Saturday, September 30, 2006


I was up too early, and the gym didn't open until 8, but I left my apartment and wandered around the neighborhood a bit because I was antsy. Quiet, peaceful. Sunny with a chill. After the gym I decided I'd better run into the grocery store on the way home, since I wouldn't have time later, what with having to catch a train, etc. I'd walked past it earlier, but now as I returned, the street was blocked with police tape, and as I got closer, I saw it was for something right in the entrance of that grocery store. Multiple police cars, uniformed officers, men in dark suits with notepads. From what I overheard as I scuttled past (trying not to look because there are certain things I couldn't handle actually seeing), a person may have been killed, there may have been shots fired, there may have been a woman used as a "shield," there may have been a man who was shouting that he wanted to die, and there may have been a knife involved.

I don't want to know how close I was to being in the store when this happened.

Nothing on the news yet, though, so it must have been really recent. I think this would make the news. Am I naive?

If this is true, this is only the third time someone has been killed in the neighborhood in the nearly 13 years I've lived here. A man who owned a small deli/video store was shot in a robbery. Another man who was stalking his ex-girlfriend, shot her in a dry cleaner's, and fled to the Brooklyn Promenade where he shot himself.

I once missed witnessing a shooting by mere seconds. This was in Queens, before I came to Brooklyn. I was walking home at night, and heard loud pops ahead of me that I took to be firecrackers. (It was summer, and not uncommon.) When I came to the corner I saw a car stopped, passenger door open so the light was on, man slumped over the wheel. I ran into my apartment and called 911, although since I wasn't the first to call, they never questioned or followed up with me. Later I learned it was a suspected mob killing and the suspect was never caught.

Now I have to run to catch my train. Hopefully the rest of the day will be dull.

Family, Music, and Sounds of the Street

Early morning, readying to be at the gym right when it opens, as today I'll be traveling upstate to see family. Good family, whom I miss and enjoy being with, and stress-inducing family, whom I have little interest, and a little trepidation, in seeing again. Mostly because they fight with each other and I'm tired of hearing about it, and will be even less inclined to want to witness it. Ah, but it's their elderly mother's birthday! Which brings everyone, however artificially, together, because they are also the kind of family who doesn't want her graveside to be the first time they all gather, so pretend, "for her sake," that they can get along.

* * *

There is an ominous sign taped to the front of our building door - the city is going to do massive repairs on our street over the next week, starting at 9 pm and ending at 5 am. Work which is described as scraping and grinding. The obvious warning is about parking your car (it will be towed after 8:30) but the unstated is that it will be problematic for sleeping. Based on their vague schedule, they should hit my block about Sunday night. Great, a work night! I'll have to see if sleeping in the living room (off the street, in the back) is any better. I'm such a baby about getting my sleep. Hopefully the warning is more dire than the reality.

* * *

I was so busy the past few weeks that I missed most of the new tv season premieres. Catch-up hasn't proven that I've missed much. I used to be a real TV addict, but I'm less and less so as I get older. I still have my favorite shows that I love, but they are rare. Part of it might be that I've built a pretty substantial collection of TV DVDs, so I can fall back on watching shows I know I love, like "Mary Tyler Moore" and "Bob Newhart" and "Columbo." I guess I have more affinity for shows from the 70's, because they reflect the world I grew up in? My high school marching band played the theme song for "Bob Newhart" so every time I watch an episode, I feel my fingers twitching in memory. (Looking back that seems odd - a TV theme song? But it is a pretty dramatic song, and was recognizable at the time. We were a top marching band school, too, traveling throughout the state for competitions and usually winning.)

Which reminds me, the music store in my neighborhood is closing. I bought some piano music there, although they mostly had books, and I used to work near a really big sheet music store in midtown where I found a lot more that I liked. I guess it's one of those ridiculous things where I didn't patronize the store very often, but liked the fact that they were in my neighborhood, because they were locally-owned and managed, and gave the neighborhood a family feel: music lessons and instruments for kids, etc. But now I'm thinking, oh, before they close I have to run in and see if they have any clarinets for sale, because I rescued my old one from my mother's house and it's in bad need of repair, and was a pretty cheap one thirty (thirty-five? yipes!) years ago, so probably worth replacing. No, I never play it anymore, but I convince myself that I would if it worked and sounded right. I have a piano which I also don't play very often, although I've been more diligent in getting it tuned in the past few years. I'm not very good, but I enjoy playing when I do sit down and try. Again with the 70's - most of my music is from when I took lessons, so lots of Barry Manilow and Billy Joel and Bread and Chicago. But it's comforting. Sometimes I play songs I had to memorize for piano recitals, although I can't play them from memory any more, I do remember the recitals. I dreaded them. I was terrible at playing in front of people - my hands would shake like crazy. I've never liked speaking in front of groups of people, either (even now, in a large meeting, my voice will crack and shake.) I earned a theater minor in college, but never actually acted, because I never thought I could stand on a stage and perform.

* * *

I don't know if I'll make it to a movie this weekend. Today's family thing is just a day trip, but that means tomorrow I'll have a lot of making up to do with errands, etc. We'll see.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

No, I'm not making this up

I just overhead a co-worker telling to a junior woman on her team (although not a direct report of hers) that she has to do something right away for her, because it has to be done now. The younger woman must have pushed back, but the older said, "No, I have no time. I'm putting out fires right now, you have to take care of this for me."

Forget that there was no "please" or "thank you" or anything said in a tone other than "hop to it, missy." The kicker is that a few minutes later, after the younger walked away, lil' miss thang is on the phone making a manicure/pedicure appointment.

See, if I tried to pull that off in a short story, I'd be told it's too cliche to be believable.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Dahlia and the Bitch

I had a lousy day at work yesterday, and it was my one year anniversary at the job. Symbolically it doesn't bode well, but since bad days are so rare, I'm not going to give it that kind of weight. (Except that I just did. Sigh.) I'd had a really good, productive morning, managing to catch up on a lot and reorganize myself for the next busy period, and then had a bad phone conversation with a colleague who appears to be (either intentionally or not - she could just be looking out for herself) stabbing me in the back over a joint project. I don't want to dwell on it. I woke up at 2 am, and it wouldn't leave my brain, so I lay in bed miserable until 3:30. I blame her.

I'm not a happy camper this morning.

Although, I'm not ever a happy camper. I hate camping. We used to go all the time as kids, and some of my family still spends time each summer in a tent or similar rustic setting, cooking and sleeping outdoors. Not me.

* * *

"The Black Dahlia." Not sure where to even start. I'd read the book, after reading and really enjoying "L.A. Confidential." But the film is just overdone. Overacted. Over the top background music, trying too hard to set a mood. Overcomplicated plot with overly obtuse ending. Some things I liked - it was very pretty, everything brown and tan, almost as if it's sepia-toned. Except, notably, Scarlett Johanssen's red lips. I like a lot of the actors, too, usually, but there is a cringe-inducing scene where Aaron Eckhart, watching a piece of film, starts freaking out with the most ridiculous facial expressions I've seen on the screen in a long time. The audience I was with laughed at this, as they did at several other spots that were clearly not supposed to be funny. Like when two characters stare longingly at each other and then the man dramatically reaches over and sweeps everything off the set dinner table, and throws her forcibly against it. If there's a big book of movie cliches, that scene would have its own chapter.

I don't have much of an opinion about Josh Hartnett, as he was pretty forgettable compared to most of the other scene-chewers. I also didn't buy the whole conceit that Hilary Swank's character is supposed to be a dead ringer for the murdered Betty Short (played in one of the movie's decent performances by Mia Kirshner), because other than dark hair and pleasant features, they don't look alike. I would have preferred that they cast one actress in both parts; then we could understand the obsession Swank's character had with the dead girl, and the resulting pieces of the plot would have a bit more logic behind them.

Now I want to read the book, if only to see if the mystery plays out in the same way. (I don't remember, but I am positive it made more sense.)

* * *

I am running late to work.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Finally, a weekend all for me.

The air conditioner is out of the window, so I can sit here at my desk and glance idly to the left and see something other than that plastic ivory box. My neighbor across the street still has a bongo in his window, a bookcase against the far wall, and a similar desk that offers a view of him sitting, arms stretched forward to a keyboard out of view. Hello again, neighbor.

* * *

So tired last night I fell asleep sometime around 8 pm. I hadn't even brushed my teeth, but woke up just before nine, feeling as if I'd been under water for hours, to do so. I woke at my usual 5:30 but managed to stay in bed, dozing mostly, until 8. Heaven. I might have lasted longer, but a cement mixer pulled up to a building on the block at about that time to deposit materials to fix a sidewalk. You have to love living in the city.

* * *

I want an empty brain for the next few days. I'm cleaning the dust from my apartment, so don't mind it accumulating in my head. Although, I missed a group of short story contest deadlines last week and there are others coming up for October, so I would like to get some "work" done. A few minor edits, but mostly figuring out which story to send where from the pack of "finished" pieces in my repertoire.

* * *

Oh, the joy of a wide open window where the air conditioner was. Just an hour after it left, I'm assaulted again with the smell of burnt sugar. My mother had a very smart theory - the bakery isn't burning something every midday, but cleaning their ovens from the morning's baking. Yes, the smell of an oven cleaning is easily confused with something burning, and I think now you can appreciate how vile it is.

