Tuesday, October 07, 2003

le petit mort

Walking down Mission Street after a morning spent in pleasurable pursuit--particularly if one has not yet showered away the evidence--is an interesting exercise. I am reminded of what Josh Kornbluth says in his monologue 'Love and Taxes' about what happened after he filed his taxes for the first time in seven years: "Dogs began to follow me through the Mission."

The married owner of the Greek import store not only sold me half a pound of feta and a tin of stuffed grape leaves. He hugged me. Repeatedly. Offered to find me a bellydancing job at a restaurant that advertises on his radio program. And then told me that he wasn't asking me for a date, as the difference in our ages is so great, but would I come by the next day for coffee? I was afraid I wouldn't make it out alive, under the amused alabaster gaze of dozens of statues of Greek gods, racks of books, shelves of galaktaboreko and sour cherry preserves. I squirmed out, nearly knocking over the tottery old lady standing in the doorway squinting at the jars of taramsalata.

Half a block on, still laughing, I heard a man yell hey, hey! I'm housebroken! If you take me home, I promise I'll behave! When I turned around, he barked at me and waved his cane.

Some days, this sort of thing drives me beserk. Especially if it happens at night. I yelled at some guys once who tried to get me to come over and hang out by their truck and drink beer with them as I was walking near City Hall. It really angers me when men don't get it that coming on to a woman walking alone at night isn't sexy or attractive, it's scary. Even the most sensitive of my guy friends don't always seem to understand why women are so cautious about which route they take, or why we might choose to drive or use the bus instead of walking or bicycling. It's an old, old complaint women have about men: we don't have the freedom to walk any old place we like at any time. Sure, men worry about being jumped and mugged--but not about being jumped and raped. Or even just yelled at suggestively, which is really wearying.

During the day, though, and if I'm in a good mood, it's not such a big deal, and sometimes it's so funny that I start thinking I should go buy a lottery ticket or something because I'm obviously sending *some* vibe out into the universe.

I'm gratified by how quickly I have come to think of the new place as home. Yes, I had to ask the man drinking the 40 on my stoop to move over the other night so I could perform the zen ritual with the key (breathing, breathing, thinking no-thought). Yes, the apartment smells of roommate one's children. Yes, roommate two pees with the bathroom door open and is still not very good at the guitar. Yes, my room is just a hair larger than six feet by six and covered with crayon drawings of what appear to be balloon aliens with razor stubble and petals around their heads.

But it is so nice to lock a door and sleep in a bed and not wake up to the sounds of the body shop opening for business beneath me. No hydraulic lifts, no air-powered lug-nut removers, no intercom. And I've always liked sleeping in small spaces, so the new room feels cozy and safe, not claustrophobic. I slept in my studio last night because it was too late to go home, and didn't enjoy it nearly so much.

I AM going to paint over those aliens, though.

Work last weekend was pretty intense. I did the set-up for a party that a well-known high-end jewelry store was having for their 'level T-4' customers. I'm not exactly sure what T-4 means either, except that the senior managers all know these customers by name and by which one-off pieces they own. T-4 customers come in from Colorado and Seattle for little events like this. They eat a lovely catered lunch and watch a video of black pearls being strung by a woman who has been with the company since the dinosaurs chewed tobacco. During the set-up, as I was moving chairs back and forth and back and forth, there was a guy who did nothing but watch the jewelry and loose gemstones being arranged in a vitrine. I suspect he was armed; I thought it impolitic to ask. Heaven knows, they were probably all strapped.

I made sure not to make any sudden moves.

There is such an incredible gap between the lives of the people I serve and my own that sometimes I hardly believe that we are the same species. In the four years that I've been catering, I've met a lot of waiters and chefs who become envious of the people we work for. They drift through the living rooms, the massive kitchens, exclaiming over the sculptures and the Wolf ranges and the shiny floors. They play name-that-painter. And I sympathize, I really do. It must be nice to live in a beautiful, tastefully-appointed home (although not all the rich do, of course; some of them have Terrible taste that no amount of money is going to fix) that you don't have to keep clean because you have staff for that. When you open a door in the home of a certain oil scion, looking for a bathroom, instead you find a beautiful indoor swimming pool fit for a hamam. Sometimes, when we have to turn a garage into a kitchen, we have to throw a tarp over the DeLorean and make sure our tables don't scratch the Jag. In the past week I've watched two different housekeepers blowdrying little wet dogs in two different laundry rooms, and I've thought about the times I've had to bathe my own cat (and yes, I still have the marks.)

But I have to wonder. Does food really taste better off a $700 plate?

I have also developed an obssession with junk drawers. I'm convinced that even the wealthy have them, and I'm going to start looking. I can tell you this; the rich don't have any better idea of what to do with all those wicker baskets that gift sets and flower arrangements come in than you and I do. But where you might keep your napkins in one, and I've used one for ticket stubs and ATM receipts, wealthy people have CLOSETS piled full of the damn things.

I am not exaggerating on this one.

Imagine the chaos if suddenly all those baskets were released back into the wild!