Monday, June 30, 2008

The Grass is Always Greener

"You know, your side of the bed is much more comfortable than mine," Spiceboy says, rolling to my side of the bed and tucking his arms behind his head.

"That's the same thing you said last year when you convinced me to switch sides," I say, flopping onto his side of the bed, which feels pretty comfortable to me.

Once a year, Spiceboy becomes convinced that his side of the bed is horribly uncomfortable and damaging to his back, and he wants to pull the old switcheroo. And I always humor him, you see, because despite Spiceboy's vehement arguments to the contrary, the bed feels exactly the same on both sides.

"Do you want to switch back?" I ask him.

"No, that's okay," Spiceboy says with a heavy sigh, as though his side of the bed is lined with nails and my side of the bed is lined with feathers from the wings of angels. "I'll stick it out on my side."

"Okay, just let me know if you change your mind."

Prediction: We'll switch sides before the summer is out.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

$9.50 For Your Thoughts

Studies show that it takes 30 days of a repeated action to form a habit.

I’ve kept an almost-daily journal since I was in the third grade. That’s approximately 24 years of a repeated behavior, which I guess counts as a habit. I like to think it’s a good habit, as opposed to some of the less savory habits out there, like picking your nose or smoking. That’s not to say I haven’t done both of those things, but not in any habitual kind of way.

My journals aren’t fancy affairs. Oh sure, I’ve fallen victim to those pretty journals you see in bookstores and the like, but I always end up coming back to my perennial favorites-- cheap spiral bound lined notebooks that you can get from the drugstore.

I write in my cheap notebooks with a cheap pen. It has to be blue ink, and it has to be Papermate. If I’m desperate, I might allow for a Bic, but only under dire circumstances.

My journal comes with me everywhere. And when I can’t take it with me, I have a mini notebook that I keep on me at all times.

My journals probably aren’t that interesting to anyone but me, and because I have terrible penmanship, they’re probably not decipherable by anyone but me, either.

I had one college boyfriend who took it upon himself to read my journal while I was at class. He not only managed to decipher my chicken scratch, but also discovered that I had a not-so-secret crush on his roommate. Oops. I broke up with him shortly thereafter. I can put up with a lot of things, but not with someone who reads my journal behind my back.

Back in my other life, my waitressing life, I used to work double shifts at Spiceboy’s lovely restaurant and emerge onto Atwood Street sometime after 11pm smelling of wok smoke and garlic and chili oil, my pockets stuffed full of cash. I’d make my way across the street with some of wait staff buddies to a bar that used to be called Denny’s and we’d spend our tip money on many pitchers of Yuengling beer. And after I’d had enough glasses of beer so that everything blurred slightly at the edges, I’d pull out my journal, and I’d ask my friends to write something down. They could write anything they wanted, just as long as they wrote something. Sometimes people were shy about it, and sometimes they wrote drunken nonsense. But some got really into it. I remember on one particularly beery night, my journal actually circled the entire bar so everyone—perfect strangers-- could take their turn writing in it. I still have that journal—it’s like a little time capsule from those stolen summers when Atwood Street was my whole world.

Being stuck at home these last few months, I’ve burned through a lot of journals and a lot of pens. And recently, I found myself at the last page of the last journal of a pack of journals I purchased sometime during the winter. It’s always a melancholy place, the last page of a journal. It’s the unequivocal end—you can’t go any further, even if you want to. You have no choice but to close the cover on a small section of your life.

But as sad as the last page of a journal is, there’s nothing more full of promise than the first page of a brand new journal. So I asked Spiceboy to pick me up a notebook while he was out running errands.

He returned later in the day, empty-handed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t get you your notebook,” he said. “I went to Walgreen’s, and they had notebooks, but they were $9.50.”

“You mean to tell me that a spiral notebook, the kind that you used to buy for school, costs $9.50?” He nodded.

“Are you sure it wasn’t a typo?”He shook his head.

Perhaps it’s inflation. Perhaps it’s just a phenomenon of living in Manhattan. Whatever it is, my cheap habit has now become expensive. I imagine becoming a journal junkie, begging for change on the streets so I can get my journal fix. Or a shoplifter, wearing a huge overcoat into the Walgreen’s and stuffing it full of spiral-bound notebooks, then running out the door.

