So far the birds in the backyard have not started flocking to the block of food I provided for them. I don’t know what their problem is. I happen to love blocks of food, especially in wintertime. This bird meal cost me $7, and it’s basically a family-style lasagna. If any birds are reading my blog, I urge them to give this food a chance.
Because I will never be a rock star, I am developing a rider for babysitting gigs.
(1) gallon red Gatorade
(1) reduced fat string cheese
(1) bottle red wine, uncorked and three quarters full, so no one will notice a glass missing
(8) Hello Kitty Band-Aids
(1) bottle hand sanitizer. In lieu of hand sanitizer, will accept rubber gloves or body armor.
(3) juicy magazines. Interpret juicy as you wish. I am not a dictator. Some catalogs acceptable.
(1+) safety helmet
(1+) life jacket
(1) leftover stash of Halloween candy
(5) novel/short story ideas that I can steal from the children, ideally something related to elves and/or fairies
(1) container bath salts, in the event of a late night
(1+) children. It’s weird when I’m just hanging out at your house. Oh, wait. This is an adult dinner party. Can I still sing Raffi songs? Do I still get paid?
You all know me here as a basketball legend. I’m rarely caught expressing myself outside of a game of hoops. Like Jerry West before me, I am both a depressive and a fierce competitor. I compete with other people who are depressed. Come to think of it, I don’t typically play basketball so much as cry in front of extinguished TV sets on which watching basketball is an option. I am winning at that. But I have great respect for athletes. My family members like to run around and throw things. My siblings routinely crush me in paddle ball matches on the beach, when I am handicapped by my grip on Pinot Grigio bottles. My dad was an athlete, or at least he liked to take his shirt off in the driveway when he sensed something physical happening in the vicinity. My mother, on the other hand, is sports challenged. Throw a ball at her when she is not looking and it will likely hit her.
But Jerry West knows how to play basketball. His last-minute heroics on the Lakers team earned him the nickname “Mr. Clutch” (which sounds a lot like Wistar Clutch, for those of you still shopping for a term of endearment). And West recently collaborated on a memoir with author Jonathan Coleman, a book that features me in the acknowledgements because I had the honor of transcribing audio interviews with Jerry West and his long-limbed cohorts, an honor that true basketball fans will forever resent me for because I had to look up the spelling of venerable names such as “Elgin Baylor” and “the Lakers.” And because I feel so privileged to have gotten to know Jerry West in this raw form before the book was published, through his interviews and once or twice on the phone, I was outraged to read Dwight Garner’s mean-spirited review of West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life, in the New York Times last month.
I’ve met Jerry West in person since the book came out, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better experience. The man has beans. He’s forever curious about other people. He’s weird and kind and conflicted and wonderful. If he hadn’t been so tall, I would’ve determined that he played a different sport, perhaps something having to do with chess. Garner’s description of Jerry as “a boor and, worse, a bore” is so outlandish as to belong in the Outlandish Descriptions Hall of Fame, which I have often visited because I keep my medals there.
I treasure my experience with Jerry West. His complexity and thoughtfulness far exceed his on-court exploits, which is saying a lot because I hear the man has done some things. As a girl I never had a sports hero, and I didn’t expect to acquire one as a struggling, slouchy writer of 31, but now the Jerry West posters have joined the Nabokov posters on my wall, and the Jerry West trading cards have replaced the Sartre trading cards in my lockbox–and keep in mind that I’m just being writerly and I actually own none of these things–and even though I’ve still only watched a handful of basketball games in my life, I now rank myself up there with Jerry’s many other number one fans.
Last night I was downtown with some time to kill before a dinner reservation, and I needed a bit of a pick-me-up, so I walked to Christopher Street to perv on some puppies. For whatever reason (no, for a solitary reason: rich Village people) Christopher Street is the nucleus of the Manhattan designer puppy trade. These puppy boutiques have every kind of genetically engineered, possibly inbred critter you can imagine: yorkies, pomeranians, shih tzus, teacup teacups, dollhouse chihuahuas, disappearing poodles, and dogs whose heads were shrunk by voodoo priests and then grafted onto tumbleweeds. In short, these boutiques are where men take their girlfriends when they want to get laid, and they are where puppies go when they want to sit by themselves in tiny, pee-fragrant cages and look at everybody with sad eyes, and they are where I go when I’m feeling down and want to have a sad-eye staring contest with some lonely puppies.
