Catherine Jensen and Wain McFarlane, Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge, Minneapolis, May 2010
It seems impossible, ridiculous really, that we are bidding goodbye to our dear friend Catherine today. Just five days ago we had no idea she was even ill.
We got the news late on Sunday night, that she’d taken a turn for the worse, that she’d been on life support, that she was going to die.
The word “shocking” isn’t nearly accurate. What word is? There is no word for this feeling. There is no poetry for this. One moment, not a thought about her. The next, she is nearly gone. Continue reading ‘Goodbye, Minnesota’s Rose’
Sometimes crossing the street in New York City is a flirtation with disaster. Times Square is a far more dangerous neighborhood than many. The volume of foot traffic, taxis, delivery trucks, police and emergency vehicles — it’s overwhelming.
Whether the pedestrians are tourists or business people, most of them can’t be bothered to get off their cell phones or stop texting or look away from the person they’re telling such an important story to wait a sec, yo, you gotta hear this, wait a sec, dude! — or even to follow traffic signals. Look both ways before crossing the street? We gave up that bunk back on Sesame Street. This is New York City, baby!
That’s not to say pedestrians are always at fault. Walkers rule over drivers in a lot of ways in New York. Sometimes traveling on foot really is faster. And if it’s not, dammit, I’ll make it faster. I gotta get across the street now! So of course sometimes the motorists, the cabbies, the cops consider it their duty to educate pedestrians by giving them a horn-honking thrill, making a thinly veiled threat. My friend calls cabs “yellow flying death.”
On a rainy night this week, leaving work for the bus back to Philadelphia, I wove through clusters of spiked umbrellas and danced around puddles to cross 7th Avenue… Broadway… to the opposite corner… toward 8th Avenue. And freedom. There were fewer people out than normal because of the rain. But also because of the rain, the reconstituted city filth made any sidewalk and street an oil slick.
A very specific sequence of sounds occurs when a moving car strikes a human body. Even if you’ve never heard them before, even if you don’t witness it with your eyes, they’re distinct enough that you know instantly what is happening when you hear them. It’s not a cracking of bones. It’s not a splash of blood and wet parts.
Glenn Shadix died at home in Alabama Tuesday. We all remember him as paranormal researcher-turned-interior decorator Otho from Beetlejuice. He had almost all the really great lines in that movie and was one of my first memorable gay role models.
I must admit I’m disappointed the AP story didn’t mention his turn as the preacher in Heathers. Personally, I blame not the AP, but rather a society that tells its youth that the answers can be found in the MTV video games.
It’s one of life’s great cliches that everyone comes into your life for a reason. It does not always follow, however, that they go out of your life for a reason, too. Sometimes they just go, and it’s cruel, and it’s brutal.
I did not know Joey well. We met in January, and he was gone by mid-April. Every time I saw him in those brief months, he brought some new delight into my life — a fun, clever friend of his; a fabulous place for brunch; a ceramic two-tiered deviled egg serving tray.
Since his death, I have been remembering all of the “lasts.” You always remember those: the last tweet, the last Facebook update, the last photo I took of him, the last time he was at my house, the last time I was in his disastrously messy car.
Everything around me is a reminder, as if a trace of life is left behind everywhere he went, like a scent. Whenever I’m on South Street, I remember the last time he got new plugs for his ear lobes. RuPaul reminds me of him. Britney Spears reminds me of him. Blood oranges, enchiladas, Hello Kitty.
Our lasts were, in most cases, also firsts. The last meal we shared was at our annual Easter party, which we thought would be the first of many he would attend. It was at that party, he told us, that he had his first-ever green bean casserole. Also his last.
The lasts hurt so much because they’re a reminder of the obliterated potential. You decide to let someone into your life as a friend, and you can imagine how things will be years on: the holidays and birthdays, the summers and winters, the drunken nights out, the drunken nights in.
We have the lasts to be grateful for, but we can’t help but feel robbed of an undiscovered future and memories we never had a chance to make. And then we remember that the future that’s gone is his. We still have ours, and that’s more to be grateful for.
Sometimes I think we don’t really lose anybody. We just find them somewhere else. I find Joey continuously in the friends we inherited from him.
Joey collected people, and he carried a whole world with him. His was an exuberant life that spilled over into everyone around him. Like all is other possessions, we are left behind to be redistributed or to be gathered closer. We have chosen the latter.
Last week would have been his birthday. We had cake and champagne in his honor. And I saw once again how lucky we were to know him, and how grateful we should be for the people he brought to our lives.
We are all so different, and we all knew him for different reasons, but we all fit together. And wherever we go, he goes.
Our cat discovered a mouse the other day. This in itself does not bother me. The benefit of having a house cat is to keep the mice away.
What is somewhat bothersome, however, is for Jeff to come home one day to catch her in the act of taunting a half-paralyzed rodent, batting it across the floor like a shuffleboard disc. The human intrusion distracted the cat just long enough for her prey to crawl under the refrigerator to die in peace.
