Sunday, November 30, 2008

Last night went to a party at the home of Al who used to date Ruth who dated GK4 after me, where I met Megan who went to college with Charlie and who went to camp with my across-the-street neighbor Beth and who is childhood friends with Vera, with whom I also used to play as a child, and who slept with GK4, and who lives with Marie,who is dating Moishe, and whose ex-husband grew up with Tony who went to college with Slim, who went to high school with Caitlin, who dates Justin who went to high school with me.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

OK, Another of My reviews

"I had always assumed that, like swimming with dolphins and visiting Sesame Place, dining at Stand fell into the category of things I could happily die without ever doing. And yet, the other evening some friends and I emerged from a nearby theatre on the cusp of 11.30 craving burgers, and Stand (open daily to midnight) beckoned.

The cavernous space is high-concept and vaguely post-industrial. We were confronted by a large circular desk thing containing a wholly superfluous maitre d', who seated us at an enormous wooden table. Various beautifully groomed, black-clad men glided around. This was all very well, but the only other patrons (on a Friday night, btw) were a table of strikingly un-fabulous NYU students, and some Japanese tourists in a corner - although it should be said that one of these was sporting a faux-hawk.

We gave a pass to the burger soup and burger salad and all ordered regular burgers and a large fries. Root beers were presented with some ceremony from the slick-looking bar at the room's center, from whence, one assumes, the various alcoholic milkshakes emerge. Having all tacitly decided to get out of here as soon as possible, no one in my party availed himself of these.

Burgers were tasty enough (although I'm on record in my dislike of brioche buns), topped with red onion, pickle, shredded lettuce, mustard and sided with homemade ketchup (helpfully supplemented by some Heinz's on the table.) Fries were hot and fresh. The homemade ketchup was controversial, tart and somewhat chunky. While no substitute for the real thing, I took a shine to this peculiar condiment and ate everyone's portion with a spoon. (But then, I eat canned tomatoes as snacks.)

Food was fine, prices were standard upmarket at about $10 a pop. But the whole experience made us giggle. It managed to feel really dated and silly, like some kind of former hotspot club from 1998. I'm sure if I lived in the area I'd succomb to takeout on a rainy night, but I certainly don't feel any need to reprise the experience."

Another Review

"Wtf is the deal with Billyburg/Gpt and their one-night rentals? And if they're gonna do that, would it kill any of these video places to get a drop slot? It's such a scam. I'm tempted to grab a hatchet and spend a night hacking slits in all their doors.

Beyond that, this is an okay little video shop. The selection's not huge, but the niche stuff - ie, Hammer Horror, and (duh) noir - is solidly repped.

I liked the owner, Will, but wasn't really satisfied with my experience.

I explained to him what I was looking for:

A creepy psychological thriller/horror movie along the lines of Don't Look Now, The Innocents, the original Wicker Man, Haunting of Hill House or The Others. (I added that, despite its mediocrity, there were things I liked about the Skeleton Key.)

In short, I like a non-campy movie dealing with ghosts and the occult. Catholic clergy is a plus. Serial killers, vampires, zombies, killer animals and monsters of other kinds need not apply.

We discussed this earnestly for some time and he determined that I must rent The Black Cat, based on a Poe story. As he seemed to understand exactly what I was looking for, I was very excited and set aside a whole evening for viewing.

Well, The Black Cat was idiotic. Campy, silly and full of fake blood. I hope I'm not spoiling anything for anyone when I tell you it's about an evil cat (black) who mauls people. I had no problem getting it back within the allotted day's time frame.

If there's something specific I want, I guess I'd try Film Noir again, but I do rely on the expertise of the film geeks at this sort of small shop - the thing, aft all, that separates it from Netflix - and The Black Cat left a very bad taste in my mouth!"
There was an odd period this past Spring when I was up for a job at an online reveiw site, and as a result was cranking out reviews at an almost preternatural pace. I just looked some of them over - and they were strange. I can really see why I wasn't hired. Here's one:

It has been suggested by the less charitable of my associates that if something is mediocre and more than a hundred years old, I automatically love it.

