alexandra alger

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Archive for the category “Life”

A Saturday Moment

I was in the fish store today picking up some smoked salmon, not at all aware that I was in any kind of mood at all–good or bad–when a man came in with a thick paperback, textbook size, under one arm. I was momentarily charmed by the idea of this guy doing his chores holding a book that big, and nothing else. Was he a teacher? Mystery solved when I went to pay and there he was, reading out loud from what  turned out to be a Spanish cookbook. He was buying the ingredients for a seafood paella. “Let’s see,” he was saying. “Two pounds of shrimp, and….”

I walked out, grinning. Suddenly I was happy. Something about that man, bringing  his cook book to the fish store, filled me with joy. I walked toward the vegetable store, wondering who’d I see there.

Dump Trump/Trump Dump

By now we’ve all seen countless photos of the women’s marches that happened in nearly 700 locations all over the U.S. and on every continent (including Antarctica!). It’s thrilling and inspiring that women and men of all ages and races and backgrounds came together to reject Trump and everything he stands for.

Did the combined voices of 2-5 million people (the numbers are all over the place) have any affect on Trump’s thinking about any of the issues the marchers articulated (the biggies being, from what I could tell, reproductive rights for women; civil rights for immigrants and the LGBT community; Black Lives Matter; and plain old, LOVE TRUMPS HATE)?

Not that anyone could tell, right? Today he went ahead and banned federal aid to foreign health providers that offer abortions or even simply abortion counseling.

Here are my favorite pics from the Washington, D.C., march.

img_3945Megan, from my Brooklyn-D.C. bus.

 

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A Dump Trump and…img_3975

A dump by the name of Trump! (This was between Independence Ave. and the Washington Monument.)

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A number of fantastic men carrying this sign: “Men of quality do not fear equality.” Also saw a couple of white boys with this message: “Next-gen white men don’t fear equality.”

 

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Among the signs discarded at the Federal Triangle Metro (across from the new Trump hotel!), one of my favorites of the day: “MIKE PENCE HAS NEVER SATISFIED A WOMAN IN HIS LIFE.’

 

img_3952I’m rethinking my aversion to pink! My pussy-hatted friends Gwenn, Susan, Roseanne and I.

Ready for the March

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I’m ready! Now to bed, with hopes I won’t sleep through my 4 am alarm. Bus leaving 5 am for Washington, D.C. and the Women’s March. It will probably be total bedlam, but it’ll be women as far as the eye can see–and a few men, maybe lots of men! It’ll be something extraordinary.

 

 

Afro American woman with sign at protest

Credit: iStock/Shakzu
I’ve managed to avoid thinking about Inauguration Day and what it will unleash by consuming myself with preparations for the Women’s March in D.C. the following day.

I’ve paid $71 for a seat on a bus going from Brooklyn to Washington early on the 21st and coming back that night. I’ve never done anything like this before—joined forces with tens, likely hundreds, of thousands of American women, who are going to stand together and be seen. That’s because I’ve never before felt this scared about what lies ahead for this country and all of us. (I’ve been reading about how I’m supposed to feel ashamed and even guilty about being a white woman at this event. Really? Since I’m at the age at which I forget things, I’ll make sure to forget that.)

The reality of being outside in the cold all day—however buffeted by countless other bodies—has me fussing like a granny used to Boca Raton.

Things I’ve done to prepare:

—Bought prepaid Metro card

—Ordered cell phone battery pack.

Left to do:

—Figure out what to wear. Good news: according to weather.com, it may be warm-ish—40-plus degrees. Bad news: 60% chance or rain. The size of the bag we’re allowed to bring is so small, I won’t have room for an umbrella. I’ll just have to hold it, I guess. Or wear my yellow rain jacket with hood over my winter coat. if it fits. Going to a march without a backpack is kind of a pain, I’m starting to realize.

—Make sign

I’ve been trying to find info on whether there are restrictions on size of signs and whether wood supports are allowed (apparently forbidden in New York City, because they can be used as weapons) and only today found a list of restrictions on the Women’s March website. No wooden sticks. Fine with me. I’d already figured I’m simply hold my sign…or possibly add a loop at the top so I can string it around my neck when my arms get tired. Which they will, all too quickly.

I’ve been noodling around wording. I want something strong and pithy. Too bad pithy has never been my forte. My friend Laurel pointed me to a website selling posters with some pretty good slogans, my favorite being “Get your rosaries off my ovaries.” I don’t want to focus on just one issue, though; even one as important as reproductive rights. This what I’m thinking:

RIGHTS AND JUSTICE FOR ALL—NOT JUST PEOPLE WHO LOOK LIKE THIS—with a photo of Trump. Neither pithy nor clever, but it’s sincere–and if I can blow up a pic of the Donald wearing his usual smirk, his skin pasty, his sausagey lips bunched up, the kind of image that reminds us why we’re going to all this trouble–I’ll be happy.

