Tag Archives: queens

My Neighborhood on a Grey Day

I was in a funk earlier, so I decided to walk and take photographs of the most depressing/poignant/thought-provoking things that struck me. Here are some of the results: 

Tireless

Tireless

 

Lit

Men

Men

BarbedWireCross

The Chrysler Building

The Chrysler Building

The Empire State Building

The Empire State Building

Toilet

The Toilet

 

ReservedParking

AndJusticeForAll

 

In case you couldn’t tell from the angsty tone…taking these ended up being incredibly therapeutic.  And I think I’ll undertake frequent photographic walks in the coming weeks.  It’ll be really good because…I don’t know if I’ll be in this neighborhood for much longer, so it’s sort of like spending quality time with an elderly aunt in the nursing home who’s on her last leg.  Only better.

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And another month has passed.

The month of May has always been close to my heart. My mom’s maiden name is May. My eldest brother was born in May. And, you know, flowers are nice.

Three weeks ago I went into one of those fast-food breakfast chains, bought a bagel with cream cheese and a medium hazelnut coffee, and then rushed back onto the street to catch a subway and a train out of the city. As usual, I was completely lost in my head. More than likely a little hungover. Slightly worried about missing my train. And drifting back and forth between allowing the universe to guide me wherever it sees fit and completely freaking out in an effort to figure out what to do with my life.

Anyway, I wandered onto the sidewalk, paper bag and styrofoam cup in hand. I waited at the curb for the red hand to turn to a white stick figure, at which time I would follow my fellow Queens pedestrians across the blacktop. As I stood there distracted, I heard a man yelling out behind me. It was obvious, for some reason, that the yelling was meant to get my attention. “MISS! HELLO, HELLO! MISS!” He was so frantic and excited, as though I’d just missed out on a once in a lifetime opportunity, or you know, dropped an earring or something. So I turned to see a man waving and smiling at me as he leaned out of a convenience store window.

At the time I just thought, “Hmm. Men are so strange.” Which is probably a thought I have a good two to three times a day. I didn’t particularly recognize the man, so I just assumed he was a bored stranger in the middle of a 14-hour shift who was cat-calling to pass the time.

Have I mentioned how much I love cats?

Have I mentioned how much I love cats?

About a week later, train out of the city successfully caught, and then train back into the city also caught–I walked out of my apartment building on a mission to buy toilet paper at the 99 Cent Store next to the Strip Club. To get there, I had to pass the stoop next to my apartment building on which a middle-aged man sits each night. We small talk, chit-chat–you know, like real neighbors. He asks me when I’m doing laundry next. I ask him what kind of beer is in his brown bag. Put simply: we bond.

That particular night, though, I really didn’t have time to shoot the proverbial shit. The 99 Cent Store was about to close, the Strip Club was about to open, and yeah. Toilet paper was at a premium. So when I gave a distracted “Hello,” and continued walking, I was not in the mood to deal with his, “HELLO! MISS, MISS! HELLO!” But he was just so excited, so frantic, that I stopped.

And it was then that I learned my neighbor with the nightly stoop-sitting ways is the very same man who works at the convenience store next to the fast-food breakfast joint. He told me that his co-workers saw the whole ordeal. Heard him announce, “I know that girl!”, only to have that girl turn away and cross the street, her eyes showing no signs of recognition.

I apologized profusely. Our non-English-speaking super also leaned on the stoop, his head cocked, his lips curled into a perplexed smile. My neighbor shrugged off my apologies and said, “Next time you’ll know. You can have a soda on me.”

Five minutes later, toilet paper in hand, I walked by my neighbor and my super again. We all smiled in recognition at each other, but I already knew that I would likely never take my neighbor up on his free soda offer. I headed towards my own stoop, anticipating entering my bathroom where I’d replace the old roll with the new roll. My super waved. I waved back. My neighbor held up his brown paper bag, and in a one-sided toast, exclaimed, “Goodbye, Miss! Goodbye!”

Scare Tactics

Newspaper copy of late that would add fuel to the fire of my mom’s sentiment that I should “move home immediately” because my life, in New York City, is in grave danger:

The next time you have a coughing fit, it might not be the common cold, but the air you are breathing, at least according to a recent report issued by the American Lung Association.

