Archive | April, 2012

Gertrude Stein and Hemingway – Right Place, Right Time

30 Apr

I remember very well the impression I had of Hemingway that first afternoon. He was an extraordinarily good-looking young man, twenty-three years old. It was not long after that that everybody was twenty-six. It became the period of being twenty-six. During the next two or three years all the young men were twenty-six years old. It was the right age apparently for that time and place.

Gertrude Stein

A Dream That Came True

27 Apr

Woody Allen ruined my life.  Ok, that’s not exactly true, but almost, and I think he’d secretly love that.

I don’t know Woody Allen, but I have watched many of the worlds that he’s created and wanted them for myself; the drippings of money and intellectual privilege.  I’ve wanted a man to whisper e.e. cummings in my ear, as he encourages me to have an affair.  Of course, the other woman is my sister.

I’ve wanted to live in a grey house by the sea and splash around in waves that crash up all around me – destined to drown.  I’ve wanted a booze-soaked, angry Mother who once possessed glamour, and a neurotic family who financially supports my poetry habit.

I’ve wanted to work in an art gallery that was actually mine and be forgiven for my dalliance because my husband was caught up in a prostitute’s intrigue.  Or, to be invited to fly to Orvieto to have a threesome with my gorgeous friend and Jarvier Bardem.

Each world he creates is a beautiful backdrop to privileged peoples’ problems that paint personal, interesting Hells to inhabit; however, I’ve wanted these worlds with less hell-fire.

Last night my dreams came true.  I was invited to my first publishing dinner at a famous intellectual’s house; a man I had studied in college.

When I first started my job I was a little disappointed to discover that I wasn’t going to be personally involved with the authors that I was representing.  Because of Woody Allen, I had imagined being invited to late evening literary circles where some meaningless and dramatic event would happen.  I, of course would handle all of this with the aplomb of a publishing executive like myself would possess and then throw out a witty comment or two.

Unfortunately, for me, the San Francisco publishing scene was not the New York one, and the sun has set on the Golden Age of publishing. I was not going to be going to author dinners, but sitting on calls and answering email after email.  My authors were not going to be my friends, but people I answered to professionally.

Somehow I managed to move past my disappointment, embrace my job for what it was, but still I harbored this secret dream, knowing I would shine in this moment.  Though, in time, I laid my dream to rest.

Then unexpectedly I was confronted with “the man I had studied in college”.  Due to the constant email, the eminence of him had not sunk in; however, I was a little surprised that our author call had turned into a very late lunch.  We’re nice at my company, but normally wouldn’t settle for eating at 2:00 p.m.

As the meeting went on who he was sunk in, and suddenly I became nervous and concerned it was obvious.

“I’d love to have you over at my house for a catered dinner,” captured my attention.  “No”, I thought, “no, this cannot be true.  I’m sure this will never happen.”

Now I am sitting here to tell you, my dear readers that yes, it did happen, and it was one of the most magical nights of my life (clearly I need to get out more).

It was the most elegant, perfectly set dinner I have ever attended. Each stage of the meal was choreographed like a beautiful three act play.

Act One: hor’deurves with Rose champagne in the blue entry room with Brahms in the background.

Act Two: Dinner in the Italian room, which had a wooden Roman ceiling, white wine, and a starter salad of grapefruit and avocado.  It was followed by a delicious meal that I don’t have the words for – there were even ceramic nameplates.

Act Three: We were led up the stairs through a hallway of Northwest Indian and Egyptian masks that he and his wife had collected throughout their travels.  Once up the stairs we entered three exquisite rooms that overlooked the entire city.  After we enjoyed the view, we continued our discussion of technology and parenting, while consuming the dulce de leche ice cream that was served.

Each room was lit to suit the setting, and I must admit there was a very handsome butler serving us. When it was time to go parting gifts were given: Hawaiian coffee and macadamia nuts.

Ok, truthfully nothing dramatic happened (Woody Allen did not write this screen-play), but it didn’t matter because the conversation was so stimulating; it was inspiring and intelligent; absolute sparkling with insight.

Though I was most touched by the Hawaiian chant that was sung before dinner; one of the co-authors is a Lacuna, a Hawaiian spiritual leader who has an enviable voice.  After dinner she pulled me aside and said, “baby, you glow, you’re going to do great things,” and I have to say, I’m going to choose to agree with her.

