Monday, December 31, 2007

Politics of New Year's Eve

Yo, check it. This is some thought-provoking stuff.

"Oil/Blood Spill

At Rockefeller Center


White Man's Unburdening

I see oppressive Power as a monstrous beast, fostered by a consumerist
economy, devouring the resources of the world through it's obscenely
abusive consumption.

Since last fall, I have had a vision of a black mass of crude oil
tainted with blood clots.

It is being spilled in a big splash right in front of the "Atlas"
statue at Rockefeller Center.

Ideally I would do a live performance at Rockefeller Center, using my
manufactured fake oil and blood. But in the current political climate,
it may be a problem to get the permit for this from NYPD.

On May 15, 2004 I staged a live performance (see title above) in my
studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn: An oil barrel was lowered from the
ceiling by roper on a pulley system, to coincide with the "burden" of
the Atlas, which was projected from a beamer. A mime performer was also
coinciding with the body of the Atlas statue. I executed the spill
myself by ripping open the lid of the barrel.

This was accompanied by music performed by 3 rock musicians on a
podium, and strobe lights flickering over the "studio stage", The whole
thing took about 10 minutes. On the studio wall, I had pasted a long
list of corporate war profiteers.

Madeleine Hatz"

Riddle me this: what's the point of going to parties if you're not single? I usually spend half of them saying stuff like, 'Look, I'm not going to waste your time. There are a lot of good-looking women here, and I have a boyfriend." It's like swimming: once you're in, there's absolutely nothing to do.

As re: Slim, he's working until midnight or so.

Said someone to me today, in an undertone, "Not to break the fourth wall of blogging, but I read your 'Amazing Girls' rant, and I fucking hate those ethereal bitches."

Monday, December 24, 2007

So the streets of Greenpoint are filled with the smell of fish. I don't know much about Polish Christmas customs, but apparently it involves some kind of feast-of-seven-fishes deal, because all these vacant lots have turned into impromptu fish markets, and every deli's doorway holds a paint bucket containing a sad-looking live carp looking up balefully.

I came home yesterday to find the building festively decked out - garlands, bows, a lone trumpet, even a pair of bells stuck above the door. To say nothing of the wreath, which is magnificent.

My friend Tammy is in town. We met for brunch at a spot she described as "hip, but not oppressively so." She told me about her new crush. "He's like a cross between George Harrison, Big Bird, and Maude," she said dreamily. (Maude is of course Ruth Gordon. Tammy often describes people in terms of Maude - as do I. Useful shorthand for many awesome and not-awesome things.)

She produced a lurid-looking paperback copy of The Golden Notebook which I hadn't read.

"Have you read Long Day's Journey Into Night? she asked. "Well, you know how they're always kind of declaiming and talking abruptly? It's kind of like that, but they're Communists, and they really like strawberries."

Holiday (It Would Be So Nice)

I feel very blue about life. What shall I do? All ideas welcomed.

May have to go back to plan A; international courtesan. Or A1, novelty rapper and brief Youtube sensation.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A few notes on the psychiatric profession

I saw my feelings doctor today, and discoursed on modern love (see below.) As is often the case, he seemed bemused and somewhat baffled. It wasn't one of my better sessions, although I sort of pulled it out in the last fifteen by telling him about my parents attending the Zionist DDiary of Anne Frank which was dominated by mentally-handicapped Jewish adults, one of whom snored loudly throughout, mere inches from the actors' faces.

There was a very furtive girl in the waiting room. I felt bad for her, having to follow that anecdote. Let's hope she had some real issues to discuss.

So, back in the day, I saw a therapist for about five minutes before I graduated to the hard stuff. She was kind of Joy of Sex-y, and I had the distinct impression that she thought I was sexually repressed. In any event, she didn't really like me, which I instinctively respected, but wasn't particularly conducive to breakthroughs.

Then I started to see a psychiatrist on grounds of what my family refers to as "garden-variety madness" or, alternatively, "going strange."

After my first meeting with the feelings doctor (a title reserved for MD's), my dad said,

"Did you make him laugh?"

I said I had.

"I always used to do that too, until he made me turn away so I wasn't facing him and couldn't play to him for reaction. So then I sang "Dogfood is the king," to the tune of the Love Story theme. Ours is not a family that is easily understood."

Modern Love

Since, for the bulk of my adult life, I was securely ensconced in a serious relationship with a young man of similarly unblemished record, I have never before this year been placed in the role of ex-girlfriend, or new girlfriend, or, by extension, poisoner or usurper. It is very uncomfortable. It rankles that I, the most mild-mannered and open-bookish of women, am by my very existence now the potential target of cattiness and Googling and e-stalking. (Not to say this has happened; I'm just aware that now it's a possibility. And it doesn't help to know that, at the click of a mouse (?) there are available at least a score of photos in which I'm hideous enough to reassure even the most insecure old/new girlfriend.)

