Jun 13, 2010

I have really moved!

And here, for the last and final time, is where I have moved to:


May 27, 2010

On having a bad imagination

My mom sent this picture to me last winter, when the power in her house went out after this terrible ice storm and she had to stay in a hotel for a few days. It was very, very cold outside and this swan was keeping warm by standing on a heating vent.

Just a few months later, though, this picture looks incredibly foreign. Snow seems like a ridiculous concept, and avoiding cold seems sort of absurd. When it comes to weather, I realized, I am sort of like a child who still hasn't quite reached the stage where they can conceptualize anything other than what they are experiencing right now. And right now it is very hot, and actually I can't quite imagine I will ever be cold again.

(Mostly I'm not blogging here any more, by the way, but at mollykay.tumblr.com. Oh and (Kevin) I found the RSS feed button—it's at the bottom of the page.)

May 4, 2010

I have moved!

I blog here now-------------------> mollykay.tumblr.com.

I guess that wasn't really so slow after all.

May 1, 2010

Hippiehampton, Take II*

I'm not sure of the occasion (May Day?) (and who needs an occasion for a drum circle!) but I can actually hear the drum circle from inside my house. I tend to like it when places so exactly fulfill my expectations of them, but my expectations of Northampton hippies are generally fairly not good, and my dislike of Northampton drum circles is far outweighing the pleasure I could otherwise derive from the situation. I guess to be honest I just really don't like drum circles in general, but to understand that you'd have to understand how many terrible ones I was subjected to as a younger person.

Which reminds me. One time, (a long time ago) my friend dated this guy (in Berkeley, of course) who was super soft spoken and really, really, really present at all times (not in a good way) and ACTUALLY ROUTINELY WORE HIS MOM'S YOGA PANTS. We still talk about this, sometimes, this friend and I. Usually just to affirm, one more time, that this is not a good look, people, not a good look at all. #thingsthatremindmeofcollegebutnotinagoodway.

*I posted this on my tumblr blog already, but then my friend (the one who dated the yoga dude) wanted to know how to add a comment, and honestly I have no idea. Presumably she wants to claim that she didn't really "date" this guy. To which I will add, preemptively, oh yes you did! But that's just a guess. Maybe she recently attended a really enjoyable drum circle and just wants to share. Either way, I am posting this here instead of figuring out how to add Disqus or whatever it is to tumblr because it is Saturday and I'd rather be outside instead of in front of my computer. Comment away girl-who-once-dated-guy-who-routinely-wore-his-mom's-yoga-pants!

Apr 28, 2010


I'm slowly going to start moving this blog over to tumblr. Which means you can now also find me at mollykay.tumblr.com. I feel a bit half-hearted about the whole thing, but at least no one will have to write my difficult-to-spell last name into the url anymore.

On a slightly unrelated note, we had this canvas bag that I got at the Tumblr Reads thing a little while ago that said "tumblr" on the front, but Matt changed it to read "fumblr." Now I can't stop thinking of it that way. Probably because if my website could be named mollykay.fumblr.com, I think that would make a lot more sense with who I am.

Apr 27, 2010

You can't do that to a jellyfish!

Some woman apparently spends a lot of time recording her husband talking in his sleep. Then she posts clips of what he says on the Internet. Here's the link. It might be my favorite thing ever.

I don't know how Kevin finds things like that (and this, which entertained me for longer than I should probably admit) but I am very grateful that he does.

Apr 26, 2010

Downhill from here

There are a lot of things I'm going to miss about our apartment when we leave. So instead I have been trying to focus on the negative. For example, I'm looking forward to no longer having a compost. Actually, scratch that. Composting is fine, but I am definitely looking forward to not having a compost bin in the yard that is filled with food sludge which gets covered with a layer of maggots inches thick in the summer because no one (we share it with another house) has ever bothered to add stuff like leaves and twigs that would make it turn back into dirt.

Also, I am looking forward to not having a wooden floor that, while charming, has small- to medium-size cracks between each of the slats, making cleaning extremely difficult. And I will enjoy having an oven that can actually be heated to a specific temperature, and a toilet that doesn't need to be jiggled after every flush.

None of that really matters, though. Secretly I think it's very possible that I could live the rest of my life without ever finding a place I like so much again.

Apr 25, 2010

Friday, April 23rd

At 7 pm I went to a Mexican restaurant to meet Matt. I was very early, so I sat at the bar, drinking a margarita and reading The Possessed, by Elif Batuman. Every few pages I'd find a passage I liked so much that I'd stop for a moment and put the book down to just think about how good it was. Like this one, which came after Batuman's explanation of how she ended up spending a summer teaching English in Hungary:

"Today this all strikes me as somehow typical of this way things happen, when you try to follow life. Events and places succeed one another like items on a shopping list. There may be interesting and moving experiences, but one thing is guaranteed: they won't naturally assume the shape of a wonderful book."

During these breaks I noticed that there was a basketball game on, that the woman next to me was wearing an incredibly low cut shirt, and that she could not ever seem to manage to pay attention to basketball—for some reason, she explained to her date, she finds it both mesmerizing and boring. And then I saw the fish. It was in a little round bowl filled with dirty water sitting on top of the soda jets. It wasn't moving and after a while I asked the bartender if maybe the fish was dead. "Oh no," he told me, and then he tapped the glass a few times. Sure enough it fluttered around for a moment before settling back to the bottom again. "We change the water every few days," he said. "He's just depressed."

This made sense to me. It strikes me as slightly barbaric, the way we keep fish in these tiny glass cages that they just circle through, again and again. My Dad tells me this endless circling doesn't bother fish, because they have no memory, but my dad keeps fish. One fish, actually, named Blackie, I think (there used to be two), who is grotesquely large for a goldfish, although you can't quite tell from this picture. He lives in a tank meant for a regular sized fish in my dad's kitchen, with only a piece of obsidian to keep him company. How could this kind of life not make a thing go insane?

Apr 24, 2010

Oh Northampton

It's so hard to know what to think about it. On the one hand there is this:
But there is also this:

Apr 22, 2010

I now understand this as an elaborate Internet joke

These days my Yahoo email account is mostly just a recipient for my junk mail, but I do consistently enjoy reading the featured dating advice on the home page. Yesterday's, for example, informed me that the things happy couples should talk about include their childhoods, current events, and their views on TV and movies. "Compared to politics and personal fears, entertainment might seem pretty shallow," the article explained, "but discussions about movies can fall into the 'deep' category if you focus on character motivations and plots rather than on, say, the cute leading actors."

I then clicked on another article that offered to help me learn if I'm ready to commit. The way to do this, apparently, is to ask one's partner a number of questions. For example, I should ask him if he envisions us growing old together.

As far as gauging the answer: "If your mate quips, 'How the heck do I know, that is a long way off' or 'I guess so,' neither answer should satisfy you. To suggest that you or your mate is uncertain of your eventual fate together -- or cannot envision those "golden" years as a couple -- should be a neon sign with bright red lights that flash, 'This may only be temporary.'"

Is it possible that there exist people for whom this information is illuminating? If so, where are these people, and how have they survived to dating age?

Growing up weird

Sometimes it really surprises me that even though Mirabelle appears to believe that Matt and I purposefully torture her by doing things like vacuuming and making her take showers (we would give her baths like a normal dog gets but we only have a shower—if she were human I'm sure this would be a strong point of contention in her teenage years), she still seems to like us pretty well.

