Friday, April 29, 2005

i had a feeling that i belonged

last night i took the express down lexington to catch the Q at Union Square. a pretty and stylish young woman with long, curly blonde hair and a brightly colored print coat smiled at me from behind fetching glasses. it isn't a typical thing for me to get checked out by a hipster girl on the subway, but i noticed we both had the same bag - a token from a Diesel jeans gallery opening. what were the odds? and it's such a unique piece. in a day full of the same black kate spade totes, Seven jeans and that ubiquitous Gap pink trench, does anyone have anything totally unique anymore? so unique that we bother to make eye-contact and smile at someone in recognition of a shared possession?

at union square, a man with with dreads and a rastafarian knit hat played guitar and sang out a song that is unique in that it feels so private and personal -- totally internal -- but can only be belted out. Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" is one of my favorite songs. I remember hearing it on the radio for the first time, coming home from school. As I rode along with my mom on Jeff Davis Pkwy under Oak trees past economically depressed Tulane Avenue, I felt like this woman was singing just to me. And that's how I feel everytime I hear that song. There's no way to really describe the nature of Tracy Chapman's voice. But the cycle of that song's story gets me everytime.

As I stood on the Q platform listening to the music pouring down the steps that I had just descended, I felt like I could cry just from hearing someone else clearly feeling that song the way I always do. Losing all sense of public while on the subway comes from a good book, a rare shared glance or the familiarity of an old favorite song made new by a boy with a guitar.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Road Trip

I dreamt my home in Boston was a church/hostel. People were sleeping everywhere...beds, couches, the floor. I had to rise early. My mom was chirping orders, giving people food, getting everyone ready. Loud and social. As I got out of a cot next to the fireplace in the living room, someone from the floor jumped up to get in it, and a raggedy man, who had just stumbled in, laid across the foot of the bed. They kicked and pushed at each other, but both fell to sleep. I tried to put my shoes on, but ended up putting my foot in a bag and tieing the handles into a bow. J told me to hurry up, irritated. T was already out in the family van from my childhood with L. After dealing with the shoe, I sat in the backseat with my collegiate cross-country driving partners B and E on my lap. I fell asleep and woke up somewhere in the I's (Indiana? Illinois?) and we rode an arching bridge over a town of victorian homes that had been condemned. No one was ever allowed to stop. I could see shadows of children in the windows. There was a rhyme about the town, something about fingers left to tap on glass. We took the next turn and ended up going down a road that had huge fierce-looking fiberglass monsters (like a three-headed dog) on carnie haunted house spinning disks. The sun had set. Everyone was getting scared. I fell asleep with my head on the plastic sideboard.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Definitely not a bee

I dreamt I was at a Parker Posey book signing. She laughs and smiles. We make eye contact. I feel we are sharing a moment, an inside joke. I try to think of something witty to say. I let my boss cut in front of me because I am at the end of the line and I have not come up with the perfect line yet. When I get up there, Parker stands up, suddenly flustered and says that the signing is over. "I have to go!" When I open my book to have her sign, she lays the pencil in the binding and looks me in the eyes. I am filled with rage and disappointment, but I am startled to see that her face has aged 30 years, sagging and caked with makeup. I am determined to get the book signed and cling to the hope that she is still the same person as a moment before. I hold the book out again and mumble/screech incoherently, "BUT....WHAT ABOUT THE BEE!?" She walks out.


When your date's keychain costs more than your whole wardrobe, its a little weird.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

feeling like a fool

Lately, I've realized how strangely comforting easy listening can be. Without a car, you really don't get your fix of bad music privately. And I've been getting odd songs in my head as of late. Like this one that I thought was by Christal Gayle. Don't even ask. I wonder if it's the pollution or the crazy push of living in NYC. I just end up with weird soft rock songs that are quasi country-western in my head. Don't worry. I'm still going to rock out to the new Sleater-Kinney, but this Saturday night, I'm listening to this. Don't worry, I'm not cheating on anybody.

