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Zipless

This is what we are reading in class:  “The zipless fuck was more than a fuck. It was an ideal. Zipless because when you came together zippers fell away like rose petals, underwear blew off in one breath like dandelion fluff.  Tongues intertwined and turned liquid.”

Soft core porn dressed up as Feminist Literary Criticism???  Oh my God! I love Grad school.  It’s the 80’s.  I listen to Blondie, wear parachute pants and my hair is focused on one simple concept – volume.  Aids does not exist and you could eat sugar, fat and deep fried everything without walking into the Valley of Death.  I’m young, I am tan and I am aware, even as it’s happening that I should be living the perfect summer.

“Listen to this part”, I say.  I’m on duty and talking to the nice guy I work with in the dorms. It was our job to enforce quiet hours and make sure the students didn’t do anything stupid like throw a burning couch out of the window. Which they did- twice.

“This book says “zipless” is defined as a sexual encounter for its own sake, without emotional involvement.”

He smiles, Where do you get this stuff?

“It’s literature- Erica Jong.  She’s a fabulous feminist and very famous. She believes that the zipless trumpets unfettered freedom as women’s birthright”

“I am in the wrong major”  He sighs

I tell him, “You know what would make this a great summer for me?  Having a Zipless. It could be my feminist statement in support of all the women who have suffered under the tyranny of the patriarchal double standard”.

“Oh Christ” he says, You are insane.

The truth was- I was lonely, bone crushingly lonely. Only a few months before I had been plopped into the middle of the Midwest from Jersey to go to grad school. I knew Malls an big hair and NYC not this tiny collegetown that had a Farm and Fleet and a “Flying Ear of Corn” as a mascot. But the school had offered me a full-ride, a stipend and a parking space (which really sealed the deal).  My old roommate was moving out to California and I just couldn’t be bothered to find someone else to live with, so Grad school looked like a good alternative.  It was the bookish girls version of the army.  But that summer was hard on me and I thought “If I’m going to be lonesome I ain’t doin’ it alone”.

For my Zipless endeavor I decided stick to my tried and true menu of bad boys. The older, sophisticated, Mr IBM was perfectly appointed in a navy blazer, Izod with the collar popped and the bulge in his khakis indicated that he was a human torpedo.  We meet at a Ramada Inn hotel bar in the afternoon.  He is suave, he lights my cigs his fingers lingering on mine. We drink our Manhattans, he caresses my knee but seems incapable of forming a sentence without the words me, my or I in it.  It crosses my mind that If his conversation style is any indication of his zipless style- UCK!  So I go to my Data Analysis and Regression class even though attendance is not mandatory.

The long days continue to melt by like peach ice cream in the afternoon sun and I hang out with the nice guy constantly.  We eat together; we go out drinking, he cleans my apartment. “OK”, I say to him, one night as we scrape the vomit from the elevator.” I’ve eye lured 3 zipless candidates”.

“What is the eye lure?” he asks.

“I learned it from an article in Cosmo magazine called “How to Be a Man Magnet”.

#1. Make eye contact and smile. #2. Avert your gaze. Then #3. Look back and hold for a count of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.  I once did it accidently to a blind guy in the quad and if it worked on him it will work on anybody.

“Anyway”- I continue, “here’s the Zipless update:  The torpedo is too self absorbed so I’ve moved onto the Brazilian painter”.

“The one who lives out of his car for artistic integrity?” the nice guy asks,

“Yes, he says he wants to sketch me.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” He says.

“I’m going to lie on a chaise and say- “Yo quiero su carne.  Su carne es muy caliente”.  Which means I want your meat.  Your meat is hot.  You can really learn a lot from a Taco Belle menu”.

The nice guy locks his eyes on mine.  “Why are you wasting your time with these assholes?”

That’s when I see it- he doesn’t want to be my friend.  He wants to be my boyfriend. I don’t want a boyfriend- let alone him. You see, he was 2 ½ inches shorter than me and I had 20 pounds on him which meant my ass would always look fat next to his.  We’d look like Sasquach and Stewy from “Family Guy”.  Besides he wasn’t my type.  He was nice. I didn’t like them nice.  I liked them Italian and dangerous and from Brooklyn if possible.  He was was dangerous as thread.

