Friday, December 25, 2009

Quotes to Live By, Part Nine

"If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people."
– Virginia Woolf

“Keep passing the open windows.”
- John Irving, The Hotel New Hampshire

“Your memory is a monster; you forget--it doesn't. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you--and summons them to your recall with a will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you!”
- John Irving


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Quote on my Birthday

"Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.”
- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Monday, December 21, 2009

Quotes to Live By, Part Eight

"Never mistake motion for action."
- Ernest Hemingway

"Action is eloquence."
- William Shakespeare

"Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement."
- Alfred Adler

"Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold, but so does a hard-boiled egg."
- Author Unknown

Friday, December 18, 2009

Quotes to Live By, Part Seven

"I'd rather regret the things I've done than regret the things I haven't done."
- Lucille Ball

“It is the soul's duty to be loyal to its own desires. It must abandon itself to its master passion.”
- Rebecca West

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Great Expectations

In typical cinematic fashion, I had an epiphany yesterday—on the subway, while listening to my Broken Heart playlist. I was thinking about my broken heart, and trying to figure out why it’s taking so long to heal. As I was pondering all the greatest romances, the romances that influenced my definition of romance, I realized there wasn’t one real relationship among them—they all exist in a two-dimensional universe: film.

Thus, my epiphany: movies have ruined my life. Books have no doubt added to the damage— Jake and Brett, Catherine and Frederic, Lily and Selden, Catherine and Heathcliff and Romeo and Juliet break my heart every time I re-visit them—but my most vivid connections to fictional romance have been conveyed through film.

I can’t recall a time when I didn’t love movies. My father introduced me to classics like The Godfather, High Noon and Bridge on the River Kwai. My mother introduced me to slapstick comedy—she loves High Anxiety, Young Frankenstein and Airplane! Often it was her reaction—if you know my mom, you can picture her chuckling away—to broad comedies that amused me more than the actual movie. She also loves horror films; I love the fact that while most kids were shielded from scary movies, my mother actually called me into the room to watch Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street with her. If it was cheesy and scary, we watched it. One of her favorite horror films is a cheese-fest called Happy Birthday to Me; in it, there’s a scene in which the killer brutally and hilariously kills her lover by shoving a shish kebob down his throat. This scene cracks my mother up. Her deep appreciation for both smart humor and cheeky horror definitely added to my reverence of film.

However, at some point, my love affair with movies turned on me. I’m not satisfied—in fact, I’m disappointed with—the ordinary and uninspired aspects of everyday life, especially in regard to endings. I crave the drama of movie endings—the theatrics and suspense, the convergence of emotions, the tension of a compelling finale. I want the underdog to win, I want love to conquer all and I want everyone’s lives improved, even though I know life doesn’t function in this manner. I was devastated when the Yankees lost the 2001 World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks. New York City had been torn asunder by 9/11, literally and figuratively—how could our home team, the celebrated New York Yankees, not win the World Series? It would have been a storybook ending—a movie ending—that my city deserved.

Thus my lifelong love for movies has become problematic. I always look for the dramatic ending, the grand gesture. I want a life-changing epiphany, a torrential rainstorm, a David vs. Goliath victory. I want star-crossed lovers to reunite. I cannot fathom why my Ex doesn’t show up on my doorstep to declare I am all that matters to her—she was put on this earth to love me—not because I think I’m so fabulous but because it would be so very romantic, like Fred and Holly Golightly in the pouring rain searching for Cat.

Reality is boring, and difficult, and more often than not, sad or disappointing, but not in a poignant, cinematic way. Is it so wrong to want life to be more vivid, more touching, more romantic? Is it too much to ask for a little more drama and a little less heartbreak? After all, in the end, Lassie does come home; Luke, Leia and Han Solo do defeat the Dark Side; Harry does love Sally; Willy is eventually free; Edward does climb up to Vivian; Maverick does prove his worth; Amanda Jones does stand on her own two feet; Diane does fall for Lloyd Dobler; the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal do become friends; the St. Elmo’s group does grow up; Dan and Debbie do get back together; Princess Buttercup and Wesley do live happily ever after; Thelma and Louise do find freedom; Red and Andy do reunite in Zihuatanejo; Erin Brockovich does defeat PG&E, Seabiscuit does win the race; and Ennis del Mar does love Jack Twist forever.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Quotes to Live By, Part Six

“Pity me that the heart is slow to learn
What the swift mind beholds at every turn.”
- Edna St. Vincent Millay

“A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down. If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book nothing can help him.”
- Edna St. Vincent Millay

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love.”
- Washington Irving

Monday, December 14, 2009

Quotes to Live By, Part Five

"The willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life is the source from which self-respect springs."
- Joan Didion

"The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for."
- Maureen Dowd

"The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain."
- Dolly Parton

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Quotes to Live By, Part Four

"Nobody has ever measured, not even the poets, how much a heart can hold."
- Zelda Fitzgerald

"Love is something eternal...
The aspect may change
But not the essence."
- Vincent Van Gogh

Both these quotes are fairly famous, but to me they are more than just famous words of wisdom; they are priceless signifiers of passion and love.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Quotes to Live By Part Three

“I will love the light, for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.”
- Og Mandino (American essayist)

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
- Anonymous

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Quotes to Live By Part Two

"Is life not a hundred times too short for us to stifle ourselves?
- Friedrich Nietzsche

"It is never too late to be what you might have been."
- George Eliot

"Almost every man wastes part of his life in attempts to display qualities which he does not possess, and to gain applause which he cannot keep."
- Samuel Johnson

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Quotes to Live By

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
-Dr. Seuss

"Above all, be true to yourself, and if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it."
- Hardy D. Jackson

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Meaning of (My) Life

It’s now been just over a year since my debut novel, CLOSER TO FINE, was published. For the past twelve months, I’ve done everything possible to cajole both people I know and total strangers to purchase and read my book. I’ve answered the question “What’s your book about” many times, and my answer has started something like this: “Well, it’s about this girl, Alex, and how she tries to cope with her brother’s death, and then her therapist dies and leaves her a note about her life…” Now that I am happily, regularly and publicly working on my next novel, people are asking, “What’s your new book about?” My answer has either been “I can’t (i.e., won’t) talk about it” or “You’ll see.” But today I realized I have a better answer to both questions: “Connections.” Both CLOSER TO FINE and my novel-in-progress are about people connecting with other people.

My life is, literally and figuratively, focused on connections. As an English professor, it is both my hope and my job to connect college students to literature. As a writer, my goal is to connect readers to my characters, my stories, my themes and, ultimately, to me. As a person, I am fascinated, energized, inspired and propelled forward by human connections. I think we all are. Connecting with other people is what makes life remarkable, and prevents it from becoming an endless cycle of work, responsibility and monotony. The cool thing about connecting is that it can happen en masse; when the floor was vibrating and the walls were breathing as Madonna took the stage at a special Roseland Ballroom concert I attended last year, it was because of the electric connection among the small audience. Isn’t that what music is all about? Connecting. In addition to music, art and literature are based on connections as well; they’re all created in the hopes that a song, a painting, a poem or a novel will find a home in the heart of another, or many others. It doesn’t matter what you connect with, as long as you connect. I can listen to Regina Spektor’s “Fidelity” or the Indigo Girls’ “Virginia Woolf” or Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue” ten times a day, but someone else might cringe at these songs while obsessively loving three other songs. I’ve connected with these songs (and about thirty others I listen to religiously); you connect with other songs. That’s the magic of connections.

