3 things for today

1. I started DVR'ing Hart to Hart nightly on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel and now I skim through two episodes while I eat dinner (I seldom make it the whole way through one, because it's not very good).

I loved this show as a child but now I see it's also insane. I mean literally insane. How do married millionaires, one of whom is a purported titan of industry and the other of whom is a journalist, just accept this amount of regular mayhem in their lives? Why don't they ask more questions? Why aren't they more suspicious of their chosen circle of friends, since they are constantly being targeted for theft and/or violence by sketchy acquaintances whose glittering evening soirées or glamorous international weddings they inexplicably agree to attend?

One of them (usually Jennifer) is nearly murdered in every episode, not to mention A) fallen in love with by obsessive strangers or lawyers or B) employed as an unwitting drug mule in situations involving either Freeway the dog or Max the manservant. And they go on so many cruises! How do they have any time for jobs? What kind of crackpot enterprise is funding all these trips?

Also there's often an inappropriately lighthearted sexcapade going on relative to storyline content: for example, Jonathan had amnesia in one episode last week and couldn't remember who Jennifer even was, yet not only did the two of them continue to share a bed, I'm pretty sure there was hanky panky happening. Now I'm no psychoanalyst but that seemed mentally unwise and a little creepy, and it made zero sense to boot. Yet I adore it! It's probably the greatest thing ever to happen to me so far this month.

2. I get access to the NYT Cooking site along with my digital subscription to the paper and have found the reader comments to be peerless. I make a lot of recipes from their app and always check the comments first; some are legitimately helpful in avoiding catastrophes, but mostly they're either angry or overly prescriptive or both: "Mark Bittman is a moron! Why would you ever follow his directions and broil this chicken?? It should be baked at 350 degrees for 10,000 hours!" or "You're boiling water all wrong, dumbo." Some lady left a recipe for overnight oatmeal inside a comment on a recipe for cold-brewed iced coffee, and it was like following the hamster right around the wheel, or witnessing an audience Q&A session after a reading or theatrical performance; i.e., bananas as always. 

3. Something I meant to say earlier: I write here because it’s my space (lol <3, RIP), and anyone who visits does so with intent. It’s not me shoving this in your Facebook and expecting you to care, although obviously I do that, too. Om Malik calls blogs "thought spaces," and his post today touches on something similar:

What people don’t realize about blogs is that they are never a complete story. They are incomplete and by nature more mysterious, more episodic, and thus more interesting. Blogs are meant not to leave you with everything. The whole idea is to think, to deliberate, and to come back again and again, to finish what was started a long time ago. But there is no end, just a pause, for a voice to start, talking again.

Amy Bloom: on humor

Sarah Anne Johnson interviews Amy Bloom in Conversations with American Women Writers:

Q: You often use humor to diffuse an emotionally intense situation, and at the same time to create pathos, or a sense of the real sadness underlying the attempt at humor and the need for humor in a given situation. For instance, in "Silver Water," the scenes with the therapists, especially Big Nut, are funny in spite of the gravity of the situation. Are you aware of this as you work, or does it just come out at certain times? How does humor work in your fiction?

A: I don't see that much as diffusing the sadness of the situation. There is humor in grief. Funny things happen in hospitals. That's just how it is. I don't think that life is composed of sad moments, which are sad, in which bad things have happened to good people, and happy moments, in which good things have happened to good people. So for me, there being humor in the midst of difficulty and pain is not an attempt to either lighten the pain, or change the focus, or make a comment on it. It's the way it is. To me it's no different than the idea that there are both flowers and weeds in the garden. I don't feel like if I see weeds in the garden, I think, That's an interesting comment on the flowers. I think, That'd be because it's a garden.

Real talk

True confession: sometimes I edit or delete posts that make me seem too vulnerable, or lonely, or scared or sad or messy or dumb. The ones that show the faces I don’t want the world to see. They're honest faces, but of course I'm as much a fraud as everybody else on the internet or the planet and prefer to tuck the garbage away. But the garbage follows. This is called—no surprise—life.

I’m not a great thinker or a comedian or a copyblogger or a productivity hack or Oprah living her best life, but I do process things by writing them down and for some reason I like to write them down here, on this stupid blog, which is akin to stripping behind a one-way mirror: you can convince yourself pretty easily that there's nobody out there watching, which is an enormous lie. Even if it's only 20 people watching, naked is naked, man! And every single thing I write here reveals more than I intend it to. But I think that's okay. It's okay to stumble along. I’m just one chick who’s had a pretty easy time of it, all things considered, but I'm still looking for a way through. Just like everybody else on the internet or the planet. So I’ll keep trying, and I’ll keep showing up. I mean honestly, where else would I go?

