Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Let the Games Begin

It's 10ish Wednesday night. Dan and I are doing the NY Times crossword puzzle (I just got polaris and gator, if you did today's), so I figured I'd finally catch up here, in between figuring out 5 letters for "like a towelette" (moist). We have also become big Ken Ken players which now appears above the crosswords every day. Our friends, Robert Fuhrer and Lisa Shamus, developed the game. We gave out a bunch of the Ken Ken books for the holidays, and if you haven't played it, check it out. Great fun.
So winter break was last week, and the boys and I did lots of fun stuff. We went to the Museum of Art and Design in the city to see the second lives: remixing the ordinary exhibit. Wonderful works. We especially loved the chandelier made out of eye glasses. (Just realized that "gator" was wrong). As my sons and I were getting our tickets, I saw a woman that I recognized from Phil Gushee's Meisner acting class that I took forever ago. It was fun to say hello. Brought back tons of memories of repetition and independent activities - Meisner's two touchstone exercises. There was one guy in the class - very talented - who used to play that song "Higher Love" all the time on his walkman - yes, this is very pre-iPod. We went to see the big Van Gogh retrospective at the Met together that year, and we splurged on the Phillipe de Montebello audio tour of it, passing the headphones back and forth to each other as we walked through the galleries. We were broke. I was waitressing, and I can't remember what he did. I can't even remember his name. We were just friends, acting class friends. But what a great time that was. I remember one morning waking up after working late at the restaurant, and I think I was going to do my voice work (not singing, the acting kind) and then go for a run, and I remember lying in my bed, in the small bedroom that I had in the large pre-war apartment on West End Avenue that I shared with a NY politician's daughter and a producer on 60 Minutes (Richard is still on that show, I saw his credit on a segment recently. He was such a sweet man), and realizing that I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. I didn't have a lot of money, but I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. That was a wonderful moment. And I knew I was lucky. Not that it was easy, though what is? But I still got to be doing, pursuing what I wanted. (Dan just figured out that the correct answer for the "gator" clue is otter). Anyway.
So the museum was great fun, and then we fought the masses at Whole Foods in Columbus Circle for lunch. We went with friends, but it was so crowded that we sat at adjacent tables, and I would have killed for a cup of their good coffee, but wasn't up to the line for it.
The next day, the boys and I went ice skating. Okay, all I can say is that if you read that sentence and it didn't give you pause (considering that I wrote it) then, like the refrain to that terrible song, "You don't know me." Okay, seriously, I am so not the ice skater person. But my eldest son has been wanting to go, so I made plans for a lesson for him, and then a friend suggested we go for our play date, and I thought how perfect that my son can go with friends on the day before his lesson, assuming the whole time that I would just watch from the sidelines, waving with gusto every time they passed, secretly thrilled that I wasn't on the ice. Oh, how that was smashed. Though if it had to be with anyone, then this was the perfect time because our friend is great on the ice, but I still was scared of wiping out at every moment. Though, okay, on Friday, I did get a pass because my 2 year old couldn't go on the ice, so he and I stayed on the side (hooray!) and my eldest went the whole way around the rink with my friend and his daughter. I was so proud of him; he was a total natural. All I could think was it was the Yankee in him coming out. So I figured even more surely that during the lesson I'd be able to just hang on the sides. What was I thinking?? My son is not a go-off-with-a-person-he's-never-met kind of kid, so I put on the rental skates, and dutifully trudged out there to the middle of the rink. I asked Heather, the very sweet teacher, how much of ice skating is psychological. She said 50% which shocked me. I think it has to be more like 75. At least for me. Because the thing is is that I could do it. I did it. We had the lesson - march, march, march, gliiiiiiide. march, march, march, gliiiiiiiiiide. Shoulders back! Chest up! Arms out for balance! "I don't need them out for balance," my 5 year old son said. And actually, he didn't, God bless him. And then after the lesson, he and I went around the rink all by ourselves. Okay, this may sound small to you, but this is huge for me. But here's the thing. I was skating; we did skate, but I realized later that the whole time I was skating, I never really could picture myself skating. And I still kind of can't. Then a few days later I realized that a part of me doesn't want to be able to picture myself skating. That I have some attachment (hello, Zen and the Samsara of attachment) to a definition of myself as not being able to skate. When I called my sole friend here in Westchester who I was friends in Baton Rouge, as I figured she would appreciate this more than anyone, she said, "Well, there's a metaphor for balance." Which I took more in relation to my son than to me since I still can't even picture myself doing what I already did. Though I'd better be able to soon since we have another lesson this Sunday. March, march, march, gliiiiiiiiide. March, march, march, gliiiiiiiiide...............

