28 November 2009

Eddie Sebastian,Private Eye: An Appreciation

Eddie Sebastian Private Eye is a twenty year old cat. He is the oddest animal I've ever known.

Ed is,in his mind, many things: a bon vivant, a devil with the ladies, a sculptor, the official greeter for my building, a Fighter of Dogs, and (as we shall see) a major player on the New York Real Estate Scene.
In real life, he is a skinny eunuch with white eyebrows: the rest of him is the exact color orange of the hip leatherette vinyl jackets worn by Starsky and Hutch-type private eyes in 1970's cop shows[hence his name]. But he has never let reality bother him: when a pretty lady walks into my apartment, he strolls over to her, his inner Barry White Love Soundtrack obviously playing a seductive disco beat, and then, when she is seated, he lies on his back across one of her feet, the better to show off his belly. "hey baby", he says,"betcha never seen nothin like THIS before, huh?"
The ladies go crazy over him, proving yet again that confidence is everything. One friend stitched him a heart shaped red pillow stuffed with catnip, with the word "I Love Ed" embroidered on the front in white cursive script. Sometimes he uses it as a pillow, but sometimes I find it under the bookcase, because he likes to prove that no woman can own him, baby. He is a free n easy swinger.

Many years ago, when I was dating some painter, he asked if he could borrow Ed to deal with a sudden mouse problem in the studio. I said "sure." So Ed lived there for a while,intently watching the guy paint and sculpt. Obviously,he took notes, because one night we walked into the studio to find that Ed has made his own site specific piece: he had surrounded the cat food tin on the floor with nine perfectly symmetrical piles of homogenous stuff: one pile of cat fur fluff, one pile of wood shavings, one pile of dry cat food...nine round piles surrounding the cat food can in a circle. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, the goddamndest thing I've ever seen. He trotted up to meet us as we entered, and led us to it, looking back every two seconds to make sure we were following, and then he stood there with an attitude that said, quite clearly, "ta-DAH!"
If I'd been thinking straight, i would have photographed it and then found him an art dealer. Oh well.

When we were living in Carroll gardens, we had an apartment with a landing that had an entrance to the apartment on either side: it was possible to go out through the kitchen door and go straight through to the bedroom door. One day, Ed scratched at the kitchen door, so he could go exploring. Finding himself on the landing, he went across and scratched on the bedroom door. We let him in. He stopped, and stiffened in astonishment. "Hey!" his attitude said. I have ANOTHER apartment, exactly like THIS one! Then he looked at us. "And you guys look just like those OTHER people! This is AMAZING!!" He walked around the entire apartment, his tail a quivering question mark of amazement. He couldn't believe it. Here he was, only three, and yet he owned TWO apartments in a pretty nice section of Brooklyn. AND servants. This was GREAT! He walked up to the kitchen door (which I'd closed) and scratched to be let out, then did the same drill: walked to the bedroom door and scratched to be let in, and once again was completely overcome with delight to find that he had...yes..THREE apartments! With servants! In a nice section of Brooklyn! God DAMN! Same inspection, same quivering tail....
Since it was a Sunday afternoon with not much on, I decided to see how many times he'd repeat his voyage of Amazing Real Estate discovery. the answer was...eighteen times. Each time he seemed progressively more chuffed. At the end of it all, he turned around three times in a circle, curled up, and went to sleep...for sixteen hours. Hey, real estate mogul hood is TIRING.

The day we moved into that place, I was piling up boxes and Ed was exploring the fireplace. Suddenly, I heard a "CLANG!" and a black cat I'd never seen before went scooting into the room and hid under the couch. I couldn't understand where the black cat had come from. And where was Ed? When I picked up the noir stranger and my hands turned pitch colored, i got suspicious, and put the intruder under the bathroom tap: as the water ran, he gradually revealed himself to be a ginger cat named Ed, who had figured out how to release the thing on the fireplace that held all the soot back, and got drenched in it. Weirdo.