Apr 21, 2010


My first job was at this restaurant called The Black Dog. You have probably seen the t-shirts. They have a standing dog (a black one, obviously) in profile on the front and the restaurant name on the back. They got popular a long time ago, back when people liked to consume as conspicuously as possible—having a shirt from The Black Dog was a way of letting the world know you had been to Martha's Vineyard, which is an island with a bunch of fancy houses off the coast of Massachusetts. There are also a bunch of less fancy houses, one of which was owned by my grandparents, and this was I ended up in Martha's Vineyard for August the summer I was 15.

I was a dishwasher. The other dishwashers were Brazilian, and I still remember the Portuguese word for knife—faca—which I'm sure only stuck in my mind because it sounded dirty. I always worked the morning shift and would leave every day stinking of eggs, riding my bike back to the house because I couldn't drive yet. Pretty much everyone who worked there was ages older than me, except for one other kid who worked in the kitchen who I quickly developed a brooding crush on.

Eventually, one afternoon he invited me to go swimming at some spot he knew nearby—he lived on the island year round, and so knew places to go that I didn't. Once we got there and had stripped down to our bathing suits, he told me a few things about himself. He had been born with six fingers on both hands, he said, but the extra fingers were cut off as soon as he'd been born. He showed me his hands, and sure enough, there were strange little scars right next to his pinkies. He'd also been born with six toes on each foot, and he showed me his feet and I counted six toes on either side. And then he told me the part I've wondered about ever since. His sister, he said, had been born with gills.

I was not turned off by any of this information, it only made him more intriguing in my eyes, but it was near the end of the summer and we didn't hang out again after before I left. A few years later I ran into him on the ferry to the island. He was older, and had shed the gangly awkwardness of early adolescence. When I asked him what he was up to, he told me he had become a drug dealer, the biggest drug dealer on the island, in fact. Maybe it was true. Although it now occurs to me that if he really was, he probably wouldn't have been sharing his business with some girl he hardly knew who he ran into on the ferry. But I still wonder about those gills.

Apr 20, 2010

The impossible perfect life

The first thing I thought when I saw this picture (from this blog called Old Chum), was that if I lived in a house that looked like that, I couldn't imagine that anything could ever really be wrong. But then I realized the place I live right now is basically just like that house, and I certainly wouldn't say that nothing is ever wrong.
That blog is also where I found this picture, which I realized is a pretty much perfect representation of how the future feels to me at the moment. Have I mentioned that I'm moving back to New York? To do I'm not exactly sure what, and live I'm not sure where, and support myself I'm not exactly sure how? I feel a bit like I'm throwing everything all up in the air, and all I can do is hope it all lands with me when it comes back down.

Apr 19, 2010

Bachelorette weekend, night 2

Among other things, we went to see an Iron Maiden cover band playing at a brewery in Pennsylvania. Predictably, they were awesome.

Apr 18, 2010

Bad Hair

The Bed & Breakfast we all stayed at last night had a very special book in the sitting room. At first Liz thought it was called Dad Hair.
Which made sense for a while. Until we got to the ladies.

Apr 17, 2010

Bachelorette weekend night 1

We are at a dance club on the Lower East Side which is really just a basement with an uneven cement floor and some chandeliers dangling from the ceiling, which is low enough to touch. We have just arrived and some of us are sitting down at some banquettes in the back that are filled with other a bunch of other people's stuff. A few others are standing nearby, starting to dance and quickly shedding layers of clothing. Abruptly a girl slides down next to the bride-to-be.

"Hey," she says. She had been sitting there before we sat down. But actually she's sort of screaming because it's unbelievably loud. "You guys can sit here, but don't steal my stuff."

"Okay," my friend says. "But we're not really those kind of people. It's my bachelorette party."

"Oh my god!" the girl says (screams). She looks to be about twenty, and a few minutes later we saw her and some guy she's there with go into the bathroom together. "I am so, so happy for you. Seriously. That's amazing. Just remember, it's about the marriage not the wedding." She's been looking my friend right in the eye. "I'm so moved and excited for you. And I know this is totally New York, but seriously, still don't steal my stuff."

Apr 16, 2010

Two ways to be a genius

1. Was talking to a genius (!) (from the Apple store) and his Apple co-worker last night, sharing service industry stories. One time, a lady from Cambridge, England, came up to one of them who had a masters from Cambridge. He told her this. "What happened?" she asked.

2. I never saw anyone spit in someone's food. But I did have a co-worker who would "crop dust," which involved walking by a particularly obnoxious customer while unleashing a monster fart. He also stashed drugs in various clubs around the city, so as not to have to carry them around with him. He was sort of a genius, albeit in ways that might not serve him so well in the end.

Apr 14, 2010

I would be so much better off as an accountant

Today I did what is probably the singular most nerdy thing I do all year—I sat down with two pencils, some whiteout, and a calculator, and did my taxes. I started doing them a few years ago because I didn't want to pay someone to do what I imagined I could probably figure out myself, and even though it would be a stretch to describe what I do with taxes as having much to do with figuring anything out—the whole thing remains a massive bureaucratic mystery to me—I kept doing them because it turned out I really liked it. There are so few tasks in life that offer such clearly defined endpoints, and when I find one I stick with it.

This not to say that I do my taxes well. I certainly don't do them quickly. But gradually I've gotten a little better. This year things went smoothly enough, even though the instructions on the state forms were predictably ridiculous. "If Section B line 14 is greater than Section A line 6, subtract line 32 from 31 on Form 1 and place the result both on Section B line 8 and on Form 1 line 33." There really was one line just like that. Although I should probably point out that last year I thought things went smoothly enough too, but over the next few months the IRS informed me of not just one but three mistakes. I am sure people at the IRS hate people like me.

But however things turn out, I got through them, and a little over six hours later, I was signing things and addressing envelopes. Tomorrow I will send them off, and this will mark the first time in my whole life that my taxes have gotten done on time.

Apr 13, 2010

What to do after jumping in the river

I sort of feel like this is what it looks like to stare death in the face:

Today was sort of a bust

This is how unfocused my morning was.
Things got a little better in the afternoon, but only a little.

Apr 12, 2010

Flying vs. mind reading

My mom was visiting a little while ago, and the conversation eventually got around to the inevitable endpoint question of all meandering conversations: If you could fly or read minds, which would you choose? We both immediately decided we would choose flying.

I mean, obviously we would choose flying. How could mind reading beat flying? Most of my thoughts, at least, are pretty bland. Except that until a few years ago it seemed so interesting to know what other people were thinking, generally because I was curious to know what they were thinking about me, and I was never sure which to choose. These days, though, it turns out I actually don't really care.

Apr 11, 2010

Back when computer screens were black, and text was white, and the cursor was a little blinking box

Certain emotions, I have assumed for years, are easily misunderstood when expressed via email. My first sense of this was around 1992, when my dad had email but I hardly understood what it was, and he received an email from a colleague that made him very angry.

