Tag Archives: Upper West Side

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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The Halloween Postmortem

I had kind of a hard time deciding what to do for Halloween this year. One friend was going to see Paranormal Activity…but I knew that was out. (Heath Ledger‘s turn as The Joker scared me more than I care to admit…so something that legitimately bills itself as a film that will scare the pants off of you is simply not something I can handle.)

And, you know, I wouldn’t be completely averse to staying at home and handing out candy to adorable trick-or-treaters…except that this is my fourth Halloween in this apartment and I’ve haven’t had any little ones knock on my  door on any of the previous Halloweens. (Although I think there were some trick-or-treaters in the early afternoon yesterday…but I wasn’t expecting them and didn’t have any candy [I mean, really — me in a house with a bag of mini Snickers? I wouldn’t be able to fit back through my freakishly small door…] and so I had to pretend I wasn’t home…which makes me very much a Grinch, doesn’t it?)

One of my classmates had told me about a party on the Upper West Side…but that’s SO FAR AWAY and I hate the Subway on Halloween pretty much more than anything else…and there was another party in Midtown, but I wasn’t actually sure if it was the best idea to show my face there. So, like I said, I didn’t know what to do.

Then, on Friday morning, I was walking to the train and knew the Bartender wouldn’t be at his bar because it was so early…and so I allowed myself to glance over at it…which is sort of a rare treat as I don’t normally give myself this luxury when there’s any chance he *could* be there…as seeing him — even from afar — still makes me sad. But, when I looked over, instead of just seeing the bar stools where I spent so many hours when we were first getting to know each other, I *also* saw a stupid sign in the window announcing their big Halloween bash that was going to include a — wait for it — “Sexy Costume Contest.” With prizes. And this just bugged me to no end. I mean, come on — a HUGE proportion of ladyhood already uses Halloween as an excuse to get tarted up…so it’s sort of one of those things that goes without saying, right? (And, okay, okay — fine. If it had said, “Sexy Costume Contest…with All Male Revue!” perhaps I wouldn’t have found it quite as objectionable…and maybe would have even been intrigued…and so perhaps this makes me a huge hypocrite. But, at the same time, women have been objectified since the dawn of time, so I really don’t see anything wrong with evening the score a bit now.)

And his boss is quite possibly the worst person ever — seriously. If I gave you the name of this place and you Googled it and saw the reviews on Yelp, you would know that lots and lots of people complain about him. I’m not just harboring a grudge…and so I am absolutely certain that this stupid contest was *his* idea and I am sure that every woman who works there was specifically told to dress slutty that night and might very well have a good lawsuit on her hands…and I am also sure that my sweet, funny Bartender was very excited about the whole thing…and I just had visions of him in a sea of boobs…and it, too, made me sad. (Although my friend K pointed out that it would be “a sea of trashy boobs,” to which I replied, “That’s right! Mine are waaay classy…” and I guess I can begrudgingly admit it’s a pretty good way to look at it.) It also conjured up a pretty funny cartoon visual with his face in the middle of a bunch of boobs…like diagrams of cells in a biology class, just less detailed. (I was tempted to actually draw it for you guys but felt maybe that would be taking things a *little* too far.)

And, I mean, whatever. Any chick who goes out on October 31 dressed as a French maid or a slutty nurse or a police officer in hot pants named “Sergeant Sexy” is basically the Anti-Lisa and if that is what the Bartender wants, then, well, he and I never ever had a chance. (I don’t actually think that Sergeant Sexy *is* what he wants…as, despite his best efforts to convince the world otherwise, he really has a lot of substance to him…but I also don’t understand why he “can’t.” So. Questions for the ages, I suppose.)

But the whole reason I am beating this (very dead) horse is to explain that I had some options and I knew I should do *something* as it would be infinitely better than staying at home and watching TBS in my pajamas with an ever-present visual of the Bartender’s cartoon face being squished by an avalanche of cartoon boobs. But I also, as noted, could not think of a fate worse than riding the Subway on Halloween…especially all the way to the Upper West Side.

