Friday, September 25, 2009

A perfect size six, with eyes like the Pacific Ocean

So, here's some crazy news for anybody with a) two X chromosomes and b) a birthdate between 1977 and 1985: Diablo Cody is adapting the Sweet Valley High books. What?! Now?! This is just one big swirling eddy of emotion for me.

First of all: Diablo Cody. Good writer; potentially obnoxious person. I liked Juno, after the first ten minutes, and I've heard pretty good things about her show The United States of Tara. So, no complaints creatively. But last year, I read an article in the New York Times--maybe in the magazine?--about Cody and three of her friends, a sort of girl-screenwriter cabal, who traipse around Hollywood and drink in the morning and wear matching jewelry and occasionally write stuff. The article was completely annoying and pretentious, and made them seem completely annoying and pretentious, and although I would like desperately to have my own cabal of girl-screenwriter pals with whom to traipse around Hollywood (less so the morning drinking and matching jewelry), it did not make me love her in the way that it was probably intended to. Mostly, it made me want to throttle her and then take her existence and her Oscar to retool as my very own. So you'll see why she and I have a rocky relationship.

Now. Sweet Valley High. These books were off-limits to me as a kid, but I sometimes read them anyway (sorry, Mom!), a depressingly Elizabeth Wakefield act of rebellion. I was especially into the crazy multi-generational super-special ones that followed the lines of the girls' ancestors: remember the one with the horsey circus chick, and her daughter the flapper? More recently, I often played the Sweet Valley High board game with my college roommates; we'd fight over who got to be the twins, and who got stuck with snotty Lila, and then we'd all steal each other's boyfriends. I think there were special outfits involved (for the game pieces, not for us). Special times, those long evenings arguing over who needed whose Science Club equipment. Now, I mostly get my SVH fix through The Dairi Burger. But it's a thing. I mean, really: does the love of the late-80s pre-teen book series ever really go away?

It seems to me that this combination is a brilliant but dicey one. To make it really work, it'll have to be utterly biting--deeply familiar with and specific to the Stepford reality of the books--which places it above the heads of kids today, who haven't read the series and wouldn't get the humor. As an alternative, they can try to update it in setting and/or tone, in which case it might either miss the original tone of the books, completely fail to address the hilarious lack of self-awareness in the books, or both. (The second one is unlikely: Cody's sense of irony is probably stronger than her sense of smell.) So it'll have to be a very careful operation: mean enough--in a tough-love kind of way; after all, Cody is a fan--to satisfy the old-school Sweet Valley fans out there, but friendly enough to attract younger girls who don't know anything about, for example, the time Jessica stayed out All Night Long and was maybe raped by a guy named Scott and his pet mustache. I'm not saying it can't be done, and I'm certainly not saying Cody's not the woman for the job. If anything, she's probably exactly the right woman for the job. But if it doesn't go well, if it isn't pitch-perfect, it could be a disaster for all. And everybody knows there are no disasters in Sweet Valley.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


So, you may have heard that I went to New York again last weekend. It was great--Sarah and I spent some (okay, maybe a lot of) time at The Strand, and we saw Bye Bye Birdie. We sat in coffee shops and talked about all sorts of deep and life-changing things--the depressing trend from suspenders to belts on men, why Neil Patrick Harris is our (well, mostly her) know, the usual.

And then this happened:

Turns out Sunday was Broadway on Broadway, an enormous free concert in Times Square featuring a number from each of the musicals either currently open or about to open, a total of twenty-one segments. We watched them all, started planning our exit strategy--like people leaving a baseball game after the seventh inning--and then: the skies opened up. With PAPER.

This is why I like New York: getting on the Bolt Bus on a rainy Friday afternoon, did I expect to find myself in Times Square in an absolute blizzard of colored paper? No. No, I did not. And yet, there I was. I'm still picking mysterious confetti out of bags and pockets. (Also, as Sarah commented, any [obviously mental-illness-induced] future desire to spend New Year's in Times Square has officially been dispatched: confetti party minus the frostbite! WIN.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

12 of 12: September

I feel like the occasional weekend 12 of 12 makes up for all those entries when it's a random Wednesday and I'm all, "Hey! Guys! Look at these pictures of my cat!" So much the better, then, that this month there's weekend travel involved: a much-planned, much-discussed sort-of-birthday-but-really-just-because trip to New York with Sarah.