For ten years, he had a ritual that was as ironclad as it was baffling: he did what we called "The Work." It all started one night not long after we were married: ay three a.m., a series of inexplicable, loud and bizarrely specific noises began issuing from the kitchen. I turned to my spouse. "hey, wake up. I hear something that sounds like someone is tipping over a series of small marble busts in the kitchen.
the then-spouse awoke, and listened for a moment. "My God, that IS what it sounds like. What the hell?"
I got up, and walking into the kitchen, switched on the light, to find Ed sitting there with a "who, me?" expression, he golden eyes wide with completely spurious innocence. "Nothing to see HERE," he intimated. "Certainly no small marble busts. Especially not of Napoleon."
Eyeing him suspiciously, I stood, irresolute, but his innocence convinced me, and I went back to bed.
The next night, 3 a.m., we were awakened by what sounded like someone teaching hamsters to pole dance.
"Psst! Wake up!" I nudged my fella.
He sat up, and rubbed his eyes, and listened for a moment. then a strange expression crossed his face. "Is there some sort of hamster strip club around here?" he asked.
'It's Ed!" I hissed. "What is he Doing!"
We listened intently for a moment. Then my husband's face relaxed.
"He is doing...The Work."
"Oh. I think you're right." I had to agree.
"And...the Work Must Continue," he said, and started snoring.
This went on for years. I thought it was just a folie a deux, that all married people had delusions about their pets, until a brother in law stayed overnight i the study. In the morning, Pete got up and I found him searching through he trash.
"What are you DOING, dude? I made you a nice breakfast, it's on the table, you don't actually forage for scraps, you know."
He muttered "yeah, yeah.." distractedly. the he straightened up and faced me squarely.
Listen," he said, "I could swear I heard someone building a small, dog-powered dirigible last night." He looked defiant." I know that sounds crazy.But it was an inexplicable yet very specific noise."
"Oh, THAT," I said, relieved. "That was just...The Work."
At that moment, Ed strolled by, tail in the air.
"And, "I continued, "the Work..Must Continue."
"Oh, okay, "said pete. "Then I want coffee."

Many years later, after Ed patrols the hallway here twice a day, and greets visitors by officiously showing them the many amenities of the building, such as the stairs, the floor, the stairs again and the place where I once dropped a platter of fried chicken (a day that will live forever as a golden memory for Ed), and after he challenges the two pitbulls who belong to the nice lesbian postal workers on the sixth floor to a duel (thank god Susan, their main walker, has very good leash control), he comes back in, and after checking to see if there are any ladies aside from me, he sits in his favorite place. the inside of a the base of a wicker stool. It's round and perfect for an old guy to curl up in, and he can also keep an eye on what's going on, in case pit bulls or Pretty ladies stop by and Action needs to be taken.
These days, he's not as spry as he used to be. I noticed recently that he doesn't hear me when I say "Ed man, I'm home, pal!" and he can't hear the celestial sound of a can opening. Sometimes he falls over, but I always act like I don't see, and he gets up again and starts nonchalantly cleaning the one area on his bod he cleans, a patch the size of a quarter near his right leg. Pointless, but apparently VERY important.
He has to take medicine, and his eye is a little cloudy, and I think he might be nearing his last days, but he's proved me wrong before. But just in case, some nights I sleep in the floor, because he can't make it up the ladder to the loft bed, and he cries when he feels he is not getting his fair share of attention. he retired from the Work some four ears ago. Except one night, when my friend Jennifer stayed over, a longtime Pretty Lady friend and admirer of Ed's.
As I was making coffee in the morning, she said, "Is it possible that someone was teaching mice carpentry here last night? I swear I thought I heard really tiny sawing."
I asked, carefully, "What time was this, Jenjen?"
She tought for a moment. "Oh...maybe 3 a.m?"

I smiled. The Master had come out of retirement. Like Sinatra, Like Streisand, like he great masters before him, he always had one last trick up his sleeve for his admirers.

Because..the Work Must Continue.

And so I wrap myself in a blanket on the carpet, solemnly hand Ed his red heartshaped pillow, and we both settle down for a cat nap, dreaming of catnip, fried chicken, and...The Work.


Author's note: Today would have been Ed's birthday. Sadly, he left us recently,at the ripe old age age of 23.
A week before he died, he was staying at my (now ex) husband's place. Ed asked to go into the backyard.There was a full moon,and Ed spent an hour gazing at the moon,strolling the perimeter of the garden,and taking time to look at and smell eaxh flower. It was as though he was saying "Thank you,World.It's all been beautiful. Goodbye."

