10/05 - 7/05
October 29, 2005
I heard a great stat on Bill Maher last night: 90 percent of parents steal candy from their kids' Halloween bags.
That number seems awfully low to me.
Halloween is a big, big deal around these parts. And we happen to live on "The Halloween Block," as it is called in this neighborhood, and all over Brooklyn, in fact. It's almost competitive, how our neighbors do up their stoops, fog machines, elaborate graveyard scenes, giant pumpkins, multi-window light shows, a two-story high inflatable spider that crawls up a building facade. At our place, we will have moaning ghosts that glide on cables from one side of the building to the other, motion-activated dancing ghouls, eerie purple lighting, a remote controlled scary sound machine, a skull with bulging popping eyes that cackles and laughs menacingly. And there's the fifty pound pumpkin my father grew in Vermont that we will crave into a terrifying Whacko Jacko-lantern (seriously, I'm going for a likeness of Michael Jackson).
About two thousand kids will parade by my stoop on Monday night. Last Thursday, I purchased $150 worth of candy to give away. I waited until nearly the last minute because I didn't want all that junk in my house.
I have already eaten: 5 mini Mounds, 3 mini Hershey's milk chocolate bars, 6 caramel Kisses and 2 tiny Kit-Kat bars. It's only been three days. I'm afraid for myself. And I don't even like Kit Kats.
Tonight, Halloween party the Tobin-Skinner home, a glorious brownstone in the north Heights. They hang a giant stuffed spider over their door from fishing line on the roof. They also set up a haunted house in the basement that is quite elaborate and requires weeks of planning. Steve will play the role of "Gentleman Corpse," spending much of the party resting in a coffin and scaring unsuspecting guests as they walk by. Lucy will go as Spiderella, Maggie as the Evil Cheerleader. I'm going as the Hottest Woman In The Room, my usual non-costume, since I am that, wherever I go, at any time of year. Or perhaps I'll do Overworked Overstressed Working Mother, or Guilt-Ridden Candy Glutton In Need Of a Cocktail. Or even Woman Least Likely To Strike Up A Conversation With Someone She Doesn't Already Know—And Like. Yes, that last one sounds perfect.
Tomorrow night, Sheryl Crow concert at Avery Fisher Hall with Maggie, her best friend Grace, and Ann, who is both Grace's mom and one of my best friends. I noticed Sheryl Crow is the musical guest on Saturday Night Live tonight, with host Lance Armstrong. The couple that does SNL together . . . maybe Lance will make an appearance at her concert. I will report the sightings, as always.
A heartfelt thank you goes out to the lovely and talented Penelope Green for hosting the tri-annual Mirthful-Not-Bitter Magazine Hacks dinner. The guests were charming-yet-slutty Rebecca Johnson, wise and wonderful Mary Duenwald, hearty and victorious Carol Kramer, and me. Penelope made scrumptious Hunter's Chicken from Craig Claiborne's new cookbook. I ate two huge platefuls, and sucked down a bottle of wine (the good stuff Carol brought; not the cheap shit I came with). Yet another night of gossip, snorts and giggles. Thanks again, P!
October 23, 2005
So there I was, working at the Spin Art table at my kids' school's annual Pumpkin Patch fair/fundraiser, and a quietly beautiful woman in a white down vest, jeans and boots came up and asked (with an Australian accent), "Spin Art? How does this work?"
I recognized her immediately, and said, "Are you who I think you are?"
She said, "Yes."
I said, "Wow. Big fan. Huge fan."
We shook hands. She smiled—it appeared to be genuine—and then I helped her baby daughter (about six months old, I'd guess) do Spin Art. The result: Another gloopy mess of smeared paint on a rectangular piece of cardboard. The mother said, "Her father is a painter. Can you tell?"
I said, "Oh, yes. I see the budding genius."
We laughed together (she loved me, clearly), and then she was off, on to the next fun-filled booth.
Howie Frankel, hold on to your hat. The mother was none other than . . . RACHEL GRIFFITHS, aka Brenda on Six Feet Under. Her show was an addiction of mine for as long as it lasted (I still miss it on Sunday nights, although Rome is pretty good). Seeing Ms. Griffiths was especially exciting, since I always rooted for Brenda, no matter what fucked up business she got herself in. She was the star of the show for me. And Claire.
I tell ya, this has been a celeb-sighting packed couple of weeks. Are more movie/TV stars moving to/living in my nabe than ever before? Brooklyn Heights = Hollywood East? Attn: Peter Sarsgaard, I have many real estate broker friends in the area. I can help you get a good deal. At least let me go apartment shopping with you. You won't regret it.
October 22, 2005
Big congrats for Lucy, my six year old. A story she wrote was chosen among scores of submissions from grades K-5 to be dramatized and put to music by an acting troupe for a benefit at her school. In fact, of the four stories selected, two were collaborations by an entire class. Lucy's ("The Talking Hamburger") was one of only two written by a single author. And (goes without saying but I'll say it anyway since mothers get to brag) her story was BY FAR superior to ANY of the others.
She got to go up on stage and take a bow after the show last night. We prepared for her spotlight moment with a carefully selected velvet dress/pants combo, full makeup and hair (what she calls "popular girl style," inspired by the top-of-head-foutain-half-pony made famous by Hillary Duff in Lizzie McGuire). She preened. I kvelled. Her success (especially after a rough summer and fall) swelled my heart to the painful point of nearly bursting, which would have absolutely RUINED her big night. Fortunately, no one went into cardiac arrest. No one got hit by a car on the truimphant trip to Ben & Jerry's after (nix on Tasti D*Lite; we went full fat and calories for such a festive occassion). And of this morning, she had five minutes of residual basking, followed by breakfast and then the melancholy of nostaligia for all the glory that was.
