Wednesday, September 28, 2005

You Snort, We Decide

“Throw me a bone! Gimme a kidnapping, a boatload of drowning Haitians, a Palestinian suicide bomber—something!” I yelled at the Reuters news feed. I peeled off my smelly Banana Republic viscose cardigan and stabbed the “Enter” key with my leaky Bic. Blue ink trickled down the right side of the keyboard. “We need some news—there’s a 4:30 a.m. broadcast!” Aside from the frantic NYU intern, no one so much as looked in my direction. G. pored over the morning’s confidential memos sent down from the suits on “17” while the video editors watched soft porn on Cinemax and the geriatric editor snored to the audience laughter of “Saturday Night Live.” I glanced at my watch and then at the darkened breaking news studio that occupied the middle of the newsroom floor. Suddenly, the orange “Breaking News” light flashed at the bottom of my computer monitor—there had been a subway bombing in the 8th arrondisement. I quietly cheered for the dead and injured in Paris.

Three months into my gig at the News Channel and I was a changed woman. An unshakeable sense of realism (and fatalism) had replaced my reveries. Leaps of faith were well chosen, usually involving my personnel file. I also snuck in a prayer or two at the midway mark—around 5 a.m.—urging the gods of Reuters and AP to bring me a fine, headline-grabbing disaster. I’d cut out superfluous cries and bloodshed with the Avid, attach a menacing graphic or two and then slug the sucker with something catchy like, “Wet Willie: Ex Prez Clinton Visits Tsunami Victims.” I’d end it with a freeze frame of Bill eye-balling a busty native.

It was all a game anyway, right?

“Fucking ingenious,” my director chuckled once he woke up and saw my new segment. “Don’t get me wrong, this is all a shit show but, the ratings couldn’t be any better. Middle America loves infotainment.”

“Yeah, they also like cheap drugs,” G. said from behind me. I spun around to face him and the stack of memos he hugged to his chest. “I like to think that we're crystal meth for the average American out in fly-over territory. ‘You Snort, We Decide.’ Think the PR department would go for it?”

Monday, September 26, 2005


“Belle’s the only one with any sense in this God damned family!” Granddaddy bellowed to no one in particular. A turtle’s head popped up from the fresh water shallows of the lake, heavy, concentric circles marking its appearance. “Come and sit over here by your Pappy,” he said and motioned to the empty space next to him on the deck swing. I picked up the ridged Folgers coffee canister of fish food and sat down slowly, careful not to spill the brown pellets.

“You’re doin’ real well down at my paper, darlin’. Good thing because there isn’t another God damned thing that you’re qualified to do, no suh…” his voice trailed off and he took a sip of Scotch. He extended the glass in my direction, but I wasn’t thirsty. With me, he was frank: Granddaddy treated me like a man. “I think you should keep on, show these bastards how it’s done. Keep pluggin’ away and in another ten, fifteen years I’ll make you Editor-in-Chief. How’d you like that?”

I didn’t look at him. We faced the lake and drifted upward into the moist, twilight air and—just for a moment—I suspended disbelief and worries and everyday life. Then we came back down, the balls of my feet touching the wooden deck. I wanted to push us back up, I wanted to push for the both of us—

“I want you to spell ‘parallel’ for your Pappy,” he said, a smooth palm now resting on my forearm.

“Granddaddy, I know how to spell and I know that I could keep on writing for you but, I’m moving. I’ve made up my mind.” I looked over and his eyes were fixed on nothing and I pushed us back up because he was too old and too distracted to do the practical things anymore.

“I said, spell the word ‘parallel.”


“You’re goin’ to be the youngest editor that joint has ever seen,” he grinned, genuinely pleased, punching the air with his index finger. “They all misspell ‘parallel’—my reporters, editors, the boys in the back shop—”

“I’m moving to New York City,” I said flatly.

Granddaddy stopped the swing. The oak tree and its curtain of moss above us stopped moving. I felt dizzy.

“Let me tell you a little something about this place you’re so anxious to leave,” he began, pacing his speech and temper. “We are 1,200 miles south of Park Avenue for a reason. I decided to establish my family in this town because your Pappy likes being the boss, likes doing as he pleases.

“I see you at the paper and you’re the same way. I’ve always given you what you wanted, when you wanted it. Maybe your ol’ Granddaddy’s a patsy, I don’t know. But, I can’t keep on. If you go up there and leave me and the paper, things are going to get real hard, darlin.’ Your Pappy won’t be able to help you.”

