Friday, December 9, 2011

December is the Cruelest Month

Oh, but, how can it be? December.

What happened last month? That crippling ambition didn't give way. I found myself writing 10,000 words of one novel, then starting another one because it just wasn't right. I tried to rewrite the same story a different way. I gave up on a novel altogether and wrote scattered short stories. I lost track of the pages in my notebook and lost the energy to finish any of it. It felt like the wrong goal. When I went to the write ins everyone seemed to be having so much fun discussing their stories and characters as if they were toys but for me nothing I wrote was good enough. And I didn't want to write it if wasn't. On the forum I said that I lost my "literary poetic sensibility" and for most of November I didn't find it.

But, well. I'm happy I did write consistently, every day, for a while. I'm happy to have learned what didn't work and to discover what will.

Yesterday I read Joan Didion's Blue Nights, all of it in one day, in the student lounge before lecture then during the lecture and then any time I got to wait on the subway. It was beautiful and sad and heartbreaking and honest. Maybe most of all it didn't seem like Joan Didion was trying to be anything, write a certain way. Because how could you, with something like the death of a child? I can't imagine what that feels like. And yet, I felt like there were parts of it that I understood, those endless hospitals, those small, distinct details that nag and cling to persistent memories.

It helped. I realized that my novel doesn't have to be a chronological narrative, not dramatized and carefully plotted but simply a story, told. 

What else. I graduated, a few days ago. At least the ceremony. The bright purple cap and gown and a walk across the stage and sitting through speeches that were anything but inspiring, optimistic. I guess it's hard to write a original graduation speech. But still, when the moral seemed to be that our liberal arts education from New York University merely translated to a self occupation that will ultimately allow us to find a career in this difficult economic time, it felt bleak. It was only for show, anyway. My classes continue one last week. And these last few days I'm finding it especially difficult to concentrate. Finding it hard to do much of anything. (Though at night my dreams, as usual, soar, startlingly lucid, and before that, when I'm trying to sleep my mind spins, a ferris wheel of ideas and preoccupations.)

Yet I'm far from discouraged. Maybe momentarily paralyzed, but certain of a complete recovery. Call it blind optimism, call it what you will. I am eager to finish the last of school work, this semester, and of course, the new year.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Insomnia and the Impossible Ambitions

I can't sleep. These past few days, maybe even weeks, I've had this problem. My head hits the pillow and my mind leaps to overdrive. Every passing thought from the day turns into an infinitely complex obsession. When I do get to sleep it is troubled and often light, and in the morning I feel barely awake. Yet I drag myself up, and tell myself to be productive about all the things that plagued my head the night before.

The only thing that seems to help: writing, writing it down, writing it out, either in ink in my journal or, as with the case tonight, when even that didn't do the job, typing it out, online, for someone else's eyes.

Tonight I am torturing myself with doubts about my novel--you know, the one I just started, today. I'm 5000 words along--I should be happy, excited, proud. Yet I think I'm trying to write a novel that is contrary to the idea of NaNoWriMo: a reckless, impulsive, and fun month of literary abandon, where the emphasis is on quantity rather than quality, and elaborate, unnecessary dream sequences and meticulous detailed descriptions are expected, even encouraged. But as a NaNoWriMo veteran for quite a few times I know that surpassing the 50,000 word count isn't going to be the challenge.

So the challenge, perhaps unrealistic, perhaps impossible, that I've set myself is that the novel I write this month be The One. As in: the one that will tell the story I've always wanted to tell. The one that will be beautiful and heartbreaking and brilliant and innovative and real. The one that will get me the publishing deal, a guaranteed writing career. I'm graduating next month, after all, and this feels like my last chance. While I still have the security of my classes, the protective framework of a college student, to do the thing that will save me from having to figure it out.

I choose to write the novel rather than apply to MFA graduate programs for the fall. Could I have managed both? Probably. But I spent a night reading requirements of MFA programs and felt utterly lost. I didn't think my writing samples were good enough, nor my relationships with professors solid enough for telling recommendations. I wasn't even sure why I wanted an MFA--perhaps because it felt like the inevitable next step. All my classmates were doing it. They were intellectuals and talented and prepared and career minded. And I was fixated on the idea of skipping the progress. A short cut: the novel, the masterpiece.

Which, ironically, is the same line of reasoning that makes me think that I can't apply for an MFA, not yet, because I'm just not good enough. I've finally hit a new turning point in my writing career, from that blissful period of being enamored with every word I wrote, enchanted with my way with language and imagery and that exquisitely sad sensibility, I've come to stand in front of a towering brick wall that tells me: no, not enough, something's missing, something vital. I  can write pretty stories forever and stay on the other side of that wall, but I don't want to. It's not the real story that I want to tell.

Maybe the real story is the fictionalized memoir I found myself writing in my newborn novel, when instead of writing the present tense adventures of the main character I wrote far easier flashbacks and recollections of a past based largely on my own. But then: should I return home to San Diego and read my diary collection from the very beginning and attempt a truer to life memoir? Was I really absurd enough to think that I could write a memoir at age twenty-one? It wasn't any good, anyway, and read like my short stories, not like a novel. Should I then, try to write something light, fun, fantastic? I questioned my imagination for being able to sustain even that. It had before: but before I never had expectations, ambitions as solid and visible as this year.

My insomniac inner monologue finally talked myself out of the mess and into the more calming territory of: this isn't the most crucial time of your life, and there is next month, and next year, and the years after that. And I'll always have my voice and my ideas and always some story, be it the story or not. The worse thing now is to second guess myself, or try to write an impossible perfect first draft. My imagined dialogue with a therapist told me the thing I really knew all along: write, and keep writing, and even if you, in your needy conscious state don't know what you're writing about, something inside of you will.

And if it doesn't? Then I'll be that much closer to writing and writing out the excess until I get there.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hello, I'm Writing a Novel Next Month!

This is just to say.

It's two days from November, which is National Novel Writing Month, which is the time when slightly crazed writers all around the world attempt to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in exactly one month. I've done this before--I wrote my first novel, a something over 100,000 words monster when I was14, and then a few more the succeeding years. They were all very silly and absurd and nonsensical (and long), but that was the spirit of the project (and I was a teenager).