I can tell already that she's hooked. She wants another fix of people telling her how clever and creative she is. I can see how this will play out: a lifetime of expectation and disappointment, a few meaningful triumphs, a few scalding slapdowns, and the eventual lulling gratitude and humility. But that's only if she can get a book deal.
Maggie, my ten year old, wants to be rock star. Now there's an ambition I can really get behind. Her Halloween outfit this year is Evil Cheerleader. To which I ask, "Is there any other kind?" Her spelling cheer: "Give me a K. Give me an I. Give me an L. Give me another L. What's it spell? KILL! Who we gonna kill? U! U!" It's pretty cute with the black pompoms and ghoul makeup.
A pledge of lifelong servitude goes out to Melissa Senate, author See Jane Date and other bestselling novels. Here's her blurb on Hex and the Single Girl:
"Immensely entertaining! Reading a novel by Valerie Frankel is like hanging out with your
favorite and funniest friend."
A million thanks, Melissa!
October 19, 2005
Just got a chance to look at Time magazine's 100 greatest novels of all time. Miss Snark, the funny, blogging agent, claims to have read 20. I've read 40. But I took in many of them way back when, in college or high school, and can't remember much beyond having read them.
October 18, 2005
I forgot to report that Martin Scorcese and Leo DeCaprio were on Hicks Street last week (one block away from my place). Earlier this summer, a Matthew Modine movie was filmed directly across the street from my house. Today, another movie is being filmed on my block. It's called Griffin and Phoenix, starring Dermot Mulroney and Amanda Peet.
The kids and I sat on the stoop and watched a kissing scene. Then we went upstairs to grab the digital camera and a copy of The Girlfriend Curse. I figure, if someone's shooting a movie on my block, disrupting car and foot traffic, etc., I should be allowed to intrude on their intrusion, ever so gently, by offering the female star and/or director free copies of my books.
By the time Maggie and I got back downstairs, the scene was done, and the tech people were setting up for another shot. Dermot Mulroney hung around the set, seemingly oblivious to being the center of attention. Amanda Peet, however, had hightailed it to her trailer on Atlantic Avenue (a roadie told me where she went, but added, "you didn't hear it from me"). Maggie and I jogged the two blocks, and easily found her trailer, but no sign of Peet. An assistant hovered outside. I gave her The Girlfriend Curse and asked her to pass it along to Peet. Then I took her photo with Maggie.
Nothing will come of it, of course. No harm, certainly. The assistant will probably keep the book, read it, or give it to a friend. And that is absolutely fine. I'd feel like opportunity passed me by if I hadn't tried—even if it's only the opportunity to make a nuisance and/or fool of myself, which, as anyone who knows me can attest (including several of the six people who read this site) knocks often.
October 15, 2005
I was walking Maggie to her volleyball practice today, and I noticed a short, schlubby guy pushing a baby stroller down Court Street in Brooklyn Heights. He looked familiar, so I followed. At the corner, we caught up, and I realized I was nearly rubbing elbows with Oscar-nominee Paul Giamatti. He seemed disgruntled, to say the least, standing in a classic American Splender slouch. He looked royally pissed off about pushing the stroller, being outdoors, even being alive. Or, perhaps he is a happy, joyful man who only APPEARED to be forcing himself through the the soulless existence most of us call "life."
Great actor. Love his work. Nearly laughed up a lung watching Sideways. Maybe he was just in a bad mood today. The light changed, and Maggie and I crossed the street ahead of him. I whispered that a movie star was behind us. She asked me why I didn't say something. I explained that New Yorkers are much too cool for that. Besides which, if I'd interrupted his stroller slog, he might have bitten my head off.
In other news, we went to the annual Oyster Fest in Oyster Bay, Long Island, this afternoon. I ate a dozen oysters (raw, of course), a spicy crab cake, a cup of clam chowder, and was going to get a lobster, too, but that'd put me one shellfish over the line. There's always next year!
October 13, 2005
Can't believe a week has gone by without posting. I am deeply sorry about that. The six people who read this site are not, I'm sure, crying in their coffee about it. But still. There are obligations to uphold.
A few of you have emailed to ask about the Glamour foreplay survey. I spent five days straight writing the article (why I haven't posted), and allow me to dangle a two choice conclusions:
1. Oral sex for men: As good to give as get. One guy wrote in, "Nothing is as delicious as the taste of a woman's cum." Which, for the Glamour audience, I edited down to "as delicious as a woman." Although even that might get cut for publication. (Hurray for the blog! No editors here! I can be a filthy as I want!)
2. Porn viewing: Vast majority of both genders would just assume NOT include this in their pre-sex programming (so much for the pornization of America).
And that's really all I can divulge, pre-publication. Ninety days after publication, I'll post the entire article for those of you who failed to buy the magazine. Otherwise, I might get in trouble—or, worse, denied payment.
Lucy update: She's out of the wheelchair, walking on her flat feet, finally. She still hasn't figured out how to run yet, but will soon. She's walking all over Brooklyn Heights, stomping up and down the blocks to school and her activities. And what a relief it is!
Today, I am atoning for my sins. I asked Steve last night to remind me what my sins were, since I can't remember anything specific. He said that I often fail to put away my clean laundry for days, letting it sit on the bench in our bedroom, taking socks and underwear off the pile instead of putting them in the drawer. Along with that slothfulness, I have been vain, greedy, envious, gluttonous and prideful, nearly every day, all year long. I have also had lust. Lots and lots of lust. But if one lusts for one's husband, is that a sin? Steve says no (he would). I have had lust for Peter Sarsgaard, too, but movie star crushes don't count as officially "sinful," right? Anyone? I might have to call a rabbi for confirmation on that one.