The whole thing escalated very quickly, but eventually it turned out, at least in part, to be based on a misunderstanding. Once it was resolved, my dad passed on his newly acquired information about this unfamiliar technology to me by warning that emotional expressions seem to easily morph into something else via email. Also, that anger escalates quickly. I think his point was that being able to type and send ideas so fast sometimes leaves you sending something you might otherwise think better of, but in the years since then, in my mind at least, this has morphed into the idea that an emotion itself, when seen on a computer screen, can simply become bigger than it is.

But now I am thinking maybe this isn't it. Maybe emotions are simply expressed more bluntly in emails, and while this might make them more jarring, maybe it also leaves them more honest. Because really all those other expressions that surround our feelings when we express them verbally, the ones that impress the listener that we might be angry, but not out of control, or sad, but not in a way anyone should worry about, are simply meant to comfort the person you're talking to, and don't have much bearing on how you're really feeling at all.

Apr 10, 2010

De Robertis

I've made a few sort of important decisions in the last few days that on the surface probably look a bit strange. Mostly because they've all consisted of walking away from opportunities, and not too many opportunities have presented themselves in the last year, so walking away from anything at all feels a bit odd, even to me, and I'm used to making odd decisions about what direction to take my life. But at the moment my internal compass seems to have a pretty clear idea about things, and when that happens I generally feel like it's probably important to follow along.

Last night I passed by this old bakery named De Robertis on 2nd Ave., though, and remembered one time that I had a clear sense of what I should do but didn't do it. It was about six years ago, and I was looking for a waitressing job. I knew that at that point in my food service career I could probably find a pretty well-paying one, so I'd gone by Balthazar and they'd sent me to Pastis and I was supposed to start training the next week. But meanwhile I'd passed by De Robertis and seen a help wanted sign in the window.

I'd passed by the place before and never thought much of it. But that day I got this really strong sense that I should work there, that in fact my whole life was running with this current that had brought me exactly to that little bakery at exactly that moment. Which was strange because there was nothing about the place that particularly appealed to me. I imagined the customers mostly consisted of old Italian ladies and old-school East Village residents. I also imagined the pastries were probably dry, that the cake frosting left a pasty layer of shortening on your tongue, and that the same cakes stayed in the window for years on end.

Inside, I think, there was a black and white tiled floor, a bunch of rickety tables, and lots of brightly colored Italian cookies in a case. I talked to the woman behind the counter about the job, but my urge to work there made so little sense to me that after I moment I left and never went back.

Every once in a while, though, I wonder what would have happened if I had worked there instead of at Pastis, especially since so many of the things that have happened in my life since then have sprung, at least in part, from that job. Which maybe means that even when you don't follow your gut things can still turn out okay, and for some reason I find that comforting.

Apr 9, 2010

Some things we liked about yesterday

This grave:
The pyramid mausoleum:
This tree's roots:
And these guys:

Apr 7, 2010

Another thing I was confused about

When I was about 12 and got my hands on a copy of Seventeen magazine for the first time, I decided it must be a catalog. I then spent a number of hours searching, diligently, for the page that would tell me how to order something. Not that I had any money to order anything with, but I wanted the option.

When I finally realized it was not a catalog but a magazine, I thought my ignorance about the whole situation reflected a deeper inadequacy on my part and experienced a pang of shame at my essential uncoolness, a feeling I experienced often in middle school. Now, though, it seems a perfectly reasonable assumption, since really Seventeen was just one long ad for back to school clothes. At least that was true of September issue (and that was the one I got my hands on.) I still remember how it smelled (like Obsession, that Calvin Klein perfume), and the pictures of pretty, wholesome girls in plaid skirts running around in a field, wearing Keds. It was a vision of life that had nothing to do with my own, but if I could have stepped right into that magazine, and lived in it, I would have.

Apr 5, 2010

If I could be an element I'd be water

When I was a kid there was a period when I was terrified of firemen. My mom finally asked me what the problem was and it turned out that I assumed that because the appearance of firetrucks often correlated fairly exactly with fires (I am sure I did not use the word correlate), I believed that firemen were the ones actually starting the fires. So whenever they were blazing down the street with sirens running, I assumed this was what they were heading off to do, which was scary.

Of course, I was just a child, and children often come up with conclusions about how things work that turn out to be wrong. But it makes me wonder if maybe adults do this too, just about things that are vaguer and less likely to be talked about, and that therefore never have the opportunity to be corrected. I guess, now that I'm thinking about, this is sort of what therapy is all about. Except that when you're an adult, discovering that some essential belief that you've been basing your life around is actually a misunderstanding isn't enough to get you to let it go.

Apr 4, 2010

Childhood hallucinations

When I was a kid I believed in Santa in part because everyone I knew seemed to believe in Santa, but also because I had physical proof. Not only did Santa always drink the milk and eat the cookies we left for him, he also left me a note. This was in floral, cursive writing I now recognize as my dad's.

My proof of the tooth fairy mostly involved the fact that she left me stuff, and this was true of my proof of the house fairy as well. When I was a kid I always spent August sharing a room with three of my cousins, and the house fairy, an ingenious concept of my grandmother's, would leave us presents when we cleaned up and made our beds and did stuff like that. The fact that the house fairy's aims so exactly matched up with the aims of the adults in the house never led me to question her status as an actual supernatural fairy whose only interest in life was checking to see if my cousins and I had indeed made our beds. But last year, while cleaning out my grandmother's house, my cousins and I discovered her stash of unused house fairy gifts. As for the tooth fairy, my mom just told me she actually kept all those little baby teeth of mine I left under my pillow, and has them in her room somewhere. Until recently, it turns out, they were stored with my grandmother's dentures.

My proof of the Easter bunny involved not only the basket I always got, but also the little bunny prints she left all over the house while she went around hiding chocolate eggs in unexpected places. I now recognize these as the unique mark of my mother's three middle fingers when dipped in baby powder. There was something else too, though, because one Easter afternoon I was hunting for eggs in someone's backyard when I happened to look out towards the street and see the Easter bunny hopping down the street. Really. I remember this vividly. A life-size bunny was hopping down the street, not even walking down the street the way a man in a bunny suit would if he were, say, on his way to some Easter egg hunt where the parents had hired him to make for a memorable Easter for their kids. The bunny, appropriately, was carrying a basket.

All my fantasies of these supernatural gift-bringing creatures have dissolved, but I never have quite wrapped my head around what might have been going on with that last one.

Apr 2, 2010

After the apocalypse

I think everything will look just like this.

Apr 1, 2010


That blowing one's nose and washing dishes are techniques learned by exactly mimicking the manner in which one's parents complete such tasks. Also, that no matter how many other types of nose-blowing and dishwashing one eventually is exposed to, one rarely deviates from the original method. One exception: if one's nose blowing technique is deemed "gross" or otherwise generally unacceptable by one's peers. Another exception: if one's dishwashing technique is deemed "delinquently wasteful" or otherwise environmentally unacceptable by one's peers.

(Both of these situations have happened to me, although I have yet to really change my dishwashing technique, so I guess it's not really an exception at all. I probably should, though. I use the running water incessantly technique as opposed to the soak, wash then rinse technique that is, I'm sure, far more inefficient where water is concerned.)

Mar 31, 2010

Consistency is always comforting

As long as I can remember, my dad's office has contained various consistent elements. Note the random rock, the framed work from my Early Period, the hieroglyphics on the board, and the strange, anonymous doodle.
And here he is, on the other side of the room, operating the machinery.

