Oct 31, 2009

Oct 30, 2009

Conversation starters, rated by difficulty

Beginner:
If you had to live inside a video game, which one would you choose? (Note: Depending on who you're talking to, I might recommend limiting the options to games released before 1998.)

Intermediate:
What is the worst punishment you have ever received? (Notes: A benefit of this question is it often leads people to explain what they did to receive the punishment, which is generally interesting. A downside, for me at least, is I don't have a particularly good answer.)

Advanced:
When have you felt most in danger of dying? (Note: Immediately, not eventually)

What I realized last night

So much of my enjoyment of food is actually anticipatory. Also, generally the anticipatory pleasure is greatest with the foods that leave me feeling the worst.

Oct 29, 2009

Molly's paunch

Early last spring, soon after we got Mirabelle, we took her to this bar around here that allows dogs. At first she sat by our feet, but after a little while she started wandering around and eating the peanut shells that covered the floor.

There was one other dog there, and inevitably we began talking to its owner, Z (Zee? not sure how you spell such a name). He was very friendly and had a slight anarchist air about him. I think maybe he was a welder, or something like that. He also happened to be extremely knowledgeable about dogs. In particular, he stressed the importance of keeping dogs lean.

The problem began when Mirabelle wandered back to us and he asked her name. Because right around then we were also introducing ourselves, and what he ended up taking from all this was that Mirabelle's name was Molly.

"Wow," he said, a few moments later, while petting Mirabelle, "Molly is so beautiful." We were momentarily taken aback. But then we realized he was talking about the dog.

"Actually the dog's name is Mirabelle," Matt said. But Z didn't hear him. It was pretty loud in the bar.

"Molly has such a lovely coat," he said. "She's so soft."

"I'm Molly," I said, trying again. "The dog is actually Mirabelle." Again he didn't catch this.

"She's pretty lean, too," he said. But then he reached around to rub Mirabelle's belly. "I don't know," he said. "Molly does have a little bit of a paunch."

At that point it felt like things had gone too far to correct him, so we just tried to keep straight faces as he complimented her gentleness, and good manners, and general greatness, not withstanding her slight paunch.

"Enjoy Molly!" he shouted after us as we were leaving. Matt replied he'd be sure to do so.

Uncle Kevin

Sometimes he's so nice.
But other times so perplexing.

Oct 28, 2009

Schizophrenic media consumption

Two ridiculously different upcoming movies, both of which I am very eager to see:

New Moon
Precious, Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Fact checking

This morning I read this profile of James Cameron, in which he comes off as something of a controlling egomaniac, albeit one who's very good at what he does. Incidentally, it mentions that he lives in Serra Retreat, in Malibu, which happens to be where my grandparents lived for years. They moved there back when that area was basically horse country, decades ago, and were always a bit out of place among the millionaires and celebrities who moved in later. A lot out of place, actually. In the nineties, back around when Cameron's movie 'Titanic' came out, Leonardo DiCaprio moved in next door, which I found extremely exciting at the time. The story was that one time my grandfather, a dermatologist with a midwestern drawl and a dry sense of humor, stomped next door and yelled at DiCaprio like he was any other young person whose party guests had parked on his neighbor's property, but my grandfather was also a notorious teller of tall tales.

Every few years that area gets hit with really bad fires, and in the article Cameron is quoted as saying that when this happens everybody else just runs for the hills. Except for him, of course, who sticks around with some bizarre fire retardant foam pumped all over his property. This isn't true, though. My grandfather didn't leave during the fires, either. Instead, he would stand up on his roof with a hose siphoning off water from the pool, ready to spray it on any fires that got too close to the house. I'm not sure he ever even needed to use the hose, though. My uncle's cactus farm filled most of surrounding acres, and cactuses are notoriously fire retardant themselves.

Oct 27, 2009

A constellation of movies

The life I wished I was living in high school: Dazed and Confused
The life I thought I was living: Kids
The life I was actually living: The Wackness, except with the slightly embarrassing addition of glow sticks and raves. I was truly awesome with the energy ball, though, seriously.

Another recommendation

This video of Elsa and James somehow manages to be seductive, charming and slightly wistful, all at once.
Things to notice:

The cat, as Elsa points out on her blog, at 2:07. I rewinded it to 2:05 just to watch that one more time.
How, just like Sonny, James sings the high harmonies.