* * *

I am coming down with a cold. Woke up with swollen glands and the sniffles. Good weekend to stay inside and cuddle up with my writing and a book.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

To bitch or not to bitch.

So there is this woman I work with, who many people say is a bitch. I thought it was because she was somewhat reserved, spoke in a nasally voice (which comes across as condescending), and, yes, can't help but hide her feelings of displeasure with her facial expressions. But I have always gotten along with her, even though she's been excessively vocal about how much she hates my boss. I've even been "in the middle" of heated email exchanges between them, wherein she is always on the attack and he ignores her. I just have tried to stay out of it, as I have to work with her and for the most part have had no personal issues with her.

And then, last night. Actually, this happened once before in conversation and it angered me but I forgot about it. I'd mentioned to her that one of my ancestors was an original settler of New York City and there is a statue in his honor in Battery Park, and she said, so why don't you live in the city? Because in her mind, Brooklyn isn't. I hate that kind of elitist narrow-minded thought. NYC is what it is because of the strength of its boroughs, and many of us choose to live in them because we love them. We prefer them. Seriously, there are few neighborhoods in Manhattan I'd choose over mine, even if money were not an issue. (The fact that it is, that some of the places I'd love to live in are not financially feasible to me - or, frankly for her - just makes it easier for me to love living where I do.)

So I'd forgotten about that exchange and then she brought it up again, over dinner, in front of a colleague from another state, answering a question with that she lives in the city, but I don't. I was furious. Then she proceeded to tell the other person how great her neighborhood is, as if to prove how superior it is. I would interject comments about Brooklyn (brownstones? yes, I live in Brownstone Brooklyn, etc.) and she just sneered at me. Finally I turned away and said I was really offended and refused to listen to her rudeness. I proceeded to talk to the person on the other side of me, still bristling of course.

I can't stop people from having opinions, even if it's sad that a person can make a judgment based on limited experience (because of course, she's never even been to my neighborhood.) I know there are many people who have that Manhattan-centric vibe. Fine. But to behave like an ass about it is insane. She's a lot younger than me, so maybe it's immaturity, but I think when you realize that something you're saying is offending someone, you change the channel. Or you really are just doing it to be a bitch. How fun is it to see me get all worked up? Did she pull wings off flies as a kid?

Later, as the wine continued to flow, she went off into a long tirade about how much she hates another co-worker, who happened to be sitting just down the table, and, as I could see from my vantage point, was clearly able to hear her. I decided it wasn't my place to "warn" her that he could hear.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


I received a rejection letter for a short story yesterday. I was expecting it; it was from a publication out of my league (i.e., they only really print solicited stories from "name" authors) but we were given the opportunity to submit through a workshop taken with members of their staff. I sent the story in back in May, and almost forgot which one I'd sent. He said some positive things, then added, "yet, at times, the story relies too much on our collective grief at 9/11." Irony of ironies - the letter is dated 9/11/06.

I don't know, maybe he's right. It's not a 9/11 story, really, although it's about a woman whose husband dies in the towers. However, he had just left her for another woman, and she's still hurt and angry and then suddenly, he's gone (as is his paramour, a co-worker.) So she's struggling to deal with her anger, guilt, sadness, and inability to mourn - all against the setting of a huge tragedy where she's publicly (local newspapers, etc.) "the widow," expected to be a certain way, and without having the physical release of a body, a funeral, a chance to face and accept what's happened. The latter is a family theme - we lost someone years ago who died suddenly overseas, and his body did not come back, so there was a memorial service with nothing to grasp onto, and a lot of reverberations that have plagued our family for over 30 years. So part of it was that.

I workshopped it a few times and some suggested getting rid of the 9/11 slant, just making it a sudden accident. But it didn't feel right to me - maybe it is a cheat to "borrow" the emotional resonance from that particular unfathomable tragedy.

I'm still sending it out though, and who knows, it might get picked up somewhere.

* * *

I'm on a business trip, staying in a hotel, and to get to our meeting room we have to walk past exhibits for a very odd conference: the vaginal surgery conference. Their exhibits feature big colorful graphics and videos and frightening-looking medical equipment. And one, I swear, had a slab of raw steak sitting on a piece of plastic wrap. I averted my eyes from a surgical video and found myself staring at a piece of bloody meat. If I think about it, which I try not to, I guess it must be to demonstrate some kind of surgical equipment? No, I'm not thinking about it again.

* * *

It's just a one hour time difference but I'm beat. My recent days of hectic activity are catching up to me. I need a break. Maybe this weekend will be mellow.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Where have I been?

