Sunday, March 29, 2009

Laundry Day

Laundry in my building costs $1.75 for one load in the washer, and 25 cents gets you 8 minutes in the dryer. Just to be clear - when I was in college, it was actually cheaper and easier for me to do all of my laundry at school than to bring it home to my parents.

The washers and dryers are also located in the basement of my building. When I was a kid, the basement was a kind of mystical land that belonged to the doormen and the staff. They had what I can only imagine was a rec room in the back, and had covered the walls with posters and images and sayings, stickers and photographs of celebrities, and a political poster of George Pataki turning into Rockefeller. There was furniture down there, and christmas lights, and books and mirrors. It was dark and there were only florescent lights, but they had little pull strings to turn them on, at the bottom of which were glow-in-the-dark plastic traffic lights. There were definitely roaches and all the metal boards creaked and banged, but it was a place of wise sayings and interesting nooks. I always thought the basement was neat, and moderately off limits except for the laundry room. It felt almost as though the washers and dryers had grown there like weeds, that no one had planned anything, that it all just kept accumulating.

All this is gone, now, in the new wasp-washed building I apparently now live in. They closed off the back of the laundry room for storage with this ugly partition, and they made the doormen remove all their knick-knacks. The place is bare. They even got rid of the old door at the far end of the basement dividing the doormen's space from the rest of the building, with it's red lights and music. It broke my heart when I looked over one day and discovered the door was gone. I walked to that end of the basement where I'd never been, and walked through where the old door had been and discovered that it wasn't some lounge, but just another area of the basement. It was so sad. Everything is gone. It's just another place to do laundry, a sterile part of this sterile building (which, by the way, will start locking its doors at midnight. For those of us without children in the building who tend to have people over late in the night, this sucks. For those of us who have been here since the crack addicts walked home on mornings before taking carpool to school, it just seems ridiculous - we managed all those years with barely a doormen, and now we have two stationed in the lobby all day, and a locked door and doorman at night. Who are we trying to keep out? The other wasps? I digress...)

So laundry. It's expensive, and now it's kind of boring. But the real kicker is that the
machines still require quarters. I have to find seven quarters for wash, plus four or five more for drying, in order for me to get anything clean. That's eleven or twelve quarters! Most people outside of New York have never seen twelve quarters in one place at one time because if you have quarters, you probably spend them since they're worth 25 cents, and that's better than 10 cents or 5 cents. I spent my whole life regarding quarters as gold. When I got to San Francisco, and had a washer and dryer in my house, I still had a lot of trouble parting from them - it's just ingrained that you never ever give up quarters. They should be pried from your cold dead hand.

Today is Sunday. This didn't occur to me until I wanted to do laundry, realized I hadn't collected my weekly quota and would have to go to the bank. Except the bank is closed. Normally I would head over to my parent's house, who still have a stockpile of quarters even though they now do laundry in their apartment. But they're out of town. So I meandered over to the Food Emporium, not knowing if they would give me anything but a dirty look.

"Hi!" I said brightly.
"What do you want?" The cashier answered.
"I was wondering - could I possibly get some quarters."
"How many?"
"As many as you're willing to change," hoping that the joke would lighten the mood.
"I can't change them until you tell me how many you want," displeased and not liking my joke.
"Oh sure. Um... anywhere between $2 and $5...?"
Silently she opened her cash register, and took out $3 in quarters. Then opened up the next roll of $10 and got out $2 more. We exchanged the currency. I smiled.
"Doing laundry?" she asked.
"Yeah. And the bank's closed."
"Yeah," and she smiled. And I left.

And for some reason, it just made me love New York again.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring - and a renewed sense of excitement for New York

So it's been a rough winter. In more ways than one. 

For one thing, I forgot what winter can be like (temporary insanity, since I fucking grew up here and went to school here, and understand all too well what it is like to really spend a day walking around in sub-freezing weather). I guess I had a kind of idealistic view of it, a true Californian idea of the seasons "Oh gee isn't that quaint, it gets cold and then it gets warmer so you really appreciate your surroundings and your body on this earth. Wow, I can't wait to experience the changing tides of this our Mother Earth." And then I remembered that I'm not a Californian, that I'm actually a New Yorker, and winter fucking sucks. It is, I soon remembered, brutally, unforgivingly cold and windy. The snow is nice in November, but really really tiresome on March 20th. It just doesn't end.

