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A Gem

March 12, 2017

I don’t usually read letters to the editor, but in a recent New Yorker, I happened upon this one, which I thought was quite astute:

“As a child psychologist, I find Barry Blitt’s cover depicting Donald Trump in a child’s limo terribly sad.  It suggests that the problem with Trump is that he is a child.  this is an affront to children everywhere: children are not inherently narcissistic, ignorant, cruel or vindictive.  They tend to accept other human beings with an open mind and heart, without prejudice.  Would that a five-year-old were our President.”

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Timing?

January 3, 2017

Dear Telegraph Newspaper,

I appreciate you giving Hanukah a little ink during Christmas’s relentless reign of glory, but don’t you think it would have been easy enough to publish an explanatory article BEFORE the holiday started?

screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-9-50-11-am

Yours Truly,

ID

Home Alone Drinking Game

November 29, 2016

My husband’s law school classmate MB, who is OBVIOUSLY a genius, shared his incredible Home Alone  drinking game, which I am now sharing with you.  As much as I hate to mark anything a rival to Intervention Drinking Game (or WKCDS Drinking Game, for that matter!), I’m forced to admit that this one, adapted for both Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, is a real standout in the field.  True props to you, MB.  Everyone who can (sigh) enjoy some eggnog and a little group fun this holiday season, but play responsibly!  (I am a liquor company rep in my spare time, after all, so I’m required to say that.)

For the sake of convenience, I have adapted for both “Home Alone” and “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” (with substitute rules for the latter in brackets).
In order to play, please write each number of the list below on a separate notecard. Before the game, have each player select a predetermined number of cards. The suggested number of cards is 4-6 per player, but really, who can say what is appropriate? Anything over 10 cards per person and you’re getting into “Drunk Uncle on Mulled Wine” territory though. When playing in large groups, it may be advisable to create multiples of the list below, as that will encourage a more social holiday drinking experience, with more than one person drinking per specified event.
As a refresher, until the start of the “Home Invasion Round” (at which point all players drink together), if the event described on a card occurs, the player who has drawn that card is required to drink. The world famous “Home Invasion Round” begins when the Trans-Siberian Orchestra kicks in, and we get a montage of Kevin McCallister preparing to horribly maim, murder, and dismember Harry and Marv. From that point onward, ALL players drink every time that they believe that the Wet Bandits should have conceivably succumbed to their injuries. For instance, when Kevin hits Marv with a brick directly in the temple from a six story building, all players would drink, as Marv would likely suffer from severe traumatic brain damage and would likely die from internal bleeding.
The game ends when the final credits roll. All players are winners.
Here is the 2016 list:
1. Drink every time Uncle Frank is an asshole
2. Drink every time an on screen character speaks French
3. Scary Shovel Man Sighting! [Creepy Bird Lady sighting!]
4. Drink every time Kevin uses a TalkBoy
5. Drink every time Kevin commits credit card fraud
6. Tarantula sighting! [Future President of the United States sighting!]
7. Drink for every transparent 1990s product placement (Pepsi, American Airlines, the Plaza Hotel, TalkBoy, etc.)
8. Drink every time Kevin eats or orders pizza
9. Drink every time “Angels with Filthy Souls” [or “Angels with Filthy Souls 2”] is played. ***BONUS: Communal Drink when Kevin uses the audio to fool another character***
10. Drink every time the Home Alone theme song plays (masterfully crafted by John Williams)!
11. Drink for bad parenting from Kevin’s mom
12. Drink for all other instances of bad parenting – also includes references to previous debacles (i.e John Candy recalling leaving his child at a funeral parlor)
13. Drink for bad police work
14. Drink for every scene Kevin is in his terrifying basement. [Drink for every scene Kevin is in terrifying 1990s Central Park.]
15. MAKE A RULE! Whoever draws this card gets to make a rule that applies to every other player during the game.
16. Drink every time John Candy’s character plays or references polka. [Drink every time Rob Schneider’s character asks for or references a tip.]
17. Drink every time someone knocks over the McCallister’s porch statue. [Drink for Duncan’s Toy Chest sighting!]
18. Drink when Kevin evades apprehension for theft.
19. “Buzz, your girlfriend – woof!” [“Grown men come into the park and don’t make it out alive.”]
20. Drink every time someone screams “KEVIN!”

 

PS: Don’t be a dick and pretend you made this up!  All credit to the drunk wizard that is MB!

