Sunday, March 29, 2009

How to Be a Good Customer: Lessons from a Syrup Slinger, Vol. 1

"How to Be a Good Customer: Lessons Learned from a Syrup Slinger" is a blog series that emerged from my years of experience selling maple syrup at the Union Square Greenmarket. The mission of this sporadic, multi-part series is to teach the citizens of New York how to be polite, intelligent, interested consumers, without acting like fucking idiots.

Lesson 1: It's Not an Apartment.

Many people fret about whether or not they are making the right decision. We can't decide what outfit to wear for that special date, what flavor chicken bits they should have the Mexican guy toss into their $12 salad, what color to paint the nursury (Princess Tiara, Manly Tan, or Wattle*), or how to properly invest your Powerball winnings. I know these are issues that I am constantly grappling with.

But, in the end, it's just syrup. At the most basic level you are making a choice that will improve your life, not hinder it. If you buy the wrong syrup, give it to your neighbor, pour it on your head, paint by number, feed the ants, kill some ants, put down a Voodoo line, who gives a shit?

This is really an issue of self-confience. Be confident that if you buy too small a bottle, we are here every week for your convenience. Be confident that if you buy too large a bottle, perchance you could research what other uses for maple syrup might excite you. (Did you try it in lemonade yet? Did you add some to your salad dressing?)

Be confident that this small decision is not one that will determine 1) your entry into heaven, or 2) your fundamental happiness for the rest of eternity, (okay, sorta the same thing, but whatever.) Remember, I want you to have what you want, I want to sell you the syrup that will make you feel like every choice you made in your entire life up to this very moment has been the right one. But I can't do that if you are fretting for 5.5 minutes** over 3 ounces. Really.

*Actual paint names.
**Actual time spent hand-wringing by a lady who couldn't decide.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Check Out This Heavy Shit I Wrote When Everything I Wrote Was Serious

from a short story, "Coraline"--no relation.
The dirty cotton rope. It hangs there now, now that the bruised weight has come off of it and the memories mostly rubbed away like a pink eraser smudge on clean white paper. It was the rope that hung clothes; she remembers that. The shirts and pants making limp body-shapes curling to greet you in the late wind, the last firm wind of summer. Because it was summer. And it was windy. That she also remembers. Some memories of that day shrivel. Others expand.

The toy horse. The wooden broom handle hacked off and glued snugly to a wad of cloth covered paper towels. So that when there was rain, and there was rain, the head would soak and then dry, a new shape each day. Always a new grimace. Always a new stare. The toy horse that Daddy made for him. The toy horse that, later, brought out the worst in Daddy. At least she remembers it as the worst. How could there be any worse?

The cellar. The cellar that filled with water from the outside in. Pooling toward her, silver mercury approaching from all the corners. The pump running all day. All night. Her mother would run her down to check on it. To make sure the water wasn’t reaching up too far. To where there were canned vegetables known only by their pale labels and unfamiliar colors. She remembers the coolness. The cold loam floor, dark as violet tar, smelly and rich as butter.

Monday, March 23, 2009


I can't seem to churn out any more "content" these days--it's been a heavy week, what can I say? I'm planning a lengthy new blog series, so I'm setting up and taking pictures for that, plus I've just been so distracted by other things--obsessed by other things, actually. Instead, I'll simply leave you with this bit of hilarity. My friends Jeff & Jeff, who live in Chicago, made this movie for a friend's birthday. In it, Madonna attempts to rid herself of an especially annoying part of her fan base.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hump Day Update

--Vermont was lovely, if brief. I guess I was there for about 18 hours, total. Still, I was able to spend some time walking through the woods, and feeling like myself. At some point while I was walking up through the part of the farm that they call "The Marriage Area," I picked up a huge branch that had fallen. It was not heavy, just large and twisted. I propped it on my shoulder and kept walking, a kind of Tom Bombadill moment. As I came to the higher part, I turned around and looked out over the hill and the snow and the land all around me. I felt such a huge swell of gratitude toward the trees. I wondered, for a moment, if I should say it out loud to them, or would they know it already? Would they care?

--My brain has been pleasantly distracted by the goings-on lately, and I feel simultaneously exhausted and charged, like I'm on speed, but drunk. As soon as things pan out and situate in some kind of finality, I'll be able to relax more. I think. I hope.