Some people spend a lot of time creating professional connections. Others are serial romantic connectors. There’s no right way to connect, as long as you’re connecting. A lot of people scoff at Facebook and the notion of social networks, but Facebook connected me to people who may have otherwise never heard about my novel—four people from my high school, who I haven’t seen since high school, attended my NYC reading, thanks to my CLOSER TO FINE Facebook page. This blog, in fact, was inspired by Facebook; a few hours ago, a colleague and I were talking about work-related issues, and he mentioned a Facebook status about work I posted last week, while he was on vacation. He didn’t comment on Facebook about it, and I didn’t know he had read it, yet it still connected us a week later. In August, I am meeting a good friend in Europe; after five days together in Amsterdam, we are returning to his apartment in Prague, where I will stay with him for a week. I last saw this friend three years ago, in a bar, for perhaps four hours. Before that, however, I saw him nearly every day for two years. We first bonded, or connected, over a shared love of our favorite fluff (i.e., cheesy) novel (STORY OF MY LIFE by Jay McInerney, if you’re wondering). A year after this initial connection, a phone call on a crisp, sunny September morning connected us for the rest of our lives; it was he who called me at 9 AM on September 11th and told me to turn on the TV. Together—as friends, writers, fellow New Yorkers—we watched as the second plane crashed into a tower. It never occurred to me to not ask if I could visit him in Prague, and I’m guessing it didn’t occur to him to say no, simply because we share a connection.

Which is not to say that time doesn’t change or lessen connections; there are people, especially Camp Taconic people, I am no longer connected to, despite thinking I would forever be connected to them. Life does sometimes get in the way of connections; other times, it is we who need to alter our connections. I’m currently in the process of disconnecting from someone I truly thought I’d spend a lifetime connected to. Yet there is an ebb and flow to connections, to accepting the people life places in our paths. I may not ascribe to a particular faith, but recognizing, as well as nurturing and protecting, connections is sacred to me. In the past year, I’ve connected with two colleagues in a way I never thought possible; they’ve become close friends, ones I rely on in a myriad of ways. I’ve connected with my sister’s children in an intensely pure, transformative manner. I’ve re-connected with my closest friends—the link between us has escalated, as have the love, respect and admiration. I’ve recently tried to create a new connection, one borne of 21st century technology but based on the most ancient form of communication: honest words.

Connecting with others is not easy—it can be daunting, confusing, complicated. Insecurities arise, words are weighed and letting go—trusting enough to truly connect—is the biggest leap of faith life has to offer. In the end, though, I think it’s worth it, because forging connections is the point. Of life, and of love.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Closer to Fine, One Year Anniversary

On June 25, 2009, my debut novel CLOSER TO FINE turned one. It’s been one full year since the publication of a book I spent two years writing, one year editing, and four years waiting to be published. Although I am an Assistant Professor of English at the College of New Rochelle and carry a full load of teaching, advising and committee work, I spent as much time as my schedule would allow in 2008 publicizing CLOSER TO FINE. All of it was exciting, and I learned a lot, not only about the book publishing world but also myself and people in general. While I love reading my work to an audience, my favorite part of a Reading & Signing is the Q&A. Whether I had just read to an audience of college students, the general public or aspiring writers, the questions were terrific. Here are some paraphrased highlights, in case you weren’t able to attend a Reading & Signing:

Most Frequently Asked Question: How long did it take you to write your novel? [See above.]

Second Most Frequently Asked Question (also Silliest Question): Are those your legs on the cover? [No.]

Most Challenging Question: When Alex finally talks with her mother, on the grass, at a family gathering, what is it that she wants? In what way does she need the relationship to shift? [Too long and complicated for this blog, but we had an interesting dialogue about the answer.]

Least Challenging Question: Are all the characters based on people you know? [No. Only a few are vaguely modeled on real people.]

Most Mystifying Question: Why does Alex conduct so many internal dialogues? [Because she dissects every aspect of her life, for better or worse, and tries to make sense of the enormous pain she’s experienced.] Yes, but she continues to probe, internally, when most people would turn outward for answers. It’s almost as if she makes connections, isn’t satisfied with them, and searches for further connections. [Um, ah, because Jax can’t always pick up his phone. I guess. I’m not sure what you mean.] (NOTE: these questions came from a neuroscientist, with whom I had a lovely chat after the Q&A. He dumbed his questions down so I, the right-brained writer, could understand and answer them without sounding quite so idiotic.)

Most Dreaded Question Asked at Every Q&A: Are you working on another novel? [3 answers, depending on when the question was asked: No; I’m currently in the research phase; Yes. I hated this question for two reasons. One, saying “No” was painful for me, as a writer should write on a regular basis, but it took me six months to come to terms with my own idea, as it includes some back story I was uncomfortable with for a variety of reasons. Two, the subsequent question was always: What is your new book about? I don’t discuss my current work; most writers won’t discuss whatever it is they’re currently writing. Writers understand this, but others tended to be insulted when I wouldn’t answer, so I began repeating a statement by Ernest Hemingway directly related to the discourse of a writer’s current work, which I live and write by: “If you talk about it you lose it.”]

Question Asked Only Once: Are you happy with your novel, i.e., Would You Change Anything if You Could? [Yes, I am extremely happy with my novel, though I would change three small errors, all of which were my fault. There is a grammatical mistake, I am ashamed to say (I am an English professor, after all, and consider my grammatical skills beyond reproach); there is a mistake in regard to a NYC subway connection; and there is a musical reference mistake (“Bruce Springsteen is wailing about the Badlands” but BADLANDS is a Terence Malick film; I was thinking of Springsteen’s song “Jungleland.”).]

Easiest Questions to Answer:

Which part of your novel was easiest to write? [Chapter One, which was originally, in a slightly altered version, an award-winning short story I wrote. I thought of most of it, including dialogue, while sitting in traffic on the LIE. The rest flowed out of me more smoothly and quickly than anything I have ever written.]

Which part of your novel was hardest to write? [The dinner scene in which Jax confronts his father’s homophobia was extraordinarily difficult to write, and took me quite a few attempts to get right. The last paragraph of the novel was also hard to write; I revised it about twenty times. The cemetery scene with Tucker and Alex was stylistically challenging, due to the present tense flashback (flashbacks are usually past tense).]

What is your favorite part of your novel? [As is often the case in life, that which is hardest is most rewarding; my favorite part is the dinner scene in which Jax confronts his father’s homophobia. I also really like the scene in which Alex tells Jax she’s found “the missing piece;” it’s nearly all fast-paced dialogue and the affection between the best friends is palpable (if I don’t say so myself!).]

