Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cliche'

He played guitar in a band..... I played second fiddle.

He was a dark horse..... I had already lost the bet.

He pitched me some lines..... I was out in left field.

We kissed on the Brooklyn bridge.....Our relationship became the water under it.

He gave me bouquets of flowers, but never told his friends about "us".....Mum's the word.

He had a lucrative career in Manhattan.... In a New York minute, I left the city.

My friend commented on a photo I posted on facebook the other day and told me it's beautiful, and she also said that beauty is not only about looks, but about how big your heart is. It's been heavy lately, I told her. My sense of self-worth has been in the gutter.

As much as I believe the tired and worn-old cliche' that "everything happens for a reason", I still wonder if I missed some opportunities, messed some things up, or made some wrong decisions somewhere along the way. Lately (in case you haven't noticed) I haven't been the epitome of happiness and joy. Stressful life changes have been weighing heavy on my mind, although light on my body. As a result of stress, I am down 25 pounds at this point (hey- I never said stress was *all* bad). I am on a long layover in Dallas right now and the weather is as peaceful, calm and mild as a butterfly flouncing through the fields on a benevolent and breezy spring day. And this genial day has given me the opportunity to think. Which tends to happen when I have time to walk, explore, and roam. As my feet wander unfamiliar streets, my mind goes right along with them, keeping step and not missing a beat. (Note: this blog is being continued in Tampa, the last overnight of my 4-day trip.)

And today I tried to think of relationships and events that happened in my past that still make me smile right now. And also- most of these quips are not about dating at all (some are though)- they are just memories that make me feel happy. So here are a few:

1) When I first moved to New York I had a colleague who could sing. He had a beautiful voice, but was shy about his talent. We lived and worked downtown in the Financial District. Since we were on-call for our jobs, we had to be on campus to respond to student emergencies. Staff members were given beautiful apartments as part of our compensation. Shortly after September 11, 2001 the Financial District was like a ghost town. We had nice apartments, but it was quiet downtown at that time. Dark, shadowy and vacant. Businesses vacated and found new office space across the Hudson. Buildings loomed over us and cast dark shadows at night, and strangers brushed by our side. But there was a Thai restaurant called the Lemongrass Grill that was a short distance away. A tried and true beacon in that dark, shadowy part of town. It was a restaurant, but they offered Karaoke too. Not many people took advantage of this offering. Just us. Everyone else was just there to eat. So my colleague would sing and I would listen. Since so few people took advantage of the karaoke that was offered, the wait staff was just either really nice or really annoyed that we chose to do so. So they would finally just relinquish to us the song book, the sound controls, and the mike. My friend was so shy that he would lie down in the booth, across my lap when he was singing so that no one could see him. Everyone would be looking around to hear where this fantastic voice was coming from, but they couldn't see him. I remember one night on the way out a man told me, "Lady, I don't know how you do it- but your lap has some talent."

2) My friend Mary and I had some "spots" that we claimed as our own in the city. One of them was "Blue Moon" (which is now closed). It was a hole-in-the-wall in Chelsea. Even though it was on a well-traveled part of 8th avenue, it was never crowded, which I never understood. (Sure there are some other spots that do this in the city, but they are often packed and require reservations and are much stingier with their pours.) Blue Moon offered a delicious brunch for $12 which included unlimited mimosas or bloody marys. So Mary and I would sleep in and then go at 1:00 every Sunday afternoon and stay until 4:00 when they stopped serving brunch. Some restaurants offer endless refills of coffee. Blue Moon provided endless refills of mimosas. Sometimes I think they filled our glasses so fast and were so attentive to our needs, as to not leave an empty glass in sight that they simply left out the orange juice and poured pure champagne. It was infinity of mimosas! All I know is that at 4:00 we would be giggly, blissful and content. I don't even remember what we laughed about, but we would stay there and be content for 3 hours, and those were some of the happiest days I knew. When we left, we would walk by a nearby church and everyone else would be leaving mass, but Mary and I would be leaving Blue Moon. Blue Moon was about as close to a religious experience as I would get those days.

3) Several of my old jobs would have staff/faculty/and even student events on boats that circled around Manhattan. I always loved this. It was such a nice treat and it was always so fun to come eye-to-eye with Lady Liberty on a sunny afternoon instead of being in the office. Usually there was an open bar and dancing and music and merriment. At one particular event there was a colleague there, but he worked in a different department. However, he spent a lot of time talking to our department. One of my colleagues thought he was cute and was planning to ask him out. He got up his nerve, rehearsed his speech, and practiced on me. I told my colleague he did perfect- If I were a gay guy I would go out with him in a heartbeat. So he took a deep breath and asked me if I would go with him because he was so nervous to ask this other guy. I agreed and together we approached him outside on the upper deck, my friend poised to complete the daunting task of asking him on a date. And the guy from the other department turned around, smiled, said hello to both of us, and before my friend could get a word in edge-wise, asked "Laurie, I've been trying to get up the nerve and I almost asked someone in your department to help me....but I was....uh....I was wondering if you wanted to have dinner sometime?"