Jazz Fest Live

For those of you who can't make it to the 36th annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, here is a musical ride to the fest. Listen to WWOZ's live broadcast from the fest and enjoy the music. Granted, you won't have the atmosphere of colorful fest goers with their elaborate Party Poles or a tasty snack like some crawfish bread and a Rosemint iced tea or Abita beer, but you also don't have to contend with Port-a-potties or the long walk back to your car.

I'll be writing and listening to the fest tonight. Today I did laundry and went to the Basquiat exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum (I also had bad Chinese food on 7th avenue and returned library books). It was rather foggy today but I caught the 2/3 from Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum, transfered onto the Q at Atlantic and went to Whole Foods for dried white beans and onion in order to make a big batch of white bean soup for freezing. I also got some fresh radishes and pink lady apples, a baguette, some Good Earth tea and hazelnut cookies. To hell with losing weight and being in shape for that damn bridesmaid dress for Kari. Whatever, I'll still be the only unmarried, not engaged bridesmaid for whatever that's worth. And I love Kari so I don't care what I look like -- really.

More on Basquiat later. My head is still swimming.

Doesn't everyone think it's the best borough?

I've spoken a great deal about the inferiority complex younger people in Philadelphia so clearly possess. Last August I moved from Philadelphia to New York. Let's be specific here: I moved from Queen Village to Morningside Heights where I crashed for a month before moving to Park Slope. I was so happy about it and didn't even consider Manhattan with the exception of a college friend letting me have a first look at her studio which she was leaving for a place in Brooklyn.

I wanted to live in Brooklyn without justifying it to anyone. The NYT (maven of late reporting) publishes this article which goes on about the Brooklyn inferiority complex. Maybe Brooklyn feels bigger to me than South Philly or the Philly complex was so much greater than the one Brooklyn possessing, but I just didn't believe it. Or rather, I think it's so little an issue that I really could care less.

But again, it's today's reference to JSF. Gotta get 'em in everyday. The NYT is obsessed. It's a little scary. I just wonder if they will give equal airtime shall we say to Nicola Krauss' book. But I'll say this: Foer could buy a place wherever he wants given his money. I have a lot of respect for him staying in Brooklyn.

Take this test

OK, folks. Here's a test and I expect you all to take it and post your scores. I'm 58% Dixie. Now, folks from New Orleans know that there is an appropriate answer missing for one of the questions. So post your test results and post the correct NOLA answer for the sandwich question.


Tonight the apartment got a proper cleaning. I scrubbed down the bathroom, mopped the kitchen floor and hallway, swept my room and ran a damp cloth along the walls and dusted. I also reorganized my yarn box along with my box of winter items - scarves, hats, gloves, etc. It's time to take sweaters to the cleaners, buy a container for themand slip in a lavender sachet to keep the bugs away. I also reorganized my wardrobe (not the clothes, the physical furniture wardrobe) and did some hand-washing. I also sorted the laundry and plan to go early tomorrow AM to take care of that.

It's amazing how much you accomplish on a Friday night on your own. And I have to say I wasn't at all sad about spending Friday evening cleaning. I was never one for "going out," per se. Also, given the roar of the newsroom in which I work, the quiet of an empty apartment is a thing of beauty.

Maybe all this spring cleaning is going to the brain as well. I definitely turned off blogging this week. Random episodes which you may not have heard about include:

The lock to the door of my apartment breaking thus requiring a new deadbolt.

My return to the fashion mag.

A 3.5+ mile walk from RJ's apartment to Tim's apartment which took us along the resevoir in Central Park and up to the West side where we walked up to 108th Street before walking up the edge of the park in order to walk up 110th to see St. John the Divine before a veggie burger with cheddar and chicken caesar salad at Deluxe (guess who ate what).

Renting and watching PS and rather enjoying it.

Realizing at midnight that, in the rush of the day, Tim and I both forgot that we met exactly two years ago that day.

Dinner at the Plaza to celebrate Kathleen's birthday.