I understand that the whole miniature puppy breeding business is ethically suspect, and I understand that maybe I shouldn’t frequent these shops, but if it’s wrong to be emotionally manipulated into loving tiny adorable creatures who lick the glass separating your two faces until their tongues are raw, and who make you feel that you’re not fate’s only miserable prisoner, then I don’t want to be right. “Aren’t those places depressing?” asked my friend at dinner. “Of course,” I said. “But they’re sad, and I’m sad, so it’s a good fit.” Then I got drunk and wanted to launch a midnight puppy raid before it occurred to me that I’ve basically become Cruella De Vil.
(Start of a pastiche of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Don DeLillo’s White Noise)
It was a few minutes before 7am, and Mrs. DeLillo was fingering the Floral Satin V-Kini underpants that comprised a three-pack in the Intimate Apparel department of her local Super Walmart. The cardboard packaging denoted the underpants as panties, a word that Mr. and Mrs. DeLillo had always avoided on principle in their erotic situations. Mrs. DeLillo had to decide between this floral array and a four-pack of Fruit of the Loom Women’s Stretch Cotton Hipster Panties styled in “Rmnce Boqt,” also predominantly floral, also rolledback, pricewise. She placed the cotton underpants in her metal shopping trolley. Value bundle, she thought. Even though the four garments resembled boyfriend panties more than hipster panties, Mrs. DeLillo felt certain that Don would appreciate them. Tonight they were inaugurating their newly renovated basement fallout shelter with a cocktail party, and Don would be horny afterward, as he always was after shaking hands with a fallout shelterful of random friends and acquaintances.
Mrs. DeLillo had been shopping at the Super Walmart since before dawn and she had already eaten her way through half a cinema-sized bag of Twizzlers, which she had every intention of paying for. The overhead intercom personality came to life again, as it had at regular intervals since Mrs. DeLillo began her shopping expedition:
Attention Walmart shoppers. The current Value of the Hour is Wonder Bread Bite-Size Sandwich Slices in White and Brown. Everyone needs a pile of miniature sandwiches in their naked and vulnerable hands. Spend your day at Walmart, where we save people money so they can live better lives. Stay tuned for the next Value of the Hour.
Mrs. DeLillo couldn’t remember where she had originally entered the store from outside. There were no windows to orient her in space-time. The exits could be anywhere. In the Sporting Goods department she rested her spine on an oversized exercise ball. In Beauty/Hair Care Mrs. DeLillo selected a dozen new hair elastics and a banana clip, then turned all her attention toward growing a tumor in her left breast.
Mrs. DeLillo’s friend Maria would be meeting her soon. Mrs. DeLillo watched for her near the smiley face sticker greeter, who always seemed to have the saddest life in the world. If Mrs. DeLillo followed that smiley face sticker greeter home and shadowed his domestic life for 24 hours, she was convinced she’d die instantaneously of depression. Spontaneous death from sadness and dread was a thing Don thought about a lot.
Mrs. DeLillo watched one of her hairs fall out of her scalp and float away on invisible molecules of McDonald’s French fry grease, finally settling under a bottom shelf of cereal, the generic kind. How long would her single hair reside there? What would become of this organic matter in the midst of so much synthetic packaging? The grayish strand looked dirty and out of place on the linoleum. Suddenly all of Mrs. DeLillo’s living cells felt estranged from this environment. She was not even alive. She was dead matter suffocating twice-over inside a plastic bag. This sensation happened at home as well, especially in the bedroom when she felt herself asphyxiating on Don’s swollen member.
