Category Archives: Election 2008

One last good one: Bullets, Bums and Barack

Hope. Now I have it.  I’m so excited to see what Barack Obama is going to do with his presidency!  I feel proud for the first time that I am an American; that I had the chance to vote, to make a difference.
My interview project is nearly complete.   From September 17th – November 4th, I attempted to interview one person a day as an exercise to keep me writing.  The result is pretty amazing.  It’s a journal of New York City as we prepared to elect the first Black president.   On September 17th, the day after I arrived  in New York after spending two weeks in California, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the beauty of the city in the fall.  It was as if someone had put V-juice in my coffee.  Or, I was in love again with New York.  The trees, the air, the people…everything was cracking with change.

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History in the Making: Barack Obama is our Next President!

Everyone is screaming at my house.

Obama party

Obama party

All of New York City is going nuts!  Obama just hit 270 electoral votes.
The latest political news from John McCain: They have turned off the news. It’s like the sinking of the Titanic; the Republican party has turned their focus to Hank Williams Jr.
So my house is hopping!  Fake Obama Girl showed up, champagne is flowing and I’m getting drunk.  The party just went outside and left me because “I’m being anti social with my blog.”
WILL.I.AM VIA HOLLOGRAM just appeared on CNN. I am not down with CNN’s hollogram technology.  It’s cheesy!
We just did a “cheers” to Barack; and then my husband Dmitry said a few poignant words about Obama’s grandma passing a day before this historic moment.
“Barack Obama’s grandma knew it wasn’t close race; she knew her grandson was the next President of the United States. Her work was done, she could go in peace.”

The “It” Girl of 2005 is Back!

Tonight is the night.  Sure I want to know about the election results, but I’m also trying to close out my project, one interview a day until the election.   Olives are on the table and the champagne is being opened chez moi; my husband is already annoyed with me that I am in my room blogging instead of watching  and being social. In fact, I am still wearing my workout gear and a Hello Kitty T-shirt that says: “Being This Cute is Exhausting.”  Today when I was wearing this shirt at Grounded and asked the guy behind the counter to refill my Hello Kitty water bottle,hellokitty he looked at me with a funny grin.  I realized he was looking at my shirt, which I threw on when running out the door.
“What – you think I’m obsessed with Hello Kitty?” I said, realizing, of course that I looked utterly ridiculous.
“Oh this is a coincidence,” I said, pointing at my shirt.
“You are going to tell me that that’s the only Hello Kitty stuff you own?” he said.
“Uh, not exactly.” Maybe he should read this piece I wrote about Hello Kitty back in 2001.
Moving on.
So with nothing to watch a la moment but a CNN hollogram, I am off to catch up on my interviews.  What on earth are we all going to do for entertainment when this is all over? See more plays?  Be more creative?  Well this brings me to my next interview.



Who: Lisa Ebersole
Where:  Bar 6, West Village
Occupation: Playwright, Video Media Specialist
Lisa was the “IT” Girl of the summer of 2005.  Her play Brother caused quite a stir in New York City.  Her publicist sent an invite to me at my agent job at the Fifi Oscard Agency.  The title of this play had me intrigued, so I went out to the play and there was the playwright with a starring role in her own work that she also directed.  She was as good as any of the other actors in the fine play. For a few weeks at least Brother was the talk of Off-Off Broadway New York; it was edgy, dramatic and different. The New York Times gave it a rave review and Back Stage called her “The new voice in theater.”  I decided that we had to meet.  Even though I didn’t know how long I’d be an agent, I decided to represent her. How could I not?  Lisa is one of the coolest, smartest and talented people who I know.  Within a few months, I helped to get Brother published by the Samuel French Publishing Company, which was thrilling for both of us.  This meant, of course, that I indeed had a good eye for talent and of course the obvious: Lisa Ebersole was bound to be a star.
Fast forward three years to 2008 in the week preceding the presidential election.  I left my post at the Fifi Oscard Agency in 2006 to go back into online marketing.  Meanwhile, Lisa has staunchly refused to be represented by anyone other than me, and writing and creativity for both of us had taken a back seat to the stresses of real life.

Honestly, we’ve both had just about enough reality, and we could use a little sugar. In addition to getting a new President elected, we are both poised for a comeback.
“Oh yes!” Lisa says with a grin.
Lisa and I were in full secret planning mode and I’m not sure we did a proper interview.  From the looks of Lisa, she’s is certainly back from her “It” girl hiatus.
“I’ve got a movie premiere,” she says with grin.  Yup, she’s back.

