Thursday, February 28, 2008


I loved this...keep an eye out for the lady in the laundromat towards the end of the video. It's a nice touch.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


By Gregory Stuart Edwards

I tend to vote. I pretty much obey the law. I have thus far refrained from open insurrection against the government. Contrary to the fancies of a particularly obstinate IRS agent a couple of years back, I have always paid my taxes. And I was born in Iowa. So maybe I’m not a Great American, but I like to think I’m a Decent Enough American.

By and by, the State of New York determined to test this premise. A little more than a month ago, I received in the mail a pink perforated summons to report for jury duty at the Supreme Court in downtown Brooklyn. My friends reacted with great sympathy; I got a lot of “man, that sucks” and “lemme tell you how to get out of it.” But I, awash in civic virtue, and convinced of my essential decency, never once did entertain the preparation of a series of excuses and/or prejudices which would disqualify me from service. This was my duty as an American, dammit; I was no dodger.

I can recall a moment way back in 1991, when the country was busy cheering on Iraq War Part I, and there was some widespread consideration given to the prospect of reinstating the Draft. The subject somehow came up in my high school French class, and I remember my teacher suggesting that, should the Draft come back, John — the only other male in the class — would readily head to battle, whereas I would most likely flee to Canada. I took great offense to this notion — despite its implication that I was smart and John was a meat-head. Go to War? Of course I would go to war! I was a 17 year-old male, flush with testosterone, and my universe divided neatly into three distinct categories: boring stuff, stuff that gave me an erection, and stuff I wanted to blow up. Going to war promised to remove me from the first and provide me a great deal of the third, with the prospect of a great deal of the second upon my triumphant return from battle.

Seventeen years on, my carnal and destructive appetites have become a bit more manageable; however, I have discovered in adulthood an entirely new desire: the desire to Judge. With my many years of experience as a human being, I was anxious to display my abundant wisdom in rendering the most impartial and well-reasoned of verdicts. Not only was I not going to try to get out of jury duty, I told people, I was smugly certain that I was going to get picked to serve on a trial.

I will now tell you the Great Untold Secret of the American Judicial System: no sane person — NO ONE — actually wants to sit on a jury. In fact, were I asked to define the term “jury,” I would say, “a collection of citizens held against their will, and forced to arbitrate the problems of complete strangers.” This is not, however, to suggest that other individuals summoned to serve will expend the same amount of effort to get themselves disqualified. Some people receive full salary for time spent in the courthouse; others genuinely hate their jobs. And then there’s me: someone who both enjoys how he ordinarily spends his days, and receives no money whatever for time missed from work, yet for reasons of vanity concludes that he must serve.

In brief, my jury selection went like this: I showed up in court at 8:30am last Tuesday, sat in the Central Jury Room until noon, then got called in as part of a group of about 20 to a cramped “empaneling room.” Three lawyers had us fill out questionnaires, then we broke for lunch. When we returned, the attorneys questioned us all in turn as to our impartiality. The more savvy and ballsy of us either (a) said straight away that they could not be impartial, (b) claimed to have specific knowledge of the details of the case, or (b) pretended to not speak English. All strategies seemed equally effective. Two and a half hours of questions later, simply by dint of having not tried to get myself off the jury, I was sworn in as Juror #3. I was sent home, and told that the trial would start the next day.

The trial did not start the next day. Neither did it start Thursday. Nor Friday. We selected jurors were, however, required to report each day, and sit around doing nothing. Our group gradually gravitated to the so-called “lounge” area, so as to avoid the hoi polloi in the Central Jury Room. And the griping began. Griper-in-chief was a fifty-something woman who was the only person in our group to have served on a trial before, so she knew that we were in for a bunch of bullshit. Periodically, she would bring our group complaints (e.g., “we’ve just been sitting here for days; no one has told us anything; we’re all very angry”) to the Empaneling Clerk, who would laugh in her face, and say that we were basically screwed: We were on a trial involving the City of New York, and the City liked to drag these cases out.

