Sunday, February 18, 2007


If you could have three people living or dead at a dinner party at your house, who would you have?

This is the kind of question entertainment journalists are always asking celebrities. Having spent the last few years working closely with a celebrity, the question takes on a different meaning. I can imagine a phone call, "Hey, Manaster. Hank Aaron, Abraham Lincoln and Jesus Christ are coming to my house tomorrow night. Can you organize dinner? Jesus is a vegetarian, I think, but you should call his assistant and find out for sure. I don't have the number but I think George Clooney's assistant knows her..."

And I'd do it, wouldn't I? I'd call my boss's publicist who would track down Clooney's publicist, who would get me in contact with Clooney's assistant, who would put me in touch with Jesus's assistant, on whose voicemail I'd leave a sweet message asking about Mr. Of Nazareth's culinary demands. She would text me some hours later that Jesus is mostly a vegetarian, although he has a weak spot for lamb. Armed with this knowledge, and with the knowledge that my boss hates lamb, I would call a very good, but not too froo-froo caterer who I met at the premiere for my boss's last thing. She would be silent for a moment, thinking, and then a light would go off and she would suggest that we serve pizza and beer and salad for $95 a head. I would say, "That sounds great, I'll see you tomorrow night." And I would cancel my plans and hang in the kitchen while Jesus and Hank Aaron and Abraham Lincoln and my boss suck on hot cheese and talk sports and pop psychology.

I have dinner parties all the time, and nobody has ever asked me this question. Well, if you want something done right...

Ilana, if you could have three people living or dead at a dinner party at your house who would you have?

Hmm, a tough question, self. I'm glad you asked. I would have Iris Murdoch, Deborah Eisenberg, and Romaine Brooks. We would have fresh oysters and salad and alcohol by the truck load. For dessert there would be strawberry shortcake and coffee and more alcohol and a live gypsy band. We would laugh and laugh and laugh, and then we'd pose naked for Romaine who, giddy with drink, would paint us up as French whores.

It would be good fun. And I wouldn't call anyone's assistant.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Yesterday morning on NPR Brian Leher did a segment on "Most Memorable Concert". I thought I'd share mine...

In April of 1996 Radiohead played a show at the Metro, a small rock venue near Wrigley Field, in Chicago. At the time they were a band with one album and one song, "Creep". Their album OK Computer would be released in 1997, and debut at #1 on the UK charts. It would go on to win a Grammy for Best Alternative Album and be nominated for Album of the Year. Ok Computer was, arguably, THE album of the late 90's.

I went to the show with my cousin Sam and, as usual, some random girl. It was his idea to go. He would have gone without me I'm sure, but he didn't have a license. We took my Dad's Jeep Grand Cherokee. I figured I was heading out to see a band that was on the verge of obscurity. I assumed that I had caught them on a downswing--I usually don't get wind of things until they're over. I was looking forward to hearing "Creep".

Little did I know that I would never again be as cool as I was the day I saw Radiohead play the entirety of a yet-unreleased OK Computer for 100 people. That was it. My life since that moment can be described as a long party at my house, in my honor, with no guests.

It was an awesome show. We danced our asses off. We were all sweat and smiles and rock and roll when the band finally called it quits. We filed out with the rest of the lucky hipsters.

We parked across the street from the Metro at a hot dog stand called "Wiener Takes All". We took our time getting back to our car. We bought some cigarettes, had a hot dog and fries and talked loudly in superlatives about what we had just witnessed. Finally, we ambled towards our car. I asked Sam for the keys.

I had given Sam my keys, despite my better judgement, because I was rather hefty at the time and there was no room between my thigh and my pocket for a set of keys. I didn't want to take a purse into a rock show! That would just be stupid! Sam is built like a Barbie doll. There was room for a pineapple in his pocket. He wouldn't have to do anything with the keys, just hold them in his pocket until the end of the show.

A word on my cousin Sam: He got arrested on the day of his Bar Mitzvah for skateboarding on city property. If I have a knack for getting myself into scrapes, Sam has a full-fledged talent.

He crowd surfed. Of course! Who could resist the urge to climb onto the arms of this crowd while hearing this band at this moment in their careers? He crowd surfed. I stood there with my hand open, in front of my fathers locked, immobile car, watching Sam turn out his pockets onto the pavement. The knowledge of what happened descended upon us in the parking lot of Wiener Takes All like God did upon Jacob at Beth El.

Reader, you've probably guessed it. Sam lost the keys.

We dove back into the Metro and scoured every inch of the floor. We poked through cigarette butts and pot roaches, everything slimy with wet dirt and sweat and beer.

We could not find them anywhere.

I went into hysterics. I tried calling a locksmith but it was insanely expensive and I was an unemancipated youth. I tried calling my parents, but they were nowhere to be found. Sam's parents were also out. It was the father of the random girl, god bless him, who drove to the city and picked us up. He had quit smoking, I remember, but he chewed on cigars. The cigar on his mouth was flat and wet.

We left the car at Wiener Takes All until the next day when I drove in with my Dad and a spare set of keys.

I think we all felt like Wieners that day.

Happy Birthday, Sam!

Friday, February 09, 2007


...will get you in the end, won't it?

One must not be intimidated. One must not be cautious. On must use broad strokes and risk ruining everything.

And yet, I am often plagued with doubt. I often have a foot walking forward and another backing up. I want to sit, sometimes. Recline. Just to sit and play with the grass, make daisy chains out of life. I once wrote a monologue about a woman who spun the world's largest ball of twine, and once she'd done it, she couldn't think of what to do next. "Stop spinning? Why would I do that?"

I'm not being very concrete. All six of my readers may be confused. "Why so glum, chum? " They may ask.

Oh, nothing. I'm just trying to get both my feet going in the same direction.

Fuck you, doubt. I am superhuman. I am violent and strong and unpredictable.

I am a bluejay on a tulip in a field. I am an abandoned shoe in the mud. I am a baby.

Fuck you, doubt. I am youth.

Friday, February 02, 2007


To wake up too early and think of all you have not accomplished. This is New York City.

To wake up too early to the sound of your own insecurities. To the clicking of an old clock wound daily by your aspirations. To wake up too early knowing that you stand in your own way—like a dead body under the wheels of your car that looks just like you. You still have a long way to go. What are you going to do about the corpse with your likeness wedged under the wheels of your car? Some people are honking. Others are passing you by.

To wake up too early with visions of some movie you saw once. It is a movie about love and happiness and understanding. It is a movie that has some very fine performances, and memorable dialogue. It is the movie that is not your life, but which plays, nonetheless, in your mind at this too-early hour, keeping you from sleep.

To wake up too early, thinking of coffee.

To wake up at all, well, that in itself is something.