Wonder Woman in a Cat Suit

Sadly, today at midnight I am going to end my “project” which has been to interview one person a day until the election.  Today when I went to vote I stood next to Patricia Keaton in line.  She is very nice and civic minded, but she really didn’t want to be interviewed for the blog.  Meanwhile, I am quite behind in my interviews and will be spending election night writing about the many cool people I met with instead of focusing on any poll numbers.  People are coming over to watch election results around seven.   My house is usually some sort of center of activity….

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A Story of Early Voting in LA

This is from an email that my father-in-law, Vladimir Paperny wrote about taking his elderly mother to the early voting center in L.A.

I took my mother, who is 90 and walks with a walker, to the only early voting place in LA county, Norwalk. I heard there were lines but did not expect the line to be about a mile long. To get to the tent, where you are assigned a number, you have to stand in a line that goes around a block. That takes about 2 hours. From the entrance to the tent to the voting booth it takes about 3 more hours (see photo). The crowd is about 60% black, 25% other minorities, 15% white. Because of my mother’s walker, they took us directly to the registration place, so the whole procedure took us less than an hour. Lera was very impressed a) with people’s willingness to spend 5 hours to cast their votes (it’s reasonable to assume that many voted for the first time); b) with the crowd’s relaxed and friendly behavior (no drunk fights she had expected); and c) with the efficiency of the registration process — the Registrar’s office workers (with about the same ethnic distribution as in the line), despite their slow and lazy movements, were, nevertheless, efficient and eager to help. The place was supposed to close at 4 but the only thing they did at 4 was to put security guards at the end of the line to stop latecomers. I don’t think they would go home any time before 9.

Two days earlier, my mother was involved in another political action. There was a discussion at her table at the Adult Health Center she goes to. Some of the people she used to be very friendly with started saying things like “he is an Arab”, “he is a Muslim”, “we don’t want an African president”, etc. At this point, my shy, quiet and mild-mannered mother (a straight A student at the Institute for History, Philosophy and Literature, class of 1941, former head of Literary Criticism department at Novyi Mir magazine) slammed her fist at the table a shouted: “I am ashamed of you! This is racism!” Everybody shut up, and the discussion ended. Viva Lera!

Old New York

Lately I’ve been running into people who have been openly telling me about vintage New York City.  From my mom’s best friend who sold her apartment and still regrets it, to an ex-convict who is just happy to be free.  Old New York was a city full of large two bedroom apartments “with a room for a maid”, a place where gangs were stabbing people as part of a right of passage, a city where cabs cost .85 cents, a city where “all my friends died of AIDS” — a city where “I hung out in the theater all day.” Some of these things are still true, some have changed.

I’m behind in my interviews.  So I’m playing a little catch up here.

Who: Alan Brown
Where: Grounded, NYC
Occupation: Screenwriter
Alan has lived in New York City since 1981, but he left in 1987 and lived in Japan for seven years.
“It was good that I got to leave,” he says.  “I learned to appreciate it.”
“Wasn’t it bad when you came back in 1995?” I say.
“No, it was much better.  New York went through such a dark time, you have no idea,” he says.
“My first real trip to New York City was in 1997.  I saw some plays and went to Times Square – I took photos,” I say.
“See, that was after Disney and Giuliani came in.”  Before Giuliani Broadway was dark – it was gloom and doom,” he says.
I hear differing opinions of the pre-Disney post Disney Broadway, but one common theme I hear is that New York is cleaner and safer than it ever was in the eighties.
“I left right in the middle of one of the worst times – it was the Crack and AIDS epidemic, there were many places you couldn’t go.”
“So many people hate Giuliani, but he really cleaned up New York,” I say.
“Yes, he did.”
Alan Brown is very political.  In fact, he was just in Pennsylvania campaigning for Obama this past weekend.  He’s from Scranton.
“Just like Joe Biden and Hillary,” he says.
Alan was a Hillary fan (like me) but has jumped over to Obama’s camp (like me).
“Hillary will be fine,” he says. “I’m very happy with Obama as our candidate.”
“So what’s your favorite thing about New York?” I say
He thinks about it for a little bit.
“Everything.”
I laugh.
“New York is the only place in the world where your life might change depending on which way you walk, or who you walk into.”
“Isn’t that true for everywhere,” I say.
“No, nothing is like New York, this is the place where dreams really can come true.”