Evil Amish Chic

September 2, 2016

Hat tip: a band called Crystal Castles.  They might be famous, but I’m woefully under-informed…

amnesty-i-crystal-castles

Missing caps but still good…

Soapbox

August 30, 2016

Guys, I don’t want to be a curmudgeon, always hating on things that purport to be put forward for our comfort.  I really don’t.  But you force me into this position sometimes.  Case in point: a recent Refinery29 article on miscarrying in your twenties.  It’s a special problem, they say, despite recognizing that it’s much rarer to miscarry in your twenties than your thirties (1 in 10 for the former, 1 in 4 for the latter.)  Why is it special?  Because it’s isolating, because you don’t have the “life experience” to know how to handle it, because, as one interviewee says, you want to “choose when [you] become a mum.”  But what about a miscarriage at forty?  Also isolating, also you’d like to choose to be a mum (I mean, if the world were perfect, we’d all choose everything) and to balance out that whole life experience thing, the horror of knowing you might not have much time left, which just isn’t the case when you’re twenty-three.  People say stupid things to try to comfort you when you’re twenty-three, but they do when you’re forty-three, too, I’m guessing; people say stupid things all the time, and they will continue to say them for as long as the great world spins.

I’m not saying it isn’t emotionally devastating to miscarry, or to deal with any loss or tragedy.  I’m just saying that this is an example of the media pretending that these are new, sexy problems that need special attention, when in reality they are just dragged out into the light again so that the publication can attract new eyeballs (=clicks) by pretending they’ve unearthed some heretofore uncharted landscape of human suffering (see also: the Telegraph’s article on “anorexia athletica,” which highlights an unrecognized problem that has nevertheless been in the news for decades now, cannot statistically be said to be on the “rise,” and is oftentimes just a facet of anorexia nervosa, which they can’t use in the headline because that diagnosis has lost its luster as a subject as it’s been reported to death.)

But don’t take it from me––take it from my prophet bestie George W.S. Trow, BDE, who saw this shit coming a mile away.

Important Programming

Important programming is programming that recognizes the problem.

Important Programming

It if is just a problem––teenage alcoholics who need to talk to Matron––then it is a little boring after a while, because it is only half of the problem.  The the problem might have to be doubled.  You might have to add Angel Dust or Runaways or Child Abuse.  You might have to, because just the problem is only half of the problem.

Experts

The problem is offered up to authority for healing.  But Pepper shies away from healing, and so does Matron.  They conduct the problem to other experts.  The experts shy away a little, too.  Who would have thought it?  “We move toward a full discussion of the problem,” they murmur.  “During this discussion, you will experience a little sense of home.  Do you feel it now?  No?  Then perhaps our discussion has not been full.  Is that perhaps your fault?”
“In what lies your authority?” a willfull person asks after a time.

“Why, in the problem,” an expert answers honestly.

Important Programming

The most important programming deals with people with a serious problem who make it to the Olympics.  It is the powerful metaphor of our time––babies given up for dead who struggle toward a national life and make it just for a minute.  It’s a long distance to come.  People feel it very deeply and cheer the babies on.

Problems

An important question to ask about an association of individuals is, “How does it spend its best energies?”  One can imagine many answers to this question.  One answer, certainly, would be “Dealing with problems.”  One would expect this answer from, for instance, a poor association of individuals or an association without ambition.  But even from associations as impoverished as these associations might be, one would not expect the answer “Aspiring to love problems.”

 

RIP Esti Weinstein

July 21, 2016

If you follow a certain beat, you have probably already read about the suicide of Esti Weinstein, 50, who left behind a short book detailing her life in the Gur sect of Hasidism and her eventual defection from the ultra-Orthodox world and subsequent estrangement from six of her seven daughters (one article says she had eight children, another cited the aforementioned number, so I’m unclear as to her exact number of offspring.)  The book has recently been acquired by a publishing house in Israel, but prior to the deal, it was downloadable online, so mournful and curious (mostly both) readers could learn about life as a Gur Hasid, which entails following restrictions around sex and modesty even beyond those rules followed by other Hasidic groups.  Obviously I downloaded the book, because what else am I doing with my life, and found the incredibly choppy translation to lend the work a kind of poetic tone that I’m not sure it  would otherwise have.  It reminded me, in some ways, of one of my favorite novels of the past five years, Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing.  If you choose to read either Weinstein’s book or McBride’s, prepare to have your heart broken at least a bit.  (BTW, Weinstein’s manuscript was formatted, true to Hebrew, to the right side of the document, which I’ve tried to reproduce here to middling success.)

