Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Stars Aligned

The stars suspended inside the Time Warner Media Center change colors, from red to purple to pink to blue, all through the holidays, visible through the glass facade from Central Park, from the cars crawling around Columbus Circle, the colors dancing to Christmas music above the heads of shoppers. My daughter and I used to like to do our Christmas shopping there. It was never quite as insane as other shopping malls, and we could find all manner of gifts in the Borders bookstore, where we used to take a break and drink hot mulled cider and people watch. But now the bookstore is closed down, and so are other storefronts, making the whole second floor look shiny and forlorn. I think we'll shop elsewhere this year. Maybe we'll just stay in our neighborhood. I'm in the mood for a very quiet and low-key Christmas, just the family, puttering indoors, making a fine meal together. My daughter, when she was home last weekend, made her dad promise he would wait till she got back home after final exams to put up the tree. This is how it usually is. My husband and daughter bring home, set up and trim the tree while my son and I lounge on the couches and point out spaces in the light strings and baubles, maybe raising a cup of egg nog but lifting barely a finger otherwise. And everyone's happy, temperaments aligned.

Almost December

I found this photo of my kids when they were ten and seven, early one morning at the departure gate at JFK airport, waiting for our flight to be called. Our son was playing a Pokemon game on his Nintendo, his sister intently awaiting her turn. In our suitcases were Christmas gifts galore. I am remembering all the years when the arrival of December meant preparing to travel to somewhere warm, Antigua or St. Lucia and occasionally Jamaica, to spend the Christmas with one set of grandparents and the New Year with the other. We reversed the order of the islands from year to year, so that our kids would get to spend Christmas with each set of grandparents equally. And there were cousins and friends and beach days and family dinners with all the generations, and the kids were barefoot all the time, even jumping into the car with Uncle Bruce for a run to the supermarket to get an ingredient Nana wanted. And then everyone grew up. Two of the four grandparents passed on. The other two grow increasingly frail. Some bonds have frayed. Everyone is caught up in the immediate, every one of us poorer than before. But there's no use crying. Suck it up, buster. Be grateful it ever was. This is life. It turns and turns and turns.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mood Meds

Elizabeth asked in comments whether Brothers and Sisters is worth watching; she said she needs another series to hold her interest. Since she turned me on to two of the most enjoyably intense TV series ever, Breaking Bad and Friday Night Lights, and because I know that adrift feeling when you don't have a go-to series on Netflix, I want to give a thoughtful answer. I'm answering here rather than in comments or email in case anyone else needs a series to unwind with at the end of the day. Brothers and Sisters can be that, like an old tee shirt, soft with use, the comfort predictable and familiar when you want to just mentally float. It's definitely not heavy lifting, but it's diverting, occasionally funny, occasionally sad, occasionally silly, and it does have some actors I enjoy watching—Rachel Griffiths (formerly of Six Feet Under), Sally Field, Ron Rifkin, Matthew Rhys.

I also enjoy the large close squabbling chaotic can't-keep-a-secret family aspect of it, and its determined if superficial correctness on social issues (gay marriage, trans racial adoption, politics, motherhood, marital affairs, surprise offspring, foster care). And when I get sleepy I just turn it off mid-sentence; it never keeps me up at night. It ran for five seasons of 24 episodes each, so it can last a while. It's not anything like Breaking Bad, Six Feet Under, Friday Night Lights, Downton Abby, or Homeland in the way it absorbs and galvanizes my thoughts for hours after. It's not taxing like that, but I'd still recommend it for when you don't want to be taxed but don't particularly want to think about other things either. The series quite efficiently holds my attention and gives me a voyeuristic sense of living in a perfectly appointed house, too. I'm now two-thirds of the way through the final season and can tell things are winding-down.

Now Parenthood. Elizabeth, you mentioned you have been watching that. Several people have mentioned that series to me, and I got the sense that it's like Brothers and Sisters but slightly elevated as an ensemble drama. I was probably going to go to that series next, but in your comment you sound a little lukewarm about it. How are you finding it?

