in which this city is the problem and the solution
October 3, 2013

‘Dennis,’ said Jules. ‘Let’s leave these dishes and just go out somewhere.’

‘Where?’

‘I don’t know. Let’s just go out walking or something. Let’s do one of those New York things that are free and that make you happy when you’re feeling discouraged.’

Meg Wolitzer, The Interestings

 

sf versus nyc
June 8, 2013

 I have this theory: San Fran is this great guy who is super sweet, brings you flowers, asks you on a Saturday date on Wednesday, your mom likes him and you should totally be with him, but he’s kind of boring. All your friends are like, “Oh, San Fran is so great,” and you’re like, “Yeah.…” Then New York is a fucking dick who owes you money and never calls you back, but you have the most amazing sex. He’s such a sexy badass and every time you’re like, I’m never going back, then he calls you at 3am and is like, “Hey girl,” and you’re like, “I’ll be right there.”

Allison Davis, Time Out New York, 4.9.13

poetry
September 1, 2012

I don’t usually like poems; that is, they often don’t speak to me as sharply and haltingly as so many short stories – and, more rarely, novels – do. But I heard the brilliant David Rakoff recite this Elizabeth Bishop piece to Terry Gross on my morning walk to work yesterday, and I haven’t been able to shake its lingering mood, lingering images from my head since. Maybe I’ll try to memorize it, too, so that I can keep it close by at important times, just like he once did.

I know he’s missed by many, but after hearing his voice buzz inside my ears for the better part of this month, I have no choice but to add my silly little name to the list.

Letter to N.Y.
For Louise Crane 

By Elizabeth Bishop

In your next letter I wish you’d say
where you are going and what you are doing; 
how are the plays, and after the plays 
what other pleasures you’re pursuing:

taking cabs in the middle of the night, 
driving as if to save your soul 
where the road goes round and round the park 
and the meter glares like a moral owl,

and the trees look so queer and green
standing alone in big black caves 
and suddenly you’re in a different place 
where everything seems to happen in waves,

and most of the jokes you just can’t catch, 
like dirty words rubbed off a slate, 
and the songs are loud but somehow dim 
and it gets so terribly late,

and coming out of the brownstone house 
to the gray sidewalk, the watered street, 
one side of the buildings rises with the sun 
like a glistening field of wheat.

—Wheat, not oats, dear. I’m afraid 
if it’s wheat it’s none of your sowing, 
nevertheless I’d like to know
what you are doing and where you are going.

More David Rakoff: This American Life’s tribute (my favorites are his blistering Rent piece and his rhyming wedding toast); Fresh Air’s tribute (you, like me, might have to replay (and replay and replay and replay) that moment when Terry Gross asks him if he really feels like he’s “beloved by all but loved by none” — it took me four listenings to really understand what that “lasagna” of a sentence was saying, but I think I get it now, and I think I see myself in it too); this performance, which might make you cry.

things I do when you’re not here
August 27, 2012

Change into that huge, unflattering, washed-out blue T-shirt advertising the Vermont forestry department, stolen from my brother’s dresser years ago immediately upon coming home from work. Or a wisp of a nightgown, should I miraculously resist my afternoon chocolate croissant and not feel terribly gross. (Note: this has happened precisely once. And it was maybe because Pret was out of chocolate croissants.)

Prance in front of the living windows scantily clad. You hate it when I do this, but then again you’re currently at the hospital, which our windows face. Regretting that whole modesty campaign now, aren’t you?

Eat whatever I want.

Ok, the above is nearly always true but now my meals are bent even more to my whims, which are decidedly bipolar in their range and unquestionably manic in their intensity. A pile of roasted eggplant and sliced radishes over arugula one night; half a pan of blackberry crumb bars another. Preferably eaten while standing up at the kitchen counter.

Rock out in the living room to Robyn (Look! I really am dancing on my own!)

Linger extra long on our friends’ couch upstairs like some sad orphan they haven’t even agreed to take in, long after Franny and Madeline are collapsed in opposite corners of the room, all play-dated out.

Recklessly decide to head out to a college friend’s place on 86th after 10 p.m., because all of a sudden, the comfort or novelty (post Philadelphia friend wasteland) or nostalgia or simple pull of having someone who in 2003 lived one floor above you now less than a mile away seems too much to resist. Also, he has the next disc of West Wing that we’re missing.

Write precisely one paragraph of awful fiction, though that’s one paragraph more than I usually get out when you’re around and there’s television to watch.

Sleep diagonally across the bed, utilizing all five pillows.

Enjoy that last step very, very much but think: “It’s still totally not worth it.”

and again with the honesty
August 18, 2012

I’ve been feeling a little bit down recently.

I’m confident it will pass soon.

