Friday, February 25, 2011


[I'm actually writing this on March 4, but I'm posting it under 2/25/11 for the sake of posterity.]

On February 25 I turned 31.  As I've said before, 30 was an extremely good year for me.  The first part of this birthday was spent on the night of the 24th, celebrating on a boat called the Calypso Queen toodling around Tampa Bay.  I was having an unexpectedly pleasant evening with colleagues -- cans of Bud Light, a DJ playing fun and laughable songs, the sun sinking far off into the Gulf.  The Electric Slide.  At one moment I was standing alone on the top deck, looking at the sky framed between two gaudily-decorated plastic palm trees, as a reggae song bounced in the air -- and for the first time in my life, I kind of liked reggae!  For that brief moment, it made sense at the time!

Much of my actual birthday was spent in transit from Florida to home.  We had a nice dinner at home, L made a delicious cake.  On Saturday night we had a fun night at Nectar, partying like we were childless (almost), and then rushing home so we could stop the clock on the babysitter.  When childcare costs loom over you just like the threat of a hangover -- that's what 31 is like, so far.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I've been sending a story out to various literary journals, and getting a bunch of rejections in return.  I'm fine with this.  But today one of the rejection notes -- which, like most others, was tersely written and signed "The Editors" -- also came with this:

"P.S. I really enjoyed reading this piece."

The heart leaps.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dateline: Clearwater

I'm in Clearwater Beach, Florida, for a few days to attend a conference.  The privilege of sleeping in a big pristine bed, uninterrupted by the cries of an anguished or surly ten month-old child, can't be overstated.  But it's definitely a little lonely here.  Today after 10 hours of conference activities I went for a walk on the beach -- jean cuffs rolled up, name tag discreetly folded over -- to watch the setting sun dissolve into the gulf.  It was beautiful, and also melancholy.  It reminded me of the solitude of my first year in New York, before L had arrived, when the city was the perfect place to languish in your loneliness. 

Since my last post, things have gotten much better with Alice, thanks in part to some quality time we got to spend when L had to work late or early.  The baby and I had a lot of fun clapping, playing, reading, eating, etc.  She will now feed you a Cheerio or a morsel of some other food if you ask her, and reinforce the request by opening your mouth and aiming towards her food.  I think this is the first real sign of generosity or compassion we've seen from her, and it's encouraging.  She's also just a lot of fun right now, with her endearing wobbly movements, her vocalizations, and her overwhelming cuteness.  I'm glad I'm back in the fold.  (I would also note we went through a low point when she fell off the couch and landed on her forehead, then proceeded to flip over.  I was a wreck on wheels that night, and being on Concussion Watch for the next two days wasn't fun either, but fortunately she is fine and doesn't hold a grudge.)

Not sure what else I have to say about Florida.  I've been eating a lot of grouper and key lime pie.  The people are friendly, and nice, and slow, and they seem unafflicted by the neuroses and chronic impatience that characterizes me and everyone I know.  Like most other places I go, I look around at the white beaches, and the broad sky, and the sweet pace of life, and I ask myself, why not live here?  Why not live and be happy here?  It seems like it could work.

Two more days in Florida, then back home to my ladies.  And my birthday.  Not a bad week.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

She's just not that into me

We're in a depressing little trough where Alice is just not that into me.  Not a lot of smiles, or interest, or engagement.  What I hope will be cute or funny usually turn out to be annoying.  I will try to tickle her or kiss on her stomach or something, and she tries to push me away, preening to the side to get away and find her mama.  Oftentimes I'll be holding her and her neck is swiveling around, trying to find L.  Once she spots her she lunges in her direction, grunting in a way that is one part whine and one part command, until I move close enough so that Alice can reach up to her.  Our touching family moments now consistent of Alice hugging L, while I hold on to Alice's lower body.  It's pretty pathetic.

I'm trying not to be bothered by this but it is frustrating.  It reminds me of the period when the baby would be at her fussiest when I came home from work.  To her credit, she has been fighting various viruses, infections and rashes for the better part of three weeks now, but I don't know what I have to do to get a smile around here.  It's a little discouraging. 

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Writing class

I'm now a couple weeks into the creative writing class I'm taking at the university.  This is a Beginning Fiction Workshop, and, being the only non-undergrad in the room, I am the oldest student by about nine years.  In fact, I graduated from college a year before the instructor did.

I remember, in college and grad school, what it was like when some weird, older person had somehow infiltrated the classroom.  It was very off-putting: a reminder of mortality and the inevitable passage of time that would turn our bright, naive minds, as well as our taut undergraduate bodies, into something older and more weary.  It was basically like the Grim Reaper had decided to enroll in the class. 

Well, now that symbol of time and death is me, and I prefer to think of myself as an elder statesman.  Perhaps it's because I feel fairly passionately about short stories and creative writing, but I find myself chomping at the bit to talk in class.  To be fair, many of my proposed comments fall along the lines of: "John Cheever!  Awesome!!" or "Alice Munro!  I kind of named my daughter after her!"  I wasn't like this when I was in college; now I'm just really excited to be there. 

So far I have loved the stories we've read, and the chance to really dissect them in class.  I've been familiar with much of the work we've read, but I've appreciated the chance to read with fresh eyes, and I'm learning more about amazing writers I haven't yet encountered.  The big advantage I have over the undergrads, I'm realizing, is those nine extra years I've had to read and live.  I do feel like I have more writers under my belt, and a little more life experience to draw on when thinking about stories or trying to write my own stuff. 

Not to say that I'm the hotshot in the class, although a part of me clearly wants to be.  I just love that now I have a sheaf of short stories to read during the week, and a creative writing exercise or story to mull over at any given hour, and a paragraph of instructor comments on last week's assignment to ponder and reread to the point of memorization.  I feel very thankful to have a space to really think about this kind of thing, and explore why I love it so much and why it is so beautiful and powerful.