Wednesday, August 25, 2004


Time out. Had a really, really lovely Sunday. A friend of my ex-boyfriend-before-last's girlfriend sent out a totally crazy email saying that she had $1.5 million dollars to spend making a movie, and did anybody have a decent screenplay? Hello. My ex-boyfriend forwarded it, saying that perhaps I'd read a book that would make such a screenplay. Hello. I have actual friends who write actual decent screenplays, and forwarded and recommended forthwith. Then I called the film producer and asked if she wanted to do brunch on Sunday. Time out.

Sunday was a day just like nearly all the days in Mexico, bright and hot but not too hot, balmy beautiful Sunday. I biked to the East Village, and basked on a corner listening to live jazz. The film producer was a thin person who, at the last minute, wanted to meet an hour later, because she had gone running in order to make herself thinner, but I liked her anyway. We had eggs Florentine in the sun and talked about film and travel and ex-boyfriends, and the fact that at age thirty-seven, neither of us ever wants to work for somebody else again. Someone I could be myself around.

The film producer had a stack of screenplays to plow through, so I planned on biking off again after brunch. But she had this one she wanted a second opinion on. I figured she wanted the opinion of someone with actual power and experience in filmmaking, but no, she just wanted the opinion of someone with the time and inclination to read it. Which would be me. There was a garden near her apartment, left over seemingly from when there were slacker hippie types living in the East Village, instead of hypercaffeinated filmmakers paying $3000 per. We found ourselves seats amongst the little rosebushes and tomato plants and pathways tiled with broken bottles, and read and read. Some of the ancient slacker hippie types invited us to a barbeque; I was foolish enough to accept, and narrowly escaped being shanghai'd into political activism and false eyelashes. The filmmaker prudently avoided them.

After a couple of halcyon hours, and a tense half-hour on my part hanging out with the hippies and wishing I hadn't, we decamped to a tea shop for script debriefing. I obligingly eviscerated my screenplay, complete with sarcastic renditions of bad dialogue, and penetrating assessments of structural weaknesses. She said I "nailed" it, and thanked me.

No problem. What a relief, to get out of my own miserable mind for a day. I biked home in the sunshine turning from gold to rose to lavender, feeling present for the first time in months. Living in the now is peace. No horrible past with former loves blasting me and my livelihood to shreds, no dank future schlepping press releases for crappy galleries and paying $3000 for inappropriately trendy housing. Just the breeze on my sunburn and dappled leaf shadows in Cobble Hill.

When I got home, I planned to watch an old ex-friend in a bit part on "Charmed." Saturday night I did my semi-annual bit of Web-stalking of various former associates, and discovered that my ex-friend the wannabe actress finally got on something. Not only that, but the rerun was airing actually tonight! I turned on the TV 45 minutes in advance, just to make sure that WB network came in okay. I don't watch the TV very often. During the preview, I caught a one-second glimpse of my old ex-friend, in the part of "female temple demon," hair all bouffed out, a familiar goofy leer on her dear familiar face.

Then the cat got sick. He'd been scratching in the litter box a bit too much lately, and I'd taken him to the vet a week ago, and he seemed to get better on his own. But twenty minutes into "Charmed," before my ex-friend's bit part took hold, he decided that he was in sufficient horrendous misery to claw urgently at stray papers all over the house, and strain for long periods over the litter box, and occasionally howl piteously. This was impossible to endure. I remembered, suddenly, that when this ex-friend was my roommate, she once dislocated a rib, and was in stark staring agony for hours and hours, and I couldn't stand it. I gave her massages, and hot honey lemon whiskey, and aspirin, and when none of that helped I moved heaven and earth and personal connections to get some illegal codeine out of a friend of a friend's apartment in the middle of the night, just so she wouldn't hurt so badly anymore. I knew that if the cat had a kidney stone, and his bladder burst while I was watching "Charmed," I would never ever forgive myself.

So I called the emergency vet, packed him into the carrier, and sat with him for three hours in the vet's office before getting attended to. Strangely, once he was in the carrier he stopped acting sick; it was as though he knew the problem was being addressed, and didn't have to complain about it any longer. He had a UTI but, thankfully, no blockage. Now TWO of my cats take pills twice a day. I am turning into a geriatric cat nurse.

My Zen glow from the biking and the screenplays even lasted through three fluorescent hours and a $200 vet bill. I felt at peace with my ex-friend the wannabe actress, for no reason, for the first time since we had our falling-out in 1999. We fell out, I always maintained, because the MFA program in drama at Columbia University turned my darling, goofy, supportive former roommate into a tearing bitch. She stopped being able to see the humor in things; she stopped moving her face when I was talking to her. Someone told me that monkeys throw feces at people who do that. It was horrendously unnerving; I felt as though my personality were continually bombing an audition. Later I realized that her professors must have been treating her that way, to toughen her up for the big leagues, but the friendship didn't survive it. I was upset about it for years.

Somewhere in the midst of my beautiful Zen Sunday, I came to a bit of clarity about my job/home/relationship/life dilemma; I realized that if the community I have been nurturing for the last two years is my true home, it ought to nurture me back. For the last two years I have given the best massage therapy in Brooklyn for the lowest price; I have thrown seven art openings without asking for drink donations; I have given my local art community free publicity, postcards, web design, and patient sympathy unlimited. I have paid New York City rents, broker's fees, car insurance, utilities, $10 movie tickets and $5 beers without (much) complaint. If my community loves me back, it will hold me up without draining me dry. If not, I can and must leave without regret.

Forthwith I sent out an email to my gallery mailing list, ditto a posting on craigslist, asking for a live/work, cat-friendly, affordable home with humans. So far I have gotten a few well-meaning but ineffectual notes, and one phone call from a bloodsucker. In my Zen state I am already convincing myself that Jersey City might not be so bad.

Sunday, August 22, 2004


If anybody has a genuine, cat-friendly live/work loft for rent for $1500 or less in the Williamsburg/Greenpoint area of Brooklyn, preferably shared with other cool, serious, friendly artist or healer-type people over the age of 30, I am officially desperate.

Oh God, what are these people THINKING?!!!!

First the guy didn't return my phone calls. Then he finally did, but turned down a free massage in an air-conditioned room. Bad signs. Went anyway, of course.

Yes, it is "the most beautiful loft in Williamsburg," uh-huh, absolutely. Gothic vaulted ceilings, heavy metal doors three times the normal width, floor-to-ceiling windows, polished and stained concrete floors. Claw-foot bathtub. Marble columns. Lots of marble, in fact. Including in the BED. And the kitchen table. And the statues of sylphs lit from within on either side of the blacklit stage with the disco ball on the floor. Wood panelling, too. Custom-built wood panelling with sixteen different antique cameras set into it. Gold and silver faux finishing. Stone caryatid faces. Eery green and blue liquid glass lamps glowing out of the blackness, underscored by a long blue neon tube. Long, low curlicued benches. Heavy hanging drapes. Glass bricks, malachite column, pink Formica cabinets in flourishing curves.


Then, of course, the rent. Fifteen hundred a month for one room, three thousand for two. Not that this would be offered to me, at any rate, because nobody is living or working in this 'live/work' mausoleum, nobody who paints big glorious messy oil paintings and cooks sloppy vegetarian Indian food for normal wholesome people and grows gargantuan houseplants and has a few too many cats. Nobody healthy like me.

The guy SAYS he's moving to Los Angeles, says he's taking the furniture with him, but I don't believe him. I don't think he's ready to let go; I think he wants to charge an obscene amount of rent to some other anal-retentive queer boy who will maintain it as a museum to Gothic kinkiness. At any rate, the creepiness has soaked into the very bones of the space. I could not FATHOM myself moving into it.

I also do not know what this guy is thinking, interviewing people individually for a space that MUST be shared by at least three people.

Fuck, fuck, fuck. In one week I will be officially without a source of income, isolated from the community I've spent the last year and a half immersed in, devastatingly heartbroken. I am beyond depression.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Benchmark events

Just returned the video of "Pierrot le Fou" to Reel Life, on my bicycle, in the rain, in the middle of the night. In honor of the last time I watched it, and because I did not want to have schlepped my bicycle down three flights of stairs in vain, I went to the Tea Lounge afterwards, had a glass of ludicrously expensive wine, and scribbled.

I am sorry to say that "Pierrot le Fou" did not live up to my memory of it. The last time I saw it was seventeen years ago, my junior year in college, on a Friday night when I had plans with about four different people who all stood me up, and a broken heart. (How few things have changed, in seventeen years.) "Pierrot le Fou," an obscure and pretentious Godard film, was playing at Hogg auditorium, and I sat amongst a smattering of snide French majors and had an epiphany. These people! Wandering around, doing random things as the spirit moved them, driving stolen cars into lakes just because, stabbing strange men for obscure reasons, scribbling cryptically in journals, pouting and smoking cigarettes. Eureka! Life is what you make it! We are all free! I emerged from the showing of "Pierrot le Fou" a changed soul. I went to the corner store, purchased a pack of Lucky Strikes (no, I DON'T smoke, never have, except in moments of emotional extremity and excessive intoxication), went to Captain Quackenbush's Intergalactic Coffee Shop and hammered cynical and surrealistic poetry into a pale blue spiral notebook until they threw me out at closing. Funny how I remember the notebook, after seventeen years of notebooks, the actual kinesthetic object.

I even remember bits of one of the poems I wrote that evening. It was a bitter indictment of man, as represented by the alcoholic, pseudointellectual contingent I was associating with at the time. "I could spend a lifetime under bricks./ I could live with you in Eden and never uncover my face./....I seem to see your hind's eyes/dying frightened in the woods, but it is one/ moment of fear against my steel lip/ curled savage over a day's journey/ and I do not pity you." My thesis advisor said that last line was very Sylvia Plath, there.

This time around the movie was sort of boring. These people, wandering around doing stupid things for no reason, writing cryptic and pretentious things in journals, dying at random. I even wondered whether the whole thing was supposed to be a hallucination of the main character, who has all the time never left his staid domestic existence, but has simply taken to his bed and dreamed it all; one split-second clip seemed to indicate this. At any rate it didn't hold my attention. I wonder if I've outgrown my enthusiasm for life, or whether this is the true beginning of maturity? I don't know.

And I haven't had any surrealistic poetry in me, in years. Journal entries are no longer veiled and dire, but direct and mundane. "Desperate to get out of gallery, out of apartment, move will be a pain but probably good for me. Perhaps some sweat will get me through the grief and apathy and I'll actually be motivated again." I wondered if "Pierrot le Fou" failed to inspire me this time because I am no longer such a mystery to myself. Or perhaps it was simply that I've DONE those extreme, seemingly random things--pulled up roots and moved to another country, left my glamorous French lover in a fit of petulance (bless you, Pierre), had affairs, been an itinerant gypsy, committed to a life of Art without much external remuneration. I have even frisked through the woods singing silly songs to my lover. It's not so radical after all, and now what's the point?

One pretentious line from the movie that I liked; "Once we figure out who we are and where we are going, the tragedy is that this is all we know; the rest of life remains a mystery." This sort of seemed to mean something, but the annoying thing about French films is that you can never quite tell. I decided that now I know, more or less, who I am and where I am going, the only thing that interests me is creation, and other people.

Have spent the last five days or so, generally, in an apathetic stupor, mostly asleep. Having a cold was just the excuse. I am not even bothering to feel guilty for not exercising, drinking bourbon, beer or tequila, eating sugar, bacon, and carbohydrates, doing anything to avoid my studio. I have gone all the way into "what is the FUCKING POINT" and hung out there, trusting to boredom and economic duress to eventually bring me out of it. It is surprising how hard it is to waste a lot of time. There are only so many movies you can see, so many side streets to bike up and down, so much you can overeat, so many comas you can drink yourself into. At some point it's simply less work to get on with working. I have not yet rediscovered my joy in life, but I suppose it will happen eventually. At least, the idea of suicide holds no present attractions.

Spent the afternoon in a panic, trying to generate decent-quality JPEGs of old paintings to send to the editor of an online poetry journal, which is featuring my work in their summer issue (thank you, Badger.) The editor selected a number of pieces which I'd forgotten I even painted, and due to various computer crashes, upgrades, and thefts, I no longer had any high-quality images of them. Funny how other people see such different things in my work than I do--the image selected for the cover was one I frankly can't stand, and had been planning to paint over, for lack of money and new canvas. I ended up re-photographing the ones I still own, downloading others from a forgotten old site and tweaking them in Photoshop, and sending back-up "alternate" images just in case. Looking at all this old work I realized that 1) I am not as lazy as I think I am; 2) there is a reason I fall into long periods of bleak career despair, having so many ENTIRE BODIES of work which have gone into storage or dumpsters, largely under-sold, under-exhibited and un-reviewed; 3) my current paintings carry all the weight and information of these years of study, and thus I can feel less diffident about SHAMELESSLY PROMOTING MYSELF, not as shamelessly as my sometime friend the artist/curator (see below, keyword "narcissist") but sheesh, I need to at least APPLY for shit.

This is one of the conclusions that I've come to, about this break-up--I should have been pursuing my own thing more. I'm not beating myself up about it, by any means. I don't think I was dysfunctional and dependent enough to deserve getting dumped the way I did, not by a long shot. But at least for the last ten years or so, a voice in my head has been telling me that I can't possibly earn a decent living with my art. So WHY NOT put too much energy into sustaining relationships with closed, crippled souls? Why not put my own work on the back burner while promoting other people's?

I don't know exactly what this is. It's not low self-esteem, at least not in the ordinary sense. One of the emotional things I'm noting in myself is sheer rage, the kind I have not felt since getting jilted by whatsis-face, seventeen years ago, ironically enough. There is no doubt at all in my mind that whoever gets me is getting the billion-dollar jackpot, in anybody's book. Come on, I am all the usual list of attributes, plus I bake bread from scratch, ditto vegetarian Indian food! I am a sublime masseuse! I am hilarious! I laugh at other people's jokes, and listen to them talk, and let them know I heard! I am ambitious but kind, informed but not insufferable, I know how to garden! I have long silken blonde hair, enormous bedroom blue eyes, and a figure that won't quit! What the hell is WRONG with these people?

Er, hem, not sure where I was going with that. Anyway, you know as well as I do that these things don't really matter, we are all perfect in spirit, blah-de-blah-de-blah. I think, though, that a deep part of me does not want to succeed alone, because this would be a Pyrrhic victory. I'm not one of those artists to whom art is sufficient for a mate; anyway, you notice that MALE artists like that get laid a whole lot, whereas female artists...I have two words for you...'Emily Dickinson'. Aiiiiiieeeeeeeeegh!!!!

Christ, maybe I'll go put on skimpy dresses and pout. "I vant to leeeeve, I just want to LIVE." (J'envie VIVRE, seulemente vivre.)

Monday, August 09, 2004

Little things

are what trigger the major meltdowns. Yesterday was ripe. It was Saturday night, which for me is Friday night, since I work Tuesdays through Saturdays. But essentially it was Friday AND Saturday night combined, in my little psyche, and I have a thing about weekends stemming back from high school, when I spent them babysitting, without boyfriends, booze or cable, while my peers partied their carefree youth away. So now that I am a glamourous artist in the big city instead of a dork in a suburb, I still freak out on Saturday nights when nobody is taking me to a fancy French restaurant and then to an off-Broadway production and then to drinks at the Algonquin to map out the film we're going to write and direct together. I never consciously remember this, though, until it's too late to plan ahead.

My ex-boyfriend gave himself a cold in order to prevent himself from going rock-climbing upstate. He thought he wanted to go, but his unconscious knew better. When I arrived at work in the morning and saw his van in the same spot, I didn't even call or ask, just trundled off to the store for juice and Sprite and chicken soup, and dumped them outside his apartment. Tactically this was a terrible idea, but I don't do tactics very well. Tactically speaking, when someone breaks your heart and dumps you cruelly and throws you out of the gallery you have spent a year restoring lovingly by hand, the best thing to do is ignore him while he stews in his own miserable phlegm, the bastard. Fetching Sprite and chicken soup is akin to lying prostrate in the gutter and begging him to wipe his feet on your face while his new girlfriends spit in your general direction. It's just pathetic. But I did it anyway, stupid me, because I love him and getting dumped didn't change that, and it hurts more to withhold love than to go ahead and get the groceries.

So ex-boyfriend swallowed his phlegm long enough to come down and try to pay me for the groceries, which was an insult, and sit around boring the hell out of me and my 6 PM client for an hour, with the result that we didn't get started till 7:30. I noticed more strongly the way my ex-boyfriend talks AT people rather than WITH them, the way he tells the same angry stories over and over, the way he lets nothing and nobody in, but tries to manage and manipulate everything as though the world were his own personal Punch and Judy show. I felt like I was floating unmoored in a sea of dirty cotton, and I wondered how I could have spent a year and a half of my life with someone so irremediably damaged, and whether I was every bit as damaged myself to even try. I finished with my client at 9 PM; my ex-boyfriend had disappeared into his shop, I was tired, and dateless, and it was Saturday night.

I've been pretty good lately at avoiding numb-out tactics, but this was an emergency. I fetched a bottle of wine and one of Jim Beam from Park Slope liquors, "Things you know just by looking at her" from Reel Life video, and went home for a zombie-a-thon. To my credit I opened the wine and not the Jim Beam, steamed an artichoke and some Edamame instead of going for straight macaroni and cheese, and set my computer to upload a bunch of garantuan digital images to be made into slides. Moderation in all things.

Then the VCR wouldn't work. It would play properly for a minute or two, then the sound and the color would go out simultaneously. I could get them back by stopping the tape and starting it again, but this never lasted. I ate dinner sitting on the floor in front of the TV, my finger on the "stop" button, since I've lost the remote. I tried to be patient, but it was a slow film anyhow, and it was a toss-up as to whether all this effort was even worth it. I tried taking the tape out and blowing on the tape heads. Nada. I stopped and started for a good hour before I broke down and called the ex, who for all his faults, knows how to fix things.

"Is there some thing I can just jiggle?" I asked him. He told me to insert another tape, press "play" and fast-forward simultaneously for a few minutes, till the schmutz came off the tape heads. This I did; the other tape worked fine. The tape of "Things you know just by looking at her" didn't. Around 1 AM I was forced to conclude that it just wasn't happening. Two hours of stopping and starting and drinking California Zin had frayed my nerves to irrational two-year-old hysterical hair-triggers.

I knew I shouldn't do it, I knew it knew it knew it, but I did it anyway. I called the ex again. "Dr. Video," he answered. "It won't work," I sobbed. "I'm asleep," he anwered. "Sorry," I said. He hung up. I might have called him back and had the kind of torrential psycho-stalker meltdown that gives emotionally stunted ex-boyfriends permanent ammunition for calling the psychiatric police and never ever dealing with their shit because obviously YOU'RE the one who's CRAZY, but thank God I'd opened the wine instead of, as I've mentioned, the Jim Beam. I called my friend in Las Vegas instead. She didn't pick up. I tried her cell phone. I tried her land line again. I didn't leave a message, because by then I was in the kind of state that freaks people out unneccesarily when it's too late to call you back. And it was way too late to call anybody who lived closer than Las Vegas.