“Don’t treat me like a girl,” I said.

“Damn it, you can’t just pick up and move away!”

He had a way of presenting the modern-day, American South as if it were 19th century Gallic society—albeit a bastardized version. For Granddaddy, it wasn’t just the pace of life or the rhythm of speech, but the social structure. Money wasn’t so much earned as it was inherited. Down here, wealth wasn’t acquired through brilliant ideas—it was maintained in estates and property. Staying in his good graces would be far more lucrative than chasing a Northern dream.

“Belle, God damnit, what are you going to do?” Pappy said, this time his voice betraying more concern than anger. “I’d try to give you a name or two but they all died on me, all my contacts are dead. That’s what happens when you get to be my age. There’s only one but, no suh… he’s so damned liberal I don’t want you knowin’ who he is,” he said and then drew a long, slow sip from his glass. “I gave him his first job—youngest beat reporter I ever hired—and now he’s up at the Grey Lady, chief of the editorial page. Think he worked his way up from the Village Voice or somethin’ like that, hell, I can’t keep track. All I know is ol’ Chris Randolph went and turned into a bleeding heart, Yankee Democrat on me. Can you imagine, in good conscience, livin’ like that?”

“The sun’s leavin’ us,” I said, knowing better than to press the subject. “Why don’t we feed your fish before it’s too late?”

I put the canister to the side of the swing and stood in front of Granddaddy, giving him my hands and forearms for balance. Our arms twisted together as only the young and old can manage to do and he pulled himself up to a standing position. I looked into those eyes, so full of quiet, blue secrets, and recognized that he was everything: I would never again be quite as whole.

He surveyed the water. “Now, I want you to look out for Nathan. He comes runnin’ when he knows there’s food. Yep, there he is—oldest, fattest bass in my lake. Greedy bastard, isn’t he? You know, I named him after that blood-suckin’ lawyer uncle of mine… Comes around at feedin’ time and then he vanishes.” Pappy scattered the fish food, wrist bent, fingers pointed in: for a moment, he was the King of Mardi Gras tossing chocolate and gold-foiled coins to the crowd.

“You love me all the time, don’t you Nathan? Not just when it gets dark and there’s no one else and you need to be tended to…” Pappy said softly. He tossed the ridged, metal canister into the grass and then reached for my hand. Together, we watched the last of the bass swim from the clear shallows into the deep green of the distant lake water.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Interview

Beep. “Bob, where are my scripts? Get the fucking scripts up to Studio A, now!” Beep.

The overhead intercom announced my arrival. It began screaming at the exact moment I stepped through the newsroom’s glass doors.

Beep. “You’re going to fuck me over in front of all of America, Bob. Bring me the scripts for the fucking “C” block.” Beep.

Young guys, about my age, ran past with scripts in one hand and cassettes in the other. They muttered to themselves about voiceovers and live shots, satellite feeds and when they could take their next cigarette break. Computers, television screens and maps of the Middle East crowded every work surface. Phones rang and rang and it sounded as if exactly two of them were answered. A quarter mile of madness stretched before me, one slender path cutting through its core. The racket was deafening. Swivel chairs and video carts obstructed the aisle; candy bar wrappers, empty soda cans and take-out containers littered the computer stations. Primary colored desktops and chairs lent the room an elementary air.

I had just sat down, crossed my ankles, when a tall, dark-haired woman approached me—it looked as if nothing could have parted her thin, maroon lips into a smile.

“Belle Lee?” she said in a flat, lifeless voice.

“Yes, ma’am, I’m Belle.”

“For God’s sake, don’t say ‘ma’am’ around me—I feel old enough as it is. Follow me into my office, it’s quieter in there. Oh, and my name is Cheryl Burke. I’m the Vice President of the newsroom, this whole mess you’re looking at.”

I decided right then and there that Cheryl never could have made it down South. It took five seconds and a limp handshake to determine her potential status below the Mason-Dixon. With her enormous shoulder pads and miniscule ass, she looked like a scrawny, 2nd string high-school football player masquerading as the starting quarterback. She was tense, charmless, overbearing. We stepped into her dry-walled makeshift office studded with plaques, certificates and crystal obelisks; the trophies tried very hard to justify her 6-figure salary.

