makes life worth living


For those who don’t know, Mr. T was sued by his crazy cat-loving, baby-hating, bikini-waxer, spinster next-door neighbor from hell, who claimed that the only reason the condo association decided to tent the building for termites was because of Mr. T’s unit.

See, back in March Mr. T took off a huge section of drywall and found termites on an exterior load-bearing wall, which belongs to the condo association. He immediately reported the damage and the condo association decided to tent. Moving out was a hassle, but all the other neighbors thanked Mr. T for pressing the association to take action. Crazy Cat Spinster, however, decided it was time to sue.

I received the lawsuit papers while Mr. T was in Italy, and I was rip-roarin’ furious! We tried to counter-sue her when we got back from our trip, but the coward skipped town and re-appeared the day before the trial, when it was too late to serve her.

We got the first indications that the day would go our way when we showed up at small claims court the morning of the hearing. The clerk asked Mr. T if he had counter-sued the plaintiff. Mr. T told him he had been unable to because she had skipped town, and the clerk asked if he would like to counter-sue her right then and there!

Of course Mr. T agreed, and the clerk told Crazy Cat Spinster, “We’re going to deal with this all on the same day. You can either go forward with the trial today or postpone until later.” WOOO-OOO!! Part-aaaayyy!! Crazy Cat Spinster had no choice but to agree to proceed with the counter-suit!

Word of advice to any nasty cat spinster neighbors reading this and plotting to groundlessly sue someone just because the justice system allows you to: Choose your victims wisely. Don’t mess with a Ph. D. who has spent twenty years at top-notch universities doing research and giving dissertations. Because if the man can argue a new scientific theory in front of a panel of highly-educated peers, he can certainly disprove your groundless, vindictive little case. I don’t think they have a Debate Club at waxing school…

If you’re ever in small claims court, here’s what NOT to do. She failed to provide Mr. T with “discovery”, a.k.a. all the documents she was submitting to court to prove her case. Then, when she was asked the reasons why she was suing Mr. T, she rambled on and on like a lunatic, whining and sniveling without ever making a coherent point. The evidence she submitted was pathetic. Imagine, she gave the judge pictures of all her flowers, to demonstrate just how much of a hassle it had been to move her plants during the tenting. Puh-leeeease!!

The judge was very annoyed by her incompetence, and before she had even concluded the presentation of her case, he cut her off to summarize her points. Then he let Mr. T have his turn, and my man creamed her! He had a five-section package of pertinent information, carefully labeled and highlighted, including case law, state statutes, and condominium rules & regulations.

Crazy Cat Spinster never once made eye contact with Mr. T, and were it possible to grow smaller and smaller with the refutal of each of her claims (like in the cartoons), she would have been no bigger than her ugly, mean cat by the time he was done with her.

The judge glowered at Crazy Cat Spinster and came just short of saying that she’d wasted the court’s time with her incongruent arguments. He ruled overwhelmingly in Mr. T’s favor, and my man and I happily left court hand in hand.

What started as a stressful morning turned into one of the most exhilarating afternoons of our lives as we celebrated this victory with a well-deserved lunch at P.F. Chang’s. To top it all off, when we got home and took the dogs out, Morena made a mad dash towards Crazy Cat Spinster’s mean ol’ cat. That’s my dog!!

So… I was getting ready to publish a “woe is me” post outlining my annoyance at my current profession, the envy I feel because all my friends are having children and I’m not, the silly arguments Mr. T and I have had in the past week, and the fact that I have a cold and it’s 90F outside.

But then a friend who runs a B&B contacted me to tell me that she had scheduled a photo shoot for me with West magazine this Friday for my cooking classes.

Me.  In West magazine.  With a published recipe.  And my contact information.

I shouldn’t stop reminding myself that when things seem to be going badly, it’s only because our energies are re-aligning themselves towards something new and better.

Now excuse me, I have to go figure out how to make and creatively plate ceviche with peaches.

Picture in your mind a chocolate eclair. You know how the choux pastry is airy and light, yet surprisingly satisfying? Imagine its cream filling, carefully crafted with just the right amount of sweetness. Think of the chocolate sauce, flowing smoothly over the entire dessert and filling each crevace of the pastry with unforgettable richness that makes you smile with every bite.

If this description is making your mouth water, then twist on over to the movie theatre (if you haven’t already) and watch Hairspray, because it’s just as good as a chocolate eclair, or better!!

My cheeks were hurting from smiling so much!! It’s the epitome of the feel-good movie, perfectly cast, gloriously funny, and completely satisfying. GO SEE IT!!!

God tells Adam and Eve that he has a special gift to give each of them. He asks, “Who wants the first one?”, without saying what this first gift is. Adam, always the eager beaver, lunges forward and yells, “I do, I do!!”

God gives him the first gift, which is the ability to pee standing up. Adam is delighted and runs around the Garden of Eden, peeing on everything and writing his name in urine on the dirt.