In Honor Of Black Friday: Retail Stories

Long long ago, in a galaxy far far away, I took a Christmas job at a Big New York Department Store, as a “Perfume Model”. Every morning, the models would line up on the selling floor before opening, and a portly man who took both his job and his homosexuality VERY seriously, would give us our perfume for the day and the "magic words" (`which phrase still makes me feel sligtly ill)Our job was had to repeat these words -and never ever say ANYTHING else-to the customers, while attempting to spray them. Really and truly.

One fine morning,I was assigned a new fragrance by a film star to spray on unsuspecting passersby .The magic words I had to repeat ad nauseum were, "Hi! Have you heard about "Elizabeth Taylor's Passion For Women'?
One man stopped, gazed at me in surprise, and said "Oh, really? I thought she was straight!"
The next day, I had "Calvin Klein's Obsession." Can I tell you, it is extremely hard going through an entire day in which you are not allowed to say anything but "It lies somewhere between love and madness?" It provided some interesting challenges.
A flustered, overrouged older woman came running up and demanded "Where can I find men's dress shirts?"
I pointed to my left. "Um,that way...I mean, somewhere between love and madness".
She stared at me. "What are you, some kind of lunatic?"
I stoically repeated: "It lies between love and madness, madam." Then I whispered--"Just past the socks."

"Dominique? You spoke unauthorized words.You're out of here," said Portly Gay Boss Guy. (We all had glamourous perfume model fake names. I wanted to be called " Artemisia", but my boss said it sounded "too foreign". (This was the early 90's. You could still say stuff like that.)

I wasn't too sad to leave that job,although there was one perk I missed: because I reeked of perfume, I always got a seat to myself on the subway, on the way home.

Side note: Calvin Klein did so well with a perfume named after a psychological disorder, he might,in the future, want to branch out: "
Calvin Klein's Borderline Personality Disorder",
"Calvin Klein's Sociopathy",
"Calvin Klein's Severe Clinical Depression."
-There would be obvious problems with actually managing to SELL a perfume named "CK Kleptomania", and "CK Dementia" would only do well if anyone could ever remember the name.

If he really wanted to make a fortune, he'd market a scent called "Indifference." It is the one true aphrodisiac. There's nothing like just not being interested, to pique the interest of others.
So here's how you capture the object of your desire: break up with him right after being introduced. Here, try this as a template:

"Hi Peri, I'm Egbert."
"Hi, Egbert.Nice to meet you. But I'm sorry, I've met someone else."
"Oh, no! When?
"Ten seconds ago. He was on the bar mitzvah receiving line just ahead of you."
"Oh, Peri, no. I thought we had something special. Your handshake was so..firm. I thought what we had was real."
"Egbert, I am moving on."
"But WHY?"
"Because the buffet line is moving on too. I need some chopped liver. But I'll always remember you, and I'm so grateful for our time together."
"I am too. Maybe I'll see you...later."
"Egbert, I don't think that would be a good idea. Besides, the ice swan is melting. I have to go."

Monogram Memories

This time,last year,your humble correspondent was working at the Louis Vuitton Flagship Store. Here are some notes from that time: my Last Days Of Retail.
If you are a store, and you're French (which I'm going to assume you, dear reader, are not), here is how you assert your Frenchness during the Christmas retail season:

1) Leave your front doors open when it's 22 degrees out, ensuring that people shopping for $1600 handbags can see their own breath as they utter the words "I'll t-t-t-take it".
Expecting to be warm indoors during a luxury shopping experience is simply not chic. One must suffer for beauty. Also? We don't like you. Or care. And your hair is funny.

2) Refuse to play Christmas music. Instead, play depressing emo girls wailing about how their lovers have left them and it's probably their own fault, but if said lover doesn't return to make thm miserable again, they will probably either take pills or continue wailing. Or both. "Rudolph the RedNose Reindeer" is a bourgouis construct, and has been denounced by LeviStrauss in his famous tract "The Deconstruction of Rudolf de la Nez Rouge"., in which reindeer are proven to be a failed neo-Marxist syllogism.Parce-que: Christmas music at Christmas is so...predictable.

3) Refuse to have sales. Sneer openly at those customers who ask. Sneer openly at customers who don't ask, for their lack of courage. Sneer openly at anyone who happens to be walking by and within sneering distance. Nous sneerairons.

