The Plight of the Orange Juice Container

September 29, 2003

The Plight of the Orange Juice Container

I couldn’t find my orange juice container. I had made a so-called spritzer (orange juice and seltzer) to drink with dinner, and now it was past dinner and I was thirsty again so I went to the refrigerator to get more orange juice.

Finding an empty refrigerator shelf, I remembered the thing for which I will one day become famous. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before. It’s my method for finding lost things, and it can expressed in a single sentence:

When something is lost, it’s usually in one of the three most likely places for it to be, but in an expected way.

The trick is to get yourself to look in the same places you already looked but this time in a new way. This is surprisingly difficult. Once people have checked a particular place, they draw a line through that place in their minds and scribble a note in the margin that says, “Don’t look there. It’s definitely not there. You already checked.” Then, just to be sure they don’t miss the note in the future, they draw an arrow from the note to the image of the place. The arrow they draw looks something like this:

arrow

You should see how quiet people get when you make them re-check the places they’ve already checked and you ask them to check these places in a new way, and they look at you like you’re a dick for making them do this, and then, ho-ho, the thing is there. People get very quiet.

As to my orange juice, it wasn’t on the refrigerator shelf so I looked to see if I had left it on the counter, which I hadn’t, so I looked to see if I had brought it over to my computer, which is something I do sometimes but in this case had not.

One, two, three places.

I opened the refrigerator again and stepped back. No orange juice. I stood a good ten feet from the counter and scanned it slowly. Nothing. I turned and looked at my desk again. Nada. Then I walked over to my bed and took in the entire apartment. It was an apartment, I saw, bereft of orange juice.

Could I have finished the container and thrown it out? That would count as possibility number four, and I was certain it hadn’t happened and yet I still made myself check the trash can, which as expected was orange-juice-less.

Remembering my rule, I forced myself to repeat the entire operation, minus the trash can, but in a new way. I would characterize this new way as pissed. I looked in all the places I had already looked, but this time as a person who was really pissed. It didn’t help.

When I was kid and something was lost, my mother was fond of saying that the lost thing didn’t just get up walk and away. I imagined that the container of orange juice did in fact just get up and walk away, that it had grown little arms and legs, forced open the refrigerator from inside, climbed down the shelves, and scrambled off into the bathroom where it was now cowering in the bathtub, poor thing, having realized that its dream of escape was just that, a dream. (Below is an artist’s rendering of the plight of the orange juice container.)

container of orange juice with stick figure arms and legs, in a bathtub

My own plight was beginning to annoy the shit out of me. Until very recently there was definitely an orange juice container in the apartment. I had combined some of the orange juice with seltzer and had had the combination, a so-called spritzer, with dinner. In fact the glass was still sitting on my desk. If I went over and looked inside it (which I was not about to do, FYI), I would find little specks of orange juice pulp at the bottom.

A certain unease began to roll in. Could I possibly be remembering these things wrongly? Had my mind gone off its wheels and moved last night’s spritzer to tonight? It didn’t seem possible and yet where was the motherfucking orange juice container?

I walked to the kitchen and opened all the cabinets. The orange juice container was on the same shelf as the plates and bowls and glasses. I had placed it in front of a row of glasses, I suppose because it more closely relates to glasses than plates or bowls.

I may not end up becoming so famous.

September 28, 2003

Chicken in Reverse

The rain is coming down hard. It sounds like something sizzling in a pan but with cars swooshing by. Ah, and with a bus, braking.

A new thought: The Buddhists speak of walking with one’s death, but it’s really one’s fear one walks with. Meaning: Everything I do is done to clear out a space for not being afraid, for believing that the space I walk in is safe. Which obviously it isn’t. It’s all an attempt to beat back the truth.

This just in from a friend:

Still no word from Nancy. Odd, because at the end of our date, when she asked me if we should get together again and I said “sure,” she touched my arm and said “oh, yay” before leaving.

It’s like we’re playing a game of chicken in reverse. Instead of veering toward each other to see who stops first, we’re veering apart to see who’ll be the first to look back.

September 20, 2003

Nothing

For some time now I’ve had nothing to say, nor seen any reason to say anything. Yesterday I bought a shower curtain and shower curtain liner. It was kind of a big deal. I used to have just a liner because the fancier sort of curtain seemed silly, a useless bit of decoration. But something got into me yesterday and I decided that man does not live by usability alone.

Also, perhaps because I’ve had nothing to say, I recently gave in and bought a cellphone. I hate it already. I spent an hour trying and failing to figure out how to leave a greeting for when someone calls. Then I made the mistake of emailing my cellphone number to a dozen or so friends. The email went:

I have a cellphone now. The number is […]. Please don’t call me on it for a while, I’m a little freaked out.