I hope anyone who harbors such resentments will be comforted by this blog, which shows me to be a non-threatening idiot, albeit an adorable one.

The thing is, I always feel a kinship with anyone who's cared for a man peculiar enough to have won my affection. But I guess not everyone feels that way. Gosh! A hundred years ago, none of this was an issue; folks didn't have artificially intertwined lives and unofficial marriages or any of these things which give other people access to pieces of your souls. Maybe it is still this way amongst the Amish?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Check out this, from twister sister's review of Original Pancake House:

"The food takes awhile which gave us time to watch a waitress deliver a Dutch Baby and envelop us with its fragrant, perhaps sacred, steam. A tray of ruby grapefuit juice in large glasses made me think of luxurious jewels. Obviously we had travelled back to a past time."

A few words on actors

Maeve, scientist, bombshell, milliner, brother's girlfriend, sometime shopgirl, had the following to say about actors:

"They don't know any more about politics than any good-looking person with an easy job. In fact, less, because they just hang out with other actors all the time. And hanging out with other actors must be like being at Hampshire YOUR ENTIRE LIFE. Everyone's an idiot; everyone's "special"; everyone thinks their opinion is valuable."

(I think we got started re: Jake Gyllenhaal; "America's most eligible bachelor talks about the CIA.")


From Roger:

Do you still have the red pocket square (by Charvet)? If so, I would like to have it back as it goes well with my Christmas eve outfit. Which is a black velvet jacket (by Loro Piana), a white shirt (by Faconnable) with a tartan tie (by Polo), red braces (by Trafalgar), black watch tartan trousers (by Ralph Lauren Purple Label), and black velvet slippers with white sequin bunnies with onyx eyes on their toes(by Edward Green).

Vaguely Menacing

From GK4:

"Feeling better? You better be. "

Swoop, swoop. Baby rock, rock.

Here are some of the people I've ahd crushes on:

Reuven Malter: This was a major, major crush. Made it really hard to take an interest in any real 7th-Grade boys, none of whom were particularly gifted at Gemitriya or Talmud or even baseball, or were wonderfully kind to blind boys or adorable Orthodox fathers with hacking coughs.

Lou Reed: obviously. But he's out of my league. I mean, no one's gonna be into me AND Laurie Anderson.

Stephen Pastel: indie auteur, Glaswegian, research librarian.

Waiter at Barney Greengrass: the handsome one in black Chucks. This one is ongoing, by the way. And my friend Mike said the waiter knows it, which means I can never go back. As Mike said, 'he gave me a look that clearly said, 'I could sleep with your girlfriend.' (ed: going on the assumption that he thought I was Mike's gf) Guys know this shorthand. Of course, I also have a lurid imagination and a history of misinterpreting things.' '


"Amy Winehouse was arrested. GHK."

That's from GK4, former fiance.

Last night had dinner with Roger. He was very bitter. Said, 'you look well, but then I suppose an active sex life will do that.'

Persists in claiming he doesn't remember Slim's name, even though it's his own middle name. He also said, 'I believe you know that hirsute Hebrew at the next table.' (I did.) We had a good time.

As re: cold, took a nice bath with a menthol soak last night. Look awful; I am in Cafe Grumpy, but a not anticipating any missed connections unless one of these fellas has an affinity for waxen trolls with rats' rests atop their small heads.

I have managed to post a couple of links, plus my current playlist - although I can't seem to get them just where I want them on the page. Funny old world!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Technology, wonders of

Just got a text from Slim, who is currently winging to the Golden State.

Apparently security guy "laughed and said I had an evil face that must drive women mad."

I wrote back that "your face is the least infuriating thing about you" then regretted it because it wasn't clever and it kind of sounded risque, which I didn't intend.


I have a cold, like everybody else. Mine is of course much more glamorous and tragic, though.

So, last night I went with GK4 to this Christmas party thrown by some wealthy bohemians. This was a major concession on my part, as I was in the first stages of a cold and had been prevented from a good night's rest, by him, as he had a crisis of faith the night before and needed to phone several times between three and four a.m.

In fact, I am too tired to write about it. But remind me to tell you about the old man dressed like a 19th century baby.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Here is something that makes me uncomfortable: "The Good Day." They are trying so hard to make it work, and it's obviously not catching on, and it makes me writhe with embarrassment. I wish they would stop.

The Remedy

Okay, I've swapped my tunic for a wrap cardigan.

Last time I was home, I grabbed some old home movies, thinking they might be fun to show Slim.

