Dog Days

August 1, 2005

Weird dreams of planes landing in the East River, about to explode, running up hillsides to escape danger too slowly, the usual blockbuster nightmares.

Sometimes I think I’m valorizing people in foreign countries for being less materialistic, less superficial, less insipid, less obnoxious than Americans. I wonder if I’m misdirecting all my misanthropy at Americans when it should be distributed equally throughout humanity.

Maybe I just give foriegners credit because I can’t understand what they’re saying when I eavesdrop on them on the bus. On the other hand, I can say with confidence from my limited but growing travels that no one can be as rich or as loud as an American. Only in America if a dumb guy is hitting on a dumb girl and asks her what she likes to do will the girl say, “Whatever. Shop.”

August 5, 2005

A century after my ancestors emigrated to this country, every single one of them garmet workers, I’m still looking for a decent tailor in Brooklyn or the the Lower East side. All my relatives in the trade are long dead, and all their descendents mental health professionals, lawyers, architects, financiers.

Newport, RI, August 6, 2005

What is it about hostesses and waitresses in upscale restaurants that is simoultaneously evocative of high-priced hookers and sacrificial virgins?

Bonanza Bus, Interstate-95, August 8, 2005

The woman in the window seat of the first row is laughing much too loudly at the Ice Cube “family” movie provided for our interstate entertainment today. Having travelled the New York-Providence express round trip for three consecutive weekends, I’ve seen this movie four times, without sound. Its humor relies heavily on bodily fluids and testicular injury.

The woman is chortling, giggling and whooping delightedly and without pause. It’s hard to tell if she’s mentally compromised in some way or she just really enjoys the Ice Cube “family” movie. In any case, the entire front third of the bus is turning against her with a palpable, mounting hatred. At first, her noises ellicted the odd exaggerated sigh or turned head. By now, there is a chorus of groans and theatrical eye-rolling in the wake of her loudest shrieks. Of course, sitting in the front row with headphones on, she neither hears nor sees this.

My own seatmate, who has already complained to me about the quality of Dunkin’ Donuts bagels and the vagaries of her twenty-year kindergarten teaching career (“Let me tell you, the parents in the population I work with just aren’t that involved in their children’s education“) keeps glancing my way, inviting me to join in this and other gross dissatisfcations of her middle-aged life, but I press my lips together in a tight line, smirking at her huffing at the other woman’s cackling, counting off the ninety-three godforsaken exits of Connecticut.

August 9, 2005

The nine-year-old I’m tutoring, when asked how the reading and writing assignments we agreed upon last week went, gestured airily at her notebook. “Oh, I didn’t really get a chance to explore any of that this week.”

On the way to New Jersey, August 10, 2005

What is it I detest about commuter trains? Especially New Jersey Transit. Maybe it’s because the only other time I rode it was a gray, slushy day I went to New Brunswick to see my grandmother the night before she died. Now the shape and height of the seats, the specific way they differ from the more familiar ones of the LIRR or Metro-North, reminds me of grief and death.

I also hate the resigned surge with which the crowd gathers itself and waddles to the track when it’s announced. I hate the hot spots in the cars where the air conditioning has broken. I hate the pathetic vestiges of personality on the rare commuter, like the Doc Martens (tied with yellow and brown boat-shoe laces) on the businessman with the kahkis, blue blazer and monogrammed tote bag.

The woman next to me is leafing through sketches of the Izod children’s line for Fall and Holiday 2005, which appears to offer many expensive options for dressing your child like a sailor. Why do Republicans like sailing so much? Rich Democrats, too. It must be the lust to colonize.

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