Wednesday, May 30, 2007

How the hell did a Japanophile like me go through this much of her life without discovering

This one made me laugh until I cried. So did this one. And this one. And this one.

Monday, May 28, 2007

re: your comment [sums up my life]

Aparna: i can't stop buying books but also just stuff in general. i think i no longer remember that a credit card has consequences. i consider it the neverending fountain of invisible cash money.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

tick tick tick

It's Saturday, May 26. That leaves approximately 115 hours before BEA setup. (Or three workdays to organize, seeing as this is a holiday weekend.)

BEA (or Book Expo America, for those lucky enough to not be involved in this sideshow) is THE annual book industry event (sure, there are other little petty affairs--London (LBF), Frankfurt, Jerusalem, Taipei, etc, etc). Publishing companies, booksellers, printers, agents, rights sellers, packagers, wannabe authors, librarians, and bibliophiles drop tens of millions of collective dollars on impressing each other (and they wonder why publishing profit margins are so slender?) in what becomes a veritable orgy of sleazy networking affairs, advance reader copies of fall buzz books, garishly branded totes and other generally useless freebees, and author signings. Joy.

A word for the wise: if you're planning on attending, take the following precautionary measures:
1) Don't pack your suitcases. Just bring them empty; otherwise you'll have nowhere to put your clothes on the way home.
2) Start some weight training immediately. Focus on biceps, deltoids, and trapeziuses. They're going to be what hurts the most at the end of all this. Also, be forewarned that carrying large and unwieldy piles of books takes a real toll on the elbows. Take it from a former bookstore clerk. But there aren't many preventative measures to take for book elbow, since large carts and similar devices aren't allowed on premises.
3) Just say no when people try to give you books you're not interested in. You'll be overwhelmed with the choices at first, and everyone will smarmily try to convince you that their particular piece of tripe is the future of American literature...but of course we do that. That's our job. The point is, exercise discretion and perfect a sly escape maneuver. Otherwise you'll be really screwed with books you don't want come closing time.
4) Take lots of business cards. Hundreds.
5) Don't be all bushy-tailed about author events. They're supercrowded and generally, in my humble opinion, a waste of time.

So setup is on Thursday. Meanwhile, I'm spending my holiday weekend up to my elbows in...books. My little press is highlighting three fall titles, and two of them are mine. Of course they were acquired/edited before I started, so in the wake of my predecessor it is necessary SOMEone sets aside the XXX number of hours required to read them so SOMEone in the company can actually say how great they are without having it all be PURE bullshit.

I'm looking forward. I'm so much wiser than I was last year. For example, I'm only taking books I really want to read. Just this morning I finally disposed of 24 books I lugged home on the Chinatown bus last year (BEA rotates locations and was in DC last year)(I won't share my thoughts on how silly a rotating location is). These are 24 books even my green eager-to-please self didn't think I would ever be interested in or would ever read. So they've tormented me and have been lugged from residence to residence and now have been left on a street corner. More importantly, they took the places of 24 (or possibly more) books I MIGHT have been interested in.

So yes. You'll see me there. If you're coming. Are you?

Friday, May 25, 2007

the paper monkey on my back

The receipt of my online credit card statement was an affair characterized most closely by the nouns "shock" and "horror" (and probably the adjective "abject").

Provoked to reflect upon recent expenditures, I was forced to realize that in the last two weeks I've spent more than $250 on books (although I can't be sure of the exact figure, because of my nasty Amazon one-click shopping habit). This is abjectly shocking and horrifying. Especially for a girl with my salary (approximately $250 every two weeks).

I don't even READ these books. I stack them on my windowsills and bed in piles significant enough to digruntle the rally monkey, and I thumb through them briefly upon acquisition and gush about how important they are and how I look forward to reading them. And then that's it. The end of our relationship.

I think I have a problem.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

catalog copy

Moonrat: Editorial sucks balls.

Bluenana: Donkey balls.

Moonrat: Exactly. Smelly ones.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Moonrat's Guide to Getting Published

By your request, Tory (and others too), here's my abridged blow-by-blow for beginners. I've tried to set biases aside and just be [brutally] honest. I fear this will be a long post, so apologies in advance for those utterly uninterested.

You, in theory, are an author. You are working on your masterpiece first novel (or autobiography, or something else). Here's some things to keep in mind, before you even finish your work:

1) Your literary talent alone isn't enough for an editor to publish your book--and this isn't the editor's fault.
As much as we may love a book by an unpublished author, there are quirks about modern publishing that make the Great Debut Novel a very different animal than it was 100 or even 50 years ago. The evil enemy? The national chains.

Because of commercial dynamics between publishing companies and booksellers (and booksellers and consumers), publishers can't expect to publish a book and automatically get it stocked in book stores. In fact, there are so many books published in the United States (never mind abroad) these days that there is very stiff competition for the limited space in bookstores and many books will never get stocked by national chains--which tend to be rather conservative in what they choose to sell. I'll refer you to a tidbit from Harper's that Bluenana posted a couple of weeks ago regarding the number of books published each year, and how many make their bottom line.

