Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Yesterday morning I gave some coins to a beggar on the subway. After saying no to thousands like him, yesterday I was moved to give. And he didn't have a sob story--he was rather soft-spoken, really, "God Bless Everybody", he said. "Sorry to bother you." He was a man, maybe a little older than I am, maybe my age, barely asking, though not ashamed. And it was the softness--of his voice, his tread, and his reluctance to intrude, that pushed me, almost immediately, into my purse for change.

Movies have ruined me for vociferous suffering.

In 2000 I stayed at my grandmother's house in Dayton, Ohio for a long weekend before I moved to South America for a year. It was a goodbye visit. My grandmother had, by then, been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the disease that would finally end what had been a difficult last chapter. By this point she was completely without her short term memory. I remember riding in a car with both my grandparents in Chicago during the previous year:

"Where are we going?" my grandmother asked.
"To Debra's house." My grandfather responded. Pause. Inhale--Exhale.
"Where are we going?" my grandmother asked again.
"To Debra's house for dinner."

And on and on and on during the ninety minute car ride. Eventually I started making up responses:

"To the beach, Nanny. We're going to Jamaica."
"To Renaissance Italy. We're going to luncheon with the Medicis!"
My grandfather was not amused by my tactics. He thought I was not being fair to her, by keeping her in the dark:

"She's in the dark, Papa," I said. "There's nothing you can do about it. You may as well do what you can to keep yourself from going crazy."

But anyway, that was before the cancer.

One night, during this goodbye visit to Dayton, I heard my grandmother walking around the house screaming, "The pain! The pain! The pain!" She was holding her ribs, grasping at the walls. It all seemed very dramatic to me, a bit 1970s Bette Davis. I said as much to my Aunt Kathy:

"She's dying, Ilana," she said. "It probably hurts."

Sometimes I suspect that I am such an asshole.

Friday, October 26, 2007


When I was a kid I could sit on the floor with my foot behind my neck.

When I was a young adult I could expect change from myself and others.

It's amazing how tight our bodies and our souls become with age.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


A personal assistant for a legitimately famous person should be able to get herself to a wedding without incident.

A personal assistant, organized as she must be to keep track of rehearsals and travel plans and poker games and Regis and Kelly appearances, in order to remember bologna-yes/lamb-no, that the light bulb next to the bed needs replacing, that Thursday is boss's sister's birthday, any personal assistant worth her swag would be able to bring a wedding invitation into the cab meant to carry her to the event. She would realize that brides say a lot of things in the course of planning a wedding. She would know that just because a bride says, "I am really mellow about the whole thing", or "It will be at the Beverly Hills Hotel", that doesn't mean it's true. A personal assistant knows this.

She leaves the hotel way ahead of time, our intrepid personal assistant, not because she may show up at the Beverly Hills Hotel only to discover that they have no record of the wedding in question, because she would know by checking the invitation in her hand that the Beverly Hills Hotel is not her destination. She would leave the hotel way ahead of time, looking effortlessly chic, just in case the wedding venue is miles and miles up a hill with few signs and no lights. She would never feel relieved when another guest waves down the cab from her car because she is also lost and late. Our P.A would never pay the cabbie and jump in the car with her boyfriend and this stranger so that she would not be the last to arrive at the event. She would have been there for many minutes before the ceremony began, of course. She would have had time for a drink. And a fresh coat of lipstick in the mirror of the flower-strewn powder room.

A hermit, maybe, a telemarketer might huff up the last few feet to the top of the hill just in time to see the windswept bride say "I do."

Not a personal assistant for a lauded movie actor. That would be ridiculous.