The Pressure of Helping Tourists

Last night, on my way to Yankee Stadium, some very friendly visitors to New York asked me a question about the subway map.

“What’s the difference between the dots with the white circles and the dots with the black circles?”

“I don’t know. Where do you want to go?”

“86th street.”

“You’re fine.”

Then, for a while, I was tortured worrying about them. What if the train doesn’t stop at 86th Street?? Things are always changing around with the subway lines, and I usually walk everywhere. I’m not up on the current status of the subway. What if 86th Street is under construction??

Here’s my problem. I take questions tourists ask me very, very seriously. Whether they’re asking for directions, or suggestions about where to eat, shop, or walk around. I take it so seriously the minute they ask me I panic. Sometimes I just blank.

“Where did Carrie Bradshaw live?”
“Um … it’s … close …”

I live exactly one block away.

And they always ask me. Last night I was listening to my ipod on the subway platform. I must have looked like I was a million miles away, and still, of all the people on the platform, they asked me. They always do. I could be walking down the street a thousand miles per hour, with my sunglasses on, my ipod blaring, and still they will ignore everyone else and flag me down. I think it’s because I look the least likely to hurt them. And they are right to ask me. I take it like it is my life’s mission to help them. I must get them where they want to go. I must come up with the best restaurant.

Every once in a while when giving directions I realize a minute later that I got one part wrong. This is the worst. I’ve gone chasing after people to provide corrections, but I don’t always find them and then I am in anguish, thinking they’ll think that I got them lost on purpose, confirming all the bad things they’ve heard about New Yorkers.

The Next Ten Years

This is a picture of me and the band I play with, the Manhattan Samba Group. It was taken yesterday. I’m the one in the glasses in front of the guy in the blue shirt. Playing in this band was one of my goals when I was 40. (Part II of that goal was to not be the dorkiest looking member of the band.)

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What will I do with the next ten years, besides, hopefully, writing a best-seller? I love a list! But I’m sitting here at 8AM, and not a whole hell of a lot is jumping out at me, aside from “fall in love again,” which pretty much goes without saying. I think I will put that in boldface. 1. Fall in love again.

I wish I had money like Warren Buffett or Bill Gates so I could dedicate the second half of my life to giving it away. Which reminds me. I have never been a regretful person. I’ve made mistakes, but I can always see the path to them and given who I am they were almost unavoidable and sometimes you have to make mistakes. But a couple of times lately, I’ve felt bad about not acting on a number of business ideas that went on to be VERY big businesses for others. I console myself with the fact that I’m not really a great business person and I probably would not have pulled them off. But what I’m wondering about is, why I am even thinking about any of this now?

I think because it reminds me of this. When I was in the 5th grade, I had this amazing teacher, Mr. Beeshaw. He was wonderfully encouraging and inspiring. And he loved music. He taught us some beautiful songs. He was trying to get the boys in the class to get into it, they always sang so quietly and timidly. One afternoon he had me sing a round with the boys in the class. It was a contest — all the boys in the class vs Stacy. I think he picked me because I was the one person in the class who loved music as much as he did, and had no problem singing out. I was not shy.

They were losing. All the girls were cheering me, but I didn’t have the heart to beat them. They looked so miserable and dejected. And scared. I started singing more quietly and when they felt themselves starting to win they got excited and then they finally started singing outloud and happily.

It should have been a happy ending. I didn’t care about winning. I have a healthy ego, already loved music and now they did, too. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had done the wrong thing for me. I feel that to this day. This business thing is kinda similar. It’s not that I didn’t “go for it.” I go for it all the time, you can’t go for them all. It’s something else.

Maybe it’s that I didn’t chose the right things to go for? I’m just certain that I should have sung out as loud as I could and beaten all the boys in the class. I shouldn’t have held back. FUCK. I know what it is. It was because it was the nice thing to do. Which is all very … nice, but sometimes the nice thing to do for others is the wrong thing to do for yourself.

Maybe there’s an element of holding back to my character that made me not successful at business. Or, maybe the only thing thing these things have in common then, is regret. You can’t have it all. Maybe I should feel glad that there’s so little in my life that I regret. (Of course, I could just be in very deep deep denial.)

Hell. I meant to make a list of things for my next ten years. Tomorrow.

What do YOU regret?

Ventriloquists are Not Necessarily Tedious

I watched this really bad, kinda ugly, reality TV show. I can’t remember the name, but it had the words “America” and “talent” in it. I’ll never watch it again, but there was a ventriloquist act that kinda blew my mind. You know how in dubbed, Japanese B movies the dubbing never matches the lips? The guy, Kevin Johnson, does a thing based on that called Godzilla Theatre.

I found a clip of him doing it, although it’s not as breathtaking on this little internet clip as it was on the TV the other night. But you can get an idea. It was really quite stunning, though. Plus, Kevin Johnson is quite endearing in the act.

This is Kevin, Clyde and Matilda.

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Big Brother is Back and Life is Worth Living Again

My favorite just-plain-fun TV show is Big Brother, and it just started up for the summer. God, I love this show. I always get the 24/7 feed–you can watch and listen to the people in the house bicker and plot, anytime of day or night via webcams. I participate in fan chats. I talk about it on Echo. It’s insane how much I enjoy this. Right now 20 people from past seasons are vying for 12 spots in the house. I know only other Big Brother obsessed fans are going to care, but here are my choices, roughly in order:

Kayser, Will, Janelle, Nakomis, Howie, Lisa, Monica, Erika, Allison, James, Jase, Diane.

Meanwhile, a box of the paperback edition of my books arrived today!! They look great. I have to tell you it still blows my mind, to hold a book I wrote in my hands. It just feels all, “oh man, I did this. No way! Way! Way? Way!”

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A Kitten, a Turtle and a Bird.

My brother Peter told me he has a vivid memory of me when we were children. We were outside, and I was coming around the side of the house carrying a kitten, while a turtle was following behind me, and a bird was trying to land on me. For some reason I could accept this except for the turtle, although I have always loved turtles, have written about turtles, and even have a series of photographs I took of turtles I found in a church garden in New York City.

The reason I wondered about it was because of the ability of a turtle to keep up. Peter agreed it was a very strange sight, but he remembers it clearly nonetheless. For him, the bird was the stranger part.

I found a quick moving turtle on YouTube, so maybe it’s possible. This is Koopa from www.turtlekiss.com. I’m only telling this story because I find the Stacy as St. Francis image very flattering. I hope it’s true. Maybe it’s true. I’ve always had an intense love of animals. When I was young I was kept home a lot due to illness. So while everyone was out playing or at school, I befriended anything that moved. Including bugs. I love bugs. (Except spiders, cock roaches, especially flying cock roaches, and june bugs.) By the way, I learned that many writers were ill as children. It makes sense. Forced to stay home and live in their own heads.

Anyway, back to the adorable Koopa.

[Video removed because the link no longer works.]