Saturday, July 22, 2006


So I've been in Iowa for a week now. Unkie and Helen's party went beautifully. You can tell we have German ancestry, because the food included brats and saurkraut. The entertainment included (I kid you not) a polka band. Everyone really enjoyed it, but there wasn't any dancing, in part because it was more than 90 degrees out, and in part because we were on the lawn. ("It's not a smooth enough surface," one partygoer explained, "Someone could twist an ankle.") But my family had a great time, telling stories and laughing. I handed out hundreds of pieces of cake, and Unkie told people I was his oldest granddaughter. He and Helen looked so happy and in love after 50 years of marriage. We should all be so lucky.

Since the party I've been mostly taking it easy and have read four good books. I've also helped a bit with farm chores, sorting sheep and house chores. I walk our minipoodle and throw things for our border collie to fetch, which Mac will do ad nauseum, even if it is 100 degrees out. After a few throws, I'd make him stop to drink water, and he'd look at me like I was so mean.

I've been a bit stranded, as the work at the farm has lead to many nails from the old house and barn making many holes in many tires. But now I have a car and can go to the restaurants and shops I've been wanting to visit. I can also start arranging for visits with family members and friends.

I'll be here until August 14, but I know how quickly time can get eaten up. In fact, being stranded has been kind of nice. I don't remember the last time I had a week with no responsibilities, work or social. It's also a rare treat to be in a space with no other people for a mile around. Well, it's rare for me. In New York, there's always someone above you, below you, and every which way.

So I'm enjoying Iowa, my family and my pets...even the scorching heat wave that just broke. Here's hoping you're enjoying your summer, too. Miss you, NYC friends!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Homeless! And sick...again...some more.

So I think I'm still sick. Sick again? Whatever. Now I need to go back to the doctor. Sigh.

But the big news is, I have to find a new apartment. Here is how the story unfolded:

Last week, Clara's cousins were visiting, which was kind of annoying. She constantly has family visiting. That week I gave Clara the checks for July's and August's rent (since I won't be here at the start of the month). At that time, she gave no warning of what was coming. Then, yesterday she says to me, "Erin, when are you moving out?"

"Oh," I replied, "I'm not."
"But Erin," she said, "I told you I needed you to move out."

Eerm...what? Do I have amnesia? Did I block it out?

"When did you say that?"
"Back in April." I looked at her blankly. "I said, 'My family's coming. I need the apartment."
"Clara, that's pretty much what you've said any time your family has come to visit."
"I know, but...well, I thought you understood."
"But you didn't say anything about needing me to move out."
"I didn't want you to feel I was making you leave." (Though that is exactly what she's doing.)
"When did you want me out by?"
"Well...the end of July."

At that point, I sort of wigged out, calling everyone I know in the city. Then Clara told me that I didn't need to worry, because her family could wait a little longer. But I've started looking for a new place and packing, because it'll be stressfull to try to throw it all together at once when I get back in August. Wish me luck.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A Wedding and a Homecoming

On Friday, I arrive in Iowa at 8 p.m. The next day, I cut the cake at Unkie and Helen's party and I get to see my family! It's been quite a week. Last Wednesday was my last day of school. Then I had to finish a paper and prepare a presentation for my last grad school class on Thursday. I then had one week to finish my portfolio, and I spent some of it with my friends and on Fourth of July celebration...and way too much time on the Saga of Chris. Nonetheless, that's all done now, and so is my portfolio! All that I need for my master's degree is to clear up some clerical stuff. Ugh.
Last Friday was my friend Madrid's bachelorette party. It wasn't the traditional debauchery. Instead we went to dinner at a restaurant called Mexican Radio, then when to a vodka bar with a cool, underground decor.

During the party, we discovered that Madrid's fiance, ChrisP, wasn't having a bachelor party. [He's a grad student, and after his friends recently graduated they moved away. Since they weren't inviting anyone to the wedding (immediate family only), he didn't feel right asking anyone to come back.]

I suggested that we throw him a bachelor party. Madrid didn't think he'd want one, but he was happy about it. We all wore ties and went to a vegetarian restaurant with a Moroccan decor, Caravan of Dreams. ChrisP said it was perfect: "I get the attention of six lovely ladies and my fiance doesn't get jealous!" He also said it was nice to be in a relationship where the friends all approved.
"Not that I wouldn't have married her anyway, it's just...sometimes you get out of a relationships, and all your friends say, 'Oh, thank goodness you got out of that one!' But when the friends all approve, it's like they see that you're a good match."

And they are. Yesterday they got married, and after the wedding they met up with us for dinner. We all toasted the couple, laughing and getting teary-eyed I ended this week with a celebration of a marriage beginning. Next week will end with a celebration of a marriage that has lasted for 50 years. That's a beautiful and inspiring thing.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Birthday, America!

I had a nice July 4th celebration. I got together with some friends for dinner at a Mexican restaurant, Blockhead's Burritos. The food was delicious, but the decor was bizarre, with a sock monkey theme. Yeah...

Then we walked over to the shore to stake out a spot to watch the fireworks. The display was gorgeous. We were having an amazing time.

There was one annoying thing: some parents came at the last second. Now, they might have said, "May our daughter squeeze in next to you so she can see?" It would have a bit self-centered of them (as we waited an hour to get our primo spot), but at least there would have been a modicum of politeness. Instead, they just told her, "Get up there!" and shoved her up between Jenny and me. Her head was literally in my armpit. Yep. What is that brushing against my armpit? A CHILD'S HEAD! Who does that? Who shoves their child in a stranger's armpit? I almost went off, but held back because it isn't the child's fault she's being raised badly. I ignored them and eventually they went away, the child and her brother whining they were bored. I would like to thank my family members for their excellent parenting skills. Our extended family gatherings are remarkably brat-free. Have you seen any of those nanny shows? It's appalling how many Americans are raising their children...that they need to be told to give their children unconditional love, consistent structure and praise when it's earned.