***

When you think about it, you could say that even then it was possible to guess the future.

1967 in

 

‘Mischief’ I, Desi-year-old, I did, passed by word of mouth and was the talk of the day. Grandmothers, aunts and children, all played with pleasure in the story of ‘Desi naughty breaking pole

Framework Playpen in Dodhfninh           And left free to the living room when she is holding the rod!

What were they thinking !? I’m stuck in a chicken coop closed room for hours, sit down and staring at the ceiling or on

Floor and wait for Aunt Pearl will finish scrub and wash the house, something that never ends !?

Never, never!

I Dessie.

As such, nothing will break or humbles me. And if that happens, it will be temporary. For

Ultimately, the Hadassah in me pick up again, renounces the gutter and find solutions!

But at the same time no one saw. Did not see me, and see the situations that can bring me to use many forces

Have been given them,

Even then they could identify the evidence “outside the box, that is, the coop!

The power to fight, to change, immediately finding solutions

And above all – the courage !!

The courage to break through barriers and go out to look for new ways.

And who knows how much courage as I need to get out of the coop at Aunt Pearl, clean freak,

Peace and order.

She played, but David Wolf! He did – –

Children and David Wolf are two parallel if they meet someone apparently broke down on the way, and it’s not David Wolf!

In my case, it did not I !!!

That I am brave, and if I have a goal – get to it, and if necessary, pay the price, with love!

And it was a short-term goal one year old baby.

Leave the coop to freedom.

freedom. A goal that began a year old but there is no doubt in me to this day, and probably will stay in my mind

And my heart

Until my last breath.

***

 

“I brought you some tea. Your husband told you prefer Earl Grey, but we have regular tea ..” The nurse told me a pale face and ponytail on her head rocked back, shiny black over white share knowledge days

More bright. She put a green plastic tray on a wooden chest to the left of my bed, it was a small plastic cup with blue handle and went on: “After you drink, and it seems you’re all right, you can get out of bed, Dr. Tamar Goldstein, Department of Psychological meet you call 10.00 Hadera, do not worry! I’m here. you are not alone! I’ll take you to her “.. she finished and left the room as long ponytail swinging

On her bottom up micro-expansion quotation disappeared at the entrance.

‘Oh, no coffee even here, I muttered to myself and arranged the scarf on my head modestly, pushing the

Rogue hairs dared to peek out and sat up on the bed to drink the tea sickening missing

Taste old blue plastic cup.

Woman sleeping at night sides of the room, the bed to the right of the door, entered the room like a whirlwind,

I stopped and surveyed her from head to toe, and how it is different from me,

‘She looks about my age’

This secular ‘

The general body was covered in pink pajamas thick semblance even wider .. hair

Curly apparently knew days of dark brown color, but over time it popped probably more gray hairs

Had never been painted, black eyes flickered restlessly while blinking fast .. suddenly stopped and looked at me cross, “Ohhh, finally woke up” !! Called me out loudly as if from her bed to the right

Door and my bed next to the window opposite the entrance there is a distance of three buildings, “I Flory! “Announced and opened a flood of questions and updates appropriate sales have been good friends

Years: “The first time here? This is my second home, unfortunately, I’m diagnosed manic depression, now I

In a fit of manic crazy, I know myself, know exactly what I have and when and was hospitalized

When I feel it coming .. my childhood, threatening, already know me, they do not come to visit when I

Here, waiting to feel better and then I go back to nostalgia ..

good

The strongly observant woman, right !?

Girls miss the most fun, huh !? Do you have children? You must have full children !!

It is clear that the strongly observant woman, your scarf right up to the eyes .. the strongly observant woman strong, right !? I had seen

Finished

Forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness “

Your husband .. Wow, he really righteous hardcore, true ..!?

Well what am I confusing you and rave difficulty arises from danger,

Investigation doubt supplier of speech ‘I answer their questions and answers myself and left the room.

