gregory crewdson: brief encounters

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I discovered Gregory Crewdson by accident. I was wandering the aisles of the Strand bookstore with twenty bucks to spend, and I picked Twilight off the shelf because Rick Moody (a favorite of mine) wrote the introduction. I lost hours looking through those photographs. Mostly shot on location in Pittsfield, MA, his photos portray seemingly ordinary people and places. But there’s always something something slightly disordinary, too. Open car doors, light shining from the basement, wandering wildlife– Crewdson locates and foregrounds the beauty and curiosities of suburban landscapes, and the effect is simultaneously calming and chilling.

I am fascinated by narratives of family and home, and particularly stories of domestic disturbance. Where are those moments of intrusion in our lives? What happens when there is a violation of a seemingly safe space? Crewdson photos offers some possibilities, but like most of the good stuff, his work poses more questions than it answers.

Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters is a documentary chronicling the ten years it took to complete “Beneath the Roses.” If the film comes to your city, do check it out! I was able to catch it during a week-long run in Los Angeles, and I can’t recommend it enough.

As a side note, I love everything about this picture. But the woman is definitely my favorite part. Her face, her hands, and the way the dirt brushes against her cellulite make it possible for me to look at this photo for hours.

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farmers’ market sunday

Yesterday, Lynn took me to the Farmers’ Market on Larchmont Blvd. She introduced me to the simple pleasure of market sampling. We snacked on pears and strawberries and artichoke dips and cheesy bread, and there was a musician playing an acoustic cover of “Come As You Are.” Wonderful Sunday morning.

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weekly endorsements

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I suggest!

Everyone should read Meghan Daum’s essay “My Misspent Youth.” It’s about her wild relationship with debt and spending, but it’s also about New York and being young and trying to figure out how to pursue your dreams. You will love it and it will make you feel less alone when you open your mailbox and look at all of those stupid bills.

I love white sheets. I used to prefer colors or patterns, but lately I’ve been sticking with white bedding and I don’t think I’ll go back. It makes everything look kind of neat and clean (that is the only bitch– you have to wash them like frigging crazy, and I eat in bed, which is ridiculous for reasons having nothing to with white sheets, so I’m constantly scrubbing soy sauce and cake frosting out of my sheets). If you’re tentative and can deal with a low thread count, start with these Target sheets. They’re inexpensive and not too scratchy, and you’ll be able to see how white sheets can make you feel like you’re in a beach house. And that’s kind of fun, no?

Slate Culture Gabfest is my absolute favorite podcast. It’s the only one I’ve been able to listen to with some regularity (and I actually pinched the idea for endorsements from those guys). Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stephens and Julia Turner discuss movies and current events and food and scandals and celebrities and books and I’m making it sound cheesy, but it’s really great. Things I’ve learned about from the Gabfest: Tony Judt, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, the Taylor Swift–Kanye West feud, The Official Preppy Handbook, Eric Rohmer, the Sea and Cake, Inside Job, the list goes on.

My friend Sam lives in New Orleans. We met waiting tables at the Half King and immediately connected because we both love books, beer, and bitching about customers. Visit her blog and fall in love with her pictures (she’s one of my favorite photographers), opinions, and book reviews.

New Yorkers, please check out Partial Comfort Productions. They are a wonderful theater company, small but mighty, and I think their work is incredible. One of my favorite playwrights is Samuel Hunter and I first saw “A Bright New Boise” at Partial Comfort. Their stuff is smart and original and sits with me long after I’ve left the theater. Affordable theater? You can’t say no!

my best friend

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My closest friend in Los Angeles is the GPS lady on my iPhone. For those first few days, I couldn’t get anywhere without her. I clung to her, I relied on her voice, I trusted everything she told me. I was like a young child with a parent on the first day of school– I know if GPS lady wore a skirt, I would bury my face in it, cling to her legs, and beg her not to leave my side. If I missed a turn, went down the wrong boulevard, she never got frustrated. She simply rerouted and got me back on course. Sometimes I found myself wishing she could say more. More than “Turn right on La Cienega.” On long drives, I had her voice to keep me company, but wouldn’t it have been nice if we could laugh together at all those crazy LA drivers? I wished she could give me advice (her voice– albeit automated– is still smooth and authoritative). If she could talk back, I definitely would have teased her for how she pronounces “destination.” She says “des-TOE–nation” and it’s just the cutest little thing ever.

But now I’m beginning week three in Los Angeles and I’m learning my way around a little more. My heart doesn’t leap into my chest every time I pull my car onto the road and I’m not as tentative with directions. I’m trying to push myself to navigate on my own, so I don’t use my GPS as much. But I miss my friend. I miss having her voice by my side as I begin to find a place for myself in this city. We felt like partners in crime; hacking through the LA smog and traffic together, determined to find that damn Trader Joe’s if it killed us, and now. Well, now I kind of feel like the Lone Ranger.

It’s funny– for the last few days, when I have used my GPS, it has been a little out of whack. The visuals are okay, but GPS lady’s voice navigation hasn’t been keeping up with the map. It could be that I need to update both my phone and my Google maps app. Or. Maybe my buddy feels a little abandoned. Maybe this new separation is hard for her, too.