And so much more that got deleted by the computer... Anyway, I should get to bed. More soon. Apologies for the absence.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Anticipation is not just a song by Carly Simon

Not next weekend, but the next, I will be home in New Orleans at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Check out April 30th. What should I see? Obviously Elvis Costello trumps all, but Madeliene Peyroux, the Soul Rebels, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Toots & the Maytals, the Ike Turner, Astral Project, Nicholas Payton? What else do I make time for? There is just so much... Besides the Rosemint tea and mango freeze and Vietnamese spring rolls, crawfish bread. All the crafts and Congo Square. This is my favorite New Orleans festival! Also, people on Friendster are asking how to make "spirit poles." People, get it straight. There is no spirit pole; it's a party pole. I tried looking for a picture to show you Yankees out there, but I can't seem to find one. I'll have to take a picture of one, myself, and post it when I get back from the Big Easy.

Lately, I've realized I've gotten so caught up in the energy of living in New York that it seems like a dream that I once lived in New Orleans. I mean, seriously. The pace of New York demands you bend your whole person to make living here possible. Also, I've been so focused on the publishing world to think of much beyond this island. It helps that I am a million times more distracted in New York than in Philly. I have such a thick life here.

But I'm still a New Orleans lady at heart. After all, I'm going home to get a bridesmaid dress altered on Veterans Boulevard, attend a cocktail party in Metairie, a wedding shower in Uptown NOLA, going to a sewing luncheon with my mom, bottomless cups of iced coffee with my friends, combing the Quarter and Magazine Street, counting pelicans over Lake Pontchartrain. There's no question I was brought up on po'boys, my mom's red beans and rice, my dad's gumbo, May Crowings in the Sacred Heart chapel, chocolate milk and beignets on the Mississippi River. I'll be riding over your potholes soon enough, New Orleans. Bring on the humidity and the sun; I'll have my suimsuit on underneath my jeans and urbane sweater. I'll put on the sunscreen while the plane is taxing into the gate.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Lost in the Forest

Well, this book may not be profound fiction for the ages, but these days you can't go wrong with a domestic drama that's got round characters, evocative scenery and telling parallel storylines. If you need a reprieve from serious half-baked fiction, give Sue Miller's Lost in the Forest a try. OK, so it might actually be a well-written Lifetime Original Movie, but I felt like I was in Napa Valley as a lanky 15 year old. And if you know me, you know I'm anything but a tall California girl so that is saying a lot after a long week of work.

Friday, April 15, 2005

hey ya

OutKast has settled for an undisclosed sum with Rosa Parks. It's been disclosed that she has been suffering from progressive dementia and with the end of this law suit, it is certain that her medical and personal needs will be secure. Evidently as part of the settlement a tribute album will be recorded in her honor and will be released on the 50th anniversary of her arrest. She's 92 years old. It seems unreal to think that she is still alive. It's amazing we still live in a world where discrimination is so rampant. But I was also thinking, are there any queer equivalents to Rosa Parks in the Gay Rights movement? I mean, on the level of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, let's say.

But is it a novel?

As someone who "believes" in literature (and I know how extremely dorky and precious it sounds to say something like that and not work at "Harpers," etc), I find myself growing more and more nervous about the state of fiction. I am all for experimentation. However, call it what it is. Don't call it a novel. When you write in choppy sentences, substitute images for description, talk about trademarked items instead of painting a picture with words for the reader, drop and pick up characters or storylines at whim and engage in further flights of poetic license, please don't call it a novel.

There is definitely a place for books like "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." They can touch us, make us laugh, make us cry, but there is definitely something missing.

While Jonathan Safran Foer (JSF, from now on) mentioned last Friday at Columbia's Miller Theater that he feels that as technology changes, so will writing. That there is no way this won't affect literature.

I agree, but I would hope that it would expand research and the multitude of voices within literature. His work reminds me of the scattered nature of Internet searches which is something I find deeply dissatisfying. Given his awareness and sensitivity to the world (we've all read how he writes to escape loneliness... need I add more?), I would hope he would write with profound senstivity, but I worry that he rushed to give readers a sense of the ever-present glare of 9/11 and it's mercucial nature of being so painfully present and always just beyond our reach of comprehension.

