Friday, March 6, 2009

Baby, It's Cold Outside

4 March 2009

Delays, delays, delays – ‘so what else is new?’, readers of this blog (jeeeeeezus – are you still with me?? I must send you all something fabulous.) are likely to ask. But you all know how much I hate to miss a phree-view or an opening night; and in this instance (i.e., The Armory Show), I have missed both. Look – I’m not crazy about it either. You brave the traffic, the winter cold (and it is freezing); and miss the opening? The injustice of it.

The worst part of it is leaving my apartment an unmitigated disaster zone (yet apparently still ineligible for federal disaster relief!) when people have to come in to take care of my feline daughters (oh you have no idea how many hours – DAYS – I spent trying to clean up. I’ve barely scratched the surface; though I can say that my couch and coffee table can once again be used as they were originally intended. A virtual Everest of books, catalogues, magazines, legal pads and notebooks had to be relocated to the more traditionally book-friendly loci of my apartment – like, uh, the bookshelves, and bookstands in my bedroom. I probably should have called upon earth movers; but instead I tried to do it myself with predictably mixed results. At least now there is the semblance of a flat (as opposed to craggy and mountainous) surface – the surface of the table. There are still a couple of rather imposing stacks of art books at either end of the table; but now there is actually enough room on it for, say, a couple of drinks, a tray of hors d’oeuvres (or, well, my laptop), an ashtray or two or a lighter, and a pack of cigarettes. Two people could actually have a civilized conversation here … as long as they didn’t try to move to another part of the apartment. That includes the kitchen, which belongs to the cats, my coffee cups, and whatever seems to periodically migrate there from my car, more or less in that order.

What am I talking about? No – the worst part is leaving my feline children – or, more accurately, their complete emotional melt-down prior to my departure. No mater how well you plan, how gradually you time the pre-departure organization (which in my case means cramming most of it into the final hours before the taxicab arrives), no matter how well you disguise the packing, there comes a moment when they just go completely haywire and then shut down altogether. (The critical moment sems to be when one of the larger bags either begins to fill up or gets moved closer to the front door.) There are no magic words to say to make them come around (although calling them to a final breakfast or dinner can have a momentary distracting effect) – except perhaps, “Alright, I’ll stay.” But then what? Even if the party of the first (or second) part secretly wants to stay – against her better interests, forsaking duty or obligations, or worse, opportunity for discovery, for pleasure – it’s always awkward. It devolves into a kind of mental shut-down. It’s cozy – a little too cozy – for a few minutes; and then it’s scary. Okay, kids – we’re back in Kansas – we never bothered going to Oz – land of the bleak and home of the gray.

The Kansas, of course, is simply in your mind – but you don’t escape it just by pulling the comforter over your (and your cats’) head(s). Though sometimes it seems as if you have to tear yourself apart to purge it from your system. You rip yourself to shreds, take incalculable losses – throw so much out – to find one fresh, new thing; one kernel of genius, one point of light in the churning sea of darkness.

It’s that delicate balance between hope and desperation.

The losses: well, you can start totting them up the instant you leave home. Half-way to the airport (running LATE!) and you’re already missing something – forget about its readiness for the caregivers. Then the curbside jostling; the rush to the airline counter, baggage check; the careering to the security screening.

Oh yes – the security screening. Well go ahead – screen and screen again. I have no idea why, but no matter how heavy or light I travel, the screening process is not a two tray, not three tray, but a virtual train of trays down that mysterious conveyer belt, in which something (occasionally something important) gets left behind or lost. I am invariably ‘wanded’ (with some electronic scanning device – believe me, it’s no fairy’s touch), prodded, patted down, occasionally probed, and all but asked to disrobe. What is it? The personal jewelry? The scarves? Okay – I wear a lot; but as for the scarves, it’s winter time, I need a couple of woolies around my neck. As for the jewelry, I admit to a certain amount of jewelry build-up – but I’m sure there’s a little something in my arteries by now, too. This time, the ‘agent’ insisted I ‘fold over’ my pants (what – to check for suspicious lingerie? – I knew I should have worn La Perla!). I started to unzip – I mean, I don’t care at this point; I’m in a frantic hurry and trying to monitor seven trays of stuff, including my shoes and a laptop – and she says, “You don’t have to unzip completely, just let me have a look underneath.” (Gee, have I ever used a line like that?) “Honey, these pants are skin-tight. You can’t get more than a finger down there unless I unzip – though you’re welcome to try.” She had her look and sent me running back to my trays.

It’s now been well over seven years since the Twin Towers fell. Guantanamo is scheduled to close within a year; the State Department seems to be reassuming its traditional imperatives after eight years of deferring to the Defense Department-spear-chuckers; and we have a new acutely intelligent, rational and determined President, with an equally focused and determined administration behind him. Hillary Clinton, George Mitchell and a host of other diplomats are flying over the world trying to administer acute first aid to our damaged foreign relations. You’d think traveling would get just a LITTLE easier – wouldn’t you? Or you might think, given our newly rational leadership, they might work out some new, rational form of passenger profiling – having nothing to do with the net for potential terrorists – but making it somewhat easier for the rest of us to pass through the security gauntlet that makes even domestic travel such a nightmare. By now I’m sure the people at LAX and Burbank know my personal jewelry and repertoire of scarves as well as their own stuff. Sometimes I think the only way to do it now is to prepack some plastic trays with all the personal stuff, and head to the airport in nothing but a trench coat (maybe with a bodystocking underneath) and just get dressed there. Chances are, they’re going to see it all anyway. I hope someone can address this at the federal level. It’s getting ridiculous. And I’m about to miss my goddamned flight.

Oh yeah – and I’m missing my earrings – the only ones I brought.

Well here I go.

[ps – I’ll bring you up to date on some of my L.A. notes from the last month, soon – promise.]

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