Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I recently reconnected with a camp counselor on Facebook. He asked me how I was, and I wrote him a very long, emotional letter about how much he meant to me. Money quote:
I didn't know who I was when I met you, Marcus, I just knew that I wanted to be like you.
When you imagine the motley crowd of misfits that are better off for having known you, please picture me among them.

His response? A sweet and casual thanks for saying that and glad I could help and seems like you're doing well which is good because I always liked you. Lovely, really, and perfectly appropriate. Far more appropriate than my epic diatribe about the past and youth and wisdom.

I don't know what I expected, something more melancholy, maybe, a kind of meditation on the magical time we shared. But this particular person has helped and inspired many many people in the course of his life, he probably gets letters like this all the time. He was undoubtedly more important to me than I was to him, which is the exact nature of the teacher-student (master-apprentice, counselor-camper, shrink-patient) relationship.

I have had a number of relationships with younger people, as a counselor or teacher, and more informally, as someone a bit older who has experienced things. A young comic comes to mind, my friend's aspiring filmmaker little brother as well. And I've listened to them, shared my experiences, hoped to be some sort of guide or resource. Thinking of these relationships now it seems that the joke is on them because, what the hell do I know about anything? I feel that I know less and less and less.

I asked Marcus about this in my letter, since I realized he was only 23 when I knew him, only seven years my senior, and he seemed to me like he knew everything. His response:
I was learning how to be grown up too and shared that to the best of my ability.
Teachers always say they learn as much from their students as they teach them, but maybe this means something different from what I thought it did. Maybe, in teaching, we make ourselves aware of what we know and what we have still to learn.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I recently had a conversation with a radical friend of mine. He's the type of guy who says things like, "It isn't a question of if we run out of water, Ilana, but when we run out of it." He took issue with the Green Movement, specifically with what he saw as a merger of environmentalism and consumerism, Green Chic. I argued that whatever someone's motivations for driving a Prius or using recycled paper products, it decreases our national footprint, a good thing for everyone. A government, civil or social, cannot hope to control the souls of its constituents. The best it can do is attempt to guide their actions, by doling out praise for those actions that are deemed good for society, (You have solar panels on your roof? Hoorah for you!) or punishment for those that are deemed bad (Litterer? Off with your head!).

My friend's argument was that there is a kind of back-patting that accompanies some of this visible environmental friendliness that does not translate to any actual net gain for the earth. Powering your home with wind power, for example, means little if you are jetting off to the Bahamas or to Europe or to Bora Bora four times a year. Still, I argued, better than nothing. Baby steps, said I.

Then I saw this little fact from the PBJ campaign:

Each time you have a plant-based lunch like a PB&J you'll reduce your carbon footprint by the equivalent of 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over an average animal-based lunch like a hamburger, a tuna sandwich, grilled cheese, or chicken nuggets. For dinner you save 2.8 pounds and for breakfast 2.0 pounds of emissions.

Those 2.5 pounds of emissions at lunch are about forty percent of the greenhouse gas emissions you'd save driving around for the day in a hybrid instead of a standard sedan.

Now, I don't drive a Prius, I drive a bike, so I could easily be self-righteous about carbon emissions. But I can do more than my part, can't I? In fact, we will all have to do more than our share of habit shifting if we have any hope of effecting any actual change. We can't afford to rest on our meager laurels.

So I am pledging, here and now, to have a vegan lunch every weekday. I will do my very best to avoid all animal products, and in so doing, I hope to reduce my carbon footprint by 12.5 pounds a week. Wow. I will feel so good about myself after a few weeks, I might feel compelled to reward myself with a tropical vacation!

Just kidding.

Anyone else up for this challenge?

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I sent an update to the Class Notes section of my alumni newsletter, and they wouldn't publish it! This is an outrage! Especially considering the stuff they do publish. Like this little golden nugget (I have gone to the trouble of boldfacing the especially annoying bits):

"In Jan '07 I moved to Tel Aviv with the hopes of making new friends and establishing a new life for myself. Besides missing my family and friends in the US, my biggest fear was finding a job that would be even half as interesting and well paid as the one I had in Boston. To my surprise, within my 1st 2 weeks living in Israel I got a job offer that was not only as interesting but well paid. It's now been about 2.5 years that I've been with Sparta Systems as a sr acct exec to the European market as well as a regional sales mgr, managing a team of 5. At the same time, I'm finishing up my 1st year in an exec MBA prog part of Kellogg (NW) and Tel Aviv U. I have met amazing people here and have built a very strong network. I live a 10-minute walk from the beach (Mediterranean Sea) and am truly enjoying my life. In Aug, I'll be coming back to the US and will spend 2 weeks in Chicago (taking classes on campus in Kellogg). In addition to classes, Jim Smith MEd '01 will be flying in from Portland, OR, and we'll be going to a Cubs game with some of my classmates. After the 2 weeks, I'll head to Boston for a few days to see my family and friends before heading back to Tel Aviv. All in all, besides a bit of stress due to work and school and lots of business travel to Europe, I can't complain. Life is good."

Life may be good, anonymous classmate of mine, but it is also short. If you told me this story in person, I would nod, smile, and pass the time counting your blinks. Incidentally, did we know each other? I don't remember anyone from college.

Rather than cry myself to sleep (I'm doing that anyway, by the way, because it's hotter than stew in here), I thought...why wait to be published when you can publish yourself? (sad) So here's the update I sent my alumni newsletter. Enjoy!

I'm doing so awesome, it's pretty unbelievable. Career? Out of this world. Babies? I have six or seven babies and more husbands than I can even count. Seriously, it's killer being me. I live in Brooklyn, where I totally rock.

I just thought people should know what I've been up to.

Friday, July 11, 2008


This is the view from the killer terrace that belongs to one of my clients who is never in town:

This is me reclining on one of the chaise lounges of said killer terrace while waiting for some guys to finish re-installing a bronze mirror:

I really should stop complaining about work.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


In addition to my own celebrity, I work for an interior designer. A few weeks ago, he told me about a new client--single, straight, Harvard grad with an immaculate brownstone in the West Village. My response?

"Single you say? Brownstone? Do you think I could set him up with a friend of mine?"
I have always been a bit of a yenta (matchmaker, for those of you who are neither Jewish nor musical theater-educated). I love the idea of bringing people together, whether it is two people I love, two people I know, or a person I love with a person I have never met but who went to Harvard and is single and anyway what the hell else do you want? I can't seem to stop my match-mindedness, despite the fact that it has gotten me in trouble FOR YEARS. Because, let's be honest, most relationships fail. And if they fail and someone gets hurt, they blame not the tall, handsome, brownstone-owning former Lacrosse player, but the tall, dark, mettling Jewish girl shrugging sheepishly in the corner. In other words, me.

But I was in Chicago this weekend, playing poker with a bunch of my old camp friends. All of them are boys, many of them are single, and I just couldn't help my yenta wheels from churning. "Come to New York," I kept saying. "I have the perfect girl for you." Because the single women to single men ratio in NYC is totally off-kilter. My wonderful, single girlfriends are suffering a huge disadvantage here. Check out this map:
Chicago, as you can see, also has more single women to men. As my Chi-town girls know all too well.

So, what's a girl to do? Move to Los Angeles or Dallas or Denver? Just to find a single dude? Or suffer through the humiliation of an over-enthusiastic, old world-minded 30 year old jewess?

Up to you, girls.