Sunday, August 29, 2010


It was around the time that Santa stopped coming to town, the day Divorce started coming around.

It started with Mrs. Blanc across the street back on Vineyard Lane. I heard my parents talking about it, they weren’t friends with the Blancs, but they knew Mr. Blanc had just up and left one day. Mrs. Blanc had a short boy haircut and a mean face, although she seemed nice, never yelling or anything. They didn’t have any kids, but had the same house we all had on the street. 4 bedrooms and 2 and a half baths, they called them. I was wondering if Mrs. Blanc was lonely in that big house all by herself and I wondered where the heck Mr. Blanc had gone to, I never saw him again. Soon though, there was a real stunner of a car parked in their turnaround. The kind I had only seen in the star magazines. It was red, with the top down, a Mustang they called it. Most of the ladies I knew in Westport had these clunky station wagons, but I’d see Mrs. Blanc hop into that red Mustang, gun it out of the driveway gravel flying everywhere, barely stopping at the stop sign at the end of our street. It looked like divorce was treating Mrs. Blanc A-O.K.

Next the Slomans moved in next door to Mrs. Blanc on Vineyard lane. My parents called them “The Slomans” but there wasn’t a daddy at their house, although there were two daughters. One of the girls. “Sarah”, looked like she could be in The Mickey Mouse Club; blond, blue eyes, very cheerful type of girl. I liked “Kathy” – she had a wicked sense of humor, particularly for an 8 year old. She had much darker skin than her sister, different hair, a wide nose, and a big bottom the likes that I had never seen on any kid at my school. News on Vineyard Lane was that Mrs. Sloman had made intercourse with a school bus driver, a black man and had Kathy a few months later. I loved black men, we had two in town, one was my pediatrician, Dr. Beasley who was the best pediatrician in town. He and his wife couldn’t buy the house they wanted, they had to have another doctor, a white man pose as the buyer so that he and Mrs. Doctor Beasley could move into the neighborhood. Then there was Mr. Rudd, the other black man in town – our librarian at Burr Farms Elementary School. He was quiet, wise, and kind. The day Dr. Martin Luther King got shot, Mr. Rudd got even more quiet, brought a television into school so we could learn all about him. Mr. Rudd barely spoke for a few days, all you could hear in the library were the sounds of the wooden chairs being pushed in and out from the tables, and the murmer of the broadcast from the small-ish TV Mr. Rudd brought from home. Mrs. Sloman’s bus driver brought the count up to three, although I didn’t really know him. I thought she exhibited good taste in gentlemen; Dr. Beasley and Mr. Rudd the librarian were both fine men, as dashing as the actor Sidney Poitier who I had seen in a movie fall in love with a pretty white lady and in another movie where he was a teacher that made bad white kids behave because he was very nice to be around and sometimes had dance parties for them right there in the gym. I wondered if Mrs. Sloman’s bus driver used similar techniques on his bus route, kids behaved so badly on the school bus, but I heard he worked at the next town over, Norwalk, were the “less fortunate” people lived, so that was that.

Next it was the Baxter’s two houses down from us on Vineyard Lane. Mrs. Baxter was very pretty, they had two sons and a lot of modern furniture. Mr. Baxter made me nervous, he would tell jokes you shouldn’t say in front of children and always smoked a cigar in the house; he reminded me of Dean Martin if he had kids and lived in Westport. Downstairs they had a room that Mr. Baxter called his office. It had a lot of framed pictures of naked ladies, and us kids were always sent to play down there. My parents told me that the naked pictures were OK, and didn’t hurt Mrs. Baxter’s feelings because it had something to do with his job. But soon enough, Mr. Baxter was suddenly gone, and in fact Mrs. Baxter’s feelings did seem to be hurt, her pretty face didn’t smile much after that. I didn’t really care where Mr. Baxter had gone off to, I figured it was someplace where they have a lot of dirty stuff and no kids. I just wondered if he took his naked lady pictures with him so Mrs. Baxter wouldn’t have to live with them. Soon after I saw men putting all her white furniture in a moving truck and drive away, she didn’t tell anyone on the street where.