4) We spit on the concept of Christmas decorations. Instead, we have a conceptual artist who walks around the store before it's opn and murmurs the single word "holly". So spare. So simple. So chic.

5) Your hair is funny and your shoes are a laughable relic of the former life you have now outgrown. Your children are sad and your wife has a lover. Do not ask me what is the price of this purse. You can not purchase back the strayed affection of your spouse, who is sleeping with a german art student who moonlights as a garbage man in order to impress his marxist, much younger other girlfriend, with a $420 beach towel. Do not try, either to do the first thing I suggested or to understand the structure of this sentence. Pah- I spit on conventional sentence structure.

There ya go. If you ever want to be a huge, French, luxury retail store at Christmas, you now know everything you ned to be a huge success with people who would not want to belong to any club that would have them as a member. I.e., all of humanity.

23 November 2009

Bearly Legal

Bearly Legal c Peri Lyons

From the "Yahoo News" site:

"Hungry bears invade homes:
Driven from their habitat by drought, black bears are breaking into homes looking for food."

I live alone, so this evening when I pushed open the door of my small but cozy flat in the Village, I almost screamed, to see someone sitting in my large green velvet armchair.

"hello", he said. He was holding a bottle of Chilean wine in his paw, and scrutinizing it closely.

"Excuse me", I said,"but I think you're in the wrong apartment."

"You said it, sister", said the bear, for that's what he was. "What kind of person has filet mignon in the icebox and only a ten dollar Chilean red to serve with it?"

"Excuse me? How do you know about the filet I have?"

"Had, babycakes, HAD. Gone now. Along with the fishfingers, the yogurt and the frozen ravioli hidden in the freezer. Now, about this wine-"

"LOOK, pal," I said. I am an environmentalist and a strong believer in animal conservation, but I draw the line when the animal in question is criticizing my wine selection."I'm sorry my food choices disappoint you, but do you get so much vino in the wild that you can suddenly call yourslef an expert? And by the way, my landlord doesn't allow pets."

"Good thing I ate your cats, then," he said. "Save you getting evicted.And yes, Miss Conservationist Except When It Comes To Sharing, this wine is way too tannic to properly bring out the middle tones of the filet. Sheesh. Even I know that, and I am only a simple black bear from the forsts of the far Northwest." He crossed his legs and placed the wine on top of the radiator.

"You're a simple black bear who is a complete poser when it comes to oenology, Buster. If that radiator goes on, that wine's more delicate flavors will be destroyed in 30 seconds flat. And how did you get in here? "

He was studying a Chinese takeout menu now. "Does this place use MSG?", he asked in a concerned way. "It wreaks havoc with my sinuses. And I get puffy. I don't like getting puffy."

"Who let you in here?" I yelled.

He raised his eyebrows at this, as though I was committing a faux pas. "Your next door neighbor. I said if he didn't use his spare keys, I'd eat him."

"Oh my God."

"I ate him anyway. I'm a simple forest creature, I have pretty bad ethics. And all he had in the fridge were Tater Tots. He deserved to die. The man had a naugahyde palate." His paw kicked the now empty Haagen Dazs container near his foot. I was pretty steamed.

"Look, my new boyfriend is coming over in ten minutes, and I don't think he's going to take kindly to a 600 pound carnivore in my living room. He has a hard enough time with my exhusband. If I give you the address of a someone who always has a wellstocked fridge, will you scram, please? I feel I've done my part for conservation, if it's all the same to you."

He stood up and stretched. He yawned, to show me he didn't care and he was leaving anyway. "Fine, fine. Honestly, your place needs a little fixing up anyway. You call this an oriental rug? I don't THINK so."

"yeah, well, the blood stains don't improve it much, Mr Decorator Bear Guy."

"Are you kidding? They MAKE it! Neo sauvage! The red really ties the room together!"

I started pushing him out the door. "Okay" he said "I'm going, I'm going."

As he was leaving, I said "Wait, by the way...aren't you supposed to be hiberanting already?"

He shrugged. "What can I tell you? The Ambien wore off."

Tying my one Hermes scarf around his head, he ambled off down the hallway, off to invade another home.

With any luck, the next householder would have a tranquilizer gun...or failing that, a LOT of Chateau de St Emilion 1982.

