Every day for my first eight months out of college, I rode to work on the Long Island Rail Road with my dad. We would settle in adjoining seats on the 7:12 and Dad would open up the NY Times. He went straight for the obituaries. And he would always turn to me and say the same thing: "Just making sure I'm not in there."

Now I've become an obituary hawk as well. It's been a sad spell: we've lost Roy Drusky and Skeeter Davis, among others. I just found out in other pages that over the weekend a guy jumped in the Time Warner building and hit ground in front of Williams-Sonoma. We had walked through the building Monday night; the atrium was cool, hushed, and clean.

We go through life trying to make our mark. Roxy made her mark literally yesterday, peeing in the corner of the living room. I was glad I stayed home and played with her (and cleaned the litterbox).

I usually think that music is my contribution to the great river of life. Yet it's funny to hang one's hat on songs that are usually squeezed out of abject sadness and terror, and then delivered with fear, trepidation, and -- if I'm lucky -- an slow, dawning feeling of triumph, to a largely indifferent city/country/universe.

Am I being morose? I beg your pardon.

I feel a few songs rumbling in my underground. I'm singing them softly to myself and trying not to think too much about it. They always stay in the deep unconscious until something clicks. Then they come tumbling forth like jokester acrobats; and as soon as I sketch their image they pinch my cheeks and and scurry off, laughing to themselves.


One of the perils of learning how to box is that you end up getting punched.

So far it hasn't been that bad -- more like getting bopped. (I'm the boxing equivalent of a pink belt, so I'm just dodging pads.)

However, the principle remains: you see a fist come flying at you, you duck. You come back up, you punch. You snooze, pow.

There is something uniquely humiliating about this. I'm slow. I don't like being attacked. I don't like being made to do something according to barked instructions, and then do it over and over and over until I get it right.

The indignant little girl in me wants to stomp her foot and say she's not playing. The indignant adult in me wants to say screw it, I don't have time. Both the girl and the adult want an ice cream cone.

Yet I hold on. I'm not sure if I find discipline secretly sexy, if I like that sweat-drenched, exhausted feeling afterward, or if I just enjoy the simple satisfaction of progress. (After beating the crap out of me, the woman I'm boxing with always cheerfully says how well it's going.)

I never thought I could do this. After many series of inelegant swings and bops, I've almost cried. You have to trust the other person and just plow through it.

I guess this is called taking your lumps . . .


This makes me queasier. And yes, in that way.
This makes me queasy. But no, not in that way.


Saw Fight Club last night, which was much weirder and more subversive than I could have imagined. I hadn't actually wrangled intellectually with a Hollywood movie since . . . hmm. What's a good example of a recent Hollywood art movie?

I don't really watch movies. For me, watching a movie is like falling in love with someone who is slightly crazy: Suddenly his or her madness becomes your madness.

I grew up going to a lot of movies. It was the usual fare for a kid of that era: Superman, Star Wars, Muppet Movie. Often, it was just my dad and I, but I remember my mom came with us to see Muppet Movie. When we got home, my parents ordered me to go in my bedroom and shut the door. I was horrified, yowling that I hadn't done anything! They insisted. And when I stomped into my room and closed the door, I saw that they had affixed the Muppet Movie poster to the back of my bedroom door. The soundtrack record was leaning against the wall!

Sometime not long after my mom died, I remember my dad took me to see Young Frankenstein. In the scene in which the doctor and Inga stroll alongside a shelf lined with skulls, each of a different age, I remember asking my father, Is that what Mommy looks like now? Is that one?

Later I learned that it's typical of kids that age to try to understand death very literally/gorily. I still feel such horror that I could have done that to my dad.

Sometimes I think I stay away from movies now because I saw so many movies during that painful period. Or maybe I've seen too many painful movies.

Despite this aversion to pain, I have taken up punching for sport. Like Fight Club, only with gloves.



This is all I have to offer right now:

* On Monday, everyone I wrote about Friday, except for the construction workers, was nowhere to be found. Curious. The woman in the grey parka is back today.

* Boyshort panties rom Gap beat boyshorts from VS. In a word: seams. The VS has a seam up the center, not around the legholes, which results in an unfortunate situation I'm calling camelwedgie. Thank goodness I only bought one pair as a tester.

* The advent of cooler days brings on a curious sadness. Only Elliott Smith could write the line "it's raining in my heart" and get away with it. I miss him. I miss my mom. I miss my shrink.

On the other hand, soon I'll play music with a great bunch of guys, see a special boy, and play with cats.

And . . . there will be pizza!


