Sunday, January 27, 2002

Anne Marie and I are saving Broadway.

Yes, dears, it's quite true.

It all started when AM, (a former Broadway song and dance girl, turned restaurant manager, turned dance instructor, turned champion vegetable gardener) called me up and said, "Oh my Godddddd!! Bossy Rossi! Do you know how many shows are going dark because of September 11th?"

This was code for two things; A) it's time to support Broadway in its time of need. It is, after all, the heart and soul of New York culture ... Well, aside from off-track betting, of course. B) We might get cheap tickets.

Our first excursion to the great tourist way was the show Contact, which was really very good, and even a little sexy, although I felt as though my body was shoved into a seat that could fit into Barbie's camper.

Helloooo! It's called leg room, and we don't mean for chickens.

We chased our cultural matinee with some really good Chinese fusion and some really bad service at a trendy eatery with a name that rhymed with "achoo." I might have loved the place if if weren't for the fact that I could actually feel myself aging in the time it took to get a drink.

This weekend was part two of our "Saturday Matinee, Save Broadway and Pay Less" grand plan.

We met at the discount ticket kiosk that generally has a line of tourists wrapped around its dividers like a giant multi-colored sausage.

How can anyone wear that much color? I'm not saying I'm opposed to colorful clothing; black, gray, dark green, beige and off-white are fine, but these folks look like they walked through a crayon factory.

Anyway, I was saddened to see only a few folks in line, but when we got to the board, we saw why. There were only two big shows on sale. Les Miserables and The Full Monty. This was good news for Broadway -- meant things were sold out -- bad news for us, since neither option seemed too scintillating.

We opted for Monty, although I'd already seen the movie and just couldn't imagine wanting to see that in singing form. I never quite got over having been one of the only victims to see Carrie, the musical. I won't go into it, but imagine a chorus singing about pig's blood.

We were jazzed up all the same. It was a gorgeous, sunny day that felt more like fall than winter. Broadway had clearly picked up since NOTHING WAS ON SALE!! AAK and we were just two blonde babes weaving in and out of the slow-moving colorful folks like rockets from hell.

Why would anyone come to Manhattan and then slow down? Just boggles the mind.

Anyway, as soon as we sat down, AM being the responsible perky thang that she is, bent down to turn off her cell phone, and within a second the very large, very colorful bitch ... err, umm, woman behind her taps her on the shoulder and says, "Excuusse meeeeee, I can't seeee!?" and the show hadn't even started.

AM did what any former song and dance babe would do. She glared at the bitch, errr, um, woman like razors were shooting from her eyes and said, "I wassss jusssttttt turrrnnnniingggg offfff myyyy cellll phoooone."

Then AM whispered to me rather loudly, "must be from Wisconsin."

Luckily for us, the show was actually fabulous, really, really, really fun with great songs and fun choreography and lots of penises that we couldn't see cause they turned the lights off at just the wrong, err, umm, right moment.

After our matinee, we had drinks at a snazzy place on 50th Street called Martinis that makes martinis that sit in glass cones imbedded in a bowls of ice, which is just what I wanted to do after sitting for 3 hours, but they didn't have any ice bowls large enough.

We toasted the success of yet another venture to the theatre, darling, ate a lot of asparagus, had dinner with Mr. Anne Marie and their pals: J (with the permanent tan) and S (with no body fat, ever..!). Then AM, S and moi dumped the boys and high-tailed it downtown (where the altitude is more to my comfort level), and danced ourselves silly at a lesbian bar with a '70s disco night.

Never mind that fact that we knew all the words to all the songs cause we were there when these songs came out. The adorable waitress with the chains wrapped around her exposed belly I ream of Jeannie style fell in love with us and danced around our table. She'd just purchased a 1970s halter-top from a second-hand store and was displaying it and most of the rest of her for all enjoy.

"Yeaaah!" AM said to the cutie, "I'm probably the one the store bought that from."

Second-hand '70s, meet the first-handers.

Oh what the hell, it was a fun night and the girls were out in a wide array of butch, femme, leather, yuppie, cowgirl, home-girl and lesbian trapped in a gay boy's body.