At the same time, it is virtually impossible to get a book to succeed if it is not picked up by national chains. And as indie bookstores gradually disappear (ok, maybe the word "gradually" wasn't particularly appropriate), this means that a very small number of people are making the major decisions about what America is going to read. If they don't like or don't have time for your book, you're s**t out of luck. This is the Walmartization of the book industry. Yes, this means we have had a veritable end to grassroots publishing, and that American culture has been categorically mainstreamed (and will surely get more so). But take heart. It's even worse in Britain.

So no matter how stunning your prose and how great your editor/publisher's credibility with the buyers (the people who select the books that are going to be stocked each season at the national chains), we editors need help from you or we're never going to be able to get your book in. We have the beastly task of convincing these buyers that your book is going to rake in money for them. For this, we need to be able to convince them of the strength of your platform.

2) Build up your platform while you're writing.

Your platform consists of your relevant professional credentials and your published writing experience. Another really important component is your marketing outreach--even if you're superqualified to write this book, are you going to be able to get the word out when pub time comes?

The strongest platform in the world? Previous publication experience at nationally syndicated magazines or newspapers. (Or previous books published.) This shows you have a proven track record. And, necessarily, a strong outreach--lots of contacts in journalism who could review the book, a regular column in which you could plug the book yourself, experience on national television that we can send on tape to Oprah for her consideration, a super-savvy publicist you've hired to work with you during the publicity window.

For example, if you're writing a book on pine trees of the deciduous region, the ideal author platform would include such elements as an advanced degree in botany, a distinguished titled membership at the National Association of Agriculture (that hopefully includes some kind of lecture circuit), and a regular column on plants in Better Homes and Gardens or The New York Times. It's true, most platforms aren't THIS strong, but anything less is a big crapshoot for publishers, so it's possible they will pass on your project until you've created a stronger platform. Believe it or not, there are people out there with these kinds of relevant credentials--lots of people.

So while you're working on the novel or other project, try submitting clips to various publications, even small ones, if you have no track record. Publications snowball, and being printed in your church bulletin might be enough to get you a local newspaper gig, which might be enough to get you picked up by a more regional publication, which might get you noticed by a magazine. Platform-building may seem daunting, but do what you can as you write. Just see what comes of whatever you can do. Doing this will really help your agent's leverage when she's pitching your project to editors.

3) Do get an agent.
Some people think that they are saving money by not seeking an agent to help them get published. Hire someone to suck away 15% of my earnings for work I can do myself?! How dumb do you think I am?

Even from a bottom-line perspective, though, I can promise you--the agent will earn her salary (and then some). First of all, most unsolicited manuscript that come into publishers go directly into the trash bin. They are the bane of an editorial assistant's existence, and become so odious to her because there are so many of them to deal with that after awhile she will have difficulty treating even the best of unsolicited projects with any modicum of respect. Outside of some very rare exceptions, unsolicited manuscripts go the route of the horizontal file. Ie the recycling bin. Your best-case scenario as an unsolicited author is semi-sensitive treatment by an unpaid intern.

However, every proposal we get from an agent MUST be treated seriously--even the crap. Agents filter out most unusable content for us. Also, they provide credibility, stability, and networking opportunities. I have bought projects from agents that I wasn't really interested in as projects for the sake of establishing good relationships with their agencies.

Also, a good agent will negotiate points in your contract that no handbook will prepare you for. The point? Don't try to go it alone. It's a harsh, cruel world out there for the unsolicited author.

There are many books devoted to the subject of agent-seeking, so I won't even make an attempt. But suffice it to say, whatever platform-building you've been doing before you send out your manuscript is going to pay off at the agent-seeking stage, too.

4) Be a fantastic writer.
Despite all my advice above regarding platform, it's your quality of writing that will get you reviewed after publication (and which will eventually cause buzz that will drive people to pick up your book).

Even if you KNOW you're a fantastic writer, try joining a writing group or class. Practice and regular deadlines are never a bad thing to get you going on a project, and even the best and most discerning of minds needs some outside assistance in judging its own creative product. You'll be surprised at the insight your peers have to offer--and it will be your peers, and other people like them, who either will or won't want your book after publication.

Hope this's not meant to sound discouraging, but do keep in mind published authors are just the writers who had the most perseverance (and thereby were able to overcome all this crap). So keep writing, and see what happens--at the very worst, you're a more reflective person with a great hobby. But with some careful planning and footwork, there is always potential for much, much more.

I joined a gym

Shocking, right?

That's ok. After a week or so, it will probably just be an un-taken-advantage-of expense that I sheepishly overlook each month. But I had to do SOMETHING to recover from the weekend.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

wanted: nonfiction

I've had two requests for tips on nonfiction writing.

As a writer, nonfiction publishing is a valuable scheme because publications always need nonfiction. Always, always. Nonfiction is a great way to pad your platform, since it's one of the only outlets into a lot of national syndications that will make you a legitimate "writer." Also, it's good for small, manageable assignments and petty cash.

Writers who dream of being published novelists are often wont to overlook this because in terms of artistic development nonfiction might seem like a waste of time and/or resources. This doesn't necessarily have to be true, since quality of writing is becoming more and more important in a lot of venues (as more and more good writers become available). Also, the unfortunate fact is that publishing is a decreasingly leisure industry--reading and writing is no longer just for rich indulgents, and as a result it's becoming much more of a business. Hence, talent alone isn't enough--you have to have visibility, marketability, saleability, etc.

