Husband Hero

At any given moment, I am so deeply living in my own thoughts that I am essentially immune to the world around me. Add on top of that some genetic hearing loss and poor eyesight, and you’ve got a gal who is barely aware of her surroundings.

Daniel is not prone to persistent daydreaming, and is a paragon of perfect health. He’s never worn glasses. He never had braces. He spent years following The Grateful Dead and still has excellent hearing. He insists on wearing clothes that are too big for him, but if you ever catch a glimpse of him in a fitted outfit, you’ll observe his extremely muscular body. It is simply not fair.

Because Daniel is some kind of superior lifeform, he is constantly aware of his surroundings. This is good for me because he’s basically a guide dog for me, a hapless traveler wandering through life. It is also good for all of humanity because he is very thoughtful and generous.

The other day we exited our Subway station into the cold drizzle and Daniel spotted an ancient and adorable woman standing at the top of the stairs. Just standing there as floods of humans poured in and out of the station. Daniel asked the woman if she needed some help getting her walker down into the Subway. She said yes. Like the Good Human he is, he instantly started helping her down.

The wild part is that everyone in close proximity started oohing and ahhing and loudly declaring him to be Such a Gentleman and Nice Man. Daniel is those things, but I am wont to point out that these are all people who could have helped our Elderly Compatriot before Dan arrived on scene. Then again, maybe they are like me, so lost in their own lives they didn’t even register that the woman needed some help.

Alas, I still had to bat away the hands of grabby middle-aged women who wanted to pinch Daniel’s (butt) cheeks and take him home with them. News flash: that Nice Gentleman and his cute tush are unavailable as he is already MARRIED to ME. Suckers!

Witch’s Curse

I finally organized my closet yesterday, after living here a cool four months. Daniel looked at it and said, “Babe! We could totally have a kid now!” This was a joke and a callback to our one-time broker Incontinence, who showed us an apartment in which a baby lived in a closet. Such is life in the postage stamp of NYC realty.

A few hours later, we were leaving a rare trip to the East Harlem Target where we’d stocked up on some staples, like a million Clorox wipes and ten gallons of laundry detergent. We were standing on the corner waiting for our YOU-ber when a woman behind us yelled, “Hey! I thought you were holding a baby!”

I turned around and showed her that what she thought was a baby was actually “Happy Llamakuh” wrapping paper.

“That your girlfriend?” she asked Daniel.

“My wife, actually!”

She paused. Squinted at my wrapping paper. “Y’all got kids?”

I started to tell her that the whimsical wrapping paper was just for us when Daniel said, “Not yet. In our future, maybe!”

And then this mysterious woman said, “Oh, she’s pregnant. Ma’am, you’re pregnant. Right now. I saw you holding an infant. You. Are. Pregnant.”

I wanted to pull the brand new $42 Diva Cup I’d just purchased out of my bag and let her know that I was actually expecting definitive confirmation that I am very much not pregnant to arrive any moment. Before I could do that, Daniel laughed, asked her name (Annette) and told her we’d name “the baby” after her if she was right.

She cackled and waltzed off, declaring again that I was expecting. It felt very much like Annette may have been a witch, and I may have been cursed.

Our YOU-ber home took twice as long as anticipated because a manhole literally blew up in front of us and traffic got a bit tangled what with all the rubberneckers and firefighters and flames dancing across the asphalt. New York City, am I right?!

But by the time we finally made it home, my Diva Cup was ready to be put to good use. With much tenderness and love to those experiencing infertility and/or struggling to become pregnant, as a person who very much does not want to have a child right now, I am happy to report that my womb remains blessedly unoccupied. (Except for my IUD, which is in fact, implanted in my womb and is the #1 reason I remain blissfully childfree.)

Take that, Annette!