A busy work week, leaking into the weekend, where I had a client event on Saturday afternoon. One day of rest and then I'm slammed back into another hellish week - more travel, more client events, more long meetings. I feel like I won't be able to breathe again until Saturday.

Last week I made it worse by drinking too much on my birthday and then losing a day because I was too sick to function. It cost me money, too - I was out of town and due to take a shuttle home but didn't think I could literally stomach a flight, so wound up purchasing a train ticket (one which I can't get reimbursed for, as I already was reimbursed for the airline ticket.)

I had much to do yesterday, errands, cleaning, etc., but still squeezed in a movie, I suppose because it is how I relax. Disappear from thought for two hours and be someone else. I saw
"Last Kiss," and don't have too much to say about it. It wasn't very good, in the same way that "Trust the Man" wasn't very good, another attempt to delve into the mindset of men-who-don't-want-to-grow-up and the women who suffer because of them. And while Zach Braff is usually quite charming, in this film he's dour-faced more often than sweetly grinning. I never noticed how much his chin recedes, which might have been more obvious because of the big screen, although I think it was because of the lack of the fore mentioned smile.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I'm not voting, Day after, "Hollywoodland," and "Brick"

For the first time in 25 years of being eligible to vote, I skipped voting today. I have been so turned off by the constant barrage of junk mail and phone calls that I didn't even try to cut through the clutter to do my own homework and decide who to vote for - so I didn't bother. I don't think this is what they intended. But I had 6 messages when I got home tonight - okay, one was my mother, but that's still 5.

* * *

Yesterday was strange. I got off the subway at Bowling Green, a stop early, and crossed the West Side Highway further down, avoiding Ground Zero completely. But it wasn't possible to completely avoid it - our windows faced everything. You could hear the music even through the glass. People said that it was strangely quiet on the subways and streets; I don't think I noticed, because I myself was one of the quiet ones.

* * *
Poised at the onset of a super busy work week. My birthday is Thursday and I will spend it racing from one event to another, flying to DC for the second. I will spend my birthday night alone in a hotel room. And this is different from my typical night how? Ah, yes, feeling sorry for myself. There, I'm done.

* * *
I saw another movie on Sunday and now it escapes me. Was it that bad? Oh, yes, "Hollywoodland." No, it wasn't that bad. I liked it. I'm a fool for Adrien Brody, who is the definition of ugly-hot. Something about him just gets me. I've read several reviews that pointed to his half of the film as being the weaker, but I enjoyed it. I like him, and I liked the character he played, a detective out to solve the mystery of the death of George Reeves, the actor who played Superman on tv. Two stories run parallel - the detective's journey, and the flashback story of Reeves's career leading up to his death. I don't know why Ben Affleck, playing Reeves, has been getting Oscar buzz; he's interesting, but didn't impress me overmuch. The movie is good, entertaining, not great.

* * *
I also rented "Brick," which got some decent reviews. I am among those who just didn't get it. I don't necessarily mean I didn't follow the twists and turns of the mystery, although I admit that it was difficult to follow the noirish dialogue and know precisely what was being discussed. The conceit is a hard-boiled detective story set in a high school, with each character playing it straight as if they really are in a 1950's film noir. And that's what didn't work for me; it's too much for me to accept high schools were there are no teachers, only long empty moody hallways; where violent murders draw little attention from adults; and where femme fatale teen girls preside over parentless mansions and fast cars. The whole thing felt like kids playing at adulthood, and then someone would get beat to near death, and suddenly it wasn't a game. The "mystery" got buried behind all of the trappings of the genre: the nearly incomprehensible dialogue, the quiet tortured detective, the creepy crippled bad guy.

* * *

I'm tired and going to bed.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

This is how I feel.

From today's New York Times, by Francine Prose:

We should remember. And not only because the missing - the dead - should not be forgotten; not only because we need to be reminded that the other shoe may indeed drop; not only because, given how much violence and killing there are in the world right now, we need to recall that so many died here, as well.

We need to remember because that day, New Yorkers lived in a war zone. Five years later, the most familiar neighborhood places still have the power to evoke the horrors of battle. That day, many New Yorkers and indeed many Americans - again, the fortunate ones - came the closest we've come to the experience of living through a war at home. I want to remember partly because I feel it's the nearest I can come to imagining what it's like for the millions of civilians, not unlike us, people in the Middle East and other places where local wars are being fought, people who are perpetually seeing their cityscapes transformed into grim reminders.

Unasked for, melancholy landmarks appear constantly as the innocent try to survive the destruction, the Sept. 11 that goes on for them, not just for one day, but relentlessly, from morning until evening, daily, and for years.