Maria saw her friend Mrs. DeLillo before she herself was seen. Mrs. DeLillo was leaning over her shopping cart, pinching the boyleg holes of a pair of floral underpants. Tonight Maria would attend the grand opening of the DeLillo fallout shelter. She was bringing Lay’s Ruffled Potato Chips even though Mrs. DeLillo had insisted the party was casual and that she should bring nothing but herself. Maria vaguely hoped that everyone would commit suicide at the party, that it wouldn’t be a dry run for disaster after all…
I returned to my beloved hometown primarily to see my older brother graduate from med school and get married, but my secondary concern was generating ideas for my masters thesis, an original novel that’s due in two months. This means that I’ve spent the majority of my southern vacation poaching plots from every local I encounter. People I would never expect to have book ideas have written me outlines and sketched out character motivations. This town is a hotbed of unrealized literary genius.
My 21-year-old brother and his buddy run a handyman business in town mowing lawns, chainsawing everything in their path, “removing stinkbugs,” “babysitting,” and performing other oddjobs. When I jokingly asked them if they did novels, it took them less than a day to turn over a notebook overflowing with rich material, including fully developed protagonists (serial killers in love), back stories (sex abuse, murder, childhood trauma), themes (municipal corruption) and some thoughts on a prequel. But my little brother had a vague impression that my typical work is more emo, so he was sure to pencil in “(*feelings*)” where he thought my skills could really shine, e.g., “Mom addicted to painkillers, protag always starved for her affection <<-----(*feelings*)." The boys said they'd write the sex and violence scenes, and I could be in charge of all the emotional truths.
My friend's four-year-old son is obsessed with traffic cones. Last week we all went to Lowe's and while his mom shopped, he spent 45 minutes in the plumbing aisle lining up orange cones in different formations, then routing the Lowe's employees around them as though the men were cars or airplanes. My friend says, try as she might, she cannot find any children's books devoted to the wonders of traffic and safety cones. She thought I might write something for her son and other kids like him. I have never written a childrens' book, but I think I could manage a literary novel about an extended family of traffic cones. Something like The Corrections, but set in a parking lot.
Stumpy and Big Mac, the two men who make the compost deliveries from my uncle’s compost farm, were especially excited when they found out I was trying to write a novel. They told me I could do a ride-along with them in the compost trucks for a week and I’d have more than enough material for my book, tentatively entitled The Adventures of Stumpy and Big Mac. At first I thought they were just teasing me for being a dork, but now every time I go over there they gush about a new plotline worthy of Tom Clancy. Without giving too much away before this thing is published, Big Mac’s latest brainstorm involves a jihadist at UVA’s graduation ceremony. We agreed that the more local landmarks I insert, the better my chances would be of getting my book stocked in New Dominion. Or in the Barracks Road Barnes & Noble. Or in Random Row Books. Or in Daedalus. Is anybody listening?
Also my grandfather gave me a 2011 World Almanac, saying that it was full of ideas.
Also I need all the help I can get, because I have no ideas.
No, I have one idea. Wishter, a 30-year-old woman with few career prospects, laments the fact that she chose writing school over medical school. In a fit of jealousy, she steals her big brother’s med school diploma, and his beautiful new wife for good measure, and opens a private psychiatry clinic in the Cayman Islands, where she makes tons of money by hypnotizing her patients into giving her tons of money as well as revealing their darkest secrets <<—–(*feelings*), emotional truths which will eventually make their way into Wishter’s bestselling memoir.
I got peed on, but not in a good way. The baby’s urine ran down my thigh from the changing table, and I remembered every rejection I’d ever experienced. Not really. That would have been too easy. It took days of wearing those same jeans for the piss to sink in on an existential level. A writer must have a thick skin, but my skin is sticky with pee. A nice girl must have a thick skin, but I went out afterward in my pee jeans, thinking, “Why am I all about town tonight? I was just peed upon.” The baby didn’t mean it maliciously. He was just a boy baby doing what boy babies do. He was just marking his territory. He was, frankly, just being an asshole. But that’s a different story.
The toddler upstairs locates a recorder and launches a one-boy parade.
The next door neighbor decides that it’s time for him, and for the rest of the apartment complex, to fall in love again with the Destiny’s Child song catalog.
My head bangs against the wall and/or the heating pipe when I startle from a dream. The heating pipe is worse because it tends to burn.