This is true.

It is certainly true of Glaser's, which celebrated its 106th birthday yesterday. It's the kind of no-fireworks bakery that you used to be able to find on every block: basic cookies and cake; brownies; not-terribly-strong coffee, and that New York classic, the Cheese Danish.

No, nothing is spectacular, although plenty of things - the cinnamon roll, the very basic hot cross bun, the sugar donut - are just fine.

Nevertheless, Glaser's is one of my favorite places in the city and, with all due respect to my grandparents and Museum Mile, my favorite reason to come to the Upper East Side. It's a total time capsule: utterly old-fashioned and friendly, with rock-bottom prices. (A coffee and donut will run you about $1!) The somewhat mediocre pastries are somehow comforting: you know exactly what you are getting and nothing ever shocks or surprises. Things taste exactly as they did when I used to come in for a leaf cookie when I was three. And, probably, just the way they did in 1902.

Cakes etc. are shockingly cheap. I don't know who gets wedding cake here (although I totally will) but I'm sure the dusty specimen in the display case would not be hard on the wallet. When I was in yesterday, a young mother was ordering cupcakes for her 3-year-old's birthday party.

"I'm going to write "vibrant colors" very clearly on this order form," said the lovely woman taking down her order, "otherwise the baker might write "vibrant' on the cupcake. Recently, he wrote, "leave this space blank" on a chocolate cake; he's very literal at 4 a.m."

There is a wonderful parade of Yorkville old-timers who come in and out; the ladies know everyone by name. Last time I was in, a smug old man in a "USS Missouri" cap snickered and sneered at everyone who came in from a corner. He was there for at least two hours (I checked.) I wanted to die and be reincarnated as a mediocre 75 cent chocolate cupcake in that ancient display case, to be eaten by a strange old person of German extraction who may or may not have been involved in The Bund as a youth.

The End."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Jack Russell and "the little dog," both of whom live upstairs, are having puppies. "The little dog" (the dad) is something tiny so they should be cute in combination. Kind of want one.

Monday, November 24, 2008

On The Town

I usually have to be forced to go to parties, and always try to back out at the last minute and then have a moment of panic before going in...BUT this weekend I was persuaded to go to one of those Scene parties where you know and almost know a lot of people. I had fun, not least because Slim enjoys everything so wholeheartedly. What's more, we had a new friend - whom Slim met in a vintage shop - who proved to be one of those social creatures who relishes meeting people and dances with no self-consciousness whatsoever. He was darling and at the end of the day lots of other people are, too. Or was I in a benevolent mood? Certainly feeling philosophically inclined, having just come from a sherry with a friend who impressed upon me the importance of aesthetics - sensibility-wise, that is.

What a contrast was the next evening! We had a few of Slim's friends over for birthday drinks. I must say, it's very rewarding to cook for gluttons: they really relished the two casseroles of mac & cheese, roast tomatoes, salad, pumpkin pie and cake I made. (Later on, Slim and Frank made a concoction of pumpkin piue filling, brandied whipped cream and cake crumbs; they also fried some of the leftover mac and cheese in bacon fat.) The cake was, of course, a wine cake, which is the official birthday cake in my mother's family. It's so good that I'll tell you how to make it:

-Mix 1 box yellow cake mix with a large instant vanilla pudding (or a regular box plus a few T), a cup of oil, 5 eggs, and 3/4 cup of sherry. Bake it in a bundt pan at 375 for about 45 minutes. Then, while still in the pan, poke the cake's bottom all over with a skewer. Make a glaze from about 1 C powdered sugar and enough sherry to thin it and pour this over. Let it sit about 15 minutes. Then turn it out, poke the cake all over, and pour on more glaze. Sounds vile, is the best thing ever.

Sunday we slept late, then had brunch at the new market-driven hipster spot in the area. It was pretty good: a pleasant vibe, Heart etc. on the box, of course a few too many familiar faces. I had the eggs, which came with a choice of 2 sides (I had baked tomatoes and bacon.) My poached eggs, while organic etc., were too hard, and the home fries are the french fry type I don't like. Also, they only have espresso drinks rather than coffee. However, Slim liked his gravlax a lot and the whole experience was pleasant. We took a long walk and it was a nice Sunday...and then.

