On… JJAMZ Heartbeat

I LOVE this song. It’s like a lost Madonna song from about 1987.

Skip the first 30 seconds of the video. Actually, if you can, just listen to the song without watching the video at all. It’s not great. Someone needs to OK-GO the shit out of this band’s videos generally. Can we look into that? (I got to use OK-GO as a verb! Gnarly.)

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On… FannyPack

If you went to a party with me about five years ago, there’s a very good chance I would have played this song at about 2am and made you dance with me. I thought this song was AWESOME and I knew all the words.

CAMEL TOE by Fannypack.

Turns out it is still kind of awesome.

I also kind of love this song, SEVEN ONE EIGHT, also by Fannypack. Sadly my 2am dancing days are on pause right now as I am knocked up. Damn babies.

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On… France

Home from a lovely break, and have some photos to share with you…

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Dawn from the villa.

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I can’t remember what time of day this was taken, but you taste my flavor. The view was awesome.

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The local village. I have a gazillion village shots but at some point you sort of go, I get it, it’s a village.

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The view from just near Agay, outside Cannes. It was at this point that I started going all Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and shouting THIS! I want THIS! And then, just for good measure, I started shouting OKLAHOMAOKLAHOMAOKLAHOMA.

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Le jardin.

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Le jardin secret.

 

 

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Le bebe. Avec le petit elephant.

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Le bebe avec la maman tres fatiguee.

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Le petit dejeuner des champions for when no one can be bothered to go to the boulangerie for hot croissants.

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Doing nothing is exhausting.

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Le bebe avec le Nutella.

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The boules tournament in St Maxime.  20130809_113653

Love those redheads. I get older, they… no, they pretty much get older too.

All in all, the perfect break, and can’t wait to go back next year… as long as someone else volunteers to do the flight with Errol and the as-yet-unnamed-baby-due-in-January, and deal with their jet lag? Anyone?

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On… the UK cover to LOVE AND CHAOS

I. Love. This. Cover. What do you think?

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LOVE AND CHAOS is the second in the BROOKLYN GIRLS series. This one is Angie’s story, and it’s out January 2014. It’s probably my favorite of all the books I’ve ever written (out of, um, four, so that’s not saying that much), which of course either means it’s amazing or it’s fucking abysmal. Let’s hope it’s amazing.

Because this cover is amazing, isn’t it? It’s so cool and strong and quirky. I love the US cover too… no one has the right to love her covers as much as I do. We’re meant to hate our covers, it’s one of those things about being an author. But I don’t. I truly love them.

I will post the other international covers for BROOKLYN GIRLS soon as soon as they’re in my hot little hands.

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On… Stephen Colbert does Daft Punk

Love.

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On… Advice to Graduates from George Saunders

My friends A and S posted this  and honestly, I love it so much, I had to share with you. Via the New York Times. The convocation speech at Syracuse University for the class of 2013, from writer George Saunders:

Down through the ages, a traditional form has evolved for this type of speech, which is: Some old fart, his best years behind him, who, over the course of his life, has made a series of dreadful mistakes (that would be me), gives heartfelt advice to a group of shining, energetic young people, with all of their best years ahead of them (that would be you).

And I intend to respect that tradition.

Now, one useful thing you can do with an old person, in addition to borrowing money from them, or asking them to do one of their old-time “dances,” so you can watch, while laughing, is ask: “Looking back, what do you regret?”  And they’ll tell you.  Sometimes, as you know, they’ll tell you even if you haven’t asked.  Sometimes, even when you’ve specifically requested they not tell you, they’ll tell you.

So: What do I regret?  Being poor from time to time?  Not really.  Working terrible jobs, like “knuckle-puller in a slaughterhouse?”  (And don’t even ASK what that entails.)  No.  I don’t regret that.  Skinny-dipping in a river in Sumatra, a little buzzed, and looking up and seeing like 300 monkeys sitting on a pipeline, pooping down into the river, the river in which I was swimming, with my mouth open, naked?  And getting deathly ill afterwards, and staying sick for the next seven months?  Not so much.  Do I regret the occasional humiliation?  Like once, playing hockey in front of a big crowd, including this girl I really liked, I somehow managed, while falling and emitting this weird whooping noise, to score on my own goalie, while also sending my stick flying into the crowd, nearly hitting that girl?  No.  I don’t even regret that.

But here’s something I do regret:

In seventh grade, this new kid joined our class.  In the interest of confidentiality, her Convocation Speech name will be “ELLEN.”  ELLEN was small, shy.  She wore these blue cat’s-eye glasses that, at the time, only old ladies wore.  When nervous, which was pretty much always, she had a habit of taking a strand of hair into her mouth and chewing on it.

