Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Funnies

Growing up, I loved to read the Funny Pages in the paper. Actually, every day until I moved to NYC, where the local rag doesn't a comics page, I would read them every day. I would start on the top left of the page and work my way down, and then back up the right of the page. Sure, I would skip over the reactionary Family Values ones (Family Circus, right?) but I was very into the other kind of family ones like For Better or For Worse, a long-running strip that chronicled the life of a family in a Toronto suburb. I loved The Boondocks when it came along, and was a faithful reader, but the one I loved the most and the longest was Doonesbury. When I moved to New York, and didn't have any comic strips in a daily paper, I lost track of Mike and Zonker and Honey and Joanie and B.D. and Kim and Mark and JJ and Rick and Sid and Duke and Phred ..... for a while. Until I realized I could read it online, which I did religiously for a while, until somehow I stopped, which I am not sure why, and then just as suddenly, on April 29, 2013, I started again, to my great joy. Here's a recent Sunday strip for your entertainment (and discomfort, which is one of many things I love so much about Gary Trudeau.)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Jake and Eleonore get hitched (again)

There was a moment during Jake and Eleonore's wedding party when Joey was leading everyone in a rich and layered a cappella nign singing circle. Rings of friends and family circled around the inner circle, of Jake and Eleonore and their parents. Our voices rising and falling together, the whole room resonating together, people laughing, smiling, eyes closed, eyes open, drinking, and mostly very present. I had this fleeting thought that went something along the lines of, "This is Joey leading an a cappella song circle. It's what Joey does." And then I stopped, and I thought, "No, this is what Joey DOES and it's amazingly precious and rare, and we are insanely lucky to be part of a community that takes someone like him, and something like this, for granted. That's when I cried a little, and Esther noticed, and she put her arm around me, and we kept singing. Joy.

This week's mide (middah) is GRATITUDE. I've been thinking about it a lot, and wondering why practicing gratitude, which I am actually pretty damned good at, doesn't make me complain less about the things I don't feel grateful for. I thought they would be like two ends of a tether. The more I focus on what I am grateful for, the more I will notice that there is really no need to complain about the other stuff, but so far it feels more like to co-existing realities. Over here in this room are a ton of things I feel grateful for, and over here in this room are all the things that bug the shit out me, and I can walk in and out of both rooms and have as much as I want of either, and they don't seem to preclude one another.

The only difference is that I am very practiced at noticing the stuff I want to complain about, and don't need a complaining practice to pull my attention to what's lacking in my life. I'm less practiced at noticing the stuff I am grateful for, and a practice allows me to notice that there is what feels so far like an endless stream of things I am grateful for.

One of them is my vibrant, mad talented, funny, musical, inappropriate, familial Jewish and Yiddish cultural community.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Have you seen the MTV teen comedy series called Awkward? I think it might be the first thing I have ever watched on MTV.  I wouldn't have even watched it if the internet didn't exist, but it popped up on some feed somewhere, and I decided to take a look. It is no substitute for Nashville, but I have a few positive things to say about it. I like that the main character is a smart girl who is surrounded by immature teens and adults and so she needs to be wise and decisive beyond her years. I also like that
the show is often absurdist, which is odd because it is dealing with very UNabsurdist topics: teen suicide, sex, bullying, depression, divorce, fat phobia, etc. But maybe that's its point—these topics are absurd, and Jenna the main character, walks through life faced with people's absurd prejudices, opinions, and skewed advice.

I don't like the racial makeup of the world they live in, not to mention other things I don't like, but I think I'm a sucker enough for the experience of being transported to a world that someone invented. Someone thought Jenna up, thought up her parents, thought up her friends, her guidance counselor, and her school. Someone pitched it, someone sold it,  someone wrote it, someone directed it, and someone shot it, and the fact that anyone can get their work made, from concept to MTV, is worth celebrating.

I think the joy part is not found in the actual experience of watching the show (it's not that good) but in finding something new and trying it, and as always, getting transported to someone's invented world, even for just one 20-minute episode.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

If you're a man at night you gotta be a man in the morning.

