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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
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Friday
Sep232005

Laundry Day

Laundry day is easily, the worst thing about living in New York City. Not the subway, not the dirt, the grime, not the horribly congested sidewalks that bring on a bout of sidewalk rage way more than I ever succumbed to road rage back home... it's doing laundry.

It's an all day ordeal. Bring a book, bring snacks, cuz you gonna be there for awhile girlfriend. Yeah, I know. You can pay people to do your laundry for you, you can even pay 'em to come pick it up right from your apartment. But I don't go in for that kind of thing. First, I've got better things to spend money on.. Second, I don't need a stranger pawing through my blood stained shorts, and various other blush inducing articles of clothing, with all manner of bodily fluid and nacho cheese dried in. So that just leaves me. Although The Surge has been known to get his laundry on.. I fairly force him into action by avoiding the whole mess until he must either turn his boxers inside out, or break down and laundry up.

As I tend to postpone, procrastinate, anything to avoid the agony, I always end up with a good three or four loads. Also, I haven't broken down and actually purchased a granny cart with which to lug my load, so I'm relegated to carrying the laundry bag, sherpa style on my back.
"Hey there, looks heavy."
"You should try doing laundry more." Yeah, yeah, yeah.. There are always a few comedians milling about on Bedford street, just waiting to toss out hilaaaarious one liners as I waddle by.

The ONLY thing I like about laundry day, aside from smoothing fresh, crackling, clean sheets on my bed is the smell of the laundromat. Mmmmm... Clean, soapy, baby powder, air.. It wafts around me, mingles with my hair, my clothes.. So instead of coming home with cigarette smells, from a night at the bar or one of The Surge's gigs, I return a summer goddess.. all lemon scented, mountain breeze, and oh so fresh.

So here I sit, trying to avoid the dryer's attempts to hypnotize me. Like staring into a roaring camp fire.. Reds, blues, there's my green dress! Christmas light colors flapping about in hot air. Tumbling in the rumbling of the dryer. And then I'm off to wallow in my clean, warm, aromatic sheets.
Thursday
Sep222005

Instant Family

When I was young, I was lulled gently to sleep by the battling banter of Sam & Diane. In High School, I made out on the downstairs couch with Cody and Josh (not at the same time, mind you, though that may have been nice) to the humorous hostility between Joe and Helen. In college I smoked pot and fell asleep chuckling at Kramer's crazy antics.. Soothing television tones. My other family. Living alone can be scary when you're just discovering yourself.. when you aren't entirely comfortable with yourself, when the silence can be deafening.

Eventually, tired of the endless commercial interruptions, insulting in their obvious attempts to woo or shame me into purchase, I took to recording episode after episode onto VHS.. That way, when I got a bad case of the lonelies, I'd simply slide in a tape and VOILA! Instant Family! Sure Alex, Mallory and Jen turned the Keaton house into a bed & breakfast when their parents went out of town, but it would all be okay in the end. Steven and Elise might bicker, but the fights were full to the brim with one-liners and laughter. They'd never get a divorce, like my real family. Sam & Diane might scream and shout, but it was only foreplay to the passionate embrace that would end the show.. I always hated when the sitcom would ruin a perfectly good half hour by attempting to take on the issue du jour.. Somebody gets addicted to drugs, somebody has anorexia.. blah blah .. I get enough of that in my real life.. Stick to the one-liners and the laugh track. Nobody wants to see a comedian cry.

So now, when I find myself in unfamiliar circumstances, I push a button in search of my instant family. Today I might be the Cosby's adopted white daughter courtesy of Nickelodeon. Maybe I'm another one of Roseanne's troublemakers, thank you Oxygen. Perhaps I'll hang out in my fantastic, oversized, underpriced, Greenwhich village apartment with my Friends on TBS. Most likely, I'll head back to high school with my buddies from Saved By the Bell, they always seem to be traipsing around somewhere, pulling sillly shenanigans on naive Mr. Belding.

Like my real family, my sitcom families fight, unlike my real family, their arguments are sprinkled with witty jokes, hilarious asides.. and the soundtrack of all sitcoms, the ever present laugh track. Fights in my real family can last days, weeks, months.. Fights in my sitcom family always get sorted in thirty minutes. All wrapped up in a tidy little bundle, beautiful bow on top, leaving me with a feeling of accomplishment. And all I did was sit on the couch and drool. So here I sit today, feeling lost, yet oddly comforted by my wise cracking mom "Roseanne".
***CUE LAUGHTER***
Tuesday
Sep202005

Drunk

Had a long day. Am drunk. Drunk typing. That's a new one for me. Am a fantastic drunk dialer.. as numerous ex-boyfriends, my girlfriends, and even Mom and Dad can attest to. But drunk typing..

