Thursday, August 31, 2006

Baby Art

There was a time, between the ages of eight and eleven, that my parents thought, for one shining moment, I might be a prodigy.

Parents always think that.

Usually it means nothing. For me it meant art lessons.

Here are my "baby paintings" -- paintings, drawings, and etchings I did under the tutelage of a talented, tortured artist who covered her walls in beautiful, terrifying and enormous paintings of war and suffering and fire. Great way for a fourth grader to spend her Monday and Wednesday afternoons right?

Please tell me I didn't peak at ten. That would be a new low...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Women are from Venus

Now, I’d like to slow it down for the ladies…let’s lower that dimmer and pop open this bottle of fine, fine zinfandel and have a little “talk”…awww yeah.

Today I have a small list that perhaps only the fairer sex will understand, but they’ve been on my mind and I have to share:

1. Please tell me what is so hard about this: cover, don’t hover, whenever possible. I implore us as women to band together and make this one a mandate. John Stossel says there are more bacteria on your office phone than on a toilet seat. And for the most part, against my better judgment, I’m trusting a man with a mustache on this one. Why can’t we all just make it easy on ourselves and thrown down the protective sheet, or barring that, layers of TP? Cause at Kip’s Bay the other night, I almost gagged.

2. So, is it just me or should there be some sort of program where at-will, they don’t let you into a Duane Reade? Because I black out, and then come to right when the cashier is saying, “That’ll be eighty-nine dollars please” and I tell you, I’m jaw-dropped-shocked every single time. I must go into some sort of cheap-makeup-and-John-Frieda-product frenzy, waking up only at the near-end, never questioning why I would need both a hair straightening and a curl heightening balm, particularly when I already have versions of both at home.

3. Is it written in our microscopic strands that we must look each other up and down at every given moment, not stopping until we find a flaw in an ensemble’s fashion validity or price, hairstyle, hair coloring, foundation, painted nails, short arms, jutting toes, personality or purchased body-parts (“those boobs are so fake” and “you call that re-structured nub a nose”)? I’ve no answer on this one; I’m just seeing over and over how women can be each other’s biggest enemies in so many ways. I’m not sure we can learn to curb that inner bitch; I’m just recycling an old proposal that we try to. Things are hard enough in New York and our constant needs to trade up: jobs, wardrobes, apartments, men. Do we really need to be tearing each other apart as well?

Monday, August 28, 2006


I miss my parents. The ones that knew everything, the ones that had everything, the ones that promised that I could do anything…

I miss their hologrammed selves. From holidays, and my mother’s pumps and her billowing scarves. My father’s cigars and his work gloves still studded with chips of wood from the pile he’d hauled in for the fire. When parents and Santa wrapped the presents with metallic bows, and the dishes plated, then cleared themselves. When the silverware sparkled without tarnish and red wool coats and black velvet buttons meant everything.

The yellow bus, the orange pumpkins, kicking in the backseats, blaming the ice cream spill on my brother before he was old enough to defend himself, back when a thin seam of drool held him to his blue bibbers. Camp, the pickle jars, kickball, collages taped to the walls and funny, half-glazed sculptures aligned the shelves of their offices. The annual block party crawfish cookout under the pavilion, near the rocks, littered with green and amber bottle glass.

I miss their lectures, before I thought they had merit. Back when it was white noise and I rolled my eyes as I scanned a magazine…

In terms of the importance etiquette (proper thank yous, phone manner and which is the fish fork), first impressions (don’t lick your lips too much and always shake a hand firm), and that even creatives can’t look like ragamuffins and be respected (they must earn it like the rest of us)…Mom was right.

In terms of reading everyday (the bigger, the more boring, the better), limiting television (it does rot your brain; that delicious, Food Network syringe is never enough of a fix), and home repairs*, Dad was right.

I miss them. Maybe because I haven’t seen them in a while and a book of old photographs reminds me. Maybe I just get this way at the end of every August like an old woman does in the late autumn of her life; I fast-rewind and fast-forward to saturated points remembered and imagined and bemoan the lost; things that are gone for good because they’ve changed…things that will change more, with or without my permission...age, relationships, health. A lift to the air has got me stirring…I need to go home again. It doesn’t matter that they’ve painted the bedroom tangerine and my beloved cat has long run away.

I need to be reminded of where I’ve come from to clarify where I’m going. Perhaps that will shed some light on why I always look back before I look forward.