What better way to cap a day on Broadway than with a lesbian buffet?!

Anne Marie and I are saving Broadway ... one Saturday matinee at a time.

Look for us at the corner of 46th and 7th. We'll be the blur of black, gray and blonde.

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

We had our first snowstorm.

It was pretty wimpy as far as snowstorms go -- only 6 inches. No roads had to be closed that I know of, and it happened on the weekend, which was very convenient, trafficwise.

Still, it was great to see the snow.

I've always loved snow.

When I was a kid, snow was the glorious present from the universe that might close school for an entire day or days.

It was the soft, luscious white stuff that might offer me a chance to make some real money. Twenty bucks for shoveling out a walkway and a driveway. If I did three in a day, I could practically move out on my own, or so I thought at the grand old age of 10.

In my now-20 years in NYC, I never tire of the wonder of this soft, white blanket covering my city, muffling its sounds until all of Manhattan seems to purr.

To me this wondrous sheet of cotton is pure peace.

Well ... yeah ... by the next morning, it's either speckled in yellow by dogs, turned brown by car exhaust or simply relegated to the role of nuisance by any who drive, but still, all in all, I love the snow.

Things feel quiet today. I can hear the plip-plop of bits of snow falling off the trees as the temperature warms up just enough to get things melting. From a distance, someone shovels snow on the roof and tosses it over the side. It lands with a soft slump, like laundry being tossed it into a basket.

I don't know why it is that as much as I love open skies, trees, flowers all the usual bits of nature, nothing moves me more than watching this busy city in the snow.

Maybe it's something about finding beauty in rough places.

These are the same heartstrings that get a resounding yoink when I find a wildflower peeking out of the cracks of a sidewalk or a small community garden in Alphabet City, turning trash into roses.

You can keep your ranches and your farms and your nature trails (although a back yard would be nice one day).

I've got icicles clinging to the chins of brownstones and children throwing snowballs at taxicabs.

I've got the sensation that while I?m looking out my window at the snow, so are millions of my neighbors, all at the same time, all saying nothing, all thinking, for just this one moment, absolutely nothing.

Damn!

I love New York.

Thursday, January 17, 2002

Not even 24 hours have elapsed since I returned from Puerto Rico, but it seems like I was there months ago.

Worse yet, I fear I am already in desperate need of a vacation.

This might have something to do with my next-door neighbor, who seems to have decided that our parking lot is a great place to store his old refrigerator. This is the same neighbor who is convinced that everyone in the building should pay the sanitation fine resulting from his improper trash disposal.

Hello! It's called responsibility. ... Get some!!

Could be the letter from my insurance company letting me know that they will only pay for about 25% of my recent medical bill because I did not get prior certification. Yes, of course. Next time I will plan on getting sick.

Then there's the stack of bills that came spilling out of my mailbox like a paper bomb. The pile of bills adds up to thousands. The checks ... well, there's just one ... for $421.09.

There's also the little matter of my walking into my apartment last night after a rather rocky flight to discover that my two darling cats had managed to puke over just about every square inch of my formerly Zen-like home. The few corners here and there that had somehow escaped their regurgitation installation art were dusted in cat litter.

Let's just say it hasn't been a grand homecoming.

On the brighter side ... I am tan.

If I can get past this rather pukish finale and drift back to where I was only yesterday, I must say it was a fabulous 6 days.

La cubana took me, (yes, took me, eat your hearts out) on this holiday away from it all, and it really did take me away.

This was my first time out of the area since September 11th, and oddly, I had no idea how truly submerged in 9/11 I was until I left the continent.

Along with the palm trees and the ocean and the sand and the rum punch and the tiny little birds that eat out of your plate, there was also something else, something very vast, and very quiet and very overwhelming; the complete absence of The World Trade Center.

I'm not saying Puerto Rico didn't feel affected.

I'm just saying that as a New Yorker who has lived and breathed (literally) the disaster of 9/11 every day since that day ... going to this new place, felt a bit like going back in time.

I felt as though I were submerged in a calm, sweet slice of time, that trickled along on its own pace utterly unaffected by all the things that broke on September 11th.

Is it wrong to forget for just a little while?