What was going on here on Vineyard Lane? The Hendersons seemed OK, but they were the age of grandmas and grandpas back before they invented divorce. My mom and dad seemed OK, my mom spent a lot of time weeding, she loved weeding, it relaxed her, she said, and she wouldn’t yell at us for at least an hour afterwards. My dad spent Saturdays drinking beer with a blue ribbon on the can that he would poor into a heavy glass mug that he kept in the freezer for just these occasions. Sometimes he would let me poor it for him, showing me how to slowly flow the golden liquid along the side of the glass so you wouldn’t get too much foam on top. “Don’t tell your mother,” he’d say as he let me take one sip out of the mug, holding it for me. That was the only secret my dad kept from my mom as far as I could tell, so I figured they would stay married forever. “That’s enough,” he’d say as I’d guzzle a bit, making me feel fuzzy and tired in a good way. I was glad that he reprimanded me, I knew that my mom would agree, and it was further proof that they wouldn’t be heading down divorce lane.

My parents stayed together until the day my dad passed away. Their best friends stayed together, too; the Kails and the Wachtels. The three couples all had three kids, and we’d all head down to the beach late in the day on Saturdays after the crowds cleared out and you couldn’t get a sunburn. My mom would make baked friend chicken, and someone always had a box of Yodels. We would swim with our dads while the moms drank wine they transported to the beach in rinsed out Sanka jars.

But divorce was spreading through Westport like chicken pox. One of my mom’s best friends, Mrs. Patterson, her husband was running to catch the 5:02 to New Haven, slipped and his leg got caught underneath the train, the doors closed and the train started to ride out before anyone could do anything, taking his leg with it. He was a newspaper man, dignified and quiet because he had something called “depression”, but became even more quiet after that then hung himself up in the attic one Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t a divorce but it seemed like it, now there was just a mom in a big house with a bunch of kids. She never seemed sad, though, she turned his office into a crafts room and she would invite me over and teach me how to make decoupage, which itself was very boring but we always had some good laughs. My dance teacher, Dorian Kates was a real stunner, I was wondering how my mom could have her over for dinner with my dad there and not get jealous. Her actor husband had “run out on her” my parents would say. Dorian started to invite me over to her house a lot, I was getting older, I loved her house and tried to model my room after it; she had groovy stuff like a giant flag from England on the wall, old Indian bedspreads thumbtacked to the ceiling, and long strings of beads hanging where the doors had once been. She had a vase by her bed, I picked it up to admire it and found a fake penis inside there. She never seemed sad, I was starting to think divorce wasn’t the end of the world. The husbands would leave town, taking their naked lady pictures with them and their cigars, and the next thing you’d know there would be a crafts room, an England flag over the fireplace, or a red Mustang convertible in your driveway.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I worked for a creative director that once said: “You’re only as good as the worst piece in your portfolio”.

This simple credo also applies to the people you choose to keep in your life. The least common denominator brings you down; that shit is catching! A friend of mine said he and his wife had agreed on a No Toxic People Policy. Crazy people live to make other people crazy. Anger is contagious. Rudeness begets rude. As Abe Lincoln said, “Don’t fight with pigs. You only get dirty and the pig likes it.” Don’t wrangle, don’t stoop, don’t rescue, don’t engage – in life, online, on the street where you live.

Think of it as a colon cleanse for living. Emotional vampires, psychotics, anger blisters, perpetual victims, be gone! They sniffed you out like a raw piece of meat, find out what that’s about and put that out with the rest of the trash. Take a walk, see who’s joyful and walk alongside them. That stuff is catching, too.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I’ve noticed that “Douchebag” is back in vogue.

Translation: “Dickhead”, “Jerk”, or “Miscreant”. People occasionally still use “Dickhead.” “Jerk” somehow under-delivers. “Miscreant” hardly rolls off the tongue, plus most of the bridge and tunnel types that are cutting you off on the BQE while texting on their “smart phones” would hardly know it’s meaning; plus it lacks the delicious mouth-feel of “douchebag,” or the truncated, perhaps even more pleasurable to the tongue, “DOUCHE!!” Say it three times, “douche,” “Douche,” “DOUCHE!!!” See what I mean. Really languish in the “ooosh.” I’d be hard-pressed to find a more pleasurable sensation above the waist.

