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TOTALLY COMPLETELY AND ABSOLUTELY NORMAL|
I donít like to brag, but Iíve rarely met a person as even-tempered, stable and emotionally evolved as myself.
I am, what you might call, the poster child for ďnormal.Ē
The only thing strange about me is how amazingly un-strange I am.
Iím sure, one day, psychotherapy researchers will use my life as a control from which other lives can be compared.
ďHeís about half a normal as our control is, therefore heís half normal.Ē
Being normal is only part of the process, staying normal is the other.
For me, the largest part of my staying normal maintenance is keeping my surroundings tidy and in place.
I have a cleaning lady come every Friday, while I'm at work cooking wedding food. Friday is the day I know that while I am slicing, dicing, roasting and grilling the edibles that will soon be served at the Horowitz nuptials, my 750-square-foot East Village apartment is being lovingly mopped, vacuumed, dusted and scrubbed. I love coming home on Friday nights to glistening wood floors and not a single visible cat hair on the perfectly vacuumed Persian rug.
What could be more normal that having a nice clean, comfortable home?
I spend the first hour I'm home, (before I allow myself to take off my dirty kitchen clothes) putting everything back in place. I don't know why my cleaning lady cannot remember that the couch legs go one inch in from the edge of the carpet and that the throw pillows on the bed must look random and care-free but always wind up in this precise order: brown pillows on the bottom, green on the sides and the large white cotton one in the center.
Once I'm assured that the order of my home has been restored, I undress, feed the cats, shower, brush my teeth and then immediately open all my mail.
I sort out the bills, put them in the bill section, and throw out the junk mail after tearing it exactly twice, once lengthwise and once along its width.
Personal mail is kept between the stapler and the pen and pencil holder until I have a glass of water followed by a glass of wine and then a glass of water. Personal mail must be prepared for, after all.
If the personal mail is upsetting, it is either ripped up exactly four times or kept on the desk to be re-read one more time, possibly over the phone to a close pal and then ripped up exactly four times. If the personal mail is loving and wonderful, it is kept for display on the top of the antique pine tchotcke cabinet so that visitors to my home will read the letters and cards and know how wildly popular I am.
Once the business of mail is done, it's time for phone messages. They are jotted down if business listened to and erased if personal and listened to and saved if personal and really nice. The really nice saved personal messages will be listened to again on a day when nobody calls to fill the void.
Then comes e-mail. Generally speaking, I'm only able to read the first two e-mails before I receive an instant message from N in Miami, who spends evenings Monday to Friday working at a job she finds madly boring and therefore instant messages her pals immediately when they come online.
N and I have an unspoken understanding. We are close friends via the Internet, but rarely hear each other's real voices or see each other in person. The few times we have met in person, I kept resisting the urge to hit "Send" at the end of every sentence.
I read through my e-mail and delete the junk mail, saving the business mail to be answered in the daytime. It's important not to answer business e-mail at night. One can read it, save it, file it and even prepare the response, but one can not actually send the response, because that would be working, and if you work at night you are a workaholic, and that's not normal.
In between not answering e-mails, N and I catch up on our lives via instant message. Many of our replies are just asterisks (for smooches) or smiley faces. In my day-to-day life I fantasize about printing up small signs with smiley faces or asterisks and flashing them at people when they say hello.
After another eight asterisks and four smiley faces, a few "holy shits" and one or two "that sucks," I sign off with three asterisks and go about the business of feeding myself.
There is a popular misconception about people who cook for a living. Folks tend to think that after a hard day's work of marinating 100 pounds of chicken cutlets, filleting 80 pounds of salmon, making four dressings, two sauces, three dips and five chutneys, we want to come home and -- AAAAKKKK -- cook.
The closest I get to my kitchen on my night off is the cupboard where I keep the Chinese take-out menu. I read through the menu, and then order the same thing.
"Tofu with mixed vegetables, please ... very little sauce ... and ... "
"I know, I know," says the man at the restaurant. "No baby corn, no water-chestnuts, and you want brown rice, not white rice."
In the 10 minutes it takes the Chinese food to show up, I make my pre-dinner preparations. I have to be ready by exactly 8 p.m. and not 8:01, as television shows suck if you miss the first minute.
I sit on my bed facing the TV, with my bottle of water, roll of paper towels, plate, silverware and nine bucks for the deliveryman in place. The volume is turned down on the answering machine, the computer shut off, the hall light off so it won't reflect on the television.
