Wednesday, November 29, 2006

one big fairy tale

Nothing I wear fits. My bras are the wrong size. My underwear sags. The waistbands of my jeans hang around my hips like hula hoops. Even my beautiful new coat, which makes me look like le petit prince, only better, is several inches too long.

Then there's this ring. It's the ring Mr. Ben bought me for Engagement, Take Two, and now that the awesome jewelry store from which he obtained it has resized it for free, I can finally wear it. It's not too loose, not too tight.

In the six months of ring-less engagement, I fielded lots of questions about why I wasn't wearing anything and spent a decent amount of time thinking about whether I wanted one. For sure I didn't want a diamond. Nothing that flashy & problematic belongs on my hand. Nor did I think I wanted to deal with gold. I didn't want to be high-maintainance; I don't want to show anything off or be tagged as someone's property. In short, if I wanted anything at all, I didn't know what. It was all too loaded with symbolism.

Except I liked the idea of being able to look down and be reminded, This is happening. This is good. This is what we want.

Last night I dreamt that someone, possibly one of the twins from America's Next Top Model, told me to turn the ring over. Sure enough, the back of the band had a box of Nutrition Information, and it listed the ingredients: tin and glass.

In actuality, the ring contains neither. It's vintage, and it looks like a crown. My hand has a crown! Weird! I haven't worn it outside of the apartment yet. Maybe tomorrow I'll feel brave.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

oh, turkey. i never eat you.

Another Thanksgiving is behind us. I have been up to Westchester and back again, which is not exactly like going into the heart of darkness or the heart of Mordor. It's more like being in the suburbs and being well-fed for a while, and getting to watch a lot of the Office. Funniest show ever! Who knew? I moved Season One to the top of my Netflix queue so I can make sure that the six or seven hilarious episodes weren't a fluke.

I got to see my three first boy cousins, all of whom are very tall, and my little brother, who is also tall. In the car with my family driving me back to Brooklyn my grandma reflected with satisfaction on the fact that all five of her male grandchildren are around 6 foot. "None of them is short," she said. "Good." I sat next to her, slightly awkward in my 5-feet-1-and-3/4-inches, until she added, "It's lucky you're a girl!"

Back here, I saw Stranger than Fiction. All of the reviews feel compelled to mention that it's like, Charlie Kaufman lite! Which it is only in the sense that any movie that involves an ensemble of characters who sometimes talk at the same time is an homage to Robert Altman, or anything misanthropic, stylized, and anti-American is Lars Van Trier-ish. Film critics need to expand their imaginations, or at least their repertoires.

Stranger than Fiction is about a guy who realizes he's a character in a story and has to determine whether his life is tragedy or a comedy. It's not mindblowing, but since it has the courage of its convictions, it ends up being really enjoyable. I even cried a little. So what if it doesn't approach the films in the Kaufman pantheon? It's cute! It showcases Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson AND Dustin Hoffman, all of whom are on my eternal crush list.

The Egyptian grocery store clerk where I bought ingredients to cook tonight thought it was weird that Jews celebrated Thanksgiving at all. "It's not a Christian holiday?" he asked doubtfully.
"No," I told him. "It's secular. American."
"What about the Orthodox Jews? Even they celebrate it?"
"No, they probably don't, you're right."

He peered at me. "You're not Orthodox?"
"Nope, we're just regular."

As his family's back in Egypt and he seems to work at least part of every day, he said he didn't celebrate at all. I don't know if he's Christian or Muslim. I felt a little funny asking, even though he knows Ben and I are Jewish because, several months ago, he asked us (!). And then asked if that meant we were Israeli. It weirded me out a bit at the time, but he still smiles at us and makes small talk at the register. Egypt and Israel do have a peace treaty, you know. Maybe that extends all the way to Brooklyn.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ys is good

I've meant to update practically every day this week. I would be a really bad participant in that Blog November thing that Mrs. Kennedy has going. Sigh. Since I've written, Rupert Murdoch's empire threatened to reintroduce the blood-sucking tick that is OJ Simpson back onto the body of the American public; AND he has apologized like a chagrined little boy and replaced the tick in his pocket.

