Thursday, July 26, 2007


The most amazing question I've ever seen asked of an advice colmunist comes from this week's Dear Prudence column on Slate. Viz:
Dear Prudence,
I am happy. I'm 23, and I have a wonderful life, the best husband (of three years) any woman could ask for. He is my soul mate. We crack jokes to each other, about each other, and we don't take offense. We are honest and trust each other 100 percent with everything. We have two children, 4 and 2; they are happy. We take them out, we play with them, we read to them, they are our little miracles. They are so well-behaved in every way. We are not rich, in fact, we live paycheck to paycheck. We don't have a lot of extra money, but I believe the things we really want will come in time, after paying what little debt we have left. We don't have a lot of friends, mostly because all our old ones are off doing drugs and other things we don't approve of. My husband and I come from really bad family situations, horrible divorces, abusive family members, and we have grown up less than fortunate. We made the best out of our lives so far and really look forward to our future together and with our children. Are other people this happy? Or are we just weird?

—Always Smiling
Prudence's response was perfectly fine but I'd love to have a write-in contest for the best possible answer. The pithier the better, folks, although profundity is not prohibited.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

beaten eggs

This is how I've felt lately:

Now that Mr. Ben is taking the Bar even as we SPEAK, it's even worse. I can't concentrate on anything. My joints hurt; I'm tugging at my hair like I'm nine years old again and going to CTY for the first time with the big kids. ... God, I remember how scary that was. The funny thing is of course that the fear never went away. Any time I approached a summer camp experience, even if I'd been at the very same place the year before, I worked myself into a Gordian Knot of anxiety about the unknown. Once I spent the first few days of camp in the infirmary recovering from what should have been excitement.

I'm older now! More resilient! And Xanax is my back up plan. (That's a bit like "God is my co-pilot," what?) I did manage to make gnocchi this weekend from scratch, with the help of a chipper friend, in between meals out with my two brothers and sundry male cousins. And I took my new shoes to Ditmas Park, to Chinatown, and, as a reward for them because they'd been so good, on a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. That last was a bit too much for them, or rather for me, but what is life if not one learning experience after another?

Friday, July 20, 2007

this is happening right now

Scene: Ester sits in bed, agreeably pantsless, browsing the internets. Mr. Ben, in his bright orange Ukrainian revolution t-shirt and pajama bottoms, paces and mutters, which is how he studies for the Bar.

All of a sudden, Mr. Ben stops and turns to Ester, a huge grin splitting his face. "I got it!" he cries.

Ester stares at him.

"It's a mnemonic. A great one!"

Ester, dumbfounded. He points a finger straight at her chest and announces, "DUSTPELTS!"

Nothing happens. Apparently this isn't a Harry Potter spell. But Mr. Ben looks very pleased with himself. "Wills, baby. It's all about wills."

Some minutes later, after Ester has stopped laughing, he begs, "Can I please tell you what it stands for?"

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

around the corner

In less than three weeks, I'm going to get married. Well, first I turn 25 and have lunch at Bolo, courtesy of Restaurant Week. Then I find out whether little Harry lives or dies (no nasty cheating spoilers for me). Then Mr. Ben takes the bar and either lives to tell about it or keels over from the exhaustion of constant studying, the celebratory champagne bottle his law firm sent no doubt clutched in one hand. THEN I jump the broom.

Holy shit.

Thank god for Harry Potter VII. What could be better distraction? Except, perhaps, the most amazing pair of shoes and best birthday present EVER. Writhe with jealousy over that picture. Covet, even. Go ahead, it's okay, God understands.

On Sunday, while recovering from much joyous wandering about in the sun -- to Governor's Island, at last!, among other places -- and doing chores, I rewatched all of the A&E Pride and Prejudice. Appropriate, since it's about marriage, more or less from start to finish. It's a good reminder to be grateful that marriage is an option, not something I have to do to get out of my father's house or because there's no other way to be financially secure. To further encourage myself along those lines, I've also been thinking about the gay marriage advocates out there (more power to them). If they're willing to fight as hard as they've been fighting to form a more blessed union, then there must be something to it, mustn't there? I mean, besides salad bowls.

Perhaps if gay marriage were legal I'd be calmer about getting married. The world needs more queer wives, and I'd feel better about being compared to them than to the great straight wives of history.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

it gives a lovely light

After that moment of dithering on Saturday, I decided to Go With Things. One can really only make choices and Go With them, can't one? There's no point whining about being pulled in two directions.

So! Up at 5:15 on Sunday and off to Central Park to wait in line for tickets for the last show of Romeo and Juliet, armed with a blanket, a novel, a crossword puzzle, a water bottle, morning rations, and a determined Mr. Ben. When we arrived, however, we found to our dismay that people had preceded us. Several hundred people, to be exact. Damned Manhattanites and their home court advantage! Some even showed signs of having spent the night.

It didn't seem likely that there would even be a point in waiting, but remembering that life's a journey, not a destination, or something, and it being a lovely morning, we settled in.

From 6:20 to 1:00 we guarded our place with the zealousness of gold rush prospectors. (I was Humphrey Bogart; Ben was the other guy.) A friend came with three dogs to keep us company -- and luckily she brought us breakfast, as leaving the park to acquire food is strictly prohibited by the Laws of the Line. By 1:00 we had been pre-heated to 350 degrees and well broiled and I was beginning to get irritable; just then we were all motioned onto our feet and forward, in slow-motion single-file, to the box office. At 1:45 we arrived at that hallowed spot, the Jerusalem to our Crusade, and managed to snatch two of the very last standby tickets available.