Meanwhile, I'm reflecting on all the times I ate and drank to the point of pain. And whenever I looked in the mirror and thought, "Not bad for 40." And my smug pride for articles I'd written and book reviews I'd received. For the love of God, I am a sinner! My punishment: No gluttony for one solid day. I am fasting. Which should be called "slowing" for the excruciating pace of it. It's been seventeen hours since I last ate. Steve is cooking eggs and toast for the kids right now, and the smell wafting upstairs is starting to get to me. Only seven hours to go...
October 5, 2005
Today, I'm writing an article for Glamour about foreplay. It's one of those survey type stories. Glamour got over a thousand responses from women off their website. Men's Health got even more from theirs. I can't offer much detail about the results, but let me say one thing:
This story will blow the lid off foreplay.
Not that most of you (or, honestly, any of you) were aware that foreplay had a lid to blow. Or that foreplay had shocking, surprising truths to expose. But, much to my own shock and surprise (and blown lid), there is some real decent valid news in the results that Glamour readers could used to increase their sexual happiness.
The joy I bring to the world. I'm telling you.
FYI: Men like kissing, too.
Oh, yes, if anyone would like to be interviewed for the article on your foreplay notions, email me. I always need fresh "real people" sources.
In other news (non-sexual), I hooked up with some fellow alumni from Millburn High School (that's New Jersey), for a reunion of three. Judy McGuire, aka, advice columnist Date Girl of New York Press fame, and Dan Zevin, essayist and best-selling author of The Day I Turned Uncool: Confessions of a Reluctant Grown-up, and I had drinks and snacks at a cute little restaurant in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. We all live in Brooklyn, and we (along with Liz Brous and my sister, Alison) are the only writers to have graduated from MHS since, like, ever. Or so we think. If any MHS grads who are writers read this blog (an idea that makes me snort at the snowball-in-hell-ness of it), please let me know just how wrong I am.
We talked about people none of us have thought about in decades. Dan described it as having electrodes fire in the dormant corners of his brain. Apparently, some of the so-called popular girls now work in nail salons and supermarkets. Some of the anti-Semetic reprobate pituitary case jocky boys are now fat, bald, unemployed, divorced, living at their Mom's, with club feet. Or something like to that. Since Judy, Dan and I were never in the mainstream of MHS life (not by long, long shots), we marveled at the leveling effect of the passage of time.
Here's a photo of Judy and Dan, neither of whom appears to have passed a year since graduation, I might add:
September 27, 2005
I have an essay in the upcoming holiday-themed anthology from HarperCollins called The Worst Noel. My piece is called "I'll Have Christmas With the Works on Rye, Hold the Ham and Jesus" about growing up as a Xmas celebrating Jew (secularly, of course). Looking for a pre-publication magazine excerpt, I've sent the piece to Glamour and O, and have been rejected politely (the editor at O called it "smart and brave"; not sure if that means "embarrassing"). Anyway, Daryl Chen urged me to send the essay to The New Yorker. And so the subrights person at my agent's office did.
Here's the response:
I've read this and passed it along to my colleague in nonfiction and we both agree that its witty and sharp, but just not right for The New Yorker. I'm very sorry to disappoint you and Ms. Frankel. Best of luck with the piece.
I'm tickled to have moved up from "smart and brave" to "witty and sharp." Perhaps in my next rejection, I'll be "hilarious and moving," or "gut-busting and mind-blowing." Stay tuned for details...
September 23, 2005
Here's a good one:
Donald Rumsfeld is giving the President his daily briefing on Iraq. He concludes by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed."
"OH NO!" the President exclaims. "That's terrible!"
His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the President sits, head in hands.
Finally, President looks up and asks, "How many is a brazillion?
This was sent via Rob Lum, a handsome thirtysomething marathoner who happens to be SINGLE, ladies! Rob is a great source for heavily trafficed internet humor (case in point, above), and quite amusing in person, too. I've begged Rob to send his photo so I could post it on the site and get him dates (call this minimatch.com). Perhaps if I badger him some more, he'll do it. SEND PHOTO, ROB!
September 20, 2005
Addendum to my entry below.
I was freaking out over $2500 I thought I'd have to spend (but don't). One of the five people who reads this website—the lovely and talented Daryl Chen—called me yesterday to say that she'd just received a letter (how financial doom travels: in the mail), stating that her neighbor was suing her for $20,000 for damage to his bathroom caused by rot on her side of their shared wall.
If I got a letter saying that I owed someone $20,000, I'd spontaneously vomit, right on the paper, as I was reading it. Daryl is not happy. When we spoke, she'd pause every few seconds and say, "TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!"
I spared her the perspective bringing response: "Katrina." If I were being sued for $20,000, and a friend said "Katrina" to me, I'd send her to New Orleans on the toe of my boot.
September 19, 2005
On Friday, I got a letter from the medical appliance people, discussing their agreement with my insurance company, re: the ankle braces for daughter Lucy (still recovering from Achilles tendon surgery). The custom-made braces, they said, were to be paid out of my annual deductable. According to my contract, that amount is $2500.
Panic, dry throat, bulging eyeballs, hitched breath, heart frozen in chest.
All weekend, I mentally prepared for the phone call to come. I would plead and beg and throw myself on the ground weeping to get my carrier to pay for them. If my efforts in sublimation failed, I would have to spend another few days psyching myself up to write the fucking check. I'd do it, and I should feel okay with it. What are emergency savings for, if not medical equiptment for my kids?