Considering the depths of esteem in which we, as a country, seem to hold Murdoch and OJ to begin with, they could hardly have fallen further. The person who seems to have really lost face in the "If I Did It, Here's How" debacle was Judith Regan. Even her friend Nora Ephron politely disapproved of Regan's by turns scattered, illogical, and sanctimonious defense of her decision to inflict OJ on America in book form. Everyone else reacted as though Regan had exhumed the body of Joseph Stalin and dragged him around the floor of the Senate, taunting Senators and demanding kisses.

A lot has happened in general. Since work has been slow, I've had lots of time to catch up on my world happenings: TomKat weds in Italy; Kramer reveals a frightening racist streak; but most notably, Robert Altman dies. Should I wait several days before I admit I was never crazy about Altman's movies? That I walked out of Nashville, turned off Short Cuts, and couldn't make it past Act 1 of The Player? In fact, the only one of his movies I've enjoyed from start to finish is the least Altman-esque of them all, Gosford Park.

Perhaps I should return my Film degree. Or does having seen Borat at last redeem me? I laughed. I laughed and I laughed and I had to drink water or I might have puked too; that movie is Gross with a capital Gagging Sound. What made it grosser was that the seat directly in front of me contained a four year old boy. I'm not kidding. His father, who was maybe my age, had brought him. It's not all his fault; why'd the theater let him? Regardless: outrage & disgust! Although some of the humor was perhaps more suited to him than to me (viz., nude wrestling; feces at the dinner table).

The movie itself made me feel pretty dirty afterwards for that reason, not on behalf of the Jews or those (litigious) citizens of Glod who are the stand-ins for the people of Kazakhstan. Those parts were so over-the-top, so silly, it's inconceivable to me that anyone would be legitimately offended. & I actually thought they were brilliant send-ups of 1) anti-semitism in this day and age, and 2) dim American ideas of what the developing world is like.

On a note of higher culture: when I spending that cheery evening in the ER with Ross a week ago, I missed a concert I was supposed to see with the fire boss and my friend Lana, both of whom reported back that Joanna Newsom, in my absence, proceeded to give the best show ever in history since the burning of Rome. To make it up to me, Lana, amazingly, bought me Ys, Newsom's latest CD. As reported, it's fantastic, like a harp-playing, warbling lovechild of Bjork and Joan Baez developed an album around an obsession with Mists of Avalon. Give it a try. You may never get past Newsom's distinctive voice, but if you can, it's mesmerizing.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

how the mighty have fallen

**NOTE - I've now been given permission to name my friend by my friend. His name is Ross, and he is recovering nicely. Thanks for all the emails and phone calls I got from the expert worriers.**

Mr. Ben and I intended to have a fancy dinner at Babbo to celebrate our (re?)engagement. Instead we ended up feasting on reheated veggie burgers & fries in the Bellevue Hospital Center Cafeteria because a friend of ours (and Ben's best man) Ross, visiting from Philly, got hit by a car.

We had all been standing at the corner of 12th and Broadway at about 6:00 PM, in front of the Strand bookstore. Ben and I crossed the street to escape the rain; Ross waited for the light to change and then attempted to join us. Two steps into the intersection, a speeding car caught him, carried him forward and onto the sidewalk, dropping him there before careening into a store and down the sidewalk, finally coming to a stop at the end of the block.

It was the most horrific NYC street scene I've been a part of. Ben and I had turned away, so luckily we didn't see the collision; but we heard the panicking and the screaming, and when we turned back, Ross was gone. "Where is he?" I asked Ben. "Where is he?" I called his cell phone and Ross picked up, sounding dazed and incoherent, and then we saw him, a heap on the sidewalk, about thirty feet from where he'd started.

He was lucky. The guy the car hit next was bleeding from the head, immobile, covered with glass. The sidewalk seemed littered with people who I couldn't focus on because I was holding onto Ross. "Ow," he said from time to time, and, "I can't see very well. It's getting dark. I can see lights. The lights are cool."