As an editor, I'm always looking for smart, narrative nonfiction. Usually, this means you have to be an expert in your field. If you're a professional cheesecake chef, try starting off by submitting a cheesecake column to a bunch of magazines. Even if you're just a cheesecake enthusiast, if you have an interesting take on the subject (the social history of cheesecake, for example, with lots of unusual anecdotes and scandalous historical personalities coloring your story) I might be able to sell your book. Without the expertise or previous publishing record, I probably won't be able to offer you a very big advance, but that initial publication will be the making of your writing career--the gateway to your first published novel. Also, you'll get much better royalties for the nonfiction. Promise.

Histories of interesting things are the best angle for me right now. For example, I'm editing a book on the history of sunflowers. An unusual topic, with an unusual approach--although the author is a journalist and freelance writer who's worked on topics that don't relate to flowers at all, he's come up with something unusual and done a lot of great and entertaining research.

So, anyone--a narrative history of cheesecake? Please, do hit me up with your ideas. And do try to get published in various magazines or newspapers--it doesn't matter how mercenary it seems. I need to see that you've been published in order to sell you as an author to Barnes & Noble so they'll choose to stock your book on their shelves. Trying to publish even dumb things in dumb venues is such a valuable help to you AND to me.

Foreign Babes

Rose has tipped me off--Foreign Babes is being made into a movie!!

Here's to my books someday being optioned.


This required its own blog post.

Our reservation was for 6pm, and we arrived just about on time after an episode involving chasing after a cab driver for three city blocks in the rain (he tried to drive off with the polka dot umbrella Bluenana gave me for Christmas). We left at 10:37 (that's the best timestamp I can come up with, based on the text message I sent the rally monkey that read: "Probably not going to make it back tonight. Im drunk. SoRry."). So I guess we ate for about 4.5 hours, give or take.

I knew I was in bad shape when I dreamed that night that I was trying to eat dinner at a restaurant but kept falling asleep at the table while looking for my water glass. Every time I fell asleep in the dream I would wake up in real life.

I don't feel guilty that we got the incredibly expensive tasting menu (with wine pairings) because my aunt ordered for both of us. So it also wasn't my fault that I got disgustingly sloshed.

Courses as follows (not being a wine geek, I'm just putting down what I remember about the wine instead of all the dumb details that don't mean anything to me, like vinyard or region or whatever):

1) Rouget, morcilla panna cotta, bruleed onions

wine pairing: a Loire Valley bubbly white

2) shrimp flavored macaroons with tarragon paste (they disappeared in your mouth)

[let me mention here that the waiter kept topping up our glasses]

3) Foie gras in the round (the foie gras was beaded into tiny pearls, and served in a bowl with tiny dark chocolate beads and dollops of watercress puree)

wine pairing: a lovely very sweet Mosel Riesling

4) lightly fried sweetbreads (which, it turns out, are made of the thymus gland of a calf) in a thick dusting of chamomile, with a cabbage lime puree and water chestnut

wine pairing: an Austrian rose that smelled like bubblegum but turned out not to be sweet at all

5) pickled beef tongue, fried mayo cubes, tomato molasses, tiny chopped puree of lettuce

This is what my aunt cleverly identified as a "ToungueLT." The fried mayo was a point of curiosity--as the waiter explained, it's actually very difficult to fry mayonnaise, because it has to solidify slightly in order to bear the batter and frying. You can't freeze mayo, because the fat content is a little too high. In the end, they had to find a natural gelatin that reacts with the mayo to create a semi-solid fryable version of mayonnaise. Anyway. Very tasty. The tomato molasses was particularly moving.

6) miso soup with shitake mushrooms, sesame "noodles"

"Noodles" is in quotation marks because what they served us was the tiny bowl of [really really nice] miso and next to it a little plastic bottle full of sesame paste. You squirt the paste into the miso and it becomes squiggly noodles. We were approaching lashed at this point, so we had to be chastised by the waiter to "make" our noodles in a hurry before the broth cooled too much.

wine pairing: a Piedmont red called Santo Stefano

7) Kokotxas, smoked sunflower paste, capers, grapefruit-shallot preserve streak, candied sunflower seeds

Kokotxas is a very flavorful kind of hake. The sunflower paste was really nice.

8) squab breast, beets, sorrel (a leafy vegetable), coconut pebbles

This was my favorite course. It was sublime. The squab (that's fancy for "pigeon") was all soaked in beet juice. OH my goodness. SO SO good.

wine pairing: a Santa Monica red called Pape Star (that's pronounced "Pop star")

8a) Here my aunt added a course, because there was no lamb on the tasting menu (shocking!!). So she added:

Thinly sliced lamb in a light broth, caramelized onions, mustard greens, and a diced pretzel topping (lordy this was a good choice)

wine pairing: she probably also added a wine pairing, but I don't remember what it is or even if it happened. Apparently at this point in the evening was where things went downhill, because the tasting menu reminder sheet is covered in what appears to be lamb juice.

