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Ari Fliakos I Love You

I’m pretty sure Mo Rocca totally cruised me today on West 23rd Street. But you can’t blame him. Now that winter break is here I’ve been hitting the gym compulsively, hoisting weights and sweating on the treadmill till the endolphins kick in, which lately is around 45 minutes. I’m robust and irresistible and even minor celebrities must turn their head when I walk past. If I had felt this way all semester even bitchy writers at Columbia wouldn’t have broken my spirits. Thus one New Year’s resolution is clear, homework be damned. New York is better when you’re a hottie.

Speaking of hot, I fell in love this week during a performance by The Wooster Group. From the second Ari Fliakos walked on stage, microphone receiver strapped around his bicep, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. All cute and rumpled in loose brown trousers, torn gray t-shirt, and black quilted vest. The trousers had their crotch torn out and replaced with a looser, stretchy black fabric that stimulated daydreams in observers and probably made it easier for him to move and flip around during an exhilarating show of, well, experimental theater, with improvised choreography, flat-screen videos of New York in winter, and actors reproducing – word-for-word, gesture-for-gesture – a twenty-minute scene from a performance by Jerzy Grotowski’s Polish Laboratory Theatre. In Polish. After the show, walking through Soho, I told my friend K – without whom I would not see as much theater in New York – that I had no idea what the fuck just happened in there, but that I loved it. And Ari. I totally googled him when I got home and discovered that I am not alone. Paper Magazine declared Ari one of the Beautiful People of 2003. As always, I’m late to join the bandwagon. Now I’ll be reduced to stalking Wooster Group shows, perplexed, invigorated, and horny.

Sunday night I left an AA meeting at the Red Door on Waverly Place, passing a bent old woman who stood on the sidewalk, holding open the exit door, rocking from one foot to the other and singing, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas.” Indeed, during the hour I was inside, the light drizzle had turned to snow, and the sidewalks were dusted in white. “C’mon,” she yelled at me, “Sing!” I gave the tender old bat that tight smile you give to people who try to make you sing in public, like the people who come up to you at bars and tell you to “Smile!” She rocked back and forth, singing, and I drifted past her, pulling on my hat and blinking against the slow flakes that fell all around me. The first snow. It was lovely, and I was immediately thinking of how to describe it to you when I turned the corner on Broadway and the cold smack of wind nearly leveled me.

The next day it was fourteen degrees. I had put off my winter coat purchase and was suffering the consequences, so I went to The North Face on West 73rd and invested in a big parka with a fur-trimmed hood. I bought a medium but it still makes me look like I’m eight years old. A warm, white eight year-old from the hood. Warm and poorer and slightly guilty that the most extravagant gift I bought this week was, naturally, for myself. The good thing about being in grad school is that everybody knows you’re destitute, unemployable, and strung out, so they cut you slack around the subject of Christmas gifts. Which means I can save my money for The Wooster Group.

Where’s the Action

There are lines of Christmas trees leaning against plywood fences along Broadway; seasonal stands strung with white lights, a few feet of sidewalk that smell of pine. Outside University Hardware are squat trees that change colors; I passed a man staring into the lightshow, entranced.

One of my favorite things about this time of year, apart from more gallons of cider picked up at the farmer’s market heading home from class, is Vince Guaraldi’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, which I put on repeat around Thanksgiving. I’m amazed that such a melancholy soundtrack made it on network television; then again it was a long time ago. Now they’d commit some travesty; Snoopy ice skating to Destiny’s Child; action figure and CD packaged together at Wal-Mart, across the aisle from Housewares and Shotguns.

Spent Thanksgiving in Palm Springs with my dad and his partner, who are waging war with their new Home Owners’ Association due to some mold in the kitchen of their new condo, a winter home away from their new home: Minden, Nevada, near Tahoe. They are obsessed with real estate; they sold their place outside of DC after retiring from the government with pensions, and now have two new properties under their belt. We swapped coasts the same week, back in August when I arrived in New York with no more than a dance belt and a tube of Chapstick. Palm Springs was lovely though I must admit I watched a lot of TV. I own a TV here in Manhattan but haven’t subscribed to cable, which is a necessity even for network channels. This helps with bills and with homework, though not with escape.

I brought a little voice recorder along and interviewed my father for three hours for this memoir/big project/book-that-I’m-too-superstitious-to-call-a-book-yet thing. He was surprisingly candid, to the point where I wondered if he realized that I might use his words in the project. I’d say more but you’ll have to buy the book thing. When I finish it. Later. Sometime.

I didn’t tell you how Maria, good ‘ol Maria, asked the professor during the critique of my last submission if “we” could discuss my big project, then turned to me in front of the others and asked, “Um, where’s the action?”

I guess you had to be there. Maybe she has a point; what’s a memoir without a few car chases?

It’s been a challenging day at school. I applied for one of the highly coveted teaching positions last month – teaching writing to undergraduates – and everyone applies because they pay your full tuition plus a decent stipend. Got my rejection email today, didn’t even make it to the second round. Also applied for a fellowship where they match six students up with six established writers who are working on books and need research assistants, which pays a few thousand dollars. Was a finalist for that but got the rejection email today as well.

One of those days where you sit down and reevaluate your goals and priorities. With the Peanuts singing “Oh, Christmas Tree” in the background, steam hissing from the radiator under the window, a glass of cider on the desk. The good news is that I now have more time to develop the important scenes of my so-called memoir. My mother and I on a cross-country crime spree which ends with our convertible accelerating over the Grand Canyon. Wal-Mart could package the book with a tasteful nickel-plated handgun. The Da Vinci Code will be knocked off the bestseller list, finally, and I’ll go on tour with David Sedaris and sleep with groupies, but only the ones who read Joan Didion and buy me dinner first.