Well, the first one we screened featured me, at 3, throwing my legs over my head and "showing the camera my vagina!"

"Do you remember what we talked about yesterday?" my mother asks from off-camera. "How if you're riding in your stroller, and not wearing underpants, you need to keep your legs together?"

"Sades, enough with the vagina," says my dad.

"Harry, put her underpants on her," says my mother.

Last night, went with some gals for pizza at Lucali. Midway through, fielded a call from a friend wondering whether to break off a fling pre-or-post dinner. Points in favor of both; he decided to do it pre-prandially and weather the awkwardness of the meal, in the interests of honesty. Poor everyone. These details can be mined for absurdity, but everything under the sun can just as easily be tragic. See: any short-story collection written in the past ten years.

Then I went to go stay at Slim's house, which was a major concession as I have a long history of hating sleepovers and faking migraines to get out of them. (See: five fourth-grade slumber parties.) He has this immense room with 12-foot ceilings which sort of made me feel insignificant and afraid; plus a bunch of roommates. Maybe it's the fact that in my house growing up people were always stirring and shaking and yelling, but I relish the luxury of living alone, undisturbed by other people's rumblings and the sputter of the burner and the creak of the pipes and other guilt-inducing signs of wakefulness.

We used to spend summers with my granparents in California. There was, in that house, an unspoken competition to get less sleep than anyone else; as a result, no one went to sleep before three, or got up after five. I daresay everyone felt obscurely virtuous, but for an outsider, the experience was tantamount to a sleep-deprivation experiment. Last night reminded me of it.

Then when I awoke (S goes to work at six these days) I was confronted by a row of Georgia O'Keefe prints.

Seriously: enough with the vagina.

Various Failures

I fear my outfit is not wholly successful. I am wearing skinny jeans, high boots, a sort of navy cashmere tunic. So far so good, you're saying, but imagine if you will a striped silk scarf draped around my neck and anchored by a thin belt with a minute turtle closure. Hm, I thought so.

So, the other day, Mike, 'the one who speaks perfect English' and my landlord's henchman, showed up at my door and demanded payment on electric.

'You haven't paid it since you moved in,' he accused.

'Well, I've never seen a bill,' I pointed out.

He informed me that I owed $150 a month, a total of $600.

'That seems very high,' I ventured, wondering if I'd been covertly running a doll factory, in my sleep, for the past four months.

'Don't it?' he replied enigmatically, and disappeared.

A few hours later, he said he'd meant $50. So I paid it. And yes, I probably should have demanded to see a bill with a breakdown. Well, I 'should' do a lot of things. I 'should' fix my toilet so that in order to flush it you don't need to plunge your hand into the freezing water of the tank. I 'should' cash my paychecks. I 'should' take my psychiatric medication. Well, if wishes were trees.

As re my recent nightmare, I called my mom to see if she had in fact poisoned my dad's seltzer with NH3. She said that, on the contrary, she was making him the salt cod gratin from Bistro Cooking, and the recipe made so much that she was saving me half.

"Well, that's a fine kettle of fish!" I expostulated. "I have my own pound of salt cod soaking in the refrigerator as we speak!"

She did suggest, though, that the nightmare had probably been suggested by the fact that she and my dad had been watching 'Notorious' that evening.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Damn you.

I wish I knew how to make The Petite Sophisticate look extremely beautiful.

I took a whole bunch of cheesecake shots of Slim the other day for this calendar he's in; we took 53, the one constant being him, naked, on the couch, with a Financial Times across his lap. He was also very adamant that this wine bottle with a rose in it be in the frame. Basically, the whole production was a Kenneth Branagh-like exercise in narcissism, in which he'd pose, I'd take the picture, he'd look at the camera and tell me to adjust the blinds or something, and we'd take it from the top.

(I am not very photogenic. Actually, I'm just not that good-looking.)

This Week's Social Calendar

It's full, full to bursting.

The highlight will of course be the Brooklyn Supper Club, which is having its second meeting at my house on Thursday. The theme: 80's Yuppie Dinner Party. Everything has to come from Silver Palate or SP Good Times.

The hostess makes the main, so obviously it's Chicken Marbella. People seem to like their dishes to be suprises (which resulted in 2 Green Bean Bakes at the '60's Pot Luck ' dinner), but I've heard rumblings about Grand Marnier, pesto and, of course, raspberry vinegar.

Gotta devote my few remaining faculties to decor and soundtrack. Thinking, respectively: swags and jazz.

As ever -

Or, What Was It?

As it turned out, the shoe was on quite the other foot. Quite the other foot. I awoke from a nightmare about 4 am (my mother was putting ammonia in my dad's seltzer and I didn't stop her and then I couldn't reach 911...)and on my way back from the restroom (note: refer to exclusively as 'restroom' from now on)found Slim, obviously stone dead, standing against the wall with a piece of banana bread in his hand. My scream woke him, though.

