Friday, December 30, 2005

A Kiss or a Stone?

"[Him] kissing your hand may make you feel very, very good but a diamond and saphire bracelet is forever."
--Lorelei Lee, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Catnap & Quail

My brain and my belly needed a rest after our large noontime meal. The plate of Christmas leftovers--brie en croute, crabmeat salad, roast venison, artichoke casserole, pickled shrimp, asparagus spears--were doing the Texas Two Step in my lower abdomen while my my head throbbed with invasive family questions. Par example:

"Exactly what page are you on in your manuscript?" (Dad)

"Whenrya' goin' to set me up with Paris Hilton? Y'all are tight, aren't ya?" (Cousin)

"What's a Bud on tap run ya' up there? Do they throw in the bar nuts for free?" (Uncle)

"If you have babies up in the City, they're going to turn out crazy. You know that, don't you?" (Sister)

"It's done when it's done, Paris is not part of my inner circle, I drink Sancerre--not Bud and procreation is the farthest thing from my mind at present. Y'all satisfied?" (Me)

Like I was saying, the chintz-covered couch had never looked so welcoming. Nap time. I dimmed the living room lights and removed all but one of Mamma's 2 dozen throw pillows, carefully stacking them on the coffee table. I had just nuzzled my head onto the shantung, poppy-red cushion embossed with an enormous pine wreath when a sudden




rang out from the fields. Silence. Five minutes passed--time enough to shut my eyes, ease my shoulders from up around my ears. Lovely thoughts crept into my mind... visions of Paris, Rome, Southern Boy feeding me oysters and champagne...




Damn it to hell. Quail season and the cousins were all home from college. New York's fire alarms, sirens and bickering upstairs neighbors had been replaced by the unmistakable sound of my cousins' shotguns piercing the still December air, echoing off the lake.

It's good to be home for the holidays. I think.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Carry-On

Today, I'm flying South for the holidays. My Christmas carry-on contains:
champagne, shoes, party invitations on proper Crane stationary, a blue silk dress for the family cocktail (in case Delta loses my checked luggage), Anita Loos' slim little book, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," three hard-boiled eggs and salted pecans for the layover in Memphis. Am I missing anything? I've got sustenance for the mind and body...that should cover it all.

Happy Holidays, y'all!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Far From the Emerald Coast, Age 25

For y'all that doubt my love of the South, for those of you that question my life up North, a re-post about living and being in both places.

I don’t like not being able to buy strawberries. Blackberries are, of course, out of the question. Avocadoes, peaches and blueberries—never. I suppose that I can no longer afford to eat anything with seeds: the strangeness of it all, in New York City. The roofs somehow grow trees. Husbands and wives sit up there, in the sky, on their chaise longues and patio chairs, reading the daily papers and yelling on their phones. Lower 5th Avenue is the best place to gaze upon these rooftop dramas. The old brown-bricked buildings reach up to the sky like aging men trying to capture the importance they once possessed. Distinguished columns, arches and gargoyles garnish the 9th and 15th floors. I imagine that the owners, like the gargoyles possess sloped foreheads and angular ears. They must be the same ones that buy iced pomegranate kernels at the corner deli.

I am twenty-five years old, you see, and I’m trying to make it my New York City but nothing is all good or bad or nearly as lovely and depressed as Joan Didion’s essays told me it was going to be. There is gorgeousness, sure—I see the silver spires of the Chrysler Building, the golden light cast by West Village brownstones, the water towers fading into Houston Street’s twilight sky. And, too, there are the sultry summer nights alone, children hoisted on shoulders begging for change—tiny Maharajas of the 6 Train morning exodus, boyfriends that leave you in the morning with nothing but lukewarm coffee and Top 40 radio songs. I submit to the city and to her humors—an older sister whose temperaments I can predict, yet whose personality I never quite understand—and I feel lost. Who am I and what is my place in the fabled city?

I know who I am back home, down South—close to the emerald waters of the Gulf, near Alabama’s cotton fields, amid the top-heavy pines of that border town that straddles Alabama and Florida. I am a daughter, sister, friend to most, offending presence to a few. But, most importantly, I am someone—my identity constructed for me from birth. They have always called me the sensitive one, the writer, the little blonde girl with the Mona Lisa smile, some thought always tickling my imagination. Life below the Mason-Dixon Line is warm, chaotic, indulgent and I have left. I want more. Rather, I want it all.