*The story of how my parents met is the stuff of Cinemax legends. She, long-haired and in shorts, had a leak. He, with a low-slung tool belt and mustache came over to 'fix the drain.' They married in the snow, and decided that my mother would go to work full-time while my father stayed home with us. This meant a childhood of required reading such as “The Donner Party” at nine years of age. The saga of my father as my Brownie troupe leader should be a whole other post… how he affixed the patches onto my sash with a staple gun, then took our group of ten young girls to visit a sewage treatment plant and a holding cell as our “real life” field trips.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Mondays get me in the mood for fun work stories far more than the cold, hard, cubicle-oatmeal-reality. Stories where the punchline in question is not caused by me…though I do have plenty of my own…

Like the time my boss stopped in the hallway, stooped in her Manolos and fine Italian wool-blend and fished twelve dollars out of the piled trash. She straightened, scrunched her nose and said aloud, “Who would have thrown out money? K, do you see that someone threw out money in the trash?”

And I had to tell her…

Yes, I saw that someone had thrown money out. As a matter of fact, the very mention had suddenly jogged my memory to recall that I was the responsible party. And not only was I, her assistant, the absolute idiot who had thrown several crisp bills (bills! multiple!) into the garbage, but it was in fact, hers, my boss’s, money that I had thrown in.

I had her change from something she asked me to buy, and as I was throwing out the receipt, I tossed it all in, and had not noticed, and would not have noticed, for the saving grace and can-do-attitude of her pulling it out.

Ah, the workplace…

Runner up is the time I titled an email with the word “blah” in it, and sent it to all the important people in the company on my first week on the job. Why did I do this, you ask? Well because in my twisted mind, I had misspelled “temporarily” as in "the meeting will temporarily be postponed", but felt that spell-check was not picking it up, and instead decided to write “blah” to test spell-check, which by some unholy reason is actually in the spell-check dictionary and therefore did not pick it up as incorrect and it was sent anyway. Nice.

I’ve also said “Good Morning” at ten in the evening and addressed a coworker as “Mom”.

(It’s Monday, please share…)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

This is great! Now change everything…

Writing is a process. For some, a joyless one.

Sometimes, also, for me.

I’m just not so great at honing this craft. I like it, sometimes I find it meaningful, and most of all I always love reading others’ words. But in terms of whittling away at a mass of blurs on a page, taking something big and pushing it small, I have so much to learn.

This revision process is a bitch.

I write the same way I think and talk. Not a good thing. It’s quick and comes out the way it wants to. There is no agonizing for this and second-guessing for that. It just flows out of my brain and flushes past my fingertips. It could make sense or it could not.

Unfortunately, that’s not how a real writer is supposed to write. It’s supposed to be that the pen is mightier than the sword because every phrase is razor-sharp by the end of many, many versions. Cohesive, fluid, symbolic. Far from clichés, yet close to the heart.

Images without pictures that surge inside of you. An unexpected ending that you never saw coming, yet when it happens you slap your forehead with, “Of course!” because nothing fits as right. A recognition of something you know but never say, or until that moment, never realized, and it changes you in a small or big way. This is good, powerful writing and it does not come to mere mortals without laborious strides. Accidents of talent may cause some to create instantaneously, but for the rest of us, it’s trying and working and moving and changing and going and going and going. It’s good, it’s worse, it’s better, it’s best, it’s bad, and then if you’re lucky, it’s near best again at the end. This is me not only writing a novel, but something as small as an article, or an assignment. Only with the blog can I get away with it. Anywhere else I slap it on the page half-hoping it will suddenly be the best it can be, I’m always found out.

It never is what it could be. It’s always more to fix, more to make right, and uncertainty if almost-perfection (relatively of course) is ever attained. But it seems that so much of that is what is involved with slogging through. The zone moments? Only the fun prongs.

The further I get, the further I see I have to go.

And I think I can be a writer someday? (Feigned laughter). Please tell me how you conquer revisions, I beg of you…

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Fame Motive

The recent NYT article on fame (I tried to link but it appears you need a subscription, and after vacation, I'm poor) coupled with my instructor’s persistent use of the phrase “professional jealousy” last night got me thinking.

What is it that we want from life? To do something great, or to have it acknowledged? And more, singularly acknowledged?

It’s age-old, tree falling in the woods example. If I ever say/write/draw/create anything wonderful, and there’s no one around to appreciate it, did it really happen and does it really matter? Supposedly the sound of an invisible forest falling was to clear one’s mind, but it sort of napalms mine. This grasping at straws, this “look at me, mom” mentality, this downright weirdness of feeling like maybe it’s my upbringing, my profession or New York, but whatever it is, it’s here and I can’t shake it because I keep pursuing it, is the biggest obstacle I face.

I look at two friends: two famous blogger friends, in varying degrees of notoriety, but both on a roller coaster just the same. Both are beautiful, have book deals and quit their dayjobs to become writers. Both are determined and both, for the most part seem happy. I think to myself “that’s what I want!” and then I read their blogs. Their lovely fans gush and their sharp detractors rip deep wounds.