How to Make an Enemy

A simple guide to recreating Lydia’s Worst NYC Day Ever:

  1. Take your new dog, the one you haven’t fully established top-notch communication skills with yet, for an after-work walk, right at Peak Commuter time.
  2. Disregard the warnings about Raccoons riddled with Distemper and proceed into Central Park.
  3. Spot a raccoon.
  4. Realize a raccoon should not be out and about in this sunshiney time of day.
  5. Notice the raccoon is acting like it’s a bit drunk.
  6. Realize the raccoon has Distemper.
  7. Notice your dog noticing the raccoon.
  8. Scream as your dog yanks her leash out of your hand, taking quite a bit of your skin with her.
  9. Scream more as your dog charges the raccoon.
  10. Into the bike lane.
  11. Everything is moving in slow motion.
  12. You are screaming.
  13. Your dog has just tackled a bicyclist.
  14. You rush to the bicyclist.
  15. This is the worst moment of your entire life.
  16. The damn Distemper Raccoon meanders over a fence.
  17. Your dog pants after it.
  18. A crowd forms and begins berating you.
  19. You exchange contact information with the man who skinned his elbow in the fall.
  20. Strangers continue yelling at you.
  21. You must accept their criticisms and admonishments on your character, because you are Responsible for this Event.
  22. Go home and cry.
  23. Feel miserable and cry more when the dog who caused this whole mess tries to comfort you.
  24. Regret ever moving to New York.
  25. Spend the next several months dreading the messages that keep coming from The Bicyclist, with updates about his various ailments.
  26. Feel like a horrible person every time you get those texts.
  27. Contemplate what will happen if the texts keep coming. JAIL?
  28. Give the stress ulcer you’ve formed a name, maybe Distemp-Ulcer.
  29. Begin to feel better as quiet weeks pass.
  30. Ding! Another text. Distemp-Ulcer awakens.

Summer Fridays (aka, The Rat)

Summer Fridays are a beautiful NYC tradition, wherein between Memorial Day and Labor Day employees work a little extra Monday-Thursday and take all of Friday (or at least Friday afternoon) off. What a glorious idea!

Of course, as a new employee on a mandatory six month “probationary period” I am not eligible for this or many other perks. One must prove their mettle before being allowed to take advantage of tuition remission, professional development funds, or the venerated Summer Fridays.

As the lowly New Employee on a Summer Friday, I find myself alone in my spooky, though beautiful, pre-war building. The motion-sensor lights keep switching off outside my office, lending to the general atmosphere of solitude.

And that’s when I see it. Hugging the wall, a classic navigation trick of the Ratus norvegicus. Moving too fast, too low to the ground for the motion sensors to detect. In the dark, I am not alone. I am living (working) among rats.

As I’ve said before, I am not generally one to shriek, and I’m happy to report that I did not shriek in this moment, The First Office Rat Sighting. Instead, I did what I normally do when stressed or scared, which is to start a low-pitched running monologue, “Oh no. No, no, no. Nope. No. No thank you. That’s a no from me. Oh no. Oh no, thank you.”

If it had been a Thursday, this might have attracted some of my colleagues who probably would have known such basic information as who manages the building and how to contact them. But it was a Summer Friday, which meant I was alone, the sole Homo sapiens.

And that is how I spent one Summer Friday standing on my swivel chair chanting, “Nope!” and sending my former boss frantic all-caps texts asking if I could return to my job in Colorado.

Phil Lesh at Summerstage

On our very first date, I told Daniel my favorite band is The National. On all previous first dates I’d been summarily informed that The National is not a band most young 20-somethings would call their favorite and/or even know about. My musical tastes have always veered toward Sad Dad Rock, which isn’t a particularly hip genre. But Daniel immediately told me that he both knew of and liked The National, and then told me all about the collaboration The National was currently (at the time) taking on with The Grateful Dead, which happened to be his favorite band.

To be completely honest and at the enormous risk of embarrassing myself, I will admit that before I knew Daniel I thought The Grateful Dead was a death metal band. I’d seen the skull logo (a “Steal Your Face” I know now) and, I mean, Dead is in their name. As it turns out, The Grateful Dead is a hippie band with a knack for extending a single song to the length of an average sitcom episode.

In the years I’ve spent with Daniel I have listened to countless hours of The Grateful Dead. I have read Box of Rain, a book of their lyrics that read as lovely poems. I have stared at the Steal Your Face tattooed on Daniel’s bicep. I have even gone to huge Dead and Company stadium shows.

