Monthly Archives: May 2010

Sam Sifton Says…

There are SO many good lines in Sam Sifton’s review of Prime Meats…which, conveniently, is *extremely* close to where I live:

  • “You can see these people standing on Court Street nightly, staring through the plate-glass windows at a dining room packed with brownstone bohemians, third novelists, people with Web sites, with good art at home. They look slightly pained, these visitors from afar wondering about the life choices they made that put them in Chelsea or Park Slope or Montclair, and not down here in Carroll Gardens, this little Italian village off New York Harbor where life is obviously perfect.”
  • “But forget to line your pockets in the manner of a Biggie Smalls impersonator and you’re going to need to leave your guests before the end of it all, and walk to a bodega A.T.M. to rustle up enough cash to pay your bill.”
  • “The staff is exceptionally well trained and efficient, a crew of handsome men and women dressed as if ready to ride horses back home to Bushwick, where they trap beaver and make their own candles.”
  • “And a meal in the restaurant proceeds with all the jollity and good manners of something scripted by Laura Ingalls Wilder and scored by the Grateful Dead.”
  • “Also: soft weisswurst like a hot dog from a parallel and slightly more enjoyable universe.”

I still haven’t eaten there. I met a guy at a local watering hole who bartended there for the summer (waiting for the Gowanus Yacht Club to open…and who apparently lives around the corner from me and knows my next-door neighbor, Rocco, who he called the “mayor” of our neighborhood…which is really pretty accurate…and *he* said he couldn’t stand to work there much longer because it was “full of people with ironic mustaches”).

Now perhaps it’s too late to get *in* — isn’t there a line in a movie to the effect of, “Go there before the Times ruins it with a good review!”? I want to say When Harry Met Sally or something? Or am I totally nuts? — although I do, as noted, live close enough to wander in any ol’ time…

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Ode to Jonathan on His 30th Birthday

Oh, my beloved Jonathan, you’re one of my favorite people and when you turn 30 it’s a really big deal; but what can I do to honor you and accurately portray how I feel?

I wish I could have hopped on a plane to see you in Atlanta for the real celebration; but, sadly, I’m broke and we live in entirely different parts of this great nation.

So, stuck in Brooklyn, I pondered, “What’s a girl to do?”; and that’s when I realized my only choice was to compose an ode to you…:

We didn’t have much time together in high school before we graduated in 1998; but we kept in touch — even though we went to college far, far apart — which surely must have been FATE.

I have fond memories of the 69 Boyz blaring from Javy, which is what you named your car; and you said it hurt your heart when pictures of me surfaced at a Florida Gators bar.

(I swear I didn’t know they were playing UGA that day!; I had a homesick friend from Florida, but felt like a traitor and wouldn’t have otherwise been compelled to stay!)

You were mesmerized by the Wall of Lisa in Auntie Leslie’s hall; and a waiter called me “jailbait” when I was dining at Chevy’s with y’all. (…that’s you and Katie…)

You listened to me freak out in a parking lot when a teetotaler caught me with a bottle of wine; and you helped me unearth a pink bikini in Miami that — shockingly — looked fine.

You were my date to a wedding when there wasn’t a straight boy in sight; and then I bowled barefoot and passed out on you in the car home that night.

My own father joked (to you!) that I’d have to be tackled and sedated on *my* wedding day; and, if anybody understands what that truly means, it’s you, my friend who’s gay. (I’m sorry! Bad rhyme!)

Bring it On always makes me think of you; and one of my favorite text messages of all time was when you wrote, “Wisconsin smells like poo.”

You’ll always be my buddy Jenelope; even though (or directly because?) you’ve never big-worded me.

So here’s to another decade I know will see you in good stead; Love — one of your biggest fans! — LaFred.

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Julie & “Damian” & “D” & Julia

In the past several weeks, I have encouraged not one but TWO friends to start blogs…and these friends eventually created Making Miami Mine and The Tombudsman. Both have clear objectives and I’m really excited for them.

I, meanwhile, feel like I’ve totally run out of things to say. I hardly bake any more…and even when I *did* make cupcakes for a recent fake-gambling birthday, I used a MIX and the most intriguing topic I thought of was the dearth of appropriate sprinkles in my home. (I have red hearts and pink dots for Valentine’s Day and green dots for St. Patrick’s Day…but, after March 17, I’m can’t sprinkle anything again until the following February. And this is the most interesting thing I’ve had to say since April 19.)

So…I think it’s safe to say I’ve been in a bit of a writing rut. (Sounds like some sort of verbal exercise, doesn’t it? Like, say it five times fast? “WritingRutWritingRutWritingRutWritingRutWritingRut.”?)

So…I had this professor at Columbia I’ll call D. And D is a busy guy…but I am stubborn and I have hounded him for weeks (if not months?).

(Little sidenote: I have this wonderful high school buddy who has listened to me during many a panic attack and who has talked me down from many a ledge…and who even offered to be my date to my cousin’s wedding when there wasn’t a straight boy in sight…and I called him the other day because I love him and wanted to talk to him because there had been a little dramz, but he was super-busy and said, “Can I call you back?” and I said, “Sure…” and he said, “You’re not having a Lisa Moment, are you?” See how well he knows me?? [He also introduced me to this.])