On one of these occasions, the Clerk let loose something else. The Griper was explaining again why it was impossible for her to be on this trial (something to do with her vacation days), and he replied, “Look, the only person who can get you off this trial now is the judge, and he’s probably not going to do it for that reason.”

Ah-ha… So, it was still technically possible to get off this case. You just needed to convince the judge. I went home that evening and googled information about serving on a jury. One page that came up explained that a juror can ask the bailiff to present the judge with a written note, requesting an audience. But what would the note say? Obviously, a mere explanation that jury duty was bad for me wasn’t enough. I would need to explain why me being on the jury was bad for the case: I would need to declare in open court that I could not be impartial, that I was not even a Half-Decent American.

But was this actually true? I reasoned thusly: As a freelancer, being on this case meant both lost wages, and potential endangerment of future earnings. Given that this was a civil case, with a plaintiff seeking financial compensation, my determination of a reward would be influenced by the fact that it would have come at my own expense, so to speak. I don’t know and will never know if this would have been true; I do know that I had started using the name of the plaintiff as a curse word.

Monday morning, my jury was finally moved upstairs to our official trial jury waiting room. I had come in with a printed letter to the judge, which I gave to the Court Officer. About 15 minutes later, he brought me in alone to the courtroom.

I walked in through the jury door, and nervously stood in the box. I know there were a number of other people in the room, though my vision seemed to tunnel in on itself. The lawyers were there, the court reporter was there, there was a woman seated in the spectator’s gallery. The plaintiff and defendants may well have been there, too. I don’t know; I was having trouble just focusing on the judge.

He was a sixty-ish Jewish man with thick glasses and a serious Brooklyn accent.

“Why didn’t you state your problems earlier?” he asked.

“Because I was just answering the questions the lawyers asked. I wasn’t trying to get out of it.”

“But if you had said something earlier, we could have gotten another juror.”

“I know, your honor. I’m sorry. I’ve never been on a jury before, and I thought it was my duty. But in the last week, I’ve lost two jobs because I’ve been unavailable.”

This went on for a few minutes, just so he could be sure I knew just how much of an ass he thought I was. Then, the questions turned to the other jurors. Did they know I was trying to get off the jury? I said I suspected they did. Had I discussed the note with any of them? I said I had not. The judge was obviously concerned that there would be a bum-rush of jurors with notes all trying to get off the case. He winced and shook his head at me, then told me it would be taken care of… and not to talk to any of the other jurors about this. I would corrupt them. I was a Rotten American.

I returned to the jury waiting room. The other jurors asked how it went. I shrugged my shoulders. Ten minutes later, we were all called into court, and told that the trial wouldn’t actually start until Monday. I felt better about my note.

Within another 15 minutes, I had received my discharge, and skipped down the courthouse steps. I felt deliciously free — reminiscent of how I felt upon my high-school graduation. I had weaseled my way out of my civic duty after all, and it felt great.

Vive le Canada!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I know, I know. But I've been ill, seriously. And I'm still waiting for that guest blog, Gregory.

Tuesday night some friends of mine had a baby. I went to see them the next day...the hospital is a block away from my house and I was home anyway, making pork tenderloin with tomatillo sauce. How much do I love matinee day? Boss is onstage, I am...left alone.

So, I walk into the hospital room. I am the first to visit--it's Wednesday, after all, people work--and there they are: the happy couple and their new baby. They started telling me the story about the water breaking, rushing to the hospital, the triage nurse getting a handful of amniotic fluid. There were med students, intense pain, tearing and vomiting--the works. Thirteen hours later, there is little Isaac.

I looked at my friends. They looked happy, sure, cuddling in with their new little ankle biter. But mostly they looked absolutely spent. My reaction, far from the expected, "Oh! I can't wait to have one of my own!" was rather more, "Jesus Christ, what an ordeal!" It really did seem very unpleasant.

