That has a nice ring to it

25
Jun
2009

I have a strange history of things going my way just when I need them to. Not incredibly major things mind you, but more get-me-out-of-a-small-jam kinda things. When I was 20 years old and had moved to Paris with almost no money, I was down to living on 50 cents a day and a baguette. As I was wandering the streets wondering what in the hell I was thinking coming to Paris with no money and just expecting everything to work out, and more importantly what I was going to do, I suddenly came across 1000 francs in the street. Just like that, in a tidy little clip with no pesky identifying info like a wallet or anything. That money got me through a tough couple of weeks until I finally landed a job and got on my feet. At another time in my life when I was deeply in debt, a relative died and left me a few thousand dollars. All through my travels I have met people who have welcomed me into their homes, at times in the dead of night when I was quite unsure where I would turn to next. In none of these cases has my need been truly life threatening, I was just in situations where I was somewhat pinched by circumstance, and have many times over been the recipient of some lovely bit of serendipity for which I am gobsmacked and truly grateful. Then again, I also tend to see the positive in almost everything, so perhaps I am only remembering the good and forgetting the bad.

What does any of the above have to do with anything? Well, getting ready to move into my new apartment has been more of an expense than I had expected, and I am getting somewhat low on funds (awaiting payment from a couple of my clients, this is mostly a temporary cash-flow problem). I was just yesterday thinking about how I needed a little something to drop out of the sky.

And just like that, it did. Yesterday on the street in the Village, I found a pretty nice ring (what looks like a wedding band, but I’m no expert), and I took it into one of the pawn shops in my neighborhood where they said they would give me several hundred dollars for it. I decided not to sell it, thinking if it was worth that much, perhaps it was quite meaningful to the person that lost it. (Then again, perhaps they threw it at their spouse in disgust after finding out they had been cheated on and left it in the street, bidding good riddance to the both of them. Who can say really?) In any event, I placed a couple of ads online on Craigslist and the Village Voice, saying that I had found a ring and waiting for the owner to claim it. So far, I haven’t received a single reply. So my dilemma is this:

If I still get no response within a couple of days, would it be wrong of me to sell it? Is there another, better way to contact the probable owner? Maybe they aren’t even aware that it is missing. Maybe they are off on their yacht eating caviar and poking fun at the hoi polloi. Then again, maybe this was the most valuable treasure they have, the only memory of a long departed relative.

What would you do?

What I have been reading recently

24
Jun
2009

Reading the OED (One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages), by Ammon Shea

Being the lover of vocabulary and obscure words that I am, I find this account of reading the Oxford English Dictionary to be extremely enticing and uproarious in places. Each letter of the alphabet is a chapter, with a brief story followed by selections of definitions from that letter.

The Book of Dead Philosophers, by Simon Critchley

Being fairly recently obsessed with how we relate to dying and nonexistence, I find this recounting of the circumstances of 190 or so philosophers’ deaths through the ages to be compelling reading indeed.

Bed Metaphysics

21
Jun
2009

As you know, I am moving into a new apartment next week. And unlike the previous places I have been for the past 3 years, my room will not already be furnished in some manner. So I find myself in need of a bed. Having already spent a fair amount more on rent and other items this past week, I was thinking that I should be frugal in my bed purchase. I started looking on craigslist and have been considering what the least expansive bedding options are likely to be. Having been in to several mattress/bedding stores I find that anything under 1000 dollars isn’t terribly amazing or different in the comfort department. That is to say, spending a few hundred more or less does not seem to result in much greater comfort in the zone under 1000. So I turned my attention to the world of futons, which seem every bit as comfortable as the low end mattresses, and not nearly as expensive. I also liked the idea that in my somewhat small room, I would be able to fold this up on occasion and feel as if I had more space. Seeking the counsel of several friends, most seem to agree that spending more for a really nice mattress is definitely worth it, especially as we creep towards old age with its attendant aches and pains. The idea hit me that perhaps part of the reason I am resistant to the idea of investing so much in a new bed is that (beyond the fact that I am not exactly rolling in money) it would seem to imply a kind of permanence that I am not sure I am comfortable with at this exact moment. I am moving into a new apartment with someone I don’t really know. If for some reason I need to move again soon, how much more of a pain in the ass will it be to haul this heavy thing somewhere. And speaking of heavy things, you all know how I feel about acquiring too much stuff (and especially expensive stuff). I have been in a state of grace and bliss in my lack of possessions, and I like it that way. The road to acquiring too much is a road to a kind of hell. As long as I don’t own anything, I feel a great sense of freedom. With each new purchase, is the freedom a bit diminished? What is the meaning of this bed beyond the place to sleep? Do I really need the biggest, best, most amazing whatever? Or is this just a sign for a commitment to a kind of sedentary existence that I am resistant to after all this time? I guess I need to lie down and think about it.