I had a movie date to see Twilight with two friends, semi-ironically. I headed to Carroll Gardens, stopped by the store with some pumpkin whoopie pies from One Girl, and met my friends. The setup couldn't have been better: we were surrounded by young teens who were almost overcome with excitement. I didn't know much about the movie and have no interest in vampires, but I was quickly riveted: I can't remember being more satisfied by a viewing experience! And oh my gosh the chemistry! Unfortunately, then there was a scene with a lot of bleeding and in what I think may have been a humiliating incident of hyper-empathy for Bella, the teenage heroine, I got very woozy, stumbled out of the theatre and promptly fainted on the floor outside the bathroom. I came to to find a bunch of people yelling at me; someone - I think not an employee - was saying that I'd had a heart attack. I tried to explain that I hadn't and not to call an ambulance, but it's hard to recover at first from the nausea and wooziness and it took a few moments to get me settled against the wall with some flat coke - when all I wanted was to get back into the theatre to see the PROM SCENE! They wouldn't let me. What's worse, someone insisted on pulling my friends out of the movie, which was the last thing I wanted. Ignominious doesn't begin to describe it. But yeah, Twilight is incredibly good.


When I went to find these pictures on the camera, I discovered that Slim has been taking all sorts of nocturnal pictures.
Strange still-lifes:

And self-portraits!

Another Small Pleasure

This is in the hall of our otherwise ugly building. I covet it.

Great Minds

Rape of Europa, the documentary about Nazis stealing art, is on 13 now. I saw it in theatres last year; really good. I called my dad to rec it; of course he is watching!

I also went by Bonecrusher's apt but he's out or not answering. Last week, within the space of 20 minutes, he told Slim of great military feats (his); that his family were Polish aristocrats before the Communists took all their holdings; and that his grandfather saved all sorts of Jews during the war. Each plausible, I suppose, but it's a lot to swallow...anyway, it seemed that given these antecedents he might have a vested interest in the looting of Warsaw...or at least the routing of Nazis!


My neighborhood is not picturesque. But there is beauty everywhere...

Something Great

This is the stove and fridge the next door neighbors threw out last week. Can you imagine?! I would commit crimes for an apartment with such a kitchen...and when you think what they probably replaced it with...

I snuck in to get a picture of the decal on the fridge. It breaks my heart.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Just had a silly argument with Slim, in which he claimed that Joni Mitchell was better than Mozart. I disagreed.

In the immortal words of my dearest friend Eloise, "Joni Mitchell is many things - horrible among them - but at the end of the day her edge of bitchy self-regard keeps her from real Amazing Girl status."

"I think fur softens the face, don't you?"

Cold, cold day here! I wore my beautiful new coat to Economy Candy to get the stuff for my fruitcake and although they had 1/2 pound minimum I managed to walk away (mixed fruits, raisins, sultanas, currants, citron and cherries) for under $10! Our pleasures are small...and what I'll do with the extra 6 oz. of citron is anyone's guess.

Someone asked me to pose for "Vogue Korea" - some gal on the street thing, obviously the coat - but of course then I realized afterwards that I had ink all over my nose. I also had ink on my nose the one time I actually spoke to Baby Dayliner (who, yes, was obviously my pick for the blog's hot list today.)

On the subway home (a young woman was thumbing through a 1950s book called Can Our Cities Survive?) I found myself sharing a pole with a couple, both of whom seemed to be out of work writers, one a sportswriter. They were talking about whether starting blogs might be a good idea.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The landlord came by this afternoon to fix the fan and made us do shots of this honey-infused vodka which he claimed was "medicinal," which kind of had an adverse effect on the rest of my work day.