No friends, no job, no connections to the tight, concentric circle of the New York media world (not to mention my ignorance as to the cost of a pair of “7” Blue Jeans): this is how I have begun in the city. At least I have attained some of the trappings of the dream—a one year lease on a downtown studio apartment from where, if I look really closely, I can glimpse West Broadway’s majestic arched windows and pretty cornices. It is even better at night. With my lamps turned off and windows wide open, I watch and listen to the elegant shadows, the music and the idling town cars just a few hundred feet away. I am Nick Carraway mesmerized by the twinkling lights of Jay Gatsby’s grand party on the adjoining lawn. I want to listen to the melodies and the voices all night so I rig up the piece of screen Mamma sent from home (she’s scared I’ll die from a rabid mouse bite) and leave the windows wide and lie down, hoping for a dream-filled night. Eventually, sleep comes with distant ringing telephones and a Dire Strait tune…

And here I am again in this mean old town
And you’re so far away from me.
And where are you when the sun go down
You’re so far away from me, so far I just can’t see.

Morning. Another day. Another chance. I feel good—I still feel lucky. No one has yet turned down my green resume filled with nothing more than internships, scholarships and trips abroad. I can be anyone today. At the coffee shop across the street, a man makes me a $2 café au lait and informs me that his price is well under the going rate. I say that’s the price of a dozen oysters back home. He shrugs.

“Make the most of this place and then get the hell out, go back down to that place where you’re from. Trust me, love.”

Somehow, I’m not offended by his brusque talk because I know he’s right. I sweeten my coffee and move along—I’m holding up the line. Downtown is still asleep at 7:30 in the morning so I decide to take a walk—Bedford Street, Grove and all the rest of the nice ones—and don’t think about home, success or becoming a woman in the hard, hard city. Up and out, above and around me, the ladders and fire-escapes on the buildings’ facades cross and run together like honeysuckle vines on a garden trellis. There’s a brisk wind off the Hudson River and the smell of warm butter and eggs from the corner bakery. I’m scared and content all at once. The muddle of emotion must be what a woman intuits when she meets the man she will marry, what an expectant mother feels before the birth of her first child, what an aged lady senses when her time has come: hopefully, you’ve done everything right thus far. Consciously, you decide to let go, you decide to let life take you where you need to be.

I’m growing up, I think. Finally.

I throw away my now cold coffee into an overflowing wastebasket. The oversized cup lies atop a mound of yesterday’s trash: Michelob Light bottles, a crumpled pack of unfiltered Camel cigarettes, an old copy of the Post with a picture of Michael Jackson smiling—oddly serene, a Spanish-language advertisement to lose weight, “Pierda Hasta 15 Kilos en Dos Semanas!” At the very top, splashed with a stain of mocha and milk is a flier appealing to those lost or starting over or out of work. I stare at it and then I back away. My pace quickens. Across Bleeker, down Charles, over Hudson Street and then finally to the West Side Highway—all the way I hear the sound of last night’s black high heels “clippety clop, clippety clop” on the asphalt, the cobblestones and finally the cement. I’m running for many reasons and for no reason at all. The river is all I can think about. Silver half moons cap the Hudson, framing the sky and that seemingly far away world, the New Jersey shoreline. I wander if there is as much life, pressure and beauty over there. Surely not.

The steel railing that runs up and down the river is freezing to the touch, even in the warm, sticky breeze of a summer morning. I wrap my fingers tightly around it and watch my knuckles change colors. They are mottled white, pink and purple with anticipation and excitement. Why did I come here? What am I doing? Where will I go? I remember the vow that I made to my family when we went to buy sheets and plates and household cleaning supplies for the new apartment. “I promise to leave when the Bounty Drier Sheets run out. I’ll give up this dream of a big city life and a writing career, move back home and do something sensible.” I rationalized that without the drier sheets there’d be nothing left to soften the hard edges of my clothing, the seams of the city.