But…when I vacillated, my friend convinced me I was being stupid and I agreed to go.

My friend was dressing as Balloon Boy (I provided the box! Thanks, Zappos!) and said I could join her group and dress as a news reporter or something, but…I didn’t want to jump on that bandwagon, so I spent some time thinking about what I could come up with that I already had around the house…and I decided on a pregnant Pam from The Office.

I actually had a lot of fun putting my costume together — getting one of the books from The Finer Things Club and making those post-its with smiley faces on them and printing out a brochure for Niagara Falls…– and, in the end, I’m glad I went to the party. One of the hosts was dressed as Julia Child and there was a lot of good Halloween-themed food. (Although most of the guys there didn’t really know who Julia Child was, which I thought was weird…but then my friend’s husband said he didn’t really know who she was either…just that she was some sort of cook. So. I guess Julia is a girl thing.)

And I found I actually really like being pretend pregnant. And I got a little self-righteous about it — like, there was a woman on the train who had her stuff spread out EVERYWHERE and we rode that way for a few stops and then I sort of gave her a dirty look and she finally asked me if I wanted to sit down and I (sort of) haughtily told her I was getting off at the next stop. And a man at the party with an actual pregnant wife asked me when I was due…so I feel like I was convincing. (One friend said later that she was disappointed I did not pretend to go into labor.)

There was a man there dressed as “Super Drunk,” as in, like, a superhero but drunkenness was his superpower…and I said he looked like one of our professors and my friend said it was the meanest thing I have ever said. Later, Super Drunk asked if I was really pregnant and when I said, “No,” he said we could go into another room and change that.

And…this guy dressed as Cookie Monster was giving me the hairy eyeball all night, so I finally — with some help from my friend — positioned myself in the living room with the guys watching the Yankees game so he had to talk to me. Totally nice guy — name’s Doug; works as a copywriter; was in a writers’ group with one of the actual pregnant ladies; dressed as Cookie Monster because his nephew really likes him…and there was a guy there who looked a lot like *another* classmate and *his* wife told Cookie Monster that it looked like he was playing with his balls when he took off his head and was holding it by the eyeballs at waist-level.

And so Cookie Monster and I eventually left together, but only walked half a block and he said, “Okay — bye!” and that was it. Didn’t even walk a pretend pregnant lady to the train OR ask for her number…although I guess that’s for the best as there won’t be any waiting by the phone now. A few people on the train back asked if I was really pregnant…I guess maybe because I’d be the worst mom-to-be ever if I was coming back at 2:00 in the morning after a night of partying with my unborn child. And then a group of guys boarded around 14th Street and said, “YOU LOOK LIKE PAM!” and I said, “I am!” and we bonded for a few stops.

And, you know, when I was getting ready last night, I had all these fantasies in my head about walking by the Bartender’s bar…and, you know, sometimes his boss is out front and sees me and sometimes we acknowledge each other and sometimes we don’t…and so I was dreaming up this scenario in which he saw me walk by pregnant and ran in and said to the Bartender, “Squeaks got knocked up!” and then the Bartender wouldn’t really be able to appreciate the sea of boobs as he’d spend the whole night wondering if it was his. But, no. That didn’t happen. I didn’t even make it past the bar. Instead, I thought I saw him smoking out front and freaked out and ran across the street. Like, RAN. So much for emotional maturity. And it didn’t even turn out to be him after all.

I didn’t really care when I was walking *home* though. That’s another thing…I wasn’t really pregnant, but…I felt weird about drinking. Part of it was that I was sort of in character — like with that lady who made me mad on the train because she didn’t get up to give me her seat — but part of it was also because I was afraid people would judge me. And all of these worries lasted 5 or 10 minutes, tops…so I’m sure it was liquid courage that helped me walk by, stomach out and head held high. So maybe he saw me then. Although, then again, I was REALLY pregnant. And he’s a smart guy. And he probably knows there’s no way I got *that* pregnant in eight weeks. So…so much for my revenge plot, I guess.

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