If you have a question about CLOSER TO FINE or my writing process or the publication process in general, feel free to email me at And if you haven’t yet bought and read CLOSER TO FINE, you’re missing out! Pick one up at any bookstore and enjoy over a summer weekend!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Music Makes the People Come Together

“Nothing is more revealing than movement.” – Martha Graham

I’m starting to believe more and more in kismet, though I guess a person with outstanding rhetorical skills could convince me kismet is nothing more than a series of coincidences.  I’ve been craving a night of dancing for months.  I’ve been re-visiting my favorite techno albums a lot lately (can I still use the world “album?” All my music is on my IPod, yet I hadn’t listened to techno/DJ music in a while), and my IPod has been frozen on Madonna’s “Confessions Tour Live” for the past 2 weeks.  Last night, without any premeditation, a night of dancing presented itself to me.  Dinner on the Upper West Side turned into drinks in Hell’s Kitchen, in a bar I used to spend a lot of time in, back when I went out (with the boys) every weekend.  At a time usually considered the end of night (and a late one at that), we (me and the boys, though a different variation) strolled over to the Ritz Bar, which we chose for its proximity and the lack of cover charge.  We walked in and, while waiting for drinks, heard an excellent re-mix of Madonna’s “Deeper & Deeper,” an underappreciated song and one of my favorites.  Drinks in hand, we ventured into the back, to the dance space.  I felt like a kid again; actually, I felt like the 26 year-old version of me.  As I crossed the threshold, I banged into the wall of heat, and I paused.  It felt like a subway platform in August; the smoke machine and tons of twisting, sweaty bodies only added to the visceral memories coursing through my body.  I wondered: is this what I wanted? Am I still this person, the one who loves dancing among a bevy of boys, enough to ignore the intense heat and the smaller-than-my-comfort-zone-usually-allows space?  I stepped into the dance space—yes, I am.

I stripped down to my tank top (fortuitous wardrobe choice), we found our corner and 2 hours of dancing began.  Great DJ—he mixed it up a bit, with Madonna, Lady GaGa, a short, fun 80s set (including a giddy re-mix of Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” which, it turns out, we remembered every word to!), a fantastic dance mix of Tina Turner’s “Rolling on a River,” a small but potent paean to disco, and other songs I can’t remember.  It took me a few songs to find my groove—I can’t remember the last time I went dancing, in a bar or club, sweating and smiling.  Within 15 minutes, though, it was as if no time at all had passed; I was sharing smiles with the same dance partner from my 20s.  A good DJ doesn’t just tumble into the next song—he/she presents a journey, and guessing where that path will lead is half the fun, for me.  The DJ’s transitions were very good, and I quickly forgot (or my body adjusted to) the heat in the room.  I looked around the room and felt the same satisfaction, the same comfort, I’ve always felt while dancing in gay (male) bars and clubs.  Personal space is respected.  Everyone knows how to dance (nothing worse than trying to dance among people who cannot—it can be painful to watch).  The fun is palpable—despite the heat, there is a lightness in the air, a zest for life.  And, of course, no one is looking at me, except my friends.  My skin sweats and my hair frizzes, but my body delights nonetheless, and not an iota of insecurity weighs me down—I am in complete alignment with body and soul.  It’s like being invisible, in the best way, yet at the same time, I am at peace with myself.  As Martha Graham so eloquently stated: “We look at the dance to impart the sensation of living in an affirmation of life, to energize [. . .] into keener awareness of the vigor, the mystery, the humor, the variety, and the wonder of life.”  

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Music and Me

I love music; I think music defines my life, in a variety of ways.  I can measure my growth—both musical and literal—by the music I’ve listened to (and depended on) throughout my life.  I look back on the concerts I’ve attended and they reflect who I was at the time, where I was emotionally, and what I was looking for, in terms of music and my life in general.  Whether I was walking the frigid, quaint streets of Ann Arbor with my yellow Sony walkman, negotiating subways and NYC streets with a Discman while commuting to my first job as an adult, driving around the Hamptons with the salty sea air flowing through my Ford Explorer or now, listening to my IPod every time I exit my apartment, music has been and continues to be a part of my daily existence, my passage through life.  The Indigo Girls concert I saw last week got me thinking about the concerts I’ve attended over the years; herewith, for whoever reads my website blogs and my FB Notes, is a list of my favorites:

Sting, Nassau Coliseum, L.I., March 1991.  I liked Sting, but I liked the opening band, Concrete Blonde, a lot more.

Spin Doctors, Wetlands, NYC, June 1991.  Anyone remember Wetlands? It was the funkiest club in TriBeCa, on Hudson Street.  We always got lost driving there.  The Spin Doctors were really cool, before they became popular and started to suck.  This was a great show—I think I went with Tara and Bryan, friends from high school.

Grateful Dead, Giants Stadium, NJ, June 1991, with Dana, Ryan, Tara and Bryan, from high school.  My first Dead show—it sounds so cliché, but my life was forever changed. 

Grateful Dead, Giants Stadium, NJ, June 1992, with my pals from freshman year: Dana, Melissa and Jon.  We had floor seats.  I heard my favorite song, “Shakedown Street,” and they closed with “Baba O'Riley.”  Bruce Hornsby was on drums.  This concert blew my mind—I can still picture myself dancing like a maniac.

The Black Crowes, Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, MI, March 1993.  I loved them at the time—their first album was so damn good. Despite the lame name, Hill Auditorium is among the Top 10 acoustics in the country (or was at the time).  Balcony seats, damn fine concert (it was Dana’s birthday; I think she and Melissa left early to start a dorm party while Melanie and I rocked out.)

PHISH, Michigan Theatre, Ann Arbor, MI, April 1993.  Tickets were $15.50 for students!  I had tix for two nights.  I missed the concert on the 17th because I fainted on the way in to the concert.  The concert on the 18th was terrific—non-stop set list.

Grateful Dead, Buckeye Lake, OH, June 1993.  I still smile when I think of this concert.  Road trip from Ann Arbor to Ohio, with Dana, Melanie, Melissa, Danielle B, Stacey W and Stacy S.  I flew in from my summer internship in D.C., ate a chipati, and we took off.  Cheap motel, beautiful weather, the entire day outside.  I remember we created our own bathroom by strategically opening side-by-side car doors. I also remember watching a stranger suck down a huge whip-it, then fall over like a tree (never understood the whip-it thing).  The Dead were amazing that night.  It took us five hours to drive out of the parking lot.  Yes, it’s vaguely fictionalized in my novel.

Peter Gabriel, Capital Centre, June 1993.  Incredible, life-altering concert.

The Allman Brothers, Beacon Theater, March 1996.  Ah, the Allmans, live.  I danced for 2 hours.  Fantastic.

