Thursday, September 28, 2006

Resist

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

Quandary

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

9/11/06

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.