One of Many

7:00 a.m. Alarm wakes me from sex dream. (Just so we’re clear, uncomfortable details of the sex dream will not herein be revealed.) The day is off to a resounding start as already a discovery has been made, a point proven: alarms are dangerous and can wake you from sex dreams. It is one of my many suspicions of the neocolonial crypto-fascist capitalist global empire that its agenda includes replacing sex with alarm.

7:00-7:40 a.m. Pathological snoozing that begins to encroach past the pathological snoozing bumper I have built into alarm time. I am finally awakened when the mental strain of doing the eight times tables to predict the snooze alarm’s next move proves too stimulating and I can no longer sleep through it.

7:40-7:59 a.m. COFFEE.

8:00-8:25 a.m. Overlong (by ten minutes) getting-ready time. How did COFFEE take twenty minutes? This was not the timing I calculated when I created the pathological snoozing bumper and carefully did the eight times tables while snoozing. I have no concept of time.

8:25-8:30 a.m. Walk to train. My research into this foreign concept called “morning” is underway. First observation: The morning is fucking BEAUTIFUL. It’s amazing. The light! The smell! The dew on the grass! Everything feels so new and full of possibility. The world is waking up! The world is alive!

Waking up at noon just does not provide the same shot of optimism. My God, the SMELL. It’s like the smell of newborn time. Everything looks different and feels different, the quality of time and space itself. Am I on DRUGS? Suddenly I realize why it’s called the morning rush. Where can I get some more of this morning stuff?

8:30-8:45 a.m. L train. It’s even nice down here in the morning. Cool, but not dank. Fresh. How can the subway be fresh? It’s the people, they’re all clean. Or cleaner than the crowd I usually ride with. Between noon and three you got your self-employed alternate-time workers like myself, your stay-at-home parents, sure, but also a high concentration of the elderly, infirm and insane. Then at three school lets out and the trains belong to high school students and their clouds of violent hormones and shrieking voices. But at this peak commuting hour we’ve got the docile hordes, quiet, caffeinated, well-groomed.


8:45-8:57 a.m. 3 train. The train is so packed there’s no bar for me to hold, so I practice surfing. Despite moderate-to-serious ear problems I am certain are affecting my equilibrium, upper-body weakness and a general lack of athletic ability, I am determined to continue learning to surf after spending four bruising days in solitude on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, getting the shit beat out of me by the ocean itself. I am not sure if not holding on to anything on the train can help me in this process, but I bend my legs and try to stay loose and upright while looking around the train from behind the safety of my ever-present sunglasses.

There is a businessman whose balding pattern has formed a sort of horizontal Mohawk. It’s oddly regal. An Orthodox guy is sleeping like a bird, his chin tucked into his chest and his beard nearly in his armpit. The guy next to me is doing Sudoku. I am irritated by Sudoku and Sudoku-doers and don’t know why. The guy next to him is doing the Times crossword with a pen and he’s almost done. On a Thursday, no less–sexy. I give him an approving look, then realize he can’t see me raising one eyebrow approvingly because I’m wearing my sunglasses.

8:57 a.m.
I hit the ground running at 73rd and Broadway, one snooze too late. I’ve got to cover nine blocks in three minutes and there are no cabs.

It’s still morning! Gorgeous! Clean! I had no idea it went on for this long! I assumed that around 9 a.m. the magic burned away, but not so! There are, apparently, several hours of beauty to be had before noon. The light is still special and the air is still cool and crisp! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! Yeah! We are so totally going to REALLY DO IT today, world! I had this really giant cup of coffee and nothing to eat! I now realize that what took twenty minutes was drinking this giant cup of coffee! Now I’m running down the street, punching the air like Rocky! I want to get naked and jump in a lake!

Instead, I caroom up Broadway, past a slew of high-end supermarkets. Foot traffic is heavy–the nannies, the babies, the semi-retired, semi-retarded. A few late-to-work business types bark orders into their cell phones, presumably to the myriad of people they employ in their offices and homes, the ones who send their letters and feed their children. “Put all the medicines in a box and label it!” says one. “That needs to go out TODAY!” says another. Is this the reward of serious amounts of schooling and hard work–you tell other people what to do all day long, grumpy and entitled?

What about waterfalls of champagne and people in the streets chanting your name, elaborate performances staged in your honor and for your entertainment, capped by hour-long fireworks displays, and maybe you have your very own pony? Now that would be a reward.