And to again embarrass myself with honesty… I didn’t really get it. I could tell how much this band meant to Daniel, but I didn’t get it. Those stadium shows were the first (and only) place I’d seen people doing hard drugs. What can I say? I’ve lived a sheltered life. Daniel ushered my through throngs of smelly guys whispering offers to sell me (me!) hard drugs. Everyone wore grungy tie-dye and nobody wore deodorant. Daniel kept greeting people he remembered from the years he spent following The Grateful Dead on tour.

It was enormously interesting for me, but very clearly not for me. Not my scene, you could say. And again with the honesty… the music itself didn’t do much for me. I know; I blaspheme. But Daniel loves it and I love Daniel, so here we are. The Grateful Dead and me.

Phil Lesh (listen, I could Google and find out what his role in the Grateful Dead was, but the truth is, I don’t know. And I’ll forget as soon as I Google it. He was one of the originals.) played Summerstage in Central Park. Daniel bought tickets before we even moved, and it was the first show we went to in NYC. I wasn’t expecting much. I geared up for a night of fending off powdered stimulants, stinky armpits, and echoey acoustics.

But it turned out to be the night I finally got it. It was small. Out of the stadium, the music sounded great. The songs sounded like poems.

Most people are surprised to learn that Daniel is actually a shy introvert, because he is uncommonly good at making small talk and befriending strangers. We made friends with finance guys, and a pregnant young couple, and an older gay couple, and yeah, some young smelly people too. Between songs, Daniel chattered and proudly told everyone to, “Meet my wife! She’s a genius!” 

That night, Daniel’s face was joyful. It was the first time I’d seen him truly happy since we moved. He hollered the lyrics until I was sure his voice would go hoarse. When Phil Lesh made his case for organ donation (this happens at every show, I’ve learned) Daniel shouted that he became an organ donor because of Phil Lesh. I didn’t know that! I married the man and I did not know that.

Watching Daniel at that show, I finally got it. I can’t say I reach for The Grateful Dead records myself, but I finally get it in a way I didn’t before.

Marcy (and The Masturbator)

Our very best boy Dylan died in April, before we moved to New York. Living without him has been agonizing. Dylan was the kind of dog people write novels about. He was a Lassie, Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller kind of dog. Dylan was the kind of dog who only seems to exist in fiction,  who changed his people irrevocably, had a preternatural intelligence and loyalty that ran deeper than oceans. He was also exceedingly handsome, to the point where it was unusual to be out in public without garnering compliments. He was the kind of dog who makes you believe in God. Dylan truly was the best damn dog who has ever lived.

We waited a long time before adopting another dog. It was hard. We resisted the urge to rush into adopting out of grief. We made ourselves really feel and process the loneliness and the utter emptiness of life without Dylan. Those first few hours and days were all but unbearable. We laid on the couch clutching his toys and each other. We drove to the secret spot in the mountains where we got married, just the two of us and Dylan, and spread some of his ashes in the icy winter river.

God, it was awful. And it was beautiful. We found that elusive grace that can only emerge from grief.

We waited until we were in New York and the sharp edges of our pain had dulled. And then we decided to adopt a pup. We spent hours perusing rescue organizations. We found a dog. A labrador basset hound mix who looked absolutely ridiculous and I loved instantly. We had a Skype interview to prove our merit as dog parents. We signed up for the next adoption event.

Adoption Day was the gloomiest, stormiest day I’ve ever seen in my entire life. A longtime desert-dweller, I was not accustomed to the kind of persistent torrential downpours that are somewhat common here. It was miserable. We thought about our trek all the way out to Brooklyn, about slogging a new dog all the way back. We thought about cancelling. We thought about Dylan, and we knew it was time.

Around the corner and onto the train, cold and sopping. But on our way! And then it happened. The thing all women Subway riders are warned about. The masturbator appeared. He came in from another car and sat right across from me. He looked me dead in the eyes and stuck his hand down his baby blue sweatpants. He leered. And he started stroking.

And I froze. I was furious at myself, but I didn’t holler at him. I didn’t stand and deliver a triumphant feminist manifesto. Instead, as it always does when I’m uncomfortable, my face turned into the grimace emoji. I turned my dripping wet grimacing face to my husband who, still chattering away about our Dog Day, hadn’t noticed The Masturbator. I reached out. He looked at my Grimace. He looked at The Masturbator. And then Daniel stood and delivered the Feminist Manifesto for me! Gosh, I love him.

