Monday, November 30, 2009

One Holiday and Three Applications Down

The turkey, parsnip puree and cranberry mojitos were flowing but it all passed in a joyful blur for me as I arrived bedraggled and zombie-d out, hair a mess, sweater covered in lint, my jeans sagging and my posture slumped. When I got to Connecticut to join in on the holiday festivities (which were marvelous but it took me the entire time to unhunch my shoulders), I had just completed a killer week, ending with the fact that I had essentially completed three applications for grad school! Provided that they weren't lost in the mail (my greatest fear) or that I wrote across the front "BOOGER" in my complete-the-application madness.

But still...

Three down! Only NINE more to go! But the first ones are the hardest ones--now my personal statement is as perfect as it's going to get, and my essays are all sketched out (except for one for Columbia that I can see myself completing badly at the last minute). The writing sample itself, which is 90% of the application's worth (so I hear) will not change another line, word or even comma. If it does, I might just die.

So I sent in the completed MFA and or Fellowship applications to:

UC-San Diego
and Stanford--which I looked at one last time AFTER I handed it in and saw a typo on the personal statement. Noooo! Can't change it now. All are due tomorrow so they were done last week. Next round is due December 15th, but I hope to have a few due beyond that out by then.

In the meantime I will be squirreling away in the recesses of my cozy apartment and using the cubes at work to furiously download PDFs on a faster computer than my own (after work hours of course!) and if all goes well, I will submit three applications per week until the week of Christmas. Then I will be done. And on to perfecting my query letter and getting my completed novel out there, starting a new but pretty hard temporary magazine job, and continuing my music writing. Oh, and writing that new book too. *Sigh*

Are you a person who needs to be busy or feels like you are wasting your life? I am. Sometimes it's fun, but on a rainy day like today it's a little exhausting. Perhaps it's that leftover turkey, or perhaps because I had two assignments due over the weekend so have not officially taken a day completely off from work in months, or that I'm working on my next round of applications now, but I am sleepy and wish for my cloud-like bed and a cup of cocoa instead of this lukewarm bitter coffee and piles upon piles of paper.

Sending good vibes out to you on this Monday, hoping to get some back. Boy, do I need it!

Monday, November 23, 2009

I laughed aloud while reading this

On Gawker today, on the endless and boorish topic that New York is over. Don't only over the hill people say that about cities? Because New York in the 70s wasn't cooler per se, it was cool to you because you were 20 and everything was interesting to you? And everything is cool when you are 20 and over when you are 50? Including cities? The world wasn't better then, you were just more excited about it! When you stop getting excited about it, you have to start thinking that it's not the world that is so different, but it's you, you who does not stay out until 4 AM, you who does not blow off your job to follow your favorite band, you who are not going on a wild roadtrip with a band of merry pranksters and artists?

Anyway, the article in its entirety, courtesy of Foster Kamer. I was laughing and cringing. Are we really arguing about our cities now?

Oh, hello there, Stephanie Marsh of the Sunday Times. When you write an essay called "New York has lost its edge," and you live here, it's okay. When you're writing from London...

The question presents itself: What the shit do you think you're talking about, lady?

Her two big examples are the John Varvatos store at CBGBs, and the Whole Foods on the Bowery (which is the articles kicker). Great. She mentioned two places within three blocks from one another. Yeah, it sucks that CBGBs is dead, but that place sucked when it was dying and hey, at least Varvatos kept some of the original walls. It could be another Chase Bank, but, whatever.

Here's her thesis:

"The problem for those who would like to see a return in New York to its edgy past is that Manhattan, as more than one New York-based blogger has claimed, is still "a gated community for the rich". The cultural critic Julian Brash has complained that under Bloomberg the citizens of New York have been turned into consumers - it is a place where everything is about what can be bought and what can be sold."