Mar 30, 2010

The gloomiest day of the year

The walk started out alright. I find this weather pretty dreary, but Mirabelle seemed to think the wind just provided more things to sniff.
Besides, I was feeling pretty proud of my ingenious (I thought) ability to fix what was essentially a very broken umbrella.
This feeling did not last long.
Have you ever noticed that umbrellas seem to break at exactly the moment you need them most? During the rest of the walk, while awkwardly trying to keep the broken umbrella from flying me into outer space, since it was only at the end that I finally got it to close, I came up with a number of other things that share this unappealing quality: zippers (on overstuffed pieces of luggage), kitchen appliances (when overstressed by preparations for a fancy dinner), and vacuums (overfull with dog hair, say, an hour or so before one of your parents is coming to visit).

Molly and Mirabelle write]

I wrote something about Mary Karr for This Recording. You can find it here."/ ]\ (the slashes and brackets were written by Mirabelle, even the one in the title! I think she was trying to express she was ready for her walk.)

Mar 29, 2010

On everyone being right all the time

I haven't seen that new TV show The Marriage Ref, so I'm just going on my fantasy of what it is, but in my fantasy it's pretty great. So great, in fact, that I would consider going on it, even though there is no specific disagreement that I am feeling particularly driven to debate in front front of a few million viewers (I assume there are many millions of viewers, in fact, because who doesn't get entertained watching couples argue?). I'm sure Matt and I could come up with something. The idea of being able to bring an ongoing debate to a panel and a referee (I think this is how it works) and have them declare a clear winner just sounds so appealingly clear cut. Besides, I am pretty sure that regarding most of our disagreements, were objective onlookers to get involved, there would be one clear winner and that winner would be me.

(I am not, by the way, suggesting this would be true regarding every argument I have ever had. There have been some heartbreaking, dark arguments in my past that only a sicko could have been entertained by, where both of us definitely lost. Luckily, though, that is not how Matt and I argue.)

But of course everyone always assumes that when it comes to arguing their points are the more sensible. That's why people argue in the first place. Matt and I aren't married, so presumably we wouldn't qualify anyway, but later I asked him if he might consider going on the show with me if we were. He was washing the dishes. "Yeah, I guess I would," he said. And when I asked him why, he replied, "Well, because I'd win."

This would have been a good entrance to an argument, if we'd been in arguing frame of mind. Instead, he finished the dishes and I finished reading whatever I was reading and we made fish tacos for dinner and then watched The Lady and the Tramp and went to sleep.

Mar 28, 2010

Miracle cures

Back at the end of January I spent the night at a friend's house engaged in a conversation with three people, one of which I know very well, and two of which I don't. The interaction surprised me both for its lack of lulls and its intimacy. For reasons I don't totally understand, I revealed much more of myself than I normally would in such circumstances, and I left feeling both disencumbered and a little bit embarrassed. Maybe this is the way a flasher feels, relieved at having revealed things normally hidden, and ashamed too, because there's a reason you normally keep private things more private. Although I'm not really sure what motivates flashers.

Ever since then I've been thinking about something one of these people said. It had to do with crutches, and in order to explain how the conversation got there I need to go back a week earlier, to another night when I was talking to a friend of mine who is a devout Muslim. I had told him that the way religion offers such a sureness about the purpose of life and how to live it sounds wonderful, but that I've never felt that's reason enough for me. "You mean that you wouldn't want to use it just as a crutch?" he asked. And I said that I guessed that was what I meant. To which he replied that a long time ago someone else had said the same thing to him, and he had told them that yes, maybe religion was a crutch, but, if so, he had a broken leg.

At some point that night in January the conversation turned to religion, and I mentioned this comment my friend made, and then one of them went off on a tangent and said the thing I keep thinking about. Which is that it is silly to accuse someone of using a crutch when you mean to imply they're doing something they don't actually need to be doing, because no one ever uses crutches if they don't need them. Crutches are uncomfortable, and they leave your armpits sore, and they make it really hard to get up and down stairs. They are sort of a last resort type of situation.

I don't mean that people don't sometimes cover up one problem with another, or go about trying to fix something in ways that won't actually help. Obviously we do this all the time. But I am exactly the kind of person who would get weird about my needing crutches even if I had a severely broken leg. I am hard on myself like this. And I think what my mind has been trying to get to in the way it keeps circling back to that comment is this: that if I could just be a little kinder about the broken things I use crutches for, maybe in the long run that would be a lot more helpful in getting me off those crutches than the nagging accusations I go on and on about instead.

Mar 26, 2010

Oh dear

Ha! (The caption from an article in the New York Times about what life was like for the editor of House & Garden after the magazine closed.) Her bed:
(Just kidding that's not really her bed.)

Mar 25, 2010

Some questions

Question 1: Would the impression one gets of a person through reading his or her blog be further or closer to reality than that of an exhaustively covered celebrity?

Question 2: Are adults less likely to fall down stairs than children because our balance improves, because we learn how to catch ourselves, or because we move less quickly?

Answers: Anyone?

Mar 24, 2010

Internet gold

Aviva Yael's list of the worst band names at SXSW is really funny. Seriously. Don't take my word for it.

Tumblr joining fail

“Hipster” has become the de-facto Big Other for culturally conscious urbanites who are too hip for xenophobia but too weak to resist the latent psychological impulse to villainize people based on nothing more than personal whimsy.

Okay, so I know I really should just join Tumblr already because that would make reposting this a whole lot easier, but this is from Matt Langer, via Emily Gould, and I thought it was a good point.

Mar 23, 2010

A few things

What happens to key lime pie in the refrigerator that makes it so much better the next day? Literally, I mean. Because I made some last night and today it's definitely twice as good, and it's all the same ingredients.

A while ago I had two roommates with whom I often discussed the random chemical mysteries of cooking. What do eggs solidify when you heat them up? And why does heavy cream whip but not half and half? I miss those roommates. Most of our forays into baking ended with the three of us sitting around the kitchen table discussing such questions for a long, long time (we took breaks to discuss the status of various crushes and to smoke cigarettes). While we did make an effort to look up the answers, none of them have stayed with me.

Also, and completely unrelatedly, I have an essay about being unemployed in the Christian Science Monitor. You can find it here.

Mar 22, 2010

Mirabelle, squirrel killer

Mirabelle caught a squirrel today. By the time I got to her, she had dropped it and the squirrel was splayed out on in this awful elongated way, its spine broke, nudging its snout against the grass and unable to move the rest of its body. It made me hate Mirabelle for a moment, who was prancing around as if she'd just won a medal. And then I burst into tears, which took me by surprise. It reminded me of the time in elementary school that some kids killed this bird during recess and I cried about it for hours.

Clearly the squirrel needed to be killed, but how? I considered bashing its head with a stick I saw but wasn't sure that was a good idea. Beyond that all I could think to do was go to the nearest house and knock on the door. I had that little of an idea of how to handle the situation. Which made me feel like a bit of a failure of a human being, since I eat meat, and it seems the least I should be able to do is put an animal out of its misery.

The woman who answered the door was nice about it, but they didn't have a gun or anything and her husband was out and she didn't really know what to do about it either. Something will eat it eventually, she said. She told me a few times she was sorry that had happened to me, which was nice, and she seemed really nice, but at the same time it didn't really make me feel better, cause whatever happened to the squirrel was a whole lot worse than whatever happened to me.