The 10th annual State of the Air Report, released on April 29, found that Queens, along with the Bronx and Manhattan, are the dirtiest counties in the state for particle pollution.  The study states that 12.5 million New Yorkers reside in counties where the air pollution can endanger lives. —Bad air days: Queens fails a pollution test,” Queens Chronicle

The city is polluted?!  I think I’ve heard that somewhere before…  But this paragraph would really horrify the parental:

Astrology and Tarot cards are my favorite divinatory tools, but I also get a lot of use out of magnetic poetry kits, boxes full of evocative words and symbols in the form of refrigerator magnets.  Sometimes, I’ll close my eyes, beam a question out into the ethers, and pluck a few magnets at random from one of my poetry kits.  I just did that for you. ‘What are the keys to unlocking the enormous reserves of energy that are potentiall available for Aries folks right now?’ I asked.  Here’s the message that came: ‘swooping orgasms & laughing tears.’ (Or it could also be arranged this way: ‘laughing orgasms & swooping tears.’) —Rob Brezsny’s Free Will Astrology, for the week of Apr. 22-28

I bring these articles up because I do have a bit of a cough.  And moving home in the somewhat near future is a possibility.  (Which tends to complicate orgasms, both swooping and laughing ones.)

Crises (and the Ongoing Saga of My Mom and Tommy Lee Jones)

It’s daunting to come home from work around 4am and have an urgent email waiting for you, especially one from a friend who is still trying to master the English language and is asking you to answer a question that might appear on their midterm in the morning:

How did we get into the financial crisis that the world is currently facing?

“This is hard.  I’m going to watch TV, instead.”  That’s what I wanted to say, but instead I produced a few sentences that could be mistaken for some semblance of an answer.  (The word “semblance” reminds me of Harry Connick, Jr. because he said it in an interview once and I was like, “Gosh, he has a nice voice AND a nice vocabulary.”)

Turned out the professor didn’t even ask about the financial crisis on the midterm, so all is well in the world (except for the financial crisis).

Speaking of crises, I’m in the midst of my own personal one.  Aren’t we all, always?  So last night I did what I usually do when I can’t deal with the seemingly important, unresolvable things in my life–I called my mom.  Only she was watching a Tommy Lee Jones movie, so she had to call me back.  (Which will be my excuse next time I want to avoid a conversation.)

When she called back I was on the street.  I had walked down to the coffee place I normally go to, but it was closed.  The only other coffee place is several blocks in the other, more trendy direction of my neighborhood.  Naturally it’s a Starbucks.  And naturally the semi-trendy people have made it their meeting place.  Not one, single time have I been able to find a free table or oversized chair in that location.  Not one.  What I do find are people who look like they’ve been camped out there since the Taft administration.  Only young and fresh-faced as though they just came from yoga.

So anyway.  Coffee at 11pm didn’t pan out.  I continued walking and whining to my mom.  And after an avenue of that, I came face to face with a bit of perspective– a car crash.

It wasn’t a big one.  Just a squealing-tires-fender-bender deal, but still.  You see that, not 10 feet from where you’re standing doing your whoa-is-me routine and suddenly you realize you’re sort of a whiny little bitch.  It’s like that moment in this week’s “The City” when Jay and Whitney are (spoiler alert) breaking up and he says, “I just feel like you have to be a little bit stronger.” 

Beautiful people who wear expensive clothes and can afford to feed themselves regularly are lame, especially when they’re on MTV reality shows, but just for the record…Whitney is a strong, savvy woman and Jay just ain’t ready for all that jelly.

Ode to the Library

This is probably an unnecessary statement due to the name of this blog, but…I love the library.  It’s such a wonderful concept.  Books, magazines, CDs, DVDs all in one place.  I especially love the library now that I’ve moved to Queens.  Back in Massachusetts, in my hometown, the library was ruined by the menopausal women who worked there and by the possibility of running into someone terrifying.  Someone like…the home economics teacher who my older brother assaulted, or the guy who told me about my brother looking at porn in first period, or the other guy who told me he was taking the school bus to my house to buy drugs from my brother, or just running into my brother himself.  Just kidding.  He doesn’t go to the library.

But in Queens it’s different.  It’s also an adventure, but not one that will stir up nostalgia for my childhood.  Last time I went, for example, I was writing poetry on the second floor when a guy approached me holding a Bengali/English dictionary.  “Are you American?” he asked.  “Yes,” I said.  He asked me to pronounce “enthusiasm” with my American accent.  Then he explained that in Bangladesh he learned English, but it was British English.  And he said something about eggplant and okra, but I didn’t understand.  Then the library was closing, so we had to part ways, but he invited me to the Indian restaurant owned by his uncle where he works. 

