Saturday, July 30, 2011

A rat's tale

There are 8 million stories in the naked city, and this is one of them:

My friend A was getting her oil changed, and the mechanic told her she had a rat's nest in her engine. Could he remove it? A asked. No, he told her. She had to go to a specialist in the Bronx who could wash the debris out of the engine with a high-pressure hose. The engine stank of urine and feces, and when it was hosed, bits of paper and old food and other nasties were flushed out. A had read that red pepper discouraged such infestations, so she sprinkled her newly sanitized engine with Tabasco. But here's the interesting thing: this is a common problem in New York. Many people get rat's nests in their car engines. And rat infestations can be destructive. Rats' teeth grow five inches a year, and to keep them filed down, rats chew on hard things like plastic, concrete, wire and so forth. So a car engine is just a giant emery board. The rat's-nest-in-the-engine specialist who hosed out A's nest advised her not to park near garbage. Good luck with that.

Monday, July 25, 2011

You CAN run away from your problems!

You cannot run away from your problems, or so the old truism has it. But I'm here to tell you that you CAN! Depressed, insomniacal and way too hot, I escaped to Massachusetts for the weekend to visit my old friend Mingus (above) and his owner, J. I left my troubles behind and lived J's life (or at least the facsimile fashioned by her hospitality) for a couple of days—walking the dog, swimming, eating three squares a day and indulging in other simple pleasures. The first night out I slept nine hours—a huge relief after weeks of two- and three-hour nights. And I brought a little bit of J's life home in the form of a knitting project. It's only knitting and purling—a plain pattern—but doesn't all knitting consist of variations on knitting and purling? Like yoga, knitting lends itself to metaphors. It slows you down and turns your eye to the details, which gradually unspool into a greater fabric.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

New York death trip

While our bodies were in clear coastal Maine, our minds kept flying back to three riveting New York news stories: the shooting of our big-hearted plumber Paul Shay and his family, the naked Tappan Zee suicide leap of my daughter’s Bronx Science home-room teacher Alfa Choice, and the murder and dismemberment of an 8-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish boy named Leiby who made the mistake of thinking it was safe to speak to a stranger because the stranger was a fellow Jew.

Blue mood under blue skies

The blue mood has lingered even under the blue skies of beautiful Maine. I’ve read that with PTSD, you continue to have all the resilience of a camel’s back: You can manage your daily load, but one additional straw sends you sagging into sadness.

But sadness didn’t prevent me from enjoying huge swaths of Maine. There’s something about the hardiness and fragility of Maine—resilience!—that makes every vista poignant: the abundance of green that pours out of the ground in the brief summer. But perhaps I’ve got it wrong thinking the summer is the living season and winter the dead. I asked a yoga teacher how she got herself through the long winter, and she said the cold months were the best, and she actually spent more time outside in winter than in summer. In Maine, she said, people throw vanity to the winds, pile on truly serviceable winter wear and get to know the snow. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gyno cures the blues

I'd been feeling blue for a few weeks and thought I might need a little tune-up from the psychologist who used to hypnotize me to be cheerful in the bad old cancer days. But on July 5 I had my annual checkup with my high-risk gyno. Her nurse asked me, "So how did you spend the Fourth?" and I told her I'd walked the High Line with a friend, then gone with her and Other to the Met to see the Alexander McQueen show and another exhibit, Room with a View, and then we'd run into neighbors who invited us to watch the fireworks from their roof, so we'd done that. And by the time I finished recounting how I spent the Fourth I was feeling pretty cheerful. And then the doctor came in and asked how I'd spent the Fourth, and I told her all over again.  And by the time she'd finished all the nasty stuff she has to do, I had mentally canceled the appointment I'd been thinking ofmaking with my old shrink. And I've been reasonably cheerful ever since.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A curmudgeon walks

The day after I saw Public Speaking, I ran into Fran Liberman in the street outside Whole Foods. I was startled. I had been mulling over the smart things she said, like how rich people make a city boring, and how there’s too much self-esteem in the world, making everyone feel overconfident and entitled to their say. So seeing her suddenly in 3-D instead of 2-D was quite weird. And I made the mistake of accosting her and telling her how much I enjoyed the movie. What did I expect? A gracious response? I got what I deserved, a cold shoulder from the curmudgeon. She was way more charming in 2-D.