“I understand you come from a news family,” Cheryl said with equal parts condescension and amusement. She held my resume at arm’s length, up to the light as if she were looking for stains (chewing tobacco spittle, barbecue sauce?). “Your grandfather’s paper is quite influential down there, down, uh…where is it again?” She sounded thoroughly bored.

“Alabama—Mobile to be precise,” I said, trying to maintain a smile.

“Right, right… So what brings you up here? What can the station do for you? Looks like you had a very comfortable place for yourself down there.”

“I want to be the anchor of the 6 o’clock news. I suppose you can’t do that working at a newspaper,” I said quickly, perhaps too quickly.

“Well, aren’t we ambitious?” Cheryl said, arching an over-penciled eyebrow. “Just a minute,” she said picking up the ringing telephone. “What now? Didn’t you hear what he said today in the quarterly? For fuck’s sake, Guy, no. It doesn’t matter if CNN is running it at the top of the hour. If drugs are involved we don’t run it.”

“I’ll step out,” I mouthed to Cheryl, pointing to a swivel chair out in the newsroom.

She cupped the receiver, “No, I’ll be off in minute. Stay where you are.” Completely unaware of my discomfort, Cheryl began screaming at Guy on the other end of the line. “Bush! Does the last name ‘Bush’ mean a God damned thing to you? I know that Noelle was arrested trying to buy prescription drugs. And so does the rest of America because the God damned liberals are wallpapering their broadcasts with her mug shot! Get another fucking lead story and call me back!” Slam.

“Now, the six o’clock news,” she began again, running a slender finger along her upper lip, wiping away the beginnings of a sweat mustache.

“That’s where I want to be in ten years,” I continued, trying to convince both myself and Cheryl that I was capable of pulling off this grand plan. “Quite frankly, Ms. Burke, the News Channel is setting the standard. I want to be part of a news organization that represents the majority of Americans. The Republican Party has a lock on the presidency, the House and the Senate for a reason—our country is fed up.” Cheryl leaned further and further over her desk, nodding in agreement as if I were a toddler about to utter my first precious word. It was almost too easy.

“And?” she asked, pressing for more, perhaps hoping that I would validate the headaches, ringing telephones, and cheap dry-walling that defined the newsroom.

“All I’m asking for is a chance—” I began, suddenly interrupted by the phone.

“What, Guy? Yeah, well, I’m sorry the anchor had a problem with our coverage. Tell her to go fuck herself and then come talk to me,” she said, nodding at the phone as if it were a person.

“Belle,” she said as she hung up the phone, switching back into interview mode, smoothing down her limp bob, “I like what I hear. You’re exactly the kind of person we need down here in the newsroom. Your background, your experience, your point of view—that’s what management and I look for. When can you start?”

It had all gone so quickly that I didn’t know what to say. She hadn't even checked my references. Of course, I would later learn that the News Channel never checked credentials--once again, too many man hours.


“Tomorrow it is. We’ll start you off working the night shift. Great place to gain experience, learn your way around the newsroom. Welcome to the News Channel. Now, get out of my office."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Outside Headquarters

The bold red font of the electronic “news crawl” wrapped around the building, disappearing into an adjacent Broadway marquee. Beneath the moving headlines was a pretty, frozen-faced blonde, playing in Technicolor across three enormous television screens. She looked out at me and the Midtown office workers, her over-glossed lips seductive, taunting. The eyes of T.J. Eckleberg, I thought; she’s surveying the emotional wasteland that is Midtown Manhattan.

Is that what I want—my face on the side of a building, my lips reciting scripts of tragedy, death and heartache? One hour before my interview: too much time to sit and wrestle with fate, stare up at the woman whose job I was supposed to covet.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Pedro Says...

"Everything that isn't autobiographical is plagiarism."
--Pedro Almodovar

Monday, September 19, 2005

Nielsen Before Pulitzer

“Always bury the lead. Always have an agenda. And, for Christ’s sake, remember that a real journalist considers Nielsen before Pulitzer.”

The Big Time

My producer, G., was juiced, sweating through his “Moody Blues, Tour of 89’" t-shirt and furiously drumming his fingers on the desktop.

“Belle, what am I going to do?” he whined. “You know this place busts my balls.”

“Ask to be transferred to dayside. You’ve been on this shift too long and the hours are killing you—you can’t keep it up.” I tried to focus on the computer screen and the breaking news updates but I was worried—the sweating, and the dilated pupils, scared me. Two hours into the overnight shift and he had made five trips to the bathroom.

