Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ann Arbor

"Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it."
— Mary Oliver

Mmmmmm back from a weekend away. I have been in Ann Arbor, Michigan--the fruit belt!-- visiting two of my oldest friends. (Well, one and her husband but sometimes I forget that Ryan grew up in Texas and not on Evergreen Circle.)

Natalie and Ryan live an enviable life. They bike instead of drive. They plant tomatoes instead of grass. They eat local, organic, and well. They know a lot about many things-- namely road bikes, beer brewing, music playing, and pizza perfecting. They know the perfect ratio of yeast to flour to water and what temperature makes crust crunchy and fluffy at the same time. They spend a lot of time looking at the garden, checking to see if any new berries plumped up during the night.

They have big laughs and happy faces and they know all of my stories. (We grew up together, after all.) They let me sleep in a freezing cold basement covered to my ears in comforters in the middle of July-- can you imagine!? It was absolute heaven.

They made me waffles and we ate them soaked in real maple syrup on the deck yesterday morning and talked about alternatives to mowing. We talked about how Natalie wants chickens and why we will never own dogs. They own a book about homesteading and they took me into the forest before eating shawarma at Jerusalem Garden in town. We went to the U of Michigan Law Library and talked about how influential immediate surroundings can be on our inner lives.

We had tears rolling down our faces from Saturday afternoon onward-- happy, hysterical, tears from laughing so hard our cheeks hurt. I'm still laughing, actually. Laughing about how I played the guitar with Ryan well into the night, and having a very clear thought of "wow, this actually sounds really good." It didn't, let me tell you.

I'm only back here in clunky New York for two days before shooting off again to another far away destination where I will be drinking coffee until noon with a book on a deck. Delicious, this summer. Absolutely electric.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


My dear friend Lauren Hoffman (Lo) recently had a beautiful and ridiculously well written piece published in The Nervous Breakdown. How have we not talked about this yet? Lo is an extremely talented writer currently working on her first book of essays and is the former student of the great late Frank McCourt. She also is phenomenal at the card game Cups. And at West Wing trivia.

We send each other weird things in the mail-- she sent me this, and I sent her an envelope stuffed with paper snowflakes I made last December with the note, "Lo, Please hang these snowflakes on your window and you will be happy. Xo, X" (She calls me X.) She sent me a copy of Zinn's A People's History recently, which we are reading together on a loosely followed schedule.

While we're at it, lets all take a look at the photography that her friend Sarah Jurado took, absolutely capturing Lo's world. My note is there, and the 'Ll' 'Oo' flashcards I sent her from Chicago. She reads more than anyone I know and lovingly arranges her books according to importance. I organize mine by color, which makes her squirm, but she places Infinite Jest on the same shelf as 'Mr. Rogers' Plan & Play Book' so, whatever Lo.

It also happens to be her 27th birthday today. Wish I could be there, friend, to eat cupcakes, play Cups, and talk about C.J. Cregg. xo, X.

Again, the essay is here: http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/lhoffman/2010/07/bed/

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Great Gatsby

“What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon?” cried Daisy, “and the day after that, and the next thirty years?”

“Don’t be morbid,” Jordan said. “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

“But it’s so hot,” insisted Daisy, on the verge of tears, “and everything’s so confused. Let’s all go to town!”

Well, it's definitely July. The heat is all everyone can seem to talk about right now in the city and I secretly love it. I love it in the same way I love freezing cold February days when everyone is miserable, but, I don't know, bonded somehow because of it. We commiserate together and complain in tandem and it seems that despite politics and the economy and music taste and popular opinion, we are all on the same page about something. Weather as the great equalizer.

I always think about The Great Gatsby during these intense July afternoons-- That chapter where they all escape to the Plaza hotel in Manhattan from East Egg. It is in that oppressively hot hotel suite that Gatsby and Tom finally have it out over Daisy.

No matter where they are in the indirect quarrel over Gatsby's phony use of 'old sport' and the legitimacy of his claim to have attended Oxford, and ultimately, Daisy's heart, the conversation shifts to the relentless heat. They challenge each other and order up mint juleps in the same breath. They confess their love while at the same time commenting on the wedding chords below and the tragedy of attending such an event in that hot, heavy air. The relentless beating heat was beginning to confuse me, Nick muses. I love that line.

It's a fantastic use of imagery-- the heat as a third party in that hotel room. Fitzgerald uses it to suffocate the reader alongside his players. He heats the conversation in literal terms that make us want to loosen our own collars, grab our own icy drink to cool our brow. It's suffocating, and it's supposed to be. Then, just like that, the heat lets up with a cooling twilight and we are back in East Egg where Tom's furies have also subsided and Daisy has crawled back into the comfort of monotony. Stunning.