9) palate cleanser: peach puree with peanut filling, pandan

Alas, the real tragedy of the dinner begins here, for I'm afraid I don't remember the dessert courses.

10) Soft chocolate, avocado, licorice, lime puree, dark chocolate crumbles

Dark chocolate and avocado go together shockingly well. I wish I had more clarity here.

wine pairing: a rose champagne

11) Coffee cake, ricotta, maraschino, chicory ice cream

Neither of us remembers this course at all, unfortunately. Although apparently we were very impressed with it. Alas.

wine pairing: a Muscat from Rhodes. This was excellent--I do remember that.

(allow me to remind you again that the waiter kept topping us off)

12) corn nougat cookie

added wine (because we really needed more booze): Banyuls (that's a French red dessert wine)

I won't tell you what the bill came to. As James Patterson's editor's former editorial assistant told me about the advances paid Mr. Patterson for each book, think of a number, and it's probably higher.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

fancy aunt has arrived!!

Tonight, we are going to WD50.

On Monday, we're going to Morimoto.

Num num num.

Friday, May 18, 2007

note to agents

Dear Agents,

Yes, it's true--I'm the new kid on the block! That's right, I haven't got any time under my belt, and I'm probably desperate for acquisitions because I need to build my own list.

But, and let me strive to say this as nicely as possible, I am not a fucking moron and the fact that you keep sending me all the projects that have been rejected by every other publisher so that I have to waste my precious time sending you polite rejection letters (because you REALLY deserve my courtesy) makes me REALLY FUCKING MAD.

No, agents--NO ONE wants your debut collections of linked short stories. NO. ONE. Seriously--when was the last time you walked into a book store and said to yourself, "Self, I feel like picking up the latest hot collection of linked short stories by a talented debut author!" That's right. Never. And just because I started acquiring three months ago does not mean that, at the risk of being redundant, I'm a fucking moron who wants to sink her money into that tarpit.

So yes, I'll reject you with the utmost courtesy because I am WELL acquainted with the value of the moral highground. But PLEASE. I would REALLY appreciate it if you could lay off with the wasting of my time.

Thanks for your time and attention.

Best wishes and warmest regards,


ps. This is a special message for you agents (you know who you are) who send me your TRASH and then DARE to get attitude with me when I very politely reject it. You're not so important that I can't write off ever working with you again. And let me tell you--I might be a nobody now but some day YOU'RE going to be the one who regrets your behavior. Trust me on that one.

Chinese history

Joy!! That damn Chinese history book finally came through! I made this offer like two months ago and I thought it was going to go away.

I talked to the author, who was an absolute easygoing joy. He said I should feel free to do whatever I want to the manuscript. That means it was just the British agent that was being an asshole for two months. Blech. I am NEVER working with those people again. They also charge a fortune for their effing offset fees. $6 a page is NOT REASONABLE, people.

I'm so glad. I want to be a serious nonfiction editor. I'm tired of getting sloughed with debut novels.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sammy's sister Anna's birthday

is on Saturday. Sammy's dad is having a barbeque at his place in Queens. Unfortunately, my aunt is visiting from California, so I'm not going to be able to go (oh, rats) (bet Anna also wishes she had an aunt from California).

Prospective attendees: Anna, the two nephews, Sammy's dad, Sammy's dad's boyfriend, Nina (Sammy's learning-disabled younger sister) and--value added--Nina's new boyfriend.

That's right. Apparently she met a boy at her program. He is only 21 (she preys upon innocents) and also has some kind of learning disability. It seems he also has a nervous disorder that causes him to release his bowels if he gets anxious or stressed out. Apparently Sammy's dad stressed him out when they first met by trying to kiss him. Big mess.

Since Sammy doesn't have a lot of money right now, for Anna's birthday he's promised her one thing--to see if he can make Nina's boyfriend crap in his pants during the party. He has a two-dollar bet riding on it with each nephew.

I promised him I'd post about this in my blog in case anyone else wanted to place bets.

wanted: one life guru

Now accepting applications.

Qualifications: Candidates must be total hard-asses with good insight into the twisted workings of an overly neurotic brain. Tough-love specialists preferred. Experience in the field of life-guruing not necessary but special consideration will be made based on wittyness of cover letter.

Responsibilities: Checks in weekly with the Spaz. Helps Spaz prioritize and rationalize goals, and forces Spaz to try to make weekly progress toward stated goals.

Compensation: $35 a year, payable in coffee and/or unwanted pasta dinners

Benefits: health [advice from a former health book editor with no other qualifications], dental [rot--there's a lot of chocolate around here], a sense of self-worth when you realize that you're actually a relatively successful member of society

Serious applicants only, please. Realists need not apply.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

the rally monkey isn't speaking to me tonight

I have admitted I don't really like cheesecake. He feels utterly betrayed.

You just faked your love of cheesecake all this time? he asked.

It was only to make you happy, I replied. You kept buying it and I didn't want you to feel rejected.

You could look me in the eye and lie to me about a thing like that? What else are you lying to me about? How will I ever be able to trust you again.

I suspect the rally monkey will be sleeping on the couch tonight (oh so easy--just fall asleep watching the Mets game).

