By Corinne Flax
February 20, 2006
Sadly Resigned To Fate
Some days don’s begin auspiciously. This morning I woke up to find that someone who I met years ago, someone who I’ve run into numerous times in my life, is dead. This person who I’ve talked to at countless parties, gone on random beer runs with, and had several late night ‘intense’ conversations with drowned on Thursday. I last saw him over the summer at a Fourth of July party, and now he is no more. Not only do I feel sad, I feel angry. As irrational as this is I feel like someone should have consulted me before this happened. I knew him and I didn’t say it was ok for anyone I know to die.
When people die who you don’t know very well, but who you know well enough, it is hard to come up with the right responses. Do you tell those who did know them well, and who in fact loved them, do you tell them sorry? I ended up talking with one of his close friends and reminiscing about things that they had done together, about the things he liked to do, about the circumstances that led to his end. We talked about what had been going right in his life, and what had been going wrong. How do you talk about the hole that is left when someone steps unexpectedly out of life?
After we got off the phone I felt like I had to sit down and write about this. Words are inadequate to describe the hollowness I feel right now, just as they are inadequate to console and comfort those who have lost a brother, a son, and a friend. It may not even be appropriate for me to be writing about this, especially so soon. At the same time it’s important to recognize that life and death are aspects of one another and that if we ignore or candy-coat this harsh fact we will be repressing ourselves.
Sometimes it’s tough being a human. There are so many things to act and react about. For example, earlier this week I saw a bum steal a hat from a vendor. The store was tiny, as only NYC stores can be, it was built like a closet. I pass this shop every time I take the 4,5, 6 trains down town. Since the store is so small there’s always displays of hats, gloves, sunglasses etc. outside. I was buying a pair of sunglasses. The shopkeeper went into the back to try and find me a different pair, and this bum who had been walking by snagged a hat. After he grabbed the hat he looked around furtively, and saw that I was watching him. We then had a silent conversation where he begged me not to tell the shopkeeper, and I looked at him helplessly. The bum stayed there while I bought my sunglasses. I didn’t tell the shopkeeper and I’m not sure if this was correct.
In situations like that is discretion the better half of valor? If I had said “That man just stole a hat” what would have happened? The bum would probably have started running. Then the shopkeeper would have run after him. I’d have been left holding the sunglasses and standing there, helplessly staring after them. Maybe I would have stolen the sunglasses, making it a daring two part heist. I didn’t do anything and somewhere there’s a bum with a new hat. I just hope he’s wearing it because suddenly it’s awfully cold outside.
February 15, 2006
A couple of days ago I came down with a nasty case of what my grandmother would call the colly-wobbles. Essentially this means that I had food poisoning. I’ll leave it up to your imagination to illustrate what that was like. My food poisoning coincided with my first day at my new store. Despite my better judgement I showed up for work, and then left two hours later. I managed to insult one of my coworkers by accident, drop all of my twenties in the wrong drop-box, piss of my supervisor by not taking out the trash, and in general I was totally lame. I also had to use the store bathroom three times in two hours, and that bathroom is just about as gross as they come.
After getting out of work I hobbled homeward on the A train. Part of me wishes I had some pictures of myself, huddled up in my black coat, black pants, black boots, black shirt, wracked with strange lingering cramps, wishing I was dead. I spent the rest of the day curled up on the futon alternating between “The Blind Assassin” by Margaret Atwood “Spirited Away” by Miyazaki, and napping, by me. I had to miss my arts workshop class, and I’m bitter about that. I love that class and I sit next to Rufus Wainwright’s half sister, which is totally cool.
It’s sad to get sick like that, especially after I’d had such a lovely weekend. It was my grandmother’s 84th birthday, and the family got together to celebrate in style. We had dinner and presents at my parents house, and my mom made the most divine carrot cake ever. My sister and I got back to Harlem just in time to watch the blizzard start gearing up. On Sunday I thought I was going to have to work all day, but my shift got changed. Instead of being stuck inside watching the snow fall I got to wander around Manhattan, eventually ending up in Brooklyn. From there I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge and over to Century 21.
Century 21 is officially my new favorite place on earth. Disney World doesn’t have a thing on Century 21. The only bad part about that store is it’s proximity to the gaping hole that was the World Trade Center buildings. It’s a strange juxtaposition: the Mecca of discount designer duds, and the lingering reminder of the destruction of the emblem of world commerce. I hadn’t been to the site for years, and it had a chilling effect on me to see the fencing and the bulletins about regrowth and rebuilding posted everywhere. There was a good and a bad feeling about it, like when you peel of old scabs.
School keeps on trucking along and I’m beginning to get nervous about all the papers I’m going to have to write. Eventually I’m going to be doing so much work it’s going to make me feel sick, so I really have to appreciate how easy it is just doing ten hours of reading a week. On Friday I start doing literacy tutoring with the Harlem branch of Friends of the Children New York. As part of my literacy class I have to do five sessions with a student and assess their progress. Since I have a serious volunteer bug, as well as a laziness one, I’ve decided that if the five sessions work out I’ll stay with the program for as long as possible. I like it when I fall into things. I’m supposed to call the girl I’ll be tutoring tonight, I hope that it goes well.