We'll see how I feel when the kid starts talking.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


From a NY Times review of the Julian Schnabel retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1987:
These works suggest that Mr. Schnabel's primary gift may be very different from what it has been generally thought to be.
Schnabel made a ton of dough in the 80's during that Mary Boone era, the artist as rock star era, when Jean Michel Basquiat was in a Blondie video, when people wore Vivien Westwood and piled into bathroom stalls two and three at a time in places like Max's Kansas City and the Tunnel and Mr. Chow, to hoover cocaine and comment on each other's fabulousness.

At least, that's how I imagine the era from pictures and movies and books like "Bright Lights, Big City" by Jay McInerney. I wasn't there. In 1987, when Schnabel was already established enough to have a retrospective at the Whitney, I was nine. I was busy deflecting mockery for my backwards shorts (I always had trouble with shorts) and sneaking around the neighborhood with homemade maps pretending to be teen detective Encylclopedia Brown.

But back to Schnabel. The thing about Julian Schnabel is that his rise was the most meteoric, his paintings the most expensive. He didn't have the dignity that comes with early death (Basquiat, overdose, Keith Haring, AIDS), so there he was, rich as a sultan, as his famously broken crockery-enhanced paintings mocked from the walls of upper east side townhouses, huge and dark and, if I may be so bold, ugly. He compared himself to Picasso, he walked around in pajamas. Maybe it all came too easily for him, or maybe there was a kind of buyer's remorse. It's like digging up an old Cabbage Patch doll and thinking, "My mother waited in line, all that time, for this?" In any case, the critics turned against him. Schadenfreude ruled. People wanted to see this cocky artist, this rock star; they wanted to see him disappear.

And for awhile, he did. And then he started making movies.

Last night I saw The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a movie about a glamorous man at the height of his career, who suffers a massive stroke that leaves him unable move or communicate except through the movement of one working, blinking eye.

A movie about one blinking eye, and I was completely transfixed. The visual quality of the film, a kind of love poem to the power of imagination and memory, spoke to me and my own experience, despite its apparent departure from the experience of this poor blinking frenchman.

Glamour struck down, reborn as something more human, more sublime. There is an understanding that comes with failure.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Could it be that we are beyond feminism? Beyond racism? Could we have reached the moment when a person is to be judged based on his/her suitability rather than by gender or race? It seems to me that Obama believes we have, and Clinton (or Rodham Clinton, as it were) believes we have not.

Yesterday a friend said to me, "But blacks could vote before women could vote." The more I consider this argument, the stranger I think it is. This same friend argued that it was because of her being a woman that she was forced to vote in favor of invading Iraq. I have been a woman my whole life, and of the difficulties I have faced as a result of that fact, I have never counted the opportunity to make sound moral decisions among them. Whether or not I took advantage of those opportunities was a question of my relationship with my own self, and not with the world, whatever its bias.

Some have argued that Hillary's feminism is blown by her attachment to "her husband's flapping coattails", and although I believe it is a valid argument, (We are all very familiar the ex-president's embarassingly paltry respect for women), my issue is with the hearts and minds of we voters who consider ourselves to be progressive. We have a responsibility to take our collective civil rights movement to the next level, by voting based on who we believe to be the best candidate, and by no other considerations of a person's race or gender. African Americans, women, Mexicans, Chinese, what have you, all deserve that kind of consideration.

I promise to let go of these politics...seriously. Stay tuned for a guest blog from one Gregory Stuart Edwards, which should go live sometime today or tomorrow.

Happy Valentines Day! What a day for feminism, right? Nothing like exchanging heart shaped boxes of chocolate and tennis bracelets for sexual favors to really take down the patriarchy!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


But I am politically obsessed right now, making it nigh impossible for me to talk about anything else. I have a friend who is a die-hard Giants fan. He reads everything on the Giants, their website, news sources, blogs. He has a serious presence on their fan site. I think my relationship to my candidate has morphed into this fan/home team dynamic. I can't refresh websites fast enough. I pace around, waiting for election results, scouring the web for something: a poll, campaign drama, unjustifiable opinion. I DON'T CARE.