I just wish I had some, oh, pie.

banana pudding

I rock. I'm going to make this. It happens to contain the only ingredients I happen to have in my fridge.

that jacques torres chocolate really doesn't go very far.

I was just there with Blue and Nikki last Thursday and I've already eaten my way through a $10 supply.

Guess I'll have to go back. (Hint hint. Any takers?)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

of course, dahling.

photo credit: Melanie

I am forbidden from telling my mother this story

(but will certainly tell her anyway).

My father stayed with me on Sunday night, since he needed to move my sister out of her dorm at precisely 3:15 pm on Monday. Which is a dumb time to move. But whatever.

Since Felix--the ever-stoned and never-present (what's the opposite of "ubiquitous"?) super--still has my spare key, which was given to him six weeks ago when he said he was coming up "tomorrow" to unplug the sink, the toilet, and the bathtub, I have no spare key to give my father. I pull my key off my keyring and give it to him and tell him he could give it back at lunch.

At lunch, I asked for the key back. No, no, says my father. He still needed it to get some stuff he left in my apartment, and besides, he and my sister are coming over for dinner after the move-out.

Ok, I say. You'll be back there before I get out of work, right?

Yes, he promises. Or, even better--we'll pick you up from work on our way.

At 5 pm I get a call from my sister. We're on our way to your house! she said excitedly. I frown to myself--I never leave work at 5, and usually it's more like 7 when I finally head out. But just this once, I figure it's all right to leave early. What with the family responsibilities etc.

Ok, I say. You're going to pick me up?

There's no room for you in the car, she says. You'll have to take the train. We'll be there at your place in about 20 minutes.

Ok, I say. I don't have a key, so make sure you guys let me in!

Don't worry, she says. We will.

I rush to pack up my stuff and email myself a bunch of catalog copy to write at home. I jump on the train, which takes 40 minutes, and rush home, worried that I've kept them waiting. My dad's car is nowhere to be found.

I call my sister. We couldn't find a parking space, she says. Where are you? I ask. Down at 125th. AGES away. We'll take the train back up. We'll be there in about an hour.

Where'd you leave the key? I ask.

Silence. Then, "woops."

Kitty!! I shout. I don't have a key!! Dad couldn't leave you at home to let me in? You made me leave work early and now I get to wait on the stoop?

We forgot the key, Dad, she says.

No use yelling at my sister. I sit quietly on the front stoop for about an hour and read a manuscript. Every call that drives by slows down and honks. One guy asks me how much. In all fairness, if I were them I would assume my silly white ass was for sale, too. I do some jumping jacks. I wander around the block.

The hour passes. Suddenly, my sister appears on the horizon. Suspiciously, she is not coming from the direction of the train station. And she's not with my father.

"Where's Dad?" I ask.

"Doo doo doo," she says. "You know what? I could really use a Mr. Softee! Let's go find a truck."

Now I'm really suspicious. My sister doesn't eat sweets.

"Kitty. Where. Is. Dad."

She covers her face with her hands. "He's coming."

"Where's my key?" I say, holding out my hand.

"Doo doo doo," she says. "How about that Mr. Softee?"


"In the car," she says. "But don't tell him I told you." First the man locks me out of my own house. Then he locks my key in his car and comes all the way uptown. Has to take the train all the way back downtown, and sends my sister to distract me with ice cream. It's kind of cute, in an I-should-have-stayed-at-work kind of way.

Monday, May 14, 2007

truer words were never spoken

Jalexis' boyfriend is visiting her in Japan, and I'm enjoying vicariously tracking their adventures through her blog. She reminds me how much I miss Japan and is various shades of ridiculous:

I have to import Jalexis's caption here, too: "Big man, small sandwich."

Sunday, May 13, 2007

I got a postcard from Susanne

who is in Greece at the moment. The image is a picture of a 6th century bc bronze statuette of a satyr from the National Archeological Museum. The message reads as follows:

Dear Smelly,

Hello from the highest point in Athens! This picture is just one example of the many penises I saw in Greece. Today, in the National Gardens, I passed not one but TWO creepy guys (in separate incidents) sitting on park benches and jacking off in FULL public view. Also, I have a new friend: his name is Mario and he works in the restaurant where we ate the first night. Don't worry. I haven't seen his penis. Wish you were here.



Saturday, May 12, 2007

adventure in Queens annotation

Sammy asks me to point out that the whole trip was worthwhile because his dad gave him a $1000 check at the end of the meal.

But was it worth it for Melanie and Ava? Are they going to require a cut?


Now faithful reader, perhaps this doesn't come as a shock to you, but I ate myself silly last night. All the blood donation in the world doesn't prevent a painfully distended stomach after a night of gorging on assortments of miniture desserts.

Friday, May 11, 2007

for those who were concerned

the blood donation went well, and now I am looking forward to my guilt-free weekend of carnal food indulgence. Num num.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

This is a true story about Queens

I can't believe I forgot to write about the weekend adventure to Queens. But now, since I'm hard at work (read: overstuffed from illicit sushi lunch and undermotivated because Robert the Publisher is 6,000 miles away!!), I guess I can spare 10 minutes to record for posterity.