I thought I'd cured myself of money-related anxiety. I wrote an article for Self (December issue) called "How Not To Be Cheap" for which I received tips and help from finance consciousness raisers—money shrinks who specialize in treating the pathologically parsimonious. I love this article, actually. My favorite piece of journalism in 2005 (I'll remind my five readers to pick up an issue). But, despite my training, when faced with a large, unexpected bill, I still freak out.
The kicker: I gathered out all my receipts, copies of prescriptions, ID cards, notes from doctors, etc. and called my carrier, ready to keep the rep on the phone until she got so sick of my begging that she gave in to my demands. I read Friday's letter to her, and she said that the deductable amount was from "durable supplies" not "out-of-network." The durable supplies deductable amount is only $100 which, according to her records, has already been met this year. So I wouldn't have to lay out a penny.
I was so relieved, I nearly cried. I thanked her like she'd pulled me out of the path of a speeding bus. Clearly, she thought I was unbalanced.
Lucy's progress continues in spurts. She can walk without holding onto anything, but she gets tired quickly. My neighbor told me about some British study of 20something athletes who were forced to lay in bed and remain immobile. After a month, they were as decrepit as 70-year-olds. Lucy was in casts for four weeks; it's been two weeks since they came off. We are all sick of the wheelchair. Steve is, as always, more patient and level-headed than I am. Frustration gets to me. I hate how I fly into emotional extremes! I HATE IT! DO YOU HEAR ME?!?
There I go again.
September 14, 2005
The Rollings Stone are the greatest rock back in the world. The ease, the depth, the history, the confidence, the chops. Steve's first (in long memory) concert was a blast. Highlights: Start Me Up, Miss You, Paint It Black, All Down the Line, Jumping Jack Flash, Satisfaction, It's Only Rock and Roll, Sympathy for the Devil, Can't Always Get What You Want, Brown Sugar, Bitch, TUMBLING DICE. Even in a stadium as big as MSG, the band seemed accessible emotionally. When Mick and Keith looked at each other and smiled, I felt like I was in on the joke. Steve especially appreciated Mick's non-stop antic mincing and capering. Please let me have that much energy at 63!
At one point, the band got on a platform that moved into the middle of the orchestra level to form a smaller, more central stage. From our seats, the band was no more that thirty feet away. I could see rolling sweat. A few girls threw their bras onstage. Keith picked up one and put it in the back pocket of his jeans. The night was unadulterated innocent, dumb drunk fun.
A word on Alanis opening. It was a bit weird. Hordes of middle aged beer-pissed men aren't exactly her audience. She was game, though, and did a 45 minute set that I, for one, appreciated. Maggie and I caught the true Alanis experience at Radio City earlier in the summer, in an intimate venue, with her devoted fans.
I have gone running two days out of three this week. I am NOT going to sit on my ass for another year and gain another 15 pounds. I AM going to get back in shape and drop the excess weight. Just thought I'd get that straight.
September 13, 2005
I thought going to the Stones concert tonight at Madison Square Garden would be about as much fun as I could handle. But then I learned that . . .
ALANIS MORISSETTE IS SCHEDULED TO OPEN!!!!
I may not survive. So much excitement could kill me.
Maggie will freak out to hear the news! As it is, she'd bummed she's not going to see the Stones, a bunch of dinosaurs as old as her grandparents. But she doesn't care. She appreciates and respects the classics, since Maggie is a classic rock kid. I have trained her well.
This will be Steve's first rock show in as long as he can remember. Our first together, certainly. I'd asked him years ago if he wanted to see Elvis Costello with me, and he said, "I think you should go with someone who would appreciate it." (When he asked me to go see Wagner's Das Rheingold at the Met, guess what I said? "Sure, I'd [choke, gasp, sputter] LOVE to go!"). A hearty thanks to Steve's brother, Tom Quint, for sending us the tickets, and to Howie and Judy (aka M&D, the above [affectionately] mentioned "dinosaurs") for babysitting.
In other news, Lucy is making steady progress. She's working hard to rebuild her leg muscles. Her physical therapist is pleased with her improvement. But these things take time. She can get herself up and down the stairs, and can crawl to the bathroom on her own. She'll probably be running and jumping by the end of next week.
I have started What A Catch, my new novel, a kidnappinng comedy. Nothing quite as funny as a gorgeous young man held against his will.
September 9, 2005
Here's the update:
Lucy is out of her casts. She laughed hysterically when they were being removed, so much so that the surgeon seemed surprised and confused by her intense reaction. Despite my explaining to her countless times about muscle atrophy, Lucy was frustrated and upset, naturally, that she couldn't walk out of the doc's office. It's been four days, and she still can't walk without holding onto something. It hurts to build the muscles back up, and Lucy is not one to keep her negative thoughts and feelings to herself (falling apple, tree, etc.).
Yesterday, Lucy submitted to a technician making thin plaster molds of her lower legs and feet. The molds will be turned into custom-fit soft plastic braces that go inside the shoe (amazing what's done these days). Anyway, the feeling of hard plaster on her legs, even for five minutes, sent her into a downward spiral. When it was all over, she said through her tears, "I want you to take me home and hit me over the head with a bat so I'll forget this ever happened." The mold-maker and I started laughing, which Lucy didn't appreciate. I said, "Okay, fine, I'll take you home and hit you on the head." She said, "Mom, I was only KIDDING."
Should be about two weeks before she's out of the wheelchair. Another month before she can walk the four flights of stairs to her bedroom (Steve and I have been carrying her up and down for five weeks now). This has been a long horrible haul for all of us, but seeing her stand up and walk (even feebly) on perfectly flat feet makes it all worthwhile.