“Jumping on Board” to Obama’s Campaign

Thursday I noticed I was repeating things I’d done two, three weeks ago.  But now the air is cooler and the trees rustle more as the leaves fall off.  I had lunch at Doma and when I looked out the window, there was the painter I’d interviewed a few weeks ago. 

Now his painting had morphed, just like he said it would.  I think I liked it better in the earlier version.  I read some of my book, which is research for my new play.  It’s depressing.
The older couple who had sat down next to me were speaking a language I didn’t recognize.  I speak French, Russian and a little German, so I am good at recognizing most languages, but this didn’t sound familiar.


Who: Henriette and Vagn Kondsen
Where: Doma, NYC
Occupation: Tourists  and parents (today)
Henriette and Vagn tell me that they are visiting New York for two weeks and today they have already been uptown and all over Soho.
“It’s exhausting isn’t it?” I say.
“Oh yes, we are glad to sit down.”
“Do you live here?” Vagn asks me.
“Yes, just over there,” I point.
“You are so lucky.  We love the village,” he tells me.
“We are visiting our daughter, but she’s working so much that we barely see her.”
“What does she do?” I say.
“She’s here working on the Obama campaign,” says her mother proudly.
Emma Kondsen came over from Demark to work as a volunteer to get my (crossing fingers) president elected. She’s been here for four months.
“You must be very proud,” I say.
Her parents looked so proud that I think I see tears in their eyes.
“It must be a wonderful thing being a parent,” I say.
“It’s so wonderful,” says her mom.

After pointing them to my favorite neighborhood book store “Three Lives” I went home.  My phone rang and it was unknown number.
“Hello,” I say.

“Hi, my name is Michelle and I’m calling from Barack Omama’s campaign.”

No, it wasn’t Michelle Obama, it was just someone named Michelle.
They were looking to see if my husband, who had donated money wanted to volunteer.
“He’s probably too busy,” I say.  “But, I’ll do it.”

The last time I helped out with a campaign, the guy won.

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Is Time on our Side?

This whole week felt like a struggle with time.  But really Isn’t every single moment in life about struggling with time, unless we stop time?
On Wednesday after many failed attempts to write or get anything done, I went to Grounded only to find that there weren’t any tables available to write. I found a tiny space on a bench and shared it with a lady who looked like a writer.  I hadn’t interviewed anyone that day and it was nearing 5PM.
I explained what I was doing, and she thought it sounded like a great idea, so we agreed to chat before we both left the cafe.

AnneLise Sorensen "The Product"

AnneLise Sorensen

Who: Annellise Sorensen
Where: Grounded, NYC
Occupation: Freelance Travel Writer
Annelise is a fun person with a great smile and a thick mane of hair.  I am good at telling signs, so I immediately guessed that she was a Leo.  There are a few signs I’m very good at guessing: Leo, Taurus, Sagittarius, Aries, Aquarius, Gemini, sometimes Scorpio.
Leos like to talk, have big heads with lots of hair.  My best friend is a Leo, and so was my best friend at work for a year.  So I know Leos.
They also have big laughs, like a lion.  Leo, get it.
Annelise and I had a lot to talk about –we have a lot in common, besides the Leo-Bull connection. Continue reading

NYC Train Interviews: Thursday and Friday

NYC Train Interviews
Thursday is the day I go to White Plains to take care of my aunt, so it’s not usually very exciting.
I asked the mustached train conductor what the craziest experience he’d ever had on the train.
“Oh lots of things,” he says.
“Like what?”
“People having fun.”
“Fun drinking, fun what?”
“You know, having fun.”
Oh, I get it.  Okay.  Having “fun.”  I say this while I am imagining the scene from “Risky Business.”
“Can I take your picture?”
“No  way.”
The lady across from me who was wearing sexy smart glasses and an interesting animal print dress and high brown boots asks what I’m doing.
With a smile ear-to-ear she came and sat next to me and we chatted the rest of the way back to New York City.
“You know I have to interview you now, right?” I said.
“Oh no. I’m so boring,” she said with a smile.
You know, I’d rather interview someone who says that they are boring than someone who is supposed to be exciting who ends up being boring.