And everyone else, what series are you watching that you can't get enough of or simply find easy to return to? At the risk of sounding like a commercial, watching back-to-back episodes of an entertaining or thought-provoking series on my Kindle Fire has been like mood meds for me. Curling up with an ongoing series levels me out and keeps my noisy brain from yapping too loudly. So please send along those recommendations for watchable dramas that might quiet the noise. Thank you my loves.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sun Goes Down

It was a good weekend, the house straining at its seams with people from all the different corners of our lives, family members, college friends, childhood friends, raised-our-kids-together friends, and some who we were meeting for the first time, like my son's friend's friend who spent a summer with her in Israel and came into the city from her home in Long Island to meet her college friends. We went to the movies, the teenagers went Black Friday shopping, we ate leftovers and watched season one of Homeland, and every so often I looked around the house, at the towels piled on top of one another in the bathrooms, everyone's cosmetics crowded together on the shelves, the kitchen counter covered in food and drink and just emptied dishes, the sink perpetually full, the dishwasher going continuously, and the living room, rearranged for Thanksgiving, with pillows and cushions scattered on the floor, and bodies stretched out everywhere. Throughout, the college kids came and went, their animated talk and laughter announcing their arrival or trailing them down the hallway, and the younger cousins watched them leave and leave again, their eyes wistful, a feeling I remember so well from waving goodbye to adored older cousins in my own adolescence, and it occurs to me now how similar it feels when I wave goodbye now as a mother.

The college kids left first, falling over one another at seven this morning, a jumble of movement, stuffing clothes into bags and flat-ironing hair and pulling on sneakers and throwing used towels into the hamper, basketball style, and before I knew it they had assembled at the front door, overnight bags in hand, hugs and kisses all around and more goodbyes called down the hallway as they disappeared into the elevator, voices weaving happily because is there anything happier than to be with your friends heading off together when you're 21 and 18?

The rest of us watched more Homeland episodes, but for my church man, who went to services and then a vestry meeting, and in the early afternoon the rest of the cousins hit the road back to Columbia, Maryland, and the only one left now is my cousin who lives in Trinidad, who will be here until Tuesday. After finally marshaling the energy to clean up the kitchen and put everything back where it belongs, we are having a deliciously slow second half of the day, my cousin reading on her paperwhite, me watching Brothers and Sisters on Netflix, and my husband cheering and groaning over the Saints and the 49ers, depending on what's happening in the game. The sounds he makes, which broadcast how his preferred team is doing, are the ones my daughter says she most misses as the backdrop to her Sundays. I know what she means. Somehow those sounds convey all is easy and right in the world, at least in this little world we sometimes manage to inhabit on Sundays, when nothing needs to be more serious than football.

My son took the photo above from our apartment complex at dusk on the Friday after Thanksgiving. It reminds me of that song by The Wanted, which just about sums up how I'm feeling:

The sun goes down
The stars come out
And all that counts
Is here and now
My universe will never be the same
I'm glad you came
I'm glad you came

Saturday, November 24, 2012


All the college kids were home for the Thanksgiving break
Aunt Megan was here from Jamaica

Cousins and friends lounged on my bed chatting
My son made candied yams using his Grandma's recipe

My other cousin came in from Trinidad
The boys had a fine old time joshing with my husband

The girls found time to check the social networks

This year, most of my mother's clan gathered in West Palm Beach, Florida for a Thanksgiving family reunion, traveling from Jamaica and the Bahamas, and Canada and Virginia and Marlyand for the weekend. Meanwhile, we were an outpost in New York, receiving photos and texts from our relatives down South, with news of splashing in pools and playing inter generational soccer, while we took a meal together and generally enjoyed a low key Thanksgiving. Every person here was a soul I am deeply comfortable with, and so my usual angst and feelings of overstimulation abated, and I just let myself be in the moment, aware of the goodness of it all.