(From Elsa's blog, which I like a bunch, and which you can find here. The cat is named Frog, by the way. This took me a little while to figure out.)

Oct 26, 2009

The truth shall set you free

At first, when I heard The RZA had written a book called The Tao of Wu, I thought this was sort of presumptuous. I mean, to assume that the way you do things is so great that you should write a whole book about it, and then to give it a title that compares your way to that of an ancient philosophy, it just seems a little arrogant. But then I listened to this, and then I watched this, and I realized I had been totally wrong.

Sobering statement

"Much of the history of Africa has ended up in the belly of the termite."
—Castles of Clay, Part II

Oct 25, 2009

A recommendation:

Castles of Clay, a documentary about termites, which we watched a bit of last night. I was resistant at first, even though it had been recommended by a trustworthy source, because it seemed more appealing to watch some silly thriller. But luckily this was overridden by Matt, who persisted in wanting to watch it even after the DVD wouldn't play at first and then even after it seemed to have completely wiped the hard drive of his new computer. It hadn't, though, and once we figured that out Matt retrieved the DVD from where he'd thrown it across the room, popped it in again and this time it played.

Here are some of the more impressive things I've learned so far (with bolding for emphasis), and I've only just finished Part 1:

*If humans were to build a skyscraper as equivalently tall as some of the mounds are to termites, it would have to be two and a half miles tall.
*The queen and king live in a secluded inner sanctum that is literally suspended at the center of the termite mound. (The English narrator explained that it's easier to defend this way. Apparently they are quite a warring species.)
*They grow mushroom gardens inside the mounds.
*Tiny insect creatures live on all of their backs, like little pets.
*The queen lays 2000 eggs a day, and is gigantic (truly, think Jabba the Hutt). Also, even though she never leaves her sanctum castle place, she still learns about the state of the mound from the chemicals contained in the food that workers regurgitate for her. She responds to this, then, by laying more of the appropriate kind of eggs (soldiers, say, if the mound has been attacked).

Overall they come across as such an elegant, developed, and unique species that when I googled them just now and found a lot of links about termite control, it was sort of upsetting.

Oct 24, 2009

In case you were wondering

This is a picture of the lion cages at the mansion Mike Tyson used to own in Ohio. The other pictures you can find of the place (that show the empty ice cream sundae bar, for example, and the huge mostly empty living room with the white tiger stripe carpeting, and the pool with all the pool chairs floating in it) make it clear that the house hasn't been occupied for quite a while. Even so, overall it reminded me a lot of a house I once ended up in just outside of St. Louis. I was writing about a shock jock radio dj who also operated a bunch of strip clubs in East St. Louis (which is, truly, one of the worst places in this country that I've ever been), and while most of the time he liked to do our interviews at Hooters, one time he took me to his house. It was nowhere near as grand as this, but somewhat similar in feeling.

Another reporter had warned me about this guy—apparently he'd had something to do with a few murders that had taken place a few years back—and somewhere around when he picked up the remote to click on his fake fireplace I remember wondering if I was in way over my head, but I survived.

Odd fact

It is often in the moments when I feel closest to another person that I find myself thinking of death.

Oct 23, 2009

Ellie!

This is the dog I used to live with, who was lovely in most respects except for the way she would sometimes leave a huge pool of slobber on my bed. She liked to lick on my comforter when I wasn't there, for some reason.

The cactus farm

Seen here climbing around among the lower branches of this avocado tree in Malibu Canyon is the female of this species. This particular avocado tree is the first in a long row of avocado trees, and in her younger years this mammal learned to climb down the entire row, moving from tree to tree without ever touching the ground, a feat that thrilled her. However, only a few years later she discovered she was no longer capable of such a thing. She worried this was due to a diminishment in her climbing abilities, a skill she greatly valued at the time, but this was not, in fact, the case. What had really happened was that every other avocado tree had been cut down, leaving the distance between them too great for such a creature to cross.

As is evident from this picture, the female of this species gets along well with canines. Her male partner, however, seems occasionally perplexed by dogs. One time, for example, he actually threw the dog seen in this picture into a pool, although whether this was actually malevolent or simply a result of intra-species miscommunication was never entirely clear.

Oct 22, 2009

The girl who cooks with her mind turned off

I just ate more burnt carrots for lunch. Burning food is such a consistent quality of my cooking that I've started to believe it must reflect some important aspect of my character. Impatience, maybe? Or absentmindedness?

