The dashboard for an electronic bidet’s remote control.
Oh, you heard, cupcake. Oh, yes you did. Stop going “LaLaLaLaLaLa” with your fingers in your ears.
I have so much to share.
Don’t ask me how I stumbled across this treasure. I do not remember. Any more than the bathrobe-wearing 85-year-old dementia sufferer remembers how he ended up on the midnight bus to North Bay with egg-yolk in his chest hair and clutching a box of wet wipes.
(I would like to say I found it “on the computer”. This is how my Luddite friends would respond to the question. And I don’t complain, much, because at least they’ve remembered that “the computer” isn’t “the TV-looking thing with all the pictures on it”.
(But it’s a losing battle as their trembling white senior-knuckles gradually give up their hold on the crumbling cliff edge of the twenty-first century, and they slide back! back! into the abyss filled with IBM Selectronic typewriters—whose golf ball technology replaced the gentle thwack-thwacking of individual keys with the sound and sensation of being shot point-blank in the forehead with an assault weapon—carbon paper, correction fluid, avocado-green kitchen appliances, orange shag carpeting and push-button princess telephones.
(That was their defining era, the fork in the path when they shook their heads at “progress”, took a just-invented Valium and called Bell Canada for return of their “perfectly good” black rotary dialler. To get an idea of what Bell Canada was like back then, think Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction” but without the wife to stand in her way.)
Now let us return our gratefully wandering attention to the dashboard in question. I may be remembering correctly or I may not, but I think it was the options for “front cleansing” and “rear cleansing” – and their shamelessly derivative Keith Haring-inspired icons – that made me stop for a moment and really think about my life up to this point.
Specifically, my total mismanagement of the whole euphemism quandary, including the words “fresh” and “man-scent”, and those countless times when the other person waiting for the elevator opted to let me go it alone. Always happy for another excuse to lie awake at 3 A.M., wide-eyed and counting the holes in the acoustic ceiling tiles.
Also about: “Deodorizer – on/off”. This instantly raises the bar on what I previously counted as torment, for I have never known a torment quite like the torment of wondering who would choose “Off”.
Also: “Wand cleaning”. Let me just say that again:
For the combination of those two words—the wizardly, Harry Potter-ish and oh-so-phallic “wand” and the quotidian, practical “cleaning“, conjuring as it does Mrs Aquino from up the road who wears her support stockings rolled to the knees, and which all but forces your reluctant little face into the fact not just of something NEEDING cleaning, but WHY – well, let’s just say that, in the game of word association I play with myself, “wand” elicits the response “injury“. As in, “Get this guy to the ICU – it’s a wand injury, poor bastard. And page the plastic surgeon on call!”
Also: “Oscillating / Pulsating”.
This is almost past the point of what the human psyche can bear, because with those two words we’ve crossed a line in the sand that I thought uncrossable. I must finally face the cold fact, namely:
There is a machine that offers more options for the tender care of my nether regions than my ex-boyfriend did.
When I first visited New York City, in 2012, I went by bus, and distinguished myself at the end of the 10-hour journey, as we prepared to plunge into the Lincoln Tunnel, by hyperventilating noisily on my first sight of the glittering Manhattan skyline.
This, I reminded myself, was what I had been waiting for all my life: my homecoming to the city that had never been my home, my “Midnight Cowboy” moment. It was merely a passing inconvenience that, to any casual observer, I was apparently in the throes of a psychotic meltdown or expiring from anaphylactic shock.
Luckily I was in New York City, and no one paid me the least attention.
I stayed in a hotel on the Lower East Side, Chinatown to be precise – I had chosen only the price range on a website that for some peculiar reason made hotel choosing into a kind of location lottery – a hotel whose rundown façade filled me with alarm, yet which, once I’d settled in and gotten my New York legs on, turned out to be not only acceptable, but charming.
This alarm-to-charm switchover was a metaphor for the city itself, and an apt first lesson for a New York neophyte, namely: That anywhere else, a scary, too-small, sub-standard living unit might be a slum, but in The Big Apple it was a find.
For the next five days I set about living the way I fancied a real New Yorker lived, under the bemused, expert guidance of my friend, John, and heartened by the Looney Tunes capering of his fox terrier, Flora.
I brazened through Manhattan as though it were my private estate; traveled to Brooklyn on the subway (a quick and merciless ad hoc training session, consisting of a demonstrated swipe and a raised eyebrow, both administered by a real New Yorker in under five seconds, took place at my first, unsuccessful, attempt to mate MTA card and turnstile); and refused to be a tourist, to gawk at Times Square, slouch around in trainers, or purchase tickets to some Broadway show.