How do phrases come back into popular vernacular? Or “evolve” as such. What inspires the evolution of “Cool,” to “Rad,” to “Awesome,” to “Killer!,” to “It KILLS.” How you say it eclipses it's actual meaning. Saying “hip” speaks volumes that you ain’t.

In the case of “douchebag” it seems counterintuitive as actual douche bags, (bags for douching) no longer exists, at least I haven’t seen them, and I certainly haven’t heard of their use in decades. I remember some big rubber bag with a hose in my mother’s bottom drawer back in the day. Later it was replaced by products such as “Summer’s Eve”. Then there’s the never goes out of fashion bidet; the douche for women of means. But the experts say that douching is unnecessary, a little soap and water does the trick. Douche bags have gone the way of girdles, are half life in landfills, yet douchebags are popping up on turnpikes, cheap bars, and grocery store lines everywhere. Go figure. I mean, WTF!!


Dear Ms. Brandt,

I stole your purse.

I had to get it off of my chest, I think of you every time I use it, which is a lot.

“Stole” isn’t quite the right word, you’d left your husband a couple of months back before he and I had started dating. I noticed the cutest little bag in the closet you shared and asked him if I could borrow it; he said it was OK. But one shouldn’t take things that aren’t yours. You don’t need to read The Bible to know better than that.

I heard that you had left one day very suddenly; packed up the car quietly, said that you were leaving and were gone within the hour. The few things that you left behind I figured weren’t your favorites, or you had run out of space in the GTI.

I was wondering why you would leave that way, so suddenly and without warning, but as soon as I saw the big hole kicked in one of the closet doors in your apartment I realized you were probably just being on the safe side.

As far as the purse goes, maybe you remember it. It’s the little brown bag with the long strap with the big brass studs at each corner. I don’t think it was very expensive – it’s pleather, after all. But some of the best pleather I’ve ever seen – very leather-like in appearance. The faux bag had me fooled – so much so, I went to treat it with mink oil one day with disastrous results; the mink oil couldn’t be absorbed by the man-made material, stayed on the surface and got all over my favorite pair of jeans. I guess that’s what they call karma, ha! Regardless, I’ve gotten tons of compliments on the bag (just an aside and a testament to your good taste.)

Just so you know I intended to borrow it for just that one day, but then that turned in to the whole weekend, and then the weekend after that. I wanted to tell you, but I don’t know you – so that made it tough. The fact is – I had picked out a bag from my closet to give to you that I thought you might like. It was a Coach bag around the same size that would fulfill the same purpose – a casual small bag that’s good for quick runs to the mall, an evening out, or an afternoon brunch. I wanted to send it to you there in your country but it seemed inappropriate, more so than the initial snatching of your purse. But I felt guilty the whole way down that slippery slope to "ownership" and still have twinges today.

I always heard you were about the nicest person in the world and never said an unkind word about anyone. People like you deserve to be happy, I guess everyone does, but people like you in particular. Hope this faux leather purse apology finds you well.

I pray you’re not offended by this post (it’s from the heart) or by the fact that I stole your bag (which comes from some darker place in me). I do apologize; I took something from you that wasn’t mine and use it almost everyday – the fact that I cherish it and am showing remorse for my actions may soften any ill you may have towards me. Seeing as you supposedly don’t have any unkind words for anyone, you may have already forgiven me, who knows.

I could send the bag back : ( , or send you some money for it via PayPal if you have an account. Or you could take your choice of any of my Coach bags, I’d be happy to send you one – even if it wasn’t an equal trade. I figure I owe you big time.

Well that’s about it, Ms. Brandt. I hope you read this blogpost, I’ve noticed you visit here from time to time; I appreciate your readership. I was always impressed by your courage, envious of your benevolent nature, and clearly quite taken with your taste in accessories.



Saturday, August 21, 2010


We had been dating for about a month, already we were having a power struggle. Yes condoms. No condoms. I knew better than to be swayed to the NO side, yet he was freshly divorced, very attentive, and said, “we’re not sleeping with anyone else”.

