Sunday, March 29, 2009


Just last week I posted an old journal entry in which I'd been waxing poetic about Joel Kaye, a much loved professor of mine at Barnard. Just this week he was quoted in The New Yorker. Coincidence? Well, yeah, but still pretty cool.

Friday, March 27, 2009

journaling, or, people come and people go but some people stick around forever

4/25/1999 Sunday
Gorgeous out today, breezy and blue and sunny and cool. I made cornbread this afternoon and am going to do something with black beans and tuna and tomato -- my usual mush-style cooking. Jeremy's coming over in an hour or so. I'm meeting Rachel at Suburban [Station] around 7:45, I guess we'll just get coffee or something before she catches a 9:15 train back to NYC. I was getting tea for Mako and me when the phone rang. I thought it would be Nate since I left him a message a while ago but it was Nicole calling from Ohio. I really miss her a lot despite the strangeness of our friendship. She's going to be back in Philly the last week of May to move all her stuff and wants to see me and Anthony. We talked for a bit which was nice, I was touched that she called me. I canceled my plans to meet Nirav today. I just really needed a day to do nothing, to read and drink tea with Mako and go for short little walks and be lazy and self-indulgent. The prospect of doing touristy things with someone I hardly know wasn't all that appealing. So I called him last night and he seemed to not mind too much and we chatted for a bit. I miss Ari now after seeing her so briefly yesterday. I talked to Mako about my friendship with Ari for awhile. We've known each other for 15 years now and she knows me, knows my life story, lived it with me. Even though we haven't seen each other very often over the past four years we have that rare type of friendship that is always normal, always real, despite long distances and times. I wonder if she knows how important she is to me even though I haven't been up to New Paltz to see her in over two years now. I hope she does know. I think she must. Okay, I'm gonna go read more Normal Mailer now.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


I was reading today about an episode of ABC's "What Would You Do?" that took on homophobia in a New Jersey sports bar. Apparently people weren't as homophobic as the producers expected, though of course they picked one of the most liberal, progressive states in the entire country so I'm not really sure how much it actually means. I doubt they would have gotten similar results had they picked a sports bar in, say, Idaho, or Wyoming.

But it got me to remembering fondly this gem from back in the day:

quote(s) of the day

Overheard in New York, as shared this morning by Karen. Having spent too much time over the years frolicking in West Side Market, this made me chuckle out loud.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

bridge, 3.24.09


It probably will come as no surprise to learn that I went through a rather prolonged Sylvia Plath phase, back in my late teens. The Bell Jar, first read in 9th grade, was alright, but it was Ariel in all its brutal, ungainly glory, read during my first year of college, that cut me to the bone:

"I am inhabited by a cry.
Nightly it flaps out
Looking, with its hooks, for something to love."

And then there was Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters, given to a friend as a gift back in the spring of 1999 (me not realizing, perhaps intentionally if not quite consciously, the strangeness of such a gift -- our friendship itself was strange, and weighted with too many things left unsaid):

"I was afraid, if I lost that fight,
Something might abandon us. Lifting
Each of those naked girls, as they smiled at me
In their early twenties, I laid them
Under the threshold of our unlikely future
As those who wanted protection for a new home
Used to bury, under the new threshold,
a sinless child."

And then, a couple years later, there was Wintering, one of those often silly books that fictionalize a real person, a real life -- a genre that I tend to eschew but a book with which I fell a little bit in love.

And then I largely outgrew my preoccupation with suicidal poets, and quite honestly it's been a long time since I gave a thought to Sylvia Plath, to Ted Hughes, to their doomed marriage, their sordid endings, their broken children.

Until yesterday, when news of Nicholas Hughes' death broke in the national media. He, a mere baby when his mother stuck her head in that oven and a mere 7 years old when his stepmother killed herself and her young daughter, grew up to be a biologist in Alaska but could not escape the darkness of his past. He took his life earlier this month, hanging himself at the age of 47.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

'the reservation waits for no one...'

"The reservation waits for no one. Acre by acre, it roars past history, forgiving and forgetting nothing. There are moments here which can explain your whole life. For instance, the beer can wedged between bars in the cattle guard predicts the next car wreck, but it also sounds like an ocean of betrayal if picked up and held to the ear."
(Sherman Alexie, The Summer of Black Widows)

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I had a lovely, a near perfect, Saturday morning. It is gorgeous out, if chilly for late March, and I went walking up to Inwood through the sunshine, through Fort Tyron Park and north along Seaman Avenue, to meet Eva for coffee on 218th Street. We haven't seen each other in years so it was nice to catch up a bit. We wandered through the farmers market on the south edge of Isham Park, bought cheese, eggs, apples, garlic, scallions. Eventually we parted ways and I walked back south again through the sunshine, along the eastern edge of Fort Tryon Park, all the way home.

