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Tell Me Where You’re Broken

When I was a grad student at Columbia I  attended a reading/Q&A with Philip Gourevitch, a writer who had begun as a journalist, found acclaim with his book on the Rwandan genocide, and had recently been appointed editor of the Paris Review. Most of his words that day are lost to me now, except for this: at some point in his career he’d lost interest in interviewing politicians because, he said, “They just lie. All of them.”

We all figure that out at some point, but there was something about the way he said it that day that stuck with me.  Interviewing the dishonest, he said, “Was tiring and – frankly – dull.” It’s much more interesting to hear someone at least try to tell the unvarnished truth.

Politicians lie because they must try to be all things to all people (and, let’s face it, all corporations). Who the hell knows what Obama really thinks about gays? I found his wife, who clearly had mixed feelings about the political spotlight, much more fascinating. She was a little too smart. A little too private. After the election, of course, she had to soften her edges.

At some point all politicians become dull. Who can connect with a liar? Contemporary heroes stay heroic for about thirty seconds. When their flaws are revealed, the world turns on them. But we need each other’s flaws.

The DJ and musician Rich Morel recently commented on his blog about the Killers’ song “Mr. Brightside”:

Brandon Flower’s  vocal has an incredibly vulnerable quality to it. That is what makes him and the band so great.  It’s always the fragile aspects that make me connect with people.

Strength is a glass shield;  my interest slides off those who wave their “strength” around for everyone’s supposed benefit. Which is why I loved Amy Winehouse. In every break-up song she had a part, and she copped to it.

Tell me the truth, regardless of how it makes you look. Tell me where you’ve been broken. When someone gives me that, I feel less alone.

Steve Jobs Pissed Me Off

TetheredThe other day I stood in the living room, punching buttons on the dvd remote control as my roommate wandered through. Together we watched as the big flat-screen TV filled with quick-edited shots of naked men – accompanied by the requisite throbbing pulse of a tribal soundtrack – engage each other in activities you’d never find on prime time television.

“You should keep a journal,” my roommate said. “To chronicle your life.”

“I hope you don’t mind,” I said. “But I can’t get this #%#$ review copy to work on my Playstation.” Nor would it work on either of my two laptops. I grunted and punched at the stupid buttons, my eyes bleary after a full day at the law firm, now faced with an absurdly short deadline for my second job, writing a series of 300-word scene recaps for a local gay porn company.

I don’t know what they do with the recaps. Throw them up on their website, I would imagine, giving prospective buyers a glimpse at who does what to whom in each particular movie. Which may sound like fun to some of you, but honestly, there are only so many words for certain parts of a man’s anatomy that are hot without sounding silly.

My roommate wandered off to his bedroom as I settled onto the couch with my laptop, trying to forget about the four newsletter articles due soon for my third job, a marketing-and-social-media gig. I began typing:  Shay Michaels and Lance Navarro swap spit in a dim-lit dungeon…

“How’s it feel being married now to the Manly Fireplug?” people kept asking me.

“Who?” I said.

Somewhere between job one and job two, as the Fireplug buzz-cut the evening barbershop crowd, I’d stumble outside with our three dogs, on three leashes, pulling at three speeds, wagging their tails and weaving in and out of each other’s paths in what I swore was a canine conspiracy of entanglement. As they pulled me along I calculated costs of weddings, health insurance, and real estate.

Who am I? What am I doing? How could I be working so many hours and making so little money? Yes, I had three jobs at a time when many had none. Still, I’m human, which is to say that within each hour of each day I’d dizzily swing between the poles of gratitude and self-pity.

At night in bed the Fireplug would wrap his meaty forearm around me and I’d try to slow my pulse, pondering Steve Jobs.

The man who’d just stepped down from Apple had been bouncing all over the news cycle echo chamber, and I’d clicked on a link and read a commencement speech he’d made, six years back, at Stanford University.

At first his words had moved me, words outlining the kind of philosophy you’d expect to hear at such ceremonies:

 Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

I believed in his words, and I felt lucky that I’d known for a very long time what it is that I love to do, even if I had yet to make a living from it.

