Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A New Lease, Sort Of

Man, sometimes it really doesn’t take much to make me so, so happy. Sunday Ben and I went over to Megan and Christopher’s to pick up a set of bookshelves they were getting rid of since they’re moving. It’s just one very tall, modest, six-shelf Ikea number. And yet, now my waist-high piles of books on the floor now have an alphabetized, organized place to live and be admired by me, possibly even read, since they can now be found, single layers deep only, fiction and non-fiction sections, reference, and “books that are too weirdly sized to fit in other places tidily,” and, just enough room to add more for at least a while. I feel like the world is new with possibilities! Or I would, if I hadn’t just seen An Inconvenient Truth, which isn’t meant to be but which is a bit bleak, and which should be mandatory viewing somehow, if movies could be made mandatory.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Ben’s Art!!!! See It!!!

My hunny’s beautiful painting is featured on the cover of latest issue of Other Voices, which includes stories by the excellent Roy Kesey and Emily Gray Tedrowe, as well as an interview with Dorothy Allison, so you should probably go order it right now especially if you live in Chicago since it’s so snowy and you’ll need something to read.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Britney, Britney, honey! I am not being snarky here. I like you, sincerely. I see your soul, Britney Spears. Listen to me. It’s bad enough that you’re hanging out with Paris Hilton. It’s just not okay to go out without your panties, even though I’m pretty sure she told you it was hott. There will be a time in the not too distant future when you will be very very happy you opted even for the scant protection of a thong. But more importantly, that Brandon dude? He is Satan. He’s worse than Satan. He’s all of evil everywhere. He said those reprehensible things about your other new BFF, Lindsay, did you not hear about that? I know, you’re having fun right now, that it’s probably a difficult time, but you must trust me here. Please, please, go home to your babies and do not let the likes of those two come near them, ever. ‘Kay?

Pinter Moment

Last night Ben and I watched a movie we enjoyed but I can’t tell you the title right now or I’ll ruin part of the movie (sort of). Later in the movie, Ben asked me, “Who played the old man who died?” I said, “Which old man? You mean the one who died?”

Gummy Flake Update

Ben likes them.

A total mystery. I said “Good, you can eat it, it won’t go to waste.” When we ran out of cereal last night, he tried to convince me it was good. I said I’m not eating it. He tried to convince me to eat toast. Toast – really does nothing much for me. It’s the kind of thing I’ll eat – if it’s there, sometimes. But it’s not something I seek out. Fortunately, there was a bowl’s worth of Cheerios left this morning.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

On Trying Generic Raisin Bran (Don’t)

This morning, eating my Whole Foods brand raisin bran (which I had to plunder to find raisins, and don't get me started about the 'bran'), I said, “This raisin bran is really bad.”
Ben said, “Did you try adding sugar?”
I said, “I never add sugar.”
He said, “Maybe you should try.”
I said, with a mouthful of gummy fake raisin bran, “I don’t think sugar would help.”
Ben said, “What?”
I repeated, “I don’t think sugar would help.”
He said, “Oh I heard what you said. Did you?”

Moral of this story: Sugar always helps. Except with generic Whole Foods Raisinless Gummy Flakes.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Ok, Brit, I Guess I Have to Concede You Did The RIght Thing

Kevin, brah, dude, this - is so not going to help your case. Not that you had one anyway. But still. What I wish now is not so much that these crazy kids would work it out, but that it had never happened in the first place.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Levels of Mind-sticking.

I saw this on Ellen yesterday, and if in any universe I could retroactively vomit up every last Tab I ever drank, (which was not a few, back in the day), in front of Tab headquarters (aka Coke), I would. This is messed up on so many levels, and yet, absolutely riveting, mind-sticking in it’s utterly and uniquely horrifyingly, hilariously absolutely unfeminist way.
Level 1. The obvious. I’m not sure what year this was made, and I have no memory of it so it could have been late sixties, but it seems to me that this must have appeared right smack in the middle of feminism in it’s glory years, which is truly stunning.
Level 2. Creepiness of the singer.
Level 3. Okay, putting aside the wrongheadedness of the message, lyrically, it’s just hard to imagine the jam session that produced this song. Were these guys on acid? Were they trying to hypnotize the women of America with this repetetive, weirdly insidious song? It’s impossible to imagine what made anyone think these lyrics were either catchy or like any other jingle that was out at the time.
a) Don’t you want to have a good shape?
He wants you with a good shape.
Shape with Tab.
b) When you can’t be with him, be in his mind.
Be a mind-sticker.
What? Be a mind-sticker?
And then, in case the song isn’t enough, enter the male voice over, a sexily but psycho-killer-type persuasive voice, who first repeats one of the lines of the song and then later says, “You know, keeping your shape in shape has it’s rewards. Be a mind-sticker.”
There’s really nothing else to say. Except that this ad will stick in my mind for all time.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Why So Arty All The Time, Arty Movies?

Dear Arty Movies,
Look, I’m as annoyed with mainstream ‘cinemah’ as the next guy. Ben and I regularly bemoan the lack of actual movies on our Netflix queue (as opposed to episodes of Nip/Tuck, Deadwood, and whatever else we don’t see on cable). So recently we tried to remedy this by moving some movies up on the queue. One week we watched Blow Up. Or we started to. I fell asleep after the third extended arty sequence about... nothing. About Vanessa Redgrave running away from the photographer for ten minutes. Although I did enjoy the crazy sixties fashion, that was about all I enjoyed. This weekend we watched Brick, on the hearty recommendation of some friends. I do not care for movies like this. Yes, I appreciate the effort to make something different, but in the end, what I want is to feel something. I don’t want to be made to feel something, Hollywood style with big music, and I recognize and even appreciate your efforts to combat this. I want to just feel something. I also enjoy thinking something. What I don’t enjoy is being made to recognize your artiness, arty movies. Plus, I also enjoy being able to understand what the actors are saying. None of this rhythmic pin-brick-doad-brain nonsense.
Arty movies, I cite Me and You and Everyone We Know, Lovely and Amazing, Amelie, Eternal Sunshine, anything by Wes Anderson, as sufficiently arty for my taste, and I suggest you take their cue – these movies are your kin, not your mortal enemies. You do not have to be obtuse and unpleasant in order to be arty.
Many thanks for your consideration,
E. Crane
PS Arty friends, I know some of you are going to be upset with me, but it had to be said.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Guess I Should Have Known

Well, the day has come, the Federlines are soon to be no more. Was I crazy to have held any little hope that those crazy kids would get some marital therapy and maybe go to college and grow up and raise them boys right? Yes, yes I was.

Good Lord No, Just Hearing the Announcement Was Painful Enough

“Coming up next... Anna Nicole cuts her baby’s umbilical cord...”

Who’s going to stay tuned for this? Who? Why? What the hell is wrong with the world? I’ve lost my sense of humor! I’m too horrified to be funny! This is just SO WRONG!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Friday, November 03, 2006

Avenue Is Not Closed

At the nearby Jewel plaza, where we do some of our grocery shopping, there’s also a K-mart, a Blockbuster, a Subway, a Dunkin’ Donuts, a Staples soon to come, and a low-priced chain women’s clothing store called Avenue. The other day Ben and I were in the parking lot and he saw the Staples going in and he said, in all sincerity, “Oh no, is Avenue closing?” After I stopped laughing, I apologized for mocking his grief over the closing of the low-priced chain women’s clothing store he’s never been in that isn’t actually closing.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Bad Death Smell

In my old apartment building, like Luka, I lived on the second floor, and every so often the hallway would fill with an unfortunate smell that can only be described as the bad death smell. It wasn’t the smell of garbage, or even the distinct smell of fish that wafted through our neighborhood off the river the other day. It was the smell of something very, very dead coming from underneath the stairs. And frankly, it seemed like it had to be something bigger and deader than a single, trapped rat. A family of possums, possibly, would be the smallest thing that I could imagine would produce such a smell. My downstairs neighbors in that building had had a terrible rat situation at one point, so dead rats wouldn’t have been unthinkable except it would have had to be an army of rats, a nation of dead rat peoples, such was the smell that would have made crime scene investigators apply for a desk job.

I moved. Again, I live on the second floor. And again, the smell of death. Up until now, after two and a half years, the hall has never smelled of anything worse than a hundred years of must, and me, I kind of like that smell. I find a musty smell comforting. But this is not that. What this is is something dead under the stairs. Our landlord thought that it might have something to do with some dead leaves he neglected to remove from the studio below us. I say whatever this is is deader than dead leaves, that dead leaves do not smell like dead people. He removed the leaves, but the smell remained.

I stuck up a Stick-up in the hall, hoping only that it would suffice to get me in and out of the hall without having to hold my breath, but it did pretty much what I knew it would do, which was to add, and perhaps enhance the death smell with artificial – well, I don’t know what the scent is it’s so artificial. Blue. It’s blue-scented. So now we have a heavily blue-scented bad death smell in our hall.

Are you following me, bad death smell? Have I done something to you? Yes, there was that unfortunate incident with the possum up on Western that time, but that was an accident, and he may have been suicidal anyway. Bad death smell, I’m ready for you to pass into the next world, to go up into our attic and haunt us silently and fragrance-free like a good ghosty.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I Pluv You, Too

Yesterday night.
Me: Oh, god, remember I told you about the weird dream about the tiny subway tunnel?
Ben: Uh huh.
Me: And I was all dressed up trying to go to the clubs.
Ben: The pluvs? What’s that?
Me: Clubs!
Later: G’night honey. I pluv you.
Ben: I pluv you too.


Yesterday morning.
Ben: We need sliced cheese.
Me: Cheese cheese cheese. Always cheese. Put it on the list.
Ben: Yea, cheese! Cheese is the foundation of... everything!

Monday, October 16, 2006

I’m Sorry, That Guy is What?

Ok so back to the department of weird censorship on the WB (see post on Swimfan: Weeyotch), was flipping channels the other night, landed on Grosse Point Blank, watched a few minutes of a scene between Joan and John Cusack and Joan is describing some bad guys and John says, “I know that guy – he’s an (insert bad overdub) aerosol.”

