Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I don’t think I know myself very well. When I was in my twenties, I thought I was a lesbian. My mother said, “I know you, honey - you’re no lesbian.” But she’s my mom, I thought, “she’s biased.” I was telling my friend Amy about outing myself to my mom. “Come ON, claud, I know you. You are NOT a lesbian. It was settled. I was no lesbian, just ask the girls. I was confused about my sexuality, but they knew better.

My brother Rob called me on it recently. He noticed that I never made a decision without consulting everyone around me. He said I exhaust all my resources, leave no stone unturned. Do I do this because no one knows me better than them? Where are my instincts? Have I made so many mistakes that I just don’t trust that inner voice? Truth be told, there is no one voice, there are many, and they are often speaking over each other.

I’ve been obsessing about buying a vehicle on two wheels. A motorcycle. A scooter. Motorcycle. Scooter. I finally settled on the scooter. Then I asked my friend Brian. I consult with him about all things major, we used to date – on and off for years. He knows me better than I know myself. He’s my go-to guy on all things ME. But today, my mind was made up when we spoke. I was set on the scooter. I simply had to decide between The Vespa or The Buddy. “You’ll never be happy with a scooter, Claudia - get the bike.”

“LIAR!!!! LIAR!!!!!!!! PANTS ON FIRE!!!!!!!!,” my friend Mel responded to an email that I sent her, explaining that I had no feelings left for someone I had broken things off with. It rang true, but I had wholeheartedly believed what I had said. How did she know me better than I knew myself? I hate and love her for her ability to call me on my self-deception. This much I know.

“Why do my friends and family know me so much better than I know ME,” I’ve keep wracking my brain. I’ll just call Brian, IM Amy, or email Mel. They’ll know.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


He was lying face down on my floor, and I was staring at his plumber’s butt. No, I say this literally, and for the first time favorably - he is actually my plumber. And I have a crush on him as big as a Home Depot.

He wasn’t showing crack, just some grey cotton briefs, like a generic Calvin Klein. They were peaking out of his big and tall denim jeans. Well, ‘peaking’ is kind of a diminutive descriptor for a man who probably weights near 300 lbs. He’s a big one, possibly 6’4”, reddish hair, stocky and solid. There he was in my kitchen with his head under my sink, he came right over when I called him. Came over in a flash, with a smile on. Free of charge. He had hooked up my new dishwasher and it was running perfectly, only without any water. He called me two minutes after I left my damsel in distress message, showed up downstairs 45 minutes flat. The electrician had twisted the hose when he slid the unit back into place, my plumber said with a wink as he hopped up to stand like a somewhat cumbersome Jack In The Box.

The first time he came over to give me an estimate I was quite taken. He looked like the kind of guy that you’d see in shop class when you passed by there on the way to Home Ec. Blue eyes, uncombed wild hair, handsome. Denim on top, denim on the bottom. He probably owned a Camaro at one point.

One time I busted him checking out my ass when I turned around suddenly. After that, I imagined him pinning me up against the wall. Putting his wrench down and putting his largeness against me full force. Taking care of all of my plumbing needs, gratis. My leaky shower, the broken handle on my terrace faucet, maybe even installing one of those removable shower sprays and getting creative with it. Then we could order an extra large pizza and watch WWE championships on the tube and cuddle. He looks like he’d be the best cuddler ever.

I do have some more projects around the house that I could give him, legitimate reasons to call him. But I’ll never have the courage to tell him how I feel. How comfortable I am around him, how he makes me laugh with his everyman stories. How it makes me blush when he undercharges me. He’ll never know how I’ve thought about being held by him, wondering what his deep voice sounds like in bed, would he talk dirty, would he talk sweet, or would he be guttural. I guess I’ll never know.

It’s weird. I’m usually not shy. I’ve smirked at bikers at gas stations, flagrantly flirted with Sergeants on duty. Yet this plumber leaves me dumbstruck. How I’d love to make him pot roast. Reward him for changing a light bulb with magnificent head. Order him a pizza with four different meats: pepperoni, sausage, buffalo, and wild boar. But my plumber will never make it to my bedroom - never step naked into my shower stall – at most he’ll fix a drip fully clothed, charge me too little, staying forever frozen in my mind, lying there face down on my kitchen floor.