My husband cooked the melt-in-your mouth turkey and most of the rest of the meal, too, though I made my famous corn and cheese souffle and my son called his grandmother as usual to be talked through the steps for the candied yams, while one cousin made a potato salad and another acted as sou chef. Other family and friends arrived with plantains and blueberry cranberry sauce and all manner of pies, and it was once again a feast.

My niece was sorely missed, but she sent us missives from the reunion, including a picture of my brother's children cuddled with my 85-year-old aunt and the caption, "Aunt Grace smells so good!" My mother couldn't be there with the rest of them. Travel is too hard for her now, so she stayed in Jamaica with my sister in law. When I knew she couldn't go, it was then I decided that our family would just stay put as well and host our usual crew. We don't really have the funds for multiple air fares and hotel rooms, and the relief and happiness in my cousins on my dad's side, and my friends who usually do Thanksgiving at our house, made me really happy that we decided to stay home.

Our numbers were slightly reduced by the Palm Beach reunion, but a good time was definitely had in New York City as well. At midnight the party in both places was still going strong, and there were women I love lounged across my bed sharing easy meandering talk of our lives in the way women do. The photos here are kind of random. The lighting in our house was dim, and I didn't take as many pictures as usual, but that's what comes of just being in the flow.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

One by one, they arrive

Our girl is home! She arrived by bus last night and asked her brother to pick her up from the station. We all went to meet her and got royally snarled in Lincoln tunnel traffic while she waited on a street corner outside Papaya King juice bar on 42nd and Ninth for almost an hour.  I got more and more riled up at the gridlock while my son (who was not driving) deejayed music from his iPhone and tried to get me to just be in the moment as he and his sister exchanged wildly outrageous off-color texts—which they later shared with me. Then when we finally got to the corner our college girl threw her bags in the car and jumped in quickly while we held up honking traffic. By then her brother and I were arguing about whether I was going to the gym with him when we got home, he was insisting, bulldozing, really, which always makes me resist, and we went back and forth, the two of us so much the same, while my husband and daughter rolled their eyes and shook their heads and laughed and stayed out of it altogether until my son said, "Okay, don't go to the gym for you! Go for me. Because if you don't you're going to eventually be in a wheelchair and then I will really be able to push you around." He was going for humor, but I heard him, and so I stopped resisting and said, "Okay, we'll go to the gym."

When we got home my girl and her dad settled in to watch the Knicks game while I laced up my new sneakers. My son was wonderful. That cranky boy became so gentle with me, guiding my workout, pushing me to do one more set, ten more minutes, talking with me about his life the whole time, which will always take my mind off the pain of working out, and I did a half hour on the treadmill and the bike and then did some weight machines and I love being able to mindlessly just follow instructions, to not have to figure out the machines because he figured them out for me and assessed the right weight, and of course, he also showed how to use them for when he goes back to school. I do like lifting weights. I enjoy it so much more than cardio. I think my boy was pleasantly surprised by how cooperative I was once we got to the gym, and how capably I followed instructions and he was also quite pleased that my resting heart rate is actually quite good, much better than he had feared, and I'm strong and stubborn when it comes to the weights too. He can be awfully bossy, this boy (where, oh where did he learn that?) but also so very tender and able to make you feel cared for and taken care of and loved.

So it's the four of us, together again. Talking, laughing, being us. So comfortable and right. Both kids remarked on it, as if was something special to each of them. But we also remarked on how much we missed my niece Leisa, who is doing her masters in Florida and not able to travel, and how it just won't be the same without her this year.

