How to enjoy unemployment

[Note: I didn’t lose my job. This is from 1994. A bit risqué but I sanitized it.]

bins

January 11, 1994

I haven’t worked for over a month and am falling behind on the bills. I wrote a letter to the student loan vampires and asked for a six-month reprieve. I threw the utility and phone bills in the garbage. I made the minimum payment on the credit cards but I have to pay the rent IN FULL. I went to an interview today and have five more lined up. They made me take a typing test. 65 words per minute with two errors. Champion.

I visited Ann. It was 10:00 at night on Sunday and bitterly cold so I took a cab uptown. $7. That son-of-a-bitch came off the FDR, turned onto Third Avenue and drove right past Laura’s apartment. I craned my neck out the window to see if her light was on and was desperately looking for her on the sidewalk.

Ann keeps a case of Veuve Clicquot in the spare bedroom and she’s always got a few cold so we popped a cork, took our clothes off, got into bed and watched reruns of Get Smart, House of Buggin’ and The George Carlin Show.

I always feel kind of bad when a woman goes down on me. That can’t possibly be any fun, can it? I don’t feel bad enough to stop them. It takes very little to bring Ann to complete and full satisfaction. It often occurs more than once. I don’t take any credit for this. She is so in tune with her body that she’s able to practically do it all on her own. Sometimes, the glorious event occurs before we take our clothes off. Good for her! There was an unusually large wet spot. I slept on the edge of the bed and woke up with a sore back.

The next morning I was going to launch a new assault but my breath was bouncing up off the mattress and back into my face. It was so horrific that I lost interest. Ann tried to coax me but I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I stank. That reminds me…Laura used to leave in the morning without brushing her teeth. And she smoked! I can’t abide by poor dental hygiene but I miss her terribly.

Ann made a pot of tea and some whole wheat toast with raspberry preserves. She put a little honey in the tea. It was good. I confirmed my interview with Prudential Bache. Ann was in the kitchen rinsing our tea cups. I walked up behind her and put my hands under her T-shirt. I told her I wanted her and she shouted, “OKAY!” and said it with such unintended glee that we both laughed. We stumbled into the bedroom and did it. We laid there for a bit and then I got up and washed. It was the first time I had to wash my genitals prior to an interview.

