Concettina Died and Other Stories of the East Side

Autumn in New York, posted December 1, 2006 at 11:59 PM

It's December 1st, it's 70º, and I'm home on a Friday night. Autumn in New York is grinding me down to a nub. Generally, this is my time. Autumn has traditionally been the time for my indulging the most in high culture, in high romance, and in lower-minded wink-inducing pursuits. This year, I'm practically a hermit.

Obviously, if you scroll down this page you'll see that I was deeply invested in the elections this year. I did a fair amount of volunteer work for People for the American Way--phonebanking to get out the vote. It was deeply rewarding in ways I never am rewarded by my day job. We won 4 of the 5 races I worked on. PFAW was founded in 1981 specifically to counter the religious right (let's just call them the religious wrong), and I am now committed to continuing my volunteering for them in and out of election seasons.

Culturally, what have I done? The day after Carter and I went to hear the Goldberg Variations at Lincoln Center, we went to see ABT at City Center. It was wonderful. We had burgers afterward at the Burger Joint. And that, amazingly enough, is about the extent of this autumn's high culture.

The weather is getting me down--70º in December? I know everyone except me hates winter, but come on, this is bullshit. And it's just one more bizarro weather situation that points us to the inconvenient truth no one wants to face.

Today was World AIDS Day. On a political blog, in a thread specifically set aside for remembering those we've lost, I commented about my friend Keith. He died in January 1996. I moved into his apartment the following April. For the last ten years I've had the pleasure of watching the various perennials he planted in the window boxes bloom in the Spring and in the Fall. And when they do, I quietly think about Keith.

One activity that benefits from my recent hermitic styling is my poetry. Well, I've been writing a lot anyway. I cannot seem to get into a groove that makes me feel like I'm getting anything done that's worthwhile. But what the hell, at least I'm typing. I finally finished a poem about September 11. And now I'm soul-searching for a way to reshape my voice. Ugh, even that sounds awful. Puts me in mind of my friend Alex's voicemail answering message (which I stole for myself for a while): "I'm out finding myself. I'll have him call you." Brilliant.

Yesterday I bought the new Frederick Seidel book Ooga Booga. I'm halfway through and it's so brilliant it makes me want to put down my pen forever. His language is cut so severely, his thoughts are spurting so forcefully, and his seriousness is so savagely executed that I can't possibly imagine what I could contribute to poetry when I read it. This isn't always the case with the poetry I love--Bishop, for instance, makes me want to write more. Hacker makes me want to learn more about meter. Stevens makes me feel like I should keep working as diligently as I can. But the new Seidel? Forget it. I'm retiring. For these five minutes anyway. Check out Seidel's website to hear him read some of it.

Thanksgiving was wonderful this year, as it always is when Paula cooks up her particular autumnal storm. Adrienne learned to love sweet potatoes! (Can't say the same for myself, alas....). The holiday was preceded by a herculean effort by Christopher (and Paula, and assisted by me) to transform Paula's counterless, dark kitchen into a cooking space that Martha Stewart would be proud of. No small amount of pain was endured--and no small amount of gin was drunk--to get us through the trials of Ikea, curtain rods, new built-in counters, new lighting fixtures, new electrical outlets, new closet rods, and a mountain of clothes donated to charity. Paula was very brave, I was almost as useless as I imagine myself, and Christopher was absolutely amazing. Somehow I ended up with The Handy Boyfriend™, and certainly that was a huge thing to be thankful for this year!

The holiday itself was Paula's usual masterpiece--although somehow the food keeps getting better and better. This year a corn spoon-pudding was added to the menu and wow, it almost rivaled the brussels sprouts hash for the top spot on my favorites list (it didn't though--the brussels sprouts still reign supreme!). Laura's mom was visiting, and after over ten years of friendship with her daughter it was wonderful to finally meet the woman whose Christmas cards and prayers routinely come my way. The best part about the holiday? The realization that this is the very first Thanksgiving ever that Adrienne and I have shared. For some reason, our two immediately families never had Thanksgiving together when I was still living at home. It was lovely to spend it with a family member I'm so fond of and so close to. Adrienne also made the Holy Trinity of pies this year--Apple, Pumpkin, and the Holy Pecan--and boy were they delicious!

I did manage to see some movies and some art in the holiday aftermath. I loved loved loved the Americans in Paris show at the Met. I also loved the Vollard show, but felt just "eh" about the Glitter and Doom show (though perhaps that was just art fatigue setting in?). Adrienne took me to see Stranger than Fiction. I had pretty low expectations, so I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. Turns out I enjoy slow-paced, melancholy movies that are actually dramas but mismarketed as comedies.

Also, I just rented Down in the Valley--an indie movie produced by and starring my other boyfriend, Ed Norton. It got very mixed reviews when released, then after it closed it seemed to gain some buzz about how good Norton's performance was. Let me tell you, his performance is great, but watching the movie is like wallowing in shit for two hours. Woefully bad.

That's it for tonight. A cold front is passing through, and the weekend is predicted to be sunny and cold. Thank god. On my agenda for tomorrow: Xmas shopping. Eeek!

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