Okay, fine. Manhattan's really expensive, blah blah blah. Bankers run everything, blah blah blah. Everything in New York can be bought. And? This city was built by hyper-capitalists, it's why there's so much goddamn money here. Old hat. Certain things about New York absolutely suck and will always keep sucking worse and worse. And let's get one thing straight: people have been saying things about New York sucking for as long as New York's been around. If you read Monocle magazine, which this essay is basically ripped out of, this is like, every issue. This has long been the party line of travel press types—especially ones from abroad—for at least three years. I mean, if you really want to go back, I believe Rolling Stone called New York the Hot Dead Zone in their inaugural Hot List issue. In 1998. Saying New York is no longer edgy hasn't been edgy in forever.

The sequel to this piece is when she inevitably says that Berlin is starting to get really, really hip these days too. Pretty much anybody who went through Ellis Island and didn't stay probably had some sentiment along the lines of "this place sucks." According to the Daily News, one of our presidents basically told us to stick this city up our collective asses (look where he is, now: dead).

But—and I'm sure others have their reasons—I live here because, quite frankly (A) there's still nowhere else in America like it, and like many other people here, I have some sick/awesome compulsion that makes this grind of living here that much more attractive to me than anywhere else and (B) it's still got better stuff than everywhere else in America. Yeah, fuckin' stuff. Awesome stuff.


Can we quickly go over the reasons London—a nice city, sure—sucks compared to New York? Great:

* Your food sucks. It all tastes like ass until American chefs take two months to do better what you've spent hundreds of years sucking at.

* The service in your restaurants sucks, because you have to instruct people how to tip by putting a mandatory charge on their tab, like many other countries that do this. Which is the wrong way of doing this, which is why every server you will every have in London will probably be an asshole.

* Your theater sucks. War Horse—no, really, War Horse—is the best thing you have up right now. Anything good you have on the West End came from us. And don't bring up fucking Billy Elliot.

* Your nightlife is just stupid. Pubs close at 11, our bars don't close until four. Who goes to bed at 11? Are you serious? So you guys open up clubs that close at 2AM that have two kinds of people in them: the kind who get unceremoniously drunk and piss on everything, or the places Prince Harry goes. And who wants to go there? Also, you only play American music. You think Kings of Leon are the Second Coming of Christ. The Kings of Leon play our bar mitzvahs, goddamnit. By the way: most of those rappers you guys play on repeat (and not even the good ones...50 Cent?!) still live in New York. Our clubs and nightlife might have their issues, but they blow yours out of the water. You guys wouldn't know what to do with The Beatrice Inn if it crawled up your nose in a $100 bill.

* Nobody knows where anything is in London. Seriously. It's like the worst parts of the West Village for an entire city. Everything is higgly-piggly or whatever dumb word you have for it. We live on a grid. A grid. You guys have the dumbest civic planning this side of kids eating Legos.

* OH. Don't get me wrong. Our subways suck, for sure. But at least they're supposed to work after midnight, and don't cost half our income to ride. Also, an Oystercard? That just sounds stupid. Who's running your design schemes, Lewis Carroll? Stupid. Oh, and, you wanna talk about EDGY? How about our D-Trains getting stabby again, edgy? Exactly.

* You guys have never had a nice day of weather in the history of the universe. Seriously. The only person Madonna has to compete with for causing a scene is the fucking sun. It's yellow, it's in the sky, sometimes, it...nevermind. Have you even been here in September? It's like Central Park is trying to get in your pants and get you off, the weather's so goddamned nice.

* Oh, and the pound is stupid-expensive. Like everything else in your city.

* Your tabloid newspapers make the New York Post look like The Paris Review.

* And Whole Foods on the Bowery, sure, Whole Foods sucks. But it's in a pretty great location, and, fuck that, you know what sucks worse? Sainsbury's. Sainsbury's suuuuuuuucks. Which goes back to your food sucking.

* Do you have Brooklyn? Do you even know what a Brooklyn is? No, not David Beckham's son. You're stupid, shut up. [Quiet Moment: The article didn't mention Brooklyn once, but didn't refer to Manhattan exclusively. Go figure.]

* London's celebrities are all on Big Brother and fucking suck. They're mouthbreathing idiots. They make Tinsley Mortimer look like Jackie Kennedy.