I decide not to spend as much time with the nice guy and I definitely do not tell him about the hot bartender from TGIF who was studying for his GED on the side.  Then one morning the nice guy corners me as we’re dumping the dorm because some idiot has pulled the fire alarm at 3:00am.  “Lets go out to dinner”.  He sounds happy and hopeful.  There is nothing is worse than a happy, hopeful nice guy moon-pieing over you.  Then the nice guy gives me the eye lure.

Oh Christ, Now I’m going to have to give him- “the I’m really flattered-but I don’t want to ruin our friendship” talk.    Why do you nice guys always do that?   Why do you ruin everything by being so nice?  For dinner he decides on TGIF, which truthfully was fine dining in the town of the “Flying Ear of Corn”.  We go to dinner on a Tuesday night.  Not a date night.   I order ribs with extra BBQ sauce.  Not a date food.   I eat my entire plate and some of his.  Not date behavior.  We talk and laugh until I am snorting.  Not the right time for the “It’s me not you talk”.

As the nice guy goes to pay the bill.  (My one concession to the no date rule because I wanted to him feel good.) I see the hot bartender tossing bottles, literally throwing bottles of alcohol in the air- like Tom Cruise in that horrible movie.  I think “with talent like that who needs a GED?”  I don’t want my bartender to think I’m with-with nice guy I so strut up to him, a woman ablaze with defiance and purr “I’ll meet you at close”.  I give him the eye lure, He eye lures me back.  God it really works!

Later the nice guy and I sit on the loading dock behind the dorm. The night air is hot and humid. My skin glows in the shallow yellow streetlight. We’re silent, too silent. The “talk” is coming and we both know it.   As he idly plays with my hair, shivers start to pass through my body igniting a thousand goosebumps. I can feel us breathing together.  I start to. .. . No, No, No !  He’s the nice guy.  You don’t do nice guys. But my heart is racing and that irresistible pull is tugging.

As I as turn my face towards him I think “If I kiss him now will I ever get him off my back”.  He pulls me close and it is all sweet mouths and hot, salty necks.  Just as I am about to sigh “ give me a minute to shave my legs” he pulls away.  I can hardly catch my breath.  What?  What are you you doing my body screams? But instead the nice guy puts his hands into his pockets, brushes past me and quietly murmurs “I’m the happiest man in the world” and continues down the stairs, past the dumpster and disappears.  It was the sexiest night of my life.

I often think about that nice guy and wonder.  I wonder what time he’ll get home from work and what we’re going to eat for supper.

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Cleaning the Junk Drawer

I am a bad person. Not a bad person in a deviant, psychotic kind of way, but a bad person in a disorganized, slovenly kind of way.

It’s the piles of papers to be filed, runaway shoes to capture, articles to read, junk mail to toss, drawers to sort out, CDs to transfer to my IPod, and RSVPs to be RSVPed that simply overrun my sanity and desire for a pristine, well ordered life. A life that boasts of cross-indexed online recipes and beautiful leather photo albums containing neat rows of childhood pictures made complete with the notation of date and location.

I fantasize about the consummate closet with a wardrobe that makes me look ridiculously thin and is arranged according to season and color on identical hangers all facing the same way. I swoon at the thought of a G-Mail contact list that actually has current names and addresses and I envision a pantry bursting with every imaginable canned good stacked, alphabetized and ready for the taking. I dream about a bill paying system so efficient that it would make an accountant’s heart flutter and I revel in the notion of a tidy medicine cabinet where the Nyquil and Vicodin coexist peacefully with the deodorant and Q-tips. All of these thoughts delight and titillate me until I open my eyes and take a good look around.

My life is a demilitarized zone. Billows of dirty laundry cascade with the clean, unfolded laundry to mock me. Sections of The New York Times Sunday edition lay dismembered and silent in dusty corners and underneath coffee cups. Pots and pans practice a sophisticated balancing act in cupboards too small to contain their girth. Coins and paper clips, raisins and anti-depressants skitter and hide, oblivious to my incessant calling. Occasionally the cat will shimmy out from under the piles to snack on kibbles and bits only to disappear back into the lagoon of stuff. Occasionally my husband does the same.

It’s not like I don’t have help. I’m married to a man whose idea of a lazy Sunday morning is cleaning his golf clubs and arranging them by style and function before next week’s game. This is of course before he washes the cars and goes to church. (See, I told you I was a bad person.)