This year I hope my novel will be a little less embarrassing. Or maybe I just need to prove to myself that I can still do this. I've forgotten what it feels like, that delirious drive and focus, that sense of relief when it's the end of the month, or the end of the novel. Even though I'm a NaNoWriMo veteran, this year feels more uncertain than before, maybe because I'm feeling more ambitious as to the content rather than simply achieving the word count, maybe because I haven't been writing as much fiction lately, and certainly nothing of this scale. It is a bit frightening--but exhilarating.

So, I still have no idea what my novel will be about. I have no outline and no synopsis, not even the name of a main character or the perspective it will be in. Maybe it'll be a fictionalized autobiography--a writing professor told me once that maybe I have to tell the story of myself before I can write anything else, maybe something far more extraordinary and unlikely. Something about love and sex and violence and desire and loss, something about betrayal and despair and sleepless nights and empty subway trains, something about people--their pettiness, their kindness, their strange or comfortable lives. Something about the city and its secrets and layers, money and power and status. Something about dreams, something about loneliness, something about dreaming to escape it. Something about joy and something about grief. Something about fleeting beauty.

Maybe those are just what I perpetually wind up writing about, and I can't expect that in longer work I'd write about anything else. These are the questions and ideas that circle my mind so often that it's ingrained, and I've found that the best way to answer them is to write until something resolves itself. Maybe nothing ever resolves, really, but at least, I will have tried, and will have, with any luck, written a novel to suit.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Little Audrey Hepburn, a little Parisan Chic

Sometimes I forget: simplicity + polished classics go a long way. Basic colors and basic pieces: the striped shirt, the charcoal pants, a navy coat, and perfectly applied (I actually used a lip brush!) red lips. 
It's in the details,, a sparkling goldfish necklace and OPI Kennebunk-Port nails.
I love this navy swing coat with bow accents, and of course, this outfit couldn't exist without my favorite shoes in the whole world: Ferragamo bow flats. Timeless, effortless and perfect. I've had to live without them for a while but finally got a new patent leather pair! They make everything so smart and instantly dressed up. High on my list of wardrobe essentials. 

Shirt + pants, Gap. Coat, H&M. Necklace,  Forever 21. Shoes, Ferragamo. Lipstick, Revlon Colorburst in Crimson. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

In Gothenburg We Don't Have VIP Lines

photo by Adeline Teh
Jens Lekman-"Waiting for Kristen

I saw Jens Lekman play at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on Sunday night, the first time I've seen him do a real show (I remember once going to see him do a DJ set and he briefly sang along to a few songs, and how I longed for more), and it was every bit as wonderful as I had hoped. Jens with his sweet face and his simple, charming Swedish ways, his anecdote about his missed opportunity to meet Kirsten Dunst when she was filming in Sweden, his sad and pretty pop songs, his nostalgia and innocence and broken-hearted wistfulness. 

Remarkable, how totally and completely Jens won the entire audience over, how his double encores were genuinely demanded, how engaged and happy everyone seemed throughout his entire set. And a moving, beautiful rendition of "Pocketful of Money" that featured the crowd on harmonies, and how perfect, for a room full of strangers to snap the beat and sing the same refrain--"I've been running with a heart on a fire" to the end of the song, to silence except for Jens's voice. 

And, for me, to hear his acoustic version of "Black Cab," a song I clung to on certain tearful drunken nights, with those opening notes and that familiar chorus, the disappointment and self loathing so prettily wrapped up, that sense of giving in, giving up, take me home or take me anywhere, to sing along and feel every bit of that, shivering pleasure and sadness all through me: that was bliss. 

Jens has a special place in my heart where very few artists inhabit. Sometimes I forget about him and then, on rediscovering a song when feeling sad, or when discovering his new EP for the first time, those sentiments of happy melancholy, of a dreamy nostalgia for a place I'd never been before surge up. Swedish winters, too big sweaters, love untainted by everything. I think that's a wonderful thing, to make even a cynic smile, to tug at the heart with that unfeigned, and yet, playful sadness. All woven through his cheerful melodies, as easy to sing and tap along to as it is to wretchedly feel. 

I waited for Jens after the show to give him a hug. He was with a shy, sweet looking lady friend, and perhaps he no longer feels the subtle aches of a broken heart. As for me, I hold on t  the same faint wish that, like Jens, I could remember every kiss like my first kiss. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Minty Green and Barely There Pink

It's cool enough to wear sweaters and jackets!! And long skirts! I am wearing pretty much all H&M (sweater, belt, skirt). I love them, love them all. These oxford heels are my indispensable fall shoes. Every day. That and this blazer. 

Favorite part of this outfit, aside from the fact that it feels modern and feminine but references the past, is that it makes such a fun silhouette and especially when it's windy, flutters fluid lovely motions. Perfect for twirling--or imagining to, anyway, on walks, in between classes. 
Oh and lipstick. Let's never forget lipstick--my terrible photo color correcting skills means that they barely show, but they are a sophisticated rose brown color that really pulled everything together. I have nothing more intelligent to say today! What are your favorite fall pieces?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Coral Lipstick & A Seahorse Necklace

It's gray and drab out, but I wanted to try out my newest lipstick shade--Revlon's Super Lustrous Lipstick in Kiss Me Coral, inspired by the excessive Twin Peaks I've been watching lately and the costume party to follow this weekend. It is a simple and summery outfit, but, why not?
Wearing:  H&M shirt, American Apparel pencil skirt, Aerosoles flats.  
The necklace I bought years and years ago from one of those designer discount stores, I think perhaps Loehmann's. It's adorable, but also a little too whimsical for me to wear very often, except for those hot summer Sundays when I want nothing more than a brightly colored sundress and this necklace. It is a nice pop of color in an otherwise very gray day.
I'm surprised by how much I liked the coral lipstick! Bright lipsticks aren't really my thing unless it's classic red, and when I tried it on last night under my yellow cast lamps (the lighting in my room is awful, which is why unfortunately my photos are always edited to death simply for color correction's sake) it looked garishly bright. In natural light however it actually is not too loud and rather sweet when paired with an outfit of neutrals. Not just for Twin Peaks! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Apathy, Jealousy, Wanderlust.

photo by andrew meehan
These days I dream of staring out car, train, plane windows, at unchanging greenery or abandoned factories by a gray waterfront. I look back at my photos from England and I remember Europe and I ache to revisit it. I think of New York's familiar divides, the restaurants and coffee shops and bars I frequent so often I barely need to look at the menu, and I feel so, so, tired, bored, restless. Sometimes I go to different neighborhoods, the Upper West Side or Prospect Park, and find a cafe I've never been to and sit and read and dream. But it's not really enough. I grasp at names of foreign countries, hang on to the promise in accents. Chile, Venice, Moscow. I read books and stare at photos as if I do it for long enough they'll take over the familiar surroundings of my life here. I consider pin pointing a country at random and searching for flights, and simply leaving. In a way I don't even care about the destination, as long as it's somewhere I've never seen. Even a charming small town where I might chat with a barista about her day. Just: escape.

