The plan was to set the world on fire


I’m back, following a few weeks of writer’s ennui. Have I mentioned that I’m going to Puerto Rico? I’m going to Puerto Rico on a brief writing retreat. Our plan is to write for a couple of hours in the mornings, go out and do beachy things, then write for an hour or two before dinner. There’s talk of kayaking in the bioluminescent bay, which would be a lovely addition to my year-end list of things-I’ve-done-for-the-first-time-this-year. I suppose I’ve already amassed a couple of items – visited Quebec, commuted by funicular, ridden in a McLaren, done twenty decent pushups in a row – I know there’s more but my thoughts are muddled today. I’m really looking forward to this little trip for all the reasons that I crave and prioritize travel. It’s restorative, expansive, a chance to recalibrate that living in this wonderful, maddening town doesn’t often allow for. I love New York – I have no choice in the matter – and I’m drowning in it at the moment.

I’m also looking forward to the prospect of making headway on this albatross novel. Despite my sluggish muse I managed, finally, to reshape my outline into something resembling a cohesive plot – my writing group thinks so, anyway – and this is excellent. Without a strong sense of plot, writing a novel can be a Sisyphean endeavor.

I always want to add a “u” to endeavor. I think I confuse it with devour.

So we shall see what this trip yields, but as I’m traveling with someone who is dedicated to working on her own novel, I’ll have the benefit of a good influence. Writing is heartachingly lonely. It’s very strange that, as someone who relies so deeply on the company of others (and sure, on the kindness of strangers), I have chosen writing as my life’s mission. This might be the root of much of my writer’s block/angst/ennui – the solitude of it all. The fact that writing is the very opposite of escaping one’s mind. The fact that every decent word I write is absolutely, certainly, the last decent word I’ll write – until I reread it, cringe, and edit it within an inch of its life. 

You know what’s not good for productivity? Words with Friends. 

I’ve started acupuncture – have my fourth session this week. Thus far I’m impressed – I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going for outside of general malaise, but it seems to be having a positive impact on me – eliminating the muscle twinges and jabs in the places where I hold my stress and giving me a sense of clarity, and tranquility. Much room for improvement in my life but I think that this is a start.

I’ve been watching a lot of World Cup this past week – having been schooled in the joys of soccer by an Arsenal fan. As I am pretty much the least athletic person I know (those twenty pushups notwithstanding), I’ve never really gravitated toward spectator sports – but this one is different. I realized it last year when we went to the PSG match and now, partaking of the festivities that are the World Cup, I’ve developed an affinity for the sport. I understand it in a way I just can’t wrap my head around American football – though I’ve been attending Giants games since I was a wee lass. The histrionics are a bit much – but the athleticism and beauty of the game and the fact that this tournament offers the temporary illusion of global harmony – all of this I love. 

I was interviewed for a documentary last week. By some eight year olds, who wanted to know if I do more reading in actual books or eBook type things. The former, of course, but I did admit to bringing my Kindle on trips. They asked me whether technology has helped or hindered my life (not in those words), and I said that overall it’s helped, but that I wish we weren’t so dependent on it. Then they asked if they could pet my dog, and I said yes. 



Bright are the stars that shine


I don’t want to write this but I need to. I lost a friend today. Not someone I saw regularly anymore, but someone I’ve spent a lot of time with since I met her eleven years ago. Hayne was sick for quite some time and as these things go her illness ebbed and flowed until it took over.

I met Hayne on her roof deck in July 2003. Louie and I were there – along with new friends who knew her quite well. I spent much of that summer on her roof deck and in the restaurants she owned on the ground floor of her building.

As is true of most of the people in my life, I remember the precise moment that I laid eyes on her. I’d heard her name – I knew her establishments – and now I was meeting her in an intimate setting. An intimate setting with her collection of Italian greyhounds, her myriad friends, and the occasional drag queen who needed a break from her gig downstairs (Lucky Cheng’s). Hayne was someone who could easily have intimidated me – beautiful, smart, strong, successful, famous, confident – she had no need for me in her life and would, I’m sure, have been perfectly solicitous for as long as I was part of her crowd. But somehow we made a deeper connection than that. I never felt unwelcome in her presence – as out of my element as I might have been – and as she did with most everyone in her life, she brought me into the fold and let me hang out there for as long as I needed to. When I wanted to escape the crowds of that summer and have one-on-one conversation, she’d take me down to the other bar she owned (Waikiki Wally’s) and feed me wine and wisdom.

She was from New Orleans, and she was exquisite. I’d bet that she’d appreciate my writing about her – she loved the spotlight and the spotlight loved her.

The last time I saw her was two years ago. I ran into her at a bar on her block (One and One) and we sipped Prosecco and reminisced. We ended up going to dinner a few streets away and she sort of filled me in on what was going on with her health-wise, but as was always my experience with her no matter what she was going through, she did so without a shred of self-pity or anger.

How I wish I’d seen more of her in the years since that night.

There are hundreds of people who knew her far better than I and who were more actively in her life in the last two years. She has a daughter who has exhibited her mother’s grace, strength, and openness during these past few weeks and an ex-husband with whom she built the foundation for her empire. She has more friends than most anyone I know. The relatively brief amount of time we’ve spent together has had a profound impact on me. The sadness is creeping up – as it does when someone you haven’t seen in a while dies. I will devote that energy to honoring her memory and being grateful for her presence in my life.

Dance in the heavens, beautiful lady. There’s a brand new constellation in the stars tonight.