Archive for November, 2010
The Sincere Version
Some I love
Once gave me an orchid
I killed it, by accident
I put one of the flowers inside a large book
Now it is the most beautiful,
secret little thing
The Snarky Version
A bi-curious guy I once loved
Gave me an orchid
I killed it, by accident (I swear)
(even though I followed all the instructions on
I put one of the flowers inside the book I was reading, a rather pretentious 1,000 page book that is pretty much considered a modern classic and makes you appear super smart when you carry it on the L Train
(which I eventually finished, a-hem)
Now it is the most beautiful
secret little thing
And I still admire it
Even though he kind of phased me out and I think is now engaged to a girl who works at Sea World?
The Compromise/The Truth
Someone I love(d)
once gave me an orchid
I killed it, by accident
(even though I followed all the instructions on YahooAnswers)
I put one of the flowers
inside my copy of Infinite Jest
Now it is the most beautiful
secret little thing
Giving thanks for my new discovery of the season, poet Kay Ryan, whose pieces are “slim as runway models, so tiny you could almost tweet them.” Like mine!
A bitter pill
to be swallowed
to work. Just
reading your name
on the bottle
does the trick.
Oh this shiny new computer ––
There just isn’t nothin’ cuter.
It knows everything the world ever knew.
And with this great computer
I don’t need no writin’ tutor,
‘Cause there ain’t a single thing that it can’t do.
It can sort and it can spell,
It can punctuate as well.
It can find and file and underline and type.
It can edit and select,
It can copy and correct,
So I’ll havea whole book written by tonight
(Just as soon as it can think of what to write).
Shel Silverstein, Falling Up
The Morning After I Drank FourLoko, I Woke Up…
with several four loco cans in my sink, blood all over my face, a ruptured bursa sack and five grams of coke.
So I read this article in New York Magazine about James Frey starting a “fiction factory” and I’ve come up with two new reasons to hate him! First, he comes off as a total asshole. Second, his company is called Full Fathom Five, which just reminds me too much of Uma Thurman’s hokey TV show title in Pulp Fiction or the name of a really shitty psychological thriller starring Russell Crowe. (I contemplated inserting an explanation of my ORIGINAL litany of complaints against James Frey but I think if I find it now I’ll deem it too poorly written…)
My former boss, a bestselling crime author, passed away a week ago, and I wrote him a eulogy. It is below. Don’t know exactly of how much interest those who didn’t know him/me will find it, but people at the ceremony seemed to like it and so I’m posting it here to prove to myself/the Internet that I accomplished something in the past six days:
To open, I’m going to tell Phil’s favorite story about him and me, the story of the first time we worked together. Now that I have a captive audience, I’ll get to tell it my way. In Phil’s version of the story, I get flustered. In mine, I do not.
It was late summer of 2007 and I had only met Phil once a few days earlier when he had offered me the job of assisting him after we had chatted for maybe seven or eight minutes. At the time I was juggling three jobs and I left one early from one to meet Phil and Laura, who were coming from Phil’s parents house in Long Island, where they were staying while their apartment was being renovated. They were late so I milled around the Duane Reade perusing the tabloid section as the clock ticked away. Phil called me intermittently to give me an update –– still stuck in traffic, sheets of rain, be there ASAP. Perhaps two hours later, we met inside of Georgia’s Bake Shop on the corner of 89th and Broadway and I opened my laptop and he dictated to me for the first of many, many times. Laura had to run an errand so she dashed out leaving us alone with the work. The sky was void-black, the rain showed no signs of stopping and the café was packed with typical Upper West Side characters, mostly female duos dressed like former art professors, seeking shelter from the storm. After a few minutes of working, Phil said he had to go to the bathroom, and I, not yet fully aware of the magnitude of his diagnosis, kind of looked at him like, “Okay, so… go.”
“Can you help me get there?”
So I stood up and Phil, with the aid of his cane and my arm, managed to traverse the crowded bake shop and reach the restroom. I waited outside for him and after two minutes the door eked open.
“I couldn’t get my pants up,” he said. “Could you pull them up?”
I did so as he stood with his back to the wall. His fly was still down but he insisted he could hold the waist of his pants with his elbow until Laura returned and could do the zipper for him. Two steps out into the café, however, the pants dropped to around his knobby knees and the two of us leaned back a little in an attempt to hide from the clearly bemused, well-coiffed café patrons, who watched intently as a small blond creature tended to the pants of a wobbly-legged man. After flies had been zipped and buttons buttoned, we returned to our little table by the window and resumed working. And this is the story Phil told everyone when they expressed interest in his little assistant: the first time I worked with ___ and my pants fell down at Georgia’s.