Early this morning there were more arrivals. At 6:00 a.m. my cousin from Trinidad rang the doorbell. And this afternoon, my other cousin and her two daughters will arrive from Maryland, and we'll sleep everywhere in this house, on every bed and every couch, and tomorrow, more family and friends will join s and we will have a party. Actually the party starts tonight with the shopping and the food preparation and the stories. Always, there are the stories. And on Friday some college friends of my son's will arrive for the weekend, and my daughter will be catching up with her friends who have all arrived back in the city, and no doubt her young man will also be in the mix, and it will be nice to see him, too, and hopefully we'll get to watch a Knicks game with him, like old times. Happy thanksgiving, y'all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Apparently it's no-shave November at his school, but he's going to break the trust and shave for Thanksgiving day. "It's time," he says, scratching under his chin. (And if you wonder why I have so many photos of my son looking at his phone, it's because only then does he ignore my camera.)

He took me to get work out sneakers tonight, took me to a running store where I could be properly fitted. It was the sort of place I would never have walked into without him. The sales people would have looked at me like, what is she doing here? But with my son, my fit athletic boy, I felt right at home. He approached the sales guy, arm around my shoulder and said, "We're looking for work out shoes for her." I wandered around the store while he consulted with the salesperson, until he called me over and said, "What do you think of these?" I was very compliant, trying on shoes, giving my opinion of the fit, letting my feet be poked and prodded through the sneakers. I chose a steel gray pair that hugs my feet like little pillows. I realized I am not used to my feet not hurting in shoes. Maybe I will wear those sneakers to the office tomorrow. And every day after that.

My heart son, E., is also here tonight. He and my boy and my husband are watching  the football game and being very loquacious, all of them. I love hearing these animated men in the background of my life. The house is full again. And my sweet girl arrives tomorrow.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Writing Life

Sometimes a real world friend who is aware of my blog might observe conversationally, "Your blog is very personal, isn't it?" and I hear implied criticism, as if I am putting myself out there in an unseemly way, and it stings somehow. So then I come home and impulsively close my blog for all of—what?—twelve hours. And then I say Fuck It and open it up again, resigned once more to the fact that this is what it means to have a writing life: To overshare, to explore what happens in emotional terms, to say this is what it feels like to be alive in my skin, to be afraid, to be imperfect, to love.

So my blog is open again. I feel the weight of it sometimes, all I have revealed, all the stories that can be read between the lines, if anyone cares. Fortunately, hardly anyone cares, and so I will keep going, pretending that despite being public, this space is actually quite intimate, a sharing that takes place between me and a handful of souls who visit regularly, and leave their calling cards in the comments box, and are always so generous of spirit and deeply kind.

Thank you, friends who visit me here. My son is home for the week. And it is heaven.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


I don't know where my mojo went. I just haven't felt like blogging. Well, it was a busy time at the magazine, with several huge fact dense stories closing all at once, thanks to the week we lost to Hurricane Sandy. There were many late nights hunched over copy, trying to ignore the screeching from the extreme political right about the election outcome. I didn't want to add to the noise, so I refrained from responding to it all, but I confess to being flummoxed by the tone of it all, the bile, the vitriol. Enough said about that.

A story I edited won a big award this week, which meant I had to find an outfit that was passably black tie to attend the award gala. My coworkers pull this off without effort. Our editor in chief is a straight up fashionista, tall and lean and able to master any look she pleases, especially her signature polished Boho. The writer of the winning piece, who I work with a lot, she's actually my favorite writer to work with and we have won a lot of awards together, is a petite athletic woman who wore a red satin dress that hugged everything tight, with heels up to here, and a fluffy scalloped clutch that said, "I attend a lot of black tie events and I am always prepared." I would always be prepared too if I had her figure. I'd just go into any store I wanted and buy the cutest dress on the rack, and the flyest heels, and I'd be set. The other editor  in our group is a big girl like me. But she manages better than I do. She wore a sophisticated black dress with a cropped jacket, and accessorized with fire-engine red lipstick, a red clutch, and towering red heels that I would never have been able to walk in.

Me? Well, that morning I found in my closet a black jacket with sequins and silver and gold stitching on it, and crystal dots. I had ordered from a catalog some months ago, but when it arrived, I was mildly horrified at how shiny it was, and I shoved it in the closet and left it there, forgotten. Finding it again and desperate for a black tie option, I decided it at least had the virtue of never having been seen by my coworkers. And the color black always works in publishing circles, so I put it on over black pants and black silk blouse, added some big jewelry and black suede boots and off I went to get our big award.

