Thursday, January 29, 2009

When I'm 32...

My neighbor was telling me about her daughter today—the one with the 12-book deal with film rights who is overwhelmed by success at the age of 32. Do I know any brilliant men who’d like to go out with a girl who undoubtedly earns more than they, has little time for courtship rituals, can’t find a suitable husband? Who finds it hard to have fun when her college roommates have not just pushed out their second child but lost the excess weight.

Running for a bus in the rain late afternoon I met another girl…on her way to an audition, cursing the weather, splattered and flustered, edgy and twitchy and fun. 32, she tells me. The same number as the balance in her bank account. Sick to death of nothing to show for 10 years in Manhattan in a cramped studio without a view, sick of brushing sleeves with wives of billionaires who seem undeserving of their charmed existence, who take for granted 5-star lunches and nanny-managing, who don’t have to forego Starbucks for dry cleaning.

I read every day how 50 is the new 30. But apparently for these women, 32 is the new 50. Over the hill-- nervously considering another chapter in the dream-book might have to be edited out.

Me, I might be the new 70. I avoid mirrors. I had a woolen scarf on my head today like an old peasant woman. My shoes have rubber soles and don’t slip. If kids didn’t tease me, I’d be wearing Doc Martens. I am 'over it'. I don't even remember what 'it' was. I embrace the last throes of single parenthood with enthusiasm. I am not a man-hater. Both husbands were ‘de-jour’; sex was great, marriage was witty and unconventional; other women envied me, as women do. I envied me, when I looked, which I hardly ever did. Because that kind of marriage doesn’t last. Besides, I am democratic, spontaneous. I let my life-book write itself. I gave up control. No one envies me now.

I stopped in at P.C. Richards to look for a replacement laptop for my son—the one who loses and breaks everything, including his girlfriends. I sometimes wonder what 32 will look like for him, but for now I must consider 32-bits. The salesman is cute…a not-too recent college grad who probably had mediocre grades in a trendy major. Maybe a former athlete, judging from his body…or a refugee from a boring health-club job. Maybe even an ex-military guy. But the guy is energetic—nice. He knows his stuff—is honest, doesn’t talk down to me. Handsome, in a doggish way. So would the successful writer think he is a keeper? She would not. Or the unsuccessful actress? This guy would have no connections. Maybe lives in Queens. How many PC Richards employees live in Manhattan? Not many.

I like the guy. I want to buy a computer from him. I trust him. I wonder if, at the age of 32, I would have gone out with him. I would have. That’s the difference between me and the new 32. I wasn’t looking for a catalyst; just someone who was fun and sexy. And today? I’m glad to meet a salesman who doesn’t treat me like dogshit because I’m wearing a 7-year-old coat from Eddie Bauer’s final closing sale. I appreciate civility. I appreciate my own time, including the minutes in the day I spend listening to disgruntled 32-year-olds and 25-year-olds at my gym who are already miserable or overworked, stressed, hate their mothers, hate their boyfriends, their med-school schedules, their apartments, the weather. I listen. I care about them. I even make them laugh-- at themselves.

I don’t like Pike Place. I want the old Starbucks coffee, even after 5 PM. I admit—I like Starbucks, even though it goes against my hippie democratic grain. But aside from that, life is okay. Even when my own neighbors are suing each other and my IRA couldn’t buy me a decent laptop. I have heat-- at least tonight I do. I like my apartment. I like my ex-husbands, wherever they may be, and I never asked for child support. I’m not bothered that my parents and kids think I‘m a loser. I like my kids. I have a couple of friends which is a couple more than most have. This year my son even sent me a Christmas card. Maybe I like myself. The new 22. Or 66. Who’s counting?

Friday, January 23, 2009

All Abored

It's hard for me to commit to 2009. The inauguration helped. Then I watched All About Eve last night at 2 AM...a film that is older than I am, with a script which makes today's Hollywood sound even more pathetic, and it got me thinking about all of us aging artists.

Not to mention at my Times Square subway platform, there was a fresh face-- a young Eve, with her case open, an innocent delivery and self-conscious announcements of an 'original' song called, and I quote... 'When Will I be Loved'. Sound familiar to those of us who remember Bette Davis before that obnoxious 80's song?

So did I cringe? I did, and I do...even though she had passable talent, even though she could marginally play her Takamine lame guitar undoubtedly purchased by supportive and loving parents who pay her LES rent and pray every night their little girl will be the next Sara Bareilles or whatever her name is.

Am I jealous? Because her open case contained more lovingly rendered bills than mine ever could? Because she was cute and solicitous and Eve-esque, and I have that old rocker chick vibe with the jagged edges and even my case looks tentative and half-closed? Because I curse the act of subway beggary and refuse to be logged in among the new breed of busking musicians?

Here's what I resent: like everything else New York, we now have the gentrification of the subway platform musician. Few and far between are the down-and-out soul singers who do their Otis and Ray for a cheap pint. Gone are the aged never-have-been Lynnyrd Skynnyrd clones, and even the seriously talented but unmarketable poets. We are in the era of Asian muzak-creators and break-dancing in the cars. Drums beating everywhere and in the spaces, the Dave Matthews, the Fallout Boys, the endless K. T. Tunstalls and student jazz bands. And since fully 90% of platform population is equipped with an ipod, it takes serious eye candy or a weapon to get their earspace. Bring back the crude and un-photogenic. The underpaid and overtalented who are being forced out of even the subway underground in 2009.

Maybe it's the competitive and claustrophobic vibe that's beginning to get to me. I long for the white noise of trains without the overpopulation of mediocre performers. Watching the film reassured me it's okay to be a bitch. In fact, the sweet young mediocre newcomer was finally the talentless villain. Edge won out. Relieved was I, as I went to bed by dawn. At least until my next subway ride this morning, with the cool-jah percussionists riding my car, the jacked-up young rock drummer slamming on his kit so loud I couldn't hear the guy with the cheap Casio around his neck who looked like he was improvising some possibly hip stuff. Whatever. he probably won't make it into the new Zagat guide to subway performers, for those of you who are sick to death of Success-by-Myspace.

While we're on the subject of All About Me, I've been noticing the traits of middle age taking their toll. I returned a pretzel to one of my favorite vendors because it was so steeped in kerosene fumes that my band members whined. Did I need the refund or did I truly want to protect his customers? I'm not sure what he thought but I walked away feeling petty. And hungry.

I also managed to stop into Best Buy to let them know that in case anyone had believed in Santa Claus and received a gift from their store, the spirit of Christmas was forever gone. My son's shiny new computer with the newly cracked screen will cost $700 to repair-- not under warranty, as the salesman had led Santa to believe. Merry Christmas, Best Buy. I hope Tim Geithner refuses you a bailout package, you pathetic greedy robbing gremlins. The Geek Squad was muscular and well-tattooed and listening to TI when I dropped off my damaged goods. Besides the loss, I will get the additional gift of a pricey roundtrip shipping bill if I refuse the repair, which I did. And a $39.95 charge for recycling the thing, the whole of which originally cost those bastards 50% of the estimated repair. Without tax.

Well, in the Best Buy line of reasoning, it certainly takes more time to piece Humpty Dumpty together than to lay an egg.

Happy Year of the Ox.