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Big 1

So, tomorrow is my one year blog anniversary. My husband just walked into the kitchen where I'm writing this, and his response to this information was, "Mazel tov." He always knows just what to say. ;) If I remember correctly, the traditional gift for the first anniversary is paper, which really is rather odd. Paper what? Maché?? Or maybe note cards for the bride to finally write her thank you notes? Maybe that's what it's for. So you have a polite way of reminding the delinquent Mrs. that she never sent a note. Which actually has happened to me in the not too distant past with a bride that I don't know terribly well, but was invited to the wedding, and even though we couldn't go, I still wanted to help celebrate her big day. At the odd moments when I do remember that we never heard from her about our gift, I wonder if I should ask one of her family members to check because if the gift didn't ever get there, I want the store to send another. Frankly, that is all I really care about in a thank you note. It could even just be a stamped message saying, "Got it - thanks!!" Anyway, I hope she is using the stuff in good health, as my mother-in-law would say.
I had no intention of writing about thank you note etiquette. Though that is a subject that I have probably been traumatized by more than most considering that I grew up having to write thank you notes to my sisters. And I have four of them. It has only been in this past year, and with the excuse of two young sons, that I have declared a personal revolution to this and decided that with a close family member, if I tell them in person or on the phone how much I love/use the gift, then that will just have to do. And the terrible truth is that even as I write that, I am sure that the ceiling of social correctness is going to come crashing down on my head. Oh, to be momentarily not Southern.
Anyway. I did write my thank you notes - happily and sincerely - for three events I did recently. The class I led at Bard College at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington was a wonderful experience. What a bright group of young women. They were very passionate and verbal. The class was "Violence and Gender" and I led a discussion on sexual abuse and recovery based on my second book - not to give the plot away! ;) I also did a similar lecture at SUNY Albany last week as part of their Sexuality Week. They started this event 16 years ago, and were the first college to devote a week to these issues. The students were a great group. And it was co-ed, so that was interesting. I thought the boys were very brave to stay through it. Not that it was anti-male at all, but still, talking about some of that stuff can be tricky. One male student was sitting right next to me, (it was originally set up as a lecture, but I pulled out a chair, and got everyone to sit in a circle with me) and at certain points, his right leg was jumping 20 miles a minute. But he joined in the discussion and was very enthusiastic at the end. It was great to connect with them. And I got to see family on both of these trips. My sons and I stayed with my sister and her son in Great Barrington for the Simon's Rock class, so that became a big trucks-and-planes-and-anything-with-wheels kind of weekend. And then after the SUNY Albany lecture, I got to have dinner with my husband's first cousin before I drove back home, and that was fun to have real visit time. Last week, I also did an interview with Ben Cheever on his cable tv show where he interviews writers. The show is on in Westchester, and when I have more info about it, I will put it on my website, if you care to watch it. If you do, watch it for him, as he is thoroughly charming and funny. He read at Spoken Interludes a year or so ago, (happily, he will come back next fall), and I adored him reading there, so wasn't surprised that this side of him was fun, too.
And his team there was also great. Shane, the station manager, had lived in Russia for a good while, so he and I were able to talk about the Moscow Art Theatre and how often does that happen?? Made me remember my acting student days where MAT was the holy grail, and Strasberg our humble vehicle to get there. Or not - like "The Three Sisters", but isn't that point??
Anyway. I talked with Ben about Chekhov, as I look up to him more than any other writer, and Ben told me how fashionable Chekhov has gotten lately and that was a shock. But I guess now that everyone has finally discovered Richard Yates - hooray for that long overdue event - Chekhov is next. And speaking of Yates, Blake Bailey who wrote a beautiful memoir of Yates, is coming out with one of John Cheever that I am very much looking forward to reading. Ben told me that he feels that Blake very much caught the spirit of his father, and I can't think of a better compliment for a biographer than that. Blake will be on Ben's show soon, too, so try to catch that if you're in the 914 area code.
Time to toddle to bed.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Cold and Colder