I wish I liked the public schmoozing more. I used to think it was my size that made me reticent, but one of the other editors is my size, and she pulls off the whole schmooze fest with sophisticated ease. Truth is, once I'm there I do perfectly well. I just take a deep breath and dive into the whole scene, chatting with folk, smiling and conversing and mixing and mingling for as long as it takes before I can escape back to the sanctuary of my home. I appear to be appropriately socialized, able to hold my own. But I don't love it, and I am always so happy when I've discharged my obligation and can say my goodbyes.

On the other hand, I love getting together with good friends, as my husband and I did last night at an Italian restaurant in the neighborhood, to celebrate our friend Isabella's birthday. There was wine and there were stories and laughs, and socially that sort of thing is just my speed.

Now, it's Saturday again, and my love is watching Premier League Soccer on TV and settling in for his day of rest. As I made coffee a few moments ago, he said, "You know how I love Thanksgiving and always look forward to it, but somehow, this year, I am looking forward to the kids being home more than ever. I'm counting the days till our boy comes home tomorrow and our girl on Tuesday. I can hardly wait to see them."

"Well, they've never both been gone before," I said. "You miss them."

"I suppose that's it," he said. "And I'm also marveling that my son just turned 21, and how did that little baby we brought home not so long ago get to be a grown man? When did our daydreaming girl get to be a college freshman?"

We just looked at each other and smiled ruefully and shook our heads. I remembered my friend saying last night that when you're divorced, you always have to share your children and that it sucked, because she wants all her daughter's time when she gets home from college next week. And I felt so fortunate to be with the only person in the whole world who shares the depths of what I feel about these two endlessly fascinating-to-me humans, our boy and our girl.

Ages 5 and 8

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cloud Atlas

I saw Cloud Atlas last night. My friend and I braved the throngs of humans in Times Square and traveled six steep escalators up to the theater in the sky to see it. I'm not sure what I think of the movie, which was really several parallel movies in one, from period piece to age of sail to comedy to action thriller to sci fi, a confusing riot of cinematic lifetimes that definitely kept my attention, even when I didn't quite understand what the heck was going on. But then, I love that reincarnation stuff, the idea that our actions in one life set in motion the events of our future lives, that we are always reaping and paying karma, that the ledgers of our souls matter infinitely.

I decided when I was eighteen and flirted with Buddhism that this belief system was as good as any, and was in contradiction with none. It very nicely kept me conscious of the cause and effect of my every action, and it was elastic enough to explain the unexplainable, the great inequities of life, through the idea that souls carefully designed their circumstances before birth, chose their parents and their location and their bodies, to trigger an unfolding in that life that would allow specific lessons to be learned, karma to expiated, loved ones to be in proximity again and again.

It's a very forgiving but also exacting belief system, in that lessons that remain unlearned will simply recur. Better to learn our lessons now, rather that wait for them to ramp up in urgency. Besides, we earn karmic brownie points for the good we do in each life, and the challenges we meet with courage, and we rack up the promise of cosmic payback for the ill we do as well. According to this interpretation, we choose our lessons for each life; we choose the time when we will suck it up and learn them. That doesn't mean things that aren't in the script don't befall us once we're here in this imperfect earthly laboratory. All manner of unplanned events can derail us, because despite our careful planning before each new incarnation, we are born mostly forgetting it all. We're wandering sightless on the plain, depending on instinct and intuition and tossed about by fear and reaching always from an innate desire to love and be loved, the experience of which transcends all.