The only time I'm off my schedule is when the Chinese food is late. If the Chinese food shows up at 8:05, it throws everything off, and my night is ruined. I hate it when that happens.
Having a schedule is very important when you want to stay as normal as I am.
At 10 p.m., my show is over. Then the dishes are rinsed and put in the dishwasher, the cats get a snack so they'll leave me alone, my face is washed, my teeth brushed and for whatever reason, I run some water in the bath and wash my feet.
I then pet each cat for approximately 10 minutes, go back online and answer the personal e-mails I didn't feel like answering before. At this point, I may start a draft or two for some of the proposals I'll need to send in the next couple of days, but even if that draft is completed, I won't e-mail it to the client, as that would mean I'd be working late at night, and as I mentioned earlier, I'm not a workaholic.
At around 11, I'll watch the news. Now, it's very important when you watch the news to never ever watch a commercial, because the news is serious stuff and commercials are not. I surf from NBC to CBS to ABC and back to escape commercials.
If commercials are on all three networks, I switch to CNN, but that's the only time. Normal people never watch CNN between 11 and 11:30. It's just wrong. Cable news is for off hours. That's the rule.
I always turn off the news before the sports and weather come on. I don't watch sports or weather unless there's a hurricane coming or it's the World Series (whatever that is). I just don't see the point.
At 11:30, the television goes off and after approximately 30 minutes dedicated to lying in bed writing Academy Award acceptance speeches in my head, I fall asleep.
Mornings are precious to me. I like to drink my morning coffee while sifting through the e-mail I chose to ignore the night before. The most important thing is that I must have two cups of coffee and one hour of quiet before I talk to another human being no matter who they are. The police rang my bell once before Iíd had my second cup. I still donít know what it was that they wanted.
At around 10 a.m. I reluctantly begin to answer the phone. Itís pretty much a blur for the next few hours after that.
At some point between 1 and 3 p.m., I have breakfast. I doesn't matter what time it is: If it's the first meal of my day, it has to be breakfast, and it has to be eggs.
I almost always go to the Life Cafť, which has fairly unspectacular food, but it's dark and sleazy, and the waiters chat me up. I always read over the entire menu, then order the breakfast special.
I canít eat unless I read the real-estate section of The Village Voice. Iím not planning on moving or buying property, but somehow the simplicity of the classified ads just soothes me.
After breakfast, I go to the Korean deli on the corner and buy cat food, a bottle of water and one of those fresh juice drinks. Then I walk home on the east side of Avenue B, crossing to the uptown side of 11th Street.
I only walk on the east side of Avenue B when I have gone to the deli. At all other times, it has to be the west side. The sun is on the west side, and I like to walk in the sun.
It's very important to walk in the sun, because the sun clears your head. If you walk in the shade too much, you will spend your day sleepy and lost, and life will begin to feel rather dark as we all know, feeling dark is not normal.
It's also very important as much as possible to walk on streets with even numbers. I am partial to 10th and 12th streets. It's okay to live on streets with odd numbers, but it's important to walk on streets with even numbers.
On the days, I cook; I go to my commercial kitchen in Long Island City. I always tell the driver to take the 59th Street Bridge, even though the Midtown Tunnel is closer. This is not to save the four bucks, but because I have promised myself that there are two ways I will not die. I will not be eaten by sharks, and I will not be squished underground.
I prefer to die unexpectedly of a heart attack in mid-sentence, or to die while saving a major celebrity's life. Sometimes I dream of taking a bullet for Hillary Clinton. That would be a very nice way to die.
I think about things like that: How I'd like to die, what I'd like to happen after I die. I've written my will many times and always e-mail a copy to Tray, my best friend and executor. I usually send Tray a new will when I have a fever or indigestion.
I used to rewrite my will a lot more often, but then I realized MSG gave me migraines. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between a migraine and a brain tumor. Best to write the will just in case.
Writing wills and having one's affairs in order is very normal.
Many of my friends are not very normal. I try not to hold this against them, but it is sad, really, especially since it's so easy to get on the normal path. I don't think Tray has updated her will once in the last year. Laura insists on meeting me at cafťs that have bathrooms in which the men's and the women's restroom share one sink. I think that's disgusting.