Indigo Girls, June 1997, Sony Studios, NYC, my first IGs concert.  Steven and I scored tickets to a Hard Rock Live taping through the agency at which we worked. Stood on line for two hours, but then sat on the stage, two feet from Amy & Emily.  I became a fan for life; this was the first of many concerts with Steven.

Natalie Merchant, June 1997, Town Hall, NYC.  My sister got tickets at the last minute to a private, law-related benefit concert.  Town Hall is beautiful, and the acoustics are outstanding.  I loved Natalie at the time—this was an unbelievable, life-altering concert.

Natalie Merchant, The Supper Club, NYC, June 1998.  I loved her.  No one else could go.  I went by myself.  It was awesome.

James Taylor, Tanglewood, MA, August, 1997.  If you’ve never seen JT under the stars at Tanglewood, you’re missing out.

John Mellencamp, Mercury Lounge, NYC, 1999.  I actually went to see The Paul Rudderman Band—he was a guy who went to U-M, had a great band and was the opening act.  The whole night was so cool; Mercury Lounge is small but not in a sweaty, claustrophobic way. John played every song we wanted to hear; it was like having him in my living room.

Indigo Girls, Central Park Summerstage, June NYC, 2000.  My first Summerstage concert, with Steven, Nick, Aaron and Jessica.  They played “Romeo and Juliet,” under a blanket of stars on a perfect June night.  I think I cried.

Elton John, MSG, NYC, November 2001.  My mother loves Elton, so starting in the late 1990s, whenever he came to town we’d get tickets and go as a family, including my brother-in-law.  This was two months after 9/11; you could still hear the ambulance sirens as they traveled from downtown to the morgue on 1st Avenue, near my old apartment.  Flags everywhere, “Missing” photos everywhere.  No one has performed more concerts in NYC than Elton John (this is a fact—you can look it up), all of them at MSG.  He hit the stage, announced that he, too, was devastated, but he wanted to lighten our load for a few hours—he proceeded to play the most incredible, life-affirming concert I’ve ever witnessed.  He started with “Funeral for a Friend” and by the time he started “Philadelphia Freedom” three songs later, MSG was shaking—the building itself was trembling.  He played “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters,” a love song to NYC and my favorite song of his; I cried, everyone cried.  He played 28 songs.  Life-altering concert.

Madonna, MSG, NYC, 2001.  Her “Drowned World Tour,” and my first Madonna concert, with Ali and David.  In junior high I was busy resisting anything mainstream, and in high school I was busy being a Deadhead (and playing tennis).  It wasn’t until I saw her documentary Truth or Dare in college that I realized she wasn’t mainstream at all—she was the leader of her own brilliant rebellion. 

Melissa Etheridge, Jones Beach, L.I., June 2002.  My first Melissa concert (I was late to appreciate/love her), with Steven, tenth row seats, with the sea air whipping around us—she was f*#*ing unbelievable.  The guitar, the voice—I was blown away. Her chords reverberated in my chest for days.

Bob Dylan, Southampton College, L.I., August 2002.  This was an outdoor concert, a fundraiser; I knew the person producing the event.  VIP all the way—parking, food/drinks, seating, port-o-potty (always nice to have a clean, air-conditioned bathroom at an outdoor concert!)—the only time I’ve been a VIP.  I was accompanied by two awesome friends, Debbie and Angela, and  stood 10 feet from Dylan!  He played “All Along the Watchtower,” one of the greatest songs ever written, and “Tangled Up in Blue,” one of my all-time favorite songs.  Perfect evening.

Indigo Girls, Central Park Summerstage, NYC, October 2003.  This show was re-scheduled from August 14; the night of the blackout.  Angela got a ticket at the last minute, since she was visiting me, and we went with Nick and Steven.  They played “Mystery” and “Virginia Woolf” and “The Times They Are A Changin” (a Dylan song).  It was ridiculously great.

Madonna, MSG, NYC, June 2004.  Her “Re-Invention Tour,” with Steven.  I’ve seen a lot of concerts, as evidenced by this list, which is just my favorite concerts, not all the concerts I’ve seen. When it comes to getting the most bang for your buck, Madonna is it; her concerts are expensive, but she keeps four of your five senses invigorated for two hours.  A Madonna concert is a journey, to paraphrase her words.  And I’m not just writing this because I think she’s brilliant and she has maintained her artistic integrity throughout her career and she is possibly the most motivated person on the planet.  She performs—she doesn’t just sing.  She performs songs she has written (lyrics and music) and she never lip syncs.  Her concerts are electrifying.

Madonna, MSG, NYC, July 2006, on her “Confessions Tour,” with Ali, David and Jenn.  Crappy seats, fabulous show.  New versions of “Let It Will Be” and “Erotica;” if those two songs don’t make you want to dance, nothing will.  The 1-2-3 punch of “Let It Will Be” into “Music Inferno” into “Erotica” is fifteen minutes of sexy, stimulating dance music created by someone who understands the importance of sexy, stimulating dance music.

Natalie Merchant, Hiro Ballroom, March 2008, with Steven and Jason (my ticket was a birthday present from Steven).  It was so cool to see Natalie after so many years, and she was terrific.  It felt like the completion of something in my life (not sure what, but felt good).

Madonna, Roseland Ballroom, NYC, April 30, 2008, two hours after my second niece, Charlotte, was born.  This was a “Hard Candy Promo Show”—no tickets were sold.  Steven won tickets from Verizon Wireless—Roseland was full of crazy Madonna fans like us.  Judge me if you will, but this concert was the best 26 minutes of my life (platonic minutes).  I was on a natural high for a week, and a year later, I still tingle a bit when I hear the opening bars of “Candy Shop.”

Madonna, MSG, October 6 & 7, 2008, for her “Sticky & Sweet Tour.”  Yes, I went both nights—the first with David and the second with Stacey, Nick and Steven.  Her new version of “Borderline” was f*#*ing unreal, and “Like A Prayer” had me dancing and singing like a teenager.  This was my favorite Madonna tour.

Indigo Girls, Highline Ballroom, April 15, 2009, with Steven and Nick.  See blog below.  We were ten feet away; the set list was fantastic.  Can’t wait to see them this summer at Central Park Summerstage…


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Musical Transcendence

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There are three things in life that inspire complete happiness in my soul. One is reading someone else’s words—whether in the form of a novel, essay, poem or story—and feeling the landscape of my life shift as those words penetrate, affect, impress or change me. Another is seeing and hearing live music, being in the presence of a singer or group whose music improves my life. Last night I went to the Indigo Girls concert at Highline Ballroom; I’ve seen the Indigo Girls about a dozen times, and I’ve attended each of those concerts with Steven and Nick—we are the ultimate Indigo Girls fans triumvirate. Sometimes others join us—I remember a Central Park Summerstage concert with Aaron and Jessica, and another NYC concert with Nicole, and a Radio City Music Hall concert with Aaron, and The Bardovan concert with my ex—but the three of us have yet to waver. The IGs release a new album about every two years, but they are quite cognizant that while fans embrace their new songs, they also feel attached to older ones; thus, their concerts are an excellent combination of new and familiar songs. Their current tour is an acoustic one, and their new album, Poseidon and the Bitter Bug, is great. For some reason we didn’t see the IGs the last time they were in NYC (I think it’s actually Madonna’s fault, since we spent a fortune on good seats for her concert), so I was really craving this concert. The IGs typically play Radio City Music Hall, the Beacon Theater or, in warm weather, Central Park Summerstage when they hit NYC. The Highline Ballroom is a new venue for them—and it’s a fantastic venue! It’s small but comfortable, General Admission, with a bar and clean bathrooms. We stood maybe 10 feet from the IGs (Amy and Emily), and I had a clear view for the entire concert (rare for my 5’2” self).