Some attack not only their writing (okay, I see that this is a topic up for discussion since these are published blogs, so I think to some degree, this is okay). They attack their style, their character, their body-types. Their lipstick, the cut of their dresses, the curve of their ankles, the strength of their diets, the worthiness of their boyfriends, their motives. They’re called money-grubbing bitches in so many words; talent-less, undeserving, whores. And I see these two women strike a strange deal with the nasties by leaving their words up to hurt, or to be lashed by the power of other fans. It’s here I run into a wall. I find myself sometimes champion the freedom of ideas and the open forums on personal pages, and other times positively recoiling from it.

Most may argue that a blog that allows comments must be fair and balanced. That is to say, if you allow the good, you better allow the bad, because you are putting yourself out here with your words missy, and when it sucks, you’re gonna be the first to find out. I get this, I really do. But to those, particularly those who comment in a demeaning way under the cover of anonymity, I say: let me let you in on a little secret.

We bloggers, and I’ll pretend I’m part of this club for the sake of argument, want your comments and leave it open to your comments because we want our egos massaged and that’s it.

I’m sorry, someone had to say it.

I feel like one of those magicians with the tell-alls on NBC. I have to wear a golden mask to hide my face just to tell you that the simplest answer is always the right one.

We say we want all your feedback. We don’t.

We want you to say something good about us, because we aren’t sure we’re good enough (sure a boyfriend or mother or sister will tell us so, because they have to). That’s why we blog; possibly for fame or money or plain recognition, but most likely I believe, always for validation.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. It just gave me pause. We all want to be adored in some way or another, is all I’m saying, and yes, it’s shallow but also true…

Some argue that getting a reaction out of anyone is a good thing, because you touched them. This for me, rings false. I think the best moving of someone is in a positive way, because hating is easy; true and sincere appreciation is much more difficult.

Take that professional jealousy my instructor was speaking of. Or the negatives you feel about your coworker, your best friend, your girlfriend, whatever, because just once they took it to shine a little brighter than you. Can we ever really crumple it and toss it in the trash/out the window/over a balcony and be rid of it? Or will it always be that as long as there are people in the world clamoring for a piece of what we perceive to be a finite pie, that we will have fame-lust, and competition-hate, and we’ll never really get to the heart because we’re so busy eating instead of building our own?

What are your thoughts?

Fake it 'til you...

The room in a sprawling lodge held Tiffany-inspired painted glass, luscious bath products thick with lemongrass, rosemary and sage. We hadn't had a vacation that wasn’t all-inclusive and off-season for some time, and with a sigh, we swore we would do it up, no matter what the cost.

“We don’t belong here,” he said.

“I won’t tell if you don’t,” came my reply as I jumped into a mountain of pillows with glee.

After a desert walk turned bucolic beyond the golf course, a 2007 S550 Mercedes was our ride to a section of beach where the cabanas and cabana boys (“beach attendants” they insisted we call them) were $250 a pop for the day. Somehow, some way, and some smooth talking got us comped.

The water foamed turquoise green and our striped cloth tent lay under a red rock overhang.

Two dogs wearing life vest frolicked near an overturned surfer and I was at peace, ease, and near sleeping-calm.

But, men, one in particular, can never be placated. “Tijuana,” he said.

I flipped over on teak to sun my back and begged. “We just got here—and for free, can’t we stay?”

“Let’s see how we feel in twenty minutes,” came his reply. Then the re-plug of ipod earphones.

“An hour?” As if I had any choice in the matter.

(Un)luckily, cock-fighting was won-out by Sea World…but we still left the sand in record time, off to the car and a friend’s couch, far more in line with where we belonged.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


We’re back from our trip; a slapdash tour of beaches, firepits, sleek storefronts, outrageous hotel rooms and one zooming rental car in which the air conditioning actually worked. We said we were scoping out the scene covertly, yet everywhere we went we exclaimed, “Someday, we’ll live here!” Our foolproof logic is this: a place with great weather solves all problems.

One night, on the second leg, we went to The Grove. For those of you who may not know, as I did not, it’s an outdoor plaza swarming with ready-made purchases and diversions. It’s surely a tourist trap, but I liked it anyway; brick paths, a trolley, a dancing fountain, a live band, alfresco seating and “expensive” cocktails priced at $10 (and for jaded “New Yorkers” like us, that was reasonable).

Something about vacation, I can’t really place it, but for me, my mind goes. And quick. It’s as though everything I think I know is left on the tarmac. All of a sudden, the money (or, credit card swiping, rather) flows like water. I slap the plastic. Hard. Everything is justified because it’s vacation. I’m like a belligerent uncle. This is vacation, damnit. We’re going to have a good time whether anyone likes it or not. To hell with what it costs; we’ll feel the budget hangover when we get home.

