Monday, December 31, 2012

The Maintenance of Knives and Friendship



I have twice, recently, found myself struggling over knives with friends.  Neither involved my wallet or car keys, and neither resulted in even minor flesh wounds.  My struggles lay in knives but not of them.  Or of them but not with them.  The first occurred after I moved in for a few weeks with S.  S is convinced that his knives, which he keeps in special assigned slots in a wooden block next to the stove, must not for any amount of time, however short, remain sitting with food on them.  No more slicing and enjoying of cheese or apple and then returning after to clean up.  The knife must be scrubbed immediately, even while the cheese turns rubbery and apple browns.  The knife is to be cleaned with a softish sponge, once, twice, and again, and then extra lovingly dried and polished with a clean, soft cloth.  The knife must be swiped in one direction along its special sharpener a few times to renew the edge and then maybe again caressed with the clean, soft cloth, and finally reinserted—take care not to rub the cutting edge against the wood!—into its slot.  S did not at first insist that I clean the knives with such fastidious care.  Rather, he would sneak around behind me picking them up as I set them aside. I perceived a disapproving cast to his mouth, which prodded me to confront him.  Our exchange included such jewels as “If you don’t take care of nice things, you can’t expect them to stay nice.” To which I responded reasonably I thought with “If you can’t let a knife sit with food on it for an hour after using it, it doesn’t seem like a very ‘nice’ thing; it seems like an inconvenient and useless thing.”  And then, in a huff: “I will just buy my own knife, one that doesn’t disintegrate when it comes into contact with food.”  Then, we said some other stuff, and I said I should just move out and thereby avoid destroying S’s overnice things.  Then, we made up, and S said I could use the knives in whatever slovenly fashion I want.  Now, I clean the knives right after I use them.  So it goes.  

The second knife-significant incident took place during a recent trip to Brooklyn to visit my also very dear, long-time friend, J.  On my final, full day in New York, J and I went to the Tenement Museum, walked along the High Line, and had tea and scones at a place in the West Village. Walking back from the subway in rain and dark, I failed to notice dog crap on the sidewalk.  Stepping in dog poo is always a hassle, but when you’re visiting in Brooklyn and leaving by plane the next day, it’s especially terrible. Even worse, imagine that you’re wearing Keen shoes which include an ingenious rubber sole that features narrow and apparently bottomless cuts, placed there presumably for grip, although I’ve always felt the shoes to be especially and surprisingly prone to slippage.  What could I do?  I borrowed a butter knife from the kitchen and went to the front stoop to remove the poo.  I rubbed the shoe vigorously in the wet grass in the yard.  I pounded the shoe raucously on the bricks that line the driveway.  I took the shoe to the attic bathroom and worked on the poo over the sink.  I pried and sawed, scooped and gouged.  The more I worked, the more poo came to light.  The shoes seemed to have deep diverticuli into which the poo had instantly and perhaps permanently worked its way.  Finally, after much sniffing and the application of fragrant hand soap to the bottom of the shoe, I was satisfied that it was safe to mummify the shoe in 3 plastic bags and stow it away in a side pocket of my to-be checked bag.  I went downstairs and washed the knife carefully hot water and dish soap.  I repeated the process several times.  Soon, a small voice from the couch: “I should have given you a plastic knife.”  In subsequent, semi-terse conversation it came to light that J was not convinced that dog poo could be adequately removed from a stainless steel kitchen utensil.  Given the tenacity with which the poo adhered to the bottom of my shoe, I should have been more sensitive to this possibility.  But I was done with the poo and indifferent about the knife.  I said with a kind of restrained, and again, I thought reasonable irritation, “Why would dog poo be any more likely to remain on a scrubbed butter knife than, say, mayonnaise or raw hamburger?”  J responded that she wasn’t sure, but that it creeped her out.  I could sympathize with that.  I left the knife in the sink, to whatever fate J would assign it, and sat down to contemplate how nineteenth-century tenement dwellers would have handled the situation differently.  So end two pointy, though also arguably pointless tales of friendship.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I try to get ahold of myself

