Category Archives: friends

Baby’s First Mobile Home Goes to VT

At lunch with coworkers today, I asked the waitress for a refill of my Diet Coke. “We don’t really do that,” she said, hesitating, so I assured her, “It’s not for me. It’s for the baby.” She laughed and said, “OK!”

Apparently last night, I was snoring and farting in my sleep, because pregnancy is beautiful. Much more of this, and I wouldn’t blame Mr. Ben for deciding that maybe we’ve been doing too much co-sleeping and we should move from Attachment Relationship-ing to an arrangement that has me in another room in a crib. [EDITOR’S NOTE: This is parenting humor. If you don’t get it, you should reward yourself with another vodka shot and one night stand.] I mean, I’ve never snored before, and “it was so loud in my dream that it was a dog,” he reported. “Then I woke up and found it was you.”

The baby totally owed me for that, so helping me get that Diet Coke was the least Squee could do.

Not to mention, if it hadn’t been for the baby, I wouldn’t have had to throw myself out of paradise after only two weeks.


No, I shouldn’t complain: it was great that I could go at all & take Squee — she’ll never be so easy to transport again; in fact, I am her very first mobile home! I had a fantastic time filled with sunny gem-colored days, waterfalls, mountains, swimming holes, ping pong, pool, karaoke, three meals a day served to me in the company of friends, Adirondack chairs, old barns, even older cemeteries, horror movie showings, books, cable TV, freshly baked bread, and massages that cost $45 for an hour. Communing with animals helped me get in touch with my maternal side!

Getting to know King Kong, by Gala


Pretending to liberate Giraffe, by Aliza Morell

There were a couple of days in the midst of the heatwave when the humid airlessness of my studio, which was utterly unprepared for temperatures over 75 degrees, made it difficult to write. Still, I got to page 60 of my nascent novel. Plus research, plotting, charting, reading & thinking! Yeah accomplishment.

I also felt so social — thanks very little to my own extroversion and more to the set up of the fellowship. A whole slew of residents arrived in unison, a mix of young, old, poets, fiction-writers, visual artists, students, teachers, and guest lecturers, to live and eat and play together on a campus well-integrated into a picturesque little northern Vermont town. Almost immediately, I was lucky enough to fall into a cadre of talented, smart, incredibly good and beautiful girls, with whom a run to the supermarket became as entertaining as a road trip.

And I got to bond with some impressive writers & artists of various ages, including the funny, kind Matthew Guenette, with whom I did work study in the kitchens, an experience that bonds participants together much like service in ‘Nam; high priestess of Tarot, calm, and good-humor Lynne Thompson; knife-making Mountain Man with a heart of gold Nick Anger; pop culture feminist professor-poet extraordinaire Simone Muench; and others.

Far be it from me to exaggerate the quality of the work done by the other VSC residents. Check it out for yourself: the word-art of Brett Lysne, which takes over-thinking to a whole new level; the eerie, beautiful, obsessively-rendered ladies of Katy Horan; the painstakingly precise, whimsical Americana collages of Rachel Grobstein; and oh my god so many, many more.

Untitled by Katy Horan
Art by Rachel Grobstein
The World Doesn’t End!! by Rachel Grobstein

Caitlin Doyle’s creepy masterpiece about adolescence “Thirteen” stuck with me for days. (Apparently it also pleased the editors of Best New Poets 2009.) And I’m still in awe of Nomi Stone, who has managed to publish poetry while amassing Fulbrights, advanced degrees, and experiences living around the world. As I discovered this fall during my residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, it’s invigorating to be around so much skill & energy.

Leaving was hard, and I would like to go back if at all possible please. Not for me — for the baby.

Day to Day

Considering that all I want to do is eat cereal out of the box and read novels, I’m doing pretty well. After some searching, I found two shuls with daily minyans so that I can say Kaddish. Neither’s perfect: One is inconvenient and the other is Orthodox. Whatever.