I've been reading Proust and Colette. Such beautiful, lyrical, delicate prose. Proust's dreamy inner world, his fixation on the smallest details, his exquisite nostalgia doesn't help me live in the now as I've been so often told to do, and Colette's life of Parisian theater halls, even though she writes of the suffering performers and the squalor behind the curtain, for me sings of the beauty in a life constantly in flux. The anemic dancers of her short stories glimmer in my imagination. Colette was tired of that life, too, its familiarity, but at least she captured it with such grace. What could I capture here? The cell phone conversations that ring loud, late at night when I try to sleep and escape to my world of dreams (sometimes I dread waking up, for my dreams are always more wonderful)? Overhearing voices and conversations that suggest the most insipid, dreadful lives? Their intonations betray their vacancy, their obsessions are easy, accepted, carefully suited to the slices of modern life. Hook ups and start ups and fuck ups. 

I should be sympathetic, open minded, appreciative of the beautiful vast myriad of varieties of lives: and I am. But the truth is that I am jealous outsider. I wish I could be so easily satiated, I wish I had a life that fitted so easily into a schedule. I wish I constantly had phone calls and dinner plans and wanted less. I wish I didn't feel this need that cripples me, some nights, so that I lay sprawled across my bed, the hardcover Colette tossed aside, my  laptop pushed onto a chair, despondent and dreading, dreading the hours of another day of waking up in the same place and the same tasks and buying the same stables from the same grocery stores. It's all self inflicted! I could and should be doing whatever it is that I need to do to live! Revolutionize! Occupy Wall Street! Protest technology! Be a bohemian, a radical, a not another jaded soon to be NYU graduate! 

Except that I'm cursed with honesty, cursed with a need to express whatever it is: even if it's not bright and catchy and 500 words or less, and I'm good at rambling but not good at always writing what I think people want to read. I'm can't always live up to the life I like to pretend I have. I'm plagued by what's inside my head and the stories I read and the essays I write. Essay: essaie, to try. I haven't figured it out yet and writing is the only way I know how. 

So here I am. No resolution and no happy ending. Simply: trying, again. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Music Obsession: Kimbra

It is not so often that I discover artists I instantly fall in love with. But then came Kimbra--her infectious songs, her echoed harmonies, her covetable head of dark curls. Take this, the music video for "Settle Down" and my first introduction to her addictive aesthetics and style: unsettling young girls play at 50s housewives, wide watery eyes and brushed blonde hair, then dance, synchronized in dreamy, innocent little girl dresses next to Kimbra in front of shelves of porcelain dolls with chlorine colored eyes and ash charred faces set aflame. A throughly modern pastiche of glossy vintage glamour, pretty to look at on the surface but suggestive too, of something not quite right beneath. 

The song itself is just the right note of that: a dark playfulness totters on the edge of the gets-stuck-in-your-head melodies, seductive with its ever so slightly off minor tones, the call and chant background, Kimbra's voice: almost-soul almost-jazz almost-pop almost-Bjork and completely brilliant. Distinctively now but so charmingly reverent of the past.

And then there is "Good Intent," when Kimbra creates a song that is pure atmosphere and sultry sizzle and also pop perfection: 

It would probably be a little embarrassing to confess how often I've played this song since I discovered it. It's smoke hazed night halls, 4 am o'clocks, crisp suits and shadowed hats, velvet and gloved finger tips. Of course, Kimbra gets the music video just right. A false composure, understated eroticism, a jerky and dangerous dance. This is the violence and sex charged atmosphere of Chicago 1920s (like the musical), the heightened tension and drama of the tango, cobblestoned streets with fatal secrets tucked in a black satin bra. Anything might go but not without consequence and the unwelcome thrill ofdiscovery.

Love at first and after many listens.  

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Modern Day Pin Up

Every so often I get the urge to get dressed up for no reason. Well, correction: the reason is that today the Stop Staring dress I've been eagerly awaiting arrived in the mail! It's all Mad Men and 1950s glamour, but in subdued enough of a cut and color to be wearable everyday. It's my grown up dress--I feel completely transformed in it. And it demanded the accessories to suit. So!

On went the red lipstick. I'm wearing New York Color's dollar (!!!) lipstick in Retro Red, which is the perfect Marilyn, bombshell red, and perfectly suits a dress like this. Though unless you like eating lipstick, I really wouldn't recommend wearing it to dinner. It looks irresistibly moisturizing and kissable but transfers onto everything and is best suited for distant, sultry pouts. My indispensable pearls and bow belt completed the outfit--though the dress would have been fantastic enough on its own!

And what's a pin-up without a pair of seamed stockings and black pumps? Wearing: Leg Avenue stockings and Naturalizer Collette pumps. 
All dressed up and nowhere to go...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11: A Vision Softly Creeping

(photo by ck/ck)

 I was 11. Long before I became an American citizen, long before, even, mastering English, I lived on the opposite coast in California where all was golden and beautiful. I stood outside my elementary school classroom and when I told the skinny boy in line behind me he asked if this meant his favorite cartoon show was going to be canceled. I felt indignant. But of course! I probably said. He didn’t seem to understand that what happened was monumental. But then again, had I? In February that year my family and I visited New York for the first time. We took pictures of the aerial view from the top floor of the World Trade Centers, crammed with the rest of eager tourists.

San Diego was the city of naval bases, the air show every year. Certain bright afternoons I would be in my room and hear the loud engine of a plane overhead. San Diego’s airport is right in the heart of the city, and the planes flew so low it looked like they might skim the tops of trees. I caught myself wondering, worrying, if one might crash into a house nearby. One year a small plane did and crashed in a neighborhood my friends lived in. It was much more bizarre than frightening. But I don’t think I ever thought very much about the noises of the planes before that day in 2001.


