Wednesday, December 21, 2011

welcome, harlem

going home, 12.22.11

I got home from a lovely dinner last night with friends Courtney & Matt, flipped open my cell phone, and found this rather cryptic text message from an unknown number:  "Hey, this is your e."

Visions started dancing through my head of disappointed teenagers frantically looking for little bags of ecstasy, not knowing that a friend had it thanks to messaging gone awry.

Evan, being oh so pragmatic and recognizing the area code for a Seattle number, said it was probably Stepbrother Erik just wanting to make sure I had his number since he'll be picking us up at SeaTac tomorrow afternoon.

Hours later, and from the same number, a follow-up text message clarifying that indeed e was he, Erik, my brother, and that he will see us tomorrow.

It made me smile so, the simplicity of his first message, and it made me think of Pooh and Piglet and one of my favorite moments in literature ever.

And I suppose, in the reciprocal way these things go, that I must be his e, too. And am so very, very glad of it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

in which emma enters the modern age

I was rambling to Nick at a friend's party the other night about recently making a mix, and about how it involved compressing songs into a zipfile and then uploading said zipfile to Dropbox and then sending people the URL so they could listen to this mix I'd been so arduously putting together. I was very pleased with myself over my grasp of this alien vocabulary, but as I rambled on I noticed Nick beginning to look at me rather oddly.  Finally, after I'd run out of words, he just said, "Yes, that's how it's done these days. Why are you talking as if every word is underlined?"

I, abashed, went in search of another round of drinks.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

bridge, 12.17.11

'observing her mother...'

"Observing her mother with her adopted daughter at the beach one day, the author muses: 'It made me think of girls -- little girls, teenage girls, even old girls like me -- who at one point or another discover, like all girls do, their sadness.'"
(Hilton Als, New Yorker, on Diane Keaton's new book Then Again)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

going home, 12.9.11

(This did not bode well for 11:30pm on a Friday, though we lucked 
out and the A came within five minutes.)

Friday, December 09, 2011

'pokey the tortoise rings the bell on the transom...'

Some Cats I know

Pokey the tortoise
Rings the bell on the transom
Runs away laughing.

Nora the buzz
Nail in the coffin of love
Under cover in a ball.

Ernest the tub
Knocks over a jar of water
Steps daintily in broken glass.

Olive the small
Asleep, face in food dish
Wakes up for a homemade racecar.

Zora the elemental
Observes bubbles rising
As the dishwasher hums below.

Adelaide, minicat
Head cocked always,
Vietnamese or simply thoughtful?

Milo the stretch
Peeks out the window
But he wasn’t looking for me.

Zeke the kitten
Held up by a gauzy curtain
Gnawing at its threads.

Duncan the elder
Died at 21, was replaced
By a strapping tabby.

Llama causes trouble
Only when the knits come out,
Lying on the blocked yarn.

Ericat is me,
Cat with thumbs and
Restless sleepy spirit.

(Erica Sklar, 2011)

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

spotify, or, yet another stick in the craw of romance

Evan asked me over dinner last night what I was smiling about, and I had to confess that I'd been writing a blog post in my head. I had been thinking about what a lovely evening we were having, and what a treat it was to come home to the smell of bread baking in the oven, a glass of home-fermented hard cider, and Gillian Welch playing on the radio.

Except of course she wasn't playing on the radio, and somehow the thought of writing about the loveliness of her dulcet tones playing on Spotify just didn't have the same ring to it.

And this is what was making me smile as I munched on the most delicious grilled cheese sandwich ever.

"and the radio is counting down the top 20 country songs..."

"like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays..."

Monday, December 05, 2011

meeting molly, or, what's in a name (take II)

An old friend of mine recently relocated once again to New York City, this time hopefully for good (or at least for more than a month or two). He asked if we'd like to meet him and his friend Molly for dinner yesterday evening, and we said yes, we would like to very much.

After making these dinner arrangements it occurred to me that I have known two Mollies in my life, and that they have both been incredible women, and that I was ridiculously excited at the thought of meeting a brand new person at least in part because of her name.