Occasionally, I get these moments – zooming home in a cab through the lights of the city, laughing at a great joke over dinner in Brooklyn, lapsing into gossip with Meg, feeling Dave’s hand on my back after a few glasses of wine – where it feels like I’m coming up for air.

I’m confident you’d rather hear about those than the ones where I feel like I’m drowning. (From what I gather from Dave and my mother, I get kind of annoying when I’m sad.)

Fortunately, I have some photographic proof from today’s traipse through Central Park, which fell squarely into the Very Happy To Be Here category.

 

Life really can’t be that awful with that blonde around.

p.s.
July 25, 2012

Hoping to break my never-made-it-to-one-of-those-really-nuts-outdoor-movie-screening-in-an-NYC-park streak tomorrow with the showing of Clueless at the Brooklyn Bridge park. I’m short on sleep and slogging through the tail end of a pseudo-cold and a week that seems like it should have ended days ago…but a lot of girls that I love are going and it’s right across the bridge and Courtney has some sort of special wine bag contraption that holds multiple bottles. It seems like a place I should be. Oh, and, most importantly, I responded to the email chain by telling everyone that I wanted to see them all this summer — hopefully not sporadically. One should not drop that phrase lightly.

 

a brief afterword to the midsummer midweek evening
July 19, 2012

When Dave walked in the door from The Pony Bar yesterday evening I said,

“Hi! We made our wedding album!”

And by “we” I meant me and Megan and by “our” I meant Dave and my. It takes a village, people.

midweek midsummer evening, 2012
July 18, 2012

4:30 p.m. The sky turns a shade so dark that everyone turns from their computer screens to comment. Rain pounds the office windows like wet laundry thwapping from a clothesline. Coworkers agree apocalypse could potentially be upon us.

5:15 p.m. Joe (work husband) and I venture out, using the underground passageways that snake beneath and around Rockefeller Center. I think: it took me one year to learn to deftly navigate this subterranean labyrinth, but I’m officially a real New Yorker now! Minutes later, I accidentally lead us into a law firm around 51st street and we’re forced to make a hasty retreat to the street.

5:45 p.m.: I drink a champagne cocktail too fast at a work event.

6:30 p.m.: I catch a cab with an extremely chatty driver. He is saying something about hail and cutting through Central Park and a previous passenger who did not like the fact that he parked under a tree. I am intently and drunkenly texting Dave about his evening plans (going somewhere called The Pony Bar) and then intently and drunkenly texting Bridget, who confirms that The Pony Bar does, indeed, sound like the name of a place where women take off their tops for money.

6:45 p.m. I arrive home to manic puppy (on the upswing.) Dave gets out at a reasonable hour and we take her for a walk together. I am high off of the champagne cocktail and the leaves shaking the dregs of the rain onto York Avenue and the fact that I’m walking beside my husband in New York City on a Wednesday evening in the summertime. But mostly the champagne; that was a serious drink.

7:30 p.m. Dave pulls up the Pony Bar website, proving it’s actually a craft brewery. Who knew?

8:00 p.m.: Dave leaves for the titty craft beer bar. I make myself Danish pancakes. (Frozen, from Trader Joe’s, with apricot jam.) They’re more donut than pancake and I love them fiercely.

8:40 p.m. I start fucking around online.

8:41 p.m. I remember Megan now lives across the street.

8:49 p.m. Megan arrives at my door. We now get to fuck around online together – rearranging my wedding photo album proofs, scrolling through Time Out New York’s activities calendar, getting giddy over the idea of crafts classes and Brooklyn bike rides.We also do a midweek update, hashing out the events of our respective Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays in a manner I assume is typical of sisters, though I’ve never had a real one, or perhaps of best friends who are also certified psychoanalysts. We haven’t seen each other since Saturday night and there’s a lot to talk about. The champagne’s faded by now but man, I’m still high on this silly little life of mine.

a (moderately failed) attempt to make up for all of those terrible instagrams in the last post
July 5, 2012

Dave and I went to Smorgasburg, the all-food outpost of the Brooklyn Flea market, last weekend.

It was a bit of a spontaneous Saturday for us – not just because we jumped on the ferry to Dumbo on the fly – but also because, for the first time in, oh, forever, I brought my camera around on one of our little NYC escapades.

I’ve been kind of avoiding my camera like the plague since we moved here, which is a shame considering I spent so much money, so much time, so much effort on learning to use that big hulking dslr. I can’t be totally certain now, but I think I remember being giddily excited about picking it out at B&H, lovingly and only half jokingly referring to it as Dave and my first child, and feeling genuinely positive about the prospect of photography as a theory and/or practice. I remember snapping that shutter all across India, Ecuador, Philadelphia, Connecticut. And then I just…stopped?

