Sunday, December 14, 2008

This is Really Important

The article on MSN's lifestyle page today, entitled: "Let Your Heart Break", is sending one of the most important messages that, in my opinion, women (and men, too) need to hear in one of the most articulate voices that could have said it.

I try to tell people this all the time, but even sometimes find myself falling into this mentality: "I'll go to the beach when I'm skinnier," "I'll really go after that guy when I don't have this zit," "When I'm published I'll really start to live." All this "When X I will Y," making excuses for not making the most of every moment of my life. The idea that if I was different I could control my life or be any happier than I am now. It's crazy! As it says in the article: "when you are as thin as you can ever imagine, the people who didn't love you before will still not love you, and the people who did love you before will love you still. People will come, go, leave, and die, no matter how much you weigh."

I can't say it better than the article, so just go read it. If there's something you want to do, do it now. If you wait until X, it may never come. You don't have that kind of time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Things You Find in Central Park

Picture this: Getting off of the 1 train at Lincoln Center, walking, walking, walking, past the Starbuckses and opera-goers and fancy apartments and hotels you will never be able to afford, to the edge of Central Park. It is freezing cold, but it's been so freezing cold all day that your fingertips have almost stopped complaining. It's dark and sort of foggy on the edge of the park, and almost completely deserted. Just the sort of place to get mugged, but you're almost sure it's too cold for muggers. You walk under a yellow streetlight and there's a low hill you can see in the park, and over the hill the top of another yellow streetlight. Over the hill is Strawberry Fields, you're told, and a mosaic in memorial of John Lennon. Something resonant, a sound not really heard, but felt, maybe imagined, cuts over the hill. "Do you hear music?" "I'm humming..." "No, I hear music!" There it is again, as you get closer, something harmonic and happy and beautiful. Not a trained chorus, but the combined voices of people made beautiful by shared love. "Is it... no..."

So I can't say that I've ever been that hugely attached to John Lennon (I'm more of a George girl, honestly). He's not a Bowie to me, or even really as up there as Bob Dylan. In fact, when I
think about him I mostly think about when Andy, Kate and I were filming our first mockumentary, the title of which I've now forgotten, in which I was playing a sort of Yoko-figure (or what I thought was a Yoko figure at the time). "This wall, while it may look to you just like a wall in my living room, really represents, I feel, the oneness and conformity of the modern world, all beige and singular. It's a real statement that I was making, you know? Also, it matches the couch." Weirdly enough, I think Andy was playing Ringo, so I'm not sure why we were trying to channel Yoko, but it doesn't really matter.

However, I do love music and peace and people and singing, so stumbling upon a memorial sing-along for John Lennon in Central Park on Monday evening (after a day of freezing my toes off in Greenwich Village and SoHo and finding more ways to say "I'm cold" than I'd ever thought I'd need to, but still being ecstatically happy) was more than magical enough to make up for not actually knowing that much about the guy to begin with. I know The Beatles, of course. I love The Beatles. And I know Imagine. Who d
oesn't know Imagine? Still, I couldn't have predicted that coming to Strawberry Fields on the night of December 8th would find over a hundred people gathered around in a tight circle, strumming guitars and singing his songs. It was, of course, the memorial of his assassination.

We'd intended to go in and take our pictures with the mosaic. We ended up staying for three-and-a-half hours. There were a lot of things going on there that might be worth mentioning (The two old men in golf hats who looked like they belonged in Waking Ned Devine and sang every song with their mouths wide open and their eyes full of tears; the man who repeatedly requested "My Gentle Guitar Weeps"; the really excited frat guy who shouted out songs like taunts at a baseball game and headbanged to "Hey Jude"; the man with the mustache and funny glasses who was apparently in charge of time itself.), but what I really noticed, at 11:15 while we took a moment of silence at the time of his death and I looked around at faces lowered in thought, was the diversity. The people there fit no mold. They were young and old, in every color of the rainbow. A man behind me had come all the way from Florida. Another was from Philadelphia. I was told Yoko was watching from her apartment. Some people knew the words to every song. Some knew the chorus to "I Want to Hold Your Hand". I cannot bring myself to think that any one of those people deserved to be there any more than another.

