I live where toddlers cram spongy Cheerios into jellyfish mouths, trip and lurch like damp little drunks, and hone elimination skills on a squat plastic potty. I’m not actually present for any—my day-hour rituals are of a more droning and fluorescent nature—but some things are safely assumed.

Enter evening, when the babes retreat, the light dims, and the chorus lulls.

That’s the Monday through Friday breakdown. There are also weekends: two days per when the sauce in the sippy cup sparks spontaneous flits and twirls and lascivious text parades in lieu of wobbly grievances in the vein of “Milo drank my appul juuuice! Waaahhh!!”

It’s a whale of a deal, this only-in-New York living arrangement, with a couch-change price tag, eggshell walls you lose on the way up, appliances that glitter and clink expensive newness, and a porcelain bathtub with mineral curves so pure and sweet and sad that to bathe is to go back.

See also: a small unit set apart from the rest—a tidy afterthought with a big sure lock. But who’s fooled? My bedroom: porous like nobody’s business.

I.

It’s pleasing to three-year-old Me, the amount of light, real and artificial, filling the room right now, and as I look down, my legs floating off the edge of the soft sinking couch that feels against my bottom just like the one we have at home, I watch my feet, striped in purple and red because of the socks I picked out myself and put on earlier. These aren’t the only stripes. There are others, ones made by the sunlight coming in through the window that is not a regular window like the ones at home, but a window with something on it so that the light makes lines as it enters the room. These lines go in a different direction than the ones on my socks, which makes little boxes on the tops of my feet. I keep on looking at my feet, because I think the lines look neat all together as they are, and a little like the floor in the bathroom at home, where I remember standing and looking up up up at my dad brushing his teeth. I wonder when I will see my dad again. It probably won’t be very long from now, because I remember wondering the same thing many times before and always, every time, I have seen my dad again. Suddenly there is a picture in my head of some quiet water, and I think maybe it is the water from earlier.

II.

This arrangement is all wrong. It’s like my 31-year-old thighs, parallel to the floor and about three feet above it, are popping out of cartoon jail, wedged between three skinny pillars: pinched, chafed, wrong. My lower abdominal region is also constricted, made concave by a jutting, hard-plastic table-for-one. Suddenly I’m aware of airplane sounds, not from actual planes but from the mouths of women who hover above me, their lips moving in rapid succession. And suddenly—food! It hits me like a full-on air assault, rubber-tipped spoons loop-di-looping fast and furious toward my mouth, depositing quivering iridescent globs of creamed corn, mushy peas, mashed carrots and sweet potatoes and neon squash, next egg custard, berry medley, brown-ripe banana, pureed pears, applesauce, honeyed yogurt, more banana… I take it all in, too, determined not to make a mess. But I’m horrified, the whole thing is horrifying and I want it to stop. My stomach is really hurting and I’m so worked up I can’t even cry. Desperate for relief, I transform myself into an eel, sliding easily out from the chair and slithering to the center of the room, where the best toy is laid out: the giant road rug, complete with crosswalks and traffic islands and signs to the zoo. Coasting at leisure, I spy in the top right corner a small dark clump of trees, and, pausing for no more than a second, I disappear silently inside it.

 

On waking, wholeness. Precious.

These arrangements of empty chairs are what’s left of celebration, argument, meditation, sleep and revelation.  They huddle together like still animals in the cold.  From a chair beneath a plane tree, the round tracks of a cane disappear into the gravel.

The single chairs are absent of their poets, readers and afternoon philosophers.

Those side by side and face to face are absent of their lovers, their chess players, the soon to be married and the just abandoned.

The great groups of circles and strange half-moons have lost their lecturers, their students.

Lately I’ve been dreaming about being a spy.  It’s a nice change from the usual “somebody is chasing me” nightmare.  These days the tables are turned and rather than running through molasses from some unknown terror, I’m the one holding the machine gun.  Go me!  I’d like to think that the dream analysis is true and this represents my drive and ambition.  Sadly, I think it has a lot more to do with my recent Alias obsession.  Apparently my subconscious wants to be Sydney Bristow.

There are worse people to want to be, let’s be honest.  She’s hot, smart, funny, in touch with her emotional side, she speaks eight languages and most importantly, she TOTALLY kicks ass!  Yeah, everybody around her dies, but hey, that’s the price you pay for being an international woman of mystery.  She’s managed to have a meaningful relationship, connect with her super-spy parents, maintain long-term friendships – even if they do involve witness protection – and have a baby.  She travels all over the world and her paycheck is seriously phat.  Have you seen her apartment?  Sweet!  So she risks her life a lot; there are down sides to every job.  But her wardrobe is insane and her wig collection is to die for.  I’ve long had a blue hair fantasy.  Sydney can be blue today and blond tomorrow.  That’s got to count for something.