9:06 a.m. I’m in school, meeting one of my students during a free period. I’m a little uneasy in the school. Large groups of children terrify me–or rather, the expectation that I’m supposed to control them terrifies me. I relate to young people as an ally, not an authority figure. At the same time I am a narcissist who doesn’t like to have her own authority challenged. When put in a position of authority I have an immediate and total personality meltdown. Also, I can’t write legibly on a vertical surface and make a terrible mess of the white or black board. Also, I don’t believe in school. I have exactly one disciplinary technique (honed in Evil SAT Camp Where I Sold My Soul for the Security Deposit on This Apartment circa 2002) and that’s to dive under a desk and speak in a quiet monotone. It shocked the SAT Camp kids into submission, but I’m told that this would not have the same result in some of the city’s more “challenging” classrooms.

Thankfully, I am only here to deal with this one very agreeable and easily teachable student. He is making tremendous progress under my tutelege and just between you and me, could turn out to be one of my major success stories. The SATs are next weekend. It’s crunch time.

9:10-10:15 a.m. My hardest-working student shows me to an empty library cubicle, buckles down and absorbs like a sponge. While he does problem sets, I skim the excellent selection of books on the cubicle shelves. I thumb through an illustrated history of trench warfare (fascinating!) and picture book called Pirates! (also pretty awesome) and re-read my new favorite Bible passage, Ecclesiastes 9:11. “The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise nor riches to men of understanding nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance happeneth to them all.”

Fucking A, man. I am tempted to stop my hardest-working student and read him the passage to transmit some much needed perspective, but he is extraordinarily businesslike and seems concerned with getting the most bang for his buck. He is tolerant of my digressions, but I think better of it and show him how to find the area of a circle when given the hypotenuse of an isosceles right triangle that is inscribed in one quadrant instead.

10:17-10:25 a.m. Shoplifting at the local Barnes & Noble, one of my many hobbies. For a person of limited funds, shoplifting at big-box retail is simply a must. Also, it funds full-price purchases at independent establishments and enables one to own inspirational media items one really needs but can’t afford.

10:35 a.m. Downtown 1 train. Outside, it still smells like morning. An early wake-up for me is 10ish, so we’re getting into my potential normal waking time now. I am now fully convinced of something I’ll viciously deny to anyone who says “I told you so”–that waking up early is, like, awesome. The 3.5 pre-noon hours I’ve already lived feel stolen, and yet incredibly effective. I’ve earned an honest wage, ripped off a superstore and read about pirates, war and the nature of human existence. What could I do with all the other mornings before I am “caught like a fish in a net” (Ecclesiastes 9:12)? Take over the WORLD?

11:03-11:45 a.m. I return a bunch of crap I bought but don’t need so I can save money to get the hell out of this consumer nightmare of a country of which I am a weak, consumptive part.

11:45 a.m.-12:02 p.m. Crossing town at 15th Street, I notice that the air still smells suspiciously good. Maybe it wasn’t the morning. Maybe it is just a beautiful spring day. My relationship to this day is turning out to be like my relationships to some people–do I love them, or just the experience of being around them? Is it me? Is it them? The things we consumed? The things that consumed us? Who cares? Life is beautiful and we’re all on borrowed time.

Outside a museum, a class is gathered. Late high school or early college. Their teacher is saying, “Does everyone have their worksheets? Make sure you fill out your worksheet completely, because on Monday we are going to use them when we break up into discussion groups in class.”

I am filled with rage. Really? Worksheets? Who the fuck wants to do a worksheet? Who wants to “break up into groups”? What is this bullshit we call education? Is that the best we can do? The words “discussion group” remind me of the squeak of desks and chairs on linoleum as you drag your desks into circles to talk about the worksheets on discussion group days. It can’t be true, but I remember all of these days as brilliant, sunny, spring.

There are lightboxes with quotes on the outside of the museum. One says, “How is it that little children are so intelligent and men so stupid? It must be education that does it,” Alexander Dumas, fils said that.

I take a picture with my camera phone and make it my new wallpaper. I want to bring down the entire educational-industrial complex, but I settle for expressing my feelings on the screen of my cellular telephone.

12:15-1:20 p.m. Yoga class. I’ve been doing, like, a lot of yoga. Like, more than usual. Like, addictively. I’ve been cutting back on some of my less wholesome addictions and yoga has rushed in to fill the void. Yesterday, my only male yoga teacher gave me an assist that was totally the bomb. It is my all-time favorite assist. You’re in spinal twist, and then they come over and somehow brace your torso with their legs and kind of climb their fingers up your vertebrae, alternately kind of spreading your spine apart while you inhale and then pushing down with both hands on your knees and shoulder on the exhale so you stretch out even further. I have a very tense back and am always kind of trying to achieve this effect on myself but the expert touch of highly trained professionals is really where its at.

