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Sad(der) Lisa and the Case of the Missing Books

I’ll preface this by saying I know everyone is sick to death of hearing about the Bartender. And I know I need to figure out a way to finally, officially let go and move on with my life. And — other than the fact that his bar is right around the corner from where I live and I have to walk by it/him virtually every day — I don’t know why it’s over two months later and I’m still struggling. I guess part of it is that it was the first time I really thought I was on to something good in a long, long time…and he’s somebody I care about. A lot. It’s hard for me to just turn that off and pretend it never happened.

But…I bring him up again — for what I will (try to) promise will be the last time — for two reasons: (1) It always makes me feel better to write things out; and (2) I have found no one really gives a hoot when I blog about food anyway.

My oldest childhood friend will be here tomorrow…and we have several days to pal around in New York before Costa Rica on Thursday…and I am hopeful I will return from this adventure with a new lease on life. Maybe we can perform some sort of ritualistic exorcism that will make me forget he exists. And/or maybe the guy who cut my hair was right and in another week, my life will change forever — even on the man-front.

Until then, I will write, I guess.

There were MANY things the Bartender and I did not have in common. Politics was one of them. He claimed to be a Republican…but I think he was much more moderate than he let on. Let’s face it — I have pretty strong opinions about woman-y things and I really couldn’t stand to be around somebody who told me I should be seen and not heard and the like. Granted, he had a McCain/Palin poster in his apartment, but I think part of his conservative fervor was also that he wanted to set himself up as a counterpoint to the young, urban, liberal hipster archetype.

The Bartender was also very opinionated and liked to talk a lot. In fact, once he told me on my little red couch that he liked our conversations because we didn’t argue — we had friendly debates that made him think about things in new ways. (But I will have to watch myself when it comes to making comments like that or I’m going to get nostalgic.)

And…one of my J-school professors is really into social justice-y topics and wrote a book called, “Denison, Iowa,” on — you guessed it — a year in the life of this Midwestern town. I’m not Amazon, so this may not be an entirely accurate recollection, but, basically…my memory of it is that Denison‘s claim to fame is that it’s the birthplace of Donna Reed and so for many, many years it was this wholesome, traditional Midwestern town with wholesome, traditional Midwestern people and wholesome, traditional Midwestern values…and then a bunch of meatpacking plants popped up and immigrants started moving there for jobs and the social dynamics of the town changed considerably. So…my professor spent a year living there during this period of flux and sort of sat back and watched all these changes and the related drama. He illustrated it all with a number of characters in town like the young Latino guy who wanted to start his own business — and so there was all this intrigue about whether he would qualify for the loan in the end…and there was, like, a retired schoolteacher who had lived in Denison her entire life and who started teaching English classes at night…and there was also, like, the crooked cop who hated everyone who wasn’t white. That’s basically the gist.

And so — because the Bartender and I were allegedly on opposite sides of the political spectrum, I was curious what he’d think about this book. So…I let him borrow it. But…when I gave it to him, I said, “My professor wrote this, so I’d really like it back…” and then, half-jokingly, I added, “So, you know, if anything happens while you’re reading this and you decide you hate me and never want to see me again, will you please just, like, leave it in my mailbox or something? I really want it back.” And, of course, he looked at me with a big frowny face and said, “Nooo! That’s not going to happen! You worry too much!”

But sometimes the worrier is right and — sure enough — something happened and he decided that he hates me and never wants to see me again. But not before I let him borrow yet another book…which I’ve been saying is one of my favorites, but I’m not positive that’s entirely true. I just like it a lot and would like it back, too. And you’d better believe that even in the middle of our hours-long, tear-filled, “I don’t understand why you ‘can’t'”-goodbye, I let him know that I wanted those books back. He promised he’d get them to me. That was August 20.

I sent a reminder or two. Nothing.

Then…there was the whole end-of-birthday debacle in September.

So. I decided I would give him a good month-long cushion of no Lisa and then I would make one final plea for those books.

And — this is how crazy I am — both our final fight and my birthday are even-numbered days, so I thought, “Maybe if I wait until an odd day, I’ll have better luck!” Plus, November 5 is Javier Lopez‘s birthday and I figured I could, like, channel Javy for strength.

