I came home from an early run to find this in our very narrow driveway.For some reason, I keep referring to this as a skip, which nobody else seems to understand. It’s smaller than average because the driveway was designed for a Model-T and anything larger would get stuck. (Which I learned the hard way…)
After months of waiting, crying in the building department, and all but offering myself up to the gods of Yonkers (because, surely there is more than one), we finally got our construction permit. Still, we weren’t starting anytime soon. Our contractor told us we’d have to wait a few weeks while he finished up the job he took when we got delayed.
And then, in a text, he told us he could start in 48 hours. (I’m trying to ignore the nagging feeling that this guy may not have been the best choice, but I’m keeping that to myself for now.)
Here’s what I learned:
1. It helps to have a pogrom (or three) in your DNA. Polish ancestry means one thing if you’re Jewish: You can pack in a flash, even when there aren’t Cossacks at the door. As I used my great-grandmother’s linen tablecloths to wrap my dishes (once the newspaper ran out), I had enough time to hum the entire score of Fiddler. Good times.
2. Jet lag is AWESOME when you have stuff to do! Turns out, keeping my watch on NY time during our trip may have kept me awake the entire time, but it didn’t ensure that I’d come home on local time. (Who knew?) So, I hopped out of bed at 3.45 AM and got cracking on packing the kitchen and tossing anything that does not bring me pleasure. (This was a good thing. Because M is no fan of throwing out anything and believes this whole de-cluttering movement is nothing more than an excuse to buy more shit, I usually have to toss things under cover of darkness.)
3. I was put on this earth to answer the question: How many glass jars can one person own?
4. I apparently also have a thing for egg cups.
5. M has a thing for free water bottles. The shittier the bottle, the more we have. If you happen to need one, there will be a box of them in front of our house as of 4AM. (shhh.)
I’ve been awake for over a week and I have miles to go.
If Marie Kondo calls, I’ll be throwing out egg cups.
Our kitchen is in Yonkers.**
Because we want to renovate our kitchen, we need approval from the Yonkers Building Department. (Even now, it is hard to capitalize those words, so unworthy are they; there is nothing proper about those nouns.)
I had heard nightmare stories about the permit approval process so when our permit was denied the first time, I was told to “put on something cute, go down to the Building Department, and flirt.”
“Oh,” someone else added, “you should bring cookies.”
I heard M sniggering when I relayed the pieces of advice. First of all, nobody really wants to eat my cookies. I live with teenage boys, who will eat anything that isn’t soldered to the plate, but Building Department people? Surely, they wouldn’t want burnt-on-the-bottom chocolate chip cookies which are raw in the middle?
The flirting got an ever bigger laugh from M.
If nobody wants to eat my cookies, even fewer want to see me try and flirt. “What does that even look like?” M asked.
What does that look like? It looks something like this:
I woke up early and put on a pencil skirt, blouse and a pair of heels. I had an early morning breakfast midtown, and I planned on going straight from there. I looked cute enough for the breakfast, but after a subway ride home and an hour or so of NYC humidity, the bloom was most definitely off the rose. When I got on the subway, I threw my heels into my enormous bag and put on a pair of Birkenstocks. When I emerged above ground and caught sight of the size of my hair in a store window, I threw it up into a twist. By the time I climbed into the minivan, I had untucked the blouse, which was drenched in sweat and something else which I could not identity but which it hurts to think about.
By the time I got to Yonkers, I was less Breakfast at Tiffany’s, more Travels With My Aunt. Still, I persisted. I walked into the building and into a time warp. I had to exit and enter again just to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind. Although it was 2018 on the outside, in the Yonkers Building Department, it was either 1957 or 1978, depending on the floor. Either way, it called for a lot of eye shadow and some pretty big hair. (My eye makeup had long since melted off, but my hair was certainly complying.)
I found the right floor, tucked in my sweaty shirt and marched on. When I was greeted by a room of partially gray women, sitting at desks, nursing giant mugs of coffee, my heart skipped several beats. A room of older ladies? These are my people! I can definitely flirt with this…
I collapsed into a chair.
“What’s wrong, honey?” One of them asked.
“I looked a lot cuter when the day started,” I said. “And I really want a permit for my kitchen.”
The thirty minutes I spent with the ladies of Yonkers was lovely. They assured me I looked just fine. We laughed about summer hair and what happens to your feet when your take off your heels, put on Birkenstocks, and try to get your heels on again. They even gave me a special number to call to check on the status of my permit revisions. I left feeling so much better about myself and the Yonkers Building Department. (Caps restored!)
I called that number every day for ten days and nobody answered. I even tried the special email they gave me: nada.
I went back yesterday, all gussied up, and received a second denial, in person. I was even wearing heels this time.
I guess I really don’t know how to flirt.
PS: A snapshot of the current state of my kitchen.