This weekend I read countless retrospectives, wrenching tales from New Yorkers who lived through 9/11 first hand. I read a story in The New Yorker, published in February, 2002, about a real, forgotten hero, a Security Advisor at the World Trade Center and a war veteran. The tag line named it a love story, and it began with a narrative of the unlikely meeting between the hero and the woman who would become the hero’s wife. It was a beautiful romance, and it ended with his valiant evacuation efforts on 9/11. He didn’t manage to save himself. I read it on my iPhone, on the subway and waiting outside a restaurant. It made me cry.

Then I read “The Decade of Magical Thinking” by Steve Almond, published in The Rumpus two days ago, 2011. He wrote about the “hysterical indulgence” and “bullying narcissism” of America. It was a critique of America’s lack of sympathy, its tendency to lean on political agendas and manipulations even in response to a tragedy, but a tragedy that was diminutive compared to the rest of the world’s infinite unrecorded tragedies. It made me upset, angry.

But why? I felt like I sided with the New Yorkers who were here, who lost, who stumbled, whose lives had a clear divide: before and after. Who saw Ground Zero and felt something. Except that I had no claim to it—I didn’t have friends or family or even distant acquaintances caught in the towers.  When it happened I barely even knew New York.


I don’t think about 9/11 very much. It was something that was always past tense, a snapshot of devastation, with its aftermath infiltrating life in subtle but natural ways. I couldn’t remember the time when I went through an airport without its now ubiquitous security rules. Today I wonder if I had somehow, missed something. I wonder if my experience of 9/11 wasn’t quite right, I wondered if I lacked the authority to write about it.


A few weekends ago, New York City had Hurricane Irene. At the office I heard the manager frantically reporting weather predictions on his phone as he paced. At the post office I told the lady who accepted my passport information to stay safe over the weekend. Every block or shop I stepped into I overheard talk of Irene. I obsessively checked the news. It was exhilarating. It was all I wanted to talk about.

The night before the storm, before the subways shut down for the weekend, I couldn’t sleep. I worried about the leak in my ceiling, how the shattered glass from my window might change my room. In the morning I totted a few belongings to a friend’s apartment further inland. I saw and felt a smug recognition at the bulging overnight bags the other people on the subway platform carried. It felt a bit like the end of the world. But it was wonderful, too, something I knew everyone had in common. Well wishes and collective paranoid concern.


I wish that tragedies, long after they happen, could let their victims linger in that temporary, sensitive state of unity, that frail but all-inclusive bond. Even in the darkest of circumstances there is beauty in that human companionship, the bypassing of divisions, of regulations. Perhaps that’s why, in a perverse way, I wish I could have been older, and in New York, when the towers fell. Longing for a common experience so powerful it might have, however briefly, tempered all dissent.

Steve Almond writes that a central duty of the artist is to complicate moral action. He writes a beautiful, brief scene of a child silently starving to death in a mother’s arms. He writes of Americans talking about their experiences of watching television, this grotesque juxtaposition. He’s right, of course. Look at the bigger picture, at the history of the world, the notorious wars and tyranny and exploitation and violence, at the infinite nightmares that occur every moment. But it is also a futile point—it is easy to take this omniscient, all encompassing, objective moral perspective, and deem every tragedy an opportunity to reflect on all other tragedies in the world. (Though…not so long ago, Roxanne Gay wrote a moving piece in the The Rumpus in response to Amy Winehouse’s death calling for infinite compassion: “death is a tragedy whether it is the death of one girl woman in London or seventy-six men, women and children in Norway. We know this but perhaps it needs to be said over and over again so we do not forget.”) But why this, why now? Is criticism of a taboo subject really bravery?

I wonder. Maybe there aren’t so many other essays that take this perspective, not because others haven’t thought similar criticisms, not because they are too scared of judgment, but because 9/11 is a sacred occasion. One that makes it possible to, however fleetingly, share a moment of warmth, of grief and love and pain and forgiveness, of a unity rarely possible elsewhere. Maybe it’s best that this date should be focused solely on America, should be allowed to be bitterly, truthfully narcissistic. Maybe this is the one date that Americans shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about the hunger and war and poverty of the rest of the world. Maybe this is an opportunity to show the compassion that Almond so calls for, in exactly the way that he dismisses, by, yes, writing about watching television.

One story at a time, with no global platform and no lectures, only the voices of each person who remembers this certain moment in history, every touched and changed life. Maybe it is this call for a response, collective story telling that is the most wonderful memorial. No matter how insignificant, no matter how far fetched.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Weekends Away: A Silent Retreat

After months and months of planning, deliberation, anticipation, on the last official weekend of the summer, I finally made it to the East Mountain Retreat Center for that blessed promise of peace, solitude, and nature. The retreat was nestled in the Berkshire mountains, in a forest off the small town of Great Barrington, MA (Pop: 7,000).  The Reverend Lois Rose ran it, a vivacious woman with long gray hair in a ponytail that still carried traces of blonde, who despite her stooped figure carried the energy of a young girl. She showed me my own cabin in the woods. It was a small, slanted little house with sparse, rustic decor. In the kitchen, the clock ticked away, but the red second hand had fallen to the bottom. She gave me a brief tour of the retreat grounds: the meditation room, with its hushed stillness and open wood floors, the cozy library with its books on spiritualism, religion, and novels with the same leanings, the outdoor gazebos with their screened doors and windows, and gave me tips on walks to take and explore. I want you to really notice things, she said, about the fish in the pond, the animals in the woods. Then she left me on my own.

That weekend I passed many hours sitting in one of the gazebos outside, with my journal and pen in front of me, writing pages and pages, journaling and the beginnings of stories. I watched the dragonflies hover at the edge of the screen doors and the quivering of the leaves. I tried writing poetry (as the Reverend suggested, though I tend to have a distaste for usually) and liked the empty spaces it left on the page. In the mornings I went for a walk, up the ski trail which revealed surprises of mushrooms budding from the ground, butterflies fluttering with their yellow and orange wings, a frog that leapt beneath a stone. More stunning was the view of the mountains, especially when they were shrouded in a glaze of fog, and the empty and still skyrides overhead. To imagine that the desserted grass fields and forest around me, in other times of the year, could be padded with thick snow and busy vacationers....while I could hear the crunching of the pebbles and grass beneath my feet...was a remarkable feeling of wonder, relief.