Some of the problem is due to the 1930s stove I cook with, which has no real temperature gauge. The idea, when it was made, was that the stove would be so well-insulated that it would only need to be turned on until it reached the appropriate temperature, at which point it could be turned off and left off. (The tagline was, "The range that cooks with the gas turned off!") But in reality the stove often needs to be turned on and off a few times during any given cooking session, which gives me ample opportunity to leave it on too long, and when this happens the temperature gets above 600° F, and the food, obviously, burns.

But I also burn all, or at least most, of the food I cook on the burners, such as the carrots, and for that I really have no excuse at all.

That one lone pigeon

One lazy Sunday this past summer I was with my friend Liz and we were wandering through a park in Brooklyn. At one point we passed through a short lane and noticed that a large group of pigeons had congregated near one of the benches. They were all pecking at the ground and clucking, very close to each other, except for one, who was wandering around in the middle of the path, separate from the group. I couldn't tell if he was distressed about being on his own or happy about the solitude—it's hard to know with pigeons—but either way Liz and I both had the same thought. "Look," Liz said. "It's you." Which left a strong impression, because there is something so incredibly comforting about having friends who know you well.

Opposites attracting

Yesterday I had an extremely satisfying incident occur within noticeable proximity of an extremely irritating one. The first involved watching a cop catch someone in the exact act of creating gridlock. The driver was creeping into the intersection, even though his light was most definitely red, when the cop saw him, yelled at him, and made him back up. But just as I was thinking about how gratifying this was, I drove my car over a particularly bumpy stretch of street and my tea spilled all over my cell phone.

Oct 21, 2009

Interview interlude

Some thoughts I had last night:

1. Shuffleboard never disappoints as a bar game.

2. It's really silly to care about being perceived as pretty because it has nothing to do with you at all. (Even though knowing that is never enough to stop me from caring.) Like the woman I met last night named Scarlet who was told by someone while I was standing with her that she had such a pretty name. "Thanks," she said." "But I'm never sure what to say when people say that. Thanks Mom?" People never say that to me, though, about my name. Usually people say, "Oh, Molly! That's my dog's name." Which is equally awkward. And what was nice is that the guy we were talking to was named Cody, so he could commiserate.

3. Whenever I'm out of town without Mirabelle I am magnetically drawn to other dogs. The reason I was talking to Scarlet in the first place is that she was at the bar with a guy and his black lab. I had given the dog a treat, and his owner was very surprised that I would have dog treats in my pocket. Which was funny to me, because where I live tons of people do that, and I hadn't thought through it far enough to realize that obviously in New York that wouldn't be the case.

4. Above the Ear, this ancient bar in New York, is an even more ancient apartment with the most slanted floors I have ever seen. It made me think about how maybe buildings themselves are always moving, like the way glass does. I guess it's probably true, but it still seems so improbable, that these things we think of as solid could be shifting subtly all the time.

Oct 19, 2009

The dangers of thinking while half asleep

Before we had umbrellas, couldn't people have protected themselves from the rain by using parasols covered in wax? This occurred to me when I was half asleep a few mornings ago, listening to the rain. Even after I woke up it still seemed like a plausible idea, but I also felt like I must be missing something.

The studio

Painting detritus

Oct 18, 2009

Local celebrities

1. Bill Cosby, who supposedly lives in one of the towns around here. I don't really believe this, though, partly because I've never seen him but mostly because in my mind he still lives in a brownstone in Manhattan with all the other Huxtables.

2. Rachel Maddow, but this one is also a bit hard to believe. Because it seems like she's so busy in New York that it's hard to imagine her having the time to make it up to Western Massachusetts on the weekends, even if her girlfriend does live here.

3. A few radio people, who don't exactly qualify as celebrities, but who Matt still gets really excited to see around town. Mostly they are people who no one but avid radio listeners (like Matt) is likely to know by name.

4. Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. These are our real bonafide celebrities (at least of the people I actually believe live here). And what's best about them is that they always seem to be doing exactly what I'd expect them to be doing. I saw them once at some semi-experimental art situation where John Hodgman spoke and a high school noise band played. And I regularly see Moore at the coffee shop I go to, looking very tall and slightly shy. Once Matt said he even saw him wandering around spacily* near the local post office, but that seemed even too perfect to believe.