Anyway, despite the run-in with the brat family, the 4th of July fireworks display really got me thinking about America and how much I love it. When I was traveling in Europe, there were all these amazing countries, buildings, museums, cuisines, styles of music and dance. And at first I thought America was missing that, that culture and identity forged over a thousand years or more.

But America is still young. It is a rowdy teen looking for its identity and future and expression and freedom. Because there is no set style for America, there is no limit to what this country can be, and there's nowhere else I'd rather be.

The Saga of Chris- The Conclusion

The Saga of Chris has come to its swift and clear conclusion. I started going out with him in the first place because I was fascinated by him and he made my stomach flip over, and I didn’t want to be left wondering, “What if?” Now I’ll never have to wonder. He turned out to be more crazy than not, and more trouble than he was worth, but to his credit, at least he added one more great New York moment to my list, and inspired a few poems.

Yesterday I called Chris. He informed me that the love of his life, the semi-suicidal and violent Carrie who dumped him while in anorexia rehab, e-mailed him to say she loved him and missed him. He said getting the e-mail made him want to throw up, and he was still shaking. Hmm.

That night, I went for drinks with Chris, Lindsey and Lindsey’s roommate, Victoria. We all had a lot of fun talking. Then they went home, and Crazy Chris appeared. Well, not at first. At first he was playing pool, and activity which (he had told me before) let him forget her for stretches of time. But then it was someone else’s turn at the table. He started saying rude things to me.

“Why are you actively trying to alienate me? What am I doing here with you?” I asked.
“What are you doing here? Honestly?”
“I’ve been having fun with you. But you told me once you didn’t need any new friends.”
“I want us to be friends.”
“Fine. Then stop trying to offend me.”

But in the course of the conversation, he (in crude terms) informed me that he was just using Nicole, a nice girl he’s seeing, for sex. Then he told me, “You need to grow up. You think you have a handle on everything, but you don’t. You have a perfect answer for everything.”

“Okay then.”

“See? ‘Okay then.’ All you have to say is, ‘Okay then.’” I think he wanted me to get all dramatic and fight with him. Well, you all know I'm up for a good fight when it matters, but you don't fight someone that...pitiful.

He went on to tell me that he still loved Carrie, and that he would die for her in the end. He said he would kill himself for her, not that night, but someday. I tried to talk to him about options for getting help. He said if his sister couldn’t help him, I sure as hell couldn’t, and what was I going to do, call the cops? He said I should leave him, and I did.

So, I never have to wonder, “What if I’d given it a shot with Chris?” Now I know the answer: disaster. I feel bad that he’s so damaged— that he’s making these desperate pleas for help, and no one knows how to help him. But I guess I’m grateful that he didn’t use me and string me along like he did to Nicole. One intense week, and the whole thing was resolved without me getting too physically or emotionally involved. Goodbye, beautiful, crazy Chris, and good luck. I hope you get the help you need. Actually, you and beautiful, crazy Carrie will probably get married and have a passel of beautiful, crazy children and live in a prolonged fit of drama and masochistic joy. Mazel tov!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Saga of Chris- A New York Moment

Saturday Chris and I got together on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He said he wanted to get a drink first, and we went to a bar where he proceeded to have two Bloody Mary’s…at four in the afternoon. I didn’t think that was a good sign, but I thought I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. At the bar, Chris got a call from his sister, Lindsey, saying she needed to meet us to get her keys from him. They thought it might take 40 minutes, and we decided to wait out front.

Chris and I sat on the thick stone ledge of the fountain, which was inexplicably empty of water. The stone was warm, and when I had to make some phone calls, he stretched out. He said it felt great, so when I finished my calls, I stretched out, too. Head-to-head, his legs going one way, mine the other, we lay there in the sun with cars zooming by in the street and tourists ambling by on the sidewalk. We even dozed a bit, with the wind mixing my hair with his. It's going on my list of top New York moments.

After an hour Lindsey, his mom and his mom’s boyfriend showed up for the keys. We handed them off, then went in the museum and looked at paintings. He likes Kara Walker, Degas’ ballerinas and gloomy paintings in a certain shade of blue. I like luminous women against rich backgrounds.

We left the museum and went for hot dogs at Papaya King. He was amazed I’d eat one because, apparently, all the women in his life fit somewhere in a continuum between vegetarianism and anorexia. “Yeah, women who eat,” I said, facetiously, “It’s the hot new thing. It’s sweeping the nation!”

Then he went to put a down payment on his new apartment and I went home. It was about 9 p.m. He said he might call me later, and at 10 he did. I met up with him and his friend Royal, and we talked and laughed for hours. Then Royal went home, and Chris decided we should go play pool. I warned him tat I didn’t know a thing about it, but he didn’t care. We won game after game, but lost the last one due to spectacular incompetence on my part. He had the nerve to get crabby about it. “I’m sorry,” I replied, “I deceived you when I said I was a world-class pool player. Oh, wait, no, I think my exact words were, ‘I could only beat someone at pool if my bad playing made them laugh so hard they dropped their cue!’” He laughed and cheered up, then walked me to the subway. It was about 3 at this point.

The whole walk to the station, he was looking at me strangely and told me he didn’t know what my story was. Then he told me, literally, to keep my distance (“Walk over there for a minute.” Okay, crazy boy). Then, right as we got to the station, he said, “So what are you doing now?” “Well, what are you doing now?” I countered. “Going home and going to bed,” he said. “Well, okay then.” I replied. At his subway stop, he shook my hand and told me to call him.