There was a predictability to those few days that was reassuring. Every evening at six, cooked hot meals would appear in the kitchen, and next to it, green bowls that matched the number of guests who would be eating. I'd spent the rest of the evening curled up in a chair, reading novels from Lois's library. One evening I came upon a porcupine, who regarded my approach with raising its quills, then climbed onto the branches of a pine tree and mostly ignored me. I listened often to the spray of wind against the trees. Though the people were silent, the birds didn't stop their chirping, and animals treading through the trees sounded often like human footsteps. 

But though I tried, I could not keep my mind from wondering to non-nature related things. I thought about shades of lipsticks and boys and songs I longed to hear. One night I heard the sound of fireworks and after combating my fear (without street lamps, the darkness there was utterly complete, frightening) ventured outside to catch glimpses of sparks over the tops of trees. It made me long for immersion of a different kind, of dazzle and not so subtle charm.

On my last day, my voice sounded like a surprise, foreign even to myself. I had breakfast--an all organic ham and egg baked sandwich and Earl Gray--at a charming cafe in the small block that counts as town center of Great Barrington, and delighted in finally being able to listen the song stuck in my head--Billie Holiday's "Guilty"--on the bus ride back. In the end, however, it was the sight of New York: the gloss of the yellow cabs, the brownstones and men with dark skin and white tank tops in fire escapes, the pavement of the calculated greenery of Central Park--that made my heart soar, and the smile that sparked to stretch on my face. Perhaps it took this flirtation with nature (and about a hundred bug bites) to remind me that, disillusionment aside, my one true love remains, New York, with its greed and ambitions, poverty and squalor, dazzlingly distractions. 

Home, sweet home. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Perfect View

The park wasn't here when I left for London in September, but when I came back to New York and took the same walk down North 6th Street to the waterfront, it greeted me with a happy shock--a spectacular view of Manhattan.

This was the Manhattan of dreams, film stills. Uninhibited by construction or obstruction, simply the panoramic, self assured fullness of the city. The sort of sight that takes one's breath away regardless of whether it's a first discovery. Across the glistening dark waters of the East River there glittered the city, its unmistakable silhouette, a living beckoning postcard, like the thrill of a first touch, the first skip of a heart soon to be in love.

The park itself is a bit unusual. On a Saturday afternoon drenched in sunlight and so vibrant with picnicking hipsters and thiftsters of the flea market next to it, that barely a petal of the green grass is visible, and the silver and metal planked pier that stretches into the river are fitted with bodies pressed against the railings, photographers snapping away. The park was built in conjunction with the East River Ferry, which serves as a tourist friendly, if still a bit of a locals' favorite, escapist indulgence, an alternative to muggy dark subway tunnels with a view worthy of the more expensive far, traveling along Brooklyn to the southmost tip of Manhattan, or to that strange suspended bit of hospital land of midtown and First Avenue.

The crowd at the park is a strange mix--there are the happy, well established residents of the glittering (if rather generic) stretches of luxury waterfront condos, and the slightly less groomed faces of the surrounding Williamsburg locals, then the prim and proper sets of Jewish families, or loud and gleeful neighborhood teens, who called the area home before the underground Duane Reade and the chain of major banks opened their glass doors. There are fishermen with tanned, hairy arms at the far end of the pier, poised for their silvery prey, enamored couples with an arm tight around a waist or shoulder, scenes befitting a movie romance, and the trotting of an array of dogs, glad for a new playground.

At night, regardless of the stifled air of the New York summer, out by the water there is the most exquisite of breezes, that ruffle skirt hems and whips strands of hair, pure, sensual pleasure against bare arms and legs. Especially lately, there are these perfect evenings that whisper of fall, the rippling of the water and the thousands of tiny golden specks in the buildings of that awe inspiring view, the glimpses of blinking headlights in the shift of the is a perfect wonder, even with the distractions of everything around it.

I've taken friends here, dates who were near strangers. But it is not a place that requires company. Lately, when I come, I am almost always alone. One evening there was a flash flood warning for New York, and the night before I woke up to a small pool of rainwater in my living room. But that day the rain came in sprouts, strong, but reasonable, and the gray sky outside awaited, alluring in its promise of coolness. I took my umbrella (from the 40's, the lovely faded peach and cream patterned thing I bought at an antique market in London), my iPod and walked to this same park, this same skyline that was transformed, the park quiet except for the steady platter of rain on ground, nearly empty but for a few scattered wanderers.

The city was shrouded in a gray mist, so still, magnificent in its grimness, its watercolored calm. The rain soaked the swaying edges of my long black skirt, but I was happy. I walked down the piers where the wind flipped the waterdrops sideways, where the whole city stood before me, and I took it in for my pleasure alone. I listened to the cooing of Fred Astaire, those aged yet timeless, enchanting melodies that carried me away from where I was, when I lived, and even, who I might have been. So happy!

Tonight, it is nearly 11, on a blessedly cool night, and I walked to the park through a different route. Perhaps because I remember the dulled, cloaked wet city of last time, but the lights seemed especially dazzling, a great shock, yet an assurance, a relief.

New York is rarely as beautiful from within as from afar, and I've been thinking a lot about at least a temporary goodbye. Its endless delights never stop, but perhaps my appreciation of them dampens. I barely notice the shops I once found so charming in the East Village, and though the dazzling costumed affairs of weekend nights still excite me, in my mind I'm already elsewhere. Paris, with its uniform apartments and tree lined parks, London, with its history in every white lace curtain, dainty tea set, rich in its (and mine) memories.

Yet it is this same unwavering painting of glamour and life, this same beautiful view before me of the city I live in that allows me to escape. It is the possibilities in those real lights at the tops of buildings, the distant yet pressing reminders of a hundred different worlds within one, coupled with the darling kiss of water tainted air on skin, the seduction songs of ages past, the familiar ease of forgetting that makes everything okay, if only for the precious mindless moments I spend here. New York, New York, sung, worshiped, by a thousand brilliant minds and voices, so vast and sprawling, here, simply still, and always, beautiful.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer to Fall

Clothes are easy in the summer. Wear as little in as light of fabrics as possible, sheer chiffon and crisp cotton, accessorize minimally, wear the same dresses/skirt on alternating days, and voila. This has been more or less my uniform: sheer bow chiffon blouse a lucky recent find from Forever 21, my favorite (signature) H&M coral skirt, a flower in my hair, and other details that shift depending on the occasion: shade of lipstick, size and color of flower.