But before I actually had a chance to send him anything that day, lo and behold, I was on my way to meet the Greeting Card Emergency guy and I saw a man walking towards me with a Yankees hat and a cigarette and I thought, “Ohmygod, is that the Bartender?” and then he adjusted his backpack and I realized that, yes, it *was* him and so I got out my phone, but I had no new messages and then we passed by each other and had an eight-word conversation — “How are you?” “Fine. You?” “Fine.” “Books?” “Okay.” — and I turned the corner and my legs turned to jelly and I hyperventilated a little.

I got a new phone post-Bartender and his number is not in it. I had all these messages from him on the old one that I couldn’t bear to delete, but…my memory was full and so every time I’d get a new message it would say, “Memory Low! Delete messages now!” and I would say, “I don’t want to delete any messages!” and so my solution was to just get a new phone. No messages from him in there. No reminders of him.

But I still have that old phone. So…I figured there was no harm in retrieving his number and using the “use once” feature to send a message to that 347-number that I cannot save again. It was perfectly friendly — just to acknowledge that we’d seen each other and it was fine and — I know this is beating a dead horse, but — I’d really appreciate getting those books back.

So, later that very same day, I wrote him something along the lines of…”Hey — I hate to be a pain, but my professor wrote one of those books and the other is one of my favorites and it would mean a lot if I could get them back.” And that’s probably all a normal person would write, but I went on to say that besides making me really happy, I would imagine getting rid of the books would be cathartic and then he’d be free of it all and wouldn’t have any reminders of anything unhappy…and I said that I hoped all was well and that I seriously meant it because I never wanted anything but the best for him…and to prove that very point, I told him how happy I was that Pettitte pitched such a good game and that Matsui hit so well and the Yankees won, in part because I knew how happy it must have made him.

No response. No books.

So…I waited for another odd-numbered day (I hope I do not get, like, institutionalized for admitting that) and sent another message: “Please, T, please? Those books? I’m leaving the country on Thursday. Can I have them back before then?” (If I have to go pick them up at his bar, it would be great to have my oldest childhood friend there with me to figuratively hold my hand…)

But, again, nothing. Radio silence.

And, okay, I guess I have a reputation for being a clingy girl and understand that maybe he’s worried that responding will only fuel the fire and it’s easier to just press “delete” and pretend it never happened. But…it seems to me that the nice thing to do would be to say, “Okay,” or “Sure,” or SOMETHING — even leaving the books in my mailbox in the dark of night. After all, he gets off work at 4:00 AM on the weekends…

And I know I threw a lot of crazy his way, but I was also really good to him — I dropped off pie on National Pie Day because he had to work and couldn’t come to my celebration and I made him cheesecake and planned an elaborate dinner (with meat!) when he was hurt and out of work and poor and sick of eating rice and beans…and I sent him postcards from all of my travels this summer and I spent a small fortune on Yankees tickets for his birthday because he turned 30 and I wanted to do something big and because he hadn’t been to the new stadium and I wanted him to see it. And, you know, I did those things because I care about him and wanted to make him happy, not for future leverage in case I didn’t get my books back…and I was really happy to have somebody to care about and to be able to do those things for, you know? But I don’t understand how it could have devolved into this. My worst nightmare is someone saying, “I can’t love you,” and walking out the door and disappearing forever…and that’s exactly what happened.

I’m not holding out hope he’s going to knock on my freakishly small door and say, “I made a huge mistake!” But it seems pretty rotten to me to just ignore me. I could understand if I was texting him with, “I miss you! Please take me back!” or “Screw you, you manwhore! And give me back my goddamn books!”

But I’m not. I’m trying to be civil…and since I was the one who was so horribly hurt in this escapade, I thought being friendly and nice now would be kind of olive-branch-y, you know? Like, saying, “Yes, I know I was a huge mess the last time you saw me, but I’m basically okay now!”