Helen, the soft-spoken Polish woman who comes in once a month to do the heavy lifting clucks her tongue disapprovingly while I pick up in front of her like a mouse frantically running a maze towards the promise of a tidy nirvana. Like the kryptonite that renders Superman powerless, I am convinced that during my autopsy scientists will discover a genetic defect hidden deep in my DNA that leaves me defenseless against the forces of chaos. Even that sweet, tidy husband who loves me is certain that in the event of my kidnapping he would be able to find me by simply following the trail of open drawers, cabinets left ajar and leftover lemon drops scattered about in the mayhem.

There is just too much to manage. I have tried everything from clearing my clutter with Feng-shui, to buying boxes and containers, files and magazine racks, bowls and organizers to help me. I have even subscribed to magazines that promise to unlock the enigma of an orderly life like it was the third secret of Fatima. However, instead of being part of the solution, they are part of the problem, as they lay strewn across the floor like nachos after a drunken Super bowl party. For me, organizing my life is like crash dieting. It holds great promise but never works for long.

This disarray does not restrict itself to my house. My car, my makeup box, and all of my books are crammed with notes and receipts, Carmex and business cards, writing ideas and Splenda. Even my purse looks like an Office Depot has detonated.  I am not dirty. I don’t hoard. I don’t even collect. I am just disorganized. I can’t get on top of it and can’t get out from under it.

Lately however, I didn’t understand why this suddenly bothered me so much. After all, I’ve spent the last 40 years living with mounds that kept growing around me as fast a freshman girl in a wonder bra and I was fine with it.

Then one afternoon, while chasing a fugitive set of keys, it struck me that I was mad. I was mad that I couldn’t control my mess and mad that I couldn’t control the mess that the world was in. I was mad at my health, and my thighs and the fact that my parents were getting old.  I was mad at BP for the massive destruction they’ve caused and the lies that they are still telling.  I was mad that I like to smoke and that broccoli is healthier than a double fudge lava cake.  I was mad that we were still debating this Gay marriage issue and madder that 40% of our homeless are Veterans. I was mad that even with my I phone, E mail, texting, Facebook and Twitter that I still feel disconnected. I was mad that we are being forced to cut budgets for disabled Americans and that the Bush administration rewrote our Constitution and no one noticed. I was mad that as an educated and socially responsible person I still want to read the tabloids- all of them and after we bailed-out wall street, the banks are foreclosing on homes at a record rate. And I was mad that my good and kind friend Molly had just died of cancer.

I was mad at God and all the Patron Saints, my spirit guides and Buddha, for that matter, for not showing up when they were supposed to.  And I was mad at Super-Pacs and all of the Kardashians for — well, for just being them.  I was furious that everything was careening out of control like that loose hubcap spinning on the expressway.

All in all, I was pretty pissed. So for days I tried to breathe, sit in the mess of my life, meditated and waited for some divine guidance. Nothing happened.  Then yesterday, I got sick and tired of all the breathing and waiting crap and decided to do something. Something that would move me forward or up or out of the chaos. So, I decided to clear off a tiny area in front of the computer on my desk.

I wanted to create just one small pocket of order that might give me some peace and reassurance. In other words, I would clean up what I could clean up. And there, elbow deep in the compost, I discovered a granite paperweight that had etched in stone. “A cluttered desk is a sign of genius” and for the first time in a long time, I laughed.

A Christmas Love Letter to My Parents

Field of Deaf Dreams

I remember sitting in the car behind my father’s seat for the 2 hour drive to Alumni day at the Trenton school for the Deaf.  I am wearing a pale flowered shift made soft from afternoons of fluttering on the clothesline and I watch the anticipation in Mommy and Daddy’s hands as they talk of the day to come.  In my mind, I can see our green and white Ford coming over the rise of freshly mowed fields to dozens of people waving and hugging us in the warm, summer sun and of watching my parents become the center of many attentions.

I can call to mind mothers with pretty lipstick and being fed bits of chicken, racing with a hard boiled egg on a spoon and spelling-out my name, letter by letter, with my little girl fingers, showing off to the delight and admiration of the adults.

I think back on the pride I felt when Daddy took us into the cool, dark halls of the school building, pointing out the all the trophies that he had won as an athlete. A small group gathered to watch him talk about the Championship game of 1942 when his team travelled 3 exhilarating days by bus to Jacksonville, Illinois.

His eyes becoming wet while telling us that the school from Mississippi refused to play on a court with Trenton’s two “Colored” boys.  He puffed while up giving us a play by play of the last quarter when they battled point for point against the heavily favored hometown school, and he cried again telling us about how they came home to their cheering classmates who were all given the day off to celebrate. This was his house and we felt special to claim him as our own.