It is lovely. Honey warm tones and gold. I've found the thin gold bracelet rather indispensable--a gift from my mom. I remember seeing her wear it all the time when I was younger, not exact memories but faint images of her with it on her wrist. Now I feel naked without it. When my outfits are already so bare, it adds a touch of thoughtfulness that makes me feel that much more together.

But I've been dreaming, dreaming of the golden leaves and cool days of the fall...and the back to school signs and brown tones, blazers and jackets already in stores doesn't help. I have long skirts and coats in the closet I long to wear so desperately...I thought though it is far too early I'd play dress up and plan ahead!

A perfect new blazer (H&M) and gray over the knee socks (Sock Dreams) and patent leather Oxford heels (Macy's, long ago), Tolstoy and oh my! Rolled up sleeves and cuffed pants! Long walks without fear of sweat or discomfort! Fall is probably my favorite season in New York (second only to those unbelievable white blanketed snow days of winter)

All that I need is a perfect fall colored classic bag. I've been lusting after this Mulberry Conker Red Polly from My-Wardrobe:

I adore the old fashioned handle and the golden clasp, the timeless pebbled leather finish and silhouette, academic and serious, and yet hip view. Paired with a navy coat, black tights and oxfords (or, really, anything)...maybe it's a l way of savings away, but someday! In the meantime I can just dream...mid 60s weather and leaf lined streets...visit the website for more designer pieces to covet, from Marc Jacobs to Chloe, and even the preppy chic of Ralph Lauren for men)

Monday, August 8, 2011

In Defense of the Kindle

I read an editorial by a bibliophile that suggested that publishers launch a sexy ad campaign in favor of the print book to combat Kindle's impressive marketing, citing books' sensory pleasures: the smell; the feel in your hands; that crisp, appealing crinkle of a turned page and smooth snap of a dust jacket. It does sound seductive--but then anything can be made so with a few quick sketches of words, anything can be made romantic.

I would know--I'm a writer, sorceress of language, slave to literature, beauty, romance. My life has been marked by books, tens of thousands of pages and titles and authors, covers and characters I can barely keep track of. It is my favorite refuge, my ultimate comfort, an always reliable pleasure. I would be delighted with a life spent looking out windows, with a book and pen and paper. I read Tolstoy as others would chain watch Sex and the City. I stop and eagerly browse at every used books stand I pass on the street. My first, dream job, was to work at the local bookstore (and I did). I am no stranger to the sensory and aesthetic pleasures of a book. I linger in bookstores, brushing my hands over matte covers and ivory pages, lusting after particularly exquisite covers. I fantasize constantly about the exact appearance, texture of my first published novel: the artist who would draw the illustration, my name in exact lettering, the typography and lines and spacing of each page, even the exact way the spine creases in the hands of adoring readers.

I am an avid bibliophile--and, I love my Kindle.

Let me tell you about my Kindle. It is an impromptu gift, from someone close. Most of the time it rests inside a bubble mailer manila envelope, creased and folded from all the wear, in one of my purses, or sits, naked, at my bedside. It is covered with a lovely white and blue porcelain art skin/decal that catches the eye and sets off the grey and black of the screen. The first book I bought for it was Fernando Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet, but now I've worked through quite a few more--David Foster Wallace's The Pale King, Tolstoy's War and Peace, Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise, Somerset's Of Human Bondage, Dickens's Bleak House...(I have a thing for 700 pages plus 19th Century literature), as well as a dozen samples and a few new books I recently acquired. I can hardly leave the house without it in my purse.

It is there when I stand in the insufferable heat and humidity, the microwave of subway stations, awaiting the L train to take me home. It is there amidst a crowded train, when my one hand grips the poles so as to not topple over in the lurch of the train and high heels. It is there, next to me, on the tables of countless restaurants where I like to dine alone. It is there in parks, in offices, on couches, in bed, next to the cozy glow of my lamp and candle flames on the other end of my room. It is there to distract me when my mind is a mess of tortured laments. It is there when I take the ferry across the rolling waters of the East River to Governor's Island, where I find a white wicker and wood rocking chair on the patio of some old lovely house, and rock slightly back and force as I begin to read Proust. And when it is with me, so are all the vibrant characters and times and scenes from the particular book I'm reading. So is instant escape, freedom, relief.

I always read voraciously, but now I read constantly, incessantly. Before I debated the merits of a heavy bag with a creased paperback, but now even on a short errand run I can't imagine the brief subway ride without my constant literary companion. Before, when I struggled to locate volumes on the dim shelves of the library, with a few button presses I find just what I want and curl up with a smile. Before, when I heard recommendations, I scribbled them in notebooks and soon forgot them. Now I find and buy and can delve into a new world, instantly.

I can't imagine my life now without it, this gray screen I love above my iPhone, iPod, Macbook Air, this indispensable partner on train rides and flights. The Kindle is built for that, the dedicated reader with an infinite appetite in mind, not the casual browser who maybe once in a long while goes home to read a buzzed about new book, but the reader who can't live without books. So when I mention my beloved Ebook reader to friends, and they, in shocked tones of betrayal, tell me that they could never--abandon the smell, the sound of pages flipping, the feel of the weight of a book in their hands, I cringe inside. As if by owning a Kindle I'm turning back on my love of literature! As if they accuse me, the most passionate defender of language of words, to be a tourist, a traitor!

The rise of E-books doesn't demote the role of literature, far from it. In fact, the ease and accessibility of new technology can only help spread the act of reading as a leisure activity, free it from its old, very real, practical constraints. Sure, thick hardcover volumes are wonderfully romantic--but try bringing that on a day trip, on the subway, to class, on a flight to another country. And with the vast free library of classics available to E-readers, seemingly daunting literary masters comes with no obligation and become featherweight delights (seriously, read Anna Karenina--it is a page turner and far more enjoyable than the old Russian master's stuffy reputation might have you think). E-books don't mean the end of reading or publishing--in fact, publishers make better profits from Kindle books than the process of printing and distribution of physical novels. Embracing the rise of the E-Book, and not fighting it, is one of the smartest decisions publishers can make in this age where the very industry is in danger. But just as the MP3 didn't destroy the music industry, and only helped to create a more open, welcoming arena, this new technology and format won't ruin books and the people who love to read or create them.