Shouldn’t you take a man at his word, particularly when he’s trying to have unprotected sex with you? “We’re exclusive!” It’s every girl’s dream. And most guy’s exit cue; hard to have that talk with any man over the age of 12, they find it unsavory. But my new boyfriend was the one to bring it up; did it mean he really wanted to go steady? Would he “pin” me? Give me his high school ring? Bring me to the senior prom? Or at least to Chi-Chi’s for a blooming onion and some serious hand holding?

He had told me on our second date (and after his third shot of tequila) that he was falling in love. The last guy who had told me that had an untreated deviated septum. We had a blow out after my 2nd week of sleepless nights on my sofa, while he slept like a baby in my bedroom on my 400 thread count sheets. His elephant-like emissions cut through walls and rang through every room. I yelled at him, he huffed out, leaving his Jumbo box of Breathe Right Nasal Strips by the bed as a painful reminder of our otherwise pleasant love affair – we never spoke again.

The snorer showed me that true love was possible, albeit noisy, and with my new beau it was apparently inextricably linked to unprotected sex. The road to my Happy Ending may be paved with Herpes, Chlamydia, HIV, even Syphilis was making a what's-old-is-new-again comeback, but I was pretty sure the phrase “love cures all” was coined by the CDC.

He and I were standing in my living room, he was off to a business trip, he snapped shut his briefcase after checking his blackberry, his coat was thrown on a bench in the front hall. After he held me for a moment or two sweetly, we stood chatting with one another before his car arrived to take him on his next business trip, he was on the road quite a bit for his job.

As we stood in a gaze, my little cute dog trotted proudly into the living room and dropped something between us on the hard wood floor, “plink!” It was a red condom packet. Rosie knew how to sit, how to spin around, and now she was exhibiting a talent for sniffing out condoms.

She apparently had gone through the pockets of my new boyfriend’s Burberry jacket and found the evidence and delivered it with the same dramatic effect as the black glove at the OJ trial.

The defendant stuttered with excuses, Rosie sat between us; looking at him, then at me, at him, then back at me with Wimbledon-like anticipation.

I took him at his word. Maybe the condom was left in his jacket from way back in the day before his six year marriage, I didn’t check the expiration date, he had snatched it up off the floor right quick. I wanted to be in love, I wanted to be exclusive. I didn’t want to think about the ramifications of unprotected sex. We hugged, I sent him on the road and he called me every night around 11. After a sweet exchange we’d hang up, contented; and I’d wonder to myself what time the strip bars closed in Detroit.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Yesterday, I celebrated my birthday with a dear friend, fine food, and the gift of pretty jewelry – yet the piece de resistance of this perfect day was methodically combing my entire blog for any content that at any time offended certain parties, and then going whoop-ass with the DELETE button. When Blogger prompted me, “Are you sure you want to delete (blogpost title here),” I clicked on “HELL YEAH” with unfaltering conviction.

In the past I’ve argued (with myself and others) with the same unfaltering conviction to defend my right to express myself and resist certain requests to remove certain blogposts. No one can tell me what I can and cannot write. If I’m adhering to the law and not using real names or other identifiers then to heck with y’all. But yesterday I had a change of heart. Actually, it had nothing to do with the heart with its warm, sentimental influences; and there was anger and hubris that I tripped on, on this journey to the DELETE button – along with some gentle (and not so gentle) guidance from friends and family. But ultimately I landed here: on the idea of what is the “right” thing to do.

What “right” means, I couldn’t tell you, it changes for all of us at any given moment, in most instances it’s defined by what just FEELS “right”. If someone objects to content that springs from their personal stories, do they have the “right” to object? Well, sure. Do I have the “right” to exploit their personal stories? There are clear-cut legal definitions you can turn to, but still, if you’ve shrouded identities with false names and switched up other identifiers, are you ethically in the clear? How about the people depicted, and their indelible right to say, “Step off of my shit!”? At the end of the day it may be simply better to adhere to one of the great tenets of all time: Mind Your Own Beeswax.

So DELETE DELETE DELETE, I hit that button 19 times last night and wiped out most of claudtalks and it felt strangely good. I purged over a year of content, and the swirl of toxicity around it – and slept better than I have in weeks. It was my birthday after all, a day that was honored not so much by what I got, but what I was willing to say “good bye” to.


