Feeling grateful.

Tonight we are reunited, all five of us, full of stories and giggles and guitars and "have you seen this movie!?" and "you DON'T know this band?!" and "hey did you get a haircut?" The cats are confused with all the commotion and scuttle back and forth, cautiously sniffing the bags of laundry we've brought home. It's been years since we've all been in the same country for Thanksgiving.

There are times when the pangs of missing Paris hit hard, times when I mourn a different life that I gave up to come back home. But sitting in our family room tonight with everyone reunited... it's one of my main reasons for coming back.

The past year has been so incredible, I can barely recognize the sobbing girl in Yoga class of a year ago. I'm so lucky to love my job and my friends and my apartment and my new cat. And my new president.

Happy Thanksgiving, guys. Enjoy the turkey and pie.


The Making of a Cat Woman.

"I'm thinking about naming my cat Oscar," I say to Sima and Jess as we hang around after a meeting. "What do you think about that?"
"I think you should meet your cat first," says Jess. "Then name it." Sima agrees.

I wander into Petco last night, ready to adopt on a theoretical level, pretty unsure on a tangible one. How will I know which cat is mine? It feels like choosing a family member, like looking at a group of people and imagining what they'll be like hungover or with bad breath. You can never tell until it happens.

I tell myself that I don't have to choose a cat tonight, that I can just look and come back later this week to meet the new ones. This comforts me and renders me anxious, as all big decisions do. I am always a wee bit scared of attaching myself to something. Or someone. I'm not afraid to put that out there where we can all see it.

So I walk over to the cages. They each have names on them with photos and paperwork attached. Duchess. Lucky. Molly. Then, Oscar.

There he is, all broad shouldered and sleepy. My jaw is literally on the floor. "Oscar!" I whisper into his cage. "Are you my cat?!"

Oscar is in a cage next to Paris, a thin black feline. For a moment I wonder if she is my cat, if this Oscar coincidence is only there to lead me to her. But she's in the back of her cage, disinterested. Oscar is crammed up against the front, ripe for the nose and neck petting.

At first I think: "this cat is drugged. He is too mellow." But after a few minutes, he just seems happy to have someone petting him. He's older than I thought I wanted, but somehow it feels like a good decision to choose a cat that's been around the block a bit. I ask the woman who is incessantly on the phone if I can pet him.

"That big guy? Oh yeah, he just came in yesterday."
"Really? From where?"
"Inwood. Someone threw him out of the house."

Verbalizing the reality doesn't phase Oscar. He's happy to be more accessible now; with the cage open, he bangs his head into my chest. "Ohhh hi buddy," I whisper. "Do you want to be my cat?"

I'm acutely aware of the danger of choosing a cat merely because of a weird coincidence. On the other hand, what a freakin' coincidence. I ask the woman if I can have Oscar and she asks me a series of questions about the screens on my windows and my past cat experience. I pass the test. Oscar is mine.

Immediately I freak out and call 20 people while pacing the aisles of Petco, among the leashes and litter. I carefully choose bowls for his food and water and a litter box. Before I leave the store, I take them over to Oscar's cage for inspection. "What do you think, dude? Are these your style?" Oscar sniffs in approval, curious about what I'm holding. The woman has drawn a big heart on his paperwork that says "I'm adopted and going home on Saturday!" I almost tear up.

Outside, I call my brother. "You're going to be a cat's uncle!" I laugh into the phone. "Ohhh boy," he says. Like everyone else, he wants to know details, colors, personality. At some point I call Jess, who declares my life one big destiny move after another. And who later helps me find the perfect middle name.

Oscar Paris Epting. Welcome to the fam.


Oscar the Wonder Cat

There's a ton of stuff to write about lately, but the most recent news is that I'm going to have a little buddy living with me starting from this Saturday! Here he is, Oscar Epting:

He was abandoned in the Bronx and is about 4-5 years old. He is also a good snuggler and loves it when you pet his head. I set up a litter box for him under the sink and newly purchased bowls in the kitchen for his food and water. It's strange, but even just adding one other living being to the house makes it feel like a home.

More stories later about Oscar, Morocco and life. For now, I'm nursing a stupid Moroccan cold in bed. Can't wait to get this guy home to Greenpoint!


How DO they charm those snakes?!

I had hoped to have time today to do the monthly newsletter that's already a week late. Turns out that will have to happen when I get back from Morocco.

The long and the short of it though is that I'm headed to a new continent. Holy, holy! I'm pretty ready to watch snake charmers and ride camels and speak a little francais with the local people. This week has been hellish, but I made it and now I'm off.

See you in a week.


Giggling with the Visa girl. Sometimes I love humanity.

Visa service girl: Ok Miss, how can I help you tonight?

Me: Well, I'm just calling to give you guys a heads up that I'm leaving the country for Morocco tomorrow so that my card doesn't get blocked if I need to use it over there.

VSG: Wow, what a coincidence- the guy that called before you was going to Morocco too!

Me: No kidding... well, maybe he's my soulmate.

VSG: That's crazy, he also lives in New York. Are you an artist too?

Me: Nope, but I do love artists! Well, this trip is really shaping up!

VSG: He's coming back the same day as you too... maybe you'll be on the same plane.

Me: Ok, what's your name?

VSG: Antoinette.

