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On Friday night, like many other nights, it took me forever to fall asleep. I meant to wake up at a respectable hour the next morning, but shockingly, that plan went awry. Keith, of course, had no trouble falling asleep on Friday night and thus, was ready to face the day before 7 am. Which is just wrong. But I digress. By the time I finally awoke, with a delightful case of morning breath, hair that was matted on one side, two feet wide on the other, bouffant-style on top (secured by falling-out barrette) and knotted in the back, it was roughly 10. Fine. It was 10:15. FINE. It was pushing 10:30.  Alright?! Jeez Louise.

I felt bad that Keith had been up for so long and assumed he was ravenous, so I told him I’d throw on clothes and we could partake of the late morning meal at the diner of his choice.  He told me he’d had some Lucky Charms, wasn’t that hungry and had a few more articles to read in the paper, so why didn’t I just relax and join him on the couch? That seemed reasonable, so I made the bed, called Jan, poured some coffee, and finally picked up the front section of the New York Times about 15 minutes later.

There were quite a few fascinating articles, and I read them all, including the Op-Eds and columns on the last page. Some, in fact, were so fascinating that I felt compelled to enhance my understanding of them by doing related Google searches. These searches took me to Wikipedia pages, which led me to yet more Wikipedia pages, which led me to ask Keith a number of probing philosophical questions. As I read, I noticed him looking over at me from time to time.

Awww.  He thinks it’s cute that I’m taking an interest in current affairs!

“Anything interesting in the news?” Keith asked me.

As a matter of fact, yes! I was just reading about ‘recess coaches’ and how childhood has evolved and all this over-scheduling has greatly hindered the creativity and social skill developm …”

“Intriguing,” Keith replied. “But what about that article on Page 3?”

“OH! That piece about the conditions in the homeless shelter. Awful. There are just so many problems in society today. I don’t know where to begin. I mean, Jane Addams and Hull Ho…”

Keith seemed slightly on edge when he cut me off.

Fine. Be that way.

He grabbed the paper, turned to the third page and pointed to something.

“What about … THIS article?”

The “article” in question was actually a handwritten note that seemed to have been glued onto the page by someone other than the Times’ editorial staff.  WTF? Was this a ransom note? Had someone kidnapped Milty, the stuffed moose?! Upon closer inspection, it appeared to be  a wedding announcement of some sort. What the hell was it doing outside of the “Sunday Styles?”

Um … OMFG.  It  actually seemed to be OUR theoretical wedding announcement.

[Insert Stewie Griffin voice] What the DEUCE?!

I looked up in a moment of total retardation, and then … wait for it … wait for it … KEITH WAS ON ONE KNEE, ASKING ME TO MARRY HIM (and holding a RIDONCULOUSLY GORGEOUS RING)!!!!!

After about an hour of unintelligible screaming, the story of how Keith had been able to pull this off so flawlessly and a nice conversation with Keith’s mom, I began calling everyone I knew. Lew was at a conference, so I didn’t bother him. Jan was at the museum, and even though I tried about 100 times, I could not get her to pick up. Jamie, however, and miraculously, answered her phone and was incredibly happy and supportive.

Loren was very excited to hear the news as well and told her three-year-old daughter Alex, “Keith and Traci are getting married!”

I could tell Alex was ecstatic, because she said, “Mommy put more water in my gwass.”

Karen, as she does almost every time we speak, immediately asked me if I was engaged yet.  I’m not sure she knew I was serious when I told her, “Yes I am!”

After a haircut for Keith and lunch at the diner, I met Kiki for a manicure. I had purposely waited to tell her, knowing I’d see her in a few hours. She was super nice and very cutely suggested I not go with “You Don’t Know Jacques,” a trendy taupe polish, because “People are going to be looking at your hands. You need more of a statement.”

Newly painted with the OPI classic “Lincoln Park After Dark,” Keith and I met Jamie and her gentleman friend (GF) for drinks at the Empire Hotel, where we’d gone on our first date – exactly 18 years and two months after we graduated from Spiffy High (scotch for Keith, Lillet for me, tequila for GF and wine for Jamie). Whilst Jamie was trying on my ring, I asked her to be my maid of honor (hereby referred to as MOH). This will be a VERY important job, given that when the big day arrives, she will have to help me navigate a ginormous crowd of about 16 people and adjust the invisible train on what I hope will be a lovely white cotton Ella Moss or Splendid sundress valued at approximately $100.

Keith and I then dined at Picholine, where we literally had one of the best meals in the history of meals, including foie gras shabu-shabu, wild mushroom risotto, monk fish, daube of beef, French cheese, and an amuse bouche. I enjoy anything that involves an amuse bouche.

 We sat next to two funny couples from New Orleans. One couple still lived there and one now lived in New York. The male half of the New Orleans-based couple had come to the Big Apple to interview for a fellowship on a liver transplant team and reminded me of Kenneth on “30 Rock.” They were quite nice and when I got up to use the restroom, offered Keith some of their hard-to-find and delicious wine.

At the end of the evening, we returned to our apartment and attempted to watch this week’s episode of “Modern Family,” but Keith had now been up for almost 24 hours, and couldn’t keep his eyes open. So I watched a little bit of the “SNL” rerun featuring a handsome but not-that-funny Jon Hamm (he is best served with Don Draper) and then went to sleep.

I am a nostalgic but not sappy person. I am also completely and utterly uncomfortable and unsure of what to do with joy, calmness, peace of mind, and the absence of emotional turmoil.  Those were always just completely foreign feelings to me, and it is incredibly difficult for me to acknowledge – even for a nanosecond – that I am not in crisis. I am used to relationships marked by conflict and eggshell-walking. I’m also a skilled magical thinker, and I will almost never utter a positive statement for fear of jinxing. But I must say that Saturday was simply the happiest day of my life.

Keith is the kindest, most wonderful person I have ever met.  He has inspired me to strive to be a better person, let go of very, very long-held and destructive thought patterns, and saved me in many ways. I’m not sure I’m worthy, frankly, and I continue to think he will wake up one day and realize this.  It never, in almost 38 years, occurred to me that a relationship could be this good, and that I could be this [insert positive adjective … I can’t do it!]

As a great perk, I am also getting Keith’s parents, Keith’s mother’s Le Mutt, twin brother, older brother, two sister-in-laws, sister-in-law’s sister, two nieces, two nephews, aunt and uncle. I am blessed and I remember that every day.

For almost two decades now – ever since leaving the comfort of my mauve bedroom in New Jersey – I have dreamed of feeling at home again. With Keith, I am home.

Page 3

Dream On

It’s hard to believe given that I now have the attention span of a three-year-old, if that, but I used to read legitimate books.  Before L.O.A.D.D. (Late Onset Attention Deficit Disorder) felled me, I actually made it through several of Freud’s definitive works. And I have since been fascinated by dreams.

I believe that the way a person conveys his or her dreams to others reveals a great deal about his or her personality. Some people don’t remember them at all (repressed and possibly homicidal), some people find their own dreams totes embarrassing or too disturbing to admit (self-loathing and possibly homicidal), and some people obviously embellish them for dramatic purposes (narcissistic and possibly homicidal).

One can also extract much comedic material from dreams, once the initial horror/creepiness/confusion has passed. When my friend Loren was pregnant with her daughter, she dreamed the baby was born fully healthy but small enough to fit in her pocket, and thus, could be transported all over the city with grace and aplomb. A “stash-n-go” baby, if you will.

My friend B told me that in 6th grade, she dreamed she had a fight with another girl. The fight was so real that B couldn’t bring herself speak to her opponent for a week (they’re Facebook friends now, thank God).

In college, my sister called me to report a dream so unsettling she could hardly admit to having it.  But the burden was too big for her to shoulder alone, so she confided in me and one of her roommates.

Jamie: “I had a dream that I hooked up with a dog.”

Me: “So you dreamed about an ugly guy, what’s the big deal?”

Jamie: “No. I mean … [insert whisper] an ACTUAL DOG.”

Me, after a looooong pause: “Uh … yeah. That’s odd.  I’m not gonna lie.”

Now, I had the decency to wait a solid 15+ years to blab the contents of that dream here, but her roommate lasted a mere 15 seconds. My sister went downstairs to the living room a few hours later and found a group of Delta Kappa Epsilon brothers watching some 70s game show re-run with her friends.

“I love this show!” she said, as young Dave/Jeff/Josh/Mike/Andy/Jason turned to face her royal deviance head-on.

“Hey Jamie … the password is … CANINE.”

Eek. Guess the Snausage was out of the bag …

I myself am no stranger to freakish dreams, and often remember my nocturnal visions. But until I was in my late 20s, I never once had a famed recurring dream.

At first they were all about my contact lenses, for some reason. I would be struggling to insert ginormous, pizza-sized lenses. Each failed effort meant another smack on the forehead with the oversized contact. Sometimes, Kiki (my roommate, close friend and contact wear-age consultant) would have to roll them across the apartment into the bathroom for me.  Sometimes, I’d think they were safely in place and that I could see well enough to drive. Then, while speeding along the Garden State Parkway, I’d realize I was actually legally blind.

Soon, the contacts were out of the picture, but the driving-while-blind theme took center pillow.  At least once a week I’m still treated to a private screening of a movie about driving while I can’t see, being completely lost in a place that should be completely familiar (Scotch Plains, Philadelphia, the Upper West Side), or driving and being unable to control the car.