Monday, July 20, 2009


They should have a calendar of them: “The Christmas Tree Men of Carroll Gardens”. Each and every month would be December, each one better than the next.

They ascend on my neighborhood every holiday season. These guys that sell trees to all the people here that live in historic brownstones. It seems like there’s one on every corner, filling the neighborhood with holiday cheer, the verdant scent of pine and testosterone. They come from upstate, Vermont, or Maine. They sell Scotch Pine and Douglass Fir and sometime maple syrup. They have big shoulders, nicely weathered skin, beards or goatees. I wanted to purchase one of them, put him in the corner of my living room and light him up for the holidays.

One of these guys set up shop right across the block from me. He was just my type, looked like he could bench a Poplar, had a closely trimmed beard, and shaved head. He didn’t have the tallest trees, or the widest trees, but they were very nice trees, indeed. He had a warm smile and a ready ‘hello’ every time I passed my corner. I found myself looking for reasons to go out in the cold, I started to take only 20’s from the ATM just so I could pass his spot with more frequency.

That Saturday night I went to dinner at the restaurant on the corner right across from his tree depot. It was my neighborhood place, I knew everyone there. I could go and sit there at the bar, have a glass of wine and some food and feel right at home. I walked in around 9 and alas, he was there at a table, sitting alone. He had treated himself to a big steak, and was drinking a glass of wine. I took a seat at the bar, and pretended not to notice, I couldn’t believe that he was actually there - I didn’t want to seem all excited. The waitress took my order, we chatted a bit. I was taking him in out of the corner of my eye. He had finished most of his steak, and was standing up. A little holiday depression washed over me, my timing had been off - he was leaving. But he walked over to me, and said, “do you mind if I join you?”

His name was “Tom”. He put down his wine glass next to mine, they looked so pretty sitting next to each other on the bar that way. He excused himself and grabbed his plate, and sat himself next to me. He was wearing Levi’s and a white cable knit sweater. He smelled like fresh snow and maybe Merlot. He ordered a bottle of wine from the waitress. She gave me a “well, look at you” look, before she went off to fetch it.

“Merry Christmas to me,” I thought. He was handsome and seemed kind. And he wasn’t from upstate, or Maine, or even across town. He lived on Sackett Street. A half a block from me. Turned out he spent half the year in Florida, the rest of it, in my home sweet neighborhood. He seemed bright, earnest, he was into wines, golfing, and he said that he dedicated most of his time to being a fine arts painter. It was his passion. He lived in a brownstone that he owned, lived in two floors, and rented out the other two. He sold Christmas trees to round out his income. I thought he was just lovely. We chatted for a couple of hours, I picked at my salmon, I was more taken by his unusually clear blue eyes. The wine was washing over me, it was going to be a great holiday, it seemed, even though my family would be spending it in California, and I would be spending this year’s holiday alone. But things were shaping up nicely, it seemed. He was single, outdoorsy, owned a beautiful home, and had dedicated his life to Christmas trees and painting in oils. Around midnight he excused himself, he said he had to get up early. I imagined him going deep in to the woods, snow crunching beneath his Timberlands, axe in hand - returning with all 15 trees over his shoulder, throwing them in to one of those old station wagons with the wood paneling on the side. He said, “I’m sure I’ll see you very soon,” kissed me on the cheek, drained his glass, and went out in to the cold.

I thought of us a year from now, opening gifts around the perfect tree. He would choose the best one out of all of the trees in the woods for me, we would trim it together. He would climb the ladder to put the star on the top, where I would have a bird’s eye view of his perfect Levi’d butt. We would drink hot cocoa that I would make from scratch, I would have to find out how to do that. We would make homemade waffles together, and pour his syrup generously over them, then kiss, wonderful maple syrup kisses, sticky sexy and sweet.

I waited until after 2 that day to leave the apartment, I didn’t want to seem all anxious to see him. I stayed across the street on the way to the ATM to get my 20, he saw me, and we waved, and he winked. I hung out inside the bank vestibule for a while, warming up, trying to calm down, I was planning to walk on the same side of the street of his tree stand. I prayed that I would time it right, that he wouldn’t be hocking pine to a woman that hadn’t been fucked by her husband in a long time, there were a lot of them in the neighborhood, and they tended to spend a lot of time lurking around these Christmas tree men.