Besides, publishers don't need an expensive campaign to remind the world of the pleasure of a print book--for those who love it already, it can't be forgotten or ignored. Every time I pass by an used books stand, I still stop and browse, and sometimes come home with surprise finds that stay at my bedside. Only, I might check if it's available on Kindle classics free first...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Book Lover's Paradise: 20 Ebooks for $20!

Harper Perennial is doing a fantastic promotion for August that features 20 of their backlist titles for 99¢ each in various E-Book format! This is like Christmas in the summer. I've been stuck reading lots of 19th century and otherwise older literature, and I'm excited to catch up on some modern writers I've missed. My head spins from browsing all the options and I want to buy all 20 now and read them all at once...(it is not completely impossible that I might actually do that), but in case you're a bit joyfully overwhelmed too, over the next few days I'm going to read samples and reviews of each title and give you my brief impressions to help pick out your next buy.

I'm not sure whether this is better news than discovering that Edith Wharton's complete works are available for the Kindle in one neat package for 99¢...but either way I'm ecstatic and can't wait to share what I discover!

Monday, August 1, 2011

In Olden Days...

I am not a fashion blogger. I am not a fashion blogger because I have a very small wardrobe (and I've learned that I prefer it that way) and not many (if any) designer clothes, and most of what I own is from H&M or Target designer collabs from the past. I wear the same pieces all the time--just a few in slightly different combinations--for days and days and it makes me happy because they're all just right. I shop all the time but end up buying very little. But still! I get very much joy each morning, getting dressed.

Occasionally (and especially lately--) I discover things that I really fall in love with and long to share. I've been trying new things, slightly different things that I love--less cute and sweet and maybe a bit more classic, timeless. Longer skirts and simplier outfits. Pearls and black pumps. Eras of the past (though I am terrible with buying real vintage clothes because allergies and impatience and things that don't fit right) and subtlety and never, ever, casual, and all that jazz.

So, H&M has been answering my prayers. This dress!

Sheer navy with tiny polka dots, an adorable collar I can't quite deal with in the summer, a loose waist, a long skirt with an ever so playful visible shorter hemline, a full, twirly skirt!

I'm a little obsessed. And in love. The first of many H&M dresses from recently to be so inspiring. I've been in a 1920s phase--so, pearls, one set that's a real pearl chocker, and another long chain of glass pearls I accidentally tied and delighted in finding it looked good! Black suede pumps with a pleaded square bow (from here, and so comfortable!), and of course, that necessary flower in my hair.

I couldn't justified going out to work in all this, so I simplified this in real life with one set of pearls and a more subtle flower in hair. Still, walking down to the hot oven of the subways, amidst colorful tribal patterned dresses and golden flat sandals, shorts and tank tops, I felt like I might have come from another world, another time. C'est magnifique.

(Hi world! I'm blogging again. For your sake and for mine, about frivolous pretty things or sad, real things. This time I won't worry about what I can or can't do so much, and just do.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Confessions of a Bored Depressive

Inspiration: fleeting. Last night I went to a screening of a rarely released Saint Etienne film, What Have You Done Today, Mervyn Day. It was lovely and full of lush sunshine and meadows and worn down abandoned things. My heart ached for London. It was dreadful then, but now it seems wonderful, full of English charm, memories I barely considered at the time, but which haunt me now, filled with nostalgia. I walked to First Avenue and the M15 bus to visit Joey at the hospital, as I had for the past few days. That timeless space of healing and pain and death, where conversations occur with stifled joy, where machines and measurements and repetition take over the colors of life. Only the nurses, ever changing yet always familiar, with their enthusiasm and friendly comments a change. The windows safely prohibiting the outside world from seeping in. The bed, the curtains. The voices from the television on the other side of the room.

It became late and I said my goodnight for the walk that still frightens me down First Avenue alone. The last few days it was pouring when I left, and I could justify the cost of a cab. But not then. I didn't know which side of the street seemed safer: the coroner, the hospitals, the homeless men, or the lonely, looming shadows of the project housing on the other side. Stopped in for a too salty hot dog before a long wait for the subway home.

Today, though it is like summer outside, and the burst of fresh green leaves on the trees was a shocking sight, I stayed mostly in bed, in my perpetually cold room. Empty thoughts and empty gestures. A to-do list that I half heartedly checked off, put off. Clicking through websites with nothing in mind. Not even a faint twinge of desire. A vague shadowy guilt that manifests itself in a reiteration of this nothing. I am thinking of Francisco Pessoa's Book of Disquiet, his bleak, beautiful journal entries of a life lived in boredom, in his tortured head. Someone I had gone on a few dates with and slept with, someone who lived in a dreadful, mostly empty apartment, who always wore black and was so uncertain, whose mattress had made my back uncomfortable had recommended it.

Perhaps I just like too much the way these words sound in my head. I am crippling myself, forcing inertia, stability, this slow, spreading dread. It sounds much worse than it is. It is not glamorous and glorified artisanship but pathetic actually, despicable and pathetic. Uncertainty is my disease, stasis its symptom. I am prone of exaggeration, to being in love with the sounds of my pretty, petty words. Maybe it's just a role I play, easily solved with a walk in the sun, a smile exchanged. For now I stay in this dim light, under the forcefully cheerful duvets, staring fixedly at the window, and the light outside.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Show Your Knee Socks

Britney Spears - How I Roll

Sometimes you get obsessed with songs. Sometimes you want to dance while you walk. Sometimes you wish you that it is already summer. Sometimes you need a spark, a flare, a lipstick kiss, a high heeled shoe. Sometimes every day is just not enough. Sometimes you want to drop your clothes piece by piece in a big open room, watch your smile spread in a big mirror above the bed. Sometimes you just want things to be simple and dazzling and bright.

Britney does just that. Throw away the irony and the condescending masks. Give in to the sugary sweetness of tequila on the rocks and the seduction of a snare drum, a melody, a line that stays in your head. Put on your lightest dress and flipped lashes and strut down the street. Take a boy home and watch the way he laughs. Kiss the tips of your fingers and remember the last time you felt so light, this good.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Another Spring, Another Love

It has been a very long winter. One night, in the depth of the never ending cold, Joe and I watched An Education, and all I could think of during the lovely scene where Jenny and David lay bathing on the grass in Paris beneath the sunshine was how long it'd been since I've worn short sleeves.

