Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
And though we are in a big apartment by Manhattan standards, the timing was kind of ridiculous. Here's a piece of advice that I think will come in handy: Don't wait for years then finally haul out boxes of stuff you should have taken off your parents' hands after graduation at the same time as you've been recently inundated with bags of miniature clothes and indoor swings and exosaucers and also have your grandmother's belongings to sort through and definitely don't on top of that soon after get laid off and send your winter boots and extra umbrellas and unlabeled cables back home.
Back home. Back to the place that you live, play guitar, make dinner, set up your Ikea bed, raise a family, store boxes of old mix tapes?
My parents only moved a few towns over. So while their main grocery store has changed and they had to switch gyms from a beautiful, almost country club with a fireplace to an ugly, strip-mall operation, and we no longer have a pool to go to in summer, the landscape and points of reference all pretty much the same. Still even remembering to say one town and not the other, especially when the other was not only a town but a whole way of life, a whole world, a childhood, it's weird. The zip code looks wrong. There's no middle-of-the-night motor memory to lead you in the dark. And now I have to catch myself. Change "home" to "my parents' place." Answer "Where will you be at Thanksgiving?" with the name of a town, a few towns over. Sleep on a mattress on the floor and look around for a book I feel like reading which more often than not turns out to be the DSM-IV. Say when something is so wonderfully, unbearably familiar, when the smell of Madeleines is just rushing in from the kitchen, "This reminds me of home" and know that place has no location. That it's in my head.
I am glad they made me take this stuff. It's fun going through it. And it feels good to get rid of most of it. My sister, if she has time to read this, will surely be doing air high-fives to me from Brooklyn. So will Margaret whose world really is lit by lightning now. Maybe the parts we haven't read should remain that way.
Monday, September 27, 2010
*coined by Alex, can't imagine what inspired it
Sunday, September 26, 2010
The reason it crossed over to friends mode was this: Joe from Bayonne swung by Miriam's after his first date with M. from my office. Joe, Alex and I drove down to drop Leah at MacDougal but all four of us ended up getting a drink. Later that night Joe drove Leah to catch a 5 AM flight out of Newark only to arrive there and find out it was a 5 AM flight out of Laguardia. They turned around and swung back under two rivers and she made it on time. It did not seem, for a few weeks, that anything was going to come of that dinner with M. But by mid-November it turned out that Joe and M. were in fact "together" and as things got better with Joe and M. they got much worse with Joe and Alex and me. Joe's "I'll be there in five minutes" turned into an hour or two, or not coming at all. Not a Yoko Ono thing, just a shifting away from one priority to another. Joe had always been so torn, and I guess he didn't have to be torn anymore. And I guess too that his outrageously grand dreams for Dimestore Scenario began to appear to be what they always were, outrageously grand, so even though we finally put out our EP in January, we played our last show together at the Delancey in March. When we said goodbye at the Williamsburg Bridge Joe's suit was hanging down from the window in his car; he was headed upstate for a wedding the following day, friends of his new girlfriend. It was clear which way he was going. I had thought that things could maybe gradually come to a close with lots of red wine stained evenings and sad renditions of "Ozone Fantasy" and teary walks in the park together with Sky but as it happened I did not see Joe, Joe from Bayonne who at that time I saw just about every waking hour, again until I was 8 months pregnant the following winter. He had been one of the only everyday friends I had in New York. The ones that you hang out with until 3 in the morning and then still email first thing as soon as you get to work. The ones who accompany you to do laundry, who know what your nieces are wearing for Halloween, who come to family dinners, who are equally close to your boyfriend as to you.
There were apples scattered over the ground and they crushed easily under our feet. The light was hitting straight through up there, but it was a weak October sun and on its way down. "Where is that other Joe?" I asked. "The band was so who he was. It was such a dream of his--why couldn't he do both?" My dad didn't answer for a while. I walked a little bit ahead of him further up the hill. "It was a great dream to have," I heard him say a few minutes later from somewhere behind me, in front of me, really, since I'd have to turn around soon. Playing in a rock band was a dream of mine too, for as long as I could remember. I was four months away from having a baby. I agreed with my dad, it was a great dream to have, to have had. But I wasn't ready to stop walking long enough to answer, to take in the changing view, to turn around and begin the descent.
Friday, September 24, 2010
("Can you say that word out loud?"
"No, I can't."
Awkward laughter. A ticking clock.) I run into her fairly often at Whole Foods or Duane Reade. There's no acknowledgement on either side, protocol I guess for her. Still I feel totally jittery until we part ways. Which is how I feel walking by the vendor I used to buy coffee from. Or the lady who once I think once gave me a stare down in the laundry room. My dad's cousin Suzie once said I remind her of a friend who felt awkward running into a guy who had mugged him. "What should I say?" the friend asked.