I’ve been going to work and getting things done. I’ve continued showering; I even made it to the gym last night where I ran two and a half miles. I’ve only had one dream where my father was still alive and disappointed in me.

I miss my father. But, anyway.

The whole death thing really knocked me for a loop. Wow, it was fast. As recently as September, my dad was being treated. There was medicine, and where there is medicine there is hope, even if one is poisonous and the other is flimsy. Then, suddenly, he had six months; then merely weeks; then I was in the backyard of the Casey House in Montgomery County, sleep-deprived and tear-glazed, casting a protective shadow over the bed in which my father had managed to open his eyes for the last time. It was a blue-and-yellow afternoon, with hawks circling several layers up from butterflies, and we had decided to roll his bed outside.

Everyone who could come came over his last couple days. We pressed his hand, played his iPod, read to him from Isaiah. The rabbi shook a lulav and an etrog at him, because it was Succot, and then kissed him on the forehead. And that afternoon, twelve hours before his labored breathing faded away, he saw us there. He knew we had gathered, for him, for whatever good it would do. For an hour or so, he managed to stay conscious, my brilliant, generous, lazy, sentimental, anxious-depressive-insomniac, loving, witty father, and then he dipped under again and never woke up.

Then, suddenly, there were things to do. We had to sleep, and write obits, and talk to the funeral home, and plan speeches. We had to break down and get up again. My mother cried; I’ve never seen her look so lost. We had to deal with that. We had to eat, and dress warmly for the funeral, because the day we interred him was a day borrowed from early March. It had everything but crows in it. I think I cried hardest when my father-in-law lifted the shovel to help bury my father.

But my friends, my friends, my friends did everything that is good in this world, everything good people do. At one point at the cemetery three of them had staked out places around me, bolstering me. Later, they came to the house and sat with me on the floor. They came every night and sometimes during the day, too. The experience was, as I said, a plane crash, but it was also a water landing on par with Sully’s, because of my friends and my family’s friends and my family. I can’t thank you enough.

RIP, Tateh.

it’s december. breathe.

The wretched month of November is, at last, behind us. I’m curious how it almost always turns into such a disaster. But at least I don’t have to worry about the future: it’s all spelled out for me! The always-detailed AstrologyZone monthly forecast tells me to beware:

Co-workers will probably be cranky and easily provoked near this full moon, so you may need to pitch in to help them as best you can. Everyone in the department will be feeling overwhelmed and overworked. … You will begin to see tension in the air as early as December 10 and it will linger as long as December 15.

Translation: Keep that Xanax handy. But! Once I make it through to December 21, I can look forward to really, really strong adjectives — rapturous, blissful, life-changing. I should sign with an agent, for one thing, but who cares about that? It’s the romance that’s important:

the decisions you make and the actions you take in the days that follow could change your life forever. … treat yourself to one glorious night to welcome in the New Year, dear Cancer. The fire that will burn in your heart that night will chase away any cold winds that might be blowing your way. We all need a night of pure bliss – this one has all the makings of being yours.

Sounds good! Does this mean Mr. Ben and I should go to New Orleans, which we’re sort of thinking about doing?

Of course we can’t fight the planets (or, as some people would have it, God’s will) but simply taking action sometimes can make shit better. In that vein, I’m going to host a Turn Your Luck Around Potluck. On the appointed night, everyone will show up with comfort food and some kind of good luck totem. A story will do: some recollection of when things were bad and then something turned them round. Then we’ll do a reconstituted rain dance, where “rain” = “better tidings for all.”

Remember the Maine

On our trip to Maine last week, we decided that we had to eat either blueberries or lobster every day. In effect, we decided to eat lots of blueberries, because it turns out that lobster is hella expensive even in Maine, where I figured they basically give you two just for waking up in the morning. But we all got gold medals in blueberry eating: in pie, in muffins, on yogurt, on ice cream, and straight off the bush.