G. shoved his hands into his pockets. I knew that the right side was where he kept it. He would finger the small, Ziploc bag in his trouser pocket and then take it out, play with it when he thought no one was looking. It’s as if he were a five year-old boy that had just discovered something hanging between his legs; he touched it just enough to reassure him, make him feel good. For a split second he’d be calm and his eyes would roll back in his head.

“Fuck me if Arafat died before daylight,” he blurted out.

“And then what? You’d get a raise based on the Nielsens’?” I asked, cocking an eyebrow.


Fact: working the overnight shift at a 24-hour news station means that you are new, incompetent or crazy. It doesn’t matter if you are the anchor or tech support, lower management has scheduled you to work the between the hours of 1a.m. and 11a.m. because upper management thinks you’re worthless, you can’t be trusted with the big stuff.

“What about the networks?” I offered. “Why don’t you leave cable news and go to one of the big three? Better hours, better pay…”

“Three marriages in nine years,” he cried.

I stopped typing.

“Did you hear me? I’m averaging a wife every three years. And, I’m supposed to be on top of my game? Give a shit about producing 90-second news cut-ins?” His enlarged pupils looked at me incredulously.

We all knew that the news room VP couldn’t stand him but, G. was staff. Staff (as opposed to freelancers) were never fired—too much paperwork and too many man hours for the fat cats on “17” to prove him incompetent. He was doomed to a career of graveyard shifts, distant time zone news, collapsed nasal passages. I stared at him and imagined his body slowly adapting to the lack of sunshine and rest, thriving in the dank newsroom air. Soon, he would resemble a blind sewer rat, a thin flap of skin covering his small, red eyes.

I sat back in my swivel chair and began rocking, back and forth, back and forth... We looked at each other and then I shifted my gaze to the Ziploc bag next to his computer. A single wrinkle cut into the otherwise taut plastic surface.

“What? What?” he said, grabbing my shoulders. “We’ve got shit for coffee in the Green Room. You think that’s the same stuff they feed Kissinger and Morris? Fuck no.” G. stood up and began pacing between a row of deserted workstations and the War Room. A string of clocks hung on the far wall: London, Paris, Moscow, Baghdad, Kabul, Beijing…

“We’re so proud of you workin’ up at that station in New York City—you’re at the center of the thinkin,’ conservative world,” Mamma had said at the end of our phone conversation. I liked the way she pronounced “New York”—all whiskey and whispers and silk bedroom slippers. Her accent imparted an exoticism on the city that otherwise belonged to those distant time zones on the wall.

“I just can’t imagine the wonderous things you see…”


G. dropped his bag of cocaine onto my keyboard: it sat upright, a stubborn, white giant on the keys. Letters danced across the screen punctuating the 3:30am news script.

“This might do you some good,” he said, smirking. “You gotta wake up, kid, this is the big time.”

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Off the "6"

(slow Saturday... back from the Upper West Side...)

“This is a Brooklyn-bound local “6” train,” a mechanized female voice announced. Her tone reminded me of the “Fox” anchors—detached yet seductive. I quickly stepped into the car, pressing my purse firmly to my side.

Everything about New York scared me then. Terrorism, tragedy, disaster—my reactionary news station had taught me to fear everything about daily life in the metropolis. One month on the job and I was programmed to believe in the worst. (We had the newsroom VP’s pager number just in case, rather, God willing(!), we Fox minions were accidentally at the scene, part of the calamity. “Gotta beat CNN in the ratings!”)

“Stand clear of the closing doors, please,” a stern, male voice continued, sounding like a wise uncle. The artery sealed and we lurched forward into the black belly of Manhattan.

I sat down in one of the few empty seats, crossed my ankles, risked a glance at the car. Directly across from my seat was a pair of hand-tooled, brown cowboy boots. The dark, denim legs attached were spread as wide as the back end of a set of pliers. I expected to see Robert Redford from the “Horse Whisperer” peek over the top of his Post. Mmmmm, handsome…The jumble of newsprint, the smell of the commuters’ coffee and cologne, the smooth plateaus of speed of the “6” train lulled me into a daze.

