Thursday, February 17, 2011

Having Faith in Faith

Her name was Faith.

"I love that," I said, and I do love the name. It is such a hopeful name, in this case, Faith's mother is also Faith, and waited until her fifth of five children to share the blessing.

This particular Faith offered up her thoughts, very grounded thoughts, on the ridiculous realities of the neighborhood we live, things like the bedbug scare and the storm. 

"It was great to see people in New York have to walk single file because of the snow, have to be patient," she said with a sneaky smile.

I laughed in agreement. "So true," I said, "I'd almost think Bloomberg planned it if I didn't know better," I said, quoting me back to me as I often do now that I write a column, write various articles based solely on what I think. Scary.

Just like with the bedbugs or the snow, things often out of our control, Faith is a believer in moving through things, moving forward, letting go of expectations.

"Uch," she said of buying expensive sunglasses, very expensive anything, "then, of course you lose it right away or something happens." She shook her head no, in vehement agreement with herself, the best possible person one can agree with.

I gave Faith a gold star for her great attitude, for her deep, smiling engagement in the conversation. Maybe it's all in a name after all.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Save My Washing Machine, Save Me

Roger is a saviour. The laundry had been piled up for a week, just awaiting the expertise (and hose) of a guy like him, one of several upbeat super-helpful repairmen deployed by Lenny of Len's Appliance Service that have come in to our home and restored order and orderliness. Granted, it took them a few days for the part to come in and I had to be flexible in accordance with their busy schedule, but they were patient and so was I.

"I need you, now!" I'd joked to Lenny, the owner over the phone.

 "I love you, but..." he'd said. The "but" in this case totally negated the love. There were so many other women, truly desperate housewives, he couldn't even pretend to differentiate us. It was first come first served with Len.

"I had a boyfriend named Lenny in high school..." I told him, as if he cared, as if this would make him schedule the belt getting put in my washer any faster. It's always worth a try.

It reminded me of my days soliciting grocery buyers over the phone all across the country to ferret out the latest package-goods marketing secrets. One of them, a hilarious man I adored in upstate New York, was always on the money when it was my time of the month, the first to guess I was pregnant with my second.

When Roger finally arrived with the part, the stench in my place was beginning to grow a little fermented.

"You must be very popular," I said to Roger, giddy when he closed the lid on my newly fixed washer and carefully wiped the machine with a cloth to remove the smudges he'd placed there.

"People do tend to appreciate me," he said with a big happy-with-his-job smile. "Actually, sometimes, it's like it was the first time someone was ever nice to them. I make them feel comfortable in their own home, like I'm not sure they normally are."

Roger was proud of his efforts and rightly so. He was sure to tell me he didn't set the prices. Better to separate yourself from the bill if you want to be popular and appreciated. Smart man, Roger. And for this I gave him a big gold star.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Watching the Dragonflies

She sat down next to me and I noticed her earrings right away: dragonflies.

"I love your earrings," I said. "I love dragonflies."

Caroline smiled. "Thanks," she said, putting her hands up to touch the silver dangling dragonflies, as if she had to feel to remember them.

We talked about dragonflies' amazing fortitude, their resistance and ability to adapt to their environment. They are growing large, lately, I've noticed, the past few summers, and flying further afield from water than they once did as the climate changes, as they need to change. I have seen dragonflies in Midtown, by MOMA. They do seem rather artistic...

"Animals and plants are doing strange things lately, stratifying away from each other," Caroline noted, citing something she'd read. "We have to watch nature to see what it's doing, but as humans there is this confluence of wanting to invent and like water, wanting to find the easiest route."

Of course, Caroline and I agreed, we have to work together and with nature, as nothing survives alone. But despite any greater designs, such cooperation is not always the direction things go. Interdependence has a price and it is, of course, independence. It is a conundrum, then, whether it is best to choose collaboration or to go it alone.

Sitting side by side in the cafe, new friends, we both are rooting for communal efforts but, Caroline said, somewhat resignedly, "Making the choice to do right for yourself is survival in its perfect form."

If history is any indication, we seem, like the dragonflies, to bow and duck around in time, with the wind, to find the "best" way forward in various states of solitude and dependence.