Finally I went home and called my dad, who told me I could get a shovel and use it to cut off its head. But we didn't have a shovel in the garage. Meanwhile it started raining. And now it's a few hours later and all I can think about, still, is that squirrel nudging its snout against the grass, and nothing ahead of it except getting wet and then dying, and how I should be able to do something about it but I don't have a lick of an idea what to do.

Mar 21, 2010

More memoirs

"And even if my mother wouldn't tell me what she wanted, or give any hints, I was sure that she wanted me to stay with her. I took her inscrutability as a concealment of this wish. Later she agreed that this was so, but maybe it wasn't all that simple at the time. She still hoped this marriage would work, was ready to put up with almost anything to make it work. The idea of another failure was abhorrent to her. But she may also have dreamed of flight and freedom—unencumbered, solitary freedom, freedom even from me. Like anyone else, she must have wanted different things at the same time. The human heart is a dark forest."

That's from the section of This Boy's Life where the writer (Tobias Wolff) is explaining why he decided not to move to Paris and let his uncle adopt him. I took the book out of the library recently and discovered that someone of a like mind apparently took it out some time before me and conveniently marked all the passages I would like the best with a small black line. Except for the one above.

Mar 20, 2010

What friends are for

One day when I was in college a good friend and I went running together. Since she speaks German and I speak Spanish, we decided that on the run we would try teaching each other phrases from our respective languages. Maybe we taught each other a whole bunch of stuff, but the only phrase I remember is this: meine Beine sind gemacht aus Metall. In English this means,"My legs are made of metal." This remains the only German phrase I know.

Apparently repeating this over and over, which we did in both languages, louder every time, got us pretty pumped, because I also remember that during that run we eventually started pretending our breasts were machine guns and used them to shoot down many fictional enemies.

Mar 19, 2010

Justin Bieber

So, so confused.

Converation starter

I recently happened upon what turns out to be a really interesting question to think about. Which is this: If you were given the opportunity to create one law, with the intention of changing things at least a little bit for the better in this country, what would it be?

Mine, I decided, would ban lobbyists, especially corporate lobbyists, because I think they are probably at the root of a whole world of stuff I don't like about how things are going in America. While I was at it, I would also stick something into the bill about campaign finance reform, and while I know that's a little bit off-topic, elected officials seem to stick random things into bills all the time, so I don't see why I couldn't, too.

Actually, there is one more thing would want to address in the bill, and while this one would be really off-topic, it would definitely improve my own life, and honestly the things that get stuck into bills seem to generally be of that variety. So here it is. Somewhere deep into the 1,039th page I would also slip in a few lines regarding the use of tapestries, specifically tie-dyed ones with floating "Om" symbols in the middle of them, like the (matching) ones my neighbor just hung in his windows. It would remain perfectly legal to hang these things in the privacy of your own home. However, the bill would stipulate that they would always have to remain shielded from public view.

Mar 18, 2010

Purgatory Chasm

Today I went to meet a friend of mine at a state park halfway between our respective homes. It was about an hour outside of Boston, and called Purgatory Chasm. Here is what it looks like:I did wonder why someone would have given a pleasant place such a miserable sounding name. I also wondered who decided it was a good idea to put this poster up outside the bathroom:

Mar 17, 2010

Sad Gus at the Central Park Zoo

This super annoying cold has kept me from thinking straight for the last three days now. When I take a deep breath in, it's like there's this weird little monster in my lungs, making creepy wheezy noises at the end before I breath out again. I find this slightly disturbing.

Some things that have helped include Netflix, lemon ginger tea, and wandering around the local Goodwill examining amusing articles of clothing and not buying anything. I didn't even go to buy anything. Just wandering around the Goodwill, for some odd reason, gives me this peaceful feeling.

Some things that I think would help, were I to have access to them, include a bath (we only have a shower), a steam room (my gym only has a dry sauna), a better selection of Watch Instantly Netflix movies, and a hug from this guy, as long as he did not kill me:
(When I visited the zoo recently with a friend of mine she told me this poor bear had to be put on antidepressants, and let me tell you, clearly he and I have about the same reaction to those things.)

Mar 16, 2010

More amusing misunderstandings

Two years ago, an older couple moved in downstairs for the summer. They were the parents of one of our landlord's friends, and up from South Carolina, I think, to be near their newest grandchild. We met them right when they moved in, and they seemed extremely nice, but then many weeks went by before we saw them again.

But we heard them, or at least I thought I did. It was a few days later that they started up that first time, screaming at each other and using a whole bunch of epithets I definitely wouldn't have expected from them. It was really nasty, the way they fought, which was all the more surprising because they had just seemed pretty refined. They seemed like the kind of people whose fights might involve long cold silences and nasty glances, but certainly not "You motherf*****, I told your a** I did that sh** already," or stuff of that variety, which was what kept wafting through our open windows.

Finally, there was one night when their fighting went on and on and on into the morning. They just yelled at each other endlessly. I didn't even know how they had the energy for it, to scream at each other for so long. And in the morning I said something to Matt and about just how unexpected it all was, that this nice older couple had such down and dirty fights. At which point he pointed out that the racket was coming from the front yard of the halfway house next door, and most definitely not from the kind elderly couple. I'm not sure why this never occurred to me.

Mar 15, 2010

Dying 4 U

Up until quite recently, I thought the chorus to that Prince song "I Would Die 4 U" went: "I would die for you" (4 u?) "yeah, but that don't make me want me to." Grammatically, this makes no sense. Make me want me to? But whatever, I sang along happily for years. Now, though, now I know that really the chorus goes, "I would die for you, yeah, darling if you want me to."

In my defense, I think my version makes more sense, because just because you would die for someone, it is reasonable to still hope you won't actually have to. However, Prince's version is clearly more romantic.

Mar 14, 2010

Protecting oneself against a carjacking*

Whenever I get in my car at night I invariably check the rear-view mirror to check and see if there might be a psycho in the back seat. When I don't see one (I have never seen one), I often go on to consider whether said psycho might instead be in the trunk of my hatchback, hiding behind the back seat.

It occurred to me tonight that this might actually make me more a psycho than whatever psycho might be hiding in my car.

*Do carjackings still even happen anymore? In America, at least? This fear most definitely derives from some made-for-TV movies from the '80s. I can practically still see the teased hair of the screaming lady in the front seat as the creepy guy that WAS HIDING IN THE BACK SEAT AND YOU SAW HIM WHEN SHE GOT INTO THE CAR AND WHY DIDN'T SHE CHECK IN HER REAR VIEW MIRROR?? held a gun to her head and told her to pull over or give him her money or something like that.


You know that feeling you get when there's something you should be doing but you're not doing it? I feel like I live my life permanently in this condition.

Mar 13, 2010

Crimson and Clover

Remember when it was acceptable in music videos to just show a quick succession of still images? So yeah, I don't know about the video, or the movie either, for that matter, but I sure do wish I could eat something that tasted just like this song.

The Game

A few years ago I worked in Wyoming for the summer. When I got there I didn't have anywhere to live yet, so I ended up crashing with an old friend for a few days. We knew each other from college, when he had become notable in my life as the only person I've ever regularly hooked up with for a while without dating. During the summer that this happened I was actually hooking up with him and another guy, which I've also never done since, but even though he often talked to me about other girls in his life, I didn't tell him about the other guy in mine, since I thought it would hurt his feelings. (This was, obviously, ridiculous.)