I’ve never been too sure about the whole “health of television on the developing mind” thing.  As a child I was allowed one hour of television a day, sometimes more if it was educational.  I spent a great deal of my time counting with Bert and Ernie and humming the tune to National Geographic.  I still get tingles when Nova comes on but, like sugared cereal, I started watching the TV equivalent as soon as I left home and finally started getting all those popular references that evaded me during my formative years.  No, I was not popular.

At this point I think I can safely say that television affects a persons thinking or, at the very least, mine.  Not only have I become a nightly vigilante but after weeks of watching Lost, flying has once again become a problem.  Of course not helped by the four or five Airbuses that have recently either crashed or made emergency landings, but it was a fear I had under control for a while.  No longer.  Living through 9/11 provided me with this particular phobia.  Having largely gotten past it, (I recommend flying to Asia as a cure.  24 hours on a plane and you don’t care how you get off.), I never would have guessed that a popular television show could bring it back.  But the show plays the crash sequence over and over and over.  During the days after the attacks the news agencies, in an unprecedented concern for public well-being, finally pulled the footage of the planes crashing into the towers after realizing it was contributing to the country’s post-traumatic stress.  Lost has essentially brought it all back to the surface and while I love the back-stories and all the characters, John Locke? – I ask you! – I’ve had to take a break.  There was recently a weekend trip to London during which I cried through take off both going and coming.  It seems The Dharma Initiative has wrecked its evil influence off screen as well as on and I’d like to take this moment to apologize to the people seated next to me on those flights.  I owe you both a drink, although it might have been better if we’d been able to have it then!

In maybe not such a smart move, I have started making my way through Dexter.  I don’t wish to frighten friends or family but as most of you aren’t anywhere near by and my fear of flying is still in effect, I think you’re safe for the time being.  It’s not my fault!  If they would be quicker about releasing the DVD’s over here I could be watching Heros instead.  I would be dreaming about flying or reading minds rather than cutting them open.  I’ll try to get through this series quickly, promise.  The nightly butchery isn’t as fun as it sounds.

Going forward I guess I have to take into consideration that maybe my parents were right.  One hour a day should really be enough and if you’re learning something from it, other than awesome kickboxing moves that is, then it doesn’t need to have the negative impact it seems to have for me.  Or maybe instead I just need to be more careful about my choices.  After all, would anybody mind if I became Martha Stewart?  Receiving perfectly wrapped gifts hermetically sealed with just the right amount of tape and given under my color coordinated Christmas tree would be something my family might enjoy.  Nah.  I like being a spy.  Hey J.J., if your next series requires a young looking, thirty-something, not-so-in-shape former opera singer turned everyday savior well, you know who to call. Cause thanks to Syd, I’ve got the moves, baby!


I’m driving a ’57 Chevy through Brooklyn at four o’clock in the afternoon. The sun beats bullets on the asphalt that pool into mini metal ponds on the horizon. I smell coconut toasting, probably from a sweaty vendor on Flatbush, and I hear a sermon in Spanish coming from a loudspeaker on the sidewalk.

Suddenly, Al Pacino steps into the street. He’s wearing a plaid trench coat, which he opens to remove two machine guns.

He aims at me, so I gun the Chevy. It roars like a steel-toed boot.

I have no choice but to run him over.

So I do.

I can feel the snap of his neck as it smashes into the windshield, then the tha-thud thud thud of his body as it rolls over the roof of my car.

Ssssssssss.

Air deflates somewhere.

I look back. He’s dead. So I drive off.

I go home and burn my robe.

It’s plaid.

I wake up crying. Diane Keaton is on my mind. She loved him so.

Did he love her?

I want to know.

So I go back to sleep.

SACRAMENTO, CA

I come from a family of dreamers. My dad was always chasing some harebrained idea or another. One week he’d be talking about starting his own business, and the next he’d be obsessed with buying a motor home to travel cross-country. My mother spent many a weekend humoring my father as he dragged her from mobile home lot to mobile home lot looking for the perfect vehicle for this crazy adventure that has yet to materialize – twenty years later. At some point my mom took to saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it, Grant,” to just about every idea my father came up with.

