She wore a furry hat with ear flaps and stood still as her snack sized dogs sniffed 19th Street. I approached her. I said – “I’m a writer, and I’m writing a blog about strangers – do you have time to talk?”
It was 3:01pm on a Thursday afternoon. She asked if I was a student. (No) She told me she was a writer – she had been a writer. She was a journalist at People for 15 years, then Us Weekly, and before that she was a sportswriter.
She left. She got a dog. She became a dog walker. I like her instantly.
She explained to me that when she started in her career, all she did was interview people, but as you go further up the ladder, other people do the interviews and you edit and write from their interviews.
I wondered what an interviewer gets curious about. I told her ”I was just walking around the East Village, and I thought – maybe I’ll run into Patti Smith. What would I ask her? The only thing that came to mind was – What kind of toothpaste does Patti Smith use?”
She said, “I often think, if I were to run into Lenny Kravitz or Keith Richards, what would I say. If Lenny Kravitz has to go to the 7-Eleven to buy some milk, does he have to put that whole getup on, because people expect him to look a certain way? Or can he just go? Or does he have to get the boots, the earring, the beret?”
I get it. I think of a line from a Roethke poem – “Which I is I”? Who are we when we are not creating ourselves for someone else? Toothpaste is an equalizer.
She says, “I don’t think I ever ran out of questions in interviews, although I would think about it before the interview. I would spend 30-40 minutes before I talked to someone and think about it. I’d ask about religion or their families.”
I ask her if she has a spiritual practice.
“I do. I’m not sure about the God question, but for me, God stands for Good Orderly Direction.”
Kim is in AA. ”My new thing is I really need to get down on my knees. I just don’t do it. I think it’s self will, but I find that so contrary to me. Over this holiday, I thought, I should at least, even for a second, get down on my knees, just to acknowledge there’s something bigger than me. The program for me – that’s an hour of checking in with myself and listening to other’s people’s voices instead of the ones in my head.”
I ask Kim how long she’s been in AA.
“I’ve been in AA off and on for 20 years, but actively for ten. Maybe two and a half. I’ve been at it for a while, and I don’t doubt that’s my place to be. I was doing so well in my career, and it was easy for me to flip back into denial. Then I would be fine until I wasn’t fine.”
I asked Kim if she has a sponsor.
“I’ve had like 5 sponsors, but the one I’m with now I got two and a half years ago. I haven’t had a drink in ten or eleven years, but pills are hard for me. I got this sponsor two and a half years ago – I’ve known her for ten years. This time, I got a step person. We work the steps. I don’t need a best friend. She does make me call her every day, which I kind of hate. I don’t know if I’ll get to a meeting today. I don’t know why I deprive myself because it really helps me. I never not have a good time.”
She asks, “Do you want to walk to Petco with us?”
I want to walk to Petco.
I ask, “Before you found AA, what was your life like?”
It was successful and crazy busy. I used booze in my 20s and 30s at night. I used booze and sex to calm down at night. If I didn’t drink I don’t think I would have made it through my 20s. I was travelling, high flying, celebrityish.”
“I think I’m going to start another program. I’ve lost 58 pounds but I’m not in the food program yet. I gave up sugar. Over the holidays, I could not resist Christmas cookies. I had a couple of slips in a row. I had two boxes. I ate a box both times. I was at my mother’s house. I don’t even try to control it because I know I’d eat it compulsively. I talked to my sponsor about it.”
We are standing outside of Petco and a talk brunette with red lips stands by us as her dog checks out Kim C’s dogs. We’re wrapping up the conversation, and I want her professional opinion of my interviewing skills, so I ask, “How was this interview?”
“I think you did fine. The hardest part about interviewing is you have to sublimate yourself and not leap in. But at the same time, you have to identify with the person, which you did. You have an easy style.”
I told her I love to write.
“Keep doing it.”
I give her the address of my blog.
“The anonymity part, if you want to use everything in the interview, it’s fine. Just call me Kim C. My whole life is an open book.”
She looks at the tall brunette with red lips and tells me, “This looks like someone you might want to interview.” She tells red lips, “She just interviewed me for her blog. She’s a good interviewer. She’s really nice. I’m going into Petco. I’ll see you later, Jessica.”
I didn’t need to talk to red lips. I got what I was looking for, and I believe it came from a power greater than me. Today New York City rocked me like a porch swing. Everywhere I went, I felt connected and alive. I was humbled at my appointment on Varick Street. I felt human, and connected to the world. I grazed Canal Street and some slow walking tourists. I meandered through Soho and found purple knee high socks at Pearl River Mart. At the Whole Foods on Houston I ate tomato soup, kale, and tofu, and sat near interesting looking mustaches and foreigners. I played my future guitar and hummed along at Ludlow Guitars. I walked down 1st Avenue and then made a left on 19th Street on my way to return a dress my sister gave me, and a woman ran after me imploring me to be careful, that my bag of purple socks fell on the sidewalk. I ran into Kim C. We connected. After that, I watched the latest Twilight movie and had dinner with a friend. Good Orderly Direction is all around us. It is my job to notice it and be present to it.
Kim C. has a great idea for a book.