I don't know that we need that captured in print. Writers should look to take us beyond ourselves. I don't know if they should be vessels for our confusion.

I look to literature for a way out of the confusion and static of everyday life. Maybe that is how I classify novels. I'm beginning to understand this in a different way, so I owe thanks to JSF for opening my eyes. Only I hope his wife's novel opens the world just that much more.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Extremely underwhelming

WOW. Someone put into words my half-developed thoughts surrounding why I had a great deal of resistance to Jonathan Safran Foer. I caved into reading the new book because of the salacious subject matter. I had to see how someone would talk about 9/11 this early on. Maybe it's sheer arrogance (need I even put a gender stereotype on such actions?) or some stroke of genius?

I finished the book and was more touched than I imagined, but that's because my expectations were so incredibly low.

Read this:

I'll post more about seeing the author in person at Columbia's Miller Theater and in fancy sneakers in my neighborhood.

knowing me, knowing you

For a couple weeks now, I seem to have ABBA stuck in my head. No kidding. It doesn't matter what I've been listening, too. The default elevator music in my brain has been ABBA ever since I started a new freelance project.

Is there something that links design to Swedish pop music? Is this also why I have Kelly Clarkson's new song (penned by whatever devious svengali wrote all those Nsync, Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys songs) stuck in my head? What is it about the Swedes and their amazing knack for design and pop music?

This is totally not culturally sensitive and I know it... which is why I'm throwing it out there. I want to know if anyone is familiar with Swedish culture and can guide me beyond my knowledge of IKEA and "the winner takes it all."

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Lan Samantha Chang to succeed Frank Conroy

Iowa grad and Harvard prof Lan Samantha Chang will succeeds Frank Conroy as the director of the Iowa Writers Workshop. It's a great moment for female writers, especially after feeling quite shocked to see Brigid Hughes ousted after not even one year at "The Paris Review." I haven't read Chang's work, but I'm looking forward to becoming familiar with it. Has anyone read either "Hunger: A Novella and Stories" or "Inheritance?"

Crawfish (never crawdads or mudbugs)

More random posts.

People, I'm homesick. Can you tell?

Look at this! People boiling crawfish in NYC! What a weird mix of worlds. And Gothamist totally got the Jazz Fest experience down. Sweet.

I must sheepishly admit that I have only started eating crawfish fairly recently. I ate some during Jazz Fest 2001 and ate a great crawfish feta pita sandwich when I was in New Orleans this past February. When I was a kid, I liked to say the two grossest things I know are milk and crawfish. Not together. They're both nasty. But I'm growing up... I still don't drink milk without coffee, though.

Crawfish boils were a crucial part of my childhood. I remember my parents creating long tables in the backyard with big plywood boards covered in last week's Times-Picayune. Marc and I would play with the crawfish before they were christened with boiling water and crab boil.

Aww. I'll be home soon. Expect lots about Jazz Fest to come.

RIP Pope JP II - NYC style

You know the drill, I can't link at work, so I will edit this when I get home... However, this couldn't wait.

I popped out laughing when I saw this. Everyone worships in their own way as I like to tell my pious friend in Dallas.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Bryn Mawr Now: bitter alum edition

If you're in the Philadelphia area, you should seriously consider going to Bryn Mawr on Thursday afternoon to hear Judith Butler speak about the Abu Ghraib photographs. I would love to see Judith Butler speak in Thomas Great Hall where I saw Marilyn Hacker, Maxine Hong Kingston, August Wilson, Sharon Olds, Rick Moody, Katha Pollitt and Mary Gordon speak. Turns out this is funded by this new Graduate Group endowment in which the college is participating. Looks like a great thing for the school... again, of course, after I leave...

However, there was evidently a bomb scare on campus as of late... Which was posted on Philly's answer to Gothamist. This then makes me laugh to see that Philadelphia is not a part of the "ist" chain of webblogs. Ah, Philly, always a bridesmaid, never a bride...