So on vacation, damnit, I decide that maybe forty pairs of scivvies, thongs, boy shorts (I’m not fond of saying “panties”—I think it’s too sexualized and have been creeped out by the word ever since they used it to described JonBenet’s underclothes in the Ramsey case back in the beginning, and then heard it again on vacation when they were transporting the suspect and had to change the channel) spilling out my bedside table don’t quite cut it. I stop at Gap; they’re having a sale on cute little hipsters and I snag four. Then we hit another store where I buy even more things I don’t need, like summer dresses and a green necklace that bears a striking resemblance to one I already own in blue, and as I cross the threshold into the robust, Californian air, I realize: I don’t have the Gap bag.

I step back and search where I was standing mere moments before, half-trying on a ruffled shirt in front of a metal pole's reflection to catch a glimpse of sizing instead of waiting in the monstrous dressing room line. Not there. I scan the rest, weaving in and out of manic shoppers. Still nothing. I ask the clerks at the front, at the back, at the desk. Nope. That was it. Someone had stolen the bag.

I don’t like it when things are taken from me, even if my own stupidity aides. I still think it’s cheating, unfair, cruel to take something from someone else—maybe especially so if they aren’t the sharpest tool in the shed…as I am never.

I mean, who steals someone’s underwear? Was this person, this thief even the same size? Or did she want to return it for store credit? Or was it some crazy weird guy that wheezed with glee when he saw it and skipped back into the night? And come on! I “needed” them, if only to put off doing laundry! Why would someone do that?

What kept me from getting really mad was context. Last time I had something taken, I was asleep on an Italian train without my hands intertwined in the straps of my bag, and someone entered, left with my wallet. I awoke with the sound of the compartment door slamming and knew. Of course, this had been the only time I had cash on me, nearly $200, because I was Christmas shopping for my family while abroad, and with my emergency credit card, my debit card, my license, it was gone.

I freaked out, to say the least. Irrationality kicked in and I came to the clear conclusion that whoever had taken the wallet would have just taken the cash, then ditched the worthless nylon and its enclosed cards. I figured, criminals are smart—they know I’m going to just cancel the cards, and also, maybe, that I’m a stupid American and could use some of the things in there, like my NYU id, which was the only thing that gave me access to campus and some of the dorms in Florence as the security there remained tougher than in the Pentagon.

So what did I do? I began running down the train’s halls at four in the morning, prodding every dark corner and turn, convinced that it was only a matter of time before I came upon it. The boy told me to “calm down” repeatedly, which, obviously, only encouraged my hysterics more. I knew that the thieves were mean, but not that mean—after all, they had left my passport in the bag, so at the very worst, I had something to get me home. These were kind, caring thieves. I kept on, altering my strategy now to jamming my hands in the garbage and pulling out rumbled papers, ticket stubs, chip bags.

I plunged my grasping hands into all receptacles: the big bins first, then the little pockets studded along the walls, meant for small pieces of benign trash. I spied on at the very end of the car and raced towards it. It was the last place to toss before exiting, and I was sure that was where my deflated wallet lay.

I thrust my hand in, even as the boy called, “Give it up!” Even as I felt it rush and run on my knuckles, the act was already set in motion, and my body did not respond to my brain’s sharp screaming turn.

It was wet. It was cold. It was urine.

The small trash can was filled to the brim with urine.

The search was called off, and as no plumbing on the train worked, probably why the man who had relieved himself had done so just there in the first place, I spent the rest of the miserable ride—two hours—holding my now stinking arm away from the rest of my body and staring out a black window, cursing the day I decided to board abroad.

So, all in context. Missing underclothes vs. an arm damp with urine. I’ll choose the former.

More, happier vacation stories to come this week…

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Stealing means Feeling

I'm not one to post others' words much, but after class tonight (and the fact that I can put off packing for my trip tomorrow) I just had to. These provided me with a grande-sized shot of adrenaline and I had to share my favorites.

Probably standard fare for any regular "how not to" lecture, these did not, and I figure, will not ever cease to make me laugh...

Drumroll please...

"Worst analogies ever written in a high school essay (I do doubt this in many cases, because some of these are just too great...)

1. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

2. Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.

3. Her eyes were like two brown circles with black dots in the center.

4. Bob was as perplexed as a hacker who means to access but gets T:\flw.quidaaakk/ch@ung by mistake. (We agreed this one would be perfect for a tech presentation at work, then again, none of us is a techie.)

5. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

6. Her date was pleasant enough, but she knew that if her life was a movie this guy would be buried in the credits as something like "Second Tall Man".

7. John and Mary had never met. They were like two humming birds who had also never met."

I can't stop laughing at these. I want more. If anyone can help me, I'd be eternally grateful.

