makeshift dialect

working toward understanding
one another. making few promises
along the way.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

my cake wreck

a portrait of martin luther king jr.

if i didn't have to work on martin luther king day, i'd have more time to fix my wreck.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Panwich Full Moon

Two friends meet for dinner. Wait for the subway, take a ride to Grand St. Follow a diagram on one friend’s phone. It’s a maze—interlocking thoroughfares bearing names one of you (ahem, she who holds the iPhone) cannot pronounce. Order dinner to go. An ordinary evening.

Yet when Goody Bathtub and I join forces we inevitably end up at the intersection of “WTF?” and “Beyond Strange.”

Instead, we make an unordinary evening, a night filled with so many aberrations you’re certain it isn’t real, that a rare quality surrounds only tonight. You’re wrong. It will happen again.

We took our dumplings and sesame pancake-sandwich (“panwich,” henceforth) to the long, narrow Sara D. Roosevelt park area. We identified an empty bench as suitable and dined on it al fresco.

To our right, a man with a baseball cap stiffly leaned over his bench, his left leg resting across the bench's dark green slats and his right planted firmly on the ground. “Asleep?” I asked GB. She shrugged. “Dead,” I nodded. Later, a scruffy, duffle-bag carrying man wearing a Gatorade tshirt stood beside Dead Guy and somehow injected life into him. Dead Guy sprung up from his supine position and engaged Gatorade in conversation (about the contents of Gatorade's bag, no doubt). Aha, his name was actually “Rip van Winkle;” we corrected ourselves.

Not to be outdone, a Chuck Norris-clone wearing a black cowboy hat and tattered Red Sox tshirt occupied a nearby bench. An open rolling suitcase lay splayed before him on the pavement. He burrowed through, a squirrel searching for nuts, resituating every shirt and pair of jeans.

“Is that his suitcase?” I asked aloud. Rip van Winkle remained asleep.

“I’m not so sure,” said GB, already overwhelmed by the ambiguously homeless lot around us, and, of course, her scrumptious dumplings.

“I don’t think so. Maybe they belong to whoever he killed.”

He kept searching, touching, handling the plain clothes as though they weren't for his body. A few times he stood and paced in a circle, holding a cigarette between his thumb and forefinger. Plotting his next move: Do I take the clothes? Do I wear them? Should I leave them here for someone to find? But what about the fingerprints?

I turned toward him between panwich bites and then, suddenly, a large water bottle hurtled in my direction. I saw the flick of his wrist the moment he released it, at me, to kill me. When his water bottle missed its mark (me), he called out, “I didn’t mean to almost hit ya!” I turned back to GB and finished my panwich in silence--for fear that I'd be permanently silenced. (JK!)

But then the king of the evening came along. Mr. Kung Fu, a forty-ish Hispanic man, wore a biker’s outfit—bright yellow tight-fitting top with equally snug biker’s shorts—and slung a messenger’s bag over his shoulder, parked his bike. And if Mr. Kung Fu sounds impressive, his bike trumps his personal presentation: a mountain bike bound in lime green tape and—as a subtle accent—a flickering red brake light fixed just below the bike seat. Mr. Kung Fu was a serious biker.

“What time is it?” he asked, though his cell phone dangled obviously on his chest.

“7:40,” said GB.

“Do you speak French?”

Mumbles in French

We shrugged at each other. “Uh, no,” I said.

“You’re both so beautiful. So beautiful,” he said, turning slightly to conceal his impish smile.

“Thanks.” We both laughed. The implicit question--Who the fuck is this guy?--was the source of the laughter.

“Such beautiful smiles!” He pointed to his cheeks and pressed in, detonating something somewhere, I imagine.

“Ha, ha. Yeah thanks. We’re both models,” I said. A cool look in his direction.

Face lit up. “Really? I can so believe it!”

“I’m just kidding. We’re not models.”

“Oh but you could be. Do you mind if I stay here? Do you want me to leave?”