But Christmas Tree Tom was there alone, rubbing his gloved hands together, trying to stay warm. He threw me a big “HEY!!” as I walked towards him, I got a cold kiss on my cheek. We made small talk, and then the Christmas miracle I had been praying for all year long came true. He asked if I would like to come over to his brownstone and see his ‘work’ and have a glass of wine. The man wanted to share his passion with me, he wanted me to see his paintings, to open his soul, a bottle of fine wine, maybe he would make a fire, who knew where the night would lead! He told me to meet him back at that corner just after 8. Then Christmas Tree Tom and I would head down the block to his cozy home and live happily ever after. “Yes, I would love that,” I said. The holiday’s rock, I thought, like I’d never thought otherwise.

I went down a couple minutes after 8, after trying on several - I’m sexy, and ready to look at your oil paintings and maybe make out under the mistletoe - outfits. He looked cold, and happy to see me. He locked up the gate that held his inventory, and we walked up the snowy sidewalk, he opened the cast iron gate to his house, it was so pretty. Charming, with antique shutters, snowed over flower boxes at every window. He opened the door to his first floor apartment - the floors were dark stained and welcoming. The living room had only a grand piano, and a very large Christmas tree, already lit, throwing color all over the freshly painted walls. There were grand, 20 ft tall pocket doors at the end of the vast room, he gestured towards them and said, “Come. See my work.” He ceremoniously slid them open and proudly walked through. They were everywhere, lining the walls, on multiple easels. The most horrifyingly bad paintings I had ever seen in my entire lifetime. Each of them a portrait, ugly, immature, inexcusably bad; garish colors, unskilled, no sense of space or dimension. Paintings you might expect to see at a garage sale marked one dollar, still there at the end of the day. I didn’t know where to look. I couldn’t look at the canvases, I certainly couldn’t look at him, I looked at the floors, covered in muslin sheets, paint splattered, no indication that only a fraud traipsed them.

Christmas fucking sucks, I thought. I had to get out of there immediately, go home and cry - then maybe go out for a bite to eat. Christmas Tree Tom was beaming at me, arms open, gesturing towards the dreck on display. “They’re incredible. Absolutely unbelievable,” I responded to his unfaltering grin. I told him that I was late, that I had to meet friends for dinner. There were no friends, they had all left for the holidays with their boyfriends to meet their families. We walked back out through the room with the perfect tree and the mahogany grand piano, thank God he hadn’t offered to play, or worse, sing. His gift for the arts promised to be disastrous in every medium.

I saw him the next day on the corner from across the street. He still looked very handsome, but now different - sort of like when you see a mentally disabled guy who is blessed with really good looks. I felt a little sad for him. I gave him a little wave, and headed on down the street to my corner ATM. I took out 200 dollars this time and headed home to hunker down for the long winter ahead.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


She was so pretty. I met her on Craigslist. Just sitting there on the bench outside the bakery, all blond hair, sundress, flash of perfect white teeth. I was selling a little antique diamond ring - she adored it. Somehow, by the end of our exchange, she was holding my hand, the two of us bonding over finding work during these crazy times. She was an advertising photographer, she promised to help me find writing work.

When I returned home, there was an email waiting there for me. She sent me her website, it was elegant, like her. I sent her mine back – it was straightforward, like me. We complimented each other's sites, and started talking in emails. She was in the process of stacking diamond rings on her finger, her engagement ring felt lonely, she said. There was a vision in her head, and wondered if I could help. She was hoping for another diamond ring to flank her engagement ring, one that would go with the one she had just purchased. Her instincts were right. I did have another ring similar to it, one that my first serious boyfriend had given me on our first trip to England. I felt comfortable selling it to Annabelle, I liked the thought of her having something personal of mine. I felt like I’d known her my whole life. She wanted to ride her bike over to my house that moment, she didn’t realize that the skies were about to open up and explode rainstorms all over the borough. She emailed me a half hour later, and told me to go outside, that it was a sight to see. The misty pre-storm demeanor of the night was magical. I stepped out to the terrace, and we shared it from our far corners of Brooklyn. She was so cool, this Annabelle. She even had a cool name.