But of course, in the end, this is all story. I'm really just spinning stories here, because how can we know any of this for sure. But the sorts of stories it is possible to tell myself can help me sleep at night: For example, my cousin Pearl chose this wrecked addicted experience of a life in agreement with her mother, my beloved, now bedridden aunt, who perhaps had set herself the lesson of remaining devoted to a soul she has loved through many lifetimes, even tested to the bitterest end.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


“Where's my bed?!" Dairine shrieked.
"It's on Pluto," Nita said. "Somewhere nice and dark and quiet, where you won't find it if you look all day, which you're not going to have time to do, because you'll be in school.” 

—Diane Duane, A Wizard Alone


This planet of ours is a school room and we need to learn to play nice. I just want to climb into that bed and burrow there until all the post-election raging dies down. Wake me when the noise is over.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


That's my cousin, who is an attorney. 
This is how she went to work today. She said, 
"I'm channeling my inner President Obama."

So happy

I am so happy this morning. I am so gratified that the forces of decency prevailed. I believe that Barack Obama won a second term because there are more Americans who value truth and integrity and guts and sheer human decency in a candidate than were co-opted by untruths and hate speech. Obama won the popular vote, he won the women's vote by eighteen points, he won the youth vote as robustly as he did four years ago, he won virtually all the Black vote (no surprise there), he won the Latino vote by seventy percent, the Asian-American vote by seventy-three percent, and he did better than expected with the White vote, winning forty percent, especially in Midwest battleground states where they respected what he did with the auto bailout. And he won decisively, a sure march across the map, getting to the all important 270 electoral college votes without Ohio, Virginia and Florida! The country voted and the mandate is clear. Obama is the next president of this nation.

I loved his speech at almost 2 a.m. this morning. It was a soaring call to action, an invitation to heal the bitter divide, and it truly is bitter. But I felt so gratified that the majority of the electorate was not mired in the hate. My children voted in this election, and we were texting all night. And when Obama won, we called one another. I could hear screaming and celebration in the background. My son was watching the returns at the 21st birthday celebration of one of his friends; my daughter watched with other students in the lounge of her dorm. Together, we whooped and cheered.

I was also on the phone non stop with my cousin Karen in Virginia and my friend Leslie across town. I could have attended a viewing party staged by my job at a restaurant downtown, or joined other friends to raise a glass as we watched the returns come in. But somehow, I just wanted to dig in at home. I didn't know the night would go as well as it did, and I remembered how barren I felt eight years ago when Bush won a second term. The night didn't feel particularly social to my husband either. He lost himself in a book and visited me in the living room occasionally for updates. But he was sitting next to me at the moment CNN announced that Barack Obama had been re-elected, and he stayed through the back and forth that followed, with Romney refusing to concede Ohio, the state that was projected to put Obama over the top. When Colorado was finally counted, giving Obama comfortably more than 270 votes without the big three battleground states, my husband put down the remote and went to bed.

Of course, I stayed till the very end, until Ohio and then Virginia were more surely decided. I wanted to see the concession speech and the victory speech. Karen and Leslie kept me company, a round robin of phone calls, our elation and relief palpable. Okay, I'm not stupid enough to pretend that there are not bitter comments scrolling up a lot of people's Facebook walls and Twitter feeds today. Some of them will chill you right quick. But you know what, these sentiments did not, after all, carry the day and that is worth celebrating.

They Won!

President Obama's camp tweeted this photo at the moment he discovered he had won. It has become the most tweeted and Facebook-liked photo of all time. What does it say about the man and what he most values that this was the first photo his camp sent out? I, for one, am really glad that Michelle is the one with whom he shares his heart at the end of the day.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The day is finally here.