Eve watches Adam, rolls her eyes, and calmly asks God, “What’s the other gift?” God smiles and gives Eve a knowing wink, as he replies, “Multiple orgasms.”

I believe each person divides his or her life in “before and after” moments. As in “pre-September 11” and “post-September 11” or “pre-baby” and “post-baby”. Although I was only married for three years before I left him, I divide my life into “pre-separation” and “post-separation”.

I woke up the morning of February 13th, 2006 and crunched the numbers in my head. I had just over $2,000 in the bank, enough to cover first month’s rent and security deposit, plus groceries and gas for the month, and my part-time secretary’s wages. I glanced over at my sleeping husband, who hogged the king-sized bed with his big-boned, perspiring body. What I felt for him at that point is hard to put into words: pity, disgust, hatred, revulsion, and sadness are the adjectives that most vividly paint the picture of my despair.

Sensing my gaze upon him, he awoke. With the words “I can’t do it anymore”, I exhaled upon the house of cards we had both been holding our breaths around and brought it tumbling down.

A day later, on Valentine’s day, I lay in bed within my one-bedroom apartment. Once again I held my breath, except this time it wasn’t out of fear, but out of elation. Like a cancer patient in remission, I had been given a new lease on life, a second chance to follow my heart.

The adobe walls of my little oceanfront home have been a warm and embracing cocoon, silent witness to my emotional metamorphosis. Within them, I have taken minuscule yet life-affirming steps. I made my bed with luxurious chocolate brown sheets and a calming seafoam green bedspread, seemingly insignificant purchases which would have incited a debilitating battle of wills in my former life. I built a home office in the corner of my bedroom, headquarters of the business venture which financed my ticket out of hell. I filled my closet with clothes that reflected the new “me” – a stronger, thinner, more out-going woman who stood up straight and allowed nobody to put her down.

Next week will mark the eighteen month anniversary of the day I followed my heart. It has been a journey filled with the unconditional love of new and old friends, the roller coaster of professional challenges and triumphs, and the painstaking discovery of who I am now and who I strive to become.

I have decided to once again follow my heart, this time towards the man who so lovingly cradles it in his hands. In November, at the conclusion of the wedding season, I will be moving into Mr. T’s house, clothes, bedspread, office and all.

We were both hesitant about living “in sin”, not because of the religious implications (we’re not religious at all), but because of countless doomsday studies which have been pushed upon unwed couples. Yet, what makes more sense: getting married now, a scant sixteen months after meeting, or allowing our love to mature for another year?

Geographical boundaries have pushed us to make this decision, and I think we’re both ready. The butterfly is almost ready to emerge from her cocoon.

Three funiculars leave from the Vanvitelli area of Naples, where our hotel was located, and descend the mountain in different directions towards the downtown area. As fate would have it, we took the wrong one and ended up a good three miles from the main port, where we were supposed to board a ferry to the island of Capri.

Mr. T grumbled for a while as we walked by the water towards the docks, but my happy chatter and the beauty of the city soon put him in a better mood. Who could possibly be angry in such lovely surroundings, I thought to myself.

About halfway to the port, I saw in the distance a funny-looking light post. As we approached it, I could tell that it was heavily marked with graffiti. A thick chain was wrapped around the post, and attached to it were at least twenty locks of all shapes and sizes! Upon closer inspection, we noticed that each lock had the names or initials of a couple. A few had been engraved, but most were labeled with permanent marker or even nail polish.

Mr. T and I spent a few minutes looking through the locks, wondering out loud about this curious tradition. We took a few pictures and continued on our way, so as not to miss the ferry.

“We should do that,” I told Mr. T, tugging childishly at his arm and pointing back to the post with the locks. My dear, sweet, but oh-so-practical boyfriend just grinned and sighed at the hopeless romantic walking next to him…

Several days later, I spent the morning alone in Naples while Mr. T went to work in Salerno. I was to meet him at the bus depot in the afternoon, upon his return. I wore my cutest miniskirt and a brand-new skin-tight shirt, thinking that it would make him happy to know I dressed up for him.

All morning long, as I shopped in an upscale district, I noticed the appreciative glances and smiles from charming, well-mannered Italian men. However, by the afternoon, as I approached the neighborhood where the bus depot was supposedly located, the crowd became sketchy. Appreciative glances became inflaming catcalls, and polite smiles turned into sinister jeers. The heat was oppressive, cars honked and swerved for no reason, and twice I stumbled on the uneven cobblestones. I forged ahead, knowing that in just a few minutes I would be safe with Mr. T.

I reached the main train station, where Mr. T said he’d be arriving by bus, and started looking for signs to the bus depot. Not a single marker indicated the location of the incoming regional buses. I walked outside and asked a kiosk attendant in Italian where the buses arrived. He told me to go out to the front of the train station. When I exited, I saw only two private tourist buses parked by the curb, loading Japanese tourists.