My glamorous friend Nancy Jo came by last night and we sat on the swing on the deck, turned on the Xmas lights, smoked and talked. Can't tell you how great it felt to hang out with a friend and chat about her exciting love life with her new boyfriend, and not think about Lucy and her feet. Even for an hour. Nancy is an organic, yoga, homeopath swear-by person, and she gave me a few of her "calm pills." They're herbal. I'll report back about how effective they are.
September 5, 2005
The end is near. Lucy's casts come off tomorrow (thank GOD), and school starts on Wednesday. I will be able to start working again, and go running (as I desperately need to do). The problem with taking time off is that I feel out of touch, out of shape, disoriented, isolated. It's been me and the kids (with a few friend/family encounters) for weeks now. Steve has been working out of town for five days. No bones about it: I'm lonely. Because of Lucy's casts, our movements are restricted. When not involved in a work project, I obsess about money and how much weight I've gained. It's bad, I'm telling you. Do all parents feel this low-grade depression at summer's end? Not BECAUSE summer ends, but because we're at the end of our ropes? I'm also premenstrual. I could go on...
In other news, Melissa Senate's See Jane Date was made into a movie for ABC Family. I happened to catch it yesterday. Verdict: It was great! If a movie is ever made from one of my books, I'd be thrilled if it turned out as well as this one did.
September 2, 2005
If only Anderson Cooper weren't gay, then we could run away together. He cried on camera yesterday, and then quickly composed himself by squinting in a, dare I say, rakish manner. He gave hell to the blond senator from Louisiana who was practically drooling with baffling gratitude for everything the federal government had done (as of Wednesday), and Anderson (my love) put her feet to the fire and asked what in blue blazes she was talking about, that she was another politician thanking other politicians when people were dying on the street. As a southern lady, she seemed shocked to have been spoken to in such a disrespectful fashion, but she managed not to break down in tears (which is more than I could say for my darling Anderson).
I'm glad someone has finally raised the flag about race and class, regarding how long our government waited before sending in the national guard. Lousiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, I hate to remind anyone, were all red states, and now the entire world knows how well the president takes care of his own. Also, re: the New Orleans mayor comparing the needs of his city to the needs of my city four years ago (almost to the day), he was absolutely right: New Orleans' needs are greater. We never lost power, water, food, phone service. The devastation in New York was limited to downtown Manhattan, not the entire city. New Yorkers were able to go to work the next day (although many didn't). We lived in a state of looming grief and terror, not imminent starvation and disease.
I just got an email from Dartmouth (my old stomping ground) that the college is opening admission to qualified students from New Orleans universities. Here's the link.
September 1, 2005
The above links will take you to safe, secure charities to make donations. Just now watching Bill Clinton and George Bush, Sr. on CNN call for national giving. Lucy wanted to send "forty hundred thousand dollars," but I said that was a bit out of our budget. We gave just a wee bit less.
I went to New Orleans for my fifth wedding annivesary with my first husband. I was pregnant with Lucy at the time, so that makes it seven years ago. The local papers had front page stories on the plague of pesticide-resistant termites that was eating the French Quarter bite by bite, and I feared for the structural soundness of our hotel. We gawked at Anne Rice's house, Trent Reznor's, and the Manning's. I had one of the greatest meals of my life at Emeril's (the oyster stew had me floating on a cloud). We went in the spring, but even then, the temperature was in the high eighties. Glenn and I went to the famous restaurant Mother's, and there was a vat of crispy fried things to snack on while you waited on a line for your pulled pork. We were popping them, hard fried shell, and gooey soft center, not quite sure what we were eating. After scarfing a dozen of the nuggets, we asked one of the women behind the counter. She said, "It's deep fried pork fat." Turned out, they trimmed the uncooked pork, chopped up the fat into bite-sized bits, and threw it into a deep frier. Viola, crispy heart-attack bullets for casual munching.
Termites and clogged arteries, I figured, were the greatest threat to the survival of the city. I hope that the flooding has killed the bugs.
I heard myself saying, "Glad I went to New Orleans before..."—just as I said, "Glad went to the top of the World Trade Center before...."—and then feeling digusted with myself for not thinking only about the people who are stranded, and the rescue workers who are risking their lives to help them.
August 28, 2005
Maggie turned 10 yesterday, and I took her and my 11-year-old neice, Lily, to see Avril Lavigne at Jones Beach. If you don't know, the Jones Beach Theater is on the southern shore of Long Island. The stage is perched right on the water's edge, practically on the beach, and the audience gets to enjoy the ocean view, stars above, seagulls, sand, the salty smell, while taking in an evening of rock music. We even saw fireworks in the distance (in Connecticut?) during the show.
I've seen some incredible concerts at Jones Beach over the years, including Bonnie Raitt, Phish, Aerosmith. But last night was the best, simply because I was with Maggie and Lily, seeing their favorite singer, in all her (thankfully, non-sexualized) teeny-bopper glory. Is there anything more fun than a rock show when you are with people you love, dig the band, know all the words, are surrounded by like-minded, equally-appreciative folk, have beautiful weather, can scream and cheer and dance and sing as loud as you want? I say: No. There is no more fun to be had—with or without clothes on (a rock show NAKED?? That much fun might be fatal).
