Sunlight on Red

I mean, really, anything can seem annoying. And, come to think of it, anything can seem sacred. Right now I’m at the Society Library, it’s Sunday, and for some reason I expected it to be unusually quiet. I mean, this library costs money, and part of the rules are that there’s silence and no eating. That leaves a lot of people out. But then this asian woman with grey hair, pearls, and a white collar sticking out of a black crew neck sweater, sat down across from me, rolled out her newer Macbook Pro (newer than mine), and started typing like she was Beethoven playing his Ninth Symphony when he was really mad. It made my teeth hurt.

And yet, just a couple of hours ago, walking up to Bronnie’s dad’s apartment after an excellent yoga class, I saw a little boy walking with his dad; the little boy was wearing huge, bright-red soccer shorts that came down to below his knees, and tiny running shoes, and the way his giant shorts flapped around his spindly white knees in the sunlight like a flag was pure…you know. It was magic.

So what the hell. The sound of typing is the sound of mantra. Sometimes I forget.

Dreaming of Dogs

I dream these days about puppies. Last night someone picked a tiny one out of a box and put it in my hand—it curled in the cup of my palm like a woebegone shell. It was slightly green, and little wiry crusts lay in its eyes and ears. It was defenseless and sad—listless, almost, from being this little new thing with no mommy. The person who handed me the puppy kept saying, “He’s going to be very heavy,” which she thought was a selling point. I knew, though, that it meant I couldn’t keep him. I need a dog I can travel with.

The dogs in the street are the people I look at these days. The way they treat us humans, with such sweet trust, is moving partly because it’s sometimes so misguided. I think that they know that we can be ignorant, cruel, and angry, and yet they love us anyway. It is one of those deep realities that we don’t pay much attention to. Anyway, I grew tired, after Scout had been sick for so long, of so much pooping. But now I see a dog poop, and it hurts, this kind little thing on a leash, balancing on the icy sidewalk.

Sometimes, if I want to make myself simply happy, I think of the time I saw a group of boys—probably seven or eight years old—tearing down a sidewalk in New York City. Among the boys was a floppy dog, tearing down the sidewalk too, its tongue wagging, a mad smile on its face, happy to be a little boy among little boys.


One other story on the subject. One time my husband (then) and I were at a party for a writer-friend’s thirtieth birthday. She comes from one of those large, Catholic, blue-blooded New England families (let’s just say). Anyway, there were a bunch of tables set out in her livingroom, and couples were split up. My husband was hanging with a bunch of people he didn’t know, and a pretty young woman showed up late and sat down at his table. People continued to talk, and he said to her, “Hi. I’m Andrew—what’s your name?” And the table went silent. He said he knew that he had done something wrong—had committed some terrible faux pas. She paused, and then she said, “I’m Caroline.” And he realized—Doh!—she was Caroline Kennedy. I loved him for that—for his innocence and his friendliness, even though he was always self-conscious and somewhat awkward at chi-chi parties. Anyway, one is not dutchess a hundred yards from a carriage, as Wallace Stevens said (I think). Fuck em.

Riding in Elevators with Movie Stars

The place where I’m staying has two apartments per floor, and the other apartment on the floor where I’m at is occupied by Timothy Hutton. So Timothy Hutton and I have been riding up and down together in the elevator. Which brings me to the subject of riding in elevators with movie stars. I mean, usually, if you get into an elevator where there’s only one other person, you say “Hi,” or something, and sometimes you even talk a little. But when you get into an elevator with a movie star (if you’re Deitch, at least), you make sure you don’t say anything, and you even try to pretend that you don’t know who they are, even though you know that they know that you know. Which is just a strange fact of life, especially in New York.

One time I was waiting for an elevator by myself, the doors opened, and the person inside, leaning in the corner and looking at me square in the eye, was Robert DeNiro. I looked at him, and I got in. He stayed in the same position, and I looked down, put my face into casual mode, and it was both stupid and reality. Annie Hall could have done it—she would have just fallen all over herself in her big hat, tie, and tennis racket, apologizing for knowing who he was and pretending she didn’t even though she did.

When I was much younger, according to many people, I looked a lot like Sigourney Weaver. I apologize already—she looked much better than me and I didn’t really look like her. But just so you know what I’m saying to you, I once interviewed the director John Singleton (Boys in the Hood, Poetic Justice), and he couldn’t stop interrupting our interview to say, “Damm! You look exactly like Sigourney Weaver!” Anyway. if I did, I don’t anymore—not since I grew out my hair, put on a few pounds, and put down my Alien flamethrower. But one day, when I was living in LA, I was buying something in a bodega near my apartment, when a young woman walked in and looked at me like I was Denzel or Santa Claus. She got really excited. And she said, “You’re her!” And I said, “I’m not her.” And she said, “You’re not?!” And I said, “No.” I don’t remember if I apologized or not.

Anyway, the point is, that it gave me insight into what it must look like from inside a movie star’s head—if you’re a guy looking for chicks, that could be great. But it can go bad. When I worked at The New Yorker in the olden days, the receptionist on the twentieth floor sat behind bulletproof glass. People just have weird projections. One time some guy came up, and when the receptionist didn’t let him in to use the bathroom, he pissed all over the glass. Nice, right? I got used to being attacked at parties about how bad the fiction was. People just couldn’t control themselves.

Anyway, I ride the elevator with Timothy Hutton, and I’ve started to relax around just riding, and not stressing out about how he feels trapped in an elevator with me, Deitch. I do have to say that he’s really cute, but I won’t say it to him.


I loved the library in our town when I was little. There was a special, children’s library there, old and dark and quiet. It smelled like books. I remember walking through a huge, high-ceilinged entranceway just inside the front door. I remember raising my chin to see the high, dark-wood shelves. Maybe I’m remembering wrong, because I was only four and five and six. I remember a wide, marble staircase leading to more books.

What stole my heart, though, was being read to. It wasn’t the stories that I remember: it was the soft voice of the librarian, the silent children sitting cross-legged on the rug around me, the sense of suspense, especially at those moments when the librarian would turn the book around and show us the illustrations. What I liked best about that was the slow sweep of her hands, and the sound of her fingers on the clear plastic covers, there to protect the books.

For awhile when I was little I wanted to be a librarian. It’s not hard to see why. My brother Ian at that time in our lives, though, was not too keen on me, and used to tease me about this humble aspiration. It did not seem like a cool job to him; maybe he associated it with frumpy old ladies in orthopedic shoes. I don’t know. Anyway, maybe his teasing led me to writing instead. Writing, it turns out, is an even humbler aspiration, though you wouldn’t know it sometimes, when the egos come into play. Oh well.

Anyway, the point of all this is that yesterday when I was on the subway going uptown, I saw a young Chinese woman reading Catcher in the Rye. It was a paperback, beat up, with the old cover. She probably had bad eyesight, because she held the book about five inches from her nose. She was wearing blue rubber boots, and her fingernails were painted the same blue.

I thought about Holden Caufield and all the phonies I know. I looked around the subway in search of phonies, but there was only one—a guy dressed to the nines in white jeans and a black leather jacket, huge silver rings on his fingers, and silly buttons on his fanny pack. Everyone else sat quietly with their wet shoes and their modest knit caps and their cheap eyeglasses. New York has its phonies, but it also has its kind people.

Anyway, when I was sweeping the folks beside me, I noticed that the guy next to me was reading a story in a paper—I think one of those throwaways they hand out in the subway; the headline was “The Many Sexy Sides of Librarians.” That and the girl reading Salinger made me happy.