Sunday, April 15, 2012

#SampleSunday: "I'm so worried and afraid."

(A sample from One Hundred Open Houses,the book that saved me from despair.)

“All my stocks have gone down. I’m so worried and afraid.“- Itzonlyphil

It’s been very windy for the last few days. When you are in wind, you can’t think of anything but the wind. I just read a book that frequently describes the outdoors. It describes the colors of morning and evening as they invade and enhance the rooms in a small apartment. It describes the blue of the sky reflected in a river. After reading all of this loving observation, I realize the only thing I notice is the wind. I don’t like wind and yet it’s the only thing I describe. I’m all closed up about the visuals. When I tell Maggie about this – that I don’t describe the outdoors, she says, “Good. People just want to know what happened.”
I have to park the car far away from the office because the “season” is almost here and the parking rules have changed. By the time I get inside, I’m relieved to be there and I’m happy to see Louise. Because the office is warm and I had a brisk walk to get there, sitting at my desk and opening my e-mail feels good.
On Channel Five, which I’ve started to watch in the early morning, they say we are addicted to e-mail and now that you can check it from your Blackberry or some other portable device, you can indulge this worthless addiction at every moment. Whenever I e-mail a high executive I notice they e-mail me right back. Please distract me from this humdrum existence that has no discernible meaning. Life can be humdrum unless you are trying to save yourself in a tsunami or have locked yourself out of the car and are trying to think of ways to get in. That distraction factor, however, is responsible for people losing a big chunk of their lives. You think – how did it get to be 2006, it was just 1998 a minute ago. Dr. Phil will beat you down on this issue and exhort you to shape up, get rid of the remote, get rid of the Blackberry and face your life. But let’s think about this a minute. Suppose there’s nothing much down in the sinkhole where you stuff all the things that made you what you are? And suppose even if you have the energy and the bucks to dig it up, you can’t do anything about it? You are always going to have that nervous laugh and the receding chin isn’t going anywhere either.