Huh. Someone at the WB, I now think, is just trying to see what kind of silliness he can get away with. Unless calling someone an aerosol became harsh words while I wasn’t looking.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Internet Gods Are Against Me Today But At Least They're Being Sort of Literary About It

Poking around the internet this morning, as I am wont, I got two strangely poetic but upsetting messages for two different sites:

Message one:

Firefox has detected that the server is redirecting the request for this address in a way that will never complete.

And the more punitive and curt message two:

Bad Request

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Okay, so I’ve been watching Studio 60, the new Aaron Sorkin West-Wing-But-At-Fake-SNL show, and it’s good, even though I have to admit I thought I’d be a little less confused than I was by West Wing since it’s TV and not international politics but I was wrong about that but nevermind. Anyway. My only issue with this show is a small matter of casting, or possibly even a casting description that should be reworded. Here’s the thing. I like Amanda Peet. I like her a lot. I have liked her in everything I’ve ever seen her in. But every time I watch this show, I think, either she’s just not right for this part or the part isn’t right for her – for one thing she just doesn’t play old enough to be a big network head. Amanda Peet ten years from now would probably be perfect. Yes, she’s supposed to be someone everyone wants to sleep with, and I can see where a lot of people would want to sleep with her, she’s quite gorgeous, but every week I start recasting the role in my head – who’s about ten years older, super sexy and strong, believable in that part. And I toss names around in my head and this week I figured it out. Sela Ward. So get on it people! Wouldn’t you so much rather see Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford all drooly over Sela than Amanda? M.P. by the way, is doing well to make us forget Chandler here, I think he’s really great. Sarah Paulson totally won me over this week too, with her DEAD ON impression of Holly Hunter in Broadcast News.

Points to anyone who can name the short lived WB series featuring Paulson, Amanda Peet, the slacker brother-in-law from Weeds and Joy from My Name is Earl.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Shorts: I’ve Been Selected!!!

Friends, I recently received some very exciting news. Two of my stories from GLORY have been chosen to be part of NPR’s Selected Shorts program. For anyone unfamiliar with the show, actors read stories at the Symphony Space Theater in my old hood in New York, and the show is later broadcast nationally. Naturally, I could not be more thrilled. Better still, I will get to be part of this esteemed program not once but twice, as Selected Shorts is going on the road, which means that folks in both New York and Chicago can come! Details on NY later, but tickets are available for the Chicago show, at Steppenwolf on October 16. Click on the link for more info. Hope to see you there!
Stay sweet!

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Okay look. No comments here about how I’m old. I already know that. It is precisely because I have the wisdom that comes with age that I am entitled to make the following proclamation:

Skinny Jeans: No.
Leggings: MAYbe, but probably no. Leggings, I can’t condemn quite as much as the girls over on Go Fug Yourself. I once wore them and when they went out I missed them. They’re comfy, you can throw anything long enough to cover your over them and it looks a little styley even if you’re feeling bloatey, but and still – I won’t be wearing them again.

I’m no fashionista. I enjoy looking at fashion, I enjoy clothes, I make an effort to have a style that works for me that seems at least marginally current. As a general rule (if not a hard and fast one), I abide by the fashion tenet that if you were there for the first time the thing was in, it’s best to avoid it in it’s second incarnation. I also believe that the young kids have a little more room to experiment with some trendier styles that don’t work as well on, okay fine, me. But there are trends that I feel everyone should say no to. Like:

Skinny Jeans. Listen, I looked the other way during the revival of seventies stuff, which was silly enough, but the eighties? The skinny jeans, they just look weird. Even the leggy models in the Gap ads that are unavoidable in the el, they’re on every wall, they’re even plastered on the freaking floor, look weird in these pants, proportionally it’s just all the way around bizarro. It’s too much information. I am telling you this for your own good. There was nothing wrong with the lovely line of pants in recent years, a slight flare, a slightly lower, flat-front waist is actually very flattering to many folks (I am not talking about any pants with a two-inch zipper), but these pants are just flat out weird. They make everyone look like a lollipop. And I see them on men and women alike. I know – it’s a little bit punk, it’s a little bit “ironic”, whatever. It’s silly.

You know what’s really punk?

Not following trends.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Kids, I am in a pickle. I have so much on my writing and teaching plate these days that the Bert is clearly being neglected. I don’t feel ready to let it go. I make a plea with you to hang in, and accept whatever meager offerings come along however often they come along or don’t, until I make a definitive decision as to whether to carry on, meagerly, or until I am able to carry on less meagerly.

Meager offering of the day:

Here is my new favorite website to look at on a gray day.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Shameless Self-promotion! Crane on TV!

Folks, I’m on Nancy Pearl’s show Book Lust this month and you should watch it! For those of you located in Seattle, it airs many times for your viewing convenience, and some reason I thought the first airing wasn’t until this Friday, but apparently I was wrong. Folks located elsewhere, do not be sad – you too can watch this online if you have (or download) realPlayer! I am doing this as we speak! And I’m a little bit freaked out by myself! In a good way! Because I really don’t look terrible! Or sound entirely stupid! And the ordinarily horrible sound of my speaking voice is really not at all intolerable when matched up with a cute outfit and a pretty decent hair day! Yes I am excited! Okay I have to go watch the rest!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Fun With Colbert

Stephen Colbert's having a green screen challenge over on YouTube and I think my friend Merritt’s video is pretty friggin' hilarious...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

United 93 (the movie)

Sigh. For those of you who haven’t seen it, I do recommend it, but it may be one of the most difficult, most painful movies I’ve ever sat through. Everyone knows what happened that day, and if you’re even a little bit like me, you’ve watched way too many news reports, read too many articles, and been more interested in the events of that day than is good for anyone. Of course, I think we should be interested in that day and everything that’s gone on since then, but that said, dwelling on it 24/7 doesn’t do anyone any good either, and I’m certain that even those who lost people that day don’t do that, if, as I imagine they do, they’re interested in having full lives regardless of their grief. Huh. I just typed ‘full loves’ by accident. Make of that what you will. Anyway, I’m being a little rambly here because I’m still sort of in shock – this movie made me twitch and tremble, quite literally, and ultimately found me in heaving sobs. I thought it was done incredibly well and as accurately as might be possible. They had the good sense to use unknown actors, the music was very subtle and tense although I’m sure it would have been just as intense with no music at all, and for me, the reason it was so effective was because almost for the duration of the film, I found it impossible not to imagine what it would have been like to be on that plane that day; how little information these passengers had but managed to relay it to one another enough to try to prevent an even worse disaster, knowing that they were going to die, what I might do in a similar situation, whether I’d be able to try to help in any way, what I’d say if I could try to reach my loved ones. Which isn’t really a filmgoing experience one can ever refer to as entertainment, but which, in my opinion, has value above and beyond just watching the news. It’s interesting to me – I hear a lot about how people have forgotten, how we’ve just moved on since September 11, and I’m not sure that’s true at all. I suppose I can only speak for myself. Hearing news of the increasingly more purposeless war every day, listening to that guy continue to speak of WMDs – yaaaahhhh! – I don’t see how any of us can forget anything. But at the same time, we leave our houses, we go to work, we connect with our friends and family, we go on living, or loving, as I typod earlier. Do we really have any other option? WMDs, terrorism, e-coli, whatever, I could go down to the yard get killed in a freak hammock accident. Yes, we have an obligation to make the world a better place, whatever that means to any of us. The world needs a lot of help, so as far as I’m concerned, there are about a million different ways to do that. Good god, what the hell am I doing here? Is this a pep talk, morbid reflection, or both? Who am I to say any of this? I don’t know anything. Don’t listen to me. I suppose this gives you an idea of where my mind went watching this movie, anyway. God, and I still have another 9/11 movie on my Netflix queue...

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Last Kiss

So I got tickets to a free screening for this movie last night and Megan came with me and although I didn’t have much in the way of expectations, mostly because why, because I thought it was a romantic comedy and romantic comedies these days are by and large very unsatisfying to me, with the rare exception, and let me say I want very much to see a great romantic comedy, I love the idea of romantic comedy, but more and more they fail in some way, if not altogether, and I think, okay, I liked SO much of While You Were Sleeping, for example, Chicago, being single on Christmas, losing parents, weird dates, having elaborate crushes on people you don’t know, but I remember thinking why the whole coma thing? would it not be enough of a story if Sandra Bullock was dating this one guy but then started to fall for his brother? without the coma and the bitchy fiancĂ©e of the original brother and what ever else have you? But and still, a free movie’s a free movie even if you have to pay eight bucks to park which is the same as public transportation for two people and which goes nowhere near this particular theater anyway, unless you feel like taking several buses, which, when one has a car, one usually doesn’t if one is me, especially when you know you’re going to be out past ten o clock which is when you usually go to bed but you picture yourself schlepping on the bus at that hour all bleary and just wanting to be in bed. Plus Ben was away and I didn’t figure he’d want to come with me to what I was thinking was a romantic comedy anyway, but it was in fact, what I’d call a drama, with some comedy, which some might call a “dramedy”, but not me, because if I use made up words I like them to be words I made up myself. Anyway, I was thinking that maybe the new dark chocolate m&ms might be the highlight of the entertainment portion of the evening (because conversations with Megan are always reliably enjoyable), but in fact, although these m&ms were quite good, they were only a compliment to a movie that I thought worked really well, and gave us both food for thought and many things to discuss afterward. Basically the story focuses on this one guy who’s kinda freaking because his girlfriend is pregnant and he thinks there are no more surprises even though they clearly have a great relationship and they laugh a lot about goofy stuff like we do, and he looks at her like Ben looks at me, all of which I wish for anyone, because it’s really pretty great, except anyway so he sleeps with this college girl and realizes he’s fucked up and/but there are also several other couples and single guys that each have their own kind of relationship problems that are all interrelated pretty well, I think. Anyway, the thing is, not only did Megan and I restate the obviousness and the wonder of how lucky we are to have our Bens and our Christophers, because neither of us has understood why you’d want to be with someone who wasn’t Ben or Christopher-ish, which although I’ve dabbled much over the years, I never married them, I waited, because it always seemed better to me to be alone than not to be with a Ben, and maybe this was a result of having seen too many romantic comedies, I don’t know, holding onto the hope that my Ben was out there somewhere rather than opting for some less-than-Ben, but, because this film, I thought, was a pretty realistic, honest look at how many relationships are, good, bad and inbetween, and we’ve also had our share of relationship issues prior to the Bens and the Christophers, and our friends have their share, I had cause to rethink things like the concept of forgiveness, what’s forgivable and what isn’t, I thought it was interesting that cheating here in this movie is potentially forgivable but being verbally abusive isn’t, because depending on the circumstances that actually makes sense to me, anyway, I’m going to stop talking now because I’m growing a little weary of checking to see if my sentences are actually working out in any way here. I realize this is not your typical ringing endorsement for a film, so if I haven’t made it clear already I’ll leave you with – I liked it.