Fitzgerald's Gatsby belongs in a group of perfect things, right there next to The Philadelphia Story, Hubbell Gardner, this New Yorker Cover and white peonies. And, if nothing else, it has helped me romanticise this July heat. It's my own mint julep dripping in hand.

photo: one of my favorites, "Katarina" by Karolina Karlic

Monday, July 12, 2010

Art Hamptons

Yes, I was in The Hamptons this weekend on business, la-ti-da, la-ti-da. (I also watched Annie Hall twice, and apparently just quoted it, ha.) I would love to report a chic weekend in white linen by the cool ocean with a cocktail in hand, but oddly enough, this was probably the least chic art fair I have ever attended. The main problem was lack of ventilation and broken air conditioner in a white tent under the blazing hot sun. It was 100 degrees in there, no air flow, and humid to boot. The heat was all anyone could really talk about, and I saw more than one collector walk in, laugh, and walk back out. I imagine they all had summer homes filled with breezy sea air and icy Arnold Palmers to return too. Can't blame 'em.

I arrived in a full length dress that looked fantastic when I left my apartment at 6am that morning (I know) but by the time I arrived at Sayre Park, Bridgehampton, was stuck to my back, wrinkled, and about as unhappy as the girl wearing it. But my dress and I regrouped in the portable restrooms(!!!!), put on some gloss, and did our best to charm the soggy socks off the cranky and dripping gallery owners I've gotten to know in the past few years.

We tried our hardest, we all did. Lots of smiles and sarcasm and enthusiasm over what amounted to really wonderful work. But there is a reason that art of this nature is best viewed within the confines of thick walls, ideal temperatures, and spectacular lighting. It's a bit spoiled, fussy, and deserves your utmost attention. I did see a gorgeous Judy Pfaff piece, though.

Heat or no heat, it was a fantastic weekend. How could it not be? I spent the rest of it on a deck facing the ocean drinking white wine from the freezer and laughing with new friends. I finished a book and made a killer salad and got a sunburn like you wouldn't believe. Cheers, July. Bring it on.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Annie Hall

I realize that its a bit radical to write about an event before it takes place, but it was 90 degrees out before breakfast and I'm feeling a bit daring. What one has to do with the other, I do not know, but we all seem to be blaming the heat these days, and it feels good to use it to my advantage.

At any rate, tonight marks the first evening of Movies With A View at Pier 1 of Brooklyn Bridge Park, and the first film, Annie Hall, is one of my favorites. I have seen this movie more times than is probably normal, I own it, and therefore will not be disappointed by the movie itself. I also won't be disappointed by the view, the food, and the company. A good night ahead, no doubt.

I first saw Annie Hall during the spring of my senior year of college when my little sister and I discovered a treasure trove of videos for rent at the Northfield Public Library in our sleepy college town. I distinctly remember renting The Big Chill, Beach Party, Beach Blanket Bingo, The Philadelphia Story, and Annie Hall on VHS before a trip to Jess's cabin in Wisconsin with my best college girlfriends. I was in charge of bringing movies, and while they were probably expecting something from, well, 2006, they humored me with my choices.

Looking back, it was one of the best trips we ever had together, there in the middle of the Wisconsin lake country in a cabin fitted with window beds and a cupboard filled with cookie ingredients, real maple syrup, and strong coffee. For most of the weekend, Kira and I danced along with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon while Jess made cookies and Lauren studied her Computer Science textbook. Cheridyn was finishing up her independent study on world religions, and I remember not packing any textbooks to speak of.

I read The Bell Jar for the first time on the back deck, we cooked pancakes for breakfast, and talked about our BIG LIVES ahead. We watched all of my movies, smooshed into big leather couches with quilts to our chins. The Big Chill hushed us into reality, The Philadelphia Story made us swoon, and Beach Party made us groan in unison (I still love those beach movies, though, they remind me of my mom).

But Annie Hall... Annie Hall made me dream of New York. I watched it over and over those last few weeks of college, scared to death that I had made the wrong decision in not coming right away. I watched it the next year too, in Indiana, when I frantically counted down the days until I could drop my lease and make the jump to a city where I didn't have a job, or friends, or any real plan. I remember sneering at the massive Midwestern parking lots and cheesy condo swimming pools and wanting desperately to be here, in Brooklyn, in a tiny apartment stuffed with houseplants and books and loud cookware, and a rooftop just like Annie Hall and Alvy Singer had. Heaven, this film. Over thought, over analyzed, wordy, Woody Allen-esque heaven.

Well, a year later, I was here, in New York, in a tiny apartment on the Upper West Side. I bought a black turtleneck and striped scarf like Annie Hall wore and started to carve out my own story on this island. That first month after moving here I found Movies with A View listed on a free website of sorts and made my way down to the Brooklyn Waterfront with a blanket and a picnic, and not a friend to speak of.

I watched the sunset over Manhattan, and observed happy couples and groups of girlfriends playing cards, and delighted in every detail. I loved it. (Lurve it, actually. Loave it. I luff it, with two F's.) I still do. And I'm luckily enough to now attend the movies with friends who have become part of my own New York story. In fact, Alison actually runs this event now! Imagine that! It's a great list of films this year, and took A LOT of planning, so come join us, New York. You'll lurve it.

Movies with a View Schedule:
Thursday, July 8
Annie Hall

Thursday, July 15
Monsters vs. Aliens

Thursday, July 22
The Big Lebowski

Thursday, July 29
Rear Window

Thursday, August 5
Brokeback Mountain

Thursday, August 12

Thursday, August 19
The Blues Brothers

Thursday, August 26
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade