Friday, November 27, 2009

The Most Depressing Sentence I've Ever Uttered

Wednesday, I happened to pop into one of my favorite clothing stores to purchase a long-considered pair of black tap shorts. "That's a big bag," said the girl who works there. "What's in it?"

"Oh," I said, "some antidepressants and a Snuggie."

Now, the fact that this was true doesn't change the utter desolation of the words. The Snuggie in question was a birthday gift for my dad; the antidepressants were, of course, for me.

The next morning - Thanksgiving day - was one of those occasions where I could have used a full-length mirror. I hadn't thought that the new shorts, with opaque tights and a pair of high-heeled booties, would look anything but decorous. And it didn't occur to me that, in combination with the short fur-collared coat I found at that thrift store in Baltimore and which I judged a good weight for the day, it would look distinctly like I was wearing no pants. And I speak as a strong proponent of the "tights-are-not-pants" movement!

(You see the problem.)

Anyway, I set out bright and early with a rather lopsided pumpkin pie for the Bowery Mission. The first hints that something was amiss came from some side-eyes on the subway. And then I reached the Bowery, and walked the gauntlet of hundreds of hungry lechers and the chorus of whistles, leers, and catcalls. The fact that my pie bag was leopard-printed may not have helped. I was deeply shamed, and as a Samaritan, an abject failure.

However, the snuggie was a big hit.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Christmas List

- Membership to the Film Forum There are two reasons a membership here's a good thing: first, if I'm going so often that it would make better economic sense and, second, if it's a series I wouldn't necessarily see on my own steam but should see for my film education and will see if I feel I need to justify the membership!

- Roald Dahl's Cookbook Roald Dahl, as one might gather from his writings, was a keen and idiosyncratic cook. But I didn't think seriously about acquiring this book until I tried the butter cookies reprinted in Simon Hopkinson's "Butter" chapter. It was, indeed, both excellent and bizarre. And because it's not printed in this country, strictly wish-list department!

- Many Are Called by Walker Evans. This book is beautiful

-Tam cocktail hat Anyone who knows me knows of my enthusiasm for a) tam o'shanters and b) cocktail hats. Et voila!

-Subscription to Gentlewoman This is beautiful and exorbitant and would be an act of rank extravagance if I were to buy it for myself.

-Goodbye, Babylon There was a terrific New Yorker profile on the making of this and I've wanted it for ages, but it's so pricey that it's more in the realm of fantasy gifts. Not that I begrudge the company the price! It's a husband-and-wife pair of music nuts who stick a cotton ball in each box. The wild kind, I mean, not the drugstore kind. A pod?

I have coveted a miniature orange tree since, at the age of 10 or so, I entered the apartment of my aunt's upstairs neighbor and fell in love. She was -and is, I daresay - an elegant single lady whose apartment seemed to me the apotheosis of sophisticated adulthood. Several things made an indelible impression: the rattan matting on the floor; the light flooding the place; the green satin comforter on the bed; and, of course, that orange tree, heavy with dainty fruit. The ripe oranges, in turn, had been transformed into a bowl of tiny pomanders.

The New York Review of Books
Classics Collection
is gluttonous, and rank folly even for those of us who don't have piles of books on the floor and plenty of these editions to boot, and who feel there's something of "books-by-the-yard" about it and suspect in any case that some classics are "minor" and "undiscovered" for a reason. Nevertheless, if wishes were trees and genies existed.

Weekend Thoughts

It is so so so good to be back to my old self. My old self, of course, is a bit on the frenetic side: everything thrills me, from getting a seat on the subway, to not getting a seat on the subway, to the surprisingly delicious Entemann's madeleines, to the light hitting the leaves outside the window...basically, a constant state of euphoria. I'm perhaps more aware of that when I've just come out of a bad patch; I'm forever thinking "I'm happy!" to cement a moment in my mind. Yesterday it was going over the river on the J train at sundown.

Last night I made a mental list of the more intriguing moments of the weekend. Here were a few hilights:

-Exploring a suspiciously cheap little house in the neighborhood that we may or may not buy even though it's a terrible idea and has no pipes. Inside, I found old schoolbooks from the 1930s, and a little toy toaster, which the agent - or whoever he was - let me keep.

