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All Hallows’ Eve

Halloween

Me and Adam, Halloween in NYC, 2010

Photo by Christine Lindebak

We were going to go as Jackie and JFK, but I couldn’t find a wig or a pill box hat, so we went as Extras from ‘Mad Men‘ instead. I wish I had a great clear picture of us because our costumes were killer and totally authentic. The white suit I’m wearing was purchased in China in 1962 by my grandfather, as a gift to my mother. Sixties fashion at it’s best.

Oh man, you guys. This is long.

When did I last post? I have no idea. It could have been forty-eight weeks ago. That’s what it feels like for sure.

Life has just been so … life-y lately. I haven’t wanted to write about it because blegh. What a downer. I know I’m in the middle of a transition, and transitions can be messy, but I don’t want to post all kinds of self-pitying garbage every week. So I haven’t been writing at all. And not writing makes me really unhappy, which means I can’t write because I’ll just write self-pitying garbage. It’s an ugly circle.

Anyway, I’m in New York to see the revival of Angels in America, and celebrate Halloween with Adam, my BGFF. We were texting about our costumes last week:

  • A: Do you have your Jackie Kennedy wig yet?
  • T: No, we’re gonna need to go shopping.
  • A: Totally. :-> I can’t wait to give you your birthday present!
  • T: Seriously? My birthday’s not until January.
  • A: Omg, you’re gonna die. It’s the best birthday present in the world.
  • T: Is it alive?
  • A: Kind of? :-/

Last night over pizza he handed me a gift wrapped in gorgeous hand-made paper.

“Open it!”

“I can’t! It’s too pretty!”

“Here’s scissors, just cut into it. But be careful.”

“It feels like ….” I felt the gift all over. Fingertips on hard edges. “A book!”

“You’re so funny. Open it.”

“You do it.”

“Here.” He snipped the tape seals. “Now rip it.”

The first thing I saw was my name, “Frosty” in white glossy letters. “What is it?” I laughed, my eyes welling over because it couldn’t possibly be what I thought it was. It couldn’t be.

“It’s your book. It’s every single blog post you wrote on Frosty-licious, with all the pictures, everything. It’s your entire three-and-half years in New York. It’s all the moments you and Michael shared, with photos, it’s everything.”

It’s everything. It’s incredible. It’s my words on slick glossy paper. It’s warts and all, because let’s be honest, there was a while there when all I did on Frosty-licious was whine about how I wanted to stab myself in the face with a fork because being a grown-up was sooo hard. It’s everything. All the humiliating shit I wish I could wash myself clean of and it’s all the beautiful stuff too. It’s how I climbed out of the cesspool of misery and how Mike and I fell in love all over again, as a family, just him and me and the fantastic army of creatures we call our pets. It’s how we built a life with nothing but our hands and our love. It’s beautiful.

Adam wrote a forward for it, and when I read the first line I started crying so hard I had to put the book down until I could catch my breath again. Happy tears, tears of sweet nostalgia for what’s behind me, tears of gratitude, because it’s incredible that someone sees in my story something precious and worth holding on to. Tears of shame because there are parts of me in that story I wish I could hide, but why should I be ashamed of my humanness? Why should I be ashamed of my darker moments? Maybe I didn’t need to type them out into the Webisphere for anyone with access to the internet, but who cares. We’re all human. We all have our own sewage to sludge through sometimes. It’s what we choose to do with it at the end of the day that counts. I think I’ve learned how to try and choose “deal with it and move on” as an appropriate response to those times in my life and I guess that’s really why I haven’t been writing lately. I haven’t known how to write about my shit without wading in it and I’d like to write about my shit and laugh at it.

Like, for example, how my entire family expects me to cry at the drop of a hat. I totally earned that, I have always cried at the drop of a hat, so they have every right to expect it. I still do cry whenever I feel big emotions, but not like I used to. I think. It’s still up for debate. The other day I cried all during lunch at Goucho Grill, so it might be harder to live down than I thought, but still.

Whenever I start to speak really passionately about something, my brother will jump up and point at me and shout, “No crying! No crying!” and I’m always so surprised I have to start laughing and it breaks up the moment, you know? In a really good way. We have to be able to laugh about our shit.

Have a wonderful Halloween, you guys. I’ve gotta go find a white pillbox hat.

It’s Thursday

You guys. It’s Thursday, it’s my brother’s birthday, – HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEAR BROTHER! – and it’s eleven days until we pack up our truck.

Totally unrelated: Can anyone tell me why I suddenly have 70,000 spammers flooding my site with comments that say things like:

“Thank you for special advice. Thic post was ecactly what I researching. Good news!”

It’s interesting how these comments always include links to websites for electronic equipment, discount designer hand bags and car parts. Seriously. Annoying.

It’s been a week since I last wrote, but I’m sure you understand because you are very understanding and you know we’re getting ready to move and training our replacements at work and yesterday we sent our cats off to Los Angeles, in the care of my super-patient parents. But amongst all the wild and crazy, (because when you’re buying plane tickets for your cats it is both wild, and crazy), there’s also been some really great fun.

like father like daughter

On Liberty’s pedestal, the shores of NYC and New Jersey behind us.

My folks were in town for a conference in Rhinebeck, NY and their visit happened to fall on my father’s birthday, so I took him to visit the Statue of Liberty. He’d been before; he visited in the sixties and in the nineties, but since her crown opened back up, he’d been eager to visit again. Unfortuantely her crown sells out many, many months in advance, so we didn’t make it up there. But we did make it up to her pedastel and the museum, thanks entirely to my father, who befriended a park ranger, who then scribbled on our tickets so that “NO MONUMENT ACCESS” became “OK for 2. Mark.” and up we went!

This is what Lady Liberty looks like on the inside:

Liberty's skeleton

This is Lady Liberty’s second torch:

original torch

The first one was made like the rest of her, thin copper sheets over an iron framework. After she’d been around awhile, some BigWigs thought Liberty should function as a lighthouse, so they cut a bunch of holes into her torch, stuck in glass plates, and put fifty-two lightbulbs inside. Fifty-two lightbulbs. At the turn of the twentieth century. (And they were surprised when no one could tell the torch was lit up at all.) The artist, Bartholdi, kept suggesting they gild her torch, that way the sun or moonlight could flash off it’s golden surface. But no one listened to the artist. Over time, water leaked through the cut-up torch and ate away at Liberty’s insides. It wasn’t until the big restoration project in the eighties that Bartholdi got his wish and Liberty got a brand new, gold-guilded torch.

broken windows

This is a fantastic abandoned building on Ellis Island

the tablet

An alternate view of The Lady

illustrated newspaper

A newspaper headline decrying the murder of thousands of birds by the light of Liberty’s fifty-two lightbulbs. The illustration is brilliant.

view from ellis island

The Lady, as seen from Ellis Island

NYC and NJ

New York, I will miss you when I’m gone. But not enough to make me want to stay.

Not even kidding

double parked

How the people in my neighborhood park their cars on street cleaning days.

Not even kidding.

(p.s. This picture was taken last week.  Last week when the sun shone and life was merry.  This week it has been grey and gloomy every. single. day. I’m beginning to feel crazy.)

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.

Nooked

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.

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…

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!

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.

Harlem

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