It is 17 degrees out. The only reason that is bearable is that I got to stay home all day, venturing out only once to pick up my oldest son from my sister, Elizabeth, who got him from preschool and took him to lunch at the Eldorado diner (his favorite restaurant) as a treat. He always gets pancakes, and is always very happy when he has alone time with Aunt Lilbit. Our driveway is all but impassable with the snow and ice, so my youngest son and I drove down and got him from her car, and brought him back up. We are up on a hill, surrounded by trees, and the snow is very deep, and looking out the back windows, made me feel like we could be out on a farm somewhere. We played airplane for awhile. I was the only passenger, and was given water before I asked for it which I think would be a nice thing for real airlines to emulate, but I'm not holding my breath, and I was assured there would be tasty treats, but none were forthcoming. The steward kept checking my seat belt and giggling hysterically, and the pilot kept announcing that we were about to take off on a "derecks" flight to Looziana - his favorite place to fly to. I asked the pilot if he would like some popcorn, and that was a big hit.
We made a big bowl of popcorn, and lit a fire, and sat on the couch eating popcorn and talking about school. My oldest got so overcome with how much he actually likes school, that he decided he wanted to go to school tomorrow instead of going to Great Barrington with me and his little brother to spend the weekend with his cousin and aunt. I am speaking at a class at Simon's Rock College tomorrow, (my sister is on faculty there) and then we'll get to have a nice weekend with them - and more cold!! But he came around, and will go with me, once I explained that I can't drive up to do the class, and drive back to get him, and then go back up.
But I respect that he tried.
I just got this picture from the BookMania festival of me with Rick Bragg. What a doll he is. I loved getting to visit with him. Really made me feel like home. Wish I were down there now.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

6 More Weeks

I was away in Florida last week seeing my in-laws with my husband and sons after the incredibly fun and wonderful BookMania festival in Stuart, Florida. I had such a great time. So much fun that it even made up for the fact that it was my first night ever away from my two boys. I had to fly separately from them, even though we all flew into West Palm Beach, and as I was connecting planes in Atlanta, I realized that I felt unmoored, as if my bearings were off. I missed them. And I realized that I have become so used to every second of my day being either involved completely with them, or immediately jumping into getting some work done (or falling into bed), that it felt as if my brain didn't know what to do with all this time that didn't have demands upon it. Especially once I checked into the hotel and was getting dressed for the cocktail party (I didn't wear any of those clothes I had bought, in fact, had returned them before I even got down to Fla, knowing they'd be wrong, and they would have been). I am so used to knowing the exact minimal number of minutes I need to get dressed or prepare myself for something, that having all that time made my mind feel like it was trying to feel cozy in the Grand Canyon. I couldn't believe how vast it was. And I am only talking about an hour and half, but I haven't had an hour and a half to get dressed when no one asked me - or needed me - to do anything else in five years. It was lovely, but I'm not heartbroken I don't always have it. There is a lot to be said for not having much time to care about what I wear. Though I did call my friend, Jené, in NY to get her advice about wearing the pants I had worn on the plane with a dressier top to the party because once I got down there, I realized that the dress I had brought for the party was completely wrong. And thank God, she's great visually, an interior designer after all, and told me to ditch the dress and I'm so glad I did.
Anyway. I had a great time at the party with Karin Slaughter, what a hoot she is. I've always loved her books, and now love her. And Hallie Ephron, whose sister Amy read at Spoken Interludes in LA, and whose ex-brother-in-law I am friends with but haven't seen in years, so got caught up on them. Then I had dinner with my cousin Alafair, who I hadn't seen in too long, and David Ebershoff, whose book, Pasadena, I loved and he's going to read at Spoken Interludes with his newest, The 19th Wife, and I'm thrilled about that. The loveliest people - Jim and Cher Foth, and Maggi and Roger - took us out to dinner at a beautiful harbor club and regaled us with great stories about Scientology and run-ins with Coast Guard and transporting Baby Doc. Then the panel the next morning was great fun. Garth Stein was hysterical and very touching about his book, and Lily Koppel was fascinating about hers, and the two Dianes, Diane Hammond and Diane McKinney-Whetstone, were both wonderful. And the crowd was great. I was so impressed with what a perfect festival that community puts on. It was an amazing treat.
Then I was driven back to the airport where Dan and the boys picked me up, and it felt great to be a momma again, and we lived in bathing suits for a week and didn't have a schedule and only cared about sunscreen and ate French fries every day and remembered what the sun is and were bolstered enough to make it through the next 6 weeks of winter that that damn groundhog has decided we are going to have.