I went to that David + Amy Sedaris play in the East Village by myself last week. Today, The New York Times gave it a good review. That guy is on his way. The Times said he’s developed a cult following. Can you believe it! It said he’s a “social satirist” and that’s an accurate description of what I remember him being like. I went to the library and read his pieces in Harper’s and they seemed like elaborate diary entries. Is that a type of writing? Maybe I can do that?

~~~~~~~~~~

Adieu to summer. Summer is the coldest month. My office and commuting buses are like meat lockers. My bride keeps the house thermostat set to Pluto. Here are some bugs courtesy of my iPhone.

Hot moth love.

Butterflies are beautiful from a distance.

Pollen party in my backyard.

The whites are a bit hot in this pic but I don’t know how to fix that.

Game of Thrones dragon.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot?

bins

January 5, 1994

I was alone on New Year’s Eve. The thought of being by myself was so painful I went to Times Square. Spending New Year’s Eve alone in Times Square is pathetic. When people ask what I did, I tell them I went with a friends and got separated in the crowd. It’s a lie.

I stood there alone in a pen for over three hours. Nobody said a word to me. I was surrounded by 200,000 happy people but felt unwanted. I teared-up a few times. It was 25 degrees outside. At 9:30 I went to a payphone and called the apartment to see if anyone left a New Year’s message on the answering machine. Hoping for a message that I knew wouldn’t be there.

I looked across the street and saw a big party on the second floor of a hotel. I watched it for quite a while. People were dancing and drinking. There was a giant wall of glass that afforded them a fantastic view of the street, the ball and the commoners. The women were all very, very pretty. The men were terrible dancers. One girl danced in front of the window, as if for the crowd below. She had long blonde hair, wore a baseball cap and cutoff jeans with black spandex. At one point, a guy came up from behind, threw his arms around her and they embraced. They kissed for a long time. How do I get to be that guy? How do I get to be anyone but me?

On New Year’s Day I went to Klinger and Fun’s Day-1 party. I called to say I’d be a little late and Klinger said, “Well, don’t come after 6:00 because Fun and I are going to the movies.” It was Fun’s crowd. I like them. A couple of interesting gay guys. Ray. Some girl from Philadelphia. Mostly strangers. I know how to work a crowd. I had them all laughing. Fun kept pulling me aside and pointing out the available women.

Mimi walked in. A while back, she told Klinger not to mention my name. I’m still not sure what I did. It hurts. I liked her. She was with her boyfriend, a good-looking artist who has a flat in Chelsea and a house in the Hamptons. Apparently, there’s trouble in paradise. Klinger told me she can’t stand the sight of him and wants to move out. He’s dull and only talks about himself and his work. Artists. You know what you’re getting.

She walked up to me and we talked for a while. She looked great and wasn’t the least bit hostile. It was nice. She asked me if I was still writing and I got woozy. She always made me want to try harder. Or at all.

On the way out Fun followed me into the hallway to give me further intelligence on the single girls. I told her about Mimi—things that Klinger doesn’t know about how mad I was for her. She said, “Well, you never know what can happen.” I’m tired of hearing that from well-meaning people. I know what can happen. Nothing. Fun said she’d gather some phone numbers and call me but I can’t think of anything that’d be a bigger waste of her time.

I went to the Upper East Side after work yesterday to visit Ann. I was wearing my jacket and tie. She handed me a cordial as soon as I walked in the door like we’re fucking Ozzie and Harriette. We made out for a while. She’s absolutely daring and will do anything sexually but she’s germ phobic and doesn’t want my finger inside her. When my hand probes the inside of her thigh, she clenches up. “Tongues and cocks only, please,” she says. I have to vigorously wash my hands before the festivities can begin.

She took my hand and walked me over to the baby grand by the window. I asked her why the shade was drawn. It’s such a great view. She said some guy walked up to her on the street and said he watches her from across the way through binoculars. She sat on the piano bench and undid my pants. I said we should go to bed and she thought that was a pretty good idea. We left a trail of clothing from the piano to the bedroom, like in the movies.

We got under the covers and it was nice. She always shaves her legs when she suspects I’m coming over. We rolled around like two puppies. She likes when I spend time kissing her nipples. She said not everybody does that. For all her expertise, she doesn’t kiss well. She’s amazing and acrobatic but she can’t kiss. Her mouth is too stiff. Laura could kiss. I miss her.

She ducked under the covers and continued where she left off in the living room. I picked her up (she’s light) and set her down for the main event. She had a tremendous, noisy orgasm in fairly short order. I can always tell when it’s authentic and when it’s for my benefit. Her body both confirms and betrays her. Just before le grand finale, she gets kind of quiet and closes her eyes, like she’s concentrating. Her body tenses and she squeezes me with her legs and yells. Her chest flushes red. I asked her if she was okay and she said she hadn’t had sex in a week and it had built-up. Wow, a whole week. Imagine that. What an amateur.

~~~~~~~~~~

There are strict house rules. Under no circumstances are the cats allowed on the bed. So, of course…

I won’t do it and you can’t make me

bins

December 20, 1993

Kris invited me to her Christmas party. Last time we spoke, which was quite a while ago, she called me a dirty, sexist pig. I told her I’d never sublet my flat to a woman because this street is overwrought with junkies and dealers and is dangerous. She blew her stack. Said she’s lived in worse places and my attitudes towards women were prosaic. I think she called me a Neanderthal. I forget if that was her or someone else. After that I tried to kiss her and that REALLY set her off. Like I said, that was a while ago, so I was surprised to hear from her.

I didn’t know anyone at the party but I had fun. Food + booze. It’s a nice apartment but small. It looks directly into someone’s kitchen. That’s the view. A kitchen.

I was sitting on the floor at one end of the room and I saw a girl watching me. Later, I sat on the sofa and she came over and sat next to me. It was a dim party but it was light enough for me to see her outline. It was a nice outline. Pleasant. Laughed at my banalities. Tight, well-worn jeans, a tight black top and a plaid flannel shirt unbuttoned the just right amount. She smoked constantly and her teeth were kind of brown. She’s a 24-year old philosophy student/bartender from West Virginia. She was joking that she’s old enough to be a grandmother. Ha. Gross. We vibed but I didn’t get her number and I can’t ask Kris for it so I’m stuck.