This evening I had to pinch-hit for my mom at an event where my grandpa was getting an award. It was at the Players Club (several good portraits of Edwin Booth) and the hors d'oeuvres were sparse. There were seven count em seven awards presented, each of which required the introduction of the person giving the award, who then in turn gave the award to the recipient, who of course gave a speech. Grabbed a bite afterwards with my dad at a tavern once favored by O. Henry, now favored by douchebags. I explained to my dad the concept of the Murray Hill Set.

I feel a bit sick.

Have You Ever Seen

Style by Jury, the makeover show on NBC? The premise is basically that of that awful TLC show, Ten Years Younger (strangers evaluate the makeover candidate pre-and post-makeover.) SBJ is Canadian, I think. It's very, very depressing - the candidates are somehow much worse off than on any other makeover show I've ever seen, maybe because they have come on the show voluntarily. They're very much in need of making over, true, but generally so beaten down, or nerdy, or unhappy, that you wonder how much help a week can provide.(And the makeovers aren't so great, frankly; the haircuts are always kind of frumpy, even when the women are very young.) For some reason, I can't stop watching it.
So, when I was at Lincoln Center on Sunday before Love for Three Oranges there were, as always in New York, a bunch of music lovers/derelicts (it's very hard to say) begging for extra tickets outside Avery Fischer Hall. One elderly woman was particularly abrasive and demanding and when one gentleman refused to surrender his ticket to her she muttered, "They won't let me in the Met, either. Fucking assholes."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Do you know...

I took a long walk earlier, trying to knock myself out of my doldrums and wondering whether to start my fruitcakes tonight (I like this recipe.) I called my folks but I didn't like to worry them - they are concerned I'm always on the brink of getting very depressed, as I did when I was 23 - and then I came home and thought I'd try to write it out, instead, and when I logged on I saw such kindness here - it was like a bracing tonic.

You know, I have mixed feelings about negative feedback on the internet. On the one hand, I always marvel that people will expend the energy to try to get someone fired (!) over a fashion feature, but at the same time, the sort of work we do is for others' entertainment, and if we are not doing a good job of it, I do feel they are within their rights, provided they're courteous. I know I take things too hard, but I do think that's just some peoples' temperament, and it's a sad truth that not every temperament is calibrated to the new media!

There are several things to feel good about:
-The very handsome vintage stove the neighbors are getting rid of (also heartbreaking)
-The hooded fur jacket I found for Maeve
-The performance of 'Love For Three Oranges' I saw yesterday; also, good lunch at La Bonne Soupe with my mom beforehand; also, good pumpkin macaron from Bouchon Bakery.

I have to tell you: I am quite concerned about Christmas. I'm going to Los Angeles for M's parents' annual party in December and I'm terrified. I don't know what to wear (it's skirts and festive tops, that kind of thing) or what to bring as a hostess gift. I'll bring a small fruitcake (Dr. C likes them) plus some homemade candy (probably candied peel, fudge and buttercrunch) but I wish I could think of something slightly more personal and significant. I mean, I'm hardly going to put together a scrapbook, but in spirit I almost wish that was within my powers. My mother suggested I write them a story, which is quite possibly the worst idea I've ever heard.

As for gifts proper, I've commissioned three Bevin Strand Millinery turbans from Maeve (her real name), for M's mother and two sisters, and who wouldn't be delighted to get that? (They really are the most flattering shape imaginable and crocheted from the softest wools.) My mother directed me towards a website that lists a number of excellent products hand-made by monasteries and abbeys. There's a fruitcake that sounds maybe (oddly) I'll give his dad two fruitcakes and we can compare and contrast. It's made by the sister abbey to the one, I think, where Thomas Merton was (?) and since Dr. C is a convert to Catholicism, this may appeal to him. On the other hand, it may not at all and I'll just seem strange, and now you just know GK4 Former Fiance's going to tell me Merton was somewhere completely different.