I’ve heard/read many musicians state that NYC is their favorite city in which to play concerts, and the IGs clearly agree. They seemed to be having a blast onstage, which only added to the buzzing energy in the room. Their set list was loaded with the best songs from the new album as well as amazing older songs. Part of why I love seeing the Indigo Girls is because their repertoire is fairly huge, and it’s always such fun to guess a song from the first few notes, and then predict the next song . It reminds me of seeing the Grateful Dead—I experience that same unfettered, joyful vibe whenever I’m at an Indigo Girls concert. I love their music, too (except for the occasional Emily song that’s just too namby-pamby for me), and I admire not only their tenacity but their independence—they’ve never sold out in any manner, and they consistently encourage their audiences to participate in life, whether environmentally, socially, politically or culturally. They are responsible for launching many independent singer-songwriters—opening for the IGs on tour is essentially a seal of approval from two of the music industry’s most benevolent arbiters of indie talent (check out Girlyman or Brandi Carlisle). They also invite non-profit groups on tour with them, to help raise awareness and visibility, which I love. And, of course, the IGs have fought long and hard for GLBT rights, loudly and consistently, not only through their lyrics but also their actions.

This was also the first concert after my novel, CLOSER TO FINE, was published last July. Yes, the title was inspired by what is probably the most well-known of the Indigo Girls’ songs. Since titles cannot be copyrighted, I didn’t need their permission, but as a writer and therefore a fellow artist, I wasn’t comfortable using the words they had created without letting them know. So I asked my publisher to send them a copy of the manuscript—officially I was requesting a blurb from one or both of them, but unofficially I just sought their blessing to name my novel CLOSER TO FINE. What I received, less than a month later, stunned me: an email from Emily, raving about how she loved reading my novel, she inhaled it in two sittings, and wished me the best of luck with CLOSER TO FINE. It is, by far, the coolest email I have ever received! So to hear the song “Closer to Fine,” ten months after the publication of my debut novel and one month before the Lambda Literary Awards ceremony (my book is nominated in the Debut Novel category), was f*#*ing cool!

But my favorite part of the concert—it’s always my favorite part—was singing and dancing and screaming and smiling with my friends Nick and Steven. Last night reminded me that often, it’s the simplest, purest experiences that elevate us—emotionally, physically, spiritually—and remind us to enjoy the extraordinary moments life offers.

Indigo Girls Highline Ballroom 4/15/09

Thoughts to follow later in the day, but here's the set list for last night's amazing Indigo Girls concert at Highline Ballroom, NYC.

Love of Our Lives
Sugar Tongue
Fill It Up Again
Power of Two
Driver Education
What Are You Like
Guest Performance/Song by The Roaches
Digging for your Dream
Heartache for Everyone
Get Out the Map
Shame On You
Fleet of Hope
Ghost of the Gang
Jonas & Ezekial
I'll Change
Land of Canaan
Closer to Fine
Second Time Around

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Can't Reach R.E.M.

It’s 4:42 AM and I am wide-awake, again.  This keeps happening—I fall asleep, and then wake up 3 or 4 or sometimes even 2 hours later, and I’m up, regardless of what time it is.  It’s dark outside; the world outside my windows is quiet, yet I am awake.  I’ve had spates—and one serious phase—of insomnia in the past, but this is absurd, and I’m not sure it qualifies as insomnia if I actually do fall asleep.  It’s not really the act of falling asleep that’s the problem—it’s staying asleep!  Even with assistance (prescribed by a medical professional), I cannot sleep through the night.  And it’s not as if I’m not tired; I’m not the type of person who can function on 3 or 4 hours of sleep several times a week (plus I interact with students all day long, and I often advise them in regard to their classes, so focusing is important).  I should stop drinking liquids at 10 PM so I don’t have to wake up to pee.  I’m not even eating dinner (or snacks) late.  [TMI?]

The oddest part is that in the past, my insomnia (or just poor sleeping patterns in general) was an indication of internal strife; however, I am the happiest and calmest I have been in a very long time.  I love my new apartment and my new neighborhood; in 6 weeks the spring semester will end and a summer full of quiet/fun/personally productive work days will begin; over the summer, I’ll take at least 5 of my 6 weeks of vacation; spring will be here any minute now, which leads to summer (my favorite season); CLOSER TO FINE has been nominated for a national literary award; and I’ve started outlining/preparing to start a new novel.  So why can’t I sleep for more than 4 consecutive hours?  Any ideas? Advice? I’ll try anything (except warm milk, or any milk-related cures).

Now it’s 5:10 (I spent ten minutes staring into space, petting a cat, reading a friend’s blog).  The sun will be up in an hour, and the big question looms: sleep away half of a sunny Sunday, or get up, work out, take a walk down Amsterdam to see all the people decked out in their Easter best, then come home and take a nap, because by then I will be t-i-r-e-d.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Henna Update & Word of the Day

So after enduring two hours of a sweaty mess, the dark brown henna didn't change a thing; my hair is pretty much the same color it was before I loaded a pound of messy mud on my head (see blog below). I'll get it done professionally after all.

Word of the Day:
algid (adj): cold, chilly.
Never heard of it. You?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Short but Sweet

I have no idea if anyone except my Canadian friend reads my blogs, but I’m going to continue posting, with my usual irregularity.  I’m sitting at my laptop with a plastic bag on my head; underneath said plastic bag are layers of saran wrap.  Underneath the saran wrap is my hair, coated and clumped with thick, heavy henna.  I typically have my hair colored a few times a year, because my color is just bland, and it bores me.  Usually I lean toward auburn, but my life has been so full of changes this year that I decided my hair color should echo, and celebrate, these changes.  So I bought some dark brown henna, trying to respect the recession by coloring my own hair.  I’d done it once before, when I lived in Hampton Bays, and though I remember a bit of a mess, I don’t think I recalled it accurately: this stuff makes a f*%#ing mess.  And it’s a serious burden on my head—imagine balancing a pound of mud on your head.  Plus, I’m hot—my head is wrapped in layers of plastic!  This is the last piece of evidence I need—I’m just not the Do-It-Yourself kind of person.  Whether it’s putting furniture together, installing WiFi or dyeing my hair, I’d rather just hire someone to do it for me, honestly. It’s not that I’m lazy—I clean like a pro and actually (usually) enjoy it.  I like being part of DIY projects—I’m just not good at executing them.  I blame it all on my abhorrence and fear of math—all that measuring, tinkering, drilling, wiring—it reminds me of math (don’t ask how I’m connecting math to henna, just go with my flow here).  Now when the other side of the brain is needed—like for editing an admissions essay, doing a crossword puzzle, proofreading absolutely anything, writing a novel—then I’m the one you call.  Words stimulate me; numbers unsettle me.