I was supposed to see Ann. She was due back from Dallas at 9:30. I went to the gym and waited. 9:30. 10:00. 10:30. My phone finally rang at 11:00. I wasn’t interested. The Upper West Side is a long slog at that hour of the night so I told her no, thank you. Plus, I like waking up in my own apartment on a Saturday morning.

I didn’t think it’d be a big deal but she got very agitated. On the way back from Dallas she’d conjured a Friday night reunion and I was ruining it for her. She’d gotten her hair done and her legs waxed but I told her, no, I’m not coming up there. She shot back, “Well, then, I’M coming down THERE!” and I said, “No, you’re not!” She changed tactics and started telling me all the things she would do to me if I went up there but the better it sounded, the firmer my resolve to not go. Then she sounded kind of hurt and I (finally) felt bad but I said nope, nope, nope and held my ground.

I watched a Tonight Show rerun with Howard Stern.

~~~~~~~~~~

Governor’s Island is a dollop of land just off the southern tip of Manhattan. It was an Army base for decades and then a Coast Guard base.

I lived there for a few years early in my Coast Guard enlistment. It was a spectacular. My luckiest break. Governor’s Island is where I stopped being one person and became another. Cleveland receded into my past and New York came into view.

The U.S. Department of Defense sold it to NYC for $1 and now it’s a public park. $2 and a short ferry ride and you don’t feel like you’re in New York City anymore.

Some of the original Army housing is still standing, albeit in a dilapidated state.

~~~~~~~~~~

How do you like these apples?

Joseph Kosuth
One and Three Stools, 1965
Mounted photographs and stool
Est: $120,000 – USD 180,000
Sold for $150,000

It’s a picture of a stool, the actual stool itself and the definition of stool. Get it? No? That’ll be $150K, please.

Mother. Oh, God, Mother. Blood. Blood.

November 13, 1993

Karen took the train up from Philadelphia. I never thought I’d see her again. I picked her up at Penn Station. She is my type. Same as Laura. I’m a sucker for girl-next-door. Those corn-fed thighs wreck me. She wore a blue denim button-up shirt the same color as her eyes.

I took her to the Rivera Café in the Village but neither of us ate. We pushed the food around our plates. I gave her my weepy rundown of being fired and robbed and not having anyone to get me through the night.

Then it was her turn.

I could see she was shaking. Being a raging narcissist, I thought my close proximity set her a-quivering. She talked about her abortion. She doesn’t regret it but she’s haunted by it. She got it the same day I was fired. Her boyfriend is dead broke so she had to pay for it herself. She put it on her credit card. We both found that macabre and dark but not without its humor and laughed.

Then she started crying. Tears fell into her barley soup. The Monday after, she had some residual bleeding that got so bad she thought she was hemorrhaging. She couldn’t go to the hospital because she’s got a new job and her healthcare hasn’t kicked in yet.

He’s not convinced it was his child but she swore through her tears that it was. I asked why she didn’t call me and she said if he saw a 212 area code on the phone bill he’d assume the pregnancy was because of me. Ha. If he only knew. Apparently, he found the letters and read them. She said he hates me and if he ever sees me, etc. [Note: I used to write love letters to all girls I dated.]

I paid the bill and we left. Once outside, we hugged briefly and she was still shaking. Over lunch she said she’d put on 10 pounds and I could feel there was more of her than what I remember. I liked it. Her breasts were bigger, too. She’s just a kid, really. I feel awful for her.

We went to my apartment but, of course, nothing happened. We sat on the sofa and talked. At one point I was in the kitchen making a pot of coffee and she came up from behind, put her arms around me and rested her head on my back. I turned around and we kissed briefly. Her hair was stiff with hairspray and it scratched my face. I asked her what train she needed and she said 3:30. It was 3:00 and I told her we needed to leave immediately. I don’t know why she bothered making such a long trip for such a short period of time.

We stood in the train station and talked a bit. Her demeanor suddenly changed. She told me she likes to be tied up. She said she likes being blindfolded because she can’t see what’s coming next. Then she told me about a client she recently had lunch with and how the girls at work are encouraging her to date him. I was out of my mind with desire and envy. What does she want from me? I spent so much money on lunch and cabs that I can’t go out this weekend. When am I going to learn to steer clear of these unhinged girls?