I would like to thank “Cal” for his patience through my hysteria and supportive gentle guidance and for coming through on my birthday, you helped pave the way. “Emily” for her firm advice in IM which lead to this final Ah-hah moment. “Kathleen” for closing the door to her office – taking the edge off with her take-no-prisoners humor and suggesting I shut down the blog and get myself a new URL - shoulda coulda woulda. “Vicky” for her free legal advice and solid no-nonsense tips on dealing with madness. “Nell” for talking me down off the ledge more than a few times, although she’ll never read this because she feels I failed to return the favor. To “Greg”, Life Coach and hardcore hunk for calling me "fearless" in my telling of these tawdry tales, along with “Eddy” who did the same (I still found you sexy in spite of (and because of) the fact that you ordered orange juice and Coke on our “dates”). My brother "Bob" who knew all along the right thing to do but I just wasn't havin' it. But most of all, I’d like to thank “Beth Fellows Dickens” for always hitting the LIKE button (at least most of the time) and being my biggest supporter; I hope I haven't let you down. And to “The Nurse” “Julie-Anne”, my sincere apologies for posting as what you would most likely call “Stupid Shit”.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


It had perfect cut and clarity: this soon to be mine 1.01 carat, F color VVS1 Emerald cut diamond.

I didn’t shop for it with my fiance, a close friend of mine had spied it while shopping for her third engagement ring upgrade at her fancy 47th Street diamond dealer, a guy who sold diamonds to celebrities for their spouses and secret girlfriends. Corey was in his usual perfectly pressed Italian custom-made suit admiring what he considered to be a very special stone. It was small compared to what he was hocking here and at his Vegas location, where 4 carat diamonds were considered “average”. The stone he was admiring was just over one carat, the cut, the beauty was exceptional, he showed my friend the small stone between his jeweler’s tweezers, she knew how to hold the jeweler’s loop, pressed against the eye, drawing the diamond back and forth until it came into focus.

I was coming back from a client meeting on the Amtrak when I got her message – I called my home phone to get my messages from the train’s platform. She had found my diamond, she said, and I should drop everything before it was sold. I called my boyfriend at his not-for-profit job, a group home manager for mentally disabled men, he had just broken up two of the men who were helping each other get off in a closet and was looking forward to five o'clock and heading into his Karate class in the city. “Get it if you want it,” I heard him shrug. He had proposed to me a week ago after a talk we had one night. His sister had gotten engaged after seeing her boyfriend for only a month. Dave and I had been together for three years, I wanted kids and a Honda Accord, it wasn’t an ultimatum, but I made my plans clear, with or without him. Dave went into the bathroom and shut the door – this is where he would go to escape in our studio apartment, to masturbate, I suspected, to talk to his mom on Sundays, and to vomit, I thought that was a possibility given our conversation and how abrupt his escape. After about 20 minutes he emerged, got down on one knee and said, “Honey, if this is what you want, than let’s just do it.” It wasn’t the proposal I’d imagined, my boyfriend from college who turned out to be gay had asked me, and had done a much better job, just like in the movies. I held my response with Dave’s resigned proposal, “I thought this is what the fuck you wanted.” I couldn’t argue that fact; we had a deal.

We went to Indiana two weeks later to share the news with his family. They were unassuming folks who lived in a house his dad had built out of bricks with his own two hands. They had a well that supplied water to the house, chickens that they used for eggs and poultry, and an impressive vegetable garden on one side of the house. Dave’s mom worked as a part time Postal employee, his Dad worked at a factory for Ford. One day, his Dad took me fishing at a bridge near their house and told me a story about a fancy girlfriend he had once, he knew it would never work and though he loved her, he sent her back on the next plane to Los Angeles and married a girl from town – Dave’s more simple mom. He seemed to adore her in spite of the fact that she wore elastic waistband pants and didn’t have the vanity to deal with a pretty impressive growth of downy facial hair where a man's beard would be. I thought his anecdote was odd, he seemed to be quite fond of me – I couldn’t believe that he would be comparing me to this fancy L.A. girlfriend who he’d banished to the left coast. But the fact was, I was having a hard time in Indiana, I would get a knock on the bathroom door if I took too long and used up too much water in the shower, having to get out before I’d had sufficient time to let my conditioner sink in. One evening I politely refused some Chinese food that had been in the ice box for over the week, saying I wasn't hungry, I was sure it had passed it’s prime – but my refusal had branded me a city slicker. And although his Dad continued to exhibit a crush on me, sitting in the dark, waiting for me to wake up and pad into the kitchen so he could prepare me a breakfast of fresh eggs from the chicken house with the mushrooms he’d unearthed from the woods behind the house. It seemed I had rekindled the spark of the fancy L.A. girlfriend, but soon I would suffer a similar fate and be sent back to the city from whence I came.