 I am almost settled in my new apartment, back in the city at last (just a few more shelves, and artwork, need to go up; fortunately I possess fantastic friends who don’t mind drilling and hammering on my behalf).  I love my apartment—it’s in a cool old building that isn’t too old but isn’t rows of box apartments on top of one another.  My apartment is newly renovated—it’s a studio, but a big, L-shaped studio with a generous entryway and large bathroom.  I love my neighborhood, too; it’s full of professionals, students and families and, best of all, lots of dogs.  The architecture is stunning—I’ve decided I live on one of the prettiest blocks in the city, architecturally-speaking.  The details are amazing—it’s incredible how much more pride people took in their work 50 years ago.  And they had less machinery but still managed to create gorgeous columns, ledges, balconies and other architectural aspects I don’t know the names of.  I’m quite close to Riverside Park, and there’s a small but pretty park on my block, hidden by a colossal wall covered in vines.  I’m near everything I need—subway, restaurants, bodegas, stores—but my block is really quiet.  Perfect combination!  I’m never moving.  Really, I’ve moved more this year than most people do in ten years.  If I lean toward the “everything happens for a reason” credo, I guess I had to endure the journey to enjoy the reward.  And things right now are terrific—I’m even outlining, researching and naming characters for my new novel, and almost ready to send out the TV scripts a friend and I have written—and I’m happily embracing all life offers me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Book Talk Reading

On Wednesday, March 25th, I was the featured author at Book Talk, sponsored by The College of New Rochelle, School of New Resources.  It was held at the John Cardinal O'Connor (JOC) campus, where I am the Co-Chair of the Letters Department (and teach two classes).

The reading went really well, with over 40 students and 20 Faculty/Administration members present.  All 25 books were sold.  The Q&A was lively, interesting and fun (I really like Q&A sessions when they're about CLOSER TO FINE!).

This is a link to a posting on the CNR regarding the event:

Monday, March 23, 2009

Exciting News!

CLOSER TO FINE has been nominated for a 2009 Lambda Literary Award! My novel is one of five books nominated in the Best Lesbian Debut Fiction Award. This is a significant, national literary award and I am thrilled and honored! You can read more about the Lambdas here:

"Book Talk" reminder: I am reading this Wednesday, March 25th at the College of New Rochelle, School of New Resources, South Bronx campus. 332 East 149th Street, Bronx, NY 10451. Take the 2 or 5 line to "3rd Avenue/149th Street" stop. Exit subway station on the right; walk one and a half blocks; you'll see the college on your right. Join us! I'm reading a portion of CLOSER TO FINE I haven't yet read, and I can't wait!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Some Things I Don't Understand

[Feel free to answer a question, or add your own!]

Things I Don’t Understand: These Are Things I Think About

1. Why can’t summer Fridays exist year-round? Better yet, why not add Fridays to the weekend, as part of a stimulus plan to help boost the economy? If I weren’t babysitting my office on Fridays, surely I would be purchasing something, or getting a haircut, or seeing a movie.

2. Why do we pay for Internet service? Cable and telephone companies had nothing to do with inventing the Internet; why are we paying them? It’s invisible, it’s in the air, it equalizes Americans—it should be free! [Note: I read somewhere recently, though I can’t cite the source, that George W. Bush had the opportunity to offer free WiFi in America and he chose not to. Another smooth move, ExLax.]

3. Why is health food (and healthy food) so damn expensive? Why should I pay so much more for groceries just because I don’t want artificial coloring, tons of sugar or dead animals in my body? Shouldn’t the piglets, I mean people, who buy unhealthy, fattening foods on a regular basis (because everyone needs some Mallomars once in a while), and then become a burden on the national health budget via diabetes and obesity-related diseases, pay more? I’m just saying.

4. Why aren’t apples free? Apples should be free.

5. How/why does someone acquire a pet (cat, dog, alligator, crazy-scary snake) and then decide, “Hey, I no longer want/need/can afford this pet. I’m going to drive on over to the dumpster/highway/Everglades and dump it!” I cannot understand it. If there were a punishment for abandoning animals, maybe fewer people would do it. Maybe.

6. Can Obama please regulate the price of movie tickets? Prices are a bit out of control, and it’s not fair to loyal moviegoers.

7. Does Ted Haggard now have a reality TV show of some sort? WTF is up with that? He’s being rewarded for being a bigoted, homophobic, hypocritical liar?

8. Why can’t moving be a tax write-off?

9. Why isn’t commuting a tax write-off?

10. How come men can pay for Viagra via health insurance (flex benefits or co-pays or both!) but these plans don’t offer women a way to buy tampons?

11. Whatever happened to ring-around-the-collar? When I was a child, it seemed like a national crisis, based on the number of commercials on television. Now I never hear about it. Did it just go away?

12. When are the Indigo Girls going to release another live album? They’re so due for one.

13. Why don’t the cable TV networks start selling single TV shows, a la ITunes? I would definitely pay 99 cents to watch “Flight of the Conchords” or “Weeds.” I don’t need (or want) to subscribe to the channel on a monthly basis, but I, and millions of other people, would buy one show at a time if it were possible.

14. Why are there so many Sleepy’s stores? How often do people purchase new beds?

15. When did it become OK to charge over a dollar for a pack of gum?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Random Greats

Remember Mix Tapes? I used to love making mixes, still do, in fact. Only now I make playlists for my IPod--much easier to create, that's for sure! Thought others might like to know what I'm listening to these days--feel free to copy this list--it's terrific music for commuting, but also for cleaning, writing, painting, whatever. I named this playlist Random Greats; it's a compilation of great songs that are on my IPod (but when they're all separated by artist and album I never remember to find them, and I forget to listen to and enjoy them). Here, they're all condensed in one lovely, easy-to-remember place, Random Greats!