I don't think of myself as the person who would get joy from people laughing at other people, especially if it's about some perceived lack of intelligence, but I have watched this now about five times, and it just never ceases to delight. I've spent my fair share of time interviewing Olympic swimmers, and, well, there's no good way to say this, but I can identify with Sheinelle Jones.

On the other hand, since this video went viral, I assume it's only done good things for Ryan's new reality show, What Would Ryan Lochte Do?

And it's provided fodder for late night interviews, like this one with David Letterman, which also brings me no end of delight.

"Which is your strongest stroke?"

"Honestly, I don't know," Lochte answered.

"Is there someone we could call?" Letterman inquired.

"You might have to call my mom," Lochte said.

The host went on to ask, "My God, you've been in three Olympics. Were you aware of that?"

"Yes," Lochte replied, nodding. "Yes, I am aware."

Letterman went on to quiz him on the host cities of each of those Olympic Games, giving Lochte a round of applause when he answered correctly.

Later in the interview, Lochte said, "I just want to bring swimming into everyone's living room. So, bringing swimming awareness…"

To which Letterman replied, "Hmm, swimming awareness. So, that's the show."

"Well, pretty much," Lochte said.

"He's bringing swimming awareness into your living room," Letterman said, to more applause. "Wow, that's pretty good."

I just want to say that I hope Ryan continues to develop this "dumb" persona, in the grand tradition of "dumb" comedians.   Lou Costello, eat your heart out.

Friday, April 26, 2013

If a tree falls in the forest ...

I did something, but I can't remember what it was. It was a really good one, too. Joy incarnate. Simple, funny, moving. I remember the feeling I had when I did it, and how I thought to myself, "This is also going to be a joy to write about." And then I went off to work and by the time I got home at 11:30 PM (long but wonderful work day, in which Urban Bush Women and Liz Lerman presented a work-in-progress of a brilliant, beautiful, and fascinating new work about the physical embodiment of wealth and poverty) I had completely forgotten that simple morning joy.

If a tree falls in the forest and no-one is there to hear it fall ....?

I say yes.

I still had the experience. I still felt the joy. I still prioritized the time. I just can't share it with you. Or with myself.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cropped NYC

The weather warmed up. I wore a sleeveless top. I had time in my day to take a lunch break. I walked down to Columbus Circle to get a supply of my favorite organic black fac tea that I can’t get at the Food Coop. (black fac = black facsimile = decaf black.) I made a bunch of phone calls I’ve had a hard time finding time to make lately. I soaked in the rays. I cleared my mind. I approached Columbus Circle and realized I had forgotten my wallet, and I would not be buying any tea. I headed north on Columbus, and passed Fordham University, and noticed a bunch of beautiful birch trees. I took a photo of them, and thought to myself, “What if I would take a bunch of nature photos in NYC, leaving in the urban parts of the vista. And then what if I would crop out the urban parts, and what if I would publish them in the two versions. The NYC I wish I lived in, and the NYC I actually live in. And what if there would be a way to include the sound of the city, to heighten the juxtaposition between the natural and the urban. I was lost in this thought as I walked, and suddenly saw my friend Sonia, who teaches at Fordham Law. Sonia is one of those friends who 1) brightens the world (or at least my day) with her presence, and 2) I am lucky enough to run into in this huge city. Two big Sonia hugs and a promised lunch date later, I continued on back to the office, a little lighter in my step.
OK, got that? Shall we recap some of the things that bring Jenny joy?  Time away from the office. The great outdoors. Sun on my bare limbs. Tea. Beautiful trees. New sparks of creative projects. Simultaneously appreciating and dissing NYC. Random runs-in with friends.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

You are what your mother read

When I was up in New England, I stopped by the storage locker I still have that holds stuff from my parents' house in Massachusetts. A beautiful dining room table. The bed I grew up in. (I mean, they let me out of it in the daytime.) My mother's books. Until recently I didn't have room to pick any of this stuff up. I still don't have room for the furniture, but I packed 10 boxed of books into my car, and drove them home to Brooklyn.