Well, my excitement was well-founded, as it turns out, and clearly Mollies are just inherently interesting people. It didn't hurt that this particular Molly loves the Muppets, plays the fiddle, and practically crawled under the table to admire my new boots, about which I was rhapsodizing.

Also, she and Gary really seem to like each other, and that's enough to make anyone happy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

what's in a name

Years ago, late one night and most likely aided by a glass or two of wine, Nathan and I got into an odd and lilting conversation about baby names. We both wanted "William." I argued that as the firstborn child, I should get dibs on the name. Nathan, ever the logical one, argued that which ever of us had a son first should get the name.

Eventually, in our intoxicated and intoxicating sentimentality, we decided that maybe we could both lay claim to the name, and that it wouldn't be the end of the world for two cousins to answer to Bill.

I remember the conversation feeling very abstract, in that particular way that conversations about not entirely impossible but definitely far-off and hard-to-imagine things feel.

Nathan called me in early September to tell me that Shanna is pregnant, and that come next April they will be parents.

I was surprised at how sad I felt at first, upon getting this phone call.  I got off the phone that night and sobbed myself to sleep, which seemed such a shameful and horrible way to greet such lovely news that I've tried not to think about it too much.

Cousin Eric sent me a couple old pictures last week, from a sailing trip on his parents' boat that happened a quarter of a century ago. I wasn't expecting these pictures, and had to catch my breath after opening his email. And it struck me then, in that moment of not being able to breathe, where this initial sadness had come from.

I am so very happy for Nathan, adored baby-brother-mine, and his lovely Shanna and their impending parenthood, and I am so very happy at the thought of being aunt to their child. But also there is the realization that our father will never know this child, will never be known by this child, and will never watch his own child become a father -- something I know he would have watched with boundless joy.

And so I find myself crying for them: for these two wonderful and beautiful men and the loss of an experience that they should have shared, had things gone a little differently with the world.

I imagine, if Nathan and Shanna should have a son, that he will be impish and curly-haired and glowing, as his father and grandfather have been before him, and that perhaps he will carry with him his grandpa's exuberant grin if not his grandpa's name.

Monday, November 28, 2011

november music (fragments)

Jill and Evan and I went to Brooklyn Bowl last week to see Mike Doughty. They were surprised, I think, at how middle-aged he is, or how similar all of his songs are, or something. They are not wrong in this assessment (as Jill so concisely put it, after hearing some of his old stuff, "I guess weird dissipates with age?"). Weirdness also dissipates, sometimes, with being sober, and with being content, and maybe with being happy, and I still can't help but love him, even if half his songs sound like they might be the intro to Circles. (Here is some old Mike, and here is a some new(er) Mike, and here is an actual music video off his latest record!)

I recently discovered this little gem (and am apparently one of the last people on the planet to do so, given its YouTube views), and pretty much want to listen to it all the time:

Nathan recently sent me a mix (by which I mean, in this amazing modern age, that he sent me a URL and I went to said URL and downloaded a zipfile, then unzipped said zipfile and imported it into my itunes -- with Evan's tutelage because I am technologically phobic and sadly ill-informed). One particular song, this weird and gorgeous thing, is currently my commuting music of choice. I put my headphones on, turn up the volume, and stare aggressively out the train windows (preferably the front-most window, out of which one can stare at the oncoming tracks, and which is closest to the door most convenient for my subway stop).

I am slowly putting together a birthday mix for a recently reconnected old friend.  I find myself wanting to somehow capture in it the twelve years of our silence, but I've been working at narrowing things down.  Just because these new-fangled technologies don't have the built-in limitations of TDK cassette tapes doesn't necessarily mean anyone wants three hours of your favorite tunes, after all.  Some of the things that aren't making the cut: Singuila's Mektoubi, from my French/African hiphop phase; Tricky's take on the Cure (mostly because the studio version isn't nearly as creepy or as gorgeous as this); a nearly 20-minute long live recording of Built to Spill's Broken Chairs, because though it captures a certain early-20s angst, who wants to hear twenty minutes of someone else's rage, elegantly and heartbreakingly jagged as it might be?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

'someone i loved once...'