My eyes fluttered… My grip loosened…

What if I met my future husband on the subway? It could happen you know…
Maybe he’d be an expatriate Southerner like me, trying to make his way, find love, begin a new life… We might have to tell our kids a different story, though, tweak it a bit. Something more romantic.What about the “Waldorf?” Maybe we could claim meeting in “Peacock Alley” or in the Egyptian wing of the Metropolitan Museum. Yes, better, muuuuch more roman—

“Wall Street,” the sexy voice announced. “Next…”

I had missed my stop. I was leaving the island. The cowboy had left me. My purse was gone.

Ms. DuBois

"I don't want realism. I want--magic!"
--Blanche DuBois, "A Streetcar Named Desire"

Friday, September 16, 2005

Mornings on the "6"

I like to be alone in the mornings, take breakfast on my patio with chicory coffee and cream, “Ceci-Cela” croissants, the “New York Times.” An above-the-fold article, sugar, half-and-half in the mug, yeast and warmth in the air from “Vesuvio Bakery” several blocks away…

The waking hours are hopeful.

Fox News—and the overnight shift—didn’t allow me these quiet, expectant moments. Sometimes I’d walk from the News Corp. headquarters at 49th and 6th to Grand Central, trying to feel everyone else’s expectation and promise. But, I was already numb—the dark hours blended into the morning light. Gray.

Chignon unraveling, eyes dry and reddened from the dank, newsroom air, I boarded the subway for home. Professional New York was just beginning its day as I ended mine, heading home to an apartment with no curtains. Six fitful hours of sleep awaited me—my reward—until I had to wake up and do it all over again.

Hssssss. The “6” train opened and disgorged passengers onto the Grand Central Platform. I was unprepared. It was as if a steel artery had burst and the lifeblood of the city were rushing toward me, surrounding me in a hot, red pool of angst and excitement. Blue suits leapt up the steps two at a time. Head wraps, boys selling bags of M&M’s, folds of fat squeezed into tight blue jeans rushed passed my tired eyes.

(have to run to an appointment on the Upper West Side... will continue this afternoon!)


I’m 25 years old. I live in a 300 square foot box. I’m not gainfully employed. Yet, somehow, my sister, S., named me next-of-kin. I’m supposed to protect the little one (my brilliant, 2-month old niece) if anything should happen to S. and her husband. Where will I put the little bundle of molecules—in my tub? When I go for oysters and Sancerre at “Balthazar,” where will I leave her—with the coat check lady, hoping she won’t get lost in a mountain of mink?

A baby and Belle and New York City…

“You ever gonna have one of these up in the city?” my sister asked me as she lay in mother’s four-poster bed. Dozens of paper white pillows were stacked behind her, arranged to the side of her, on top of her. “Oh, come on, la vie metropolitaine and a baby of your own… you could teach it all those languages that you speak.”

She made a grand gesture, mocking me. Her arm gently descended on the pillow as her voice faded. Slowly, slowly… she almost fell into a quiet slumber before I had crossed the room. Pregnancy kept her eyelids perpetually swollen, the blue irises always searching for the next nap behind padded lids. Lying in that cavernous bedroom strewn with mismatched teacups and saucers, floral sheets twisted and discarded miles from the bed, yellowed book jackets waving like daisies under the fan’s breeze, she looked like a nymph in mother’s overgrown garden. I pried open the three windows that Zeola had been so careful to close and waited for a breeze. The scrub oaks and pine trees that surrounded the house and lake were still and lifeless. The azalea bushes drooped, sun-bleached and shriveled from the summer drought. Five hundred acres of tawny, overgrown grasses stretched before me. I wanted to cry and curse and sneeze all at the same time.

My life in New York was a sham, mother was a mess and the mattress atop the family’s fabled bed was fifty years old and full of dust mites.

“Do you think Mamma minds that I’m laid up like this?” she asked, her eyes still closed.

“She likes having people dependant on her—hell, look at Daddy. You don’t worry about a thing, all right?”

The bed was one of the family’s prized antiques, a golden creation of polished oak, delicately carved pinecones gracing each of its four posts. Having learned of S.’s pregnancy, Mamma decided that S. had to rest in that particular bed throughout the entire gestation period.

“Pinecones are powerful symbols of hospitality and warm reception. As such, we welcome this first, unborn grandchild into our family.”


I felt responsible for livening up her goose down and lace solitary confinement.

I had to rouse her; I had to play my role. The familiar pattern of our conversation would reassure me. Her brow did look smoother and her expression was more relaxed, even playful. The thought of leaving her like that, just so, crept into my mind. I walked over and pressed my palms against the slant of the roof above the dormer window. I stared out the glass panes and squinted.

