Snowflakes in France

Reflections of a 20-something woman in publishing

Month: October, 2011

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.

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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.”