Monday, February 28, 2005

But when the weekend's over, and Monday rolls around

... I end up like I start out
Just cryin' my heart out

(From "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good - fave standard of the day)

That song has little to do with how I feel today, but the weekend is, indeed, over, and Monday has rolled around. Howdy, Monday. Whatcha got for me?

The weekend was a tad symptomatic. I'll break it on down for ya:


I accompanied Meera and Ross to see Jenn's second-year med student show. It was this crazy mock-Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with many a dance number, with a cast of incredibly enthusiastic and talented med students who shamelessly mocked themselves and their faculty. I got... some of the jokes. Mostly I sat there stunned by the thought of the untapped talent in medical field. I imagine off-duty residents perfecting tap numbers and singing madrigals to pass the time. I really was amazed.

The only part of the show that bugged me came toward the end when they lowered a screen and ran a slide show while a girl, the director actually, sang this version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." If you haven't heard it, Israel Whatshisface sings this very laid-back vocal over a simple guitar playing a sort of reggae beat. His voice is a little scratchy, earnest and yet relaxed, and surprises you when he plays with the melody, then grafts in "What a Wonderful World" flawlessly. The girl who sang it on Friday night gave a painstakingly correct delivery with a classically trained voice. Her voice was beautiful, yes, but she killed the character of the song and for that she must die.

Er... I mean... that was uncool of her. Dammit.

Enough of my vocal snobbery. Moving on.


Kate's birthday party started at nine, which gave me plenty o' time to gather my Flaming Cabbage supplies. You'd think. I went to the Tappan St. Stah Mahket. They had cabbages of a moderate size, Lil Smokies and no Sterno. I bought the Lil Smokies, figuring that I'd have to stop somewhere else for the Sterno and I didn't want to carry a cabbage around all frickin' day.

Next stop, the Party Favors store, also on Beacon. I picked up some fancy toothpicks and headed back home to shower, etc.

Out again... to the Russian store, Bazaar, which I don't frequent for fear that they will pick up my quarter-Russian scent and stare at me accusingly when I can't converse fluently in their dialect. But I knew they'd have some mean cabbages. I picked one up for $0.39/lb, it cost me $2.40. That's a lotta cabbage. It was HUGE, I tell you! But alas, the Russians had no idea what I was talking about when I asked for Sterno. Nor did the guy at Liquors Foods who always asks about Stefan (because they're both Salvadoran).

I got on the T with my cabbage, Lil Smokies, marsha-mellohhhhs, and toothpicks, planning to go to the Stah Mahket near Fenway and pick up the elusive Sterno. I stopped at the Tiger Mart first. The guy looked at me funny and said, "Why don't ya go ta Stah?" Right, buddy, off I go. I wandered up and down the aisles of Stah, knowing where Sterno SHOULD be, finding it missing (favorite idiom of the day), and eventually asking at the service desk while fighting back tears.

Some guy with a manager's badge went to check himself. Nope, all out. So sorry.

By that time I was pretty upset. If I couldn't find Sterno then I couldn't have a flaming cabbage, and if I couldn't have a flaming cabbage I'd be letting Kate down, although she might not really care that she couldn't dig into the Lil Smokies and marsha-mellohhhs, being vegetarian, but it's the principle of the thing, and reall the flaming cabbage is all about two things: spectacle, and Shane. And if the cabbage doesn't flame properly, where IS Shane? Have I lost him somehow? Is the elusive Sterno some kind of punishment for something I'm not doing for him? Oh my god, I'm the worst friend EVOR and the cabbage is a ruin and life as we know it has narrowed to this one failing...

Of course, I got to the party, blathered about my search for Sterno, cut a hole for a candle instead (vanilla-scented. ew.) and people still gathered 'round the cabbage in bewildered fascination.


All I had to do... and this is pretty simple, folks... was meet Arnie at his place in Belmont at 2pm and call my friend Tina. Not so much to ask, right?

