Friday, September 28, 2007

Seeing John Malkovich

I'm putting together a couple of weeks of shaky abstinence here. The sugar cravings are passing, I've lost some pounds, I've shown up for a good portion of my life which, these days, consists of many balls in the air.

Today, however, I've been peepee-whipped by a fits of the Sads. As I negotiated my way across the street to go pick up my first dog of the day, I started making a list of all the reasons I loathe myself. It was starting to get pretty long before I got distracted by the wind or a kid bawling or looking both ways before I crossed the street.

Two hours later, I have a big wad of gray and now-flavorless gum in my chest, as well as acid in my throat. I've thrown many balls and been cheerful for my dogs, run the gauntlet of the film people clogging my side of the block, and I have a chance to think a bit. I'm thinking and writing instead of taking off my filthy dog clothes and taking a shower because, well, I'm kind of in the mood to stay in my yucked-out shorts and t-shirt and 24 hours' sweat. Every time I walk out of my apartment building I'm on display and under suspicion for a moment, and today being gucky suits that situation just fine.

The Coen Brothers have taken over Brooklyn Heights and John Malkovich has nearly literally moved into the house next door. This is to say that the lovely blue wooden 1824 Federal townhouse is his house in the movie. If you look at the little round awning by the massive white truck that is pumping air conditioning into the house, you're looking at my moment of feeling as if Mr. DeMille is waiting.

It's getting just a little bit stale, all this ruckus and milling around of technicians and gawkers camped out across the street, but the people are quite nice and lovely about the dogs. Sometimes walking a dog -- and you Lab-owners know this with a particular poignance -- is a public service. A friendly dog is so willing to love people who love them first. We've quieted babies, given the infirm and the elderly some tactile affection and made friends with people I'd never meet if it weren't for the dogs and their particular favorite humans.

This, of course, is when the dogs aren't being a public threat. It's been a good week. They've been mannerly.

I digress.

Sort of.

Yesterday afternoon was sultry in anticipation of a rain that didn't happen. I showered after the morning in the dog run and, at 3, put on a dress for the clean last five walks of the day. I walked out of my building and found myself surprised into locked eye contact with John Malkovich. He was in his jammies and robe (I believe this is called "costume" in cinema parlance) & talking on his cell phone. I turned a sharp left, kind of jittery. He's my favorite actor, or one of them (Jeremy Irons? Robert Downey, Jr.? Alan Rickman?), and I've seen him close-up and in person once before. But still.

He was hanging around on MY sidewalk for much of the next 90 minutes -- 90 minutes when I had to come back with Boomer and then leave again with Daisy, Hero, Boomer and Henry. He'd LOOKED at me. My insides were jelly at the thought of the parade I was putting on.

And then, today, the Sads.

You know, I'm glad to say it's the Sads. What prompted me to make that list this morning was the question of why I'm sad. My default is, "because I hate myself. I hate myself because____."

But the reasons, while hugely emotionally charged (I'm fat; I have no close friends at hand and I'm lonely; I don't like the dinner I ate last night; I'm poor; I'm lazy -- etc.), really aren't true, or not true as reasons to hate myself. Yeah, I'm fat. Fatter than many, thinner than many, squaring off with the issue as best I can. Yeah, I don't have a best friend over on Sydney Place, but I have friends and --

you get the gist.

The Sads are not reasons to hate myself. They're symptoms of weak points in my life that I ignore when I'm in and out of sugar. I haven't been in and out for a couple of weeks. The thin spots of the trampoline I live on are showing.

Then again, why the Sads?

Let's begin by respecting the fact that it's Friday. I went into the week without a day off from dogs and had extra dog walks until today. I have other work pressures besides dogs and am virtually in charge of the big 90th birthday party my mother is giving my father. All of that is simply tiring. And Daisy woke me up at 4 this morning in duress, in the middle of the first night I didn't take a sleeping pill. Scoop on a little more tiredness.