She emailed me again just after noon the next day, she wanted to meet up, and see the England ring. We met inside Trader Joe’s, next to the free coffee. She was flush from walking, wearing a lovely little linen dress, she kissed me hello. God, she’s perfect, I thought, taking in her beauty. These women that are so perfect, how do they do it? Blond hair, lovely skin, perfect tits, and a husband that proposed to her with a lovely antique diamond ring, the one she was now wearing with the one she had bought from me the day before. Surprise! A precious little white dog popped his head up out of her little black bag.

I asked her about her husband. She said that he was an alcoholic, and they had separated. He never loved her the way she had loved him and just before his year anniversary of sobriety, he had asked for a divorce. Her white Maltese puppy had an incurable life threatening disease, she didn’t know how long he had to live. We talked about dating, she said she had met someone – they’d been together for four months, and in spite of her bipolar disorder, it was still going well. She thought that her recently discovered mental disorder might have been related to her MS that she had been diagnosed with 7 years ago, but she would never know for sure.

She took the ring off my finger and slipped it on to hers. It looked perfect with the other rings on her beautiful slender hand. She pulled four crisp fifties out of her bag, and tucked them into my hand, like a best friend passing a secret note in class. She kissed me on the cheek again, she smelled so good, it wasn’t some perfume, it was shampoo, or just her, I couldn’t tell. She took both my hands in to hers and thanked me, and skipped off into the day. Her blond hair bobbing against her athletic tanned back, her long legs gilded in strappy gold sandals – my God, I thought, she really is perfect.

Friday, July 17, 2009


I made Sunday Breakfast on Thursday. The link sausages surrender under the squeeze of my fork, the maple rising up, having it’s way with me. Divine, and simple, I haven’t had these in months. The kitchen is in. The fire is up on two burners now, eggs crackle and snap on browning butter, sour dough toast to sop running yolk. Sitting at my new kitchen island, eating all of this, the cruise ship my morning view. All the passengers, I imagine de-embarking. Home from a glorious cruise to who knows where. Going back to their jobs, setting their alarms. But I’m having Sunday Breakfast on a Thursday, living large, being all laid off.

It’s been months, and it never gets old. I can’t do this forever, but I get it while the going's good. 2 hour walks, meandering to The Promenade, enjoying the late cool of the afternoon. Taking joy lessons from my dog, Rosie – idiot grinning the whole way – pulling me towards pretty girls and strong handsome men.

Cold streams travel down my arm from my glass, joy rivers my throat – pink lemonade on ice, vodka greedily taking up the space to rim. It’s Thursday evening, from the high point of my terrace; the sun is pink and being pulled somewhere else. A roast chicken is in the oven – chicken broth fattens basmati rice, greens soon to yield to olive oil, lemon, and mustard. Maybe I will fire up the ice cream maker. Stay up late.

It’s Thursday night, and I’m unemployed. Time to celebrate.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I was having an issue in my life, the subtleties of which my friends and family couldn’t understand. I was in a relationship with someone who was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and it was starting to affect my mental health. My friends couldn’t understand my inability to extricate myself, so I turned to the web for insight. I read numerous threads, immersed myself in websites, trying to understand what was happening to him, happening to me. But I needed to talk to someone else, someone who had first hand, hands on experience, so I turned to the ultimate random sample of a support group: Craigslist.

I posted in Boston, in the relationship section. I wrote a simple post, asking anyone with experience dating folks with bipolar to drop me a line. I needed to move on with my life, but wanted a push from people that had been there and done that.

The response I got was incredible. I got words of encouragement, specific advice, stern words of warning from a slew of significant others. I also received a fair amount of emails from those diagnosed with the disorder, which was fascinating and touching. But one letter moved me to the core. It was from a guy who had gotten out of 2 relationships with women who had BP. His letter had a grace and eloquence about it that was startling. His advice was succinct and unfaltering. His command of the subject, through personal experience resonated with me to the core. His email was compelling, insightful, and ultimately motivating.

Who was this guy, I wondered, as I hit reply. He seemed absolutely incredible, kind, and brilliant. He wrote back immediately. We exchanged a couple of more emails about our experiences with our BP relationships, he soon attached a photo. He was as handsome as he was brilliant. 32 years old, goatee, jeans and t-shirt, petting a Golden Retriever, I had struck gold. I sent him my photo and it was on. He lived in Boston, but visited friends New York every 2 or 3 months. He was raised not far from where I lived. After exchanging a few emails, I was smitten.