I don't know.

But I did, and it felt totally awesome.

So sue me.

Now then, does anyone know how to get cat puke out of carpeting?

Tuesday, January 08, 2002

I paint.

Don't know if I've ever mentioned that, but maybe that's because painting is something I rarely talk about ... now.

I used to talk a lot about my painting. I didn't paint nearly as much as I talked about painting, and I wound up having something like writer's block for painting for ... hmm ... oh, eight years.

I was in Provincetown, where most folks go to inspire their artistic selves. I lived there for six months. This was going back a spell to 1992, when I was just a cute little thing.

Hmm. Well, I was actually still a bad-ass New Yorker with a chip on my shoulder the size of Pittsburgh, but I was, (and incidentally, still am) quite cute.

Anyway, there I was in this dinky hell-hole of a bungalow with exposed insulation and a shower in the kitchen, painting away at a self-portrait.

The more I painted, the uglier I got. By the time I threw the portrait aside, I felt like I was stuck in some sick rendition of Dorian Gray.

I decided to take a break from painting and write for a while, and then, overnight, eight years went by.

All the friends and lovers who met me from 1992 until the magical year 2000 didn't even know I painted. Or they knew it like some little hobby I'd cast aside in my formative years.

I kept my old work hidden in the closet, my dirty little secret, this decrepit skeleton covered up in garbage bags and bubble-wrap. I didn't like who I was in the years I painted, my teens through my late 20s.

Well, to tell you the truth, I've only recently started thinking I'm pretty great. It's a new thing -- knowing I'm kinda cool. I think I'll keep thinking this way. It sure beats the alternative.

Anyway, in the fall of 2000, while I was licking my wounds over a marathon of painful break-ups and what felt like mental menopause, I just started to paint.

I didn't announce it. I didn't talk too much about it. I just started to paint.

And I (knock on every imaginable kind of wood) haven't stopped and hope I never will.

I don't think I ever really was an artist. All those years when I dedicated myself fully to my work and talked about little else and pounded the pavement trying to get someone to look at my slides and show my work to little avail ... I don't think I really was an artist.

I know this, because I cared far more about what people thought about my work than about the process of creating that work. I used to rush madly through the painting process, hungry for the end when I would have something that someone might admire, or better yet hoping that someone might admire me.

That's not what it's all about; I know that now.

I might never sell a painting in my lifetime. I might sell a thousand. I might never achieve any kind of recognition for this facet of my life.

I might become well known as a painter, (or more likely a painter/chef/writer/lunatic who can't decide who and what she is).

But I love the process.

It's not always fun, painting. Sometimes it's terrifying, like recently when I started painting the World Trade Center, the firefighters and my many demons brewing since September 11th.

Putting these things on paper was far easier than putting them on canvas. Putting them on canvas gave them a face. It made them real. I can touch them now. They hang on my walls to remind me that these things did, in fact happen.

I'm not an artist.

I paint.

I'm not a writer, but I do write.

Please, oh please, let me keep on loving the process.

It feels a little bit like flying.

Thursday, January 03, 2002

It's the day after New Year's, and I'm sitting here with a wad of tissues piling up on my desk, a hot cup of tea and enough cold pills to take the snort out of an elephant.

Aaaaaa-chooooo!

Sheesh! Why do I always catch a cold on my vacation time?

It's like my body goes, "Whooohoooo! We've got the month off! Time to get really down and funky. Bring on the germs! Calling all viruses!"

Luckily my body at least waited till after New Year's Eve.

What a weird New Year's it was.

Five minutes after the ball dropped and my gang of pals had exchanged smooches, we were left sitting on my bed staring at New York's new mayor and saying out loud, "Man. It really doesn't feel like New Year's."

There were less people in Time Square than I'd seen in previous years.

There was less screaming from the roofs and fire escapes of my neighbors.

There was less energy in the air.

I guess after everything that's happened to this city, it was hard for a lot folks to say those words, "Happy New Year!" without feeling like a liar.

