Hating What I Love

It’s violently cold out. I don’t even know how cold because if I obsessively check the weather one more time to watch  icy blue bands traversing the Hudson Valley radar, it will constitute procrastinating, and I’ve been procrastinating for hours now.  So let’s just say it is horribly cold.

Totally random cute picture of Mickey in the cold

Today was the first day in a long time where I had few obligations.  It was going to be a much-needed day to do nothing other than work on GIRLS & GRENADES.

But first I had to give Mickey his morning walk.  Then go to the gym to do some cardio stuff and elevate my mood.   Then go to launder all my yoga clothes because I’ve used every single scrap of yoga clothing this week and can’t show up in filthy yoga togs to teach Klodin (not his real name) the private student I’ve been working with.  Klodin inspects me head to toe every time I arrive at his well-appointed farmhouse.    He’s a little like my cousin Shahram in that nothing gets by him.  The shade of my lip gloss, the amount of dog hair on my pants, how many minutes early I am, the fact that my most recent book was published FOUR YEARS AGO.

Klodin knows everything about me.  Not in a creepy way, just in a meticulous, German way. Though he’s not German.  And his name isn’t Klodin.

I got back to my apartment mid-afternoon.  Then, I had to start procrastinating.  Read local paper online.  Check Hudson Community Board on Facebook.  Twitter. Email.

Finally, I started writing.  I got a paragraph out.  Then had a texting exchange with my friend Therese who tried to lure me out of the house.  I told her I had to stay in and write or the self-loathing would kick in. I wrote another few sentences.  Then looked the New York Times and stumbled upon a piece by the writer Merrill Markoe about PROCRASTINATING.  (Link here) In it, Markoe not only spoke of her prodigious talent for procrastinating, but also said she HATES WRITING.  She quoted Dorothy Parker:

“I hate writing. I like having written.”

This was nothing shy of a white light experience for me.  I had no idea other writers hate writing. I know plenty of other writers who struggle to write and who procrastinate as much as I do, but I’ve never heard them articulate that they hate writing.  It seems rude to hate writing.  There is some sense that it’s a privilege to write, even if we make way less than minimum wage, are rejected (approximately twenty times for every one thing that comes to fruition)  grotesquely edited, bossed around by unpleasant, social-climbing anthology editors, etc.,  still, there is this sense that it is a privilege to be a writer. Yet I don’t’ actually LIKE writing.  It’s HORRIBLE.

It’s just that I would die without it.  I HAVE TO WRITE because I don’t know what else to do with my mind, how else to make sense of the world and its inhabitants.   For whatever reason, I have trained myself, for many years, to do this thing.  And when I don’t do this thing, I get crazy.  No amount of yoga, bicycle racing, rapacious sex, or buying things can take the place of writing.  If I don’t write, I die.

So, as soon as I finished reading Merrill Markoe’s piece about hating writing, I immediately got back to GIRLS & GRENADES, plowing through a scene where, as often happens, my characters did things that shocked and surprised and sometimes touched me.  And some blood was shed.

Now, I feel more peaceful.  So I can take a break and go to weather dot com and feel a frisson of dread as I procrastinate, staring at the cool blue band on the radar, knowing that I am not alone in being extremely gifted at procrastination and hating the thing I love.

Random pretty picture of Ashokan Reservoir, taken while procrastinating

The Chocolate Factory

As a small child I was a chocolate fanatic.  As a growing adult, I remained a chocolate fanatic.  The first time I ever went to Rome, it was Easter season and there was chocolate everywhere.  I spent the entire Roman trip in a coma of Caravaggio and chocolate.

In my late 30’s I started being unable to put away quite as much chocolate.  In large doses it made me feel sick and headachy.  I had to learn moderation, which doesn’t come easily to me.  Which isn’t to say I didn’t harbor fantasies about The Chocolate Factory, a beautiful building here in Hudson, a building I often walk by, sniffing the sweet air, staring longingly at the façade.

The Chocolate Factory

Today, I got to go inside the chocolate factory.  It was a good day.

I got up before the sun, gave Mickey his morning promenade, then went to yoga at Sadhana to take class with Sondra.

Sondra is a beam of sunshine.  Even when she is very possibly not feeling like actual sunshine, she is able to transmit sunshine.

Sondra (and Maria) transmitting sunshine

Sondra is one of those people who can do absolutely ANY yoga pose with grace and strength.   Plus, she’s really good at saying genuinely soothing, uplifting things. Me, I’m not good at the “uplifting talk” aspect of yoga teaching.  If I  have had some uplifting experience and can relay it off the top of my head, great, but plotting out something to talk about to the yoga class always reminds me of why I didn’t become an actor.

