Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Living with Katrina

So we've all been living with Katrina over the past year. Some people forget about her, but she's everywhere to me. In my dreams, on the phone with my parents, tying up traffic, eating up everyone's emotional energy. She's the nightmare friend you can't get rid of.

A year later, my parents and thousands of others are living in temporary housing. For all you New Yorkers who get annoyed with their living space, keep in mind that my parents live in a one-room, 450 square foot studio and they are the lucky ones. Everything my 61 and 66 year old parents own can be fit comfortably in a minivan. Can your parents say that? For people who think I'm beating a dead horse, I ask you to explain why my parents and thousands of other law-abiding, tax paying Americans have had little comfort and little explanation from the government as to why the levee system has failed. They are made to feel they are on their own and that they are individually responsible for something the government created.

Take a look at these letters to the New York Times regarding Katrina. Just a few perspectives other than my own. We have to listen to each other in a period of history like this. It's the only way we'll know the whole story.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

subway fires, hot schools, hotter women

Thankfully, I decided to stay late at work and then leisurely walk down to 33rd street to run an errand this evening as opposed to catching the Q train and heading home to Brooklyn. Unfortunately, a dear friend did leave work promptly and headed back home to Brooklyn only to end up being evacuated off the train and onto the Manhattan Bridge due to a subway fire. She's safe and called me when she got off the train in case I was heading home to Brooklyn and was still at work. Talk about being a good friend! And a tough lady. I'm so glad she's alright; evacuating on the Manhattan Bridge has been one of my great nightmares. Here's more on the story from the NYT.

In other news today, Bryn Mawr -- my dear alma mater -- has been ranked by Washington Monthly to be the number one liberal arts college in the nation.

And in other news regarding ranking, galley cat is polling its readers in search of "hotties in publishing." While I do not know any of the men (quel surprise), I know two of the five women! And only three of the five are NYC based! Can you guess who my friends are? At any rate, one is still trying to find out who nominated her and the other is enjoying the benefit of a campaign on her behalf! May the hottest woman win! (See, I went to Bryn Mawr. None of this "babes in publishing" hoo hah for me.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Live Free or Die

Here are a lot of photos of the weekend in New Hampshire. The lovely older lady in white at the podium is Alice Munro. If you haven't read any of her stories in "The New Yorker" or in one of her many short story collections, you are certainly missing out. If you've been passing on her work because you assume it will be quiet, ladylike fiction from Canada, well, all you got right is the geography. She's sharp and incredibly on the mark when it comes to every walk of human relationships. Do pick up a book and start reading. I think my favorite is "The Progress of Love."

The Greek Revival style building is one of the main buildings at the MacDowell Colony. This is where Gran and I saw Alice Munro as she was honored at this year's Medal Day, a day which commemorates the work of the MacDowell Colony and the larger work of the arts in society.

Other photos include Tim, his cousins, and Gran. And lots of the scruptious New Hamphsire scenery. There are no photos of the wild and crazy sailing trip as I was afraid for the life of my digital camera. Also there are no photos of the crazy bus trip back from Brattleboro, VT as I would prefer to soon forget that event.

All in all, I'm finding it's crucial to get out of town during the summer. NYC can get to be a bit oppressive as can any urban center become at this time of year. It's good to get away from it all, spend time with family and friends, and concentrate on the color green now and again. Be it from a car or bus window, while staring out across a glassy sheet of water towards the pine trees on the shore, or as you sway on a rope swing, looking out to a meadow in one direction and towards the mountains in the other.

Monday, August 14, 2006

in short

close to 14 hours round trip on a bus.

sailing madness including a seal and almost topping over into the water.

meeting alice munro.

meeting a slew of other authors and cooing over who has lived in various MacDowell Colony studios (but I didn't find Ann Patchett or Lucy Grealy's signatures)

fun times with Tim's family.

lots of swimming.

I'm back in NYC after a nice long weekend. I needed a gin and tonic after the wacky bus ride back this afternoon, but RJ and I caught up on the balcony this evening.

I have a lot of emails to return and there are a lot of parties for work. I have a boatload of reading and I want to get back into my knitting. I need to finish some projects before moving on to my next ones.

Also, where is fall? I can't wait for the New Yorker Festival, scarfs, sweaters, changing leaves, brisk mornings, dinner parties.

More on the weekend later on.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Summertime outside the city

Going back to New Hampshire for the weekend w/ T. I'm really looking forward to it.

More sad news from New Orleans, particularly for my friends at the Times-Pic. When you wonder how people keep it together. . . well, sometimes they can't. Post-Katrina stress is real. People have asked me what I plan to do on August 29. I'm just going to keep moving forward. I will, however, call the White House and remind them that my parents still don't have a house. That there are many just like them and also there are still 135 people missing thanks to a government created disaster.

I'll put up the numbers later, but if you want to do something about Katrina, write your representatives and tell them that you don't have Katrina fatigue. Do they?

At any rate, yours truly is looking forward to a little bit of relaxation. The temperatures are cooling down and I've been so busy with parties, friends, and such. It will be nice to slow down this weekend. I've got to plan a trip or three to Philadelphia (T has a conference and I have some friends to see). But all in good time. Right now, it's time to be grateful for what I have. I hope you're all taking care of yourselves.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

good things

There are some good things to mention.