I was looking for five books in particular. Five books that I did not find when I unpacked my own books when I finally moved them from Jersey storage. Five books I've been terrified got lost in transit.

My mother's Complete Jane Austen
Her copy of The Lord of the Rings
Partridge's dictionary of derivations
Her travel journals
Her address book
When I got home I had the energy to shlep the boxes up to the apartment, but then I didn't open them up til I got home early from work on Tuesday. One by one, I opened the well-labeled boxes, and yet still there were surprises. I might have written on the outside that the box included LANGUAGE BOOKS, but that didn't prevent it from holding a 1958 Berlitz French Verb Wheel. And who knew that ANN HARDCOVER would include her Girl Scout handbook, Das Kapital, and Adrienne Rich?

One by one, I went through the boxes. I looked at every book. My mother's interests emerged clear as if we were hanging out talking. Wildflowers, gardening, and foraging. Crewel embroidery and calligraphy. Cooking. Poetry. Feminist literature. Tolkien, Austen, and other classic literature. One by one, I fell under my mother's spell. I took her broken-spined Hobbit up to my night table. I put Wildflowers of North America on my flowers and gardening shelf. I wish I had nothing to do but live my mother's life. No, that's not quite right. I think what I wish for is to live my own version of her life, starting with my being able to have a Yard of My Own and skip work tomorrow to go plant in it. (And yes, there was a whole box dedicated to Virginia Woolf and Annie Dillard.)

Her Austen was there. Her Tolkien was there. Partridge, not (I think my sister has it) and neither were her journals or address book, both of which I think I have separately somewhere (and it unnerves me not to know where.) But even without them, it is delicious to piece together my mother's life, and my own, through her library. And so Bilbo Baggins kept me company as I fall asleep, as he did for my mother many a night.

Monday, April 22, 2013


How better than to start your day with tea with a dear dear friend? I just love catching up with Barbara. She's one of the most curious people I've ever known; her mind clicks and jumps and connects and probes in a way that I love being around (and I envy.) I didn't really think the day could get any better than hanging out with her, but when I got back to the Durrants, the baby chicks had arrived. How better than to follow up a wonderful start to your day than to hold fuzzy little chicklets?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

I heart haddock

It was another intense day. I woke up in Boston, a city that was about to go under lock down. I wasn't sure where Josh was, as he was supposed to take a 1 AM bus out of Boston to get back down to NYC. I had heard from him at 10:30 PM that there had been T delays because of "police activity" and then at 11:30 PM that he had made it to South Station. At that point, I went to sleep. But I woke up at 4 AM, and couldn't resist checking to see what was going on in the world, and found out about the MIT shooting, the car chase, the 2 suspects in Watertown, and transportation shut down. I didn't know if Josh's bus had made it out of Boston.  Long story short, to take all the drama out of the story, he had made it home; was asleep on the couch; his cell phone had run out of juice so he didn't see any of my texts or calls over the next 4 hours; a very good friend ended up going over to our house to see if he was safe and sound and there. I think I got that news about 8:30 AM. I was supposed to leave for Maine around 8 AM, but the city asked us to shelter in place, so I hunkered down on the couch with Claire and watched the news. Eventually we had to go out for something unavoidable, and while we were out we realized it was actually OK for me to take off and drive up to Maine.

The streets were not 100% empty on her side of town, and did certainly not feel like martial law. More like 85% empty, and very sleepy and low-key. As I drove out of the city, through the tunnels, under the bridges, over the bridges, there were lots of signs asking us to sheltered-in, and I did feel bad for disobeying. I also felt that it was likely OK that I was.