I have a memory of pollen scented air and running down a hill to throw my arms around my fathers waist from behind only to realize that it was not my father at all just an unrecognizable face wearing the same kind of khaki pants.  At first the face looked surprised and then laughing, he pointed across a wide playground where my mother was sitting on blue blanket under some shady trees.

I think back on swinging just before dusk next to a boy wearing a dirty shirt and watching our feet pump up and down past the horizon and when it was almost dark, I remember following my mother as she carried my sleeping sister to the car. I have memorized, my parents signing hands flickering above the lights of the dashboard as they talked about the day and of me staring out at the night sky to keep an eye on the those three stars in a row which I still believe follow me for protection.

I remember all of us and these memories have become my Madeleine to call back every happiness of my little girl life. I don’t know if these remembrances were from one Alumni day or the best of a dozen days sifted into one endless, dreamy loop.  All I know is that when we were there, the people around us became our mirrors; what we saw in their faces when they looked at us would become who we were.

I know that those small moments became bigger than any hurt or slight or feeling of inadequacy that Mommy and Daddy might have felt outside in the hearing world and that Alumni Day at The Trenton School for the Deaf sustained all of us.  When I unwrap these memories one-by-one as I so often do around the holidays, my fingers tingle, I sigh a happy sign and my heart titters at the slow-motion perfection of it all.  And then always, always these moments are followed by the single thought that I have such a lucky, lucky life.

Thank You Steve

It was a splurge- over $3,200.00 and one that I allowed my husband to indulge me in. He’s terrific like that. We lived in a 2 room dorm apt at UCLA. I was a Ph.D. student and the Mac was a symbol of our faith that I would finish the program. It took 7 years but I did.  Thank you Mr. Jobs for not making me do it on my IBM Selectric Typwriter with the self correcting tape.

Dog Days- A One Minute Play about Work

DOG DAYS

SETTING- Professional and Convivial Corporate Office.

ALEX-  Excuse me, you wanted to see us?

SUPERVISOR-  Thank you for letting us interrupt you lunch.

 TERRY –  That’s fine.  We’re happy to do it.

 SUPERVISOR –  This is our Human Resources Liaison.  Come  . . .  Sit.

HUMAN RELATIONS DIRECTOR-  The two of you are the strongest of the new candidates and we wanted to know how the training met your needs. (No response from the trainees) . . . Alex why don’t you speak.

ALEX-  I feel like I was given clear job expectations and a good idea of how to manage the day to day tasks.

 SUPERVISOR-  (Accidentally dropping a pen) Sorry, would you fetch my pen? (As Alex begins to stand).  Stay! (Alex is caught in a crouch position- which s/he freezes in)

TERRY-  For me, one of the most helpful aspects of the training was gaining an understanding of the corporate culture here.

SUPERVISOR-  I’m happy to hear that.  Catch the imaginary treat. (She tosses an imaginary treat into the air, Terry catches it in her/his mouth.)  (To Alex) Down. (Alex sits.)                                                   

HUMAN RELATIONS DIRECTOR-  Alex, how do you feel about the guidelines for disciplinary action?

 ALEX-  I agree with them. I think that they appropriate and fair.

SUPERVISOR-  (To the Human Resources Director) Of course each one of them has their own strengths but both came down the learning curve beautifully.  Terry, sic em’.  (Terry attacks Alex.  They tussle)

 HUMAN RELATIONS DIRECTOR-  I just don’t know why I can’t get my dogs to do that.

SUPERVISOR-  They’re not employees.

HUMAN RELATIONS DIRECTOR-  Good point.  Terry, Alex- Play Dead. (Terry & Alex- rollover and play dead)

LIGHTS UP


100 plays, 50 playwrights, One-Minute

I have said this before and I will say it again and probably a couple of times after that.

I am a woman who can say the least amount of information in the most amount of words.  Some of the time it is grammatically correct, other times punctuationally inventive but most for the most part it’s just lengthy, inane, occasionally smart, perhaps a bit repetitious and it always beats around the bush.  I like to call it my style, my artistic form, my swagga. (Don’t you love it when I get all gangster?)

This talent- and I call it a God given talent- really worked in my favor during essay exams in school- (6th grade through Ph.D. with the one exception of Ms Balutanksi’s Social Studies Class, Junior year.  She was strictly multiple choice- which, of course, had it’s own advantages.)  When writing a play, I have the ability produce so much material that it takes a team of highly trained CSI’s to figure out the plot-line, which is great because everyone knows how difficult it is for CSI’s to find work in this economy.