“What does today’s sunlight remind you of? Can I tell you what I think of?”

“Tell me, lil’ one,” she said, her voice assuring me that things were good this morning. We both had moments of ease, days of madness. Mamma called it an imbalance of humors (“...too much damn Tabasco sauce when I was pregnant with you two girls”). Slowly, my sister smiled and tilted her head to the side. A hand rested on her large belly and she submitted to the morning light, allowing its warm rays to rest on her broad, ivory cheeks.

“Duh duh duh da!” I held up my arms and turned my torso toward the window, to the door and finally to my sister in bed like a gymnast saluting the Olympic committee. “For my very privileged audience of one, in list fashion, I give you, ‘Morning Light!’ Chicken feathers, fresh laundry, Mamma’s golden arm hair, the sheen of a fresh catch of grouper, the reflection pools outside the courthouse and last but not least, the glow of my lovely sister’s smile after giving birth to a beautiful baby girl!”

She gave me a smile, broad and lazy. She was good, I was good—we were both trying very hard to be good in the white, morning sunshine. I stepped toward the window again and looked out.

Decaying grandeur.

I kept my eyes on the property and waited for Miss Havisham to walk up the flagstone.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Fox News Channel

At 22 I began working for Fox News Channel. I idolized Sean Hannity and longed to be Laurie Dhue so I put up with the grunt work, minimum wage, leering, middle-aged producers (not to mention Bill O’Reilly’s roving eye). The environment was toxic. A few months under the thumb of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes and I had undergone a crash course in personal compromises, professional concessions.

I hope to never be in such a position again.

Ahh, but Fox News was good for a story or two...

A Sentence a Day...

"All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know."
--Ernest Hemingway, "A Moveable Feast"


I’m alone with my thoughts, a Pacino film, a plate of gorgeous, roasted peppers, a hunk of Manchego, a glass of Spanish rose’. I’m not wearing two coats of mascara or a hint of perfume; my neck smells of nothing more than Dial soap. My face is bare, exposed—the shoulder-length blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail. Tonight, I didn’t worry about purses and panty lines and lipstick on my teeth. The white tank and terry cloth slippers suit my couch just fine—

Two mice just darted across the kitchen floor, ducked into the radiator.

Never had to worry about those down South… but, it’s all a trade-off, right? I’ll take a mouse or two if I can keep my foreign film theatres, fresh ravioli store, gilded reading room at the 42nd Street library, off-Broadway plays, run-ins with Benjamin Bratt in Union Square, wine bars on Clinton Street, midnight writing classes, evenings on my terrace with quirky neighbors.

Tradeoffs, tradeoffs, tradeoffs…is this what adult life is all about? Is “having it all” a myth concocted by Hollywood? When I was in high school, I would run down to the bay, stare across the dark brown water until it reached the green of the Gulf. I told myself that I would do it all, have it all. There was the journalism career, wealthy husband, apartments in Paris and Rome, famous friends… the list went on and on.

Mamma made concessions. She quit a successful career in journalism to take care of four kids—me, my two sisters, my father. She left her typewriter (yes, back then they used typewriters) for the stove, the washing machine, the neighborhood bake sale in July. No more trips to her favorite castle in Ireland or to the tapas bars of Madrid. The life she knew ended so her family’s life could begin. I vowed that I would never give up anything (Me! Me! Me!); “compromise” was not in my vocabulary.

Now, I concede more. Instead of a helicopter out to the Hamptons, I take a commuter plane back down South for a slow weekend of dinners by the lake, babies, walks around the farm. I have a five o’clock toddy with my grandparents instead of champagne with the Italians at “Da Silvano.” I visit Southern Boy in Birmingham instead of telling him to come to the City. Is this growing up or am I on the slippery slope to forgetting about me and remembering the needs of everyone else?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Young , Worshipful Beginner

"…[New York] is still a city that calls to his ‘young, worshipful beginners’ from the Corn Belt and Mississippi…”
–E. B. White

Celibate in the City

Sex. Lots of it. According to the lead story in the “New York Post”—and my father—we Manhattanites are doing it, and quite frequently.