- Dear Prudence, originally by The Beatles - this version is from the film Across the Universe, which is a good movie with an unique soundtrack (all Beatles songs, sung by unknown actors/singers). Love this version.
- Fidelity, Regina Spektor - funky song with cheeky lyrics.
- I Take You With Me, Melissa Etheridge - from Boys on the Side soundtrack. Have loved this song since I bought the CD soundtrack while at U of M. I have vivid memories of walking around Ann Arbor, blasting this song in my yellow Sony Walkman.
- Can't Find My Way Home, Blind Faith - love Blind Faith, love this song.
- For What It's Worth, Buffalo Springfield - have always loved this song and never get sick of it. If you have the Forrest Gump soundtrack, you own this song. Not that I possess the Forrest Gump soundtrack. :) Terrible movie with a kick-ass soundtrack.
- Peace Frog, The Doors - one of my favorite Doors songs. Off Morrison Hotel album.
- Solsbury Hill, Peter Gabriel - Enough said.
- Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First), John Mellencamp - yes, I still listen to John Mellencamp. This song rocks! Off his semi-recent album Mr. Happy Go Lucky.
- Hey Jack Kerouac, Natalie Merchant - one of her best; keeps me connected to my undergrad days when I was blown away by On The Road and a little obsessed with The Beat Generation. My literary tastes have progressed, but this song is still great.
- The Entertainer, Billy Joel - I'm in the midst of a Billy Joel renaissance, for some odd reason. As a child I loved him (one of my first music-related memories is me sitting on the red carpet of my bedroom, reading the lyrics (in the record sleeve!) to Big Shot and trying to sing along with Billy), and I saw him in concert quite a few times in high school (Yankee Stadium was my favorite). For the past ten or so years, he's irked me; I couldn't even tolerate hearing him on the radio. Then a few months ago I heard The Stranger on the radio, and now I'm all into Billy Joel again, but only certain songs--the great ones that never got overplayed (or any play) on the radio.
- You're the One, Paul Simon - I need more Paul Simon on my IPod; he's incredibly talented. This song wakes me up and puts a smile on my face every time I hear it.
- Iris, Goo Goo Dolls - great song, great lyrics.
- All Along the Watchtower - Bob Dylan's amazing lyrics, Jimi Hendrix's amazing version. I will never tire of this song.
- While My Guitar Gently Weeps, originally George Harrison - also from Across the Universe. Stellar version.
- Shelter from the Storm, Bob Dylan - this song slays me every time I hear it (and I hear it a lot)
- Scarlet Begonias, The Grateful Dead - classic Dead. Excellent Dead.
- Try a Little Tenderness, The Commitments - it's a ballad, it's a love song, it's a rock song! I once lip-synced this entire song to my campers (at sleepaway camp), using a broom as my mike.
- Wild World, Cat Stevens - grew up singing this song at camp (same sleepaway camp as above), and still love it. It was a toss-up between Wild World, Peace Train and Cats in the Cradle--any and all are great songs.
- Delta Dawn, Bette Midler - a great ballad, but not in the Wind Beneath My Wings kind of way; it's jazzy and full of heart (and soul). This is from a live album, Live at Last, but the studio version is good, too.
- Gold Dust Woman, Fleetwood Mac - perfect pairing of music and lyrics. Never tire of it.
- Shape of My Heart, Sting - from his album My Funny Valentine, which contains all his songs used on movie sountracks. This is a beautiful song, originally from the film The Professional.
- Hey Jude, originally The Beatles - sung by the lead actor in Across the Universe. Reminds me of a perfect glass of red wine.
- Someone Saved My Life Tonight, Elton John - no description needed, right?
- Mr. Blue, Yaz - yes, I loved Yaz as a teenager. And a young adult. And still do, as an adult. This is from their second album, not Upstairs at Eric's, but you can find it more easily on The Best of Yaz. Great song!
- The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy), Simon & Garfunkel - classic. classic. classic.
- Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, Crosby, Stills & Nash - I listened to CS&N obsessively my senior year of high school; I even saw them in concert at that cool, small outdoor venue the Meadowlands used to set up every summer. Then, in college, Our House entered my life, and I never put them on again. 14 years have passed--time to groove to CS&N again--and this song is all about groovin'.
- Red Rain, Peter Gabriel - I own every Peter Gabriel CD. One of my most perfect, cherished memories is hearing, seeing and feeling him sing In Your Eyes at the Capitol Centre in D.C. The entire concert was amazing, but I definitely had a transcendental experience during In Your Eyes. Red Rain is, well, it just is. This is the live version, from Secret World Live.
- Miami 2017 (I've Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway), Billy Joel. See above, in regard to Billy Joel. This is the live version, from 12 Gardens Live. I love hearing the crowd roar when he says "Brooklyn."
- The Time of Your Life, Green Day - I was long past proms when this song was released, so I never got sick of it. And I don't own any other Green Day songs. i love how life's progression is illuminated in this song.
- Kind & Generous, Natalie Merchant - another one of her best. This song should be shlocky and cliche, but it's Natalie, so it's not. Off her album called Ophelia.
- Dreams, The Cranberries - have always loved this song. Great walking song.
- I Need to Wake Up (theme from An Inconvenient Truth), Melissa Etheridge - I loved it before she won the Academy Award for Best Song. Only Melissa could rock the hell out of an environmentally-conscious warning song. Buy it as a single on ITunes.
- If God is a DJ, Pink - this song *&%#ing rocks! No idea what album it's from--buy as a single.
- Proud, Heather Small - I have now loved this song, and failed to get sick of it, for almost 10 years. It is one of the most inspiring, uplifting songs I've ever heard, and it also happens to be a fantastic dance song. If you're having a &%itty day, listen to this. From the first Queer As Folk (US version) album.
- Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It), Beyonce - What can I say? I spent my 20s in NYC gay clubs, dancing until 4 AM. It's fun, it's cheesy, it's a great walking song. And it makes me smile.
- Come to Me (Peace), Mary J. Blige - oh how I love this song. Off her album Growing Pains (terrific album). Powerful, aching song.
- Smooth, Santana Featuring Rob Thomas - Guitar + guitar + simple lyrics = new classic.
- China Grove, The Doobie Brothers - everyone needs a little Doobie every now and then.
- Summer of '69, Bryan Adams - love it. Always have, always will.
- Hard to Handle, Black Crowes - admit it, you love trying to master the lyrics on this one. It's OK, we all do. I used to listen to this album, Shake Your Money Maker, ten times a day.
- We Didn't Start the Fire, Billy Joel - see above, plus history lessons!
- Wonder, Natalie Merchant - from Tigerlily, a luscious album. Great song.
- If You Want to Sing Out, Cat Stevens - from the soundtrack to Harold & Maude, all of which is sung by Cat Stevens. If you haven't seen the film Harold & Maude, you are missing out on one of life's treasures.
- Allison Road, Gin Blossoms - my sister's name is Allison. We used to hear it together, when it was popular. Reminds me of my simple, fun city years. From New Miserable Experience.
- Slide, Goo Goo Dolls - where are the Goo Goo Dolls these days? Great song.
- One of Us, Joan Osborne - I'm not a huge Joan Osborne fan, but have always loved this song. Plus I think I'm programmed to like whatever the Vatican bans. From her album Relish.
- It's Probably Me, Sting - an awesome Sting song from one of the Lethal Weapon movies.
- In My Life, Bette Midler - lovely version of a John Lennon original. Sweet, sweet song.
- Live To Tell, Madonna - even if you don't like Madonna's music (which I'll ignore so I can still talk to you), you must admit this is an incredible song, lyrically and musically. This is the Live Edit, from Ciao Italia. You could substitute with the Instrumental Edit, featuring live violins.
- Romeo & Juliet, Dire Straits - while I adore the Indigo Girls version, I felt obligated to choose the original, which I encountered first, in D.C., a million years ago. I actually feel a pain in my chest when I listen to this song. From On the Night, Live.
- The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys, Traffic - I must have listened to this song a thousand times my senior year of high school. I have no clue what it's about, but I love it, still. From album of the same name.