What I wanted, though, what I really wanted was to write books and create other worlds on the page. And then, with that, I would buy an apartment in the sky with enough room for me, my husband, his ego, our love, my ambitions. The thought of this makes me smile. I let go of the railing and watch a tug boat, slow and steady, course through the river. 8:30 a.m.—time to go back home, collect my resume and hit the Midtown streets with my thoughts and dreams in hand.

Accents, G-strings and Rum: Cocktail Hour Down South

Our initial descent depressed me. The dry, rust-colored Alabama hills were marred by winding clay paths, paths that didn’t so much snake around the curves of the knolls and valleys as they instead, made senseless turns, cross-backs and forks. Slow, faltering, lazy, just like the people, I thought.

It’s okay, I can say it—I’m one of them.

The book I had been reading slid through my fingers and into my lap as I stared out the plane window, saddened and transfixed. We hovered above the hills at the same altitude for a good long while, long enough to depress me… long enough to make me think of having 2.4 children and buying a 3-bedroom ranch-style house…long enough to ponder living in a city w. exactly 2 good restaurants… long enough to make me remember a few weeks ago back down South…

A friend had recently gotten married and invited Southern Boy and I over for drinks. Eight o’clock in the evening, we walk into her home, her palace, her reason for going to junior college and never crossing the state line. Brown wall-to-wall plush carpeting, a living room furniture set from “Haverty’s” and the smell of Shake N’ Bake pork chops wafting out of the kitchen greeted us. She and the husband scoot off in search of their last bottle of Myer’s coconut rum (yes—rum for an aperitif) and leave us to the delights of their living room. Wedding pictures, embroidered pillows and—what was this? What had they chosen for coffee table reading? Last year’s subscription to Playboy Magazine. January through December were fanned out to delight us—g-strings, lightening-shaped pubic hair, ass-shots, come-hither stares and all.

Southern Boy laughed. I grimaced. $20 martinis at the Four Seasons had never seemed so appealing.

Good God, get me back to the City.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


We’re a motley crue, four very unpredictable women that get together when the sun tucks behind the Hudson to…eat, drink, talk (men, writing, Gawker, Page 6 and the like). My birthday was no different. While some thought we were charming that night, our host Georgio de Luca didn’t quite know what to do with us. Well, in fact, I think he did know what he wanted to do with “Jolie NYC…”

My birthday at Georgio’s meant flutes of champagne, prosecco and beautiful little plates from the kitchen. A first snow had just dusted the pavement of Spring Street when the 6th bottle arrived. This was exactly what I wanted—a night like any other but, with a certain energy to it, certain people to surround me. I sat back and took in the scene, the stories that we traded around…

Bigger, better, more. “Opinionista,” “Mimi,” “Jolie” and I had moved to the city for all the obvious reasons. In our 20’s, ambitious, attractive, determined to find the only down-to-earth-hedge-funder-on-the-face-of-the-planet, we moved to the epicenter of it all. Then, something happened. Rather, many separate events transpired. Love, life, career—Manhattan-style—bit us in the ass. Our web musings chronicled it all.

Four women. Four anonymous blogs. Four scandals. One city.

The television journalist, corporate attorney, Cambridge-educated stripper and beauty columnist turn the island on its head and set tongues wagging with the daily web chronicles of corporate secrets and VIP loves. The gossip rags can’t get enough while the jilted lovers just want to get even. For their own protection and sanity, the women band together to take the city by storm… and take down the house.

“Georgio’s coming over again—should I tell him that we want more champagne?” Jolie asked me.


“Champagne, Birthday Girl,” Jolie said with a smile and quizzical look. “What’s going on in that blonde head of yours?”

“Nothing more than what’s at this table,” I said, smiling at her and then the others.

The credits rolled on our evening five hours later. The pilot episode had gone well. Now all I can hope for is that someone orders more episodes for 2006... maybe even bump us up to Primetime (perhaps "ABC," before "Desperate Housewives?")

I'd watch it. Would y'all?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


The one emotion that brought me to New York City, the one emotion that I must feel throughout my life:


What emotion must y’all have to keep going? More to the point, if hope is gone, what is its substitute?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Like Joan

Why can't we all just write like Joan?

“…quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean “love” in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person that ever touches you and never love anyone quite that way again. I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out of the West and reached the mirage. I could taste the peach and feel the soft air blowing from a subway grating on my legs and I could smell lilac and garbage and expensive perfume and I knew that it would cost something sooner or later—because I did not belong there, did not come from there—but when you are twenty-two or twenty-three, you figure that later you will have a high emotional balance, and be able to pay whatever it costs. I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month.”
--"Goodbye to All That," Joan Didion

That being said, I'm glad a certain Dallas Curow enjoys my daily musings...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Ms. Cynthia

"Be careful who you spend your time with. You can fall in love with anyone."

My childhood best friend’s mother, Ms. Cynthia, was the queen of such axioms. She uttered them in an unapologetic Alabama lilt and I believed her every word. During our carpools from ballet class to tennis lessons to Sunfish regattas and back again, I would drape my long, straight 12 year-old body over the center console of her Nissan station wagon and listen intently to her romantic wisdom, imagining the day I could actually put her advice to good use. I never thought I would lose my way. In between picking the perfect gentleman suitor—“not you or you, oh yes, you'll do just fine” (choosing a boyfriend, I had decided, was just like selecting the chocolate truffle with the preferred praline filling)—was an elegant world of charm bracelets, opera-length kid-leather gloves and tinkling ice cubes. Bliss was in arm’s reach. “All you have to wait for now, Belle,” I mused, “are breasts, a tube of Clinique ‘Almost Lipstick’ and a curfew past 7:30.”


My first year in the city and the breasts, lipstick and non-parentally controlled SoHo apartment were in place. I was ready for my Yankee prince. I was ready to be courted. I was open. I was soooo open…

And I was lost.

If a trainer at Equinox told me he liked my work-out pants, I would arrange cocktails at the Bowery Bar. If an Argentine busboy smiled and said, “Que haces, mi linda? Quieres tomar una copa?” I would meet him at “Novecento” on West Broadway for a glass of Malbec. Sleep with the men, no—that’s never been my style. Waste my time and my brain space on them? Yes. Between working at the news channel and going on terribly inappropriate dates, I somehow forgot about myself, my writing and dear, wise Cynthia.

Then, one day I stopped. I opened a notebook. I wrote down my thoughts, wisdom passed down, anecdotes. Cynthia, Granddaddy, Mamma and all the rest poured onto the page. It felt good, I felt good. Of course, I still need a little bad... maybe that's why I went with an old flame to "Scores" Thursday night...

"Be careful who you spend your time with. You can fall in love with anyone."

Friday, December 9, 2005

The Dinner (Part I)

I would take her out to dinner. Yes, that was it. The two striking blondes at a “Daniel” corner table. And, we’d discuss… We’d talk about the producers, someone’s penchant for pornography and the ensuing scandal, all the maintenance men going in and out of the dark editing rooms, shaking their heads. There would be that talk and then, maybe we could get down to business.

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Makin' Friends

Courtesy of my cousin in Birmingham, Alabama...

A girl from the South and a girl from the West coast were seated side by side on an airplane. The girl from the South, being friendly and all, said, "So, where y'all from?"

The West coast girl said, "From a place where they know better than to use a preposition at the end of a sentence."

The girl from the South replied: "So, where y'all from, bitch?"

Monday, December 5, 2005


There was no one to fasten my pearl necklace. I would be getting ready for some really big dance—to be held in some grand ballroom that my little town didn’t even have possess—and I would be stuck. Hair done up real big, reminiscent of Mamma living in Madrid going to dinner dances at the Ritz, a long, sapphire blue dress, the swish of silk stockings—still, I couldn’t leave the house because I was alone and no man was there to position my pearls, fit the delicate gold hook inside the filigreed clasp.

When I was five years-old, eight, twelve and then sixteen this was a reoccurring nightmare, my greatest fear in life: I would have no man to fasten my necklace. Then, I was seventeen, a junior in high school and onto much more important things. Why are you worrying about a damn necklace—not to mention a boy—when there are SAT’s to study for, college applications to fill out, an important life to plan, I chastised myself.

University. My liberal arts college left a bad taste in my mouth so I created a major that would allow me to travel the world. Every moment of every day was spent concocting a new plan that moved me from Buenos Aires to Aix-en-Provence to Bahia del Salvador and back again. No time to worry about being alone.

