Monday, March 26, 2007


It's time for an important news bulletin, from my mother:

"Lest history be denied this extraordinary news, please be informed that Paul L. B___ [pictured, left, with two of his three children, including the blogger -- ed.] won the DC Metropolitan Award for dancing in the newcomer category this past weekend at the Sheraton Premiere Hotel at Tyson's Corner, Virginia.

The event was attended by about 450 people and for the first time since birth, Mr. B____ was struck dumb when his name was announced. His instructor, the lovely young Daniela Garau, graciously escorted Mr. B____ from his seat to the judge's stand where he accepted his award with obvious pleasure. Unfortunately, Mr. B____, usually a man of many words, was not afforded the opportunity to make a speech and therefore he was unable to thank his instructor, his wife and his mother-in-law publicly as no doubt he would have done.

When interviewed casually on Sunday morning about his achievements from the night before, Mr. B____ proclaimed himself "triumphant." If he cannot wear the plaque comfortably around his neck, Mr. B____ may have it mounted on the front door of his luxury apartment in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Mr. B____ was confident that the Washington Post would announce the award today in the Style section. Mr. B____ will be accepting congratulations by telephone at [redacted]."

Three cheers for B____!

Saturday, March 24, 2007


For a while there, I had a dearth of things to read, especially novels. No one could recommend something -- or better yet, plunk something into my hands -- that I got really excited about, and that left a hole in my heart.

So I overcompensated.

Scattered on my bed currently are:
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Midnight in the Dragon Cafe
Devil in the White City
and two by Colson Whitehead:
Apex Hides the Hurt
and John Henry Days.

The glut is the library's fault, really. I requested a number of things that all arrived together. I have three weeks to finish four of them (the fifth, Apex, was leant to me by workfriend Stephanie).

After a Scrabble game this morning in which I put SQUIRE on a triple-word score for 83 points and got IODINES for another 60-something, I started Midnight in the Garden and went all googly-eyed for it. Yes, I know I'm years behind everyone else in the country in this respect. It's just so charming! It's all stories! I love stories. I love Americana. I love Magnolia trees and piano bars and gay-seeming, rakish gentlemen. Clearly this book and I were made for each other.

I hope the rest of the list lives up.

Meanwhile, I had a lunch at Morimoto that did indeed fulfill expectations. Sumptuous sushi arranged like architecture; really good service. The guests of honor, the author and his wife, regaled my two workfriends and me with stories from their life in Utah. They've lived in Vegas, Phoenix, and Tuscon, so they were braced for Mormon country, if not entirely prepared. At their first dinner party, when the wife poured herself a glass of wine, the neighbors they'd invited said, "Oh! We've never met an alcoholic before."

Crucially, they seemed to have a sense of humor about it. I told them, for extra hilarity and solidarity, they should read Dooce.

After the wife visited the bathroom, she whispered to the rest of us that we had to try it. Obediently workfriend Laura and I trooped downstairs. The toilet, as reported, was studded with buttons, and while sitting but without thinking, I pressed one of them.

"Jesus!" I shouted, jumping to my feet.

"Are you okay?" asked Laura from the next stall.

I would have answered but I was too busy trying to dodge the forceful stream of water shooting out of the toilet bowl right at me. Damn thing was a bidet. If I'd been prepared I might have enjoyed it; as it was, I just got wet.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

oh so quiet

It's oh so still in here today, empty enough that I could take off my headphones and listen to Brian Lehrer out of computer speakers the way god and WNYC intended, if I were so inclined. Everyone from my department is at CCCC (aka, 4C's). Although I don't get to enjoy those specific festivities, there's a company-sponsored bash at Tavern on the Green this evening, and before that, the small team I've been working with on a project gets to take our author & his wife--in town for the conference--to lunch, Iron Chef style. Yes, that's right: we're going to Morimoto!

I am too excited. I keep hearing the Chairman's voice in my head. Funny, I didn't have this problem before I had lunch at Bobby Flay's restaurant, Mesa. There's something about the idea of top-notch sushi that sings to my stomach like nothing else. That must be why Japan is on tap for the honeymoon.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


I celebrated a snowy St. Paddy's Day here in New York the only logical way: I enjoyed Burmese food in the company of Mr. Ben and a couple of his friends, and then (finally) saw Pan's Labyrinth. To kill time before the show, the group of us wandered around the upper-LES a bit, eventually venturing into Katz's Deli to see what there was to see. Although, like 3/4 of those assembled, I'd never been there before, I felt an odd sense of deja vu scanning the huge crowded cafeteria, attributable either to my connection to a Jewish oversoul or to my having seen When Harry Met Sally too many times.