Fired by Morgan Stanley on a Friday and back to the grind 10 days later at Lehman Brothers. I hate it but I need the money. They have Mac Quadras so the hardware is new but the physical environment is punishing. Office cubes that are intended for one have been retrofitted for two. Slide your chair back six inches and *bang*.

I’ve never hated a group of people so quickly. If anyone leaves at 5:00, someone yells out, “Only working a half day?! Haw-haw!” So unoriginal. It’s a good gig for building skills but I don’t know how much longer I can keep the fake smile plastered on my face.

I saw Mimi at the gym. It looked like she’d never been inside a gym before. She was unsure of how to use the equipment. I mentioned it to Klinger and he said she told him not to speak my name. Good Lord. I wonder what I did to her?

~~~~~~~~~~

Sunrise over Queens.

Robbed. Fired. Dumped.

binsOctober 30, 1993

The junkies next door were finally evicted. On their way out they broke into my apartment and robbed me. They took my stereo, all my CDs and the laptop. They left the speakers. They took Grandma and Grandpa’s wedding bands. Those rings weren’t valuable but they were important. They bought them in Italy long ago. I’ll go to my grave and never mention it to anyone. I was entrusted with an important family heirloom and failed. Thank God they’re both dead. They’ll never know.

The laptop contained my journal entries from June through October. I didn’t back anything up onto floppy disks or print anything out. It’s all gone. The entire summer and autumn of ’93. I’ll never remember it all.

The coppers dusted for fingerprints. One of them was complaining the whole time saying, “This is stupid. It never works.” The other cop said I had the worst lock on the market. He said it’s easy to pick. I had to shell out $140 for a new one. I told him about the wedding bands. He said the same thing happened to him years ago and he’s still not over it. Great. It’ll take me forever to replace all the CDs.

I replaced the laptop with a Mac PowerBook 145. 4MB of RAM and a 40MB hard drive. Ridiculous! When will I ever need 40MB of space?!

I got fired from Morgan Stanley. One of the executives, someone powerful and irritable, complained about me and they let me go. He said I had a bad attitude. I don’t know. Maybe he’s right. It was a fantastic job. I loved it. The week before I was canned Cabrina said, “Mark, how did we ever get along without you? You can stay here as long as you want.” Several days later I was standing in her office getting sacked. I can’t write another word about it. It’s so painful.

While at Morgan Stanley I struck up a healthy flirtation with Debbie, who’s Norwegian. A hell of a designer and so pretty. A blonde nordic goddess. I got a condolence call from her immediately after I was fired. That day, we walked from 42nd St. down to 18th St. I didn’t get home until after 2:00 a.m. She took me out for drinks a couple of times. I was a complete wreck but she built me up. She’d ply me with Dewar’s and tell me I was good at what I did and would find work easily enough. She’d lean in and rest her hand on my arm so, naturally, it didn’t take long for me to become attached. It never does. I was certain what I felt was reciprocated.

She called and made plans to see me again but before that happened I went to a Bryan Ferry concert at the Beacon Theater. I went by myself because I couldn’t find anyone to go with. While sitting there, Debbie walked by with some dude. She was hanging all over him. It was obvious they were a couple. I scrunched down in my seat, praying not to be noticed. I was too humiliated for being there alone to say hello. It turns out I was just a charity case to her.

I started therapy. It’s going well enough, I suppose. It’s dark. For years I thought complaining about a difficult childhood was just a sad cliché. Fashionable yuppie angst. Move on. But I’m beginning to believe that things have a way of implanting themselves early on that aren’t so easy to dismiss. She called Laura a myth. I disagree. Laura meant a lot to me.

I stopped at Barnes & Nobel after therapy last Wednesday and bought two software manuals and a copy of Dante’s Inferno. I wonder if I’ll be able to tell the difference between the three?

~~~~~~~~~~

The many moods of Oliver.

Melancholy

Wistful

Cheerful

Bittersweet

Romantic

~~~~~~~~~~

Daughter the Second and I visited the Silverball Museum in Asbury Park, just down the boardwalk from Madame Marie’s. Hundreds of working pinball and video games, a few dating back to the 1930’s. It’s paradise. I saw these two old grannies jamming on these machines. They were really kicking the hell out of them, taking their play seriously. God willing, that’ll be me when I’m that age.