Again, long story short, I drove up to Maine, glued to WBUR, I got the first batch of stuff done that I needed to, and as I was calculating the time it would take me to get the second thing done I needed to, I realized that A. I was hungry, B. it was possible that Reds Eats was open for the season, and C. if I called them and asked them to make me a haddock sandwich so it would be ready when I arrived, I would have time to scarf it down and still get to my appointment. And so without further ado, I present you the first grilled haddock sandwich of the season. No line, no wait, pure joy.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The door's open

Another intense day in Boston.  Josh and I were driving up (to Boston) awaiting the press conference about the two suspects as we approached our destination at about 5:30 PM. Just as we arrived, the announcement was made. Two men. White hat. Black hat. Releasing images. When the press conference was done, I sort of felt like nothing of substance had happened.  Two men. White hat. Black hat. I wasn’t looking at photos, so I didn’t have the benefit of seeing the images, which might have made me understand that by releasing images, they were likely to unleash a chain of events that would be of great substance. 

The next 6 1/2 hours (that takes us to 11:59 PM of the day in which I would be writing about joy) were full and beautiful and complicated, and landed me at Claire's (my oldest friend) house in Boston, just as the city was about to launch into a 24-hour lock down, but I didn't know it yet. I think the pure moment of joy came when, after driving up from NYC, after having a full and beautiful and complicated evening and night, after I dropped Josh off at the T to get a midnight bus back to Boston, after I parked the car in Claire's driveway, as I was climbing the stairs to her front door, I heard her voice out her bedroom window. "Jane. The door's open." 

The dry humor. The deep familiarity. The door was open.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bursting into song

I don't have time to write all I would like to about this, but I do have time to post it for you. The levels of humanity ... I don't even know how to finish that sentence. Just watch it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Lobster, my old friend

Remember back in January when I threw myself a birthday party and fed everyone lobster rolls that I bought, broken down so we could assemble them fresh, from Luke's Lobster? (The store that I like to patronize because they care about sustainability, and give part of their profits back to the Maine Lobsterman's Community Alliance.) Well, in the process of buying so many rolls, I got a bunch of full Lobsta Mobsta punch cards, each one redeemable for a lobster roll at any Luke's location.

And I cashed in. I was dashing from workday part one at the JCC to workday part two at Symphony Space, where I was stage managing a big concert of Israeli music for a yom ha'atzmaut celebration that the JCC organized as part of a big coalition of Upper West Side Jewish organizations. I was hungry and it was going to be a long night, and as I power walked up Amsterdam, I saw the Luke's sign beckoning, and without planning to, I dropped in, gave them a card, and left with some lobster. When I plan my visits, I bring my own gluten-free bread, and they make my roll on that. This time, I just got a fork and ate the meat, and left the bun in its little paper holder, and kept on kept on up the Avenue to workday part two. Sometimes joy (and by joy I mean lobster) is fleeting, but it's always sweet.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

In which the mundane trumps the terrible

Let's face it; it was a shitty day. It was the 5th anniversary of my mom's death, and then somebody bombed the Boston Marathon. I couldn't imagine I was really going to find my way to joy after all that, but I did in fact, through the simplicity of doing something that usually works for me eventually. I went for a walk. And I kept walking. And I kept walking until I started to find beautiful houses with wraparound porches, and fragrant trees in bloom. I kept walking for over an hour, then an hour and a half, til my legs were just going on their own, and there was joy in the mundane and familiar motion, in the breath coming in and out, in the darkening sky.

Also, I might have picked a couple sprigs from some neighborhood trees and put them in a vase that used to be my mom's, on a table that she and I both grew up with.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Death and taxes (and wildflowers)