Back to mothers sending back all your invitations (free Three Muskateers bar to the first reader to name that song).
Anyway, the reasons for not going to almost anything at all have to be irrefutable, the argument has to be airtight. That need for constant validation. Not validation as in "You're great, you're amazing, you're intelligent" but "You're not a jerk." "You're not selfish." I used to even go so far as to not want to meet at places near me even if the other person, who lived further away, suggested it because I didn't want it to look like, "Wow, that was convenient for Rachel. She sure does what's good for her." With invites, I could simply say no, but I'd fear the person's response would be, "Screw you." In the case of a wedding, maybe it would be. But in the case of most of these situations that I struggle over, Sunset Yoga or drinks in Williamsburg, it would not. So I have to ask myself, would *I* think Screw you? Is that what I think when I ask someone to do something and he or she can't or won't or doesn't want to or "might have in-laws in town that weekend" nevermind the in-laws live in New Rochelle. [Just remembered a funny moment from about 8 years ago. My friend Evening, the one I'm right now on a bus headed to DC to visit, and I were coming out of the subway in front of Dizzy's in Park Slope. We ran into a vague, tangential, friend of a friend who invited us to a party she was having in a few weeks, without specifying the date. Evening's response "I think I have something going on that weekend". Nobody mentioned the fact that we hadn't established which weekend was in question. That was the end of the conversation.]
Last year I wanted to get out of going to a super late party that I had only half agreed to attend. The host didn't care one way or the other, it was one of the people I'd planned to go with. I realized I couldn't go to a midnight party and then be up for the day with Wally at 4. It just wasn't fair to him or me. It was not healthy. He was too demanding. (Sometimes, when caring for Wally during his more taxing periods, I found myself wincing as I quoted Sarah Palin to myself, "You can't blink".) Anyway, the friend kept coming back with why I should go and how it wouldn't work for her if I didn't go. My feeling was she wouldn't let me out of it. She wouldn't let me feel it was okay, that I was an okay person, a decent human being, if I said no. The upshot was the party she went to beforehand lasted too long for her to make it to the midnight party. So it wasn't a "growth opportunity" for me. It was a passive retreat.
Now, before you start throwing tomatoes at me for being so ridiculously afraid of not meeting other people's needs, you should know that my mom recently refrained from calling neighbors to ask them a question about a favor she was doing for them, because they "might be watching TV." We laughed but realized she was not kidding.
"Is there anything at all it would be okay to interrupt?" We asked her.
She thought about it for a while but couldn't come up with anything.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
I like to write those sometimes, but I also want to have a disclaimer about them. Because I know it's like Oh God shoot me why would I care about cup-holders in strollers? But, I have to admit, now that I have crossed over to adding to the problem of overpopulation, I do kind of like a lot of the blogs and articles that talk about all the daily minutiae of sippy cups and witching hours and 5-minute-quick and healthy dinners that your kids might actually eat.
Ladies & Gentlemen, Children of All Ages! Forget the tightrope walkers and the fire-eaters, You've never seen this before!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Maybe you know that someone named Garbage Guru's Wife who writes understanding comments and tells funny stories succinctly wrote this a few days ago: "As you titled this the Last American Childhood, I assume you are trying to connect everything either to your youth or raising your son, kind of a parallal universe thing."
She is right that I had some vague intention of connecting things. But for now, separate from me, and separate from Wally (although those have been by-in-large the dominant subjects of this blog, "It's all about me folks!") what do you picture when you hear the phrase, "Last American Childhood"? Does it conjure up anything for you? Climbing trees? Making forts? Having tea parties? Kids not doing those things anymore? Lakes that aren't safe to swim in? Forests that we imagine aren't safe to wander in? Little kids who aren't allowed to get dirty, who have to learn Mandarin by the time they're 3? Maybe it’s little girls catching giant bubbles. Scrappy, Tom Sawyer boys covered in paint. (Or the other way around.) Abandoned bikes by the side of the road. Hulu hoops and hopscotch. Your grandfather fishing. A sled named Rosebud. Hopi children playing with dolls. Your mom on a backyard swing. Your kids eating ice cream on a blistering hot day. Or an empty playground.
I'm hereby requesting you send in something visual--a photo, painting, sketch, collage--to illustrate what that phrase means to you. You could take a brand new photo today or scan in a disintegrating one you peel out of an old album. Send credit info with permission for it to be posted on this site. We can use a fake name if you'd prefer.
