Friday, December 23, 2005

ester weighs in on the controversies of the day

#1) Transit strike over! But: Bloomberg racist?

Three cheers for being able to use the subway again. I hope sincerely that the union folks get something in return for this craziness (whose inconvenience I do believe affected them as strongly if not more than the rest of us.) On the other hand, accepting a deal in which they begin to receive pension benefits at 62 instead of 55 isn't exactly comparable to going back to the 10 hour workday.

That aside, naturally race poked its head out of the mess like Nessie from the Loch. Bloomberg gave a speech in which he accused the union of acting "thuggishly." Immediately, the heads of the union, which is majority-minority, shouted RACISM, a cry picked up by the echo chamber. Far be it from me to deny anyone the right to be offended; in our victim happy society, somehow even members of the majority-race and the majority-religion get to cry discrimination when Target doesn't do exactly what they want. But to my mind, describing a behavior as "thuggish" is not the same as calling individuals "thugs." To put it a Christian way, it's condeming the sin, not the sinner.

Does Bloomberg, deep in his Republican, businessman, billionaire consciousness, think of most black men as thugs? Perhaps; and in any case he should probably take a workshop just to make sure. In this particular case, however, I think that calling the union leaders' tactics "thuggish" simply went along with the general administrative theme of their holding the city hostage & he would have used the same description whether the striking workers were Italian-American or Irish-American or plain old Mayflower borne. Inasmuch as he accidentally caused offense, he should apologize, the way any of us would. And Touissant and Sharpton should make sure that their knee-jerk reactions played out loudly in the press don't give them a black eye.

#2) Kong is king! -- And racist?

Maybe. More importantly: the movie is too damn long, tonally inconsistent (are we in the 30s or aren't we?) and kind of boring, actually. Lots of soulful staring into eyes. If you're in the mood for a tension-saturated love story, I recommend Brokeback Mountain, or even Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Kong was my favorite character. They did do him proud.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"here's your bonus, happy holidays -- oh, and you're fired"

Things I am grateful for:

I never acquired expensive habits (cocaine, which I hear is fun, for example. Or gym memberships.)

I didn't run up credit card debt.

I'm only on one prescription medication. (Still, health insurance is the worst habit to have to kick. It feels so great to know that even if you step on a crack and you fall and break your back, or your kidney's suddenly throbbing and you have to go to the ER, you'll be covered.)

They're going to pay me for the next two weeks, during which I don't have to come into work because, duh, it's vacation time anyway.

Mr. Ben, who, like a good daddy bird while mommy bird recovers in the nest from her 1.5-hour-long 32-degree walk of shame, went to fetch some hot food.

My friends and family who I'm sure will be very supportive and love me even though i've just been "let go." In their position, I wouldn't be, that's for sure. I'd be like, "Bitch, get you to an ice floe. Space is valuable in this city. Shit, even air is valuable, and it's for winners only, okay? Thanks."

At least I have tomorrow off now. And gosh darn it, I can do whatever I want.

If only I could figure out what I want to do. Well, except this: they stressed how smart I am -- how responsible, but mostly how smart. Maybe I can find a job that will actually value that.
from the front lines

My radio alarm went off at 7:15: "... first transit strike in 25 years and it is 22 degrees outside! Plus wind chill! Ester, it sure is a good thing you have that amazing, cold-defeating Russian Shearling coat and those fleece-lined Canadian boots for your trek across the bridge!"

I made it to work almost an hour early, still riding the adrenaline. The thing is, this shit is kinda fun for the first day, but if it continues, I'm going to lose my sense of humor right quick. MTA, Transit Workers, I feel your pain; now feel mine. Get your selves back to that negotiating table before we have to hear Bloomberg make another speech about how "determined" he is.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

To Minnesota ...

Dear Minnesota,

How are you doing? Great, great. Listen, we seem to have gotten some of your weather by mistake. I know, crazy, right? What are the odds, considering we're like half a country away from you and on a completely different latitude. So, um, I'm sure you're enjoying the unusually temperate winter but if you wouldn't mind dropping off ours and letting us return yours we'd be super grateful. Especially because the transit workers might be going on strike at midnight tonight and some of the 7 million of us left without means of transportation will have to WALK OVER THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE AT DAWN IN THE SNOW in order to make it to work in Manhattan on time. And that's frikkin harsh, man. So harsh that we might have to take a flask with us, get loaded, beat the shit out of Ohio and say you did it.

Thanks! Love the cheese hats (or is that Wisconsin ...?)
New York City

PS - A certain new inhabitant of the city has misplaced her good luck. Maybe it went the way of the weather? Would you mind checking, and, if you find it, sending it back to her, posthaste, at [address redacted]? She'll be waiting for it expectantly while she searches the want ads and moans periodically to herself.


Saturday, December 10, 2005

a happy day ends in a muddle

It is impossible for me to regard the success of another without it throwing my mental processes into disarray. After I first heard Bernadette Peters sing for the first time at the age of 11, it was years before I could listen without weeping or raging (inside) that I'd never have a voice like hers. For example. Conversely, I overidentify very strongly with those who try and fail: it took a long time for me to recover from Bobby Baseball, a kid's book about a kid who wanted more than anything to be a pitcher but he couldn't, he just couldn't, he wasn't any good. And that's how it ended! No fake reassurances, no hope, just plain truth.

The book The Princess Bride -- though not the movie, which is why the book is better -- makes the same point: life isn't fair, some people don't get what they want or deserve. I remember being shocked by its matter-of-factness. Yet somehow I think fairness was never an illusion I had. Against all evidence of my well-cushioned childhood, I knew that into every life some hailstones must fall.