But, yesterday. I finished an econ exam early and walked the quiet, gray streets around Washington Square Park, in a coat and sweater that felt too heavy for the pleasant warm pull in the air. Bursts of yellow daffodils sprung in clusters, and pale pink blossoms dotted eager trees in the distance. I watched the streets stir to life, a fruit cart merchant piling boxes, students lined up for their morning coffee. For the first time in a very long time, I didn't have to escape to a windowed room for comfort. I took off my coat and found a seat at a bench to watch the people passing. A policeman on horseback trotted past, and the horse's hooves made fresh, clear clicks on the asphalt street.

By lunch time it was bright and sunny and felt like summer. I caught glimpses of bare legs everywhere, a shock after so long of cover beneath heavy coats and thick tights. Everyone talked of the weather. The flimsy floral dresses that had already crowded the racks of stores months ago suddenly carried a new allure. I could almost believe that it was summer.

It was a marvelous feeling. In the evening, Joe and I went to Chinatown for dinner, and to walk the often forgotten streets off Canal after. The winding narrow alleys were mostly deserted, and beautiful, with the closed shutters of stores and signs bearing names of restaurants. Now and then we came across men sitting and talking on a stoop, or a group of kids in faintly oriental masks and costumes, having a photoshoot. We came to Doyers Street and the Nom Wah Tea Parlour, the backdrop to a recent Sartorialist photo I adored. At night, it felt like a complete transformation, of time and place. It was easy to believe that we were in 1920s China, arranging secret rendezvous in between games of cards and a haze of smoke.

We ducked into a Malaysian restaurant for dessert, and the moment we left for home giant rain drops fell upon us, slow but quickly increasing their frequency. We ran, laughing and cursing, to the subway, with damp hair and bag and clothes. It is finally spring.

(Need more convincing/to celebrate? This great compilation of Signs of Spring photos from around the world should satisfy even the most bitter skeptic.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011


The rat was on the bottom step of the escalator going down, scampering up just in time as the escalator kept moving, running on an endless treadmill. Joe and I were on our way out of the subway and at first I thought it was cute. I thought that even about the ones I saw scurrying across train tracks, but this one was especially small and harmless looking. But the escalator kept moving and the rat kept running up and couldn't keep pace. We have to help, I said, probably in an abnormal high pitched voice, the voice people used to address cute small animals tinged with concern.

There was a small crowd gathered around the escalator watching and marveling, none who expressed any worry. The mouse ran into the edge of the escalator and struggled, panickedly to get away. We have to help, we have to help, I said, but I couldn't think of anything to do. Joe pressed the emergency stop button. The escalator stopped, but the rat's tail was trapped within the metal spaces of the escalator. The people around us crept closer, some crouching down to snap photos on the iPhone.

The rat began to chew his own tail. We have to help, I said, growing hysterical, panicked. I wondered if we could just cut the tail off. I didn't want to hurt him. I heard comments from voices without faces around us--"Call 311. Instead of you fucking assholes standing there taking pictures." A woman's voice retorting a mean response. "You see homeless men on the street all the time and no one wants to help. You're concerned about a rat." And all the while people with their phones and their gasps and no one who tried to help. I started to cry. "We just have to get the escalator to run the other way," Joe said. He squeezed me tight.

We told a subway worker. We went to the woman at the subway booth. We went to the J. C. Penny, where the men in cheap suits looked at us, oblivious, unhelpful with confused replies while we insisted on speaking to a manager, someone who could help. They said to ask upstairs, at the city mall. There was a small group at the top of the escalator, too, peering down at the helpless rat. A subway worker came with a dustpan and a broom, the same one we spoke to earlier.

"Please don't hurt him," I begged, still crying, voice uncontrolled. He looked at me, "Are you crazy?" He said. "I have to kill that thing."

I cried no, no! Voices around us, snippets I heard--"You better get out of here." I wanted to get out of there. I didn't want to know what he would do to the rat. Joe tried to get me to stay. But I couldn't stand the thought of being there, of having to watch one more person scoop down to laugh and snap a picture. I wish I hadn't paused to watch the rat in the first place.

I pulled Joe toward another exit. We reached another set of escalators leading to the street. Joe looked down toward where the rat was trapped and I told him, "Don't." "It's still alive," Joe told me. But that didn't help.

I was delirious and crying, still. The tears had stained my glasses so that I couldn't see at all,  and I walked with them held in my hand. He pulled me toward the direction of our destination and I didn't register the streets. The thought of the rat was so awful. I half sobbed half spoke. How could they just stand there and take pictures. No one even wanted to help. And the awful workers at the store, from the subway. It was the people most of all, the people who completely ignored that there was a living thing, suffering.

It wasn't really about the rat.

I realized that if I had really wanted to save its life I wouldn't have left. I could have screamed at the subway worker until he relented. We could have ran upstairs and found the manager of the Manhattan mall. I could have tried to pull out the rat's tail myself, a thought that passed through my head before. But I was scared. I was selfish and scared and it was too much and too awful.
What upset me so much was those people. That there, they were confronted with a pained creature, helpless, and instead of trying to help they heckled and found the source of a viral video. It seemed to wrap together and represent everything I despised about our society. When YouTube and Twitter replace human sympathy, when empty, ironic and mocking essays replace intelligent thought.

I wondered if the people who loved vintage things did it because they longed for the past, because they simply liked the aesthetic, or if it was possible that they did it out of an aversion for the present. To forget. I thought about deleting all my online profiles and blogs. I thought I'd spend the rest of my life with my fountain pens and paper. Secluded, safe. I never really thought that I was born in the wrong era, or could only like things that were old. But now I felt this immense disgust and hatred of the present. A despair.

I remember when I was trying to catch a flight leaving London in the snowstorm. I dragged two heavy suitcases through the sludgy snow to the tube, and then struggled to get on an overcrowded train. Again and again, trains passed and I didn't get on. I kept hoping the next one would be empty, the passengers sparse. I was guaranteed to be late to my flight. A vicious look from a woman on the last train I tried to get on broke me down. I cried, wretched sobs, hating myself, hating my luggage, hating the thought that I might be stuck. Those last few weeks of the semester I had so desperately looked forward to going home.

Then this old man next to me, in a funny fur muff hat and funny old clothes, who I had been watching before, who was reading a philisophy book, came to me and hugged me. A woman on the other side of me rubbed my shoulder and said soothing words. The old man took out a tissue and handed it to me. It made me cry more. He dragged my suitcase on to the next train. There, there, he said. I remember this so well.