That afternoon we all squeezed into the truck and headed off to Costco, I had never been. They had giant jars of pickles and red cocktail cherries, and a counter full of diamond rings for people fixing to get married. I contemplated catching up with Dave and his parents who were now lost somewhere among the long fluorescent lit aisles. I imagined Dave was looking at the discounted electronics, eyeing a bigger TV, and I was hoping that his parents were shopping for some new food for dinner. How could I lure them to the place where the diamonds were kept? I had looked at Dave’s mom’s hand, she had a simple worn band that was now a couple sizes too small. She wasn’t much for finery, although one afternoon she had taken me into town to Macy’s where she pointed out some items she liked at their jewelry counter and more than hinted that it would be OK if I used my American Express card to honor her birthday which was only 2 and a half months away.

On the way out of Costco I pulled Dave aside and showed him the ring, his eyes glazed over but found some enthusiasm when he explained the plans for the afternoon: he would be going fishing, and I could watch some TV at home, even the color one that his parent’s kept safe in their bedroom.

“Get it if you want it,” now back in New York, Dave's words echoed in my head as I headed towards the bank, his approval rank with resentment. Dave would get onboard once he saw the stone. I withdrew the money, got to 47th street just before closing time, took one look at the diamond and fell in love. “Let me see this thing I’m buying,” Dave said with mild curiosity when I got home, he thought it was pretty but smaller than he’d imagined for the money. He wrote down the full amount I’d paid on a piece of paper that he attached to our refrigerator, went to his coffee can that doubled as his saving’s account, counted out 200 dollars in twenties and handed them over to me, wrote minus 200 dollars on the paper with the new balance underneath, switched on the TV to watch another Seinfeld episode and called Dominoes. I took the stone from its pouch, carefully unfolding the special white paper that cradled it. Now it was official, the stone made it so – but instead of making things better; it was making things worse. Dave still seem uninspired, he hadn’t withdrawn into the bathroom, but spent the rest of the evening rearranging his collection of action figures in what he deemed his corner of the apartment. A week later, I told him I wanted to break up for good.

He begged me not to, suddenly losing his interest in the back-to-back Seinfeld episodes. He dropped down on both knees, offering to buy me the top of the line European vacuum cleaner I had been eyeing at our local yuppie electronics boutique if only I would take the breakup back; the coffee can savings account had been dwindling as he marked off the seventy-five dollar payments he was making on our refrigerator tab, his offer to pony up for the pearlised vacuum cleaner broke my heart. I decided to give things another shot, I now hated that stupid diamond I had put so much stock in, and now I felt guilty about ever mentioning that fancy vacuum cleaner, it had diminished the times when Dave had chipped in with the cleaning, and swept the floor with such earnest.

Beyond his offer to gift me the glossy vacuum, Dave was willing to try anything to save our relationship – he had gotten the name of a couple’s counselor in Park Slope from a friend who’s marriage had been saved in spite of myriad infidelities. From the start it didn’t go well, she was awkward with us, apparently fairly green in the therapy field. We had heard from the woman who recommended her that she now heard that the therapist’s own marriage was precarious at best. “Mrs. McCloud” (we were not to use her first name) showed favoritism towards me, confiding in me when Dave would frequently escape to the restroom that she had a crush on me, and was looking at it in her own sessions with her shrink. Dave would sink even deeper into the old futon she had us sit on as she would berate him for choosing a career in non-profit, how did he expect to raise a family in Brooklyn Heights on such a salary! Oddly, for the first time Dave and I were on the same side of something, we fired her. I went off to Florida for a family reunion that weekend and when I came back Dave was gone. All his clothes, collectible figures, his broom – all gone. At first I thought he’d left a note on the refrigerator, but it was only the piece of paper with the scratched off coffee can payments for my engagement ring.