Granted, my father made these things all sound wondrous and doable, but when it came to the logistics of trying to do any of the things he wanted to do, it just wasn’t going to happen with nine children in tow. In more recent years he has been far more productive in following through – like when he convinced my mom to get her truck driving license and the two of them drove big rigs across the country for a year or two. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the two of them happier and more close than when they were living out that life. Unfortunately, family drama made them have to quit that and my dad went back to his old dreamer self. I don’t talk to them much these days so I have no idea what he’s dreaming up these days, but I’m sure it’s something big.

The thing I’ve always admired about my dad’s big ideas is the enthusiasm with which he first approaches anything. In fact, I’m fairly certain I’ve inherited his big dreaming, as well as the enthusiasm that only lasts until the idea gets put down on paper. Somehow once I’ve thought something all the way through I no longer have the energy to actually put the pieces in motion. This is why I try very hard not to tell people I’m going to do something until I’ve actually got everything in place to make it happen. Many times I’ve heard the advice that you should tell people you’re going to do something because then you’ll feel obligated to follow through with it, but that’s just not the case with me or the people in my family. It seems that once we let our secret desires out into the ether, they escape never to be seen again. And so it is that I have been planning a move to Istanbul for the past six months but have not put it down in writing until now.

I’ve wanted to write about it here a million times over, but I would hate to become one of those people who sees everyone’s eyes roll every time she mentions another crazy adventure. I want to say, “I’m moving to Istanbul,” and have people actually believe it, rather than them saying, “I’ll believe it when it happens,” you know? I want to be a doer, not just a dreamer. So, now that the plane tickets are bought, my storage is beginning to fill up, and the funding has been secured, I feel it’s safe to come out to you all about my plans.

The most common question from people when I tell them I’m moving to Istanbul is: Why Turkey? The answer seems simple to me. I’m going to Turkey on a study abroad trip. My only other option for my major (MA TESOL) was Germany, which I felt was far too safe of a decision, considering I’ve already lived in Western Europe, have been learning German, and have been to Germany a couple of times. I wanted to explore someplace completely new and foreign to me. And, really, why not Turkey?

My friends and family also want to know why I’m going anywhere at all. Why not just stay in the states and finish up my MA quickly so I can move on with my life? Well, the easy answer is that I’m going because I can. If you had an opportunity to move to Istanbul, would you not take it? But the more true answer is that I applied in haste after having my heart shattered. All I wanted was to escape all of the memories of me and him. There isn’t a bar or restaurant in this town that doesn’t have some memory of us. And this apartment – it’s overflowing with promises not kept and things left unsaid. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve both had trouble letting go and I truly think a forced separation will allow us to move on in ways that we haven’t been able to over the past six months.

Also, it will give me the chance to be alone with myself and my thoughts while I get lost in the beauty and history of such a wonderful city. It’s only going to be for six months, but I’m hoping it will be enough time to explore Istanbul and some of the lesser traveled parts of Europe.

Already, I’ve been discovering the vast amount of history that has taken place in Turkey. Did you know Troy is in Turkey? I feel so ignorant for having thought it was in Greece all this time. I’m reading a huge travel guide on the country in the hopes of not seeming completely clueless upon arrival, but there’s so much to learn and so little time. It’s seriously unbelievable the layers and layers of history there – even just in Istanbul itself. I hope to send more regular updates from Istanbul with plenty of pictures for you all. Hopefully we’ll both learn something from the experience.

Any advice, suggestions, must-sees, or phone numbers of hot guys are more than welcome. Well, contact information for just about anyone living in Turkey (aside from creepy stalkers and serial killers), is welcomed.

So now, how many of you have that They Might Be Giants song stuck in your head?

This is my tenth post on TNB, which I’m treating as some sort of milestone. And as with all milestones, I’m going to take this moment to look back and reflect on what a crazy journey it’s been… (Imagine some sort of bubble effect or that wibbly-wobbly screen wipe with harp music at this point.)

As far back as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a gangster writer. Or kind of. I’ve always wanted to be a writer when I haven’t had crazy schemes of what I was going to be.

A memory that haunts and embarrasses me to this day is standing up in class at the age of about five, wearing glasses and no doubt a zany waistcoat. I was a nerd as a kid, I dressed like a fucking magician. I was standing in front of a class with a list of books I was going to write (most of them about dinosaurs) and how much they would retail for.

We sat together in the back of my car for an hour and I did not kiss her. We sat together on her couch, watching something or another on the TV and I didn’t kiss her. We lay together in her bed for hours, not kissing. It seems we can spend our lives together, swallow eternity and quake with love, and I haven’t kissed her. I cannot kiss her forever. There is agony in our kissing.