For me, there was also the added bummer, that I had to spend yet another New Year's Eve with no lover to smooch at midnight. M.E., my significant other, was only able to stay for the early part of the evening. Her mother (whom evidently one doesn't say no to) had coerced her into ringing in the new year at The Plaza -- nice if you like being surrounded by old money and pretentious tourists.

I did have some great friends over; Laura the actress, Erin the writer, Carol the banker, Sandy the insurance guru and Neil my chef and occasional therapist.

I tried to compensate for the sadness of the year, by serving Jewish love food; potato pancakes and applesauce, stuffed cabbage, roast chicken, sweet carrots and home-style rye bread. Like all my meals, I made enough food to feed Pittsburgh.

"Please, for the love of God, have seconds!" I begged my 5 guests as I looked at food for 20.

We drank champagne, ate cabbage, sat in front of the burning Duraflame log and told each other stories about our lives. It was a wonderful non-party.

But it didn't feel like New Year's.

At 11:30 in an effort to stir things up, I brought out Twister. You remember Twister don't ya? That plastic sheet full of dots. You spin the wheel, put your left hand on blue, your right hand through your friend's legs to yellow, your butt hovering dangerously over green.

I think Twister is one of those things that was a lot more fun when you were 8, (unless of course you play naked Twister, but that's another party entirely).

I was the spinner, and Carol, Sandy, Laura and Erin were the twistees. Everyone got tangled up and giggly. It was fun. Really fun, but it didn't feel like New Year's.

At 10 minutes to midnight, my pals piled onto my bed to watch Dick Clark. None of them wanted to leave the warm apartment, so I pulled on clunky boots and a down coat and climbed the stairs to the roof. Kathleen from 1G was there, rosy faced and laughing, surrounded by a smiling crew of very tipsy women with very large wine glasses.

Standing on the roof at midnight is a tradition I started as soon as I moved to my new home in The East Village. This was my third year. I always took my favorite spot, standing in the center of the deck with The World Trade Center to the left and the Empire State Building to the right.

I still remember the amazing sound of thousands of New Yorkers screaming when the clock struck twelve for the year 2000. It's odd to say that the sound I heard of the countless people screaming when the first tower collapsed on September 11th was eerily similar. Only the distant notes were of horror not joy.

I looked into the place where the towers had been and felt ashamed that I could no longer remember exactly where they stood. Was it right behind that building? Or that one? How soon we forget.

"10, 9, 8, 7 ..."

I turned to face Kathleen and her friends.

"6, 5, 4, 3 ..."

It was Kathleen whom I wound up kissing at midnight and then raced down to my apartment to share smooches with the gang.

"Happy New Year!" we all cheered to each other. Laura and Erin were French kissing, Neil was looking pink and adorable. Carol and Sandy hugging.

"Just how old is Dick Clark, anyway?" Laura broke the moment to ask.

"That guy must be 80!" someone said.

We watched our new mayor shake hands with the man most people call a hero these days; citizen Giuliani. It was a weird moment; a new year, a new mayor. There was something about Giuliani leaving that seemed to say, the curtain is closing on September 11th. It's time for all of us to move on now. I suppose that's a good thing. There might be something healing about a new face on the news, a new beginning.

It's 2002. We have before us an unpainted canvas ready to be filled with the many colors of our adventures yet to be. How do we fill this new place and remain faithful to the lessons so recently learned?

How do we move on, without forgetting?

As in the aftermath of all terrible tragedies, I guess we just do.

I think back over what I've seen these last months ... not on the news, but in my own little neighborhood; the weeks when we needed ID to get home, the many days when half the people on my block wore ventilation masks as if that could do anything against the intense smell of dust and death that seemed to permeate our very souls, the flyers of missing sons and daughters, husbands and wives that caught us off guard, eerily smiling out at us from the many makeshift memorials that sprouted up around Alphabet City like wildflowers.

It's a new year. Time to re-energize ourselves and strive for something better than we've had before. There were so many things that seemed important before September 11th. So few of those things seemed important on September 12th. It's those few things that I hope for now; peace, courage, love, family, goodness.

Happy New Year??

Hmm. No not really especially in this city, but I can live with that. It's okay not to feel happy right now, especially if what has replaced that happiness is hope.

Here's wishing a Hopeful New Year to you all.