One of the things I keep forgetting about the current iteration of this blog is that it's completely fine if I do the same thing two days in a row, three days in a row, a week in a row. I think I even wrote about this at the beginning of the year—how it's not a Never Done year; it's a year for pure and selfish joy, and as a nod to the selfish part of that, I committed to not writing too much on the blog if it felt like writing was becoming an obligation to readers, and not something that I myself wanted to do. Still, I think I feel an obligation to readers to keep it fresh, to write about different stuff every day, not to say one day that gardening gives me joy, and then the next day, guess what? Gardening gives me joy again. But guess what?  Joy is partly about focus and mastery, and mastery comes from repetition, so guess what? I kept making my garden, and I loved it. Josh and I went to the Park and came home with  some round rocks to use as bed liners. I turned over the soil til it was nice and soft, and then on one side of the bed, I planted Northeast wildflower mix from Fedco, in honor of my mom who never met a field of wildflowers she didn't love. And on the other side of the bed I planted some paper that had Western wildflower seeds embedded in it, that I was given at Lori's memorial. I am hoping the bed becomes a wild burst of wildflower color that embodies my own complex love of the East coast and the West coast, and that come summer, yields bouquets that will perch in corners of the house and remind me of Ann and Lori.

PS: Today is the 5th anniversary of my mom's death. She died on April 15, 2008. Ben Franklin famously said, "Nothing is certain, but death and taxes." It's been enough time now that I can laugh (I imagine along with her) at her final literal joke.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A life out front

I've dug a lot of sod in my days. I grew up with a huge vegetable garden, a small vineyard, and flowers galore. My father grew the food and the grapes, my mother grew the flowers, and I grew into a person who has planted both everywhere I have lived, until I moved to New York. I planted cosmos in the front yard of a summer rental in Olympia Washington. I turned a rocky Maine field into a flourishing vegetable garden. I transformed my Portland, OR front lawn into a sea of perennials and grew lush Pacific Northwest vegetables in the back. (Artichokes! Fennel! Year-round brassicas!) I had a little patio outside my first NYC studio apartment. I grew things out there in pots, but I missed digging my hands deep into the ground. After that I was a fire escape gardener for the next 8 years, until Pam and David offered me a spot in their back yard, and last year I planted a real garden for the first time in a decade. Kale, tomatoes, arugula, carrots, beets, potatoes, and finally, in the late Fall, hoping they would over-winter without being dug up by the neighbors' cat who uses my garden as a litter box, garlic.

Potatoes and garlic. It took me til my 5th decade to grow them. (Never Done!) Mysteries under the soil that make you wish for one of those glass floors they have on coral reef tour boats, not that it would do any good in the soil. But they both worked, and now the garlic is standing tall in its bed. I've since moved across the street from Pam and David, and need only cross the street to farm. But this week, after many emails and phone calls, I received permission from my landlords to dig up the grass on this side of the street. The back of the house is dark, shaded by the apartment complex behind us, and the fig trees in the yard. I will try putting some beds back there, and see what I can do without a great deal of sun. But the front; the front gets perfect sun.  I don't love growing vegetables in the front of a house. Dogs piss on them, kids pick them, cars putt putt exhaust on them.  But flowers are another story. And so with great joy, I dug up two areas of the front lawn, knocking the dirt off the clumps of sod, and tossing them aside to dry so I can knock the rest off. I took out all my seed packages (mostly from Fedco, where I used to work, and where several of my closest friends in Maine now work) and started to picture the flower beds I can create this summer. Normally I would place bulbs there—perennials—but I didn't yet have permission to garden last Fall, and so my bulbs will stay in their bags for another year, and hopefully still be vital by first frost.

As I dug, I talked on the phone with my mother's oldest friend. Brooklyn friends walked by with their kids, coming from the soccer fields. Music drifted down the street from the open house at the Cambodian temple up the block. And I had a reason to be outside, in front of the house, a part of the fabric of the neighborhood, turning over the dirt, shovelful by shovelful, already seeing the future in flowers.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

This poem. This one.

The Night, The Porch -- Mark Strand

To stare at nothing is to learn by heart
What all of us will be swept into, and baring oneself
To the wind is feeling the ungraspable somewhere close by.
Trees can sway or be still. Day or night can be what they wish.
What we desire, more than a season or weather, is the comfort
Of being strangers, at least to ourselves. This is the crux
Of the matter, which is why even now we seem to be waiting
For something whose appearance would be its vanishing—
The sound, say, of a few leaves falling, or just one leaf,
Or less. There is no end to what we can learn. The book out there
Tells us as much, and was never written with us in mind.

