Prunes and Prism

RULES FOR YOUNG LADIES: Some arch advice on snagging a husband. Exercising the mouth into a pretty shape through repetition of certain words seems to have been an indoor sport for young nineteenth-century girls; in Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens' overly bred girl repeats, "papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism." (

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Hollywood Square

I just pulled a big hunk of cardboard out of my prepackaged salad. Roughage indeed. Though I would be hard-pressed to parse the gustatory demerits of cardboard as compared to iceberg lettuce.

My disappointment is eclipsed, however, by my extreme excitement over having just ridden in my office elevator (the building has several film-editing companies) with Jerry Adler, best known to me as Hesh from The Sopranos. Now I can finally let go of some of the bitterness I've harbored ever since a co-worker claimed she had a cigarette break downstairs with Steve Buscemi.

Either I rarely see famous people, or I can't recognize them when I do. Here's my tally for ten years in New York:

_ Al Franken in the Rockefeller Center subway station (and this was my first week here, when I thought it was going to be a nonstop cavalcade of celebrities)
_ John Leguizamo in a Greek restaurant in Hell's Kitchen
_ Pierce Brosnan shooting a movie in the East Village
_ Janeane Garofalo in the West Village Urban Outfitters
_ Julianne Moore at the Strand
_ Neil Patrick Harris (you might know him as Doogie Howser) in a Times Square ATM
_ I can't count Michael Imperioli, because a friend and I were sitting in a diner, and he said, "Oh, there's Michael Imperioli crossing the street," and I lunged for the window and brained myself on the glass like a starling and was too dazed to focus after that

Can that really be it? Oh -- a few weeks ago I saw one of Linda Ellerbee's shirts hanging at my dry cleaner. Just one of the many rich rewards of living in The Big Apple.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Newton's laws of motion

Je vous ai manquee aussi!* Or, ya tozhe skuchala po vam.

There's been quite a lot going on, not all of which I am at liberty to discuss in a public forum (but don't worry, if you were inclined to). What I am at liberty to discuss (e.g., making sure we have Land o' Lakes fat-free creamer in stock for when my mother comes to visit on Thursday) is so deadly dull you wouldn't want me to discuss it anyway.

I just had lunch with The Man Who Used to Be My Husband. He had on a hooded sweatshirt with a big backpack and Birkenstocks, and when I met him at the corner I immediately blurted out, "You look like you've been walking the earth!"


"And it suits you!" I added.

Actually, I thought that after we split apart he might walk the earth for a while, like David Carradine in Kung Fu, but as it turns out I'm the one who's been wandering around; he should close on his three-bedroom house next month. At this news I had to put my forehead down on the tablecloth while I summoned the will to go on. In Athens, Georgia, homeowning is easier than squatting, apparently. It was enough to make me want to get up off the table and go walk the earth.

In July he'll head for Morocco, where he hopes to eventually spend a year working on his graduate research. I bet he'll learn some French there; I bet he'll learn some Arabic. I bet he'll eat monkey brains and run around in a fedora knocking over baskets until Karen Allen falls out in a pair of red harem pants. I expect it will be a life of high adventure.

I told him that sometimes I think I'm just about done with New York, but don't know where else I'd be fit to live, having been here most of my adult life and lost whatever taste I might have had for monkey brains. He said, "You should move to Gary, Indiana." I said why, and he said, "Because then I'll know somebody in Gary, Indiana."

These meals are so strange, utterly familiar and completely alien at the same time. The person across the table looks like him and feels like him but can't be him because I barely know him anymore. I have said before that it's like dinner between two people who have come back from the dead. Now that I think about it, it's exactly like that: When I sit down to the table I always feel like I've made a long, hard trip in the service of some higher purpose, but then the details look as trivial as they would if I were seeing them from the afterlife: the moules frites (always there seem to be moules frites) and the polite conversation and, today, the plastic cigarette lighter I gave him that had been autographed by the country's No. 2 air-guitar champion, Bjorn Turoque.

He was at the heart of my whole life, and then he wasn't. When an object is no longer accelerated by a centripetal force, it keeps traveling in a straight line.** Which is how you can go from being a person's next of kin to somebody he knows in Gary, Indiana.

*Again with the diacriticals: I don't know how to make them.

**Unless it sits inert.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Heroin of My Own Life

Despite the offensive advertisements, today I'm having one of the new Tab Energy drinks, the taste of which has been described elsewhere as Jolly Rancher mixed with Red Bull, or Pixy Stick mixed with Alka-Seltzer.

I've been a two-fisted caffeine drinker since childhood* (sometimes you need the Diet Coke and the latte, for hot and cold), but I'm halfway through this thing and I'm not sure I'll be able to finish it. Is there crystal meth in here? Why do I feel like I'm typing this from the top of a giant mushroom? I think I may be tweaking.