I Get So Upset

I get so upset when people write in to the site where I work to complain about my work. Someone just did this - to the whole editorial list - to say I was so bad I ought to be replaced. I know I should not mind, but it has made me cry and I am so shaken up I don't know what to do. I'll try to do better work I guess...I don't know. I wrote her a note explaining that it's not so straightforwad as it seems and that I would welcome her constructive ideas, but...gosh, I am so unhappy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Going Strange

There is no denying it. After less than a month of working almost exclusively from home, my eccentricities are multiplying at an exponential rate. First came the strange sartorial impulses - turbans, pompadours, kimonos - and now I realize I've fallen into the obsessive cooking that characterizes the onsets of my manic periods. In the past week I have made:

A braised pork shoulder (with mashed potatoes and celery root; roast parsnips and carrots)
Eggplant Parmesan
Shepherd's Pie
Apple Crisp
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Pumpkin Bread
Banana Bread

...and an identical level of productivity for the preceding weeks. Do I eat it? No. My own menus are as circumscribed as ever: 90% yogurt, 5% coffee, 5% salad - pure predilection and habit - but the sense of purpose and achievement I get from cooking is addictive, and the compulsion to cook for loved ones to show my dedication is equally unhealthy.

I am going to alert Slim to this and ask him to assume cooking a few nights a week (lentils here I come!) and stick to the plan of only what we both need. There is nothing wrong with cooking for pleasure and nourishment, but compulsion is never healthy.

This week I'm set to go out almost every night with different friends which is, I suspect, a very good thing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Full moon tonight!

Have seen no evidence of moon madness in Greenpoint, although I did see a bum smoking a cigarillo in the subway.

Another Day

From IM:

GK4: Would you be amenable to allowing me to share a bed with you and Matt, in a non-sexual way?
me: Nope.
GK4: Really?

Bad Move

Having watched Rosemary's Baby at the Film Forum on Sunday, was moved to peg all my trousers last night. Yes, by hand. And in case you're wondering: sucks to Mia, there's this scene where Ruth Gordon shows up in slacks and a button-down and beads and a scarf and, well, it's pure black magic. Which has nothing to say to the matter in November.

Guess What I'm Trying To Do?

Pen a "Modern Love." It is very hard and embarrassing!

Maybe I've been reading too many self-centered NYT Magazine essays lately, because today I was a total downer. First I wrote this preachy thing about Joan Didion and New York Intellectuals. Then I upped the fun with this self-serious account of my grandfather's suicide. Most out of character - I hope!

I have a terrible feeling this self-seriousness was prompted by a few things that happened yesterday. You see, I went to this panel discussion at the NYPL and it was absolutely awful and as I told Slim, it was :my college as some free jazz fusion thing:Wesleyan. By which I mean, everyone I went to school with was there basking in self-congratulation and chuckling at cheap jokes about Palin. Joan Didion was great. She validates all of us who are unable experience pure euphoria untempered by caution, but still manage to feel a real joy if that makes sense - yes, even if she is fifty years my senior! I like to think she was always that way. But for the most part it was pretty icky ("I think we all know what Leon Wieseltier meant when he said he had to give away his tickets to a performance of some late Shostakovich quartets, 'because for once I was not interested in the despair.'")Anyway, I saw a guy I know there who said, 'You're obviously not covering this for work' and generally managed to make his scorn known (not deliberately, I know.) Then I ran into a girl fresh out of school who was highly opinionated about the site and seemed to feel she should just be able to march in and write for it, and that I ought be able to arrange this. Neither of these people was in the wrong, precisely - she was young, and he moves in a different world - but I fear they conspired to trivialize what it is we all work so hard on, and knowing that's unworthy of me may invalidate, but doesn't nullify, the emotion. Of course, the power of new media is that it feels democratic, and everyone truly is entitled to an opinion and a bit of ownership. If we make it look easy - and I don't, but I do think some of my colleagues manage it - it means we're doing something right.

But! Tomorrow means bucking up and a good deal less nonsense, my girl.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Dirty Weather

Just finished an okay book: Arthur Phillips' Angelica. Absorbing enough, but like so much modern fiction, hardly pleasurable. And quite frankly, I'm a bit tired of random first-person narrators (in this case a turn-of-the-20th-C actress) speaking in the voice of 21st Century MFAs. (He could have taken a page from Nights At The Circus in that regard.) In general, there was a sort of elliptical telling-not-showing that grated on me. And Americans writing like Victorian English-people almost never get it exactly right, just as American dialogue is always slightly off in a Richard Curtis film. But for all that, a lot to admire.