Friday, April 12, 2013

They finally changed the glue on the New Yorker address labels

They finally changed the glue on the New Yorker address labels! No more steaming the labels off from particularly beautiful covers. No more peeling it s l o w l y, trying so so so hard not to rip the cover, and then .... fa-fa-failing. Now, it's one smooth gummy peel, and voila! You can see the entire cover, unmarred. Maybe you're not as Type A as I am. (It's been pointed out to me that not everyone is.) But even you! Even you must appreciate the clean pull of the label, and the unblemished cover image. Maybe it doesn't bring you joy the way it brings me joy, but ... maybe it should?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Shepping nakhes: Isa has a byline

I have known her since she was four. She is one of the smartest, funniest, soulful, insightful, quirky, caring people I know. And now she's got a byline. A real-deal byline. And I am prouder than proud can be. Not that I made her into a reporter, or really had anything to do with this directly, but I sort of did in that way that you do when you've known someone from the time they are little. You know that kind of pride. I am shepping nakhes, scooping up an abundance of pleasure in her accomplishment. You know, parentally. AND IT'S MADE ME SO VERY HAPPY.

As I've written before, my mother was the editor of our town paper for many years. I grew up inside, outside, and all around small town newspaper writing, deadlines, foibles, vulnerabilities, and dramas. One of my first jobs was as a sports stringer for the Worcester Telegram, which is not really the same thing, but it was the thing I knew how to do, from growing up in that environment.) The profession is near and dear to my heart, as is Isa. I truly couldn't be happier, and somehow the joy this brings feels pure and selfish—I suppose because the particular way that I am proud of Isa is rooted in our unique, particular relationship, and nobody else has that unique, particular relationship with Isa. But her byline (and her reporting and writing)? I am thrilled that she is sharing it with the world.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Portable Fortitude

Protective playing cards. Suitable for Poker. Catromancy. Mojo. Each card hand drawn and unique. One thousand and one uses! Spokecards. Valentines. Cheap health insurance. Prayer flags. Apotropaic charms. Writing prompts.

I have a collection of playing cards. When Mich was here, I took it out to look through it. It's been in storage so long that it feels like the collection lives in its plastic box these days, but I love to have them all out, on display and also for use. My collection is made of all sorts of cards. Flashcards. Playing cards. Baseball cards. Whimsical cards. Most of them kitshy in one particular way or another. Few of them as delightful as my Regular People Trading Cards (collect all 300 billion!) which my friend Cyndi made for me about 20 years ago. She took names from the phone book, and made up salient biographical facts about the people she imagined would have the name, and she painted the people, and she clothed them from clothes she found in magazines. It's a stunning deck. Rarely have I seen anything as original and high-concept as my Regular People Trading Cards. Until Heath introduced me to this deck of Portable Fortitude. They're whimsical. They're frightening. They're prescient. They're detailed. They're beautiful. They're funny. And they're Suitable for Poker. Catromancy. Mojo. Each card hand drawn and unique. One thousand and one uses! Spokecards. Valentines. Cheap health insurance. Prayer flags. Apotropaic charms. Writing prompts.

Available on Etsy or on Carina's website. Here are a couple to whet your appetite.  I am discovering that it does bring me joy to experience other people's artistry. Especially quirky and unique artistry that could really not be created by anyone else.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mad Men is back

What? You think I sit around all day watching television?