When the ambulance came, Mr. Ben and I rode with him strapped down to a stretcher alongside a very reassuring EMT. The EMT even told our friend how to avoid getting his much loved sweater from getting cut off.

We landed at Bellevue Hospital Center and there we stayed for about seven hours as our poor friend was poked, prodded, bandaged, x-rayed, x-rayed again, casted, slung, and told repeatedly how lucky he was. Lucky indeed: aside from the two fractures (elbow, ankle) and lots of scrapes and bruises, he was okay. But the night wore on and the ER doctors showed no signs of running out tests to perform on him, and the poor guy showed no signs of being able to hobble all the way to Brooklyn. Finally Mr. Ben and I tagged out at 1:15 AM, when another friend came to relieve us.

The experience was exhausting, in part because we spent most of our time hovering by Ross's makeshift bedside in the ER where there were no chairs. Once the nice orthopedic doctors let us follow our friend to the x-ray room, where we sat on the hallway floor marvelling at the various pieces of bad art someone had hung to try to dispell the hospital gloom. Then a nurse sternly instructed us to get up, wash our hands, and burn (all right, wash) our clothes. God knows what contamination lingers on hospital floors.

We did manage to chase down a balloon for our friend that read "Aliviate, pronto!" And I think we managed to make him more comfortable. And at least, thank god, he's okay.

Monday, November 13, 2006

the fiancee proposes

After a great, if hectic, weekend, Mr. Ben finds it in himself to get up at 6:00 this gray monday morning and is gone to get more work done by 6:30. I leave for work at the more human time of 8:30 but stop right outside the door to the building. Mr. Ben is there. Why is he there? And why is he carrying those flowers?

At first I'm confused, thinking it's some Day of Importance that I've forgotten. Meanwhile Mr. Ben is grinning that boyish grin. He hands me the armful of blue-purple flowers and before I understand what's going on he gets down on one knee right there in front of our apartment building and pulls a small black box out of his bag.

Instead of going to school this morning, he had gone to Fassbinder's and gotten me a ring.

"Will you marry me?" and "It's a sapphire," he says helpfully because I'm laughing and crying. I don't know what I'm reacting to: the pageantry, the ring, the surprise. He takes the flowers & the ring to bring inside and we finally stop kissing so I can go to the subway. I'm completely happy.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Christmas for the Jews

I'm so happy that I almost can't take stock of how happy I am. It's almost unfathomable. For sure I've never been this happy on a rainy Wednesday in November.

Let's list the top five, shall we. In order of Exactly How Exuberant This Result Makes Ester:

#5) A moderate Muslim man in Minnesota makes it into Congress. First ever, and, oddly, not even in Michigan. (Bonus points for alliteration.) Lots of firsts, actually:
First woman to serve as speaker of the house: Nancy Pelosi

First Muslim elected to U.S. Congress: Keith Ellison

First Democratic Socialist elected to U.S. Congress: Bernie Sanders

First Jewish governor of New York: Eliot Spitzer

First African-American governor of Massachusetts: Deval Patrick

And, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, 67 openly gay candidates were elected to state and local offices (more than ever before)
{full list here}

#4) We won the House decisively AND a majority of the governorships! We are Master of the House, master of our domain, kings of the castle. Even our Dear Leader had to admit it. I would have loved to listen in on his call as he made nice to Pelosi, the woman who, previously, he could only refer to as "that liberal lesbian who's gonna steal your children, bus them to the nearest ghetto for abortions, and then sell them to illegal aliens."

In the process of taking the House, we #3) wiped Santorum off the floor of the Senate. His son cried; that was sad. Otherwise, wha-hoo! Take THAT, you brown-shirt in a suit.

#2) The ballot initiatives country-wide didn't do badly at all. It looks like stem cell research got approved in Missouri, the gay marriage ban failed in Arizona, and, most excitingly, the anti-abortion bill imported to South Dakota straight from Nicaragua was voted down. Three cheers for choice, and for the voters in South Dakota!