Last night I saw Maggie Gyllenhaal in "Sherrybaby," and then I saw Maggie Gyllenhaal at "Sherrybaby." I went to a showing where she did a Q&A after the film. I had planned on going to earlier, but when I checked the times in the Times and saw that she'd be at the 7:30, I immediately went and bought tickets.

I got there early, at what I thought was way too early, so wandered over to sit in a park for a bit, watching some neighborhood basketball, and when I got back found myself at the end of a really long line. (It was inside the building, so not visible when I'd walked by.) As it turned out, the front row was the best to satisfy my claustrophobic tendencies (a theater with no middle aisle, when sold out, means you are either in a good center-viewing seat but trapped by bodies on all sides, or languishing on the aisle with limited view of the screen) and I got a seat right in the center of row one. Which later meant just inches in front of Ms. Gyllenhaal. So close I could examine her pedicure and watch the wide arcs with which she rubbed her very pregnant belly. (No, I'm not a stalker, although it's slightly possible the young guy sitting next to me was. He told me where she lived, moved from side to side of me several times, trying to anticipate the exact placement of the stool she would perch on, and followed her to the exit door to try to get her to pose with him for a photo, a request she denied with a smile.)

The film was really fantastic, and as it really is a pure performance piece, it was incredible to have her sit in front of us and discuss her feelings about making it. Someone suggested she deserved an Oscar nomination for it, although I've heard that also about her role in "World Trade Center" (which could be the only reason I could see it - no, I still won't. As has been said many times more eloquently than I can, a film like that seems made for people who weren't here, but want to connect to the tragedy, while those of us who were don't need it. And, of course, I hate heavily sentimental films.)

So what did she say of interest? She didn't rehearse for this movie, but she hates rehearsing as a rule. Sherry, her character in this film, has just been released from 3 years in prison, and is reconnecting with family that never visited her or saw her, so she felt that there should be some discomfort in their scenes. (I'm paraphrasing; no journalistic note-taking.) She felt that the young girl who played her daughter (age six, although I would have thought more like 4) came across too actress-y at first, and she struggled with the director, who had opposing ideas of how to coach a more natural performance out of her. How did Gyllenhaal feel about the sex scenes? She said she feels much more uncomfortable watching them after than she did filming them. While filming them, she was concentrating on how Sherry was enjoying herself, even as the sex was raw and uncomfortable and destructive. She hadn't had a man in three years, she was out and free, and she wanted pleasure, even if to the rest of us it looks anything but pleasurable. She also said that sex is a way of communicating fully with another person, so sex scenes provide opportunities for a different kind of acting.

About choosing roles, she said she chooses those she feels drawn to. When asked who else she'd like to work with, she said Pedro Almodovar, and, after seeing "Half Nelson," Ryan Gosling.

It's funny, because when I think about it, "Sherrybaby" is both a companion piece and the polar opposite of "Half Nelson." They both are intimate portraits of addicts trying to cope in the world, both with controlled, quiet performances. Both characters connect, or try to connect, with children, and falter in the world of adult relationships. Yet Gosling's character has found a way to function while feeding his addiction, and Gyllenhaal's has repeatedly failed at managing hers.

I'm sorry these pictures aren't any better. I am having a bear of a time uploading into Blogger. I think I've bitched about this before, how I always have this problem at home (where my photos, for the most part, are, and where I have the time to post) but rarely at work. So maybe it's a firewall setting or something. But I uploaded three different stills about a dozen times each, and each time the process finishes, says its "Done," but nothing appears in the post. I tried to do it manually, writing my own html code based on what I see in successful uploads, but I'm not very good at it.

My point was to show how similarly the films have been marketed, with stills of the main characters quietly alone on a city street, facing the camera, defiant and yet struggling.

Go see both films if you can.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

My Stalking Space, with a bit of Another

I stumbled upon MySpace recently, in searching for information on something or someone I can't recall right now. (Maybe the winner of "Top Chef"? Yes, that's it. He was supposed to open a restaurant in NYC and I was curious as to the status, and when I searched for a website all I could find was his MySpace page.) Anyway, I was surprised to see that I still have a profile. I created it a few years ago, when one of my friends insisted I do so, in order to increase his friend network. It had been a long time since I visited (it still has my AOL address, which I dropped almost two years ago), and I was surprised to discover I had 47 emails. Many of which were gentlemen (well, not so gentle) wanting to get to know me. Some of which included somewhat lurid descriptions of how they wanted to get to know me. More of which were marked with very bizarre-looking photos. There also was, from just a month ago, an email from a woman about my age interested in talking about books (which I listed as an interest.) I don't know. I just deleted all of them. But I didn't delete the whole profile. I don't know why.

