A List (Because I Have Run Out of Ideas)

Schwartz and the Parking Ticket

1. There is no such thing as an idea
2. I might be wrong about number 1.
3. Words were invented by people to represent ideas.
4. Numbers were invented by people to represent quantities.
4 ½. Sometimes people mistake the symbol we use to represent a number for the actual quantity itself.
5. Not every thing I write down needs to stay on a list.
6. Cherry is getting old, and some days it’s more noticeable than others and today was one of those days.
7. Not every thing I write down in an effort to be funny turns out to be funny
8. Cats might be good at accounting but we’ll never know because who would let a cat handle their books?
9. People really liked my tweet the other day comparing Donald Trump to cat shit.
10. I lost my list of the missing stuff
11. Sometimes when I need to sing something I sing “Acres of Clams.”
12. On August 21, 2009 I watched six episodes of Hannah Montana and liked them. I think I was running a fever. The only reason I know this is because I said it on Facebook.
13. Cats remember how many kittens they have, so they probably have an idea of number.
14. I think about numbers all the time, both in the sense of numerical quantity and in the sense of the symbol for a number.
15. Whenever I see a parking ticket in the gutter in New York City, I feel sad for the person who got the ticket and doesn’t know because the ticket fell off and the fines go way up over time if you don’t pay them.
16. Sometimes I feel like writing is always going to be a struggle.
17. When I wake up really early and can’t get back to sleep I worry about things like whether I got a parking ticket that blew off my car and I don’t know it and the fines are going up right now as I lie here in the dark not sleeping and worrying about it.
18. My mom didn’t realize she was allergic to our cat until after he died and as her house got clean she started to feel better.
19. I had lots of favorite numbers as a kid, including 16, but I do not have one now. I like the number 8 for a variety of reasons but I still wouldn’t call it my favorite.
20. My friend had a cat with terrible allergies and it always struck me as kind of funny.
21. This other list said, “Find my pajamas,” and I don’t know if I ever did.
22. I don’t even have a favorite color.
23. Once I got a parking ticket on my car when it was parked in front of my own house in Seattle and I’d forgotten to put the new registration sticker on the license plate.
24. When I was a kid I was allowed to watch as much TV as I wanted and so I watched a lot of TV. I almost never watch TV now but I waste a lot of time on the Internet which you probably knew anyway.
25. This other time, I got a parking ticket on my car when it was parked in front of my own apartment building in New York and I was going in to check the mail and get the new registration sticker.
26. I am so easily distracted.
27. Once, I was house-hunting in Bedford, New York and got a parking ticket in a paid lot, and they issued the ticket about ten minutes after the time expired and the car had been there for like four hours or something so I definitely got the feeling that some police officer sat there the whole day waiting for my paid parking to expire in the town’s one public lot and the only thing he did that whole day was slap that ticket on my windshield and when I got that ticket about ten minutes after it had been written I was like, Oh, hey, guess I don’t actually wanna live here in Bedford, huh? But, maybe, in retrospect, having cops with absolutely nothing whatsoever to do is a good sign and meant that I should have come back and looked at more ranch houses. Maybe that was my error.
28. I can’t decide if cats would give parking tickets or would just piss on anything you left in a place they considered against the rules.
 29. I thought about making a list of advice for college sophomores but once I thought about it I was like, “You got this.”
30. Some lists aren’t really necessary, but they do manage to help organize one’s thoughts.

Budapest #4: Lions in Budapest

Lions resting majestically

Lions thinking that if the raven would come down from the roof they could steal that golden ring

Lions too tired to walk

Lions, stoically posing in profile on menus
Lions glaring at the police because gay Budapesters are people deserving of protection, too

Lions riding bicycles, stopping to cough up a hairball

Lions rolling their eyes about what locals think is bad traffic, snickering, “Have you seen New York on a Tuesday?”

Lions with relaxed tails, reminiscing about hyperinflation

Lions being swallowed by snakes, wondering if that really fine beauty in the ruin bar gave her real phone number

Lions sneering at pigeons, saying that revolutions are fought with bullets not feathers

Lions reflecting on how a child having a tantrum sounds just about the same in any language

Lions stopping in the beer garden near the zoo to relax with their homies

Lions thinking that Hungarian is not so hard to learn because that’s what they’ve always spoken

Lions lost in the Budavári Labirintus, thinking it wasn’t worth 2000 Ft
Lions yawning

Lions scowling about western fast food joints, but still wanting to wear that cardboard Burger King crown

Lions glaring at attempts to change the constitution

Lions snarking that if you’re a successful Hungarian man you’ll get a plaque or bust or a statue, for sure