February 6, 2006
What To Wear What To Wear
Scheduling, always scheduling. I’m meeting a potential new manager in three hours. I love the manager at Astor, and most of the people who work there, but tourists and NYU students don’t tip and that’s who makes up 45% of our business. It’s time for me to find a permanent home-store here in NYC and Astor is not the place for me, so it’s off to Chelsea I go. First though I want to go for a walk and take a shower, but I’ve become stuck in contemplation. What am I going to wear? My fixation on this is not just because of the meeting, but because after the meeting my day continues. We’re six and half hours from my Literacy class right now, and I haven’t done the readings yet. One reason for this: I don’t have the books yet, but that’s not the issue at hand. The issue at hand is what I am going to wear today.
A part of me wants to wear something different for a change, and of course there is nothing different in my closet. I look at my ‘nice’ shoes with a mix of longing, regret, and despair. Why is it that the shoes which ‘pull an outfit together’ are so damn uncomfortable? Walking is a large part of my life right now, and not just as an extra curricular activity. I walk to class, I walk to the subway, I walk to my friends house from the subway etc. Cabs aren’t really part of my monetary vocabulary. Should I wear the shoes that I know aren’t incredibly comfortable?
Right now I have on jeans and a hoody and am preparing to go to the bank. This is the kind of clothing that I feel the most physically comfortable in. Sadly physical comfort tends to go right out the door when women get dressed to impress. Right now the most popular outfit seems to be a tiny ragged jean skirt, opaque tights or stockings, big chunky boots with or without heels and fur trim, and various layered shirts. I actually rather like this style, but I find myself feeling self consciously trendy when I rock it. Also none of my boots are chunky enough for this look, mostly because I think boots like Uggs are the ugliest things I’ve ever seen.
So here’s what I ended up wearing: turquoise corduroys with sequins on the back pockets, brown Italian leather boots, and a purple turtleneck that makes me think of my grandmother. All in all the sort of outfit you could picture a funky teacher wearing. Since being a funky teacher is one of my current goals and aspirations it seemed an appropriate outfit, plus it was comfortable. I didn’t feel out of place in Chelsea, in class, or on my walk back from school. All in all the outfit was as successful as one could have hoped. Sometimes I have to try on tons of different things before I hit upon that magic combination, but this outfit just fell together. Now if only life could be like that all the time.
February 1, 2006
Developments In Development
Yesterday in Child Development we talked about marriage, what it meant to us, what it meant to society as a whole. One thing that I said was ‘everyone is walking around looking for their soul mate’. One of the members of my discussion group disagreed strenuously with this. She told me that in New York nobody is interested in finding true love, all they really want is to find themselves. She said that everyone in the city is so self centered that you cannot trust them. First of all this made me feel sad, second of all this girl is dating someone, so I wonder if she really meant what she said.
I do know that Childhood Development is one of the hardest classes I’ve had to take ever. The readings are complicated, arduous and vastly different from what I expected. I’m not really sure if I know what I expected, I just know that what we’re getting isn’t what I thought it would be. One thing that we’ve been reading that I’ve enjoyed a lot has been Maxine Greene’s “Dialectic of Freedom” We’ve only read a few chapters from this work and I am consistently impressed to the point of being overwhelmed by Ms. Greene’s eloquence and logic. I also find her extremely scholarly, to the point where I have to take detailed notes on everything in order to retain some of it.
Childhood Development is the sort of class where you sit around and discuss the effects of divorce, child abuse, living in an inner city, watching tv etc. on children, and then compare your discussion to what behavioral specialists say should be going on. Because Bank Street prizes the idea of environment effecting learning and development we, the students, are asked to think about the environment in which we grew up, and share how it affected us. For me this isn’t really difficult, I am by nature a sharer and there isn’t much about my past I wouldn’t gladly dish up for any and all to look at. This doesn’t mean I’m proud or happy about everything that’s happened to me, nor does it mean I’ve made my peace with my past. It just means I’m a sharer and that I like attention.
There are a lot of people in my class who, like me, are reveling in this opportunity to get things off their chests. I have learned more about some of my classmates parents then I really care to know. Others in the class are much less comfortable. In a way it’s as if we’re all closet doors, and people like me are wide open, exposing all the messily hung up clothing, old shoes we don’t wear anymore and dust bunnies inside. There are others who are closed so tightly that you’ve got no idea what’s going on behind them. Then there is the minority in our classroom, those people who want oh so desperately to share but who are afraid. Every now and then they swing open a crack only to shut down even harder. You know that in the end they’ll open up, it’s inevitable, and they want to do it. It’s the waiting that makes for interesting classes.
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