Even in the depths of my despair, I set up the laptop to continue uploading on the land line. Slide-quality files take a hell of a long time to transfer on a 56K modem. Then I went into the studio with my Course in Miracles and my journal and proceeded to abandon myself to heaving tearing grief. I grieved for the love of my life, who has turned on me as though I were his alcoholic abusive carping excuse for a dead mother, reincarnated. I grieved for my former best friend, who stopped returning my phone calls on a major holiday, less than a month after I moved alone and jobless to New York City. I grieved for all the ones I loved the most, who loved me for a little while and then fell into egoistic black holes and stopped trying. I grieved for the fact that I fall in love repeatedly with damaged people who cannot love me back. I grieved for all the times my heart has broken since ballet, at seventeen. I think that love exists to break the soul.

At 1:31 AM, the phone rang. This should not have been possible; the modem was still uploading. I picked it up and nobody was there. I started the modem again and continued cursing God. I demanded answers, now, not in ten years when I see wisely how this was all for the best. The files took two more hours to load; the answers did not come.

Just before folding up the computer and losing consciousness entirely, for some reason I checked voicemail. "You have one new message, from an unknown caller, today at 1:31 AM," it chirped. The voice of my long-lost lover burbled through the static. "where are you fucking serena, calling you from mexico, I am really trying, where you going, are you out-side? sorry fucking english, I love you always, I miss you, beautiful blue-eyesss, mamacita, bonita, you are beautiful per-son, querida ojos azules, te llamo despues, why do you not write me fucking email, te quiero mucho, adios." He could not have sounded more desperately urgent if I had sent him a telegram that read "DYING LUNG CANCER BORNEO TWO WEEKS STOP DO NOT VISIT STOP LOVE ALWAYS."

Oh. My. I replayed the message five times before passing out. Had a lot of bad dreams, woke up hung over, went to the beach. Tried to calculate whether I can afford a week in Mexico this year. Decided that maybe the interconnectedness of everything is not so theoretical.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004


came in a couple of Saturdays ago, and maybe brought a miracle with her. I don't know. Don't know which of my dreams are precognitive either, or just ambiguous dreck, or wishful thinking. I wonder what good they are, then? Sometimes I think all of it is just carrots on sticks, saying maybe, maybe, don't give up just yet.

Things with my now ex-boyfriend have been mainly horrible. First he didn't speak to me at all for weeks, then he said things were OVER, GOT IT?!!! and threw me out of my beautiful beautiful gallery as of the end of August. Then he called to apologize for being cruel. As if. One of my clients told me, "I slept with this guy last night by accident, it wasn't anything, and this morning he wanted to explain that he didn't want me getting ideas. I said, "kiss me good-bye. I don't have to listen to this shit." All together, now. AS IF.

So I spent obsessive hours job-hunting on the web, and grant-hunting, and round about midnight on a Friday I thought, "okay, now that all is lost, what do I REALLY want?" And the answer came--"I want to live in a spiritual community with a lot of serious artists and writers and scientists and healers." Not a monastery where everybody meditates all the time and gets in touch with their "inner artist" in the ceramics studio on weekends. Not a graduate school with politics and competition and precious dysfunctions taken for genius. I want to be around a lot of people who are looking seriously for the light, and coping gracefully with darkness.

About thirteen hours later, Grace walked in. Usually I don't tell clients my troubles; that is definitely not what they pay me for. I don't know why I broke this rule, except that it was a piece of relevant practical information; "I may not be in this space much longer." Grace did not immediately recoil from failure and bad energy, strangely enough. We got to talking; I told her my vision; she said, "That's my vision too!"

We got together on Wednesday. I have had a picture floating in my head for months now, of how my gallery would be when it was all grown up. She said, "Draw it." As I drew, I realized how clear the structure was; high ceilings, high windows, white with silk jewel tones, flooded with light. Galleries to the left, café to the right, healing offices on the right mezzanine, studio spaces on the left. Large multi-use event space to the back. "That's exactly what I see," said Grace. "My door is a bit different."

Grace likes to do publicity and financing; she plans big events and is part-owner of a bar. Grace lives in a live/work loft three blocks away from my soon-to-be-former gallery, full of artists and healers, a Pilates studio, a dance company, a furniture maker. Her roommate is leaving at the end of August. She said maybe I could move in.