Tina's boyfriend-whom-we-don't-call-a-boyfriend has mylofibrosis, a rare form of cancer, on top of some other scary cancer that he's been battling a lot longer. Tina's my nextdoor neighbor from Victor and we've known each other since 1982. She and Danny Welch are the only two people I bother to see when I'm home. Yesterday Tina threw a fundraising party to help pay for Eric's medical expenses, and I know she could have used me for moral support. I couldn't pay for the ride home, much less make a donation, but I wanted to call and touch base.

I opened my address book to the proper page, pointed at her number (her cell; I have her home number etched into permanence somewhere in my brain), and I could feel my heart start to pound. I could feel my pulse everywhere - my pinky toes, my eyebrow, and of course my chest. And then, as I held the phone, ready to turn it on and dial, it rang. I dropped it and yelped a bit, feeling a sweat break out on my forehead.

It was too much. I had to email her instead.

So I went to Kinko's en route to Arnie's and wrote her a nice, supportive, sorry-I'm-such-a-jerk email. Nice of me?

And then off to Arnies. The short story is the only story you need if you've ever experienced the MBTA bus system: I had to take two buses. On a Sunday. I started out an hour and 15 minutes early and got there 45 minutes late. I actually WAS in tears when I got there, feeling horrible for Arnie, who had informed me earlier that he wasn't sure he wanted to jam since he had to put his cat to sleep on Saturday, but finally mustered up the chutzpah to give it a go. He looked pretty frantic and helpless when he noticed my flustered face, and quickly appeased my request to be led to the bathroom. I ran some water, looked myself in the eye, breathed deeply. I couldn't get my heart to stop racing or the tears to stop rising. It took five long minutes to settle and go out to greet Arnie properly.

The jam session was a bit sloppy on both sides. We were both exhausted and it showed, but we also got a lot done, and I think Arnie felt better having some company. We added some upbeat tunes and thought over what the Nahth End gig might require of us. (I'm understocked in the Sinatra/Tony Bennett department and might not be able to take requests unless I catch up.) There were several times during our session when I felt my pulse quickening - when I couldn't get the rhythm how I wanted it, when I kept missing the same word or note repeatedly, when I couldn't find a song I wanted in the 400 pg fake book...

What I'm saying is that I noticed a theme this weekend. This is actually a good thing, that I noticed it, so don't go assuming I'm panicking about this, too, but... The OCD is getting worse. Those anxious reactions and out-of-control moments are all symptoms. That need to have things Just How I Want Them, that feeling of all of it crawling around under my skin until I could scream with the discomfort and self-loathing... it's gathering speed, picking up pace, gaining on me.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

All smokers go to heaven


Can we talk about this, please?

I have been having crazy cigarette-craving dreams for a few months now, since just around Christmas. They usually go like this:

JoBiv finds herself in strange environs, and quickly realizes this place is actually an obstacle course set between her and the ultimate prize - a cigarette! She yearns to have that little cigarette between her lips, to suck its sweet nectar into her lungs, to blow incredible smoke rings like a regular virtuoso. More than this, she knows she can. She's known how to all along, and just needs the cigarette to prove it.

But first... she must leap over swamp pits, avoid acid waterfalls, defend herself against attacking brothers, and find her way through labyrinthine corridors. She gets there, at last! There it is, tiny, vulnerable, and ALAS! soaked in suds or poison or disintegrated by someone's thoughtless footfall. Her whole body feels the loss of this little life-saver...

And then I wake.

Since these dreams began I've had this real curiosity about whether I was meant to be a smoker. Maybe that's my destiny in life, somehow. I will buy a pack of cigarettes, walk out onto the street and rummage for the matches that usually hide in my purse somewhere (because I am both a klepto and a pyro and believe it makes me more useful to smokers who may someday want to be my friends), come up emptyhanded... and then the tall, dark, handsome stranger emerges from the shadows to flick a flame from his very classy, possibly vintage, art deco lighter. We are simultaneously smitten. He whisks me away to Spain and buys me dinners with olives in them and bottles of smooth red wine. We wear a lot of red, in general, and my eyelashes grow longer and thicker so that when I look at him across the table, the single votive separating us lights my face in such a way that he loses his breath for a moment, and MUST have me... forevor.