President Obama went back to Iowa for his final campaign speech last night. He went back to the state where it all started, and his voice caught with emotion. I remember I was in my tax accountant's living room the night Obama won the Iowa caucus in 2008. I was getting my taxes done early so we could complete the FAFSA and apply for scholarships for my son for college. In the midst of the paper shuffle, I looked up at the TV and the results coming in said Obama had won. It was the moment I realized he was a viable candidate, that people other than me believed in him, and I have been in his corner ever since. I am also remembering that four years ago, on the day before the election, his beloved grandmother died. I was in the office when the news came in, and we all stopped the frenzy of election coverage for a few minutes and took in the sadness that the woman who had helped raise this fine man would not be alive to see him make history. Secretly I thought, Perhaps she can do more for him from the other side. That night in Virginia in the rain, tears rolled down the candidate's face as he remembered his grandmother. There are so many hidden sociopaths in positions of power in business and politics. Obama is not one of them. He is disciplined and civil and tough and cerebral, but he also feels very deeply. He possesses empathy. Give me that. I'm off to vote for my president.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Playing House

Though my readership seems to have increased, I have lost some followers with my partisan rants about tomorrow's presidential election. I am so glad the election is finally here and we can stop watching billions being squandered on soul-crushing campaign ads while the 24/7 news cycle spins razor's edge cliffhanger scenarios in the interest of higher ratings, as my wise friend Glenn suggests.

Whatever happens tomorrow, I'll won't whine. If my candidate loses I'll be depressed as heck, but I'll be a big girl. Still, I think my candidate is going to win.

Speaking of big girls, my favorite moment of the weekend is related to that. My husband and I shared one of those lovely Sunday night pot luck gatherings with friends, all of us crowded around a table, shoulder to shoulder, with a lack of personal space only possible among people who are deeply familiar with one another.

My love and I, both people of some girth, chose chairs next to one another at one end of the table. We were pressed against each other the way people of a certain size (us) get squooshed together when seated in adjacent seats on airplanes. Janice, our host, said, "You two don't need to be so crowded"—and to my husband—"Why don't you sit here at the head of the table, where you have more space?"

"I'm okay," my man said. "I don't mind being cozy. We kind of like each other. You see, we've been playing house."

Can I tell you I just loved his response? I swear, with the kids away at college, that's how it feels sometimes: Like we're two footloose kids, rambling around together, playhouse buddies, laid back and thick as thieves.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


"Mom, are you taking pictures? You're taking pictures, aren't you?"

Slow Recovery

Morning commute, post Sandy

New York City is almost back to normal, with lights mostly restored and 80 percent of the subways running. But the schedule is less robust, and people are packed in body to body, determined to get where they're going. Outside the city, in Staten Island, the Rockaways, and parts of New Jersey, it's another story. My aunt and cousins in New Jersey are in a world of hurt, no lights, no heat, no food, little gas in their car, and my 82-year-old aunt is recovering from a nasty case of shingles.

She has all her children and grandchildren around her, so that is good, but on the phone this morning, they sounded desperate. My cousins waited six hours in line for gas yesterday, then found some firewood on their way home, which they packed into every inch of their car. The seven of them are now sleeping huddled around the fireplace, the only source of warmth. I asked them why didn't they come and stay with us in New York. Aunt Winnie has space, my mom has space, and so do we. My cousin said, "How would we get to you? The roads are impassable with live wires and downed trees. The bridges are closed. And we have to conserve the gas we have. Besides, we can't afford to leave the house and allow the water pipes to freeze and burst because that would be another problem we can't afford to fix."

They couldn't take their mom to the hospital because it's overrun, and they couldn't refill her prescription because the pharmacy was closed. They had to fax it to a pharmacy in another state and have it delivered. They had to go to a hotel to fax it. I felt so helpless. All I could do was text my cousin information about FEMA and wire money. And they are the lucky ones. Their house was not destroyed. No trees fell on their car. The have family members who will send money, and bring them to a warm lit place if they choose. If they can hold out for another ten days, power will probably be restored and life will be back to normal. Not so for hundreds of thousands more.

I can tell you, for people in the situation my New Jersey family is in, voting is not a consideration. They are Obama supporters, but they will probably not venture out to find a makeshift polling place this Tuesday. Their considerations right now are far more immediate and basic. How do I know? Because even though I wondered whether they would be able to vote, I knew in the same thought that it would be unforgivably stupid and crass to ask the question.