In the meantime, a hiatus until next Tuesday. I've got a date with the west coast, my bikini, and a credit card. Not necessarily in that order. But I need a vacation like a bad movie needs a break-up scene in the rain...hey, this terrible analogy stuff isn't so hard after all...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Smell of Corpses, Hipsters, Brooklyn

I spent this weekend away. Away, away. Brooklyn, away.

It’s not that Manhattan isn’t enough for me. It definitely is. But with all the hype about Brooklyn, and all my self-deluded assurances that no, no it’s not that great, and not that much cheaper than here, because if I come to look and find this is true and still I renewed my lease in the East Village apartment which sometimes smells like chlorine and we don’t have a pool and our doorman is really a masturbating lady-bum who camps out in front of the complex with a sheet over her head—I suppose because if she can’t see us, then we can’t see her, nor her vigorous hand movements,---well, then I’ll just cry.

So because we couldn’t go mooch of our parents, we took advantage of the beautiful weather and drove to Brooklyn to finally scope it out. You know, for next year maybe. After all, what could be more of a natural progression from the East Village?

Saturday was spent at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. We were planning to go anyway for some lush greenery, flowering trees, dangling our legs over the pools in the Japanese gardens. But when we heard that the once in a bajillion year event of a vomit-inducing bloom of a corpse flower was there, well, let’s just say wild horses couldn’t drag us away.

We blew by the children’s garden; the pineapple sage, soybeans, sweet potatoes and cola nuts. Beyond the Dr. Seuss weeping hemlock. Before the flopping coy in a feeding frenzy.

In the conservatory, we found it after a long line. A four foot tall, single plant bursting one flower with peeling petals, the inside stalk looking like a giant ear of weird corn. As we got closer, we braced our stomachs to fill our nostrils.

But, get this. We couldn’t smell anything. We inched closer and still, nothing.

Finally, we were upon in, gasping in great breaths through our nose and yet, no smell at all. What a rip! I mean, we got in free because my company owns most things on the planet, but still…

We found out later that the flower had caused a stink when it first opened on Thursday, but it had dissipated by the time we were there on Saturday morning. It’s probably for the best anyway.

Sunday we went to our first McCarren pool party because Beirut was playing and we couldn’t go on wearing the shirts and buying the cds we do unless we visited the motherland. As if Brooklyn Brewery pilsner, the adjacent park, and watching hipsters play jerky dodge ball wasn’t enough. The show was really great and really free, and when it got too hot, we just slipped past the fence and took off our socks and shoes and joined the kids playing in the spraying animal-shaped spouts.

Something about being there felt very communal and laid-back. It was a nice change from the frenetic pace of Manhattan-proper. There, people were just kind of lying around, smiling and drinking, and at worst, trying to out-ironic each other with their bangs.

The best moment was the following exchange by the slip and slide:

“Hey, that guy looks like that guy on Entourage. The one that gets punched in Vegas. The one from Austin Powers”

“You mean Seth Green?”

“Yeah, that guy over there.”

“You mean the really short, balding guy with glasses?”

“Yeah. I mean, the hair he’s got is kind of red.”

On our way back we checked out the scene on Bedford and imagined what we would do if we lived there. Where we would eat, where we would shop. I ended up buying a new pair of earrings and a bag just to practice.

So, I’m a Brooklyn believer after this weekend. People seemed happier, more grass, bigger sky, smaller skyline. Tyler reminded me of his friend and a conversation they had regarding the notion of happiness related to a finite group of varied options. Where people don’t second-guess their decisions or want for others because they’re sated. No problem picking this over that. Something about how people can’t be bombarded with too much, and it got us thinking of how sometimes Manhattan seems much too much. All that choice leaves us indecisive, and lots of room for error.

I wonder if it’s another avenue to happiness. Brooklyn, that is. Where free concerts, cheap lager, and even, supposed-to-smell-putrid--but-don’t flowers flourish.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

100 Posts (and the meaning of life...)

Ordered by importance:

1. almost literary is one hundred posts old today. Hooray!

2. Last night, the foil turned, and loved my rewrite. The class agreed. Hooray!

3 And the meaning of life is…oh..uh…hmmm. Poetic justice? Is that what it’s called when your entire family (save you) is touring the distilleries of Scotland while you slave away over a hot computer?

No really, I had a meaning of life conversation with a guy I barely know (of course, isn’t how these things always start—even I can’t keep up with the aching clichés of my own life) and he sparked a thought in me, nay, handed over his philosophy for me to steal—I mean, make my own.

The meaning of life, he said, many cachacas later, is creation.

No, wait, this isn’t as bad as it sounds.

He said since we are somewhat reflective of the force that created us, our point is to then create on our own. I take this to mean literally life (babies, care for other humans to prolong their own, nurturing animals and the planet, etc.) and also figuratively as creating a force (passion, peace, love, writing, music, art, a shorter path for those less fortunate, etc.).