Immediately three friends called me. Evidently all my friends have the same sense of humor. I refused to answer the thing and tried instead to figure out a way to turn it off, which I failed to do because the user manual sucks. In the end I stuffed it at the bottom of my laundry hamper, which is where it will remain until I decide my next step. If I forget it’s there and end up including it in my next load of laundry, so be it.

Oh: A short time later the phone started ringing again, so I dug it up and stuffed it inside four pairs of athletic socks (eight socks into all, one inside another), then returned it to the bottom of the hamper. Then I called it on my regular phone to confirm I couldn’t hear it. I couldn’t. As it rang I covered my phone with my hand and walked over to the hamper and stood there listening.

Nothing. Silence.

September 15, 2003

Semi-untoughness

Just after midnight on Thursday I received a call from my friend Lisa. At first I couldn’t make out what she was saying because she was talking so quietly, almost a whisper. But then, in pieces, I understood. She was in an ambulance on her way to the hospital. She’d had a bike accident on the Williamsburg bridge, had flown over her handlebars and landed on her arm and face, didn’t know which hospital she was going to, didn’t think it necessary for me to come. I convinced her to hand the cellphone to the ambulance driver, who told me where they were taking her.

Soon after I arrived at her hospital room, she asked to be photographed like that, her face scraped and bloodied, her arm broken at the elbow, one tooth chipped. Then I took notes so she would remember things when it came time to write about it. It was, we both recognized, an EXPERIENCE, one that had to be captured, the capturing becoming, unavoidably, part of the experience.

Yesterday I sent her my photos and notes, which she used in her written account.

There’s just one thing I want to add. Friday afternoon, after fifteen straight hours of “dealing” (post-hospital I slept on Lisa’s floor and did what I could to help her handle the logistics, and shock, of a temporary one-armed existence; “my mouse hand,” she cried in a rare moment of semi-untoughness), I sat at her kitchen table and looked at the photos I’d taken in the hospital, still in my camera. As I did this I could hear her on the phone in next room telling someone, I think her father, what had happened. I knew she couldn’t see me there, so I let myself weep, weeping as quietly as I could.

Holding back the sound kept the tears in as well. Perhaps because of this I felt acutely conscious of the way my shoulders were heaving, a rapid and seemingly exaggerated flapping motion.

September 9, 2003

High Line

I walked the High Line Saturday. If you don’t already know, the High Line is an abandoned elevated freight line that runs along the west side of Manhattan, from lower midtown to the West Village. It was built in the 30’s and was discontinued in 1980. The final freight train (I learned this from the friends of the high line) carried three carloads of frozen turkeys.

The city plans to convert the remaining structure into a “grand, public promenade.” This will be cool, I’m sure, only not one-hundredth as cool as what’s there now, which is a dilapidated overgrown junk-strewn oasis. I don’t have the strength to describe it except to say that it reminded me of The Zone from Tarkovsky’s film Stalker, sans all the intense metaphysics.

If you’re in New York and know what’s good for you, you will go do this thing posthaste. Here’s how:

GETTING ON: Enter the big truck lot on 33rd between 11th and 12th Avenues. See that opening in the fence directly across? Walk through that, make an immediate right, and climb straight up the embankment onto the ramp. Easy.

GETTING OFF: This is harder. The High Line terminates around 10th Street, but there doesn’t appear to be a viable way down at that point unless you enjoy jumping fifteen feet onto the top of a parked truck. Instead double-back to 17th Street. On the west side there’s a staircase plastered with signs that say TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED. You are a trespasser. Walk down the stairs to the level where the nasty-looking barbed wire is, then climb over the barbed wire and shimmy down the opposite side of the big girder at the corner of the stairs onto the car below. Do this quickly and quietly as there’s a security guy in the booth in the yard who will be mean to you when you gallantly remain behind so your friend can get away and who will order you to call after her and then get pissed when she doesn’t turn around (something she will know not to do because you called the wrong name) and who will ask sarcastically if you happened to have seen all those NO TRESPASSING signs plastered on the stairs, to which I recommend replying, politely, with the truth, since that will confuse him.

September 1, 2003

Wings

At the wedding picnic, Ishmael, age 12, tied the broken pieces of a giant Styrofoam airplane to his body – side wings to his arms, tail wing to his back – and ran around like that, attempting to fly. Later, in the car, I brought up Icarus. Ishmael, still wearing the wings, said that he already knows the story and plans to avoid using wax.