I ran into Dave about a year ago, I heard he had gotten married a few years back. He was alone standing next to a stroller that looked dingy, as though it had been snatched from a dumpster. His wife was inside with their infant, he wanted me to wait and see his new son. I wondered how you could put a child in that contraption; surely they could afford a new one at K-mart or Walmart, or a store like that. Dave had gone to law school, and was now an advocate for the mentally disabled, he had to be making more than in the old days when he was breaking up sexually charged trysts between the mentally disabled men in the kitchen pantry or wherever they could hide. Still, he looked happy, and I was happy for him.

I just happened to be wearing a jacket that day that Dave had given me, a Carhartt jacket like the ones construction guys wear, it was fun mixing this kind of gear with my 300 dollar boots and diamond studs from Tiffany. I took a pass on waiting for his wife and child, I thought it might be weird for her, and for me. “Nice jacket,” he called after me, as I headed back to the building where we had lived, I had since moved up to the penthouse apartment that I shared with my cute little dog.

I had the diamond reset at a fancy jeweler in Soho a few years ago, and wore it on and off for a year. The ring got a slew of compliments; the man behind the counter at Tiffany commented on the stone’s clarity and cut. But the diamond had lost its value, no matter how much it was now worth, no matter how many compliments I got. I had bought into the “Diamond Are Forever” hoax, and believed in the superior cleaning abilities of the pearlised vacuum at the fancy shop, the Honda Accord had left me at the corner, I’d lost my reverence for all those things. Still, I catch myself ogling that shiny white Italian scooter; no one changes over night. But the time has come to sell the diamond, maybe even pay Dave back the 400 bucks he paid for his part. Heck, he could buy a brand new stroller, and me, I’d have more than enough left over to buy a “better” bike.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


“Lunch is served in the conference room,” this other writer at my advertising agency "Vicky" said in her usual lackluster manner as she passed my office on the way back to hers. We were working the weekend on some creative push; would lunch be pizza, Carnegie Deli sandwiches, or maybe that upscale Chinese we’d ordered a couple of times before? This was my first job after college, free food and black sedan car service rides home after 8PM were the icing on the cake of my dream job at this agency. I was being paid to come up with creative ideas for major advertisers, working the weekend wasn’t that unusual, but I liked what I did and these perks just sweetened the deal.

I meandered towards the conference room that overlooked 3rd Avenue, I didn't want to appear to be too excited about the free food. The long room was silent, the red swivel chairs empty, the long oval table had no cardboard pizza boxes, Chinese food containers, the perfume of pastrami, onions, and lox was not in the air. I saw something there in the middle of the table: a baggie-full of white powder. This was lunch, a considerable amount of cocaine – compliments of the agency. I would have to fend for myself and get a cheeseburger downstairs. I prayed they would be open on Sundays.

It could have gone either way with Vicky, food or cocaine – she had a pretty well known eating disorder and a perpetual sniffle. I had seen blood trickle from her nostrils on more than one occasion. Her vile temper commonly manifested in shrill bouts of fowl language grounded in deep-seeded hostility towards her mild mannered husband/creative partner, “Hal”, or towards our flamboyant “straight” boss and creative director, Grant. But Vicky was highly valued at this place and paid accordingly, she and Hal had a way with writing charming jingles, these syrupy-sweet 30-second songs they would churn out for children’s cereals and toys. Vicky was the real brainchild of the married creative team. She would chain smoke behind closed doors, coming out only to fill the ladies room with the smell of vomit. A few hours later she would emerge with a charming little ditty for toddler’s toys or strained carrots. She would flatly present to Grant in his corner office while Hal stood by smiling like a serf awaiting the King’s approval. Grant would laugh and clap his hands like an excited girl at her first birthday party – but sometimes tried to put his stamp on the work by suggesting a one-word change, sending Vicky in to a tirade. “You’re a FUCKING HACK, Grant – I fuckin’ HATE you! And you, too fucking PUSSY,” being careful to include Hal, “You want a piece of shit, I don’t want any part of it – you two FUCKIN do it YOURSELVES!” With that she was out, pushing the elevator button a hundred times in a row, in perfect time to her coke induced heart rate. Hal would follow Vicky out a few moments later, after making apologies to Grant, taking the next elevator down after her – he would now have to listen to her on the long ride home to Long Island in their glossy black Mercedes. Sometimes Vicky wouldn’t come back for days, or even until the next week – and only after Grant would send her roses and a note of apology. She would bounce back into work with a shiny new attitude, but within an hour or so she would default to her usual verbal attacks towards poor Hal, who would eventually emerge from their office, saying pleasant “hello’s” to all of us as though nothing had happened, knowing full well that we’d all heard the horrid hubbub through the walls. It was just another day at my dream job, one day I went into the first stall in the ladies room, Vicky had left her signature, smeared feces on the steel grey wall.