Then, New York City happened to me. I worked at a news channel. The environment, the people, my first winter—everything was cold. Thoughts turned back to that pearl necklace. Maybe I hadn’t been such a fool after all. Age five and I knew what was important. It wasn’t about being dependant, it was about being with someone you love to help you along the way.

35 degrees up here in New York today. Chef is next to me and pouring my morning coffee and placing a kiss on my warm cheek. No pearl necklace to speak of yet. We'll manage that bit later. First things first.

Sunday, December 4, 2005

Blind & Brave

"There's a certain power to naivete. You don't know what can be done and can't be done. You just go for it."
--Jeff Bridges, actor

Friday, December 2, 2005

Writing in Gotham


The enthusiastic words were printed on a worn piece of translucent computer paper, one thick crease running through its center, attesting to the thousands of sessions and people before me that had read the greeting. The paper, in turn, was taped to a finger-smudged glass door—the entrance to a fancy Gramercy Park elementary school.

This was my first attempt at any sort of post-collegiate organized writing instruction. I had dressed up for the occasion, deciding to wear a silk pencil skirt, fitted black wool sweater and stilettos. I can still hear the heels clicking on the linoleum floor of the skinny little hallway. I felt too tall, inappropriate—as if my head was going to pierce the corkboard squares of the low-lying ceiling. Cut-outs of 5 year-old hands decorated the walls.

With my usual healthy dose of egoism, I had placed myself in “Advanced II Creative Writing,” classroom cap, 15 people. Shit. There was going to be no blending in with the masses if the masses were a mere handful of people. Why had I chosen the advanced class? Why wasn’t I drinking a nice Cote du Rhone at “Pastis” on that blisteringly cold January night instead of affixing a nuisance of a nametag to my nice sweater? But, somehow, I maintained the broad smile, thanked the woman at the makeshift registration desk and pressed the “Gotham Writers” pass into the palm of my hand. Here we go…

I stepped in the door and it was like all the classrooms before and smelled like Elmer’s glue, worn wooden floors, chalk dust. The people, however, were much different. There were no overly-dressed, self-conscious twenty-somethings like myself. I quickly took in the group before me: a graying seventy year-old woman, a pocket-sized man in Converse sneakers and a bad leather jacket, several frumpy, middle-aged men, a tall, pretty woman with a strong face and broad smile, a strawberry-blonde in her early forties with a classic, unforgettable face (delicate silver jewelry on her ears, wrists and fingers). I felt silly in my SoHo get-up so I slid into some 8 year-old’s desk and began pulling out a multitude of pens, pencils, notebooks—anything to distract myself from the hell that was sure to come. Two minutes until class was to begin. The class grew quiet. Pencils sliding across desks, papers shuffling, one loud clock ticking…the door creaked open.

“I hope you didn’t come for praise,” the man’s voice boomed as he crossed the threshold and strode to the front of the class. He commanded attention and moved to sit at the teacher’s desk, but, certainly he couldn’t be the instructor, I thought. The man was gorgeous with a full head of curly dark hair, a perfectly pronounced Roman nose and chiseled jaw. “I’m not here to tell you what’s good about your writing, I’m here to fix what’s bad. If you have a problem with this, go back down to the registration desk and get your refund. Now.”

With a face like that, he could shred the chapters of my life story and I would still come to back for more, I thought. I settled myself into the miniature desk and began to imagine what our children would look like…

“You. What are you doing? I gave you a timed assignment.”

“Me?” I said, with widened eyes, still thinking of our blonde, curly-headed children.

“Yes, you. Five minutes and then we’re reading our passages out loud. Get to it.”

“Umm, sorry, get to what? What exactly was the assignment?” No one looked up from their furious scribbles except for the dwarf in red Converse.

“Throw the reader into the middle of a dramatic scene. No build-up, no preliminary, just action.” He smiled kindly and then hunched over his notebook with all the intensity of a physicist on the brink of discovering cold fusion.

“Thank you,” I said. And, then, I did it. I was hooked. I wrote a scene about my mother and when I went to read it aloud I almost cried. The intensity of our teacher, Peter, the dedication of my peers, the stories I had to get out, to tell to someone.

This was my day. The day I set out to become a writer.