The Male Who Shall Not Be Named was in touch this week with a technical question. One of the reasons on my list of how I loathe myself was my obsessing, my in ability to get over love and failure. His techincal question, that could have been researched pretty easily, and subsequent couple of emails, were defensive but probing for friendship on his part, confused on my part. I decided not to answer back after Round Three. Still, the Balrog was awakened. Love and -- what is the word for the feeling when someone you haven't, quite, gotten over has found an enduring love that is much more successful than the one you tried together, once upon a time, in the First Age???

That. "That" hovers, emerging as my body relaxes a bit as I tick off the last dogs of the week (until tomorrow afternoon).

And then there was locking eyes with John Malkovich. I've been sitting here for a couple of days hyper-aware of the commotion next door, that John Malkovich is, right now, twenty or forty feet away from me. It's made me think about what he sees when he is on the streets of Brooklyn Heights -- kind of a bland neighborhood, really, although it's liberal and pretty and well-educated. Lots of baby carriages and tons of priviledge, as I know too well from bowling through those carriage-pods with one or more dogs in argumentative tow. And now, in his eyes, I'm one of Them.

Not that he remembers.

Which is also part of the point. I feel conspicuous when I walk out, and small, unimportant. Henry would beg to disagree, being crated at home to give me some peace this afternoon when he'd rather be here chewing on my new Caligarius shoes, but his presence has made me aware of what a speck I am in the scheme of things.

I guess there's a direct parallel here, isn't there? John Malkovich looked me in the eye, made his unconconscious judgment and clumped me in with Them. Unnamed Male tapped me for whatever stuff he was after, but in doing so, made me aware again of the judgments he's made and where he's clumped me -- part of Them, not part of Us.

For some weeks, I've been angry with myself for how hard this books is to write, how I'm not Persons Also Unnamed whom I went to graduate school with who are known for their literary (as opposed to senstationalist memoirist) ability that they spin with some ease and definite acclaim -- how that's in me but I can't DO it (hence the lazy entry on my list). I've been angry that this struggle is what keeps me from being more than a speck -- only to walk out my front door and lock eyes with...

well, you get the point.

OK, negativity aside, I want to remember that feelings -- the Sads -- pass. If I'm lucky, the Sads will prompt me to do something about any one of those reasons I am not allowed to hate myself for. And the first thing these particular Sads must prompt is the recognition that feelings do not equate self-loathing.

Malkovich will be out of here soon enough and Henry will throw himself on the couch with a smile on his face in about 90 minutes and I can go looking for a bombshell of a first sentence for chapter seven.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fatlish & Thinian, Part II

A week and a half ago, one of Us came to visit me for a day. We headed toward Chinatown but didn't quite make it into the heart of the tumult. We didn't mind. I had stuff I wanted from Pearl River, a bargain import store of fabulous things -- tai chi shoes, wind-up toys, quilted jackets, strange candies, happy Buddhas and sublime Buddhas, utensils and cloth. I was loaded up when we left only to be met on Mulberry Street by a man hissing, "Bags, bags."

"Where?" I asked. We were escorted to a Storefront That Shall Not Be Named (partly because it was so tiny and so innocuous that I can't remember the name) and slipped into a hidden door to a tiy room full of Dooney & Burke, Prada, Juicy Coutoure, Kate Spade, Chanel and Louis Vuitton. There were a number of us Caucasians crammed in there and the other were dressed (in white! white! skinny! skinny! jeans) and tans, discussing Chanel and the car on hold in those narrow streets outside in ways that suggested they didn't need to be buying fakes.

So I figure they're at least good fakes, right?

They were speaking Rich White Thinian (although slightly tacky, as I recall: did she have Big Hair?) while we two Fat Girlz were interloping on the fringe of Thinland among the accessories.

I'm calling all anonymous women Zelda this week, so Zelda and I walked out a hundred bucks poorer but richly happy with our booty. Added to the sublimely comfortable massive selection of shoes I'd gotten for 34 dollars and the intense massage for even less, and this was a happy woman who came back to the Bat Cave from an extremely rare day of escape.