There’s a whole weird thought process that goes with breathing in and out while lying under the straddled legs of another person of the opposite sex when you are a straight person and having a physically pleasurable experience that also entails a certain degree of submission on your part. It goes like this, “Inhale this feels really good exhale where should I look inhale I won’t look right at him, I’ll look off to the side exhale my spine is long inhale it’s weird, this could be sexual, but somehow it’s not exhale yay! I am getting the awesome assist today inhale Michael is a really good yoga teacher exhale I am attached to this assist, and Michael, and yoga inhale I am trying to breathe into my back ribs, but he doesn’t seem to believe me exhale I AM BREATHING IN MY BACK RIBS, TRUST ME inhale so, like, Michael’ s job is to command entire rooms of scantily clad young women to get into crazy positions while sweating profusely exhale but his wife is also a yoga teacher and really gorgeous, but still inhale this is not sexual, it is healing exhale whoa, I am really deep into this twist inhale Michael is like, a shaman exhale I’m totally gonna get a massage inhale whee, I am made of jelly exhale enlightenment is nigh AND switch sides.”

Today, as is often the case, I spend Savasana (relaxation) reliving whole episodes of HBO programs I have watched and enjoyed. I can’t help it! They’re so good. Also, I am totally unenlightened and incapable of emptiness.

1:302:00 p.m. Falafel.

2:00-3:15 p.m. As I walk from St. Marks over and down through the East Village and Soho to Tribeca, I am inundated with consumption opportunities. I notice that as I lick my ice cream cone (Ben and Jerry’s was up the street from falafel, couldn’t resist) the desire to buy something is somewhat quelled, but after I throw the napkin in the trash the finery calls to me like a siren song. One store, I believe it’s Triple Five Soul, appears to have based its entire spring line on my ideal wardrobe. Everything in the store is either iconic to the point of costume (trench coats, flight suits) or an iteration of military green, camo or black, most of it incorporating zippers, lace or excessive pocketry. This unified aesthetic, which happens to be one of my favorites, is punctuated by orange cargo shorts, engineer-stripe cabbie hats, and lots of black tank tops that look like they’d be impossible to wear with a bra. I’d replace my entire wardrobe with the contents of this Triple Five Soul store, stat. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that all the clothes are hanging from giant utility clips on bars attached to the ceiling, like an art installation, and they swing hypnotically in their generously allotted space.

I’m starting to overload. It’s always been a dangerous predilection of mine to believe that I AM THE WORLD and the THE WORLD IS ME, one only exacerbated by a steady flow of hallucinogens and rock music, my growing fascination with Eastern religion, and large amounts of time spent alone. I’m starting to identify with all the clothing in the store, believing that it and I are one, or maybe that this store is a projection of my own materialistic fantasy, that I AM THE TRIPLE FIVE SOUL SPRING LINE. I am siezed with the delusion that it will make me more me and that I, in turn, can bring it to its full potential, simply by wearing it. At some level I’m aware that this is a false consciousness, an illness of the left channel (the idea that any object or person can complete or satisfy us) but in this iteration that feeling seems at once benign and all-encompassing.

Like anyone who’s just fallen in love, I’m starting to stumble and bumble and drop things on the ground. The uberhip staff of the Triple Five Soul store is looking at me funny. Seeing no chance of making off with my one true love, the Triple Five Soul spring 2007 line, I reconnect to my own trusty companions and comfortable loves, the black and army camo clothing I already have and am actually wearing. “I lost myself for a minute there,” I tell my outfit, “but I’m back.”

3:30-5:00 p.m. I meet the second student of the day at a pre-arranged Starbucks location. We were originally planning to meet at a library, but there are far more Starbucks than libraries. It took a half-hour on the phone to make sure we were both talking about the same Starbucks and she still ended up in the wrong one. Thank God for cell phones.

The student is new, the session is uneventful. So far, our common ground is that we both like aviator sunglasses. This is promising. Through this common ground, hopefully I can gain access to her cognitive mind and beam in an understanding of algebra.

5:00 p.m. In hopes of not being late each week for the next session, I’ve scheduled a generous half-hour for a four-block walk. Tribeca, I’ve noticed, has a lot of really high-end wine stores that kind of look like art galleries. The wine is well lit and displayed in innovative materials at unexpected angles. Since I got this gig I’ve had this Tribeca session inconveniently sandwiched between an Upper East Sider and a Central Village and consequently been racing to and from it, but the schedule is now changed and I’ve got nothing but time.

