Ok, cupid.

I signed up on okcupid today. I’ve had multiple lengthy conversations with people on the merits of online dating. I haven’t been meeting that many new people lately so I figure now was as good a time as any to give it a shot. I should say that it’s not like I had some sort of upturned nosed attitude at online dating, I just never felt like I could commit the time in the past or the effort. Meeting new people is an exhausting venture for me and the idea of sifting through hundreds of profiles was not appealing. Also how embarrassing is it to have to market yourself as date able? Buoyed by the positive stories from friends, I decided to forgo my previous hesitations and just give it a shot. I know okcupid in New York is notorious for being a hook up dating site, but I figure I’d try a free thing before I fork over cash on another site. I thought it would be fun to share my little foray into the online dating scene.

Let’s talk about the profile first. I’m a really critical editor/scared-y cat writer, so the task of marketing myself felt cheesy and made me cringe through the entire process. I wouldn’t say I’m exactly comfortable in my own skin. I am kind of a dork about things and try to tamp that down by “playing it cool” which basically amounts to not talking very much until I feel safe with you. Obviously online dating is not set up in this manner. A good profile should be exciting, witty, a bit sexy. For me trying to embody those things in a profile about myself feels like trying to write  advertising copy for beer. I gave myself a couple of hours to finish and once time was up, I posted what I had (internal editor be damned).
Well I’m out there now. I’ve been getting some interesting inquiries. More on that next time…

A Perfect Saturday

My Happy Place taken by Twin

I tend to do a lot during the week; book events, soccer, volleyball, dinners with friends, prayer group, bible study etc. By the time Friday afternoon rolls around I’m crossing my fingers that the outlook for the weekend is a big blank on the calendar. I need a lot of time to re-charge and Saturday is my time to do that. My perfect Saturday starts with sleeping in, only opening my eyes when I’m good and ready and not when the alarm begins to blare. An hour of answering emails and messing around on Pinterest. Then a nice, full home made breakfast. This time I made a baked egg dish with sauteed spinach, a side of bacon and a cup of orange juice. My perfect Saturday always includes time spent with a good book and a good friend. This time I went with Book Twin to Lennox Coffee and dove into The Fault in Our Stars by John Green along with a latte and lovely company. After spending a few hours there chatting and reading I like to come home and relax. This time I indulged in beloved British television (Downton Abbey). I have introduced Book Twin to the wonderful world of British telly so we watched together and gasped at all the right moments. I almost choked on my water when they found out the bad thing they thought happened actually didn’t. Then again when there was a big surprise (I hate when tv is spoiled for me so I won’t give anything away in case you watch Downton). A nice home made dinner and finishing up the book I started earlier is how I like to round off the day (as I did this past one). I sometimes forget how serene it is to spend quality time with a book and a good friend. I am constantly bombarded with a non-stop onslaught of things to do, people to meet, places to go etc. that I feel endlessly harried. So when I get a Saturday to myself this is how I like to spend it.

Spoilers!

Photo by Jonathan Grassi (from the Young Lions FB page)

I attend at least one bookish event a week. I love listening to authors read and talk about their books. I was especially excited for the event hosted by the New York Public Library on Tuesday “Karen Russel in conversation with Wells Tower”. If we’ve talked books in the past year, then you’re probably aware of my fondness for Wells but Karen was a more recent discovery. I read her last book a short story collection called St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. She was also one of the most recent writers in the New Yorker’s 20 under 40 series and has been featured in the Best American Short Stories collection. I enjoyed her stories very much and saw her on a panel of the 20 under 40 at the 92 Street Y in November, where I was pleased to find that she was a genuinely nice person. She exuded that kindergarten teacher warmth, enthusiasm and silliness. I was crossing my fingers that her second book a full novel called Swamplandia would be received well. Luckily it has been, most recently receiving glowing reviews from the New York Times, NPR and even The Economist!  I planned to buy the book at the event, since she would be on hand to sign my copy.

The event was held in a lovely ballroom at the basement. It had an ornate ceiling that made you feel like you could look out and see stars twinkling. For those book nerds who have fantasies of getting married at the library, the NYPL has you covered. Going to events like this always have me silently squealing with glee at spotting authors I greatly admire. Wells and Karen are friends, it was pretty obvious by the awkward fawning over each others work. They both attended the Columbia MFA program and were on the 20 under 40 list. The conversation was good, Wells asked very detailed questions about the characters and the setting of the book. I have no reference for the Florida everglades (where Swamplandia is set), so it was interesting to hear about a place where going on a bike ride you are likely to run into alligators lying in your path. I wanted to start reading the book right then and there. Then Wells asked Karen to read an excerpt of the book, what he thought held the real power of the book. I listened intently as Karen Russell ruined the book for me!! I have never gone to a book event where the author basically gives away the ending. I felt like she had just popped the balloon of my enthusiasm. I still want to read the book, Karen is a great writer and based on the reviews and discussion I heard this book is fantastic but it has moved far down on the reading list for me. Damn it! Even without reading it I would still recommend it based on the premise alone. Set in the Florida everglades, Ava Big-Tree a 12 year old girl that comes from a family of alligator wrestlers sets out on a journey through the swamps to find her lost sister. When you read it, tell me how you feel about the turning point in the book. I ‘ll try to live vicariously through your surprise.