In other news of boyfriends, had a very troubling little 2-hour talk with GK4 (yes, my former fiance) last night. Read me a (long) excerpt from a (long) letter containing a (long) quote from "Ash Wednesday," which he'd sent to a girl with whom he's obsessed following 2 dates, in which he made her cry twice and talked A LOT about his views on treason (hint: they're punitive. And immoderate. He really wanted John Walker Lindh to get the chair.) Was discouraged from writing her again/sending her perfume. I hope he finds the love he deserves and can step back from the brink of madness, as I can tell him with authority it's not a terribly fun place to be.

Jesus wept. Or, I did, anyhow.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

I smell gas

And in Greenpoint, all things are possible. Especially as I just paid gas and electric. Perhaps the landlord was so thrilled by my check that he decided to gas me to death. Well, everyone knows it's not a bad way to go.

I don't have a Miracle Pet to save my life, but Slim will eventually come back from a show in Williamsburg in a few hours to find me stone dead.

My life is an open book. Self-published.

So, when we were in San Francisco, Slim and I stayed with this friend of his who in turn sublets from a middle-aged lesbian of the old school. The place was stunning, even if we were holed up in this attic space where he couldn't stand up, accessible only by a treacherous ladder. Further, we were perpetually menaced by the elderly dog, malcolm, who could be distracted by a Kraft single just long enough to buy us time to climb the ladder. He also took a major chunk out of my left thumb. (I am now rabid.)

The dog, the lesbian explained, was upset by the presence of a man in the house. Before I showed up, she was laboring under the pleasant delusion that Slim was gay, an impression cemented by the Greek sailor's cap he purchased in the Marina and has taken to wearing incessantly. When it became clear that he was in fact a member of the Patriarchy, things took a decided turn for the worse and she took to glaring at him belligerently whenever they crossed paths. (She was particularly revolted to find him returniing from the shower one day, in boxers.)

Me, however, she quite liked. On our third day there, she happened to walk in on me (why I don't know, since I repeatedly shouted, 'I'm up here!' and 'just a sec!' as I heard her mounting the ladder) in my skivvies. (Well, this kind of brief jersey romper, which I am in fact wearing right now.) After that, she decided I was 'adorable' and 'charming' and took to gazing at me and saying things like, 'do you love to dance? I could tell by the way you move.' (I didn't have the heart to tell her that I just kind of jerk around spasmodically, like Ian Curtis. Or maybe that's how I move, and that's what she meant. Anyway, I don't know that I love it.)

After about a week, she told me that I could stay, but Slim had to go. So we went to stay with another friend-of-a-friend. As we were going to meet up with him for the keys (for some reason, in a bar), Slim said, 'we were actually supposed to be here four hours ago, so be extra charming.' I tried to be, even though the guy was super lame and kept making comments about how grotesque my glasses were, and drunkenly ripping them off my face. This was all very well, as I thought he was gay, but then it turned out he wasn't gay - or, at any rate, started bringing up being straight vry aggressively in the way closeted/seemingly gay men do; rather the way some of us try to work into conversations that we have boyfriends, so someone doesn't get the wrong idea, and it's always very forced and awkward.

I hate San Francisco.

And the bite still hurts.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

My god. My god. Late to see my feelings doctor.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


So, Slim and I had the biggest fight ever the other day. I wrote him a letter explaining my position. Here is an excert:

"You may argue otherwise; I do genuinely believe you have major boundary issues when it comes to friends/lovers, can make these transitions easily, and don’t realize that not everyone is the same way. But I find it hard to believe that she would expect such a gesture of you or, frankly, find it anything but bizarre. (Remember, you thought before you broke up with her that she ‘understood’ how things stood, and clearly you were not on the same page. I bring this up not out of solicitude for her beyond the general, but rather to establish further how wholly willful this whim is.) (...)If I wanted to think the worst of you, I would say that your behavior, your willful insistence on not being dictated to, was hopelessly cruel. I pay you the compliment of realizing there’s actually something missing with you that allows you to ignore all the dictates of decency and common sense. "

Bet you wish you were my boyfriend! Oh yeah, and the letter is EPIC.

Yes, yes, obviously everything is okay now. I may or may not have thrown my glasses across the room and ground them under my heel in a passion of rage; but that's all over and there's nothing but a little hairline crack on the left frame to show for it. Incidentally, in the course of the fight I still managed to turn out a very creditable batch of marmalade.

Venus in Furs

Happy Hannukah.

