Friday, May 24, 2013

I am not the Friend I thought I was.

So I was at the tail end of an argument between two friends and I heard one mutter under her breath "this is how I get treated after I have invited him to the house five times."  Granted, I was not sure whether I was supposed to overhear that comment or not, but I realized at that moment that my friend was keeping score. That perhaps her view is that friendship is more of a quid pro quo than a two way street. Of course that comment got me I keeping score?
Lately, I've been doing a lot for my friends: errands, small favors, big favors. Doing things for others when I would rather be doing something else. In some cases there was some serendipity: an unexpected tour of a beautiful home, rides in expensive cars....both things I enjoyed immensely. In some cases there was just hard work and no reward beyond that of knowing I helped a friend, someone I care about. That's when I realized, I was keeping score too. 
That in that complex and very delicate relationship that we call friend, there is a constant give and take. That there is a tipping point on either side where one party feels a bit put upon.  Unlike family where a favor can be returned in the next generation and although forgiveness is implied, it is not guaranteed. What is guaranteed with family is that you're stuck with them and generally, barring something drastic, you have a lifetime to work off the debt owed in the "favor bank". With friends the favor bank is more of a short term loan, time can run out and it's time to say "what can I do for you?" or even better "can I invite you to dinner."

Let's just make one thing clear, I am not a Marcie to your Peppermint Patty.  I will ask for something in might be tomorrow it might be in ten years. It might be a hug, it might be moving day. So I am not as true a friend as I thought I was, you gotta show the love too.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Maid in Miami

"The hand who rock the cradle rules the world" Yet we never talk about the hand that cleans the toilet do we?  It may not rule the world, but it certainly has some influence.  I am talking about cleaning ladies and what impact do they have in our lives. The relationship between you and the person who washes your underwear. While employer-employee relations can be tense, imagine that your employee handles your unmentionables on a frequent basis and has free access to the liquor cabinet.
What surprises me is the intricate love/hate relationship we have with our cleaning ladies.  That delicate balance and fear that someone we trust to keep some semblance of order in our lives could walk out the door and we're left with dirt, spider webs and general disarray in is otherwise an orderly existence. The enormous trust we place in having a stranger go through our possessions clean them and hopefully put them back where we found them.  
My cleaning lady, Maria(not her real name) came to me over 25 years ago. She was the cleaning lady of my best friend and roomie. Carol, my room mate was severely housekeeping impaired.   Her solution was Maria, a person who had spun a severe case of  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder into a rather thriving business for the perennially disorganized like Carol.
I lived with Carol a few years, fell in love and moved out. I also forgot to mention to her that I also had hired Maria when I left. I neglected to mention this to my ex-roomie.  Well, it got out a few years later that I had "stole" Maria. Carol didn't speak to me for about 6 months. Carol insisted that I fire the housekeeper....but at that point my Husband and I were under the thrall of clean toilets and color sorted underwear. I realized a clean house was well worth the cost of a dear, dear friend.
Over the years I have referred our housekeeper to several friends. She has a waiting list. Through my housekeeper I have a the hookup to other cleaning ladies through a loose network comprised of relatives of my cleaning lady, her friends and people she had met on the bus. People seem to come to me if they need someone to clean.
My friends both fear, hate and love their cleaning ladies.  Their fear is that they will have to find another one.  One of my friends, Alex hates his cleaning lady.  "She doesn't clean!" "Her idea of cleanliness is shoving everything into drawers, regardless of whether they belong there on not."
"Why don't you fire her?" I ask.
"Well, I trust her not to steal and she's been with me a long time. I also don't want to tell her how to clean."
Another friend, Amy says about her housekeeper, Patti "All she wants to do is organize my closet, she's not a cleaning lady at heart." "I also think she's a frustrated decorator." Patti has worked for me when my housekeeper was on a month vacation. Patti works for several of my friends, she is also known as the Queen of Bleach.  Apparently bleaching every possible surface both cleans AND disinfects.  Amy tries to hide the bleach from her, but she always finds it.

My friend Evelyn fires cleaning ladies.....just the idea of another woman in her house drives her batty. Though she doesn't do a good job of housekeeping herself, she's an excellent critic. Kinda like a food critic, can't cook but knows what food should look and taste like.

For me it's trickier. Maria has been picking  up for me for 25 years. She has earned her place in my heart and I consider her family.  I know her so well, that if I annoy her she will walk out. I've seen her do it before. She will not tolerate disrespect of any kind. Plus she is totally OCD so things must have order and cleanliness.  Unlike Maria I am a frustrated decorator. I move things around, have lots of tchotchkes which I take out and put away.  You can imagine the torture it is for Maria.  Out of respect for her OCD I've given up on "grouping" things in a way I find aesthetically pleasing.  Each item must be placed on a shelf in an orderly way, about 10cm apart.  She also hates almost empty shampoo bottles....twice she's thrown away a weeks worth of Aveda shampoo.  Sometimes I seethe at how she's reorganized the towels, my gym bag( yes, I know it can smell) but I don't want it cleaned because she'll throw away all the shampoos I have in there.

In any case, for my friends and I, our domestic professionals bring sanity and order to our lives. I some cases they may be the person who cares for us when we're sick if we live alone. They insure our sanity by organizing disorderly closets, giving us a care-free Saturday where laundry is being done so we can go to the beach.  For me it's that touch of Mom that kept the house running seamlessly, not realizing how much work it really is to clean toilets when someone has bad aim like me.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Miami, Always Trying to Keep It Classy.

