Saturday, May 31, 2008

Parental Visit Day Two: A tale of epic proportions.

10:15 am - so I wonder which level of hell this would translate to?

OK. So today's the day that my parents arrive, that I have to get them (along with Jonathan's parents) out to dinner together without incident, and that we will (hopefully) deliver the big news to (hopefully) the delight and glee of all. This, in and of itself, I was finding stressful enough. As we know, I came to the realization last night that my parents are not going to behave themselves, and it is I that will have to be the eye in the center of the storm, the voice of reason throughout the proceedings. I who will have to be the rock.

So I'm super excited that I'm on 5 hours of sleep, and that there's a crew of men banging on the exterior of my apartment building right now.

See, we live in a "pre-war" building. This is actually code for "hasn't been renovated (or cleaned all that much) since it was built in 1915". And that's fine with us; the place has character, with its crown moldings, high rounded ceilings, wood floors, and plaster walls. And it comes with that magical phrase that glosses over all manner of sins: rent stabilization. But every now and then some crucial bit of maintenance does have to be done. And apparently, this week that bit is to scrape the last 40 or so years' worth of accumulated rust off of all of the fire escapes.

The enterprising young men pursuing this endeavor were not at all dissuaded by the fact that today is Saturday, no. They in fact began their work at 7:50 in the morning, approximately five hours after I was finally able to get myself to sleep last night. Now, for some reason that I don't completely grasp, this job requires banging as hard as possible on these ancient metal structures. And it just so happens that today's assignment is the death trap / BBQ platform directly outside of my kitchen window, the one bolted to my bedroom wall. And so, since 7:50 am, no less than three full grown men have been serenading us with five floors of wrought iron xylophone orchestra.

Just the thing to put me in a calm, relaxed mood to deal with mom and dad!

* * * * * * * * * *

11:40 am - so that's why the banging stopped...

Around 10:50 or so, the banging stopped. So I was able to relax for a minute and have my breakfast. We figured that the guys were just on a ten or something, but the work did not resume. Maybe they're finished with that set? I'd seen them on the second floor, the one just above ours. Maybe that was their whole goal for today?

Jonathan went out for a cigarette, came back in reporting that he'd seen police outside. I peeked out, and the first thing I saw was a smashed car window. Ahh, I thought, isn't it wonderful when the neighborhood's children become teenagers. But people were gathering, and the police were yelling at people that there was nothing to see here (universal code for "there's something big to see here!")... and then there was the ambulance. So, maybe the car window wasn't the news. What was the commotion? I got a feeling. I went into the kitchen and just happened to notice about a gallon of fruit punch spilled in the alley below my kitchen window... below the fire escape. Or maybe... not fruit punch. I looked up to the fire escape on the second story, and saw that part of the railing was now missing on the side. Just about exactly above where that enormous red stain is.


So that explains the cessation of the noise, and the ambulance, and the dozen or so people milling around on the sidewalk out front; directly in front, in fact, of the gate leading out of the alley beneath the fire escape in front of my kitchen... I feel like an ass for not having seen or understood more sooner, but then images like that tend to haunt me, so it's probably for the best. The giant pool of blood I suppose is enough. I'm really just hoping that the kid's not dead. I mean, I wasn't exactly in love with them being here making all that racket so early in the morning. But I'm guessing it wasn't on their "top ten fun things to do on Saturday" list either, and I wasn't wishing severe bodily harm on any of them. Actually I just wanted them to have a day off...

Ah, well, anyway, time to go into the city and meet the folks!

* * * * * * * * * *

1:30 pm - It could be worse; it could be raining...

Mmm. Right. So I leave my studio, and it's pouring. And I'm the moron in the impractical shoes, because I haven't seen my parents in a year and I want to look good. Which for some reason requires not the most practical rain shoes. And it's as if the rain is coming on cue; it gets thin, and so out I step. But just at that moment, it becomes a torrent. So I run to the next enclave. But as soon as I duck in, It slows up again. So out again I go, only to have it come down again hard and heavy... By the time I make it to the subway my lovely, impractical shoes are slick and slippery on the inside, and I'm soaked up to my knees...

* * * * * * * * * *

1:45 pm - Seriously? On Lex? You must be joking.

But they weren't joking. There it was, with the grilled meat and the pineapple chunks and the cheap pashminas and the "Chanel" handbags only $9.95 - a goddamn streetfair. Ok. Sure. Of course. Why not. Why wouldn't there be a street fair on Lexington at 48th street the day that my crowd hating, agoraphobic parents are arriving?

* * * * * * * * * *

3:00 pm - Maybe they left the phone at home. Or did they think the flight was tomorrow?