The next morning I woke up, and saw another email from him, I couldn’t wait to read it. I got my coffee, I could see it was a nice long letter when I opened it up. He shared loving details about his parents, how the art of great writing had been instilled in him from an early age – that he was now a writer by profession. His eloquence was evident in every sentence. His goateed image was imprinted on my mind, I could hear the pant of the Golden Retriever in my ear. He had attached some more photos, ones he said I had inspired. I looked forward to seeing him in another jeans shot, perhaps in front of a quaint barn somewhere, or on a motorcycle, or at the beach. I scrolled down the page and was startled by the unmistakable color of raw flesh. I scrolled apprehensively – it soon revealed the head of a penis. I scrolled further, to reveal the shaft. The penis head was interestingly shaped, not really bulbous, and it was attached to a delicately thin shaft. It was simply that, a penis, it was floating in mid air, not even attached to its owner. I was dumbfounded. But wait, there were 3 more images. I continued to scroll down the page. Alas, the second photo celebrated the same penis, from a differently skewed angle, redundant at best. The third photo, yet another glory shot of the same penis. Again, completely isolated, not attached to a person, a hand, or presented on a velvet pillow. Yet there was one last photo that had yet to be revealed. As I slowly scrolled down the page, the image appeared to be different, it wasn’t flesh colored, it was something else. The image was of me. It was my photo, the photo I had sent him, with the aforementioned dick poised at my mouth. He had taken my tiny jpeg, blown it up on his computer screen life sized, took out his erect Johnson, placed it at my mouth, and snapped the pic. I was dumbstruck and revolted, all my dreams of having something meaningful with this guy, dashed in a couple of dick shots.

It’s not like I’ve never received a dick in an email before. Any woman who’s dated online probably has at least one dick shot to report. Yet, this man, so eloquent, kind, insightful just shooting his dick off to me at the end of an email extolling his parent’s loving upbringing of him. There was no warning, no flirting, no open at your own risk, there was just DICK, times four. The grand finale: his dick forcing it’s way in to my mouth.

I couldn’t let it go. The dick shots had a hold on me, I had to know what he was thinking. So I wrote back and asked him what would inspire him to send me disembodied shots of his Johnson, out of context in a photographic sense, or in any rational sense.

He said that the smirk on my face in my photo indicated that I had a filthy mind, it apparently also implied that it needed to have a penis pressed against it. Given that I lived 3000 miles away, he said he’d thrown caution to the wind (and as a result any chances of getting near me), he then went on to ask me if I happen to wear a very specific sexy outfit: black shiny boots, short pin-striped skirt, and a belted beige trench coat. Why, I just happened to be wearing that exact outfit, or was I simply reading all of this in a t-shirt and jeans – and a big sad look on my face – a hybrid of heartbreak and revulsion.

That was that. I had vowed to see the red flags with any guy I’m considering dating, in this case the red flag was a gently curved, oddly shaped flesh pole.

This man was so “together”, the antithesis of the man I was breaking up with. Yet he was flawed, somehow off – perhaps mentally askew. I wondered what happened to the guy in the first photo, with the kind eyes, the one that was crouched down, patting that Golden Retriever. Does that guy exist? Is anyone ever even close to that idealized image? Do we all have some pathology? Are we all somewhere on the continuum of madness? The guy I had dated existed to the right of the scale, it was sometimes a nightmare, sometimes part of his allure. Me, I was definitely dancing somewhere on the continuum. Dating this man had brought out sides of me that scared the heck out of me, made me question my sanity, my resistance to seeking therapy. Then there was my goateed, Golden Retriever petting dick shot guy. Where was he on the continuum? Did his series of dick shots indicate a lack of mental stability, or simply a lack of judgment? Who could say. All I knew was that his dick was a deal breaker.

As I move forward to date again, I do so with my eyes wide open. I’m looking for the red flags before they sting my face. I know that everyone has ‘stuff’ and ‘baggage’, and it’s tricky to see it clearly at the beginning or to decipher how much you can take. I also know that I bring my own finely honed array of mental flaws, but self-awareness is key. So I gain insight from my friends, my family, those who know me best, but I also garner wisdom from complete utter strangers: the rag tag bunch on Craigslist. I have been moved and motivated by their amazing wisdom, touched by their anonymous support, and yes, consistently appalled by their random and purely unsolicited dick shots.