This might sound silly, but have you ever felt like you’re actually getting worse at something, the longer you stick at it, the harder you try? You look back on the stuff you did when you were first starting out – that first blog post about your boyfriend’s brother’s perfect girlfriend, that first shot you got of a child batting around a giant yellow balloon in a garden in Delhi – and you think, man, that was actually decent. What happened to me? You search for proof your skills haven’t totally degraded and come up empty-handed. True or not, you start to psych yourself out.

That’s how I started feeling about photography. I got frustrated. I kind of gave up.

Looking at these photos, my first thought is, um, maybe you feel this way for good reason, Rach. The pictures kind of suck. They don’t  have the right composition, the right use of light, the right focus. They don’t pull me in, don’t make me recall how hot it actually was or how happy we were to be together in the city after so long or how good that pulled pork sandwich (and the DuMont slider and the bahn-mi style hot dog and the Blue Marble cones, not pictured because, um, we ate them too fast) actually tasted. They don’t capture how the long slats of the pier in North Williamsburg felt endless if you looked at them from a certain angle or the repetitive symmetry of the benches that line Brooklyn Bridge park or how cool the perspective shift of seeing the island of Manhattan for a ferry is.

My first thought is, this is not what photography is supposed to be. Give it up, girlfriend.

My second thought is, keep going. You always put yourself down for the count far too fast.

a year in review
July 3, 2012

Growing up, my parents made the executive decorating decision to slap cherry wood panels on our refrigerator. They jazzed up our kitchen a touch (cabinet or appliance? I can’t even tell!), but they had no magnetic powers whatsoever, meaning all the little scraps of our lives — my very special breed of elementary school artwork, the quickly accumulating proof of my brothers’ academic achievements — were relegated to the bottom of drawers and the back of closets.

When I moved in with Dave, I was excited for a lot of things, but, creepily enough, having our own fridge really ranked up there. I quickly got to work transforming the plain white canvas of that aging Philadelphia appliance into a vertical collage. Up went the thank you card from Casey’s bar mitzvah, the New Yorker cartoon that reminded me to calm the fuck down every time I swung open the fridge door for a glass of seltzer, the congratulatory envelope that our friend Matt hid in our house, admonishing us to only open it only once we were engaged. The task was to put together a puzzle of paper that felt just like our life, and I rejected dozens of scraps and mementos that weren’t true or funny or us enough.

When we were moving to New York, I dutifully culled a Best Of Philly Fridge collection and chucked the rest. The spared relics got tucked under a magnetized clip on a corner of our new (older, less shiny, definitely still not stainless steel) New York fridge: they were proof of two years in Philadelphia spent sending off one rent check together. The rest of the fridge was wide open, ready for this new life we were starting in this new city.

Today, I’m pretty sure you can read our whole last year on our fridge.

There’s wedding detritus galore: a favorite RSVP card from Evan, complete with a hand-doodled map and a little airplane of him flying to Connecticut; invitations with Rachel and David plastered all over them (engagement party, bridalshowerbridalshowerbridalshower, rehearsal dinner, we really milked this whole impending marriage thing, didn’t we?) There’s our save the date, and save the dates for other people’s weddings, friends who are now husbands and wives. A picture of a very cute baby born this past March to a girl I’ve known since we were basically babies ourselves. Postcards and magnets from Hawaii, Mexico, Costa Rica — the places that we, and the people we love, have been. A hospital praise card, whatever that is. The black and white self-portrait they handed out at Barbara’s funeral, with the message on the back that I still read all the time. One of the Book of Mormon tickets we won in the lottery. Reminders of lovely dinners out and the staggering bills that came with them (I’m looking at you, watercolored Daniel card.)

All pinned up with those Met magnets I bought, in a moment of distress, just about a year ago.

It’s 2012 now, and I can tell that I don’t cry quite as much as I did during this time in 2011. (Though anyone who saw me on the 5 train chugging home from work last night around 8 p.m. might beg to differ.) I walk like a New Yorker and talk like a New Yorker and shop like a New Yorker with a job on Wall Street (that I do not have! has to stop!) I have a New York voter registration card and a Duane Reade discount card and a metro card that I honestly rarely use because I walk absolutely everywhere. I have good days, great flashes of love for this city — they mostly hit me while I’m trudging crosstown in my sandals — and I have bad days too, like yesterday, with the public crying and the self doubt and the feelings of, what the fuck am I doing with my life? and why do I not seem to be doing it as well as everyone else?

But I still know that this is the right place for me right now, and honestly, it’s become impossible to imagine being anywhere else.

A few weeks ago, someone asked Dave where he was thinking of applying for fellowship programs. Were we still set on going back to Philly; did Dave want to try for Boston again?

“I don’t think she’ll let us leave,” he said.

No, I don’t think she will.