*Not actually a word, but hopefully you know what I mean.

Leaf head

One of my favorite pictures from last summer's vacation:

Oct 17, 2009

Social theory


It is parents' weekend at Hampshire College right now, and last night I ended up at the faculty art show. There were lots of people there, but what set the students apart was the way they appraised anyone they thought might be their peer. My college was like this too, but these days I don't normally experience this. I had sort of forgotten what it feels like, being measured in that way, for such specific traits.

I imagine this probably happens any time a group of people of a certain age with similar interests end up in the same place, but it took me a little while to figure this out. For a long time I assumed everywhere was like this. Because right after college I moved directly to New York, where almost ever social situation was like this. It turns out that without a minimum number of peers, however, this does not occur. These days, living in a small town surrounded by colleges, seven years out of college myself, when I find someone of a certain age with similar interests, I don't want to appraise them, I just want to be friends.

Oct 16, 2009

The voice in my head, among other problems

If my inner voice talked to me the way that I talk to Mirabelle, well, suffice to say my inner world would be a very different place. I have the vague sense there is something important embedded in that statement.

Caracas, 1997

I was 17 and I had just moved to Venezuela to live with my friend Alexis. I'd never lived on my own before, much less in a foreign country, much less one like Venezuela, where nothing quite works like you'd expect, so I was already dealing with a certain amount of dislocation. We rarely got water in our apartment, road construction seemed to happen exclusively at rush hour, and getting the bus drive to stop entailed shouting 'Parada!' at the top of your lungs, which took me a while to figure out. But there was, sometimes, a kind of bliss within the haphazardness of everything, too. One time, late at night, we were driving along the winding highway that connected the little suburb where we lived with Caracas, and we saw a car that had flipped over the divider into oncoming traffic. Somehow no one had been hurt, though, and by the time we passed everyone involved in the accident had climbed out of their vehicles, retrieved the coolers of beer everyone always kept in the trunk (or between the two front seats), turned up the music and started partying in the street.

That isn't the memory I was thinking of, though. This one happened earlier, a few days after I arrived and before I spoke a lick of Spanish. Alexis's boyfriend was in a band and they were going to play a set at this big promotional event, so we went along. It was in this huge crowded ballroom filled with lots of statuesque women with perfectly blown out hair and well-dressed and over-cologned men. I think the event had something to do with cigarettes, because there were also lots of girls wandering around in miniscule costumes with trays of cigarettes hanging from around their necks.

I remember spending most of the night alone, although this might not have been the case. It might just have been that those moments I did spend alone seemed so long, since I couldn't speak to anyone, and I was obviously wearing the wrong clothes, and I felt so incredibly out of place. I remember pocketing lots of cigarettes, because they were Belmonts, the kind I smoked. But mostly I remember hearing that song Barbie Girl by Aqua blasting from the speakers so loud it filled up the whole room. It was very popular in Venezuela at the time. I rarely hear that song now, but whenever I do I remember that night. I feel a little nostalgic about it now, but I'm not sure why.

Oct 15, 2009

All together now

I like looking at the Sartorialist, but the comments section always perplexes me. Because even when there are over 200 comments for a picture, almost every single one says the same thing. Take, for example, a recent picture of Adrian Grenier and a friend on weird looking bikes in Paris. Twenty one of the first 24 comments say some variation of, "Hey, that's Adrian Grenier" and then the 25th commenter writes, "That guy looks really familiar to me." What could possibly be going on here?

Pellet stove

Here is the machine that singlehandedly heats our house:
It's generally a nice type of heat, fairly clean, I'm told, and relatively cheap. The only real problem is that it's a pretty localized heat source, and the resulting huddling in front of it makes me feel a little like a sad Dickens character. Also, sometimes this leads to a certain amount of actual leaning against it, which is particularly problematic. This year I must at least remember not to do this while wearing a down polyester vest. I did this once last winter, and after I noticed an odd smell I jumped up to find half my vest melted onto the glass and tiny white feathers flying everywhere.

Oct 14, 2009

Informative documentaries

Mike Tyson knew he wanted to get a face tattoo after he got out of prison, but before he got the one he now has, the sort of tribal pattern tattoo around his left eye, he considered instead a pattern of hearts.

