Sunday, September 26, 2004


i decided, more or less at the last minute, not to go home for yom kippur. that feeling of Community i'd been craving was sated nicely by my visit home for rosh -- & tempered as well by the stress of quick-turnaround travel. travel sucks. quick-turnaround travel sucks worse.

so i stayed here. ben did too and we observed together, finding a free kol nidre service in a gym around union square. i wore my rubber sandals, he shuffled in his blue bedroom slippers. as we passed unconscious swells in restauarants and nightclubs, together we thought, "goyim."

the next day, in a nod to convenience, we returned to our leather shoes and walked circles around our neighborhood. the lower-east side, the east-east village, all the way to the east river and back. beautiful weather kept us going. later, i got sick. fasting makes me sick -- i need to remember this, because returning sick from ben's grandma's apartment at 181th street, where we broke fast, was not fun. a long subway ride followed by a long nighttime walk through the smoking, skinny west village crowd, shaky and trying to hold the bile down: even if the fast shouldn't be easy, as our free kol nidre service rabbi reminded us, surely it shouldn't result in the pity of hipsters.

i wish my body weren't so fragile. god knows it looks sturdy.

good luck to little adam, just jubliantly installed in his favorite country, and to everyone else, cuz we all need it, don't we?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


here i am home in the middle of the day. puzzle that one out, will you? i'm not fired; in fact, i'll be heading back uptown soon enough. being able to leave for a bit is still refreshing. yesterday, when i was in the same situation, i got to go to the library and rent three movies and borrow carrie fisher's new book.

after such a low-key weekend, it feels appropriate to have a low-key early week. but enough is enough. i want to get my mind working. a workshop, something. officially No Class For Me, for this semester anyway, so i need an alternative. as awesome as the Emmys were (better than the oscars!) & as much fun as i had laughing at Miss America, television can't be my prime playmate when ben's too busy. besides, i need something that will get me out into the city a little, in the hopes that someday i'll feel like i can own more of it than my immediate proximity and the subway line i take to and from work.

i've been searching craigslist. the trouble is, it's all too expensive. people in this crazy city live like they're rich even if they're not. i guess it's the same kind of pervasive, cheerful denial that keeps the bush administration strong. eventually it could even get you where you wanted to go -- fifth avenue or the white house -- unless the fast track unceremoniously ejects you and you land next to becky sharp. & you have to start working your way up again. er. what was i talking about? mixing metaphors is a dangerous business.

on second thought, i still enjoy the mental picture of george w. landing with a thud next to a defiant, scheming early 19th century social climber. picture them underground in a small, dark, echoing cell. w. rubs his wrinkly forehead as becky sharp paces, muttering to herself about how's she going to get either her husband or her respectability back. w. gives up trying to figure out who she is and, thinking, "if only i'd foregone that damn war! alternatively, if only i hadn't stopped drinking!," passes out.
when he wakes up, he's taken a page from carrie fisher, had a one-night stand with a notorious hollywood womanizer and wound up in tijuana with a tattoo artist and buckets of OxyContin. happy 05, georgie. now stop showing up in new york, centralizing the city's police force on the street right in front of my office and closing my subway stop!

for the first time in my life, i have means, and now i have to learn to live within them. means on my left side, means on my right, me keeping a fond arm around each. it's been relatively easy so far, considering i don't spend much, but i'm waiting, just waiting, for the tigers to jump out at me, the kind of tigers that snarl and hiss at you until you throw handfuls of money at them. then they slink away. you know, like lobbyists.

even i don't know what i'm talking about anymore. back to work.

Friday, September 17, 2004

just a moment in the woods ...

new york has gotten me all theatered up. similar to returning to shul: an old, familiar environment visited in a new skin. do you realize my life used to be All Jews All The Time? you'd think, having transferred to the entertainment industry, that not much had changed, but you'd be wrong, not to mention drawing on invidious stereotypes, you bigot.

no, working in the entertainment industry is nothing like being at jds, except that a relatively conforting number of people have curly hair and have to stand on their tiptoes to reach things. here's how different the two are: the office was subtly dead over the holiday where at jds it would have been officially dead.

officially, i had to take a personal day in order to observe one day of rosh hashanah. but take it i did. my dormant judaism was powerful enough to prompt two lengthy train trips in a 24 hour period so i could ricochet straight from my desk home & back again. i use the term "desk" loosely, as i have no such bourgeois acoutrements at my new place of work; i'm something of a bedouin in the office, & that's all i'll say on on the subject, other than It's Going Fine and I Got Paid!. forgive, then, if updates remain a little sporadic.

but theater. the theater is the point i wanted to make. the point was not supposed to be about work or the new year, although i wish everyone a hearty and sweet one of the latter. my mother threw yet another lovely, rowdy new year party that i enjoyed immensely & i made it back to the city; so much for rosh. but theater. something about my permanent proximity to broadway makes me want to see plays! and hear songs! and get all gleefully retro about the whole show business. shira & i obtained student rush tix one lunchtime to see i am my own wife that evening, a remarkable show at the tail end of its remarkable run. i'm feeling the bony fingers of addiction, or at least of habit, tightening: i want MORE.

the korean-american world bank economist i bonded with on amtrak gave me, in addition to a compressed intro to several centuries of far east history, some advice. maybe it's obvious advice, but it was the perfect thing for a stranger to tell me at the beginning of my career as an adult & a new yorker & responsible 21st century individual. she said, it's okay to fail. it's good to fail, cuz then you know you can take it. i failed at theater until i learned to approach it from a different angle, and then i didn't fail anymore. that's a good lesson to relearn and learn to reapply.