To a dee-lightful apartment, in the skiiii

15
Jun
2009

After a fair amount of consideration, I have decided to move to a new apartment. There were a number of reasons for this decision, but the main ones were noise and location. My current apartment, while fairly nice, is in a building with constant loud noise at all hours ranging from the tap dancing / furniture moving / domestic violence loving family upstairs to the screaming partiers in apartment 2b. While there are no guarantees in a city like New York, I feel confident the new apartment will be at least somewhat quieter (at the very least from above. I will be on the 6th floor with no one above me). The other major reason is location. I find that I spend my life on the subway heading down to the Village and Chelsea where I do much of my hanging out with friends. My new location is on 22nd and 8th ave, right there. I will be able to walk to the vast majority of places I go all the time, and the subway is one short block away. The room is more expensive, but I am in a much more stable financial position than I was 6 months ago, so I figured what the hell. My new roommate seems very nice, and she is around my age which is an added bonus.

Just Whistle

13
Jun
2009

IT is amazing to me how things you live with day in and day out can still hold surprises. When we become used to things (or people for that matter) around us, we tend to turn off our senses and stop paying attention. We think we know all about it, and have moved on to other novelties. I have been using the same backpack for the past 3 years, attaching and detaching it from its larger confrere, snapping, zipping, packing, and unpacking it literally thousands of times as I moved from one place to the next. Yesterday, while I was walking and idly looking at the fastener for the chest strap, I noticed that the snap itself had an odd, non symmetrical shape. As I looked closer I realized that the snap was also a whistle! I immediately began to annoy my friend John by blowing the whistle and talking about it, yet he was sadly unimpressed and unconvinced that it was actually a whistle (when clearly it is).

Over the river, and through the woods

12
Jun
2009

I was walking in the woods with my grandmother….there were other people there as well, and then I was left all alone for a while. It was very green all around, and I noticed the pleasant smell of some of the plants. One in particular had a vague peppery scent that pleased me, and I tore off a leaf to smell it, but it was different than the scent in the air. When my grandmother finally came back, we were walking through the woods alone before getting on the bus with a bunch of other people to go back. The bus started back towards the community, and we were talking about her selling her apartment, and it was the apartment that I knew her having lived in when I was a small child. She was saying that she didn’t want to leave it, it was (grandpa) Joe’s apartment, and she couldn’t bring herself to. I was pointing out that it was too big and she needed to move on, and she started to cry a little, telling me that she had spent 2/3rds of her life there, how could she leave it. She said she had plenty of money and didn’t need to sell, she still had a couple million in an account somewhere. Then the bus we were in stopped in the community and Grandma got out and started hugging people with a great sense of fear that she would have to leave them. This Grandma in my dream was at about the age I knew her to be when I was a child, perhaps only 55 years old. Strangely in the dream, I was somewhat immaterial, as if I was the ghost haunting her instead of the other way around. She was talking to me and confiding in me her feelings of dread about leaving her apartment, but I was somehow of a different materiality than the group of people that she was worried to be leaving. At that point I woke up.

Au Revoir

10
Jun
2009

The French expression most used as the equivalent for the English “goodbye” is “au revoir”, which literally means “until we see each other again”. I prefer the optimistic tone this has over the “God be with you” which is at the origin of our word goodbye (and at the heart of the Spanish “Adios” as well. Though not so much the Mexican preferred “Hasta luego“). And after my quite lovely trip here, I suspect that I will be back in Paris with a slightly greater frequency than that of the past few years.