Monday, September 11, 2006


As each anniversary passes I feel like I should have some new insight, something to add, but the truth is I'm as dumbfounded as I ever was. Ben and I watched the CBS documentary last night (me for the second time) and watching the footage I've seen who knows how many times, I still had the same feelings of shock, we both still had tremendous feeling of sadness, and I still have the same questions - what was it like for those people in their last moments - and sixteen more related questions - nevermind any of the political/war related aspects of the story that make less and less sense to me as time goes by. Mostly what I think about is the loss of life, and how one day there were two really ginormous buildings that I had been in and out of many times and in a few moments there weren't. There's nothing about that that still seems plausible to me.

Anyway, seeing as how I have nothing new to add here, I thought I'd repost a piece I wrote for an online magazine shortly after the attacks. Reading it again, the only thing that strikes me about what's changed are the particulars of my life, and how it continues to get so much more full on kind of a daily basis. Otherwise, not so much.

In memory of Doug and Doug.

Five years ago, I left New York City feeling chewed up and spit out by the only place I'd ever called home. I wasn't quite sure where I was going, either: I jumped on a train with a single suitcase and a laptop and headed for refuge at my dad's house in rural Iowa. Ten days later I was on a bus to Chicago to take a $450 apartment sight unseen, offered to me by the one person I knew there, who also happened to own a building – already a good sign, as far as I was concerned. Over the years in New York, the stories about people getting apartment deals had become almost mythic. But there was no such luck for me in the series of apartments I had lived in, all with escalating rents I could no longer pretend to afford. (The eviction notice under the door of my last apartment was a clue.)
I've built a life here that I never had in New York, largely because I can afford to live comfortably and write on a preschool teacher's salary. I have two bedrooms and giant windows and a porch overgrown with flowers. In my last apartment in New York I faced a dark courtyard and couldn't tell if it was sunny or snowing. I have new friends. People drop by. I know my neighbors. I am absolutely, incontrovertibly, in love with Chicago. I watch the El pass by under a sunset and it seems like the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I go to the lake and look up at the skyline and can't believe I'm at the beach two blocks from Michigan Avenue. Sometimes, people I don't know say “Hi” to me on the street and I say “Hi” back. I feel like I'm home in a way I never did in New York, where I used to stare up at the buildings from the time I was six and think, “What the hell am I doing here?”
And yet, as I have said from the beginning, I am a New Yorker. I went to P.S. 166 and Columbia Prep. I learned to ride a bike on 89th and Broadway. On my first date I went to Serendipity's and a Peter Weir movie at the Plaza. I write stories that by and large take place in New York. Or that are about a New Yorker who lives in Chicago. (Someday, it's my plan to get an imagination.) I still have my New York driver's license, obtained at the elderly age of 25, because, you know, we don't need them there. I subscribe to the New York Times seven days a week. My two best friends, Nina and Bob, still live in New York, along with many other friends and my stepfather, who now lives in New Jersey. I have been back to New York roughly four times a year for one occasion or another: holidays, weddings, illnesses, funerals. To be honest, I have to say this has been roughly three times a year too many. The claustrophobia I felt right before I left has multiplied as the years go by. I spend more money in a week there than I do in a month here. I feel horribly torn among the friends and relatives I just don't have time to see, and the memories- good and bad- seem present on every corner: first kisses, dates I'd really rather forget, seeing Baryshnikov on my 17th birthday with Nina, shouting matches with my parents in front of Loew's 84th (they were right) the Macy's day parade rain or shine, Bil Baird puppets, the Nutcracker, movies at Radio City, skating at Wollman Rink, with my mom, now gone. It's sensory overload, and I usually have some sort of mental breakdown every time I go back. I keep trying to limit my trips and it never seems to happen.
That said, I have been both grateful and sad to be here, and not there right now. I have, like everyone I know has on some level, been grieving this tremendous loss. I was watching the Today show the morning it happened – one moment they're interviewing some author and the next I hear this whispery tone from a host, Katie Couric, saying something about a commuter plane hitting the World Trade Center, and my first thought was, ‘That doesn't look so bad.” And she kept talking and the other host, Matt Lauer, kept talking and suddenly this other plane whizzed by and slammed into the second tower and not really being up on my terrorism my second thought was, “Did someone in air traffic at La Guardia fall asleep?” I got on the phone immediately and left messages for Nina, Bob and my stepdad, who I knew was probably already on his way into the city. Still, I didn't have any great concern that anyone close to me was hurt, because a great deal of my friends are artsy types and either work or live further uptown. But as the morning progressed and the towers came down, my concern grew, and I emailed half the people in my address book, most of who answered quickly. By early evening I felt heartbroken for our country but relieved not to have lost anyone personally.
And then Nina called again, to say that two guys we grew up with on Fire Island (a summer resort on the Southern part of Long Island) worked at the World Trade Center and were not yet unaccounted for. I had already been crying off and on watching the news reports all day. It seemed impossible to believe that these towers I had passed through many times, shopped in, went to parties at, had dates at and surveyed the city from, had crumbled into dust. I thought I was crying for all of humanity, for New York, for our country. I didn't know. I told Nina I loved her, which I had maybe said once since my mother's funeral – and at the time her response was something like, "Oh, stop it now." We've been friends since we were 12, but we're not too touchy-feely. We believe the hug is overrated. We believe it is our right as New Yorkers to decline any unwarranted hugging, which we believe there is too much of. This time she told me she loved me too.
By the following Monday Nina had already been to a memorial service for one of the two guys, both named Doug. She said there were a thousand people there. It would have been impossible for me to get a flight back even if I had known in advance. And because I hadn't seen either of these guys in years, it would probably have been somewhat dramatic on my part, and unnecessary. But they were my age, and they had families, and these guys, the two Dougs, were, whether they knew it or not, part of my young adult life in a significant way. They were part of a group of us who spent all day on the beach and all night in "town," (on Fire Island this means the next community a few blocks over) at bars or parties or clubs or often just sitting on a stoop, watching people go by. One of the Dougs was one of the first guys I ever kissed. I went dancing with the other Doug almost every night for several summers; he told me I was "legitimately gorgeous" at a time when I needed to hear it. It seems like nothing now, that my best memory of him is that he told me I was pretty, but it was something that always stuck with me over the years. The Fire Island communities are extremely tight-knit – I was a houseguest of Nina's parents for several entire summers, and though all the kids our age knew my own family didn't have a house there I always felt embraced as one of their own. I have always gotten word of how people are and what they're doing. Even when you lose touch with some, you always hear about them from someone else and you're always glad to know people are doing well. It hadn't come up yet that anyone wasn't.
Two days after the towers came down I went to a prayer service at Holy Name Cathedral here in Chicago. I thought maybe a few people would be there, so I didn't make any effort to get there early. When I arrived right on time to find it was almost standing room only, I burst into tears immediately. I had a pretty good idea everyone there wasn't also from New York. I sobbed through the whole thing, through the prayers given by ministers of several faiths and especially during a reading from the Koran which loosely translated into something like "If you take one life, you take the lives of all mankind; if you save one life, you save the lives of all." I had heard from Nina that one of the Dougs had talked to his sister right after the first crash and had to go because he was helping people evacuate. I don't know if anyone he helped made it out, but knowing that he tried, and that so many stories have surfaced of people helping in their last moments and people helping afterward just because, puts them all in the latter category as far as I can tell.
When the service ended, the Cardinal and all of these religious dignitaries, including Jesse Jackson, walked out in a solemn procession, followed immediately by a new friend of mine, also from New York. I couldn't imagine what he had to do with this whole service other than representing our people, and as much as we've bonded on the whole New York thing, he's not someone I ever really pictured in a church, much less holding up the rear behind Jesse Jackson. I suppressed my urge to yell "Hey!" but it took me a few more minutes to make my way outside; fortunately the miracle of cell phones brought us together at a coffee shop up the street a few minutes later.
"I bet you didn't know I was such an important religious figure," he said, explaining that he had been seated in the front and just happened to be the first to walk out. I asked if all his people were okay. He said yes, but told me that his stepdad worked at the WTC and happened to be out of town at the time. Still kind of in a weepy daze, I followed him around for a few blocks, not really sure where either of us were going. The next thing I knew he was holding the door open for me at Barney's. I smiled at him because I knew he had a shoe fetish.
"Well, they are telling us to put our money back into the economy."
"See," he said, "just doing my part."
But we didn't, not at Barney's anyway. We spent a little at a gourmet deli and talked about missing Zabar's and Dean & DeLuca and what's up with Chicago pizza anyway? We ended up going for sushi, and talked about the tragedy and our love lives and our friends and how things are actually pretty good, considering where we both came from, which – without the detail –was at one time less good for both of us. And we laughed. And for a couple of hours I didn't cry, like it was still September 10th.

When you take the bus into the city from New Jersey, there's a spectacular view of the city right before you go into the tunnel. At the end of last week when I finally thought to ask my stepdad what it was like to see now, he said, "Sweetheart, I was on the bus when they came down. We all saw it happen.” The only guy he knew at the World Trade Center was a young guy he played golf with a couple of times. "That guy could hit the ball," he said.
I brought up the subject of Thanksgiving, which has been difficult for the last few years mainly because it's also the anniversary of my mother's death – this year will be the third. My stepfather's remarriage has magnified this loss for me somewhat – how could he do this to me? But I think the time has come to admit that all he did was get on with his life. And of course, I have too, but it's a lot easier to do from here, where I'm not constantly reminded of the loss, where I have a wonderful life, where I have been building memories that are mostly pretty damn good.