But yesterday at the law firm I fielded a call from my car mechanic, who gave me, in an apologetic tone, some fairly bad news. And when I hung up I found myself blinking back tears.

I was not proud of this. I’m not proud of it now. But I felt tired and defeated and pissed at Steve Jobs, who’d exhorted a crowd of impressionable youth to live each day as if it were their last, and Joseph “Follow Your Bliss” Campbell, and every figure of inspiration whose quotes leave out the compromises we must make, one foot in bliss, one foot in life.

Which is not to say that I could give up what I love, with a 98% finished memoir that gets exponentially more wrenching to write with each page, and which has all but convinced me to turn next to fiction, where you can just make shit up, a 98% finished book waiting, like my new husband, for the scraps of between-job attention I can muster.

And I need the Steve Jobs and the Joseph Campbells and the Anna Quindlens of the world to remind me that it’s all possible.

Just as I need to know that I’m not alone in my one-foot-there, one-foot-not: that there are folks like Seymour Krim, who once wrote about “those who have yet to find the professional skin to fit the riot in their souls.”

I need to remember that life falls somewhere between dreams and compromises. That there are worse things than being tethered to competing claims on my time, pulled along in three different directions, at three different speeds.

Worth a Few Words

In a lovely, rose-tinted alternate universe, I spent the few weeks since my last post lying on a beach in Fiji with the Manly Fireplug, a blissfully unplugged honeymoon.  I’ve never been to Fiji, and I don’t even know if it’s a nice place to go these days, but the poet in me liked the alliteration of Fiji and Fireplug.

But in real life the honeymoon had to wait, and after ten days going from Philly to the Catskills back to Philly then to Brooklyn and Manhattan before returning to Philly on our extended wedding/ Fireplug family reunion tour, we actually had to, you know, work for a living.

I’m writing this on company time, having picked up another weekday of office work, which now puts me somewhere around 50 hours a week between my various jobs. When your health insurance eats up a quarter of your salary, you do what you can.

So a long-winded, carefully-composed narrative of our wedding won’t be forthcoming today.  Besides, this is the internet; who has the attention span for narratives? How about a couple of pics instead…


Since the Fireplug had something like 12 or 13 family members making the trip from Philly to Brooklyn bright and early the morning of the ceremony, the Fireplug’s mom decided to rent an entire bus. What showed up was a stretch limo – the kind with an interior neon ceiling that changed colors, with tiny artificial stars shimmering overhead. I could almost pretend like we were kicking off a Saturday night trip to our junior prom, but really it was Wednesday morning,  and we were heading up the Pennsylvania turnpike.

MikeFrettingLimoThe driver had some trouble navigating the limo through the narrow streets of Brooklyn Heights, and we arrived at the promenade with only a few minutes to spare. The wedding photographer snapped this as I emerged from the limo, fretting:

There’s a few other photos here. (Thanks again to Jonathan Gati for the great shots.) Various friends and family converged on our location but I continued to fret. The judge was late. No judge, no wedding. There’s a reason I shy away from event planning. I fret.

But the judge arrived with seconds to spare.


I believe our ceremony lasted about six minutes. It included the exchange of vows we’d written together, which I later posted here.

I made it about two words in before this happened to me:


Yeah, I totally cried. Sue me.


My friend Norman Brannon snapped this photo. That’s the Fireplug’s mother beside him; his best man, Joel; and his niece, the flower girl I mentioned in that other post. Beside me stands my father, my best man that day.

I don’t remember what we were laughing at. In fact, I can’t be certain the ceremony lasted six minutes, because a fierce case of tunnel vision overtook me. Beneath the promenade ran the East River, and beyond that stretched the skyline of Manhattan. Somewhere in there stood the Brooklyn Bridge. I saw none of it.

I only remember one thing from the ceremony.  The thing I tried to focus on during our vows. This face:


And I’ll think I’ll just leave it at that.