Turns out all of these wine stores have tastings on Thursday afternoons. I work my way through some exciting new whites from France, including a sauvignon blanc the wine store employee and I agree is “austere.” She schools me on the effects of progressively warmer climates on grapes. She pours generously and as I am philosophically opposed to spitting out wine, I leave for my last session of the day pleasantly buzzed.

5:30-6:30 p.m. I’ve got a kid in a high-rise condo working on a report about the War of 1812. His social studies teacher assigns these agonizingly long-term reports on American history. We just wrapped up three months on Benjamin Franklin. The kid is smart but also twelve and fairly unmotivated. His mom thinks I can fix this problem. This is an illusion I’m perfectly willing to perpetuate. I can’t exactly motivate kids, but I can come at them with such a barrage of energy and inquiry that sometimes they appear motivated, if only to get me to shut the fuck up.

The kid wants to write a report on how “The War of 1812 was pointless because in the end neither side achieved their goal of becoming the ultimate empire.” I encourage him to refine this thesis and carefully choose his details to support it. He points out that the Americans went into the war to get the British to stop impressing their sailors into the British Navy and to end the blockade on their trading with France, but the Americans only got what they wanted after the British defeated Napolean, not through the war itself. So in a way, the British beat themselves in the War of 1812, and the Americans got what they wanted not by beating their enemy but their enemy winning, albeit a different war.

This excites me. This is a perfect teaching opportunity for the concept of irony. Really, I only have two goals in teaching (besides astronomical test performance with which I can justify skyrocketing hourly rates) and those are to leave my students with a sound understanding of irony and hegemony. Our remaining half hour is spent conveying the theme of irony and relating it to the war of 1812.

I have a nasty habit of turning my students’ longer and more boring writing projects into essays I myself would enjoy writing. “The absurd irony of war” is a theme I like to toy with, and now this poor seventh-grader is going to end up handing in a paper to that effect. Oh, well, it’ll be good for him. He’ll learn something!

6:30-7:35 p.m. I go back to the wine store, buy the austere sauvignon blanc, then hit up two more wine tastings and buy one more bottle. Happy hour in Tribeca! And it would be free, if I could only stop buying the wine. It’s a dangerous situation–it’s almost dinnertime, I’m drinking on an empty stomach, suddenly I’m half in the bag and happily opening my wallet to make an investment in future inebriation. Oh, well, I tell myself, some people invest in war. I invest in wine!

The last wine-tasting of the day is particularly epic. The store is very high-end and the wine guy is from France. He’s impeccably French. He’s from Avignon. He knows everything. Me and him and some other wine tasting officiant get into a long discussion about the adjectives used to describe wine. “This one tastes like a thunderstorm,” I say.

“You hear that?” the American wine guy asks the French one. “She gets a thunderstorm. What do you get?”

“I do not get a thunderstorm,” he says. “I get earth, mushrooms and”–he pauses to sniff and make this really weird noise swishing the wine in his mouth– “tree bark.”

American wine guy pours me a Pinot.

“This one is voluptuous,” he says.

“What’s the opposite of voluptuous?” I ask. “Sinewy?”

“What’s voluptuous?” says the French guy.

“Flesh,” says the other wine guy.

“Breasts,” I say, my tongue loosened with voluptuous wine.

“Ah,” says the French guy.

“And this one, this one is rounder, a rounder feeling in the palate.” “This one is white pepper on the attack and black pepper on the finish.” Everything the French guy says is totally absurd and completely true.

An eccentric, drunk and heavily made-up lady waltzes over, buys a whole case of the Chablis, waltzes away. “Don’t drink it all at once,” says the American wine guy, rather unkindly, I think. Another lady comes in, tastes one wine, comments in French to the French guy. I start speaking French to the French guy. My accent is terrible but my grammar is correct. I’ve tried, like, eight wines. I’m very fond of the Chablis.

“I’m very fond of the Chablis,” I say to the French man. “Ca coute combien, cet vin?”

He rattles off a number in French and it takes me a second to translate it. French people always answer back really fast in French, I’m convinced because they are saying at some level, “You think you can come all up in my house and speak French, motherfucker, but you can’t.”

I’ve been there for at least half an hour. We’ve talked of wine and thunderstorms and quitting smoking and French people and violence. He’s kind of attractive. I’m kind of drunk. As is my policy in such situations, I reccomend a book to him I think he’ll enjoy and run swiftly in the opposite direction.

7:35 p.m. I leave a series of exhuberantly drunk messages on Rebecca’s voicemail exhorting her to meet me for Korean food. I don’t want this day to end! I love this day! My messages get progressively more agressive and suddenly, fearing she won’t want to meet me, as she tends to avoid me when she thinks I might “make a scene,” I decide to just show up at her yoga class as it lets out and usher her gently across the street to the Korean restaurant before she comes back from Planet Yoga.

