A very small Ted talk

glove on branch
Size is relative.

I stood outside Other-Syd’s building, scanning the buzzers for her name. I had her Pyrex plate and a container of turducken soup. Django hadn’t figured out why we’d stopped and was tugging to sniff something on the parkway. Before I could ring the bell, a white-haired man came halfway out the door and smiled at me. I smiled back, stepping aside to give him room to get out.

He remained in the doorway, holding the door open. The entryway was only large enough for one person, maybe two. Definitely not two people and a dog. Plus, I was pretty sure it was a no-dog building. “Oh, I’m just dropping this off for someone,” I said.

The man continued smiling, holding the door. Was he going in or coming out? I waited, but he didn’t move. I decided to ignore him and again scanned the list of names. The man leaned in slightly. “Other-Syd,” I told him, as I spotted it. He seemed to approve of my choice, if his eyebrows were any indication.

I rang the buzzer. Django had noticed the half-open door and was now trying to step past the man into the foyer. “No, Django, we’re not going in,” I said, pulling her away.

The man looked at the row of buzzers. Each bore the tenant’s full name, in shiny, white on black laminated labels. No scotch-taped slips of paper or masking-tape additions here. He seemed to be watching for the return buzz, but instead Other-Syd came down and opened the inside door. There wasn’t room for her to step into the foyer, so she stopped at the bottom of the stairs. “You brought me something!” she said.

I held out my bag and the man moved back slightly behind the door, to make room. “Your stuffing was so yummy, it inspired me to make turkey soup,” I said. “Actually it’s turducken soup.”

There was just enough room for Other-Syd to step forward and take the bag. “Thank you,” she said. “This is Ted, my landlord.” Ted’s broad smile and expressive eyebrows were joined by a nod.

“Hi, Ted,” I said. The three of us paused in a cozy moment of weirdness. I was extra glad I hadn’t let Django take even one step inside. “Well, we were just on our way to the park, so…” I turned to leave.

Ted stepped back around the door. “Nice to meet you,” he said.

“Nice to meet you, Ted,” I said.

“Thanks again,” called Other-Syd from the stairwell.

We continued on to the park. Presumably Other-Syd made it back upstairs, because I got a message later that she loved the soup. As for Ted? I have the feeling that if I walked past there right now, he’d be standing still, half-inside and half-outside his own doorway, flanked by his P-Touch handiwork, waiting.


Exactly like the fingers of God, reaching down to tap you on the shoulder, if you were a tree and the fingers of God were branches. Just exactly like that.

Django and I were walking back from River Park. We’d crossed Lawrence just east of the river, and were walking west over the bridge. There, just west of Manor, I saw a familiar vision: The Lawrence bus trundling east and a would-be rider stood at the corner, attempting to flag it down. Technically it’s not a bus stop, but it is a corner, while for some reason the official stop is on the middle of the bridge. Not a great place to stand, especially when the wind is blowing like crazy and you’re freezing.

The woman waved her arms frantically, but the bus didn’t stop. I swear the driver inside was the same guy who passed me by at this exact same spot the other night when I tried to flag it down to get to Brasserie 54. He maneuvered his vehicle with the exact same air of Je nais se give a fuck.

With an air of defeat, the woman started walking toward me, heading east. I called, “That bus did the exact same thing to me the other night!”

“Really?” She said when she realized I was talking to her.

“I couldn’t believe it,” I continued, “Why wouldn’t he just stop?”

“It makes no sense,” said the woman. She reached me and paused for just a second. “You gotta write this shit down,” she said.

“I know,” I said. So I did.

Business as usual

trick or treaters
Out of candy, except for 6 fun-size Almond Joys in the sideboard.

“This street is dead,” I heard some boy shout last night, when we’d turned off the porch light and shut the shades and hung a sign saying, “Out of Candy.” I’d contemplated writing, “Sorry, Out of Candy,” but reasoned that we’d bought plenty and I didn’t owe anyone an apology. But also I didn’t want to get egged. I settled for adding an exclamation mark, like we too were stunned. “Out of Candy!”

I probably wouldn’t have heard the kid, our windows were fastened tight, but I was out with Django. She was both fascinated and terrified by the walking hordes of costumed marauders with their lit-up candy bags, unzipped backpacks, cavernous pillowcases, and crinkly grocery bags. Or was that me. Mostly older kids now, in the dark, trolling for houses that still had candy to hand out. The guy on the next block who’d set up with a laundry bin full of candy AND bloody Mary fixings for the grownups, was cleaned out and cleaning up. “No matter how much you buy, it’s never enough.” He wasn’t nearly as cheerful as he’d been on our early walk, and I learned he’d just seen two kids peeing on the side of his house.

“I told them, have a little respect for the neighborhood,” he said. But they shouted back something nasty and went the other way.

“How old were they?” I asked.

“Maybe early 20s.”

Django and I crossed the street to avoid an oncoming horde. “A doggie!” I heard a witch yell. We walked past the one house still open for business. “How do you still have candy,” I asked the couple standing at a table set up on their front walk.

“Starlight mints,” said the woman.

We came home through the back gate. Instead of running up the stairs, Django sniffed and listened to the night. I was glad Tashi and I changed our rehearsal to tomorrow, so she wouldn’t be walking to the train on All Hallows Eve. I need her safe for opening night. So instead, she’d called earlier and told me the whole show like a radio play, while Dave manned the candy station. I think in every show I ever work on, I want to do one rehearsal like that, audio only. It was strange and wonderful.