-The very intense nerd at the 4th Street Co-op talking about Kennedy assassination theories in a vintage suit with an old hippie.

-Singing a duet of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" with the butcher at Fairway.

-Leaving Slim for five minutes outside a Yorkville bar watching the Steelers game, only to find him doing tequila shots with the creative director of Louis Vuitton (who can only watch football when his boyfriend's out of town.)

-And, of course, my very favorite subway performer in the whole world, Professor Eduardo Alvarado.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


As you all know, I am always on the lookout for a good, creepy Gothic horror film. I'd not heard of 1995's Haunted, which went straight to video in the U.S., but having stumbled upon it tonight, I can recommend it highly. There are similiarities and disappointments, to be sure, but it's genuinely creepy, involves a stunning mansion, is set in the 1928 English countryside, and stars Anthony "Sebastien Flyte" Andrews (well, okay, it actually stars Aidan Quinn and Kate Beckinsale, but AA is in there, plus a producer.) It's definitely one of the better modern horror flicks I've run across.

Was reminded to revisit "The Uninvited" after a number of commenters mentioned it, and while "Stella's" blatantly Californian accent still bothered me, it's good! (The same night, I watched "Dragonwyck," and while goofy, it definitely made for an atmospheric double-feature for a rainy evening.)

But please do look up Haunted if you have any taste for these sorts of things, and then tell me what you think! (Incidentally, it's available on surfthechanne...)
So my longer-but-not-commercial project comes along apace. I have also started making a doll spin yarns in front of the computer's video camera, but that's just for my own pleasure.

Do suspect I'll make a meatloaf tonight provided the requisite mix is available at the Key Food, by no means guaranteed. Slim has been taking probiotics like nobody's business in an effort to digest beef, and this is a part of the scheme.

How come nobody ever comments here and just lurks? It's very voyeuristic, not that I blame you. I never comment on anyone's blog either.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chronicle of a Death Foretold

No no, not mine! Although anyone treated to the recent blow-by-blow accounts of a troubled mind would be forgiven for thinking so. (Scratch that, it would be far too eventful for this blog.)

The death in question is my grandfather's. He's preoccupied with it. I was up there Monday evening and he mentioned his funeral (2x) and various things he'd never see again (namely Paris, East Hampton.) He said he wanted his funeral to be funny, so I suggested we find the strange aging hippie who crashed my great-aunt's funeral at Riverside Memorial and broke into an a cappella version of "The Water is Wide."

Now, this sort of talk (somewhere between raging against the dying of the light and just talking about the dying of the light a lot) is less random than it might be in some people: the gentleman in question did live through WWI, not that he'd thank me for mentioning it. Also, after a life of unimpeachable health, has in recent months suffered a bad fall and a series of resultant malfunctions that have depressed him mightily. Nevertheless, I can't remember ever laughing more than we did on Monday. He's a testament to positive thinking, humor and optimism, that's for sure. And if he ever heard me say anything so trite, he'd have a particularly cutting one-liner at the ready, so there you go.

So I'll profit by his example and tell you about some of the things I've been doing. Well, after seeing them, I went downtown and decided I'd go to the bar that's been called the "New Beatrice Inn" based on its alleged exclusivity and absurdity. So I went there, because why not. It proved disappointingly easy to get into and not full pf beautiful people at all, maybe because it was 10 pm on a Monday and I understand that beautiful people keep late hours. So I went to Corner Bistro with Slim and had a bacon cheeseburger.

Then, last night (after a dinner at the Pearl Oyster Bar with my brother, POB being one of the few food-related things that seems to interest him) saw, with Sylvia, La Danse the 172-minute documentary on the Paris Opera Ballet so engrossing that by the end I felt like I, personally, had been dancing with muscular grace for more than two hours and was mildly surprised to find myself completely out of shape and decidedly...corporeal. The week before, Sylvia and I had been to see The Red Shoes and agreed that between the two we felt we'd learned all there was to know about ballet and understood it to be hard. Sylvia, with whom I used to work, is a young woman of unfailing poise and serenity who is one of the few people in the world who loves both Rumer Godden and Powell-Pressberger as much as I, lurid as both can be.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

First things first: Emma Fletcher (she of Lyell)'s diffusion line for Urban Outfitters is very, very good and all I can say is that if I had a proper office job, I'd drink deep.