I went out for the Post this morning in pajamas and a mink. That's right - M.I.N.K. I think fur softens the face, don't you? Oh, definitely.

Bought the world's tiniest, most dolly-sized menorah today at Winn Discount. Is very cunning. Feel like a Maccabee.

Based on the outrageous true story.


This is a rant:

I first became aware of my nemesis, the Amazing Girl, around the age of fifteen. Well, of one in particular: Anne Weinstock. An ethereal creature who wore scarves on her head and layers of shabby sweaters over her slender frame, Anne worked in clay, made vague, emotional statements of feeling in class, wept, and – perhaps her defining characteristic --referred to many, many things as "amazing."
Then there was her other defining characteristic. From the moment she transferred to our high school, boys worshipped her, and she moved from boyfriend to boyfriend with callousness obliviousness, cleaving to the next one with the same sensitive rapture that she'd shown the last.
Her appeal was, I could see, elemental. It was horribly depressing.
Once I started looking for them, I could see that Amazing Girls were everywhere.
Backpacking through South America, smoking hash with locals; reading Sylvia Plath in the park; earnestly worshipping Frida Kahlo in museums; dancing barefoot in the rain everywhere. While many are hippies, they are not all, by any means. They come in all nationalities, all shapes and sizes, from earth mother to ethereal. Some are insipid, others lively, some bisexual and others not, some vegan and some merely vegetarian.
But to them all there is a certain underlying sameness. All are vaguely creative, all sort of political, all sweet and kind and sympathetic and all lacking in any critical judgment whatsoever. Indeed, a lack of harsh judgment might be called the central tenet of their sisterhood, and perhaps a key to their particular magic.
To girls like me – sharp, mean, opinionated, decidedly lacking in mystery – they are a despair. Normal women cannot compete with Amazing Girls. We lack the mystique, the ready sympathy, the soul. They're twice as threatening as any bombshell, for they promise great depth. Supportive and uncritical in a way no one with any judgment can be, they also offer a famed flexibility towards traditional commitment, and the promise of utter sexual abandon. "Vice, Virtue. It's best not to be too moral." declares the definitive old Amazing Girl, Maude of Harold and fame – a favorite of every Amazing Girl. "You cheat yourself out of too much life. Aim above morality. If you apply that to life, then you're bound to live life fully." Indeed.
"Above all," wrote Joan Didion of Ur-Amazing Girl Joan Baez," she is the girl who "feels" things, who has hung onto the freshness and pain of adolescence, the girl ever wounded, ever young."
Sinclair Lewis captures it perfectly in Main Street’s description of the 1920s varietal: “Every cell of her body was alive – thin wrists, quince-blossom skin, black hair…a fragile child who must be cloaked with understanding kindness. “Psychic,” the girls whispered, and “spiritual.” Yet so radioactive were her nerves, so adventurous her trust in rather vaguely constructed sweetness and light. A girl on a hilltop…credulous, plastic, young; drinking the air as she longed to drink life. The eternal aching comedy of expectant youth!”
I began to keep lists of famous Amazing Girls: Joan Baez and Judy Collins, of course, but also Anais Nin, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Miranda July, Lady Ottoline Morrell, Edie Sedgwick, Caroline Blackwood,Vanessa Bell --to say nothing of Rima.( “So vivid was the image left on my brain that she still seemed to be actually before my eyes; and she was not there, nor had been, for she was a dream, an illusion, and no such being existed, or could exist, in this gross world: and at the same time I know that she had been there – that imagination was powerless to conjure up a form so exquisite.” )
Then one day, while staring at Vermeer's “Young Woman with a Water Pitcher” on an excursion to the Met, I had a horrible revelation: an amazing girl! And not just her, either! I thought of all the youthful poets and composers I knew, swooning after the vacant-eyed waifs who sat, chin on knees, gazing up at them at parties, nodding understandingly, breathing "amazing...” then leaping up to dance, abandoned, when someone's band started to play. Surely Raphael had been just as susceptible. The Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, the Nude Descending Staircase, the subject of every famous painting, poem, and piece of music -- they had all been Amazing Girls. I was as sure of it as I'd ever been of anything in my life -- Amazing Girls are and always have been the world's muses.
The career of an English major at a liberal arts college is littered with Amazing Girls in all their incarnations. Of course, college is their natural breeding ground. It is where they bloom and flourish, come into their own, staring up adoringly at professors and entrancing earnest young poets. They perform modern dances and read their original short stories. They hold forth in class, presuming emotion and feeling a more than worthy substitute for the harshness of fact.
It was infuriating to behold. The most attractive boys, otherwise rational creatures, worshipped them. Worse still, because Amazing Girls, by doing nothing but look sensitive, fit everyone’s idea of an artist, they were treated as such for doing nothing but sleeping with them! How had groupie-ism become such a talent?
“Primarily you belong to a special type, a special race of women,” D.H. Lawrence wrote to the mediocre muse, Ottoline Morrell. “Like Cassandra, and some of the great women saints. They were the great media of truth, of the deepest truth: through them…the truth came – as through a fissure from the depths and the burning darkness that lies out of the depth of time.”
“Like a wild and wise animal," rhapsodized Max Eastman of Isadora Duncan, “she fled from those who sought to capture the essence of her — which was motion — by making her stand still.”
Meanwhile, the promiscuous Edna St. Vincent Millay was, “a spokesman for the human spirit....with an intoxicating effect on people," according to Edmund Wilson, who further observed that this particular charm led many a man “to feel…he had found his mate.”
The world, women-wise, being divided into two camps, my friends – mostly of the wise-cracking girl-Friday school -- recognized the phenomenon immediately, and seized upon it with rage and excitement.
"The girls who hug all the time," said one friend eagerly.
"My yoga instructor," added another.
"Greg's new girlfriend," sighed a third sadly, referring to her ex-boyfriend, a struggling musician ripe for AG picking.
My male friends, of course, had no idea. To humor me, they’d pretend to despise them, and then likely as not show up a week later with Amazing Girls on their arms.
While the 1960s were a golden age for the Amazing Girl, it seems clear to me, after much consideration, that the 18th century provided one important model: the Romantics' ideal of the pure and naturally innocent woman, a creature morally inferior to men but capable of spiritual perfection -- in short, a childlike vessel for the projection of masculine ideals. Wordsworth’s Lucy, dying in romantic perfection; Byron’s muse walking in beauty, like the night –
“And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,