I could not cry for John Lennon's death. As a person born in 1989 my world has always been one in which he has been as gone as JFK or Martin Luther King. As if I am viewing his life backwards through a tunnel, I have never been able to see it disconnected from its end, but that does not discount the profound effect that he has had on my world just by being John Lennon. If you loved him, if you liked him, if you barely know him even now, if you kiss his picture every night before you go to sleep and wailed for days after December 8, 1980,
whatever, John Lennon has touched your life, just by the footprint his life left on your history. In fifth grade I could barely have told you the names of all The Beatles, but I knew Give Peace a Chance. I have seen Imagine sung in churches and on street corners by soloists and stadiums. You may not know the words, but you know the message and you know you want to sing it; loudly, off-key and for hours on end.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Death: The Great Equalizer

One of my brother's friend's parents died very unexpectedly last week. 2008 strikes again. RIP, of course, but I just have to hope that 2009 will be less death-filled. Jesus. Everybody stay safe. The year's almost over. You just have to survive December!

There's this paragraph in
Looking for Alaska that says: "I knew that I would know more dead people. The bodies pile up. Could there be a space in my memory for each of them, or would I forget a little of Alaska every day for the rest of my life?" I've thought about that paragraph at every funeral this year, and I don't know the answer, but it helps me feel a little more normal to realize that death is as constant as life, possibly more constant, and there is literally no life without it. As long as you know people, you will know people who die. Some deaths will be harder than others, and you can never really know how any individual one will affect you, but it is still a part of life. Death is impartial and unstoppable and just there. It is neither unfair nor fair. You can spend your entire life running from it, but it's not going to chase you. Someday you'll run so far you've gone straight around the world and Death is waiting. It'll always catch you one way or another. You can't win, but it's not really a contest, either.

In the meantime, it is maybe best to live with Death like an indifferent neighbor. You don't like or dislike them, and every once in a while they may get on your nerves by playing their music too loud, but they're not going anywhere and mostly you just try not to bump elbows too often. When you do have to talk (at neighborhood watch meetings, for instance, or when your mail is accidentally switched) it's awkward, but not unsurvivable, and the conversation does eventually end. You won't ever invite them to your parties, but they wouldn't want to come, anyway.

It's also probably a good idea to stay off their lawn.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

This post took me nearly two hours to write

glamrocksupergrl (1:03:34 AM): what should i blog about?
ibi137 (1:03:58 AM): temporary tattoos
glamrocksupergrl (1:04:18 AM): hmmm
glamrocksupergrl (1:04:24 AM): what can i say about temporary tattoos?
ibi137 (1:06:05 AM): the fact that your friend is considering getting a "mister sofftee" tramp stamp

I forgot I had this blog. I guess I must be registered at every blog site on the internet, by now, so it shouldn't really surprise me. I must start one at least twice a year, before always returning faithfully to my much-ignored livejournal. which is still not updated too often because of the stigma of having a livejournal. As I said in a post last month: "I only seem to write here when I want to talk about writing." Which is true, and a little meta, but whatever. Nobody wants to listen to me talking about writing as often as I want to.

I am, apparently, one of those people who opens a new blog by pointing out it is a new blog. Though, in fact, I suppose this is an "old" blog, just an empty one. Oh well, that is what we do. Stretching out to measure our little inch of the internet, like in Kindergarten when they make you flap your arms and spin around before you do anything in P.E. Everybody ends up with enough space except for the kid against the wall, who keeps hitting his elbow.

There are only three weeks until Christmas. This will be the second year in a row that I am not in Chicago, or even in Oak Park (to be more specific) or Illinois (to be more broad), for the build-up, which is a little... I don't know. It won't be as weird as the Christmas season in Japan. Japanese people have been convinced by American ad execs that Colonel Sanders is the same person as Santa Claus (That said with absolutely no exaggeration. They are literally lead to believe that the jovial, bearded man in the red suit likes to wear a vaguely confederate white suit and sell mass-produced fried chicken for the rest of the year.) and that everyone in American goes to KFC and lines up for their Christmas bucket on the eve. Also, Japan has invented this thing called a "Christmas cake", which they order weeks in advance. Christmas in Japan is a little like Chinese food in America. That is, all the parts the consumers like about it were completely invented somewhere in transit.

The Christmas season in New York should be a little more normal. My chances of visiting a Buddhist temple or nearly getting run over by a very fast-moving tractor in the middle of a fish market on Christmas eve morning are greatly lowered, but my chances of eating gingerbread cookies go up quite a bit. I'm not going to miss putting up the tree this year, at least, though I may miss lunch at the Walnut Room in Marshall Field's, lights at Brookfield Zoo, seeing the silly lamp-post decorations on Lake street, ice skating in Millenium Park, the Christkindlmarket on Daley Plaza, etc. Good Christmas-y Chicago stuff, and my own traditions, too, like making molded chocolates. I didn't get to do that last year, either. I feel my chocolate molds are probably getting dusty.

