The light in the morning is a bright, lavatorial green. There’s something about how the humidity falls down off of the mountain, how it’s filtered through the tropical trees and their gaudy, plasticy leaves that makes it that way—like we’re just living in a green cloud. I think it looks like institutional hallway tile—like a color that you know is meant to soothe you but only draws attention to its purpose, so that when realizing it you feel like you’ll never be soothed, like it works on everyone else but it’s hopeless for you. Or, if suddenly standing in the hospital hallway, you realize how strangely calm you are—how the rest of things are fading out, cloudlike, to the periphery—and you see that it’s not natural, it’s the work of the soothing institutional color scheme, and you’ve got to get out of here to a place where no one will try to calm you. They’re filming a Kung Fu movie down the block and I wake up every morning to their lilting, jaggy voices boiling up the street. It’s Cantonese, so I can’t understand it, but every few minutes I’ll hear something in English—lighting, Ju-lee-ah Roh-berts, decanter—and it tempts me to keep listening
I’ve watched Constance walk down there in her white pool slippers. She gives them glasses of ginger juice and in exchange they give her cigarettes—long, thin ones, a special brand that’s advertised in the subway stations by models who wear green and exhale mint-leaves. She smokes, they smoke, and they jab eachother in the sides when she opens he mouth, leaning in closer to her like they’ve all got to whisper. She’s thin, birdlike, with elbows that ram everywhere and in her pale-pink pleated skirt, she looks like a flamingo—a starving, dull flamingo with a moonish face and bad taste in TV. I think I’ll go down there one of these days and say something intelligent to startle them—drop some comment about what kind of filters they’re using to get through all this mossy light, ask if it’ hard to set up the dolly track on this sloping drive. But I see myself already, sauntering down—a fat, white girl with bumpy knees in the tourist ensembles my mother packed for me, making some comment as if I know something, and I don’t bother. Instead, I watch Constance coming back to the house, crossing her arms and hugging herself as if she’s cold. From behind, they are watching her—seeing how her legs move, long streaks of lean muscle in little white pool sandals that scissor away up the street, toward the house that hides behind a scrim of lacy trees. This morning it’s so foggy I can only hear them. I think they’re back there, under the trees by the overhang, looking over the hill, probably waiting for the greenish air to pass.
Downstairs, my stepmother is in the lighted dining room, sucking on a wedge of lemon. The room, with two door-sized windows facing the light, is papered in pale aqua pattern my father would never have chosen—flowers wind up vertical stripes, growing as they might only on the moon. She’s reading the morning newspaper, her bare feet up on the chair beside her. No one else is in the dining room and I see the food has been cleared away; There are muffin crumbs on the mahogany. “Chen-Li is in the kitchen,” she says, looking up only briefly. “I’ll be ready in half-an-hour.” Chen-Li is doing the dishes and laughing at something Constance is saying. Constance is reading from a magazine, her legs crossed beneath the round dinette table, the hanging lamp illuminating her face from above, so that I can see the fineness of the shadows beneath her eyes, beneath her chin, beneath her hands which are smooth as gloves over the bone. There is a plate of chicken in the center of the table, which she always says she wants for breakfast and then always ignores, picking through lightly so that a single drumstick will take her an hour. “…And this hubby is only saying this about the honeymoon,” she reads, giggling, “Except for this: It’s going to be bananas.” She looks up at Chen-Li, who is in hysterics—turned away from the sink now and leaning over, her hands on her knees. “Oh, Miss Anna,” she starts, grabbing my arm—trying to explain, but not keeping it together. “The movie…” The movie they’re filming down the block, Constance explains, is a sure doozy. It’s about a monkey butler. “A monkey butler?” I ask. “You know,” says Chen-Li, “Like me!” She does a little dance, like a monkey clapping cymbals. And then she bursts out laughing again. It’s about family that trained the monkey to be like a kind of servant, and then the mother dies, and then the father dies, and the monkey tries to find them. It doesn’t understand that they’re dead. So the girl, the daughter goes looking for the monkey and finds it. “And they fall in love?” I ask. Yes. And they start laughing again. And then Constance stops laughing and Chen-Li goes quiet and I sit and slurp my cereal, which Dad buys for seven dollars a box, imported all the way from America and stale by the time it gets here.
I’ve been here for the summer because my mother thought it would be good for me, or really because at first she thought she wanted the time for herself but then, after a week or two, came to realize that she had nothing to do without me. “It’s good to go abroad,” she kept saying in the airport, as thought feeling herself a part of the crowds swishing through the chilled halls, though she would leave me at the gate. She kept telling this story of how, as a girl, she had lived in France for a year. “The family never had meat. Vegetables every night,” she said, shaking her head. “Makes you realize the things you have.” It was ludicrous how far off she was. The airline gave everyone wool socks, eyeshades. (airport writing). A black car picked me up outside of baggage claim. The driver held a little sign with my name and drove me up Hong Kong’s switchback streets. We climbed and climbed past the glassy skyscrapers and the strips of dark shops with neon fronts, past the peach-colored apartment towers that stood up from the forested hillside like teeth from the gums. A small road led off from the others and there was the house—stone faced, glowering, moss glomming up the cracks. It was grand; you could feel the air pressing down from the high ceilings. The hallway was dark—a woman upstairs was running down and then there was Olivia, whom I had never met. She had makeup in all the cracks of her face, hair pulled tight, a light, jumpy body barely obscured by a forest-colored sweater softer than any I had ever owned. She moved barefoot, with grace through the large house—bounding up the stairs to show me my room, a small, ice-colored cube in the front of the house. A modern painting hung above the bed—a round black “O” swished onto a white canvas—and I fell face-down into the feathered duvet, as though I had given up all will and been spiralled here, like a coin dropped in a funnel that rolled, ever and ever, toward the mesmerizing drain.
I work during the days as an intern in Constance’s office. She got me the job. “Okay?” she asked, over the phone. “Okay?” My mother thought it would be great. “Office experience,” she said, spooning Ben & Jerry’s straight out of the freezer into her mouth. “That’s what you need.” “But you don’t have any office experience?” I said. “And look at me now,” she said, “Ice cream straight out of the bucket.” Constance is an appraiser at Sotheby’s and wears a kind of tart perfume to work, sprayed around her turtleneck sweaters over which she lays strings of gold jewelry. I wonder what my father did and did not give to her, what other men did. She is an expert on early clay pottery from the mainland—brown, salt-glazed urns, white horses that pull emerald-colored wagons, women with flat faces and hair that storms around the eye of their face in the shape of a toilet scrub-brush. She’s gruff in the office, has a loud laugh you can dig into. I see her leaning on cubicles, winking at the fat, sallow men who pull on their ties when she walks in. She drinks tea but blows on it first. Her signature catchphrase is “Oh, pleeease”; that’s what the other appraisers say to make fun of her. One afternoon I see her dive into the elevator, holding it open with her rump—saving seconds. The office is cushioned and beige. The carpet bounces a bit, and the marks of women’s heels stay in it for a few seconds before blurring up. I sit in a fake-wood cubicle with the other intern, a quiet local girl who comes in the uniform of her summer program. Together we type into a computer database the info on index cards: At the top of the card is an abstract name: “Swimming in the River,” “The Seventh Urn,” “To Julia” and then below, a list of hard terms: “Type: PAINTING,” “Type: URN/CERAMIC,” “Type: LETTER” Then there is a list of materials, the weight of the thing, the dimensions. It’s boring. We have started writing poems to eachother in the “Notes” section of the database, switching off line-by-line, sending them through the computer system but never speaking aloud. The Seventh Urn Was a thing I saved for you but would never give Thinking only, that I had six, and six was not enough And I needed the last one. I needed everything. Like how Phil needed to borrow our hole-punch Even though he clearly had one of his own When we’re done with one, when we get a really good line, I print it out on the office printer and stand there, waiting for it to come out. I fold it and put it in my pocket and take it home with me. In the car, the black mercedes the driver drives up and up the hill, I fold and re-fold it, making a kind of origimi of nervous disgrace. At dinnertime I’ll find it again in my pocket and take it out beneath the pill-shaped mahogony table, making sure that Chen-Li doesn’t see me. Yes, I’ll read it again. It’s enough to have this one thing that’s mine.
Constance has had this job before. “It’s so dull, isn’t it,” she says, after my first day. She is sitting sideways on the living room armchair, so that her feet go over the armrest, and something is playing on the television but I can’t tell what it is. “I would have warned you.” “Shut up, Connie,” my stepmother says, laying her suede gloves on the sideboard. “It’s a good way to learn about history, about art, about—” and then she stops, remembering something. “Chen-Li,” she yells out, “Chen-Li!” Chen-Li comes out from the kitchen doors, which continue to flap behind her, like a butterfly landing, gaining ground. “Yes?” She is wiping her hands on her apron. “When’s Daniel coming home? Weren’t we going to go out to dinner?” It’s strange to think of my father in this foreign country. He is in an office somewhere, sitting at a grey desk, looking at numbers on a sheet of paper. He is in an elevator falling downwards, the numbers over the door ring-dinging down, down, down blinking and blinking. He is on the subway, holding a red bar, watching a woman’s hands as she punches numbers on a mobile phone, texting someone somewhere else. He is somewhere else watching something else: a poster, a panel of glass. We go out to dinner nearly every night, meeting him somewhere downtown. The restaurants are dimly lit. There are lines and we put our name down on the top of the pad and he goes somewhere else—somewhere he’s heard of, and just trying to find—and we get a drink as a family. “It’s nice to have a daughter who’s finally underage,” he jokes—the drinking age here is seventeen and Connie, Olivia assures me, has been drinking since she mistook her mother’s white wine for apple juice in the third form. There’s something about drinking with my father that I don’t like. He has a glimmer in his eye, an appetite for something, an expectation. Over the heads of us three women he watches the sports playing on the bar TV. “Oh!” he yells out. Someone scored.
My 2005 iPod nano with a now-crushed screen turns out to have been an “irreplaceable” first generation gem. The refurbished ones on google shopping are twice the price of refurbished new generation ones. Is this an early ripple of tech nostalgia?
To be more believable, we have Clara entering the shop and a video of her exiting. She’s holding the same package both times. In the first shot, she’s got a grin. Later, she looks like she’s facing a firing squad, or watching a lighthouse do its turns. We think this will do the job. Matt in the corner shrugs. I think we need a new gaffer, he says. I think we’re doing everything wrong. I’m the goddam gaffer I say. You’re everything, Charlize says. She’s chewing a bagel like it’s cud. Fine, I say. You’re right, you got me, i’m everything. i’m an incredibly attractive man and i’m a gaffer and i’m brilliant. your’e brilliant matt says, from the corner. will you goddam shut up, i say to matt. we need to fix this clip, because clara’s pretty and all, and smiling, but it’s not believable.
At seven twenty-three in Bladesburg, Ohio, the seven men-in matching tuxedos—took a table near the front. Paul, at the end, near the jukebox, put his hands palm-down on the chrome, and with a loud, leering sigh dropped his forehead to the tabletop and made a sound like a train, braking, squeezing the air out through his teeth. A teenaged boy heard the call, delivered seven menus, left them some time to think, and walked back over to the barstool where his girl swiveled, slowly licking a long, thin milkshake spoon.