I did, on the other hand, at 611 Broadway and purely by accident, find a branch of Crate and Barrel, where I bought two beautiful, perfect, plain and pure white cups and saucers from a deliciously snarky saleslady.
Everything about this saleslady was New York to me, from the nonchalant elegance of her outfit and the asymmetric perfection of her haircut, to her perfectly deployed daytime makeup and important yet self-deprecating jewellery; when she greeted me with, “Can I help you?”, it was impossible to miss her silky undertone of Let me save you from yourself.
She had the air that working at Crate and Barrel was somewhat beneath her, but that just for my sake she would conquer her distaste and make a noticeable effort. I indicated the pure white cups and saucers I wanted, and to her credit, she whisked them off the display for wrapping as though no other selection would have pleased her quite as much. It was an admirable performance that somewhat mitigated my failure to have purchased tickets to anything at the Harold Clurman Theatre.
Everyone in New York, or so it seemed, dressed to impress; walked, talked and ate to impress. To step out of my alarming-then-charming hotel was to make an entrance, and god help you if you ended up on that stage in sweat pants and Crocs, with sticky palms and searching for your lines like an actors’ nightmare. I soon understood that no effort I could yet make, no straining at fashion, or feigned worldliness or fast talking, would make the grade; I would never, not yet anyway, pass. The best I could hope for was not to be instantly labelled an out-of-towner.
For my first attempt, that would do.
Five days later, happier and wiser, I was no longer a New York virgin. My budget was blown; I’d seen the Monet waterlilies and Picasso’s “Le Desmoiselles d’Avignon”; I had shopped for food, been asked for directions, and made dinner for John; I’d been to Flatbush and, by the time I’d seen a guy jerking off at 23rd Street Station at four A.M., I felt reasonably confident that I’d covered all of the key New York experiences. And I had acquired absolutely nothing that could be called a souvenir.
Nothing except those two beautiful, perfect, plain and pure white cups and saucers.
That evening I packed them with care for the bus ride home, taping the tissue paper in place and nestling them in the folds of a sweater so they wouldn’t be jostled. On the Megabus, all through the night, I checked on them hourly, as though I feared they might spontaneously crack and disintegrate as Egyptian relics are supposed to. Sometime around Rochester I awoke with a start, believing that I’d only dreamed I’d packed them; that I’d actually abandoned them in the Chinatown hotel room.
Once installed in my Toronto apartment, my cups exerted a special power. They created a morning ritual around themselves, made the mundane fact of caffeine addiction into a Zen ceremony. I loved the dark reflective pool of steaming coffee held in the thin circle of white porcelain, loved how the cup felt in my hand, how well balanced, how perfectly it met my lips. I loved that we, the cups and saucers and I, had finally met, that we shared our secret of New York.
The cups and saucers began to relax, let their hair down, so to speak. The newness and optimism dissipated, and they became subtly but unmistakably aloof—
so that you felt they’d let you drink out of them, but would be hyper-vigilant for any rude noises you might make, and they’d watch to make sure you always used the saucer, so you shouldn’t dribble on your nice pants— klutz! –
– yet they were no less dear to me for all their little foibles.
I cherished those cups for the next four years; I guarded them like a father guards his nubile fifteen-year-old daughter. Not everyone got to drink out of those cups. Sometimes I would use one myself, but give my guest a two-dollar President’s Choice mug, just to make my position on their status clear, vis-à-vis my good dishes.
Sometime during the last reign of roommate terror, both the saucers got smashed in the Great Late Night Dishwashing Debacle, a tale too bloody to recount today. I must emphasize: Both saucers.
But I still had the cups.
Now it was like I’d bought my daughter a sports car and she was staying out late driving around with boys and getting home JUST in time so I couldn’t say anything about it.
Then one day — a day like any other day— I was in the kitchen and lo! the spirit of my mother shone round about me and I was sore afraid, and my arm made a great sweeping mother-movement and clattered through the stack of dishes like the rampaging hand of god and swept one of the cups off the draining board.
I actually cried out: “NOOOOOO!” A great big werewolf howl. As though howling could arrest the fall. As though how I felt could change anything.
After all those weeks and months, after four years of caring for and protecting and chaperoning that cup, it was, in the end, me that broke it. Little old careless mother- distracted me.
This is the way the world ends. Love, life, your white cups, your nice pants. Your marriage, your job, your great-aunts and your grandsons. All the things you care for.