To be or not to be

On one hand: some people might argue that posting only when I have something "important" or "thoughtful" to say would be the true path to righteousness, writing-wise.

On the other hand: write! every! day! say many other people. Writing begets writing and any way forward has to be marked with drafts and mistakes and general, plodding, quotidian dullness: the simple act of attending is all.

Aside: interesting semi-related theory:

My personal rule is that if you aren’t quite certain that a certain action will be good for you and the world, you shouldn’t do it. Do nothing, which is likely to be pleasant and unlikely to hurt anyone. Few atrocities have been committed by people lying in bed, whereas the urge to Do Something has led to serious catastrophe. Productivity is extremely dangerous.

On the other hand: here's Katrina Lenk performing "If I Were a Rich Man," which is your reward for showing up:

Side effects

No joke. From the New York Times:

Could common prescription medications be contributing to depression and rising suicide rates?

Over one-third of Americans take at least one prescription drug that lists depression as a potential side effect, a new study reports, and users of such drugs have higher rates of depression than those who don’t take such drugs.

Many patients are taking more than one drug that has depression as a side effect, and the study found that the risk of depression increased with each additional such drug taken at the same time.

In the last few years I had to go cold turkey on birth control pills and more than one asthma medication (inhalers, antihistamines) because I could tell they were messing with my brain. I recognized pretty quickly that ongoing, daily, seemingly bottomless slack-jawed depression and intense fits of weeping were 100% not the norm for me—and was lucky enough to pinpoint what was causing them—but it felt like a very slippery downhill slope. I’m certainly not advocating this route for all peoples, but it’s important to be aware of, and pay attention to.

Forward by

I'm sitting on the sofa in my pajamas at 11:58 a.m. I just finished my lunch (farro topped with these Jodhpur lentils from Tasty Bites; tiny peppers; banana) and have nowhere to be until 7:30 p.m. (The Cher Show, if you can believe it!). I had two recruiter calls scheduled for today; one of them failed to call and the other I pushed back to next week as I'm preparing for two real interviews on Thursday and those jobs aren't going to get themselves.

Is this any way to live a life?

I awoke later than usual (6:30 a.m.) and was immediately in a bad mood, for hormone reasons. I was ready to be crabby all day, to lean in to some generalized, zero-proportion rage, but as I microwaved my morning oatmeal I heard Lin Brehmer on XRT say "The world is changing, bro" as he led into a song—from what I could tell, apropos of nothing—and I laughed out loud, on and off, for the next half an hour. Naturally this torpedoed all my previous plans, which included no smiling again, ever. I told my friend Groucho once that Lin Brehmer is the only man I would consider marrying, and it's still true. I really, really love Lin Brehmer (an already-married man I do not know and despite all this evidence to the contrary have no plans to stalk). Keep this news between yourself and this blog, thanks.

+ I'm reading this Grand Forks book of restaurant reviews by that lady who took all the heat for writing about the Olive Garden way back when, and who Anthony Bourdain championed and then rewarded with a publishing contract. It's quite charming but many of the reviews, which date back to the mid-80s, include italicized, no-context "where are they now?" disclaimers at the end that are severely heartbreaking. A small sampling:

  •  "At the Tomahawk, They Roast the Whole Turkey, People Go to the Highway Cafe for the Kind of Meals They Used to Eat at Home: Meat, Potatoes, Pie": Marilyn says Tomahawk has closed down, and there is no new restaurant in its place.
  • "Sonja's Hus Has Cheery Blue and Red Norwegian Decor": The Regency Inn and Sonja's Hus no longer operate in East Grand Forks.
  • "Frenchy's Cabaret Has New Menu with Combo Options": Hubert 'Frenchy' LaCrosse closed Frenchy's in the mid-1990s.
  • "Mr. Steak Aims to Be the Gathering Place for Birthdays": Mr. Steak is no longer in business.
  • "Neon Lights, Burgers, Malts Are Topper's Trademarks": Topper's succumbed to a fire and the site is now home to a bank.

Jesus Christ! She also reports that Mr. Steak served an average of 100 to 110 free birthday steaks every week, so maybe it's no surprise they're out of business. More than anything else this book is a good reminder that most restaurants started out as somebody's dream, which was then ground into the dirt by the fickle and unknowable appetites of humanity.