So she came to our school and our neighborhood, and was mostly ignored, occasionally teased (“Your hair taste good?” – that sort of thing).  I could see this hurt her.  I still remember the way she’d look after such an insult: eyes cast down, a little gut-kicked, as if, having just been reminded of her place in things, she was trying, as much as possible, to disappear.  After awhile she’d drift away, hair-strand still in her mouth.  At home, I imagined, after school, her mother would say, you know: “How was your day, sweetie?” and she’d say, “Oh, fine.”  And her mother would say, “Making any friends?” and she’d go, “Sure, lots.”

Sometimes I’d see her hanging around alone in her front yard, as if afraid to leave it.

And then – they moved.  That was it.  No tragedy, no big final hazing.

One day she was there, next day she wasn’t.

End of story.

Now, why do I regret that?  Why, forty-two years later, am I still thinking about it?  Relative to most of the other kids, I was actually pretty nice to her.  I never said an unkind word to her.  In fact, I sometimes even (mildly) defended her.

But still.  It bothers me.

So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. 

Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly.  Reservedly.  Mildly.

Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope:  Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?

Those who were kindest to you, I bet.

It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

Now, the million-dollar question:  What’s our problem?  Why aren’t we kinder?

Here’s what I think:

Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian.  These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk – dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-hanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me).

Now, we don’t really believe these things – intellectually we know better – but we believe them viscerally, and live by them, and they cause us to prioritize our own needs over the needs of others, even though what we really want, in our hearts, is to be less selfish, more aware of what’s actually happening in the present moment, more open, and more loving.

So, the second million-dollar question:  How might we DO this?  How might we become more loving, more open, less selfish, more present, less delusional, etc., etc?

Well, yes, good question.

Unfortunately, I only have three minutes left.

So let me just say this.  There are ways.  You already know that because, in your life, there have been High Kindness periods and Low Kindness periods, and you know what inclined you toward the former and away from the latter.  Education is good; immersing ourselves in a work of art: good; prayer is good; meditation’s good; a frank talk with a dear friend;  establishing ourselves in some kind of spiritual tradition – recognizing that there have been countless really smart people before us who have asked these same questions and left behind answers for us.

Because kindness, it turns out, is hard – it starts out all rainbows and puppy dogs, and expands to include…well,everything.

One thing in our favor:  some of this “becoming kinder” happens naturally, with age.  It might be a simple matter of attrition:  as we get older, we come to see how useless it is to be selfish – how illogical, really.  We come to love other people and are thereby counter-instructed in our own centrality.  We get our butts kicked by real life, and people come to our defense, and help us, and we learn that we’re not separate, and don’t want to be.  We see people near and dear to us dropping away, and are gradually convinced that maybe we too will drop away (someday, a long time from now).  Most people, as they age, become less selfish and more loving.  I think this is true.  The great Syracuse poet, Hayden Carruth, said, in a poem written near the end of his life, that he was “mostly Love, now.”

And so, a prediction, and my heartfelt wish for you: as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love.  YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE.   If you have kids, that will be a huge moment in your process of self-diminishment.  You really won’t care what happens to YOU, as long as they benefit.  That’s one reason your parents are so proud and happy today.  One of their fondest dreams has come true: you have accomplished something difficult and tangible that has enlarged you as a person and will make your life better, from here on in, forever.

Congratulations, by the way.

When young, we’re anxious – understandably – to find out if we’ve got what it takes.  Can we succeed?  Can we build a viable life for ourselves?  But you – in particular you, of this generation – may have noticed a certain cyclical quality to ambition.  You do well in high-school, in hopes of getting into a good college, so you can do well in the good college, in the hopes of getting a good job, so you can do well in the good job so you can….

And this is actually O.K.  If we’re going to become kinder, that process has to include taking ourselves seriously – as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers.  We have to do that, to be our best selves.

Still, accomplishment is unreliable.  “Succeeding,” whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that “succeeding” will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.

So, quick, end-of-speech advice: Since, according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up.  Speed it along.  Start right now.  There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really:selfishness.  But there’s also a cure.  So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf – seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.

Do all the other things, the ambitious things – travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.  Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial.  That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality – your soul, if you will – is as bright and shining as any that has ever been.  Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Theresa’s.  Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place.  Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.

And someday, in 80 years, when you’re 100, and I’m 134, and we’re both so kind and loving we’re nearly unbearable, drop me a line, let me know how your life has been.  I hope you will say: It has been so wonderful.

Congratulations, Class of 2013.

I wish you great happiness, all the luck in the world, and a beautiful summer.

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On… LOVE AND CHAOS – the cover!