The Surge is Philadelphia bound. Has a gig there tonight.. And I'm here in Brooklyn. Drinking Yagermeister. Singing songs to Maxer. Worked 12 hours today, 12 hours yesterday.. work tomorrow.. and it's already spent, the money I earn. Headed to London October 1. Never been. The Surge's ex-girlfriend lives there. They dated for a long time, so he's familiar with the lay of the land. Work Sleep Work Sleep Work Sleep.. Why am I using so many ellipses? How do you spell elipses? Too tired to look it up. Where is everyone that I know? It's almost 7pm in Utah. Maybe still light.

I emailed you today. Did you get it? Are you reading this? Am not sleeping well lately. Mind a whirl of thoughts, disjointed words, I combine sentences in my head, then delete them and think of new word combinations. I am mainlining random info into the computer via the keyboard. It makes sense to me. Typing into the void. I can't see you.. and if you read this I won't know.

Sometimes I become aware that every single thing surrounding me is new.. Not even one year old. The Surge isn't a year old yet, the marriage isn't a year old yet, Brooklyn isn't a year old yet, my apartment is still a toddler, the streets I wander are newborn to me. There is no same.. is all new. Am tired of new. Want familiar. Want comfort. Tired of being the new person. Tired of observing, not rocking boats, fitting in. Max is the only The Same. And my old ass clothes. And I wish they were new. Thank god I can always delete.
Monday
Sep192005

Food Stamp Flashback

When I was young, my mom used to send me to the grocery store. After a full day of work, a full night of nursing school, she'd often forget to pick up that breakfast staple; milk. Off I'd go, clutching that humiliating food stamp book. I was 16 at the time, navigating awkwardly through the mine field that is high school. All giggles, eye rolls and tosses of hair. "Omigod, that is, like, so embarrassing!" Trying to fit in, desperately seeking approval but pretending not to care. I detested using those food stamps. I was old enough to know the story they told strangers about my family. I can still feel the hot pin pricks of embarrassment blossoming on my face.. And it happened again today.

I worked until midnight last night, plodded home, spent the obligatory half hour sweating on the platform of the L train, waiting waiting waiting for the subway. Finally home, I barely had the wherewithall to give Max a nuzzle before collapsing into sheets that are so dirty they can almost walk themselves to the laundromat. The Surge was at some concert or other, I didn't have the time to pay attention. A benefit for Hurricane Katrina victims or some such event. Didn't sleep well. Bits and pieces of awake mixed with the sleeping. The Surge, me and Max, a tangle of limbs. Fan purring in the corner. What seemed like five minutes later the alarm is shrieking at me and I'm trudging once again to the dreaded L train. Forever staring into the black cave, toes tapping, trying to wish subway headlights into existence.

