Monday, September 27, 2010

Sex and the City and Pastis

This weekend I didn't get a bit of writing done. But it was a lovely weekend nonetheless. Started with a run early Saturday morning as the sun was coming up and I had a moment where the crisp air in Central Park reminded me of running in the Upper Valley in El Paso. I felt transported back to a time of being newly married and long runs. After that we did another video shoot—one that won't run until February but the location will be closed in the winter—and at one point the mystery cameraman had me laughing so hard I thought I would fall out of the boat. This perhaps is why so many years after early morning runs in a river valley in Texas the mystery cameraman and I are still married. Anyway, later we dashed to be at the Standard hotel for drinks with friends. The Gold Room at the Standard is a must-see place for the views alone and across the hall you can go out on the roof where there is a pool. After drinks we walked through the Meatpacking district with its cobbled streets to Pastis for dinner. Pastis is a mainstay in NYC, and one of my favorite places because the energy is so good. We had a prime rib that was done perfectly with spinach and potatoes au gratin and a Mediterranean salmon served on a cous cous with African spices. We finished up with the molten chocolate cake and a Muscat. But what finally permeated by brain was that we were surrounded by a security detail. Men in suits with ear pieces and discreet badges. And not just one or two men. It was like ten of these guys, and outside there were police and military vehicles, soldiers with automatic rifles. I would like to think that the upcoming launch of my video channel caused such a stir that I needed a security detail! (You can stop laughing now.) Alas, Israel's prime minister was having dinner at the table just beyond ours. And for all you Sex and the City fans . . . remember the corner table where Baryshnikov and Carrie were having dinner before all the art snobs came and sat with them, making Carrie feel insecure? The Prime Minister and crew were sitting at the same table. Though no one looked like they were feeling insecure!

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Question of Happiness

I'm always thinking. Analyzing. Figuring out. The fact is that's what a writer does: make sense of something then find a way to "show" it in fiction or nonfiction. However I have wondered if I do this because I write, or if I write because I do this. The whole chicken or egg question. I suspect for me that writing is the outlet for all my thinking, a place to channel or process all the thoughts that spin in my head. My very first memories are of trying to figure out, to make sense of a world I didn't understand.

I've been aware of this for a while. I've been on a quest to make sense of the world for decades. Quite frankly, for me, I think half the joy of writing is the puzzle of it all. I'm enlightened! That makes me happy! But recently after finishing up one of the Linda Francis Lee in NYC video shoots, the mystery cameraman and I stopped at an outdoor café for a drink and given the crowds we ended up sitting with a couple from out of town. We began to talk about life, aging, happiness. What struck me was that this lovely gentleman said that he had been perfectly happy until it was pointed out to him that he was not. I can't get that out of my head! My unquestionably existential question is: Was he really? If someone pointed out to him that he didn't appear happy could he possibly have been happy? Could he not have been aware of his "grumpy" state? And if he wasn't aware, was it possible that the way he acted didn't affect him, only his partner who admittedly wasn't happy and searching, questioning? Moreover, if the gentleman truly had been happy, is it possible that people who don't spend time thinking, analyzing, figuring out are happier than people who simply exist on the surface?

I doubt it, but of course I would think that! How could I afford to NOT think that? But as a writer, the question circles in my head. I probe it from different directions like a scientist trying to make sense of a conundrum. And, of course, I will use whatever nugget of truth comes out of the analysis in a book!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Frustrating Books - Plotting Woes

So this is the thing. I am reading a book (which will remain nameless) that I was loving. I loved the characters was interested to see where the plot was going, what happened next . . . Everything a book needs to be for me until bam, I hit the end of the first act and learn the first pivotal plot turning point. This is the telling moment as to what happened that caused the story to exist. It is the basic premise--the justification for how the main character proceeds in life, that piece on which the entire plot hangs--and I don't buy it! I mean, I'm like WTF? You're kidding me, right? Dear Author, What were you thinking? Which brought me back to that place of plotting, and how hard it is sometimes to see clearly. Sometimes as a writer you know where you're going before you know how you will get there, which, if you're not careful, will force you to hammer a square peg of motivation into a round hole of a plot. I have learned the hard way that no matter how you hammer, that kind of plot will never be organic.