"Are people even making travel plans right now?" I don't feel afraid to fly so much as I'm wondering what to do about anything right now. It seems like there are going to be new rules, but that no one knows them yet.
"Maybe we should wait a couple weeks to talk about that," he said. A few weeks earlier he had reminded me I'd need to get a ticket soon.
"But I want to see everyone. I want to come home."
"I know," he said. "Don't worry about it. It'll be fine."

I am, for the first time since I left, sincerely sorry not to be there now. I think it's time for me to get on with it too. In both my hometowns.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Writers Block Party

Hi Kids! My page is up on the Writers Block Party site on WBEZ so check it! And while you're there, poke around the rest of the site for more good times.

Monday, September 04, 2006

One Book One Show One Movie Two Bands

One of the many reasons why I’ve not posted so frequently lately is that many wonderful things are taking up my time, and I have waited to write until I’ve had time to post about each one at length so that you will be sure to buy/read/see/listen to each, but the other thing that’s been taking up my time, work, has prevented me from doing that.

So here is a brief mention of several, with the promise of more to come.

One Book
Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants by Jill Soloway. Fucking hilarious, fucking smart, fucking David Sedaris if he were a straight, feminist woman and maybe even funnier. Sorry David Sedaris, I totally love you too and I’ve seen you twice. You will totally want to be Jill Soloway’s new best friend after you read her book, and you will try, but get in line because I’m ahead of you.

One Show
Weeds Season One. We haven’t finished it yet. But it’s growing on us more and more and Kevin Nealon is hilarious and the title song is really really catchy and great but it takes a while to learn before you get the words more right than “Little boxes, little boxes nana na na nanananana and they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.”

One Movie
Friends With Money. Man, that Nicole Holofcener, the writer/director, she just gets people, she gets relationships. The thing that’s interesting about this movie is that money is such a weird topic within romantic relationships but also amongst friends, who aren’t always equal in this way. And I think she showed that really well. Also I always love Catherine Keener always always but in this movie Fran McDormand, who should also just have Always after her name, like a college degree (Fran McDormand, Always.) just killed me. And the guy who played her husband. And so did Greg Germann. And also Joan Cusack.

Two Bands
Soccer Team: lush, chill, sexy
Hornet: loud, rocking, punk-ass

PS Apparently none of my links work. I guess that's what Google is for.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Waging A Living

Ben and I watched this episode of P.O.V. the other night called Waging A Living which was a pretty excruciating documentary tracking the lives of several people trying to get by on just slightly more than minimum wage. I strongly recommend checking the listings for a rerun, or trying to rent it, and then maybe sending a copy to our president who doesn’t seem to think we need to raise the minimum wage. The thing that really struck me was that these people all work so hard, and that they actually like their jobs – they want to work – but the system is set up so that the so-called cost of living pay increases – sometimes a QUARTER A YEAR – TWENTY-FIVE CENTS, people, don’t even come remotely close to the actual cost of living increases. And for those receiving any kind of government aid – food stamps, section 8 housing – same thing – they maybe get a raise at work, then the government takes away some of their benefits – which seems like it makes sense until you realize that what they take away is not at all equivalent to what they’ve gained in pay. I lost it when this one sweet guy, a recovering addict and alcoholic and former homeless person, handed single dollars to some homeless guys on the street, even though he lived in an SRO and was scraping up his pennies to go visit his kids he hadn’t seen in nine years.

And you know, I’ve never been rolling in the dough, not for more than five minutes at a time, anyway, I’ve struggled quite a bit, especially in New York, I can certainly relate to low wages, never being able to catch up, but the truth is, I am so fucking lucky, and I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t just a little luck we all need because a hell of a lot of hard work isn’t adding up to much for a lot of folks.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Morning Glory

I am still here, dear twelve readers, I have just been massively busy with work work. Which is unfortunate as there have been any number of things I've wanted to blog about but had no time.
So here is the shortest of them. Among the flowers I grew from seed this year was a morning glory, which promptly climbed a little trellis thingie by our back door and then some, and just the other day got it's first bloom. It has been very exciting to watch this vine grow practically in front of my eyes, so the bloom was the frosting on the cake.
And I learned why they're called "morning" glories.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Whole New Weird World

I just got an airport card for my laptop. As we speak I am in a coffeehouse. This means many things, but one of the things it means is that I will be able to look at movies and such on the internet without waiting six hours for them to download. I feel like I’m in the future, and it’s weird. And great.

I Guess I Should Weigh In On The Tom Cruise Thing Now

Only because this turn of events is so very surprising. It seems to have been true so far that Hollywood is all about money, and even if Tom’s movies are maybe doing a little worse than before, I’d like to have just the difference in my pocket, and he’s still a huge star and Paramount is openly stating that they’re letting him go because of his public weirdness. Is it the end of an era? Just recently, you might recall, Lindsay Lohan was also called out by her employers for her bad behavior... and on top of all this, now they have to pay taxes on their goody bags! All I’m saying is, I dunno what’s gonna happen if movie stars start to get treated, you know, like everyone else. But I’m pretty sure it involves things imploding.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Little Movie

Someone, I can’t completely remember (was it you, Rebecca?) recommended I rent Little Manhattan but it was a while ago and I forgot who or why. Last night Ben and I watched it and he started out grumbling something about why are we watching a kids movie. No less than a minute into the movie, Ben and I are cracking up pretty hard. I’m not sure this is a kids movie or a grownup movie, but it is a feel good movie, and it’s a lovely movie about a boy’s first love in my old hood of the Upper West Side of NY. Okay, well, not exactly my old hood – not the grungy version where I grew up, but the shinier version you’ll see when you visit now. In any case, I loved two things about this movie – the story aspect of it was very true-to-life I thought – the boy’s not as well-off as the girl he likes, who lives in an incredible apartment on the park. He lives with his separated parents in a crowded two-bedroom – which I’ve heard, with real estate the way it is in NY now, not uncommon at all. At one point in the movie, when we’re still waiting for him to kiss the girl, Ben cried out, “Oh, I SO know what that’s like!!! It would take me weeks just to work up to holding a girl’s hand!” But what made it especially great was that it was a NY movie very clearly, um, not shot in Toronto. Shot in NY, quite beautifully, and from what I could tell, accurately – what I mean is, I have a huge beef when I see movies that’ll have let’s say someone running around a corner on Broadway and 73rd, and then the camera cuts to him coming around the corner on what’s obviously Fifth Avenue and 17th or something. Creative license, whatever, it makes me nutty. Anyway, I barely remember even hearing of this movie when it came out, which is too bad. Check it out if you’re in the mood for a sweet surprise.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Whole New Levels of Smooth

Ben and I just gobbled up season 2 of Project Runway, or P.R., as we’ve come to name it around here, and I have do say, I don’t know what the big fuss about Santino’s attitude was – yeah, he kind of had one, but he was so funny I really didn’t care, and it never seemed to me like he was some sort of evil character. His songs (Lighten Up, It’s Just Faaa-shuun!) and his impressions of Tim at the Red Lobster with Andrae are, well, classic television, I feel. I loved season 1 too, but this season I just want to be new best friends with Santino, Daniel Vosovic, Nick Verreos, whose devilish smile and giggle just kill me, and my new group of best friends wouldn’t be complete without Tim Gunn. Tim Gunn, who at first has this sort of cool demeanor, a very New Englandy proper way of talking, is actually a total sweetie with a great sense of humor.

I don’t know how it would be done, but I think someone should think up an equivalent show like this for artists. Talented artists come on and have to do artistic challenges, but something that sort of makes sense like it does on P.R.

Anyway, Sunday night since we had no more DVDs and our best tv option was some teen awards, we decided to watch some videos Ben downloaded called Yacht Rock. I’m not sure any explanation I could offer would do it any justice, and might actually detract from the element of the inevitable what-the-hell-is-this surprise. I will offer the advance warning that it’s not for everyone – but I think this sort of homemade entertainment, as evidenced by the popularity of YouTube, is the wave of the future, and much more fun than anything tidy that’s on actual tv these days. Except P.R.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

How Do People Function Without Lists?

I have always kept a list. I do not know how to get by without a list. Yet there is always a point at which it becomes necessary to admit that certain things on the list will not get done. Nevertheless, if I do not have a list, I do not know what to do. Example: Dad gave us some Japanese prints to try to sell for him and I haven’t put it on my list, so I keep forgetting to call around. I haven’t completely forgotten that this is something I want to do, because the prints are on the desk in the hall. But were they out of sight, I’d forget it altogether. I can’t even give you any other examples of things I might be forgetting because they are out of sight. In any case, I think the reason I really like lists, besides my forgetfulness, is that there is a decided feeling of accomplishment when I cross something off the list. Yesterday I went downtown to do some things on my list, and I got them all done easily, but when I got home I was unable to find the list they’d been on, and was extremely disappointed looking at the only remaining list with plenty of uncrossed-out things on it. Here’s something that’s been on the list for quite a while: renew passport. I should probably cross it off, and do what I always do which is to leave it until we have plans to leave the country. I’m just going to hope the need to leave the country won’t be urgent.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Note: Writers Do Not Necessarily Look Like Their Book Covers

I don’t know about you, but I have a habit of picturing people I haven’t met, whether I know them by phone or just by email.

Even with the clue of their speaking voice, I am almost always wrong. For example, before I met my agent in person, I imagined, from her chipper speaking voice, that she was a tall, preppy blonde. In fact, she is a petite, wholesomely sexy brunette and not at all preppy.

