Wednesday, June 27, 2007

my party!

my party!
Originally uploaded by shorterstory.
Look, it's my bachlorette party!

Just kidding. Actually, my bachlorette party was more like this:

my actual party
Originally uploaded by shorterstory.

Okay, okay, actually it was like this:

oh shit it's cold
Originally uploaded by shorterstory.

Up in the Catskills, where those oldest wonderfullest friends of mine took me for a weekend escape, the most risque thing I did was sleep in a super bed for debauchery. It was only afterwards, once we'd returned to the city, that we indulged in my newest favorite thing, Yolato, and everyone's all-time favorite thing, nudity.

The weekend was refreshing and nostalgic and lovely, and I've hardly had time to think about it (let alone blog) since. Too much to do! After feasting with a friend n her parents into the wee hours last night, I had to rise at 6:45 for an office day trip to Connecticut: 8+ hours on a bus for 4 hours of New England sun -- fun, but an investment in bonding that I'm not eager to repeat anytime soon.

And Friday afternoon I get back on a bus to toodle off to DC for the weekend while Mr. Ben has his bachelor fun in Philly. After that things will calm down for a bit. Or, um, until the wedding, I guess. Which is really *awfully* soon ...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

ho hum

There are things I'm supposed to be doing besides agonizing over Michael Bloomberg. It only makes me feel slightly better to realize that everyone else is agonizing too: now that he's an Independent, will he run? Will 2008 be a joke that begins, "So an Italian New Yorker (R), a WASP New Yorker (D), and a short Jewish billionaire New Yorker (I) walk into a bar. Who do you want to have a beer with? SUCK IT UP, MIDWESTERNERS: YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE"?

Personally, I'm glad Bloomie (no relation except via the Global Conspiracy) has turned all (I) on us. He was always too good for the stodgy gay-bashers and immigrant-hating Scrooges of the GOP; and now it's like he's giving those of us who like him so much license to continue without feeling dirty. You know what I like about Bloomie? Congestion pricing -- I've walked by three car accidents recently, not counting the one that nearly took down Mr. Ben's best man. Get the cars off the streets of Manhattan!

Also thanks to Bloomie: no trans fat lurking in the french fries and no smoking in the bars. He's working on schools and affordable housing and he gives off the sense that if he were running the damn 9/11 monument project the ribbon would be cut already. To me, he combines sensible "big government" policies with intelligent mad managerial skillz, and he does it without incurring the wrath of the unions or the ACLU.

Not that I would vote for him for President in 08. My eyes are not that starry. We need a big D in office, if only for the symbolism. But hang in there, Bloomie -- maybe in '12? '16?

Meanwhile, I need thoughts of '08 to distract me from August 07, which is like a giggly little kid crouching behind a door ready to jump out and yell, "Boo!" This weekend I'm going to be Bachlorette-ing with four of my oldest female friends (they knew me when I was angry and bitter!) at a lakehouse in the Catskills. It will be fantastic. We will kayak and go see waterfalls and cook food and talk about our sex lives and reminisce about how I used to be angry and bitter before I had a sex life and oops family members sometimes read this blog. Well, anyway. I'm going to be an honest woman soon, or some feminist approximation thereof.

This chicks-only getaway was one of the few concrete wedding-related things I really wanted. I am super excited. Thinking about the wedding itself makes me palpitate a little bit -- walking down an aisle? Really? How surreal. Will everyone be crying? Will I? How will I NOT be crying? -- but this trip, and the 2-week trip to Tokyo & Hokkaido that Mr. Ben and I are planning for early September, are much easier to fathom.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

it's early for fireworks

It sounds like the city is practicing for the Fourth of July outside my window. Sadly my apartment faces the wrong way -- even if I go out onto the fire escape, I can only see towards Manhattan, whereas the city sends the fireworks in the other direction, over the river by the Promenade. Maybe we'll keep that in mind when Mr. Ben and I opt for a bigger apartment in this neighborhood.