The internet claimed that the flight landed at 1:51 pm. So no way were they still stuck on the airplane - and even if they were, they would have been allowed to turn their phone back on, to call me or at least accept my call. Unless, of course, they'd left it at home. I called their house, just to make sure my mom didn't pick up. She didn't pick up. Jonathan kept saying that they must have forgotten to turn their phone back on after landing, but how could they have forgotten? The captain and crew remind the passengers about when they can and can't use phones approximately every ten minutes. Finally, I just go down to the lobby to wait, hoping that they'll pop up.

And at 3:30, they pop up.

They forgot to turn their phone back on after landing.

This, of course, doesn't explain why they didn't call me upon landing, but what's the point? They're here, and there are bigger fish to fry...

* * * * * * * * * *

Fastforward: 10:00 pm - and they all lived happily ever after, because apparently hell froze over?

Well, it's done. The parents met each other. They got along just fine. The rain stopped. We all took the subway together, my parents included, down to Soho. And no one freaked out or got upset or anything. We even got seats. And we got to the restaurant, and it was half empty, and we got a nice table and ordered. And then, as planned, I put on the ring. And my mom noticed it first, not Jonathan's mom like we'd figured. And then I said it, and a cheer went up, and everyone was thrilled, and my dad ordered champagne for the whole table and then picked up the tab. We rode the subway home - seats again, even, for all six; Jonathan's mom was seen tearing up a little bit. We got them all back to the hotel, and slowly said our goodbyes to each parental set.

And now we're home, and exhausted, and relieved, and happy, and wondering how we pulled it off, and how we're going to get through tomorrow...

Friday, May 30, 2008

No crises... yet. (I am the rock, I am the zen.)

So, Jonathan's parents arrived in town today. Mine come tomorrow. Jon's parents are nice, normal people. They know how to behave in public, and in social situations. We picked them up from Penn Station with nary an incident, and took a cab to the hotel, where we got them settled into their lovely hotel room. We went downtown, to Little Italy, where we strolled through a street fair and then had an early pasta dinner at one of the many, many Italian restaurants on offer, but one they've been to before and were excited about going back to. Then we brought them back to their lovely hotel room. They've rented suite-style accommodations with a separate seating area, complete with couch. You know, in case they want to invite my parents up to socialize.


Like I said, my parents arrive tomorrow. And the series of events I've described above, a fairly normal interaction with Jonathan's parents, would be a small miracle should they occur in the presence of mine. I've been nervous about this visit, but I've been thinking it's going to be OK. Despite the fact that their last trip here was horrendous, and left me violently ill and in a severe depression. Despite a lifetime of witnessing them being completely incapable of behaving like normal parents or even normal people in any social or familial situation. Because they swore it would be better this time. Because Dad said he'd be less anxious since they've done it once now, and since they're staying in the same hotel as they did last time (familiar turf), and since he's doing better overall these days. Because they've been saying this time it's going to be alright. And I've been believing them, mostly because it's what I've wanted to believe.

So, foolish me, I've been worrying about things like, how will they react when we tell them the big news? And, how will we sidestep the questions of "money" and "parents' roles in the ceremony" until a later date? And, will it rain?

That is, until I got on the phone with my mom tonight.

"Hey Mom! Are y'all excited about coming up?"
"Oh yeah, I'm excited and Daddy is too. We can't wait to see you. It should be really good. The only thing is that Daddy doesn't want to take the subway."
What? "What? He said he was gonna do it this time! He promised." (Crap hell damn!)
"Well, maybe that's what he's telling you, but to me he says he doesn't want to do it."
"But it's gonna cost you like $150 a day to take taxis everywhere!"
"To keep Daddy calm? So what." (My mother, the rationalizing enabler.)
"But it doesn't keep him calm! He gets just as freaked out in a taxi. Plus, you can't put six people into one taxi. We'd have to take two..."
"Well I don't know honey, I'm not going to bring it up with him now. We'll deal with it when we get there." (This is my-mother speak for "I'm going to go along with whatever crazy thing your father does and then bitch about it during and later.")

And so, we're back to square one. See, my father isn't content just keeping his anxieties and phobias to himself, noooo. He insists on taking everyone along with him. He doesn't feel comfortable someplace? Well then everybody has to leave. NOW. He doesn't want to take the subway? Well then everybody damn well better pile into a cab, or maybe he just won't go at all. He's tired of being in the museum? Day at the museum officially OVER.

I suddenly have visions of my dad creating a huge scene, as he is so apt to do, right there in the lobby of the hotel not ten minutes after meeting Jonathan's parents for the first time. I see not getting them to the restaurant at all, or getting them there but having everyone in such a tense miserable state by that time that there's no way we can make our big announcement. I begin to panic. So I call the only person who could possibly understand this predicament: my sister.

And of course, she understands perfectly. And since this is not her crisis, she can see it for what it is... not a crisis. See, the problem is largely that my parents are catastrophists, and in being such they've trained me well. There is no such thing as a small problem for us. There are only end-of-the-world, earthshattering, unsolvable nightmares. Perfection or utter chaos, those are your choices.