At first this was hard to imagine. Everything seems like it would be so different. But then I started to realize it made an odd kind of sense. Because that small detail so perfectly epitomizes his unique blend of vulnerability and violence.

All the most romantic movies

There are so many movies based on this premise of two lovers who are meant to be together getting pulled apart by a misunderstanding. Take The Notebook. Or You've Got Mail. Or Beauty and the Beast. There are even stories that predate movies based on this premise. Think of Pride and Prejudice. Or just about every Jane Austen novel for that matter.

In any case, in my own life I go out of my way to try to avoid this. I don't think anyone I know would suggest I have a problem with disclosure. (It is possible this has deeper sources than just movies and books, but that would take too long to get into, so for the sake of argument just stay with me.) The problem is this sets me up for a much deeper kind of disappointment. Because if you leave some things unsaid there is always a chance that you do see eye to eye but just communicate it in different ways. Whereas if everything is disclosed, you have to draw another much sadder conclusion, which is that you're not dealing with a misunderstanding, but a difference.

Oct 13, 2009

Alternate endings


Right now I feel like there are two potential versions of my life and I can't quite tell which one I am living.

In the first, I am a character right at the beginning of a much longer story, who eventually overcomes her difficulties and arrives where she wants to go. In this version I become the kind of older person who tells younger people the stories that enable them to persevere even when it seems like getting anywhere requires going upstream the whole way.

And in the second I am that sad rat missing an essential part of the brain that is being studied by scientists who just can't understand why she keeps pressing that red button even though she gets the electric shock every time.

I guess this kind of thing is only clear in retrospect. Although does that rat ever really figure it out?

The bravery of children

Yesterday morning, when I was out walking Mirabelle, I passed another group of people walking a dog. I said hi and kept walking but then a little girl with the group ran after me. I think she was about seven, and she had short curly hair and was wearing these little square sunglasses with wire frames. She was visiting her aunt with her mom and brother, she said, but they were all deeply involved in a conversation, which is maybe why she sought me out in the first place.

We talked a little bit and then her dog went one way and I went another so I figured that was that. This was sort of a relief to me. I can be pretty shy sometimes, particularly with children. But after a bit she ran to catch up with me again. And then another time, and I realized she had clearly decided we should spend the walk together. Which struck me as so oddly sweet, this little girl's persistence in the face of my shyness. I had forgotten how children do this. When adults sense another adult's discomfort they usually seem to get out of the way as quickly as possible, whether out of consideration or a feeling of rejection I'm never sure. And I worry about this, since I would hate to be making people feel rejected, especially when it's just that I don't know what to say.

She was from New Rochelle, it turned out, which is near where I grew up, so we talked about that for a bit. And then we talked about our dogs. She said that her dog, a golden doodle named Jerry, "would be two in three months," using that universal parlance of children's ages. Then Mirabelle ran after a squirrel and I told her about the time Mirabelle actually caught a squirrel. She told me about the time Jerry caught two baby rabbits, which was terrible, of course. We also talked about how it was weird that Jerry always barked at squirrels while Mirabelle never barked, and how Jerry always barked at the doorbell, too.

"You know what I always think about?" she asked when we reached the end of the walk.

"What?"

"How nice it would be if we had dog translators," she said. "I mean, why does Jerry always bark at the doorbell? He barks sometimes even when no one is at the door."

"Yeah, I think about how that would be nice too," I said, and I really do.

Oct 12, 2009

Columbus Day

Today I have been like a kelp floating at the bottom of an ocean of Internet.

Henry VIII

Things I have learned from watching The Tudors
1. The 1500s were a particularly attractive period in English history.
2. During that period, most sexual activity resembled scenes from the covers of contemporary romance novels.
3. Brothers and sisters kissed on the lips in greeting.
4. One's chances of being executed or stuck up in the Tower of London increased proportionally with one's ambition or rise in power.
5. Women were basically only valued for their ability to bear male heirs or be married off in some beneficial way.

That last one, in particular, makes me feel very lucky to be alive now and not then.

Holiday weekend

Sol LeWitt!
North Adams, in a house borrowed from a friend's parents' friend
Companions
Companionship
Then home to this

Oct 11, 2009

The nest

Ever since last winter I have been searching, actively, for a nest, and now I finally have found one. And in the fall, too, which means, I am told by the only active birder in my life (my mother), that by removing it from the tree I was not actually depriving any birds of their home.

