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 (, 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

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.