#1) We're within spitting distance of the Senate. In fact we may as well start acting as though we have it. Allen doesn't seem to be fighting hard for his seat, which is the deciding one -- he hasn't insisted on a recount, for example, if the initial poring over the votes doesn't discover an extra 7,001 for him in a box somewhere.

Webb seems to have gotten this memo: he's acting confident. We should follow his lead. Although, honestly, even a 50/50 split in the Senate feels like a huge victory to me, especially when coupled with the other huge gains of today. God bless Rahm Emanuel. God bless Chuck Shumer. And god bless America: thanks to you, now I can see Borat!

... On that note, I should add that I'm also deliriously happy about my office. Finally, I'm in a place where people are politically engaged, friendly, funny, eager to talk about what's going on while they congregate in the kitchen over free, company-supplied snacks & the free, company-suppled copy of the New York Times. Finally, I'm home.

ETA: Rummy. Yes. The first head to fall.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I am in an abusive relationship with the month november

Every couple years, I let myself hope. I let myself be soothed and thrilled by the prospect of the independents, the young, the disatisfied making their voices heard at last. Every two years I look a grinning Karl Rove in the face and say, "Get thee behind me, Satan! I trust in THE LORD."

And every two years, I wake up to a sour morning in November with a hangover that only the truly pious could understand.

Why? Why do I let myself get yanked around this way? Why can I not merely accept the continued supremacy of the Republican machine, the 110% effectiveness of its fear- and hate-mongering? Why am I like the hero of the movie, three-quarters of the way through, when everything seems so dark, when he's struggling against everything and being taunted by the bad guy with the upper hand? "Join me," hisses the bad guy. "It's your only chance to win." "Death first!" the hero hisses back heroically, even as he's suspended over the shark tank full of apathetic voters.

I just don't want to be crushed again, is all I'm trying to say. In fact, I won't let myself see Borat: Cultural Learnings of Something Something to Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazachstan UNLESS the dems manage to pull this one out. Only then will I be able to laugh freely at the foibles of red state America without stopping periodically to sob in my sleeves.

On a completely different note, I realized while talking to my oh-so-literate buddy Johnny that I'm a friend to books from virtually every period in recent history except 1850-1900. In a glaring omission, something about the writing of that era does nothing for me. Shelley is silly. Stowe is sentimental. The sermonizing of Wharton, Trollope, James, and ick! Dreiser all leave me cold. I can't immediately think of an exception or an explanation. If you can help, please! do.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

what is, M?

too cool for skool Part of living in New York is going to your friends' concerts. Amazingly you have lots of friends who perform music, and they perform it near-constantly. This is Mr. Ben and me looking fierce at the Knitting Factory, enjoying two opportunities in one evening to indulge a friend's performative tendencies. When you actually miss a concert -- as I just did, recently, to my chagrin -- it's a very sad thing. You get so used to being there, you know? Of course you do.

I missed a friend's concert and book release party because I was at home, in bed, shivering. Much less fun. I blame the wedding. I had just spent a couple whirlwind days in DC learning from the florist that I'm too short to carry certain flowers. Lilacs, luckily, are okay. Incidentally, the extremely gay florist was named David; his partner is named Jonathan. No one else found this funny, because very few people appreciate subtle bible humor.

Over the weekend, we also came within striking distance of picking an invitation, if only we can agree what color celadon is, and we learned that at many rehearsal dinners, the wedding couple (gloried and sanctified be It) will show slides, listen to speeches, eat all night with the guests to a three-piece band, and have a fancy cake. What distinguishes this from the actual wedding party? I'm still trying to figure that out.

Ah well. Meanwhile at least I have the election to wholly consume me. The con, obviously, is the frikkin horrible attack ads wedged into all the available commercial space for America's Next Top Model and 30 Rock; but I'm more or less willing to put up with it for the general distraction. (My concentration pays off: I got an A+ on that test. An A+. No kidding: I am the next Carville. Who, by the way, I could probably also identify.)