(photo above of Joe and friend winter surfing)
Yesterday the heat and hot water went out for 8 hours. I've always considered myself a rugged New Englander but the reality is, my stepfather was a Holocaust survivor and I can barely survive Loehmann's closing.
I used to be a rugged New Englander. When I was a teenager my friends and I would walk 5 miles through a blizzard in sneakers and a thin leather coat. My oldest and best friend Suzy and I hitchhiked hundreds of miles through Vermont just because we could. I survived a wicked car crash where our drunk driver hit a telephone pole so hard the engine came through the floor. I didn't walk away, but I did hobble out of the hospital as soon as I could make a break for it.
In high school, if friends and I went out to eat 'fancy' we'd go to China Sails at the Liberty Tree Mall. We'd get the pupu platter where everything was fried, painted in Red Dye #3 and lit on fire. We'd wash it down with sombreros -- kahlua and cream, not milk.
I came to New York City with $240 in my pocket and knew almost no-one. I was a week out of art school and my skill set consisted of conceptually thinking about monumentalism versus didacticism and what Neo Geo meant to art history concepts. Will photography matter?
Then there was the time I shit my pants in Costa Rica. I was birdwatching -- a red one! a blue one! another red one! Halfway up a long climb we hit a beautiful glade and bam! I had to poop. I ran off the trail and squatted, then grabbed what looked like pretty lily of the valley leaves. I wiped and the itching started immediately. I tore the laces from my hiking boot, ripped a sock off and finished my business with that. Despite the burn, despite the rash, I kept hiking. I came down the mountain with no sock on one foot, a two-foot a rash and a sodden sock in my pocket, but I kept hiking.
I've swam in Maine in June. I turned blue doing it and insisted it was invigorating.
Ten years ago I had a wicked flu. I came into the kitchen wearing only undies to get some water, but was stopped by a giant waterbug standing guard. (A waterbug is the elephant of the insect world. It lumbers because it can't flit.) I silently put shoes on, crept to the pantry to get Raid, then sprayed it for a good five minutes. When I stepped forward to see if it was dead my shoe hit the Raid slick and my feet went out from under me. I dropped full body into the slick and like a slow motion scene from a horror movie, I slid across the floor right onto the water bug. After I boiled my skin off in the shower, I cleaned the bug up and got that drink of water.
I've been mugged at knifepoint. I've survived a flood, the kind where night comes as water rages past four feet deep in a place where there's never been water. I've been chased down Norfolk Street by a guy with a machete, been chased the other way by crackheads. I've been spit on by homeless people and watched a normal looking guy take a dump in the middle of a Soho street in broad daylight. I did not offer him my sock.
All of it I've chocked up to life, something to roll with, then last year Hurricane Sandy came. We had no power for 5 days, no heat, but we could walk 30 blocks and have full on civilization. It wasn't brutal cold and I still had a roof and lots of food. Yet on day 5 I hit a wall. I didn't want to walk 30 blocks for a great dinner, I didn't want to forage through our pantry for a snack, I didn't want to boil water so I could wash my face. I wanted to go online and check my daily sites like Deadline and the New York Times and Sample Sally. My phone let me check emails and cruise a little, but I wanted a big screen. I wanted to watch a movie and then I wanted to watch TV. A low moan started in my chest and the next thing I knew I was whining.
Joe had been meticulously dressing in layers and was dressing me in them too. I didn't want to put on another layer, I didn't want to sleep in the cold but I did want to turn a light on. As I stomped around the living room listing everything I didn't want to do he chuckled and waved me to the front door to follow him out for a warm-up walk. "Come, my rugged New Englander," he said and in that second I knew my charade was up. Sure, I have a high level of tolerance for things, but I don't know if it's acceptance or exhaustion from living in New York City. Though I'm glad to dive in the mud and do what has to be done, when I get out I like it cushy. I've gotten cushy on the inside, too; I used to be a strong, silent resent the shit out of you type and now I talk. Talk talk talk and feelings and talk, but I do it on a great couch with a sterling silver ice cream spoon mining the bottom of a vanilla chocolate chip pint. Amen, brother.