I am continuing to read, but every time the character makes use of his justification for what has happened or where he finds himself in life, I cringe thinking: No way would any thinking human being have done what you supposedly did . . . or more specifically, the character the author presented in the first 100 pages would not have done what supposedly he did.

Not to say that as a writer I could have done it better. This is just about how as a reader it is disappointing to be falling in love only to have the love affair ripped apart when it is in its budding stages as if I had just witnessed an infidelity!

After hitting a plot point that makes little sense to you, can you keep reading?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How I Write

Given that I'm a writer, for years I have spent more time alone in front of a computer than with people in an office chatting at the water cooler, or even gossiping in a social setting. And when I write I don't really see the words on the screen. I actually "see" the story unfolding like a movie playing in my head. My job is to find the words to express what I see fast enough not to lose the image . . . which means that I spend a lot of time staring, seeing something that no one else is seeing. This came home to me the other day when I was on the subway, thinking through plot, lost in my head. When I finally blinked out of the scene I was staring at the person across from me . . . and not the sort you really want to find yourself staring at in a New York City subway. I've lived here long enough not to show any emotion, just shift my eyes away ever so slightly, then start staring at the space next to the guy's shoulder. As if I wasn't intimidated. As if I hadn't been staring at him at all. As if I could care less if he started channeling Robert DeNiro with a slightly altered, "You lookin' at me?" But it has made me wonder if other writers write that way, seeing what is in their heads, and if they do, how do they break the habit of staring!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Weird Day

Yesterday was a really weird day. I woke up and felt off – not like I was getting a cold off, or in a bad mood off. Just weird off. When I was running I finally started feeling normal, but then my toe hit a rock and I had a startling moment where I realized I was going down. Given that I usually run on the bridle path which is nothing but gravel, dirt, and cinders, I have tripped before but have never gone down. In fact I can't remember a time ever when I have fallen. So I hobble home bleeding to clean up. Once I was bandaged and wearing pants, I went out to run errands only to find the shops were being evacuated after a bomb scare. Even the subway lines were shut down because the suspicious bag was right over a train stop. After that I got in a cab and the driver bizarrely stayed behind a slow moving vehicle while the lanes on either side of us were empty. Out of the cab I had to pick my way through a throng of people. Apparently Jay-Z had arrived at Chanel to shop – or so the security guard said. I love living in NYC. But I usually manage to avoid the places and times of day that prove why Manhattan can, at times, be a challenging place to live. Not yesterday. So I sat down, took a deep breath, and cleared my head. I shook off the weird feelings. Then I headed out to Long Island to have dinner on the Sound and the whole world seemed to right itself. I know the whole energy thing can sound like mumbo jumbo. But it never fails to amaze me how consciously centering myself can change how the world spins around me.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


I love shows like Behind the Music. I love stories about underdogs or losers who make good. But it's not because I like watching all the heartache and break down and really bad hairstyles that these people go through in pursuit of their goals. I love that eventually these are stories of people who didn't give up or give in. Because of that dogged perseverance eventually they succeed. I'm a sap that way. A big time, Grade A, massive sap-lover. I mean really, how can you not love a story about someone who makes it, someone who goes through the Ups and Downs and comes out the other side winning.

In some ways these types of stories remind me that life really is about the downs as much as the ups. And I have to believe that if you can in some way learn to enjoy the whole big cauldron of messy, not-perfect moments – or at least not be taken out by them – that you can get to the Ups all the sooner. The light at the end of the tunnel always surprises me when it appears out of nowhere. So when I don't see it, I remind myself that the tunnel frequently holds a hard left turn and as a result the light is out of sight . . . and might be closer than I realize. So go for it. Don't give up. And love the sap!