Tuesday, September 22, 2009

women want what?

So I was watching an episode of Greek (yes, Greek -- I'm home sick with a cold, give me a break. Besides, my college didn't have sororities so I have to live vicariously) today and was confronted with what may have been the most disturbing commercial I've ever seen, for a new prescription drug by the ever so pleasingly pretty name of Latisse.

Before I go further, let me just say that when a friend of mine recently mentioned vibrating mascara I thought she was joking. I mean seriously, vibrating mascara? I can't even handle the stationary kind.

Let me also just relate here a joke, or a story, a much loved story, of mine. An old boyfriend had a roommate, once upon a time, who was very wealthy. This roommate's family owned half of Singapore, or so the story goes, and said boyfriend was quite smitten with this family's wealth. One night the roommate was taken out for dinner by a friend of his who was exponentially more wealthy than he, and this meal was one to go down in the history books. The bottle of wine alone was over $1000. The old boyfriend was telling this story, with a certain gluttonous glee, to my Arielle a few years back and Arielle, never one to mince words, blurted out, "Shit, for $1000 that bottle had better vibrate!"

This became a sort of catch-phrase between us, an acceptable expletive evocative of an uncomfortable mixture of envy and disgust in the face of decadence and waste.

I was shocked to learn of these vibrating mascaras last week, but I was even more shocked today to learn of Latisse which, as it turns out, is a prescription medication that one applies to one's eyelashes in order to make them grow fuller, richer, darker, more luxuriously feminine I suppose. Never mind that you'd best not miss the mark or you'll end up with hair growing out of your eyeballs, or that this allegedly benign drug can turn blue eyes brown, or that during pregnancy "this medication should be used only when clearly needed." ( It's cosmetic, at least if the commercial is to be believed, so when is it ever "clearly needed"?)

Okay I'm done. It's late, and past this girl's bed time. But please just put me out of my misery if I ever get so worked up about appearances (barring some unforeseen calamity such as the need for facial reconstruction from accident or burn or something equally as horrible) as to start using this stuff.

I mean, really. Just think of all the world's troubles these people could solve if they just put their minds to that sort of thing rather than to vibrating mascara and magic-grow eyelash balm.

Monday, September 21, 2009

going home, 9.20.09


little worlds

This evening, tonight, is the first evening I will have spent alone since Thursday, September 10th (not that anyone's counting or anything).

Friday the 11th was hectic, rainy, and sore-throated, working all day and then heading down to Philadelphia, checking in to the Sofitel, meeting up with Mom & Paul, Uncle Jim & Aunt Sharon & Bookstore Patti for snacks and drinks, then on to the pre-wedding party in an industrial loft-space in a somewhat sketchy part of Philadelphia, and then a long walk home in the drizzle after getting carded and found wanting of proof of age at a bar nearby, thankfully accompanied by Evan and Kristine rather than being abandoned to my own devices at one in the morning.

Not much sleep ensued that weekend, despite free-flowing alcohol over the next 48 hours and a friend's offer of Ambien. Saturday the 12th, an odd mixture of dashing around and waiting -- whether running to the hair salon to have my hair 'styled' in five minutes flat and then waiting for the more fully-fashioned ladies, or going for the minimalist make-up 'do and then waiting for Billie, that sexy young vixen, and Shanna, my new sister-in-law, looking radiantly porcelain-skinned and sweetly old-fashioned in her grandmother's wedding gown and antique necklace. Sunday the 13th, early-morning coffee in the hotel lobby with the early-risers, a beautiful walk along Walnut Street across the Schuylkill River to a late-morning post-wedding brunch, and then the drive back to New York City late that afternoon.

Cousin Dirk came back with me from Philadelphia that day, joining me for an evening of Chinese take-out and The Lords of Dogtown and then the commute down to Columbia the next morning. Friend Evan surfaced at my place that night and finally left this morning.

I say finally only because I have spent so much time on my own these past few years, and have settled so comfortably in to this solitude in ways I had not thought possible, that I can't imagine not having lots and lots of time alone.

