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The Season of Dirty Feet

I love spring in New York City.  As a child growing up in the San Fernando Valley I never had the opportunity to witness the absolute stunning beauty of the first yellow tulip after six months of freezing gray.  But now?  For the rest of my life, when I see yellow tulips I will remember the City in spring.  But there is something else that comes with the creep of spring, there is a darker side.  Something sticky and grisly and black as oil.  That something is Dirty Feet.

Our first spring in the City I documented the phenomenon on my Flickr site.  Over the next two-plus-years a photo of my dirty feet received 4,312 unique views.

That is ridiculous.  My dirty little feet have gotten more clicks than any post I’ve ever written ever.  Apparently there are a lot more of you interested in how dirty my feet are then how cute my dogs are.

The thing is, I do not like being dirty.  There is a funny family story that my sister likes to tell about the first time she took me to the beach when I was eight months old.  I’d been lathered in sun block and made to wear a hat and sit under an umbrella and I’d taken it all like a champ.  I giggled and cooed and waved my shiny red shovel and then the wind blew and five or six grains of sand were swept up onto the blanket six inches from my knee.  And I began to scream.  And scream.  My sister leapt up, shook the blanket, put it back down, and still I screamed.  She offered me water, a new toy, something to eat, was my hat too tight?  Was there sand in my eye?  No, no, I was fine, perfectly fine, but there was sand on the towel and I do not like to be dirty.

Perhaps you can understand how horrifying it was when I took off my shoes last night and found their outlines traced along my foot in grisly black grime.  It was so horrible, so awfully terribly horrible, I almost cried.

This is a first-world problem, I know.  I realize that if having dirty feet is the worst thing that happens to me in a day, I’ve had a pretty damn good day.  But it’s that time of the month when socks on the floor and a glass on the table make me froth at the mouth, so you can imagine my reaction when I realized that even the pumice wasn’t scraping the black grit out from underneath my skin cells.

But then, there’s this …

tulipsbehindbars

And these …

tulips

And can you believe how beautiful this is?

tulipmutant

New York in spring.  Holy shit.  I will miss the City when we move.

blooms

Lady Liberty

LadyLiberty

You might have to make your reservations two months in advance.

You might have to let security examine your underpants.

But the Lady is still a real beauty.

Taming the Beast

I am absolutely giddy right now.  I should be careful about how I phrase this because it’s one of those situations where I shouldn’t be happy, and while I’m not happy about the situation exactly, I’m happy about the way I handled the situation.  Let me explain.

Michael had a really awful day.  He had a first world awful day, yes, but it was an awful day nonetheless.  For one thing, the weather was awful. It was grey, pouring rain, fifty-four degrees and eighty-four percent humidity —

I’d just like to take a moment to remind you that I grew up in the Southern California, where the thermometer rarely drops below seventy and humidity tops out at about forty-seven percent.  In my personal opinion, fifty-four degrees and eighty-four percent humidity is awful weather.  When it’s fifty-four degrees, eighty-four percent humidity, grey, gloomy and pouring rain, it’s sh*tty weather.  Mike’s from Michigan, and while I have no idea what the weather is like there, I do know that he, having lived in Los Angeles for seven years, has exactly the same opinion that I have about the sh*tty weather we experienced today.  I know it because we’ve had this same weather every day for the last week and every day for the last week Mike has come home from school/errands/job searching and announced, “I f*&$ing hate the weather here.”

When I got home from work at six o’clock and realized Mike was still out running errands, I knew he was going to come home grumpy.  And I felt like he had a right to that grump because if it’s a drag to run errands in midtown in nice weather, which it is, it’s fifty times worse to run errands in midtown in sh*tty weather.

One of the things that people who live in suburbs take for granted is their ability to run two weeks worth of errands in a single afternoon.  I remember when we lived in Hollywood and I could stop at the dry cleaners, return the movie rentals, go to the market to buy a week’s worth of groceries, go the post-office to mail a package and pick the dog up from the groomer all within a few short hours.  That’s impossible in New York.  I won’t venture to say that running multiple errands in a day is impossible throughout all five boroughs of New York City, but it’s been impossible in all four neighborhoods I’ve lived in, the worst of all having been midtown because of it’s proximity to Times Square and tourists.  Considering the time it takes to walk from place to place through swarming crowds of sweaty people, the forty-five minute lines that must be waited in and the fact that whatever you pick up, be it dry-cleaning or groceries, you have to carry on your person until you get home, it’s really difficult to get more than one or two errands done in a single afternoon.