So…last night, I was debating what to do…and then I got a call from an old coworker saying, “Hey! I just had dinner in your neighborhood — are you around?” So…I met him around the corner from my apartment and he said, “Where should we go?” and I said, “Anywhere but here!” and nodded toward the Bartender’s place. So…we walked up the street to another place…and we talked and caught up and drank…and he really likes my stories, so he always laughs and tells me how funny I am (last time he praised my comic timing — how about that??)…and I hadn’t seen him in awhile, so it was really nice. And…I don’t know how many beers later, I was telling him about trying to get my books back and we had already been out for a good, long time, so we were getting ready to leave…and as I was pointing him to the Subway, the neon lights at the Bartender’s bar shone brightly in the distance and I got all nostalgic and my old coworker said, “We should go in and have one last drink there!” and I said, “Oh, I don’t know…bad things happen when I go into that place…” and he said, “Come on — it’ll be good for you. And I’ll talk to him! I’ll help you get your books back!” And whenever I’m willing to go there, I should always remember that it means I am in no shape to be making decisions like that. But I agreed to go.

It wasn’t particularly crowded…so we were able to get two seats at the bar. The Bartender was behind the bar, but he wouldn’t have anything to do with me. He’s a pretty jealous guy…and, in hindsight, I realized I’ve always gone in there with girlfriends…and so I guess it could have looked like I was on a date or something and that I was rubbing it in his face.

He was wearing a Yankees World Series sweatshirt…so — see? I was right. He *was* really excited. And his stupid boss came out at one point and saw me there and was LOVING the fact that I was there with some guy and that the Bartender wouldn’t acknowledge me.

And, really, I’ve made a complete fool of myself at that place SO MANY times because of him. So they’ve  probably come to expect it of me. And, really, comparatively speaking, this time wasn’t that bad. I didn’t talk to the Bartender. But my old coworker did. And he came back to me and said, “You’ll get your books on Monday. But we should probably go now.”

And then I wanted to know what my old coworker had said and what the Bartender had said…and my old coworker was saying that, you know, he’s no good and I need to move on…blah, blah…and somehow I ended up crying on the sidewalk outside again and blathering on about how I don’t understand how you can just throw somebody away…and that he was always so good with my cat and that even when the little monster bit him, he’d be so patient and kind and call them “love bites,” and I feel like I’m depriving my cat of a father figure now…(see how much sense I was making?)

I’m very stubborn. I need to just accept that I’m never going to understand this and that I’ve already wasted too much energy trying to figure it out. And, I mean, some good came out of the Bartender situation — I was finally able to look at my life and what I actually have control over and realized how important it is to me to finish my book…and I’m so close! I’m almost there! And I know my poor little heart can’t go through something like this again…so next time I have to be really, really careful and — like my friend says — protect it.

I just feel a little more sad than usual today about the whole situation. And it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t get these books back. But I don’t understand why things are the way that they are…and how caring about him became this horrible, unforgivable thing…for which I have now been banned from his life.

So…even after that makeover, I’m not sure if I really am New Lisa after all. I am hoping that Costa Rica and my oldest childhood friend will change that. (And, if nothing else, I will try to find solace in knowing that my hair looked damn good last night.)

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Filed under Alaska, baseball, birthdays, books, Brooklyn, cheesecake, feminism, Iowa, Javy, Palin, pie

Idle Hands…

Everyone who is getting ready to start another work week tomorrow will hate me for this and they will have absolutely no sympathy for me — and I readily admit they have every right to feel that way — but…here’s the deal: I have way too much time on my hands.

And I know this is a dream scenario! This is what everyone who has to get up at 6:30 five days a week and crowd onto stuffy trains and halfheartedly sludge through 8-hour stints in proverbial cubicles dreams about…and instead of embracing all of this time that I have, I find it almost paralyzing in that these days of nothingness stretch on and on forever and I can theoretically look at the rest of my life and say, “Huh. I have nothing to do.”

And, in theory, it’s the exact opposite. It’s unending: There are countless jobs I *could* apply for and dozens of pitches I could send out and — most importantly! — a book proposal I keep swearing that I am about to finish…and yet there’s this strange thing that happened when I finished my copywriting project…even though the project didn’t take up *that* *much* time every day, it was at least something that I had to do in order to meet a deadline and something that was earning me some money…and it made me feel like I had some sort of purpose…and after that was said and done each day, I could embrace my freedom and go to (broken record) Trader Joe’s or the movies in the middle of the day while everyone else was at work and say, “This is nice! I am lucky!”