Okay, and I also believe, somewhere in this mind of mine that doesn't really believe the above scenario is possible on this earth, that all of my symptoms and ticks will disappear with the first drag. You know that story in Sedaris' Naked? "A Plague of Tics"? In which he is a mailbox-lickin', head-poundin', OCD-riddled youth until he goes to college, starts smoking, chills the fuck out and thus makes an easy entrance into normal society? Maybe that's MY brilliant future! Just maybe...

But, no, I must resist. First of all, the cost is prohibitive. Honestly... $5 a pack - who can afford that? I can't even afford fresh fruit. Also, there is that niggling cancer problem. Fruit wins over carcinogens, no contest. The last, but sadly probably the strongest argument against my takin' up smoking... my whole family smokes. All of them. My dad pretends he doesn't, but he sneaks one occasionally. And my mother has battled her nic addiction since she was 14 or so, trying hypnosis, patches, pills, gums, everything... still hasn't kicked it, and it's getting worse all the time. When I went home for Baby Girl's birthday party this past fall, some dam had broken in my absence. My mother had never reeked of smoke before, but now her fingers, her clothes, her breath all stank to high heaven. She covets her habit like an alcoholic, sneaking away to buy cigarettes when no one's paying attention, waiting for my brothers to come in from the porch so she can luxuriate in her smoking alone, have two or three instead of one with no accusatory eyes on her. She is ashamed and defensive, and completely irrational when someone gets between her and her nic-fix.

I know I will become my mother in a lot of ways, but I can spare myself this.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Don't be a lookyloo...

I should tell y'all about Sunday's trip to NYC with Meera and Ross, but first you should read Meera's post because she gives you the general outline.

And yes, I saw Danny DeVito and Rhea Pearlman. At first, I wasn't sure. We were crossing a busy, tourist-clogged Manhattan street and I couldn't stop and stare. I did crane my neck and slow down a bit, and said, "Whoa... that was Danny DeVito." As soon as I said it I was more sure and less sure. Then some guy came walking along beside us and I heard him tell his friend, "Did you see that? Danny DeVito!" Always nice to know you're not crazy. (At that moment I wasn't crazy, anyway.)

But no worries, this stranger and I were not the only Lookyloos in New York City on this particular Sunday. Everyone in the whole wide world came to NYC to see The Gates. My reactions were similar to Meera's - it was hard to see anything with so many people in the way, but maybe I was supposed to be seeing them. The family who employs me went to NYC, too, last weekend and had much the same reaction. Actually, Miriam loved The Gates, as well as having that reaction.

I liked how they were set up like dominoes, rigid rectangles over the path that create a cubist version of a curve when bending with the path or swooping over a hill. There were huge breaks between them sometimes, though, and these bothered me. I wanted to imagine that the fabric, if a strong wind blew it horizontally, would touch the next gate in a light kiss and would act like a temporary canopy for the paths. In most places that seemed possible, but then there would be an isolated gate, too far from its fellows to join in their little party.

After walking a fair bit (20 blocks plus 20 blocks plus...), we had ourselves a little rest in a circular park surrounding a statue of Christopher Columbus. Short wrought-iron gates kept a grove of beautiful bare trees at bay, the kind that twist and spiral a bit as they grow toward the sun, and may just be more beautiful in winter. We were all pretty tired, and I didn't even notice my eyes blurring until I noticed the colors around me as a new entity. There weren't too many gates nearby, but those we could see formed an orange strata hovering over the heads of the many, many people, their blue jeans a hazy strata below, the silvery bare branches wisping away above. All of it moving, the blue like a stream - started, slowing, rushing, melting around obstructions. The orange pulsing with the breezes, unrelated to the blue. The gray branches twitching slightly in the wind, but mostly only symbolizing movement with their shapes.

So yes, it was beautiful. And worth the 8-hour round trip on a crowded bus.

But the trip was a success, for me, because of its spontaneity. I feel old sometimes, and hate the fact that I abuse Boston with underuse. I feel a little stuck in the smallness of my life and miss the JoBiv who would gladly follow you if you suggested a romp in the Great Beyond. Just let me put on my shoes, I would say, and follow follow follow. These days I've grown hesitant, clinging to the safety of my known world, and I hate to love that safety. In other words, I was ready for an adventure and I got one.