My haul used to grow larger every year. I think when I was a senior in high school I made over 400 pieces. Little chocolate stockings and santas and candy canes. It was relaxing, and it felt good to walk around with enough that I could see any random person in the hallway and shout "Hey! You want a Christmas present?" Of course, these days I wouldn't see enough people to give out so many, but it was still fun experimenting with different mix-ins. My favorite was white chocolate with broken up candy canes in it. It was a little like the peppermint ice at Fannie Mae, which makes me wonder why Fannie Mae charges so much, as the recipe is apparently so simple

When I was fourteen we spent Christmas in Paris, where my mom's best friend was living at the time, in this great apartment right near the Eiffel tower. This was also the Christmas that I spent in tears on the bathroom floor while my mom tried to bribe me away from mental breakdown with a shiny new iPod. That was memorable. I think I may have eaten turtle stew for dinner. But I would remember something like that if it had happened, right? I hope so. I think it was salty.

In short: I am no good at being away from home for Christmas.

This story was about Paris, though, and also about chocolate. This is what tied it all together. Christmas, Paris, Chocolate and Le Bon Marche's cake lady.

She was amazing and pervasive. This skinny, pale woman with shiny, red strawberry lips and a short, dark bob coiffed so perfectly that it looked almost like a wig made of chocolate fondant. She had wide-set, sadly French eyes and good cheekbones, but most of all she was extraordinary in two ways:

1) She was holding a chocolate cake the approximate size and shape of a Nintendo Gamecube, imprinted over and over again with the French word for cake: "gateau gateau gateau" ("What's a gate-ow?" I asked my dad), on a white plate beside her face. And

2) she had freckles.

As a pale, skinny kid with, admittedly, less fabulous hair but many, many more freckles, spotting a model so glamorous holding something so obviously delicious in a metro ad was one thing in the first, but I am not sure that before then I had ever noticed someone else's freckles so keenly, or been so proud of my own. And the woman was everywhere. I could count on spotting her stony face at least three times in any given metro stop, and she was plastered on walls, too, and billboards. My family played a game of pointing her out whenever we saw her, and I played even after my brother and parents had grown bored of it. My dad had given me his old camcorder to record the trip, I having just recently declared my new dream of being the First Woman to Win An Oscar for Best Director and so obviously needing to start practicing on a Sony Handycam ASAP. I don't think he or I realized I was doing it, but when he got home and looked at the footage it contained three things: one shot of the outside of the Louvre, one shot from the Arc de Triomphe, and shot after shot of Le Bon Marche's cake lady each time I had spotted her: larger than life, gorgeous, and freckled.

My mom eventually went to Le Bon Marche and brought back a palm-sized version of the cake for me. It wasn't as delicious as its advertisement made it look, but that's always the case. I hadn't really wanted to eat it, anyway. It was enough to be holding what I could view as a little piece of that photograph.

Anyway, I went home and forgot about Le Bon Marche's cake lady. That is, until I was nineteen and I cut off all my hair, inspired by my love of Audrey Tautou's Amelie and a stated desire to "cut off the dead ends of my life." (As an aside, it apparently takes more than a haircut to completely cut off one "dead ends". Mine keep coming back, but I do sort of love them, now, so I guess it's good I didn't cut them out too completely.) A few days after the cut, when I was used to it but no one else was, I was getting out of the shower, with my hair and bangs slicked down with water. I passed my mom in the hall and she stopped. "You know," she said, "You kind of look like that...cake lady. You know, that woman in the ads in Paris." I had to think back further than usual to remember, but then I did, and I couldn't stop smiling for the rest of the day. Possibly the rest of the week. I briefly entertained the idea that I had subconsciously chosen the bob cut because of my young fascination with that ad, but if I believed that I would have to doubt my own sanity. Suffice to say, perhaps the cut was a long time coming.

My mom is, of course, insane for thinking I look anything like Le Bon Marche's cake lady, but it was nice, anyway. It's a weird feeling when someone tells you you've accomplished exactly what you meant to, even more so when you'd forgotten that you meant it at all.

Now that I think about it, that might not have been the Christmas trip at all. It was probably the 2001 summer trip. Ah, well, it doesn't matter. I'll always have a soft spot for that twiggy woman and her disproportionately large cake.


(I promise I will never write an entry this long again. Jesus Christ.)