Wednesday, May 27, 2020

My Food (and Flower) Porn Life

I knew something was wrong when I found myself looking at a recipe for avocado toast, that $25 brunch staple that was apparently invented in my neighborhood.
Since this pandemic has forced me to spend more time at home, I’ve embarked on a cooking/home decorating spree that would make Martha Stewart jealous.  But so has everybody, apparently. Even reformed slutty comic Amy Schumer has embraced both motherhood and her own home cooking show (the difference being that she can repair to Martha’s Vineyard with her chef husband while I’m home alone in my tenement studio).
Maybe it’s about having a new appreciation for the simple pleasures in life, or maybe it’s just because all the restaurants in New York City are only open for take-out.
But lately I’m on what you might call a food and flower binge.
My best friend and I have been joking about this because our daily phone calls now consist of us trading recipes for such dishes as lemon caper butter sole and roasted Cornish game hen. We find ourselves saying such things as “Yes, it really is the dill that really makes the salmon!”
And we’re saying them unironically!

My other new extravagance is flowers. Now, I like a good bouquet as much as the next guy, but who has time to worry about such things when you’re working 40 hours a week and you just want to veg out in front of the TV when you get home? But my pandemic-enforced “staycation” has caused me to look around my apartment and say, “I can do better than this!”
It’s amazing, but just by adding a few well-placed flower arrangements to your living space, you too can turn your crappy apartment into an Architectural Digest-ready mansion! In fact, I’ve gotten so out of control with my flower buying that I actually had to purchase a vase! (A water pitcher just won’t do for my newly acquired lifestyle!)

The other day I was sitting in Hudson River Park as a group of picnickers next to me was being ticketed for not socially distancing and my first thought wasn’t, “Shame on you!” It was, “Is that brie or camembert that you’re eating?”
I’m now one of those annoying people who posts pictures of his culinary creations on Facebook, but I have plenty of company. In fact, I was recently food-shamed when one of my Facebook friends one-upped me with his purple yam pancakes with fried banana purée and maple bourbon syrup. (And I thought putting some fruit on my bowl of Kashi was a big deal!)

So it should come as no surprise that when I recently watched Nancy Meyers’ Somethnig’s Gotta Give—the ne plus ultra of lifestyle porn with its drool-worthy Hamptons summer house—I duly noted that there were fresh flowers on every table and nightstand.
My drug of choice these days isn’t a quarter ounce of cocaine but a one-pound bag of cherries. They light up the same pleasure centers in my brain without causing a perforated septum.
So don’t hate me because my apartment is beautiful and my cooking is mouth-watering. Just surrender to the siren call of psychedelic red carnations and overflowing piles of fruit.
You’ll be happy you did. 

Monday, May 4, 2020

A Love Letter to My Late Partner

 A month ago, I woke up crying, a month after my partner passed away from cancer. Now I’m worried that I can’t cry. I want to remember the suffering my partner went through, as well as the good times we had together. I feel guilty that I’m sitting here typing this on the computer that he helped me buy, surrounded by the belongings that he left me, and that he’s not here to enjoy them with me.
I think I’ve been suppressing my feelings of grief, that I didn’t even have time to grieve before I was (we all were) confronted with a pandemic that brought a new level of grief to all of us.
I thought, what would be the point of writing these feelings down when there’s so much suffering going on, when there’s so much death around us?
But I wanted to remember.
I remember the last time we took a cab ride around the city. Jerry said that he wanted to see New York—his city, my city—one last time. As we passed the restaurants we used to go to—El Centro, Marseilles, Fish—I thought, Is this what my life is going to be like? Every time I pass some place Jerry and I used to go together, I’m going to start crying?
I want to remember the good person that Jerry was. When he was first diagnosed with cancer, he said, “I’m glad this is happening to me, because if it was happening to you, I’d go crazy.” That’s the kind of person he was.
There were so many moments that gave me pain.
I remember when I first learned of his diagnosis. I was sitting in the Apple store, where I had taken my computer to be repaired, and I just started crying uncontrollably as we talked on the phone. I tried to convince myself that this wasn’t serious, but when I Googled the prognosis for people with lung cancer that had metastasized, the life expectancy was four to five months.
As it happened, Jerry wound up living eight months, but it was a steady decline.
When he first came home from the hospital last July (during which time he’d lost one-third of his body weight), he was able to walk around with a walker, and sometimes even by himself. But by December, his legs were so weak that he fell in his apartment, and spent the entire night on the floor before he was able to crawl to where his phone was and call 911. After that, he was never able to walk again.
There were so many painful experiences.
Before he was diagnosed, he spent the last two weeks of June fixing up his apartment because his niece was coming to visit and he wanted it to be perfect. He ordered a new couch, dining room table and ottoman and spent the entire night cleaning his apartment. Then, when the furniture was delivered, the couch was the wrong color, the dining room table was missing a part and the ottoman couldn’t be assembled properly. I was furious.
I was furious over many things, because I wouldn’t want the slightest bad thing to happen to Jerry, and here he was dying of cancer.
I remember the day I took him to the hospital the last time, his home care aide had done his laundry and someone in his building had left some chewing gum in the dryer and it got stuck to his blanket. I was livid. What kind of monster would do such a thing? I killed myself trying to get that gum out of his blanket, to no avail. But it didn’t matter. That blanket was left in his apartment, along with his other belongings.
So now I’m sitting in my apartment with no job, nothing to do and nowhere to go, surrounded by Jerry’s belongings. I know they should bring me peace, and they have, but I also feel guilty. Everything I now have I owe to Jerry, but he’s not here to enjoy it.
And so I write this essay, hoping it will bring me some peace.