Everything: All the people you mistrusted! All your wariness and boundaries and push-backs! And then it’s you that messes up! You!
I actually contemplated smashing the other cup deliberately, right then, just to get it over with. You know what I’m saying?
You only ever see the Chrysler Building once for the first time.
I had this dream*: I was back at the Royal Conservatory of Music, but as an adult.
Oh really. How original! This usually means you get to wear, for example, ridiculously undersized Buster Brown shoes and a sailor suit, unless it’s just the Buster Browns with knee socks. Which is distressingly like Japanese porn. Just add pigtails and some California rolls.
At any rate, I was practising piano in one of their studios when Meryl Streep as a teacher came in with her pupils – I had run overtime. Like Big Surprise, right?
Meryl plays her as a rather plaintive, gaunt figure in black, a cross between, say, Isabelle Huppert, Emily Dickinson and Meryl Streep. Or Charlotte Rampling. Or Meryl Streep playing Charlotte Rampling, which she would do better than Charlotte Rampling would. I’m just surmising. I mean, probably better.
Let’s all hear it for Meryl fucking Streep, Mistress of The Universe!
Where was I? Oh, yeah.
The bit where you get frantic and confused: I began to pack up, and in the process I became – altogether now – frantic and confused. I suddenly realize that it’s Meryl Streep’s bags I’m searching through and packing and repacking – and even more compromising, I’ve taken some of her valuables and put them in my pockets, like, gasp, whatever.
I’m missing reruns of Seinfeld for this?
I realize my mistake and confess to her, and start to return the valuables – documents, cards, pics of her children, there seems to be no end to the stuff – but she is horrified and offended and accusing. Nothing I say or do will convince her of my innocence or that it was just a mistake.
Yes, it’s the old “back at school with-optional-humiliating-nudity” trope. I leave the studio to find that there is a handwritten sign in the high-school-like hallway slyly publicising my mistake for all to see.
Oh Meryl, every dream has this sequence somewhere, you just can’t remember it. This is why every time you go to evensong at Saint Swithin’s in the Mange you look at the minister and instead of his face you see a large, unruly vagina. OK? So you can probably cut down on the Vicodin.
Random musings to convince you that if you spend another three hours on this rubbish you’ll extract some kind of life-lesson that you can subsequently spin into a spiritual cash-cow type product that preys on people’s stupidity. q.v. “The Secret”: But WHY has this happened? What’s my EXCUSE? Is it the darkness of the studio, my haste, the fact that I keep putting on her thin-framed, unattractive spectacles? My overweening desire to sit around doing nothing and get paid?
Oh, fuck it.
I mean, I’m trying to milk this puppy for all the foreshadowing I can get and it still reads like a rejected script for “Pee-wee’s Playhouse”. That’s the episode where Meryl Streep plays everything, including the postman, the fat chick and all of the toys, cause she had some spare time on her coffee break or something. I’m telling you, her “Little Red Fire Engine” is devastating.
And that’s even before she sings “Die Winterreise” from memory in the original German, while accompanying herself on a replica fortepiano she built in her hobby room.
Why don’t we all just kill ourselves so Meryl can do everything? Hey, Meryl for POTUS ! Meryl for CEO of Con-Agra! Meryl for—Hey Meryl – wanna write this blog post, too, I bet, don’tcha!The dream goes through a dissolve and now Meryl Streep is writing this blog post. Go on! Knock me over with a girder!
CONTEST**: Interpret my dream*! (by guest blogger Meryl Streep)
Meryl Streep: (sounding exactly like David. No. Better than David. Her comic timing is impeccable.)You may be wondering so here’s why you should just do this: I’ll Purolator a single IKEA Swedish meatball*** with a tiny container of lingonberry preserves to the author of the best and most convincing exegesis.
Entry fee: $500.¹ I know, I know, just see the footnote. You must perform a skill-testing question that will probably involve pronouncing the word “exegesis” and naming all of the Canadian Governors-General since Confederation. OK, one Governor-General.
No it’s not Sarah Palin.
Entries MUST be written with a fountain pen in INDIGO BLUE INK, preferably in those little plastic vials that used to explode all over your pencil case and get on your white shirt. See, it’s like having a dream* along with me! Never, and Virginia, if you’ve forgotten, I’m going to remind you to never never never again forget how good I am to you. N-E-V-E-R. Now get those pens scritchy-scratching!