The Uses of Sorrow
(In my sleep, I dreamed this poem.)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

(Mary Oliver)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

loss, and growing out of it (a partial chronology)

Little Yehuda, one of the neighborhood kids I regularly watched over when I was lifeguarding back in high school, asked me once if I was more like my mother or more like my father.  I, trying to make light of it instead of sobbing, told him I'd inherited my mom's good looks and my dad's bad memory. He thought about this for a minute and then said, all serious-like, "Well that's okay, then." When I asked him what he meant, he replied, "Maybe you'll forget he died."

Two years ago I was complaining about all the spam clogging up my inbox reminding me to get the perfect Father's Day gift. A friend who had lost her mother when she was a teenager said that Mother's Day is a lot easier for her now that she herself has children, but acknowledged that I (what with being of the female persuasion and having nary a chance of becoming a father) would never have the opportunity to re-appropriate Father's Day in similar fashion, and that this was sad.

Now that I am thirty-five, people are no longer so shocked to learn that my father is dead.  I take strange comfort in this, and in the fact that I can almost always say without tears, "It was a really long time ago."

I was having dinner recently with a friend who lost her brother some years back, and I found myself explaining this to her: the double-edged relief that I've felt these last few years about finally being old enough for my cohorts to have also begun losing parents, for my own loss to have become less shocking.

It occurred to me even as I spoke that this generational relief, this growing in to an age where such a loss is normal, would still be a long time coming for her, and will never come to parents who have lost their children. It seems odd to feel lucky about the way one loses someone dear, but in so many ways, I was. Lucky, I think, that it happened so quickly. Lucky that the chronology at least was right, even if several decades too soon. Lucky that this loss, having happened so early, has finally receded into being merely one facet, if still and always a huge facet, of who I am now.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

yarnish & etsyish things

It must have been the fact that it snowed this past Saturday here in New York, several inches in the city and much more than that elsewhere, that got me to thinking about winter and putting together this winter Etsy collection (which has some lovely stuff in it if I do say so myself -- there are just so many talented craftfolk in the world!).

More personally, here are some of my more recent additions to Etsy:

A new hats & scarves section in my shop

 And this gigantic bright pink shawl!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

student workers, or, a moment in the life of a library supervisor

One of our favorite former student workers stopped by this afternoon for a quick hello, in town on a business trip from sunny California.  We joked about how far he's come since his first job here in the library, and how much he likes San Francisco, and how Oakland across the bay is where he goes to party and, these days, to practice not getting arrested. He said, though, that he misses this city, its un-Bay Area urban grittiness, and is keeping his fingers crossed for a transfer to the New York offices.

Karen turned to me, grinning, after he left and said, "Doesn't that just make you feel a little bit like a proud mother?"

Strangely enough, it does.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

occupy new york (general assembly, people's library), 10.21.11

One of the things that struck me last night, as we wandered through and around Zuccotti Park, was how peaceful it felt, and how strong in its simplicity. The few minutes of the nightly General Assembly that we listened to, shouted in stilted phrases from one round of voices to the next because the NYPD has forbidden the use of megaphones and speakers, was about how to deal with the laundry. A woman was frosting cupcakes with chocolate frosting for a group of children in the designated children's area. Two men, one with an accordion, wandered the square like minstrels of old, singing The Occupy Wall Street Song. The ground was swept clean, and people's belongings were safely tucked away under tarps and roped off from pedestrian traffic. Most of the milling, massing people -- scruffy teenagers, seemingly homeless folks, mothers and fathers and toddlers, well-dressed elderly Upper West Side dames, and everything in between -- were polite and friendly and smiled back whenever I smiled at them.

I wished, in those moments of grinning with pride for these people, for this city, that my father were here to see this, to wander Liberty Square with me, to perhaps lend his oh so powerful voice to the goings-on of the General Assemblies. It might have assuaged some of his anger, calmed his percolating dissatisfaction with his government, with his country.

bridge, 10.22.11

sneakers, one pair