We talked a bit about our Barnard days, and about our differing experiences of BG, of loss, of ways of grieving. These things have been on my mind recently, as I've already written about here before, and for Eva, well, one of her patients passed away not too long ago, and this has been hard on her.

I kept a journal almost religiously through out much of college and the years immediately following. Since then only intermittently, other than the notebook that lives in my bag for jotting down random thoughts, lists, names, places. I've been reading through some of these old journals lately, chuckling at my 20-something-year-old self, her naivete, her small pleasures, her grandiose anxieties and preoccupations and fears, and her sometimes overly meticulous attention to detail.

14th September, 1998
Bill McAllister called earlier to ask if I could run up to his office in Lehman to get his keys which he'd left in the door. When I got to his office the keys weren't there but Professor Kaye's door was open so I knocked just to say hello. We were both sort of surprised to see the other there at 9 o'clock at night. I told him of Bill's keys (it's funny to me that they've been friends for ever) and it turns out he'd taken them to hold on to. He and I talked for a bit about classes and Philadelphia -- he went to Penn and seemed excited that I might move down there. He asked what I want to do so I told him about library science school and how I might ask Tania for a recommendation. At that he said he'd like to also write me one if I ever needed one. It was just really nice. Kaye is a wonderful professor, I think. Even though I've had only one class with him I think I love him the most of all my professors. Somtimes I imagine Dad must have been something similar to Joel Kaye.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

waiting for the FBI

A couple weeks ago I received an email from the ex-boyfriend's father. This isn't entirely unheard of, given that the ex-boyfriend's parents are still my landlords, but this particular email was rather surprising. The ex-boyfriend's father, one Gerard E. Lynch, is a federal judge here in the Southern District of New York, and now that the good guys are back in the White House, he's being considered for an appointment to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. But before the nomination can officially go forward the FBI has to do a thorough background investigation just to make sure that, you know, the judge in question doesn't have designs on overthrowing the government or something. This apparently includes speaking with any tenants the potential appointee may have, meaning me. Jerry was kind enough to give me a heads up.

I'm still waiting for that phone call, though now that the nomination has been officially leaked I'm guessing, with much relief, that it won't actually come. I'm also much relieved that the story's out -- as you long time readers know, this girl is sadly quite incapable of keeping mum about things she finds pleasing or exciting.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

'I get the feeling I'm watching something I've seen too many times before...'

In honor of not being an Irish lass, and in honor of recently rediscovering a
friend who happens to be currently residing in Edinburgh, one of my favorite
songs by my favorite Scottish band

Saturday, March 14, 2009

bridge, 3.14.09

'i think there was a trade-off...'

"I think there was a trade-off somewhere along the line. I think the price we paid for our golden life was an inability to fully believe in love; instead, we gained an irony that scorched everything it touched. And I wonder if this irony is the price we paid for the loss of God."
(Douglas Coupland, Life After God)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

on impending retirements, BG, and changing or unchanging voices

Giselle Harrington, counselor extraordinaire at Barnard College's student health services, will be retiring at the end of this semester. I've been thinking about Giselle recently, even before I learned of her upcoming departure from Barnard, as I've been working towards the end of my own therapy. It was thanks to her, back in the summer of 2002, that I first found my way to Sarah.

Giselle has been facilitating Barnard's bereavement group, also known affectionately as BG, since time immemorial. I attended BG pretty consistantly throughout my four years at Barnard.

My last year in school saw this little group of women, hurt and damaged to varying degrees, grow especially close. The seven of us gathered on Friday mornings around the table in Beau Parlor and threw our anger, our desperate sadness, our small triumphs, even (every once in awhile) a funny story or a morbid joke, at each other, and at Giselle, who somehow caught everything we had to throw. Then we'd head off to McIntosh Student Center, cigarettes in hand, bottle of wine craftily hidden away in a bag, for a good nosh to appease what we oh so cleverly termed PB&J, or the post-bereavement jitters.

I went digging under my bed, rooting around in boxes late one night a couple weeks ago, looking for the little scrapbook that Giselle put together for us at the end of that particular year. We each had brought something in -- a poem, a handful of pictures, a letter scrawled out by hand the night before the day that she collected our offerings. We had gone out into the Quad and found someone to take a picture of us, and there we still are, frozen on the lawn, arms around each other, smiling or half-smiling or looking concerned in the dappled spring light.