It is on mornings like this, when life seems pleasant, that you have to remember your goal and not just fall back and say, “oh, this is nice.” Everything – yes, everything, is conspiring to keep you in the status quo. The little dumb baby inside you is just wailing to hear the same story for the millionth time. And it is a dumb baby, trust me. You have to shake some sense into that baby and say, look, I’m sick of that story, so just shut up. You’re getting something else.
My line of credit came through from the South Fork Bank and I have the money all ready to go – it feels very responsible, although the whole premise of banking is nuts. I’ve left two messages with Kay Kimbel about 6-B but she has not returned the calls. When I call the general number of CityDwell, they tell me she does work there and checks her voice mail every few hours.
On the financial front, that stock that management wanted to steal from me keeps going up. I have no idea why. It trades on the pink sheets. No, I don’t know what that means although I have an idea that some stocks are thought to be “naughty” and not fiscally sound and they can’t trade on the regular markets although god knows a lot of really bad stuff goes on there, too.
I go to the New York Times Real Estate site and print out all of Sunday’s open houses. It’s late spring so there are lots of choices. After I have my little stash of goal candy to keep me on track, I return to work.
Two of the e-mails are from potential sponsors: the private banking division of a big financial institution and a new magazine that is going to be launched in the Fall. The new magazine is a lifestyle magazine. Who is reading all of these magazines? In this resort town, dozens of magazines are given away free. They are stacked on the street or in the supermarket. I don’t get it. Have you ever done anything a magazine has told you to do? I did once. A magazine gave me a picture-by-picture blueprint for making manicotti with home made wraps that now I know were crepes. I made that recipe at least a hundred times during twenty-three years of marriage. You’d think I would have remembered how to do it, but I dragged out that torn, stained page every time. Altogether, I cooked about 7000 evening meals. Probably more.
The private banking division wants to bring twenty of their best clients to the Festival and give them entrée into a situation that would not be available to them even though they have bucks coming out the wazoo. They don’t want the movies. The private banking clients can probably buy the freaking theater and see all the movies they want. What they are hoping to experience are the exclusive private parties with stars. The bank people want to say to their private clients – because you let us play with and often mismanage your millions, we will reward you with the opportunity to rub shoulders with movie stars. Is it any wonder celebrities are nuts. Look at what a commodity they are. I take the whole issue to Shana and she says to me: “Give them everything – a concierge, five star accommodations, private transportation and, if they want, a private screening with a party afterward. I have no idea where we are going to get a concierge (or even what that concierge will do) although on paper it looks like we know what we are doing.
I won’t tell the Bank that there is no guarantee that any star we invite will actually show up. Celebrities are notorious for not showing up. A lot of stars we invite get sick at the last minute – one died.
The magazine, thank god, is not a competitor of the pseudo porn magazine. It’s called Minimal. The basic premise is that you are better off if you can make do with a toothbrush and a bowl. All the other stuff is weighing you down. I used to like Real Simple until they began getting too cute on me. It’s okay if dental floss has an “aha” use for mending a button, but after a year of wracking their brains they are now saying you can use bubble wrap to protect your fruit from bruising – that’s when I lose interest. Now if they are willing to get “dark” I can give them “aha” uses a plenty. Scrub the kitchen floor with a bad carpenter, for example.
I call the marketing directors of the bank and the magazine and outline what I can offer them. I’ve become very good at this part of the process. I ask them to tell me their objective and then outline how we can fulfill it. Sometimes they ask for specific events and I say, ‘no, that’s not the target audience you are after.” When I say that to a sponsor I feel like a competent facile little marketing whiz. Who knew all this business know-was buried inside a whacky aging soccer mom?
I create two proposals, e-mail them and then answer the rest of the e-mails most of which are from other sponsors in various stages of the process.
I open the Yahoo home page for the first time that day and go to the message board of a stock I had chased and then abandoned because it ran away.
ItzOnlyPhil has posted this pathetic message. :
I think now is the time I should take my small loss because all these guys make a lot of sense. I was bamboozled. I should not have bought a stock that was going up – Jed says they sometimes go down – I should have listened to him. It has gone down…all my stocks have gone down. I’m so worried and afraid.
I hear you brother.
It’s Ben’s birthday today and at Mass I said his name. I said: for my son Ben who was born on this day. Ben’s going to come and visit on Saturday. This is how I usually get ready for my second child. I take a shower and blow-dry my hair. I put stuff under my eyes that takes away the puffiness and pulls the skin tight (I know! but more about that another time.) I definitely clean up the house. I put on a Louis Armstrong sings with Ella cd that he gave me two Christmases ago. I buy a big ham because twice he’s mentioned ham and I fed him something else. I try to get some good movies because we like to watch movies together. I pull all the weeds out of the rock bed he created where I needed better drainage to remind him how great the project came out. He’s going to want to climb up on the roof and clean out the problem gutter, but I’ll tie him up if I have to. I don’t care if the house falls down; I never again want him to climb up that steep slope.
My friend Ned – the Ned who is blindingly handsome - came to clean my gutters last Fall (not the scary gutter). He brought another handsome man with him and that was good because he was a surgeon and really knew how to clean out small spaces. I know this sounds preposterous but its true. One held the ladder and the other scooped matted wet leaves out of the gutters. I gave the surgeon an old sock and had the nerve to ask him to wipe out the last bits with it. When they finished, I cooked them omelets with pesto and goat cheese and we sat around.


  1. Funny you should post this today. I'm sitting in a windstorm right now, and I can't stand it. I would not be a good candidate for moving to Kansas. My friend used to live there and she misses the wind, but she's afraid of trees, so there's clearly something wrong with her.

  2. You are correct: your friend has something wrong with her. Wind makes you forget everything but wind. I guess if you have a really bad problem, wind can help you stop thinking about it.

  3. I just finished One Hundred Open Houses and loved it. Such clear insight. Plus I love looking at open houses, too. I'll write a review as soon as I recover from my photo shoot with my daughter. (She shot me. Traumatic.)

    1. Thank you, good friend. One must recover from all things that involve getting ready and looking good and relying on others to take charge. Soldier on.

  4. you know what, this is still the best book i've read in a long time. there is no category for it. i don't like how our titles have to fit into a certain database. anyway, just came from amazon, shopping for a new kindle book- i was wahhing over nothing as good as this to get. (am NOT going to proof read that last sentence i just wrote...if i do, i'll change it...)


    1. Thank you, Sherry. I don't take praise very well but your sweet message makes me feel good. Leave a few words on the Amazon page if you feel like it. Love hearing from you.

      I loved Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout but I don't know if it's out for the kindle.