‘The strongly observant woman, it is clear that the strongly observant woman. Your handkerchief to your eyes, my ears rang again Flory’s law, aiming instinct, I reached for my handkerchief and picked it up because my forehead, my other hand, I stroked his hair a bit and discovered that pops up at the bare head

Suddenly, on impulse, I pulled the scarf over my head, I let the black rubber band that held my hair, and I shook my head slowly from side to side, giving the hair soft surf on my shoulders

Lightly oh, a sense of delight and wrapped the body release

‘Day display! No more costumes! Loving voice said and gave me a hug

I am a new Hadassah. No more nurturing to the eyes, I chose another, and so it will remain! Encourages new decision I got up and walked to the bathroom first steps visible hair long and wavy, caressed my neck every step and made me feel all my being the word

At the time, became the long-awaited, and some individual moments of happiness, a reality:

freedom.

 

 

Readers

July 15, 2016

Standing in an airport security line, amidst the stumbling iPhone zombies, is a boy, about nine or ten, intently reading Matilda.  At one point, he closes the book, clutches it to his chest, and begins almost stroking it.  “This book,” he says to his mother,”is the best book.”  G-d should bless me with a child like this!

Grieving in Paris

May 27, 2016

Yesterday, an old friend of mine died.  Katie Anne was not chronologically old––in fact, she was only 28––but she was a friend I hadn’t seen in years.  We knew each other during a stay at a medical hospital in Long Island, fourteen years ago.  We were both in for anorexia, and while I got better a few years down the line, she never did.  I harbor a little guilt over my relationship with her, because at one point, back in the days when AIM was a thing, she used to message me out of the blue to tell me how bad off she was, and it sparked a lot of negative feelings in me (typical eating disordered combo of jealousy and threat and hopelessness, for herself and for me and for everyone I knew from the hospital) so I told her I couldn’t talk to her until she was doing better.  One second later, I unceremoniously blocked her.  And that was that for a few years.

And then after my book came out, she emailed me to ask if I remembered her and to say she had read and liked it, particularly because she recognized so many of the people in it.  We emailed often, after that.  She was totally adorable, peppering her emails with a million emojis, which was an endearing habit coming from her.  She was so quick to prop me up if I wrote something even the smallest bit self-deprecating, which I took to come from an acute sensitivity to another person’s suffering, honed after years of suffering herself, and being surrounded by young women quick to point out their many perceived flaws.  I knew she had struggled a lot and gone through many rounds of treatment in many different institutions––she even had a stint in a Christian facility that she said attempted to exorcise girls of their issues/demons––but she was always trying to be optimistic about it.  “It’s been rough but I’m finally on the right path!”  I guess I had convinced myself that though she wasn’t totally well, she was probably just on the edge of fine, at least health-wise.  We were supposed to meet up for lunch once, but scheduling got in the way: she was moving to Florida, where things would be better, she was sure.  She had fond memories of Florida, having spent some productive time in treatment there.  And the weather!  That was enough to make anyone want to move, she thought.

And then yesterday, my friend texted to tell me Katie Anne was dead.

I was just sitting down to get my eyebrows waxed, and I started to cry slightly and the aesthetician thought it was because of the pain, so I told her no, someone had passed away, and she hugged me.  It would have been funny if it hadn’t been so depressing.  When I got back to my house (er, flat), I just sat there screaming inside my head for a while.  What bullshit.  What absolute fucking bullshit that kind of death is.  I made the mistake of mentioning it to a professional acquaintance I was emailing with, and she wrote back that she had her own battle with anorexia too and so she “understood” and could help if I needed it.  Perhaps unfairly, I found it patronizing.  I don’t need anyone to explain this to me.  I know all about this.

I’ve written and thought a lot about the strange, inevitable machinations of grief, and how sometimes the things we say and do in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy can look weird and self-serving.  I probably spent a good fifteen minutes staring through blurry eyes at the funeral home guestbook yesterday, trying to decide what I could write there that wouldn’t sound like I was thinking about this in terms of me, rather than in terms of her.  It was a regressive instinct, actually, because I used to think the only appropriate way to grieve, unless it was for a close family member or a best friend, was to be silent, but now I know better.  Now I know that if you are human, and you have lost someone, even if it wasn’t your spouse or your kid or your parent, doing nothing is really not an option.  And so saying something, even if it sounds awkward, even if it is about your pain more than the person who is gone––that’s okay.  Because we’re all hurting, and it has to get out, somehow.