It gets worse

Perhaps some wine can help. The brutish concrete dividing our lips gains some minerals, that agonizing superstructure breaks down and her mouth splashes through all this decomposed boundary and there it is, I kiss her. But I do not kiss her. Maybe wine is a parlor trick for a kiss. Just hissing, adolescent monkeyshines and in the morning it was all greasy kid stuff. Wine is dangerous, as you never know when to fall in or out of love. Wine decides for you. That is why we drink it. Wine decides within and without you. That is why we drink it. I want to set a mortar charge in this fragile wall and blast out all the foundations, because wine is too slow. Then I will kiss her.

And then we kiss. Oh, I can just imagine it! She doesn’t taste like anything I have tasted before. She tastes like sprinkles from a thousand yellow butterflies. She tastes like drops of syrup on anArdennes pancake! My ribs collapse and my heart coils around her and our tears merge; an alloy prone to extinguish the flames of Hell! Devour me, sweet girl. Devour me soon as I devour you…when I was younger, when I was much smaller I thought like this. Always in love and always roaring with hope. There are so many girls, but I want this one! Ignore her, you brutes–you have never known love and you speak like ghouls and you tread like troglodytes. She can’t hear you, she mustn’t. She must hear only me and my voice and how it cracks and twists and burns and speaks in agonizing silence…I want to sleep.

I want to paw through her hair and slow her down. I want the diminuendo of processes. I want to slow her down and look at her in sleep. I will choose Endymion and she can choose Sleeping Beauty. And we will sleep. And then I will kiss her. I will kiss her gently and violently, because how can I not? I am angry with love! It’s all so perfectly horrible, as it was when I was younger.

Now, what–now that we kiss? Can I pull away and stop? Absolutely not. By my heart, by her swatting systoles I swear not Venus nor her sulfur rains can pull me from her lips. We are hitched eternally in a kiss. My breath is hers is mine and now there is no need for food, for drink, for watching the New Year’s Day parade. I have my moment and please, sweet girl, let this be yours and this is our time. There is no need for clocks, sundials, compasses, sextants, the winds, the sea, the air, the sun. There is only the dark spot, the void where she and I hide and nobody must see us. But we are not gone. One day we will come blazing out from the darkness, hoary, incontinent and withered and we will tell you that you will never know suffering. We have suffered for you. I must kiss her.

Screaming forth, through scales, through time signature, through hundreds of thousands of spilled seeds and our little laureates awash in infinite Egyptian thread counts. Now nothing but lead droplets, forsaken, gifted world-makers. And so ahead I’m charging on and hoping you don’t cry when you see my hearse and scratching at death’s thin membrane to rant and change the oil and the timing belt and the Volvo must be taken in every 10-12,000 miles. The children mustn’t chew gum. They look ignorant that way. Will they test well? Will they crush records on foot or in the water or with mighty spears and all I want is just to kiss you. First, just kiss you.

It goes on. . .

Then I see our name on bank accounts, sundry certificates and written indelibly on our faces. We. Our. Us. Ours. And when you run out of breath, engulf mine, smoky and diluted. And when it gets so heavy and you carry anvils up the street look at me. Look at me! And I’ll be your helium. I’ll be your vehicle, your imagination, I’ll be everything. You don’t believe me? Try me.

I have seen too many idle kisses. This one has value. This one is a live one…full of watts and ohms and puncturing that thin chrysalis of any damned barrier you can conjure.

This kiss can fight, this kiss won’t go down. This kiss has money on itself. Kiss me. And I’ll kiss you back. Heaven watch me, help me. Angels, pierce me with your slings and I’ll spit in your face. Under the cross, I’ll untie poor Iscariot from his fig and send him down the river. Ask me if I could care. I can’t care more for you and can’t care more for this. This blessed kiss. Forever and Forever and never. Let these charges move up their rungs and turn me into the harlequin with the mirror; Christ and the Samaritan and everything you’re afraid of. That’s how it is–I am the dream caused by the flight of a bee around a pomegranate a second after waking.

And the children, the laureates, the scoundrels, the scourges, the cherubs and the gentle Gooseberries. They all wait for their mother, their starburst of a mother, festooned with breasts of chocolate milk and a licorice umbilical. So, help me. Help me kiss her, all of you. Fight for me, unbuckle your swash and launch out. Attack for me. Attack like a mother for her boys on the morning of a war. If you see you, kiss you for me.