Me: Ok Antoinette, here's what I promise you. If that guy is my soulmate and we meet in Morocco, you're coming to the wedding. I will call this number and ask for you. Promise.

VSG: That sounds great, I could really use a vacation! Is that all I can help you with today?

Me: Yep, we're good. Thanks for the heads up about the dude, Antoinette.

VSG: No problem; good luck meeting your soulmate!


Notes on Writing, 11/8/08

I've been writing. Not everyday, but so far more days than not. It is so much harder than I thought it would be. I've felt more fragile this week, more inclined to cling to people and to avoid being alone. I think it's because my self-confidence is taking a hit during these early morning writing sessions.

Here is what HAS been helpful, though. I keep a notebook next to my computer as I write and sometimes jot down notes about writing. Sometimes they're related to the structure and details of writing fiction; other times they are attempts to cheer myself on. I think I'll publish them here every so often (so long as there are notes to publish). I know that I would be comforted by reading a blog that divulged notes like this and so maybe some of you who write will appreciate them as well.

*Telling a story vs. living a story
*Think content, not implementation
*If it's not working, move on and fill in the blanks later
*Ask Charlie Baxter if he ever thinks he's crap when he sits down to write
*When it's not working, try 1st person or 3rd person
*Ask the character what story she/he wants you to write about today
*Don't jump to interpretation! That's not your job!
*Don't ask "where will that lead me?" It's not important. Don't try to control it.

Good god, this list sounds like a freaking therapy session. I will add only one more thing, both to comfort myself and other writers out there. It is always awful for the first ten minutes. After that it's still difficult, but I begin to make progress.

Cue metaphor about running.

Transfer in Queens

So there I am, walking through the subway station where I transfer, carrying 500 bags that I seem to always have strapped to me. It's a busy time of night, a bit later than rush hour, but still early enough that people are commuting from work. And suddenly, there he is, my 10th grade crush, coming towards me. At first I'm not sure and (honestly) don't feel like stopping to talk even if it is, but then we pass each other and he calls out: "Jenny?!"

The naming is a sure sign of the past.

He looks older, more like his father. He is insanely tall. "Were you always this tall?" I ask him randomly, a few minutes into the conversation. He confides that he grew a foot in college. I am suddenly very aware of how I look in comparison with who I was in 10th grade. I am self-conscious, but try to keep the conversation interesting. He does too.

It's amazing to me how much men grow into their fathers. Almost without exception. Suddenly their necks get a bit wider and their faces fuller and their shoulders broader and their waists fill out. Tall, lanky boys never seem to turn into tall, lanky men. They are, instead, suddenly powerful before you.

Eleven years after our Driver's Ed class together, we run into each other on the subway in the largest city in America. This is what I love about New York- the endless possibility of confronting your past, present and future at every turn.


Yes. We. Can.

It hasn't sunk in yet. But holy shit. We did it.

THANK YOU, AMERICA for being the place I hoped you could be. I am proud, so proud, to be part of this. I know this world will be a better place because of President Obama.

It is almost too overwhelming to comprehend, but shit I am grateful, I am thankful, I am humbled before democracy.


Images of November 4, 2008 (stay tuned for updates all day)...

11/4/08, 4:49 p.m.- The NYTimes tracks people's states of mind. Blue for Obama voters, Red for McCain.

11/4/08, 9:30 a.m.- Arabic voting sign in Cobble Hill...

11/4/08, 8:30 a.m.- This message appeared earlier this week on a poster at the local Metro stop.

11/4/08, 8:20 a.m.- A bunch of houses flew American flags today...

11/4/08, 7:50 a.m. - Getting ready to go vote this morning, I listened to Yes. We. Can.

11/3/08, 9:30 p.m. - Polish postcard for Obama at a payphone in Greenpoint:


Dear America, please vote.

"Ok Steve, I think I need to go, I have heavy groceries."
"Ok, no problem."
"Call me tomorrow when you have news of Pennsylvania! I'll call you during my party to check in."
"You too- don't forget to VOTE!"
"I will, I will. Love you and I'll talk to you tomorrow."
"Hey Jenny."
"Yes. We. Can."
"I know! We can! GO OBAMA!"


Four days left

Well first of all, let me apologize for the non-postingness that's been going on around this here blog. A few people have expressed their concern in email and in person ("so what's this, you move to Greenpoint and you stop posting? What the eff?"), and the reason is really the most timeless reason of them all: lack of Internet. After the first glorious evening of stolen Internet came a solid four days of drought. Now, however, things are BACK ON because the awesome people I work with had a trickly little device that lets you get Internet anywhere on the planet. I am borrowing this until Verizon throws me a DSL bone in mid-November. Yay for modernity!

I know that everyone's wondering how life in Greenpoint is and so here it is: imagine a place where you can walk around in your underwear while eating candy corn and spend your Friday evening watching 20/20 and drinking a glass of wine and writing letters and then spending your Saturday reading a book in the park that's one block from your house and then making dinner party plans for all of your smart, lovely friends to sit around and talk about smart, lovely things. Also imagine that that place is where your friends are going to come to celebrate Election Day '08, otherwise known as *The Day We Are Most Hopeful About*.

Incidentally, I am busy writing an Obama article for NIFW, which should be published later today. I won't give anything away, but I think you can probably tell who I'm voting for on Tuesday. Hot damn, it feels good to believe in something.

Obama '08.