“You should do whatever you feel like doing.” I did all the talking as GB maintained a supportive silence. I’d really like you to leave, but will you really leave if I tell you to?

“Muchos gracias.”

“De nada.”

“So you speak Spanish.”

“I don’t.”

People walk by unfazed. They thought GB and I were best buds with the colorful Mr. Kung Fu. Or they didn’t think.

“See this? Do you like this?” Pointed to his leg and made a muscle.

“Your calf muscle?” I asked.

“No, the color.”

“Of your skin?”


“You know, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white. Like Michael Jackson says.”

“Mike Tyson?” Confused look.

“No, Michael Jackson. He died recently.”

“Oh right.” Silence. “Do you think those kids were his?”

GB looked at each other. “No.”

Quick pause, but then he too took to burrowing through his own bag.

“Do you want a cigarette?” He pulled three empty boxes of Marlboro Reds from his messenger bag.

“No thanks.” GB shook her head.

“Hey, do you mind if I sit here?” Motioned to the bench adjacent to our cozy dining area. “I won’t touch you or anything,” he continued.

But he almost touched GB when he reached out and told her she was very beautiful.

“You must know that you’re so very beautiful. Those eyes. Do you see those eyes?” He wanted my opinion.

“Yes, I’ve seen her eyes.”

“They are so wonderful. They’re like this.” He motioned to his own face with an unspecific gesture.

“Yes, just like that.”

“Thailand, China, Singapore, the Phillippines…” He rattled off a list of Asian (or Asian-seeming, perhaps) countries, hoping very hard that GB would nod her head to one of them.

"Do you like her?" he asked me.

Confusion across my face.

"We like each other," said GB.

“Are you married?”

“Yes, I am,” she said, without batting an eye.

“He must be a very lucky guy.”

“He is,” she said.

“I think I could fight him.”

“Maybe you could. I doubt it though,” I said.

He gnarled the fingers of his right hand into a claw. “I know Kung Fu.”

“Is that right?” I asked.

“Yes. I am sure I can beat him. You should tell him that I’m protecting you.”

“I will do that,” GB said and looked at me with her special eyes.

“Well, I think we’re gonna get going now.” I said.

“No, I can leave.”

“No, really. We’re leaving.”

And we left.

As we exited the park, we turned and watched Mr. Kung Fu steer his bike toward some guys who appeared to be his friends. But maybe he thought they, too, wore pretty eyes and sweet facial expressions.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Fourth Jonas: Greenbeard

I'll never forget the first time I saw him.

Flushing, Queens. A bone-chilling morning on Main Street. Blondie bought us ear muffs in Sunnyside. Warmed, too, by our anticipation of the Lunar New Year Parade.

We lined barricades. Carved out spaces between children and elderly awaiting festivities.

Performers, multi-national flag-carrying uniforms passed by us. Kids karate-chopped wood blocks up and down the street.

And then he appeared.

His clogged feat danced across frozen macadam in graceful circles. Twirls, if you will. The delicate cloth of his many-colored skirt/dress billowed as he turned, revealing red-orange-yellow socks, tights. Choreography from a rainbow ballet.

Greenbeard would prove to be the true Grand Marshal of this parade. Around his neck, a pineapple procured from a Canal Street vendor, perhaps. In his hand, a small drum. Other decorations (fruit? flowers?) dangled from his ostentatious hat, highlighting the deep rouge of his cheeks and, of course, the newgrass green of his beard. A colorful celebrant of the Lunar New Year, he was.

The next day I visited the parade in Chinatown with Goody Bathtub.

Three USO ladies sang songs off-key before the parade officially began. At some point, they each jumped into a vehicle and waved evenly at the crowd as they creeped forward. Out from the recesses of Mott Street he danced. Sprightly skipping beside Miss USO, matching her wave and smile with each step.

She thought we were cheering for her. We were blinded by his beauty. And shining bald head.

