Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Lovers (update)

We held the elevator in our building for them as they struggled with groceries, a stroller and a sleeping toddler. "Isn't that the couple you wrote about that New Years' Eve," my husband whispered when we got off on our floor. By God, it was! It appears from the gold bands on their fingers that they are married now, and their little boy is about two years old. We weren't wrong that night.

The "Choose Love" balloon in Freemans Alley

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The good life

The man and I went to dinner to celebrate being hitched 33 years ago, and were joined by our offspring and their loves, and our niece, our current "roomie." When our son moved back home after college and lived with us for three years before moving into his own apartment, he used to come home in the evenings and call out to us, "Hey, roomies! I'm home." Our dinner, my daughter joked, was a gathering of all the roomies, past and present; she noted that her boyfriend and my son's girlfriend spent enough time in our home when she and her brother were still living there, to qualify. Dinner was at a small, brick walled place on 5th Street in the East Village called Tuome, where every dish is delicately balanced and utterly delectable. The menu looks humble. The taste of the food is decidedly not. My daughter discovered their snow crab noodle in dashi butter through one of the events for her job, and she took me there two years ago. I wanted to go back there as a big group to celebrate. We did miss our Dallas contingent, but were treated to a video the newlyweds shared of them with their new Tesla, summoning the driverless car to them from the far end of a parking lot. Everyone hooted! There are many ways to live the good life. This dinner, right here, in this company, definitely qualifies.

Friday, August 23, 2019

33 years

Thirty-three years ago, that was us. Dang, we were cute. In fact, with each passing year, we look cuter and cuter in our wedding pics. Youth truly is wasted on the young. Happy anniversary, my love. It has always been you.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

We now resume our regularly scheduled programming

The last of our houseguests left this morning, and today it's back to work in earnest, with an avalanche of magazine stories coming through for editing. I did not really get dressed today, just slipped on my ocean blue kaftan, a T-shirt under it, and didn't even comb my hair. My niece had pretty much the same kind of day. We joked that we're both just introverts needing to go inward after a week of extroverting with human company. As beloved as the company was, recharging was very much the order of the day.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

August Happenings

Cousins, nieces, nephews, in laws, it's been a busy month at Arrindell Arms, which is what my husband likes to call our little apartment, which this year has been host to more family members and friends than usual. That's what happens when you have a big close family and a spare room in a convenient part of the city. The visits of the last two weeks were well timed for me; I had a lull in my work schedule, which is now picking up again. The proposal sold well. The agent was diligent and full of grace. The subject was charismatic and true to herself. The words on the page were well received. And so you will find me right here over the next several months, endeavoring to write a book that justifies the publisher's faith. I'm feeling so grateful in this moment for my abundant blessings, not the least of which, indeed the most of which, is my family.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Go where the love is

It's been an odd couple of days for me. I am a woman of relative leisure this week, editing a magazine piece here and there and welcoming more houseguests tonight, even as my book subject and her agent meet with editors at the big five publishing houses, five meetings each day, plus a couple of stragglers on Thursday. By this time next week, we should have a deal. I am trying to be zen about it all, telling myself that however this unfolds, all will be well.

Last evening, the agent texted me and said yesterday's meetings went well. An editor I've worked with in the past also emailed me and said she had her fingers crossed, she was excited about the project and thought this proposal was my best one yet. If it was, it's because of everyone involved, but especially the agent with whom I had many long, deeply thoughtful conversations about the content. He was wonderful in every way, and I think his nudging me in certain directions made the final proposal all the richer.

I am reminded of something the actor Lupita N'yongo said in a piece in Marie Claire earlier this year: "Go where you are loved and you'll do your best work." She was quoting advice given to her by her friend and fellow actor Danai Gurira. "You must always go where you're loved," she explained, "because I believe in the principle that the perceiver affects the perceived. So if the person's perceiving you with love, you're more likely to do a better job."

The agent in this case began with love. From our very first phone conversation, he connected from a place of human vulnerability, and conveyed his faith that I could do this. And even though there were other writers in the running, somehow he always made me feel as if he was rooting for me. I suspect he made every writer to be interviewed by his client feel the same way. Then, when I was selected, he expressed his happiness, when really, the more usual response is business as usual, let's get on with it.

When I gave him the first draft, his critiques were gentle and loving and always delivered alongside things he could praise. Most people in this business ignore what is working in a piece of writing, and go straight to what can be improved. But when we know what is working, we know to deliver more of that. And when we are treated in a loving way, we respond in kind. We're committed, invested, dialed in for the long haul.

I'm so very grateful for this project, even though it comes with some significant challenges—and don't they all. But the challenges feel so much less worrisome when the team is operating from a place of love. May it ever be so.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Proof of a parallel universe

In which my daughter and nieces remind me that in this human life there is also joy.

Saturday, August 10, 2019


Right after posting the photo of those four beautiful little girls in my last post, I ran across another image of little brown children, this one in the news, and it just stopped me. The trauma on those children's faces. They are the children in Mississippi whose undocumented parents, more than 600 of them, were rounded up by ICE at their jobs at poultry farms and other food factories this week. The seizing of these working men and women, who pay taxes on every item they purchase in this country, happened as the piece of shit president was in El Paso, supposedly to offer condolences after the mass murder that happened there a week ago. But of course, the president is incapable of empathy, so instead, he insisted a baby whose parents died while shielding him from the volley of AK-47 bullets, be brought to the hospital so the president and his wife could hold him up to the cameras and grin obscenely for a photo op. It was sickening.