Nope, I just wish I could. I'm not one of those people who "doesn't own a television" or "doesn't watch television." I am one of those people who has never seen West Wing though, because I have to limit the television that I watch, because I'm so easily sucked in, and it must have come out at a time when I was either watching something else or maybe focusing hard on something else. Because you see, I just love getting lost in story. And I love the episodic form, that allows not only for deep and long story development, but for anticipation and participation. In the week between episodes, viewers get a chance to write the story we think might happen, to re-hash and reconsider the structure that's already come.
And so it brings me great joy not only to start another season of the best episodic show of my entire career as a television watcher: Mad Men, but to follow it with so many other smart viewers with whom I get to discuss, parse, re-hash, and reconsider.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Urban foraging: Allium (chives)

It was something like 62 degrees out—truly the first day that felt completely springlike. I was working at home and I had the window open. (Shehekhianu.) Later in the day, when I went out, for the first time this year, I didn't wear a jacket. (Shehekhianu.)  I went for two walks in Prospect Park.  On the first one, I found a whole bunch of wild chives. On the second one, I schooled Josh in finding them. OK, when I say wild, I really mean that they are growing in Prospect Park, and that I don't really know how they got there. It seems pretty likely that someone seeded them originally. But by now, they've spread all over the Southwestern side of the park, clump after clump, dotting the wooded hillside, and I think we probably call them wild. Also, it's very possible that they are wild chives—allium schoenoprasum—and that I'll one day eat my words (Prospect Park is not nature) as well as a delicious chive omelet.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Joy fail

I forgot. I didn't remember. I didn't seek joy. Selfish joy, selfless joy. I forgot. For anyone new to this blog, this is a highly unusual post. I am in the midst of a daily practice that started on yom kippur in which every single day I have done (at least) one thing a day to seek pure, selfish joy. Since yom kippur, I have only failed to do it one other time. Which is, y'all have to admit, an impressive track record, and which has had, I am proud to declare, a reliably positive effect on my life over the past six months. Let it be known that on April 4, 2013, I forgot to seek joy and that on April 5, 2013,  I forgave myself and started over again.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Flick

Oh how the stars can sometimes align. I got a pair of tickets to see Annie Baker's new play The Flick, which is set in a small movie theater in New England. I used to work in a small movie theater in New England. I am still friends with all the people who run the small movie theater in New England. I invited my friend Phoebe, the daughter of two of the owners of the small movie theater in New England, to see if she could come with me. I was delighted that she was. While we hung out in the lobby before the show, we talked about how her parents and friends had sold the theater—not to a multiplex, but to a non-profit that was set up to support independent film in Central Maine. We were talking about how now that there's some money, the theater is converting over to digital from 35mm, and how on the one hand, that's incredibly sad after so many years of projecting 35mm. And I remembered what it felt like to set up and break down the reels, and to feel the film run between my fingers, and the time I made a mistake and spliced the wrong film into the right film and then projected it. I can never remember (I think I was too mortified to fully form the memory) but I think one of the reels was Last Temptation of Christ, and the other was, let's say, definitely not. So we were talking about this transition from film to digital, and then we went into the theater at Playwrights Horizons, and we were immediately confronted with a beautiful set of a space we have both spent hundreds and thousands of hours in. The slightly ratty seats of a movie theater and the windows of the projection booth, the lens of a 35mm projector peering through. When the action of the play starts, two guys are cleaning popcorn and soda (and other unmentionables) from the floor, something Phoebe and I have done hundreds and thousands of times. And within the first few minutes, we learn that this theater might be losing its 35mm projectors and converting to digital. A collective breath from the two of us, and we settled in for a 3-hour masterpiece. This is why we live in New York. To see great theater about a small movie theater in New England.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Skid Row

When I come off the subway at Church Avenue after work, there are usually a pack of people climbing the stairs, and I usually find myself somewhere in the middle of that pack. And when I come off the subway at 72nd Street on my way to work, there are usually a pack of people climbing the stairs, and I usually find myself somewhere in the middle of that pack too. And usually, on both ends, I find myself singing what I think is one of the greatest songs of the musical theater canon.

I never in my life imagined I would have a personal connection to a NYC subway commute. I always looked at it as something distant and vaguely mythical—certainly of another world from mine, and usually from a different (earlier) time from mine. I find myself continually surprised that I am here, that I am one of them—nay, one of us.