And then, when he approached us, we wanted to reach out and touch him, hold his hand: the fourth Jonas (better than the Bonus). One man had the opportunity to twirl with him, but Greenbeard's awe-inspiring dance moves and fashion sense rendered the passerby speechless. Typical fan.

I thought I would never see Greenbeard again. He's moved on to bigger and better things. More colorful garb and revised facial hair in a parade-happier city.

My friends, Greenbeard is with us.

I happened upon the Pride Parade this afternoon, around 12th Street. Several blocks uptown, Goody Bathtub alerted me to Greenbeard's presence. "He's coming. He's coming!" I exclaimed. People turned around, intrigued.

A few moments later, perched upon a car, Mama Jean, tubby in her own right, opened her denim button down and exposed her rolling side, tired-looking breast.

Where is Greenbeard? I wondered, knitting my brow. Has he two-stepped out of the parade?

But then! There he was. Beard fuzzier than I had remembered. No Chinatown tchotchkes to speak of. But a new accessory twirled beside him: a white dog with newgrass green highlights.

I did what any die hard fan would do: record the moment.

Uh ... that's me screaming "Oh my God! Greenbeard." (Note: I made up the name Greenbeard. His name might be Henry. Yes, Henry Beard.) Have you ever seen the Jonas Brothers walk onstage? Tweens throw themselves at them. Yell, scream, kick. Greenbeard evokes my inner Tween. He is the Jonas Brother that never was--better looking and more talented than all of the blessed Jonai.

Let's celebrate Greenbeard's Pride! And look forward to the next parade!

Do you have questions about Greenbeard? I do.

- Is his beard really green all the time?

- Parades seem to be his primary vocation. What does he do between parades as a day job? Do you think he might be a freelance writer? Or telemarketer? Maybe he's a dance instructor. Or FIT student.

- Does he own any other clothes? Clothes that aren't dresses/skirts and/or colorful?
... Stupid question. Who twirls in skorts? Duh.
UPDATE: An intrepid googler found this photo of Greenbeard at the Mermaid Parade. And this video of Greenbeard in a summery two piece. Apparently he does own other clothes.

What are your questions about Greenbeard?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Why I Love Queens

It's been a long time. Sorry. You probably forgot about me, but I don't mind.

I wanted to tell you why I love Queens. There's a few reasons. Luckily, the "reasons" are "photos."

People Are More Inventive

From Why I Love Queens
Wherever there's fruit outside, there's bound to be a surprise. Because of cryptic signs with fun punctuation (above) or newly created species of tomatoes (below), shopping for produce never bores me.
From Why I Love Queens
This rule of inspired sign-making applies to flowers, too. Outside of the frame, there's also Dragon Daisies and Siberian Tiger Roses. Next time I'll be sure to photograph them.
From Why I Love Queens

Your Niche is Here

From Why I Love Queens
OK, so maybe you're a human being in the market for a decent, affordable haircut. I'm sure there's plenty of places in this neighborhood where you can find that kind of thing. But check out Vicky's--they preen pigeon coifs, too.

And if you're happy with the hair on your head, you might consider grooming elsewhere. Luckily, this place (below) specializes in exactly what you're looking for. I'm sure.
From Why I Love Queens

Did I mention collectibles? I should. They're important. And highly findable in this borough. The lady in the window obviously scored !Best Prices! on a !Collectible! or !two!--her smile says it all. Gave up a few limbs for a prime place behind toy cars and manga.
From Why I Love Queens

Sidewalks Are the Utilitarian's Utopia

From Why I Love Queens
In the above photo, two girls scoot across the street, narrowly avoiding death by speeding SUV. I've (almost) seen it happen. For them, the sidewalk is a safer place to ride their Razors.