Random Greats should yield over two hours of pure listening pleasure. The order of songs is not at all random, so if you're building the entire playlist, stick with the same order--it was well-planned! Enjoy! Any suggestions for songs to add? Comment!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Other People's Words


"All sentimental people are betrayed so many times." - Ernest Hemingway ("Fathers and Sons")

"Until one has loved an animal a part of one's soul remains unawakened." - Anatole France

"The events of our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves, they find their own order...the continuous thread of revelation." 
- Eudora Welty

"When the most important things in our life happen, we quite often do not know, at the moment, what is going on." - C.S. Lewis

"Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you." - Aldous Huxley

"A day is never wasted if a memory is made." - TS Eliot

"We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are." - The Talmud

"Out of intense complexities intense simplicities emerge." - Winston Churchill

"There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness." - Nietzsche  

"I can resist anything except temptation." - Oscar Wilde  

"What we become depends on what we read after all the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books." - Thomas Carlyle 

"The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated." - Gandhi  
"There are years that ask questions and years that answer." - Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God)  

"We have to allow for contradictions in ourselves. Nobody is just one thing." - Christopher Durang (Beyond Therapy)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Photo Story

CLOSER TO FINE finding its new home on a shelf in a Florida library. (Thanks Mike.)
CLOSER TO FINE receiving its Dewey Decimal number at a library in Florida.

 (Thanks, Mike)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Year of the Ox

Happy New Year! It’s been quite awhile since I wrote a blog with substance, so this one may be a bit longer than usual. Perhaps I’ll write it in chapters; feel free to have a snack in between!

I’ve spent a small fortune during the past 2 weeks seeing movies; there are several great movies out that will factor into the Oscars, and since I’m an Academy Awards freak, I see as many as possible so I can judge for myself. First, a word about the price of movies these days: “Holy S*#t!” Really, someone should be regulating what these theaters are charging. Initially, I thought it was just the Union Square 14 that charges $14.50, but I paid that price at Chelsea Cinemas and $12.00 at 3rd and 11th. I paid $10.50 at a theater in Southampton. God forbid you want the entire movie-going experience, after a small popcorn ($4.75 to $5.75!), you’ve just dropped twenty bucks, not including transportation! It’s absurd and unfair. As a result of this price gauging, I’ve started dropping my garbage on the floor of the theater again, something I stopped doing in my 20’s. It’s immature, I know, but if I’m forced to pay over ten dollars to see a movie, I’m not worrying about collecting my own trash—I’ll drop it on the floor if I want to, damn it!

In case you care, here’s my brief reviews:

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD – Leonardo DiCaprio is all grown up and can act without Marty Scorsese inspiring him. In a few scenes toward the beginning of the film, Leo is at his best—we’ve never seen him act so well. Kate Winslet is stunning, in a variety of ways. She anchors the film; her talent emanates from within. I agree with the critics who posit that this film is proof positive that Kate Winslet is the best actress of her generation. The set design and costumes are exquisitely perfect, and the supporting cast is fantastic, especially Michael Shannon. It’s not a perfect film, but it is a very, very good film. See it.

DOUBT – When I walked out of the theater, I turned to my friend and asked, “Do you think Meryl Streep might be the best actress ever?” The more I think about it, the more I think she is. Perhaps Bette Davis was in her league, but really, Streep is unbelievable, and here she shares screen time with Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is a tremendously gifted actor. Amy Adams graduates to the big leagues here, and keeps up with Streep quite well. The stunning shocker in DOUBT, and a lock for Best Supporting Actress, I think, is Viola Davis (she is apparently the only actor to appear in both the Broadway show and the film). She’s on screen for less than ten minutes, but I’m still thinking about her performance, 4 days later. DOUBT is not as much of a “downer” film as I’d expected, and its length is perfect—as soon as you’ve really started thinking, it’s over; it does not force you to content with the moral issues for longer than necessary. It is a powerful film, but it is not an overwhelming film. See it.

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE – This is a gritty, real, sweet and funny coming-of-age film, but it’s so much more than that. Whatever I write here will minimize it, because this is not the type of film Americans are often exposed to, yet at the same time its foreignness is what makes it spectacular, because in the end, there is nothing foreign about love. The cinematography is beautiful, and the soundtrack will haunt (and amuse) you—I bought it on ITunes yesterday. Please see this movie—and stay an extra 5 minutes to watch the end credits—you’ll get a bonus smile!

MILK – As one who often cries in movies, I was surprised at how dry-eyed I was during the previous 3 films. I got teary at the end of REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, and I did cry some happy tears at the end of SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. It wasn’t until the last scene of MILK, however, that I truly cried. It’s a sad, sad final scene, but I think I also cried for the loss of—for our loss of—Harvey Milk’s exuberance and his reminder that without hope we are lost. It also occurred to me that Harvey Milk would have possibly forced Ronald Reagan to confront the AIDS virus years before he (half-heartedly) did, and funnel money toward research rather than ignore it and cause thousands of deaths. I’ve respected Gus Van Sant for a long time, and I’ve watched Sean Penn in awe and admiration for many years—both director and actor embraced the life of Harvey Milk in a way few artists are able to achieve. The entire cast is terrific. Somewhere, Harvey is proud. See this movie.

In Other News
Other than this blog, I’m not writing. I have not been writing. I have been reading; I have even been reading about writing (I re-read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird every few years; I’m currently meandering through it). But I have not been writing—there are many reasons and no reasons for this. I am in a new one-bedroom apartment, alone (more on this later). The windows suck, and the rooms are cold. I spend most of my time in my bedroom, because I can sit on my bed, under the covers, and check email, waste time on the Internet, watch movies on my laptop, or read. Since I don’t spend any time in the living room, I am not used to it, not comfortable sitting at my desk and chair. I also think I’m just scared to start another novel. The word another, while thrilling because it reminds me the first one was actually published, is heady and loaded—what if my second attempt goes nowhere? What if I realize by the end of the first chapter that my characters are bland and my plot unsustainable? What if . . .? Another issue, which I knew long ago would be a problem, is that I function much better with deadlines. Most of CLOSER TO FINE was written within a year and a half, and for that entire time I had due dates, either as part of a writing workshop class or with my thesis advisor. Deadlines motivate and sometimes force me to get the words out; even if a first draft stinks, my basic ideas were on paper and it is always easier to edit than create. I have no deadlines, no class waiting to read my work, no thesis advisor expecting three new chapters.

These are all fairly lame excuses, I know. I need to just get over myself, quiet the doubting voices in my head, and sit down to write. I will. Soon. Maybe this weekend. This completes the first chapter of my first 2009 blog.