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A Tree Grows in Harlem

A Tree Grows in Harlem

Because in our heart of hearts we dream of tree-lined lanes and vegetable gardens and evening skies full of stars, we started a worm bin last summer.  By December we had two bins, each full and weighing at least forty pounds.  We didn’t weigh them, that number is not factual, is actually based on the amount of effort it required to haul the blasted things in and out of the closet, but “fifty pounds” sounds better than “really f-ing heavy”.  So here we are in our little Harlem apartment, in the middle of an east coast winter, with a gajillion pounds of vermicompost.  That was when my mom suggested we give it away as Christmas gifts, because nothing says Merry Christmas like a zip lock bag full of worm poop.

There was much fussing and oohing and ahhing when Michael and I hauled the sagging bins from the closet.  My parents were both there, in town for the holidays, and as I harvested the compost I explained what we put in and what we didn’t, how long it took the worms to get through what, showed them bits of egg shell still at the bottom, the swarming, writhing worms. I was picking cherry pits out of a handful of partially digested compost when I realized that bit of green I was looking at wasn’t undigested vegetable matter.  It was a sprout.  Something we’d eaten and discarded had taken hold and now there was a tiny, perfect sprout.  I was so excited I stopped breathing.

I didn’t know how much I loved growing things until I moved to New York and couldn’t grow things.  After all, it’s hard to grow things in a place where your windows look out at other windows and four out of seven days a week the sun won’t even drive in.  In Los Angeles I had a garden, a rose garden and two oak trees and ivy and impatiens and lilies and I never ever went out there because I didn’t want to get dirty.

This weekend Mike and I were waiting for the D at 125th Street and a terrible stinking drip of city gravy fell with a splat on the side of my face and dripped down my neck.  The whole platform ceiling was oozing with city gravy and Mike got an ear full at the exact moment I was hit and we cried out in unison, “Dodge the gravy!”  Number twelve on my list of things New York has taught me is that cities are far dirtier than gardens, and not nearly as enchanting.

When we finally move back to Los Angeles, if we are lucky enough to have anything even reminiscent of a garden, even if it’s just a small window box that gets full sun a few hours a day, I will relish it.  I will dig my fingers into the dirt and I will plant things and one of the first things planted will be my sprouts.


There were two of them growing in the bin.  We plucked them out and planted them in seed pots and they have grown over six inches in five months.  We have no idea what they are.  They’re obviously from something we ate, and they’re definitely tree-shaped.  Look at that picture and tell me that sprout isn’t growing into a tree that’s just perfectly shaped for climbing.  Tell me that bend isn’t a reading nook.

We can’t say for sure what they are, but we’re placing our bets on orange trees, because of the size and shape of the leaves.  And also because it’s just kind of awesome to be a California dreamin’ couple in Harlem, growing citrus trees on our windowsill.

A Serious Weekend

On our way to wonder at William Kentridge.

*love in an elevator*

*how to commute*

*how to commute*

Ladies Home Journal

*a perfect table in a perfect dining room for a perfect party*


*from the devil's gaping maw*

washing windows

*then the one on the left waved at me and I died from embarrassment*

*all photos courtesy of my Verizon Wireless Satan Owns My Soul BlackBerry

And Done And Done

The last few weeks have been amazing.  Amazing as in, Mike gets up every morning at six, wakes me up at six-thirty, he leaves for school and I start work by seven, we get home from work/school around five-thirty or six, fix dinner, eat dinner, wash dishes, do chores, crawl into bed, pass out.  We’re working our asses off and it feels pretty damn good.

This weekend was all about doing the little things on my to-do list, the little things that fall at the very bottom, get buried beneath piles of GET THIS DONE BY 9 A.M. and SHIT I WAS SUPPOSED TO FINISH THAT YESTERDAY.  One of those things was banishing the months-old Valentines Day banner I had up on Frosy-Licious, and writing a better ending post than the last one I wrote, which was a little whiny, let’s be perfectly honest.  The new one is great, you should check it out, it’s called “Last One. No Really” and contains a photo of dogs snuggling.

Anyway, I’ve got a couple of tricks up my sleeves, including some big news that I’m not sure how to tell you yet, but no, I’m not pregnant.

And in case you haven’t seen any flowers today…










Harlem, April 2007

White Devils and Stolen Dogs

Monday afternoon was sunny and gorgeous and because we knew rain was predicted for the rest of the week, Mike and I decided to take the dogs to the off-leash park.  We stuffed our pockets with treats and poop bags and tennis balls and were on our way.  A few blocks from home, while Valentine was crouched to do her business, a homeless man with a long grey beard walked up and reached out for her.  Thinking the man was trying to pet Valentine, who does not like to be touched by strangers, Mike leapt between them, laughing and warning to be careful because the little yellow one bites.

She doesn’t, actually, but she is an unpredictable little dog and while most days she’d froth at the mouth and lunge at anyone trying to pet her, that day she just squatted by the tree, doing her business.  She didn’t seem at all bothered when the homeless man began chanting and petting the tree under which she pooped, but I was not pleased and neither was Mike.  We couldn’t wait for her to finish and when she was done we couldn’t walk away fast enough.  Then I glanced over my shoulder and saw that he was following us.

I wanted to believe he was just headed in the same direction, but it was a little disconcerting that he insisted on walking so close to us.  When he started chanting about white devils and stolen dogs I got a little nervous.  I looked over at Mike and he grinned and suggested that when we get to the market, I give him the dogs and go inside, and let him talk to “our friend”.  So I stayed calm, because my husband had a plan, and it was a good plan.  The market was less than a block away and I could all ready see the usual crowd gathered in front.  I was sure that once we were surrounded by people the whole thing would dissipate and Mike wouldn’t even need to address the guy.