It is so cold and rainy that I'm rapidly giving up an idea I had for an ambitious walk across the bridge into Manhattan and a few miles once there to this particular custard-filled donut only available on weekends. I need perfume; there is an expensive coat I'd like to visit; there are several interesting buildings I'd like to examine; but really there is no rush.

Friday, November 7, 2008

As Regards Housing...

Slim and I are considering a Real Estate Venture. Not just us; some friends, too. (Apparently there's some way to do it so that you don't all end up in court when things go sour and you have separate mortgages or something.) We'd each have an apartment within the building, if we can find a building that's sufficiently tempting and affordable. Yes, this is exactly what it will look like.

Some of Gaudi's more rustic work reminded me of Arts and Crafts cottages like this one, Stoneywell (Ernest Gibson, 1898) and I wanted to show it to you.

Another Good Movie

Last night caught the last showing of Hiroshi Teshigahara's 1984 Antoni Gaudi documentary at the Film Forum. I loved it. It's nothing but a silent imagescape of Gaudi's architecture, but it's riveting. Slim thinks some of the later buildings look like 60s drip candles, but I loved them: they reminded me of northern California forests, with their redwoods and Spanish moss and lichens. It is amazing to think that 1)19th Century patrons gave Gaudi such autonymy and so many resources and 2)there were so many skilled artisans just hanging around that he was able to put up such a staggering number of finely wraught buildings, each of which looks like a lifetime's work. Inspired me for the first time with a powerful desire to go to Barcelona, whereas before I just felt I should. I also found the Sagrada Temple a compelling argument for Catholicism. Well, for a few moments.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The neighbors have suddenly put a jack o' lantern on the stoop, four days after Halloween. There may be a language barrier issue.

I wonder what they think about election day?

Many people in the neighborhood probably aren't citizens; there was no wait at all at my polling station, in the basement of the public school on Monitor Street.

I want it to end! No matter what happens, I can never take any pleasure in some people's disappointments. Comes of growing up in such a politically fraught house, I guess; in small ways there's rarely ever a full 'victory.' Democracy's not made for such things, but I'm glad that for the next few months at least some people can pretend it is. That's important, and it's contagious, too.


I got sick on Halloween; even the cab driver scolded me for going home at midnight! But I did muster the energy to conjure an apparently completely unrecognizable Liz Taylor and hit the town very softly with the Bull Market, David the Gnome, Swift the Fox and various other revelers. Saw some good music through my sniffles but didn't much fancy back-staging it(never my scene in the best of health.) I don't think there's another situation that makes me quite so uncomfortable, in fact.

In other news: Just finished Ladies and Gentlemen the Bronx is Burning, which I fancy would be pretty dull to anyone who lived through it but an awfully fun survey for those of us inclined to romanticize 70s New York. Now working my way through An Untold Story, Elliott Roosevelt's memoir. It's absolutely fascinating, given what a trustworthy narrator he seems to be, a revelation. He wrote the book as a means redressing the mythologies he saw growing up around his parents' marriage: to hear him tell it, Eleanor, for all her worthiness, was a cold, remote narcissist, despised by her children; Franklin a loving father hungry for love. The portraits of FDR's relationships with Lucy Mercer and Eleanor with her lady friends are especially vivid.

Movie: Black Narcissus

I just saw Black Narcissus last night for the first time, despite my love of both the novel and Michael Powell. Well, I loved it: I can't remember enjoying a movie more. Yes, Sabu, Gene Simmons and May Hallatt all being the same South Asian nationality is somewhat implausible, but it's a testament to the overall power and atmosphere of the film that this didn't bother me. And Kathleen Byron! I wish I could see it again for the first time; I envy anyone who still has that to look forward to.

RIP Yma Sumac!