Now that I am on myspace and conversing online with authors whose voices I haven’t heard, I find myself imagining these people as well, but in a whole new way. I think of them as their book covers. I realize I may be alone in this, and also, I myself would probably prefer not to be imagined as the cover of my current book. I was never and am not now a softly-focused happy young girl. There’s no logical explanation for this mental phenomenon, I’m just saying it’s what I do. I get an email that says, Hey Betsy, blah blah blah, I picture the writer wherever they live, a book cover walking around their house, composing email, doing readings, teaching classes, speaking Chinese. I do it a little bit with their photos as well, which is perhaps slightly more accurate, but for example, I imagine Etgar Keret is perpetually carrying his baby over his shoulder. So you can imagine my surprise when last night I received my copy of Roy Kesey’s Nothing in the World, which features a lovely painting of a pear on the cover, and turned the book over to discover a small photo in the bottom left corner, which I take it is some sort of representation of the actual Roy Kesey, but which I find to be rather disconcerting. To me, Roy Kesey is now and will always be a lovely green pear.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Susan Powter is In My Dreams

I’m almost sure few of you will remember Susan Powter’s infomercials of a dozen or more years ago, but I found them hard to forget, in spite of the fact that I was never quite sure what she was pitching. For the rest of you, picture this: You can’t sleep. You get up to turn on the TV. You have to get up to turn on the TV because it’s so old there’s no remote. Your choices, at this hour, are limited. You land on an extremely fit woman with a spiky white blond haircut, pacing back and forth across a stage saying “I know three things! You gotta eat, you gotta move, and you gotta breathe!” It may be an exercise video, but it seems more like some weird exercise/self-help hybrid. The voice is an important part of it – her diction is extremely crisp, and her voice is husky, inasmuch as it’s possible to affect a husky voice when you probably don’t actually have one. You have the sense that many hours were spent developing the “look” and the “sound,” and choosing just exactly the right midriff-exposing top, and frankly, if I had her body I might expose my midriff on late night TV as well. Okay, no I wouldn’t. But anyway, so this woman repeats this mantra many times and you begin to consider that possibly a rerun of Hogan’s Heroes would be a better choice, but you cannot look away, and you can’t even use the lack of remote as an excuse. Susan is your new best friend. You find her riveting. You have no desire to be her, you are not even going to be hypnotized into buying whatever she’s selling (a video if you recall correctly), but there’s something mesmerizing about her... you wonder if she’d maybe be your exotic new best friend.

Then she went away.

The other day she came back on one of the morning shows. She’s got the same eat/breathe/ move shtick, more or less, she’s updated her look a bit, added some pinkish blond dreadlocks and a bunch of tattoos, but the midriff is still on view, except now she’s almost fifty. She’s got a few years on you, but her midriff would whup your midriff’s ass in a fight real fast. That night you dream that she’s your personal trainer. You are grateful. She would for sure frighten you into shape at the very least. You wake up and Susan is gone, but not really.

I remember now what it was about those infomercials that struck me all those years ago. I was just beginning to get my shit into a together-type styling, with the support of many friends and a good therapist, and I remember thinking, god, this is probably what people do who don’t have what I have. And while a part of me wants to say, hey, whatever works, another part of me was grateful that I got my help from actual people in the world, and that I didn’t have to work through my issues via infomercial.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

One Ocean View Is Sort of A Hugely Misleading Bummer

I suppose I should be thankful that there’s pretty much no chance that anyone of sound mind is watching it. But for the one or two of you who even peeked at it, let me say this: if you happen to be watching, as I was, for the sole reason that this show takes place on (my beloved) Fire Island, I can assure you, you can stop right now. There is virtually no footage on this show that will give you any sense of what this unique place is like, and what there is, is a bunch of self-absorbed, genuinely unlikable (okay, the guys more than the girls) singles in a group house, which is only one small aspect of life on Fire Island, which has a variety of communities, families more than anything else, although it’s known for its gay communities, The Pines and Cherry Grove. This show takes place pretty close to where Nina’s family’s house is, and occasionally shows familiar places for about three seconds, and the rest of it is annoying single people arguing about who sent who a text message and why. From what I could tell (until I became severely distraught) that text message was seriously the focus of last night’s episode. To reiterate – if you ever want to go to F.I., you should go in spite of this show. It’s a lovely place populated with much nicer people than this.

My Spam is Very Dada

There’s not much I can really say to enhance your reading pleasure of this email I got the other day, which I paste in exactly as I received it:


Cjjalis from 3, 75$
Valjjum from 1, 25$
Vjjagra from 3, 35$
went past the armed guards and headed for the waiting ground car.
Silence? Into the car. Speak to me in the office about a salary
raise-not before.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Tying Shoes On a Train When Your Fine Motor Skills Haven't Arrived Yet Can Be Hard

On the el the other day there was this very cute little baby girl, with a big fat Angelina Jolie mouth, saw that one of her baby Reeboks was untied and endeavored to retie. This baby girl, strapped into her stroller, was aware that her mother was busy tending to a smaller baby, and therefore unavailable for bigger baby shoe-tying. She was, I would guess, maybe fourteen months at most, and from the looks of her, she could just have been a well-fed one year old. Either way, I know of very few twelve-to-fourteen month olds who have developed the motor skills to tie their shoes. Untying them, they are especially skilled at. Tying them, not so much, but damn if this little girl wasn’t gonna try. Several attempts by pulling on both laces so that they were taut, and then touching the tips together at the ends, and then, when they didn’t suddenly become tied, starting over again. After quite a few attempts this way, she became annoyed, and threw the laces down. Another effort involved pulling the laces taught one more time, but then dropping them and waving her hands near the shoe in a dramatic fashion, much like a magician. She was also doing quite a bit of talking during this entire process, either not in English or not in adult, and it's not unimaginable that what she said on this attempt was "Abracadabra." Taking a different tack, the little girl pulled on the laces until her chubby leg was up on the seat nearer to where her mom was, trying to force her shoe, with her foot in it, near enough to her mother, seemingly unaware that the shoe and the foot in it were not something she was able to separate from herself in order to get it tied by someone who wasn’t close enough to do so. Again, frustration, this time throwing the foot back down, but quickly trying the original method several more times. Needless to say, she did not succeed before we got off the train, but what I loved about this was that she was so clearly frustrated but she never cried about it, she just kept trying.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Unleashing My Inner Punk, Part I

Regarding the Cover of My Book, And Whether or Not to Judge It Based Upon That Criteria

So. It’s official. I will have a new publisher for my next book, which I am very excited about (more to come), and as such, I will nibble on the hand that once fed me, with regard to the cover of the paperback. By saying this: I don’t care for it.

I’ll backtrack a bit. My former publishers did very well by me on my first book, When the Messenger is Hot, and I need to say up front that I adored my editor there and still do, and that she had everything to do with why I landed there, but that unfortunately for me, she is not the boss of them. They promoted the hell out of it, and it got great reviews, and sold a respectable number of copies for a short story collection, and I didn’t go on a world tour but when I did go out I stayed at hotels that had Aveda shampoo, which is enjoyable. Various stars failed to collide the second time around, and although the press I got for All This Heavenly Glory was good, it was just not as ubiquitous as with Messenger, thus proving to be the all-around disappointment that ultimately propelled me to my new home.

So. Back to the cover. The original cover of Glory was okay enough, if a bit subtle. It was dark navy with a starry sky and the outline of woman in stars, like a constellation. I felt okay about it except for the fact that she was wearing sandals, which, if you read the book, is very very wrong. Fortunately it wasn’t that noticeable, so I remained calm. And then the book didn’t sell anywhere near what Messenger did, in spite of the fact that it could easily have been marketed as a novel, and has often been reviewed (favorably) as one. (In France, it almost seems (from my poor French, anyway), that they have no idea that Bonte Divine, as it’s known over there, is actually a book of stories.) In any case, conceding, as much as a company can do so, that a mistake was made with the publicity, they agreed to attempt to make up the difference on the paperback. Which I interpreted to mean a new round of publicity, advertising, touring, and which in the end, amounted primarily to a new cover.

Everyone at my former publisher loved this cover. Most people I’ve met have told me they love this cover. Which I have tried, and, I’m sure failed, to accept graciously, but depending on the person offering the compliment, I would, occasionally, say, Really? Because to me, this cover, has almost no relationship to what’s inside the book. This cover depicts a young girl who looks pretty darn comfortable in her green sunny world of blowing bubbles.

Let me tell you a little bit about what this book is about. This book is about the life of a woman, from girlhood to adulthood, who lives not in a green sunny world, but in the gray, often claustrophobic, crime-ridden, world that was New York in the early seventies, and follows her through alcoholism, recovery, failure, success, obsessive relationships and successful ones, and even into her imaginary future. It is comprised, among other things, of a seven-page personal ad without a period, many lists and parentheses, a timeline, several fantasies, a few obsessions, and a sexy film strip featuring Benicio del Toro, Christina Applegate, and some dogs.

I’m not even saying I know what I think the appropriate image for this story might be. (I have do have a great idea for the new one, and I know these folks will be 100% willing to consider my fantasies.) But I feel like someone out there, one of the many people employed at a big publishing house, ought to consult designers who actually read the book, then, I dunno, brainstorm with the author about it, and then, er, get the author’s approval. Let’s put aside the issue of wanting a cover that will make people want to look inside the book. Everyone wants that. I was happy enough with my first cover, as it was simple but eye-catching, even the spine, which had punchy red and black stripes, although I don’t know that it really captured the essence of the contents (if that’s even possible – although I think it is, even a complex book has an overall feeling that could be translated into some kind of single image, I think). Of course, I was so happy to be publishing a book that I might have been equally happy then with a picture of a big steaming pile of poo on a bright pink background.

I was chatting with my future editor the other day about this. She was the first person to say, out loud and unsolicited by me, that she was “shocked” by the cover. I thanked her. I said I was never sure if other people were telling me the truth, and that even if they were, I didn’t get it. She said, “Yes, damn those people who complimented you!” She is a very funny person. But she knew why I was glad to hear her say she thought it was ridiculous. I thought I was being a cranky, diva author type who should just be grateful and shut the hell up. I am grateful. I’m insanely grateful. My life as a writer? Kicks ASS. I’ve been incredibly lucky, particularly as a story writer, I am realizing more and more. But in the greater scheme of things, I am still relatively unknown, and I still want the most possible people to read my stories. To read stories, period. But that’s another rant.