I think the ones who understand this best are Andrew Sullivan's dogs.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


  1. The designer bought a little analog travel alarm clock. Immediately rejected. Too small. Not digital.
  2. I bought this Philipe Starke alarm clock/radio/barometer. He couldn't figure out how to set it.
  3. I went to Pottery Barn and bought a big oversized digital alarm clock. It was too dark. He complained that he couldn't see the numbers.
  4. I went to a fancy audio store near his apartment and bought the nicest clock they had. It has seriously killer sound. He couldn't figure out how to set it AND the numbers were too small.
  5. Feeling desperate, I called the L.A. assistant for the brand and serial number of the clocks he uses in B. Hills. At last he seemed contented, until one alarm went off in the middle of the night, he couldn't turn it off and when he unplugged it, it continued to sound due to battery backup. Eventually he pried the batteries out and threw them against the wall, undoubtedly pretending the wall was my face.
  6. Finally, I purchased this timex alarm clock. No radio, no dual-alarm setting. Just alarm, clock, and an on-off switch on the side. He seems to like it...for now.

Muah ha ha ha ha!

Friday, February 08, 2008


For tips on how to host a great bar party, see previous post. For mindless pictures, see below.
(Please note the pink-topped cupcakes and the pink brittle-filled chinese takeout container. The devil is in the details after all, fair readers...)


Thursday, February 07, 2008


The last weekend in January, I celebrated what some might call a milestone birthday. I am a lady, so I will refrain from mentioning a number, but suffice it to say that I am officially too old to have an ironic haircut. To commemorate my aging, I did what many a city-dweller who is without the square footage necessary to stuff 35 or 40 of his/her closest friends with food and drink is wont to do, I hosted a party in a bar. Based on the things that really worked about my party, as well as a couple of elements that could have gone better, I developed a guide to hosting a bar party that will be a memorable one for you and your guests. The key issue to keep in mind is that people hang out in bars all the time. You want this to feel different than just another Saturday night in a bar.

1. Screw Evite
I'm sure there was a time when the Evite's snazzy graphic design and open call for cleverness got our party-going hearts a-flutter with anticipation, but the sun went down on those days at about the same time that Enron went under. We don't want to click a link to see the party details, we don't want our response to be available to all invitees, we could care less about the pink background and japanimation-style martini glass you chose as your template. It isn't dignified, honestly. I'm not saying snail mail, that's a bit drastic, but there is much to be said for a well-worded email. Say something nice about how much you look forward to seeing everyone...speak clearly and from the heart. Your guests are much more likely to respond to an email than post on an Evite.

2. Location, location, etc.
This is a tough one. I went to about 5 bars looking for the perfect spot for my party. (Hello Pub Crawl! Get that celebration started early!) I knew that I wanted something that felt festive, but wasn't too loud. I sent out my emails early, before I knew where the event was going to take place, so I knew roughly how many people would be there. Ideally, I was looking for a bar in Brooklyn that had either a private room or a reservable section (necessity for party atmosphere) where 35 people could comfortably hang. I checked Time Out, New York Magazine, and asked my friends.
I ended up choosing Royale Brooklyn, a gorgeous dive/lounge on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope. I went with a friend and loved the vibe. I called the manager the next day and he let me reserve three banquettes in the back room for free! He told me the DJ got started at 11PM, so I called the party for 9 so that we might have some time to booze and chat before the party got too raging. Just how raging it would get, I didn't know, which is why I recommend feeling out your bar of choice on the same night that your party will take place. A Thursday is not a Saturday is not a Tuesday, as I would find out.

3. Dinner
Many birthday boys and girls feel compelled to reserve a table at a restaurant for fifteen or thirty of their closest friends. This, in my mind, is a mistake. First of all, your closest friends probably don't all know/like each other. Second, anybody who has ever paid $45 for a green salad knows that splitting a bill fifteen ways is no fun at all. I had a table for seven at Fragole, inviting close neighborhood friends who knew each other. Believe me when I tell you that no one was upset to be left out of dinner. (Side note: If you find yourself at Fragole, and I certainly hope you do, you absolutely must have the Insalata Rustica. The mozzarella is so fresh, it's practically still milk. The grilled calamari is also scrumptious.)