Of course I had to go and check out my friend's page, as he and I are no longer in communication and I was curious if I could see what he is up to. But he hasn't really updated much, either; a few blog entries from early 2005, but that's it. The most interesting news was that one of his friends is now fronting a band. I went to hear her sing once and thought she was terrible. I probably was prejudiced to not like her singing, though, as I never really liked her. She was very young, a transplant from a midwestern state here to make her fame and fortune in the city, and met my friend in an acting class. She had badly bleached blonde hair and fake-looking (I never asked) boobs and played this sweet innocent farm girl persona even as she swore like a trucker. I met her mother once, and should not have been surprised to hear every third word out of her mouth starting with an "F." But all that aside, what I mostly didn't like was that she wasn't very interesting. You couldn't really have a conversation with her because she knew nothing and had no curiosity about anything. My friend loved her, in that way that some gay men flock to trashy-dressed women, but it got to the point where I'd avoid occasions where it was just the three of us doing something.

I heard her sing at a 9/11 "benefit" a few weeks after it had happened. It was put on by the record label where she was a temp, and basically was employees at an open mike, with friends in the crowd making donations for an unnamed charity. The emcee was stupid enough to refer twice to what had happened as the World Trade Center "bombing" which just pissed me off. It was bad enough that he seemed flippant about the entire thing, but to not have a grasp on what had just happened seemed vulgar.

I love that Blogger spellcheck doesn't know MySpace (it offers "misshapes"), but this could be my writing it as one word. But why does the spellcheck not know "boobs" but offer "boobies" as a suggestion? I really want to meet the dude that wrote that dictionary.

Thinking about other years

They sent around a warning yesterday that there will be huge crowds around Ground Zero on Monday, and that while our office will remain open, employees are encouraged to work from home. I can't, due to projects I am immersed in, but I decided I will try to avoid it by getting off the subway early and walking up along Battery Park and the Hudson River, entering our complex that way instead of from the side facing Ground Zero.

It's the first one I've worked. The past two years it was on a weekend, and in 2003 I was unemployed. My grandmother took me out to Tavern on the Green that year for my birthday, and they brought me a piece of cake with a Happy Birthday balloon. She didn't understand why I didn't want to take it home on the subway with me, all the way to Brooklyn. But she didn't remember it was the 2nd anniversary, and I didn't tell her.

In 2002 I took the day off, not wanting to go into Manhattan at all, not wanting to have to feel the tensing of the city on that morning. I originally thought I'd try to do some kind of volunteer work that day, but I wound up just staying home and keeping myself busy and my mind occupied.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Dear Democratic Candidates

Last night, when I told one of your campaign workers that I make it a policy not to vote for people whose staffers call me at home, I was serious. This also goes to those of you who keep dialing, letting the phone ring three times, and hanging up on my voicemail. Yes, I counted five aborted calls just last night between 8 and 9 pm. This is in addition to the four pre-recorded messages that were waiting for me on my voicemail when I got home.

I'd extend this a bit further and say I'd refuse to vote for anyone that has flooded my mailbox with more than 3 pieces of junkmail imploring me to vote for them (or not to vote for the other guy), but then I'd have nobody to vote for. I'm averaging 7-8 pieces a day, often from the same politician. Which one is the biggest supporter of the city's recycling system? Hmmm.

And... another.

This is the story I feel like I tell the most, because it's so clear and vivid in my mind. It was Friday, my birthday, three days after 9/11. I was really fortunate to have family living very close by, because I probably would have gone crazy without people around me that week. They suggested we go out to dinner for my birthday, and even though it felt inappropriate to be celebrating something, I agreed that we needed the distraction. We decided to leave the neighborhood and drive to Williamsburg, because getting out of the neighborhood was another distraction. Dusk started to fall as we drove, and then slowly, one by one, people started coming out of buildings and houses and standing on the sidewalk with lit candles. It was if they were coming out to greet us. We drove slowly, and street after street, they came out. I joked that I was touched that so many people wanted to help me celebrate my birthday. It wasn't until we were almost at the restaurant that one of us remembered that the president had called for a national candlelight vigil/moment of silence. We hadn't listened to the radio or watched tv all day, having reached a saturation point. I can still see those candles floating along the sidewalks ahead of us as we drove.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Just a few more thoughts as the 5th anniversary approaches.

Returning to work on the following Monday was strange. Everything felt frighteningly the same, and yet profoundly altered. It was hard to get my head around the fact that I was going back to my boring (almost hated) job, and that over 2000 people had just died after going to their jobs. Jobs maybe they hated.

I must have been thinking too much because I didn't notice that I was moving too slowly, blocking a woman pushing onto the train. She slammed into me and I turned and gave her a dirty look. She said, "What's your problem? At least you're alive, at least you didn't die in the twin towers." I was dumbfounded. Who would say that? What if I had lost a husband or a child or a sister?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

And there are more.