Just for the record, Avril Lavigne, with her army of tweenage fans (many of whom attended the show; it was like drop-off at my kids' school, but with guitars), can't compare musically to other bands I've seen this year (Citizen Cope, Wilco, Alanis). But that didn't matter. The three of us singing the words to "Happy Ending" and "Complicated" into our glow sticks cum microphones took me all the way back to middle school, when nothing was as cool as going to a concert, merely attending was an honor and priviledge. In those days, I expected less and was never disappointed. In that spirit, last night, I sang with gusto and abandon, unlike the other chaperoning parents. At 40, I was the oldest teeny bopper there.
I asked Maggie if my appearance or attitude was in any way embarrassing to her. She looked at me like I was crazy. Perhaps only the question was embarrassing.
One last note: Warm up singer Gavin DeGraw was fabulous. Adorable (nice body, too), he played guitar and piano (as did Avril, who also played drums), sang with emotional depth and has written some catchy and seat-dance worthy tunes. I'm going to buy his album today.
August 24, 2005
Although Hex and the Single Girl doesn't come out for six months, I thought I'd post a couple of the blurbs I've gotten so far:
"Valerie Frankel cracks me up! Kooky, sexy, and downright hilarious, Hex and the Single Girl had me laughing to the very last magical page."—Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries series and Size 12 Is Not Fat
"Sexy, yes. Smart, yes. Funny, yes. 'Hex and the Single Girl' is all those things, but something rarer still -- wholly original. I loved it. I loved it so much that I'm not going to make a single witchcraft pun, although it's awfully tempting."—Laura Lippman
I wonder if Laura was on the verge of calling it "magically delicious," or "spell binding," "just wand-erful."
In other news, my cousins in New Jersey, Barbara and Robert Shack, have sent Steve and I a late-breaking wedding gift of gift certs to TWO different restaurants in New York. I would have written them a personal note, but since Barbara is one of the five people who read this website, I might as well make our gratitute PUBLIC, for the other four people to see. THANK YOU BARBARA AND ROBERT!
It's been nearly two weeks with Lucy in her casts, with another 13 days to go. I curse her surgeon for taking a vacation the week before Labor Day (or the casts could have come off then), but the longer we wait, the better for her tendons, etc. She's able to walk in them now, and cruises like a todder from one piece of furniture to the next. She also scoots around on her little ass, and her cotton clothing is serving to buff the floor and keep if free of dust and hair. So there's the silver lining.
I made the decision to take off the month of August for our trip and Lucy's convalescence, but now I'm feeling strange and out of sorts. Although I will start a new novel in September, the period between books is unsettling at best. When I can't daydream about my plots, my mind goes elsewhere. And that, I'm afraid, is not always good. In fact, it's usually bad. I wonder if I've avoided psychotherapy all these years because I have my plots to think about. As soon as I get outline notes from my editor on What A Catch, I'm going to start. And I mean, that hour.
Lastly, my editor's assistant, Selina McLemore, who has worked on three of my books at Avon, is leaving for an editor job at Red Dress, Inc. Congrats, Selina! You will knock them dead! In a good way!
August 22, 2005
My one year wedding anniversary was yesterday. To celebrate, we did laundry. Lucy is still in casts, and it was 93 degrees. We let the kids watch their crappy cartoons (to think: I once liked The Fairly Odd Parents). Steve and I stayed in the one air-conditioned room and watched The Pianist, Roman Polanski's movie about the Warsaw ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland. I wouldn't call it a romantic choice, but a good one. The scenes of the Jews packing up and leaving their homes reminded me of the exodus in Fiddler on the Roof, and more recently (last week), the settlers in Gaza. I tried to imagine a scenario that would force the Jews out of Brooklyn Heights (not that there are so many of us). Impossible to contemplate. But I'm sure the Jews of Poland once thought the same thing.
Steve had an audition today for the White Plains Opera's next Gilbert and Sullivan review-type production. He just reported in. He did the Major General's song, and was told to come back to do it again on Thursday. A "call back," as I understand. He sounds pleased to have made the first cut. As am I.
Lucy walked on her casts across the room today. She's improving steadily and her spirits are high. Our new kitten, Ollie, helps a lot. Penny and Tulip, so far, do NOT appreciate Ollie's youthful exuberance. Much hissing and spitting is going on. I'm sure all will settle down eventually, though.
August 19, 2005
Thought I'd weigh in on numberonehitsong.com piece on why chick lit authors should be kicked until they're dead. Several points were presented, some mud flung at Stephanie Lessing and Jennifer Weiner (both of whom responded with grace and restraint on their websites), but only one clear idea came shining through: The anonymous author has way too much time on (we'll assume it's a) her hands. Perhaps, if she spent more of that leisure time writing her own novel, she wouldn't feel compelled to demean the hard work of others.
Or, perhaps the anger comes from a lonelier place, otherwise the concept of romantic comedy might not be as offensive to anon's sensibilities. What's so evil/mindless/politically repellant about a story where the main character seeks and finds love? Companionship, sex, family: These are hardwired top priorities for both sexes, have been since the first air-breathing fish crawled out of the primordial ooze. I know many brilliant (by any standard) women, and all of them—ALL OF THEM—want love, sex, a husband, a boyfriend, a girlfriend (as the case may be), a family, not because they are stupid or superficial, but because they have a depth of emotion they need to share. Anyone who's been close to death knows that love is the only thing that matters. Anon will not go to her grave wishing she'd written an even meaner essay, trashing more accomplished women on a website.
August 17, 2005
Lucy's surgery to lengthen her Achilles tendons was almost a week ago. And what a week it's been. Some of the highlights:
1. Unbeknownst to us, Lucy's two loose teeth presented a danger. Under anesthesia, if one of the teeth fell out, she could inhale it into her lungs. So, before her surgery, we had to take her to the dentistry wing of the hospital and have them pulled. They were her first baby teeth to go. And what a way to go.
