Category Archives: sleep

Some news and a promise

I almost literally crawled under a rock toward the end of the year, in an effort to finally get this book completed. I can now report honestly that it’s almost there. (For a cheat sheet on its ultimate shape, check out my draft introduction at the book’s own site.)

Some  bits and pieces from around here – some more personal than usual:

  • With the book’s delivery in sight (promises, promises, I know, but….), I’m now blogging daily (ditto) at the Ain’t Marching site. Subscribe to its feed if you can so you don’t miss out. Today, for example, I comment on two medical-whistleblower stories, and on the intrepid reporters who’ve been crucial in exposing them.
  • Speaking of intrepid reporters, the unparalleled Jina Moore keeps breaking new ground, and rolling out new features from her work in Liberia (a project of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting).  Check it all out at her new site: this week she has a LONG, smart piece in the Christian Science Monitor Sunday mag, but I’m also intrigued by her older, sly piece on the guy who stole all the lawbooks, citing intellectual-property laws. (He needs some African Stephen James Joyce to give him a spanking.)
  • The web magazine I edit, Women’s Voices for Change, just gave me a taste of what it’s like to be in the magazine world: huge changes, a few layoffs, and a hot new editorial director who’s promised to make it famous. I’ll keep you posted as things proceed.
  • Meanwhile, I’m waiting to see if these folks find my work interesting enough to invite me in and give me hell for a few years. Maybe I won’t have to write more than two books that took Ph.D,-level work without that degree to show for it.

the Mount Airy thing with feathers

As Woody Allen said many years ago:”How wrong Emily Dickinson was. Hope is not the thing with feathers. The thing with feathers is my nephew. I must take him to a specialist in Zurich.” What hope has is claws.

If you told the girl from that Times article that she would soon be living in one of our favorite Philadelphia neighborhoods,  five blocks from Philly’s top food co-op and our version of Mudwimmin Books, she’d have told you two things: 1) You’re dreaming, and 2) What is this, 1988?

I’m superstitious enough not to say much more. I was gonna use a Back to the Future clip, but the one above summarizes how we feel about it. More after June 1, when I’ll no longer worry that it was all about as real as that TV show I keep referring to.

not the way I wanted into the Times

Because people keep asking:  yes, that’s me.  I’d volunteered to talk to Joyce Wadler mostly hoping for some free publicity to Women’s Voices for, not realizing that my  little joke about the commercial made me quotable enough to be the lede of the story.

For the record: she mistook my monthly net pay from Chelsea Now for our rent (it was a lot lower), and she sharpened the contrasts I’d described.  e.g. I’d told her only that R and I had “fratboy tendencies,” for example, not that we always went there. And she didn’t mention the story’s happy ending; that now that Rache has a job and we’ve saved up a deposit et al., we were by then actually starting to look for a Philly place of our own.

But I’m sure I’ve done worse as a journo without knowing it. In any event, let’s hope that when my book is published, the Times will pay enough attention to consign that clip to comedy, as it deserves.

poetry friday a day early

cause that’s how it feels sometimes.

The Author to her Book

Thou ill-form'd offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth did'st by my side remain,
Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad expos'd to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th' press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call.
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
Thy Visage was so irksome in my sight,
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I wash'd thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretcht thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run'st more hobbling than is meet.
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun Cloth, i' th' house I find.
In this array, 'mongst Vulgars mayst thou roam.
In Critics' hands, beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known.
If for thy Father askt, say, thou hadst none;
And for thy Mother, she alas is poor,
Which caus'd her thus to send thee out of door.

six years on, we are all conscientious objectors

A month or so since I posted and I’m still speechless. More soon, I promise.
Meanwhile, there are all sorts of important things to say on the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, but for now I think I’ll just let a poet say it, again. In 2003 I quoted Yeats, but now let’s let Edna say it. (Above is one of the guys whose story is still trapping mine. Like LBJ, I seem to be unable to get out of that war.)

Conscientious Objector

I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death.

I hear him leading his horse out of the stall;
I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba,
business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle
while he clinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself:
I will not give him a leg up.

Though he flick my shoulders with his whip,
I will not tell him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where
the black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;
I am not on his pay-roll.

I will not tell him the whereabout of my friends
nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much,
I will not map him the route to any man’s door.
Am I a spy in the land of the living,
that I should deliver men to Death?
Brother, the password and the plans of our city
are safe with me; never through me Shall you be overcome.

Edna St. Vincent Millayedna_st_vincent_millay

paralyzed by constant motion

Those who know me best know one of the reasons I’ve not posted in a week: this new gig I’ve taken on, on top of everything else, is making my already-overcrowded brain call out: APPROACHING MAXIMUM CAPACITY — even as it brings me back to my starting point as a NY journalist.

Now, before moving ahead to the travails of New York City or diving into centuries of military dissent, I’m pulling together a handful of headlines that mean something to my, ahem, demographic.

You’ll notice a healthy percentage of celebrity women over 40, from Debra Winger to Katie Couric. (I did have to restrain myself from throwing in a discussion of the Christie Brinkley divorce mess, though it may represent most heterosexual women’s nightmare: even if you’re a supermodel, turn 40 and the cad will find a teenager to mess around with. Though the more snarky among us may wonder at her daughter with Billy Joel daughter getting involved, since Joel’s “I Love You Just the Way You Are” was written shortly before he left the “you” in question for the then-younger Brinkley).

It all feels a little back-to-the-future at times, given my past with Women’s Enews. But I’m guessing there’s already more mention of the war in Iraq in the newsblog than there might be with someone else writing it; I was also thrilled to be able to embed video of both Dr. Who and Cyndi Lauper (as well as more sober video on Darfur).  Stop by if you like (the first link) and leave a comment.

Meanwhile, I’m supposed to be packing up my NY life, still working the Chelsea gig, and actually finishing a freelance piece about the woes of that high school I’ve been covering for the latter. Thank god for the recent news about caffeine and MS, since I’m gonna need all available crutches for  while. (That news only confirmed something I’d felt for years; I suspect anyone who saw me in the 1990s jumping around San Francisco’s Barefoot Boogie on newly popped Vivarin wouldn’t have been surprised either.)And if by the end of the month I end up dissolved into one of the boxes I’m  packing, please add water when the box arrives in Philly.

and so it begins.

Deep breath time, exhale, and find the reserves you didn’t know existed.

Eighteen months after I started doing actual reporting for this book, I had a long talk with my editor at Cal last night, and came up with a tentative plan — one that gets her a draft of a first chapter by October 1 or thereabouts. Not the introduction, where I will blather about my ground rules, and not the prologue, but a full-fledged chapter, beginning with the aforementioned moment in 1781.

A chapter like that is about 8.000 words. All properly sourced and grounded, revised to make it feel not like a novel but like stepping into events. This in addition to my obligations to Chelsea Now (where I’ve sworn: no new big stories, ha!). All while, at the moment, shaping begging letters — excuse me, grant letters — to the discretionary funds of any foundation that might help this project end well.

I do not have the luxury of time that some of my role models had, time to spend three years on a dissertation and THEN two years making it sing (yes, Mr. Moser, yes, Mr. Joseph, I mean you). But by June 30, 2008, all these important and compelling stories, from William Bowser to Ricky Clousing, have to coalesce into a document that speaks to people. Which means, given my penchant for unglamorous first drafts, I have to get serious.

Thus the title of this post, its words to be pronounced in a deep voice, as close as possible to that of the late great Andreas Katsulis. Though at least I’m not fearing that if I screw up, something that looks like this will get me.

Or maybe I am. Only Carl Jung knows, apparently.

too many stories, too little time

Having just finished my fourth article about tenants in the Hotel Breslin, I told my editor Wednesday night: “Here’s hoping they don’t make news next week!”

Not that it’s not an absorbing tale, one that I was both thrilled and stupefied no one else had discovered; it combines elements of the better-known and quite different sagas of the Hotel Chelsea , with its community of artists, and 47 East 3rd Street, the tenement whose new owners want to turn into a private house. I was both thrilled and a touch wary to see it on this site, and positively paranoid when I heard the Times had finally sent a reporter sniffing around. And I certainly want to be the one covering the next stage, whatever that is.

But I think my brain and heart are kind of tapped from it all. I need to take a rest, and make room for other stories. First and foremost, this weekend, the story that I think will begin my book, which takes place in Princeton, New Jersey in 1781.