Monday, June 30, 2008


I never thought I would be in a position to understand, first hand, the plight of Kay Corleone. You remember her from the Godfather, right? Diane Keaton. Outsider. Whose needs and desires are determined by this sinister collection of men. They loom. They whisper. They make plans.

I never suspected that I could identify personally with Kay, but that was before I came in contact with: THE CONDO BOARD.

I don't have a condo. I have a small rent stabilized one-bedroom in Brooklyn. When we asked the super, Carlos, about going on the roof, he shrugged. "Officially, you're not supposed to go up there. I tell people, just don't jump off!" Then he cracked up. This is the kind of management attitude I look for in a building.

My boss has a condo. Nothing can be done to the apartment--we couldn't put in a new bathroom, build a wall, nothing--without the board's approval. And for the last three months the Board has been holding my air conditioning proposal hostage.

"Looks good," the building manager said in March. "We just have to pass it to the architect and then the board will approve it."

That was the last I heard about it.

I call. "Oh hey, Ilana," she says. "No, I haven't heard anything." I picture a fat man with a wet cigar standing behind her, holding his fist and shaking his head. Beads of sweat form on her forehead.

Soon, she starts screening my calls. I have to call from other phones. I email in desperation. I consider CCing my boss. Because the AC is busted in the master bedroom and it's getting hotter and even though he's in LA he could descend at any time and oh! the humiliation! if he came to New York to find his bedroom hotter than Wisconsin in August, what kind of celebrity personal assistant would I be then? And what kind of wrath would I have to endure? No! I won't have it! I will yell! I will carry on! I mean, do you have to be a made guy to get anything done around here?

The building manager finally called me back last week. "Well the board met last night (Where? The Bada Bing? The pork store?) and they decided that your boss's Air Conditioner is not a priority."


Saturday, June 28, 2008


In 2006 Greg and I took a road trip on two lane highways along the Mississippi. It was one of the most amazing trips I have ever taken in my life. We started in Davenport, IA, saw the green green earth of Iowa and Illinois ("It just seems like you could grow anything here!" said Greg). We got pulled over by a cop in Nauvoo, Illinois who undoubtedly took us for one of the millions of Mormon families that make pilgrimage to the tiny town, clogging the streets and cleaning out its candy supply. We went to Hannibal, Missouri, the boyhood home of Mark Twain, the whole town a kind of theme park dedicated to its famous literary son. We passed St. Louis, stayed in Cape Girardeau, MO where we were shocked to wake up in the Rush Limbaugh's hometown to discover a place that sold delicious multigrain muffins.

Now much of these river towns are underwater. They're a resilient bunch, though, the people who camp on the banks of that river. Are they like abused spouses? Sharing a house with a loving, committed partner with periodic outbursts of violent rage? Are we Americans who live near oceans or lakes or desert or mountains, are we the friend who, one day, over coffee, after yet another excuse (I fell down the stairs, the levees weren't tall enough, etc.), do we suddenly grab the wrist of our abused friend, do we look her deep in the eyes and say: "It doesn't have to be like this! You gotta get out of there! I will help you..." Does she free her wrist from our grasp, pat us on the shoulder and say, "But I love him. He's so wonderful so much of the time. You don't understand..."

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Ever work out after a night of heavy drinking and find that the smell coming off you allows you to reconstruct moments of the previous evening that you may have forgotten? (Oh! Sniff Sniff Sweat-- I forgot about that chicken calzone!)

One time my boyfriend drank too much and threw up on a homeless person. The homeless person was totally disgusted. That's right. My boyfriend grossed out a homeless guy. It's one of the many of my partner's skills that I wasn't aware of during our early courtship. Also, he's stupidly good at the card game Spite and Malice. It's annoying.

Friday, June 20, 2008


I am, or have been, a dialogue writer. Plays, screenplays, teleplays, even standup comedy is dialogue, and is, as such, a first person enterprise. There is no floating observer, casually coming to conclusions about the characters. In a play the audience is the third person.

But now I am writing prose, and I am plagued by the question of intimacy in observation. Most of my favorite books are in 1st: Lolita (is there a more interesting troubled narrator than Humbert Humbert?) Invisible Man, Jonathan Lethem writes almost entirely in first person, Augie March, Roth's Zuckerman books. But there are beautiful third person books, too numerous to list, Cunningham comes to mind, and Moody, and of course, all the Russians and the French. Intimate tragic books that are filled with she and he rather than I: Of Human Bondage, Madame Bovary, The Scarlet Letter. First person seems funnier, more acerbic, more modern. More American. More ironic. Less beautiful. Dirtier.

But at what cost? To follow one character and neglect all others, it seems unfair!

It is not a negligible decision. It is the decision that defines an entire book.

Sigh. I fear the problem is that I am too in love with the little literary darlings I've created, that I want to have everything--first person voice, multiple character perspectives. Then I read this little passage in a book called Writings by Agnes Martin--an artist. (The set of four lithographs to the left are hers--Untitled 1998.)

Humility, the beautiful daughter
She cannot do either right or wrong
She does not do anything
All of her ways are empty
Infinitely light and delicate
She treads an even path
Sweet, smiling, uninterrupted, free
Sounds good doesn't it? Let the work, and not my ego make decisions for me.

In other news a friend of mine sent me this picture. Subject: Irony
Ilana's beloved replied, "They just take you out back to the range, and have you stand in a bucket?"

There. That was third person. What did you think?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


So I haven't been blogging much. But I'm getting complaints, which is nice. Since last I updated I have:
  • Cleaned up excrement that belonged to a celebrity other than my boss.
  • Traveled for ten days in the Basque Country with my Dad, sister and boyfriend without breaking up or becoming estranged from anyone.
  • Spent a lot of time in Coney Island.
I am writing a novel (I know, right? Who the hell do I think I am?) that takes place partially in Coney Island. I was there when it was closed and took some cool pictures. Want to see? Thought you might:

Saddest place in the world, right?

I could start publishing excerpts of the that something you guys would be interested in? Post a comment and let me know.