Here is the kind of thing that I should probably keep quiet about because a) it makes me sound dim, and b) it reminds me of blurbs in old Reader's Digests--the kind of thing you read at 10 years of age while teetering on the edge of car sickness during a long ride in the back of a musty Plymouth Fury or Mercury Cougar on the way to a holiday weekend in the Ozarks or wherever.  Anyway.  I was recently staying with my friend S, who was at work.  I myself had worked all night the previous night.  I came in about 8 a.m. and slept until 1:30 p.m.  On waking, I find that I cannot locate my cell phone.  So, I call myself using S's land line.  I hear my phone buzz, search around, and eventually find it in my purse.  By the time I finally extract and open the phone (not in any way a "smart" phone), it has stopped ringing.  I see, however, that S has just called me.  I hit "reply." I think, S has called from work to propose that we meet for a late lunch!  Suddenly, the house phone in my other hand starts to ring.  S is calling me, and I am calling him!  I answer with boisterous good cheer, "Hey, I was just calling YOU!"  But, of course, it is only ME calling from the cell phone in my other hand--in reply to a call that I also made to myself. 

[Insert annoying sketch of befuddled looking, middle-aged bald man holding two cell phones.]

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Spectating at B4

At LaGuardia Airport a facilities staff member talks on the telephone at the gate desk to my right, her body tense, her trash-barrel cart parked close. She’s small-boned and dark-skinned, salt-and-pepper hair pulled tight, pinned back. She speaks into the handpiece with a lot of energy for 10 minutes or more about a passage in the Bible.  She makes references to Saint Paul, insisting on his revisionist intentions, his metaphorical meanings. She gives tutorial and reassurance.  She speaks with conviction. She speaks at volumes that surprise me. The gate clerk stands with his elbows on the desk, rapt, seemingly appreciative.

I am eating and pretending to read on my Kindle.  I’ve reviewed the same paragraph in Barnaby Rudge 35 times. Varden, the locksmith, and Mr. Haredale affirm and affirm again their faith in the goodness of Mrs. Rudge, despite all appearances.  At my back, large windows frame a fog-bathed tarmac. Most of the other passengers at the gate gaze blankly in my direction and out the window.  I imagine that a few at least watch in wonderment as I devour a 6-inch sandwich (mostly day-old ciabatta), an oversized bag of potato chips, a small tub of Greek yogurt, and a banana, all with speed and uncharacteristic gusto, covering myself in crumbs, licking my fingers, poking randomly at the Kindle, all while surreptitiously eavesdropping on others.  I am simultaneously making a spectacle of myself and trying to lose myself. The others do the same.  I wonder, why do I always want to be anyone, indeed, everyone else? 

A couple to my left talk with varying degrees of heatedness about what the woman finds in the newspaper.  I wish to be them.  They banter over trends in recent choreography. (I know nothing about trends in recent choreography.) They argue briefly about ballet dancers. They bemoan the New York City budget.  They decry the fate of some poor dog of a scientist whom, they suspect, has lost his position for forecasting a natural disaster.  They are wry.  They are informed.  They are outraged.  They give tutorial and reassurance.  Soon, I stand to shake the crumbs off my clothes, I’m dancing before the tarmac. I’m the star of a show about a woman who listens jealously to other people’s conversations. I don’t realize it at the time, but my checked bag is at the moment being lost.  Drama abounds.  I am at the center and at the periphery.
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Saturday, April 21, 2012

At the Kite Festival Today

At the kite festival today I sat outside a coffee shop, reading, my eyes seduced upward by an enormous kite-fish someone had set swimming lumbrously, balloonishly skyward.  I sat with my sandals high up on a fence post, the sun making my hair feel hot, an April sky sprinkled with kites like the top of a birthday cupcake.  All holding steady in the wind: rainbowed boxes and triangles with tails pulling away in straight lines from unseen hands, hanging on unseen currents.  I thought of the lines, the thinnest of white hairs, just the suggestion of connectedness, the wish of intention, the string unfurled from want to am.  I wondered how the scene would look if the kites were invisible or just insignificant, if instead the lines were all.  I tried to imagine the giant fish dim, its dozens of carefully strung lines—looped and woven, tied and knotted—flashing out bright and wide-white against the blue.  I thought of the hundreds of people spread out below, each of them reaching out, a string mosaic, miraculously, intricately, criss-crossing space with their desire.  
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