You can send it here: email@example.com
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
No thanks, that doesn't sound particularly interesting and I don't like you enough to take time away from reading people's Facebook status updates
I have a question: What is the best way to turn down an offer or invite for something you don't want to do?
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
I thought I was posting too frequently. But now I am being criticized for not posting often enough lately (which is a good thing to be criticized for). Alex made homemade pizza tonight. Wally has a little fever but is in a great mood. My dad's here to help us go through my grandmother's stuff. I finished the revisions for my Jell-O Shots book today. Should be in stores -- Urban Outfitters first -- for spring. The photographer came a few weeks ago and carted all the leftover alcohol away. Made Sangria one last time tonight but it didn't work. Past end-of-summer feeling. Onto early fall. Feels like pushing iced coffee and tank tops too far into September. Give it up already. Get on with things.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
My first Guest Post -- Elinor Actipis is an animal activist with an apartment full of bats and cats and a twitter account that's gaining momentum. She's living proof that once in a while dyed-in-the-wool right wingers can be the most caring and generous people around. Read on for simple ways to help farm animals lead better lives.-RF
Rachel has been kind enough to let me guest blog on a subject we both care a lot about: animal welfare. I am in the process of learning more about the cause and figuring out what I can do to help. While there are many important issues—wildlife habitat protection, animal testing, pet overpopulation, etc.—what speaks to me most is the plight of farm animals. I believe that most people are not cruel and would genuinely be shocked at what goes on in intensive confinement operations, a.k.a. factory farms.
Want to help but don’t have a ton of time or a high level of commitment? That’s OK. Here are some easy (repeat: EASY) ways to help these animals.
1. Have a basic understanding of the issues.
It is genuinely awful to contemplate what farm animals go through before they reach our plates, but it is also important to have some knowledge and not dissociate.
In the US alone, 10 billion animals a year are raised and killed for meat, dairy, and eggs—and the vast majority of them spend their short lives confined in “animal factories”, not picturesque farms. This number is so huge as to be unfathomable, so instead of 10 billion, try to picture one pig—just one pig who lives out the majority of her life in a metal gestation crate so small she can’t even turn around, pumping out litter after litter of piglets who are taken from her, before she is brutally slaughtered.
Don’t care about pigs? Imagine your beloved dog or cat living in a filthy cage with no sunlight or room to turn around, and wire mesh damaging his paws; the dog would suffer and the pig suffers just as much. You’d be locked up for treating a dog this way, so why is it legal for farm animals?
2. Make small changes.
Consumer behavior is a hugely important driver of change, so vote with your dollars (or lack thereof!). I’ve also found that making small changes leads to bigger ones. For example, I’ve been a lacto-ovo vegetarian since I was a teenager, but reducing dairy consumption seemed insurmountable: how would I do without half and half in my coffee? Also, not having milk in my cereal seemed gross for some reason. I finally told myself to stop being ridiculous and sampled soy milk. Guess what? It wasn’t bad at all, and I made the switch. Then I experimented and discovered I like almond milk even more. Now I’ve significantly reduced dairy, and milk (a.k.a. cow squirt) is what seems gross!
Some other easy switches:
This is a huge one—only buy cage-free eggs. [And no, organic does NOT mean cage-free.] 97% of egg-laying hens are crammed into massive warehouses with stacks of battery cages the size of a piece of a paper for their whole lives. They are de-beaked because the stress of confinement causes aggression. We can do better than this.
Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s sell only cage-free; elsewhere, shop carefully. Certified Humane is a highly respected label that indicates a humanely sourced product. Look for the blue and green label, or click here to find humane brands in your area.
Meatless Mondays Do you eat meat daily? OK, then, try to give it up just one day a week. Inspiration and recipes here. Starting small leads to big changes over time.
3. Don’t get overwhelmed.
While a shocking amount of violence goes on, I strongly believe we’re near a turning point. Most encouragingly, and due to strong citizen support, California, Michigan, and Ohio have put laws on the books phasing out the most egregious practices (e.g., battery cages for hens, tiny crates for veal calves, etc.). This is sending a strong message to the entrenched agriculture interests that people are NOT in favor of the current “anything goes” policies.
4. Support the Humane Society of the United States
Donate money and support what I believe is the most effective advocate for farm animals in the United States. The HSUS has been behind much of the recent legislation improving the lot of farm animals and has agri-business running scared. They also work with large corporations to effect change on a huge scale. For example, Compass, the world’s leading foodservice company, switched to cage-free eggs in 2007, creating demand for tens of millions of cage-free eggs.
I follow the Humane Society closely and am incredibly impressed by their leadership and effectiveness on behalf of ALL ANIMALS. I hope you’ll join me in supporting them.
Want to learn more? Some good overviews can be found here: