Saturday, March 29, 2008

People don't suck. Not always.

I need to leave my job, and I know this, quite solidly, but every time I think I'm gonna scream some amazing customer makes me reconsider.

We have a young nanny who comes in after dropping off her charge at the local nursery school. She sits in a comfy chair and reads, naps, chats, reads s'more. At noon she takes off to pick up the little one, but before she goes we talk a little about books, music, nannying, Boston... anything. The other day we talked about children's lit. Next morning she paid for her drink and handed me a big ol' book - a collection of short stories by Roald Dahl.

Then there's the big T. He comes in two times a day and gets the same thing in the morning: the NY Times, a multi-grain bagel toasted twice with butter, and a large coffee. He's about 65 and works odd mornings at a school somewhere, and works as a tour guide in some historic site on the weekends. He studies furiously for both jobs, highly nervous about them. He insists that I should be an actress. He also insists that Sinatra, if he'd put as much work into acting as he had into singing, could have won an academy award. This gentleman talked up Bonnie and Clyde with such reverence that I eventually felt I had to rent it to see for myself. He fairly glowed with happiness when I shared my review with him. "I saw it at every theater in Boston on its opening night. The audience... You could hear them gasp in that last scene..."

One of my customers started out surly. He's a young Irish researcher affiliated with the hospital in some way. He'd come in and order a large coffee, dump half of it in the trash and fill it up with milk. One day I yelled at him: "Dude, just order a small coffee in a big cup. You're throwing away a good fifty cents every time you come in." Since then he's warmed up a bit and we've had jokes back and forth. When I came back from my surgery he announced loudly, "Oh, I thought they'd finally fired you!" Thanks, dude. One of the girls I work with said something like, "Whoa, I didn't know he could talk." Since then I've set out to sweeten him up with everyone else. This mission resulted in a contract trading 20 seconds of Irish jigging for 14 days of free coffee. He turned purple with embarrassment but eventually signed it and taught me a simple jig. Now he comes in with a big ol' tip ready for whoever serves him.

The nanny, just so you know, was so intent on her reading that she missed the jigging. Woe is she!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Smoky Night

This video (title link) shows footage of a fire that consumed a house behind my apartment building. Those evacuated include my roommate and myself. She woke me with panicked shouting and we blundered into shoes and out the door. I was sure our roof was on fire - the sky glowed orange and sparks flew up and over, floating into our courtyard. Running out to the street, we stepped over hoses and around trucks and spun on our heels to watch out for the next truck as sirens wailed. Wandering through the peculiar desolation of Coolidge Corner at 4am, we finally pulled out our phones and tried to find a place to sleep for the night. Melis had couches and blankets ready. Somehow, when our hearts stopped pounding, we slept.

(Pictured here, the site where a house used to be. The brick building with the iron porches is my building. Too close for comfort.)

Today, a house is gone, another house is damaged, three firefighters are injured, and a whole neighborhood is investing in new batteries for smoke alarms.

Friday, March 14, 2008


I had an interview today for an interesting but possibly not career-oriented job, and found myself saying all kinds of things about my passions that I don't want to believe. I was saying that Children's Literature is a private endeavor, has no application in my real life or career. That writing is a personal pleasure and not a profession. That my education was fun but completely self-indulgent...

The thing is, I'm beginning to believe those statements. And truthfully, I have no idea where I go from here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

silhouette nouveau

Got m'hairs cut. One of my regulars insisted on cutting it as I would be an instant advertisement for his shop. Smart, and he gave me a deeep discount. He also insisted on coloring it. I'm not so comfortable with the highlights, but hey, it's only hair.

My brother's lung, oh worriers, is on the mend. They've blown it up, done some confusing surgery and sealed him shut. He's still in the hospital and they'll release him when he's able to take pain medication orally. Should be soon.

I'm going home for Easter.


Monday, March 10, 2008

My brother's lung

... went POP again.

He's okay, it's re-inflated, they're planning surgery, he's not in much pain, the babies are taken care of...

but I guess I'm going home for Easter.