It started off innocently enough. Melanie, Ava, and I (and a skew of other people including Angelle, my sister, and Melanie's boyfriend) had previously trekked out to Jackson Heights to Sammy's family's old favorite Filipino watering hole. Famed for its $4.50 entrees and crappy-ass service, it is a most excellent destination for people looking for a minor adventure and who don't mind if their meal just never bothers to come. And that the waiter never bothers to tell them.

So we burrow into the bowels of the earth (we rode the F train) and set out for The Uncharted Land (Queens). Sammy mentioned that some of his family might be coming.

Perhaps a description of Sammy is in order for those not already well-acquainted with his antics. He's a 6'2'' and very malnourished Filipino-American with a shaved head and a skateboard. He has three sisters. The oldest is not on speaking terms with anyone else in his family except Sammy right now. The second lives with her Puerto Rican baby daddy and their two Puertopino kids, ages 10 and 11, in a studio in Astoria--all four of them. Sammy's parents are divorced. His mother lives in Jackson Heights with his 23-year-old slightly autistic and bipolar younger sister. His father lives ONE BLOCK away (they haven't spoken in 17 years) with his gay lover. The lover sleeps in Sammy's old bed, in Sammy's old room. He thinks because he has a separate room people still think he and Sammy's dad are roommates.

The first time I met Sammy's dad, he walked me over to a blurry black and white blown-up family portrait stretching across his livingroom wall. His eight unsmiling siblings were arranged in pressed 1962 Filipino finery (ruffly shirts, etc). Mr. Sammy's Dad pointed to an austere and unmistakeably Asian woman seated in the center. "Dis is my mother," he said. "As you can see, she was Germahn, with piery red hair and piercing blue eyes." "Oh yes," I said. "I can see it clearly."

So that's the nutshell for you.

So we arrive at Ihawan, which means "barbeque" in Tagolog, apparently (although it could mean "you smell like a foot" and I wouldn't know, and Sammy wouldn't be able to tell us) and are greeted by Sammy's second sister, Anna, and the two Puertopino nephews, who are mildly annoyed about being dragged to an "event." Anna has apparently picked up Nina, the third sister. Nina is very sweet but very difficult to hold a conversation with because she has the attention span of a chipmunk. Who was a crack baby. I make a mental note to try to sit between Nina and everybody else.

"Hi Moonrat*," Nina says. "Nice to see you. What did you wear at your high school prom?"

We climb up to the restaurant (which is above a barber shop) and sit down. The boys sullenly pull out gameboys and don't make a peep for the rest of the afternoon. I manage to squeeze between Nina and Melanie, but not before Nina leans over to ask, "Are you from Thailand?"

Melanie blinks, confused. "Umm. No, I'm not."

"Ok." Nina turns to me. "Can I see your wedding ring?"

I laugh nervously. "Oh, I'm not married," I say.

"Oh," she says. "You should get a ring. They're nice. Or do you like tattoos? You know pizza is really good. Don't you want to get a tattoo of a pizza on your back?"

A wedding ring or a tattoo of a pizza. It's a tough call, really.

We cruise the menu out of habit but we each know what we've come for--in most cases, a drink made out of blended avocado, shaved ice, and sweetened condensed milk. Don't you knock it until you try it. But for 20 minutes the waitress, who is filing her nails in the corner, steadfastly ignores us. Finally I go over and drag her over to the table.

"What do you want?" she says. "You can't order. Your whole party's not here."

"Uh. Can we get drinks for now?" Ava says in a VERY polite voice.

"No. You can order when your party's all here."

"Why can't we just get drinks?" I pipe in, annoyed.

The waitress ignores me, but Anna just starts ordering for her boys. "We'll have a Coke, an iced tea, and a melon drink."

The waitress sighs laboriously and pulls out her order pad. "So ONE Coke, ONE melon."

"And one iced tea," says Anna.

"I'll have a melon drink, too," says Ava.

"You want a melon drink?!?" yells the waitress. "I just said ONE melon drink! Not TWO! Why you say ONE melon?!?"

Chastised, Ava falls silent. Melanie orders a sweet corn drink, I order avocado, and Sammy (the fool) apparently hasn't been paying attention, because he says, "I'll have a melon drink."


"Why hasn't she ever heard of tally marks?" I whisper to Melanie.

"Because she's THE WORST WAITRESS IN THE WORLD!" Melanie whispers back, and shrugs. Duh.

At this point, Sammy's dad and his boyfriend (Gary) show up. Something is amiss; Mr. Sammy looks flustered. He sists down and clasps his hands on the table. He is wearing two watches on his left wrist, a gold one and a black one, slightly overlapping each other.

There is some flurried shouting, and the waitress is cajoled into coming back to the table. We are take our berating humbly but eventually the drinks begin to arrive. Some of them will arrive at the very end of the meal. (Nina's entree will later be delivered unapologetically in a doggy bag after all the empty dishes have been cleared. It won't really affect anything, though, because she will have unabashedly helped herself to mine.)

After a moment of awkward silence, Gary excuses himself to the bathroom. "Uh," says Sammy's dad, flushing and flailing his hands. "I'm so out ob sorts today!"

I lean and whisper to Sammy, "What's wrong with your dad and Gary?"

