All in all is all we are

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My dog turned 13 on Tuesday, as many of you already know. He’s a spry 13, shaky, arthritic legs notwithstanding, and people are often surprised to learn his age. My doormen know, and on the morning of his birthday they greeted him with birthday wishes and joked about his teenage years. I made some comment about his Bar Mitzvah and one fellow said, “Yeah, but he got that taken care of when he was a pup, right?” and proceeded to pantomime snipping something. I laughed and Louie and I were on our way. I realized that this guy is under two fairly significant false impressions: 1) that I had Louie circumcised, and 2) that boys have this procedure done at their Bar Mitzvahs.

Hmmmm. I know I’m misinformed about a wide variety of topics and I’d like to not be, so if ever we have a conversation in which I reference false knowledge, please feel free to let me know. As I said in my last post, admitting what we don’t know is empowering.

Last night I went to see Billy Joel perform his 17th consecutive monthly show at Madison Square Garden … and in keeping with my quest to stay up-to-date on the latest in music, I’m seeing Joan Jett open for The Who tomorrow night. I saw Billy Joel once before, circa 1987, at Jones Beach. My best friend and I went and Elton John was an unannounced special guest. I remember riding out there in her Audi and eating deli sandwiches before the show, (Westchester County has some of the best delis in the land), and I remember that as we were walking through the parking lot some guy asked us if we were twins — remember that, TJ? We are not, though we’re roughly the same height and have similar hair color. And we were fairly inseparable back in those days; thank God, because I do not know how I would have survived those lovely teenage years without her. I absolutely did not peak in high school. Or college, for that matter.

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I am profoundly grateful that we did not come of age with cellphones and Facebook and the internet, grateful that I learned how to look things up in books and did not have the pressures and marginalization that social media can foist upon young minds. At the show last night the cameramen kept filming people (mostly young women) in the audience, who would laugh and point or blow kisses or hug their friends when they saw themselves on the huge screens. He filmed one young woman who was busy looking at her phone and missed the whole thing.

The unequivocally strangest part of the evening was about halfway through when l’artiste invited one of his roadies onstage to perform a number. “Chainsaw”, his name is, came out wearing his roadie blacks and performed a rousing and pitch-decent rendition of “Highway to Hell”. Based on the demographic of the audience, I would guess that half the people were “psyched” and the other half baffled.

What else what else what else … oh! I have set a rather lofty goal for myself where the timetable for finishing my first draft is concerned — lofty but attainable, I think. It’s a matter of creating time to write every day and just powering through what is, essentially, the final stretch of this story. Deciding to work with my writing coach is one of the single best decisions I’ve made in recent years, because she is encouraging me to get through this draft so I can move on to the “fun” part, which is editing/revising the second one. The wisdom I’ve gleaned from various writers and teachers is that the first draft is the “discovery” draft, where you tell yourself the story you want to tell. So that’s what I’m doing and it’s working to some degree and now I’m in the home stretch, though it’s a dense home stretch with a lot of action, location changes, and so on and so forth. But I’m enjoying the process, and it had been a while since I’d really enjoyed it, so this is good. Having to be accountable to someone for a certain number of pages every two weeks, investing a little bit of money into the process, is helping me to get this thing written. So if all goes according to plan, and it very well may not, but if it does, I will have a first draft before too long.

Now that I’ve written that I feel compelled to switch gears and work on the novel, so I will do so shortly.

The other day I passed two guys having a conversation and one was saying, “I’m the biggest [redacted] in New York City!” I wanted to go back and ask “What? You’re the biggest what in New York City?!” because that’s quite a bold statement. If he really is the biggest-something I’m honored to have shared the sidewalk with him.

Last weekend my father and I took a field trip to the outlets to buy unnecessary, reasonably priced items of clothing. As we were pulling into the parking lot he made a comment about being a “shitty parker”, which I’d never known about him, or realized, in the many years that he’s been parking cars in which I’m a passenger. I suggested that telling oneself that one is not good at something can make it a self-fulfilling prophecy; decide you’re a shitty parker and maybe you won’t try as hard because you figure you won’t do it well anyway. Once there we divided up for an hour to run our errands, and I encountered a very young woman working in one of the shops who apologized incessantly. Example: I came out of the fitting room and asked her if the buttons on the shirt I was trying were supposed to line up the way they did or if it was a defect; she said that was the way the shirt was cut, then said, “Sorry.” I said, “Oh! Not your fault!” While I was in the fitting room I heard another woman come out and ask if the pants she was trying were too short and the gal said, “I think they’re supposed to hit at your ankles. Sorry.” I went to try on a few things I’d left outside the fitting room and somehow the hangers had gotten tangled and it took me a minute to unfurl them and she helped me and said, “These are all tangled. Sorry.” When I was leaving I said, “I’m not going to get this sweater – it’s a little big,” and she said, “Sorry.”

Now, I know “sorry” is an overused word and that young women in particular tend to use it as filler and I’m guilty of occasionally doing the same thing but hearing it from a third party made me really realize just how demeaning it can sound. Why apologize for that which is out of our control or has nothing to do with us? Why apologize for the way a shirt is made or because I’ve tangled my hangers? I know she wasn’t really apologizing — at least I don’t think she was — but it’s one of those words that loses its power and efficacy if abused. The flip side of this is people who refuse to apologize when the situation calls for it, and that’s no fun either. Use your apologies judiciously, folks, not as filler. Different rules apply for the Brits, I think, where “Sorry” replaces “Excuse me!” and “What did you say?” among other things.

Words have power.

Turns out my dad, a formidable man on so many levels, actually is a fairly shitty parker.

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