Sunday, February 28, 2010

Something New

Tom stepped out of the bar and into a pool of yellow-ochre light from the streetlamp. Yellow-ochre is the color of this country, he thought, and terracotta. His brain, bathed in a loose veil of red wine and whatever the Italian football players got him to drink, seemed to drift along behind him like an awkward, dumb animal. “Catch up,” he said out loud. “Put your hand in your pocket and find your keys,” he said, to the cracked sidewalk, to the slice of barely visible moon, to anything listening. “You’re going home alone, and you aren’t as drunk as you’re acting.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

Editor's Note

Back in December of 2008, I wrote this post, a kind of reflection on the year that had been--turning 30, for example. (It has turned out to be superb, not the hellish shift that some people swore it would be.) The post was also about how I felt about writing, about publishing, about work in general. I've been thinking a lot about that post, and whether it makes any sense to amend it, or maybe clarify it. I realize now that it was really about how I felt about what I thought publishing was. Everything I said back then was true. Or it was true then when I wrote it. And, for the most part, it still is true. But I think I've realized a few more things about myself, and about what it means to create things.

I wrote that "my interest in the 'book' world has waned." What I meant, I know now, was that my interest in who got what kind of advance, who the hot new writer was, who was being talked up in magazines--all that had waned. This, I know now, is not the "book world," but the "media world." I'm not sure what took me so long to understand the difference. I wrote that "the enchantment of publishing has worn off for me." What I didn't realize at the time was that actually publishing, actually being published, feels so completely different than what I thought it would feel like. (And the book isn't even in the universe I'm curious and scared and excited and worried about what happens then.) It is, at the most basic level, a feeling of being understood.

Oprah told a story once, on the DVDs of her show that you can get from Netflix, about how she got the role in The Color Purple. She had never wanted anything so badly. She was convinced that she was going to get the role, she was convinced that she wasn't. She found herself, finally, at a fat farm, trying to lose all the weight that she has struggled with for so long, and she's walking laps around the track, and feeling so overwhelmed by everything, that she bursts into tears. She realizes that she has allowed the want of this thing to control every aspect of her life. And in that moment, she says to herself, okay, I give it up to god. And then, and only then, does someone come out of the house and say "Ms. Winfrey, Stephen Spielberg is on the phone for you." He says to her, "Get off that track right now, because if you lose one pound you can't have this role." Sometimes I love Oprah's stories. It's as simple, and as complicated, as that.

I think at the end of 2008, I came to my own Color Purple moment--I had given it all up to the Goddesses of the Universe and, in turn, they gave me what I wanted. Or needed. "Be careful what you say that you 'need' around here," my brother said when I was in Orlando visiting my nephews, meaning toys and things. I understood what he was trying to say, but sometimes those things are the same. Sometimes what you want is what you need, and when you get it you feel elated and understood and grateful.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Olympic Fever, Sort Of

I am sitting down to watch the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Olympic Games, and to eat my Thai food, which was delivered quickly and efficiently by the new place on Broadway. I had forgotten about all the package pieces that NBC does--including tonight's brief "Canada 101" by Tom Brokaw, in which he explained that Canada was nice enough to "share" their stars of music, film and television, and then flashed shots of Celine Dion, Jim Carrey and Seth Rogan. Wait, share?

I used to get really excited about the Olympics--now my feelings are a bit colored by the incredible amount of money spent on advertising and sponsorships. There is so much branding and marketing moments, one can hardly see the athletes for the logos. It's beginning to look too much like NASCAR. Also, no mention of (openly?) gay Johnny Weir in the package piece about American male figure skaters. And the sad news, before the games even begin, of the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili.

But there are some real moments in my own Olympic history:
--I'm thinking of the nights spent at Keith's house, staying up far too late watching the Ladie's Figure Skating Final back in Nagano.
--I'm thinking of Midori Ito, arguably the most incredibly talented figure skater of all time, and the time she landed the first triple axel in competition (1988,) and the time she landed the first triple axel in Olympic competition (1992.)
--I'm thinking of the night back in 1994, when Michelle O'Born's mother announced, much to our teenage dramatic dismay, the medal results that she had seen earlier in the day, just moments before the final group of women took to the ice for their warm-up.

Okay, so maybe all of my big memories have to do with figure skating. How gay is that? Also: How gay is this? Also: Rice noodles are fucking good.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

How Can One Sleep with So Many Feelings?

for Sean Quinn

Yesterday after midnight at the Polish bakery,
there was a long line of old women standing outside,
each bent, with thick-soled shoes and
hands hidden in pockets,
equal parts patience and urgency,
with probably simple but particular needs.
Inside, the women waved bills and fingers,
stretching themselves over the counter,
paper wrapped pastries inside paper bags,
inside plastic bags.
I had the feeling you have when you realize
that a lot of people know something
that you don't.

How can one sleep with so many feelings?
You lay down and close your eyes,
and the sleep washes over the feelings,
washing them out to sea, where they float,
like note-filled bottles and other man-made trinkets,
for years, for lifetimes, for generations,
or until the next day's tide,
returned to you by the moon,
or a song from your days in Hoboken,
or the name of your favorite lover,
or the memory of the lover that left you, who,
restless, asked the same question to himself
and heard no sensible answer.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Some Assholes of Late

1) The Supreme Court of the United States
Okay, only five of them were assholes, but it was enough for the outcome of Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission to end in granting corporations the "right" to spend unlimited amounts of cash on elections. Because if there's anything we need in this world, it's more corporate influence over what people see and think about--especially when those things we are supposed to think about are candidates who support or don't support the interests of those corporations.

2) Live Nation / Ticketmaster / Department of Justice
Last week, the Department of Justice decided, after about a year of investigation, that Ticketmaster and Live Nation, two enormous, controlling, for-profit, monopolizing companies could merge into one long as they divvied the pieces up in a way that made, well, some kind of sense to the DOJ -- including forcing Ticketmaster to license it's ticket-selling software to other outlets. (What other outlets, you are probably asking.) Live Nation had the balls to say this: "This is a good and exciting day for the music business, and we are close to finalizing the creation of a new company that will seek to transform the way artists distribute their content and fans can access that content." Call me crazy, but I can't see how any of this will mean anything other than more fees and even more limited access to the rather static number of tickets available to events.

3) James Cameron
When accepting the Golden Globe for best picture, James Cameron said: "....If they start the music, it's going to be an ugly scene. No, this is quick, uh, you know, I just wanna tell you kind of how I feel right now, this is such an exciting evening and just walking through here, walking in here with all you, you, great creative amazing people, I look around this room and I see the faces of the people that I respect, that I've admired for years, some of you I know and have worked with, many of you I'd love to have the opportunity to work with, and I just think, 'This is the best job in the world.' You know? It just really is. And I just want you to give it up for yourselves....You know, Avatar, I guess asks us to see--they're telling me to wrap it up, but they're afraid to start the music--Avatar asks us to see that everything is connected, all human beings to each other, and us to the earth, and you know, if you have to go four and a half light years to another, made-up planet to appreciate this miracle of a world we have right now, you know what, that's the wonder of cinema right there. That's the magic. Thank you." What a fucking douchebag. What's going to happen if they start playing the music, Jim? What other stupid threats can you lay out on the table? They want to play the music, but they are so afraid!