Books: "Breach of Faith: The Near Death of a Great American City": Jed Horne -- I have and am going to soon read Tulane American historian Douglas Brinkley's "The Great Deluge," but this was the book I knew I would read first. Jed Horne is an excellent editor at The Times-Picayune and has always carried himself with dignity and integrity -- something I know from first-hand experience. He's also a family friend of Rachel's, but that only exposes my connections. Essentially, this is the first book by a newspaper man who is a longtime resident of the city. Unlike Brinkley's book, Horne focuses on the history before Katrina and the stories that have collected since Katrina and Rita. Please go out and buy it. Show publishers that there is an immediate desire for books on Katrina. We need as much sustained exposure as we can get, but also, you're getting a reporter and a local's perspective on the tragedy. Be prepared to get chills and cry during the first chapter.

Music: "Taking the Long Way": Dixie Chicks -- I have been a fan since 2000 thanks to Natalie Maines' singularly wonderful voice and the heartfelt harmonies she shares with Emily Robison and Martie Maguire. This album is another great one. Not only is "Not Ready to Make Nice" a song that should be a battle cry, "Taking the Long Way" feels like my new unofficial theme song. It reminds me a lot of the Indigo Girls' "Fill It Up Again." There's a lot of songs like this (including the Dixie Chicks' "Cowboy Take Me Away") that should end up on a good road trip mix tape. I think that's in the making. All I know is that this was the perfect album for my 8 hour bus ride to Brattleboro, VT last month.

Movie: "Scoop" dir. Woody Allen -- As my mother and RJ have pointed out, Allen has returned to his highly underrated "Manhattan Murder Mystery" to pool ideas for "Scoop" --- and to great success, this film is a treat. Don't go looking for Johansson to be the femme fatale of "Match Point" (don't get me wrong --- I think she was robbed of an Oscar nomination), but drink her in as a breath of fresh air in this miserably muggy summer. Her enthusiasm and humor are so enjoyable that I might need to see it again if the lousy weather of the past week returns.

Food: Al di La, Brooklyn -- Next time you want to go someplace special, try Al di La. Tim and I went here for a Sunday night date last week and we want to become regulars. Would that we could make this happen. It was one of the most memorable meals of my life. I had gnocci with swiss chard and ricotta with a fish based soup with fresh mint, cracked red pepper, grape tomatoes, bead-like pasta, cockles, and garlic to start. The restaurant has charming wine bar around the corner which is a great place to wait for your table -- because you will wait, but oh food is never worth it like this is. Have a glass and relax. Wish you could stay longer. Oh and it's within walking distance of my apartment.

Art: Marianne Brandt, "Tempo, tempo!: The Bauhaus Photomontages of Marianne Brandt" -- RJ and I went to see this exhibition on Friday. We went for the Unknown Weegee exhibition, but as much as we liked it, we were completely besotted with this fascinating exhibition. Looking at it, you see the tension and transgression poised on the verge of WWII. The construction forces you to consider where women and men found themselves at this unique point in history and it offers so many questions and perspectives that are still relevant today. How do we identify ourselves within the context of an ever-evolving media? How do we code foreigners? How is communication possible? What are all the filters that we're subjected to -- how can we identify them and parse through them? There's much to ponder.

another slap in the face

Well, we already knew that this country can't hold onto a tragedy that doesn't have a distinct image to accompany it, but this is just another slap in the face to the survivors who continue to live with August 29, 2005.

save the date - making the most of the time we would rather forget but can't

I really have about no use for the month of August. It's hot, uncomfortable, and anyone who has a modicum of importance is somewhere else for the month of August. The only redeeming feature to the month is that I still have summer hours which means I can get out of town early next Friday to hit the road for New Hampshire.

In other news, a good friend is going to NYU for an all-but-paid-for MFA in creative writing. She could have gone to Columbia, but decided to go where she'd be funded. It's all about what you make of an education, rather than go for the brand name gloss. She's staying in Brooklyn which means more dinner parties and nights at Union Hall.

The city is swelling with heat, but the green sanctuaries of Prospect Park, Central Park, and Riverside Park are a solace. I'm looking forward to the green wave of trees outside my window on the bus ride to NH, but nothing takes away from my commutes to work. Iced coffee in one hand and whatever book is currently capturing my imagination in the other.

The anniversary of Katrina and her aftermath is approaching. Some ask how we can commemorate it. I say we're still bleeding. I wish educated people knew more about what happens outside their immediate sphere of interest. I've been trying to read more widely this year and refraining from making blanket statements. Asking questions is a good start. You end up sounding as illiterate as the president when you start spitting out "facts." I listen to my friends from New Orleans and ask how their mothers are. We want to remember this. We want our lives to be changed. We want our stories to carry weight. We don't want this ongoing nightmare to be forgotten.

Every night I find myself in New Orleans or lost on my way back to New Orleans. My dreams betray the way I'm haunted. I know the only way I'll work my way out of this is by writing, but it's always the last thing I want to do at the end of a day. New York is full of unique opportunities, fascinating people, once in a lifetime moments. It's hard to stay home unless you book yourself weeks in advance. If you don't believe me, try living here or visiting me. It's hard for me to hop off the carousel -- well, me and every other New Yorker making the most of this incomparable city. The pretty horses keep spinning around. I need to work harder at grabbing the brass ring.

My ten year reunion is coming up and I'm hearing from so many old friends. We're all on different pages, but we all want to know how our families made out, what we're doing, where we're coming from. I know what I should do, but it takes so much energy to go there and commit all of this to paper. It's hard enough to accept that some people will never understand this story. How do you write the story that breaks down that wall? I can't write a story that reaches everyone. I just need to write a story that reflects this situation and gives people a foothold. If they want to learn more, they will ask the right questions and pay attention to the answers. I can only offer what I have to give.