It took me four days to even begin to write this speech. I worked with Phil for a quite a while (somewhere between two years and a lifetime) and thus have a bevy of funny anecdotes I could share and a textbook of lessons he taught me. In an effort to avoid making this too long, though, I’ve decided to stick to the two main ideas that I had two years ago when Phil first asked me to eulogize him. Both fall under the category of Gifts Phil Gave Me (not material gifts, of which he gave me many, but what they were exactly, you do not want to know, trust me.)
First, and I know how vague and Hallmark Card this sounds, Phil taught me how to live actively and how to enjoy it. This is not a new observation about this man; so many of us have said over the past few days how inexplicably shocked we were at his passing because he seemed so vibrant, so indefatigable. He adored the fuck (can I swear in a chapel? I think if Phil were here and I asked him he’d respond, “Fucking A!”) out of life, and having grown up in a rather staid environment with a brain that sometimes forgot there was a body attached to it, the idea of taking deep and serious pleasure from life’s luxuries was downright radical to me. It was only from watching this man, my surrogate father, eat and drink wine and get massaged and slather his perpetually brown skin with oils and lotions and soak up his beloved sun that I for the first time realized the value of the body. He loved not only the intellectual work he did but the simple and corporeal pleasures of life, and he insisted I learn to love them as well. “If you’re not happy, I’m not happy,” he used to say as he booked a massage appointment for me despite my half-hearted protests.
The second thing that Phil gave me was the most effusive and genuine encouragement of my own literary ambitions that I have perhaps ever received. When I was in college, before I met Phil, I worked part-time for another well-known New York City writer. This man has been something of a literary scion for decades and has had a string of female assistants over the years, and yet whenever he asked anyone what her professional goals were and she said writing (inevitably, because why would you work as a writer’s assistant if you didn’t want to be a writer?) he would always respond with something condescending and dismissive such as, “Oh, I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone” or “But why? There’s no money in it.” And this was a blind man who lived in an Upper East Side classic six entirely furnished by Sotheby’s. As this is a sharp crowd, I doubt I need to dissect this metaphor.
But Phil never once bemoaned the state of publishing or suggest I consider accounting. From day one, he wanted me to develop relationships with everyone and anyone he knew in the business of writing books. He knew he was giving me a wealth of material by insisting I tag along to interviews with DEA agents, editorial meetings at big publishing houses and pizza dates with men in the Witness Protection Program. Phil’s idea of the writer was a somewhat antiquated and romantic one; he liked to believe in the writer as wanderer, as artist, as renegade. He himself lived that example, and he encouraged me to embrace my own unconventional, peripatetic nature. He made concessions for me so I could go after stories I found compelling. This past winter in Miami, when I wanted to write a piece about python hunting in the Everglades, he gave me the day off and requested simply that I try not to get eaten by a twenty-foot long snake. It didn’t take much for him to admit that it would be pretty funny to have to interview new assistants and explain that the position was empty because his former assistant had passed away.
“Oh no, how did she die?” the little interviewees would ask. “Car accident? Plague?”
“No,” Phil would say in response, “she was eaten by a python.”
Another thing we shared was a somewhat sick sense of humor.
Phil knew that the most valuable gifts you can give a fledgling writer are experience and support, and he gave me bucket loads of both. He asked me numerous times over the course of our working together if I would write a book about him after he had passed. The only way I can respond to that request now is by saying that after everything we went through together, how could I not? Don’t worry, Phil. The process has already begun.
The writer in me that Phil so valued, she wants to end this speech on the most poignant note any New York Times book reviewer could fathom. She wants to be able to give everyone, including Phil and herself, a sense of closure, of comfort, of finality. She wants to whine to Phil that eulogies can never be anything but trite and cheesy and she’s never written one before, she doesn’t know how. If Phil were here, he would tell her to read A Moveable Feast and follow Papa Hemingway’s example by sticking to simple, declarative sentences. He would tell her to look at the horizon and be inspired by it. He would tell her not to worry, because no matter what, she’ll do a great job.
PS I have it on good account that my eulogy was the best of six, and do you know what that means? I deliver a better eulogy than Tony Danza. Say WHAT!
Is that word still offensive? Probably, but it wouldn’t be if a lezzie said it. OMG how hot is Georgia May Jagger?
I replied to this ad:
Pop Culture Teacher Needed!! (Financial District)
Date: 2010-11-09, 3:45PM EST
Reply to: firstname.lastname@example.org [Errors when replying to ads?]
- it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
- Compensation: tbd
and received this:
Thank you for your kind submission.
The person I am looking for a tutor for is an intelligent and well-educated young actress. Unfortunately, she was not raised in America and knows nothing about popular references. My sole objective in having these lessons is for her to understand them. I want her to know exactly what is funny and what is not when hearing conversations and reading scripts, so she can intuitively laugh at the right moment, instead of at the “wrong” moment. If this sounds like your expertise, please propose a lesson plan or alike. How would you teach someone who knows nothing about the subject to begin with? How would you teach someone what is funny and what is not and let the person remember?
I look forward to your response. Hopefully we can begin the lesson as early as possible.