4. Treats
Now, some of you may shake your heads and call me Martha, but I believe that putting out some homemade snacks in an attractive container goes very far for making a bar-party more party, less bar. I went to Pearl River and bought pink and gold Chinese takeout containers (to match the pink and gold bar--I know, I know), and filled them with homemade sweet and salty nut brittle. This brittle is really easy, and everybody loves it, seriously. Then I bought pretzels and this chipotle-lime popcorn and--voila! Bar snacks with class. Bring anything, homemade or not, and it will bring your party together.
I am not a baker, so I asked my friend Melissa to handle the birthday pastries. She showed up with about 1000 teeny tiny chocolate cupcakes with pink buttercream frosting designs on the top. They were delicious and so so cute. If your friends have talent, for chrissake, take advantage of it! That way they get a chance to shine too. Melissa, if you read this, I would love if you could put the recipe in the comments!

5. Activities
Remember being, like, six, and going to a birthday party where there would be all sorts of games planned? Well, what the hell is wrong with that? Now that we're adults, that doesn't mean we're immune to boredom! I brought a polaroid camera, a shit ton of film and a bunch of pens. I made all of my friends take pictures and tape them into a book (It was a blank notebook made out of a Debbie Gibson album cover. Am I your hero or what?) and write messages. Polaroids are really fun. And the messages, especially as the night wore on, are priceless.

6. Plan an after-party destination
Hey, remember how I mentioned how little I knew about a Saturday night vibe at Royale? Well, by about 1AM the place was jammed to the point where a conversation was impossible. This would have been the perfect time to say, "Okay, team, we're falling out to such-and-such down the street! Follow me!" And I could have grabbed the brittle and beat it. That is what we ended up doing, in the end, but about half an hour later than we should have. A lot of people went home. The after-party was a lot of fun anyway, a wonderfully quiet end to a rockin' evening. It's always good to leave your guests wanting more, right? The one person I would say didn't want more was my friend Balki (Emily). She ate seven cupcakes and two cupcake tops. Yum.

Anyone else have some hot tips for a kickass bar party? Anyone at my party who thought it blew?

Monday, February 04, 2008


The first time I considered becoming a drug dealer was in the shower of my parents house, during my junior year of high school. I do my best thinking in the shower. I use it as a rehearsal space for standup routines, Oscar speeches and hypothetical confrontations with my boss.

“Listen, Ilana…”
“No. I’m done listening to you. How ‘bout you listen to me for a change?”

I also use my time in the shower to work out knotty problems in art and life. During this particular shower in 1995, I accomplished little in the way of body cleaning, since my mind was filthy with thoughts of crime.

Now, as I said, this was the suburbs, in an area outside Chicago called the North Shore. It was a nice place, not exactly buzzing with criminal activity. Ours was a leafy town with big houses and SUVs and miles of prime beachfront property on Lake Michigan. We had a second-run movie theater operated by an older, burly gentleman with coke bottle glasses, a mustache, and a disdain for children; just the kind of man one might expect to live with his mother and belong to a secret society of stargazing alien communicators. In exchange for two crumpled, sweaty dollars, he would grumpily hand over a ticket and a huge, shiny fifty-cent piece. This was the sort of thing that happened in my town. They shot scenes from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Risky Business” there. Our fathers were lawyers and doctors and brokers and CPAs. Our mothers were teachers and nurses and Real Estate agents and stay at home Moms.