I had already planned a vacation day for the Friday after 9/11, because a) I had a doctor's appointment and b) it was my birthday. When our office closed for the week after the aborted attempt to resume normalcy on Wednesday, I kept my appointment. In the waiting room was a woman who'd been working in one of the towers on 9/11. She walked stiffly, and explained to the receptionist that her back was covered with cuts from a window (or glass door?) that had shattered behind her as she was escaping.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Emperor's Public Affair

Yesterday I was about to pass a downtown hotel where a flock of paparazzi were waiting patiently for someone. A black SUV was standing at the curb, doors open, driver standing by, waiting. My friend implored me to stay and wait, and so I did, even though I feared this would be a living example of all that I hate about the cult of celebrity. And it was, for in just a few minutes, Jessica Simpson walked out, slowly and deliberately, her hangers-on discreetly far enough away so as to not block the cameras. The entire thing was incredibly fake, and so obviously planned. How did a dozen paparazzi know to be standing by the front doors of the Soho Grand at just that time? How did a few people manage to have glossy photos of her ready for a signature? It was so clear that her publicity machine had tipped them off and yet here she walked, bravely holding court under the "pressure" of so much attention. ("Poor thing! She can't even walk out of a hotel without being bothered!" Well, you know what? She can! It's called discretion, and subtlety, and not making such a big deal about everything so that others think it's a big deal that you can take 100 steps unaided. Oh, never mind.) She had on a really bad short platinum wig, although as I remarked to my friend, isn't she always in a wig? My impression is that her hair usually is extensions.

I sometimes think I'm the only sane person around, the only one watching the Emperor trip down the sidewalk in his birthday suit who is repulsed by the fact that he's flabby and naked. (Yes, I just made a flabby and naked metaphor for Jessica Simpson. It's early; leave me alone.) But really, I just wanted to smack those photographers on the sides of their heads and ask, "Don't you have anything better to do?" And to Jessica's "handlers" (one of whom, my friend pointed out, is her stylist - apparently one needs a stylist on hand at all times - even one with questionable taste in hairpieces), what the fuck are you doing? There's something weirdly JonBenet-ish about watching this tiny plastic doll shoved out on display, all to generate income for the money-making machine that is her "career." She didn't look happy, or natural, or relaxed, or even human.

Okay, so I don't happen to like the woman. I think the attention paid to her is grossly disproportionate to the level of her talent. She's pretty (if you like that china doll gone porn star vibe) but her career is based on "singing" and "acting," neither of which she seems to do very well. It's all in the packaging, and when all you have going for you is that, you'd better hope nobody wakes up and sees the Emperor's nakedness. The biggest issue I have is that there are many truly talented young artists out there who don't happen to be as attractive as she is, or able to afford the plastic surgery, or have a father/manager like she has, but can actually produce great music if they only could get noticed.

Of course, I'm being silly, as nobody is going to point any of this out, not as long as she is making money for them. My friend said that those photographers earned a pretty penny for those photos. (Really? Even though they were obviously staged?) Too late, I remembered my new phone has a camera, so to mark the occasion, I took a shot. As you can see, I wasn't that concerned about getting photographic proof that I shared a sidewalk with a blond "pop star" but I think you can make out her shiny blond bob to the left.

Now, when you Google "Jessica Simpson" images, will this come up? Has my hit-rate suddenly sky-rocketed? Maybe I need to make more of those naked Emperor references in this post.

Blogger spell check snafu of the day: For "Jessica's" it suggestes "cheesecake."" Is someone out there having fun?


By September 2001 I had been a non-smoker for five months. Other attempts to quit had ended at about the six month mark, so I was ripe to fall back into the habit. And, yet, I didn't. I sat in a living room filled with smokers that night, (including those who smoked casually and infrequently), and I didn't want one. Although part of me thought, if this is the end, if we're all doomed to die in the next year or so anyway, I'd like to know so I could just go back to smoking and eating unhealthy food and doing whatever I damn well please to and with my body because it's only going to be blown up by a terrorist anyway, so will it matter how healthy my lungs are, or how slim my waistline?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny and warm day. (So far, today looks as promising.) I personally am grateful for the rain on Saturday as it made yesterday all the more rewarding.

But you know already that I liked the rain.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Another, longer ago.

I have had two temp jobs since I came to NYC. The first was a one-day job on a Friday, sitting in for a receptionist of a brokerage firm in the World Trade Center. It was incredibly boring. It was in the days before voicemail, so my job was to answer phone lines if the executives didn't pick up after two rings, and I'd just stare at the console when it beeped and wait before picking up the receiver. I scrawled notes on pink memo slips and wished I'd brought a book to read.