As always, credit/blame for any and all 12 of 12 madness goes to Chad Darnell.

8:17 - Morning in "my" room--my cousin's old bedroom, which I adore--at my aunt and uncle's house.

11:38 - On the Metro North train to Grand Central with Sarah, watching the Bronx go by and eavesdropping on the people around us.

12:00 - The main hall of Grand Central never ceases to amaze. I love it for its green, astrology-themed ceiling and for its flippy schedule boards and for its excellent signage. Also for the time I saw a huge crowd of little girls in matching Jonas Brothers concert t-shirts corralled by the world's two most long-suffering mothers.

12:27 - Sarah (right) and I (left) met up with Lauren (middle) for lunch as part of Lauren's continuing mission to introduce me to every delicious and/or Broadway-relevant restaurant in the Theater District.

12:40 - The girls had normal food. I had comically large nachos.

2:13 - The holy grail of New York bookstores. Haul: The Final Solution, by Michael Chabon; When You Are Engulfed in Flames, by David Sedaris; a small and beautiful letterpress edition of the love poems of Pablo Neruda; and a Strand bag.

3:36 - Still there, in the half-price basement. You don't hurry through eighteen miles of books, okay?

5:06 - On a rainy day in the Village, what could be better than a window seat and some (admittedly not very chocolate-y) hot chocolate? Sarah agrees.

6:11 - I hereby declare this the best 12 of 12 ever, simply by virtue of PUPPIES! at a pet store on Christopher St.

7:34 - Back uptown for Bye Bye Birdie, still in previews. Verdict: John Stamos is unreasonably good-looking and wears suspenders very well; Gina Gershon should not be singing in public, period; Bill Irwin is not as famous as his talent indicates that he should be. In other news, I continue to think that being a Broadway chorus member must be the most fun job of all time.

11:03 - Stage door from afar, which is what happens when small talk with famous people is unappealing (Me: "BFFs or nothing!") or when you'd just rather not spoil the illusion of your favorites (Sarah: "But what if Bill Irwin isn't nice? Even if he is singing 'Happy Birthday' to that girl?").

11:50 - Seven whole grains on a mission or no (apparently their ad campaign on This American Life made an impact on me?), I do appreciate Kashi's presence in my hour of dire hunger. Thanks, Kashi!

Thanks, New York.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Finding Don

This isn't mine, but I want to help out, especially today.

From Sars:


Don: A (Very Very) Brief History

Don is a man I met on September 11, 2001. Don and I became "disaster buddies," and ever since, I've wanted to thank him for hanging out with me and helping me keep it together — but I haven't seen or heard from him since we parted ways late that morning.

What Don Looks/Looked Like

Don is an African-American man. I would estimate his age at between 25 and 35 on that day — probably not younger than that; possibly older, but not much. That means he's 30-ish to 40 now.

Don is between 5'9" and 6' tall, and probably weighed 160-180 pounds. (I suck at estimating men's weights.) In any case, at that time Don had a fit build — not pudgy, not skinny, well put-together.

Don had short hair and a goatee at that time. I do not recall any jewelry; he may have worn a watch, I don't remember. No glasses.

Don had on a grey windowpane-plaid suit and was carrying a black soft-sided briefcase.

Don didn't really resemble anyone famous, except Blair Underwood around the eyes a little bit.

Other Possibly Relevant Facts

Don and I met in the lobby of the Bank of New York building, located roughly at Wall Street and Broadway. We left the bank together at approximately 11 that morning.

Don lived at that time in Jersey City, or thereabouts — he took the ferry to Jersey City to get home, from a slip somewhere around Hester Street on the west side.

Don had come into the city that morning via the PATH train, and had gotten off at the World Trade Center stop. He had come into the city for work, but I don't remember whether his business that day was actually at the WTC complex; I don't believe it was. If he had gotten separated from any work colleagues, he didn't mention it. I don't know what he did for a living, and I don't know if his job was based in Jersey City or in lower Manhattan, but I got the impression that he was in the city for an errand or meeting, and that he didn't regularly commute in.

As I said, I don't recall a wedding ring; Don did not mention a wife or any other family at that time as far as I can remember.

Don's birthday is September 11. No idea what year, but based on my estimate of his age it's probably in the late sixties or seventies.

Why You Should Care

Because it's a mystery, a puzzle, a story that needs an end. Because Don is everything good and friendly about the world. Because I owe him my thanks, and possibly a cold beer. Because it's his birthday.

