Snowflakes in France

Reflections of a 20-something woman in publishing

A Lazy Sunday

It’s a fairly typical evening here. But I suppose it’s worth noting simply because I’ve never noted it before. The dog is lying on the bed, staring into the floor-length mirror, ears perked. I think he’s looking at himself. There are nose smudges across the surface from all the times he’s checked himself out before, at closer range.

Jon is playing some computer game involving territory and its expansion and defense from intruders. It looks like something I’d enjoy if you added characters to it and wrote it down in a book with all of its plots, plans, deceptions and last-minute victories. As it is, I don’t ask any questions.

As for me, I’m sitting in the corner chair, reading, writing, online shopping. This day has been much like any other lazy Sunday, but I spent much of it absorbed in a book of historical photos of Hoboken, trying to piece them together. I know a lot that I didn’t know yesterday, but I can’t quite grasp the nature of a lazy Sunday in 1890.

We have cars blasting techno as they wait at the light outside our home, and little kids setting up toy truck show within  the sidewalk square’s space outside their front door. People stop at the grocery store for this week’s dinner supply and the women take advantage of the warm weather to wear their favorite sundress for perhaps the last time before winter.

So did carriage drivers whistle down the cobblestone streets, stopping every now and then to let a trolley pass? Did everyone go to the butcher-shop and the bakery? Or just the poor and the servants? How many 12-year-old girls would be going to school the following Monday? Was public school mandatory? Looking at a group photo at an annual clambake, I can’t quite tell whether the people are middle-to-upper class, or immigrants in their Sunday best. The men all have handlebar mustaches and the ladies are in floor-length dresses with hats.

Surely someone kept a diary or wrote letters that captured the lazy Sunday I’m looking for. The question is whether anyone thought it was worth sharing. And whether it made it to the 21 century.

Teaching the Intern

I decided to take the intern out for lunch. We walked slowly between antique brownstones that spoke of comfort and stability without a thought of money. They, as we, welcomed the leaves of fall, which brought out the variations of brown in their steady walls and their hovering gargoyles.

I took us to a sushi house a couple blocks away, where the 2 roll special could get us a plate full of at least 16 pieces of sushi, a salad and soup. I added an order of edamame, ostensibly because 22-year old guys eat A LOT of food. Especially the skinny ones. But I also happen to love edamame.

He asked me questions about some of the contracts he had seen while filing them away in various cabinets, and I did my best to encourage his interests while trying to sound informed enough that he would believe my answers. I have worked in the business for three years, which isn’t quite enough to answer some questions, though I like to think that he was envious of my knowledge.  I spoke of my early years in New York as if they were a decade past and encouraged him to check out this weekend’s festivals and grab a copy of Time Out NY to take his girlfriend on a tour when she came to visit.

When the bill came, I casually took it from him. The lunch was on me. It’s not like he was getting paid for his internship; it’s the least I could do. He protested gracefully, but also with a hint of anxiety, adding, “I really feel uncomfortable with you paying.” But I insisted, mentioning how the boss had bought my lunch earlier in the week, and so I was simply passing down his generosity.

As we finished off the last pieces of edamame, he looked thoughtful, and then said, “You know it’s funny, waiters, they always bring the check to the guy at the table. And here you just paid even though you’re the woman.”

Before I thought he just wanted to support himself, to pay his half. I had done the same thing in my years as an assistant. But perhaps he actually wanted to pick up the entire tab simply because I was a woman and he was a man, determined to abide by the standards of society. This, I decided, was incredibly naive.

“Well,” I said, “The waiter didn’t really seem to mind so I guess it’s OK.”

Practicing

I read yesterday that for writers to maintain a habit of writing, they should take a  similar approach to how musicians practice, i.e., devotedly, everyday, in spare moments.

Great, I thought. Because I’m the girl who’s picked up her violin only once in the past year. My chances at maintaining a writing habit are about as great as my chances of getting into the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra. Which is to say, I can do it, but only if I try.

I can see that once I get around to devoting the time, the approach is similar. When I practice, I tend to start out with scales and pieces that I memorized years ago. When I feel sufficiently in sync with the instrument, I’ll try a new piece, or go back to a passage over which I always trip.

For the last few weeks — months really — I’ve been thinking about writing a novel. I wrote the first chapter and a few character sketches. Then I stopped. I wasn’t sure how to breathe life into it from there. Was my protagonist actually my antagonist? Should the best friend be the leading lady? Could I write it in a fairly regular atmosphere or should I add a fantasy element to it — demons, mermaids, prophesies — to dramatize the point?

Of course, thinking about a story is part of the writing process, but I have a history of over analyzing. I know this is spelling doom for my little project. So here I am, practicing my scales, the type of writing I figured out how to do long ago.

Crossing the Jungle

Like a Paleo woman, I leave my home early in the morning, making my way across the plains into a jungle. I walk a mile to the edge each day and then crouch, waiting. The waiting gives me time to think and reflect, but suddenly, as if I see a glimpse of an antelope through the trees, I am on my way. I quickly weave through the jungle descending deeper, until I stop again to wait. While I’m thankful for the pause, a chance to catch my breath, I know that it will be short. I will soon be leaping up, rushing ahead, trying to get there on time. By the time I arrive, sweat sits upon my pores and my breath moves quickly. I’ve worked up an appetite, so the food I gather here is welcome sustenance.

After eating, the french press coffee has steeped and I pour myself a cup.  I sit down to an inbox of emails and a stack of bills, letters and junk mail. For the next seven hours, I am an office girl with a head full of books and bookkeeping in a quaint Brooklyn brownstone.

Then I revert back to primitive instinct once again as I commute through the jungle, toward the plains of New Jersey.

 

The School Girl in Me

It’s 75 and sunny, with a nice cool breeze outside. An anomaly for this summer, when the temperature seems to dip below 92 only when it’s raining. My sinuses are reacting as if this is the beginning of fall, and I can’t help but agree. Anthropologie is sending me emails about sweaters, magazines are advertising school supplies and my little sister is beginning her first year at college.

I’m ready for the change. Summer has always been nice — no school, pools are open for days of fun, and now, there’s no reason to make excuses when I feel like having a cocktail on a Saturday morning, especially if I’m at the beach. But the laziness tends to bore me after a while, and my pale skin tends to look better in fall clothes.

For me, Fall is about new beginnings. More so than New Years Eve or the coming of Spring. It’s a time to buy new jeans, get new notebooks, figure out this year’s signature fall color and root out that top from five years ago that suddenly seems like a good thing to wear.

Yeah, I was that little girl who couldn’t wait to go back to school. To see who I would sit next to, what my teacher would be like and whether there were any cute boys in my class. So when weather like this rolls around, I still feel a little bit of a thrill, wondering what this Fall will hold in store for me. A perfect dress, a new best friend, a promotion for me or my husband? Maybe I’ll actually join an orchestra this fall, or find a new hobby for the season. The city of New York is my limit…which of course doesn’t limit me much at all.

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