Astoria comes to you, and once it grabs you, it never lets you go…I wondered whether this was the right place for me. On my mini-UN of a block that houses immigrants from Argentina, Croatia, Italy, Ireland and Greece, some of whom don’t speak English, I didn’t know whether there was room for a born-in-the-USA kid who doesn’t know her ethnic roots…As I sat on my front stoop every day, I watched a kaleidoscope of people parade by. I literally had the whole world at my doorstep: Women in colorful saris, Greek Orthodox priests in long black robes and ancient Italian immigrants were joined by an ensemble cast that included a totally tattooed man, a fellow wearing bright red suspenders, a black top hat and a serious camera around his neck and a blond woman who packed her pampered pooches into a cute little cart and “walked” them around the block on her bicycle. They waved to me. I waved back. We started saying hello, and when we met in the street, or the “avenue” as the locals like to call it, we chatted as if we were such old friends that we didn’t even have to ask each other our names. So we never have.
This was posted a couple of weeks ago but I like this excerpt so here it is again.
This morning I took a walk in the snow through Astoria Park and when I came home, there was Marie, my octogenarian neighbor, smoking a cigarette from her doorway. She thought my name was Cindy, but she told me she had looked for me a couple times over the past weeks and been disappointed to not see me.
It caused my family a great deal of confusion last November when I took jobs both at a makeup store and at Victoria’s Secret. I didn’t particularly want either job, but I was desperate and they hired me. My dad’s first response was “Why couldn’t you work at Paul Stuart?” Many months later and I’m awesome at both jobs but my dad is still … well, baffled.
"I just don’t get it," he says, laughing, to an audience of our family, "I’ve never seen Alice wear makeup and I’ve never seen her we—" Cue long and awkward pause as everyone present realizes where that was about to go, "…er, shop… at Victoria’s Secret." Nice save, Baffles.
There Will Be Blood, the more he began to see me as an arugala-eater; the more he balked at There Will Be Blood, and $12 appetizers, the more I began to see him as one of Will Ferrell’s lesser characters. It was time to cut the cord.
My roommate has deviated this evening from “Adia” and was singing “Bad Romance.” I heartily approve of this upgrade. Then he switched to “Here Comes Your Man” which is not only an awesome song, but was featured on an awesome mix CD given to me early today by thecoastisclear.
Now he is on the phone with someone talking about his poop. “I didn’t eat any seeds today…” he says, concerned.
For some reason, a lot of people have been asking me to tell them stories from my life. From my co-workers to my six-year-olds to strangers on Facebook, the demand is oddly high. So I submit to you a sampling of the stories I’ve been telling:
The Yorke Children Are Excited for Christmas
In Which We Try to Drive Someone Else’s Car Home
The Reindeer on My Roof and in My Living Room
In Which I Meet Katie Coyle
Dinner with The Queen
Plays I Did in High School
Little Alice Loves Candy So Much She Ruins Family Photos for a Snickers Bar
My Mother and the Goose
When I was 9 my mother took me on a special trip to a storytelling festival. We bought my brother a stuffed tiger that looked like Hobbes and I got to play the wind chimes to dramatic effect in one storyteller’s tale. If there is one thing I learned from that festival, it is to never let the truth get in the way of a good story. I apply this lesson probably daily.
And three days later was a Monday and it rained really hard and we all went outside after school and yelled and danced and jumped in puddles and Lisa and Matt dove into a lake? Are these memories accurate? And the whole track team was huddled beneath an overhang, watching us like we were crazy, and the dye in Corinne’s scarf bled through to her legs and they were blue. And when I went home my mom yelled at me for being soaking wet from top to bottom and I thought, and maybe said, “You don’t understand!” and went into my room and pretended to read Cold Mountain for English class. And the next day was September 11th.
Yes. Lisa and Matt belly-slid down the hill and wallowed in the mud, I don’t think there was anything lake-like about it. Unless they also jumped in the little pond across the street? I don’t think there was time.
Yes. I’m usually terrible at dates, but that memory is so strange and so clear. September 10th was rainy and amazing, and September 11 was clear and bright and bewildering.
And obviously there are a lot of important things to say about that, but I’m just going to skip ahead to after we got home from school. We were all exhausted and drained from eight hours straight of CNN live coverage in all our classes except for Mr. Gannon’s chemistry class, in which we learned chemistry. All our neighbors were gathered on their lawns talking to each other and my mom was wearing one of my dad’s shirts, and my dad was on his way home from New York, even though it was only 3:00 p.m., via ferry. And we started calling each other because we all felt sad and we thought maybe we should go see a movie and we called to see if the theater was still open and it was, I think, but the only thing we were willing to see was Rat Race for the second time. So instead everyone came over to my house and Alice brought cream puffs (right?) and we watched the original Producers movie in my basement and ate pizza, pizza that my mother ordered and forgot ordering and several months later going through old receipts she would say out loud, “Why did we order five pizzas on September 11th?”
I like when Katie remembers things because her memories are often in stark contrast to my memories of the same thing. I remember “Rat Race” as the movie my mom and I went to see together where we laughed aloud the whole time and got in trouble with the staff of the theatre for sitting with our feet on the seats in front of us, our knees tucked under our chins.
I remember the rain, and the puddles and Lisa and Matt jumping in the pond, but without Katie, I probably would never have put a date on that memory.
My favorite memory of that day (is that okay? to have a favorite part of September 11th?) is sitting on the jungle gym in the playground behind your house after finding the library closed. The library which we tried to go to because it felt like the natural place to spend an evening of such horrific, historic proportions. Somehow seeing the “Closed in light of national tragedy” sign on that door really drove the point home for me.
In December of 2000, I was fourteen-years-old. I was about to complete my first semester of high school, and I had tried to get my hair cut like Colleen from the first season of Survivor but really I just looked like a boy and my glasses were large and ill-fitting and I’d joined Tech Crew and theater and really found myself, you know? Things were going my way. In my journal I compulsively listed all my new friends (holla!) and it was with these friends that I went to see Ron Howard’s live-action How the Grinch Stole Christmas starring Jim Carrey and I felt, maybe for the first time, that itching suspicion that I was watching an Unremarkable Film.