So. Now you know what my book is about and what it isn’t about but what you think it might be about because of what it looks like it might be about and for which you couldn’t be blamed, if it were someone else’s cover I would think the same thing, and I hope this will encourage a few more of you to read it, whatever your feeling about what it looks to be but really isn’t.

Stay sweet.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Psychology of Myspace

So. I’m relatively new to Myspace. Someone, at some point, probably my publicist at Little, Brown, said, You should get a page on myspace. I didn’t really know why other than this general ‘promotion’ header. At this point I’ve got pages all over the place, amazon, friendster, here, and soon, WBEZ (which I feel sure is the one place people will actually hang around for a few minutes), and it’s a little hard to keep up, so basically, the Bert is still the best place to find me. All I knew about myspace was that it was very popular with bands and teenagers and the creepy older people who like them. So a couple of months ago I posted a profile and kind of left it alone, thinking if anything was going to happen it would just happen spontaneously. Nothing happened, which didn’t surprise me. Maybe a month ago I started poking around on the site a bit and discovered my friends and fellow writers Bryan Charles and Amanda Stern were on there. So I invited them to be my friends, and they agreed, and for a while I had just the two friends, which Myspace likes to remind me by saying on my page, “Elizabeth has 2 friends.” The digit “2” being in a much larger font than the “Elizabeth has friends.” Still, I didn’t take this too deeply to heart until finally, maybe a week or two ago, I started poking around again. The mind began this sort of thing: “Hm, let’s see who Bryan’s friends with. Wait, how does Bryan have three hundred friends? I have two books, and I’m ten years older than him. Hey, I know so and so. Hey, I’d like to be friends with that writer. Hey, this so and so keeps turning up on everyone’s page, let me see what they’re all about. Hey, I haven’t checked myspace in an hour, maybe I have a new friend. Hey, I have no new friends – why? Hm, I wonder if I should maybe be writing or something right now.” Then I start poking around some more.

Let me stop to define “poking around myspace”. Poking around myspace, v. wake up, make coffee, log in to see if you have any new friends, click on sixteen different profiles, notice that the little clock that tells you how long you’ve been online says 1:22:28.

Which for me is about 1:02:28 too much. I’m certain the time will come when I will get utterly bored with it, and it will say “last login, five years ago,” but until I have a complete handle on the psychology of Myspace, and/or I have a few hundred friends, I will be poking around a bit more.

Anyway. Thus far I have had one or two actual exchanges with people, and the opportunity to find and connect with other writers is there, and that’s cool. It’s just that it ends up sort of highlighting my small little place in this universe, kind of like high school. Thankfully, there’s no one saying mean things, not to me anyway, no cheerleaders (although there does seem to be an endless number of girls in bikinis), and no peer pressure that I can ascertain. But last time I checked, I had 61 friends, which is still by far the least number of friends of anyone I’ve come across. I’ve been trying to be a little selective, in spite of the fact that it’s clear that by and large, myspace friends are very different than real world friends, or even blog friends. Yes, some of my myspace friends are real world friends, but I didn’t need myspace for that. In many cases it’s difficult to know whether other people’s myspace friends are their real world friends or just their myspace friends. With the more famous people, it’s clear that like, Ben Folds and The Flaming Lips, say, who have allowed me to befriend them in this arena, don’t actually have 92,654 friends. We know that these are fans. Sometimes you can tell from the “comments” section who seems to actually know, or have met someone, sometimes not. Then there’s this whole other weirdness of possibly fake pages. For example, David Foster Wallace is now one of my myspace friends, and I like that DFW has only a few more friends than me at the moment and that I’m one of them, but at the same time, I feel entirely uncertain that this is the actual DFW and not some fake bizarro DFW. For one thing, the photo he’s got on there is an older one. For another, well, I dunno, it just doesn’t seem like something he’d do, or for that matter needs to do. His comment on my page after I added him says only, “I’m grateful,” which is suitably short and sweet enough so that whoever wrote it can’t be accused of being a bad DFW imitator. (I feel it’s safe to assume that everything verbally DFW-related isn’t as wordy or complex as his writing.) Plus, whoever wrote his profile clearly knows a lot about him, and it’s convincing enough, particularly the part that says “Note – for research purposes only.” Which I take to mean it either is DFW researching the bizarro world of myspace for some future writing project, which is believable enough, or that it could be some random DFW fan or person researching the bizarro world of DFW fans and, oh, I dunno, writers who wish that DFW was their friend and willing to settle for his little picture on myspace page in his person’s stead (you know, not that I know anything about that). On the other hand, if someone put up a page claiming to be me, um, I’d be having a bit of a fit. So far, my own criteria for choosing myspace friends has been this: people, books, magazines, and musicians I like, fans, if that should ever happen, and generally, whoever might be someone I’d really like to have a conversation with. No girls in bikinis. Or guys.

And then there’s the whole weirdness of being “friends” with a book, or a movie, or a magazine, since those things are inanimate (defamer recently pointed out the particular creepiness of World Trade Center wants to be your friend – do you wish to add World Trade Center as your friend?), but again, I’ve discovered a couple of cool literary magazines on there that I might send something to, and so the point is, well, I’m finding some interesting things worth checking out on there and so maybe someone out there will find my book and check it out as well, although my sense is that because it seems to be really taking off, books and writers on myspace, it’s just not possible to check out all that many books, and so you’re kind of back to square one, the way I figure it, except there really isn’t anything to lose, except chunks of 1:22:28 throughout my days.

If you’re interested in checking out my page Ain’t nuthin there you won’t see here tho. But maybe you’ll be my friend.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Soon I Will Explore the Mysteries of Myspace

Which is both magnetic and bizarro, and about which I have many things to say, but for now let me say only that because of my recent presence on myspace, I have discovered an excellent writer by the name of Roy Kesey, whose dispatches from China I highly recommend, as well as a few stories of his that I’ve hunted down in lit mags I happened to have in my house, back issues of McSweeney’s and the Land-Grant College Review. His book is called NOTHING IN THE WORLD. I'm having html issues now. Find him.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Laurie Colwin

I’ve been reading a lot lately, mostly short stories, natch, probably because the heat is leaving me little energy for anything else. I bought some awesome fabric the other day, but I will not be hanging out in the attic to sew it up anytime soon. So. I thought that one story in particular deserved its own separate post, and that is “The Achieve of, The Mastery of The Thing,” by Laurie Colwin. Nancy Pearl, recommended it to me. It’s about this woman who’s a pothead, married to a professor who has no idea. About halfway through I couldn’t stop cracking up. Awesome.
I am so bummed that I’ll never get to hear Colwin read. She died really young, over ten years ago. But she has a bunch of books, and I’m going to get on it.

Friday, July 28, 2006

God, I Love Reading! Today’s Episode: The Disappointment Artist, by Jonathan Lethem

I’ve been reading a ton of great stuff lately, but I think each deserves their own separate post. So today’s edition will feature the abovementioned book of essays by Lethem, which I thoroughly enjoyed. If you’ve read The Fortress of Solitude, which is great, or his recent story collection Men and Cartoons, great as well, I think both will be further illuminated by reading these essays on various music, art, films, and writers. For one, you get to see a little bit of where the autobiography of the fiction overlaps and where it doesn’t. But of particular interest to me was how these essays were so intensely personal, because they’re extremely thoughtful with regard to the subject matter at hand, and yet in the end, it’s about him in a very direct and important way, and to me it’s what makes them so engaging. Every time I read something like this I nod my head, make sniffy noises like, hmf, why can’t I articulate observations like these about the artists I admire? I think them, but they’re all blurry in my head, and I feel incapable of making anything but the most obvious statements even though I know I get it. And, also, if you happened to have grown up in New York in the seventies, and as a child of quasi-bohemians (his were thoroughly boho – mine were only quasi, or perhaps even faux) it’s impossible not to just be whooshed back to that time, for better or worse. Okay, well, I realize that’s very specific, but he’s just so good at pinpointing what was going on in that world at that time, and how it shaped him, for better and worse, and it’s pretty interesting boho or not. Plus, he coined the word “irv” in place of “oeuvre,” which kills me, because it’s a word that’s quite useful, but one I feel I can only say out loud if I exaggerate it and make it seem as though it has any number of extra syllables.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

More Me, Check it: Reading/Interview

Reading Sunday July 30: 7:30 pm, 2076 N. Hoyne, Chicago

The Sunday Salon at the Charleston Bar presents “Other Voices”
with Geoffrey Forsyth, Megan Martin, Emily Gray Tedrowe, and Me.

And probably the funnest interview questions I’ve ever been asked, at
Gapers Block.

I Love Two Bens (just not in the same way)

I’m not really a follower of business news at all, but I flip through the business section of the Sunday Times, and I always love reading Ben Stein’s column, “Everybody’s Business.” (He also known to most as the guy who says “Bueller, Bueller, Bueller.”) He’s so smart, and funny, and just has a way of making you see how the business world ties into yours. Word.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ben Burnt the Sponge

Ben has a bit of a pet peeve in having a smelly kitchen sponge. I can’t say I enjoy a smelly sponge. But I do know that the life and freshness of a sponge can be prolonged by soaking it in a bleach solution, and also by zapping it in the microwave for about fifteen seconds. So Ben zapped the sponge, a little too long, I guess, and came to tell me that he burnt it. And I got the giggles, because I think “I burnt the sponge,” is one of the more awesome sentences I’ve heard lately.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Generic Condolence Cards Seem Wrong, To Me

Yesterday I had to go buy a condolence card, which, putting aside the issue of the loss, is always problematic. The messages are never right, but you want at least “In Sympathy” or something simple on it to make it different from just a regular blank card. Mostly they’re super religious, or offer sentiments that are, I think, falsely soothing (cherish the memories), and especially, they tend to be too flowery-looking. Also – different recipients call for different cards, I feel. So I found one that looked pretty ok, but it was part of a multi-pack. “So you always have them on hand,” it said. Well, yes, people will die. But something about preparing for this in multiple... not to mention the “getting a deal” aspect of it, it was significantly cheaper, just strikes me as somewhat less than sympathetic. So, possibly, my condolence cards will continue to be a little late, but at least they won’t be generic.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Bad Blogger

Well, better once in a while than never. Being out of town for a week I just had a ton of stuff to do and am slowly catching up.