Unfortunately, the seer stopped there. He had no explanation for exactly how to do that or to what end, leaving me not far from where I was at three years old, pageboy haircut and round patent-leather shoes, my favorite yellow dress, following my poor mother around our house in Miami asking, “why?” (“Because that button turns on the dishwasher” “Why?” “Because it’s connected to a mechanism that starts a processe for washing the dishes.” “But, why?”).

Still, it’s a start. So for now, I’ll keep writing in the hopes of creating something not half-bad.

And I hope you will too, whatever your creation, big or small, may be...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I am a whiny, busy bee.

Things have been on fast-forward lately, and my life has been a blur.

Thursday was the shimmering blonde’s birthday fete. Atop the shaded view at 230 Fifth, the lower floor was most aptly described as:

“A strip club.”

“No, no, a casino without the gambling.”

But on the roof deck, nothing but sparkly skylines, happy glows, and smiles.

Her crowd is a literary one, everyone’s name and glasses are more interesting than the last: Avalon, Jordan (a girl), Julio, McCain.

The blonde was spinning beautiful and lithe as blondes are wont to do, and though it was her birthday she provided bottle service by lanterns, latticed fences, and potted plants. This made me think another one of my defining mental notes.

When you become older and you reside in Manhattan, your birthdays are celebrated by you giving to other people, not the other way around…

Friday night we drove to a rehearsal dinner for a traditional Indian wedding replete with golden and ruby saris, plates upon plates of fried okra and moist, spicy chicken, dance performances, a flowered altar, and henna tattoo artists.

She held my hand and drew in tiny, black spots on my palm. While it dried I tried to keep the boy from picking it off of me (“Stop or else it won’t dye right!”) and drank wine and caught up with friends from college by dancing to Goa trance.*

Saturday morning we had to fly to Rochester for a different wedding and we began to grow wary of the steady motion. What solidified it was missing our flight because of a mix-up in long-term parking. We scrunched up and scowled at the situation. Grumble. I wanted to be asleep. My days seem to frequent with the celebration of others’ nuptuals and I have a sneaking suspicion that the stolen summers will not fade until forty years old. Grumble again. Soon, the feeling was pushed aside, replaced by an overwhelm of panic. We arrived with five minutes to spare, dressed in the airport bathrooms and cabbed it to the church. The reception was at a picturesque spot on a green vineyard, the sun glaring hot as it set into a breezy night. We held up sparklers as we toasted the newlyweds, retired to our room at midnight, and promptly passed out, feeling lucky to be there, and by the skin of our teeth, but spent.

Sunday we came home just as our roomies were leaving for a going-away party we’d feared we’d miss (airport congestion had caused us to return home hours later than we’d like, oh and the A/C is broken in the car still). Again, lucky but spent, as we sat twelve-deep to a table and toasted our friend.

Yesterday I sat at the bar of a new tapas restaurant and sampled cod fritters, manchego cheese balls, and olives in garlic brine. This was all merely to compliment the Brazilian drink tasting (one of mashed peaches and tarragon was my favorite). All in the name of research, I scribbled notes, shuffled home and fell to the couch. There it was again. A bratty little feeling of “this is too much” while indulging in fortunate things.

That nagging, nagging feeling that there was far more to do, whether it was fun or not. And that no matter what we picked, we were forgoing something else that we wanted to do, or someone else wanted us to do, and no one was content.

Today, two deadlines, one half-finished but very important, packing, tons of incidentals. Tonight, class. Tomorrow, round two of the going-away, more incidentals. I forgot how exhausting this season is and also how to appreciate it. I'm rushed, and I'm barely making any of it work. It's crushing to live in the nick of time, only to feel that it's never adequate.

This is summer, damnit! Enjoy every second. Barring that, make every second count.

I guess I’m one of those people that doesn’t feel right unless I’m busy and clawing out from a self-dug hole. I feel the pressure of my schedule, my wants and the actions I pursue to obtain them. I feel unproductive unless every moment is crammed with work, self-fulfilling projects, extra assignments to show I’m young and hungry, events with friends, obligations with coworkers, good books, bad books to learn about what makes a good book, classes, the gym, packed quality time, traffic to get to weekends where I spend too much and never relax.

It’s tiring and only seemingly necessary. How funny that it seems I need a break from all the things I choose to do. Even my upcoming vacation has us running all over the west coast to meet this friend and see that site, this hotel and that dinner. I chose this, I know, cause when I’m bored or lonely, I throw myself into a spiral of activity, hoping to find something else in the process. Worth, self, even purpose.

The more that I do it, the more I lust after the couch and a trashy magazine. A vacation from leisure, because my leisure is work.

*At the office now, I feel ridiculous, a poser who only needs a Kabbalah string to top off my fakery, but at the time, it couldn’t have been more fun.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Turkey and The Sleeping Dragon

I am twenty-four years old. For all intents and purposes, I am an independent adult.

