December 31, 2006

The Cleaning Lady

The woman who lives in the apartment across from mine is a trip.

She cleans. All the time.

Each day, it seems, I see her sweeping her balcony, as well as what could be called the common era outside her apartment's entry.

Each night, I see her vacuuming the carpet inside. Some nights, I also can see her ironing clothes, by the light of her tiny laundry room.

This week she, like me, appeared to be away for a few days. The poinsettias on her porch had fallen over, and the usual perk of her spotless abode was missing.

Yesterday, she returned, and the sweeping began again anew.

Today, she swept even more.

As I lazily ate cold pizza and watched my Sunday morning shows, the cleaning lady swept the common area and her balcony. Again. Today, however, those concrete slabs received an extra special treatment: wet sweeping.

The Cleaning Lady removed her balcony furniture -- chairs, table and poinsettia -- and scooped water out of a bucket by hand, splashing it onto the surface before brushing it with the broom.

Sweeping complete, the furniture returned. But the Cleaning Lady didn't stop there: She next Windexed the patio doors, furniture handles and table.

You'd think all this cleaning would inspire me. After all, there's nothing like keeping up with the Joneses, right?

As I look around my cluttered apartment, however, with patio doors covered in water spots, newspapers in stacks and empty soda cans abounding, I most often think, with apathy, that the Cleaning Lady is simply doing enough for both of us.

She is doing way more than is needed. We live in a complex where trash bags in the common areas aren't an unusual site, where bits of garbage -- used paper towels, empty beer cans, etc. -- float out of the bin enclosures during heavy rains.

Today, though -- with the sun shining down, after a day of storms and rain -- and in honor of the New Year, maybe I'll go at it, too.

It couldn't hurt, I guess, to look at the world through clean windows.

December 30, 2006

New Year's blahs

I can't say I've ever really enjoyed the New Year's holiday all that much.

For the better part of my 24 years, I spent New Year's eve at my grandparents' home. That, I suppose, I did enjoy a bit. We all had a grand time, eating shrimp and drinking Cokes with cherries at the bottom of the glass. As I entered my teens, however, I started to dream of when I would grow older. I wanted to dress up in a little black dress, sip champagne and dance with a handsome guy at a chic party.

"Growing up," however, hasn't been quite like I pictured. I've spent the last three New Year's eves away from home. None has been glamorous, though one included a boyfriend and all, either before, during or after, involved champagne.

Two years ago, I was where I am now: a mid-sized city in Texas. I spent most of the evening making out with a guy I was dating, while we listened to Jason Mraz. We made a brief appearance at his friends' house party and then watched fireworks at midnight with one of my friends.

That year, I wore a floaty top with a swirl design of blue and green that I bought on clearance at Old Navy. No one should have been allowed to buy that top, I swear.

Last year, I was, for all intents and purposes, alone for the change of calendars in San Francisco. My furniture, electronics and books were locked up in storage, the result of a mistake by the movers that prevented delivery the day before. So I was sleeping in my roommate's room -- he was skiing in Utah -- in a drafty, stained-carpet apartment, in a city I barely knew, with torrential rains falling outside.

I did one fun thing on New Year's Eve: I walked from my apartment -- during a break in the rain -- to the Bay and back, down and up steep hills. I stopped at a tiny corner store on the way home and bought a bottle of Martini & Rossi Asti.

That night, I went out with friends -- but not the type of friends you share resolutions, memories, etc. with. These folks -- one friend, really, and her assortment of other friends -- were fine, nice, but not loved ones. I spent some time with them in the Castro. At midnight, I was wearing no fabulous dress, had no boyfriend and no close friends to hug. I met another friend and his friends for food and then went home.

I'm not into the start of the New Year being a predictor for the 365 days to come. After all, 2006 -- until I accepted my new job, at least -- was a banner year. I started dating a great guy, lived in a great city, traveled to Asia (my first overseas trip) and found a way out of some of my debt.

And I can't complain too much, I guess, about this year's festivities. Some friends are throwing a good-bye party for other friends who just got new jobs, and I'll be going to that. My boyfriend, meanwhile -- still in the Bay Area -- will be working.

Still, I'd like to think I'll someday have a fancy New Year's Eve, with a glittery dress, fluted glasses and my boyfriend by my side.

Here is, I suppose, to New Year's Eve 2007.