I’m on my way to class and even though I know how to get there, I think I’ll use my GPS to guide me. I like her voice and I like what it reminds me of– new places, new friends, and those unlikely beats of connection that keep you going.

i love peter friedman

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I went to see Side Effects on Sunday and it was an entertaining two hours. One of the highlights? Peter Friedman. You know his face, you’ve seen him in a bunch of stuff, he’s one of those guys who’s kind of in everything (he played the neighbor, the one you just knew was gonna get some limbs chopped off by crazy Jennifer Jason Leigh in Single White Female), and I just think he’s really great.  He’s a New York actor (another thing I liked about Side Effects– so many New York theater actors onscreen), and I first saw him onstage a few years ago in After the Revolution at Playwrights Horizons.

He always seems to be living when he’s acting. He doesn’t feel like an actor man delivering lines, he feels like a fully realized human being going through an experience. He interrupts himself, he laughs, he scratches, he wants something from the other actors around him. When I watch him act, I say “Oh, I know that guy” or “Yup, I do that, too.” Sanford Meisner taught that acting is the ability to listen and respond, and I could watch Peter Friedman do it endlessly.

five things i’ve learned, week two

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It’s been two weeks since I arrived in Los Angeles. Two weeks of driving everywhere and being on the lookout for fake boobies and texting home about celebrity sightings and frozen yogurt, lots of frozen yogurt. A few things I’ve learned along the way:

  1. The traffic is absolutely as bad as everyone tells you. You’ll be like me– kinda dubious, a non-believer, you’ll say everyone exaggerates, you’ll figure “How bad can it really get?” And I will tell you “bad.” The traffic can get really bad. Sitting on the same highway behind the same car for two hours bad.
  2. When stuck in said traffic, it is almost impossible not to check your email, send a text message or (as I’ve started doing, and I’m simply teasing the gods, toying with my fate, being really stupid) reading a book underneath the steering wheel.
  3. Los Angeles might not have the restaurants of New York (not yet anyway, though I hear it’s being worked on), but it might still be a city where food lovers come to die. Shrimp tacos, Korean BBQ, fried sushi, kale and strawberry salad, bread pudding muffins, pesto cheese, fried bananas and ice cream, even the movie theater popcorn is amazing. I came out here to get into movies and all that might happen is me turning into a prime number one fatty.
  4. I need to be more patient. That east coast way (and specifically New York) where everything moves really fast and you don’t have to wait in line longer than nineteen seconds and an impatient foot tap lets everyone around you know it’s time to hurry up? Doesn’t work out here. Time to breathe, relax, and ask myself why I’m in such a hurry anyway.
  5. Your first view of the ocean from the Pacific Coast Highway might lodge itself into your memory bank forever and ever and ever. I drove along the PCH on Friday early evening and I was rounding a bend just as the traffic (see?) broke and the water was on my left and my windows were down and the warm air filled my car and the ocean was bigger than America and the coastline was winding up into the sky and it gave me goosebumps.

the bitter end

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Before I left New York a few weeks ago, my cousin Nicholas performed with some of his classmates at the Bitter End, a West Village music venue. Nick goes to a performing arts high school, and some of the upperclasskids got the chance to tread the boards for family and friends on a Sunday afternoon. How often do you get the chance to watch teenagers sing their hearts out? I highly recommend it– watching kids perform is good for the soul, I think it shares restorative properties with kale and daily exercise. What I found so moving about the Bitter End performers (and believe me, I was moved– I cried into my vodka cranberry each time someone hit the chorus or craned to find the right note. My cousin Kyana teared up along with me, and we agreed that if we ever have children they won’t allow us to attend any graduations, no performances or school recitals, no occasions that might push us to tears. At the rate I’m going, an elementary school bake sale could make me nostalgic and embarrassingly weepy) was their absolute commitment, that life force that young people have that makes their art so clean and expressive and pure.

I love kids doing art. Anything– I love watching them draw, play make-believe, make up dances, paint, take pictures, sing songs, act in plays. When we’re young, that wall between our conscious and unconscious brain hasn’t yet calcified, I think there’s still a freedom to roam and a willingness to explore that doesn’t feel daunting. Youth allows our creativity to spool out away from us and live. At camp I would sometimes direct campers in our musical production, and there’s nothing that gives me goosebumps more than young voices tripping through a chorus together. Those kids. Their eyes were wide, their arms hung by their sides, their mouths wobbled, there was a glint just behind their eyes that told you they were communicating something crucial and necessary.

How lovely might life be if we could live that way as we grow older? I will pursue acting until the day I die, but often I feel far removed from my basic burn and need for it. I long for that eleven year old version of myself, the one who could live with all of her energy and seize moments on stage, the one who would have been up there singing Lady Gaga songs and show tunes with Nick and his classmates, unafraid of how she sounded as she hopped from one leg to the other, sticking her chin in the air, daring life to scare her out of saying all that she needs to say.