However, I am terrified of my mother.

Waking, she is loud, brash, larger than life, smart, beautiful, intimidating, and outrageous.

Sleeping, she is a very frightening thing, indeed. And she has a terrible, terrible temper.

Once, my brother was sick with food poisoning (and this is a boy who has my father’s stomach of steel) and he threw up, and he’s pretty darn large for a kid (fifteen years, six foot one, deuce and some change, size fourteen feet) and after he had done so, he came to my room to ask me to help him find some medicine, and his labored shuffling on the carpeted floor woke my mother.

Who flew from her room in a flowered nightgown and was suddenly upon us, hissing, “What the hell is going on out here!”

A statement, not a question. When I said, “Zak’s sick, I was just trying to help him, he’s throwing up,” the words were no sooner out of my mouth then they were answered.

“Don’t be so loud about it!” And as fast as it happened, the door slammed and it was over.

So last Thanksgiving Eve, when my mother gave me explicit directions, I listened very carefully and took notes. The turkey, for the eight people she was serving the next day, including my very proper and very French great-Aunt Nicole (pronounced knee-cole), was chilling on the wooden porch because it was very cold and there wasn’t room in the freezer, was to be taken out and placed in several plastic bags in a pristine sink to thaw slowly so that at 5 AM she could begin to cook it. She went to bed at 10 PM. I promised to bring the turkey inside when I went to bed somewhere around 12.

At about 11:30, I decided to take the turkey in early, because I suddenly remembered and did not want to forget. Yet, when I padded onto the porch wearing slippers and my dad’s winter jacket, I did not see it.

I got a flashlight and powered the beam onto the tables, the railing, the chairs, the stairs. Still I did not see it. So I went inside and asked my brother, who was a bit of a turkey himself in that he never proved to be much help in solving a problem, to please come out, and please help me look.

He came out barefoot and in shorts, looked for half a minute, then went inside. I followed him.

I said, “Zak. We have to find the turkey.”

He said, “No. You have to find the turkey.”

I took a breath and used all the ammo I had. “Do you really think Mom will care who’s fault it is? You’ll pay too. Everyone will pay.” It was very Shakespearean.

All are punished.

He put on shoes. We looked for the next hour and a half. I kept asking him, “Did you see the turkey out here earlier? Did you move it? Do you think an animal took it?”

He kept rolling his eyes, as he was missing Cartoon Network.

We crouched around the perimeter of the house; maybe it had blown away with some tremendous wind? Maybe the dog had dragged it underneath a car? Maybe when my mom said “porch” she really meant “the barn”?

Finally, I said it.

“The turkey is gone.” The fear was thick-on-my-tongue palpable. For Zak too.

I ventured, “We have two options. We wake up Mom to tell her now and ask if she put it somewhere else. Or, we wait until she wakes up and finds it’s missing.”

I knew the problem with each of these. If we waited until morning, we’d surely ruin Thanksgiving, because it would be too late to buy another turkey, and even if it wasn’t, the turkey would be frozen, and there wouldn’t be enough time to thaw to roast it. Having ruined considerable more holidays than my brother, as I out-aged him by nine years, I knew that I couldn’t do that.

But waking my mother is like waking a sleeping dragon. As though she suffers from a curse in which she kisses us goodnight, floats upstairs, closes her door, shuts off the light with that, the room transforms. A darkened lair in a wicked forest, and she's a black-haired witch for eight hours only to emerge bright-eyed in the morning, seen singing over her coffee mug and swatting my dad with a dish towel.

I consider myself to be fearless in many ways, but this was not one of them.

Tears welling in my eyes, I knew what I had to do. Wake her now, and hope that I had simply misheard her, and she would tell me where the turkey was so I could do what needed to be done, and then chalk everything up to a strange dream she had that I could convince her never happened.

Outside her room, where I could hear my father snoring, was a different story. My brother and I stood together, fiercely arguing in whispers.

“You do it!”



The door opened with a shot.

My mother, her flowered nightgown, her squished up sleep-face, her hair askew, it was all happening again.

“What the bloody hell are you doing?! I just fell asleep!!”

Simultaneously, we stammered. “We lost the turkey!”

Wordlessly, my mother pushed past us and stomped downstairs. Then, the screaming began.

“Who’s wearing my coat? Get me some boots! What the hell were you thinking?!”

We followed her to the porch door. I hung back, half-hoping that she would immediately find the turkey and it would be all over, then hoping not, because then we wouldn’t be two idiot kids, but justified. Not that it mattered to her whether we were justified or not.

I held my breath. Zak trembled.

My mother stomped back inside. “I don’t see it.”

Together, then, we looked across the boards of the porch, boards that I knew very well, as I had scoured them many times earlier that night.