* You guys have soccer—yeah, I called it soccer, goddamnit—teams. Multiple ones. Great. We have two baseball teams (including the 2009 World Series Champions), football teams (Including the 2008 Super Bowl Champions), hockey teams (I'm sure they Won Something Great recently), and a basketball team. All of them except for the Knicks could smash every London soccer player. Nothing else, just "smash" them.

* There is one—and only one—good song about Foggy London Town. There are as many songs about New York as there are New Yorkers, and most of them are awesome.

Anything else? Oh, yeah, did Samuel Motherfucking Jackson just buy an apartment next to your boss? No? Exactly.

Shut up. New York is awesome.

Send an email to Foster Kamer, the author of this post, at

Monday, November 16, 2009

Baby Shower-- Your advice!

Dear readers, I am throwing yet another baby shower! And I sadly have to admit, this time, now that I've done it before and am organizing it in my city instead of Philadelphia, I'm doing a much better job. I'm on the phone with the baker, the tea staff, the party staff, I'm on top of invoices and meetings. It's going to be a good time for those who had nothing to do with organizing it!

This one is in Alice's Tea Cup in the Upper East Side. Everyone will be getting the Mad Hatter tea service with sandwiches, scones, and luscious baked goods. I have sent the invites, sent all the shower registry information, fielded questions and those who want to drop out, drop in, called guests to talk them out of bringing their own food.

It's close.

I've pre-paid for mint green and white latex balloons, handpainted royal-frosted monogrammed cookies and sashays of specialty teas for the guests, and a mint-green chocolate ganache cake (why are cakes the most expensive things ever!). I have also picked up a beautiful baby book for all the guests to sign, and have emailed them to check in with me to sign as soon as they arrive, and also to bring one crazy looking gift bow so that we may trashily deck out the baby book box while keeping everything else an elegant affair.

The mom-to-be will NOT wear a silly hat or play games. Any other suggestions on what I can do/bring/ask others to bring? Any ideas on something fun? Or lay back and just let it happen (remember here, I am now nearly broke after all this, even though I'm having lots of help paying for the space and the party itself, as I keep adding on extras).

And the sleaziest question yet...should I buy an additional gift? I do have the baby book which I bought, but everything else is a surprise or edible or really only is a gift to the party. The last shower I threw I brought an expensive gift that I spent a lot of time thinking about and hauled it to Philadelphia from Austin (where I bought it). But this time...I don't know if I can do that? Is there something with baby showers the same thing with weddings that I have a year to give it ;)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Remembering: Night Habits

Things only people who have seen me in my underwear know.*

I like the room freezing cold. Air-blasting, fetal-position-inducing, take-all-the-blanket-fighting, freezing cold. And lots of quilts on the bed. It reminds me of my artic 19th century childhood home in which you seriously had to decide whether a trip to the bathroom in January was worth the likely possibility that, upon touching your toe to the old pine boards, your veins would turn to ice and you’d shatter into a million pieces. Compounded by my father, whose vehement insistence of responsible consumerism I imagine will surely, upon his deathbed, possess him to reach out a hand, pull me close and whisper, “I pass my legacy to you. Promise me you will not let your mother turn the thermostat past 61 degrees in the winter. Promise me this! Oil is too expensive! God damnit!”

I sleep in dresses. Dresses that I wear nowhere else but in bed. Hey, I’d walk around work in a penoir if I could (that’s a dressing robe which is explicitly meant for combing your hair in).

I write to blasting music. Like techno. Or obscene rap. It is really weird.

My friends that are boys in the neighborhood sometimes come say hi at night when I’m writing. And my doorman thinks because of this, I am running a low-class one-woman prostitution ring in a headband and yoga pants.

I dance to no music in the kitchen. And do a lot of jumping.

I wake up early sometimes and am mad about it. I want to sleep longer but sometimes am too anxious or on deadline to.

I get a little crazy right before sleep. Like all riled up and giggly, like if you threw a tennis ball at a dog and jangled your keys and shouted, “Wanna go to the park? Huh? Wanna go to the park!” riled up and giggly.

There is a green wooden armadillo hanging upside down on the ceiling in my room and a million sketches.

