January 27, 2008
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December 24, 2007
“This is my little brother Ben. He’s a hippie,” I told Patrick, who owns the friendly cafe a block away from my house where I always feel bad about noticing movie stars, because they have so obviously come here to be safe in a homey little corner of Brooklyn where no one will recognize them. (However, someone once sent a sighting of ME at the Victory to the Gawker Stalker tip line, so this is a delusion on everybody’s part).
“Nice to meet you, Ben,” Patrick said, and told us a story about how he used to steal pot from hippies when he was 11. Then he gave us a free breakfast. I really like Patrick.
Ben rolled his eyes. He doesn’t especially like being called a hippie, but that’s what he is. Personally I would be a little bit flattered if someone called me a hippie, but I guess that’s one of the differences between being a (semi) adult person who has always had a job who, like, has some tattoos and will order her entree with brown rice instead of white if that’s an option and being an almost 22 year old male college sophomore with long, long Jesus hair who has spent time — like, years — living on actual communes.
Anyway, Ben and I took our tea and bagels and walked to the Flatbush Avenue Long Island railroad station, where we caught the train to Rockville Center to attend our grandfather’s funeral.
The funeral home was lame as fuck, not at all like Fisher and Sons. I found myself wondering whether a small cottage industry of Fisher and Sons-themed funeral homes has sprung up to tend to the deathtime needs of hardcore Six Feet Under fans, and whether it would be possible for me to have my funeral at one, and whether I would actually want to do that. I also mused about a lot of more appropriately somber things as I sat on some fake-fancy furniture with my family, facing away from the corner of the room with my grandfather’s coffin in it.
I really appreciate about Judaism that everyone gets buried in the same unvarnished wooden crate. It was jarring to actually see it, though. The funeral director came and made my Dad look in the coffin, which I guess is an important duty that someone has to do. This started a mini-trend of people looking in the coffin: My aunt and my brother both did. “He looks good, he looks good,” my aunt kept repeating. My brother said he wished he hadn’t looked.
I felt like I was being chicken, but I was not about to go look in the coffin.
I have seen the going-out-to-the-graveyard scene in a hundred movies and tv shows but this was my first time experiencing it, and those tv shows and movies have it right, pretty much. People in black stand in the wintry, windswept graveyard looking stoic while a priest or in this case a rabbi says a couple of things, and occasionally the people burst into tears. Again, Judaism has a good aspect: everyone shovels a ceremonial shovelful of dirt into the grave. The dirt makes a loud plopping sound as it hits the coffin. When you see a coffin lying in a grave as you shovel dirt on top of it, you cannot help but realize that the person in the coffin really is dead.
Afterwards, we spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the couch in my grandparents’ apartment, eating cold cuts and rugelach. For the next few hours, old people and middle aged people were talking about movies they’ve seen recently, what their grandchildren are up to, doesn’t Medicare suck, what medications they’re on, and other old-people topics. I kind of wished that someone wanted to talk about like ‘death, man, what is up with that’ but a funeral isn’t really the appropriate venue for that kind of conversation.
However, the rest of the evening, which I spent with my little brother at my apartment, completely was the appropriate venue for that kind of conversation. We talked, not only about ‘death, what is up’ but also: ‘is the government spying on us at all times (yes)’, ‘capitalism is so so so so bad’, and also ‘consumerism, corporations, and global agribusiness are so so so so bad’. We talked about ‘basically we live in the Matrix’ and about the commune in Hawaii Ben’s hoping to start. It was equal parts bleak and fun and annoying. Along the way, we — or really Ben — made some soup out of the vegetal contents of my fridge. We ate it with a salad and some Irish soda bread.
Hippie Soup (tastes especially good if the only thing you’ve eaten all day is a bagel and some funeral meat)
One can black beans
One can whole tomatoes
a few cloves of minced garlic
a diced onion
Whatever vegetables are in your fridge. I had:
Half a head of Savoy cabbage
Saute the onion and garlic. Dice the potato but leave the skin on. Remember, you’re a hippie! Slice up the cabbage and the parsnip and add those too. Add the beans and the tomato, salt and pepper, and a bunch of water. Simmer until the veggies are soft.
Irish soda bread
2 cups of preferably bread flour but it’s not like I have bread flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk or failing that, milk or even (this worked!) soymilk with a splash of vinegar added
Preheat oven to 350. Sift together (or just whisk together) the dry ingredients. Add the buttermilk or faux-buttermilk and knead on a well-floured surface for about a minute. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky. Shape into two mini-loaves and place them on a greased cookie sheet, scoring across the top with a sharp knife. Bake for 45 minutes. Try to let them cool before you eat them.