Now, followers of this space know that my genetic gifts include manic depression which, along with migraines, I inherited from my mom's side. (Family bromides, unconvincingly, have always had it that they went along with keen intelligence, but there's family bromides for you.) In prior generations, this meant periodic stints in various southern mental institutions and, ultimately, suicide, but given that my mother thought to thin the strain with a dose of New York Jewry, in my case we've substituted weekly visits to an Upper West Side psychiatrist and antidepressants which only make me gain some weight and so are, apparently, better than they might be.

Nevertheless, there are a few dark days every month. You'd think this would have something to do with hormones, but I can't remember a time when it wasn't so and I was stubbornly ahormonal for the bulk of my youth. Now it's a bit more predictable, is all, so I can batten down the hatches, as it were. I filled this past week with friends and activity. I reread all of Betsy-Tacy. I laid in canned tomatoes. The first bout hit on Friday night, so I absented myself from the company, took a sleeping pill so I could sleep through the desolation, and rode it out. (While other people snap you out of it a little, this is risky: an impatient remark from another shopper at the Fairway can lead to spontaneous sobbing, which is very embarrassing for everyone involved.) This morning, Slim and I took one of our long walks around the neighborhood, in which we explore new streets (because, you know, otherwise they won't be discovered by the people who inhabit them) and made as our goal a new French bakery which proved to not be anything special (except that its location, under the el, was strange); had enormous, puffy croissants; was possessed of a highly sophisticated computer ordering system despite having only one employee and three seats; and is apparently something of a beacon to young Caucasians. Indeed, it was lousy with them. And you could buy Camel lites at the bodega next door, which just goes to show. (Like a tourist, I did.)

Maybe that set off the next bout, because it was a bad one. (The fellow at the next table had very low pants and no underpants if you know what I mean, which helped exactly nothing.) When low times hit, and going to bed is not an option, there are a few things I must do, and primary amongst these is walking. (Everyone has his own coping mechanisms, I imagine.) If I can walk enough to exhaust myself, it's usually okay. I try to avoid talking to people or going into stores to avoid accumulating what today's NYT puzzle might call 7 Down, although I still found myself in Murray's Cheese and bought lots of strange, expensive things. (Also, I cried a little, but not because anyone was unkind.) Then I wandered into a Barnes and Noble and bought a copy of John Thorne's book, which proved to be the very best thing I could have done. John Thorne, for the uninitiated, is a food writer, highly eccentric and lacking in all preciousness and beloved by professionals. He is the sort who, while he's game for fine food and any unusual ingredient, is equally passionate about idiosyncratic midnight snacks and the charms of Budget Gourmet Swedish meatballs, which is very refreshing to those of us who enjoy the occasional jar of Ragu, straight from the bodega, with a healthy glug of good olive oil on top, and eaten with a spoon. I read all the way home, and then some. I read and read, and dog-eared pages, and by the end felt much more myself and hungry too, both good things. In other words, and to make a long story short, I recommend it highly.

(In frustrating news, the pumpkin ravioli from Murray's Cheese was as sweet and pumpkin-pie-like as it is everywhere else, and NYC-area Chowhounds have been spectacularly unhelpful in answering my query for "Great, SAVORY Pumpkin Ravioli" even though I posted it on the "What's My Craving," "Manhattan," and "Outer Boroughs" boards.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Super-manic lately! I wouldn't mind except that you know a crash is coming. For me, it's just like amphetamines: restlessness, tingling hands and feet, racing thoughts, inability to sleep and loss of appetite. (During these periods I stock up on Ronnybrook yogurt drinks, the thinking manic's Ensure.) It starts with wild bouts of cooking and baking, segues into weird sassiness to strangers and then settles into a week or so of furious activity. This morning when the alarm went off, I popped up grinning like a jack o' lantern. "Oh, no, The Mania!" said Slim.