But by the time I got to Wyoming we were just friends who hadn't seen each other in a while and who could talk about the weird dirty details of our lives without it seeming strange. He was dating this girl at the time, which he told me all about, until he wasn't. A little while after that I ran into her on this hiking trail near town and she started crying when his name came up. I guess she felt he really did her wrong, which didn't surprise me in the least, although I tried to be sympathetic.

All of this is just to say that when I was staying in his attic for those first few days, it also didn't exactly surprise me to find a copy of The Game, that book about the international society of pick up artists, or whatever it was called, and their supposedly fool-proof secrets for seducing women. I think my friend had it as a joke. That's what he said, at least. But the book took itself really seriously. It even had gold-embossed pages, for crisssakes, just like the bibles you find in cheap motels.

I started reading it one night when I couldn't sleep, and I soon recognized that some of the techniques detailed in it had actually worked on me, especially negging, where a guy puts a girl down in order to make her more into him. This irritated me. But it seemed important to know what might be tried on me in the future in order to be able to avoid it, and so I kept reading the book all the way to the end.

I don't remember being negged that summer in Wyoming. A while later, though, I was out in New York with some friends when a guy came over and started negging us. He was using, in fact, lines I remembered from the book word for word. We all tried to give him some gentle hints that we'd rather he left us alone, but he didn't take them. Finally, after a while he turned to a friend of mine, a girl who I knew to have a fragile sense of self-worth at the time. "Is she always this obnoxious, or just tonight?" he said, looking to the rest of us with this sneer on his face. This was when I lost my patience with him.

"Listen," I said. "I read that stupid book, too. And I'm just gonna let you know straight up, none of us are going to fuck you tonight, so you may as well leave us alone."

Usually I am tongue tied in such moments, so it was odd to discover these words pouring out of my mouth with such ease. Besides, situations like that, out at bars with expensive cocktails in New York, are so filled with pretense that it was also odd to discover that it is actually possible to cut through them, however cruelly.

Since I had never done something like this before, I was curious to see how things would unfold. Here is what happened: the guy slithered away and the women I was with all appeared slightly shocked. Whether they were pleased or irritated with what I had done I never knew.

Mar 12, 2010

Day 5

If I'd had any idea giving up caffeine would be this hard (and alcohol too, but that part has been surprisingly easy), I'm sure I wouldn't have had the guts to do it.

Mar 11, 2010


I know this is sort of creepy, but it's sort of awesome too, right? I think?

Mar 10, 2010

Oh Heathcliff!

I tried to get through the book on tape of Wuthering Heights, I really did. But after listening to as much as I could handle on a few drives back and forth between Massachusetts and New York and only getting up to the second disc, I started to feel discouraged. Besides, the person narrating the book read everything in this really strong English accent that was already hard to understand, and that made it near impossible to grasp anything that obnoxious Joseph ever had to say. So last night I broke down and watched the Masterpiece Theater version.

I had just been so confused. Why on earth did priggish Catherine care so much about Heathcliff in the first place, when he was such a pig? And wtf, were they having sex or what? (The movie's sex scenes helped clarify both of these questions). Also, what exactly was up with Hareton and little Catherine? And was there really supposed to be a Catherine ghost roaming around? Or was that just a sort of writing "device" that was supposed to show how creepy and crazy Heathcliff was?

Now that I understand things better, I feel more confident making at least one conclusion about the time period in England. Clearly, when it came to romantic partners, these people did not have many options. Cousins married cousins, sets of siblings married other sets of siblings, and sisters even had passionate sex on the moors with their adoptive brothers. Damn. We might have too many options now, but it certainly seems better than not having enough.

Also, I think this is one of those times when that cliche most definitely does not apply and the movie actually was better than the book. At least, it was better than the book on tape.

Mar 9, 2010

Things I think about sometimes

Apparently I'm not very good at having a blank face, because many times when I am thinking about next to nothing I have been told that I look like I'm thinking really seriously about something. Much of the time this is not the case. However, there are also times when I do work hard at figuring something out in my head. For example, if you've seen me in the last week or so, here are some of the things I might have been thinking about when you saw me staring off into space:

What does Lady Gaga really look like?
Do Beyoncé and Jay-Z have a personal chef, and if so, what kind of food does this person cook?
If I was their personal chef, would they like me?
Are things worse than people say, the same, or better?
Do all the recent earthquakes mean End Times are coming? (My dad the scientist tells me no, but then there was that other earthquake in Turkey, and that made me start thinking about this again.)
What was Mirabelle's life like before she came to live with us?
Does she really care about me? Or just like me because I feed her and give her walks.
Are pet psychics for real?
If I had to live off one food for the rest of my life (not nutritionally, but taste-wise) what would it be?

About that last one, at least, I have come up with an answer: peaches and cream.

In case you were maybe having a hard day

Mar 8, 2010

I didn't go to the Armory or the Biennial

Matt and I were down in New York last weekend, but other than going to two openings (the reasons we'd come down in the first place), I didn't see much art. Even if I had, though, I can't imagine I would have seen anything I liked more than this remote-controlled cloud.

(It's by Teddy O'Connor, by the way, who you can find here.)

Mar 6, 2010

On keeping New York classy

We were leaving the Half King last night, standing by the door waiting for the rest of our friends, when we saw her—this tall girl in a very short aqua miniskirt and a tight tank top, talking to her identically outfitted friend. Maybe they were hostesses, just off work. Either that or they had perfectly coordinated their outfits. The place was loud and crowded and dark but my friends and I all noticed the first girl immediately. Pretty much every single person I hang out with regularly has at least one common characteristic, which is an almost obsessive curiosity in random strangers, and we settled down to watch how things might unfold.

The girls were both blond and pretty in a slightly bland way, but none of this really mattered because once anyone noticed the first girl's ass it was hard to look at anything else. She had a really serious situation going on. It was big and bold and tightly covered in stretchy aqua fabric and gradually, as we all stood there looking back and forth between each other and the girl, we noticed that just about everyone else in the place was doing this too—the thing was noticeable, in a sort of astounding and biblical way. And noticing that everyone else was noticing this too was both amusing and slightly horrifying. I mean, what must life be like for this poor girl with the truly perfect ass? Probably good, I guess. But still.

She also happened to be standing in such a way that her ass was sort of head level with this table, and the people crammed into it were all clearly marveling at it as well. Eventually, the inevitable happened. A girl at the table pulled out her camera, and to much excitement and cheering from the rest of their friends, the guy across from her leaned over to the perfect ass, threw up some gang signs and she took his picture. Somehow neither of the aqua mini-skirted girls noticed. Either that or this happens so often they ignored it.

"Keep it classy, New York," Brad said, shaking his head. And I still can't think of any more appropriate way to sum up the situation.

Mar 5, 2010

As I roll out of bed at 11 am

When I was a kid sometimes my dad and I would race to see who could get ready faster in the morning. This was awesomely fun, for reasons that now feel a little lost to me. But it couldn't have just been a kid thing, because it always seemed like my dad was having a lot of fun too.