I know that I will remember last night forever, a symbol that I can make what I envision true; even if no one confronts one another about infidelity.  I can be the screen-writer of my own life, and maybe no one will want to watch it, but hopefully others will be able to see the light within.

Quarter Life Crisis

25 Apr

Today I was sitting on the bus, per usual, and reading an advanced copy of one of the books that I’ve begun promoting THE SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN HEALTHY AGING BRAIN.  Before I opened up the book I assumed that most of the findings would be geared more toward my Grandma than me; however, at the very beginning I was struck by this fact, “…stress peaked between the ages of 22 -25.”

“So true!!” I thought, “so true,” though I know my roommate would remind me that these were, “first world problems.”

I remember being 22 and hearing over and over again that the whole world was at my feet or just right ahead, and I kept grasping for it, but my hand was left empty.  This world eluded me, didn’t want me; it didn’t think I was smart, and when I did finally encounter it, it condescended to me.   All those years I spent, “discovering who I am,” amounted to nothing.    

At 22, I knew my student self and I was very capable in this role; however, that framework dissolved the moment I graduated, yet I was still the same person I had been being all those years.  It was very confusing to see myself struggle to connect with others professionally, as well as struggle to maintain the daily responsibilities of my adult life.  I reacted by getting into bad relationships, which of course caused more stress.

By 24 I was just plain burnt-out.  I had moved cities, gone through three different jobs, had my heart broken, and disappointed some of my closest friends.  Like many, I had also been working very long hours in very fast-paced jobs, embracing leadership roles I wasn’t exactly qualified for.  Additionally, I was still getting entry level pay, so I was often broke.  Every part of my life: personally and professionally felt like a continual challenge.

Here I was, “with the world at my feet,” and I was drowning.  It made me doubt every aspect of my being, my whole self-perception shifted and my confidence sunk to early High School levels. 

“Is this what being a grown-up is?” and I feared for what was to come.

More did come, but by 26 I had a new perspective and coping skills.  Also, I had some accomplishments, fulfilled a few small dreams, and I knew that no matter what I would survive – I had already picked up some pieces and glued it all back together: a Kindergarten skill that really is a metaphor for life.

The point is I agree with the research, and my guess is that many others would as well.  Life does not get easier, but age brings experience and maturity.  However, the most important gift that age gives is perspective.  Things that would shatter your student world, or your young adult self, hardly shake the adult one; you’ve learned how to absorb the shocks.

I know now that I can be disappointing, or fail, and it’s not my life’s verdict; it doesn’t define who I am.  I’ve learned that the real secret is having grace (or trying to) when you’re not doing well or being your best, and that one doesn’t need to be so hard on their self – life is hard enough.

This communal lesson is given to all those who experience their Quarter-Life Crisis.  Like me, they’re often ambitious, eager-to-please, perfectionists who want to wrap their arms around the whole world that’s supposedly waiting for them.

So, if you’re in the middle of it, there is another side, and if you’re not, then you better buy this book because it means the aging process has really started, so grow with grace and take care.

For Mikey – because he is my forever friend

19 Apr

SouthPaw

Sometimes I throb so loud

Trapped in by my own sound-

Motionless in my own emotion

If it weren’t for you I wouldn’t know the I in my eye

The constant flickering, blinking shut for just an instant

A pause – to exhale and still I cannot breathe

By vibrating inflection, reflecting-

Back the waves of you

Who grabs my hand because without it I would turn into dust

And you say, “this is right, but I know your wrongs and-

those are right too,” It’s too bad I’m left-handed.

Cello Night At the Make-Out Room

18 Apr

He wails and wails, and the mewing says upbeat, but you know he doesn’t know his fragmented heart,as he protests his point with words like, “shiny”, “wooden,” as if feeling could mean just that. The sound of the trumpet lifts you and adjectives become full, hearty with the deep-throated cloying call of the undeniable instrument that melts down into your skin – the audience formed, constructed, shaped and welded like the rivets that form the structure your sitting in.

The Self That I Was

14 Apr

I have a lot of stories. People always tell me, “you should write a book,” and I want to, but I know it isn’t time. For years I felt like a character in my own life, observing myself go through experiences at which I, myself wondered at.

Like the time I got locked in a convenience store at 2 a.m., or the time I went on a date with a guy who had ten apple martinis and managed to grab my boobs as we hugged goodbye. He left me with the check.

Or when I stood barefoot on a table in Israel and danced until the sun rose.