Speaking of recreational drugs, the other night I dreamed I got caught up in a web of intrigue with Christopher from The Sopranos. In a moment of downtime we were sharing our deepest fears, and he said, "You're afraid of becoming Miss Havisham, aren't you?" Then I guess we broke character because I said, "Would Christopher really say that?" and then he said he guessed not.

*Coke in the baby bottle. Really.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Hurricane Season

I have a Park Avenue cardiologist* now, which makes me feel a little like a 52-year-old Master of the Universe. Without the cigars or the American Express black card.

I wasn't sure what to expect and was afraid they'd have me on a treadmill, Steve Austin-style, with electrodes under my brassiere. Can they rebuild me? I was so nervous I dropped one of the doctor's ArtForums on my foot.

As it happened, he only wanted to do an ultrasound, so I was smeared with goo by a technician who simultaneously related her mother's theory about this year's killer allergy season: a government conspiracy surrounding last year's flu-shot shortage. She seemed not to dismiss the possibility entirely, which surprised me since she was the one with the probe, and I had therefore thought her to be a handmaiden of science.

If you've ever had one of these, you know that when they turn the volume up, you can hear your own blood pumping, and it sounds a lot like scrap metal blowing back and forth in hurricane winds. Every one of us is walking around in our own little storm.

* Don't be alarmed. My GP just heard a little murmur in my heart. I don't think of it as a murmur so much as a kvetch and kvell.**

**And I don't know why the mere mention of cardiology makes me want to trot out the Yiddish. One thing I do know is that I won't be marrying mine -- he is notably handsome and certainly gay.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

From Anne Sexton, 1969

Wed – 2:45

Dear Linda,

I am in the middle of a flight to St. Louis to give a reading. I was reading a New Yorker story that made me think of my mother and all alone in the seat I whispered to her "I know, Mother, I know." (Found a pen!) And I thought of you – someday flying somewhere all alone and me dead perhaps and you wishing to speak to me.

And I want to speak back. (Linda, maybe it won’t be flying, maybe it will be at your own kitchen table drinking tea some afternoon when you are 40. Anytime.) – I want to say back.

1st I love you.

2. You never let me down.

3. I know. I was there once. I too, was 40 and with a dead mother who I needed still.

This is my message to the 40-year-old Linda. No matter what happens you were always my bobolink, my special Linda Gray. Life is not easy. It is awfully lonely, I know that. Now you too know it – wherever you are, Linda, talking to me. But I’ve had a good life – I wrote unhappy – but I lived to the hilt. You too, Linda – Live to the HILT! To the top, I love you, 40-year-old Linda, and I love what you do, what you find, what you are! – Be your own woman. Belong to those you love. Talk to my poems, and talk to your heart – I’m in both: if you need me. I lied, Linda. I did love my mother and she loved me. She never held me but I miss her, so that I have to deny I ever loved her – or she me! Silly Anne! So there!



(Happy Mother's Day.)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

We went to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to live deliberately.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Fat Editor

I was just tottering down Leroy Street feeling 15 months' pregnant and wondering why Showtime hadn't sent over my contract, when I got catcalled from a Manhattan Fruit Exchange truck.** At this point I'll take what I can get.*

I want to apologize for my absence -- my mojo is missing. I am also very far behind on e-mail to people I love, and if this includes you, I am heartily sorry! It's just that my Summons to Nashville was complicated in some ways, and also that my purely theoretical direct supervisor in my entirely hypothetical job has moved away to a fantasy Amelie apartment in Paris, thus leaving me at sixes and septs. It's taking me a while to get back on top of things.

*Last week I dreamed I was Carnie Wilson, pre-gastric bypass.

** A few months ago on this same block, a guy walked by with a dolly and asked in a matter-of-fact way if I was single. I said no, and he said, "Okay, I just thought I'd help you out!" and walked away. I've been puzzled ever since, because I don't think "help you out" was some kind of euphemism; he was too businesslike for that. Was he going to put me on that dolly and wheel me to where all the single straight men are (presumably in a holding pen in Madison Square Garden)? We'll never know. In the meantime, single ladies looking for "help" should frequent Leroy between Seventh and Hudson.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Hallmark Hall of Fame

I swore I wouldn't blog about work, and I don't want to even admit that I have a day job here. So obviously I haven't written about the lone, partially deflated green balloon that says HAPPY BIRTHDAY and has been aimlessly drifting around my totally theoretical office.

Finally I wondered aloud where it had come from.

A colleague thought he was responsible for it, though he couldn't think why -- had it actually been somebody's birthday? -- but then remembered he'd bought a pack of them for someone's going-away party, got them back to the office, and blew them up only to find the HAPPY BIRTHDAY on the side.

He used them for the party anyway, figuring it wasn't the worst mix-up in the world: That had already happened at one of his previous offices, where someone always seemed to be getting married or getting promoted or having a baby or a birthday or moving to France, or engaging in some other endeavor that necessitated a greeting card surreptitiously circulated in a file folder. One of his exasperated co-workers fended off the deluge by writing on every single card, "Best of luck."

Including the time somebody's mother died.