Technically I should be in Prospect Park at the free Joan Osbourne Sings the Blues concert, one of countless free events NYC has begun to offer in honor of the delicious weather. Just the other night I was swaying to the enthusiasm of Sharon Jones in Rockefeller Park. But this evening I felt compelled to attend to one of the characters in my novel, the mother, Abby. She's been sort of shortchanged. Things tend to happen around her, not to her, and it occurred to me I should fix that. And I haven't had time: this week has been as packed as last week was.

Yesterday, for example, after some necessary but fucking expensive dental work, I wandered around, continuing to make purchases, on the assumption that solace could only be found in the hair of the dog that bit me. Although this experience in the dentist's chair wasn't as bad as the last one with the x-rays that left me in tears, it wasn't fun. Once again I resorted to reciting poetry in my head to keep my mind off the fact that my jaw had been hanging open for an hour.

It's funny, the poems that go through your head at such awkward moments. In fifth grade, when my teacher assigned us all to memorize and recite a piece, most people came in trotting Shel Silverstein behind them. When it was my turn, I got up in front of the class and began at verse 52 of Macaulay's Horatius at the Bridge:
But meanwhile axe and lever
had manfully been pried
and now the bridge hangs tottering
above the boiling tide ...
I was an overachiever but more importantly, my father was. I still think about poor Horatius from time to time, like when I'm immobilized and Novacained and being prodded with sharp silver sticks.
But fiercely ran the current,
Swollen high by months of rain:
And fast his blood was flowing;
And he was sore in pain,
And heavy with his armour,
And spent with changing blows:
And oft they thought him sinking,
But still again he rose.
I rose; I tried to ignore my lopsided facial numbness as I ran errands. Shopping for flatware when you can't feel your mouth is an experience, let me tell you.

I'm also very partial to the Pied Piper of Hamelin from listening to Gielgud recite it over and over again on a tape I had as a kid. But my memory of it is spotty, sadly. You should read it if you haven't: it's fantastic, full of wickedly clever rhymes.

I have one more dentist appointment before this horror series is over (it's my fault for putting off visiting one for three and a half years--and, um, for not flossing). Maybe I'll work on memorizing something meaty and substantial in preparation. Let me know if you have recommendations.

Monday, June 11, 2007

... and it's over

I have been a media glutton lately. Observe:

WEDNESDAY - Knocked Up. And if you think my reaction was conflicted, compare it to the spitting ire of the Flick Filosopher.

THURSDAY - An advance free screening of Becoming Jane, essentially Shakespeare in Love-lite with James McAvey as a hotter version of Joseph Fiennes. Where did all these smoking hot British men come from all of a sudden? Back in the day, our selection was limited to the admittedly more-than-acceptable Ewan MacGregor. Now he's jostling for space with Colin Firth, Clive Owen, Daniel Craig, and Glen Hansard from Once, not to mention the whole cast of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Where were they before I got engaged?

FRIDAY - LA Story for Mr. Ben's sake. I fell asleep halfway through since, before we settled in, we'd spent an indefensible amount of time trying to pick out the Perfect Bedset. What this means in practice was that we spent several hours with our ears to the computer screen, waiting to hear the sweet song of the Comforter-Pillow-Sheet-Duvet Combo that would really complete us as a couple.

SATURDAY - Chapter 2 of Angels in America with my viewing posse. I own the DVD so that, when I mention it Kushner's version in conversation and someone hasn't made the 6-hour chunk of time available to subject themselves to it, I can offer it up. (This is also why I own the A&E Pride & Prejudice, Pulp Fiction, and any number of other pieces of Essential Viewing.)

SUNDAY - and the reason I began writing this entry: the final episode, at long last, of the Sopranos, widely recognized as the best television series I've ever watched through my fingers. The fact that I -- with my famously low tolerance for violence -- have found it worthwhile to experience almost a decade of this show should testify to how impressive the acting, pacing, and scripting are, if anyone needs convincing. But you don't, right? You've seen the show, starting from Season 1? Cuz if you haven't, I have the DVDs ...

