Thirty minutes

Thirty minutes of compost

I need a pitchfork. I hate that I have to buy new. Pitchforks should come weathered, like jeans, and be readily available at well-publicized garage sales in the suburbs. (I thought about buying a pitchfork on Craigslist, but it seems like the first page of a bad novel.) The strip mall tool store couldn’t be more wrongheaded with its massive b&w portraits of men plastered with quotes nobody ever said about how important it is to be hypermasculine. I wish I'd worn my yellow knit dress up in here so I could stand in line all black and yellow with my tote bag and polka dot water bottle.

The entire idea of plunging the pitchfork into my compost pile for the first time calls up images of skewing sleeping voles and God knows whatever else could be in there, but I do it anyway in my father’s old Brooks Brothers shirt and my original, not-made-in-China boys' hi-top Chucks. I keep it together. It is resplendent autumn and Juliette is out back with me also busying herself with not thinking about what small animals might be living in the compost pile. We are first-timers, and as I lift and turn its organicness, we observe that, after 18 months without benefit of the pitchfork, our compost is nevertheless real, and very beautifully black.


Thirty minutes with my grandmother

The nursing home that I object to her having been placed in is undergoing renovation. The only wing that hasn’t been updated is the one Muz is on. Not one unmedicated person alive is joyful enough to sustain their good humor in the face of these oversized sunflowers and vines that someone in charge of interior design neglected to subdue.

Her door is ajar. Mrs. Lieberman, her roommate, is in the corridor, fully clothed and alert at 7:45pm, visiting with a friend. Mrs. Lieberman explains that the aide is getting Muz ready for bed. My grandmother never went to bed before 10, 10:30. Who are they turning her into? When my mother and I are allowed in and Muz becomes aware that we’re there, she turns her back to us in bed, scolds us, “Why didn’t you call?” Why didn’t we indeed, we could have. She probably asked us to. She did ask us to. I could have called, but instead deferred to my mother, who chose not to, afraid that her mother would tell her not to come after a lifetime of the same.

Muzzie faces away from us, toward the curtain that separates the two sides of the room. I wish, I wish. I wish she was dressed and up chatting, like Mrs. Lieberman. What does she do with her very sharp mind all day if she’s not reading or watching television or going to the seasonally appropriate programs? I’ve got to ask Susan, her POA, the woman who chose to place her here until she dies. My friends ask me if I can take her in, move her to Virginia. How long does she have left, she’s 103. How long do I have left to figure out the right thing to do and not eternally piss off my mother? This is why family members withdraw. There’s entirely too much to fix.


Thirty minutes ( x 2) in Harlem


We’d left early. It took maybe 28 minutes after struggling with the front carrier, descending the flights of stairs into the 92-degree humidity-soaked heat, then moving fairly effortlessly through the subway, to arrive at the wrong library. The Countee Cullen branch of the NYPL crouches behind heavy scaffolding around the corner from the Schomburg, shrunken and plain in its shadow, the antithesis of a destination. Good grief.


Just days ago, Zuri, my infant granddaughter, hollered with woe as I got everything wrong at storytime: pulling not quite all of her body out of the carrier, spilling the contents of the diaper bag onto the library floor, placing her on my lap when she needed the comfort of my shoulder, I mean, you name it. The other mothers and the dad and caregivers and children? Appropriate and engaged. The librarian? Excellent. Animated without being obsequious; organized, informed, kind. Experienced. Everyone was experienced except me.

But it’s Friday at noon, and that is behind us. Mommy and Me yoga class, one block away, starts at 12:30. Do I have enough energy to even do the asanas once we get there? Yes! No! Let’s change your diaper and sing a diaper changing song and then decide. Let’s stretch out on mommy and daddy’s king-sized Tempurpedic with a book, and then…


Thirty minutes with Chan

The renovation of this SoHa studio is so new that the clear removable film is still on the refrigerator shelves. Airbnb. The toiletries are top-notch, the sheets kind of deliciously nubby and wrinkly, but not linen. There isn't much: a wooden folding chair, decent lighting, and a box a/c unit that’s set at POC temperature, not white-people-totally-freeze-me-out on this sweltering pre-Labor Day evening. I have hand-over-hand pulled myself up the two flights of stairs by the antique handrail. It’s 8:30 and I want to “marry the bed” as Anne Sexton once said, but it’s too early I can’t go to bed yet I want to so bad after bouncing and rocking and cooing at and feeding and teaching my Zuri Bean all day, up and down the four flights of stairs, up and down the flight of stairs in the apartment, up and down the subway stairs, bouncing bouncing (thank you ugly grey Tevas bless you whichever goddess made me throw them in my bag before I left Virginia), walking seven sticky blocks I want horizontal and closed eyes but it’s too early LOOK THERE’S THE VANITY FAIR WITH CHANNING TATUM ON THE COVER the people who own this minimalist-everything place felt strongly that Chan NEEDED TO BE HERE, and I’m up ‘til 9:00 easy, way past once I brush my teeth and tuck into the piece, lingering, renewed. 

The following night, exhausted per usual, I turn the key in the lock, smile. Chan, honey, I’m home.


Thirty minutes talking about ditching cable with Asa

A sports fan must humble herself at the myriad altars of tech in order to eliminate cable and watch the playoffs in real time (while the players are playing-off). Asa said to me, multiple times, It’s a one-time purchase: HD antenna or rooftop antenna, Roku/Fire box, cable(s). Get these sports here and these other sports there and tv shows from these ten places and probably a couple of networks will come in clear, but not others. Why do you need a landline, you can use Google phone to give out to strangers.

Nothing about this is easy. The youngs make it look like it’s easy, with their no-landline, no-cable selves, but they’re accustomed to stuff being hard, it’s been an uphill 25 years for the 99 percent. My friend Christine finds it easy enough, but that is, we discovered five minutes into the convo, because she doesn’t watch sports. I must have teams of overpaid people in real time on my tv—not computer—screen at least 20 times every year, and no, I’m not going to a sports bar the menus are always tragic and I can't wear my seriously unattractive slippers.


Thirty minutes of blog-related technology

It may have taken Nelly Kate thirty minutes to figure out how to get my time-elapse video loaded onto this page after I gave up. Thanks, Ace.