There were policemen in my town, of course, and on two occasions the long arm of the law reached out and goosed the mischief-making behinds of members of my family. First, they picked up my cousin Sam for skateboarding in public. It was a long time coming, he had been warned and warned, but unfortunately the powers-that-be chose to teach my cousin a lesson on the very same day he was to be called to the Bima as a Bar Mitzvah. My family freaked. My aunt took to doing laps around the kitchen island, sobbing, “What are we going to say, Arthur? Sorry, you can all go home. The Bar Mitzvah boy has been unforeseeably detained in the Slammer!!!" Not for the first time, my uncle was dispatched to call a guy who knew a guy. Or my uncle might have known the guy himself. I wouldn’t put it passed him. In any case my cousin was sprung in time to perform his Rite of Passage.

The second appearance of a family member in the town blotter was when they escorted my slightly older sister to our house in a police car and wrote her up for public drunkenness. Alas, I was away at camp and missed it. (I, like many in my town, summered in Wisconsin, singing songs about friendship and complaining about the food), but I relish the mental image of an un-amused cop dragging my sister by the scruff and slinging her at the slippered feet of my be-bathrobed father. In my fantasy she throws up, right there in the driveway, but she’s a State’s Attorney now, so I suppose no one will ever know what happened that night.

My bathroom was pink and white, and my very own since my sister moved to the attic. My favorite feature was the old Hollywood dressing room-style lights around the mirror. I used to sit for hours under those lights, singing showtunes into a curling iron and studying my face to determine what angle made me look most like Mayim Bialik from Blossom. It was under the glow of those twelve incandescent bulbs, I tried to remove a round brush from the tangled mess I had made of my best friend’s hair using gobs of peanut butter. When her mother came to pick us up and saw the brush jutting out of her daughter’s head, dripping with Skippy, her mouth got wide, her eyebrows reached for the heavens, it was the kind of horrified expression normally reserved for slutty coeds in slasher movies whose time is up.

But those childish capers are but a distant memory now, as I stand under the showerhead awash in worry. The problem, to which dealing drugs seems a viable solution, is the occasion of my third moving violation in as many months. I am one of those people who just shouldn’t drive, and thankfully for all who travel by car, I no longer do. The unlucky few who took me driving with my learner’s permit came back with a new perspective on life that often accompanies a near-death experience. “As we were merging on the highway, “ my Aunt Patsy said, reaching for her inhaler, “I realized that life is short; that I should stop sweating the small stuff and start living!” At my driver’s test, when the proctor asked me to pull over, I drove over the curb, barely missing a speed limit sign. Needless to say I came away empty handed, my head heavy with shame. I did pass the second time, to the terror of all who knew me.

In addition to the three speeding tickets, I also totaled a Volvo. (I thought a two-way intersection was a four-way intersection and got nailed in the passenger side door by my father’s pottery instructor in a Ford Pinto.) Understandably, my parents were losing patience. I put off telling them about the third ticket and the due date was rapidly approaching. The wrath I endured from my father, a commodities broker and first-class screamer, after my second ticket, made appealing to my parents for help with the unimaginably exorbitant sixty-dollar fine, out of the question. I could get a job, I thought, but there’s no way I could make that much money fast enough. Plus, I am in a play. A speeding ticket shouldn’t keep a person from Godspel, should it? That didn't seem right.

So dealing drugs. It was the only solution. I could gather the scratch for the ticket in no time, and no one would be the wiser. Around my school I was known more as a theater person and a wisecracker than as a bad ass, but reputations change. My features could get hard, dangerous. I pictured myself walking down the hallway towards the language lab with a chinchilla coat. And a cigar. Yeah. (Shaft music. Fantasy sequence.)

I turned off the faucets, opened the glass doors that slid on the bathtub, reached for a towel, and exhaled with the satisfaction that comes from finding a good solution to a bad problem. A drug dealer. That’s what I was now. A kingpin. I stepped onto the bathmat, dried myself off, walked into my bedroom and dressed. A half an hour later I told my parents about the ticket.

In the end I realized getting money from my parents to pay a speeding ticket was more likely than getting money from them to get a stash together so I could sell drugs to minors. It was a practical, rather than a moral decision. I was a teenager, after all. My mental functions were foggy with hormones. Looking back, I realize that I was never really that close to descending into the underground...or was I?