For the next part of the story to make sense, I need to explain that our neighborhood market is not like those sprawling, glittering Mecca’s of rare wines and organic canned soup you find in suburbia.  Our market is a tiny, dingy market with aisles so narrow you can’t fit a cart through them.  It’s so small it could fit in the deli section of most suburban super markets.  It’s so small that when I stand at the checkout paying for my groceries, my butt rubs against the butt of the cashier at the checkout behind me.

So when I got inside the store and realized the man had followed me in, I kind of freaked out.  I ducked into the cereal aisle, walking so fast I was practically running.  I looked over my shoulder and he was there.  I started feeling claustrophobic.  My heart was racing, my breath quickened and my limbs tingled.  I turned into the canned food aisle and the man followed me.  The next time I looked over my shoulder he waved his hands in the air, bared his teeth and growled.

To be continued…

Four Things

1. My building has bed bugs. We don’t have them, I don’t think, but yesterday I found out about them and last night I woke up seventy-three-thousand times because I thought bugs were crawling all over me. This is not good.  If we get bed bugs we will run screaming back to the west coast and we will never look back.

2. Yesterday I was chased by a growling homeless man. Story to come.

3. Today, the thing that made me laugh out loud, so loud Mike asked what was wrong with me, was when I found out I could use “Theo Eats Penis” as my pay phrase* on I had tried to choose “Valentine Eats Feces” but the system wouldn’t let me. So then I tried “Theo Eats Feces” but it wouldn’t let me use that either and I thought, it’s because it thinks I’m trying to type something dirty! So I tried “Theo Eats Penis” to see if that was the issue but no, apparently there are just other people who also have dogs named Valentine and Theo who eat feces and are willing to use those phrases as their pay phrases.

4. Number three was more funny if you were there.

*Obviously I didn’t use that phrase.

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?”
“Wanna talk about it?”

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


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!

Three Years

The city of New York and I celebrated our third anniversary last month. I realize that it’s like beating a dead horse, the way I go on and on about how moving to New York changed my life, but I really believe it was one of my most defining experiences. I’m not sure what that says about me, that the most important and life-changing experience I’ve had is the time I moved across the country, but that’s not the point.

I’d never really visited the city before I moved. I’d spent approximately sixty hours in New York when I did my showcase right after graduation, but I don’t count that because most of that time was spent in rehearsal, performance or awkward “networking” which was really just me standing in a corner stuffing my face with cheesecake. The day after the showcase I walked by Tiffany’s on my way to have coffee with an agent and then I met up with my best friend from high school and wandered around in Central Park where I bought an ‘I <3 NY’ t-shirt. Then I hailed a cab and went back to JFK. The next time I went to New York was on February 23, 2007. I had two suitcases, a sublet, and a really big dream.

<i>Standard new-to-New-York snap shot.</i>

Standard new-to-New-York snapshot.

Three months later Mike and I were living in a Hells Kitchen tenement with a dog and two cats.  A couple of weeks before that we’d sold and/or given away everything but our mattress, some favorite books, our computers, the x-box, the microwave, a toaster oven and our TV.  That’s actually a lot of stuff, I see that now.  Our downsize was truly a first-world downsize.  My point is that it was a big deal to get rid of half our life and haul the other half 3,000 miles to a city neither of us knew anything about.

Like most people who run off to New York, we were chasing a dream.  I pictured New York as a mecca of bohemian artists, linking arms and blasting people away with incredible works of art.  I thought we would move to New York and find a family of artists and we would all rent a huge warehouse on the Lower East Side and everyone would live there.  It would be our home but it would also be an art gallery and a performance space.  We’d write plays together and perform and build sets and write music and make all our own clothes.  It was going to be a commune for artists, an art-share, and we were going to change the face of theatre in America.

<i>Smiling through exuberant terror.</i>

Smiling through exuberant terror.

The day I landed in the city I was saucer-eyed and hopeful.  I stayed that way for about six months and then I fell apart.  New York was nothing like I’d imagined.  I couldn’t find anyone who had even slightly similar ideas about art that I had.  Broadway had been bought out by Disney and I didn’t even have a bathroom sink. I became miserably homesick.  I felt like all of my friends and family were in Los Angeles living my life without me.  I became cripplingly depressed.  I spent weeks sprawled on the sofa wearing filthy sweat pants and eating ice cream from the tub.  I watched every single season of Nip/Tuck, How I Met Your Mother, House, Lost, The Shield, South Park and Desperate Housewives available on DVD.  I believed my life had no purpose and I wanted to die.

You could say I got discouraged very quickly.  That would be true.  I realize now that it takes more than six months to settle into a new city, it takes more than six months to make good friends and find your footing.  Knowing that now doesn’t change the fact that my first year in the city was easily the worst year of my life.

The second year started out with a bang.  I signed with an agent and I started working.  I did a couple of little projects I was crazy about and a couple of little projects that were so awful I’ve blocked them from my memory.  I put more energy and effort into my acting career than I ever had, and considering how new I was to the New York scene, I had a great deal of success.  But I was miserable.  I was almost as miserable as I was the year before, only this time my TV-and-ice-cream jags were punctuated by little acting jobs that inspired short bursts of hysterical happiness.

The third year something changed.  We moved, I changed jobs, Mike made the deans list, we started nesting, we met our neighbors, we made friends.  I started writing.  I began exploring neighborhoods I’d never been to and I found restaurants, vintage shops, galleries and cafes that belong in story books.  We saw free concerts in the park, visited museums we’d always talked about going to, scored free tickets to multiple Broadway shows, and did a little traveling around the east coast.  We started living in the city.  And I fell in love.

Happy Anniversary, New York.  What they said about you was true.


The snow's only been gone a week and already I miss it.

I hear it has huge bells


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!