I fantasize about robbing a Mead delivery truck and driving off into the sunset with a lifetime supply of journals, gripping the steering wheel with fingers that are stained blue from the cheap ink of my Papermate pens.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

R & R

Yesterday I hauled my big belly down to St. Vincent’s for Spicebaby’s 32 week ultrasound. I've been dreading this appointment, as every time I go see the ultrasound doctor, I seem to wind getting admitted to the hospital. And as you know, I haven’t enjoyed that very much. At all.

But luck is apparently shining on me at the moment. For once, my body isn't attempting to go into labor. It's just doing what normal pregnant bodies do—growing a baby.

Spicebaby is growing quite well. She’s over 4lbs now, and the ultrasound tech told us that she has hair, which absolutely thrills me. Every 10 minutes, I turn to Spiceboy and say: “Can you believe there’s a tiny hairy head floating in my belly right now? How crazy is that?”

The only glitch in yesterday’s test was that my amniotic fluid is a little on the low side, so the doc wants to keep an eye on that. He told me that in the meantime, I should take it easy—that I should rest and relax.

I’ve been on bed rest since the end of April. I’m not exactly sure how much more relaxed they expect me to be, short of strapping me to a bed and forcing me to sleep through the next two months of this pregnancy.

Oh, god, I hope that's not what they're planning for next week's visit!

Monday, June 23, 2008

How to be Specific in a Relationship

Spiceboy: Did you just fart on me?

Me: No.

Spiceboy: Yes you did. I felt it.

Me: I did not. Technically, my butt is turned into the couch cushion, which means that I farted on the cushion, not on you. Anything you felt was just a residual vibration.

Spiceboy: Unbelievable.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


As I round the bend into the final two months of this pregnancy, I’m starting to notice little things:

  • I am borderline narcoleptic. Seriously. I can nap at a moment's notice. If you challenged me to a nap-off, I would totally win.
  • My belly is much bigger. Yesterday, a complete stranger referred to it as a "basketball."
  • My new-and-improved belly makes it more difficult for me to do simple things--like get up from the bed/couch.
  • Every time I sneeze, a little bit 'o pee comes out.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Piano Man

Our next door neighbor has a piano, which he practices nearly every day. Hence the nickname “Piano Man.”

We’ve never seen Piano Man; he lives just on the other side of our wall, but his apartment is actually in a separate building from ours, so we’ll never run into him in the hallway or on the steps.

I figure he must really love the piano in order to go to the trouble of getting it into his apartment, which I know for the fact is the same size as mine, which is—in two words—very small.

Piano Man usually plays in the afternoons and into the evenings. He’s not a great piano player, but he tries really hard. Sometimes, Piano Man begins a song and ends it abruptly with a several discordant notes. When this happens, I imagine that Piano Man has grown so frustrated with himself that he just can’t continue, and is banging his head against the keys in abject frustration like the character Don Music on Sesame Street.

One night a few months ago, Piano man began playing around 9 pm—late for him. The music that filtered through the wall that night was louder, more energetic, than anything I’d ever heard Piano Man play before. Even with through the bricks, mortar and plaster, I could tell by the way he was playing that Piano Man had found a song that inspired him. So I sat very still and listened.

It was a cheerful song, but also dramatic and powerful. As Piano Man played on, the music grew louder and louder, and I thought I recognized the song from somewhere, but I just couldn’t place it.

Piano Man played the song over and over again without stopping. This was a momentous occasion, indeed! Piano Man had finally played a song the whole way through without stopping or banging on the keys! I was so proud of him. And then I realized what he was playing.

It was the theme song from Star Wars.

This went on for a few nights, until Piano Man had perfected all of the notes and even added his own little musical flourishes, at which point he moved on to the theme song from Superman.

I found the Superman song extremely fitting. After all, if you passed Clark Kent on the street, you would have no idea that he is really Superman.

And if I passed Piano Man on the street, I would have no idea he is Piano Man. He would be just another man carrying bags of groceries home from the Food Emporium, or talking on this cell phone, or walking his small dog of indeterminate breed.

Just like Superman, his true identity will always remain a mystery.

Play on, Piano Man. Play on.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Just Passing Through

Yesterday evening, I was reading a manuscript and Spiceboy was on the computer when there was a soft knock at our door. In the hallway stood a blonde man in khaki pants and a crisp button down shirt, looking very “just home from the office.”

He was soft spoken, so I didn’t quite catch his name. Jim? John?

He claimed to be our neighbor. We never get visits from our neighbors, so I was curious to see what his request would be. Did he want to borrow a cup of sugar to bake cookies, or perhaps a screwdriver to assemble furniture?