--After all the fuss, I joined Facebook. (And I have since updated my previous post on this blog about not joining it, so there.) People have been going on an on about it to be, as if it were the savior of mankind. It is not that. It is no more or less interesting and annoying than any of the previous social-networking websites, although this one has a certain reach, and therefore people who, I would gander to presume, were not a part of Friendster, for example, have signed up and send inane messages to my boyfriend about assinine right-wing causes. Hello? The interesting part to me--so far--at least, is how people talk about connecting on Facebook, but there really isn't any connecting going on that I can see. There's just confirmation and information. "Hi, it's been 15 years since I saw you!" the notes say. I am glad for them, but we are not really sharing anything other than some kind of intangible proof that we still exist. "Here I am," the thing says to the universe, and here is my data. It also makes me realize that I have no photos of myself. I stopped taking pictures with my own camera a while back, and so now my digital self lives inside other people's computers--the modern era is so fractured.

--I think the boyfriend and I are going to Prague sometime in May-ish.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Not Johnny Depp At All

"It's not Johnny Depp at all," she said. "More like George Michael meets BeeGees." They were discussing his new haircut, sardined in with the rest of us on the F Train this morning, rolling our eyes, wondering when, exactly, we'd reach signal clearance and continue on, away from the stink of West 4th Street. "It has some better shape," he responded, "but it's not what I told her to do." They looked at each other, considering. Finally, she said "Give it a few shampoos." At first, groggy from the morning, from having to spend a third of the night sleeping on the couch to avoid my boyfriends snoring, I thought she meant some kind of medication: Take two of these and call me in the morning.

I was sitting, hooray, and reading, but not focused much on the book. A fat lady had crammed herself into the space between me and another guy, then she pulled out a chunky worn paperback romance. Sometimes when a stranger touches you like this, in a remarkably intimate way--sustained and quiet--I wonder if they're not doing it on purpose, trying to drain the life from me because of their own loneliness. (Perhaps this is a bit dramatic.) I tried to read over her shoulder, I tried to memorize a few good lines to share with you here, but my short-term cache was already filled with Johnny Depp and George Michael meets the Bee Gees. And there was only pale backs and promises, nothing else that really struck me. Her red acrylic fingernail looked shoved down into the chubby end of her thumb, like a cherry stuck in the white icing of a cupcake.

This afternoon, I'm driving to Vermont to bring back the first crop of 2009 maple syrup, which is being boiled as I write this. By the time it cools, filters, is brought up to the house, heated again, canned and boxed, it will be tomorrow afternoon, and then I can bring it back to NYC for selling on Saturday. I'm looking forward to the long-ish drive, about 5-6 hours. I relish the time alone. I need to spend some time thinking about the first novel, and it's pressing future. And I need to allot some real uninterrupted brain time to figure out a plot device, or plot problem, in the second one.

If you're nearby Union Square on Saturday, come by. The first syrup is a thing to behold.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Exciting News!!!

As many of you know, I have this novel, Yield, which I started working on way way back in 1999. I was living in my very first New York apartment: three roommates, two cats, crooked walls, dramatically sloping floors, no air conditioning, bad carpet.

Every night I sat in my tiny bedroom, overlooking the corner of 36th Street and Broadway in Astoria, where the blue glare of the neon--"Quinn Funeral Home"--stretched the shadows of the spider plant across the wall. Finally, in 2005, two apartments and countless revisions and reconstructions later, it was finished.

A while ago, I submitted the novel to Project QueerLit, which is a contest held every two years celebrating authors who have yet to publish a full-length work of fiction, bringing visibility and recognition to good books. And Yield has just been honored as the top-rated manuscript of Project Queerlit 2008!!


For more info, and for the previous winners, look here.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Some Things I Noticed on Friday and Saturday

--It is impossible to pack, at the end of February, for: 1) inter-borough subway travel, 2) a night out in Manhattan, and 3) three days in Orlando, including a Disney day, all in the same suitcase. At least, any of the suitcases that I own, and/or want to carry.

--If you have a chance to watch the police dust your vehicle for fingerprints, DO. First, they ask you cool questions, then they brush the dust everywhere, and they say totally CSI-ish stuff like "The DA won't prosecute from an external vehicular print, even if it's a known offender." Then, when you say things like "Well, I guess that's a good thing, in the end," the cops will look at you, then look at each other, roll their eyes and say "yeah."

--Now that I have had some (self-measured) level of writerly success, I can honestly say I am so glad that I'm the age I am now, am able to process, and have a wider perspective on it all.

--I like Bernadette Peters.

--I don't like the ramen noodle restaurant on 14th Street, although everyone I was with sucked up their dinners like kuh-raz-ee. Was that supposed to be pork? It was sort of like meaty cardboard sponge. Gross.

--Remember to get your credit card out of the machine when you leave the Kinko's. They will hold it for you, but you still have to go back and get it.

--Giving a cat a pill is THE WORST.