Monday, July 20, 2009

Thanksgiving in July

Saturday was one of those really rare stunning New York summer days -- hot and sunny but not sticky or heavy. It's been notably cool for July anyway, but to get true summer that's not disgusting -- that's a thing of beauty around here.

I went into the city to see my friend Heather, with the idea of hitting up some galleries. But they were all closed -- odd for a Saturday, but we guessed everyone was off in the Hamptons. So we did what we would have done anyway, which was walk and talk -- she's someone I can talk to all day and never get tired. We hung out on the 23rd Street pier for a while, which has gotten a nice makeover since I was last over that way. Everyone was out taking the sun, with sailboats tacking across the Hudson and the water sparkling. I could have jumped in.
Then we walked over to Tenth Avenue and climbed up to The High Line, which I've wanted to see since it opened last month. It's a length of elevated freight rail tracks built in the 1930s and abandoned in 1980, reclaimed at the beginning of the '00s as park space and spruced up super nice. It's all concrete and wood and steel in perfect proportion, filled with indigenous, New York State prairie-type plantings, and all sorts of great detailing that fits in with the existing cityscape -- no small feat when you consider the whole crazy pentimento effect of New York City in the 21st century. There are some ridiculously cool sleek highrises towering above it, and crumbly roofs from the century before last with rusty watertowers alongside. My favorite thing was a long stone wall of tall multicolored mullioned windows -- I'm a sucker for colored glass and this was really classy.
After walking and talking and walking and talking, we headed up to the Bronx and had a big grilled feast, salmon and corn and black bean/mango salsa and salad.

And then Sunday night? We had our friends John and Margarita and their dogs over for a big grilled feast, chicken and burgers and corn and summer squash and salad.

That was a lot of feasting in one weekend, a lot of talking and drinking and passing food around the table and pretending we didn't see Mr. Bonkers stick his entire head in the salad bowl, looking for cucumbers. Forget Christmas in July -- this weekend was our Thanksgiving in July. I can go back to my hermit ways for a while, but it was nice doing some extended bread-breaking with friends.
Sunday was the fourth anniversary of Milo's death. I didn't dwell on it much during the day, but this morning around 4 I woke up with a little indigestion, a little of the dreaded Monday hangover, and lay in the dark thinking about him. I'll always miss my boy -- he was a shooting star and his time with me was far too short. You know how when you're a kid you get this vision of how you're going to be as an adult, this very personal archetype that you either ditch or hang on to or some variation thereof? I always wanted to be a cool artist lady in a beat-up pickup truck with a dog in the front seat. Not a mommy, not a businesswoman, not a nurse or a fireman. She was it. And though I lost track of her for a while -- my childrearing years weren't really conducive to keeping that particular vision alive -- I got her back. I got to be the cool artist lady in the beat-up pickup truck, even if I was really a slightly geeky publishing lady in a beat-up Blazer, and Milo was that dog. He was the key that turned in the lock and gave me a second chance to be what I wanted. He was my good dog, sitting in the front seat.

The thing is, though, if Milo were still alive there's a very good chance we would never have adopted Dorrie. And she's my good dog too. It's just one of those things that there's no way to really think about in a straight line.

So I woke her up and pulled her into my arms with her head on my shoulder, and snuggled with my good dog until it got light out and I figured I might as well just get up. Milo always liked being held that same way, and I guess wherever he is he must appreciate the fact that I'm still snuggling in bed with a white spotty dog. Whatever else you can say about me, I sure do pick good ones.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summertime and The Russian Prize

Summer's finally come to New York. Look, I'm not complaining -- it's the middle of July, and this is the first really irritatingly hot and sticky day that hasn't cooled off after the sun went down. Cold pasta, cherries, and wine for dinner, and the fans all going full-blast. When I turned on the floor fan in the living room -- first time this year -- a huge dust bunny came skittering out and Francis went crazy. He chased it, then he stalked it, then pounced. It had to have been a hell of a disappointment. The tenure of the other two cats has pretty much assured that this house is rodent-free, so he never gets to catch anything.

So my guest blogger gig at Bookninja is over as of tonight, since George is back. It was a lot of fun, and I hope that everyone who followed me there will keep checking it out on a regular basis. It's a really good joint. My fellow bloggers were awesome too -- they put me to shame, honestly, with all their energy. I see they all kept up with their personal blogs just fine. But hey, we all do what we can do and anyway, I have a few tricks left up my sleeve. Stay tuned.

Earlier this evening I was reading various newsworthy items and got myself worked up into a whole bloggy lather with one of my usual rants, which is how I dearly wish to see the farthest corners of world literature spread around to all readerly consciousnesses -- seriously, it should be as accessible and unscary as world music has gotten, and available in Starbucks as well -- and I came upon Margarita Meklina's account at The Quarterly Conversation of her trip back to Russia after winning the Russkaya Premia literary prize.

It's a good story, dark and touching. The other finalists she mentions, though, just stopped me in my tracks. Not so much the creepy wanking Ossetian, but Boris Khazanov, hoping to be handed a literary prize from the same state that jailed him for six years in the 50s for anti-Soviet propaganda. How in the world could that feel? Literally, how in the world -- a Google search of his name turned up some Russian language books and a Boris Khazanov who lives in New Hampshire and gave money to Obama's campaign. The one I want is a German expat, whose speech focused on "language, which becomes frozen in immigration as though in a fridge."

Or Andrei Nazarov, whose family was killed in the Revolution and who said the award should go to Nabokov and Bunin, who never received such a prize from their own government. The backstorie seems as far from the American literary prize machine as you can get, and I'm hungry to know more. Nazarov shares his name with a pro hockey player, and while I realize it's fully possible to both play hockey and write -- hey, I can -- I doubt they're the same person.

So for all my grand ideas of world literature for the people and how it would make us better citizens of the universe, I end up only being as good as my search engine, and I end up feeling very solidly American. But Meklina's essay is a really wonderful window into a whole different room, and I appreciate that. It's a big internet, and I like it that way.

Did I mention that it's hot? The dog is hot, the cats are hot. We've gotten off easy so far, but I guess summer's here now.

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Open Letter

Dear Teenagers of Kingsbridge,

First of all, we want to give you credit for having gotten hold of all those fireworks. Really, we think it's SO cool you were able to talk your Uncle Sonny into picking up that big bag of them when he was down in West Virginia last month, and we commend you for not having blown off any of your fingers. Seriously.

But can we give you some advice? They don't go bad. You can save whatever you have left over for next year, and they'll still be fine -- you don't HAVE to set them all off tonight. What if you can't get any next year? What if Uncle Sonny gets caught violating his parole and can't make it down to see that guy he knows? You'll be really, really glad to have a few laid away for the Fourth of July, 2010. Just hide them in the back of your sock drawer -- when your mom find them she'll be so happy they're not weed she'll forget she ever saw anything. Really. I'm a mom. I know.

To tide you over until then, check out the Museum of Firecracker Label Art. They're quite beautiful, and they won't scare the dog.

(via Coudal Partners' Museum of Online Museums)