So today the weather was awful, grey, miserable and depressing, and he’s sweating and sweating because of the humidity, but every time the wind blows he gets a chill that almost knocks him over, and he’s got to take this big heavy bag of clothes and coats to Salvation Army and then pick up a week’s worth of vegetables from the cheap little veggie market off Times Square.  The Salvation Army is only a fifteen minute walk from the veggie place, which is worth going so out of the way for because it’s the only market in the city where you can buy a weeks worth of decent looking vegetables for under ten dollars, but the walk from the subway to Salvation Army is also fifteen minutes, plus the walks to and from the subway at our end and the walk from the market to the subway, all in all it’s about thirty blocks total, in the pouring rain, cold and sweaty, carrying way too much stuff.

It helped that I knew, long before he called to tell me he was almost home, how trying his day had probably been.  Even still, I’ve never been able to manage Mike’s grump as well as he can manage mine.  Michael is really good at dealing with me when I’m in a terrible mood.  He knows exactly what to say, how to let me vent without trying to fix, and how to not take my grumping personally.  He’s so good at it that now when I come home grumpy he can get me calm and smiling in a matter of minutes.  Until today, I have never been able to that for him.  Instead I bend over backwards trying to fix everything, trying to cheer him up when he doesn’t need cheering, what he needs is space, but I want so badly to make everything better I end up pushing him away.

But today I took a minute to think about what he would do if it were me coming home soaked, cold, sweaty, and tired and so I greeted him at the door with hot tea, made just the way he likes it.

“How was your day?”
“Long.”
“Wanna talk about it?”
“No.”
“Ok.”

I didn’t take it personally when he didn’t want to talk.  I didn’t try to push for more information.  Instead I started telling him about my day, focusing on all the good things that happened.  I signed a new account, I emptied the recycling bin and watered the plants, I have an audition tomorrow.  I didn’t mention the creepy guy who followed me from Seventh Avenue to Broadway, or the fact that my water bottle burst in my backpack and soaked my writing notebook.  I kept things light and positive and within a matter of minutes, he started talking too, telling me about his day, all the things he got done.  And he sounded better.

So while I feel bad that Mike had an awful day, I’m absolutely giddy because after seven years together I have finally figured out how to manage Mike’s grump the way he manages mine.  And that is pretty awesome.

Portrait of a Dead Pigeon

dead pigeon

You can imagine the gawks and stares and gasps from the swarm of people parading the sidewalk while I crouched, trying to get the perfect angle without actually touching the pigeon.  I wanted to touch the pigeon.  I’m not squeamish.  Had the pigeon been on a quiet street or in an empty park, I’d have had no problem either laying belly down alongside him or moving him so I could get the photo just right.  But I was on the corner of 42nd Street and 9th Avenue, probably one of the busiest corners in Manhattan (except for the corner of 42nd and 8th), and I didn’t want to cause a scene.

I am a connoisseur of dead things.  My obsession started when I was very small and was handed down to me by my big brother.  I’ve documented my love of dead things here and here and on a whim last summer I blew up several of my favorite dead animal photos and hung them on the wall in my living room.  I think they’re beautiful.

When I was a little kid I found a dead seal on the beach and I spent the whole afternoon at her side, sitting on my hands so I wouldn’t stroke her slick coat.  I went back every day for a week to see how she changed, bit by bit, how her flesh softened and sank, to watch while flies and crabs chewed out her eyes, her nose, her fins. Somewhere there’s a picture of me, gap-toothed and pigtailed, a stuffed rabbit clutched to my chest, crouched in the sand with my new dead friend.

In the city the dead things are pushed aside, flattened against buildings, sloughed into the gutter like so much garbage.  But they are not garbage.  They are lives that came full circle.  I want to pick them up and carry them home, watch them decay, save their bones and string them back together, set them up in doll houses or dioramas, treat them as treasures. Instead I take their picture.

Attention Burglars

Burglar

Not sure if this is a joke or not, and I can’t remember what neighborhood I was wandering the day I took this photo, but I had to take it because it caused one of those moments when my head snapped backwards because really?  Is that really a storefront message to burglars?  And will they really give the burglars a reward for returning the stolen iPods?  Isn’t that like rewarding a dog after it rips off one of your limbs?

Then there’s that cryptic warning:  Danger!  Hollow sidewalk!  You can steal our iPods and we’ll give you a reward for it, but be careful of those pesky old sidewalks!

I hear it has huge bells

P1170003

I fall more and more in love with my neighborhood every day.  Mike took this photo of Riverside Church in Harlem.  It’s just a few blocks from Grant’s Tomb.  Do you know who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?  Grant … And his wife!

Dirty Water Dog

P2180056

Dirty Water Dog (noun) *dir*ti* *wa*tur* *dog*
1.  hot dog, typically sold in New York City, boiled in the same water for days, considered a delicacy by many New Yorkers;
2. Theo in the bath.