It all started to get me down, I was having a hard time sleeping and getting to work on time. Grant had taken to leaving angry notes on my chair, “It’s 9:30 AM!! WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU????!!!!” on a violently torn off piece of art director’s paper, scrawled in angry bold black marker. He didn’t cut me the slack he cut Vicky; I had already started winning creative awards for my work, but she had the Midas touch when it came to churning out magic for their big money clients. But it wasn’t just Vicky, or the flamboyantly reactionary Grant, the whole place was topsy-turvy. My partner had a bong under his desk made out of a gallon milk jug and parts of a garden hose and had lines all laid out under his office phone. The secretaries smoked weed in the stairwell, I had been enticed once and almost got caught by one of the building’s security guards after a high-speed chase down the stairs. The following week the whole office had the day off to attend the wake of a handsome bearded thirty-something guy who worked with us ¬– his heart had given out after an all-night party he had alone in his apartment on a Tuesday night. My dad had warned me that advertising was a tough business, but I wasn’t sure he had this in mind.

One of the girls I worked with suggested I see her therapist. She was a rich girl who attended private schools, the daughter of one of the partners of the agency – an older woman way past her heyday who seemed perpetually baffled and most definitely gay; all of the partners had past advertising successes and closeted homosexuality in common.

I entered Dr. Gary’s office on 12th Street. It looked like how I imagined a shrink’s office would be. The walls were lined with leather bound books, deep comfortable couches nestled in burnt orange shag carpeting, a fresh box of tissue was within arm’s reach. I would leave our 55 minute sessions feeling better, he zeroed in on some core issues quite quickly before coming to his final diagnosis: I had a really fucked up job. He jotted down another patient’s phone number, he would tell him to expect my call. This fellow was at another agency and would see me about a new job. The next day I called and went to see him in his tiny office, a worn out Death Of A Salesman-type with grey-ish hair and skin to match. He talked slowly without looking at me, his face lit in the darkness by the lone light that hung over his small desk. I thanked him and put out feelers around the city, I was inspired to finally make a change.

Two weeks later I had an interview at one of the largest agencies in the city. I was told to take a seat by the group creative director, an openly gay man with taught shiny gel-tan skin, and black eyeliner, expertly applied. He had a framed poster of Bette Midler framed over his desk, she had always been one of my favorites, I had been told on more than one occasion that I was Bette’s mini-me. Taking a cue from Bette, I turned the creative director’s office into the gay baths, peppering the interview with well-placed sass. I was glad I had randomly chosen to wear a 1940’s style dress with platform shoes that day, I thought to myself as I walked the 12 blocks back to my job at the other place.

Grant was sitting at my desk when I came back, he was holding a pink memo he’d snatched from the receptionist intended for me, it said to call the new big agency back right away; apparently I’d gotten the job. “What the fuck is THIS,” Grant demanded, sensing his power was diminished with the impending job offer clenched his perfectly manicured hand. Vicky appeared at my door, “SHUT the fuck UP, Grant – or I will get the FUCK out of here and YOU can write this kiddie porn YOURSELF.” Grant stormed past both of us – Vicky hugged me, “congrats, kid, I hear you’re getting out of this shithole, we’ll miss ya.” Vicky smelled of cigarettes, coffee, and trace vomit, but the sentiment was real. I had gotten a lot out of this place. The harrowing screaming matches, rampant cocaine use, the overdose by a former employee, Vicky’s eating disorder spin-art displays on the ladies room walls; it all defined my first job in advertising – and made every job after it seem like a piece of cake.