Today, I took a truly excellent one day writing workshop at Catapult with Emily Gould and Chloe Caldwell. Anyone who has listened to me nerd out on contemporary women writers over the past two years can guess that this was a v meaningful experience for me, that may or may not have involved a cup full of tears while walking down 6 Av listening to Welcome to New York afterwards. But I'm going to save that particular bit of emotional absurdity for another time.
We did a bunch of short generative exercises, which was actually perfect for me right now because I keep trying to work on these large expansive essays that say so much about my experience as a college educated service industry professional and gentrification or sexual dynamics in the 21st century, which are all important topics but really hard to focus in on. Thus writing these short really focused excercises really reminded me that I can just – write. And, coincidentally, my sister and I had a hilarious time last night which just happened to translate very well into one of the prompts.
I've decided to transcribe it here, because getting back into blogging and New York times and writer times and the things that happen.
So we were writing based on our horoscope from Friday, and mine was something along the lines of - “you're inspired to connect, have an intense evening, but you shouldn't start conversations that won't end well.”
Here she is -
“My sister and I stood outside Cowgirl, on the corner of Hudson and West 10th, debating over whether to go inside.
“I mean, I think it's fine,” I said, “There probably isn't a wait and you are impatient.”
“But it looks like they're serving the food out of baskets...” she said.
Suddenly, a distinguished older woman rushed past us, looked at the restaurant, blurted “Yes!” and ran inside.
My sister and I locked eyes and immediately followed her.
Rachel and I are not normally prone to making decisions based on the choices of elegant older women, but we'd immediately recognized this particular one as Sharon Olds, who we'd just seen read at the Pushcart Prize 40th Anniversary reading.
We put our name in and took a seat at the bar, ordering one strawberry margarita and one habanero.
“It's been a while for her to be in the bathroom,” I said. “Do you think she's actually eating here?!”
“I assume so,” my sister said, gesturing to a back room just out of sight.
“Wait...do you think they're ALL here?!” I said, quickly calculating that, if this were the case, I would be in the same breathing space as Zadie Smith and Ben Marcus for the second time in one night.”
“Dude, that's what I thought when we followed her in here!” my sister replied.
We began taking turns canvassing the restaurant – pretending to look for the bathroom or being on our cell phones. I recognized with my superior creeping skills that about half the people working the event appeared to be eating in an anterior dining room, and a few more trickled in, waiting for another table.
“I want to buy them a drink but they're probably already on an expense account, so it would be pointless.” I sighed. “And I don't want to be a total creep.”
'Total Creep' around distinguished people was, however, in my repertoire. I'd befreinded all my college professors by schmoozing with them at free wine events, eventually asking them out to fancy dinners with the generous help of my best friend. We'd ended our senior year with telling one of them the details of the keg race tournament we ran for the rest of the school and possibly revealing the names and relative transgressions of underclassmen we'd had certain relations with.
As it turned out, not everyone involved with the ceremony was at the after dinner – aka, Zadie and Ben never reappeared. I speculated:
“Zadie lives in SoHo so she probably went home, and Ben splits his time between here and Maine and I mean I'd probably want to get home too if I was married to Heidi Julavits...”
My sister replied: “Yeah...it's probably good that you didn't have the opportunity to talk to them again.”
Instead, we made a strategic plan for how I'll convince my new restaurant to host after event galas for authors in our private room, thus giving me a future excuse to speak to the people I admire with a good reason: I'll be serving them food.
And plus, Zadie Smith had already given me the most affirming line of the night: when she was signing my anthology, I told her:
“I sent my ex your essays, and you're the first woman writer he's ever loved.”
She gave me a quick look, and then said in her deep, posh accent: “Well it's good that you two broke up then.”