Standby tickets being, of course, no sure thing, we then had to return at 6:30 and remain rooted in place from 6:30 to 8:00 to see if we -- and the cadre of friends we had assembled -- could all get in. They kept us waiting to the very last moment and then! oh, glory be to Heaven: they handed us tickets.

All that sunshine and heat and sitting around and anxiety were worth it. The play was wonderful. Lauren Ambrose was a fantastically fidgety, physical, giddy Juliet -- you actually believed that she was 14 and moreover *understood* the world from her point of view. This was also the first time I got how smart she was, how much respect Shakespeare has for her, how true the last line is, that this is the tale of Juliet, and her Romeo.

Romeo meanwhile was also striking. The whole supporting cast was, in fact, I thought -- they deserve an apology from The New Yorker. Hilton Als apparently couldn't stand Camryn Manheim as the nurse, whereas I thought I'd never seen that character so fully realized. Als was put off by Mercutio too. He has something against actors who emote, perhaps? Those *characters* are annoying, but you can't really pin that on their portrayers. I agreed much more with the enchanted NYT review.

In any event, it was a worthwhile if exhausting day and I considered sleeping in the next morning to let myself recover a bit. In the end I didn't and it's a good thing too: I had thought I was to travel to Boston for work on Wednesday; actually I was to go Tuesday. Glad I got that straightened out! And so yesterday I had Baby's First Business Trip (TM). I kept thinking of my mother, who travelled for work a lot when I was younger, although of course I was just flying in and out of Boston, whereas she was hopping off to the Marshall Islands. Even with my numerous and lengthy flight delays, I can't match that.

Today I rewarded myself for that second worthwhile if exhausting day by seeing Harry Potter V: The Best of the Bunch So Far. Whee! I had never been so excited to be at Hogwarts, and no matter how big a dork it makes me, I can't wait to be back.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

not really a problem

Since July is the best month of the year, at least in New York, I actually have a moderately hard time with it. In a free moment, write or read? Read a beloved mystery or a new, acclaimed novel? Or the Saturday New York Times? Start the Sunday puzzle or eat some more? Eat in or brunch out? Yesterday we had excellent Korean before seeing Ratatouille. But tomorrow: camp out for Shakespeare in the Park tickets or finally get to see Governor's Island?

For the past couple hours, since extricating myself from the embrace of the Floating Pool Lady, I've wandered in my happy, happy state from one pastime to another, not committing to anything, not even clothes. I did manage to take off my bathing suit and hang it in the bathroom. Gold star!

Summer is too short. And sometimes it rains! as it did on Fourth of July (no problem: we assembled to watch Angels in America and eventually we did get to enjoy fireworks off the Promenade) and this past Thursday, on what would have been a fantastic showing of Princess Bride. We as a country need two Julys, I think. Three if you count Miranda.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

"what's an iPhone?"

My office gave us a free half day today -- to prepare us for the glories of a free day tomorrow, I imagine. I live such an exciting life that my first thought was, "Terrific! I can go to the library!"

But it's weird, you know? That the library is generally only open during work hours, and I, um, *work* during those hours. To fill my obsessive need for the library (or rather its resources) I spend a decent amount of time trolling its website and planning my Saturday mornings. But today! With my unexpected freedom, I skipped over at my convenience carrying three books to return (Handler, Eisenberg, Sayers), and skipped back, carrying three books that I found on the hold shelf with my name stamped on their spines (Vowell, Ferris, and more Sayers, cuz I can't get enough). I am not ashamed to admit I was giddy both ways. At least those writers would forgive me for my unrepentant dorkitude, unlike my brother, who rolls his eyes at me just because I occasionally use the word Accio.

In an ideal world, my job would be to read a lot of books and write some of my own, with occasional breaks to shop for shoes. My hobby would be watching movies. To serve God, I would spend time with my friends, encouraging them to read/write books and watch movies. And to disturb the monotony, I would eat excellent food.

Oh, and I'd have a dog. And a lovely apartment somewhere by Prospect Park. And though the city would be Brooklyn, the weather would be Berkeley's. Is that so much to ask?

Mr. Ben survived his bachelor weekend. I suspect he and his friends spent 48 hours and $30K at Scores, but I will not debase myself to ask. Frankly, even if they did, they could not have matched the fun my friends and I had over my bachelorette weekend: our landlord neglected to mention that the oven had a gas leak and so, in cooking our first night there, we were merrily sauteeing on the range while filling the kitchen with propane. He also neglected to mention that by, "You can boat" he meant, "If you try to boat, the neighbors, who have a restraining order against me, will try to get you to testify as witnesses in the ongoing civil suit."

No thanks to him, we really did have a lovely time. And last weekend, which I spent in DC with my parents and my grandmother doing wedding stuff and being thrilled that my father seemed much more like himself, was also productive & worthwhile. I am not really, when I think about it, too far from my ideal world. Today I also got to buy a pound of dates from Sahadi's and Mr. Ben and I get to eat them. Even Scooter "Scot Free" Libby isn't that lucky.