I often like to trot out this artistic flair during the most exciting parts of movies, while writing e-mails about the best cat litter, and during sex.  I have also been told by my loved ones that it is especially appreciated when they’re are in a hurry to get off the phone or have a hangover.   Upon occasion, people have requested, that I “get to the point”.  Rather than get upset I simply remind myself that they are jealous because of their own woeful concise articulateness.

In certain circles I know that my gift is viewed as dendrite upon the world of polite dinner chit-chat.  What they don’t know is that I use it like a super-power to prevent me from ever getting another invitation where I have to pretend to be the perfect corporate wife.  (Although, I am grateful that my sweet husband is part of a corporate milieu that allows me the sheer, shimmery luxury of being an unfettered “artist”. (Air-quotes provided by my husband- but only with the nicest and earnest of intentions.)

All of that being said, It takes me a long time to get to the meat . . . .  and then along comes “Mr One Minute Play Man”, Dominic D’Andrea, waving his sixty seconds around like some kind of an annoying show-off.  So, I thought to myself,  “They don’t think I can do this.  Well, they got another thing coming.  I’ll show them and then they’ll be sorry.  All of them!  I’d write a one-minute play and a good one and I won’t cram it with words . . .  just out of spite.

Chicago’s One-Minute Play Festival May, 16 & 16
Experience this new play genre.

Time to Turn Over

I am a Jersey girl born and bred; exit 155 on the Garden State Parkway.  It’s the home of Bruce, Bon Jovi and Jon Stewart. Three hot Jersey guys that I’d date in a minute if I weren’t so middle-aged and married and they weren’t so famous and unavailable.  Jersey- whose unofficial state T shirt taunts; “New Jersey, we friggin’ don’t like you either”.  Jersey- where our football team, the Giants, claim to be from NY- but they play in our Meadowlands and that pisses us off.  Jersey- where the best kept secret besides where Jimmy Hoffa is buried, is that we have 127 miles of miraculous coastline. In Jersey we don’t say “we’re going to the beach”,  we say, “we’re going down the shore”.  The Jersey Shore- Yeah! THAT shore. This is my 497 word love-letter to those 127 miles-

I see them out of the corner of my eye, those girls with the long-legged swagger of youth and I reminded of that summer.

It was the summer of fervent anticipation, five best girlfriends, and a rented house down the shore.  It was having a drivers license, a job,  scorching tight jeans and our freedom.  It was the joy of being lifted by a lazy wave, the lure of being pulled by an undertow as powerful as first love and the sting of a shaved bikini line in the salty surf.

It was the summer of slathering baby oil and Imperial margarine over every inch of skin until we would sizzle and char like cheap hamburger meat on the grill.  It was lipstick melting in a beach bag stuffed full with Tolstoy, Sidney Sheldon novels and near empty wallets.   It was the smell of the ocean and the boardwalk tar and the salt-water taffy that followed us everywhere.

It was the summer of pruned fingers teasing uncooperative matches into cupped hands to light a Virginia Slims menthol.  It was sticky lips and salty teeth biting into a gritty salami and mustard sandwich.  It was the long, endless pull of an icy Tab under a razor hot sun.

It was the summer of Sun-In and lemon juice that made blondes turn golden, redheads turn penny and brunettes turn orange.  It was the blistering looks from skittish mothers as they dragged their children away from the melee.  It was the silent exchange of smug glances at the women we vowed never to become.

It was the summer of surging beer shots and bong chasers, sleeping three to a bed and tiptoeing through a houseful of dozing bodies to make the noon shift at Maruca’s Pizza Parlor.

It was nursing sun burns, sand burns, whisker burns and rug burns with community tubes of Neosporin and aloe-vera.   It was letting ourselves be swept away by the endless flirting, the public make-outs and the sloppy breakups.

It was the summer of loose hair, blazing defiance, skin the color of a Hershey kiss and the feeling that Labor day was a million miles away.  It was the simple, secret belief that we all would be young forever.

Now, as I watch them out of the corner of my eye, those girls with the long-legged swagger of youth, I am reminded of that summer- that high tide of my life summer.  “Remember this” I silently whisper.  “It will not last long.  Nothing does.  I was one of you once and I know.”

Arlene Malinowski