It is truly an impressive structure. The inside is perfectly round and made of all sorts of little woven together twigs, and the outside almost resembles tape, which I guess maybe the bird created through some sort of regurgitation. And it becomes even more impressive when you imagine trying to make one yourself following the bird's limitations. You could only use found objects, for example. Even more problematically, you would only be allowed to use your mouth and feet to make the thing. However, you would also be able to fly.

Oct 10, 2009

Did you know?

I recently learned that during the Civil War people would sometimes treat the battles like entertainment, and come and picnic by them. Which seems hard to believe, but I heard it from someone from the south, where people know a whole lot more about that war than I do.

And upon a googling, in fact, it turns out to be true, at least at the First Battle of Bull Run. "The wealthy elite of nearby Washington," reads Wikipedia, "including congressman and their families, expecting an easy Union victory, had come to picnic and watch the battle." So I guess that image problem started a long time ago. We definitely shouldn't let this get into Rush Limbaugh's hands.

Oct 9, 2009

The wormhole of etymology

I have always thought of the word 'discourage' as describing a sort of passive state, the one you arrive at after life, for a while, does not give you what you want. But it turns out (according to the online etymological dictionary I just checked in, at least) that it actually describes a more active state, one in which you are moving away from courage. This might explain why drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows is not improving my mood. Because if discouragement is the issue, I don't need to be comforted, I simply need to move toward courage.

Actually, after looking up 'comfort' in that same dictionary it turns out that might be exactly what I need—it comes from the Latin word confortare and means to strengthen. Maybe it's just that marshmallows are not a true strengthening agent.

Except that 'marshmallow' comes from an Old English word describing the mallow plant that grows near salt marshes, which is also known as althea officinalis, from the Greek word althein, which means to heal. Which means that I have no idea why marshmallows aren't helping.

Carlito's Way

Carlito: This guy, this counsellor in Lewisburg, Mr. Seawald, once said to me: 'Charlie, you run out of steam. You can't sprint all the way. You gotta stop sometime. You can't buck it forever. It catches up to you. It gets you. You don't get reformed, you just run out of wind.'

That last sentence neatly sums up my last 36 hours.

Oct 8, 2009

The perfect creature

She would be like Mirabelle in every other way, except she wouldn't shed.
The rug:
The floor mat she likes to sleep on, which only looks washed out because it is so covered in hair:
And yes, now I will go awaken the dreaded beast that haunts Mirabelle's dreams (truly, she is terrified of the thing), otherwise known as the vacuum.

Oct 7, 2009

In a mood

Usually I feel fairly benevolent toward insects, but not right now. Doesn't this fly that keeps torturing me by landing on my computer screen realize things have gotten personal?

Sleepover

Mirabelle was a new addition, but other than that it was just like old times.

Milestones

Today I bought a bottle of milk whose expiration date is after my 30th birthday, which will take place in early November. It's a little weird to me that milk actually lasts that long, particularly organic milk, but either way it reminded me just how close that birthday really is.

Mad (wo)men

If I got a dollar every time someone walking by told me to "Smile!" I would take that money and stick all those men (because it is always men who do this) in some horrible, endless, corporate re-education class. Men never say this to other men. And it makes me have very unsmiling feelings.

Oct 6, 2009

Egomania

After some more thought about the magazine closings announced yesterday, I have come to a far more sobering conclusion. I think it is entirely possible that the real problem with the magazine industry is me.

Consider: First I interned at Blue, a travel magazine start up. Which closed a month after I got there. Then I interned at Index, this Interview-like magazine with oddly prescient celebrity coverage. Which closed in 2005. Then I worked at Women's Own, which mostly included articles re-published from British magazines and which often had cover lines for articles that actually never appeared in the magazine (it was my job to read through the angry letters). It closed a month or two after I left. And most recently I worked at Wondertime, a parenting magazine, which closed last spring.

The Index website did recently start hosting a video-blog by Peter Halley's daughter (Halley was the publisher), but I don't think that counts. The fact is, no magazine that I have ever worked for is still in existence.

Newspapers seem to be immune to me, as do restaurants, which have survived and even flourished in my working presence. Meanwhile, even magazines I have only distant connections to continue to drop like flies (see post below regarding Gourmet, Cookie, Elegant Bride and Modern Bride). Clearly I should stay far far away from the magazines I really like. This also would help to explain why I remain unemployed.