My mother decided to look in the dumpster behind our house as a last, illogical resort.

And there, underneath a pile of coffee grinds, was the turkey, quadruple wrapped in a mylar-like covering.

We came to a conclusion. The only conclusion.

My brother, right after dinner, when he took out the trash, had thrown the turkey away.

Let me repeat. My brother, who had gone through this entire thing with me all night, had thrown the turkey into the dumpster.

Because he thought, as it was wrapped up in so many protective bags, that someone had placed trash on the table outside, and he was simply, in his mind, taking it out.

I shrieked, “What are we gonna do? About dinner tomorrow?!”

With that, we all burst into wave after wave of laughter. Because we could not get another turkey, because company was coming, because it was two in the morning. Then my mom paused and said,

“Don’t tell Aunt Nicole.”

We took it inside. We thawed it in the sink. And we cooked it, special seasoning and all.

We rationalized it as it had been wrapped so many times, and we rinsed it thoroughly, and it was not really in the trash, per se, at least not in a highly offending way. But for his idiocy, my brother, usually quite loud-mouthed, was sworn to secrecy that he would not say anything about it to anyone at the table, and he kept his promise so that no one would know what he had done except the immediate family.

And to tell you the truth, it ended up okay because the turkey, stuffed with a lemon and garlic and rosemary, was a big hit.

But even more importantly, I had passed the torch of ruining holidays from my hand to that of my brother’s…

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Unrivaled Girls

Last night swirled in borrowed time. The famous blogger friend, her reading, and her after-party at the Stone Rose.

I was feeling a bit anxious, because to be perfectly honest, sometimes it’s hard for girls to be completely unrivaled with/happy for other girls. I wish this weren’t true, but it is, at least in my experience.

It’s left over from something else that I can’t place. Maybe from “Mommy Dearest” or from women in the workplace, or just plain old judging your self-worth by desirability—from a man, from a school, a career. The doctrine which dictates that a victor is only one by defeating another and how the line between is painted black and white.

Best friends have felt this way towards me when I make strides, and I of them. We’re happy each other is doing well, of course, but would you/I mind not doing so much better than me/her? Cause that means, somehow, one’s winning and one’s losing.

Girls don’t have to make sense; we’re too busy making things harder for ourselves.

So for last night, you may see how a successful writer, her highly lauded book and legions of fans might make one (anyone who isn’t quite there yet) a bit jealous, maybe a bit sour grapes. I hoped at least it would not be me that felt it, but went in bracing myself anyway. And dragging the boy so I wouldn’t feel like such a dorky hanger-on.

I didn’t. It was marvelous. She was marvelous. Gracious, glowing, and great on her feet. I felt proud and happy for her and so did everyone else.

An inspiration for where my life could take me if I work hard enough. To a corner overlooking the edge of the park, the glittering lights, a lemon-basil martini to my right, a meaty mushroom crostini to my left, atop a leather banquette with my head high.

Of course, when the bill came, reality hit and I slunk home to the many roommates, the laundry piles, the blisters on my toes.

Though Project Runway was a damn good consolation prize…

P.S. Spoiler Alert!

I incorrectly thought Keith was going to get kicked off for this scandal, not the books, and wonder if that will even come up or was that only discovered after the show was filmed. Anyone know?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Foiled Again

The foil’s infection has spread through the class. Luckily, because of her, I have come to see and will immediately take the following memos to heart.

Notes to self:

1. Stop, stop, stop basing characters on myself! That way, when they are exposed for being obnoxious, entitled, and self-involved, I won’t get as upset.

2. While we’re at it, stop being so obnoxious, entitled, and self-involved, because it’s offending people.

3. (Optional) Once #2 is completed and the need for a new personality presents itself, figure out how to get a very different one as it’s becoming painfully clear that no amount of self-loathing, no matter how sincere, can compensate for unconsciously being a total brat.

The only good I guess to come out of last night was the teacher’s secret backing: that I can still tell the story I want to tell from the character I want to tell. Also, that I should get my butt to an MFA program, because I may possess it. Whatever it is.

So beaten down, but still have potential. Okay, I’ll take it.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Neko Case and “Deep Red Bells” is on repeat.

This is my song for the week as it harkens rushing rivers, swaying reeds, drooping blue willows, wooden-slat porches, bourbon and a glass of water

All those hot weather things, all those sips of someone else’s life. Borrowed time in other scorching days.

Dipping a toe, then swinging high, a moment of flight before falling off the rope swing.

Minnows and sand banks.

Old doors and sun-drenched parlors. Slow-churned anything, everything.

Pink moons, stars puncturing. The creaking of floorboards and the click-click of dog toenails.

Now here’s hoping those thoughts and the iPod battery can last, as today is Tuesday and I face the foil once more, this time armed with thirty six pages…