I found it eventually, this little scrapbook entitled simply "Beau Parlor, Fri. 11a.m.," and sat on my bedroom floor in the middle of the night, reading through it and crying a little bit, but also laughing out loud. And the fact that we seven college girls, in the midst of all our college drama, created this thing that can make me laugh out loud ten years later made me inexplicably happy.

Later that week I brought the scrapbook to Sarah. We sat side by side on the couch in her office for the first time in all the years I've been seeing her, and flipped through it together. I, slightly embarrassed at my own melodramatic contribution, looked away while she read it. She chuckled at first, said some things never change (my piece opened with me sneaking a cigarette out of the window of my 13th-floor smoke-free dorm room in the middle of the night), but finally she turned to me and said, "You were younger then, but I hear your voice in it."

A few days later Nick and I got caught up in a conversation about voices; the multitudinous voices each one of us harbors from all the years that we've had language, but mostly the differences between our spoken voices and our written voices.

The conversation started off being about Clarion, a writing workshop that Nick attended a couple years back, and how the people from Clarion were surprised to read Nick's blog. The voice he uses there, on his blog, wasn't the same voice that they knew, or imagined they knew, from being in this workshop together. It is rather, as he says, a smart alecky, overly intellectual, kind of voice, and very different from the studied, self-deprecating voice that he often presents in person.

Nick has been rewriting an old novel of his. I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned that Nick is a writer. Not a published novelist yet (fingers crossed and all that), but a prolific writer none the less. Short stories (one or two published in magazines), epic poems, novels, novellas. The piece he's been working on is, as he put it, the novel that he would have loved to have written at the tender age of 14, when it would have been cool, but instead is the novel that he wrote a few years ago and that reads like a novel written by a 14 year old boy.

This, too, made me laugh. Not only because of its cleverness, but because it is so very much my Nick, the Nick I have been having long conversations with for almost a decade now. It also made me realize that I haven't read very much of his writing, and made me wonder if it isn't in part because I have a hard time putting these two pieces of him, these two voices, together.

I'm not sure where I'm going with all of this.

I guess I'm feeling a little bit sad at the thought of Giselle's retirement, not because I need her in the way that I once did, but just because she won't be there anymore, tucked safely away in the Barnard Quad, providing a safe and quiet haven for sad and distraught and broken college girls.

But I'm also feeling a strange and satisfying continuity. That girl who wrote the melodramatic, slightly embarrassing contribution for the BG scrapbook is this person, the woman I am right now, and my voice is her voice, just maybe a little bit more grown up, and a lot more grounded (and also, perhaps most importantly, capable of capitalizing her first-person pronouns).

And I guess Nick was right when he posited that my written voice tends towards a certain sentimentality (some might say a certain oversentimentality) that my spoken voice tends to eschew in favor of a certain sardonic (or so I like to think) humor.

Friday, March 06, 2009

quote of the day, or, i heart ginsburg

"First, I wanted people to see that the Supreme Court isn't all male. I also wanted them to see I was alive and well, contrary to that senator who said I'd be dead within nine months."
(Ruth Bader Ginsburg, USA Today)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

roses, or, thoughts come creeping in

I had dinner this past Friday with an old high school friend whom I had not seen in quite a few years. We spent a lovely couple of hours in a cozy little restaurant, warm and dry and glowing on a rainy, windy night, caught up in catching up over delicious pasta (mine, rigatoni with eggplant, tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella; his, spaghetti lamb ragu) and a bottle of tempranillo.

Both of us being single at the moment, we found ourselves trading war stories. His most recent break-up actually involved Facebook, and this singlehandedly made me feel exponentially better about that whole getting dumped over the phone thing that was the tip of the iceberg of my last (well, truth be told, my only) break-up.

It also got me to thinking about these last two years of semi-intentional self-imposed solitude. I don't consider myself gun-shy, exactly, when it comes to the idea of dating again. But the three individuals with whom I've hooked up since the break-up (and I use "hooked up" here in the most innocent, chaste fashion -- drunken kisses at the end of long dinners; stolen moments on street corners thousands of miles away from home) have been, each in his or her own way, studies in unavailability.

I can't help but wonder if this has been my not so subtle way of telling myself I haven't been ready. And yet the notion of meeting someone new has started, however unbidden, to crop up every now and again. A friend was telling me today how her husband surprised her recently with a bouquet of long-stemmed roses. While we agreed that roses aren't exactly our thing, and I don't particularly want a husband, I'd kind of sort of maybe like for someone to bring me a dozen purple, yellow-tongued irises. At least I wouldn't be entirely averse to the idea.

Monday, March 02, 2009

oh joss, how i love thee

Boyd, handing gun to Echo: You know how to use this?

Echo: Four brothers. None of them Democrats.

(Joss Whedon, Dollhouse)