Meanwhile all the résumés and cover letters I have been obsessively sending out might as well have been flushed into outer space, for all the response I've gotten. Meanwhile I had sixteen massage clients in one week, all sixteen of whom enthusiastically signed my mailing list, so I can let them know where I end up after August. If I move in with Grace, I can keep my clients and have a studio in the same space. I can roll out of bed, go to yoga up the street, breakfast in the Read café, book a few clients, go home to massage and paint, go out to openings, go home without moving my car. I can keep my community and build on all the energy I have nurtured over the last two years. If I don't move in with Grace, I will probably end up checking out books at the Queens Public Library for nine dollars an hour, or moving to Jersey City.

It's not fun to want something so badly from someone you hardly know.

I have been dragging myself out to openings, parties and events, whenever someone invites me and I'm not totally exhausted from job-hunting and massaging and portfolio building and painting. Which is not too often but happens now and then. I got invited to an opening at an obscure gallery in Red Hook by two different people, one of them an awful poet who I have been steadily snubbing for two years and who does not take the hint, but continues writing awful poems about all my paintings and telling me he loves me. The other was a promising artist who will now never have a show at my gallery.

I figured I'd better show up. When I did I found I was a minor celebrity. People I didn't know had heard of me, and babbled drunkenly about how I inspired them. I was feeling like the old sponge that gets used to clean cat vomit off the kitchen floor, and was baffled. A beautiful blonde girl started talking and talking about how we are all one in spirit, everything happens for a reason, there is no harm, there is nothing to fear, love is all there is, we just try to let it flow, we do not understand why, we must trust, we have faith...and I kept saying "uh-huh, uh-huh, yeah, right, you're absolutely right, I agree," and this did not help at all, in fact it got boring and annoying really quickly. Particularly since she was too drunk to listen, or to impart illustrative details.

I discussed this problem with my sister--the fact that even though I believe in the mystical unity of the universe, I do not generally enjoy hanging out with people who talk constantly about the mystical unity of the universe. She said, "I think that's the purpose of great art--to communicate things that are incredibly banal when expressed in words." Thus my sister got to the nub of Why I Paint, and I was grateful. She also pointed out that talking about the mystical unity of the universe, when someone you don't know very well is suffering, is not necessarily apt or kind. "I'm so sorry" is more polite.

Last weekend I went to another party, given by someone I know slightly, to celebrate the completion of her five-years'-overdue MFA thesis. Unlike the people at some other parties I've been to, her friends were kind and unpretentious and interested in meeting people. They said simple things like "Hi, I'm Beverly, how do you know Harriet?" Banal as this sort of conversation may be, it can lead to infinitely interesting places. I stayed till 1 AM, and could have stayed longer. One of the guests was a classics professor at an obscure college in Indiana; he was passionately interested in, and informed about, the Greek play that Harriet wants to direct. She was thrilled to have met him, and he was thrilled to be a surprise celebrity at a party in New York. I said, "Wait, you teach at Wabash College? Do you know Stephen Forsythe?" "Yeah, Stephen Forsythe interviewed me for my job." Stephen Forsythe was one of my intimate friends in college. Six degrees of separation, my foot.

Late in the evening, on the terrace strung with Christmas lights and ringed with planters, we got to asking the married people how they'd met.

"We were volunteering for Nader. I mentioned I'd written my thesis about Samuel Beckett."

"You wrote a thesis about Samuel Beckett?!!!! *I* wrote my thesis about Samuel Beckett!! Oh my God, I don't talk like that, he must think I'm a dork..."

"Our wedding celebration was a week long. She's worth it."

"I was running the lights for an obscure theatre production at Intersection for the Arts. Every Tuesday through Saturday, for six weeks, I lit her spotlight while she did her monologue. We became friends. It's funny, how humans mate."

My ex-boyfriend thinks that commitment is the worst horror imaginable. He thinks that independence and separation are goals for which to sacrifice everything. I didn't cry among strangers. I didn't have any more wine, and went home soon afterward. I rode my bicycle in my white sundress through the dark city, and it was cooler after midnight.