** Our house sits on the county border, but our kitchen is firmly in Yonkers.
I got a little braggy on Instagram and posted a picture of my chard recently. My punishment for my garden-bragging is usually the ridicule of my children, who do not particularly enjoy seeing the pictures. They reserve a special disdain for my most favorite hashtag. #IGrewDinner
This week I got a different kind of comeuppance. I noticed the chard was brown and patchy. More watering didn’t help, so I took pictures of the leaves and that night, while sleep eluded me (here we go again), I went down the rabbit hole of my gardening blogs . (As luck would have it I stumbled onto a Seattle Times article, no comment.)
It turns out the brown spots were caused by flies, specifically, beet leaf miners. The little flies lay their eggs on the leaves of the plant, in my case, chard. Then the eggs hatch into green maggots which feed inside the leaves and then poop everywhere. The brown blotches were poop, squeezed inside the leaves. Maggot poop, to be exact.
When the boys were younger and came home with lice, I ran to the drugstore, bought a shaver and sheared their heads down the the scalp. I basically did the same thing with the chard. I chopped the plants down to their nubs, shoved the infested leaves in a bag, and called it a day.
Ok kids. You win.
The biggest problem in my marriage is this: once a month (or thereabouts), M knocks over a giant glass of water which rests on his nightstand. The water douses everything around it. While this is happening, I usually play dead — so that I do not have to get up and help him mop up the water with whatever he can find lying around. I do not play dead because I am mean-spirited, or even lazy. I play dead because if I open my eyes, I will be awake for the night.
I am not a sleeper. If something wakes me up in the middle of the night (which I define as anywhere between 11.30 and everything that comes after it), I do not go back to sleep. I go thorough stages of resistance and acceptance and usually end up on the coach downstairs, watching TV, reading, or listening to a podcast. I know that I am not alone, and therefore, I won’t bore you with any more of the details of my sleeplessness.
Last night I tempted fate. As we headed to sleep, I said to M — I really hope you knock your water over tonight, because that is the only way you’ll throw out all the piles of random paper shit you have next to your bed. I do not exaggerate about these piles. It looks like a small mountain range of random magazines, bills, circulars, printouts and whatever else he can find in the house. Nobody touches the piles because M knows the contents of each one and can tell if we’ve been messing around. The only way those piles disappear is when they are soaked beyond saving.
Hence, I have come to rely on the monthly spillage.
Last night at three, I heard a CRASH. Then I heard, “OH SHIT.” I played dead. Very dead. Minutes later, spillage mopped, M falls back to sleep.
I have been up ever since.
I got some writing and editing done. I gardened by moonlight (really, I did! It’s awesome! You should all try it!) and I even gave myself a manicure (a lot less successful, but what can you do?) But when M woke up, I was in no mood for him. I yelled at him for taking a leisurely shower (Seriously? Fifteen minutes on a weekday?) and just about everything else. His face looked like it did in the early days of our marriage when I was mad at him, and expected him to know EXACTLY WHY I was mad, but refused to tell him. It goes without saying that his lack of inherent knowledge only made me madder.
We are about to hit our 20 year mark, and if I don’t get some sleep, our marriage may very well come full circle.
(Here is his nightstand AFTER it has been cleaned up. It is somewhat disconcerting to see that M sleeps with a hammer next to his bed. Also, I am very confused about the canoe escape pamphlet. Maybe I should be more helpful in the middle of the night.)
May is hard. May is happy and sunny and here in NYC it’s even gotten warm (thank heavens, because I was on the verge of a complete and utter weather-related breakdown, the likes of which I hadn’t experiences since I did time in Seattle). But it’s not necessarily an easy month. In addition to the onset of seasonal allergies (please send help, there is Mack truck parked in my sinuses), there’s a lot to do, which for me means there’s a lot to forget, a ton to let slip through the cracks, a mountain to overlook. You see where I’m going…
One day, after a doctor’s appointment I’d failed to calendar and a kid-related deadline I didn’t make (am I beating a dead horse?), I stumbled upon this bottle of loveliness:
I love coffee. I love seltzer. What could possibly be better than a combo of the two? Standing near the checkout of my local market, I felt a little like the guy (or girl) who fell upon peanut butter and chocolate or ketchup and just about everything. I immediately texted a picture to my friend R, who is a coffee drinker and a seltzer aficionado. She was unimpressed. Undeterred, I bought a bottle and drank it on line and texted R immediately: It was delish — like a not-too-sweet caffeinated cream soda, with giant bubbles. Plus, it’s limited edition, which means soon it will disappear, so I am compelled to down as much of it as I can while it is on the shelf.
I have bought a bottle every day since then. Sometimes two. It’s May. I need it.
People in my neighborhood market: I see you looking at me. I feel your judgy eyes on me. I hear you thinking, “Who on earth would buy that revolting looking beverage?” Me, that’s who. And I’ll buy a second while I’m here in case I’m done with this one by the time I check out.
Happy May, people. Do whatever you need to.