I was coming home with Mich, and I told her that I sing Skid Row every morning and every evening, and we both sang a little bit together, and she said she hadn't seen Little Shop of Horrors since maybe high school, and I said we could watch it when we got home. Which we did. More than once. This is truly also one of the best directed scenes of the movie musical canon, and it doesn't matter how many times I watch it; when the woman sings "they put in their 8 hours for the powers who have always been" I get chills up my spine. And when the residents of skid row all start tapping their right foot in unison, I get chills up my spine. And when the woman with white hair spits out "Down on Skid Row" I get chills up my spine. And when Audrey and Seymour work their ways towards each other, yes, I get chills up my spine. 

Alarm goes off at seven
And you start uptown.
You put in your eight hours
For the powers that have always been.

Sing it child.

Till it's 5 P.M.

[BUM 1]
Then You go

Where the folks are broke.
You go downtown
Where your life's a joke.
You go downtown
When you buy your toke,
And you go
Home to skid row.

[BUM 2]
Yes, you go

Where the cabs don't stop
Where the food is slop
Where the hop-heads flop in the snow
Down on Skid Row
Uptown you cater to a million jerks.
Uptown you're messengers and mailroom clerks
Eating all your lunches at the hot dog carts.
The bosses take your money and they break your hearts.

Uptown you cater to a million whores.
You disinfect terrazzo on their bathroom floors.
The jobs are really menial; you make no bread.
And then at 5 o'clock you head

[BUM 3]
By subway
Where the guys are drips.
Where they rip your slips.
Where relationships are no go.
Down on skid row!
Down on skid row!
Down on skid row!
Down on skid row!

Poor! All my life I've always been poor.
I keep asking God what I'm for,
and he tells me "Gee, I'm not sure.
Sweep that floor, kid."
Oh, I started life as an orphan,
a child of the street
Here on skid row.
He took me in, gave me shelter, a bed,
Crust of bread and a job
Treats me like dirt, calls me a slob,
Which I am.
So I live
That's your home address.
Ya live
When your life's a mess.
Ya live
Where depressions' jes'
Status quo.
Down on skid row
Someone show me a way to get
outa here,
'cause I constantly pray I'll get
outa here
Please, won't somebody say I'll get
outa here
Someone gimme my shot or I'll
rot here.
Show me how and I will, I'll get out of here,
I'll start climbing up hill and get out of here,
Someone tell me I still could get out of here,
Someone tell Lady Luck that I'm stuck here.
Gee it sure would be swell to get out of here.
Bid the gutter farewell and get out of here.
I'd move heaven and hell to get out of skid.
I'd do I don't know what to get out of skid.
But a hell of a lot to get out of skid. 
Please don't tell me there's not a way out of skid.
But believe me I gotta get out of skid row.

I'd do I dunno what to get outa skid
But a hell of a lot to get outa skid
People tell me there's not a way outa skid
But believe me I gotta get outa skid

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Opening Day (Red Sox beat Yankees to sweeten the deal)

If you can't watch the game at the ball field, and you can't watch the game on TV or listen to it on radio while it's actually being played, then you should definitely invite a good friend over to watch it on tape delay. Also, if you get stressed out when the Red Sox play the Yankees, you should definitely ask them to go up 4-0 in the 2nd inning, which makes for some seriously stress-free viewing. Also, if you want some excessive cuteness while watching your team win its opening day game against its arch-rival, you should invite your good friend's girlfriend and 4-year-old son over to watch for a while. Also, if you want to do your part for your team for the coming year, you should definitely start setting up your Red Sox altar over your TV. I mean, why worship false idols when you can worship real ones?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Modern Love

There is no greater joy (OK, there are equal or greater joys) but there are few greater joys than sitting home alone and reading Modern Love. Well-crafted personal essays of 1500-1700 words, each about  love in one form or another. A few minutes during which I get to lose myself in someone's story, which is one of my favorite things to do.

I've been writing a Modern Love essay that is not unconnected to the theme of the current one. Send your good juju this way to help me wend my way through the storytelling to get to the end I know I want. And (if I believed in god, I would say god willing) the day it gets published, I will know a greater joy than sitting alone and reading Modern Love.