The woman living below my bed wakes up her children for school, everyone in her household already combative at 7am. The heating pipe that vertically connects our apartments carries her voice to my ears in muffled, yet somehow still booming notes, giving me the impression that I am crunched upside-down inside the womb of a terrible mother, and I feel free to dread the rest of my life.
When I am struggling to write a short story, I often elect to take it for a walk. I’m like, “Come on Story, let’s get some fresh air.” So the story and I go meandering through Central Park, where my story can inhale the pure-bred piss of other stories, where it can take huge dumps in the grass, dumps which I can then pick up and discard in labeled shit receptacles, where it can try to hump the legs of more attractive stories, and sometimes novels. Occasionally I let the story off the leash, letting it charge across the meadow, kicking up dirt and cigarette butts, delighting me with its freewheeling ways, but then an urban park ranger fines me $100 ($5 for every curse word, $10 for every inapt metaphor), and my story and I return home, both of us tired, demoralized, and hungry for bacon scraps.
Way back in 2003/04, when my college girlfriend and I were living together in D.C. and bearing witness to all sorts of bad behavior on the infrequent occasions when we’d go to the Black Cat to drink Diet 7Up and meet with our napkin folding club, we devised the following concept for a reality television series. The concept has come a long way since then, in that I finally wrote it down, and I hear that other people are actually filming it for HBO. I’m going to wait and see if the HBO thing makes money before I inform Lena Dunham that I registered Poor Girls with the Writer’s Guild seven years ago. In any event, I now bring you…
a derivative, tragicomical, reality-based television series about a trinity of emotionally needy, financially impoverished, artistically confused, professionally aimless, aged-twenty-something female roommates in the big city
LOGLINE: Sex in the City meets Little Orphan Annie.
SYNOPSIS: We document the various Brooklyn-themed misadventures of three attractive, charismatic young ladies at the height of their seductive powers as they struggle to keep money in their pockets, get consistently laid, and preserve their dignity in a metropolitan setting. All three heroines issue from middling-class suburban families, but appear to relish being poor, slutty, and bohemian in their Five Boroughs personas. They also view their penury as crucial to maintaining their increasingly slim figures. Series includes an undercurrent of competition to reveal who can debase herself the most for free drinks, as well as some elements of frenemy. From episode to episode, we watch the girls largely succeed in getting by on their charm and sexual appetites, but they occasionally surrender to a valley of tears (see E. 5, a.k.a. “The Heartbreak Episode”). All three heroines are actively looking for the Oliver Twists to complement their Pippi Longstockings, with a preference for the former to play an Instrument and/or write first chapters of novels while waiting to claim his family inheritance.
We fall in love with Eleanor when we see her updating her private sex diary in a cubicle at FedEx/Kinko’s, where she writes regularly because the staff there doesn’t force her to buy anything, such as bubble wrap or Post-It Notes.
We fall in love with Ashley when she entertains a rare doubt about the long-term propriety of sleeping with so many assholes, and wonders if her new blanket should be electric, like a fence.
We fall in love with Mary-Katherine when we see her make a pit stop in a Midtown cathedral during a Sunday morning walk of shame. We soon gather that she is not there to atone for her sins, but rather to seek the refuge of a clean lavatory, where she can pee and check her hair for cum without having to a buy a Starbucks coffee.
1. We open on frustrated sex between Principal Character Ashley and an unnamed hipster on her air mattress (see Example #1 of Snappy Dialogue). After the gentleman leaves, Ashley plans her search for a real mattress to replace her erotically disappointing Aerobed™. We see an extensive monologue in the confessional room (Eleanor’s closet) about Ashley’s terror of bedbugs, evinced to the degree that she once abstained from casual sex for two months to avoid catching them. “Bedbugs are the AIDS of the 21st century,” she often tells the camera. She texts last night’s unnamed hipster to find out how he feels about street mattresses. She wonders aloud if she can avoid buying a comforter for her bed by investing in thicker pajamas.