Wells Tower & Karen Russell laughing at me - Photo by Jonathan Grassi (from the Young Lions FB page)

 

 

 

Take a Seat

My author crush, Wells Tower sat next to me today at a reading. I like to get to things early and sit at the front of the class. Front row seating at readings for some of the more obscure writers I enjoy, tend to remain vacant until right before a reading starts, which was the case for this evening.

In comes Mr. Tower strolling in casually looking for somewhere to sit. Two seats to my left are empty and he asks politely motioning toward the empty seats “Is anyone sitting here?” I could’ve been cool in this moment. I could have nodded my head and said “I don’t think so” acted casual like he was any old Joe off the street, but I have never been cool a day in my life. I knew exactly who he was (the future father of my uber-literate children) and motioned to the chair next to me presenting it like some prize and overeagerly saying “Oh, yes, yeah you can sit here, this seat isn’t taken” (because you don’t know it yet but I love you and sometimes I read your stories and I just weep because they are so good so really it’s fate that you’re sitting next to me because you will be mine Wells Tower you will be mine). He sits next to me and I feel like I’ve just won the Nobel Prize. My friend nudges me because she too knows how fortuitous this situation is. I want to nudge back but am afraid I might scare away my author friend on my left. I spent most of the evening holding my breathe and stiffly shifting in my seat.

His reading was of course wonderful. It brought me back to the quiet hours between the pages of his book Everything Ravaged Everything Burned practically drooling over those finely crafted sentences. I felt the same not wanting it to end feeling.

No, I didn’t talk to him. What do you say to someone who has made your heart stop by reading one of his short stories. “I’m such a big fan Mr. Tower” sounds so stupid and doesn’t even begin to describe the overwhelming gratitude I feel. I’m sure the fangirl way I internally fawn all over someone who can command words would just make everyone involved feel awkward and cringe. Don’t worry I didn’t do anything weird like lightly press my shoulder against his.

Here’s a sampling of some of his work:

Love in the Ruins – Outside Magazine

The Landlord – The New Yorker

Sometimes I pinch myself

I am a huge nerd. Some people get excited when Lady Gaga comes through their town. I get excited when my favorite author/public radio personality/scientist comes through town to give a lecture or do a reading. For many years I forced my poor siblings to attend these events, events that were few and far between in the Bay Area.

Now that I’ve made the move out to New York I am constantly pinching myself at all of the amazing events I’ve been able to attend. Tonight for instance, I attended a This American Life themed edition of Selected Shorts hosted by Ira Glass. Two of my favorite podcasts combined to put on a show live. One of my favorite comedians Mike Birbiglia was also there to regale us with one of his hilarious stories. It’s been shocking getting to see in person the voices I’ve heard through my headphones so many times. Tomorrow night I get another dose of Ira at The Talent Show.

I’ve seen Malcolm Gladwell at Barnes & Noble. Neil DeGrasse Tyson at the The Daily Show. Stephen Colbert reading from To Kill a Mockingbird at Symphony Space. Donald Glover (Community) & John Lutz (30 Rock) at the Upright Citizens Brigade. Jonsi from Sigur Ros and Madeleine Peyroux at the Blue Note. I went to a lecture the other day on what was going on with the Large Hadron Collider that was sold out! These are the types of things I get to attend every week. I often turn to my friend (who not only willingly but eagerly joins me at these events) in a shocked breathlessness whisper “I can’t believe we live here!”

Atticus Finch (making American men feel inadequate for 50 years)

I attended an event tonight at Symphony Space to celebrate Harper Lee’s birthday and the influence “To Kill a Mockingbird” has had on the American psyche for the past 50 years. Panelists included Authors and actors:  Libba Bray (award winning young-adult novelist Going Bovine, winner of 2010 Printz Award), Oskar Eustis (Artistic Director at The Public Theater), Kurt Andersen (novelist and Studio 360 Host) ,Jayne Anne Phillips  (novelist and National Book Award finalist Lark & Termite), filmmaker Mary McDonagh Murphy (author of the upcoming book Scout, Atticus, and Boo) & Stephen Colbert (who let’s be honest is the only panelist I really cared about). The highlight of the evening was Stephen reading a chapter from the book.

The panelists discussed how the book affected their lives and the way they thought it had affected America. Oskar Eustis shared an anecdote about of a little girl he fancied and how she said “I want to marry a man like Atticus Finch”. Oskar went on to say that the Atticus Finch standard has made him feel inadequate as a man and after having kids, an inadequate father. He said this jokingly of course, but like most jokes there was a sad sad truth behind it. Atticus is not your typical hero. He isn’t overly militant, he is understated and determined. He does what’s right because it is right and doesn’t make a show about it. He is wise, generous, humble & compassionate. With his kids he is patient, honest, and tries to instill in them good values by example.  I want to echo Oskar’s girl’s statement. I want to marry a man like Atticus Finch too!