She could be Molly Shannon

She could be Molly Shannon

Who: Jackie
Where:  Metro North, heading back to New York City from White Plains
Occupation: Research Pharmacist
Jackie is a self-described optimist; the book she was reading about “Change” was just proof of her desires in life.
“I tried to be a real-estate agent once, but that didn’t work out.”
Jackie wants to be open to change, but obviously it hasn’t been in her past.  She stayed at one job for 13 years and when I asked her how long she’s been living in NYC, she said: “19 years,” before telling me that she was born and raised in Brooklyn.
So, really she’s been in NYC her whole life.
“Most people aren’t open to change, but not me,” she says with a renewed freedom.
Jackie loves to travel though and through her work, she’s been all over the world.
“Thailand was my favorite.  I just loved the people there.”
Of all the people I’ve met, Jackie had the least to say, but was the most happy and optimistic about life.  She reminds me of Molly Shannon in “The Year of The Dog.”
“Change is good,” she says with an even bigger grin than before.
There was something about her. She could be an actress. I can see her in one of my plays.
“Really?” she says.
“Yes, absolutely.”
Hopefully this is a Democratic change.
I took some photos of some people on my way home to watch the debates.
My husband wanted me to wait for him, but I couldn’t.
Here’s a weird thing and I’ll just say it.  I can’t keep my eyes off of Sarah Palin.
Okay, I said it.
Onward.
It’s really horrible that she uses her charisma and hotness to get ahead, or is it?
The things that Tina Fey makes fun of about Sarah Palin — the winking, the kiss blowing, the effusive goofiness, the hairdos, the hot outfits, I don’t know.   Is that really wrong?  Just look at what America appreciates.
As a woman and a feminist, it disgusts me that she’s chided for this. Obviously using her good looks is something that’s gotten her ahead in this world, why should she stop now?
Hillary was booed for her poor outfit choices and harshness.
We are either not pretty enough or too pretty, but that’s what people talk about with women instead of what’s really important.
Sarah Palin is not qualified to be president.  That’s the only thing that’s important to know about her.
Anyway, I had all kinds of plans, but ended up lying around my apartment all day hoping to feel better.  It never happened.
Finally at 3PM Beatriz came by and this would force me to leave my den.  Beatriz is the daughter of Maria our once-a-week cleaning lady.
Maria, Beatriz mom, put both of her daughters through school by cleaning houses for a living in NYC.  We inherited Maria as our cleaning lady when we got our apartment six years ago.  If you are wondering, “oh she has a cleaning lady” – I married into the cleaning lady deal.  I never grew up with one and never had one before.  It was my husband’s thing, but sure, a great idea.
Maria’s set of keys proves to me that she probably has 40 clients.  So over the years her daughters have come in and cleaned in her place; secret-cleaning genies who did things a little more detailed than their mother.  I often hoped that these girls would grow up and take good care of their mom; she deserves it.
Laura the elder is now a Police Officer.  Beatriz, the younger is an up-and-coming filmmaker, and I hadn’t spent any time with her until recently because she was studying in Spain.


Who: Beatriz
Where: My apartment
Occupation: Filmmaker
Beatriz is a like a little wind-up doll filled with extra batteries.  She talks a mile a minute and is doing a million things at once, including cleaning our apartment.
“Did I tell you that I got a job working with a production company that does gay sit coms?”
“Great,” I say as I get out my tape recorder.
I’d like to interview Beatriz.  I think she’s full of hope and excitement, but she talks too fast, even for my tape recorder.  Or maybe I am just too slow today.

Here’s some random photos I took of people around my hood.

Don’t Be Trippin – Downtown cafe girl goes uptown!

What an excellent day!  I had two important appointments uptown and Audrey told me she got a new job!  She was so excited that she had to see me, so I decided to get “gussied” as much as possible and prepared for my meetings early, so that we could live “creative life” even if it was only for two hours.

This is a side note, but I really hate my new hairdo, it does make me look like Sarah Palin’s sister.

Me in my "library pose"

I look like a schoolmarm, librarian, preschool teacher or like I hunt for rabbits (no offense to schoolmarms, librarians, preschool teachers, rabbit hunters…well sure, offense to rabbit hunters).
Audrey and I meet up at Grounded and saddle up to a little table that we share.  Laptops are back-to-back.  I look down at my computer and realize that I haven’t prepared much for either of my meetings (been too busy writing my blog perhaps?).
One of my meetings is with a theater company. They have asked me to be prepared to discuss a marketing plan for “Of Mice and Men, the Musical.”  It was kind of a “what if?” type of question.  I’m pondering this. Audrey finds me a website with themes of Steinbeck novels.  So I am trying to imagine Curley’s wife singing a beautiful song about being lonely.  Hmmm.
I nearly tripped on the computer cord of the guy sitting next to me.
“Don’t be trippin,” He says with a laugh.  I can tell he thinks this he’s made a funny pun.
I smile and look back down at the “themes” page.
Audrey, my partner in crime, nudges me:  “Interview him,” she says with a raised brow.
“Ah,” good idea.
So I look on his lap top and try to see what he’s working on, see if it intrigues me.   It looks like it’s some kind of script for a commercial.
I have a feeling that Audrey and I are starting to get “known” in this café.
“Can I interview you? It will only take a minute,” I say.
“Sure, if it only takes a minute.”


