Welcome to my home, New York City. Some people call it the city of
dreams, others the city of devils. Whichever you prefer, it's
certainly a city full of interesting people. Life blurs so much around
the edges that sometimes I lose track of who's supposed to be the hero
and who's not. Sometimes I just don't care.

I saw Buddha on the bus yesterday. My car broke down and I needed a
ride so I grabbed some change out of the old pickle jar I throw my
extra change in and rushed to the nearest stop. The bus driver looked
like Hulk Hogan, with stringy yellow hair and a growling face, which
scared me a little so I rushed to the back. And there he was, Buddha
in all his mystic glory. He's bigger in person. I had a strong desire
to rub his expansive belly which bulged from a striped shirt but
decided against it in fear of a lawsuit. He kept looking out the
dirty, sunlit window and sighing like what he had hoped to see wasn't
there. He looked so downtrodden. I was afraid to talk to him for I
thought I might disappoint him further. He looked at me with a sad
smile and told me his children were far away and he was currently
fighting with his good friend Allah. He and Allah had a
misunderstanding that had gone on so long that neither remembered why
it had begun, only that they were angry at each other. In his lap sat
a tattered leather photo album overflowing with yellowed photographs,
ribbons, and memories. Even in his saddened state, he radiated peace.
I felt better just sitting next to him on the putrid green, ripped
vinyl seat we shared. Without any explanation, I held his hand for a
while. The air was slightly smoky. An old woman with a snarling lip
kept shooting looks our way. I suppose we did look like a strange
pair. Hulk Hogan kept glancing at us from the big mirror in the front
of the bus. The jerky bumps we hit continued to make my overly
sensitive stomach lurch, though it was laden with peppermint pills to
calm it down. But at that time, and I couldn't give you a reason why,
there was no place I'd rather be. He gave me a hug before his stop at
62nd street and as he got up to leave, he winked at me and told me I
was 6 steps closer to enlightenment. I just smiled, thinking he was a
crazy overweight kook. I had Joan Osborne's "What if God Was One of
Us" song stuck in my head for the rest of the week.

I went street shopping today. Bargain hunting is what I do best, and I
had to take my senior-in-high school cousin out shopping for clothes
last week. She just had to have the cool new college attire. I avoided
the stand where Martha Stewart works. She looks pretty rag-tag these
days as she offers Enron stocks for 50% off. I find myself guilted
into buying one on occasion just to watch her face light up. The other
day I walked up to her vending spot.
"Enron! Get your Enron! Oh ma'am! Would you like to buy an Enron
stock? They are usually $20 but just for you I'll make them $10." She
does this for everyone, but her face was so earnest I couldn't resist.
"Thank you so much! You won't regret it, they'll make you money in
future times I promise! Enron! Get your Enron.!"
On my way to the magazine stand I saw poor Moses on the street corner
raving on about setting his people free and parting red seas while
clinging tight to two cardboard cutouts shaped like tombstones with
nonsense writing on them. He swears they're stone tablets written on
by God. His once shining gray hair which he used to brush each
morning, infusing just a smidge of gel, now hung matted in a crazy
pattern about his head. His blue eyes glowed like halogen bulbs and
were red and white like Christmas candy canes. I gave him a few bucks
and he paused to recite the 10 commandments to me before he went back
to his tirade.

I dated Napoleon for a little while back in January. He was more
interested in conquering the apartment building than spending time
with me. He was a short little balding man who adored his own
reflection. I'd suddenly find pictures of him scattered around my
apartment. He slept with his own picture under his pillow and dreamt
of world domination, or at least of ruling the city. I was the one
always holding the camera taking pictures of him when we would go on
dates. I would put the phone down and watch TV for a while when he
would talk of conquering the universe. He never noticed when I didn't
answer his questions. The conversations were mainly for him. I did
always melt when he would sing "Allison" by Elvis Costello to me when
I was upset. It was always his way to get out of trouble. I couldn't
resist swooning when his face became all dramatic over something
besides ruling the block; he would get down on his knees holding my
larger hands in his delicate ones (His petite hands always irritated
him, as well as his smaller stature. I was almost a foot taller than
him and I'm only five foot five). I melted like the butter on the
croissants we shared each morning at the velvety sounds of Costello's
ballad dripping out of his mouth. He had quite a remarkable voice for
such a little man.
"Allison, I know this world is killing you.
Oh, Allison, my aim is true.
My aim is true."
He dumped me for a girl with posters of Hitler on her walls. I guess
he prefers the dictator loving types.

Sadaam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden own a little Middle Eastern
restaurant down the street from my apartment. I'm always afraid to go
in there, though it smells great from the sidewalk. It just seems like
a dim, murky place with mob like men smoking fat cigars and whispering
while darting looks around the room as if the walls were trying to spy
on them. I hear they make one hell of an Iraqi delight.