Just rediscovered this photo from three years ago of my kids and one of their cousins who was visiting from Virginia. We were having lunch in the cafeteria at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, two families of us on an outing. I don't remember what the joke was, but I loved finding this photo of my kids laughing.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Three More Days

It's no secret that I'm voting for Barack Obama on November 6. Truth is, I've been sincerely perplexed how anyone could contemplate the other choice.

Ever since hearing that story about how Mitt Romney bullied his prep school classmate for being too effeminate; ever since that tape surfaced in which the millionaire candidate expressed contempt for the 47 percent of the electorate who are not required to pay income taxes (including soldiers, teachers, the elderly, the disabled, college students, you get the picture), effectively calling them lazy moochers who won't take personal responsibility for themselves (though most pay payroll and sales taxes); ever since I understood that Mitt Romney paid 14 percent of his millions in investment income in taxes, while I pay a percentage substantially larger, agonizing down to the penny how my family will meet our bills and sock away enough by the time my children's next college tuition bills are due in December; ever since I saw how Mitt Romney rolled over moderator Jim Lehrer in the first debate, and tried to do the same to moderators in subsequent debates, acting every bit the entitled rich guy, as if the rules of engagement simply don't apply to him; ever since my visceral negative reaction to his sneering disdain for the President of the United States of America, a man I respect and believe to be a decent human being; ever since Mitt Romney chose Tea Party darling Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential candidate, an Ayn Rand devotee who parses whether rape was forcible or not; ever since Mitt Romney doubled down on lie after lie, and reversed himself on the health care plan he signed into law in Massachusetts, disavowing the very similar plan he called Obamacare, basically claiming Obama had done nothing during his presidency while at the same time vowing to repeal everything Obama had done during his presidency; ever since all that, I have been trying to fathom why such a large swath of the country seems intent on voting for the Republican candidate.

This article, which appeared on today, goes a long way to explaining why.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Light and Dark in New York City

New York City, the dark half, on Halloween night

Light and dark is the defining dynamic of post-Sandy New York City.

Usually in Manhattan, day or night, light wins. While New York may even feel dark at night, it really is perpetually quite bright. If you walk around on any normal night at any odd hour, light will stalk you through the quaintest of side street, over bridges and even underground. No bedroom is safe either. An essential investment made by a well rested New Yorker is heavy window shades.

Thanks to Sandy there are now two New Yorks: Light New York, which exists above about 30th Street with power, wifi and seemingly complete normalcy. Dark New York, which is completely without power and in parts near pitch black at night.

Dark New York is striking for a number of reasons:

The ingenuity of local bar keeps, restauranteurs and grocers to stay open by candle light, generator or even car battery.

The glow of midtown always present in the distance.

The failure of a single chain store to stay open.

The constant uneasy negotiation between motorists, pedestrians and bikers at major intersections with non-functional lights and no crossing guards.

The number of large building that NYU’s able to power by generator which didn’t include its hospital.

The alarmingly low percentage of people who have flashlights (did they leave them at home or do they not own one?).

The ability to easily tally how many of your neighbors are home by the presence of any light in their windows.

The novelty of walking around Manhattan with a flashlight.

Watching the number of neighbors dwindle every night the black out continues.

Not being able to see what’s in front of you without a flashlight.


The awful smell of garbage wrought by only a couple extra days at the curb.

The lack of candles at every store.

Walking isn’t a choice, it’s usually the only way to get around.

How inadequate candles are at matching the light from bulbs.

The complete lack of cell coverage in many areas.

How quickly your eyes will adjust to any level of light.

The ideas you have without distractions from texts and push notifications.

Light from just a three wick candle can feel uncomfortably bright in the new normal.

The usefulness of radios.

The slow speed of time.

The 100 costumed souls who paraded in the village on Halloween even though the Village Halloween Parade was canceled.

How good a quality scotch tastes served neat.

Thank you, Greg Galant, for this glimpse of how the other half of the city is living this week. 

In the dark half of the city, food trucks saved the day.

New York magazine's amazing cover this week