"Either way, we are destined to make mistakes," Caroline said, getting up and acknowledging that our brief passionate discussion to try to figure things simply by watching dragonflies was not going to end in an answer.

I laughed as I gave her her gold star, for trying. "We're about as effective as Dr. Seuss's Whos screaming as loud as they could into the wind..." I said. "But at least we're trying to pay attention!"  

Friday, February 4, 2011

Revolution Required, In Fashion and...

Chet piped up to defend me at Parco yesterday when sassy barista, Jeremy, questioned my being given an assignment to cover fashion, albeit men's fashion.
"You, fashion?" Jeremy laughed.
"Hey, just because you only ever see me in Spandex..." I said.
Chet, sitting next to me, sort of, came to my rescue, offering up, "Miuccia Prada often looks very bad..."
Hmmm, was he defending me? "Um, thanks? I think?" I said.
We talked about fashion a bit then, Chet and I, about how the people in the biz, the trend-setters, often set the trends slightly by accident, because they just don't care to follow the rules.
"I think it must be so funny for people to put some strange thing together on a whim, just by instinct, and then have all kinds of people copy it," I said.
Handlebar mustaches, for example, are all of a sudden slightly common. 
"You could pull off some funky facial hair..." I suggested to my new friend.
Chet nodded. "But only if I had a big ring through my lip, and that wouldn't fly in my office, as a government wonk."
"I don't know," I said, "sometimes when we break the rules, people follow. They want someone to lead them, to take charge and change things. Like in Revolutionary Road, when he decides to screw what he thought he should do and just went for it, he got a big promotion. That happens all the time."
As it was, I noticed Chet himself looked very dapper.
"I needed to dress up today...I just had to do it," he said. 
It was a freezing day in early February, Parco visitors were mostly running behind. Getting out of bed is hard this time of year.
"I'm with you," I said, "sometimes you just have do it, dress yourself up to make it happen."
"You gotta look the part..." Chet agreed.
He couldn't decide where to put his gold star, maybe on his red tie? In the end, he put it straight on his chest, just above the pocket of his natty suit. It suited Chet, the star.
With a wave and a flourish, a gracious thank you to Jeremy for his delicious mushroom quiche, Chet was out. We shall meet again, I'm sure.  

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Trying to Be Communal

Jessica joined me on the bench yesterday as I sat doing door-duty at my children's Hebrew school. I am a half-hearted Hebrew school parent at best, which is why I volunteered for the easy duty, to assuage some of my Jewish guilt.

Jessica, likewise, was stuck, waiting, so we began to chat as friendly people are wont to do. Before too long, as can happen easily in Park Slope, the conversation turned to the Park Slope Food Co-Op and whether or not I was a member...I am, somewhat abashedly, somewhat ashamedly, not.

"I just can't handle another responsibility, another organization that needs something from me that I probably won't be able to give, especially when it comes to my groceries," I explained.

Jessica, like so many others before her, like those who have tried to get me to join The Landmark Group, tried hard to convince me.

"It's only 2 1/2 hours a month..." she said, "and it's a guaranteed 20% mark-up over cost, where other stores are like 100%."

She made a good case, I'll give her that, especially as my convenient just-across-the-street shopping at 150% mark-up Union Market is putting me in serious debt.

I am tempted but I know myself too well. If I get involved, if I just walk in the door to try out the low-cost fruits and veggies on offer, I'd be tempted to put in more time, to get more involved than necessary. I'd think so much about what I could do for the co-op but don't necessarily want to that I'd probably fail to even meet the required time. Worry, worry would be all I would give my fellow cooperators. And that's not fair.

Jessica, a clearly sensitive woman, a sign-language interpreter and dancer, looked at me with big, understanding eyes.

"There are so many communities to be part of, it's true," she said.

"Exactly," I said, as the other Hebrew school parents, none of whom I know, walked in to claim their kids. "And it's so easy to become Jack the Joiner, part of many communities but really part of none."

I gave a gold star to Jessica  for trying herself to be part of many communities and for understanding that I, in my own way, am trying too.