That is, until I take a breath, remember my unlearning, and recall that I just have to treat my dad like I would a difficult twenty-year-old. If I am calm, this will not be a problem. If I am calm, this is just my goofy dad being my goofy dad, a barely noticeable bump in what can still be a lovely evening. He wants to take a cab? Fine. No problem. Him and my mom can take a cab. We'll see them there. As has always been the case with my parents (though it took me decades to realize it), I must be the rational and strong one.

So when we're at the hotel where all four parents are staying tomorrow (oh yes, we did it that way), and my dad makes his pronouncement that he refuses to use the mass transit system that is good enough for at least six million people to use every single day, I will calmly and happily tell him that the restaurant is called Spring Street Natural, is at the corner of Spring and Laffiette, and that me and Jonathan's family will see them there. Because you know what? I'm not humoring that crap from him any more than my friends humor it from me.

Ahh, yes, that's a funny part of the story - All my hysteria? Got it from him. I inherited all of my father's anxiety problems, directly, and then threw in some of my own. The main difference is that at some point in my twenties I realized that I didn't get to torture other people with them; that rather I should a) seek help, and b) should find ways to reduce my anxiety that don't screw with other peoples' plans. In this I have been not completely successful, but I do alright. And hell, at least I try. Unfortunately, my father at age 58 has not yet had this realization.

But, back to my focus. Tomorrow, and likely through their whole trip, I must chant this mantra: It's not a crisis if I don't treat it like one. It's not a crisis if I don't treat it like one. It's not a crisis if I don't treat it like one... As my sister reminded me, a tsunami is a crisis. The hurricane that destroyed both of our lives, that was a crisis. This? This is just dinner in Soho, and should be treated as such. It's just dinner with six adults, for chrissake, and I'll have my man there to hold my hand.

And so, deep breaths. I am the zen. I am the rock. If I can stay calm and rational, everything will be fine.

God help me.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Ring!

Below is the G-rated, family approved version of why my betrothed and I chose not to purchase a traditional ring, and why in fact I refuse to give a large sum of money to a jeweler that deals in regular diamonds these days. Here's the UN's version of what's going on with conflict diamonds. Here's a more colorful tale of child soldiers that have gotten caught up in the rebel action - distinctly NOT G-rated, reader beware. And of course, this doesn't even breach the topic that mining is incredibly environmentally destructive... Soon I'll tell you the story of getting my fancy ring, which is a whole other story indeed.

* * * * * * * * * *

On Saturday, May 24th, Melissa received her "real" engagement ring from Jonathan. The ring was custom ordered, and so had not arrived on time for the anniversary engagement. But no matter. The ring is special in many ways, reflecting our unique, non-traditional style as well as our values as a couple.

Due to various recent socio-political and ecological issues, we didn't want a ring that was made with either mined stones or metals. Luckily we happened upon GreenKarat, a company that specializes in making stunning pieces of jewelery from lab created gems and recycled precious metals. The ring we chose contains three stones: a sapphire in the center with a diamond flanking each side. All three stones are blue... like Jonathan's eyes. The color comes from trace elements not always found within the minerals; the sapphire is blue due to traces of titanium and iron, while the diamonds contain traces of boron. (Geology rocks!) The result is a beautiful, lustrous ring set in shiny, gorgeous, recycled white gold.

Melissa couldn't be happier with the ring's origins or its appearance, and Jonathan just seems relieved to have the darned thing on her finger. As far as sparkly things go, though, he seems to think it's pretty alright. It's a beautiful symbol of our relationship in many ways, simultaneously classic but unique, delicate but durable. The three stones are said to represent past, present, and future; with any luck our future together will hold as much beauty.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Venue, the Ring, and the Anxiety... but not necessarily in that order.

Because the anxiety is constant and related to many other things, chief among which is that I still don't have a job (nor am I particularly looking for one) and the savings are basically gone. "But, didn't she have a plan when she quit her job?" you're thinking. "I though she said she'd be fine for months and months... how are the savings gone already?" And indeed, you would be correct. But that was before she realized that she'd be dropping a $4000 deposit this week, to get the whole venue problem out of the way right up front. That took a significant chunk of savings, and left her in a spot where she basically needs to find a job. NOW.

But as usual, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Let's back up, shall we? Last Friday, May 16th, Jonathan and I were finally, blissfully, officially engaged. Now, we'd decided months back that the first thing we'd do once it was official was to firm up the venue, which meant putting down at least a 50% deposit. Granted, the wedding is still almost two years away, and even in New York things don't need to be booked that far in advance. But it's better to be safe than sorry, and every other arrangement stems from the venue, and we also felt that it's best to spread out the major spending as much as possible so as not to end up with $20k worth of expenses in a 6 month span or something equally as terrifying.