"Total gayness," he says back. "Don't even ask." It will come out later that they had a big fight right before coming to the restaurant because Sammy's dad, always meticulous, had planned a special going-out outfit and laid the whole thing out on his bed with wallets in correct pockets and wristwatch matched, etc. When he came in from tending his flower garden Gary wouldn't let him change into the outfit he'd picked out because it included khaki shorts and Gary didn't want Sammy's dad showing off his legs to other men. I'm not making this up.

When Gary comes back to the table, Nina, ever the witty conversationalist, pipes up, "So Gary, how long have you and my dad been together now?"

Gary, who is, as Sammy puts it, so deep in the closet he's found all the fruitcakes, blushes a royal magenta and mumbles, "Uh...too long now," and tries to laugh.

"He's a great guy," Nina tells him. "A real romantic."

Sammy's dad leans over the table and says to Melanie (his first words to her), "So, my dear, what sort ob Oriental blood plos tru your bayns?"

"Excuse me?" says Melanie, perhaps caught off guard by phraseology.

Mr. Sammy's Dad is undaunted, and repeats himself verbatim. "What sort ob Oriental blood plow tru your bayns?"

" mom is Chinese," Melanie answers, grinning gamely.

"And what is your pather?"

"Scotch-Irish," Melanie says.

"Well, my mother was Germahn," he tells her.

"Oh, that's great," says Melanie. She's never been good at pretending she cares but Sammy's dad has never been good about listening to any of his interlocutors so there isn't any trouble.

Dammit. I really have to go edit a manuscript now. But that's ok. There's no real ending to this story, it just goes on and on.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I'm also kinda freaked out

about how many elaborately-programmed Malaysian teeny-bopper blogs obsessed with self-destructive sex there are. (????)

so in due course of my daily random blog surfing

I came across this, the scariest blog in history.

Who would actually take the time to make this?!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

a new day has dawned

Yes, faithful readers, it's true--I've finally figured out how to imbed images and text links! Joy!

Monday, May 07, 2007

best plan EVER

After much work (read: three full days on the phone for EACH of us--lucky our places of employ have speed dial!!) Angelle and I finally secured reservations at Babbo. This was finally accomplished by MY going in and ASKING the hostess to dial me through to the reservationist (yes, they officially have someone with that title there). So Melanie, Susan, Angelle, and I will be gorging in style this weekend.

GUESS what I have cleverly done. I have arranged to give blood on Friday morning!! Everyone knows that it takes lots of calories to build up one's blood again after a donation. This means I will be in need of gluttonous amounts of nutrition and the entire tasting menu will be guilt-free!

For those of you upset to see bloodletting in the context of pricing dining, YOU can go do conventional things on a treadmill. Humph.

oh, Laura

As if it wasn't bad enough that George thanked Queen Elizabeth for helping the US celebrate its bicentennial in 1776, Laura Bush had to wear a vest that looks like saggy blue boobs. Welcome, Your Majesty.

my botched relationship with blogspot

Dear Reader,

I want to come clean with you. I'm not sure I'm giving you enough to satisfy you as a client--and after all, it's your happiness that is most important here. Writing on the internet is, although a selfish enterprise, one that is inevitably catered toward the random viewer. If I were truly writing "for myself" (as everyone claims to be writing) I would keep a private blog with a lot of securities in place.

But no, I'm an exhibitionist. I WANT to tell you all my most personal stories. Without compromising my family, friends, and enemies. Or alienating or boring my readership. You see how this is a hard line to toe--I want you to know everything, but on the other hand, you don't care about most of the things I want you to know. Hmm.

What to do, what to do. Regale you with embarrassing personal stories, but change all the names? The challenge, of course, being that I have to carry on obscuring details about names, places, and indignant persons. Any suggestions? Anyone have a story they REALLY want told?



Monday :(

in terms of weekend goals:

1) clean my apartment: YAY! Accomplished!! Relatively, that is.
2) finish one of the two freelance manuscripts I have checked out: Erm. Basically I finished one. It needs some final touches.
3) finish one of the three books I'm reading: Instead, I started three others.
4) plan out a short story:
5) read through & mark up old, dead, novel:
6) call my aunt: yes, I did do this, although I didn't actually talk to her, since my grandfather, who has Alzheimer's, had gone over to her house to her house and fallen asleep by the phone. Every time I called he would wake up and answer the phone, but get confused and try to tell me he was just going to go find a pen to take a message (although my aunt was on the line shouting at him to go back to sleep). Eventually we gave up and she told me to call her some other day.
7) oh fuck. I forgot the laundry: I hear Duane Reade sells 5-packs of underwear for $8
8) figure out a magical way to pay my rent: YAY!!! thank god. Although I had to borrow $300 from the rally monkey. No dignity.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

message to Angelle from the Rally Monkey

They have revehse mail ohdeh brides, you know. They can put you in a pink box and mail YOU to China.


Small goals:

1) clean my apartment (for the rally monkey has run amok again)
2) finish one of the two freelance manuscripts I have checked out
3) finish one of the three books I'm reading
4) plan out a short story
5) read through & mark up old, dead, novel
6) call my aunt
7) oh fuck. I forgot the laundry.
8) figure out a magical way to pay my rent

musings on the inevitable

I'm struggling to justify my existence at the moment.