Who knows where or when...

(Where or When = Jo's favorite standard at the moment.)

Goodness me, but life has gotten suddenly busy. In a good way, too! I'll break this into two posts to allow each to keep to a theme. Perhaps it will force me into brevity. Hmm. Actually, the ticking clock at Kinko's will force me.

The big news: I put up an ad on craigslist asking for people to jam with me so I can get my nerve back. I got three whole responses! No kiddin'! The first: Arnie Rosen, guitarist, assured me that the Boston jazz scene is competitive but should not be intimidating (as I whined in my ad). Aww, nice guy. The second: Jim Robitaille, who gave me a very professional reply that may have been a form email that he sends out to all people looking for guitarists, along with a link to his very professional webpage. I emailed back to make sure he knows I'm not offering to pay and I don't have a gig lined up. He may make room in his busy schedule, yet to be seen. Third: some guy named Nick Mian, drummer, who doesn't play jazz but gosh darn he'd like to try. Highly suspect. I told him I'd have to see how things went with the guitarists. Read: slow track to blow off.

So I met up with Arnie last Saturday. He looks like an Arnie - early 50's, short and wiry, very soft-spoken and hesitant. He was also incredibly patient with me and my hesitation. I had a hard time starting things, and he gently picked out favorite tunes and suggested different approaches. We talked about our styles, eventual gigs, musicians he knows with whom I'd mesh nicely.

And I sang. My voice just came out at the right moments and did the right things and it felt... so incredible... I could feel it rising out of me and I forgot how strange and lovely it is to have this thing inside me with this strange capability to soothe me and to perform athletic feats with a perfect landing every time. It felt so good.

Arnie agreed; we play well together. We made plans to meet up today so I could hear his friend Doug, 65ish, alto sax, a "sensitive" player who might want to gig with the two of us. This morning, after dodging H-Bomb's complicated bathroom habits and watching the weather channel in my charmingly obsessive way (no, really, charmingly), I made my way down to Coolidge Corner to catch the 66.

And I forgot it was the devil's bus route. It was 25 minutes late. By the time I switched to the 73 and walked the few blocks to Arnie's place I was 45 minutes late with a feeble excuse and a bad case of the nerves. I joined in for two songs - Autumn Leaves and My Funny Valentine - two of my best, my dearest, my most solid friends in the song world. And that voice wanted to come out of me, but everything else was shaking and annoyed and inferior. It squeaked out enough to convince Doug that Arnie was not lying when he said I can sing... just enough.

Hard morning.

I stayed a while longer after Doug left. Arnie and I went through a book of not-so-standards and found a few that worked so beautifully... it didn't take much to get it back. Still, scared the shit out of me. Oh yes, THAT'S what losing one's nerve feels like... I had nearly forgotten why I'd stopped.

The first gig may be near the produce section of the Belmont Bread and Circus (no joke), and if my voice is as inconsistent as this they may withhold my check. Or my arugala. Whatever they decide we're worth.

Friday, February 18, 2005

I hate crossing guards

It seems irrational to you, maybe. Every time I turn a corner or approach an intersection and see that orange-striped vest, my breath quickens and my hands clench. I want to deck him one. In the face. And scream, "I CAN CROSS THE GODDAMN ROAD BY MYSELF, PUNK!"

Yes, yes, I know he's there for the little schoolchildren, and I like little schoolchildren and feel a certain amount of concern for their safety whilst crossing busy streets. But I do NOT like talking about the goddamn weather (as though we're not standing OUTSIDE in the OPEN GODDAMN AIR and can all feel the goddamn obvious goddamn weather equally), especially not at 7 EFFIN' 45 in the goddamn morning!!!

I bet crossing guards don't know that they're an inconvenience to anyone, but when I see one or get to know their haunts I end up taking these ridiculous circuitous routes to reach my destination, thereby lengthening my travel time by many precious minutes and enraging me further...


Have a great long weekend, everybody! Gee, I know I will.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

no sabes

The other day someone asked me, in a flirtatious way, to tell him something that no one else knows about me. I said something like, "When I'm flipping through channels and I see Star Trek: The Next Generation, I have to watch it."