When life begins to feel like a Dar Williams song

Spring is maybe finally here in New York. There are glorious flowers everwhere. While getting iced coffee with soy milk (!) at Whole Foods at 14th street today, I looked out at all the daffodils and forsynthia in Union Square. So nice to see all that color. I had a similar reaction while looking out at the Robin's Egg blue and orange sunset yesterday behind Grant's Tomb. The cool green grass and white blossoms on a delicate tree just made everything seem right. The long, inky and thin branches of still-barren branches reached up to the sky making me think that the impossible can happen. Soon those branches will wear leafy green and provide shade for picnics and impromptu concerts.

A couple years ago, I saw Dar Williams perform in Concord, NH. It was a really unexpected event. A new friend had bought tickets for friends who bailed on her so she needed her money back and she wouldn't mind going with a posse of friends. Well, Paloma, a friend of hers and myself joined Hannah and Laura that night. I remember Paloma with tears streaming down her face at one point and howling with glee at the line

"I never had a way/
with women/
but the hills of iowa/
make me wish/
that I did."

I remember looking with some weight into laura's eyes at the line, "this year April had a blizzard just to show she did not care."

Dar Williams is a performer that I pick up and put away like a pair of overalls. I don't always want to wear them, but there are sometimes when that's all you can stand on your body. Lots of pockets. Plenty of room.

I miss being around nothing but people who share the kind of passion that rings with her voice. Being at the conference this weekend, I remembered how much I loved spending a year studying Feminist theory. I loved talking about in classrooms, over coffee in the library at 3 am, over sandwiches and tea at Rosey's Cafe and over endless glasses of wine in Ivy's house at her legendary dinner parties.

I miss those people. We're all so far-flung, but when I listen to certain songs, I feel like we're all still in Hannah's car, winding back through the NH highways back to Dartmouth.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Scholar and the Feminist

In the pursuit of lifelong learning, I'm going to this conference tomorrow at Barnard.

At any rate, I'm thrilled to see the poet Meena Alexander again and Dorothy Allison! For those of you who have not read "Bastard out of Caroline," shame on you. It was one of the most influential books I read prior to college. Completely eye-opening. You must read it.

Also, Tammy Rae Carland, formerly from Mr. Lady Records, is speaking as well.

I can't believe Mr. Lady is no more. I can't believe Sleater-Kinney left Kill Rock Star Records for Sub Pop. I can't believe Death Cab for Cutie signed to Atlantic Records.

Whatever happened to Indie Rock? When I was 15, I thought Indie Rock would change the world. I guess everyone grew up and sold out and now I listen to Kelly Clarkson singles. The world is going to hell in a handbasket. Hopefully, I will meet lots of cool people tomorrow and we will organize.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Falling Forward: Longer Days

The air smells like Spring. I'm not forcing this idea on myself. The crocuses in the miniscule yards on Sixth Avenue near Flatbush are proof enough that Spring is finally arriving. Six years ago while living in Paris, I knew it was Spring when I could finally wear my favorite floral-on-black sundress and men's heads turned. Arms. A neck. An ankle. Things not seen for the past 5 months or more. The presence of skin made their eyes linger as my girlfriends and I walked along the perimeter of Jardin du Luxembourg. That Spring I learned how to flirt, consciously. Previously, I had no idea what was charming and what wasn't. Maybe it was a question of being at the right place at the right time given my women's college education, but it took the attention of the French to teach me that I, too, could flirt.

Even old women still vyed for, what I learned was, le regard. These women, well into their 60s and beyond, would doll up in a nice dress, scarf and full make-up for a saunter down to the epicerie. Some might say the French are very formal. Yet this was about more than Miss Manners' Guide to Proper Attire for the Grocery. This was about catching someone's eye, even if it was a 20 year old study-abroad student. It's ridiculous to think that one eventually loses the need to be desired. Sometimes it's a matter of self pride or wanting to just look one's best. Other times it has to do with a quick ego boost or some kind of power in knowing that you can make a man walk into a lamp post because of your legs.