Five of the six wives of Henry the 8th live on my floor. The sixth
lives in Colorado. They all room together and gossip about the men in
the building. I went over for dinner one day and all they did was
argue over who had the worst fate with their scum-bag husband Henry.
It was always Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves versus Kathryn
Howard and Anne Boleyn. Jane Seymour sat quietly and watched. It was
the beheaded against the divorced.
"It is far worse for a Catholic to divorce than die nobly,"
Catherine said. She is one of those prim and proper types with too
much cheek bone and not enough makeup.
"Please, what's worse than losing your head? Geez," Anne B.
replied. She is a Britney Spears fan who wears short skirts and too
much makeup.
"And she doesn't mean figuratively," Kathryn chimed in, always
the funny one.
"Aren't you so clever," Anne C. sneered.
"Come on guys, we don't always have to be like this," protested
Jane softly, shooting me an embarrassed look. The argument went on for
about an hour before I quietly laid my napkin on the table and left,
waving slightly at Jane who had her head in her hands by this point. I
don't think they even realized I left. They next day I saw them
walking down the hall together giggling, chummy as ever.

I went to an Italian restaurant the other day and had quite an
interesting waiter. He wasn't unusual in any way except he wore
extremely large black sunglasses. I tried to look around those all-
encompassing lenses as I ordered my Fettuccine Alfredo, but I still
couldn't see his eyes. A quick glance at his name tag told me his name
was Oedipus R., How Can I Serve You? I made the mistake of asking
about his mother and I think he spit in my food. The Fettuccine tasted
strange and I could swear he was glaring at me under all that black.
You can serve me some good food Mr. Oedipus R. I also noticed the
hostess looking at me funny. I heard someone call her Antigone. I was
mostly intrigued by the unique rope choker she wore, though it looked
a little tight to me.

I'll have to say one of the funniest things I have ever seen was
George Washington playing a fiddle and singing "Devil Went Down to
Georgia" in the park. He isn't homeless, he just loves that fiddle. He
also likes getting lots of bills with his picture on them from
appreciative strangers. They remind him of his glory days, or so he
says. He's in my AA group. The incident with the cherry tree drove him
into alcoholism. AA's full of famous people in New York. Helen of Troy
joined last week. She floated in an oh so dramatic way to her yellow
plastic chair in our circle. She blames being a drunkard on turning
"Dye is just not the same. And what I am to do about these
wrinkles, besides drown my sorrows in a bottle of gin?" After such a
dramatic statement, she always faints. She never did quite understand
what feminism meant. She's been dating Richard Gere for a while. Too
many movies with scantily clad women that he couldn't have made him
start on the bottle. Helen thinks she's something special for starting
a war. But none of us really remember what happened so we just nod and
smile at her. They both like to think they are attractive older
people, aging like fine wine. We all agree.

My mailwoman's name is Cleopatra. She always wears lots of snake like
jewelry and eye shadow. She taught me how to apply eyeliner in such a
way to look mysterious. It looks good on her, but I look like a high
school actress gone awry. She's one of those annoyingly pretty, perma-
tan types that seem to glow golden brown all year round. I wonder if
it's a tanning bed or genes. Probably both. She tells me about the
sphinxes and pyramids of her hometown. She tells me how she misses the
sand and the sunshine all the time. I tell her it's got to be better
here than Indiana, my home town, with its every-changing weather. It
can snow one day and be seventy degrees the next. This astounds her.
She says she's sick of being compared to Cher. I tell her I
understand, that's something I wouldn't wish on my enemies. I give her
a Christmas and birthday card every year. My mail gets here extra
early; it makes Henry's ex-wives jealous.

There used to be three bums outside my building, Marc Antony, Julius
Caesar, and Marcus Brutus. Those are pretty fancy names for bums if
you ask me. Antony obsessed over the mailwoman, Cleopatra, while
Brutus and Caesar fought all the time over who owned the corner. I
bought them McDonald's happy meals once. Antony tried to give
Cleopatra his toy while Brutus and Caesar fought over theirs. I was
just going inside when I saw Brutus hit Caesar really hard in the back
with his Power Ranger figurine. It was all very three stooges. I
haven't seen them since.

My mom called last month to inform me that some friends of the family
would be staying with me for a few nights while they passed through en
route to Indiana. It turned out to be a father and his daughter, Zeus
and Athena. He was a broad shouldered, booming man with a serious
superiority complex with a daughter who was desperate to join the army
but he wouldn't let her. She was a tomboy. She almost bit my head off
when I told her I was giving myself a makeover to go out on a date one
night and offered to give her one too. She had cut her hair so short
that she was often mistaken for a pretty young boy. She liked that.
She also liked to sneak out late at night and come home late the next
morning to her outraged father with sparks shooting out of his eyes.
He liked to yell, and she liked to pretend she was at boot camp. They
stayed for 4 days and 3 nights. I was quite relieved when they left.

I never know with all these unique individuals (Albert Einstein's my
barber and Martin Luther King Jr. plays golf with my dad and used to
come to my childhood birthday parties) whether to be more assured of
sanity or if I should commit myself to the nut house right now
(believe me I could use the vacation) because this is what normal
society is like. Sometimes I go home and think to myself, as Cleopatra
slides the mail under my door and I hear the Henry ex-wives bickering
for the fifth time this evening, if someone out there thinks I'm
somebody special trapped in the normality of everyday life. Too much
thinking. I'm not terribly into the deep, philosophical process. I'll
leave that to Sophocles. He moved to Arizona last week because it's
warmer there. Oh well. Only in New York.