I tried, for five minutes, to be an actor.  During the High Visibility Phase of my writer/performer career, film directors would actually call and ask me to audition for their movies.   I would kind of scratch my head and wonder WHY.  But it’s very flattering when people ask you to audition for things, letting you skip that whole Actually Being An Actor phase and going right to being flown to LA to audition and be driven around and taken to lunch.

I can write just about any conceivable kind of being into existence, but I can’t morph myself into anyone other than ME.  So I was in one movie that shall remain nameless and then ended my acting career and went back to my room to write novels.

Now, as I have perhaps belabored,  the writing biz has changed and  my income from it is modest.  I have to leave my room all the time to make money teaching yoga and selling real estate.   I  am still getting acclimated to this whole Leaving The House thing, but it’s worth it when there is a chocolate factory involved.

Two days ago,  there was yet another New York Times story (here)  about Hudson and how great it is.  Hudson has become the Times’  new darling, mercifully supplanting Lena Dunham and the show GIRLS as a favored topic.

Having not banked on theTimes story causing people to flood into Hudson to buy real estate,  I invited Laura the Hot Farmer to stop by the office for a visit. She  didn’t have much time as she was en route to a town I can’t pronounce to secretly buy chickens.  Apparently, she already has too many chickens so she was off to buy two more on the sly, to then stick them in with the other forty chickens and hope her family wouldn’t notice.

Laura with Mickey, not a chicken

“I’m going to Target too.” She said, “need anything?”

“You can get me some bright-colored clothes,” I said, remembering, with fondness, a long-ago bout of shopping for goofy clothes at a Florida Target with the artist Fiona Rae (Fiona here)

“No,” Laura shook her head, “I only buy clothes for my kids.  Unless you came out of my vagina, I won’t buy clothes for you.”

There was no arguing with this and I couldn’t have if I’d wanted to because, just then, a man loped into the office.  He’d been in Brooklyn, minding his own business,  then had read the Times story, gotten in his car, and driven to Hudson.

“I’d like to see mixed-use buildings,” he said.

I’ve long known about and admired the Chocolate Factory but had never been inside because I had yet to encounter anyone in the market for a church-turned- chocolate factory with a river view.

This man was very intrigued at the prospect of it though and off we went to see the Chocolate factory.

It was exactly as exciting as you would expect.

There was chocolate everywhere and the chocolatiers were friendly and eager to let us sample the chocolate, both before and after our complete tour of the beautiful building.

Mysterious things of chocolate

In the end, the man from Brooklyn did not make an offer to buy the chocolate factory, but I ate lots of chocolate and, by late afternoon, got to go back to my house to brush my dog and  write novels-  after eating chocolate in moderation.

Adulthood isn’t so bad.






Goodbye To All That

My friend Thom Greaney died on Sunday.  My first reaction was total disbelief.  He couldn’t possibly be dead.  He wasn’t old.  He was full of life.  He’d survived 25 years as an NYC Firefighter.  9/11.  The whole bit.  He was a surfer.  A farmer.  A handsome man.

When he retired from the FDNY, Thom took up organic vegetable farming in Olivebridge NY where we were neighbors for a while.

He was one of the most vigorous humans I knew. His back hurt and he had various other ailments that would flare up some day more than others, but  he was always doing things with tractors and shovels and power tools and hoop houses.

Thom dropping by

He dug and planted and also endlessly tinkered with his house, a work in progress that he would sometimes threaten to sell when it vexed him. The house had actually been the brainchild of his brother, who had died suddenly a number of years earlier.  Thom’s building  -and then continually working on – the house seemed like a way to keep his late brother with him.  Now they’re both together.  Somewhere.

Mickey at Thom’s house

My friend Kate called to tell me Thom had died.  He’d been sick but hadn’t told many people.  Definitely hadn’t told me.

Then, I was angry. I thought I was angry with Thom, then realized, no, I was angry at myself.  I’d had a little voice telling me I ought to go over to Olivebridge to visit.  But there were always things to do.

We all always have things to do. And then people we care about die.

So I was angry with myself.  Then that abated and I just wept and missed Thom.

Today was his funeral, out in Rockaway, where he’s from.

One of the things Thom used to rib me about was what a brazen hussy I was to write about the Rockaways and get things wrong.  I always had small details off.   And he’d point them out.

I never got to show Thom an essay I wrote recently that makes mention of Rockaway.  Actually, this blog post was meant to be about the anthology that essay is in, or, specifically, a reading I’m doing for the anthology, but I was thinking about Thom too much.

