Thursday, January 24, 2008

I Heart New York 4

Look at this:I took this picture yesterday from my apartment. I was working on my computer, sitting on my bed (which also serves as my office), when J's eyes got really big and he told me to turn around. Slowly. A hawk had landed on our fire escape, not two feet from where I sat. A hawk.

I've seen hawks in the city before, usually in the park from a distance, but this time the thing landed just a pane of glass away. And in its talons was a freshly-killed pigeon. As we watched, the hawk eyed us up and down, repositioned himself on top of his dinner, and began to tear its feathers out.

J, Justin, the two cats and I sat by the window for a full hour, both gleeful and horrified, as the hawk ate first the pigeon's head, then its heart, guts, and even choked down one whole leg - foot and all. I've never seen anything like it.

The thing was gorgeous, and huge, though its hard to tell from the photo. But if you look closely you'll see it's standing on a pigeon - not a small bird - and you can get a sense of how massive the thing was.

Once it was done, the hawk flew away, leaving our fire escape covered in feathers, bird shit, and the carcass:

It was the most intimate National Geographic moment I've ever had, and in New York City, of all places.

To top it all off, we may have solved the mystery of the demon bird...

GTD from 760***0487:
mir Come to the bathrooms

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Yesterday was my mom's birthday. Historically, my mom kind of gets shafted on her birthday. Before the divorce, there were brunches and flowers and expensive bottles of Coco Chanel, but after the divorce, it was homemade cards and hastily wrapped books. And even though my dad spent years reminding us not to forget our mother, once we left for college, gifts were sent back late, or sometimes not at all. There was even a year when I forgot her birthday entirely, and didn't remember to call until weeks later. Luckily, my mom is a rare and awesome women lacking both resentment and materialism, and never once has she guilted Kyle or I for our lackluster celebration of her birth. So head on over to her page and wish her a happy belated.

Yesterday was also the first day of school. I don't start my graduate workshop until next week, but I did start teaching my undergraduate intermediate fiction class at NYU. And, as someone who's Googled teachers for years, I'm now wondering at the wisdom of have a public but very personal blog out there. Is it okay for your students to know the date when you last cried? Or that you have a virulent disrespect for Charles Baxter? Or what you look like sitting six feet above your buried brother? Oh well. I'm sure the veneer of authority would've slipped soon enough. Writing gets me excited, and in the last class I taught I blew my cover the first day by breaking into a clapping, beaming, barely-seated book cheer. Goooooo fiction!

In other news, I'm reading for the first time this Friday at NYU's Emerging Writers' Reading Series. Darin Strauss is headlining, which is exciting, so email me if you're in town and want details.

And last, but hardly least, the scaffolding that's been up in front of my building for six months finally came down. It's like God lifted the roof off of the sky.

GTD from 760***0487:
mir goddd. i wish you werent in texas travis is having a huge party tonight i think. uughhh. but i needa talk to ya girliee.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Oh. My. God.

I had a bad day today. I cried over Kyle for the first time in a while. And then, just now, I got this on my phone:

From 217.549.6743@VTEXT.COM:
Hey its ok nvm
Jan 16th, 9:35 pm

Literally, a ghost text.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"Savage Thoughts" or "How Everything, Even the Oscars, Has Something To Do With Me"

I saw The Savages. Have you? Stop reading if you plan to, because this post has SPOILERS.

It's a movie about a dying family. Mom is gone, dad has dementia, and their two grown kids are midlife and mateless. Wendy Savage (Laura Linney) is a late-thirties MFA grad and "autobiographical playwright" with a sex life limited to an occassional visit from her married neighbor. She lives alone in New York City with a cat, works a sad and unrelated day job, and applies endlessly for grants she won't receive. She is, essentially, the future version of me I'm most terrified of becoming, with one significant difference:

Wendy has a brother.

Jon Savage (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is a more successful but more depressed upstate philosophy professor, and he meets his sister in Arizona to try and figure out what to do with their non-functioning father, their meager resources, the realization that soon they'll be all that's left of their family.

Let's stop here for a moment. At this point in the movie, about twenty minutes in, I'm a little overwhelmed. I didn't know anything about The Savages - it was just one of those Oscar-list movies I feel obligated to see - and from the title I assumed it was going to be a documentary about the Bush Administration or some snarky comedy about brilliant and narcissistic English academics locked in a death match for tenure.

But it doesn't take me long to realize, no. I was wrong. The Savages isn't nearly so easy. Instead, it's about the person I am most afraid of becoming facing the thing I most fear armed only with the income I fear will be mine.

I felt like I was watching a well-produced nightmare, a futuristic horror show where between the ticket booth and my seat they somehow uploaded my most well-repressed fears, strung them together into a coherant narrative, and got incredibly talented actors to play out every nuance.

All in all, even if you're not me, it's still a pretty despressing film. Wendy and Jon have to warehouse their dad in an east coast nursing home just in time for the holidays, and they fight and bicker and bend under the guilt of not being able to provide for their father. Luckily (unluckily?), the nursing home stay proves to be fleeting. After just a few weeks there, dad dies.

The Savages return to their respective homes. Jon has allowed the deportation of his Polish girlfriend, Wendy has broken it off with her neighbor, and both are banished to the Desert of the Sexless.

Here, thankfully, the movie takes pity on its abused viewer and allows for one of those "light-hearted" tragic-comic endings:

The last scene is a rehersal of Wendy's autobiographical play. In it, an actor playing her father slaps a boy playing her brother again and again, until the boy rises up, angel-like, over stage. Cut to Jon crying in the audience. Cut to Wendy walking him to a cab. He's on his way to Poland, her play was really, really good, and he will be back opening night. They have one of those tender film moments, one of those shared small smiles, in which the audience realizes that they will be ok, that will not kill themlseves, that while life is hard and their parents are dead, at the very least they have each other.

And this is where I started to cry. The happy ending. Because even worse than seeing my failed dreams and dying parents in Technicolor was being reminded that when I get the call, when I go to Arizona, when I research "assisted living facilities" out of my price range, I will be alone. I will be A McLeod. I will have lost my "s," my plurality, the one thing that kept The Savages from being the most depressing movie made since Schindler's List.

GTD from 724***6601:
FWD:FWD:FWD:FWD:FWD: u send fwds u better send this one if u dont u will never get a fwd again and 2008 will suck send to 15 people in the next 10 min HURRY UP!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Obama Looks Like God

I woke up late this morning. It was freezing outside and warm in bed, I didn't have to work, so I just lay there and thought about Barack Obama.

I was so excited. There was a fuzziness in my belly like there used to be Christmas morning, and I pulled the covers up and fantasized about a sparkling, environmentally-sensitive utopia of postgraduate health care, student loan forgiveness, and generous, renewable, minority-friendly artists' grants.

I know I'm being naive, but I can't help it. I really do think he might be a biracial superhero come to save the world. I mean, just look at him.

Doesn't he look a little like God? Or at least like Morgan Freeman playing God?

So Happy New Year, America! Considering that I'm guaranteed not to lose another sibling, 2008 is already going to kick 2007's ass in my book. But with Obama barreling his black self towards the White House, we all may be about to watch the making of history, and 2008 could be one of those years we talk about for the rest of our lives.