In a way I'm glad we've gotten the final episode out of the way. I'm the sort of the person that likes to have suspense done with so that I can reread or rewatch and focus on details, not plot. But I did like the finale. Very few people can do suspense as well as David Chase; I nearly fibrillated during that last scene at the diner. When the screen cut to black and a string of curses rose up from the entire East Coast, I felt the same immediate frustration and disappointment I imagine everyone did. But I also think there was something genius about that Brechtian move on DC's part -- calling attention to the medium (how many people thought their cable had gone out?), reminding us that this is just art, that we shouldn't let our emotions overwhelm us.

Also, whether or not you think Tony died in that moment when the screen went black, you have to believe that the best of his life is behind him. He's caught in the same self-destructive, self-obsessed patterns, only now he doesn't have Melfi to help him pan for small shiny bits of insight. He has his wife's and his son's loyalty but only because he bought them; and two of the closest members of his work family are gone forever. Instead of saving babies the way Tony hoped she would as a pediatrician, his daughter will spend her life trying to save mobsters as a lawyer and it's because of Tony. He'll always have to live looking over his shoulder and even if he isn't killed, the specter of Junior lies ahead of him: wasting away toothless in a New Jersey state hospital with no memory of the pride or glory that made "this thing of ours" worth dying for in the first place.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

knocked up and out

Considering that when Mr. Ben and I spent Memorial Day Weekend lounging in his mom's house in Chappaqua with friends we rewatched 40 Year Old Virgin, rediscovering exactly how funny that movie is, we naturally wanted to see Apatow's second major at bat, Knocked Up, ASAP. Truly and duly, we laughed very hard throughout Knocked Up, but there were times that I was also squeezing his hand; there was one time that I cried; and at least once I blessed the fact that I was still off sugar. Apatow coulda given me an anxiety attack.

Nobody told me it was a horror movie! was my first comment when the lights came on, and I was only partly kidding. Knocked Up is impressive for dealing with serious topics without melting into sentimentality. But (excuse the cliche) partly because it was so good, I wanted it to be better.

As some critics have noted, Apatow can't really do women. The main character Alison's sister, played by Apatow's real life wife, is a frightening, controlling, hysterical mess who does almost nothing right from start to finish. She and her husband, played by Paul Rudd, communicate so badly they barely bother to try. As even Alison, who for some reason loves her sister, points out, they're miserable and utterly wrong for each other.

In real life, they would divorce. In this movie, that's not an option. Following that same strange moral code, the idea that Alison would consider an abortion when she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant is only discussed briefly by other, minor characters who suggest darkly that Alison should "take care of it." Did Doc Brown abduct these characters and transport them to 1903? On Gray's Anatomy -- a network TV show! -- they dealt with the subject more straightforwardly; and this movie is rated R.

I would have no problem with Alison choosing to have a baby, but you never see her make the choice -- you know, consider her options, make a list, decide what she really wants. You don't even get her looking longingly at kids or something to indicate she has a deep current of maternal instinct. It's Life With Baby Forever or Nothing for this chick, and I just didn't buy it. Why would a twenty-something well-off professional single woman in LA unquestioningly change her life around to have the baby of a shlubby guy with whom she'd had a drunk one-night stand? Even though Ben (the fella in question) is funny and sweet and relatively charming.

That's problem #1 I had with the movie. Problem #2, which I alluded to earlier, is that the main model of marriage is the natural disaster of a couple of Alison's sister and her husband. I've never seen a better ad for homosexuality than this movie. It seems to be saying that men & women are incurably different and can only be "trained" to live together in pseudo peace, because men are wild children at heart and women are appearance-obsessed mysteries who don't know how to have fun.