I don’t know how to be lonely any more.

Sometimes I wait for people to get home and it makes me happy to see them. Yes, again like a dog.

I could spend the day in bed if I have a really good book.

I have a lot of wacky ideas and half the time I actually do them. This led to me applying to grad school in Hawaii, backpacking through Australia, writing a book, and saying very inappropriate things to upper management with the thought that I’ll be liberally excused because I am a “creative”. Note: “creative” is just a euphemism for “quirkily unprofessional” at best and “not quite all there” at worst.

I am always thirsty but I hardly ever drink anything.

There is someone in my phone listed as "Not Sure."

I think being interesting is a gift and one day I hope to have it. For now I’m okay with being interested.

I think I feel alive and amazed more than is the norm. Like the wind will blow someone’s hair into a pattern and I’ll stop or I will think about the domestication of animals and think, whoa, who was the first person to see a horse and be like, you know what, I’m gonna jump on that thing’s back, what the hell. Let alone a camel! Or that if an alien landed on this planet and saw an elephant, it would freak the hell out and fly away…

* That includes my roommates, mom and best friend, and anyone else who has seen me sleep or woken me up.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Quote of the Day

Music editor #1: Did you read that sure-to-be-obnoxious piece in NY Mag about Brooklyn music called...'Brooklyn Calling?'

Music editor #2: I tried...but I had to keep stopping.

Music editor #1: Why's that?

Music editor #2: Well, the problem wasn't that I kept rolling my eyes, it was when I brought them back down to the page, I'd invariably keep losing my place.

What came first: The Book or the MFA?

Story Editor is done reading the book, and has given me her notes, and they (and she) are amazing! They are all super-positive and wonderful and really insightful, and it's really cool to see what complicated ideas I've pulled off and which ones have...well, thrown me off.

She has pointed out what I've known all along, the first chapter needs to be different. The good thing is that I have all the first chapter material just chopped up in the current first chapter and framed differently. So it's a rewrite of the first 25 pages or so, which at one point in my life seemed like such a long and difficult thing to do (oh the days of 15 page papers, I would take you back in a second!), but now is no problem. If only I could get my priorities straight...whip the book into final perfection (it's SO CLOSE) and get it to the agents...or work on my MFA applications, which also have due dates, and their own considerations.

So paralyzed was I by which one to focus on, that today I did the unthinkable, and instead focused on work for money (boo, hiss!) and then skipped the gym (double hiss! but I'm still sore from Friday's killer workout). Bad dog.

But tomorrow I will have a sit-down about my personal statement, and the good Samaritan who is looking over my writing samples with fresh eyes to ensure I didn't write "COCK" in huge letters on it somewhere (hmmm...maybe I should do that anyway, and call it "experimental writing" and send it to Brown..zing!) And if this good Samaritan has done what he was asked not to, which is to say anything about making it longer or shorter after I crafted every single word so that it fit the maximum length of the minimum requirement for every single school (this was so hard), I will rise our of the ashes and fly screaming for the blood of his young. If not, he gets a card. (Do the right one, Dave!)

Anyway, going a little insane over here. That's a good thing for "creatives", right? RIGHT?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Babies, more and more babies

Not mine!

Check out Theo, he is the newest baby friend of mine. I'm not a freak! These are my friends' babies. Theo updates his blog more often than I do (courtesy of my bf from high school, Selly).

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Editor's Note: Quote of the Day

The line-editing is just about done, and now the story/character/big-picture editor is looking at the book.

She usually takes three weeks (which is incredibly fast) and said so for my 331 page novel. But now that she's reading it, I'm different. She got it last Friday, and she thinks she'll be done next Monday. That's just over a week! I'm tearing my hair out (she is an award-winning novelist and is always right on point) in anticipation of her notes.

But then...she emailed me a quick update and it was this:

"Just so you know, I'm reading and it's wonderful."

Be still my beating heart...

Let's not get too excited yet, she's still got over 200 pages to go...but if she likes that, then I'll make tweaks with her suggestion, and then...actually start submitting it to agents. My God!