But without that project, I go to Trader Joe’s or I go to the movies…and I wonder whether I am actually living the life of a responsible adult…or if I am reverting back to some sort of woman-child. I mean, let’s face it — all that separates me from massive loserdom is that I don’t live with my parents. (Take away my Brooklyn apartment and you have yourself a cautionary tale…) Or, alternatively, I feel like if I had made *slightly* different life decisions thus far and had a husband and/or a child — some living being to take care of that didn’t, you know, meow — that my life would have some sort of purpose that it doesn’t right now.

Every day, I set my alarm and try to get up fairly early and tackle the day…and sometimes I do. But sometimes my alarm goes off and all I can think is, “I have nowhere to go today. It doesn’t matter if I get up. If I stayed in bed all day, no one would notice and it wouldn’t make any difference.” Those days are hard. And, of course, I *do* have to get up eventually…but then it’s late and I feel like a slob and it’s hard to get into a positive mindset and actually accomplish anything after that.

Many days, I feel like I’m just making up stuff to fill time: I want to get a long black cardigan; I’ve been meaning to see Where the Wild Things Are; I would like to make eggplant parmesan. These things at least get my out of my apartment…but they only take up one day. Then I have to worry about the next and the next and the next…and when I think of it like that, I can sort of feel myself sliding back into that not-so-good place that defined my summer when I wasn’t on the road. But. I’m trying to acknowledge what’s happening and maybe reverse the slide and get back to a happier spot a little sooner. For example: I won tickets to see Rock of Ages this week. I have to find a damn fax machine in order to get them…but I won tickets to Rock of Ages! I also need to overtly recognize that it really wouldn’t be better if I had a job I hate just because it’s a job. And…the ladies at the Luxury Spot are hooking me up with a makeover this week. So. Plenty to do.

The biggest thing hanging over my head these days: The book proposal. My glass-is-half-full way of looking at everything has been that the universe didn’t send me a full-time job because I’m really meant to write this book and that’s why I have all this damn time on my hands. And I’ve written a lot…but (broken record again), I need an editor to help me organize everything…and I feel like Dale Maharidge‘s advice to just contact agents who have represented authors who have written similar books is such a crapshoot. I mean, sure, maybe I’ll get lucky and one of them will be legitimately interested…but what if they aren’t? I have a list of maybe a dozen agents…and if I don’t hear back from any of them, I don’t really have a Plan B. I keep hoping that I am going to meet someone who hears about my idea and says, “Oh, man, my friend/significant other/parent/sibling/boss/neighbor is an agent! You guys should talk! I’ll make an introduction!”

And so…as sort of a means to this end, I recently wrote David Ellis Dickerson — author of House of Cards and the man behind the Greeting Card Emergency videos. I feel like he’s created a successful career for himself with words and I wanted to see if he had any advice for me about where to go from here. And he did. He sent me a lovely response about how I have an idea I can definitely sell, but I have to do the proposal just right…and as my chapter summaries alone weighed in at 15,000 words, I’m pretty sure that my proposal is not just right…and so for about a week, I was feeling like I couldn’t do anything else with it until I sat down with him and picked his brain. But…given that he just published a book, he’s obviously busy and so I think I may have to forge ahead on my own. And it’s just this huge psychological hurdle — this book is the one truly positive thing I have to cling to right now and it’s the one thing I’ve always known I’m supposed to do…but I don’t know what to do if I can’t find anyone to represent me. And so I think in part I have been stalling so I don’t have to actually answer the what-next question.

And I have Costa Rica coming up in two and a half weeks and there is SO MUCH planning to do…and even though I am a little stressed out about picking the wrong stuff to do or finding a horrible hotel or not being able to do much in the rainy season or finding ourselves the victims of bad roads, I am also super-excited about spending so much time with my oldest childhood friend and exploring a new part of the world. So. My to-do list for tomorrow will include making the final preparations for our trip…although I think I really like the Beaches, Rain Forests and Volcanoes Itinerary in my Costa Rica book…so Fodor’s may have done a lot of the heavy-lifting for me.

So, I mean, I guess it’s true that the grass is greener or that if everyone threw their problems into the middle of the room, we would all run back in and grab our own…which, though perhaps trite or jaded, is maybe not such a bad thing to remember. I don’t have a 10:00 editorial meeting tomorrow in which I have to pitch stories about operations and technology in retail asset management, but I *do* have a lot of things coming up. And those things, in the grand scheme of things, are probably better fits for me than customer relationship management software or 529 college savings plans. I just need to remember that.

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