It was the beginning of an intense ten days during which I found myself speaking a good deal of Thinian, broken as it may be.

I sent a picture of my booty to another one of Us and her response, which I'm paraphrasing, was the perfect dialect of Eyeorish Fatlish: "I admit I'm jealous of the bags. If I hadn't gotten sick I would have been able to come to New York and get bags, too."

Why is this Eyeorish Fatlish? Years of obesity's listless, unfulfilled, possibly amorphous hope motivate its gloom. Thinian would spin it a different way: "I can't wait to go to New York and do that." Doris Day's Thinian would add, "I wonder what the fashion in handbags will be by then?"

This exchange has weighed on me because it's so perfect in its way. Think negatively so that you don't get your expectations up. Expectations are very different from hope. Hope is just that, a whiff sent heavenward. An expectation is -- well, look at the word! "Expect": "to look forward to"; "to consider likely". An expectation is not only a calculated demand of someone or something else, it's a borderline you have to work toward reaching.

Fatlish doesn't have a positive aspect to the word "expect".

The day after our shopping expedition, my ex-sister-in-law came to New York with her new husband, a surprise for me. We had a couple of meals together and I showed them around the nabe. He has a literary bent, although it's not my literary bent, which can be a dangerous game. "Have you read X?" "No," I'd say. "You have to," and he'd dash to the used bookstore to buy it for me. I can get very insecure in this game but I know, at last, maybe, that I'm as well-read as I need to be in the reading I need to do.

He's also an aspiring writer, making produgious numbers of notes and quoting his writer friends with the abandon of confetti. "I only have one book in me," he would say, "and some day soon I'm going to write it. Zelda Smith says..."

I finally told him this is bullshit. You either write or you don't and collecting all the writerly quotes about writing is not going to get the book written. I had begun to make gentle fun of him before that but finally came out bluntly and told him the Deal. I also put him onto Julia Cameron so we'll all be hearing a lot from her in months to come.

He was speaking Fatlish in that one book to be written some day and the tiny notes he was taking now.

I was speaking thinian because it was mildly flirtatious. He is exactly the man I could go out with a couple of times. He'd be dazzled by me and I'd finally admit to being underwhelmed by him. This is not to say not a fine man for Zelda II. Their passions are matched by being artistic, but his are literary and hers are in dance. No Trivial Pursuit involved.

To recognize someone I could date is Thinian in incomplete translation. To recognize our final incompatability is a complete translation.

Interstingly, I had a similar conversation with my childhood friend this weekend. He was comparing opera stars and operas and I don't know whatall when he turned the subject to how he disliked Beethoven in his 20's and came to revere him in his 30's while still disliking Wagner and Strauss, until he came to love them in his 40's. "Isn't that weird?" he asked. "Not at all," I answered. "We have to grow into some things. I couldn't make heads or tails of Emily Dickinson in my 20's. When I read her ten years later, it was, like, of course! this makes perfect sense."

Then he had to admit how little he reads. The conversation was, almost, a tie.

That flirting thing has to be sorted out from Fatlish joking-so-you'll-forgive-me and Thinian take-or-leave-it. I saw it a day or two later when I stopped into a local pet store to buy yet another ball for the tag team of loose-jawed Labs who keep losing Daisy's. "You want balls?" Zelwood II said. "I got balls. You want big balls or little balls?" "I want big balls, Zelwood, you know that. Big firm balls with a lot of bounce."

It's a constant joke, almost a schtick. It means nothing. He bagged up the balls and said, "Good to see you, young sexy lady" and I thought, Heh! I pulled off another heist. It was "young" that made it a Thinian heist for me. I laughed and thanked him, which is the Thinian response to such banter.

The last important Thinian experience in that week is somthing you'll have to wait to read between hard covers. It was confrontational and violent and I reacted in kind without one whit of regret. It made me realize, when my sponsor and I discussed it, what protecting a child means and how little I was protected and how little I protect that kid still in me.

You know: that Fat kid who dreamed over Jane Eyre and a box of grape popcycles?