Friday, October 30, 2015

Ambient Light

May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young - from "Forever Young" Bob Dylan 1973

You're only young once, but you can be immature forever. - Germaine Greer

Barney's on Madison
It used to be so very easy, when something went wrong. Like my car had a flat tyre. Or I wanted to return a pair of shoes to Myer Melbourne. Or I needed the attention of the waiter.

I would just put on a sad face and would be swarmed with offers of assistance.

Playing the young-and-pretty card. I even made a game of it. How far could I go?

I remember an incident when I lived in Launching Place in Victoria, OZ. I have never been a good driver but had been  pretty accident-free. I put this down to the fact that other drivers saw me coming and got the hell out of Dodge..

But one time I did have an accident -  involving a steel traffic signal pole thing. Side-swiped it, Pedestrians were staring with shocked faces. I accelerated. I tried to pretend it hadn't happened.  Catapulted straight into denial.

The crunching noise had sounded terrible.  I think  I had made the damage  worse be not stopping or even reversing. I can still remember all these years later, the sound of metal rearing. Ripping. And the shocked faces. Christ!

When I did stop to inspect the car I was horrified. There was a huge gaping gash in the passenger door. A wound. A not-meant-to-be thing.

What was I to do?  I couldn't face my husband. I wasn't  prepared to give him evidence towards his belief that I was a hopeless driver. I knew he wouldn't care about the car. But I cared about my reputation.

So I drove to a body repair shop and pretended to cry a little bit, and asked the manager of the car place could I borrow a mallet and some cream paint the color of my car. "I want to fix it myself as I don't want my husband to know I had an accident,  Also we are poor" I said in a sad voice.

Window Display at Dylan's Candy Bar
Manager man consulted with his worker mates., They stood around in a circle in the way men of the Australian bush do when they want to show they are real men solving an important problem..

"Yeah too right we'll fix it for her, poor little thing," they were saying. "The husband's lucky to have her." I thanked them profusely and told them how wonderful they were.  My acting skills are not a lot better than my driving ones, so I cut the thanks short. Nothing worse than over-acting, my father - one of the greatest actors of all time - had taught me.

My job well-done I walked over the road to a coffee shop and read a book while the men pulled out all plugs to get my car looking as good as new.

But those days are well passed. I can't do that sort of thing now. I haven't been able to for a while.

Sometimes I wish I would have been born ugly; then I wouldn't have had to adjust so much. People would never have helped me. The transition  has been hard.

But I made it!!! I change my own tyres now. I don't even have a car anyway, so I don't have car accidents. If waiters don't take any notice of me I yell at them. I am woman, hear me roar!!!!

I don't exploit my own sexuality because I don't have any. Life is good. Was good ...

Something new has begun. I have entered another phase of ny life. An even worse one.

And that is - saying out loud my date of birth - to bank officials, Medicare workers, house insurance people, people at LifeLock who protect me from identity theft. Come to think of it, do I even NEED Lifelock? Who would WANT to pretend they were me?

It goes like this. I will be applying or asking for something by phone, from a person with the authority to deny it.  The conversation, the application will be going very well.  Especially if the person on the phone is  male and Texan. So polite. So charming.

They'll even chat a bit. "Love yer Aussie accent!" they'll say admiringly. "I am sure you can get that loan, insure that house,  return those shoes you don't like anymore."

And then, "We need to establish your identity for our records. What is your date of birth?". I can hear the mouse click at the other end where they are bringing up my personal details on the computer screen.

I answer in a whisper . Maybe they wont notice the year. But of course, they do.

The tone of the conversation changes. Clipped. Polite. Not interested in accent. No way José.

A few times I've tried to play the age card. I don' know what you mean by a "HUD-1 settlement statement," I will say. "I know you told me before but I can't remember!" But it is a fine and dangerous line I am treading here! They might think I am feeble minded. Not worthy of a loan. Not fit to take out insurance.

Actually I tried it once - playing the old card that is. At a hospital here in New York. In the ER. I was lying there, forgotten. Hours passed. I was thirsty. I had no water. When I called to the nurse I was ignored.