So I guess we could say I had a Lisa Moment the other day. But, I mean, c’mon — my life was not supposed to turn out like this. I was not supposed to be staring 30 in the face and fake-gambling to support myself. And, sure, I wrote a book…but no one wants to publish it (spun another way: I haven’t found the right publisher yet…!) and my entire life plan at this point is that I’m going to get a book deal and it’s going to be huge and then I’ll pay off J-school and buy an apartment and winter in Turks and Caicos or whatever. But is this really a sound plan? I think the smart money is on no…but, I mean, I can totally make my peace with the Lean Times if I get to go on Oprah someday and laugh about the odd jobs I’ve sustained to support myself (…or Ellen, I suppose, if this doesn’t happen before 2011…)…but what if that never happens?? And that’s where I get myself into trouble…

So…once I snapped out of it and remembered Mama Slocum’s “one day at a time”-advice, I sent several emails…and one of them was to D…and, as luck would have it, the 2010 Columbians were graduating last Tuesday and he did not have plans afterward. So…after six hours of baccarat, I schlepped waaay up north…and he made me actually go *into* the J-school building (I had joked that I might be so embarrassed by my failed career that I’d have to hide in the bushes…)…and I don’t know if it was actually strange per se — just felt like a million years ago. And it was (only?) two.

So…D and I went to a local pub and ordered some grub (got that, bub?) and he settled in to make me feel better about my faltering career and to regale me with stories of what it’s like at the top. And I guess that’s really what I needed — someone to boost my ego a little bit and remind me what a really horrible publishing environment it is right now and that maybe it’s not me — it’s them! — and that many, many writers are plagued by self-doubt…so I’m hardly unique…and that it’s important to “take it to the mat” (read: never give up!).

And D gave me some really good things to think about in terms of what to do next with my 110,000 words. (I got a little burned out and had to set it aside for awhile…) And in doing so, he asked for the elevator pitch…and, among other things, I told him to think of it as David Sedaris meets Julie & Julia meets The Devil Wears Prada meets Bridget Jones meets I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti. And then we started talking about Julie & Julia…(I tried to get The Tombudsman to watch Julie & Julia — which I actually think is maybe not as girlie as everyone assumes…especially considering the scene in which Julia pulls a cannelloni shell or something out of boiling water and exclaims, “This is hotter than a stiff cock!” — but he adamantly refused, saying it was a gateway drug to Lifetime. Oy.)

And…I’ve totally already written about this before, but the Cliff’s Notes version is that in hindsight I’m not totally surprised everyone seems annoyed by the Julie half of Julie & Julia…but I still find her story heartening — it gives me hope that I can be a nobody in Brooklyn…but as long as I find a project that I am passionate about and embrace it completely, amazing things can happen. But…I *will* admit that I thought she was a little whiny in Cleaving. I do sort of admire her for not writing the same book again — I think it would have been really tempting to write Julie & Julia II with the second volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking — but…after awhile, it got hard to listen to her go on and on about how she couldn’t imagine life without her husband because they had known each other for so long that they were the same person but that she really, really, really was hankering for this guy she called, “D,” for most of the book (what a magical coincidence, huh?) and who she later IDed as Damian and who she happened to be schtupping and who she really, really wanted to schtup again and again…and her husband who was basically herself *knew* this and he was having his *own* affair and, oh, things were awful and messy…but no one was willing to *actually* do anything. So, in reading it, it’s hard not to think, “Change is hard! But, come on! It’s been 200 pages! Make a decision one way or the other and go with it!”

So…I was sort of telling Professor D all of this, he said, “You know, I know that guy she was having the affair with. He was in a really bad spot in his life then — he was sleeping with everyone.”

And that’s when it hit me that D is kind of a big deal. And I forget because, you know, he’s this brilliant hippie I can have veggie burgers with at a bar on the Upper West Side…but he’s *also* writing his eighth book and making a movie out of one of the predecessors…and he won a Pulitzer. So I shouldn’t be surprised — of *course* he knows the guy with whom Julie Powell was having an affair. (And my awe of D grew…)

And as if *that* wasn’t enough, I mentioned that no one really seems to like the Julie Powell half of the movie and D — who was also a Neiman Fellow, once upon a time — told me that he used to see Julia Child at the grocery store in Cambridge all the time. She was just there, doing her shopping…at the same time *he* was shopping.

And then, like, my proverbial eyes got huge and I couldn’t have thought of him more as a superstar. That’s right, folks — it wasn’t the Pulitzer, it wasn’t the upcoming film adaptation with the $6 million budget…it was running into Julia Child at a grocery store in Cambridge, Mass.

But THEN he added, “But I didn’t sleep with her.”

And that’s when he took it a little too far…

D was a Neiman Fellow in 1988. Paul Child died in 1994.

And the fact that Julia did not marry Paul until she was 34 is one of the things I cling to (I also used to cling to Sandra Bullock and Jesse James…but obvs do not do *that* anymore) as proof that maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world to be my age and still playing the proverbial field. And that perhaps if I am patient, the Love of my Life will fall from the sky and we will be deliriously happy for 48 years.

And so…if D had had some torrid affair with Julia Child in the late 80s, *that* would all fly out the window…and I would be left with my single-girl life…and nothing but fake-gambling (and an unpublished manuscript…and a cat that flushes the toilet when he is mad at me…) to comfort me. And that just can’t happen. So…I guess it’s too early to joke about stuff like that? Maybe after Mr. Wonderfulpants falls from the sky? Then I’ll be ready? Although…I *am* excited that D is my six degrees of separation from both Julia Child and Julie Powell…and I am relieved he did not sleep with either of them. But…if I had to choose (and Julia Child wasn’t already dead and/or 40 years his senior), I would *definitely* pair him up with Julie Powell.

(Remember that If They Mated feature on Late Night with Conan O’Brien? This may be an example of *me* taking it too far, but I actually wanted to maybe illustrate this post with an image of D’s face combined with Meryl Streep as Julia Child…but, alas, I cannot find an If They Mated generator…)

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