“This street is dead,” I heard the kid yell out front, and I decided it was time to get inside.

New library card

rocks organized
The books look pretty much the same.

Yesterday I got a new library card. It wasn’t very exciting. I had to go there anyway, to return some books of Miss Hepburn’s sister’s. I need to start calling her something different, now that Miss Hepburn has been gone almost a year.

I parked behind the library, in the lot I always forget is there. I went in and there was a new cordon in front of the counter. “Line forms this way,” it pointed to the left. The line used to form to the right. Things have changed at the library.

After setting Hep’s books in a return bin, I went to the back of the line at the left. “Step up to 3, 3 is open,” said a disembodied voice. The man in front of me stepped up. There were small numbered placards above or beside each area of the counter, 1-2-3-4. It was sort of like being at Joanne Fabric and Craft, except that the numbers don’t light up. Also, because the library was built long before the cattle prod system, you can’t see the people behind the counter from the line, and they can’t see you. The counter is not so much a counter as a window. A wall comes down from the top and in from the sides, creating a vast cubby for the staff, and discrete windows through which people can check out books and museum passes. From the line forming on the left, you can see the librarians at station 1, but 2, 3, and 4 are hidden. There might be two librarians, or four, or none.

“Can I help you?” I got lucky, the librarian at Station 1 was free.

“Hi, I need a new library card,” I said, digging out my three forms of identification, including a utility bill.

She pointed to the right, past the return bin. “All the way around the corner.”

I went around the corner to a small desk that held forms for a library card. Things have really changed at the library. I filled out a form, and then got back in line. There was no one else in line, so the Station 1 librarian gave me a nod. She reviewed my form and began typing into the computer. “Have you had a library card before?”

“Yes, but not at this address,” I said. They used to be very concerned about your address at the library, wanting proof in multiple forms. Now all it took was a driver’s license. She typed some more and said, “So this is a replacement card. That will be one dollar.”
I handed her a ten. “Yeah, my wallet was stolen a couple years ago,” I said, “or lost really.” She didn’t look up from my new card, which she was filling out with a sharpie, copying my full name from my form. They used to type your name on a little label and then stick it on the card. I liked seeing my name handwritten; a low-tech, personal touch.
I went up to the fiction section and grabbed a couple of things. The Poe Shadow, by Matthew Pearl, which delivers new facts about Edgar Allen Poe in palatable mystery form, and an Agatha Christie, in case I can’t sleep.

When I returned to the line on the left, there were no other customers and no one at station 1. I couldn’t see if there was anyone at 2, 3, or 4. Should I step up and find out? That’s frowned upon at Joanne Fabric and Craft, where the number will blink when they’re ready for you. I didn’t want to diss the system at the library, but if you can’t see them and they can’t see you…

The librarian who had given me my card was back in the recesses of the cubby. She noticed me and returned to the counter. “Come on.” She said nothing as she checked out my books. She handed me my card. “Thank you.” Just like in the old days, there was no friendly banter at this counter. Not like at the reference desk upstairs.

It’s like the difference between the Montrose post office and the Lawrence one. I always expect the Montrose one to be cheery because it’s smaller, but usually it’s the other way around. At the Lawrence post office, where the line is always heartbreakingly long, snaking back through the cavernous space, the people behind the counter actually sing sometimes. “We’re all in this together,” said the woman to Dave last time he was there.

Today’s projections

It’s all in how you look at things.

I don’t think Django likes people parking out front and then walking to the train. Something about the way they shut their doors. A big slam though it’s early morning. But for them it’s halfway through the journey, it’s been morning for hours.

They pull in quickly, slam the door, and walk briskly away, street shoes clicking on the pavement. Django fires off one short, piercing bark. She pauses as they continue off, unheeding. She barks once more.

What else does she do that I misinterpret? I don’t say project my emotions onto, because I don’t care that people park here and walk to the train. It’s a public street, and I’ve done it myself, in similar close-to-an-el-stop-but-easy-to-park-in neighborhoods. Vaguely feeling like someone’s going to yell at me when they see where I’m going, imagining myself retorting, “I’ve just as much a right to park here as you do,” seeing the slashed tires when I return. No, I’m not projecting. What am I doing? Being silly. Pretending she’s a deep thinker. Projecting my image of Django as Parade Marshall. It never gets old, at least to me.

Yesterday Chris came over. It was too late to take headshots of Dave, so we sat outside and had a drink. Chris told us some odd stories of people from a bar he used to work at. For example, a couple showed him their pictures from the guy’s birthday party where a conservative-looking woman was going down on his girlfriend. “She was down there for like ten minutes,” said the guy, flicking through picture after picture on his iPad. “It was awesome.”

What was that guy trying to project? What image of himself? His girlfriend? His lifestyle? We reveal ourselves with every act, every word. Sometimes people are paying attention.

On the phone this morning, Ruby told me about how when she lived in Appleton she used to read the Bargain Bulletin, a sort of print precursor to Craig’s List. One listing read, “Wanted to buy: Large green aquatic frogs.” Why on earth, wondered Ruby. Being Ruby, she called to ask.

“I just thought they’d be kind of interesting,” said the man. “Do you have some to sell?”

“No,” confessed Ruby, “I do have a friend with a farm, though, and could ask her to keep her eyes open. What would you be willing to pay?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe a dollar or two?”

This stumped Ruby, who couldn’t imagine how someone could want large green aquatic frogs enough to post a classified ad, but not have a specific reason or even assign them much value. “How large is large, anyway?” she asked.

The man answered, “Just about any size.” And that was the end of that.