They gave me things, everything. Dresses of velvet with sleeves that puffed, a dollhouse the size of a sofa whose every room was lit by miniature electric lamps, a set of beanbag chairs that faced each other—as if for conversation. Later, a flat-screen TV which mounted on the wall and could be controlled by a remote fitted into the jack at the right-hand of my bedside; and the bed—mahogany, backed by a cluster of cabinets in which curios could be stored, if we did not live where ravaging earthquakes shook loose such things. Upon matriculation to university, leather-bound notebooks, a fountain pen, two suitcases which upon arrival I opened to find chocolates stored inside.
There’s a second reason I’m obsessed with writing fiction right now. I’ve come to a kind of road-block. I am always pushing myself to have deliberately strange experiences—in Beijing I HAD to sneak into the Bird’s Nest stadium on Chinese New Year, or in New Orleans, I HAD to work in the Ninth ward where the cars were lodged in houses. It’s become a kind of self-masochism: I must see the central object of human interest, I must have the most staggeringly uprooting experience.
But as soon as I set pen to paper to try and write any kind of essay about it, I can’t begin to. Nonfiction seems to reduce it. I don’t trust it. I keep writing and rewriting the story of an overly-intellectual loser white girl who lives friendless in Hong Kong and I just start loping into fiction, as I did as an exaggerating child, I guess. The exaggeration feels more true. Like the lenses of my eyes see in fishbowl.
No. That is the best thing. The spreading of information is only a good thing. Keeping info quirky, unapproachable, and rare may excite our taste-buds but that’s the worst kind of taste bud. ‘Oh, only I know about this’ or ‘Oh, only I would like this’ is a kind of class conflict that doesn’t need to happen. And feeding those taste buds is the sad work of the Rumpus, McS, et al. Maybe I’m burned out on the North Brooklyn kids. But I just wish we could start admitting to ourselves we’re not special.
Levin's Message to Yale Re: Annie Le. Am I too liberal?
From Pres. Rich Levin’s message to Yale students, re: the arrest of Raymond Clark, I saw this:
As is our practice when an employee is charged with a serious crime, Mr. Clark is being suspended from employment at Yale and barred from the campus. His ID card no longer allows him access to any Yale building.
My conundrum: Since he’s arrested, he’s presumably in police custody, which would mean he’s unable to continue working and unable to go snooping around Yale buildings. So why the barring? It seems like it’s both an empty gesture that only proclaims guilt before it’s proven by a jury. As such, it goes against everything else in the letter, a snippet of which is:
We must reaffirm our deepest values as an institution – our commitment to the search for truth, undertaken in a spirit of openness, tolerance, and civility…It will take the efforts of everyone to maintain that standard.
Though, I guess, not the efforts of the administration.
I don’t want murderers walking around Yale buildings either. But let’s A. agree he’s not walking around anyway and B. see first if he is a murderer.
Pakistani reality contestant dies in Thailand 32-year-old drowns during challenge (AP):
Pakistani contestant Saad Khan, 32, was swimming across a lake while wearing a 15-pound (7-kilogram) backpack when he called out for help and then disappeared underwater…Horrified co-contestants and crew rushed to try to save him but could not find him in the murky waters of the lake in the Thai capital of Bangkok, where the show was being filmed… Divers later recovered the body of Khan, she said…
Plans to air the reality show — intended as a promotional tie for Unilever’s Clear shampoo — were on hold.
En route to MoMa to snag tickets for a screening this week, I walked by Bryant Park. There was confetti being sprinkled down from somewhere and everyone was looking up to try to figure out where it’s coming from. “I think it’s the Conde Nast people,” a woman with hair like a cream-puff said to her silent husband. “I think it’s them.”
Out in front of the tents stilleto heels and the usual array of women wearing coats, off-season. I spotted Christian Syriano. Who cares!?
