Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I had my exams today for social security disability. I had to go to a hospital in downtown Brooklyn, near LIU, and see one doctor for a physical exam and one for a psych exam. The psych was really the most important for my case, and luckily the psychologist seemed to understand exactly what I was talking about.

Barry came with me, knowing how stressed I was about the whole thing, and afterwards, as a treat, took me to Junior's, which was not far away. Junior's is famous for their cheesecake but I am very partial to their corned-beef hash, which is made from scratch. Barry had some strawberry cheesecake and I took a couple of bites. I don't miss sweets too much, and there are some awfully good sugar-free chocolates and ice cream around, for when I do feel deprived.

I'm supposed to hear from the government in 5-8 weeks about my claim.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I may have mentioned that I recently got a Facebook page. I have something like 20 "friends" now, about half who were friends or friends of friends from the old-timey music scene in NYC when I was a teen (with some number of ex-boyfriends and missed connections), and half people from my grade in school. I just say "school" because my school ran from first grade or pre-K, I forget, first was the lowest when I started there in second, all the way through the end of high school. Additionally, being a "creative" and "experimental" school, all of the grades had weird names that were really hard to convert to public school grades. Plus they'd change their numbering and lettering system every year or two (this was in the early days -- I was one of the original students, starting six weeks into their first year). So one year I'd be in Team IIA for "Core" (which meant homeroom, English and history), French 3, and math B, and the next year I'd be in Middle Sch0ol 3, French B-prime, and math South. I kid you not. Due to this extreme mess, which had mostly settled by my senior year, I never took geometry. I took number theory and I took logic and I took pre-calc, but never geometry. SAT scores: English 750, Math 550.

But I really wanted to talk about my social life there. I felt like a bad fit, as I did everywhere I went. As a bright child, my early social life was about showing off to adults, which didn't really translate well when I tried it with peers. Still, I think everything went OK in my first few years at school -- I had a terrific best friend who shared my love for The Monkees and a boy named David Zimmern, though she left for one of the experimental public schools in Brooklyn.

But I think everything got really screwed up when I was nine, when my parents split up. I didn't know another kid in school who had divorced parents; my folks were at the leading edge of the trend, around 1968 or 69. The thing that was so traumatic to me about the divorce is that they were always so careful not to fight or argue in front of "the children" that it was an incredible shock, because I thought they got along just fine. (Would it have been easier if preceded by months of screaming and crockery-throwing? Discuss.)

I just wasn't right after that and I was in therapy and I still wasn't right. Perhaps this is when my depression started to show itself. I would have a friendship with one girl at a time which would maybe last a couple of weeks or a month or two, and then just sort of trail off. I never had a group of friends and I was definitely not one of the "popular" kids (though I realize that they may not have seen themselves as "popular").

Well, I did have a little crowd for a while: two boys and a girl, of varying degrees of nerddom. The three of us hung around the high school office, powerfully transfixed (each for unspoken reasons of his or her own) by the head of the high school, who we will call Mr. B. Mr. B. stood out for a few reasons: he was one of the few teachers (including the headmaster) who did *not* say "Call me Charlie": he was always "Mister" B. The other truly great thing about him is that he was the only person in my life who seemed to care enough to discipline me in any way. My mother was dating; my dad lived elsewhere; the other teachers were too groovy or lax or elsewhere to make sure our assignments were in and good and that we showed up to the classes. (I once took a history course called "research seminar" whose only requirement was a research paper. I didn't write a paper but got credit for the course.)

This actually comes right back to the other group of friends on Facebook, because I got swept away by old-timey music as a young teen and started playing banjo and going to these weird hole-in-the-wall joints to listen to this weird old music. But for some reason, I had to push this interest in everyone's face, which I suppose made me wildly unpopular. I guess I was a little snobbish about what most of my peers seemed to be listening to, the Grateful Dead and the Allmans and the Doobies. (I've grown into a way more open listener, and in fact I write for a national blues publication. Please do not respond to this by telling me how much you like Eric Clapton. -- Gee, I guess I'm *still* a music snob.)

I think I also had a problem with my mother treating me more as a friend and confidente than as a daughter. So I tended to identify with her generation more than my own. I remember -- cringingly -- turning in a play for a playwriting course that concerned a boy bringing his "hippie" girlfriend, "Moonflower," home to meet his folks, and the hilarity that ensued, because -- she was such a hippie! My playwriting teacher, of course, wrote plays that were performed at LaMama, and ripped the thing to shreds. And why not? I had written a lame, conservative sitcom. And I even came from a funny, liberal family. My only excuse is that I guess I watched too much TV and my idea of entertainment was "Barney Miller." I dunno.

That's all for now but there's probably more to come.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

dilemma for a Sunday afternoon

What do I do about a "friend" invite on Facebook from someone I don't really like anymore and whose husband, a former friend, I absolutely hate?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday with the cats

Barry and I are the kind of people who are a little too involved with our cats, having never had children. (I was hoping to spend a lot of time with my nephew, now five, but my brother moved farther and farther away and is now in Rhode Island, so I'm lucky if I see Walter once a year). We've gone from two cats when we first moved in (one mine, one his) to five at one point (too many) and have kind of settled on three as a good number.

Our oldest now is Xena, generally called Miss Xena, who is about 14 and is black/grey tabby and white. I saw her in a pet store when she was about three months, and loved the spot on her nose. She is the fussiest and more like what non-cat people expect of cats. She will be picked up and petted only when she feels like it, and will meow endlessly in the morning for food. (My friend Susana used to say that cats think of us as "can openers with legs.") She's a little stout and heavy, like a cinderblock with fur.