So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,

A mind at peace with all below,

A heart whose love is innocent!”

Goethe is a particular offender in this regard, draping the unremarkable Charlotte in laurels such that, “... - When I have been with her for two or three hours, entranced by her ways and the divine expressiveness of her words, and my senses gradually become excited, my sight grows dim.”
Of course, the poets of our own age are just as bad – from Bob Dylan’s vacant muses, wearing their sparkling Egyptian rings and breaking just like little girls, to the free spirits who masquerade as “ruby-throated sparrows” and go around dancing in the sand.
Mystery is the Amazing Girl’s musical hallmark. “She would never say where she came from …who can pin a name on you?” warble the entranced Rolling Stones.
“Who can know the thoughts of Mary Jane?” wonders Nick Drake.
Literature gives us Murakami’s mysteriously vanishing muses, empty vessel Griet of the pearl earring, and the particularly infuriating Theodore Roethke poem: “I knew a woman, lovely in her bones.”
Of course, they’re movie staples, Amazing Girls -- changing people’s lives, teaching the uptight to live, spreading sunshine. Penny Lane, Almost Famous’s luminous groupie; Natasha Wagner’s wide-eyed rock critic in High Fidelity, or Natalie Portman’s grotesquely adorable “Sam” in Garden State (“This song will change your life, I swear.”)
By the time the latter film made its appearance, Amazing Girls had become an obsession with me. I was not sure how, but I was certain the Amazing Girl was a very important cultural phenomenon. I talked about it endlessly. I discussed it in my thesis (title: “Amazing Girls: Or, on the frustrations of not being a muse.”) When asked to contribute a short story to a friend’s literary magazine, I discussed Joyce Carol Oates’s (admittedly speculative) hatred of Amazing Girls. (“ What she had termed ‘Amazing Girls’ had become something of an obsession with her. In her organized fashion, she had long since started a file on them. Oh, how she hated those blank-eyed children!”) The story was deemed autobiographical.
After a few years, there was some feeling that my interest had gotten out of hand. Fewer and fewer of my friends were willing to share in my indignation, to attend my film festivals, to discuss the Amazing Girl’s cultural significance in the Renaissance. I made a conscious effort to talk about it less, to avoid Young Woman with a Pitcher, to sit though Harold and Maude with a placid smile and keep my mouth shut when my brother showed up one Thanksgiving with Sascha, an ethereal vegan from San Francisco.
Then, not long ago, at the Whole Foods in Union Square, I ran into the original Amazing Girl, Anne Weinstock. She looked just the same – scarf on hair, several layers of ragged sweaters, a faraway look in her eye. She was, she told me vaguely, “an artist.” She was living with a sculptor. She pronounced the mediocre specifics of my own life “amazing” and hugged me before we parted.
Watching her walk away, I felt suffused with guilt. She was so nice, so sincere, so nonjudgmental! I had spent so many years resenting someone completely innocuous. I made a spontaneous resolve to change my ways – to approach my life with the openness and enthusiasm of an Amazing Girl. Then, as Anne’s slender frame disappeared down the Grains aisle, I saw several young men look after her yearningly. My heart hardened. I held a film festival that night.