2. The surgeon was three hours late. Lucy hadn't eaten for twelve hours, and after the horrific teeth pulling, she was a basket case by the time he finally showed up. As was I. Steve was the only one of us to hold it together.
3. The surgery, once it finally happened, was a success. She tolerated the anethesia, was medicated well for the pain. She hates the legs casts, of course (toes to mid-thigh). We had to stay in the hospital for two days (I spent the night in her room on three chairs pushed together). We would have left sooner, but we had to wait for my insurance to arrange a wheelchair delivery.
4. I have been carrying Lucy up and down our three flights of stairs. My back is not as strong as I thought.
5. Her pain is less now, and she's moving the casts around more. We has finally figured out how to sit her comfortably on the toilet, which was harder to negotiate than I thought it to would be. Everything regarding this is harder than I thought.
6. Tomorrow, we pick up Maggie in Long Island. My sister brought her down from Vermont for me. Our family will finally be whole again. This has been a long and scattered summer.
7. If I had concerns that Steve and I weren't a pictoresque romantic couple in Amsterdam, there're gone. He has been a rock, the voice of calm, taking care of whatever needs doing, proving his commitment to me and Lucy over and over again. Turns out, there's more romance to be found washing out a bedpan together than on a European vacation.
The casts come off in another two weeks or so. What a joyful day that that'll be.
For now, we're trying to keep a sense of humor about it. We spent a few days at my parents' house in New Jersey, and went to the Short Hills Mall for some retail therapy. A woman there gasped at Lucy's casts and asked her what happened. My darling six-year-old daughter said, "I fell down an elevator shaft."
Next time someone asks, she's planning to say, "I was attacked by lions."
August 10, 2005
Back from Amsterdam. My head is still fuzzy from all that fun. The city is beautiful, just as I remembered it. The Dutch tolerate the massive invasion into their city every summer fairly well. I have to say that the Dutch sure are white. As in, white to the hundreth degree. Like Holland is the World Capital of White. Also, the local were all young, tall and skinny. I felt like we'd dropping into a planet of aspiring models/actors.
Since Steve and I ate every meal restaurants, I made a study of other couples as they ate together. I'd say that we fell somewhere in the middle, in terms of couples being fully engaged with each other (talking, laughing, kissing). The Europeans seem to have a greater capacity to sit across from each other and not say a word for three courses. Or perhaps they don't feel like their relationship is on the skids unless they're volleying witty quips at a dizzying pace throught the meal. Which, more often than not, Steve and I weren't.
During our first meal back in Brooklyn, however (had to be at a restaurant, since we have the post-vacation empty fridge), Steve and I were chatty and giggly as teenage girls again. Maybe it has something to do with the comfort of home. Or the fact that we weren't completely stoned (when in Amsterdam...).
Anyway, we're back now, and it's a beautiful relief to see people of all ages and sizes and colors on the street. Much as I love traveling and going away, it's always nicer to come back to Brooklyn.
Lucy will have surgery on her Achilles tendon tomorrow morning. I'm still relatively calm, but that'll change as soon as we get to the hospital, no doubt.
One last thing: The Girlfriend Curse has been nominated in the general fiction category for a Quill Award with about a hundred other titles. I will not win, of course. But it's an honor just to be...to find myself in a list with such wonderful...every nominee is really a winner...you get the idea. From now on, when I do a reading, the newspaper listing can describe me as an "Award Nominated" author. Not quite as good as "Award Winning" or "Best Selling" or "International Phenom," but it's better than "prolific."
August 2, 2005
One quick note before I leave for the airport. As a lovely parting gift, the editor on Fringe Girl, Anne Bohner at NAL, called to say that she loves the manuscript and thinks it's close to perfect. No revisions needed. Fringe Girl is my 10th novel; this is the first time I haven't been asked to revise.
I must be getting the hang of it.
August 1, 2005
Back from Vermont. I told Steve on the drive down that I was waiting for six checks. Two from a major women's lifestyle magazine, two from a leading parenting magazine, one from a top fashion magazine, and one from my agent (Hex acceptance payment). Guess how many were waiting for me when we got here?
Six? Ah, you, dear reader, must not be a freelance writer.
Five? That might be true, if, say, you lived in La-La Land.
Four? Three? Ever the optimist.
Two? Now, that might seem like a decent percentage. But WRONG.
One? Yes, I was greeted by only one check. Granted, it was the big one (for Hex). But STILL!!! After my relaxing vakay, the first two phone calls I had to make were to editors who'd (1) accepted and/or (2) PUBLISHED my essays MANY MONTHS AGO. And I have to continue to call them up and ask (not very politely at this point) for the money rightfully owed to me.
These are not rinky-dink magazines. There are big magazines published by Time Inc. and Hearst, read by millions and millions of people (probably even you). And yet, they don't know how to cut a check? I ask you: Who does a writer have to FUCK to get paid? Because I'm willing to break my martial vows to DO IT.
Whew. I'm glad to get that off my chest.
Of course, I wouldn't trade my job for anything, despite the trickle of checks and the deadline pressure. I am blessed to do what I do, and am convinced anyone who could, would. But every job, no matter how wonderful, comes with frustrations, exacerbated by the tuition bills that WERE waiting for me in the mail pile...
We fly to Amsterdam tomorrow night for our long delayed honeymoon/one-year anniversary. I told Ellen Tien about our trip, and she wrote: "Ansterdam, Amsterdam, the perfect place for a belated honeymoon. People really underestimate the romantic majesty of hookers and drugs."
Ahem to that.