Meanwhile in Mississippi, children had gone to school that day, and at the end of the day they waited for parents to come and get them, in vain. Some of the children slept in school gyms that night, others were taken in by neighbors. Their terror and grief and tears played across news channels, displaying once again the cruelty of the current administration. Many people asked, what of the business owners who hired these so-called illegals? Why were they getting off scot free? Why do their workers pay the price? The answer is obvious to anyone paying attention of course. Even so, what is happening right now is beyond comprehension to me.

And yet I go on with my life daily. Honestly, we had a wonderful time yesterday afternoon into evening, going with my niece for her final wedding dress fitting, learning how to help her tie the bustle for her train, and then my daughter, my two nieces, my cousin and me going out to dinner during Happy Hour in Chelsea, enjoying deceptively smooth margaritas and laughing together, almost as if the stories coming across the transom aren't happening to us. But make no mistake: We may not be huddled in school gyms and sobbing our hearts out in cafeterias, and feeling annihilated from the terror that we'll never see our parents again, yet the fact is, even when we are behaving as if we are oblivious, as if we can do nothing in this moment to change things, this national nightmare wounds us all.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

August in New York

It's a busy social season at our house. My cousin Nicky arrived from Trinidad at seven this morning, my niece Leisa arrives from Dallas at ten tomorrow morning, and my other niece and goddaughter Dani, who lives here now, is in the mix too.

Then on Saturday, my daughter's boyfriend's family comes into town for the weekend, and though they're not staying with us this time, the entire group will go out for dinner on Saturday evening to celebrate his sister's birthday.

Next Wednesday, my cousin Laurie, Dani's mom and Nicky's sister, and her other daughter Lexi, will also be in town, and we have all sorts of shenanigans planned for then, too.

Never mind trying to keep track of who's connected to whom. Suffice it to say that none of these people cause me an iota of anxiety, and that, combined with the fact that the proposal is out of my hands and making the rounds, and the magazine is on the light end of the edit cycle, makes this a carefree time to lime around town.

That fun can be anything from the diner pancake breakfast we had this morning, to a walk along the High Line, to sunsets viewed from a rooftop bar in Soho. I hear there's also a Rockaway beach outing planned plus the trying on of wedding reception outfits.

I aim to kick back and just enjoy my family this week. The working life will reclaim all of us soon enough. As for the picture, I saw it on insta and thought the girls adorable. It's from a photo shoot on a Harlem stoop for a children's shoe store. Love that freedom hair.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

In her presence

One of my former colleagues at the magazine where I once worked found and posted this picture on Instagram this morning. I'm a little blown away, seeing this again. This was taken on the afternoon that Toni Morrison lunched with the editors. Recognize anyone? At the time of this photo, I had recently given birth to my daughter, and my son was three. That may be why Toni Morrison's words on parenting, quoted in my previous post, resonated so deeply for me. Here is the tribute I wrote to her yesterday. She rocked so many worlds with her words, written and spoken, and with her laugh, low and rumbling and wise. A professor once told her son that she was the single most important writer of the Twentieth Century. What wealth she has left for us all.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Thank you, Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison has died. She was 88 years old. I worked with her when she was an editor at Random House in the summer between my junior and senior years of college. She used to come into the office from her home upstate, usually wearing gardening clothes and a big floppy straw hat. She had a deep rumbling laugh that she deployed often, and I remember she sat me down one day and asked what I wanted to do with my life. If you want to write, she told me, make sure you love it, because it won't be worth the pain otherwise. A year later, she was the commencement speaker at my graduation from Barnard, an all women's college. In her address to my class, she charged us never to leave each other writhing on "the killing floor of professional women's worlds." That image stayed with me, a cautionary tale. And she added: "The function of freedom is to free somebody else."

When I was a new mother, she would guide me again. She had been invited to lunch with the editors at the magazine where I worked, and someone asked her if she'd been criticized for paving the way for her son to get published. "If you are in a position to help your child, why on earth wouldn't you do it?" she asked, amazed that it should even be a question. And then she said the thing I will never forget: “You are your child’s source of security in the world,” she told us. “When your children come into a room you are in, your eyes light up in a way that confirms for them the value of their very being.”

The 1993 Nobel Laureate transformed our literary landscape, in part by giving us works rooted in the Black gaze, allowing us to see ourselves in all the ways we show up in this world, and to love ourselves just as we were. This morning, I was asked to write a tribute to mark her passing. Perhaps I will link it when it is posted. In the meantime, here is a quote from the great woman that is so appropriate to the events of the week in which she closed her eyes for good.

"The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend 20 years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing."

Rest in peace, Queen. 

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Back home

Here are a few leftover pics from our trip. We're back in New York from Dallas now, and we had a wonderful time on our little family vacay. Not a single wry word the whole time. It's interesting how our energies balance one another. Now back to work. I'm closing in on the finish line of the proposal. This one took four whole months, longer than usual. The agent says he's sending it out next week, which means I have to turn in the final draft tomorrow. It will be good to catch my breath while editors read and decide. The agent is happy. I hope the book sells well.
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