Lightweight Foreign Legion Comedy in early color process!

“Here’s one for you,” the driver said as soon as the taxi door had closed. “If you’re standing in a house, and every window faces south, what color bear are you looking at?”
I was caught off guard; it seemed to me late in the day for riddling. The last time I’d taken a cab, the driver (who had grown up in an orphanage, was getting into amateur theatrics and whose comedic work had been compared to that of Art Carney) had asked me to name the five flags that had flown over Texas. Which I did. But that had been early morning -- I had been chipper, punchy, full of beans.
I stifled a sigh and marshaled my meager resources.
If you’re standing in a house, and every window faces south, what color bear are you looking at?
I know next to nothing about geography, but it seemed clear that the riddle dealt with a geographically anomalous zone. Probably a pole. Which meant…
“A polar bear?” I suggested.
“What color bear?” he repeated, clearly disappointed.
“Oh. White.” I said. He sighed, deflated.
“Yes.” He said, and we drove in silence for a few minutes.
“What have you eaten in the way of exotic meats?” he asked after a while.
“Let’s see,” I said thoughtfully. “Ostrich, alligator, elk, bison…I guess venison doesn’t count, does it?”
“Oh, it counts all right,” he said with suppressed violence. “I count it. So you’ve never had bear? Moose? Bear?!”
“No,” I said. “Is it good?”
“Bear?” he barked. “It’s the worst damn thing I’ve ever tasted! That is,” he amended. “Grizzly bear is. Tasted like it was raised on garbage. Brown bear, now, isn’t so bad. It’s greasy, of course, but I grilled it up and it wasn’t so bad. You have to grill bear,” he added instructively.
“I guess Indians ate a lot of bear,” I ventured.
“You bet!” he said. “You bet they did! I’ve had lots of animals. Squirrel, muskrat, bear, elk, bison….oh, just about everything you can eat, I guess.”
“Raccoon?” I asked.
“No, I’ve never had raccoon.” He sounded deflated again.
“Well, talk about tasting like garbage!” I said helpfully.
“You’ve had raccoon meat?” he asked resentfully.
“Well, no, but I see what they eat. The raccoons get into our garbage all the time. Do you hunt?”
“No, I don’t. The fishing shop where I buy tackle sells exotic meats. I tell them, ‘I’ll try whatever you get in!’ And they save some for me.”
“Oh. Well, you certainly have had a lot of meats,” I said. We lapsed into silence again.
“Ever had whale?” I said after a while.
“No,” he admitted, “but I have a friend who has,” he added hastily. “It’s illegal to eat it, but he used to eat it when he was a kid. Said it’s tasty – firm, like tuna, you know? A little rubbery.”
“That sounds about right,” I said. “I guess once the blubber’s been scraped off, it’s really fairly lean.”
“Maybe,” he said.
I wondered about grilling whale. I was hungry.
“I’ve been cooking a lot these days,” he volunteered.
“Do you enjoy it?” I said.
“Well, I don’t have much choice,” he said. “My wife passed away six months ago. I was doing the cooking, the housework, for about six months before that, too. I like it all right now. I’m experimenting a little bit, now.”
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“Yeah, well,” he said. There was a prolonged silence.
“Did your wife …enjoy different meats?” I said tentatively.
“She liked the venison,” he said, “and she ate, you know, beef and chicken. Veal. I think she tried the wild turkey. She wouldn’t try the bear, though.”
“From what you tell me,” I said generously, “that was a smart move!”
“What?” he said blankly.
“Not eating bear,” I clarified. “You said it tasted like garbage.”
“I said grizzly bear tasted like garbage,” he said.
“I hear you can get meats now on the internet – clubs, that send you different kinds.” He told me as we pulled off the parkway. “I’d do it if I were you. Nice to get something in the mail. My wife used to order from…Home Shopping Network. QVC. Dolls, all kinds of things. You know?”
“I do,” I said.
“A doll came in the mail yesterday,” he said. “Real fancy. Lace, pearls, everything. I thought it was meat for a second there,” he added. “But it was a doll. Nice to get packages, you know?”
“’Brown paper packages, tied up with string,’” I ventured lamely. He ignored me.
“Gives you a little something to look forward to,” he said.

