Friday Five

1. Hey Jake and Taylor. Stay outta my coffee shop and my grocery store, okay? Thank you. 

The new Us Weekly (now on newsstands) has the first photos of Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal‘s romantic Thanksgiving Day weekend. Arm in arm, the two looked more smitten than ever as they took an afternoon stroll in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, where the actor’s sister, Maggie, lives.



2. When The Subway Chronicles was published, the publicist was able to arrange for me to be interviewed on NPR. (I don’t know who Mary paid for that opportunity, but it was an awesome experience.) Brian Lehrer asked about my writing habits, and I said without the slightest trace of irony, that I often write while riding on the subway. It may seem like the craziest place to write. True, there may be a guy eating chicken wings next to me or a lady flossing her teeth, but at home I can find a million things to do – scrub the toilet, pay bills, find out what’s in the moldy container in the frig – before I get down to business. It’s the same reason I would leave my quiet apartment to go to a coffee shop. All of the distractions are oddly not distracting.

I recently stumbled on this article written by Emily St. John Mandel. She, too, writes on the subway from time to time. In the article she talks with a few writers who also like the white noise of the train to help them focus. Mark Snyder, a playwright, says, “I think the act of working, surrounded by other people living their lives, can be quite a compelling act for yourself. It makes me feel less alone—vs the desk in my apartment, with life happening “out there…” Writing is such a solitary endeavor, it’s good to know I’m not alone.

3. It’s been pretty cold here the past few days, which leads me to mention the annual NY Cares Coat Drive. Collections are from December 1 – 31. If you have an old coat that you don’t need any more, drop it off at one of  these locations. You’ll be helping to keep someone warm this winter.

4. Totally addicting. Animal Planet airs a show called “I Shouldn’t Be Alive.” (I don’t know why it’s on Animal Planet because it has nothing to do with animals.) Each episode features a true harrowing tale of survival. If you turn this program on, you will be sucked in, totally and completely. And if, like I did, you happen to catch a marathon, well, forget about doing anything worthwhile with the rest of your day. One episode featured a guy who survived 76 days on a life raft after his boat sunk in the Atlantic. Another had three friends whose prop plane crashed somewhere in the Rockies and one had to hike out in waist-deep snow while the other two stayed behind, bleeding profusely.

It reminds me of the time my friend and I went for a “little hike” in Saguaro National Park, near Tucson, Arizona. Ours was the only car in the parking lot because we’d gotten there quite early to beat the heat. We going to “take a look around” and since “wouldn’t be gone long” we left everything in the car. “Everything” includes our cell phones, protein bars, and water. We realized that the park service hadn’t installed any cairns or painted blazes, at least none that we could see. Soon all of the saguaro cacti began to look alike. We walked aimlessly over hills of bland colored rocks and through dry wash beds, backtracking, second-guessing ourselves, listening for sounds of traffic or other people. I could see the headlines “Dumb Women Found Dead Under Catcus.” We must have been out there for  8, 9 hours. Vultures began circling overhead. OK. It was more like 45 minutes. But it was a very scary 45 minutes. And the only reason we got out when we did was because we heard two people coming. I started waving frantically and running toward them like a maniac. They looked at us like the fools we were and pointed over the next ridge where our car magically appeared.

5. So I’ve lived in my new place for almost 5 years now and I finally got around to getting a lamp. And not the Chinese paper lanterns that come flat packed in a plastic bag or the kind you make in high school shop class either. A legitimate, grown up kind with a switch. Now I haven’t been sitting in the dark all of these years – my ceiling fan has a light attached, but it’s not very bright. The new lamp will be here next week. I’ll post a picture in its new digs.


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