Lions squinting in the sun, ordering sparkling water but secretly wishing it was sparkling wine

Lions on bridges, listening for the bells on the handlebars of cyclists

Lions longing abstractly for Emperor Franz Joseph because at least he understood that cities need decent produce markets

Lions pretending that there must be female lion statues somewhere, too

Lions tipping 500 forints when the pianist plays “Memory” again

Lions reminiscing “We always called them Rohadt Trabant”

Lions chasing pink elephants into the Belgian bar

Lions having belly aches

Lions drooling and mumbling that they are members of a principled, conservative and radically patriotic Christian party

Lions denying allegations of genocide

Lions unfettered by bourgeois prejudices, savoring their five favorite ways to prepare foie gras

Lions humming Liszt

Lions remembering the red kerchiefs they wore, but not what they stood for

Lions stirring atop the Gyógyszertár 

84% of lions nodding in agreement that that Hungary should become a member of the European Union

Lions wondering when the repairs on the funicular railroad will be finished

Lions secretly preferring the Buda side to the Pest

All the Kinds of Tape

Space Tape

Electrical tape, masking tape.
Double-stick tape.
Duct tape. Adhesive tape. Clear tape. Packing tape. Strapping tape.
Marine grade vinyl tape. Self-adhesive tape.
Sandwich tape. Cake tape. Sushi tape. Flower tape. Rehab Tape.
Creepy Tape.
Hair Tape, that makes the up-do you envision stick together.
Stop Texting Me Tape.
Special treasure tape.
Endangered species tape.
Hard to articulate ideas tape.
Tape that holds people together. 
Tape that keeps your pants up. 
Tape that holds ideas together.
Tape that tells good jokes.
Tape that keeps the old dog from dying.
Tape that makes this easier to read.
Tape for re-sealing the yogurt container because you changed your mind.
Tape that changes the weather.
Tape that keeps pollutants out of the drinking water.
Second Chance Tape.
Tape that reminds people that Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner.
Tape that plays your favorite song when you really need to hear your favorite song.
Jewelry tape.
Resume tape (makes your random life experiences seem like there is a point!).
Tape for making outfits match even though they don’t really match.
Tape that inserts this story:
The next day, I gave the Bacon Provider a ride to his appointment, and went back to the closed fabric store for a second time.
They were closed again.
The sign said they should be open, but the door was locked, and the lights were off. I sat down on a bench on the corner and considered my options.
I heard a slight noise and a dark blur dashing into the store.
Rising and walking to the threshold, I peered in: dark with the door now wide open. The tiny fabric shop had shelves stuffed full of fabric bolts, and an uneven fence of upholstery fabrics, on rolls, all the way around the shop. 
I stepped in hesitantly. One fluorescent light flickered to life, and then another. I kept my eyes in an active scan of the topmost shelves, where I saw a variety of charming modern cotton fabrics. There was barely room to snake through the store and see everything and turn around without toppling over the long bolts. I stumbled over a set of drawers containing buttons. Another bank of lights came on.
Behind the counter, a woman made a phone call, inquiring about the possibility of getting more indigo batiks. “We could sell a lot of those,” she said into the phone, repeating it a couple of times. “Everybody’s looking for indigo batiks.”
I considered; I would be interested in some indigo batiks. My mother really liked them, too.
The woman in the shop had long black hair, scattered with white threads of gray, and eyebrows, drawn on, in two straight lines. I busied myself at the sale shelf, beginning to fret about the duration of my paid parking out front. I found a Japanese import, navy with small gray rabbits, and a bolt end that was promising, and carried my armload to the cutting table.
I had her attention, and described the yardages I wanted.
Suddenly there was another woman, exactly the same as the first, the same black hair with white threads of gray. Same drawn on eyebrows, in two straight lines. Did she walk in behind me? Materialize behind the counter? Emerge from under the table? There were two of them, a matched set. They cut at the same time, with two pairs of matching, very-sharp scissors, half-way across the width of the bolt in a fluid motion ending with a snip, and then turning it over and repeating. Synchronized.
I left with a hand-written receipt. I don’t know which one wrote it.
Tape that gives stories a point.
Rage prevention Tape.
Tape that makes a person tell the truth.
Tape that settles debts.
Tape that makes amends.
Tape that keeps the tank full.
Tape that brings back the dead.
Tape that gives you credit for the work no one ever acknowledged.
Tape to tape the shimmy and groan out of the elevator.
Tape that fixes broken furniture.
Vacation plans tape.
Tape that reminds you of the better qualities of people.
Invincible tape.
Relationship tape.
Tape for easing the pain of betrayal.
Tape for putting ornaments on the Christmas tree.
Excessive cleavage tape.
Bathrobe tape.
Experimental tape.
Do-over tape.
Tape for regrets.
Better Decisions Tape.
Gerrymandering tape.
Subway fare tape.
Decorative tape for creating ironic ambiance.
Tape for droughts.
Tape that makes an argument make sense.