I was somewhat anxious about having Evan come visit me in part because the last time he was here, back in spring of 2000, he was visiting my brother, and my brother and I inhabit New York in such different ways. Nathan is a true New Yorker, partaking in everything that the city has to offer -- museums, shows, restaurants, stores. Nathan teases me sometimes about my uncanny ability to reduce New York City to a small town, but he's right. I have my routines, my routes, my favorite places to which I return again and again and again. I know Sally at my grocery store, Ahn who lives down the hall and runs the little market across the street, the cashier lady at my bagel shop, my coffee stand men and my deli men. I love my neighborhood, tucked away in the northern wilds of Manhattan, and am often content to spend whole weekends within blocks of my home. I love my friends, and look forward to weekly dinners with Nick and Dan and Lauren, impromptu weekend brunches or lunches or walks to the Inwood farmers' market with neighbors Erica and Freddy and Jessica and Andrew.

I wasn't expecting a houseguest to fit in so smoothly, and I'd forgotten how nice it can be to have someone to go home to in the evening, have a bowl of oatmeal with before heading out to work in the morning. And Evan seemed to enjoy partaking in this little life I've created here in the big city, meeting me for dinners after work in Morningside Heights, walking up to Inwood through Fort Tryon Park to buy vegetables and apples and cheese at the market, standing by patiently while I snapped pictures of my bridge, helping me put my new desk together, teaching me how to make yogurt, spending evenings chopping and roasting and reading and eating and going to bed by 10 or 11 and getting up by 7.

It was odd saying goodbye to him this morning, as I dashed around brushing my teeth and looking for socks and my cellphone and a bag of cough drops, and unexpectedly sad. He said he liked my world, and this in turn meant the world to me.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

bridge, 9.20.09

eating with evan

Roasted eggplant with fresh parsley; julienned beets with blue cheese; white rice with pinches of cayenne, salt, black pepper & a bit of olive oil

Enchiladas filled with poblano pepper, onion, and soft white cheese from the farmers' market; tomatillo salsa with jalapeno; refried beans

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

sistering & daughtering

I was talking with my mother on the phone this afternoon, mostly just making sure she and Paul had made it home (or mostly home, being still nearly 100 miles from Anacortes) after their stay in Pennsylvania this past week. Mostly this, but also there was this: "Well, Emily, we got our boy married."

Indeed we walked our boy down the aisle three days ago, our six awkward elbows linked inextricably at least for those few moments, him looking adorable and anxious and ecstatic, us in our fancy red get-ups looking anxious and happy and, I imagine, ever so slightly bereft.

It's a funny thing to be an older sister walking a baby brother down the aisle. And it's an even funnier thing when that relationship, this sibling bond of ours, seems in some ways so much closer, so much more intimate, than the relationships shared between most siblings I know.

I drove down to Philadelphia Friday afternoon with three friends and our conversation (between naps by at least some of us in the back seat) ranged far. But the moment that jumped out at me, the moment I have been carrying with me, was a particular exchange between Jill, driving, and Dave, in the shotgun seat, half heard through my sleepy hazy daze, curled up in the back.

They were talking about kids, specifically about how many they might, in an abstractly futuristic way, have. Jill said she wanted two, that she would never have only one child. Dave retorted, with a surprising edge to his voice (this is Dave after all, one of the kindest, gentlest creatures known to man), that she should watch what she said next. She explained that both of her parents are only children and both are neurotic, and she doesn't want her kids to be like that. (I know I am paraphrasing here, and was not entirely awake, but this is how I read, how I remember reading, the conversation.) He countered with the fact that both he and his husband are only children and quite well adjusted, thank you very much.

I wouldn't disagree with either of them, knowing them and their families as I do. But what I would add, what I found lacking in their discussion, wasn't so much how the kid(s) it(them)self(ves) would turn out, but any acknowledgment of the joy that a sibling relationship can provide.

Friends and lovers come and go, parents die before their kids, and the world moves on. But I know on some indisputable level that no matter where I am in the world, no matter where Nathan is in the world, we are not alone in that world.

It's a pleasing thing, having a brother one adores, and the three of us, my mother, my brother, and me, we make an odd little trio sometimes but a formidable one, I think, in our love for each other.

And it was such a happy, a thrilling, a satisfying thing, accompanying our boy down the aisle on his way to his new bride, all of us lucky enough to be surrounded by people we love -- friends and family from Washington State, Washington D.C., France, Pennsylvania, New York, Kansas, Norway, and more.

calling in the hit

Friday, September 11, 2009

'I met my class, although I could pretend to no teaching...'