Also, I learned that Maine is about much more than food. It’s also about really cold water. The water up there was clearly on loan from Titanic. One lovely day, just outside the idyllic, remote town of Machias, we decided to risk hypothermia, just for fun. We swam out to a bridge, let the river’s rapids carry us, screaming, to the other side, and then swam quickly towards shore to avoid getting dragged out to sea and ending up dropped on a beach in Newfoundland looking like the Montauk Monster.

It was awesome. And, to thaw out our purple fingers afterwards, the lovely family we were visiting gave us all china teacups of homemade lobster bisque. It was as salty as the many locals who cut their eyes at us at rural gas stations along Coastal Route 1.

We also spent one long, hilarious night playing Settlers of Catan, a German colonialist board game. It’s like Diplomacy meets Monopoly meets Sim City, and it’s so absorbing we were up til 2:00 AM. We didn’t even remember to watch the Olympics.

The area where Ben’s dad has a beautifully decorated house is peaceful and small; there was very little to do except to tire ourselves out walking in the woods or on rocky beaches during the day, cook a lot, and then fall into a stupor not long after sunset. We did make it to an adorable little library, watched over by a woman who knew the name of everyone who came in. I listened to her making personalized recommendations and I realized that, in another life, I would totally be her. And pretty happy, too.

musical interlude

As I go off to my friend Tara Leigh‘s book release party for some wholesome fun, and then to my grandma’s sure-to-be-awkward 95th birthday celebration this weekend, I leave you with the latest from Sarah Silverman.

No one has ever made [bleep!]ing Matt Damon such fun.

ETA: I don’t think I made this clear enough. Tara Leigh’s book is smart and insightful and funny and it made me cry on the subway even though I’d read the whole manuscript before. Of all my friends, she’s one of the ones I’m proudest of. You should totally buy her book. Also, I’M IN IT. I’m a character in someone else’s narrative! It’s surreal yet awesome.

Like-Minded Companions

B: Oh no! The bathroom’s locked.
Es: That’s okay. I guess I’ll just pee in my stockings.
Em: That’s much worse than peeing in your pants. The stockings will trap the urine.
B: Although stockings will be easier to clean than pants would be.
Es: But what about my suede boots?

I’ve been gloriously spoiled lately in terms of society. Friends abounding! Friends everywhere! Look, there’s one hiding the bushes, waiting to play breakfast Scrabble. And look, over there, a cluster of them — they have the table all set for a dinner that will last until the restaurant closes. Behind you! Watch out! That one’s going to make you spend the entire afternoon walking in the sunlight, down the spine of Boerum Hill and back and then over through Cobble Hill to Carrol Gardens for pizza and back to Brooklyn Heights so she can pass out in your bed. (Here, map.)

And on top of that, Mr. Ben, on his way back from a party in Williamsburg Saturday night, bought a hardcopy of the New York Times. I woke up like Sara Crewe, astonished to discover that, overnight, someone had effected such an important change in the room: there it sat, waiting for me, the huge darling paper bundle! I could pick sections, and spread out across my bed, and lounge in the warm light, turning pages, and for one all-too-brief moment not be looking at a computer screen.

It was a bliss in a blue plastic bag.

… Looking over that link to the story “Sarah Crewe” — which FHB expanded into his fantastic children’s novel, A Little Princess & which I read way too many times growing up — I realize it was even more formative than I thought. Consider the following exchange between Sara and her somewhat dim friend Ermengarde:

“It sounds nicer than it seems in the book,” [Ermengarde] would say. “I never cared about Mary, Queen of Scots, before, and I always hated the French Revolution, but you make it seem like a story.”

“It is a story,” Sara would answer. “They are all stories. Everything is a story–everything in this world. You are a story–I am a story–Miss Minchin is a story. You can make a story out of anything.”

That’s, like, my motto! It came from FHB and I didn’t even consciously realize. Amazing.

I also realize, in retrospect, that Sara was a bit of a snot, and I’m completely in love with her over again.