Tape tape.

Xmas List

Xmas 1963
1. You can get your tree at the last possible minute from that guy, freezing his ass off, with like four lopsided trees left in the lot. You can leave it up for weeks or take it down in just a few days. You can decorate it with heirloom ornaments or condoms or the little envelopes of spare buttons that come with new clothes or things you found in the recycling bin.  You can hang the lights but no ornaments because your kids won’t help. You can totally skip the tree part of the tree and just hang the tangled lights, half-dark, in a knot from the ceiling fixture. You can just not do the tree thing completely, but you’ll certainly regret not taking one of the aluminum trees when you and your brothers went through your mom’s stuff. 
2. You can make a comprehensive list and hand-made gifts for all the people in your life, including your old nanny who feels like family after all these years. You can also stop at 7-11 on the way over Xmas Eve and bring a six-pack. You can forget to get gifts for anyone this year because, you know what? there’s always next year.
3. You can send beautifully printed custom holiday cards with a professional photo of your family and your dog in matching seasonal sweaters. You can send a long, rambling letter to an old friend. You can do a cheery year-end letter with all your children’s fencing team triumphs and your promotion described in charming language.  You can send a cheap drug-store card that will shower microscopic particles of glitter on the recipient too late for Xmas but just in time for New Year’s. You can skip cards this year, because you don’t want to have to think about someone you lost, or can’t find the right way to describe how you struggled working for that asshole.
4. You can leave cookies and 7-Up for Santa on Xmas Eve, when you hang your stockings. You can decide that Uncle Lenin brings the gifts, or that Santa is a black man, or gay, or both. Maybe your gifts come from Rudolf, or Mrs. Claus. Maybe this year you decide to open them on Xmas Eve.
5. You can make the special lavish traditional meals that are expected of you every year, so that you don’t really get to enjoy Xmas day at all, what with the preparations and table-setting with the special dishes. You can go get Chinese food, too, or make chili because everyone likes chili.
6. You can wear your tacky holiday sweater vest that is so bad it’s not even humorous, or just stay in your pajamas all day.  You can opt not to wrap presents this year, extracting them at the appropriate moment from the shopping bags, pulling the tags off as you hand them over.  You can hand a fat wad of cash to the child who never got around to asking you for anything gift-wise.
7. You can hit every party you’re invited to, bringing a very decent bottle of Oregon pinot noir with a gorgeous red velvet bow around it. You can greet the host and hostess by the wrong names and then get drunk in the corner by the ham. You can lie to anyone you meet and claim to be a screenwriter and leave early because you’ve got to get home to your sick hedgehog because if he doesn’t get his meds every four hours he won’t make it to New Year’s.
8. You can refuse to watch sports on Xmas day. You can treat the day as a religious holiday and be really indignant about all the commercialism. You can be grateful for Jesus as a cool idea because even though you’re not sure you even believe in God or religion, you really like the part about forgiveness and loving others.
9. You can decide to give money to your favorite non-profit at year-end, realizing that without that public radio station, your commute would be even more lonely and soul-sucking.  You can stop feeling guilty about not donating to things you care about because even though you support Planned Parenthood, you might have actually had a tougher year than them financially.
10. You can re-gift without guilt, or even acquire white elephant gifts on purpose so there is a game to play on Xmas night, after everyone is full and feeling slightly agitated. A cube-shaped gift box makes a decent improvised die, and you can write “Take one,” “Steal,” “Take Two,” etc. on the various faces of it. You can even steer your sister-in-law towards the perfectly wrapped and beribboned box of dryer lint, not out of meanness but because you simply want to hear her really laugh.

11. You can spend the weeks before Xmas obsessing about your mother who was annoying and intimidating in her love of Xmas.  You can be grumpy about the whole season because you’ll never be as good at Xmas as she was, with her hundred rolls of different wrapping paper and ribbons in every color and tiny gift cards depicting animals in Victorian clothes. You can hate Xmas. Or you can take it or leave it.