Daniel hollered and berated and all the while, The Masturbator kept jerking it. He didn’t stop, not even while Daniel loudly yelled, “We can ALL SEE YOU. Get your hand off your junk. You don’t do THAT in HERE.” My beloved husband, protector of all. At the next stop we, and everyone else in the car, promptly exited and reported The Masturbator.

We were now cold, soaked, sexually harassed, and late for the adoption event. Maybe it was all a sign that today just wasn’t the day. But, we had to. We just had to keep going. For Dylan. All the way to Brooklyn on the delayed trains. Off at Marcy Station, on to a little dog store by the river.

There were puppies. There were oldies. There were tinies and mediums and bigs. All kinds of dogs! There was a scaredy in the corner, refusing to look at anyone, and a Happy Lab who charged at me with a full erection (honestly, I couldn’t escape men and their boners that day). And then, there she was. That weird-looking beauty. A stubby little basset hound with the head of a Labrador. A Bassador. Our new best friend!

I turned to point her out to Daniel. But he was on the floor. And the scaredy from the corner was creeping into his lap. The little girl who had refused to look at anyone all morning nestled into Dan’s lap. She was a black lab with a fresh pink heart-shaped scratch on her nose and a splotch of white fur on her chest. Our new best friend.

We named her Marcy. After the Station and the highest peak in New York. A peak her big brother Dylan loved to climb.

How to Adopt a Dog in NYC

No family is complete without a canine, and New York is a great place to be a dog owner.

  1. We all know pitbulls are the greatest dogs. They are snuggly nannies who have been slandered in the media. Such slander has led to these sleepy goobers being banned from many apartment buildings. If you are adopting a pitbull, it is your moral and ethical responsibility to only ever live in buildings that accept pitties. You may never adopt a pitbull and then abandon it because you want to move somewhere that doesn’t take pits. That’s the first rule, and it applies to all dogs who are typically breed discriminated. Never adopting a dog is better than adopting and abandoning a dog. Don’t be a jackass to your dog.
  2. Adopt, don’t shop! New Yorkers love to adopt dogs, and there are innumerable awesome rescue organizations. We used Hearts and Bones to find our pup. You can learn more about them in “Second Chances” the sixth episode of the Netflix docuseries Dogs.
  3. Peruse your chosen rescue org’s website while drinking wine. The dog that makes you cry the most is the dog you’re meant to adopt. Probably.
  4. Attend an adoption event. The scared dog that won’t look anyone in the eye but crawls into your lap is definitely the dog you’re meant to adopt.
  5. Pay an absolutely insane amount of money for your new best friend!
  6. If your new pal is too big to ride the Subway with you (ie: doesn’t fit in a bag) you’ll need to request a ride, then call your driver until you find one who doesn’t mind dogs in their car. Keep requesting, calling, and repeating until someone agrees.
  7. Brace yourself for many delightful encounters with Central Park Dog Moms.

Congrats on living your best life, you brand new dog owner!

Cockroaches

I didn’t expect the flora and fauna of New York City to be as variegated as I have found it. Though my family has always brought me to the East Coast for holidays and summer vacations, I never fully noticed or appreciated how very different life is here. In my years as a child of the high plains desert and mountain peaks I’d forgotten about fireflies and slugs and the strange leaves the grow in high humidity.

In the mornings, the sidewalk is covered with the remnants of fallen flowers and trees. Leaves press into the cement, then tear away on the shoes of pedestrians, leaving a slick dewy imprint behind. Every morning for weeks I saw strange red leaves crushed flat into the cement. They were shiny and oblong, palm-sized, and unlike anything I’d seen in Colorado.

The insects are different, too. Colorado had moths, which are like butterflies who experience discrimination for being plain and somewhat ugly. They are also discriminated against because moths like to infiltrate your home and dive-bomb your face. They are horrible and hard to catch thanks to their gift of flight. They love lights, and if you ever look at your phone in bed, you can expect a moth to land on your screen, your hands, your face. They’re awful.