Who:  Jason
Where: Grounded, NYC
Occupation: Movie trailer writer, advertising.
I actually felt like Jason was interviewing me, more than I was interviewing him.
“So what’s your blog about?” he says.
I can tell the whole coffee house is listening.
“Oh I interview one person a day, but I’m a playwright, so it’s not like an official thing.  I feel you and I have to sit across from you in order to interview you.”
“So what is it you do?  What are you working on?  It looks like a commercial, is it?” I say.
“I write teasers for movies and television shows.”
“Wow, that’s different.”
“I know so cool, right?” he says.
I can tell he doesn’t take himself too seriously, which is a good thing.
“How did you get this job?”
I’m not sure if this is exactly what we said, but I think he said something like
“I know how to work it.”
Hmm. Something any New Yorker knows is the name of the game – working it, that is.
“I feel lucky,” he says.
The three of us laugh about it.
“Look at us, we are in a cafe,” he said.
I think I can most appreciate the luxury of getting to hang out in a café.  After all, I only just left the corporate “florescent lights” a month ago.
Whew.  I pinch myself.  I am enjoying every moment of this borrowed time.
From behind me a guy who is listening to our conversation says, “are you a playwright? I am too.”

“I’ve got a show coming up.”  He hands me his card and we talk for awhile about playwriting and the Samuel French Festival.  He won in 2007.  His play “To Barcelona” sounds fascinating.  He added me as a friend on Facebook while we were sitting there talking, and as you can imagine, my interview with Jason went south.  Oh yeah, my interview!
Thankfully Audrey took over with the interview while I became distracted with Michael the playwright and figuring out how many friends we had in common.
Jason and Audrey both went to UC Berkeley, so they had a lot to chat about.  We told him that we really only recently graduated and were like 27.  I think he believed us.
We laugh.
I think the whole café is in on this.
“Okay café,” I ask to the crowd at large, “what Broadway stars would be good in Of Mice and Men, the Musical?”
“ I was thinking of Allan Cummings as Curley,” I say.
“He’s too old,” says Jason.
Suddenly I’m hearing answers from all over the coffee house.
Back to the interview, sort of.
“So is your blog political?” says Jason.  “You say you are interviewing one person a day until November 3rd?”
“Well, that’s when I figure I’ll be exhausted. But sure, getting people’s political views is part of it,” I say with a sigh.
“I just assume unless you tell me that you are from Alaska that most New Yorkers I’m meeting are liberal.”
“Well,” says Jason with a snort:  “I fucking love Barak Obama and I will flee the country if he doesn’t win.  I don’t care how many vaginas (Sarah Palin) has, why would any woman vote for her?”
His outburst cracks all of us up because it came out of nowhere.
My day could have ended there and I would have been happy, but I did have two meetings uptown, so since I am still in my “looking up” mode, I snapped a photo of building that would make a great painting – love the pipe snaking up the side.

Since my lipstick had worn off, I stopped into Bloomingdales and got lost trying to find the makeup counter.  I stopped to look at a chic jacket and of course it was my favorite designer: Nanette Lepore.

I don’t own anything by Nanette Lepore, but the next time I have money for a shopping spree, I must get something from her collection.  It’s true love!
At 7PM, I meet up with another playwright-friend Sonya at the Women’s Project for the opening of a new play.  Sonya is the greatest.   Great writer, mom of a three-year-old, very smart, funny and supportive of other writers.  Here’s a fun secret bonus about working in the theater in NYC: I get to know a cast of very interesting characters– and I get to see lots of quality theater for free!
The play was good; the set and lighting design inventive and the acting superb.  The characters were Russian and both actors really knocked out a solid Russian accent.  Natilia Payne is one of my favorite actors, so how could I not find the play charming? Yes, charming indeed.


The after party was fun too, though we didn’t stay long.  On the way home we came out right as the Broadway stars from the musical “Spring Awakening “ were outside singing autographs, so I snapped some more photos.


Hmmm. Maybe someday this will be me? Nah, no one takes photos of the playwrights.  It’s a good thing. I don’t like my hair.
________