You calling me stupid?

I wish this article (which I don't at all recommend reading all the way through) was a little more like this article (which was awesome). But maybe I'm just feeling defensive. After all, I am one of those people whose tendency toward anxiety has not resulted in my developing cautious habits. I am often late, I frequently procrastinate, and I am not unaware of alcohol's palliative effect on the nerves. According to that first article, these habits both affirm my anxious mind and imply that my cognitive abilities are not so high. Which I really don't appreciate.

Oct 5, 2009

RIP Modern Bride, Elegant Bride, Gourmet and Cookie


The magazines, ranked by my sadness about their closing.

Most sad—Gourmet.
This is my favorite of the bunch. In fact, I am, at exactly this moment, making a lentil-squash soup from a Gourmet recipe. I think it's from Gourmet, at least, although I tore the recipe out of the magazine and it doesn't say Gourmet on it, but it does look like the Gourmet font.

Less sad—Cookie.
I liked Cookie okay, but the last magazine where I worked was Cookie's competitor, and we (the staff at my magazine) all agreed that our magazine was better, even though Cookie was fancier. Extremely sadly, our magazine closed last spring.

Not really sad—Modern Bride and Elegant Bride
A few years ago I had a roommate that temped as the receptionist for those two magazines. While she was there we spent a good bit of time trying to determine what exactly distinguished one magazine from the other. I mean, don't most brides want to be both modern and elegant? But we never did figure it out, and I guess now we never will.

To be totally honest, though, I'm at least a little sad about all of it. I didn't subscribe to any of these magazines, and I get why they're closing. Particularly the bridal magazines, because Conde Nast still has Brides, for goodness sake, and how many bridal titles does one company really need? But still, not to be too dour, but it makes me feel a bit like the industry I went into is on its way toward becoming obsolete. Although I'm sure I'm being entirely too negative. We all must make room for progress, as Grace Coddington might say.

The mall, just like I was promised

Right after the place was finished, in the late nineties, cracks appeared in all the floors. The rumor was that the whole humongous building was slowly sinking back into the swamp it was built on. The rumor was also that within that swamp had been a Native American burial ground. This made a lot of sense at the time. It explained the sinking (since obviously disturbing the dead would bring some sort of retributive doom upon a building) and it also explained the slightly creepy feeling of the place (since it would obviously be haunted).

Such rumors move quickly among suburban teenagers and often end up embellished beyond believability, but the fact remains that the ramp to one of the parking lots circles around a little slot of land that has tombstones sticking out of it. We made a lot of this at the time, obviously.

Oct 4, 2009

Universal laws

Almost every visit to my mother entails, at some point, a meal with a very old friend of mine, her brother, her mother, and my mother. We go way back, the five of us, all the way back to the late eighties, when we lived in Paris and our mothers were still married to our fathers and they would invite each other to their dinner parties. In fact, the mothers go back further, all the way to the sixties, but that's another story.

There were times when the dynamics between the five of us were different. I mean, we're talking a span of twenty years. But for a while now, every time we see each other it has been the same. It is always pleasant, but completely predictable.

The mothers ask questions, attempt to impart motherly wisdom, and shake their heads at the daughters, while we roll our eyes and tell the stories that make them shake their heads. There is usually a brief discussion that touches on my friend's prolific dating habits. And then the brother and I begin a conversation that quickly devolves into a bantering sort of argument. We are both very stubborn and love to argue and can do so about just about anything. We would probably make fabulous lawyers.

The argument never feels personal, even though it is heated. The mothers often make a few attempts to intervene before turning their attention to each other and beginning to discuss jobs, plumbing, or other subjects (I'm not entirely sure about the specifics because I'm very involved in debating at this point). My friend, meanwhile, listens closely to the argument and occasionally attempts to impart sisterly wisdom, which the brother always rebuffs with the same kind of eye rolling that she and I give our mothers.

Once the meal ends, the mothers split the check, my friend and I leave together, and the brother heads off to some other social engagement. We plan to hang out later, my friend, her brother and I, but this only actually happens about half the time.

We have done this at Thanksgiving, Easter, birthdays, and summer barbecues. Things are different when we are grouped in differently, but when it is the five of us events play out with very little variation. Like we are atoms with specific characteristics that always react the same when put together. As though we really have no say in anything at all.