July 20, 2005
Just quick note from Vermont:
I read Harry Potter yesterday. The ending is shocking. But I suspect that all will be put right in book seven. For the record, as sad as the ending was, I didn't cry. And that's saying a lot, since I cry like a geiser over books, movies, TV (good TV; you should have seen me at the end of Freaks and Geeks). I read HP at this point for plot. My affection for the characters has become secondary to the good vs. evil story. Just like Star Wars. But NOT as in Lord of the Rings (since I was/am madly in love with Aragorn and Frodo, I cried and cried at the end of the—book and movie—Return of the King). I still adore Harry, but not with the same empathy and affection as in, say, book four.
Am now reading Krakatoa, which I'm sure will have an even sadder ending than Harry Potter.
July 16, 2005
Today, please go out and rent:
1. Garden State
3. Shattered Glass
In these three movies, actor Peter Sarsgaard steals every scene with his understated, smoldering smart sexiness. The guy is almost too smart. In Garden State, he plays a grave digger—a perpetually stoned grave digger. But even massively fucked up, Sarsgaard's shining light of intelligence and sensitivity can't be disguised by what is, granted, superior acting talent.
His face—eyes wide, lips twisted—has an alien (as in, outer space) or foreign (as in European) patina that's unique and beguiling and transfixing. If The Accidental Virgin movie ever happens (updates on that below), I will beg the producers to ask Peter Sarsgaard to be in it. He'd be perfect for the part of Stacy's best friend. He'd be, I'm sure, brilliant as a tree stump.
I haven't had a movie star crush like this since Tobey McGuire in Pleasantville, or Keanu Reeves in that stupid football movie from a few year ago where he ran down the sidelines in slow motion, his glorious Hawaiian hair blowing in the wind in...can't remember the name of the movie.
Have I mentioned that, in Kinsey, Sarsgaard appears COMPLETELY, FULL-FRONTALLY NAKED???
Accidental Virgin movie update: About a month ago, I was alone in my apartment for the first time in forever, minding my own business, updating the blog, and the phone rings. I said, "Hello?"
"It's Heather Graham."
I don't ordinarily get phone calls from movie stars. But I kept my cool. I think she might have even believed my coolness was genuine. Miranda, Heather's partner, was also on the line. I've met both of these women, and found them to be intelligent, ambitious, capable. All good things. They certainly have excellent taste on novels...
We discussed the status of the movie. See, the big studio financing of last year fell apart, and the new idea is to make it independently. They'll be able to stay closer to the book's content (since highly sexualized material isn't flying with studios these days), and maintain creative control. Sounds great to me. I prefer the independent approach, actually. And I'm positive Heather and Miranda will make a funny, sexy movie. The deal, for me, is a lot smaller than it was before. But who cares??? Can't think of anything cooler than Heather and Miranda, women I admire and respect, making a movie about my book. ESPECIALLY IF PETER SARSGAARD HAS A PART IN IT!!!!
Keanu movie title: The Replacements. Just came to me.
July 13, 2005
Fringe Girl is done. I have emailed the novel to my agent(s) and editor. My sister Alison and my niece, Anna (14), both read it pre-submission. Both gave decisive raves. Said Alison: "I absolutely loved it. I have tears in my eyes." Said Anna: "Fringe Girl is awesome. I loved it. Loved! And I'm not saying that because you're my aunt."
Even if she is, I thought it'd be a swell idea to get blurbs from actual teens instead of other writers. Teens needed!
In other news, I've been asked to appear on Rachel Ray's cooking show on the Food Network to talk about love/relationships. Should be tasty.
But it'll have to wait. Lucy and I will drive to Vermont on Sunday and stay for two weeks. After which I leave her with my parents, and fly to Amsterdam with Steve (we are busy researcing coffeehouses online every night) for a week. Then back to VT, pick up Lucy, bring her back to Brooklyn for her Achilles tendon surgery. Followed by Maggie's return from camp (brought straight to Brooklyn by my mom). Then Avril Lavigne at Jones Beach on Maggie's 10th B-day with her cousin Lily. Then Lucy's casts come off, school starts, and the endurance test of summer ends.
I will try to post when possible. Something stoned and trippy from Amsterdam, I promise.
And now, I must step out for my nightly fix of Tasti D*Lite. I have a $2.75/day habit. I hope they have Oreo Cookie!
July 10, 2005
After spending a relaxing weekend with the Kushners outside Princeton, Lucy and I returned to find a movie crew in front of our building in Brooklyn. The movie is a romantic comedy called Kettle of Fish, starring Matthew Modine and Christy Cashman.
I sized up the sitch and ran upstairs to grab a copy of each of my chick lit novels and my digital camera. During a short break in shooting, I asked Matthew Modine to pose with Lucy. He was gracious, willing (even eager) and polite. He picked her up and said, "I just finished playing a pedophile." I laughed, got the shot, thanked him, and was about to go, but he put out his hand to shake. Nice firm grip and big hand, BTW. You know what that means: Big gloves.
A moment later, Christy Cashman in a bridal gown approached our stoop. I thought she was going to ask me not to take pictures, but she said, "Take as many pictures as you like. And can I please use your bathroom?" The photo below is Christy leaving our building after using the facilities. She was very sweet, very pretty. Said she would have named a daughter Lucy, but she has two sons.
The director, whose name I didn't catch and can't find online, also freshened up in our humble brownstone. When she exited the building, I thrust my four novels into her hands, and said, "Uh, I write romantic comedies. So, here you go. And, you know, if you like any of them, you can, uh, you know, track me down, or whatever." (MUST GET BUSINESS CARDS!!!)
"Well, I know where you live," she said.
"You sure do!" I replied.