Here's the quandry:

I purport to be a judge of other people's writing. I slice it and dice it and tell them where they need to move chapters, where they need to move words, where they need to give up the ghost on some heartfelt passage, and where they need to fuck off. I tell them that they need to kill off a particular character and they need to listen. I tell them that although they THINK their book is a mystery it should in fact be science fiction. I create their audience rahter arbitrarily for them and then give them a litany of ways to try to pander to that audience. I tell them I'm damn good at what I do and they need to trust me. I try to make them feel good about trusting.

Ok, that's nice.

Here's the problem--and I know there are many sides to this argument. How can I criticize the creative endeavors of others when I'm not creating anything of my own? I don't know how many times I've invoked the "oh, I know this stage in the revision process is difficult, since I've been there too! I know *I* need third- and fourth-person eyes on my work or else I'll just NEVER figure out what's missing!" speech. It usually makes people feel happy and reassured (I hope).

But it rings a little false lately. After all, when was the last time I wrote creatively? I finished my last project on January 26, 2006. Awhile ago, ain't it. Does writing in fits and starts make you a writer? Can I call myself (sympathetically) a writer because I would write, in theory, if I had time and ideas?

I know many editors believe that they SHOULDN'T write--that the creation is the territory of the authors, and that editors shouldn't try to mess on that field, but should instead specialize in critical (and relatively unemotional) analysis so that they can really honestly tell the author what needs to be changed without becoming overly involved in the "artistic process" (which is really the end of us all).

And this argument really makes sense. It is almost undeniably the right way to go. After all, it is very difficult to create your own material when you are literally neck-deep in someone else's---try reading a book and writing a book at the same time. Nigh impossible and highly inadvisable (my favorite English teacher once told me so, so it must be gospel truth). Now try re-writing the book you are reading while writing the book you are writing. Ok. So you see where I'm going with this.

So really I should decide to commit to my path and not fret about how I'm not writing anything. I'll be an editor, not a writer.

But then there's the psychological hump--can I commit to a future world to which I have made no attempt to contribute anything of my own?

What selfishness and delusions of grandeur torment us. How self-indulgent we can be.

My guess is this push-pull never resolves itself for the rest of my working life, and that most likely I am never published myself. But seeing the future doesn't make it any easier to accept the future graciously.

Friday, May 04, 2007

my gmail's not working

How completely disorienting. It's like the wheels of civilization are carrying on turning and I've been left off to the side with no means of reconnecting. Gack.

what a day, what a day

I saw Turandot, my favorite opera, which I've never seen or even heard but have read a lot of Wikipedia and other fine source material about, and which I am obsessed with because Puccini died most tragically just short of writing the last duet, and whose famous Aria, Nessun Dorma, makes me cry like Bluenana's aforementioned "pregnant woman" every time I hear it, with Melanie and Angelle last night.

To make it even betterer, there was sushi beforehand. I ate mine and half of Melanie's before I realized they had ordered me a separate meal and we weren't sharing for the whole table. But I only felt slightly awkward because Melanie's tasted better.

After a dry spell of a month and a half, I bought TWO books yesterday. It was strange--I had both the agents on the phone at once, switching from one to the other...I felt like a stockbroker. One I bought for a song, and the other I got amazing rights for.

Bad news: they're both fiction. Shit will hit the fan when Robert the Publisher realizes that he approved two fiction offers in one day. Cross fingers and hope he won't remember.

Also, both books need REALLY heavy edits. I'm not sure I can edit fiction. I guess there's really no better way to find out.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

i need to cook dinner for my fancy aunt

The only thing I know how to make was the below-described chicken banana fillet.

Please leave your recipe/meal plan suggestions here. PLEASE.



Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Through some rather nice twist of fate, Bluenana's date for the evening flaked (boo on flakey dates) and she had a free ticket (yay flakey dates!) to an intimate screening of an Irish movie called ONCE. The movie stars Glen, the lead singer of the Irish indie band The Frames, and his (rar) 18-year-old Czech friend Mara (who's also a shockingly talented singer-songwriter and who speaks English with this really cute Irish-Czech accent) and it's essentially an "album on film," as the director called it (yes, other upside--the director and the two leads were there for a "panel discussion" (read: acoustic sing-along) after the screening).

Go home and get our your Miriam Webster and flip through to "ill-advised." The definition will surely say something like "showing up in a black and blue (yes) corporate suit (from H&M) frought with misgivings about your life and your comfortable but arguably passionless relationships and sitting and listening to an hour and a half of Irish indie rock while pondering your past hyperemotional wannabe indie-rocker lifestyle when you were surrounded by beautiful passionate starving people who loved and hurt one another with unfettered innocence and sincerity and whose memory haunts you each and every day whenever you let your grip slip a little and you wax into undirected reverie" (verbatim).

I can't even explain how sad it made me, and I'm embarrassed to explain why. So instead of even trying I'll take the lame-ass indie-kid cop-out and leave you with some touching but vague lyrics to wonder about.

take this sinking boat
and point it home
we've still got time