When I was younger, I flew kites at the beach. When I say "younger," I mean "23." Anyway, in Queens, children don't have that luxury. The sidewalk becomes for them what the beach was for me: a liberating kite-flying haven. "Little one, run with it! Go!" I heard adults call after him, as he pushed into women with three-wheeled carts and cane-wielding elderly gentlemen.
From Why I Love Queens
If you don't have a scooter or a kite, or football, baseball, or Skip-It, you might use the sidewalk as storage. See below for tips.
From Why I Love Queens

Everything's The Right Price

From Why I Love Queens
Wow, a burrito's only #0.99!? I mean, $0.99? Amazing. And check out the lunch special at the Korean BBQ. Available 7 Days != !
From Why I Love Queens
Everywhere you'd ever want to shop even accepts EBT cards, as does the deli depicted below. You can buy all the Irish foods you never wanted or knew existed, and if you're lucky, you might even get green eggs and ham. DEAL written all over it.
From Why I Love Queens

I Know How Late I'll Be To Work Because I Can See the Train Across the Borough

From Why I Love Queens
But isn't it beautiful?
And below, an accurate photographic description of what Manhattan looks like every Monday morning.
From Why I Love Queens

Most of All, I Love Queens Because It's All About Prevention

You can't make this up. Face masks actually grow on trees.
From Why I Love Queens
Swine Flu? Fuggetaboutit!

Really, I do love Queens.
Here's why:
Sunnyside Gardens
From Why I Love Queens

Staggering Views AKA I Can See The Sky
From Why I Love Queens

The Best Reason of All
From Why I Love Queens

If you find yourself so-over mundane Manhattan, take that train underwater and visit us. Or at least get your Brazilian done here (way marked down, I hear).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Putting the Pieces Together

It's what Obama's doing anyway.

You might as well join in on the fun.

Click to Mix and Solve

Monday, January 19, 2009

Just Because I'm a Woman I Should Know All "The Rules"

As a 24-year-old, single, middle-class, college educated, white female I have a lot of responsibilities. To recognize my own privilege, to do the best I can to give back to my community and the world at large, and, you know, other things too.

The most important?
Knowing the ins and outs of everythingweddings.

Can you imagine life without this knowledge? Without bridal shower etiquette and appropriate gift-buying guides, our society would be in a hot, chaotic mess. Gee, would anyone even bother getting married? Oh, goodness gracious! Perish the thought!

I don't know anything about weddings and don't care to know much about them. I know, so weird. It's like, I'm not even 24 or single, with a bevy of attractive, accomplished female friends who will, in the next few years, send me invitations with too many cards, envelopes inside.

I don't mind the marriage concept on its own, but just because I know people who are getting married, I'm suddenly responsible for having expertise on a subject I have zero experience with. Can I get a test prep book?

What I Should Know By Now Just Because I'm a Woman

- What to buy and how much to spend (A place setting? What if she doesn't get the 7 of 8 she's requested? What if she ends up eating on paper plates and your one place setting for a few months, and decides she never really liked the pattern on the cereal bowl or creamer? What if she decides against plates altogether?)

- What to wrap, what to not wrap (What if I don't want anyone to see what I've put in the wishing well? What if I've put a spell on the well item that will make all of the bridal party members single-for-life if they view my gift? Sing it with me, "I'm not a princess, this ain't a fairy tale.")

- What kind of bow would look best for the "hat" the bridal party will assemble (The one the cat abused most with his tiny claws, for sure.)

- What to write in the engagement, bridal shower, and wedding cards ("Like I said last time, I really hope this works out for you...")

- How much attitude to give the overconfident (yet single) members of the bridal party when I'm met with empty niceties ("Thanks, it was SO nice. Your directions to this restaurant were ... great.")

What am I missing? There are things that I don't yet know that I'm supposed to know about. How terrifying. Aren't you scared for me?

I think Dolly Parton might consider rewriting "Just Because I'm a Woman" to go something like this:

I can see you're disappointed
by the way you look at my wedding bingo sheet.
And I'm sorry that I'm not
the woman who screams at every gift she meets.
Yes I've made my mistakes
but was it my wishing well gift?
My everyday china is no worse than yours
Just because I'm an unsavvy woman

Now I know that I'm no angel
If that's what you thought you'd found
I am just a victim of
a sparkled invitation.