A couple of years ago Miami was voted 2nd rudest city in America.  Working from home I don't always get the chance to fully embrace my own Miami bubble that basically disregards all else except my immediate gratification.   So last night I went to the Arsht, Miami's spectacular performing arts center.  The show was typical "Broadway Across America" and it truth, it wasn't bad. Gratefully, it wasn't the usual inane "family fare" that forced me to stay away for so many years. I mean how many times can one see Judy Taymore's Lion King? But I digress, I'm really here to talk about the patrons.
In particular, I'm talking about cell phone usage. Recently, at a movie theater in Broward, there was an announcement that said people who use cell phones will be removed from the theater. Hurray!  I know people might think it's common courtesy not to text, play Bejewelled, or actually answer the phone while at a show.  In Miami, it's a birthright to do these things at any time during the show....for long periods of time.
The tickets were expensive, so I'm sure that gives people the right to answer the phones. Like "hey, I paid for these seats, I'll do whatever I want while I'm here." It's Miami. It's not like anyone here is going to do anything about it anyway. The thinking is that maybe if you let your neighbor do it, you get a free pass sometime later in the show to do it yourself.
Now, imagine the baby is an iPhone
I had scored some amazing box seats for the show, just above the stage, set back a bit. Sadly, there was a woman(actually many people) who through the entire show had her cell phone on. Non-stop. I'm sure she was doing important things....closing deals, gossiping, sharing recipes and winning Words With Friends and getting high scores on Bejewelled.  I'm sure her Facebook postings were riveting. What was funny is that she was hunched over trying to create a light proof "phone bubble" made of elbows, cupped hands and her breasts.  Kind of the way a mother might huddle over her baby during a lion attack.
Yes, I I really don't
So Intermission came and I heard several people talking to the ushers asking them to do something about it.  You got the typical Miami usher half-smile shrug that says: sorry rich guy, I don't speak English and I would do something about it, but I am a part-time minimum wage employee and I don't really care. Then the usher would go back to texting.
So during intermission I confronted the "phone bubble" lady. Her husband was with her.  I asked her to stop using her phone....not nicely...because I am a native of the 2nd rudest city in America.  I know from experience that the white guy saying politely"please don't use your phone" is the equivalent of asking a dog not to pee on the fencepost.  So I raised my voice and made sure that everyone around could hear: "YOU WERE USING YOUR PHONE THROUGH THE ENTIRE SHOW".
The couple's response "Well the guy next to us was texting too."  REALLY? That was their defense. Not even a denial.  So fucking lame.  Of course, they were ready to engage me in an argument...and believe me I was ready....but it was a night out at the show and I did not want to be ejected for "rudeness".  I was just keeping it classy, you know.
Very little phone usage in the theater after my outburst. That was classy too.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Miami Potpourri: Ft. Lauderdale Haters, Fat(as usual), Bicycling.

Just wanted to write about a few things on my mind but in reality there may or may not be any coherence to this week's blog post.  As this post is about Miami and being a "man of a certain age" I thought I'd get a few things down that may be good fodder for future blog posts.

"Classy" Ft. Lauderdale......whatever.
Firstly, I read an article somewhere about 37 things that make Miami the best and weirdest place in the U.S.A.  The post was funny, but the comments section wasn't.
What surprised me was that there were so many haters, and most of them from our neighbor just 23 miles up the road: Ft. Lauderdale.  So I wrote a whole page about how Miami was better than Ft. Lauderdale, I discussed it with my friend and she said "why bother, Miamians don't even consider Ft. Lauderdale. I mean does the fabulous prom queen ever think about the blah girls who don't even qualify as nerds? No." I thought about it and she was right, I never think about the place unless I need to go to Ikea. So I dedicate Janice Ian's song, Seventeen to Ft. Lauderdale and it's environs.

"Hello Kirk, we are going to be good friends!"-Bob
Okay, I am a man of a "certain age" and I've decided to "dress my age". Also for some reason my clothes seem to be shrinking.  I'm going to make the move to XL.  It pains me to admit it, but I'm expanding and nothing seems to stop it. No more tight tees stretching across my grossly distended belly. I am going just make friends with the belly and learn to love it. I will not suck it in at parties, at the beach or pool.  It will be a prideful belly that will not shy away at the sight of a hot guy. Nope, no more sucking in the stomach for me!  Don't get me wrong, I am not giving up my healthy lifestyle, it's just at some point you have to admit there are things on your body that can't change without surgery or discomfort.  Hello belly, my name is Kirk.
It doubles as a dress.
I know I may be suffering from a bout of body dysmorphia, but tight clothes are no longer comfortable. I want to wear shirts in the "blouson" tradition that define the middle aged. Under all that fabric there's fat, under that fat, there's a body. Those puffy, oversized shirts from Brooks Brothers which are so comfortable and go great with a 38 waist size pair of Levi's. Just letting go of vanity perhaps there's some dignity in hiding this decaying corpse of a body that once danced on boxes in nightclubs.
Ok, new topic! Bought a bike. You think being the captain of a swim team would be enough (remind me to turn in my Speedo's briefs for Jammers). Not just any bike but a lovely Italian racer made of carbon fiber. The bike shop fitted me for the bike and more tight clothes.  Hopefully I'll be riding hard enough that I won't notice my knees hitting my belly. I am a bit nervous moving up the biking food chain, but it is one place where clothes as tight as sausage casings are de rigueur.