7:37 p.m. I board an uptown C train to find A Writer I Admire sitting on the bench. We kind of have a thing, me and him. I run into him every year or two and I recognize him. He’s known but not famous to the point where I think he’d be annoyed to be recognized. For some reason, I am totally unembarrassed about cheerfully calling out to this Writer I Admire when I see him across the street, even though he’s kind of wry and witty and not exactly exhuberant. “Hey [Writer I Admire]!” I always yell, using his full name.

“Hey [Writer I Admire]!” I say now, drunk, delighted.

“You look different,” he says.

“I’m growing,” I say.

“You’re growing up,” he half-smiles.

“Or old, or both.”

“Where are you going?”

“Out to dinner. Where are you going?”

He is going to perform in and host an important literary event. I ask tentatively how one gets involved in such an event, he tells me there’s a kind of training ground/minor leagues for it. I tell him I enjoy seeing him perform, which is very true. He is one of the only Writers I Admire I haven’t had entirely disastrous and embarrassing interactions with.

“Where do you live?” he asks. “Brooklyn?”

“Williamsburg,” I reply. “Where else?”

“But I’ve seen you in my neighborhood, too,” he says.

“Where do you live?”

“Boreum Hill.”

“Oh, BoCoCa.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means Boreum Hill/Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens.”

“I hate to tell you this, but that term never really caught on,” says the Writer I Admire.

“I don’t care,” I say. “I’m running with it!”

We chat until 14th Street and say goodbye until our next run-in.

7:45 p.m. L train. I sit down and open the L magazine. The L magazine on the L train! It’s so…banal. I start hitting myself lightly in the forehead with the open magazine.

“You are fighting with your magazine?” The man next to me has a faintly European accent. I think he’s French, too. He’s middle-aged, but he’s wearing it well. I see how the middle-aged French men get the young ladies. They’re arch and blase.

“Yes,” I sigh dramatically. “I am locked in a lifelong battle with the printed word.”

“What is the magazine?”

I hold it up. “It’s got listings in it, mostly. And pornography on the back.” I waggle the American Apparel ad, which this week, as usual, does not disappoint. Girl in leggings, bending over, shirtless.

“I work in the zee industry,” he shrugs. “They have a look that works for them.”

“True, true. And no one seems upset about it. Not like the Calvin Klein ads.”

“You mean the campaign they say insinuates incest?”

“I thought it was child pornography. No, wait, it was both. The kids in the wood-paneled basement?”

“Yes. Now they have a big billboard on Houston of–I don’t know what.”

“Young flesh? America is obsessed with young flesh. We want to eat it. That’s why we have all the wars.”

I’m terribly prone to making reductive statements about the national character to foreigners, especially when drunk, but the middle-aged French photographer takes it in stride.

“I see,” he says. He sneezes.

“Gesundtheit,” I say.

“This is my stop,” he replies.

“Nice talkin’ to ya,” I say, my worldliness dissolved in young American flesh.

“Good evening,” he says, smiling crookedly.

I resume hitting myself in the forehead with my magazine.

8:02 p.m. My friend Lucky has left me a message reporting that he is currently employed projecting an American Express ad on the side of a building from a truck and would I like to visit him on the corner of 10th Street and 3rd Avenue anytime between 4:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. during the next two weeks? I call him back to say that it’s too bad, he just missed me in the city but I will swing by another day and maybe we can get some ice cream cones at the Ben & Jerry’s across the street, the one I frequented earlier today. Lucky’s financee Molly texts me to report that the kid she nannies for with whom we had popsicles with on Monday in the park keeps mentioning that we had popsicles and HE ATE SPONGE BOB’S EYES, an observation I pointed out to him by asking him how Sponge Bob’s eyes tasted. I am having an effect on the youth! Rebecca comes out of yoga, has deleted all my messages without listening to them and would love to get some Korean food.

10:20 p.m. Rebecca and I return home full of Korean food. Our all-time favorite Six Feet Under episode has appeared on HBO OnDemand, the one where Nate has a dream sequence while he’s having his first AVM surgery and sees that he is both alive and dead, that the universe is split in two and that “everything that can happen, does happen.” He sees all of his different possible lives go by, including ones where he doesn’t even exist. Then for the rest of the episode he’s haunted by weird deja vu moments that refer to things that happened in the parallel universes he’s semi-visited. The point, we think, is that this universe is just one of many, and everything that happens here, specific as it seems, is just a single possibile outcome plucked at random from infinity.

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