I call the mania Rolly Quicklegs, after a small lizard Charlie and I cornered in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1988.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Strong Words

Here's an exchange between me and a reader:

What an interesting article from an interesting website - taking on psychologically rich and complex material like Project Runway! Chelsea Handler! wow, the depth gives one pause. So, reading your armchair therapist moment about Joyce Maynard was especially powerful in its earnest critique of one mother's self-disclosing style and her daughter having a feelings about it.

Clearly, you have strong feelings. About something... Mad Men plotlines? A line skirts? I do hope you continue your cutting edge journalism. What a talent! Your mother must be so proud!

Thanks for sharing!

I responded,


I don't know what you've gained by such a personal criticism of me. If you have some more specific issue to discuss, I'd be interested to hear it, but this seems nothing but nasty and unpleasant. I'm sorry if I or the site has offended you, but I don't know what you hope to achieve by being abusive. Again, if you'd really like to address anything, I'd be more than glad.

As ever,


She didn't respond! So I wrote again:

Happy Halloween. I must confess, I'm surprised not to have heard from you again. Just as I understand that by writing in a public forum I leave myself open to criticism, I think you probably recognize that in writing me as you did you welcomed further dialogue. I thought about your letter a lot today - not because it was thought-provoking (cruelty rarely is) but because it amazed me that you would feel angry enough to send it. When one receives a note such as yours, there's a sort of Kubler-Ross process. At first it's just a punch in the gut, a physical hurt. Then there is sadness, and you'll be glad to know that you made me cry. Then anger and the urge to lash out. People say to ignore emails like yours, the thinking being that they're not worth dignifying. I can't do that; for one thing, I think anyone who takes the time to write me deserves the courtesy of a personal response. And more than that: it's so important that you realize that when you write like that, diminish a person's livelihood, make cracks about their talent, their parents, diminish them in every way you know how - there are consequences. Even if having a bad day, week, or year, you simply don't, even in this age of the internet, have the right to write cruel and personal things to another person, at her personal email address, and think there's not an actual, feeling person on the other end. I just can't wrap my mind around why an obviously intelligent and thoughtful woman would do so. I hope if ever you have that impulse again, you'll remember that there's a real person out there. And sometimes, we're a little crazy.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

She responded:

Dear Sadie,

I guess we both are standing in wonder. Mainly, I am amazed by your language. Did you know what article I was commenting on? I’m cruel and abusive? Your letters sound like they couldn’t have been written by someone as insensitive as the writer of “Holy underlying tension Batman!” and “an act of veiled aggression”. I wrote to you because I found your article so typical of what I don’t like about the internet media spinning around right now. I , unlike you, didn’t choose to make my grumbling public. You wrote what I found to be a snarky, condescending critique about a writer. Not her work, but her. My reaction is to this type of trashing which seems to be on the rise. Ms. Maynard has her way of writing that some will love and some will hate. Our opinions about that are fair game, as you say, because we choose to put it in the public forum. But you didn’t comment on a writer’s work other than multiple snide references to “oversharing”. You passed judgment on a person, and made your own interpretations about a mother and a daughter. Did you ever consider that they were real people?

You may be shocked that your presumption that I wanted you to cry is not true. Like the subjects of your article, you don’t actually know me. I’m not cruel, and I don’t want to make you cry. I did presume you’d have a thicker skin if you’re wielding the kind of pen you seem very comfortable with on your website. I didn’t notice any concern for your subjects feelings, any concern for consequences to real people you write about publicly. Since you seem game for a dialogue, instead of telling me how sadistic I am, where is your moral compass when you pick apart and read into other people? Not their work, but the people themselves. The only thought I had was that you feel they are fair game for anything you want to say, consequences be damned. You said it best :

It's so important that you realize that when you write like that, diminish a person's livelihood, make cracks about their talent, their parents, diminish them in every way you know how - there are consequences.

I’d like more honesty in these cute little articles, not the bee-bee shots from a high horse. Your letters made clear to me that I inadvertently sent you a dose of what I saw you distributing, mean-spirited commentary. In equal amounts of sincerity, I apologize for offending you.

Here is the so-offensive post.