Then, from 42nd to 53rd I passed, of course, Radio City Music Hall and everywhere were pre-teens, standing behind police lines. “Oh, the VMA’s!” There were lots of lightbulbs spelling words out, not yet illumined, etc. At MoMA, finally, in that ice-cube of a building, svelte couples pushed the swinging doors at The Modern and you walked out into the courtyard and you could just…breathe. There was an older gentleman in a windbreaker and loafers reading the Sunday New York Times, and I took a seat on the stone steps and read “The Death of Ivan Illynch.”
Because supposedly it’s the best short story written of all time.
I couldn’t finish it. I wanted to walk around more. What a Sunday!
Things That Count as "Definitely Not Serendipitous"
"Katherine Heigl is about to become the latest celebrity to adopt a child from another country, joining Madonna and Angelina Jolie. Heigl announced on the Ellen DeGeneres show, in an episode scheduled to air tomorrow, that she and husband musician Josh Kelley are adopting a special needs child from Korea. “It is a little girl, and she’ll be 10 months at the end this month,” Heigl told DeGeneres, according to People magazine. “She was actually born the day before me in November, which I thought was really serendipitous and just kind of like a sign.”
When Judith Leiber starts giving me free handbags, I am going to adopt a full-grown adult from middle-America.
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Nine women tricked into thinking they were reality TV show contestants and lured into an Istanbul villa were rescued by Turkish military police after two months confinement, a police spokesman said Thursday.
"R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe’s film production company has purchased the rights to a romantic comedy that will focus on a batch of Barry Manilow fans as they journey to Las Vegas to see Manilow perform at Mandalay Bay, Variety reports.”
Lorrie MooreAuthor Reading, Author Signing In her first novel in more than a decade, the author of the bestselling story collection Birds of America turns her eye on the anxiety and disconnection of post-9/11 America.Monday September 21, 2009 7:00 PM
Union Square 33 East 17th Street, New York, NY 10003, 212-253-0810
I caught a clip of "So You Think You Can Dance" tonight. A white brit is judging? What does that thin white brit know about dance? Aren’t the British notoriously prim and sh*tty at dancing? (This is based on my knowledge of Jane Austen re-makes.)
So the site says he’s “currently the President of 19 Television.” That doesn’t seem qualified!!! We’re talking about LEG LIFTS here, people! Throws! Pirouettes! Dance things!
And it got me to thinking.
Tim Gunn (who I love as the most intellectual man on reality TV) and his master, Michael Kors.
And then there’s America’s Next Top Model… Models on the Runway… The list goes on and on and on!
The patriarch is always the ultimate judge. Does the establishment like it?
This should be totally unsurprising. The task of these reality shows, given the untested raw talent, is to find out what stars are marketable. If even Simon Cowell likes a big, black Jennifer Hudson, then probably America does too.
Please, people. Give me an example that doesn’t fit. I would like to think I can define my success outside of the white male gaze. I guess I just shouldn’t go on reality TV.
HBO is building a “Boardwalk Empire” with a series order for the Martin Scorsese-directed pilot.
The premium cable network has picked up 11 episodes of the period drama, bringing the total order to 12 hours, including the pilot.
Production on the series is slated to begin this fall for a 2010 premiere.
Written by Terence Winter, “Empire” is set in 1920 at the dawn of Prohibition and chronicles the life and times of Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi), the undisputed ruler of Atlantic City, who was equal parts politician and gangster.
Scorsese and Winter are executive producing the series with Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson and Tim Van Patten.
Scorsese is expected to continue to be creatively involved and may direct another episode of “Empire,” subject to his availability.
In addition to Buscemi, the cast of the pilot also included Michael Pitt, Kelly MacDonald, Michael Shannon, Stephen Graham, Vincent Piazza, Aleksa Palladino, Paul Sparks, Shea Whigham, Anthony Laciura, Michael Kenneth Williams, Dabney Coleman, Michael Stuhlbarg and Paz de la Huerta.
HBO has been beefing up its slate of original series over the past nine months with orders to new comedies “Hung,” “Bored to Death” and “How to Make It in America” and drama “Treme.”