This being my understanding of our understanding, a day or two after the engagement was made official, I asked Jon about making the appointment to have a second look at The Foundry and giving them a shit-ton of our money. And that's when he says to me, "don't you think we should look at other venues?"

Now? Really? We looked at The Foundry in March and made these decisions in March, and this is occurring to you NOW?

I swallow back the small explosion going off in my head and say, sure, ok, what other venues would you like to go and look at. The response? "Oh, I don't know, I haven't found any other ones that I really want to go and see. I just feel like we should go and look at some other places."

Mmm hmm. Ok. Well.

I personally require a bit more effort than this. I told him that maybe he should spend some time on the internet on Monday and Tuesday nights searching around for possibilities. Lo and behold, when Wednesday came, the few stones that had been overturned revealed only enforced catering or empty white warehouse loft spaces in neighborhoods that we don't like... the exact same things that I had found in March when I spent exhaustive hours searching every venue listing in New York City.

Nevertheless, I spent Wednesday making that same search, again, and again finding the same unsuitable venues (a steakhouse in midtown starting at $35K? perfect for two vegans on a budget!). And after a bit of quibbling and cajoling and explaining and discussing on Wednesday evening, we came to the conclusion that there wasn't much point in spending time visiting venues that a) aren't any cheaper than what we've already found, and b) are in neighborhoods that we don't go to on purpose. Jon realized that he really does want to go with The Foundry; it simply felt wrong to him to choose it without spending more time on the duds. Like renting the first apartment you look at. I reminded him that we live in the first apartment that I looked at after moving to New York, and that I rented it 45 minutes after I first saw it. And it's an amazing apartment. Sometimes you just get it right the first time. And technically, we did go visit the Museum of the City of New York. We didn't get the spiel from their events coordinator, but since they don't provide anything it would have all been useless B.S. anyway.

And so, yesterday morning we went back to The Foundry, and it was just as beautiful as last time. The events manager there, who last time had struck me as chic and intimidating, this visit made me feel welcomed and was friendly and accommodating (doubtless a change in my mental state rather than in her behavior). This is the right space for us, and we're really excited about it. It's just stressing me the hell out because, while I'm glad to have one major detail and financial hit taken care of, it drained my savings to almost nothing. Which means I need to start saving again. Which means I need a job...

Last night we went to fancy dinner, and I got my fancy ring.

But you know what? I think that's for another post.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

i should be asleep.

i've been home from work for an hour; it's time for bed. especially considering that i need to get up in like five hours. see, we have to be at the venue at 10:30 tomorrow morning to give them obscene amounts of money - otherwise known as a 50% deposit. and after a day jaunting around the city, we'll settle into a nice fancy dinner at our favorite fancy vegan restaurant, and then i'll be getting my fancy proposal and my fancy ring... but for now, bedtime, if i could only find the self-discipline.

Monday, May 19, 2008

it's officially official! well... sort of.

so... it's done! he asked! friday the 16th was our second anniversary, and what better time to make a proposal? and it was adorable and we're very, very happy. i've begun really telling people, which is fun.

the catch? the real ring's not here yet. the complications in getting it ordered led to it not being here on time for the anniversary. so i am wearing a ring on the appropriate finger, but it's not the ring. but that's alright... because he asked, and he meant it, and he's happy and excited, and that's all i've really been wanting these past few months. and... because it means i get two proposals! and, you know, i'm cool with that.

friday's proposal was intentionally low key. it was a big stressful event at the start of a big stressful weekend - i had my first open studios event happening on saturday and sunday. so we decided that fancy wasn't the right way to go, since it's not really how we roll and especially since we didn't / don't have the real ring yet. instead, we went to our favorite vegetarian diner on 14th street. there, we know the waiters, we like the music, and their vegan mexican chocolate milkshakes kick ass.

one of the funnest features of Curly's Vegetarian Lunch is that they provide their patrons with paper placemats and crayons, to keep busy until the disco fries arrive. after we'd ordered our meals, jonathan mentioned that he was stressed, and i said i was a bit nervous too. but that we shouldn't be stressed, only happy. and so, upside down to me and rightside up to him, on his placemat i wrote "no stress, only happy." and he said, alright, and on my placemat he wrote, "ok - will you marry me?" with my stomach doing backflips, he said it out loud, i of course said yes, and he put the ring on me. what can i say? it worked for us.

this saturday should be the fancy proposal. we'll get spiffed up and go to Blossom on the west side, high class and whatnot. it will be more stressful due to fancyness and the presence of expensive jewelry, but also less stressful because we're actually already engaged. so really it should just be fun, and i can't wait. i want my sparkly thing! but i've already got my man, the man, my partner and future husband, and that blows most anything else out of the water... ugh, look at that, i've turned myself into a pile of mush.