3 things for today

1. Oh, Monday. Will we ever stop hating each other?

2. I shopped for slips over the weekend. It did not go well! Spanx and its Spanx-like shapewear hell spawn have swallowed the world—perhaps you've noticed. (Related marketing pitch: have you always wanted to store your kidneys under your clavicle? You're in luck! Try Spanx!) 

3. Sidenote: I enjoy fashion and makeup and many of the accoutrements that accompany traditional western notions of female social display, but just once I'd like to know what it feels like to go through an entire day without thinking about what I need to pluck, suck, push, pull, cover, hide, shorten, lengthen, lighten, darken, reveal, conceal, wrap, weigh, constrain, or contain.

4. Sorry, back to Spanx: what a heinous pile of horseshit to make women believe for even an instant that they need to choose between breathing and simply feeling good in their clothes. There aren't enough curse words in the world to cover how I feel about this specific issue. The same goes for anti-aging products, btw, which as far as I can tell apply exclusively to the ladies. Let the goddamn revolution begin.

5. On the flipside: MY BOY

Addendum: he brought the whole family! As with his previous bookstore appearances, he looks slightly out of his element, a little shrunken and humbled by the event and the praise, yet his speech is assured and completely at ease. He also came dressed as Johnny Cash, if Johnny Cash were an adorable gremlin, which makes me love him even more. (jk, I couldn't possibly love him more.)

Happy Tony Day!

Technically it's probably "Happy Tonys Day," but that sounded rough on the ear, and I'm a stickler for arbitrary rules I make up for myself based on random fictions.

I saw exactly two nominees this year: The Band's Visit (best musical) and Travesties (best revival of a play). Both should win, because I chose them, but I suppose the world does not work that way. And what are prizes for artistic endeavors anyway? Darts on a pinboard. Yet both are worthy of audiences—smart and weird and unexpected, a little off balance, wise and world weary. Both felt resurrecting, somehow. A balm for the spirit.

It's no secret that I fell out of the habit of going to the theater over the past few years, or simply grew jaded and old and crabby. I could say that theater isn't what it used to be, but when has it ever been? And of course I mean Broadway, which is a very specific business venture, and not theater in toto. I saw a local production of Hairspray last night, and it was delightful. It was exactly what it needed to be, which is alive. Theater exists because we the people in the dark, and they the actors on the stage—not to mention the creators, the designers, the producers, the crew—keep saying yes. Only and always yes.

+ a few snaps from a previous Happy Tony Day party, flip phones at the ready:

Lastly, and just because, 2018 is the 45th anniversary of the Original Broadway Production of A Little Night Music, and you know how we feel about that. Never have I ever loved anything more than the cast of bumbling boobs who make up this glorious show. It is my shining star and guiding light. Pay heed!

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These daily posts are somewhat...unfocused, aren't they? THE END.

3 things for today

Like all writers, I don't get plot. I don't understand it, I don't like it, whenever I try to come up with it outside of a story, it makes me crazy. So one thing I've found is that if you spend a lot of time creating and then revising one of these voice-driven monologues, and really working with it as text, you know, trying to make it sing, what happens I think is that the lens gets very fine. And a very small tendency in the person as a character will sort of get heightened a little bit, and that's where plot comes from.

Linda Holmes wrote a beautiful piece on Anthony Bourdain yesterday, and in it she mentions that he had been one of her guides, along with Roger Ebert: someone who demonstrated for her how a life could be lived ("a guide to being, as to paraphrase John Muir, in the world rather than just on it"). George Saunders is this for me—a generous voice of calm and reason, as well as a gentle nudge, and a necessary reminder that there are many, many ways to be a writer.

2: I always walk out of a heist movie feeling taller and stronger and a little aggressive, like I'm tough enough to evade a police chase or punch a worthy perp in the chops and sail away with a cool million. Ocean's 8 is no great heist movie (nor a great movie period: objectively, it is not a very good movie), but it was great fun, and a heist movie, so I will let it pass. There's something about watching a group of confident, breezy hucksters perform utterly frivolous magic tricks on scandalously wealthy villains and/or corporate entities—and get away with it—that just really fires me up.

Serious query though: what's the difference between a heist and a caper? I feel it’s largely a matter of tone, or sensibility, but can't quite put my finger on the divide, only that capers feel more madcap, more screwball, more Cary Grant. More Muppet? That's my general theory, anyway; feel free to crowdsource this one amongst yourself.

3: I was reminded again this morning via SiriusXM's THE BRIDGE that sometimes the old joys are the best (as is SiriusXM's THE BRIDGE):