What You Can Do

Do you know anyone in Jersey City, or anyone who lives or works near there? Have you heard a story like mine — secondhand, thirdhand, on someone's journal? Do you recall reading or hearing anywhere about people who ran for the Bank of New York, walked uptown a bit, and took a ferry to New Jersey? Post in the comments, or email me at sars at tomatonation dot com.

And if you are in fact Don? Well, don't just sit there. Show yourself. My mom's friend swears you were an angel and she'll keep believing that shit until I can prove otherwise.

Suggestions? Clues? Conspiracy theories? Send 'em my way. I'll add any new information as it comes in.

In short: Don. He's still out there. And he's another year older.

Update, 2009:

The latest news is that there is no news; if I hear anything, I will let you know, but I haven't heard anything…and it's starting to look like I won't. I don't think I would recognize Don if I saw him on the street, anymore; I doubt he would remember me, especially now that my hair is so different.

It's also possible that Don does not in fact want to be found, or that he's in the Yukon or something, but I've done the paid name/birthday searches and I've hoped that six degrees of separation would loop around, and I still haven't turned him up.

Thanks again to everyone who's mentioned it on sites they run or frequent, or to friends of theirs in the media, and to everyone who's sent words of support. I appreciate it. If you hear anything, or you want to mention it on your blog, please feel free — you never know.

Anybody know anything? Pass it on.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Remember me to Herald Square

This post started out as a grab-bag post about the book I'm reading (Lolita) and the website I'm starting (watch this space for details!) and how I subsist entirely on tomatoes and chickpeas in the summertime--essentially, all the reasons people hate blogs, if people do in fact hate blogs--but it turns out that I mostly wanted to talk about New York. (And anyway, my love song to chickpeas is really only posting for the sake of posting. You're disappointed, I know.)

I took myself to New York for my birthday weekend--I met up with my friend Lauren and saw my new favorite piece of absurd legally dubious feminista musical theater, 9 to 5: The Musical. This may be like the time I started to see deep philosophical meaning in 13 Going on 30, but I loved it: talented women working together and loving it, dance-y production numbers, soaring girl-power ballads, truth about women and work and friendship and love, and Dorothy Hamill haircuts, all with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, who is really just a walking, talking lesson in talent and work and grace and really enormous everything, isn't she?

And if all of that weren't enough, I propose that if Allison Janney wore a white suit every day, men in sparkly-pinstriped suits really WOULD follow her around everywhere, singing her praises and dancing in formation, like so (...wait for it, ignore the quality, and enjoy the rest of the clips):

We also improvised a walking tour of Lauren's (former, but still adopted, and hopefully again someday) stomping grounds on the Upper West Side: a stroll through Riverside Park, a bit of shopping, the low-down on which famous people live where, a stop for ciders in one of the ubiquitous neighborhood pubs (a book from which DC could stand to borrow a page or two: ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME, DC?). We did not meet any of the fictional characters who clearly inhabit that corner of the city (Liz Lemon, meet Joe Fox!), but there was much friendly chatter and making of small memories, and that is maybe the best thing you can hope for in a city like New York.

Even if New York weren't the most fun you can legally have on the East Coast, I think I'd have to go there periodically just to eat. That city's got FOOD. Every time I go, I find something new that I can't live without: enormous buttery jammy hamantaschen, or the hot spinach-and-goat-cheese croissant-y thing at the Israeli place we ate at after the show, or the cinnamon babka I bought at Zabar's--known to non-locals as "the Upper West Side grocery store in You've Got Mail where Meg Ryan has no cash," and to everybody else simply as "heaven"--and ate all week as birthday/breakfast cake. I suspect this is why New Yorkers walk everywhere: they wouldn't be able to move if they didn't. Too much good food just lying around, waiting to work its deliciously sinister magic.

So it's finally happened: I've become one of those people with "I Heart New York" stamped on their consciousness--perhaps not enough to ever live there full-time, but enough to dream about how I could, if I wanted to. (This is probably why I don't: people who live in New York, who can claim to be New Yorkers, don't dream about it--they move.) The good news is that, even as I dream wistful dreams of Jewish bakeries and eighteen miles of books, I'll be back--this weekend, to be exact, and then at least once (possibly twice) in October, and then for Thanksgiving. I'm so glad; I wouldn't want to leave it alone yet. We're just getting to know each other.