2. We see Principal Character Mary-Katherine embrace a new sexual identity as a Craigslist Unicorn. This endangered species is willing to hook up with couples to indulge the wife’s last-ditch efforts to save the marriage. The couple is typically so grateful to its Unicorn that the husband will shower it in gifts and free restaurant dining experiences, often without the wife’s knowledge. Mary-Katherine is empowered by her humanitarian role and we see a montage of her flirting quietly on the internet at a neighborhood cyber-cafe.
3. We watch as Principal Character Eleanor is forced, for an entire week, to wear the whorish boots she bought last Sluttoween because her more practical winter boots are in the boot repair shop and she doesn’t have the cash to get them out. She feels awkward going babysitting in three-inch, transparent heels, although she has to admit that the boots do a fine job of protecting her feet from inclement weather. In this episode’s psychodramatic subplot, Eleanor is disappointed to discover that her new crush’s adult Asberger’s also manifests itself in lovemaking. She had wrongly assumed that her new crush would land on the higher end of the orgasm spectrum.
4. We watch as Ashley copes with the daily trials of being cold and hungry and bored with all her outfits. In this episode she discovers that if she sweet-talks a junior associate lawyer she’s been seeing (“Ryan,” a recurring minor character who fits awkwardly into the Poor Girls universe except on the nights when he’s doling out gratuit lines of coke), she can exchange fitting room blow jobs for cute clothes from Topshop. In a series of rapid cuts, we see Ashley order nothing but hot tea at expensive restaurants and then take the complimentary creams and sugars home to make her lunches with later.
5. Informally known as “The Heartbreak Episode.” When Mary-Katherine meets a man who is poorer, sluttier, and more beautiful than she is on the subway platform, we are right there with her. Three days after their steamy makeout session in the rear of a Dunkin’ Donuts, when he doesn’t respond to her flurry of obscene text messages, she is comforted/vindicated by finding his indie band’s CD in the dollar-bin of a used record store.
6. We watch as Eleanor goes on a quest for cheap condoms, finds Truth along the way.
7. We watch as the girls prepare for an elegant dinner party hosted around their dumpster-dived coffee table. Mary-Katherine, who is responsible for the salad (and bad at keeping up with her laundry), pats dry the romaine lettuce with the same towel that she’d earlier used to dry her hair. We watch with horror as the dinner guests pick damaged, dyed-blonde strands out of their first course. But then the night is redeemed by cheap karaoke around the corner and we rejoice along with the girls, who have by this point become our dear friends.
EXAMPLES OF SNAPPY DIALOGUE:
“This mattress needs more juice,” Ashley says to her latest one-night stand.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” says the one-night stand.
“Don’t worry, doll,” says Ashley. “It’s not as uncomfortable as it looks. It’s like sleeping on a water bed, except with air.”
We hear the roar of the bed’s engine when she plugs it into the wall.
“Voila,” says Ashley, disposing of her bra and panties. “Inflated and ready for fucking.”
“That douchebag came all over my t**s last night,” says Mary-Katherine.
“I thought you were into that,” says Ashley.
“Normally, yeah, but he stained my sheets and you know I just went to the laundromat. Quarters don’t grow on trees in Brooklyn.”
“Who the fuck took my earblugs?” screams a wasted Ashley at 7am after she returns home from a long night of partying.
“Your what now?” says Mary-Katherine, who is making ramen dinner in the kitchen/living area.
“My earblugs! I can hear the family in the wall!”
“Why don’t you just have an orgy with them?” screams back Mary-Katherine. “You do with everyone else!”
Cut to Eleanor’s bedroom, where she’s straddling a groggy, half-naked bartender.
“We’ve got time for a quickie before I have to shower and go to work,” she purrs as she fiddles with what could either be a mole or his third nipple.
The bartender stares up at her blankly, stupidly, as if she is a ceiling tile.
“Did you hear me?” says Eleanor. “I said wake up and fuck me before my babysitting job.”
At his leisure the bartender removes the earplugs one by one from his ear sockets.
“Hm?” he says. “Are you talking?”
“Jesus Christ,” says Eleanor, and jumps up to borrow a condom from one of her roommates.
Eleanor’s Truth (see E. 6) turns out to be scabies.