I started to get dressed. "What are you doing?" Nurse Ratched snapped. "I'm getting water, I'm thirsty .I  haven't had any liquid for five hours!" She glared in an accusing spooky sort of way.

"Do you know where you are?" "Of course I answered!" "Well where ARE you?" she crowed triumphantly. Trumped like The Donald! I became the old woman she thought me to be. I briefly considered saying I was in Paris having a meal with my man friend, but common sense warned me.

I didn't much like the ER I was in, but was pretty pretty pretty sure that the one at Bellevue would be worse.

So I told her where I was, in an elderly feeble docile sort of way.

Which only goes to show that the system will always win, and we must go gently into these our final days. Or at least pretend to.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Don't Blame Me - I Just Live Here!

You’ve been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books
You’re very well read It’s well known
Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones? - from "Ballad of a Tin Man" - Dylan 1965 

What's-a matter you? Hey!
Gotta no respect. Hey!
What-a you t'ink you do? Hey!
Why you look-a so sad? Hey!
It's-a not so bad.
Hey! It's-a nice-a place.
Ah, shaddap-a you face! - from "Shaddap You Face" - Joe Dolce 1980
Beach, Maine, USA
"Even as I write this on gray and rainy Saturday, the glorious weather of Independence Day weekend is borne back ceaselessly into the past like Gatsby's boats against the current.

I hope this missive finds you well wherever you are, on the docks in the West Egg or in your own backyard."

This was the preamble of a letter from my attorney - I like to call him my end-of-life attorney (it's so American) - just to annoy some of the folks back home who have it in for all things USA.

Sure the USA has a lot to answer for. But it is also - for many of us living here - a very nice place. Especially New York City, where one's end-of-life-attorney references  F. Scott Fitzgerald when sending a letter reminding you to check that your last will and testament is still in order. 

I have a theory about New York - because it is so big, and in many ways by virtue of its size - somewhat impersonal - that people are very friendly and personal with people that they come across in day-to-day encounters.

Most of us live in small apartments and spend large amounts of  time at work. On a physical level our horizons are somewhat cramped. But we make up for it, because the world is our back yard. Central Park, the High Line, Prospect Park, the galleries, the theaters. The literary and music legacies.

Subway Advertisement 2015
And so New Yorkers, seeing the whole city as their own space, will chat to complete strangers, holding whole conversations with people who they are never likely to see again.

And in customer service email - not you pro-forma "Dear Sir/Madam" -  a comment, a viewpoint can find its way into the most mundane of commercial emails.

As was the case a few weeks ago. Frustrated at not being able to find a movie that had been reviewed on "Talking Pictures on Demand" where a panel of film critics talk about the on-demand film offerings, I emailed customer service at the TV station  NY 1. In ten minutes the reply landed in my inbox.

Thanks for your email. I just checked Movies on Demand and I found it. You need to go to channel 500 (Movies) and go to the alphabetical listings. You'll find "Battle Royale" in the A-C section. I know that we have done reviews of movies in the past that might have been unavailable and we try hard to make sure that that doesn't happen.

Thanks again for the feedback and please let me know if you are having any issues finding the film. It's a weird movie....very Japanese.

Steve Paulus General Manager, NY1

As Jo Dolce sang to people putting down Australia in the 1980s - "Hey! It's-a nice-a place."

I was chatting on the phone to a friend in Australia last week, talking about the plight of refugees and how in America we call them "undocumented immigrants", and how welcoming the U.S. really is, when it comes to new arrivals. The conversation went something like this.

Me: We call them "undocumented immigrants" here.
Her: What? I think someone is at the door.
Me: Are you back? I was just saying how in America we call refugees who come here illegally, "undocumented immigrants".
Her: At least we don't have the death penalty. I couldn't live in a country that has the death penalty.

Well I suppose we all couldn't live in countries that we think do bad things. I couldn't live in a country that stoned female adulterers to death for example. Well naturally ... I would be dead.  

Maybe I wouldn't want to live in a country that turns back "boat people"; that even calls other human beings "boat people". But I have, and I no doubt will.

And in any case, it isn't a competition.

Or is it?