Then came the government-issued dream about the test that will decide my high school or college fate, in a class I didn’t realize I was taking and thus, did not attend all semester. Or the one in which I am about to get on a plane for a very long trip (usually to Tokyo or Shanghai), totally unprepared. I have no suitcase, no carry-on, and no emergency Hershey bar. I also have a middle seat in Coach. Freud and most Google search results agree that these are garden variety anxiety dreams, and that I feel unprepared, judged, regretful and totally lacking in confidence. Shocker!

But for the past year or two, I’ve been plagued by another one whose roots I really don’t understand.  The background scenarios vary, but have two things in common. I am usually ill-at-ease wherever I am, and I always end up desperately needing to visit the toilette. Unfortunately for Dream Me, there is a major problem with every facility I find.  These major problems include, but are not limited to:

  • Broken door, door with no lock, or no door at all
  • Above, plus presence of mean girls from high school in immediate vicinity
  • Revoltingly filthy stall and/or bathroom
  • Revoltingly overflowed toilet and/or sink
  • Revoltingly flooded stall and/or bathroom 
  • Toilet that is too high for someone of my smurf-sized stature to reach
  • Toilet that is covered with delightful “souvenirs” left by the previous user
  • Toilet that is blocked by seemingly rabid wild dogs (my personal favorite)

No one is really sure what this particular brand of dream means.  If anyone would like to offer a psychoanalytic opinion, I welcome the input. My own theory is this: I am weird.

Dream On

Chai Witness

Editor’s Note:  The following story involves an Orthodox Jewish woman and her son.  If you think there is even the most remote chance you will be offended, please exit page left.

I’m sure there’s some kind of deep-rooted, Jungian issue behind this, but as a Jew, when I see my fellow tribesmen doing the very things for which we are often negatively stereotyped, I find it difficult to contain my inner-rage. I just can’t help but feel that any bad behavior by a Jew reflects horribly on all Jews and particularly this Jew, even if I have nothing whatsoever to do with it.  In fact, let me take this opportunity to apologize on behalf of Bernie Madoff;  the rabbis in that New Jersey money- and organ-laundering scheme;  Son of Sam; and of course, Judas.   

About a block into a recent bus ride on a very rainy day, a mangy little boy ran up the steps, began cackling loudly and evilly, and sprawled his sopping wet body out on a row of seats, rendering them useless for anyone who prefers to arrive at work with a dry ass.  Then came his equally mangy mother and his sopping wet stroller, which was quickly dropped on the floor at such an angle that you’d have to step over it to reach the seats her son had not just soaked. I watched as several elderly people struggled to get by, noting that she didn’t bat an eyelash or acknowledge the blockade. Eventually, I lifted the stroller myself so people could get past it without risking spinal cord injury.

The mother then launched into an inappropriately loud tirade in which she accused her son of dropping his hat in a puddle on purpose so that she would have more laundry to do and thus, drop dead from exhaustion.  Based on the fact that the kid was picking his nose and decorating the windows with what he excavated, I just didn’t get the feeling he was that calculating.  However, I don’t think anyone on the bus would have blamed the kid if in fact he HAD been plotting her death by washing machine.

It was pretty clear from their attire, the length of the little boy’s hair and the name on his book bag that they were Orthodox Jews, a fairly common sight on the Upper West Side. As the other bus riders exchanged looks of disbelief, my face started burning with collective shame and I very much hoped I passed for an Italian that day.

I didn’t have much time to plot MY fantasy murder of this woman, because breakfast was served.  She handed the kid a a tub of  kosher cottage cheese that actually contained a runny egg.

“Eat it with your hands bubbala.  No I don’t have a napkin. Use the seat.  Go on. Wipe your hands on the seat. Isn’t that the best egg you ever had? Isn’t it nice of Mommy to make you breakfast? Aren’t you going to thank Mommy? [SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASED VOLUME] SAY THANK YOU TO MOMMY OR I’M NOT READING YOUR SPECIAL BOOK!”

Whoa.  WHOA.  Oh man. Say thank you, kid, so we can all start the day with a “special book” read to us in that mellifluous voice. I BEG YOU, kid, say “thank you.” 

He did not.

But out came the special book anyway. And guess what?! It was “The Story of Purim.”

Oh for the love of GOD. 

What better way to show your hatred of someone than by naming a pastry after them?

In a ridiculously dramatic manner, the mother commenced her high-volume reading of the tale of Esther, Mordechai, King Ahasverus and of course, the evil Haman (who hated the Jews but for whom they nonetheless named a delicious cookie– see Hamantash).

A highlight, for your pleasure. Please insert the most annoying voice you can possibly conjure.

Mother: “And they made the Jews work on SHABBOS! Can you believe that bubbala?! The SHABBOS!”

Kid: And did we KILL dem?

I looked around at the other bus riders — some of whom, the odds are, were fellow tribesmen as well. Everyone had the same look of utter horror on their faces.  Big, fat, OY.

No, no we did not kill “dem.” But please, kill ME!

Chai Witness