When I arrived at the reading the bookstore was almost full. I could see Adam Rothstein Kurtin, the wunderkind author, milling around near the podium, talking to some organizers. I craned my neck to get a look at the crowd, and waved and smiled to a couple of college literati I knew and one very earnest girl in my Shakespearean Theory class. Lots of late-middle aged neighborhood types carrying library tote bags, a few professors.
Adam Rothstein Kurtin was small. He was wearing a dark suit. I studied him covertly, wondering idly if I could get him to fall in love with me. Adam Rothstein Kurtin went to the podium then, smiled in an ingratiating fashion and started talking in a rather urbane way.
“So, the publisher gave me all these shirts,” he said in a self-deprecating way, displaying a tee shirt with “Little Circles” written on it and the words “A masterpiece!” in quotations.
“Obviously, I can’t wear this,” he said, indicating the quotation to general laughter, “so I’m trying to think of creative ways to get rid of them. Here’s the deal: if anyone asks me a question I refuse to answer, you get a shirt. I give you fair warning, this has only happened twice – but there are things I won’t talk about!”
Well, that wouldn’t be too hard, I thought irritably. He probably won’t talk about how much money he’s made, or something. And maybe his love life. But who wants that ridiculous shirt, anyway? In the grand tradition of free shirts, they were all enormous.
“So, I’m going to read a little bit for you,” he said, “but only a little bit, and then we’ll talk – that’s what I really enjoy.”
He read three very long passages: a funny part, a sad/ heartwarming part and some other part of indeterminate characterization. His reading was only okay, not how I’d imagined it when I read Little Circles. I was reminded afresh of what I thought didn’t work about the book.
“I just sort of put in the humorous part to entertain people – it’s not really where my heart is,” he parenthesized at one point. What nonsense, I thought. The funny parts were the best thing in the book. The rest of it, while written with technical skill, seemed to me trite and easy. It was pre-approved morality and flights of courage that might have been courageous and taboo fifty years ago, but had been the currency of sentiment for as long as I’d been around.
When he had finished reading, everyone applauded and some hands shot up immediately. An elderly woman asked something about his approach to his craft.
“I regard writing merely as a means of transport,” he said. “The process of writing is to me incidental. The vessel, as it were. It could be painting, or acting, or any form of self-expression. The point is to reach the destination of moral clarity.”
The girl from my Shakespeare class, quivering with earnestness, demanded to know whether he regarded his work as meta-fiction, and what were his opinions of meta-fiction as a genre?
He responded with, I thought, inappropriate irritation.
“My work is not meta-fiction,” he replied coldly. “And I don’t feel competent to comment on meta-fiction.” He turned his attention away abruptly, and the girl looked crushed.
“The cover of your book looks like the Yin and the Yang,” said a moron. “Is it supposed to look like that, and what are your opinions of eastern philosophy, and what do you think about world peace in our lifetime?”
He laughed a little bit, but more at the enormity of the question than its stupidity. No, the cover had not been intended to evoke the Yin and the yang, but he liked that people could see different things in it. He was no student of eastern philosophy, but he found it fascinating and hoped to get into it in a big way. He couldn’t predict world peace with any kind of authority (and this government was doing its best to prevent it – applause), but he devotedly hoped that with mutual understanding and respect things could improve, and such-and-such an author had just written an amazing anti-war tract we should check out. He was much nicer than he had been about the meta-fiction question, and I was annoyed. Really annoyed. In fact, I hated him. My hand shot up.
“You, in the glasses,” he said, pointing to me.
“Building off of the last question,” I said coolly, and wishing he hadn’t referred to me that way, “If you’re standing in a house, and every window is facing south….what color bear are you looking at?”
“Excuse me?” he said blankly.
“If you’re standing in a house, and every room faces south,” I said more loudly, beginning to feel an ass, but brazening it out, “what color bear are you looking at?!”
“What color bear…?” he said again. There was silence.
“Give her the shirt!” someone shouted, and several voices added their endorsement.
“No, hang on,” he said. (“Give her the shirt!” said the same voice.) “I said questions I wouldn’t answer, not riddles that stumped me.”
“All right, what color bear?” he finally asked, in irritation. A bunch of people shouted “white!” and I didn’t have to say anything. I tried to look jaunty.
The worst part, of course, was that I’d already bought my book, and I figured I had to get it signed for my friend David, a Little Circles enthusiast. My tension mounted as the line shortened. When it was my turn, I handed him the book and said, “to David, please.” At least he would know it wasn’t for me! Adam Rothstein Kurtin bent his head over the book, and he looked very young.
“I…I’m sorry about that bear question,” I said timidly.
“That’s okay,” he muttered, without looking up.
It was very clear he was not in love with me. Now I was broke, and I took the bus home.
In addition to an irritating and suspect inability to "metabolize" orange juice, my current boyfriend is possessed of a vaguely sinister, saturnine grin.
In addition to an irritating and suspect inability to "metabolize" orange juice, my current boyfriend is possessed of a vaguely sinister, saturnine grin.