“Are you kidding me?,” my father taunted my mother during one of our annoying, three-way phone conversations. “EVERYONE is doing it up there—EVERYONE,” he intoned with undeserved authority. What does he know, tucked away in their mountain house, high atop the Blue Ridge Mountains? And, moreover, why aren’t I experiencing any of the fabulous coitus down here in the nether regions, in the tip of the island of Manhattan? I have my theories…

Sex oozes from the over-priced loft windows high above Prince Street, from the “Wolford” hosiery store on Greene (the mannequin almost always sports a thong and sheer chaps), from the picture window of “Olive’s” bakery where, every morning, the counter guy (and girl) follow my body a full city block with their lusty gaze. The City itself is sex. Engaging in the act would be excessive—a sensory overload.

Last night, I had a lovely dinner at “Giorgione,” one of my favorite haunts near the Hudson. My friends and I sat in the front, by the French doors, to feel the evening breeze, steal glimpses of the moon-lit river and—most importantly—to people watch. We had barely taken a sip of our Sicilian white when a pregnant Christy Turlington and her husband, Ed Burns, walk in the door. Christy cradled her belly—fertility goddess incarnate—looking content and lethargic. Ed smiled at her, looking smug, satisfied, accomplished. He then proceeded to stare down every breast in the restaurant. Just as they were seated at a banquet table, David Schwimmer came in. Handsome… humble…demure… was this really the $1,000,000 an episode sitcom star? Then, the hostess paraded him past a bevy of New York beauties. He puffed out his chest, threw back his shoulders. If I had looked closely enough, I would have seen his pupils dilate, his nostrils flare.

New York City.


Sip of wine.

Before I could decide between the asparagus and ricotta ravioli or the pear and pecorino risotto, G., the restaurant owner, tries to kiss my neck, invite me on his next trip to Ipanema, extend an invitation to “do some party favors” up in his penthouse. It’s all too much and not enough.

“Celibate in the City.” Do you think HBO would buy it?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Craving and Contentment

Manhattan, Birmingham. Manhattan, Atlanta. Manhattan, Pensacola. I’ve flown between my two worlds—North and South—too many times this summer. I forget why I go from one city to the next…why I choose one over the other…why I leave my sister, newborn niece, mother and everyone else for an empty apartment in SoHo…why I set aside my martinis at the Four Seasons for fried food and flat beer…why I kiss Southern Boy good-bye and fly back to a city filled with egos and pretention and frenetic brilliance. I’m happy everywhere and nowhere.

Why did he and I have to meet while we’re still so young? This isn’t the path I planned. Our careers are supposed to be fixed, successful, lucrative and we should be in our thirties with many more relationships under our belt. We should want the same things. Instead, we’re both 25 and very green and undecided about everything except for love.





Will we ever find our place?

I come back from my trips down South feeling more grounded and real. In a way, I feel cleaner. Greed and flash are in the past, I tell myself. But, then, I have box seats at the US Open, silk skirts brushing past me in the Bryant Park tents, dates that try to kiss me during the sticky, midnight cab rides downtown.

The poison—and the beauty—of New York City is choice. La Guardia will fly me anywhere. 9th Avenue restaurants will feed me anything. Madison Avenue will sell me the world. The people in the bars and lounges and coffee shops will let me be any woman I want to be. But, has the time come for me to be one person, with one man, with one grand life plan?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Money Laundering and Me

A mere three days north of the Mason-Dixon and I receive a phone call from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. A man that had once pursued me—namely inviting me to Madonna’s Christmas party—is now being investigated by the state as well as the Federal Government. He’s being charged with fraud and money laundering. They confiscated his telephone and computer records and found my name. I’m to testify against him—or something along those lines. It’s all very “Law & Order” and I feel like a duped Bridget Jones.

I’ll keep y’all posted…

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Southern Anniversary

Very sorry for the blog hiatus. I had family members and meals and Southern Boy to tend to back down South. But, I’m back in the city, sitting at my usual perch (the kitchen table), looking out at the pretty cornices of West Broadway, ready to write.
Two months ago… I had never felt the warm weight of your body a top mine… You didn’t blush and laugh quite as often… My cheeks didn’t burn from hours of kissing… I didn’t know that there was someone out there to make me dinner, hold my hand, bless the food and our friendship… You couldn’t begin to spell ‘principessa’… I had never considered a white jacket, black piping to be erotic…Neither of us had smiled quite as much… I didn’t close my eyes and whisper little sentences to someone above, thanking him for surprises and fate and men with sweet souls…