I think I mentioned, I'd been afraid to see Pan's Labyrinth -- it turns out I had good reason. It's a beautiful film, really well-crafted from the sound effects on up, and, like Children of Men, it's a serious punch to the gut. In fact there are a number of similarities between the two movies, and um, *SPOILERS AHEAD*:

- violence, of course, the random senseless kind;
- the grim realities of life under fascism;
- the necessity of underground resistance movements, although that's dealt with with more complexity in COM;
- both have main characters who die at the end of the film while
- a baby lives on.
- COM is sent in the near future while PL was set in the recent past. Both arguably are about risks of today.

PL upset me more. It was harder to watch. A grown man giving his life for something, even one as lovely as Clive Owen, can't be as harrowing as a little girl giving her life for nothing. It took me a few minutes to get past my original emotional reaction to that and be able to appreciate the artistry and the creativity, the way that the same themes emerged in the real life storyline as did in the fantasy one. Not to mention the wonderful actress from Y Tu Mama Tambien for whom, at least, the movie ended well. That's some comfort.

Friday, March 16, 2007

New mantra

New mantra
Originally uploaded by shorterstory.
A couple days ago, I had to use my lunchbreak to have a follow up doctor's appointment. I didn't have terribly high hopes: I expected to tell the doctor, yes, the pills work -- I was beginning to have an anxiety attack and they forestalled it, just as they should. (Well done, pills!)

Being a doctor, however, he couldn't help asking me more questions. At first I was somewhat embarrassed, being unused to this "therapy" thing. But he kept asking "Why?" to whatever I said and before I knew it I was telling him about my monster ex-roommate and how she made me FEEL.

It turned out that what stressed me out about her is not so dissimilar from what's stressed me out about the wedding: both relate to the very cliched sense I have that I'm not quite ready to be an adult yet. (I know! So rare among my age group.) While chiding me gently on this point, the doctor reached over and started scribbling something on a pad; then he handed the note to me.

I burst out laughing. "It must be true, 'cause it's on letterhead," I said.

We'll see how well my magic feather works the first time I really have to fly. But for now, suffice it to say that the idea of it -- and its presence in my bag -- makes me absurdly happy.

Monday, March 12, 2007

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.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

baby's first wedding!

I didn't mean to write about Ann Coulter the last time I sat down to blog; I meant to say Congratulations HeidiRob! Mr. Ben and I spent two packed days in Delray Beach, Florida counting BMWs, enjoying the sunshine, and celebrating with our Very First friends to tie the knot. As you can tell from Mr. Ben's pictures, they did so in old world style.

Our friend K. Ross, much improved since getting knocked around by that renegade car several months ago, joined us, as did several other college folk I hadn't seen since graduation. We had an all-around lovely time, except for that moment when I let my guard down and was shanghaied by a drunk pot-smoking, menopausal relative who proceded to regale me for what felt like hours with stories of her pot smoking and menopause.

Still, overall, it was a vast improvement over the last wedding I attended as a nine year old, when I saw the priest keel over and die in the middle of the ceremony. The imposing Catholic Church had already been spooking me a little, what with those Stations of the Cross murals on the walls; seeing a man go down, and then a whole congregation fall to its knees while my family remained awkwardly seated in our pew as if we were somehow to blame, was nearly traumatizing. The HeidiRob wedding had no body count at all. Way to go, guys!

Obviously their wedding made me think about mine, but I won't bore you with those details. I just hope I remain as graceful under pressure as they did.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

a modest proposal

Instead of banning a word that no one is allowed to use anyway except black people and Quentin Tarantino, why doesn't New York do something useful and necessary like banning Ann Coulter? True, she probably wouldn't set foot in our slanderous, treasonous, godless city, but in case she were tempted to have a meeting with her publisher or a wax and yet another micro-mini, I would love to have it on record that should she cross city limits, should the sun set on her presence in this sane corner of America, we will boil her in oil and feed her to the homeless.

What's that you say? My rhetoric makes me almost as bad as she is? Oh, my friends, if only that were true. Ann Coulter drinks of the fire of Mordor the way you or I might enjoy a lemonade. Her skin is synthetic, pieced together by sweatshop third-world labor, and her soul is made of the ash of Rome on which Nero fiddled. Nothing I could do could put me on the level of Ann Coulter. Seriously? She called John Edwards a "faggot." Seriously.

It's time for action. Big Apple! I call to you. AC is at least as harmful to my heart as trans fats, at least as toxic to my lungs as cigarette smoke. Let's start a nationwide trend, making it clear we have no room for such horror in our city.