Hurtling uptown through the yawning black tunnel, I almost become one of those subway sleepers. I always wonder who could be so tired as to fall asleep on a stranger, head lolling, jolting awake as the train stops and starts. I make it to my stop by promising myself an iced coffee at the Starbucks across from the news station where I work. Long line, savvy young New Yorkers clad in the latest fashions, accessorizing with ipods, cell phones, palm pilots. I inch closer to the front of the line, can practically taste the icy treat, feel the caffeine jolt, and then I'm ordering. Complicated, the ordering. Jumbles of italian, confusing coffee lingo. Tall means medium, a large is called Venti. I place my order: "Venti Iced coffee with room for milk please." I smile at myself for ordering properly and dig inside my bag for my wallet. No cash. I cast a hopeful glance around, searching for those three letters recognizable worldwide. A-T-M. Out of luck, I slide my credit card out of my wallet and place it on the counter. I cringe, hating to use it for a measly two dollar purchase, but it's all I've got. The cashier runs the card, and we wait for the beeps that signal I'm a productive citizen. They don't come. She doesn't have to look at me, I see it in the embarassed clench of her jaw, her reaction to the one word on the machine. Declined.
"I'm sorry, it declined."
"Shouldn't have gone on that last shopping spree", I laugh, trying to make light of it, but that familiar tingle is creeping into my cheeks. Bright blooms of embarrassment. Suddenly I'm sixteen, clutching a wad of rainbow colored food stamps. Pretend money for poor people. The scarlet letter, branding me inferior. I know it's not true, but that feeling will be there forever, lodged deep inside, a dark place.
"Do you take checks?" a glance behind me confirms a long line of impatient Manhattanites anxious to get get get and go go go.
"Sure", the cashier brightens, hoping to avoid baring witness to the potentially embarrassing situation. My coffee is already on the counter, awaiting my splenda and cream treatment. I scribble onto the check, and shove it at her.
"I'll need to see some ID."
"No problem." I'm relieved. I'm following the rules, providing the information. I'm legitimate. I'm not that girl, the one with food stamps, that's been taught to take what she can get whenever she can get it. I'm a hard working woman dammit! She looks at my ID, then summons the manager. The woman behind me sighs loudly. Obviously. She wants me to know she's annoyed. As if that will make the wait easier, faster. The manager and the cashier are conferencing in the corner. I stand, ashamed, criminilized, adjusting articles of clothing, fidgeting with my bag.
"Your ID has an out of state address. It's not the same as the address on your checks. We can't accept it." The manager says flatly. No expression. He slides the check back across the counter, and actually pulls the coffee away from me. As if I were planning to grab it and run. Stunned, feeling like a shoplifter I stumble back from the counter and quickly push open the glass door, escaping to the safety of crowded sidewalks and anonymity. As I'm rushing out of the building, Tony Danza strolls by me on the street, whistling a tune to himself. "Who's The Boss?" I think to myself.
Sunday
Sep182005

Play That Funky Music White Girl

Conversation dances around me, I selectively listen. So drunk I'm not even feigning interest. Snatches of sentences wing toward me, three seperate conversations underway. Words mingling, pieces of sentences marrying, giving birth to nonsensical sentences. Peanut shells are scattered across thick wooden table tops. All squares and solid chunks, the kind of table where you can make out the tree it once was, leafy ghost hulking. Dave sips his beer, dark like cider, licks white foam from his lip, He says something. Always pensive. Yet always denying deep thoughts.

Through the haze of cigarette smoke hanging in the air, lazily spiraling upward, I see The Surge respond, his pink rosebud lippy lips closing and opening.. His words jig over and grab Adam's words for a dance. Whirling and twirling, words spin all over the place, pelt me like raindrops.

Dave murders another peanut, pops innards into his mouth. The Surge's big phantom eyes are trained on me, mouth curves upward, smiling sweetly at my drunk daze. My husband. I'm married. Nearly a year later it still suprises me. Sneaks up and taps me on the shoulder at the oddest of moments. The music stops, I strain toward hidden speakers in eager anticipation of my next pick on the jukebox. DJ Monica. I've already forgotten which songs I selected, feeding crisp dollar bills into the hungry machine, plunking the buttons..

We are at the bar.. Our gang. The Brooklyn Buddies.. Down the street, we kinda meet by bodega flowers, dirt poor we don't want no more.. Half the time we will have a time. Came with the best of intentions. Be social. Stayed with the worst intentions. Get drunk. Mashed thigh to thigh, shoulder to shoulder into the circular bar booth with the gang, yet I'm attending a party for one. I'm the DJ, the hostess, partygoer extraordinaire at my private party.

My jukebox selections were made in the afterglow of my third shot of Yagermeister. A potpourri of musical mayhem. Johnny Cash, The Clash, a sprinkling of Sinatra, more Cash please, a dash of The Rolling Stones, here comes The Beta Band, introducing Modest Mouse. Songs dedicated to me. Legends sing the story of my past, bringing back moments so tangibly..better than a photograph. I can taste the dust on my tongue from that weekend of camping with Johnny Cash as the soundtrack. Can feel the wild winter wind molest me as Max and I drive through Utah's purple mountain majesties, radio all the way up, windows all the way down..

I snap to the present, insert myself into conversation, not really sure what I'm saying. Must have been funny, The Surge is laughing. I hug myself, basking in the warm glow of making him smile. Open up and say ahhh.. More Yagermeister. Dave, the liquor bully is having his way. Candlelight flickers, illuminating bits of the various faces gathered around, casting other bits in violet shadow. I finger my water glass, dab at the dark circle it sweats onto the table. The busy room swirls around me. Streaks of color, peels of laughter, the beery odor of yeast wafts toward me as Paul downs the last of his golden hued selection and exhales contentedly. At this moment, life is good.