Some Reasons Why I Have Not Been Blogging

  1. Hours and hours of checking train schedules
  2. Re-learning how to canter
  3. Sunset o’clock comes about a minute earlier each evening
  4. I am saving my best stuff for my memoirs
  5. Flossing
  6. Trying to get rid of a strange refrigerator stonk
  7. In the keening of the red-tailed hawk I hear a warning
  8. Lack of sleep makes it hard to concentrate
  9. Needing to re-read Tobermory  (by Saki)
  10. Motion sickness on Amtrak
  11. Re-gluing broken chair legs
  12. Fun new hashtag games with Twitter friends
  13. Riveting daily developments in the New York City mayoral race
  14. Deciding which socks to wear
  15. Panic attacks about eroding civil rights
  16. Working on a novel
  17. Buying more eggs and rootbeer
  18. Contemplating PhD programs I am unqualified to apply to
  19. Dirt roads have bigger ruts
  20. Persistent meteorological conditions favorable to outdoor cooking
  21. Acquiring corny knock-knock jokes for future project
  22. Dogs are setting a bad example

25 Things My Cat Does

In the interest of fairness, I made a list of areas in which my cat is more skillful than I am. Please feel free to add to this list in the comments section.
Jumping onto things
Jumping off of things
Sleeping curled up anywhere
Sniffing at crumbs
Thundering down the stairs
Looking cute for pictures
Moving into the camera lens after it is focused
Eating grass
Looking comfortable sprawled on the floor
Being ready to have a fight to the death over going somewhere in the car
Showing indifference for a new toy
Showing indifference for an old toy
Rolling on the floor and becoming utterly dusty in every way
Looking out the window
Hiding from new people
Pricking ears
Begging for more kibble from the Belly Scratcher
Expressive tail gestures
Pooping in the bathtub
Being creepy
Barfing up hairballs

25 Things My Dogs Do

Lately I have been keeping a list of areas in which my dogs are more skillful than I am. Please feel free to add to this list in the comments section.
Sleeping curled up in a chair
Cleaning up crumbs
Thundering down the stairs
Letting the cat bite them
Eating grass
Peeing on things outside
Looking comfortable sprawled on the floor
Being ready and excited to go somewhere in the car
Showing enthusiasm for a new toy
Showing enthusiasm for an old toy
Rolling on gross things
Looking out the window
Flopping on the couch
Meeting new people
Pricking ears
Belly flops in the pool
Pooping in the middle of the road
Pooping in the middle of the floor
Body Rubbins

Why I Hate Houseplants

  1. They drop leaves on the floor.
  2. They don’t tell you they are hungry.
  3. Their names never really suit them, so I find them really hard to remember.
  4. They die.
  5. Dirt in a pot indoors is good for a cat to dig in.
  6. Dirt in a pot indoors is good for a cat to pee in.
  7. Dirt in a pot indoors is good for a cat to poop in.
  8. You are supposed to keep them alive.
  9. They never pay for dinner.
  10. Sometimes they get horrible little tiny insect infestations.
  11. They cast dreadful shadows.
  12. They fall off the shelves.
  13. Their methods of reproduction are very confusing.
  14. Most of them are poisonous.
  15. Any time anything interesting happens, they attribute the cause to a magical invisible being that lives in the dirt.
  16. They have all these needs (light, water) where you can’t give them too little or too much.
  17. Most of them look delicious to cats.
  18. They don’t know any funny jokes.
  19. They don’t help with housework, and they never answer the phone.

You Nork

Tomorrow, I am going on a road trip for a couple of days.   
Here is a list of some of the things in New York that made me happy in the past six weeks.

1. A dozen Pakistan Independence Day Parade floats silently lined up outside the apartment one Sunday morning
2. Finding a really good dentist
3. The old slightly frail guy sitting alone at hipster burger joint Black Shack on Lexington, drinking a shake and eating a burger while he read the New Yorker
4. The Whitney Museum, especially the fourth floor
5. The High Line, plus the bit of unrestored elevated railway that is at the end of the High Line and is both utterly unpromising (covered in weeds, crumbling of rust) and promising (as a future extension) 
6. Our doorman, Ramon
7. Our dog Cherry now pees on command and will even pee in the street sometimes
8. The Brooks Brothers we can walk to
9. Riding the subway or walking in Times Square in breeches and half-chaps
10. Wild Edibles on 3rd Ave between 35th and 36th
11. Summer Streets, when they close Park Avenue to traffic from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park three Saturday mornings in August
12. Traditional Lamb Tagine with couscous at Barbe, the Moroccan restaurant two blocks from here
13. Breakfast and the New York Times and the giant newspaper recycling bins at Grand Central Station
14. The dog run at Madison Square Park 
15. Newton’s “Principia Mathematica” at the Morgan Library 
16. Central air-conditioning
17. Climbing boulders in Central Park
18. Buying a decent banana for 30 cents from a sidewalk cart
19. Jay-walking