That's not actually something no one knows about me. Kristin knows, the H-Bomb knows, and various others who have had the misfortune of witnessing know.

A few days later I'm still thinking of something no one knows about me. There are things, but they are so intensely private, and generally painful, that they would kill any air of flirtation rather quickly. But, I did realize that there isn't much, in general, that is secret from everyone in my life. Then I began a mental list.

My parents don't know that I've ever had a boyfriend - or a date for that matter. They may think I'm a lesbian.

My brothers don't know how often I talk about them (and how much I miss them).

My... boyfriends? dates? lovers? (hate that word) don't know that I always think those ads for MGH research studies are aimed at me.

My employers don't know that I'm scared of the phone.

My parents also don't know that I never sleep when I'm home, despite their belief that it will be soooo nice to sleep in my own bed.

My friends don't know that I've never had friends as amazing as they are.

That's not a super long list, but let's just pretend I'm an intriguing enigma, shall we?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Cough cough...

Still sick. Poo.

Just a second ago I found myself staring into the sink with the water running, watching the Wal-tussin I had overpoured slowly wash away, it's stickiness no match for the cold rush of water. I couldn't look away, somehow, watching its feathery red shape leak away down the drain, giving up its hold on the basin. There was a moment when I thought, "It's not there anymore, I just THINK I see it because I've been staring." Like when you stare at the sunset too long and get that floating green stain embossed on your retina for a minute. But I was wrong, the stain was still there, just slowly, slowly washing away until it was thoroughly gone.

So mundane. So pretty.

And this morning when I looked in the mirror - yes, I actually looked - I noticed this ribbon, wide near my eye and tapering as it swept toward my ear, of what looked like lighter skin. Looking closer, it was a tear that had dried as I slept. Was I crying in my sleep? No, my eyes are probably just as runny as my nose at the moment, that's all. But I had one of those caught moments just then, looking myself in the eye and trying to see myself. I couldn't put it together - the bed-head, the tear, the bleary eyes, the open lips, reddened nose.

"Hi Jo," I said to myself (cuz I'm not crazy in the least), "Good morning."

Yes, maybe if you're polite to her everything will congeal and heal over.

Weird day. Cough cough. My body and the world feel even more foreign when I'm sick.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Hasta la pasta, Brigid!

I just got back from South Station, where I gave Brig a hug and saw her through the turnstiles, and it seemed like there would be a plane waiting for her in the bus station and off she'd go. She's actually leaving for Chile on Wednesday.

We have so much fun together... I think we both remind each other of the people we want to be and the things we want to do. It's like we both say, "Oh yeah! I like live music!" and "Oh yeah, magazines are mighty fine," etc. And so despite a seriously gross hacking cough inherited from the baby, I had a very lovely Friday and Saturday morning.

Yesterday we went to Trident for lunch and browsing; browsed through alternative media magazines, literary magazines, and the atrocious children's section (which wasn't worth the browse). Then on to Newbury Comics, where I picked up the Gorillaz CD I've wanted since Ireland (listening to it now, rocks as much as hoped) for a cool ten dollaz. Get it? Gorillaz? Dollaz? JoBiv, you're so amusing.

Back at the Bat-cave, Brig and I dolled up (read: brushed our teeth) for a night out. Then we met up with her old roomie and Simmons grad Adrienne at Phoenix Landing for some dinner, even though we were still over-full of yummy Trident sweet potato fries and other sundries. Some point during our conversations with Adrienne, I realized that my face hurt from smiling and laughing. Not a bad thing.

And then Brig and I headed down the block to The Middle East, where The Damn Personals were playing Downstairs. We'd seen them at The Orpheum (the one in Boston, sillies) on First Night two years ago and thought they were rad. We were right. They're still pretty rad. And despite a possibly catastrophic mistake on the part of the bartender (he gave me a Sam instead of a cider) and the general feeling of 24 yrs old being very, very old, we had us a good time.

And when we passed up the last band, emerging finally into the much-colder-than-advertised evening air, I asked Brig, "Hey, what time is it?"


"ROCK! We can catch the T!"

We arrived back at the Bat-cave at about 12:50, were in jammies rockin' out to a bit of nostalgic White Stripes (poooor neighbors) and then in our snuggly beds by 1:30am.

