Category Archives: Election 2008

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.
________

Fall interviews – more New York City.

If you haven’t caught on yet, I’m interviewing….madly interviewing one, sometimes two people a day.  It’s hard work, but I am getting it done.  Alas, here is the latest.

Kenneth Butler and Danny Fernadez

Kenneth Butler and Danny Fernadez

Who:
Danny Fernandez and Kenneth Butler
Where: Greenwich Avenue, NYC
Occupation (today): Civil Rights Activists
Normal occupation: Kenneth is an actor and Danny is a filmmaker.
Tuesday, September 23rd.
11AM – I was on my way to Grounded – my new writer’s lair.  As I ran by, I noticed two guys with petitions.   Normally I do my best to avoid people with petitions, but this time, the two guys holding the petitions Danny Fernandez and Kenneth Butler looked interesting, so I decided to ask them what they were up to and what I could sign.
Turns out they were trying to get money for Gay Rights (HRC.org). They explained to me that HRC.org  supports all kinds of lobbying efforts for Gay rights in Washington.
“Did you know that a Catholic Church organization is spending 1.2 million to put bills through congress to stop gay marriage?” said Kenneth Butler.
“Proposition 8 is on the ballot in California,” seconds Danny.
Proposition 8 could ban gay marriage.
“I’m not gay, but lots of my friends are and obviously I think civil rights affects everyone.  It’s hard to believe what marginalized cultures have to put up with from the government and the Christian Right,” said Danny.
“See, my $11 a month really adds up,” says Kenneth proudly.   “When you know that gays are still being persecuted” and “they can’t marry in many states” seconds Danny….”well we feel better that we are doing something.”
After many hours of writing I came by the same area and at 4PM the guys were still out, still trying to get money.
“How did you do?” I said.  “We did great today,” said Danny.
“The people were really excellent,” said Kenneth.

Creative writing: fall interviews

More interviews…oh fall!
I always remember the first day of fall.  The air feels slightly chilly and it seems like signs for Halloween are everywhere, even if they are only in your mind. Once a romance that had been brewing all summer came to fruition on the first day of fall.  Everything seemed more poignant that fall.   Flowers were more fragrant.  I recall wearing tights that were too tight to pull up.  I got my solo apartment that fall, even if it was only a sublet.  It was a magical time, but then, fall always is.  It’s the biggest change of season, a time of re-birth.
So on with the Interviews – I haven’t forgotten.
Who: Rachel
Where: Grounded in the West Village, NYC
Occupation: Business Editor
Rachel is a fan of the Yankees, “loves Shakespeare” and will probably run a marathon someday.  She also happens to be a business editor.
“I hope my team isn’t messing up the coverage,” she says.
For the past year, she’s been my Sunday Yoga friend and that’s the extent of it.
We met while I worked in marketing for Salon.com, which is now forever ago. We met when Salon was relevant and we were not.  Things have changed.
These days Sunday Yoga is “our date” because it might be the only time we see each other in the month. We are both guilty of being busy, and we both travel a lot.  Rachel is always “off somewhere”- or “going to her country house”– or on a humanitarian mission to Africa. She seems like the kind of person who could put out a fire and save two babies on her way to work.  And no, she won’t tell me who she’s going to vote for because of her “journalistic integrity.”   Really? Okay.
Since I never go to Brooklyn, I have to appreciate that Rachel comes into Manhattan for our visits.  I’m a Taurus, which means I make people come to me.  Rachel is a Leo, which means, she controls things.
“Oh,” she says with the calmness of lion after its kill, “did I tell you that I accidentally ran a half marathon last weekend?”
“How do you accidentally run a half marathon?”
“Well, it just happened.”
But it was something, this marathon.  This was Rachel once again pushing herself to new, yet un-tested limits.
“Oh Noni, I’ve got to get going,” she says as she helps me finish my coffee.
Knowing that Rachel loves plays as much or more than I do, I ask her if she’s the kind of writer she really wants to be.
“I’m making my living writing.  That’s the kind of writer I want to be.”
Her answers are all business and I guess that makes sense.
“So, are you writing this down, Noni?”

——-

Who: Carolyn French

Where: The Fifi Oscard Agency, Midtown, NYC

Occupation: Literary Agent
I met Carolyn French over five years ago when I came in looking for a job at Fifi Oscard, a literary agency in NYC.
I was in the first summer of my MFA and really only knew that a literary agent position sounded interesting.
I stood in the waiting room with my resume thinking that I would just get to drop it off and I wouldn’t hear a thing.  Turns out that the owner, the grand dame Fifi Oscard wanted to see me.
“So what can you do for us?”  Truthfully I had no idea.  “I can….lick stamps, uh…I can…answer the phones….”I stammered.  Suddenly I knew what I could do.
“I can read plays,” I said with confidence.
“Oh good,” she said.
So Fifi gave me a play and I returned it with comments the next day.  The play was terrible and I said so.
“You should go talk to Carolyn,” she said.  So I did.
That day I became Carolyn’s assistant and for the next three years I read and commented on a great many plays. I helped Carolyn file, write letters and worked on getting people out to her writer’s events.  Eventually my role grew at the agency grew and I had my own clients.  I had quite a time there, but that’s not what I’m writing about.
The ever-stylish Carolyn was born around 1930, which means she was a teenager when my granny’s cartoon Brenda Starr had just come out.  She lived in San Francisco and from the looks of her now, I imagine she was quite a beauty when she was young.  She’s tall and slender, and boasts of how she still stands on her head every morning.
Carolyn got her PhD in English and Theater, was unhappily married and had one daughter and “traveled the world” before becoming an agent.
Carolyn is probably one of the smartest and most intellectual agents out there.  She’s an agent that really knows how to tell a good play from a bad one.  Honestly, so many agents are just into the hype, but not Carolyn.  Even if she forgets ten minutes later, Carolyn will tell it to you straight.
Carolyn only decided to become a literary agent later in life after an illness left her unable to teach.
“I lost my memory,” she said.  “So I certainly couldn’t teach.”  But she could surely choose plays.
When she came to Fifi’s to work as an agent she had to train, just like me.
“ I worked for free at first – and still do, practically.”
Carolyn was able to gain her confidence quickly as an agent.
“I only wanted a project that people would recognize,” she said.  “I was hardly expecting what happened next.  I mean where do you go from there?”
Carolyn’s first project as an agent was the play “Wit” and it won the Pulitzer Prize.
When I told Carolyn that I wanted to be a playwright she said “why?”
“A playwright really only needs one good play,” I said.
Carolyn’s become a fan of my work and a wonderful and dear friend.
These days Carolyn has a harder time getting around, but she still loves what she does.
In some ways she reminds me of my grandma (Dale Messick) who I miss very much.  “When you quit and sit that’s it” – that’s what Dale used to say.
That’s hardly the way the elegant and charming Carolyn would put it, but I think the sentiment is exactly the same.