To add to the general discomfort, my clothing rebelled against me. In about mid-December my boot zipper stopped working, so I had to pin it with safety pins - which led to wet socks. And soon after that, my last button on my frayed coat popped off - which led to a lot of really unattractive layering. And then the zipper on my favorite warm man's sweatshirt broke too - so that led to some more creative and bizarre layering in the true tradition of Lillian's sense of style, with safety pins and a fair amount of disregard for other people's raised eyebrows. It would have been more humiliating if anyone in the city could raise their head against the wind. Luckily they couldn't.

Furthermore, my radiator clanks. Really loudly. Now I understand why my parents couldn't sleep - the radiator in their former/my current room echos throughout the apartment. I am not exaggerating. It is awful. I finally figured out how to make it quieter, but I still had to sleep with a pillow over my head just in case.

Last year on my birthday it was 80 degrees and I spent the day outside in Dolores Park before getting high and seeing my then-boyfriend play a gig. This year there was a blizzard and I spent the day in a windowless basement.

Meanwhile, the whole city got depressed. Including myself. It's called seasonal depression, and everyone I know suffers from it because it's not just the dark and the cold, it's the fact that you can't go outside for prolonged periods, because when you do the supposedly kind and giving earth assaults you from all angles. Everyone feels like they're not doing enough, that their life is not going in the right direction, that they should quit their job, that they should disappear into the naked city, that their apartment is too small to hold all of their emotional baggage even though they don't have any furniture to speak of. It's quite amazing, and actually talking about it makes you feel surprisingly less alone - but in mid-February that's cold comfort when Phil shows up and says (like he does every year) that we get six more weeks of winter hooray.

Of course no one actually quit their jobs this winter, because the real kicker of the winter of aught-9 is the economy - the unending spiral that we have found ourselves in, which is enough to make even elementary school kids nervous about their parent's place in the world. So we all just slogged along and got worried and felt trapped.

Well, everyone, that is, except me. Because this winter I also quit my job. I decided to quit in January, and voiced this, and then stayed on until mid-March. This made for a very weird couple of months in the basement. And then I left.

And I think it is fitting that it is now spring - or will be very soon. The economy, as you know perfectly well dear reader, is still in terribly crisis and we will probably not pull out of it anytime soon. And consequently I am having a miserable time trying to find a job. But I feel a profound sense of rebirth.

Because, of course, I would be remiss to not mention the exciting things that have happened this winter. Like:

I directed a show, and it went up in January. Sure it was off the J train in a part of Brooklyn I'd never been to, and it was in the equivalent of a first floor apartment with a kitchen. But none of that really mattered because it rocked.

I am in a show right now, which will go up in a week - hey! You should come see it. It's called Negative Space and it's playing at The Looking Glass Theatre at 57th Street. Which is in Manhattan, baby!

Both of these shows are produced FullStop Collective. FullStop is the company that I started with my friends from NTI and it is actually taking off and working. This winter we formed an administrative body, joined up with Fractured Atlas and started moving forward.

Meanwhile, I have also started going to something called the Creative Forum, run by two guys who went to NTI during different semesters. People show up, bring something they're working on, a monologue, a piece of poetry, a play, whatever, and then we all talk about it. It is incredibly stimulating and has made me want to really start writing even though I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.

In short, I have found an artistic home, and the New York downtown theater scene is increasingly less daunting. And that alone makes me want to stay here. Which is currently the plan. And that's kind of wonderful.

So - it appears that winter is over. And I think I am finally and honestly loving New York for what it can offer me, instead of hating it for what it is not.

That said, I'm going back to Cali for a six week sojourn in May and June - just because, you know, sometimes I miss my heart.

(I've recently been introduced to the song "going back to Cali" and now it is constantly stuck in my head - man I don't think so)