Yes I've made my mistakes
but listen and understand
My opinion of weddings is no worse than yours
Just because I'm an unsavvy woman


Truthfully, it has nothing to do with lacking savviness. It's a form of knowledge I refuse to integrate into my "things I care about" brain-folder.

So I guess most of you are going to invite me to your wedding(s), right?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Extraordinary Coffee Cart Man

Bright sunlight glistens off the steel exterior of the 43rd street and 5th avenue coffee cart. Back in the day, when I took a different subway to work, I frequented another shiny silver box for coffee and plain doughnuts (by 6th avenue). I never liked the men (2) who worked in there. They were cold, indifferent, uninterested in my eager-beaver smile and soft expressions of gratitude.

The days of burnt coffee and bad service are over.

(Um, they aren't, but whatever.)

I tried the 43rd and 5th cart one day to see what he was like. Would he make me feel inferior? Or - worse - ordinary?

"Hello dear, how are you today?" He greeted me as if we were old friends, as if I'd always bought my cheap, disgusting, bowel-shaking coffee from him. I hadn't. He didn't mind.

The next time, he was just as warm and so was I.

"I am so well, sir. How are you today? Keeping warm in there?" I looked up at him with a big smile, radiating heat, I'm sure.

"Yes, because you are so hot."

Pardon? "Thanks! Have a nice day!"

We continued this for many days and then I gave him a Christmas card with rub-offs. Wait, scratch-offs. I got the idea from the television, a New York Lotto commercial.

"You know, I won $15 on your tickets!" He told the next time I saw him.

"Oh, I am so glad. You really deserve it." Nodding my head, smiling as if he just told me war is over.

There wasn't a line behind me. I lingered.

"You are very, very nice."

"Oh, please. Thank you. You are very good at your job! Best in the city."

Then it began: an onslaught of free pastries.

Day 1:

"I'll just have a small coffee today." In a hurry.

"No, you will have a medium. Half/half and two sugars?"

"If you insist, yes." Coy smile.

"Now, what do you want here?" A quick glance around his inventory.

"What do I want?" Confusion.

"From here?" He gestured at his array of pastries, doughnuts, and bagels.

"Well ... oh, I don't really want anything."

"You have something! Please!" His brown bag was open, ready.

"Okay, I'll have a plain doughnut." Meek, mild, boring.

"That is all?"

"Yes. That is all."

"Okay, that will be $1."

"No, it shouldn't be!" I pushed $2 over the lip of his window. "Have a nice day!"

Day 2:

"Hmm, I'll have a bagel with cream cheese and a medium coffee."

"What else do you like?"

"I don't like anything." Shaking head.

"You must. Pick something." Again, gesturing.

"Okay, okay. Plain doughnut."

"Very good. $1." It should be closer to $4.

"Fine, here is $1."

He nodded at me, a sweet smile taking over his face.

Day 3:

"Ah, I haven't seen you in a while!" It had been a day or two since I stopped to see him.

"Yes, I know. I've been at Starbucks." I laughed, he smiled. A gay time, we had on 43rd.

"What will it be today then? Anything you want."

"Alrighty. A medium coffee is all." One who shoots for the stars, clearly.

"What! Come now, you must have something else."

"A plain doughnut?"

"That is all? It's so small! What else you like?"

"... I don't know?" Again, confusion.

"Anything here! Anything." I shook my head. "Okay, I put this one in for you." He held out a large glazed danish.

"Sure, that's fine."

"You like this one?"

"Yeah, it's great. How much is all this?" He dropped it in the bag and shook his head.


"Nothing. For you, I don't charge anything."

"How do you make a living doing this?"

"The money does not matter. It warms my heart to give it to you." He clasped his hands and brought them to his chest.

"Okay. Thank you sir."

"You are welcome. You have a wonderful weekend."

Yes, a wonderful weekend at the gym, on the treadmill. What generosity brings: unprecedented weight gain, diabetes, and an inexplicable hankering for doughnuts at 9:30 am.