Because I need to see him

and poke him for myself to make sure he's still alive. And then beat him up for not quitting smoking when he said he would. And then hug him but not too hard lest he burst something else important.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Morning rituals

By the time Bostonians are restlessly tossing in their early Sunday morning hangover beds, I'm standing in the freezing cold, waiting for the Green Line trolley to amble its way down the hill. The driver and I exchange polite grunts and I stow myself in a forward-facing seat. I take out my book and try to get my eyes to focus. Sometimes I succeed.

The other people traveling at this time fall into categories.

Category 1: The people who run Boston so you can pretend YOU'RE running Boston. I'm talking T drivers, cleaning crews, Dunkies' and Starbucks staff, more cleaning crews, and construction workers. I'm sad to say that the hours before the morning rush hour are the only time I tend to see people of any significant shade of color other than pasty-ass white on the Beacon St. train.

Category 2: The mentally ill/retarded/homeless. One Downs dude, two tiny asian trash-pickers and one lady wearing seven-thousand layers and reeking of pee all fall into this category. One dude must have a municipal job. He wears a clean but ill-fitting suit, has the narrowest face and the biggest cartoon hawk nose, bouffant hair and the most irritating voice I've ever heard. When he recognizes someone he talks incessantly about his health in that nasally whine. "...But I stopped seeing that doctor because my mother said I should get a second opinion..." This man is probably in his fifties. His mother must be pretty old to be that domineering.

Category three: Financial district workaholics and workoutaholics. It has to be pretty bad if you get into the office not only before dawn, but before all your co-workers could collectively manage to spell the word 'dawn.' I guess that's a competitive edge. Women in yoga pants with their work shoes in chic shopping bags (Neiman Marcus is a popular choice) belong in this category. Some of them have showered and made themselves up for the train ride. Yes, the 5 am train ride that takes them to their workouts.

I don't spend much time evaluating the crowd anymore. The train rocks along and I read or sleep the open-mouthed, drooling sleep of the truly exhausted. At some point I wake up and say, "Whoa, where the hell am I?" As yet, I have not screwed up so badly as to pass my stop. I have, at least thrice, had mini-heart attacks upon realizing that I wake up AT my stop as the doors are closing, at which point I leap up and scream and roll out in the nick of time Indiana Jones style.

Then I switch trains.
After limping down the stairs I stare at the same people across the Red Line tracks. There are two Brazilians who know each other but seem to only talk while waiting for the train. They cease conversation once they board. There's an older black dude with a cane who sits on the far side of the bench so the Brazilians can chat. There's a challenged woman who walks waaaay too close to the edge of the platform. She wobbles, too. It's disconcerting.

Because I'm challenged in my own way, I travel one stop, exit with all the people who work at the hospital, and yield to the right, toward the elevators. The same women board the elevator every time I use it. They are round, short, one's southern black and one's West Indian. They are both middle-aged and tired. Every time we enter the elevator, one of them exclaims something faintly religious.

"Ah Lawd and Save-yah!"

"My Lawd God in Heav'n!"

"My sweet baby Jesus..."

These exclamations seem to mean the following things in the inarticulated early morning conversation: "It's fucking cold, it's fucking early, and I can't believe I'm fucking working."

At least, that's my interpretation. I never open my mouth in these exchanges but smile knowingly and nod in agreement. I give my, "Hooo doggies you're dead on!" look and let them exit the elevator first like a good little girl who was brought up right.

So you can imagine, by the time I get to my Starbucks, apron-up, clock-in and set up the store, I've done a lot of living considering how long I've been awake.

And this, all this, is why I can manage a half-smile and a "Do you want room in your coffee?" by 6:00 in the goddamn morning. With a two-hour lead time, it's almost like I'm awake.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Wake-up call for Miss Biv...

Tomorrow morning my therapist will call me at 9:45 to tell me a joke.

Several reasons behind this:

1. I'm afraid of the phone, and have many scary phone calls to make tomorrow. The first phone interaction, by his decree, will be easy.

2. I have the day off (kinda) and would sleep all day, or pretend to sleep, if I didn't have a concrete reason to do otherwise.

3. He really, really wants to help keep me afloat and doesn't know what I need, so I asked him for some very basic survival help. The phone call is his idea but dovetails nicely with other help I've asked for. (I believe my phrasing went something like, "I need consistent kicks in the ass.")

What would Freud think, I wonder?