* DREAM is genuine. ** CONTEST is bogus and anyway it ended yesterday. *** See picture. DISCLAIMER: Serving suggestion only. ONE meatball delivered per winning entry. Meatball MAY or MAY NOT contain “meat”. I reserve the right to have Meryl Streep play the meatball.
Lingonberry preserves included, quantity may vary from that pictured.
Prize does NOT include creamy mashed or possibly puréed? potatoes OR garnish of frozen-then-microwaved “petits pois”.
OR lovely IKEA plate. I broke them all. Anyway.
Meatball pre-dates IKEA meatball recall of 2013. Use at own risk.
ONE entry per household. ONE this. ONE that. More rules, more rules. Blah blah blah.
¹ I know. But it discourages the the riff-raff, along with the word “exegesis”.
Quick note from guest blogger:
This was a supremely challenging role, David. I think the worst part was mastering the “oot and aboot thing”. And when I say I didn’t eat, I truly mean I did not eat for a full week! I think the correct plural for “Governor-General” was a sweet touch of calculated authenticity. And I know you do, too.
That’s all for now, love. Thanks for the opportunity to suck all the oxygen out of another role! I’ll give you a charmless, self-satisfied hug once I flesh out some back-story. Aren’t I just the best? LOL! It’s a rhetorical question!
Bisous, that means “kisses” in French! I was pretty sure you wouldn’t know that unless of course you went to Yale!
I work myself to the bone getting all sacrilegious, spend literally minutes in Photoshop desecrating the memory of possibly the 10th-greatest plummy English contralto who ever lived, blend it half-heartedly together into a veritable smoothie of sophomoric humor that would make a reader of Harvard Lampoon blush, and what thanks.
Not even a flicker of furious placard-writing activity from the Phelps family; No snooty, outraged editors at Gramophone magazine canceling my remaining issues; No high-minded “disgusted, Tunbridge Wells” complaints, not even a sad little WordPress unsubscribe¹. Nada. Plenty o’ nuttin’.
A great big world so full of “NO” it could make Dame Janet herself take up a second career in lap dancing. (Dame Janet Jackin’. Off her high horse and onto yours. So to speak.)
A great big world so chock-full of “so-what, dude?” it could make a co-pilot take an Airbus filled with over-stimulated adorable teenage choristers on their first trip away and apple-cheeked adorable grannies clutching Tupperware containers of brownies in their lap lest the icing should get dislodged during turbulence, and face-plant it into the nearest Alp. As if!
When it comes right down to it. Do you ever think of anyone but yourself? Like, Hello-o-o-o – ! Over here, darling, other person who exists! Lips moving that aren’t your own! I mean really.
But never you mind, Murgatroyd. Your pathetic attempts at making amends by text message come too little and – at 3.37 AM – way too late. I’m resilient. I’m a survivor. I’m filled with pluck, grit and spunk. Or at least I was on Saturday night which I assure you is the last time I’ll try to get laid by a shift-worker in a chicken-processing facility. While on the job!
It’s all the more grist to my application-for-lifetime-and-beyond-PTSD-benefits mill, cause guess what?
You are just the strawberry on my smoothie, babe. Naked. Or even better, in your saggy, made-at-home-yet-still-just-as-crappy-as-if-made-by-Third-World-slave-labor American Apparel Y-fronts.
And one more thing since I finally have the floor and will miracles never cease you’ve paused for breath: Jesus WAS white.
You know how I know?
The Bible tells me so.
¹ Update: Between starting this post and finishing, someone DID
unsubscribe. Which would seem entirely to put the kibosh on the
already pretty thin premise of the piece. This might flatten
a lesser man. But self-esteem, no matter how rooted
in fantasy it may be, always
wins the day. So nice try. Little Miss Unsubscribe.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: I give you Exhibit A. And I know what you’re thinking:
With finely-draped plaid shorts like these, those ketchup-stained, armpit-hiked old-age trousers from Gap are all but inevitable;
There is incipient male camel-toe, that little-mentioned yet classic mark of future whoredom, apparent in the saggy yet suggestively prominent v-marked crotch;
And my contr’apposto, that flirty, toe-twirling-in-the-dirt stance native to coquettish pretty boys from Donatello’s “David” onward, needs polish.
But here’s what I’m most bitter about, and mark me well : This is apparently the one, brief, snapshot-length moment in the sum total of my wretched life when I had 1. no glasses, 2. total self-assurance, albeit pathetically unwarranted, and 3. interesting hair.
Interesting blond hair.
Oh my fur and whiskers. Youth is wasted on the pre-pubescent.