At the library in my hometown you’d never get invited to an Indian restaurant.  You’d get slammed with a $30 fine for returning a copy of Angela’s Ashes that was (probably) damaged before you took it out.  Then you’d drive to the ATM, drive back to the library, and hand the heat flash of a woman two twenty dollar bills with tears streaming down your face because now you can’t afford to bail your brother out of jail.

How will you celebrate Kim Jong-Il’s upcoming birthday?

The first thunderstorms of 2009 are slated to hit NYC tonight, and in the mean time, it’s 68 degrees.  Thunderstorms drive me wild–if I had taken the time to write 25 Things About Me on Facebook, that just may have been my #11.  They’re boisterous and rude and they don’t give a shit, which is usually the exact opposite of how I am, so maybe that’s why I find them so appealing. 

Bad weather captures the imagination.  Reminds us that the world is a romantic place.  The local news always treks over to the grocery store and the Home Depot to interview people who have the same thing to say every time–“I need a new shovel!”  “We’re stocking up on bread and milk!”  “I’m buying these jugs of water with my last bit of credit!”

No, really.  I’m washing my clothes right now and I’m pretty sure it’s the last time I’ll be using the laundromat versus just filling up the tub and stepping on my wardrobe while I shower.  They’re closing TWO hospitals in my area next month.  Which would outrage me if I had health insurance.  Instead I lucked out and happen to live with a Registered Nurse who also has a Psych degree for all my physical and emotional health needs. 

And on top of it all, Jennifer Figge is a liar.  Sometimes it seems like people over 50 are more effed up than their younger counterparts–Bernie Madoff, 70 years; Kim Jong-Il, 68 in 6 days!!;  Dick Cheney, 68; Donald Trump, 62; Road Runner of Looney Tunes fame?, 60 years.  Both Bernie Madoff and Donald Trump grew up in Queens, yet they’re so effed up they’re allowing two hospitals in their home borough to shut down.  Unbelievable.  Un-effin-believable.  Here’s a story for the local news: I plan to be non-effed up when I reach my golden years.  I plan to be a beacon of wisdom, embodying the awe of a winter thunderstorm, the practicality of a Home Depot shovel, and the comforting odor of clothes just pulled from the dryer.

Queens Says, “Take Your Dream House Elsewhere, Barbie.”

Starting to see a recurring theme in my posts: Craigslist. I’m becoming kind of a CL expert, especially when it comes to responding to jobs that I’m not qualified for at all. A week or two ago I responded to a post with the headline: “Talented Lyricist Needed For Off-Broadway Production.” They wanted a short bio explaining your theater and music experience along with two writing samples. So this is what I told them:

Interested Lyricist

Hello,

Hope to be considered for the lyricist gig. I’ve been involved in music and theater since I was young, including acting, singing, playwriting, and lyric writing. I’m also a poet and I contribute satirical rap lyrics to a music producer. I constantly change lyrics to popular songs so that they lend themselves to different situations.

Attached are two writing samples. If you’d like to see something else more in line with your project or listen to one of the rap songs let me know. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Maribeth

Everything I said is true, but notice how I make myself sound way more important than I actually am. That’s the key to getting people to write back. For instance, the “music producer” that I contribute satirical rap lyrics to? That’s just my friend who makes beats on his computer. And the whole, involved in music and theater “since I was young”…you can’t tell them that you’re not about to cash in on Social Security. Pretty obvious stuff, I guess.

Here are some of my favorite Craigslist headlines I’ve seen lately:

Double Dutch Instructor

I never learned how to double dutch. Those jump ropes looked so dangerous.

**Help Barbie Find Her Dream House**

This one offended me. You should definitely NOT help Barbie find her dream house. That girl needs to learn how to take care of herself, i.e., brush her own hair, pick out her own little outfits, and stop relying on pre-pubescent children to do it for her.

$80 Cash! + $30 Toy! + Pizza! For Warehouse Work Tomorrow!The parts are interchangeable!

I responded to this one, but they never called. And I’m really qualified, too! I’ve worked in two factories and on a tobacco farm. Look how sweet the $30 toy is.

 Oh well.  I would’ve had to trek to Park Slope, which would’ve been a pain.  Brooklyn thinks it is soooo cool.