Turns out, he wanted to borrow our window.

Jim/John had locked himself out of his apartment on the 2nd floor. He was hoping we’d be kind enough to let him climb out of our window so he could descend the fire escape back to his happy home, which he would enter through an open window.

Spiceboy folded his arms and blocked the doorway and eyed Jim/John skeptically. He grilled Jim/John about his residency in the building while Jim/John stood there, looking stressed out. I jumped in before Spiceboy could ask for proper ID and perform a criminal background check.

“You say you want to climb down our fire escape?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Jim/John.

“Come on in!” I said. Spiceboy, ever the surly gatekeeper, threw me a dirty look.

Okay, so this guy could have been a total wacko. He could have been a stalker bent on tormenting an ex girlfriend, or a thief, or a murderer. But he didn’t look like he was intent on doing us any bodily harm, and I’ve been on bed rest since the end of April and I don’t get a lot of excitement these days and I really wanted to see this neatly dressed blonde man climb out of our window and maneuver his way down the sooty fire escape—even if it meant he was on his way to strangle someone.

It’s the little things that please me.

As Spiceboy set about opening our window and clearing the way for our visitor to make his exit, I had time to look Jim/John over and wonder if his apartment was as neat and tidy as his appearance. One of those apartments in which everything is in its place and there’s no “junk drawer” or “clutter closet”, the walls painted a calming shade of beige and some carefully chosen innocuous artwork on the wall, with magazines lined up neatly with the edge of the coffee table and books in alphabetical order on the bookshelves. One of those apartments that looks great on the outside, but if you looked more closely, you’d find a human head in the freezer.

I also had time to ponder what it would be like to live that kind of crisp khaki life, a J-Crew catalog kind of life, rather than the organized chaos that we call home. And because I'm vain, I wondered what this neatly dressed man thought of us—Spiceboy in an old t-shirt and shorts and me with my pregnant belly and unkempt hair, our unwashed dinner dishes stacked on the counter, unmade bed, unruly piles of books on the shelves, and Betty’s wee wee pads in the corner.

And then Jim was hoisting himself up and out of our window.

“Good luck!” I said.

Jim/John paused, half in, half out of the window. “Thanks,” he said.

Then with a quick duck of his head he passed out of our lives—on his way to whatever it is he had to do: cook dinner, or iron a new pair of khakis, or possibly to murder someone and steal their plasma TV.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Deep Freeze

Living in a tiny Manhattan apartment means one must do without certain creature comforts.

Like having a real kitchen.

Case in point: We don't have a real refrigerator. We have a mini -fridge, not unlike the kind you find in a college dorm room, filled with cans of Milwaukee’s Best and leftover pizza. Except that our fridge is filled with slightly more adult and snobbish indulgences: stinky cheeses, curries, a jar of cornichons.

The fridge also has a tiny freezer, which does not freeze things—it merely keeps food items slightly colder than the rest of the fridge.

Oh, sure, we’ve tried to find ways to cope with our lack of freezer. In a moment of desperation one night last winter, we actually purchased a pint of Hagen Dazs and attempted to nestle it in a pile of snow on our fire escape. Sadly, when the morning sun hit it, it melted.

So for the past three years, we haven’t been able to keep ice cream in the house, which is a sad thing for anyone, but an especially sad thing when you’re pregnant and on bed rest and it’s 97 degrees outside.

But Spiceboy, husband of husbands, men of men, savior of saviors, took it upon himself to order a mini-freezer to match our mini-fridge. It arrived late last week, just before the heat wave hit. When the UPS man delivered it, we held hands and danced happy circles around it, giddy with all of the prospects.

“I can freeze fruit!” I shouted.

“I can freeze chicken stock!” Spiceboy cried. “Ooh! And we can make ice cubes!”

Spiceboy set about arranging the freezer in our kitchen and plugging it in. Then we searched the fridge for items with which to make our first freezer offering. Spiceboy chose a container of home made chicken broth. I chose an ice pack that's been languishing in a liquid state since I had my tooth pulled last fall. We placed our offerings in the freezer with great reverence, peeking in on them every so often to make sure they were freezing, the opposite of checking on a batch of cookies in the oven.

On Saturday afternoon, Spiceboy ran to the grocery store for provisions and returned with our first official pint of ice cream. A pint of ice cream that we wouldn’t have to gobble in one sitting so it didn’t melt. A pint of ice cream that we could remove from the freezer any time we craved a cool, creamy treat.