It came as a depressing shock to me when I returned to the United States that many people don't care how they look as individuals. Rather it's more important to commit to an ideal of beauty that is often impossible because of height, genetics, etc. So they throw their hands up instead of working with what they've got so to speak. This is also a very American trait when it comes to ambition. Young people in their mid-twenties shaking their heads in dismay because they aren't a lawyer, doctor, editor, banker, you name it at the age of X. It's an all or nothing world for us. It's also a world where a little shameless flirting is frowned upon.

Lately, I've been flirting with the idea of ressurecting my fractured French and moping on how such a task would be impossible. (Note the hyperbole) But over dinner with an old friend, reminiscing about our six months in Paris, even memories brought back the language to me. Discussing the idea of French opened the door that I shut by regarding my French as lost forever. Lost like the metabolism I had at twenty, like the trip to Spain I never made.

It's been a while since I've deliberately used my charm and tried to catch someone's regard . Now I am trying to catch le regard des autres choses. I feel like the weather has been a wretched lover this year. Always bitter and cruel, rarely tender. But I was willing to lose an hour of sleep last night (a much needed hour of sleep as T wore my pink feather boa home back from a party) just for the benefit of more sunshine.

In Paris, daytime lasted past 9 pm in the summertime. I'm eager to feel that unique feeling of the sun on my arms as I walk down the street. I'll even endure the catcalls just for sunshine. I'm not going to worry about whether or not I'm completely in shape. Just like I won't worry about going to my five year reunion without a job that offers benefits. Life's too short to complain when the days are longer.


After a month of couch hopping, I finally shut a door, the door to my new bedroom. A little place to reflect alone other than a bathroom or a costly cab is an amazing thing.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Hors d'Oeuvres

My sister was going to a dance with this guy. She made a detailed list of possible topics of conversation. The night before he called her and they spoke for a long time. When she got off the phone, she was furious and looked like she was about to cry. I asked her what was wrong since she seemed so happy on the phone. She yelled, "He used up all the topics! Now what am I going to talk about tomorrow?"

I think conversations are best left unrehearsed. If I am going to give a speech, I don't like to prepare it. If I have a speech, then I get fussy about sticking to it. No speech. No commitments. Maybe this is why I don't like to have a planner.

I sometimes feel like a comedian though or maybe like a living issue of Time Out New York. Their tagline is "the obsessive guide to impulsive entertainment." I don't like to rehearse my dinner party conversations, but I guess I like to have a couple of opening lines or suggestions. Maybe its genetic.

Alice didn't know

A few years ago I was hired on the spot at an evening interview. I left the office and ran across the street to call my parents from a payphone at a garage. There was no streetlight. My future was bright. I work elsewhere now. I avoid that part of the city. Even if someone does not believe in ghosts, its easy to feel like a place is haunted. The other night I had to return to the area. I passed the garage and remembered. The phone was there and it was off the hook. The handle hung still below. I had the urge to rip the chord out of the socket. I wanted to yell into the phone so that my past self could hear me and heed the advice. Instead, I hung it up. That call, that place, that job needs to be over. I have a cellphone now.

April Fools

When I was back at Bryn Mawr, on April Fool's the newspapers would run with headlines like: "Bryn Mawr to turn co-ed!" or "Trustees approve the purchase of more vowels for the school name." It cracked me up. Ridiculously impossible things are hilarious. NXP, my Philly housemate & friend told her mother she was going back to Iraq to cover the war again, but this time they were letting her bring her cat along. While I laughed hysterically at NXP's retelling, I couldn't blame her mother for almost having a heart attack. I believe most anything anyone I generally trust says to me.

I am one of the most gullible people I know. This isn't because I'm naive. I just like stories. Unlike a reporter, who looks for clues or loop holes, I enjoy listening and getting caught up in a narrative or just a good, juicy yarn. Maybe this is why I would make a bad journalist and a better editor. I like bringing the good stuff to the forefront and cutting out the excess. I'm less preoccupied by it being correct. I guess I would be a good PR scout for the current administration, no? Good thing I don't swing that way.