After a while I came up with the idea to get up before him, get totally dressed, then get back into bed and under the covers. So when my dad came in to race I would stay in bed and let him think he was winning until I'd throw myself out of bed, completely ready, and win after all. This was even more awesomely fun.

As I was rolling out of bed around 11 this morning I was thinking that maybe it is time to bring both of these moves back into my life. Considering what time we got in last night, I have a bit of an excuse for this morning, but on any given morning it's usually no easier for me. What other adult regularly seems to need over 9 hours of sleep a night? It's definitely weird. Probably even abnormal, in fact.

Mar 4, 2010

Bad choices and good luck

I have been incredibly lucky in my life. In lots of ways, but most specifically in getting out of bad situations. Just the other night I made it all the way from New York to Massachusetts in a blizzardy snow with my car running strangely and the check engine light on. And this example, compared to many other chances I have taken, is like a baby goose to a lion.

For over a decade, in fact, I lived in such a way that an objective observer might have come to the not unreasonable conclusion that I was clearly itching to get myself into some pretty deep trouble. And some bad things happened, but nothing even remotely like what could have, which feels pretty obscenely lucky, thinking back on it, because I'm not sure I could have survived it.

I have not, however, been very lucky regarding my career. Good things have happened (although a year into unemployment, it's sort of hard to remember this), but they have mostly all been the result of a lot of hard work, and not really luck.

Maybe this is the problem, though—that my life had to use all my allotment of luck to get me out of all sorts of situations I never should have gotten myself into in the first place, and there's been a lot less luck left over for other things. Like getting a job.

Mar 3, 2010

Last snow (maybe)

A few of my favorite things:

(Snow, dogs, late night walks, strange photos of Mirabelle, staying warm with whiskey, etc.)

Mar 2, 2010

Husking, surfing, paddling, and fishing

Is it called husking when you pull all that excess stuff out of a magazine before you start reading it (the subscription cards and the unusually thick ads and so on)? Because if not it should be.

Also, while I'm on the subject of appropriate word choice, I don't think it should be called "surfing" the web. I have never surfed—I mean, I have body-surfed but it is obviously not the same—but if I ever do I can't imagine I will think to myself, Oh! This is just like what I do on the Internet. It's not like I catch waves online. Most of the time I'm just cycling through the same few sites, hoping to find new content to distract me from whatever I'm procrastinating doing in the first place. Which I imagine is more like paddling around a shallow pond, maybe while sitting on top of your surf board, peering into the same little formations of algae-covered rocks, over and over, hoping maybe this time you'll catch sight of a crab. Am I taking this metaphor too far? I think I am taking this metaphor too far. And obviously it would be stupid to say that you "paddle" the web.

Maybe "fishing" the web would work a little better. Because fishing (which I have also never done, so obviously I'm completely out of my area of expertise) at least involves patience and a lot of sitting still and hoping that something bites. And a lot of times nothing (I imagine) ever does.

Mar 1, 2010

On the grass always being so much greener

Whenever I am busy I fantasize about long, free days of nothing. But today, by far the longest, emptiest day I've had since late October, I was hit by a wave of aimlessness the likes of which I have not seen in months. And apparently my mind, when faced with all this empty space, judges the best way to fill it to be worrying. About that unpaid doctor's bill, and the strange way my car started running right as the check engine light went on last week, and the fact that my unemployment checks are probably about to stop coming much sooner than anticipated, and my complete lack of a job or any prospects of one. Etcetera. You get the idea.

Maybe the problem isn't just all this wasteland of free time, though. Because even this morning, when I was busy running errands, I was already in a completely wretched mood. After cursing off (in my head) the fifth undeserving thing/person (freaking Vogue magazine, and the teapot that won't pour without spilling, and the stupid computer at the library with the space bar that doesn't work) I realized I must be in a pretty foul mood. (Although I did find it sort of funny that it took me doing this five times to realize this, so I guess I do still have my sense of humor.)

It is possible, though, now that I'm thinking about it, that this mood was actually just a result of my having spent most of the early morning being held hostage by this horrible incestuous family, trying to smuggle a note about my situation to my parents, who thought I was dead. It really wasn't the best way to start off the day.

Just Kids

Feeling a deep Patti Smith obsession coming on. My only regret is that it didn't happen when I was 16. That could have changed a lot of things.

(The photo's by Gerard Malanga.)

Feb 28, 2010

More marketing mysteries

So I just bought this new lipstick. But there's this problem:
Not only does the case have this cheesy purple swirly thing going on, there is also a freaking sword handle sticking out of the top of it. (By the way, for those of you who, like my boyfriend, might think to mention that maybe a miniature sword could come in handy once in a while, it's worth noting that one cannot actually pull out a whole miniature sword, there's just the little handle sticking out the top.)

I like the lipstick. I really do, even though it's a bit more severe than what I usually go for. But honestly, a girl just can't be pulling a Sword in the Stone themed lipstick out in public. Even if she really did like the cartoon when she watched it back in the '80s home sick from elementary school one day.

Feb 27, 2010

As an aside

Just one more thing about The Liar's Club. Promise.

"Sure the world breeds monsters, but kindness grows just as wild, elsewise every raped baby would grow up to rape."

And that was tucked away in some parentheses, no less.

Fuck yeah ice sculptures

Feb 26, 2010

Re: overvaluing your own goods

A few nights ago, at the end of a miserably long one-and-a-half-damn-hour subway ride, the guy sitting across from me pulled out this thick folded wad of $20 bills and started counting.

I didn't start out counting along with him, in fact I tried to avert my eyes because I didn't want him to think I had any designs on it, although now that I'm thinking back on it this was clearly a very silly thing to worry about, since I couldn't have possibly posed a threat to him. But the counting went on for a long time, and eventually my curiosity got the better of me. It's not so often that you see someone pull out a huge wad of cash money at 2 am on the subway and count through it, bill by bill after bill after bill. I got up to $1,000 and then lost track. When he was done he snapped a rubber band back around the bills, slipped them into the breast pocket of his puffy jacket, then got up and stood by the door.

Personally, I try to hide anything remotely valuable that I might be carrying around because I assume that if someone took it into their head to take it from me there would be very little I could do to stop them. So it was sort of fascinating to find someone so completely confident in his ability to protect his own goods that displaying them, bill after bill after bill, even on the subway at 2 am, didn't concern him in the least. This confidence made him seem dangerous to me, because what kind of crazy fighting/weapons skills must he have? But this is obviously ridiculous. Anyone carrying around more than $1,000 in his breast pocket is not going to be interested in my wet New Yorker, or my $20 Victoria's Secret gift certificate, or the $15 in my wallet, or anything else I might have on my person, for that matter.

Feb 25, 2010

Shoe and cigarette miscaculation

Huge shoe miscalculation today. Huge. Also, how is it that there was a period in my life when I could smoke half a pack a day and never get sick, while these days four cigarettes in a week is enough to get me down with a cold? In fact, there was even a little while when I was smoking a full pack of Marlboro Reds a day and never getting sick, although that was back when I was 15 and had virgin lungs.

I should have known better, though. Three out of those four cigarettes were Natural Spirits, and Natural Spirits almost always make me sick. Even smoking just one Natural Spirit has sometimes made me sick. And yet because they're "natural" and have no preservatives or whatever, apparently I find it inconceivable, all evidence to the contrary, that they will once again give me a sinus infection. This time, though, this time I swear I will remember.