Spoons poised at the ready, we passed the pint back and forth between us until we'd eaten our fill, then put the rest in the freezer for later. We lolled on the couch, high on sugar and cream, content as stoners after passing the bong, and listened to the soft, comforting hum of our new freezer.

The luxuries of this lifetime are great, indeed.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

In Season

I got pregnant at the tail end of the Fall, just when the growing season was winding down. There were many apples to choose from at the market—Honeycrisp, Gala, Cortland, Pink Lady. I ate them any way I could—grated into my morning oatmeal, or at lunch with a slice of good cheese, or slathered in peanut butter.

The leeks were abundant, too, and I craved them so much that I ate them for breakfast—braised with a vinaigrette—until the morning sickness kicked in and the mere thought of leeks became unbearable.

Most of the winter, I felt like a stranger in my own skin, as if my mind couldn’t quite catch up to all of the new things my body was doing. I craved plain, white, starchy foods, so it’s a good thing potatoes were in season. I ate them with gusto, baked in the oven and sprinkled with sea salt and pepper, or mashed with a fork and seasoned with butter and nutmeg, or roasted with olive oil and onions and garlic.

Baking bread was the one small thing I could control in a sea of intense changes. I pushed aside my nausea long enough to knead dough for countless loaves, loving the feel of the dough in my hands—sticky and loose at first, then smooth and supple by the end. I gobbled the bread fresh from the oven, slathered with butter, then stumbled back to bed for yet another nap.

April brought with it the first real signs of Spring weather, the first glorious kicks from the baby, and an overwhelming craving for strawberries. I woke up every morning with my hands on my burgeoning belly, feeling the baby's phantom kicks and dreaming of the moment when strawberries came into season and I could finally dig into a big bowl of them, dewy and red and soft and sweet.

April also brought my first hospital stay and bed rest—how cruel to be stuck inside just when everything on the outside is waking up!

May crawled along and I watched Spring happen through my open window. To help me combat my cabin fever, Spiceboy brought me treats from his daily excursions: Fresh eggs with velvety yellow yolks, Berkshire honey, gorgeous asparagus, and fresh mint and basil and rosemary and tarragon, which we’ve planted in little pots on our fire escape.

And now it is June! The weather is warmer, and my belly is larger. It is almost strawberry season—finally--and I’m counting down the days until I can stand at a stall in the Union Square Greenmarket and pick a perfect pint to take home with me.

In July, I will breathe a sigh of relief. The baby will finally be viable outside of the womb, even if she comes a little early. I will be released from bed rest just as corn and cucumbers and cherries and peaches come into season.

When I’m free, I shall make a salad. I shall bake a pie.

By August, Manhattan will be a lumbering swamp thing—damp, sweltering, and primordial. Beets and blueberries and collards and carrots and figs will be in season. And leeks and tomatoes. And watermelon—oh, the watermelon!

By August, I will be swollen and slow—a solar system in a sun dress. And right when the weather is at its hottest, right when the watermelon is at its sweetest, I will finally be ready to deliver this baby girl.

When she arrives, I will hold her in my hands like a warm loaf of bread, kiss her tiny cherry cheeks and strawberry mouth, bury my nose in her fuzzy peach head, squeeze her blueberry toes, and whisper to her of all of the amazing seasons to come.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A & M

A & M have come to visit us this week. It's so nice to have people here--to change the arrangement of the air and energy in the apartment a little bit.

They bring with them lovely little gifts: an avocado, bright red strawberries, a nectarine, 3 gerbera daisies, and a large bunch of celery, which we slather with peanut butter and munch on while they regale us with the New York minutia I miss so much--Chihuahuas in Chelsea, chaos at the Zabar's fish counter.

I'm so grateful for their presence, and for the fact that our orbits get to cross, if only for a little while.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

For Spiceboy

Here's to:

Pate on toast in Pittsburgh.

Grilled Rachel sandwiches.

Dim sum in Toronto.

The ham, cheese, and mushroom crepe from our last night in Paris.

Noodle soup and Shabu Zen to ward off the cold Boston winters.

Oysters and loads of Sancerre in London.

Spicy shrimp in Bangkok.

Beef in la lot leaves in Hanoi.

Cacio e pepe and chestnut gelato in Rome.

And late on our wedding night, sitting on the bed in our underwear, exhausted, eating cold noodles out of a takeout container, our rings new and shiny upon our fingers.

Happy anniversary, Spiceboy.