So now we have a dead mouse somewhere under our fridge. This is not a terribly difficult problem to solve. But now I fear that our cat, starved for excitement in an environment not built for her, has re-awakened a carnivorous desire. She will remember those days spent outdoors in Minneapolis, before we moved her to this urban prison. And even though she may appear to be lying calmly on my lap, she will secretly always have one eye open and both ears tuned to the hunt.
Everyone has something that sets his hair on end. Fingernails on a chalkboard. A high-pitched dog yapping. Bugs and spiders. An old high school friend of mine could not even bear to look at a picture of a snake in a science book. I know someone for whom the thought of touching raw wood is literally nauseating. Mixing that brownie batter with a wooden spoon? As good as a toothbrush down the throat. A doctor with a tongue depressor? Call an ambulance.
For me, it’s glass — from a paper-thin martini glass to a gigantic window pane. This morning, walking the dog we’re sitting this week, I was already annoyed that she was stopping for a thorough examination of every five feet of sniffable surface. But when she picked a tree to piss on that placed me right next to a parked glass-delivery truck, my ankles began to sweat.
The truck backed up, and I tugged the lead slightly to encourage Honey to move on. I eyed the layered panes, completely stationary and secure yet still threatening at any moment to spontaneously shatter and explode, embedding irretrievable shards into my face and neck and arms. I imagined one of the larger ones buckling under its own weight to send a shimmering guillotine sliding down on my neck.
How does that truck make it all the way from the shop without shattering its cargo all across the highway? Why are the sheets of glass all arranged on the outermost edges of the truck bed — where they can do ordinary citizens the most harm? How do those workers each still have all 10 of their fingers? How can you allow small children and old people to pass within close proximity of this truck?
I have also always intensely disliked floor-to-ceiling mirrors. For one thing, in a home it’s usually just tacky and done for all the wrong reasons. (Want to make your room look bigger? Knock out a wall. Move into a different apartment.) Mostly, though, it’s just the sheer size of that sheet of glass. Moving a large unframed mirror from a friend’s apartment to another friend’s pickup truck, there was a moment when I thought it might slip through the gap between the elevator and the floor. It could easily happen. Loosen your grip for less than a blink, and someone’s certain death is suddenly hurtling through 32 floors of elevator shaft.
Glass table tops? Gag me. Ever see Heathers? Or that other movie (I think it’s a David Lynch) where the guy falls into the corner of a glass coffee table and it hacks halfway into his head — starting with the eye — like a sharp hatchet through a boiled egg?
When I first moved to my neighborhood, I met my ultimate horror in a set of glass shelves in a storefront window. Rising maybe five or six levels, each horizontal pane is suspended by a set of four tall, narrow pint glasses. A little too much weight on any one shelf, and you’ve got yourself a death scene. What merchandise could possibly be worth such a risk?
Reading about the recent death of marathoner Ryan Shay, it strikes me how incredibly out of shape I am yet how relatively unbothered I am about it. At age 28, at the top of his game, he collapsed at the 2008 Olympic Marathon trials.
It absolutely can happen to anyone. Yet how disgusting that it should happen to him. If the good Lord comes ringing for me before my time, I hope I have the good sense to screen my calls.
He is from a family of runners, which I take as a testament to the dearth of amusements available to a growing boy up in Central Lake, Michigan, population 1,000. Every sibling runs or has run. His sister stills holds some sort of obscene high school record. Plus his parents coach. Is it dedication or obsession? Whatever it is, it’s bloody impressive.
“Trials” is an appropriate word. In today’s Times article about the tragedy, his coach’s training scheme for such trials is described thus: a 14-week training period, peaking at about 130 to 140 miles of training a week, with workouts including 8 x 1 mile at 4:45 to 4:50 pace at 7,000 feet (in Arizona) with two minutes’ rest in between.
Yikes! (Two minutes’ rest? They are so fat and lazy. What hope do they have?)
People who are driven to be the best at what they do have to work for it, no doubt. And I respect that. But I don’t want nearly as much. So I am perfectly content not to work nearly as hard as Ryan Shay, who can run a marathon in 2 hours and 15 minutes, proposed to.
Even a friend of mine, finishing last weekend’s New York Marathon in 4:09 (a personal best for him, I think), leaves me in the dust. I wouldn’t even try it. I detest running. I can’t even think of something I enjoy doing for four hours and nine minutes!
I am just this side of hopeless. Truly, I miss my rugby team, which dragged me kicking and screaming into the best shape of my life over the last couple of years. Having taken a season away from the team, I am reduced with amazing speed to a quivering white pudding, winded by the staircase ascent from the subway, aware of every aching joint and wondering how long it will be before I end up an Old Man. This is how it starts! I think.
UPDATE: I stand corrected. From the horse’s mouth: 4:04:27. Yikes!