You’d think a hippie would use whole wheat flour but life is too short for that bullshit.
December 24, 2007
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December 19, 2007
In the trash room of my parents’ new condo in Coconut Grove, you can press a button to tell the trash chute what kind of trash it will be receiving: periodicals, cans and bottles, or regular garbage. The hallways are plush-carpeted and floral-scented. Even the gym, which is just a largeish mirrored room full of different kinds of brand new exercise equipment, is plush-carpeted and floral-scented. Everything is done in subtle, soothing shades of cream and pale brick red and pale green, and in the hallways there are large oil paintings of dead pheasants and tapestries and heavy chandeliers. It’s like a cartoon about the idea of luxury, sort of like how Florida is a cartoon about the idea of paradise.
Today we went to a big manicured tropical garden where my mom has purchased a membership and we walked around the man-made ponds and waterfalls looking at hypertrophic versions of familiar houseplants. There was an iguana with a ruff around its neck and I moved too close to it and made it hurriedly clamber up a palm tree.
On her cel phone, my mom was talking to my little brother about the plans for my grandfather’s funeral, so I didn’t have to smile or make conversation and I could just walk around and think about whatever was in my head. I stared up at the perfect blue sky, dotted with fluffy white clouds. I bent my head and took a big whiff of some little purple flowers so sweet-smelling they didn’t even smell real. I felt the warmth of the sun and the slight balmy breeze on my bare arms. I tried to absorb it all through my eyes and my pores, like it was some kind of medicine. I tried to remind myself that beauty is here for us to enjoy, and that we are here to enjoy beauty.
But I didn’t start feeling better. I keep not starting to feel better. There’s nothing I want to do and nothing that I want to think and nothing that I want to say. There’s no one I want to talk to and no place I want to go. And there’s nothing I want to eat. I haven’t been hungry in weeks.
December 6, 2007
The acupuncturist had just gotten to the part of the form I’d filled out where I’d described “any major recent life stressors.”
“So you broke up with your boyfriend of six years six months ago and moved into a new place by yourself. You have an ovarian cyst and you’re in pain a lot of the time. And on Friday you quit your job with nothing lined up.”
“Mhmm. Also I forgot to put that my grandfather’s in the hospital and it seems like he might die.”
Then I cried a little bit before hopping up on the table where the acupuncturist inserted tiny, thin needles into my feet, calves, wrist, stomach, and ears and I lay there for a while, feeling sleepy and calm.
Then I got on the train and headed to Greenpoint, to Scuttlebutt’s apartment where she lives with her boyfriend. Since the last time I was there, he’s put up a mirror in the hallway and a lot of little shelves. They also have a 48” white fiber-optic Christmas tree. We cuddled up by the tv and had a healthy dinner of tofu and rice and marinated kale salad.
young sweet carrots, cut into thin coins
Combine the juice of the lemon with the pressed garlic clove and the olive oil, then put the washed, cut-up kale in there and massage it with your hands for a few minutes until it gets nicely wilty. Integrate the carrot coins and avocado cubes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve. This salad is improbably addictive and delicious and very, very healthy for you. You get the sense that if you smoke a cigarette or eat a bag of M&Ms afterward, the kale in your stomach will be offended somehow.
I love Scuttlebutt but it made me so sad to be in her domestic, cozy apartment that she shares with her adorable boyfriend, and it made me even sadder to be in Greenpoint, which is familiar and homey to me in a way that I worry my new neighborhood will never be. The Christmas lights are strung up across Manhattan Ave. and as I walked from Scuttlebutt’s apartment back to the G train to go home, I had the wild impulse to call William and invite myself over to my old apartment to say hi. I imagined walking through the door.
And then I realized that what I was imagining going back to was our apartment a year ago, with a Christmas tree in the corner decorated with the ornaments I bought at Pearl River Mart and the ones from William’s grandmother. I remembered how happy I’d been to look in the window and see those lights every time I came home. I could almost smell the old fuggy smell of our apartment, pot and incense and pine needles and cooking.
I wanted to go there so badly. I wanted to run there. But you can’t go back to a place that no longer exists.
I stood on the platform of the G train with tears streaming down my face. It did suck living off the G train. That fucking train always takes forever to come.