(Footnote: My friend was actually very glad that this happened- his Gadar was off that day and this unfortunate event had actually saved him some embarrassment. And for the record- I did go out with him. It didn't work out. I used to call his dog up onto his sofa to sit between us, because I didn't want to sit so close to him.)

4) My grandma, my aunt, and my Mom used to come to visit me in New York regularly. One summer day we were walking through a park on the Upper West Side and it was my mom's first visit there. There was a homeless man covered in boxes and newspapers. My mom couldn't stop looking and gasping. "Is there a PERSON in there?!" And her jaw dropped. "Mommy, close your mouth." She also accidentally picked up the wrong suitcase at LaGuardia one time, so the airline had to come to my apartment and exchange it, which was a large fiasco. We found the number of the boyfriend of the woman to whom it belonged. We called him and he was pretty nonchalant about it. We found all of these bizarre things inside the suitcase and we made up a story to go along with it. I don't even remember the story anymore, but I remember laughing for hours with my mom, my grandma, and my aunt. The best part of their visits had to be when we went to Ellis Island and the immigration museum to learn about how my Great Grandma Valentino had come to this country. There were trunks displayed everywhere and my great grandma had lost hers at one time. In her thick accent, we used to remember her saying "whosa trunk?" which quickly became our favorite thing to say repeatedly..... And to tease my mom about until the airline returned her (correct) suitcase.

5) On Memorial day weekend one of my friends had a picnic on her back deck. We drank beer, ate steaks on the grill and laughed all evening. One of my friends was there with her boyfriend, whom I hadn't met until that night. He told me he was going to set me up with is friend. I rolled my eyes a bit, because I was planning on leaving North Carolina and not looking to find a relationship there, but I agreed. They had some people over to their apartment two days later and he was there. Low and behold, we hit it off. Our first date was a few days after that. We flirted and kissed all night at a cigar bar, that was not dissimilar from an old-fashioned speak-easy. The venue reminded me of New York in the 1920s, even though it was in Durham, NC in 2011. Tin pressed ceilings and a beautiful bar, built of sturdy cherry. A bartender with a pencil-thin mustache and a bow tie. It was a sultry and warm evening in early June, crickets chirping and moon shining. We drank scotch and laughed together well into the night. The cigar lounge brought back memories of my childhood. I didn't frequent cigar lounges as a child, but on warm summer nights the neighbors used to come over to our house and the children would play in the streets and the parents would play cards and socialize. One of the neighbors, Larry, would smoke cigars. The smell of cigar coupled with the smell of fresh-cut grass triggers such happiness and a sense of summertime. This date was the start to a wonderful summer.

6) My friends introduced me to a very sweet guy when I used to live in Chelsea. Our first date was a Mets Game. It was Mike Piazza's last game as a Met. We drove to Shea Stadium and he had brought me a jersey to wear, which was sweet and thoughtful. We drank beer and sat in great seats and cheered and kissed when runs were scored. Afterwards we went to the park by my apartment and fed the squirrels. It was so sweet and innocent. He told me I smelled like a cupcake. Which was great news, because I thought I smelled like a sweaty summer day. He was so shy and he also had asthma and all sorts of health issues. One time I had him and the friends who had introduced us over for chili, which I had made in my crockpot. I later found out that he was allergic to beans, but he ate the chili anyhow because he didn't want to hurt my feelings.

7) When I was in college in Ohio, one of my friends introduced me to one of his friends. He was dashingly handsome. Dark hair, slight dimples, and big dark bedroom eyes surrounded by fluttering lashes. We used to go dancing at a place called "Boot Scootin' Saloon" on Wednesday nights. Country line dancing. Our first date was a concert there. The band that opened for the band we were going to see played a cover of a Brooks and Dunn song called "Neon Moon". He held me close and we danced cheek to cheek. He smelled wonderful and his skin was soft against mine. I melted into his arms. That moment has stayed with me for over 15 years.

8) The day that I went with my friend John to Rao's. This might have been the most magical moment of my life: (please see "Part II- The most Coveted table in the city and maybe the entire world")
http://therimeofthemodernmariner.blogspot.com/2010_06_01_archive.html

There are so many things in my life and memories for which to be grateful. And I had to cut about half of the stories I wanted to share, because it just simply made this blog too long. One day I will share all of them though. Please see the archives of this blog and read my stories from Semester at Sea. Magic and poetry every single day. I feel happy now after reminiscing. I think the cliche' is right- everything falls into place. All of these things happened for a reason (although the reason is perhaps just to make me smile during dark times.) And maybe, just maybe I will have another chance at happiness and at love. That's not so much to ask. (Is it?) Whether it is attainable or not, I will wait it out with patience and try to continue creating happy stories like those above until that happens.

He will love me and travel with me and kiss me in Italy one day..... after all, Rome wasn't built in a day.