Highlights of our trip:
1) Nancy Pearl. I got to tape an episode of her TV show in Seattle, and she is the sweetest lady ever. It will air in September, and after that you can download it from the website. Link and reminder to come.
2) Art in Seattle. Ben and I had our favorites, but we both enjoyed it very much. My faves were the carved Crayola crayons and the Quilt’s of Gee’s Bend, which I’d always wanted to see.
3) Fashion in Seattle! I stopped in one awesome store in Pioneer Square called Violette (I think) that had lots of local designer and handmade stuff that was affordable and very inspiring, and another in Ballard called, Velouria (thanks, Stasha!) next to a cool record store called Sonic Boom. Just go to Ballard. Ballard is very cool.
4) Bainbridge Island. Ben and I spontaneously jumped on a ginormous ferry at dinnertime and felt like we were on a vacation in our vacation. It was so beautiful, we ate delicious calamari and fried oysters (!) by the water with yummy iced tea, and walked by a little jam session in the park on the way back. The only crushing part of this trip was that there was the best fabric store I’ve ever seen called Esthers (www.esthersfabrics.com), and it was closed. But my heart was amused on the ferry back by some neo-goth kids feeding Cheetos to seagulls out of their hands. Or as Ben said, “Being one with the seagulls.” Yes, the seagulls, goths and cheetos.
5) Gualala (pron. Wa LA la) Ca, up the coast a few hours from San Francisco. Spectacular. We could see the ocean from our hotel room. From the bed. The air was phenomenally fragrant. Breakfast was yummy. There were wild turkeys walking around. Outside. Also in Wa LA la – our friends Jessica and Marc’s wedding. It was lovely, and heartfelt. You would have felt the love if you’d been there.
6) Dune. Our friends Dann and Yvonne have an almost one-year-old baby boy named Dune. He’s kind of gorgeous, and he thought me and Ben were really, really funny. Well, we are. We just didn’t expect a one-year-old to recognize it. Man, there is nothing like a baby giggling. Dune would crack up, and then he’d keep laughing so hard until he sort of hiccupped, and then his face would suddenly sober up from the hiccup, and then a minute later he’d start cracking up again. Ben got a little video of this on his camera and it is the best cure ever for what ails you. We took him with us to the Matthew Barney exhibit at the SF MOMA, and he was cracking up in the gallery the whole time. Not even at us. Just at himself, or whatever. It was awesome. He’s rad. Kind of like his folks.
7) Berkeley, Ben and the Golden Gate. The last night, we went to see more friends in Berkeley, which is just like you hear it is, and which I thought was quite charming. Even the house across the street from our friends Tom and Piper covered with television sets. T&P (formerly of Chicago), have a lovely home there, and they gave us a quick, last minute tour around the entire S.F. area. I told Ben the only thing I really wanted to do this time in S.F. was see the Golden Gate, ‘cuz I missed it last time, but time was running out and it didn’t seem feasible because we were pretty far away. Ben actually tried harder than I did to make it happen when I was just like, oh, it’s fine, but he mentioned it one last time to Tom and Piper and they said, “Great! Let’s go!” and jumped up out of their chairs like little kids and had their jackets on before anything else was said, and it was great, and we even got a short little walk in Muir Woods although it was closing up right when we got there. Ended with a yummy dinner back in Berkeley at the Jumping Bean (?). Why can’t I ever remember the name of anything. Long day of traveling home made better by a bag of groceries from the Berkeley Bowl, where I’d totally shop if there were such a thing here. Why are the cool grocery stores in other towns always better than the ones in your own town?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I Am Undead

Just in case you were wondering.
Ben and I were on the west coast this past week.
It was awesome.
We are tired, and we have no food.
Soon, I will tell you about it. The trip, not the tiredness.
If you come to my reading at The Book Cellar tonight, I will smile at you.
(info at elizabethcrane.com)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I May Have Won A Million Dollars

You know how soda bottlecaps sometimes have little prizes written inside them? Yeah, I can’t read that writing anymore. So for all I know I may have literally thrown away millions of dollars because I’m too lazy to go get my glasses.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Today is My Ten-Year Anniversago (Chicaversary?)

Ten years ago today I moved to Chicago with two suitcases, a futon, a lamp, a black and white TV and a laptop. I was fleeing New York in a depressed, overwhelmed, must-leave-now state of mind with little in the way of plans for what I was going to do when I got here. I had taken an apartment sight-unseen on the basis of it being $450 a month for a two-bedroom, for which I was willing to tolerate an occasional bit of summertime shooting. My hope was to become undepressed and appropriately whelmed, and I’m happy to report that my expectations were quickly met and exceeded. Nevermind that I lived mostly in the living room for the first year with only those furnishings and a few others picked up on the street or garage sales. The light coming through my huge windows quickly treated the SAD portion of my disorder, and although I played it safe by not bringing the rest of my belongings to Chicago for that year (having learned my lesson after moving to LA and back to NY in the space of eleven days), I knew pretty quickly that I was in the right place. I love Chicago. Like, romantically. I don’t even really mean that metaphorically. I mean my feelings for Chicago are both explicable and mysterious at once. My heart feels full here. I see the skyline at a certain time of day, or get even a glimpse of the lake, or drive on the little curvy stretch of Elston past the Morton Salt building and I feel right. Not al-right. Right. New York, I have about nine bajillion feelings about and I could explain all of them, but to stretch the not-metaphor, it was a relationship that I may have learned a lot from, certainly even shaped me in many ways, but which stopped working about ten years before I actually left. I suppose that’s fitting – I was never big on being the breaker-upper. And New York always felt, for me, if not altogether wrong, definitely not Right.
So what is the lesson here? Hm, let’s see. If you have a strong feeling about moving to another city nine hundred miles away with no money in your pocket and no plan for what you’re going to do when you get there, go for it? Er, probably not. Probably, there is no lesson. The lesson is don’t do ever what I did, but if you feel completely compelled to do something like it, it just might work out anyway.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Reasons Why I’m Loving Gidget Lately

When I was a kid I used to watch the Gidget movies after school on the 4:30 movie, but I’d never really seen the TV show, starring Sally Field. It’s been showing on Me-TV lately at 12:30, and as is often the case, I’m inclined to present a list of reasons I love this show. (Please note utter absence of ironic enjoyment here, for reals.)

1) The fashion! Oh, the fashion. Cute fabrics, bright colored dresses, little cardies, oh, the fashion.
a. The colors! Just before Me-TV switched to Gidget for the summer, they were showing Hawaii Five-O, which was also quite enjoyable for the fashion, but especially for the Hawaiian sixties color schemes and set furnishings. Same on Gidget.

2) The crazy sixties-beach dialogue! A sample: “You are the weirdest thing the
cooks ever produced!” “Not as weird as you, Jazz!”
3) Trying to identify the supporting cast and guest stars! Gidget’s semi-regular
circle of friends include a teenage Barbara Hershey and One Day at a Time’s Bonnie Franklin! With brown hair styled in sort of a – well, not a beehive but something like that.
4) The humor/premise of the show! At times, it’s actually funny, and at other
times it’s actually really sweet. The basic premise of the show is that Gidget is this bright, earnest, spunky, fifteen year old beach girl, daughter of a widowed
college professor (who makes a lot of “oh, Gidget” faces). So she’s lost her
mom and it comes up once in a while. I just watched an episode where Gidget liked this older man and mistakenly thought he returned her feelings, and in the end after she figures it out she has a heart-to-heart with her dad and asks when it stops hurting and he says it never really does but it starts to hurt a little bit less every day. And she says something like, I guess you know about that, don’t you dad. Also, in my opinion, although yes, boys are a recurring topic, Gidget is very much a sort of junior/pre women’s lib type of gal.
5) The beach location shots!
6) The dancing! The swim, the monkey, etc. Awesome.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I Am A Style Pioneer

Recently Ben and I went to a party and I didn’t have quite the right light sweater to wear over a new top so I threw on a short little black jacket with three quarter length sleeves I’d taken from my grandmother, one she’d made probably around, maybe 1963? The kind that’s so short your shirt sticks way out the bottom, but isn’t quite a bolero either? Something about it looked cute to me, even though it wasn’t my usual look – Ben described it as “arty” – well, a week later I was looking at Vogue magazine and under “must haves” for right now? Short jackets. Just like mine.
I like to point these things out when they happen because, well, they never happen. Well, I'm sure they happen to other people. Me, I think, Hm, maybe Doc Martens aren't so hideous after all, right about the minute no one's wearing them anymore.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Joan Didion Is Awesome Even In A Thunderstorm, Maybe Even Better

Ben and I were in New York the last few days for a couple of readings, is why I’ve been absent. I never mention this ahead of time because I feel like, maybe it’s not the best idea to announce on the internet, that our home is available for burglary and pillaging. Anyway, we’re home and unpillaged, although New York tends to leave me feeling mentally pillaged and this time was no exception even though nothing exceptional happened. Readings went quite well, and we did the usual gallery/Not Le Gamin for crepes (even though it’s no longer called Le Gamin, it seems to be Le Gamin in every other way)/walk around a lot sort of thing, and Friday night we went to hear Joan Didion read in the park, with a discussion afterward with Philip Gourevich (pron, Ger-AY-vich, who knew) from the New Yorker. It had been a beautiful, breezy, sunny day, and so Nina and Ben and I brought blankets and a little picnic. They confiscated Nina’s Snapple and my Arizona diet green iced tea at the gate, but not Ben’s water, because ours were in glass bottles and Nina and I of course are suspicious types like everyone else there (attending, um a freaking reading) who might suddenly and without warning feel the need to throw our drinks at Joan Didion, which would turn out to be more than ironic considering we got inside to discover that Snapple was one of the sponsors of the event. In any case, Didion read a wonderful passage from an older piece about how she fell in love with New York, and it was lovely and touching – I’m pretty sure I’ve read it before, but it was about a different New York, one I remember from long ago, and one that I feel in many ways doesn’t exist any more – the details she chose about that New York were simple and exquisite and made me think about why I don’t so much hate New York as I do have a very complicated relationship with it that never completely worked for me but I can appreciate why it does for someone else because I remember some of those sorts of things too. It also made me think about how I always describe my relationship with Chicago as very much like a romantic love. That’s another essay, anyway, then she read a bit from her new book, which I can’t wait to read but which just blows my mind that her husband and daughter died less than 2 1/2 years ago and she’s written a whole book about it and is up there reading from it and her observations about it are kind of perfect and if I’d actually stayed to have her sign my book I’d have been unable to think of anything to say but I’m so sorry for your losses and bust out sobbing, so maybe it’s just as well, but it started to rain, just a sprinkle at first, then a passing shower, they went on with the interview part and she answered a few questions and Nina and I are both nodding, like when she talked about how she fell in love with reading and words as a kid, even stuff she didn’t necessarily understand if she just liked the sound of it. That was SO my experience with so many things I read that were theoretically far too advanced for me but that I just loved the words and the rhythm of.