It never seems to bother Laura. I can respect that, but I once pointed out someone else's lipstick on her water glass, and she drank from it, anyway. That's just freaky.
I think catering is an excellent career to have if you're as amazingly even as I am. No matter how many times, you check, double-check and triple-check all the points in executing a flawless event, there is always something missing. It's very convenient to be thorough. Being thorough, as you know is a huge part of being normal.
My chef Neil is very dedicated. He stays up all night, the night before a party counting nori rolls in his head.
Neil also likes to cut things in perfect little shapes. He's partial to cookie cutter shapes. He tried to cut quesadillas into little flower shapes once, but the cheese oozed and they looked like melting daisies.
Being of a less obsessive nature, I like to cut things in big chunky pieces. I assemble cheese tables on which the breads, fruits, cheeses, biscuits and marinated olives just cascade, sometimes literally off the table. It's a style I call "Home-style Cave Woman."
Most folks think I just throw things in the air and they land in this "abundanza" style of plenty, but the truth is my mayhem is calculated symmetry. I stand over my cheese tables, raising my left hand then my right until the "yin yang" bell in my head rings and I know I can throw down a handful of red sundried tomatoes on the tail end of the orange cheddar cheese. If the bell doesn't ring, I've been known to stand there like a great shifting scale for up to 20 minutes raising one hand, then the other. There is a science to a perfectly even random display.
Neil and I often have phone conferences, but not at night, because phone conferences at night would mean we are workaholics. In the daytime, we have lengthy chats about the benefits of black sesame seeds vs. white sesame seeds.
Neil is what you might call anally retentive, and I can respect that. I'm what you might call, normal but particular. There's a big difference.
As a Renaissance woman, I am very proud of my creative side. My greatest passion is for writing. I don't seem to have much of an interest in writing about anything other than my life, which is odd considering my well-known modesty. But writing about one's life is a wonderful way to relieve bottled-up feelings. I pour my thoughts on the paper or computer screen, and then they are no longer in my head. It's important to treat your brain like the trash bin on your computer screen. I try to hit "empty trash" at least once a week.
Lately, I've started deleting people as soon as I meet them, too. Five seconds after they walk away, it's as if they never existed. I don't know why people have become Spam in my inbox, but deleting them does leave a lot more room in my head for creative thought.
If the inspiration strikes me, I may jump out of bed, turn on the computer and start a paragraph first thing in the morning. Sometimes, when I finish the paragraph, the sun has gone down, my stomach is rumbling, the answering machine is full and I've just put the final touches on a 3,000-word paragraph. I don't know where I go when I write those paragraphs, but I do know there's no food or water there.
I don't feel concerned about these absences, though, because after I hit the Save button, another round of troublesome memories are out of me and onto the screen. "Empty Trash," and I move on. This is all part of staying ordinary.
As I write this, it is Thursday. It's been six days since the cleaning lady has been here, and there is cat hair everywhere. But I comfort myself knowing the cleaning lady will come tomorrow.
Often on Thursdays, I escape the cascades of dust growing like cancer on my throw rugs and just go out. I like to go to the movies with pals, or, like tonight, for drinks with Tommy.
Tommy is wonderful to go out with. He's polite, pleasant to look at and he speaks in a soft, gentle tone. I find the sound of his voice soothing; he speaks the way hypnotists do when they're trying to put you under. I have occasionally wondered if Tommy does, in fact, hypnotize me when we go out. Sometimes we run into people who seem to know me, but I have no idea who they are.
I suppose it is possible that Tommy is hypnotizing me. Perhaps I am dancing naked on tabletops or doing other suggestive things. I haven't really come up with the right way to ask him. Maybe tonight I will. I'll just come right out and say, "Tommy I'm a very normal person. So if you're hypnotizing me, just tell me right now!" ... and leave it at that.
Yes, yes. I think tonight I'll ask him.
After all, it's important to be honest with the people in your life. That's a huge part of being normal.
All material © copyright 2001-3, Rossi
But wait! There's more!
the Family supper
The Last Road Trip
Cabbage and Noodles
Days of Awe
Rabbis and Mozzarella
The Guilt Wheel
The Breakfast March
TOTALLY COMPLETELY AND ABSOLUTELY NORMAL
Miss New Jersey
Ramada Inn Makes Nice Soap
Buying a Piece of Jackie
Introduction to Memoirable ... Return to Kingston Avenue