Feb 24, 2010

Tutoring, a few months back

This family had an endless amount of children. They kept appearing at the front door, one after another after the other. They had just arrived from Iraq via Syria and most didn't speak more than a few words of English.

At one point one of the girls brought some juice to the living room and when I pointed to it and asked the boy I was working with if he knew what it was called he jumped up and said something to his sister in Arabic. She left the house a few minutes later and returned with a gallon of orange juice. Then she brought me in a glass of juice with two pastries and set them in front of me with a shy smile.

Another little boy kept running through the room and pinching the brother I was working with on the arm, who would laugh and only occasionally slap him lightly on the neck. The littler boy had extremely short hair - his dad had just shaved his head, his brother managed to tell me. An older brother kept coming through with a balloon, too. "This is so easy," he said about the English test his brother was taking. A few more sisters were sleeping in another room.

The boy I was tutoring had this humongous smile. I wondered about what he had seen. Apparently he had been kidnapped at some point. And an older brother had died. I wondered what public school was like for him. I wondered about that equation where the suffering of some people is required for the privilege of others, and how much of the relative ease of my life had been paid for by the displacement of his.

How do you describe a skunk to someone who has never seen one before? Are you supposed to eat both pastries or leave them? Is it rude not to finish the orange juice? Did I do something wrong when I reached out to shake the father's hand and he only let me grab his wrist? And after the mother handed me the phone and gave me a questioning look, did she understand when I tried to explain that it was just an automated message about bad credit?

When I left, the boy eagerly pressed the unfinished half of my pastry into my hand. I carried it out to my car, past a cat sitting on the steps, and some dogs barking, and a cop pulling somebody over. When I got home, I brought it in and set it carefully on the counter in my kitchen, because I didn't want it, but I didn't want to throw it out, either.

Feb 23, 2010

Death by water gun

My grandfather lived in Malibu but worked downtown in LA, and so five days a week for decades he took the Pacific Coast Highway to work. One day, he pulled up to a stoplight and the guy in the car next to him slowly raised a gun to his head. The kid held it there for the length of the light. I imagine it was a very long light. And then the kid pulled the trigger. It was a water gun.

Feb 22, 2010

There are so many things I love about this

On a slightly related note, this came into my life via Gideon, and if you like this maybe you will also like his paintings, in which case you should go to his opening next Tuesday. His paintings aren't exactly like this, but just as good.

Mirabelle's weekend

I think it was pretty great for her. She came with me to my friend's birthday party, took a dump in the bedroom, and almost got a bite out of the birthday cake. She also jumped up on my chair in an effort to get a bit of my bagel the next morning and got to play a long game of tug of war with a sock.

It all reminded me, a little, but frighteningly just the same, of what it used to be like to bring my childhood dog anywhere with me. That dog, Lulu, was kindhearted but so bad that one year she even stole the whole Thanksgiving turkey and dragged it under my parents' bed, furtively crawling around down there with that giant bird in her mouth like she was in some sort of war games exercise as we, ridiculously, tried to crawl around after her.

But my embarrassment didn't seem to phase Mirabelle in the least. Look how happy she was (see below) running around wildly in the backyard with my friend's dogs. She seems to be going through some sort of wretched teenage phase. That or the terrible twos, depending on whether you measure her age in human or dog years.*
*A note to anyone who might one day invite me to bring Mirabelle to your house: Usually she is not like this! I swear.

Feb 21, 2010

From one Molly to another

I am this ornery-looking cat's namesake:
For some reason I am inordinately proud of this fact. My friend Carolyn named her after me one semester when I was away from college, which made me feel cared about in a way that few things have successfully done before or since. I mean check out these whiskers:

Feb 20, 2010

Being seen as you don't want to be seen

After going to the Tumblr Reads thing at Housing Works last night and seeing all these bloggers crammed together in one room looking so real and all three-dimensional, I was wondering—do we have blogs, in part, because they allow us to curate the version of ourselves we put out into the world? Because they give us the illusion that we can control how we're seen by other people? We do this in real life, of course (try to manage the version of ourselves we put out into the world) but maybe it's just easier to do so online. Easier, at least, to do so in a way that makes this version of yourself you're presenting seem more authentic, or real, contradictorily enough, because people don't even have a chance to glimpse whatever is being omitted. The insecure glance around the crowded room, the awkward joke before you've managed to joke about it later with your friends, the off-key comment before it gets forgotten by everyone but you.

Feb 19, 2010

The preferability of being little versus annoying

One of the odd benefits of having a slightly unusual name is that when I google myself (I feel like one is not supposed to admit doing such a thing, but I'm afraid it's just the truth), every single link that shows up is about me. Every article that shows up with my byline was, actually, written by me, something that is occasionally quite embarrassing, although the truth in this case is that probably no one else in the world has ever googled me.

The last time I did this, I discovered a new addition that brought me to the New York magazine archives. Since I have long tried to be published by New York, and have the pitch rejections to prove it, I was quite curious to discover how I had managed to do so without my knowledge. And I found this:

I had been in this Off Broadway play, you see, and it had shown up in this "Ruth Recommends" section, but who Ruth was or why she recommended the play I do not know. The fairly brutal New York Times review, I discovered a few minutes later, had this to say about my performance: "The annoying little daughter of the household, Sarah, talks like a character out of 'Dallas,' insofar as her lines can be understood." I was very grateful that New York, at least, only described me as little.

What there is to look forward to

At the bar last night:

Guy: So how old are you?

Me: 30.

Guy: Huh. But your skin is so tight.

Us Scorpio bitches

I had heard the girl on the F train. Mostly I noticed her voice, which was low and husky but still somehow betrayed her age, which seemed to be about 16.

We got off at the same stop. In the station, she and her friends walked behind me, messy and sassy and rowdy the way teenagers are. At the bottom of the stairs she busted through the busted door out on the street and strutted past me. She was wearing tight jeans tucked into black Reeboks, and a bomber jacket with the hood on.

"Naw, naw," she was saying. "Us Scorpio bitches, we don't never die. We don't never die. My grandma, her birthday's the day after mine, and she had two strokes and she's still walking."

She had been passing from one group of friends to the other as she said this, so it was almost as though she was talking to herself. It reminded me of the way Mohammad Ali talks in When We Were Kings, as though he's building himself, actually physically reinforcing himself from the inside out, through only the power of his own words.

And because I was feeling pretty spent and beaten down that night, I was appreciating her really immensely, and I turned to her to say something regarding us Scorpio bitches and how we really do have something going on, don't we. But by then she'd caught up with her other friends, and I was walking into the bodega, and she was saying how, hey, girl, she was going over to so-and-so's house to get mad fucked up and I smiled, because she was really just a teenager after all. And her friend was saying how, well, girl, I'm gonna let you go cause I know you gonna be walking fast, but you tell them all what's up, and they hugged goodbye and the unexpected tenderness of it all surprised me and moved me. It really did, which, I know, is odd, because it was really just two friends being friends.

If I had known how I would feel for most of today, like a husk of something, like the person, in movies, who disappears, leaving only their clothes floating down to the ground, I would have made sure to say something to her about us Scorpio bitches after all. And I would have told her I hoped she had a good night.