The panel discussed Harper Lee and the mystery surrounding why she never wrote again. Today (April 28th) is Harper Lee’s 84th birthday. She has rarely done interviews or made appearances. I think the general consensus was that she never wrote again because she could never live up to the anticipation. To Kill a Mockingbird was too much of a success for her to write anything again. I guess we’ll never know. Personally I think she is more than happy with the masterpiece she has contributed to American literature.

I read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was in 4th grade. My mom took us to the library almost every week and it was on one of these excursions that I stumbled upon and into the world of Scout Finch. I think even at that age I was able to glean so much about what integrity looked like, what justice was, how entrenched social constructs were hard to change but it didn’t mean you shouldn’t try if they were wrong.

I love this book. I loved the movie too. Thank you Harper Lee for giving us Atticus, Scout, Jem, Dill & Boo. Happy Birthday.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
– spoken by Atticus Finch, by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Lincoln in New York

The New York Historical Society is having free admission days all this week. That is another thing about New York that I love, the museums often have free days/hours which is just the right price for me. The museum has a special exhibit on Lincoln which was pretty cool. I have to admit I didn’t pay that much attention in history. My American history knowledge is seriously deficient. It was cool to walk through Lincoln’s political career. My favorite anecdote was about his decision to grow a beard. In his early days he was clean shaven in his photos. A little girl named Grace Bedell wrote him a letter assuring him of her vote but also suggesting that he grow in some whiskers.

N Y
Westfield Chatauque Co
Oct 15. 1860

Hon A B Lincoln
Dear Sir

My father has just home from the fair and brought home your picture and Mr. Hamlin’s. I am a little girl only eleven years old, but want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you wont think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am if so give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot answer this letter. I have got 4 brother’s and part of them will vote for you any way and if you will let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you   you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband’s to vote for you and then you would be President. My father is a going to vote for you and if I was a man I would vote for you to but I will try and get every one to vote for you that I can   I think that rail fence around your picture makes it look very pretty   I have got a little baby sister she is nine weeks old and is just as cunning as can be. When you direct your letter dir[e]ct to Grace Bedell Westfield Chatauque County New York

I must not write any more   answer this letter right off
Good bye
Grace Bedell

Adorable right? The best part is that Lincoln did grow in some whiskers! I loved that. The big thing I took away from the exhibit is the way that history blurs the edges of what actually happened. Lincoln is this iconic figure, stove pipe hats, unwavering morals and a farmer boy clean cut stature. I think the thing that gets diminished is the great opposition he faced even within his camp of supporters. The political cartoons were especially biting. It was just interesting to me how so many of the challenges Lincoln faced in his Presidency are the same challenges President Obama is facing. So good luck President Obama, politics is a harsh business.


It seems ridiculous now to think that slavery was a legalized way of life that under the Dred Scott Decision those imported and descended from Africans were not protected under our constitution. I won’t get into the ways slavery is still legalized today (maybe later), but it’s still baffling that we can treat our fellow human beings like cattle. The museum exhibited the lives of some of our country’s most legendary abolitionists. Now I wish I had paid more attention in history class instead of playing racing games on my TI-83 I could have properly given consideration to the people in history that risked their lives to give us the freedoms we enjoy today. Thank you New York Historical Society for properly shaming me. I’m off to add some history books to this year’s book list.


Snowflakes

It snowed all day yesterday. I walked around Central Park for a bit and just enjoyed the general splendor of freshly fallen snow. I think snow is magical, even walking back home crossing the busy streets everything just seemed to be a little quieter a little more serene. I got home with snow covered boots and a soggy jacket but I loved every minute out there with the snowflakes.

Snowpocalypse

We got 10 inches of snow on Wednesday (2/9). I enjoyed this snowfall from the comfort of my cozy apartment. I wasn’t feeling too well and after hearing reports from friends who were forced to venture out in the storm I figured it was better to just watch the snowflakes from indoors. I love snow! It gives you the chance to bundle up in warm coats, scarves and hats. I love the sound of the snow crunching beneath your feet. I love when the flurries get caught in your eyelashes or on the fringes of your bangs. The concrete jungle blanketed with fresh snowfall is so beautiful. The weather forecast says there is a 100% chance of snow tonight and tomorrow. I’m feeling a lot better so I think I may go out and brave the snowfall, I may even go sledding.

For a little perspective, this is what the playground beneath my window looked like before the snowstorm (photo taken in Dec).

This is what it looked like at about 2 in the afternoon on Wednesday.

By 6pm the chain link fence was covered in a sheet of snow. The playground equipment wasn’t even visible. On a side note though, no screaming children the rest of the week. How cool must it be to get snow days?!

Hopefully I’ll get some more pictures of my neighborhood covered in snow tomorrow. Stay tuned.