On the way from here to Tasti D-Lite, one encounters:

• A group of construction workers milling around. Until a few days ago the guys had a scaffolding to lean on; now they just mill. A few short minutes ago I received a warm salutation of "Hey, baby."

• Looming over the construction workers off and on: a giant inflatable rat.

• A woman on the corner dressed in grey pants, grey parka, and grey hat, screaming about economics. She is young, with dark skin, a slender nose, and vibrant eyes. She is very dirty, which makes her eyes seem even whiter. She has several plastic bags filled with newspapers. Today I saw her writing in a diary.

• A guy with a placard next to an upside-down water cooler bottle asking for "just one penny" for the homeless. I get a bad vibe from him so I don't give, but I feel very bad walking by holding my change purse.

• Anywhere from one (1) to four (4) kids -- some with dogs, some alone -- asking for change or a meal.

If the journey doesn't rob you of your appetite, I don't know what will.


Hey baby.

Tonight is the first band rehearsal in what feels like a very long time, and actually has been a long time -- a few weeks at least.

This weekend I remembered the hard way that playing a solo show can be uniquely frightening. I was at a festival this weekend at Club Passim in Boston, playing in the round with three other women who are quite proficient and fun. In the midst of all this good energy, I suddenly became a timid 14-year-old who had had 2 guitar lessons tops and a swig of her parents' whiskey. I was honking and thunking and couldn't keep time for shit.

It really sucks when you expect to sashay in and nail it, and subsequently blow it.

There are lessons to be learned here. First, don't put all your confidence in your outfit. I was feeling extra fancy and wore my red heels and fat pearls. Perhaps this was too much for a Sunday afternoon in New England.

Second, practice. Duh.

Third, practice the acoustic, even when you've been favoring the Strat lately because it's easier to carry to band rehearsal.

Fourth, practice standing up. In the heels.

Now that we've established a game plan, I'm gonna go practice. With the band. In pink sneakers.

I'm also going to write to the club and see if I blew it for good, or if they'll have me back.

Cross your fingers.


September Song (aka How Miss Fancypants Took On Hot Buttered Beef . . . And Lived to Tell)

Last night, for a glinting moment, I got to peek into the 'other' New York: the one that is serving cocktails way up high, far above the other rooftops, where you can look out on the huge orange sun setting slowly, slowly as the sky turns pink, the lights in Jersey office buildings come up, and the air suddenly becomes dusky and cool. In this New York, jazz is playing very quietly in the background and trails off, loop-de-looping in the breeze. Glasses clink. Packs of well-dressed young men erupt in a collective dirty-minded chuckle and quiet down again. Packs of shiny-hair women sashay off to the restroom, heels tick-ticking on the tile floor.

Of course, I had to sneak in. No matter. My conspirator and I were treated to a spectacular skyline, went for a dip in a pristine art deco pool, sipped iced tea, and smoked (just one) in leisure.

This is the era of life I'm calling Payback. Acts of faith and daring are being rewarded with friendship and love. I've seen more natural beauty in the past week than I have all year. I can still feel the cold tide of Fire Island rushing over my feet and pulling out fast, shells clattering at my heels. I can still see the bright moon hovering over black water and feel my toes plunge into deep, cool sand step after step. I can still taste the steak from last night saturated with butter and fresh herbs. Yes, I mean that literally (urp). But I don't care. Mmm, Pastis, you woo me with red meat and red wine. What can I do but yield?

Glamour exists only in the imagination, a merging of pure fancy with the means to sculpt an image. Romance, too, is imaginary: fancy, mingled with the mystery of lust, applying itself gingerly to the realities of daily life. Love is when the imagined becomes real, and marks your heart for good.

In the course of a week I will have seen all my family. I will have gotten to play with both nephews and my niece! I had a chance to visit the old neighborhood where my parents grew up, walk streets my mom walked when she was pregnant with me, sit in the park I played in when I was little, and remember my grandparents, who lived there till the end of their life. Almost everyone I loved from that time is gone. New people have come. My heart is marked. My heart is hopeful.


Happy September 1. How are you?

I was gleefully sun-addled at Fire Island for a spell, and then paid a long-overdue visit to my family. Sun, sand, and sugar dulled the psychological impact of the incoming Republicans. However, upon hearing Giuliani's speech I felt as if I'd been bitchslapped. I can't fathom how one can publicly, wistfully hearken back to 9-11. The comingling of gore and glory in that speech is truly shocking to me.

I hope this convention is just an unsatisfying plot device to an overhyped blockbuster that's about to flop.

More later -- I have to go to the doc. Maybe this time I'll get another wrongful diagnosis! Hmm, what do I want. Scales? Thrush? Bird flu, anyone?