We're either really really old or really really good at this going out thing.

To make things even perfecter, we met up with Meera at Thornton's this morning, saw Chruce, ate yummy waffles and french toast, and were charged $4.41. Total. Because Chruce rocks.

It's a charmed, charmed life.

Those are all just events and moments, though. The weekend was actually great because Brigid is wonderful. Off she goes to Chile, AGAIN... have I already mentioned how much I am in awe of her? Go Brig, go! And how much I love the goofiness, the sincerity, and the rambling tangental stories of our friendship... I think of how we never really got to know each other when we were both at St. Bonaventure, and how lucky we are to have become friends in Boston.

But I refuse to turn this blog into a testing ground for Hallmark cards. Just let it be known: Brig is wonderful. I will miss her while she's incarcerated in the Chilean prison. Perhaps I will send her a cake with a file in it and she can come back to Boston and hang out with me.

Friday, February 04, 2005


(Sing to the tune of "The Bear Went Over the Mountain.")

OHHHHHHHH Brig is coming next weekend
Brig is coming next weekend
Brig is coming next weekeeeend...
And she will stay with me


Thursday, February 03, 2005

Oy, baby!

The baby has the scariest cough today. Earlier this week it was just an occasional CACK, and now it's a much-too-long series of hacking and gagging that makes me think her uvula will detach and fly out onto her hebrew alphabet play mat. And of course, I run into her room every time, because it's when she STOPS coughing that I think she's asphyxiating. You don't give the Heimlich if the victim is coughing, right? Coughing is good, stopping and turning blue is not. She has not turned blue. All is well.

On the bright side, I don't need to rely on the baby monitor. I can hear her heart-stopping cough attacks all over the apartment.

Can someone else's child give you premature grays?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Souvenirs from younger years

When people leave your life, of course they don't leave completely. You may want them to take every last hair with them (especially if you're Sus and stray hairs gross you out), but they don't. They leave little reminders, like a red eyelash, the toilet seat left up, a song they inexplicably memorized and performed complete with heartfelt air guitar.

Other people change you, too. Besides adding to the library of memories, people in my life have made me more careful and thoughtful about things I hadn't noticed before, or habits I hadn't known were habits.

Knowing Shane, for instance, has left me with a heightened awareness of skin. His would turn a scary color when he was sick - actually very yellow and dark. He would joke that it was the black woman's heart leaking afro-juice into his system. Of course, before Shane I could recognize someone who was sick, but never so many shades of sick. The talent was, say, unhoned.

And Paul, the guy I almost dated at the YMCA camp, the vegetarian who played jazz guitar and promised to drop everything and go on tour if I only asked... (Why haven't I? He's full of it.) One day at camp, a nine-year-old girl unthinkingly squished an ant in his music classroom. He... well, he NEARLY flipped. He gave the girl a very serious look and said, "That ant had life. You took it away. Why?" Of course the girl didn't have an answer. What a weird uber-hippie thing to say, right? And yet I don't kill bugs since knowing him.

And Stefan had this nearly creepy love of dogs. Well, to be fair, he loved and reacted to dogs the way I love and react to children. But kids are cute... dogs smell. Okay, kids smell sometimes, too. Anyway, he and I didn't argue over it. I just began to notice dogs more, and then one day I actually found myself kneeling by a beagle puppy making affectionate, incoherent noises, and I realized I'd been converted.

Each person I've met has left something like this, unveiled something seemingly miniscule about this life. My life is mostly made of the miniscule, I think. Maybe that's why I can't tell a story in any straightforward manner. Every story is just a haphazard linking of minutia, which, once ordered, become somehow dramatic.

Anyway, before I got on that tangent, I wonder what I leave with other people? Do I change people? Is it the same thing with everyone? Are there, say, three major leavings I happen to sow among my friends like wild oats? Maybe that's why I'm always trying to share the minutia of my life, hoping some of it will catch hold and I'll travel on with people to regions unknown.

And why is THAT a good thing? Rather imperialist of me, isn't it?

O, fie on thee, education in literature! Thou hast a ruined maiden made.