Let me pause here to say:  Goodbye To All That, a collection of essays about people who loved and left New York City.  I’ll be reading, along with “Darling” Chloe Caldwell, Dana Kintsler and editor Sari Botton on Fri, Feb 7th at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck NY.

There.  I said it.

Now, back to Thom.

In the essay, I wrote about riding my bike out to Rockaway, to what felt like the very end  of New York City. I think Thom would have liked the essay.  Though he’d have found something in it to rib me about.  He always did.

Here is Thom in his hoop house, with his strawberries, last spring.  He was showing me the gnome he’d picked up at the town dump.  He said when the gnome was done scaring invasive species from the hoop house,  it could  could come live with me. 

I don’t want to be one of those creepy people who, after a person dies, contacts the family asking for a promised gnome.

I don’t know where Thom is now.  His body is in Rockaway, surrounded by family and friends, which is as it should be.

His spirit? It’s probably in the ocean. Surfing.






The Hah Man

This morning, I had “floor duty” at the real estate office.

Floor duty sort of sounds like I should be kitted up in a Vanna White outfit offering people vowels.

Vanna White sells vowels

Really, it just means I’m the one in the office should random real estate seekers straggle in.

Few people come in, but, all day long, folks pause to gaze at the plate glass windows of the office, longingly staring at the real estate photos that hang there.

Big houses, little houses, lush estates with rolling meadows.

Under each picture, there is a bit of come-hither copy about the property in question.  I often hear people commenting on the properties, the photos or, sometimes, the copy.

Unless these window gazing people really peer in past the plate glass, they can’t see me at my desk there, watching them, listening to them, and, if they’re sounding snotty, planning unfortunate events for their fictional likenesses in novels.

I was on floor duty recently when I noticed a pretty blond woman peering at the photos in the window.

She was all bundled up, pushing a baby stroller. There was an elegant older man with her and also a nice looking man her own age.  She started loudly and mockingly reading the copy under the photos.  She was particularly contemptuous of a listing with the caption Paradise Found.

She read the copy aloud to her two gentleman friends then made a chortling sound and looked just about ready to spit on the ground.  As she did this, I realized she was Claire Danes.

Claire Danes is the only person on the face of the earth whose attractiveness  Laura the Hot Farmer and I agree on. Laura and I have vehemently disagreed on the hotness of literally hundreds of people of both sexes but Claire Danes is our common ground. And there she was, outside the window of the real estate office, chortling over real estate copy.   I got up from my desk and was about to throw open the window to say “I didn’t write that!” but then the phone rang and I had to answer it and Claire Danes walked on by.

This morning, instead of Claire Danes, I had The Hah Man.

I had just unlocked the office and was putting the sign out on the sidewalk when a tall man lurched toward me, saying “Hah, hah” and gesticulating.   I blinked up at him, trying to figure out what he wanted and why he was saying HAH.  I had no idea on either count and he seemed really agitated, like he might strangle me. So I hurried back into the office.  The Hah Man lurched after me, pointing at the back of the real estate office, saying: Hah hah.

His cheeks were sunken, he had no teeth, and I didn’t know what he wanted.  So  – as politely as possible – I closed the door in his face.  He stood there gesticulating and saying Hah a few more times before storming off.

Back in the day (my friend Richard Boch HATES the expression “back in the day” so I’m using it just for him) when I was in a band with Pat Place and Stevie D and Julia Murphy, we would say Gah a lot, especially on tour.

Like,  “We’re in the middle of Alabama and our motel is infested with large shiny bugs.  Gah.”

Or, “I broke a guitar string, Gah.”

Sometimes, “Tour food is making me hideous and stupid, GAH.”

So, after this apparition of the Hah Man, I thought about Gah and remembered that there was a Gah Man and texted Julia to to be reminded of the story of the Gah Man.

Way back in the day, before our band, Julia and her then boyfriend tied their dog up to a parking meter while they went inside a shop.  This was the 1980’s when everyone was more relaxed with dogs.  Julia emerged from the shop and found a Chinese man pointing at her dog shouting “Gah, gah, gah.”  She quickly untied the dog and walked away and never knew if the guy was yelling at the dog or if perhaps gah might be the word for dog in some Chinese dialect.

So, when the guy this morning was yelling HAH HAH HAH, I thought about Gah Man.   A little later, Richard Boch, came to visit me at the office.  I told him about the Hah Man.

Left to right, Tim, Special Kitty, Richard.

“Oh that guy,” Richard said making a dismissive gesture with one hand, “That guy has no tongue.”

Then, Richard went on his way and I continued on with floor duty. The Hah Man was presumably gesticulating elsewhere.