This really happened

One day my friend was walking when a squirrel ran up and jumped right onto his leg. True story.

Oct 3, 2009

Lazy morning progression

Otherwise known as: When my lazy morning collides with Mirabelle.

Additional visual pleasures

Overgrown buildings, particularly brick ones.
Watching someone perform a physical feat I am incapable of but whose difficulty I can personally attest to (ballet, pancake flipping, numerous pull ups, etc.).

Oct 2, 2009

Visual pleasures

Cars painted numerous colors.
Driving south this time of year and watching the leaves turn progressively greener, which feels a little like traveling back in time.
The way my plants twist back toward the sun after I turn them.
Sliced figs.
Mirabelle running through high grass chasing squirrels, her hair rippling behind her like she's the star in some period piece.
Antique maps.

February 12, 2005

We went to see The Gates the day it opened. I think we had worked the night before, Matt and I, which meant we would have gotten in around 3 a.m., and which made it feel a bit like an adventure, getting to Columbus Circle by 8 the next morning. The only explanation for our having gone so early is that we went with Jeremy, who is an architect, and like all architects I have encountered (which is, to be honest, not all that many, but still) he has great clothes and is very organized and punctual. He is the kind of person who I imagine rises very early every morning, and gets out of bed exactly when his alarm goes off. I am not like this.

Since we lived in Greenpoint and rarely came to Central Park, we hadn't seen any of the preparations, and I imagined that all those orange floating banners had appeared overnight, even though I knew it wasn't true. I remember appreciating the way the sun went through the fabric and how otherworldly it looked, having these weird, brightly colored arches set up everywhere. But then, like with most art, I began to drift off and I started wondering about why they didn't do it in the fall, when it would have looked nice with the leaves, and why it cost so much ($21 million!) and if the color wasn't a bit off or if maybe my opinion about it wasn't skewed by it being the exact same orange as my high school gym uniform.

It was bitterly cold that day, bitingly, horribly cold, and I thought a lot about that too. Until finally we went to some little Mexican restaurant to get breakfast. Inside it was cheerful and warm and we sat at the bar and ordered eggs and coffees. And that was when, for no reason I could discern, the bartender decided we needed to start drinking tequila, right away, and tons of it. We tried to beg off after a couple shots, but he just kept refilling our glasses and sticking them back down in front of us in a neat little row until, finally, we gave in and got loud and rowdy and drunk. The whole experience felt both charmed and curious.

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. I think I played some Galaga. I played a lot of Galaga back then. I had even bought Matt that controller with Galaga and PacMan that you could get in Urban Outfitters, and I often played in the morning, before I was quite awake. Then we would go to the Greenpoint Cafe and drink coffee and share a blueberry muffin and hope we didn't run into my ex-boyfriend. Then we would go to work. And after work, when we got home, once Matt had fallen asleep, I would look out the window onto McGuinness Boulevard and watch the lights turn green, then yellow, then red, all at once.

Oct 1, 2009

Cars get the bumper stickers they deserve

The Subaru Forester always parked on my street: "Wilco" and "Love."
A blue KIA Soul (I had to look up the model): "Strong Men Don't Hit."
A shiny new Volvo station wagon: "My kid skateboards better than your honor student."

I'm not sure what this says about my car, a Subaru Outback, which has a "We Support Connecticut Police, 2002," on the back window. I never took it off after I got it because I thought it might keep me from getting pulled over. Although that hasn't proven to be the case.

That is the question

I'm trying to figure out if I should go to New York this weekend.

Pros for going:
1. Friends.
2. Fun, probably.
3. The potential for unexpectedness, which is usually a good thing.
4. Remembering that the world is bigger than this little valley, which is always a good thing.

Pros for staying:
1. Solitude.
2. A lack of traffic.
3. The potential for productive work time, since I'll be alone in the house.
4. My bank account passing the weekend without much interaction with the outside world, which is always a good thing.

Hmmm. That didn't help.

Mirabelle Rex

In my dream last night everyone's dogs were turning into dinosaurs and battling evil Transformers. Also, the roof was leaking. I consulted the dream dictionary and apparently both leaks and dinosaurs signify the reappearance of old issues. Which makes sense (although dealing with this in real life hasn't been nearly as scary as it was in the dream). But what of the evil Transformers? The dream dictionary didn't have anything for me on that.