Last night before I went to sleep I scrolled through some old emails Katie Anne and I exchanged, and I came across one in which she talked about all the things she wanted to do once she was really and truly better: have a family (that hurt like hell to read), finish school, and travel. I told her a few of the places I’d been, and she responded:

“I want to go to all those places! And more!!!! I actually have cousins in the south of Spain (costa del sol?) so I figure that would be a great excuse to visit and not have to worry about hotel expenses! You wanna come?!😉
I also want to go to San Fran, San Diego, Napa valley, Big Sur……and Texas, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Florida….I love the Carolina’s!  I’ve never been out of the county yet though:( except for Bahamas. I know it sounds so cliche but I want to travel all over Europe! Swiss alps, Italy, Ireland. And South Africa looks amazing as well!
Better start saving huh?!  Adventure and traveling are the two things that keep me going when I’m having a rough time…”

This morning I woke up at the crack of dawn and flew to Paris with my husband for the long weekend.  We took the train into the city from the airport, and I stopped off at a cafe near Notre Dame to have a coffee and eat some baguette.  Morning was breaking––the air was warming up, commuters were rushing to catch the Metro, and those discordant European ambulance sirens could be heard over the low drone of traffic.  I finished my coffee and looked out across the Seine toward the Right Bank.  Seems pretty unfair that I am here and not her, but if it has to be that way, then: Katie Anne, this adventure is for you.

 

Embarrassing

May 5, 2016

My husband pointed out to me that probably what I was thinking of (re: two posts down) was the song “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones.  Um, yeah.  That was it.  Very hard to remember.  But also he suggested it was reminiscent of a shitty late nineties horror flick called Fallen, starring Denzel Washington and John Goodman.  Let’s say it was that.

Knew Her When

March 30, 2016

Back in 2007, a friend of mine dragged me to see a play at a converted school half a block away from my East Village apartment.  The play was called Matt & Ben, and was about Damon and Affleck dealing with the aftermath of a script (Good Will Hunting) falling from the sky and into their laps.  It was hilarious, which isn’t terribly surprising, because it was co-written by Mindy Kaling, who also played Ben (I think.  I don’t really remember which one she was.)  She was a fairly recent Dartmouth grad at the time, and not at all famous.  This, I suppose, is the one time in my life I caught someone before they made it big.

Or perhaps the first time of two.  Recently, I attended the Goldsmith University Writing Program’s graduation reading, and heard a young writer named EJ Harris read from her short story entitled “Bitch Blood.”  It was just perfect: polished, anxiety-provoking (in a good way), eerie, plausible,  yet exciting.  Below, an excerpt; you can read the whole thing here.

Now I am anticipating the day in which Harris reads to large crowds at Daunt Books and I awkwardly shuffle up after the event and say, “Hey, remember me?  I’m that American friend of LH’s who was at the Goldsmith’s thing and I drunkenly told you your story was, like, uh-may-zing.”  And she’ll smile and nod and pretend to remember, but won’t.

(Side note: my friend LH organized the event and read there, but because I know her already and have always been sure she’s going to get famous, I didn’t put her on my list of revelations.)

***

You’re not supposed to swerve a car to avoid small animals in the road. Swerving, Emily’s driving instructor had told her, is very dangerous, and can cause accidents.

“If you can, slow to a stop,” he said.

“And if you can’t?” Emily asked.

“Well, then you just have to hit it.”

“Right.”

“If you kill a small animal it’s, you know, sad.”

“But if you kill a small human it’s, you know, illegal?”

“Exactly.”

Her driving instructor used to lean across to the steering wheel and correct her positioning on the road without ever touching her. They shared a similar sense of humour, and Emily had looked forward to the hour they spent together each week. When she passed her test, Emily had texted to thank him, and had been unable to think of any feasible reason to stay in touch.

When Emily hit the dog, then, she told herself that she had done nothing wrong, that she should not feel guilty. She was wearing sensible footwear, and she had not been drinking. She just didn’t see the dog until it was too late. It was dark, and the animal came out of nowhere.

After the bump, Emily pulled the car over and sat heavily for a moment. The dark huddle of the dog on the road multiplied in her mirrors. It is true that she considered restarting the car and driving away; that the street was residential and anonymity impossible featured high on the list of reasons she did not.

In moments, two shadowy figures raced through the darkness towards her. She opened the door, shaking, and heard a man’s voice swear loudly.

“I’m so sorry,” said Emily, hurrying over.

“Fuck,” said the man, crouched over the dog which, Emily realised with horror, was alive, and whimpering pathetically.