Applause in general, being antithetical to hailstones, still makes me tear up. Semiotically. It represents achievement -- and to my brain, recognition of same connotes that maybe whoever produced it will never be on such a peak again. Maybe I'll never be there at all.

The most recent trigger of this sort of embarrassing outpour of emotion is the novel Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, which I heard about while still working at the Very Important Talent Agency. (Before I had to, you know, flee like the Hebrews from Egypt.) The fact that it's been on top five lists piqued my interest in a way that its initial buzz didn't -- because, again, applause does that to me. You know how good it is? I read it all day today, from beginning to end. I scarcely did anything else. When I finished, before I finished even, I wailed.

Then I read Curtis Sittenfeld's pedigree off the back jacket and wailed some more. Stanford. Iowa Writer's Workshop. Prizes, fellowships. It made me start researching graduate MFA programs again and only the intense exhaustion that came back to me as I recalled how awful the experience was the first time around swatted my fingers from the keyboard.

I think my life needs to be about more than office work. For some people, I think the more is their children, and more power to them -- I just can't imagine that being enough for me. Oh dear. Life is going to be awfully disappointing for me unless I can wake up tomorrow morning trilling like Bernadette Peters.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

surreality television

Utterly bizarre. First Nicole wins America's Next Top Model. Nicole! Bland, sweet, dimwitted, boring-with-a-capital-NORTH-DAKOTA Nicole over edgy, cool, model-in-a-bottle Nik. In six months of course I won't remember any of this but for now I feel disgruntled, not because I was invested in the show as much as because I like calling the winners and I called Nik several weeks ago. Bah.

THEN one of my bosses from work made a guest appearance on a different reality show, one of the ones I don't watch. Of course I made an exception for the occasion. My boss had about 10 seconds of screentime and one line of dialogue but he'd brought branded materials that I deal with all day, every day, and it was a trip seeing the name of the my company splashed across the screen. I'll admit it: I squealed.

End of the TV season! Wow. Everything's winding down. Only nine more workdays before the Entertainment Industry shuts its doors for winter break. For sure Mr. Ben & I will go to the Adirondacks for New Years again, meet up with a whole bunch of like-minded people, and for sure I could use the relaxation. Writing frantically has been my most reliable stress-reliever recently but mountain air, silence, trees twisting upwards like staircases ... That could probably help too. Especially in conjunction with some good drinking and some good people.

O 2006. I haven't given you too much thought before now. Let's hope you're the year wherein control of Congress changes hands again, great humanitarians get what they deserve, various elements of my life continues to stabilize, and a movie finally knocks my socks off again. Seriously, what have you LOVED this year? My top movies so far, Me, You, and Everyone We Know, the Squid and the Whale, Capote, Pride and Prejudice, and Good Night, and Good Luck, put together don't generate as much excitement in my bosom as Eternal Sunshine did, lo these many months ago. I'm not overly optimistic about the late in the game possibilities either. What, 2005, are you going to gesture meaningfully at King Kong and grunt? Hint darkly of Munich?

Well, we'll see, I guess. Maybe those studly gay cowboys will move me in a way I've never been moved before. (Recite with me now, spinmeisters: it's not about butt-love, it's about love-love. Everyone can relate!) But I know I'm not alone in my underwhelmedness.

Friday, December 02, 2005

King of the Wild Brassiere

My family has officially moved from Residence 1 ("Real Grass, Real Unicorns!") to Residence 2 ("Real High in the Air!"). Many accompanying headaches were apparently had, and I feel removed from everything in an vaguely anxious, upset way, much like I did when I found out, from a distance, that my dog had died. Although then I cried more and was talked into buying a pair of shoes that didn't fit by an insistent clerk.

Even after my family gave away/sold a lot of our furniture and possessions, what remained filled all available floor space in the new apartment AND THEN had to form a second layer on top of the first. It's like archaeology in there! I guess they're going to have to be creative so as not to resort to stacking sofas, or putting bookshelves in the bathrooms.

What's really amazing to me is that they won't have stairs. My house was always distinguished by its many staircases, carpeted a strange color somewhere between "sunset" and "salmon." The dog (before she died) used to slide down on her butt because she had worms, I think? I never entirely understood but it was funny to watch. My friends and I during our "wacky" phases used to slide down them in laundry baskets. Stairs! are very important in separating people, such as those who prepared dinner and those who are invited to eat it; bellowing "DINNNNNERRRRR!" in a one-floor space isn't going to produce the same satisfying flurry of staircase-related activity.

I'm trying to withhold judgement, though, of course, inasmuch as that's possible for me. My mother's been working almost nonstop on the new habitat, so hard that if there were a Nobel prize for that sort of thing she'd at least be a Finalist. I continue to send good wishes in her general direction and hope that they pierce the fog of her exhaustion.

And I continue to distract myself. As you may or may not be aware, Salon has started letting people post "letters to the editor" at the end of any article, because what the overeducated, overarticulate, overprivileged readers of Salon really need is a Voice. The results are frequently hilarious, especially in reponse to Cary Tennis's advice column. I have found that burying myself in these avalanches of letters works like almost nothing else to help me forget my own anxieties and upsettednesses. Family leaving childhood home? Possible promotion dangling overhead? At least I'm not in love with an exception prostitute or deeply NOT in love with my husband's offspring.

Mr. Ben, by the way, is singing in the background to the tune of Davey Crockett: "Baby, baby boyfriend, king of the wild brassiere ..." Welcome to the weekend. Ahhhhhh.