The US cover to LOVE AND CHAOS, the second book in the BROOKLYN GIRLS series is here!

This is the very first look, you guys, you can’t even pre-order the little tyke on Amazon yet.

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What do you think?

And now, back to my croissant-induced coma. France is bliss. Photos soon. Promise.

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On… a bun in the oven

I’m totally knocked up.

Baby

I know! Yah. I had sex. Twice now, apparently, since I also have a baby boy named Errol who is nearly two and therefore must stop being referred to as ‘a baby’.

So far the pregnancy has been… well, I’m not going to lie to you, my friends, it’s been shitty. For months I’ve had a constant feeling of seasickness and threw up between four and 12 times a day – or night. I wake up at 3am and puke half-asleep, or wake starving and eat a huge lovely breakfast and feel happy and fine and then hiccup and puke, or I have a good vom-free afternoon then throw up so hard all evening that I burst a blood vessel in my eye. (It happened.)

Pregnancy sickness is not very well understood. People think you wake up, have a tiny retch, eat a pickle and some icecream and go about your day. No. It’s an unpredictable storm of nausea and vomit, and you stuff in food when you can and try to breathe when you can’t. It is like being in charge of a mean drunk called Your Body. You have no control over what it might do next, but you know it’s probably going to suck.

And the thing is, nothing helps. No, ginger doesn’t help. Ginger is bullshit. Stop with your ginger. Acupuncture, seasickness bands, sniffing lemons, chewing ice, extra vitamin B, all bullshit. My lovely doctor put me on some crazy pills, but they were bullshit too.

The other thing about about extreme pregnancy sickness is that no-one really believes you unless they had it too. Women who haven’t had babies blatantly think you’re making it up. Most women who have had babies also think you’re making it up, and say things like ‘I had like mild hangover-like nausea, but I just ate some crackers and it was fine!’ I always smile and say ‘I’ll try that!’, thinking, that’s not nausea, darling.  That’s low blood sugar. Nausea is being unable to walk without hanging onto the wall because you feel like you’re going to fall over. It’s vomiting in your mouth in a crowded hot elevator and swallowing it like soup (well, what else could I do?). It’s hiding behind trees in playgrounds so you can retch without scaring children, while Errol pats your legs comfortingly, and your friend Sarah shouts ‘she’s PREGNANT! Not DRUNK!’ in case someone sees and, you know, calls child services.

Worst of all are the women who say ‘Oh no, I didn’t have anything like that, I think it’s all in the mind, I barely even noticed I was pregnant, I was running 25 miles a day until week 39 and then I went into a field and coughed and out came a baby!’ and I inwardly narrow my eyes and thought-hiss wellfuuuuccckkyouuuuuuu. 

The only two good things about pregnancy are that 1. There’s a deadline, and 2. You get a baby afterwards.

Babies are good. Babies are worth it.

It’s good to know that this time. My excitement about a new baby (a new BABY!) is far outweighing my misery about the vomiting. The first time you’re pregnant, it’s impossible to fully comprehend there’s a real baby coming, someone you’re going to love for the rest of your life. The idea is too huge and surreal to process. (At least, it was for me. I’m very stupid like that.) And you don’t know how joyful and fun it’s going to be (it is, I promise). So I was pretty miserable with vomiting and various other issues later in the pregnancy. This time, I’m just so fucking excited. A whole new baby. A perfect little person. I can handle a bit of vom. So what if I need to carry a plastic bag on me at all times I case of spontaneous vomit? Shit happens. I mean puke. Puke happens.

Plus, it could be worse. I’m a writer. I can pretty much stay home all the time if I need to. As long as I have my laptop and a bucket next to me, it doesn’t make much difference. I can’t imagine how impossible life must be if you have this and have to get up everyday and go to an office or be a teacher or doctor or something important. In fact, I’ve probably gotten even more work done than usual, as writing is the perfect escape from feeling like shit. I can just slip into a world where I am not pregnant and almost forget… as long as I am not writing about food. (I wrote the first BROOKLYN GIRLS book when pregnant with Errol and just as sick, and had to write about food and food trucks. Oh my God, that made me throw up a lot. Even thinking about writing those chapters makes me feel sick now.)

We are currently in Ireland visiting Fox’s family, and on Thursday we head to France to meet up with my folks. So I’m hoping the sickness is nearly over. Because I plan on eating butter. Lots of butter. And when I get back to NYC in late August, I better be rocking the shit out of a sexy second trimester.

My favorite comment on pregnancy is from my friend Joanna, who at about six months pregnant,  apropos the fact that a tiny human in her body was probably growing teeth right that second, said thoughtfully: “it’s kind of gross, when you think about it.”

 

 

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