21 November 2009

Cigarettes Are To Me What Nicky Arnstein was to Fanny Brice

Stopping smoking. It has NEVER EVER been this difficult. I have a free counselor at the NYC Stop Smoking program (dial 311) , and he was trying to help.
"Hi, this is Mark. What is the problem?"
"Mark", I said, "I love smoking. I just do. Smoking is great. And all the cool kids do it."
"Terry", he said, as everyone always has, and always will,.."It is very very unhealthy.Terry, smoking is bad for you. Smoking kills."
"Yes, Mark. I think I heard that somewhere. But what do you DO?When you feel you want a cigarettte more than you CARE about that remaining 40 years you'd have otheriwse?
Mark breathed in and out stentoriously. I suddenly thought, "Oh my God! He's smoking!!"
He wasn't though. He was thinking of new ways to make me unhappy.
"Kerry..." "Kerry, did you get the Help Booklet, that had all the drawings of cigaretts on it? The Quit Book. With the, like, the drawing of a pack on it."
"Yes Mark."
"Well, did it help?"
I paused. "Well, Mark, to be honest...not."
Mark: "Mary, why not?"
Peri: "Because, Mark. I smoked it."

He wasn't sure I was kidding. Frankly, neither was I. Mark sounded like, if he'd ever smoked, it was because all the other kids were doing it. Not becuse it was cool and made you look French and outrageous. He sounded like...well, he sounded like a quitter to me, pal. Nobody likes a quitter. "I don't CARE if these Newports are making you ill. You get in there and inhale, young man!"

Anyway, as my ol'Southern pal Cracka Jay used to say about this great aunt, a former burly-Q dancer and singer who always wore a beehive, a caftan and purple eyeliner: 

"My Aun' Selma, she dint smoke fa nicotine. She smoke fa ........styyyyyle."

Well, don't smoke, kids, and don't do drugs. You'll have a long, insanely boring life, which will seem TWICE as long because you're not drinking or doing drugs,and people will mock you behind your back because you're self-righteous and pompous, but it's worth it.-Offhand, I can't remember why, though.


The Lilies Of The Field Are Trying To Tell You Something

http://tinyurl.com/ycfw5grGot sent some anonymous flowers recently.-Well, the flowers weren't anonymous (they were roses, their actual names a mystery to me, although the one on the left did look like a bit like a Charlie)but the sender was. It was nice, in a slightly creepy way. So, because of this:
I have been researching the Victorian Language of Flowers. A Victorian suitor would send his beloved flowers, each of which had a very specific meaning, in order to communicate what his true feelings were.-Perhaps a wee bit passive-aggressive, but I'd rather get a bouquet of hollyhocks than an email ANY day, thank you.
So here's a selection of the Language of Flowers circa 1885, and afterwards, my own 2009 version.

Language Of The Flowers, 1885 version

1) Camellia: I live in gratitude of your perfected loveliness

2) Chrysanthemum: I admire your cheerfulness through adversity

3) Damask Rose: I worship your brilliant complexion

4) Fuschia: The ambition of my love thus plagues myself [Note:- What??]

5) Peach/or Peach Blossom: Your qualities, like your charms, are unequalled.

6) White Rosebud: You are too young to understand love [Note:I get that one a LOT.]

(Here is the website to learn more: http://www.victorianbazaar.com/meanings.html)

And...Here is The Language of the Flowers, 2009 Version:

1) Dandelions: You're okay, considering. I guess.

2) Poppies: I love you, but not more than I love prescription medications.

3) Carnations:My God, you're beautiful. My God, I'm cheap.

4) Rare Orchids: Aren't these exquisite? I'm sleeping with your sister.

5) Daffodils: Your optimism is touching. If delusional.

6)Asters: These are asters. -No, that's it, that's the message. Sorry.

7) Peach colored sunset roses: Your skin is like a flower petal at sunrise, and I think i might be gay.

8) Red roses: I think you're swell, I think you're aces, and I think it's 1947.

To sum up? Flowers are a beautiful means of communication, but I wouldn't try to leave a note for your cleaning woman with them. "Lobelias, canterbury bells and ferns...that means VERY CLEARLY to empty the dishwasher, Magda!! For pete's sake!"