Anyway, I think Gourevich asked about three or four questions before they called it quits because it was totally thunderstorming, and Ben got under one blanket and Nina and I got under the other to walk home (about ten or fifteen minutes through the park) but as soon as I stood up I busted out laughing so hard – I have no doubt it probably wasn’t as funny as it seemed to me at that moment, but the idea of the walk ahead, and us two lumps under this unwieldy blanket that was growing heavier and heavier with rainwater, and wasn’t keeping very much of us dry at all, I couldn’t even start walking I was laughing so hard. And I pretty much laughed all the way home. Even thinking about it still makes me laugh.

It could have happened anywhere, it does rain other places, here today for example, but it happened in New York, is my point. It may be a flimsy one, but nonetheless there it is.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Arty Winds of Change

Ben and I watched Elephant last night, Gus Van Sant’s movie loosely based on Columbine. Not sure I’ve thought the whole thing through yet, it was done in a very slow-paced, arty way, and most of it was set in the hours before the shootings, none of it at all in the aftermath, so you get to know a bunch of these kids and then they’re just gone, which is probably a lot of the point. I went into seeing the movie having forgotten completely what it was about – I was like, god, this is an awfully lovely Gus Van Sant movie, I kinda like these kids – for some reason I had the mistaken idea that it was maybe going to be like River’s Edge. Then I said to Ben, Oh, no, is this that Columbine movie? And finally they get more into the two boys plotting about the day and stuff, very similar to the real incident. And afterward I was left much as I was when it happened (minus the violent sobbing). How does this happen? How does one boy get to the point in his mind where they’re thinking about this in a really serious way – AND – how do the parents not notice even the moderately obvious signs (less obvious than, you know, hoarding guns and ammo in the garage) that their children are struggling? Then complicate that when the kid meets a like-minded kid? What is the psychology here? I don’t suppose there’s a simple answer to this, but is it about lack of parenting, genetic tendencies, some sort of complex group psychology, what?

Anyway, on a lighter note, Ben set his alarm for six-thirty am last night and since it’s his first Monday after leaving his job for school, I said Why are you getting up so early? He said Cuz I have to get up and go to work... ART work!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Senseless Words Part Two

So yesterday I began efforts to replace AOL by ordering a new internet server. I don’t even want to get into how many hours this took. Many. In any case, as usual I was having trouble downloading the necessary software, and on the second lengthy phone call, in an effort to talk me through it, the phone person gave me a url, which she spelled out like this: blah blah blah dot com slash d as in dog, s as in sam, k as in pillow. Wait, what? I said K as in what? K as in pillow she repeated. I should add she had a faint trace of an accent, hard to place, but I said K as in – and so stuck on K as in pillow was I, I drew a blank on any k words (durr), and she said it again, “as in pillow.” Okay, I hope at least one of you finds this as funny as I do, every time I retell it. Even after we got disconnected (of course), I could not think of what possible word she was actually saying. I told this to Ben last night (thankfully he too cracked up) and he finally came up with what she probably said – K as in kilo – kilo pronounced “killow”.
Anyway, someday, without a doubt, I will have to write a story called “K as in Pillow.”

Thursday, June 22, 2006


This morning, writing in my journal, I wrote the word “maken.”

I have no idea what I meant. Context indicates I might have meant “made”, but it’s still unclear.

It does not ever help me at all that my handwriting is close to illegible, even to me.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I Have Had Conversations Like This

This guy Vincent Ferrari was on Today this morning with this audiotape of him trying to cancel hia AOL account, and the only reason it’s funny is because it wasn’t me. I haven’t tried to cancel AOL (yet, but it’s in the works). But whenever I’ve tried to cancel a credit card account, it’s been much the same. I’d like to cancel my account. Oh, well, let me just look at your account here. I see you’ve been a customer for some time. Yep. Why do you want to cancel? I don’t need the card anymore. Well we have a special rate right now. That’s okay. I just want to cancel. Are you unhappy? No. Cancel my card please. Have we offended you in some way? No. Well then why are you trying to cancel? Because I can. Please cancel my card. It’s just that I don’t understand why. You don’t have to even try. Just cancel my card. I think if you told me why... I could make something up. There’s no need for that. I’ve asked you nicely about ten times now.
Anyway, my favorite line from this is “Turning off AOL would be the worst thing that...” The guy doesn’t finish, but one’s imagination runs wild. To me, I pretty much imagine the sentence ends with nothing less than the apocalypse.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

My haircutter mentioned this show the other day, told me he happened to meet the cast when he was in LA and he was totally geeked out. I hadn’t heard of it, as it’s a cable show. Then they put a couple episodes on Fox. I now know why Nelson got so geeked. Check it.

Monday, June 19, 2006

I Made Pancakes From Scratch

It’s true. I had a yen for pancakes yesterday and went all the way out of the house to the store to get bacon to go with. Came home to find we were out of pancake mix. Ben said he’d made them from scratch last time. I said How did you do that? Do you have a recipe? He said No, I just randomly tossed some stuff in a bowl and hoped for the best.

So I followed a recipe. Flour plus water plus eggs plus butter plus baking powder plus sugar. Not hard. Came out good.

My cooking from scratch list now includes:

meat loaf
mashed potatoes
pasta sauce
barbecue sauce

Friday, June 16, 2006

Stars – They Really Are Just Like Us! No I Mean It!

I was obligated, of course, to watch the entirety of Matt Lauer's interview with Britney last night on Dateline, and although I was temporarily distracted by Matt’s lack of socks with his loafers, I am forced to reiterate my thoughts on Britney Spears and why I feel for her where all I feel about the likes of, say, Jessica and Ashleeee, is dead inside. Britney is very upset (to the point of tears) about the paparazzi and the press saying all these terrible things about her, and her husband, and especially about whether or not she’s a bad mom. I kinda want to defend her motherhood even though it’s impossible to know what she’s like at home, but her public mistakes (almost tripping with the baby, driving with the baby in her lap, etc.) are mistakes people make every day, they’re just not usually caught on film. Our celebrity-obsessed culture focuses on one mom and her little mistakes simply because she’s famous while there are kids who are being physically abused every day going unnoticed because, you know, they’re anonymous. And so Britney says, crying, “People forget we’re just people.”
Here’s the thing, though. Britney’s all about ‘being herself” and on the one hand you gotta give it up to her for that – her mascara alone was a mess last night and she had on a sheer, low cut maternity top and as usual, was chewing gum through the whole interview, which doesn’t lend her an air of maturity. She might have done well to do what everyone does and hire a stylist and a publicist to take the gum out of her mouth, but she didn’t, and if the option is Jessica Simpson, um, ick. Anyway, she’s twenty-four years old. I shudder to think what my world would have been like had it been captured on film back then. I have said many times, I really think that when people have this drive to be famous, I think they often just have no way of preparing for what comes along with that, and then when it happens, they’re understandably upset but there’s almost never any responsibility, no one ever says, I chose this package deal. Do I think the paparazzi is completely out of control? For sure. Even more heartbreaking to me is that Britney kept saying, “I’m fine, I’m happy – It just makes me a stronger person.” And I’ve heard this so often from young people, myself first and foremost – and with a few years on me I think, you know, yeah, I always was a strong person, I was always “fine,” but I see now that my strength isn’t my imperviousness to pain. It’s my willingness to accept it.
Can I just say, though, Britney, you only have a housekeeper once a week? You like cleaning? Even my family had a housekeeper once a week! Man, if I had the money I’d have a guest house just for the housekeeper.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Monday, June 12, 2006

Scarface: The Blanket

One of those dollar stores in the neighborhood has several of those Disney-movie themed plush blankets in the window, you know, the kind with Cinderella, or Snow White or what have you? Except the one they’ve chosen to put front and center of the window display features a giant Al-Pacino-As-Scarface. Yes, I know this is very popular in certain circles, on jackets and sweatshirts and other casual apparel. But on a comforter? Giant Al Pacino in black white and red? I’m going to say: Not comforting.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Thus Concludes Saunders Week

Folks, I am so delighted about the way this week has gone, and I thank you heartily for participating. You have all helped me in my ongoing life mission to repopularize the short story, and I am so grateful. Please feel free to add more comments if you have them! I have to go bake cupcakes and clean my house for the party, which is on RAIN OR SHINE. We’ll just move it inside, if anyone’s wondering.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Saunders Week Endures!

Below are a few links to interviews with Saunders (there are countless others online, including one from Time Out London with some especially goofy questions - and answers) which I post as means to asking: How does hearing his thoughts about what he's trying to do illuminate (destroy?) your own experience of the work? I threw the word destroy in there because although I think it's unlikely in this case, I've read interviews with authors sometimes that have utterly baffled me. In the case of Saunders, I tend to feel like, oh good, I actually have gotten it, and also, he seems to be able to articulate himself, about his strengths and limitations as a writer, in interviews in a way I never seem to be able to. Perhaps this is both my strength and my limitation, but when people ask me questions about where my stories come from, sometimes I feel like the most honest answer is, “Seriously, I pulled this out of my ass.”