The office was on a high floor, the exact number which I don't recall. (Yet, now, I can look it up in Wikipedia and see that it could have been one of several, just above the impact site.) I sat at a desk in an open area, and from my seat could see the windows on both sides, windows which went practically to the floor, windows which gave a view of nothing but sky and clouds, because of course there was nothing that was as tall as we were. I am not very good with heights and it made me feel slightly nauseous and unsteady on my feet when I left for my lunch break and when I was finally allowed to go home for the day.

It was with relief that I secured another temp assignment the following Monday, one that turned into a six month stint and a job offer, and eventually 9 1/2 years of my life. But when I thought of the people who worked in the towers - in 1993, when the bomb exploded in the parking garage, and then, of course, 8 1/2 years later - I remembered that queasy sense of being suspended in the air looking out of windows that held nothing but sky.

Illusions, and more illusions.

Last weekend I saw Paul Giamatti in Circuit City, this weekend I saw him in "The Illusionist." Great opening line, now I guess I actually have to comment on the film. Trouble is, I don't have much to say. There are many things to like about it - two of my favorite actors in Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti, a surprisingly decent turn by Jessica Biel, some nice scenery, a somewhat tantalizing mystery - and yet, in the sum of things, it wasn't very good. The mystery is pretty transparent; I'd guessed it practically from the opening scene (before the nature of the crime was even revealed) and the "clues" which finally cinch it are ludicrous at best. (Somewhat spoiler alert - a tiny object, smaller than a fingernail, is not going to be found in the folds of a dress of a woman who has a)fallen from a horse and b)floated for several hours in water and c)been dragged from the water to be resuscitated. Although all this proves, in retrospect, is how stupid and gullible Giamatti's detective really is.) I confess: when I'm presented with a mystery, I'm going to look for holes in the solution, because satisfaction is a tight and cohesive plot. One that is entertaining on top of being logical? Brilliant. "The Illusionist"? Not so much.

Another pet peeve - if a film shows a master illusionist perform, I don't want camera tricks and editing to make his illusions work. We should see the same thing the audience sees - in other words, if it can't be duplicated by the actor, then it shouldn't be done by the fictional character. Otherwise, nothing needs to be logical in the film, because once you open the door to magic, then anything and everything comes in. If you want us to believe that the crime was committed the way you reveal at the end, that is, by real live humans using actual physically demonstrated means, then you can't fudge earlier on whether there is magic involved.

Wait, maybe I didn't like this film after all. I'm remembering now the shoddy beginning - a series of flashback scenes that give "history" to Norton's and Biel's characters, yet do little more than trot out every cliche you've ever imagined a young doomed couple could face. The younger actors playing them as teens are boring, the music is grossly obvious and melodramatic, and I had half a mind to walk out.

It did get better after that, although still not enough for me. I dare anyone to see this film and be surprised by the ending.


In the office that morning, nobody got much done. Nobody knew what to do. I made my phone calls and then wandered into a friend's office. He looked up at me and calmly said that his cousin worked on the 87th floor of one of the towers. I just lingered in the doorway, not knowing what to say. "Maybe.." But he cut me off. "Nope," he said matter-of-factly. "I'm sure he's dead. There's no way he got out."

Saturday, September 02, 2006


I like rainy days. I like them when they're in the middle of a long weekend, and I can laze around the house and do some cleaning and not feel guilty that I'm not outside enjoying the last bits of sunny summer. I like to lie in bed with a book, lighting a few candles, just enough to read by in the midday gloom. I like the sounds of cars splashing by outside my windows, almost as if I live by the ocean and waves are pounding the shoreline. I like having to put on warm socks for the first time in months, and then curling under a blanket in the living room, with the ceiling fan eerily quiet above me.


We went up to the roof and watched the smoke billow toward us from downtown Manhattan. My friend had stood and watched the burning towers before they fell, while the rest of us were still trying to figure out what was going on. She hadn't seen the planes hit, but we heard that there was footage, that you could see it on tv. I didn't want to. Someone told me that it was terrifying at first but after seeing it a few times, you got used to it. I was offended and horrified - why would I ever want to get used to it? I wanted it always to be as gut-wrenchingly wrong as the first time I'd seen those smoking buildings from the conference room window in midtown.

I understand, now, that it's not about losing the horror, but gaining the strength to confront it. Since then I've seen footage, although I don't search it out. It's never easy to watch. One of the first was in the film "Fahrenheit 9/11" (or, maybe "Bowling for Columbine"?) at the end of a montage set to Louis Armstrong's singing "What a Wonderful World." Even now when I hear that song, I know the moment that is playing in the background when the first plane hits, and can hear the gasp and screams of the people videotaping it in the pauses in the music.
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