"I met my class, although I could pretend to no teaching. It was not like a wake; it was one. We shared the shortfalls of our thoughts. 'It's like a dream,' my students said. And more frightening, 'Like waking from a dream.' The America they woke to on Tuesday morning was, like the skyline of New York, changed forever. The always-thereness of here was gone.

The final lesson of my writing class came too soon. There are no words. But there are only words. To say what the inconceivable resembles is all that we have by way of learning how it might be outlived. No comparison can say what happened to us. But we can start with the ruins of our similes, and let 'like' move us towards something larger, some understanding of what 'is.'"
(Richard Powers, The Simile, NYT Magazine, 9/23/01)

Monday, September 07, 2009

anatomy of a picture

I love this picture.

I love that some of my favorite people in the world are in this picture, enjoying a beautiful Friday evening at a rooftop bar on 32nd Street.

I love that it catches Nick in such animated conversation with Emre and, just barely, with Dave. I love Nick's hand gesture, shaping in front of him, in the space between them, the story that he's telling. I love Emre's amused little smile, and I love that hand looming in from the right, Dave's hand, the hand that seems about to touch us.

I love how these three draw us deeper into the picture, framing Dan and Nathan who are also caught in conversation (a quieter conversation, less animated and more still). There is a comfortableness between these two that comes out of years of friendship and affection, Dan listening intently to what ever it is Nathan is saying, their heads tilted in toward each other.

I love the pink of Emre's drink (campari & seltzer?), and the salty remnants of Nick's margarita.

I love that Dan actually likes this picture of himself, when he hates most pictures of himself.

I love the multiple layers of this picture, the hand drawing us in to Emre, whose glance leads us back to Nick, whose gesture pulls us further in to Nathan, who is engaging with Dan, who sits at rest, and all of this caught up against what looks like a white picket fence, but fourteen stories up from the street, Empire State Building looming to the north, in the middle of midtown, Manhattan.

Sunday, September 06, 2009


I went book shopping last weekend. This is not something I need to do, ever. I have a fair number of books as it is, and when one's mother has a veritable library in her house and a generosity that knows no bounds, there is even less of a justification for such extravagances.

But I've lost a fair number of books over the years, too. Books dear to me, books that come creeping back in to my mind in odd moments, standing on subway platforms waiting for trains, walking all alone-like down Fort Washington Avenue early in the morning.

Back in college, in between dorm rooms, I had a habit of storing boxes and suitcases and bags of stuff in various people's homes. Most of it I got back. One particular suitcase, though, got left behind in the basement of an old boyfriend's parents' apartment building. Mostly it was school books that were lost when the basement got remodeled and the parents didn't know the suitcase was mine and it went out with the trash, but not all.

My new boyfriend at the time, seeing my heartbreak at this loss, replaced some of the non-school related books for me. Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. Chaim Potok's The Chosen. Ursula LeGuin's The Dispossessed. Douglas Coupland's Life After God. Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried and July, July. (Of the last two only the first had been previously adored, but both are autographed especially for me, "To Emily, Peace, Tim O'Brien.")

When that boyfriend moved out a couple years ago our five years of cohabiting inevitably led to both of us losing things we probably considered too much our own. I somehow ended up with the 8" Global chef's knife, and he took with him various books I'd fallen a little bit in love with over the years.

This past April I had to fly out to Seattle for my grandmother's memorial service. I stayed, most of the time I was there, with my Uncle Jim and Aunt Sharon. Sharon took me to a yarn store and though I did the most damage, she fell in love with a hank of Mongolian cashmere that was just about the softest thing in the world. And the colors were straight off the cover of Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. (Yes, I see the world sometimes as it relates to the covers of books I especially love.)

I got back to New York a few days later hellbent on rereading this Murakami novel, only to discover it had gone the way of so many books when the boy left. Heartbroken all over again, I was ready to call the boy and demand my book back but my mother, visiting for a couple weeks and ever the practical woman, insisted on giving me a new copy rather than letting me embarrass myself yet again.

I decided last weekend, while killing an hour before meeting friends for dinner, that it wasn't an entirely bad idea, this notion of replacing some of those lost books I held so dear. I went to the 83rd Street Barnes & Noble, traipsed around the fiction section, and gathered up Potok's The Promise, David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, and Keri Hulme's The Bone People.

I have not yet actually reread any of these more recent acquisitions but there is a surprisingly wonderful comfort in knowing that they really are mine; that I can carry them with me, and hold them close, and never have to lose them again.


(Erik Mongrain, Airtap)

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