I found a police officer and asked him where the buses from Salerno arrived. He pointed across a large parking lot leading to the back of the train station. I started walking but the lot eventually turned into a row of warehouses. I stopped to ask a group of men where the depot was. They told me I had to cross the street. I did this, walked about five minutes, and found nothing remotely resembling a bus depot. I entered the lobby of a hotel, and a porter kindly took me towards a parking lot full of buses. My hopes soared until I realized the parking lot was devoid of people. Not a single passenger was boarding or exiting the buses. I found a bus driver and asked him to point me towards the bus depot. He gestured roughly with his hand in the general direction of the train station and barked, “It’s across the street.”

Frantic now, knowing that Mr. T had arrived 30 minutes prior, I started walking as fast as I could back towards the train station. A young man in a Vespa stopped and inquired if he could help me. I asked him if he could point me in the direction of the bus depot, and he told me that it was around the other side of the train station. He said in Italian, “It’s a bit far, why don’t you jump on my bike? I’ll take you.”

I smiled cautiously and took a step back. “Thank you,” I replied. “I’m not in a hurry, so I’ll walk.” I turned and took a step away from him. As I did, he leaned over, reached out, and in a split second… GRABBED. MY. ASS.

HARD.

It took me a moment to absorb what had just happened. I looked over my shoulder, my mouth frozen in a perfect “O” of shock and indignation. He quickly steadied his bike and revved the engine to leave, but I managed to give his helmet a hard whack before he drove away.

I stood on the sidewalk, one hand holding two shopping bags and the other clenched in an infuriated yet impotent fist. I knew I had to keep moving, had to find Mr. T, so I turned in the direction of the train station and started walking. With each stride, an inordinate amount of rage built inside me. My breath came in short, nasal huffs as I re-lived what had just happened.

Was I mad at the guy? Hardly… Yes, he was a creep, a loser, a pathetic excuse for a man. But these men are everywhere in the world and we must co-exist with them. No, I wasn’t mad at him; I was mad at myself! Why had I not fought back? Why hadn’t I clawed his face to shreds with my nails? Why hadn’t I swung my leg to kick him, as I had practiced countless times in karate? Why didn’t I hurl myself at him, knocking him off his bike in a tirade of rage?

As I approached the train station, I saw a group of blue regional buses, and next to one of them I spotted Mr. T, waving wildly. I walked to him, gave him a quick hug, turned away, and said in a tight voice, “Get me out of here, I want to go home.”

“That’s quite an outfit,” he said before realizing my discontent. “Honey bunny, what’s wrong?” he quickly asked, following after me as I charged into the metro station.

I tried to modulate my tone, but my words came out faster and more frantic as I relayed my story. “…And then the cop told me to go across the lot, and the guys at the warehouse told me to go across the street, and the bus driver didn’t even know where the depot was! The bus driver! How fucked up is that??”

“It’s ok, baby,” he consoled me. “You’re not the only one who’s upset. I’ve been waiting here for over half an hour, it’s really hot, and I couldn’t leave because I knew you wouldn’t be able to find me.”

At that moment, the dam burst. “WELL, AT LEAST YOU DIDN’T GET YOUR ASS GRABBED!!!” I cried, burying my face in his chest.

“Oh… Honey… I’m sorry that happened to you! Who did that?”

“Some asshole,” I muttered into his chest, willing the humiliation and rage to leave my body. I looked up into his eyes and whimpered, “I just wanted to look pretty for you, so I wore this outfit, but then all these guys started looking at me funny and saying stuff, and then I got lost, and then…” I buried my head back in his chest, running out of steam as his arms wrapped around me.

“It’s OK now, you’re with me and nobody will hurt you,” he reassured me. “If we walk back up this street, we’ll be in the shopping district in no time.”

I held tight to his hand as we crossed the street and started heading back towards civilized society. Every time a man neared us, I grabbed Mr. T’s arm and gave my best “don’t even think about it” icy-cold death look. Mr. T tried to distract me by asking about my shopping experiences, and as I recounted my fashion finds, we walked by a locksmith shop.

“Hey,” Mr. T said softly, nudging my hand in the direction of the store. “I think I know how to cheer you up.” We walked into the store and in faltering Italian purchased a gold-plated lock.

“We’re too far from the port right now,” Mr. T told me as we exited the store. “I have to work all day in Salerno tomorrow, so you’ll have to spend our last day in Italy alone. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to buy a permanent marker, write our names on the lock, take it down to the lamp post, and attach it.”

The next day I walked down to the port, excitedly clutching a lock with our names on it. I reached the lamp post, found an available link on the chain, and carefully attached the lock to it. As I snapped the lock shut, an overwhelming sense of joy and love arose within me, squeezing out every last bubble of hate that had fermented inside me a day earlier. I gazed at the lock, more precious and meaningful to me than all the gold in the world.

I grasped the keys tightly in my left hand, closed my eyes, and made a wish. I opened my eyes, gazed at the horizon, and threw the keys into the ocean.

Mercury’s officially out of retrograde.  How can I tell?  I just got a $300 tip!!  Off to spend it ALL in Italy!!!  I’ll miss you all…

Next Page »