New York, of course, has cockroaches. We heard about the cockroaches before we moved here, and were somewhat prepared. When we were looking for a place to live, we briefly worked with a broker, who I’ll call Incontinence. Incontinence told us there’s no escaping the cockroaches. She said they travel through the pipes and come rocketing out of your faucets when you turn the taps on. Incontinence turned out to be a wretch with bad advice, and so far, I am very happy to report, we’ve never encountered a cockroach in our home.

The same is not true for my beautiful pre-war office building. My beautiful pre-war office building is a semi-crumbling fire-hazard ridden with NYC wildlife. In my second week of work, a hot August day, my low-heeled sandals and I waltzed into the Microwave Alcove to heat up lunch. And my toes, peeping out of those summer sandals, came perilously close to my first NYC Cockroach.

I’m not typically one to shriek from fear. Contrary to most cartoon depictions of terrified women, my voice doesn’t go squeaky. Instead, it pitches low. Fear makes me sound like James Earl Jones. I backed away saying, “No, no, no. Not for me. Nope. No thanks!” in the voice of Mufasa/Darth Vader. Then I fled the building and sent about 10,000 texts to my Gal Pals Group Chat about how I needed to leave NYC immediately.

The other day I opened the door to exit the bathroom only to find myself held hostage by a cockroach. It was running back and forth across the threshold, only to turn and charge directly at me. I did a massive grand jete across the room and booked it out of the building.

As I was hustling down the sidewalk, the penny dropped. Those strange smashed shiny leaves on the sidewalk all summer? Those were cockroach carcasses.

So they can be killed, the nasty buggers.

How to Move to New York City

So you want to move to New York City! Your vagabond shoes are longing to stray to the concrete jungle where dreams are made of– the greatest city in the world? Queue up that Frank Sinatra/Jay-Z/Lin-Manuel Miranda playlist and let’s get you here.

  1. Start telling everyone you’re moving to Manhattan. Jump right into this. Speak it into reality. Most people will assume you are moving to Manhattan, Kansas.
  2. Schedule a tour of your local sewage facilities. There’s no better way to begin acclimating to life in NYC than to get yourself used to the acrid pungency of human excrement. Hey, everybody poops. Some people do it in public.
  3. To be successful in New York, you need to master the art of looking professional in sticky heat. Wear your work clothes into a sauna. Practice delivering an important presentation with your outfit plastered to your skin. Nailed it!
  4. Begin Rat Desensitization. Shrieking at rats is the fastest way to out yourself as a non-native. Attempt to watch the documentary Rats based on the excellent book of the same name.
  5. To prepare for the Chilly Months, put on your puffiest coat, fill two large bags with various books, electronics, and food items, then attempt to walk down several sets of stairs, through a narrow turnstile, and into an extremely crowded room in your most slippery pair of socks. This will simulate the experience of getting on a train on any given Winter workday.
  6. Recruit some of your friends to yell unexpected obscenities at you. Attempt to perfect your best, “I have cotton in my ears and love in my heart” face. Do not engage.
  7. Think about your finances, because it’s all fun and games until you realize living here is unfathomably, ludicrously, untenably expensive.

You’re probably ready to do this!

New York, New York

When Dan and I first met, I was in the process of giving away everything I owned. I’d been playing with the idea of taking on that postcolonial ritual of former English majors– teaching English abroad. I’d had a bad year and was desperate for a major life change. One of my friends had successfully moved to Prague the summer before, and fleeing the country seemed like a plausible next step for me.

I’d been in the middle of trying to pawn off clothes and tchotkes I didn’t want to move, when a friend said, “You know, you might as well have some fun before you leave.”  I’m sure my face turned into a perfect imitation of the grimace emoji, as it always does when I’m uncomfortable, but by the time I drove off into the icy dark, my friends were scouting out and scheduling potential dates.

When I first met Dan, I told him I was planning on leaving. And when he asked, some time later, if I’d consider waiting… well, I think I’d already withdrawn my applications by then, anyway.

But the idea of moving somewhere new stuck with us. We were living the most perfectly charmed and idyllic life. We had great jobs, amazing friends, a big house with a profligate vegetable garden, the most loyal and handsome dog who ever lived, and easy access to some of the most beautiful wilderness in all of America. And like a deranged Belle we kept shrieking, “There must be more than this provincial life!”

And that’s more or less how we came to be living in New York City.