To be fair, Katherine Heigl has some moments where she shows she's more honest and more human than her sister. She's not judgmental about Ben's drug use or his layabout lifestyle (something he accuses her of, later). At one point she breaks it to him gently that he's fine the way he is; just, the guy he is isn't the guy for her. Great! Plus, she's right -- they would be better friends. Part of me wished the movie would leave it there, giving them full points for trying. But, yeah, part of me enjoyed the rom-com ending.

But there are also plenty of parts where she's CRAZY, too crazy for hormones to function solely as an excuse. Why, female characters? Why must you be so off your rockers, so bats-in-the-bellfry, bricks short of a load? Could you not have pulled Apatow aside and explained in your nicest indoor voices that there's an alternative? Catherine Keener in 40 Y.O.V. must have done that, cuz she did not fare nearly so badly.

All of the fringe characters, by the way, are hilarious. My favorite are the Good Cop/Bad Cop E! TV executives for whom Alison works, but everyone's pitch perfect, ad libbing their hearts out and clearly having a great time. I'd give the movie an 8 for the Vegas sequence alone. Maybe it's because I'm getting married so all of this cuts close to home. But I really wish it had been just a little bit better.

Interesting factoid: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Lindsey Lohan, and Anne Hathaway were all considered for the part of Alison. Throw Selma Hayek and Jessica Simpson into the mix and you have a regular Rockette line of the bustiest thin ladies of Hollywood. Clearly the character needed to be pneumatic, but why? Did the first draft featured a huge flood that Alison needed to survive? Not that I'm complaining; it makes me feel less alone to see the stacked ladies. Although for all the gratutious tit shots, it's worth noting that Heigl keeps her bra on throughout. You see three shots of the baby crowning but not so much as a nipple. Oh, Hollywood.

Friday, June 01, 2007

clean, clear, and under control

My mother's thyroid biopsy came back empty. No cancer! One of my parents doesn't have cancer! I would have thrown a party when I found out if I hadn't been about to leave for a weekend in DC.

Mr. Ben and I Vamoosed for a mere $25, and if you've been craving an alternative to the Chinatown bus, I recommend it highly. Clean, roomy, with working televisions (even if all they did was inform me How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days if you're the reasonably charming Kate Hudson). Plus, they drop off in Bethesda, close to where my ailing parents reside.

As to my ailing parents, I do wonder a bit what's to be done. Though my mother was found to be out of danger, the surgeons who removed her thyroid left her with a scar that makes her look like Juno, the chain-smoking caseworker in Beetlejuice played by Sylvia Sydney. For some reason I can't find a picture, but you remember her -- the afterlife expert who exhales through the slash in her throat.

My mom's had her throat slit, my dad's been disemboweled. What a year for my parents. My mother is rocking it, though. She looks great -- and when she asked the doctor what the condition of the scar would be in early August, he said, "Well, I can tell you one thing that would help."

"What's that?" asked my mother.

"A really striking diamond necklace."

I fear that my father might need more than some frost to distract attention from his situation. Chemo hasn't been sitting well with him after all; he's hardly been able to eat or sleep. I can only hope he adjusts soon, or something? What can I hope for?

Probably to keep us from thinking such mopey thoughts, when Mr. Ben and I were in town, they wouldn't let us stand still for a moment. The weekend whirled by & all I recall looking back are flashes of my wedding dress, about a hundred pairs of silver slippers, a much amended song list, a stack of stamped invitations, a strapless bra, the Rabbi in his office, some really terrific strawberries, and faces made up to look pretend Japanese for a spirited if a bit silly production of the Mikado at Wolf Trap.

I made it back in time to catch the Sopranos with my next door neighbor. David Chase really knows how to gut a viewer, doesn't he? Except for that overdone bit with the model train, it was an amazing hour of suspense; I think I was whimpering from start to finish. Idly it occurred to me as I watched that it was ridiculous to get all emotionally involved with the deaths of these fictional monsters, whereas I've managed to stay relatively calm about the sickness of both of my parents. But I guess that's what art is for.