Monday, September 13, 2004

renovate my what now?

i've been reading lots of television schedules, in part because i was a little underutilized at work today and in part because the pattern i've settled into involves watching network tv routinely for the first time ever. i too, like millions of americans, change from work clothes to pajamas, warm up some dinner, and turn to television for my nightly entertainment. i too watch reality shows!

not all of them. i haven't sunk that far. and to be fair i've enjoyed my share in the past. still, it feels strange to be reading previews & guides and mentally marking when exactly shows will appear to dazzle and delight me -- or at least tint my drab hours between the end of Jeopardy! and sleep.

it's one reason to stick to grad skool. unfortunately i'm not looking for reasons to stick. something about that one classroom experience, fairly or unfairly, made me want to leap from higher education like a gazelle from a burning building. my parents haven't quite come round to this idea yet, that their little girl might not get a master's after all. maybe i'll want to be a student again someday; for now, they'll have to be satisfied with my trying to be a Businesswoman.

i've also been improving my mind. three books finished in the past couple days: vanity fair, postcards from the edge, and life of pi. all good, of course, in such disparate ways that it's pointless to compare them. but life of pi thrilled me. i wanted to reread it immediately and talk about it with everyone. on the other hand, i can't say it changed how i think about god, which is supposedly-sorta the book's intention. i'm not sure i even figured out why it should. -- but read it if you haven't, so we can talk about it. please.

coming up on the new year and i've been in new york for a month. wow.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

this just in

graduate skool is just like college! i mean -- follow me here -- okay: you walk in cautiously, until you realize there's no need to be cautious. everyone looks like you, or perhaps it's that everyone's intellectual aura matches yours. the acoutrements of the room are equally familiar. desks. walls. green black-boards. a piano for some reason; never mind the piano.

facing you is a professor with a degree from uc berkeley, a trim figure, and a cute accent. you sit, in a circle of course, but specifically, between the eager bespectacled Spelman student and the gangly, serious Norwegian. you look down at a syllabus that's a mix of pompous words("transnational," "colonization") and seemingly normal words with hidden pompous meanings ("informal"). this is theory all over again. it snuck up on you. it's a patty class without the patty and by god! what's the point of that? a sunbeam bursts through the clouds frowning over new york city, through the glass of your classroom window, and lands on your desk as you realize: there's a REASON you graduated college! there's a REASON you were even maybe a little bit glad to graduate, if only because you'd never have to hear the word "problematic" in a sentence again!

this time, maddeningly, hilariously, you're doing it to yourself. as the pedantic older guy with all the degrees rambles on tangentially again, you realize, this time, you don’t have to graduate. you don’t even have to start. this is an optional, voluntary degree. maybe you should find something fun to do instead, a workshop maybe, something low-key, local, inexpensive. maybe you don’t have to be an overachiever after all. you virtually bounce home thinking, trying to be happy may be enough.

Friday, September 03, 2004

not about work.
... well, okay, a little about work

i finished my first week. i survived. without going into details, i can say briefly that my biggest problem is going to be confidence. once in high skool i auditioned for an amateur production of a chorus line. when i called to hear the results, the director informed me he'd cast me as an understudy. "you're not confident enough for a real role," said he.

no matter how upset i might i have been about it, i couldn't deny he was right. my confidence goes in and out; it always has. there are times i can fake it with the best of them (ask anyone who's ever been inexplicably intimidated with me on first acquaintance) & there are times when i turn into jello pudding. on the other hand, i found it hilarious that considering my notorious ineptitude at dancing, my shortness, my not-svelteness, & all the other characteristics i have that you'd think would make me an undesirable candidate for musical theater -- particularly Chorus Line! -- what the director pointed to as my most glaring flaw was the confidence issue.

president w. comes to mind. the rnc went wild for him last night, as you probably know, if you watched, or read coverage, or were one of the hecklers who got dragged away by new york's finest. his delegates don't love him for his ability to dance rings around the other girls. without confidence, he'd still be ending up in the gutter with the other rejects. people love his certainty. as he himself said, you may not like him but at least you know where he stands. he stands where he stood and where he'll continue to stand for as long as we suffer fools in office gladly.

the point is, i need the confidence equivalent of "tits and ass." this is showbiz, kids. even in the office.

speaking of bush, my new office is right by two of the major hotels where delegates kicked back, secure in their secret service protection, and tried to forget they were in a sodom of jews, homos, activists, minorities, and other unsavories. a war of the buttons took place daily on the sidewalks as delegates proudly, desperately, displayed their W.! accessories and ny natives retorted, through their accessories, quiet disdain. it was fun to watch but i stayed out of the fray.

then, thursday i was eating lunch in an outdoor plaza and a delegate (complete with cowboy hat -- they seemed to come standard) started a conversation. his mother sat next to him, spilling things on her blouse and sometimes chiming in.

... him: so where are you from?
me: dc
his mother: she's from new york, of course.
him: no, mom, she's from washington.
his mother: ohhh. (clear implication: if there's any place worse than new york ...)
him: so what's your name?
me: ester.
him: that's a great name.
me: it's a little old-fashioned.
him: i like old-fashioned women.
his mother: [spills something on herself]