Middle cat is Lolly, about 7 years old. She is a very lovely calico. I spotted her at a street fair, where someone who does cat rescue had a table. I saw this tiny little calico pom-pom in a cage full of kittens, and fell immediately in love. We were actually at the street fair with Barry's cousins from Denmark, and after we parted with them, I asked to go back to the street fair. I tried to point out the kitten to him, and took a leaflet from the woman. I called her two days later and said, "I don't think I can live without that little calico kitten." She said, "Oh, you mean Lolly, She's climbing up and giving me kissed right now." So we set up a meet n'greet the next weekend, when she was tabling in front of the Barnes & Noble near Lincoln Center. We got to hold her and I brought a camera. (If I can ever find the right drivers for my scanner, I'll try to post them.) So we took her home a couple of weeks later, when she was about nine weeks. Barry lost his job soon after and was unemployed for about seven months, during which time he and Lolly fell much in love, so she's really a Daddy's girl, though she affectionate toward me as well. She's small and fluffy and light.

We ended up with a Mommy's girl when Barry took on a cat from a workmate who had to give her up. Samantha, a tabby/tortie, was renamed Tiggy, and she and I were inseparable. After about three years, though, she was diagnosed with lung cancer and went to take The Big Nap. I cried a lot, I have to say. So a couple of months later, I was walking past a local vet who had a cage in the window with two black kittens. So I went in, the assistant said "It's a boy and a girl, but most of us like the girl better." So I held the girl, and Maya, at about three months, came home with me. She's now about a bit old and heading to be a biggish cat, longer than Xena and bulking up. She has a tiny patch of white at her crotch which cat people call a "speedo." She's heavy and velvety and luckily decided she was Mommy's girl. She comes when I call her and her favorite toy is an ice cube.

This Facebook thing is really crazy -- lots of old friends and friends of friends and all kinds of widgets and gadgets. My husband mostly uses it for music stuff but my circle has a lot of talkers and readers and writers, as well as a finagle of folkies (I just made that up, a la murder of crows et al). I have a strange group of friends -- a few people from my high school who left before graduation for one reason or another, friends of friends that I know from my teen years, my former closest friend's estranged musical partner.

It's hard when old friends fall by the wayside. I had one who could not admit she was an alcoholic when I was deep into recovery; when I last ran into her, she acted very superior because she was active in AA and I wasn't. (I went daily for about five years and pretty much stopped making meetings after eight years. I have 23 years without a drink now.) It's a shame because I met her when I was about 13 and she's one of the funniest and smartest women I've ever known. But I know about that immersion-in-AA period; I used to be scared of non-program people when I was first sober. Some people never grow out of it, which is how I lost the best friend I met in the rooms. He just got deeper and deeper into it. Barry and I ran into him at DiFara Pizza a few years back, and he was with a sponsee. I just don't see spending all your free time on recovery stuff forever. They say that AA is "a bridge back to life," so I got back to life. Dating within the rooms is also a horror, but I'll get to that another time.

Friday, September 25, 2009

New blog!

I've been wanting to start a new blog for a while now, but I wanted to go over the separation agreement from my last employer to see if I agreed not to badmouth them. In the meantime, I'll just refrain from discussing them.

I've been out of work since April 2008, and a lot has changed since then. My last job was extremely stressful, and I felt that it wore out my coping mechanisms. I would have weeping fits that lasted hours, both when I had the job and after. I've been medicated for depression since 1997, but it seems that my mood disorder has progressed. In non-medical terms, I'm reticent about meeting the world. I don't leave the house much. I freeze when the phone rings. When I do meet it, whether leaving the apartment or talking on the phone, it feels fine, but getting over that threshold is a killer.

Of course, I always thought I'd make a great retired person, so it's not half-bad. I enjoy TV, especially movies, and the internet, and I've been making jewelry for about seven or eight years. But I always hoped my retirement would be in some place more rural than Brooklyn, and would involve a garden and a big space for all kinds of crafting and arts.

My darling husband is also unemployed, and not only needs to find a job, he needs to switch industries, since the garment center in New York is in its death throes. But he's been in it for some 30 years and is very uncomfortable about making a switch -- can't really see how his experience would transfer to any other industry, and always balks about taking a class or classes to learn something new.

The worst part about staying mostly indoors is that I don't get much exercise, though once I'm out, I walk and walk until I'm sore for two days after. I've always been a big walker. In fact, I recently bought a new MP3 player (on eBay) so I could listen to music on long walks.

I have been thinking about taking up ukulele. But maybe I'll just go back to banjo, since I already have one, managed to retain my banjo tablature books so they were not lost in The Great Storage Disaster. This apt. was so small that we had to put a lot of things in storage we couldn't really afford, and so we lost all our vinyl, all my journals, my baseball cards, my postcard collection, my mother's wedding dress, a lot of my books and papers and clipping, and so on. Because I figured out that if we couldn't afford a bigger apartment, we also couldn't afford an extra $130 a month for storage, I made sure to label certain cartons to keep at home. That way, I still have my bottle cap collection, my banjo, my music books, my jewelry-making stuff, my family photos, and some other essentials.

The banjo brings up a lot of old baggage for me, but I've reconnected with an old friend who is totally immersed in old-timey stringband music, and maybe I can re-catch it from him. I've joined Facebook, so I expect there'll be all kinds of reconnecting going on, and it's scary and exciting at the same time.

Note: I tweet at @northofconey.