There was the time I lived in an alleyway apartment with two Indian guys, one of whom had their Mother, Father and Aunt stay with us for a week during the Folsom fair; an S&M fest for those who don’t live in SF.

There was the time I got laid off, worked in a clothing store and dated a man who owned Disney movies – I call him my low self-esteem boyfriend.

There was the time a man named Obay stopped me in the street and told me I was a, “special being.”  Out of desperation, I listened to my fortune and let him chant over me with crystals for twenty minutes, “clearing away the bad energy and freeing my large angel wings.” My boyfriend had just broken up with me after four days of living together – oddly enough, all that he predicted came true.

There was the four day period where I lived in a palatial apartment in New York complete with statues, jet-black marble and a spa bathtub. I wandered through the MOMA by myself and ended up on a date with an unattractive New Yorker who didn’t have enough money for dinner so he kept reminding me, “that we were just going for drinks.”

Or when I met the Manager of Death Cab for Cutie and discovered he lived in the apartment below mine. The night we met I ended up front row at a Kings of Leon concert. I protested that I didn’t have a ticket (or money), but he assured me, “you don’t need to worry.” I thought he was lying – then we met the band.

The last time we hung out he took me took a low-rent strip club, wads of cash in hand and complained about his girlfriend whose name was Eva Lovelace; somehow I felt the need to never see him again.

Then there was the time I met Mark Zuckerburg at a start-up award after-party and ended the conversation due to my second hand embarrassment for his lack of social skills.

Or the time when I ended up running the Midwest Media Relations for Starbucks at 23 with almost no professional skills.

My first week I met the Chicago Bears quarterback, Rex Grossman who I had to represent for a Starbucks Winter launch event.  All Grossman had to do was throw a snowball through a fake Gingerbread House window.  He continuously failed, while I tried to control every single sports reporter in Chicago.

Then there was the time a glass cabinet full of glassware fell on me, and I was trapped beneath it for two hours.  I watched my blood leak out onto the floor, while praying I wasn’t scarred.

These things just happen to me. Maybe it’s because I’m open to people and life; maybe it’s because I am bold and embrace experience; maybe it’s because at times I am just plain stupid.

Regardless, I haven’t told these stories because I was still in them. They were me and how can one write oneself? It is too painful, too heartbreaking to stare the present in the face, and some of these moments were far from glorious.

Still, they are mine, and I love them because at least I haven’t been bored. Though now things have changed, maybe I’m more grown-up, maybe I just got a bit smarter, but I will tell my stories, shame and all, and laugh through them.

Laugh at my foolishness, at my absurd effort, at my absence of boundaries, at my inexplicable desire to understand everything even if I knew it was questionable, laugh at my fascination at all that I encountered.

I will love and laugh at that lost girl, and hope that others recognize their self in all that I’ve lived.

Poetry Post-Mortem

13 Apr

The other night I read my poetry in front of a large group of people at a bar called Amnesia. It was just as scary as I thought it would be. There was no, “now I’m on-stage and I suddenly turn into a great performer.”

I was trying not to let the audience know my knees were shaking, and they were, but just a little bit. However, facing a fear is always like that. The cool doesn’t arrive if it’s not already there. What’s left is an enormous smile and it didn’t leave my face until I went to bed.

Still, while triumphant, I know there were some things I could’ve done better, so here are my learnings from last evening, both experienced and observed – maybe they can benefit any future poets/performers out there:

1) Do not wear four inch heels if you are not familiar with the venue. If you do, you will need someone to hold your hand when you walk down the stairs located at the front of the stage. This is a little bit humiliating, so treacherous footwear is better left at home.

2) Do not force funny. Funny is a gift and we don’t all have it. Like most gifts, it will either come to you naturally or leave you out in the cold if you try to recreate it. Second-hand embarrassment is the worst – don’t make your audience feel that for you.

3) Do not apologize for your work before you share it. Disclaimers make people doubt you before you’ve given them a reason to.

4) Do not get distracted by your audience. They may shout-out, “Yeah, baby!” when you say the word panties or talk the whole time you’re reading. This is rude but there’s nothing you can do about it – unless you are a comedian.

5) Do not assume everyone can see how nervous you are. If they do, then they probably won’t tell you, unless they’re an asshole, which makes them not matter. Acknowledge your feelings and push them aside. A stage is a powerful platform – own it.

*This was previously published on my friend’s awesome website http://www.sf-inter.com/ – a Survival Guide for Bands