarnated. I grieved for my former best friend, who stopped returning my phone calls on a major holiday, less than a month after I moved alone and jobless to New York City. I grieved for all the ones I loved the most, who loved me for a little while and then fell into egoistic black holes and stopped trying. I grieved for the fact that I fall in love repeatedly with damaged people who cannot love me back. I grieved for all the times my heart has broken since ballet, at seventeen. I think that love exists to break the soul.

At 1:31 AM, the phone rang. This should not have been possible; the modem was still uploading. I picked it up and nobody was there. I started the modem again and continued cursing God. I demanded answers, now, not in ten years when I see wisely how this was all for the best. The files took two more hours to load; the answers did not come.

Just before folding up the computer and losing consciousness entirely, for some reason I checked voicemail. "You have one new message, from an unknown caller, today at 1:31 AM," it chirped. The voice of my long-lost lover burbled through the static. "where are you fucking serena, calling you from mexico, I am really trying, where you going, are you out-side? sorry fucking english, I love you always, I miss you, beautiful blue-eyesss, mamacita, bonita, you are beautiful per-son, querida ojos azules, te llamo despues, why do you not write me fucking email, te quiero mucho, adios." He could not have sounded more desperately urgent if I had sent him a telegram that read "DYING LUNG CANCER BORNEO TWO WEEKS STOP DO NOT VISIT STOP LOVE ALWAYS."

Oh. My. I replayed the message five times before passing out. Had a lot of bad dreams, woke up hung over, went to the beach. Tried to calculate whether I can afford a week in Mexico this year. Decided that maybe the interconnectedness of everything is not so theoretical.