Getting Merry with Book Buying

img_3866I’m nowhere close to Scrooge territory, but I don’t have my usual holiday verve. I’ve been dutifully shopping and wrapping presents and planning the Christmas-day lunch, all the while fighting a current of despair. That’s what a future Trump presidency can do to a person, not to mention the all-too-present suffering in Syria, Iraq, and many other parts of the world. In the last few days, I’ve amped up my efforts to get into the spirit of the season. Wrote a few more checks to nonprofits doing good work. Bought myself my very own quart of eggnog. Turned on the carols (a bit late, indeed).

My mood shifted yesterday when I my son sauntered into the kitchen at dinnertime and announced he’d gotten me and my husband Dan a gift that he thought we were really going to like. It was something that was so popular it was out of stock, and he’d had to go back to the store a second time to get it. Well. I couldn’t for the life of me think what this perfect gift could be, and I can’t wait to find out. He was so pleased with himself, this 21-year-old who, like many young men, doesn’t like to shop—I was all of a sudden ready. Ready to shower love on my family and make merry!

I have a few gifts to be buy last minute—the books. I buy them last minute, because I know I can, and because it’s like choosing the candles for a cake; the hard part is done, and all that’s left is the finishing touch. This year, I have another reason to leave book buying until the end. My neighborhood bookstore, BookCourt, is closing on Dec. 31 after 35 years and it’s going to be painful to say goodbye.

This is what’s on my list:

Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad for my son, because everyone should read it. (I’m saving my copy for my husband, Dan.)

The late P.D. James’ The Mistletoe Murder, a collection of previously unpublished stories, for a friend who loves James.

Siri Hustvedt’s A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex and the Mind, for my husband, because it sounds so damn cool.

And we’ll see what will be impulse buys.

Happy holidays, all!

The Tooth Fairy’s Wad of Cash

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Look whaI found—

I can’t remember what happened to her tooth…was it the one she swallowed? We told her the Tooth Fairy was just as happy with a picture as the real tooth. Oh, the magic of it all! Going to sleep with a tiny blood-crusted tooth under your pillow (or a picture thereof) and waking up to find one or two shiny quarters in its place. The Tooth Fairy never left much more than that, maybe a dollar at the most.

This was a while back, a decade or so. How much do kids get now, I wondered. It didn’t take long for me to discover that the Tooth Fairy’s is quite a bit more generous these days. In 2014, a writer named Michael Hingston, citing Visa research in salon.com, wrote that the kids were waking up to an average of $3.70, up 40% from 2011. That’s some serious tooth inflation.
Is the Tooth Fairy some kind of fat cat now, sporting rolls of bills that she peels out at the bedside? I did a quick check on recent picture books on the Tooth Fairy, just to see if she’s being imagined any differently. I didn’t find much, to my surprise. One book caught my eye: The Berenstain Bears and the Tooth Fairy, published in 2012. I love the B. Bears! And guess what, it’s all about what a tooth’s worth.

Sister Bear gets a quarter for her tooth, and she’s happy until she learns her friend Lizzy got a whole dollar for hers. Sister’s indignant (naturally): How come the Tooth Fairy gave her so much less? “Sometimes the price of things goes up, like gas,” Papa muses. “Maybe the same thing happens with teeth.” Sister hopes so. Sure enough, the next time she loses a tooth, the TF leaves a crisp dollar bill under her pillow. Papa, the price of gas may go up and down, but the price for a tooth? It’s only going one way.

Harvesting the Kids

 

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I’ve been trying to think of a replacement for the term “empty nester.” Which I now am, with my youngest recently off to college. I have nothing against “Empty Nest Syndrome.” It’s a catchy name for a real condition.

But people are using “empty nester” simply to describe someone whose kids are grown.
“How do you like being an empty nester?” Neighbors and friends ask me, in the same cheery way they might say, “How was your weekend?” I say that all’s well—of course, I miss Vanessa, and yes, the house does seem quiet—and incredibly neat—without any children around, etc. etc. The conversation moves on, just as it would if we were talking about the weekend, unless the other person is an empty nester, too, in which case I’ll get comforting words about how must fun empty nesting is.

OMG, it’s a verb, too!

The image of the mama bird sitting morosely in her sad egg-less nest. That’s not me.

There has to be a cooler metaphor, involving—animals. But I’ve been mentally flipping through animal lairs, and…hmm. Bear caves? Do bears actually live in caves? Rabbit burrows? Dens? “Den’s empty” definitely makes sense, and it’s even true. No teenagers are slobbing up the place. I was starting to see why “nest” was the obvious choice for whomever coined the syndrome decades ago. We all know what a nest is, and can picture it.

I thought I had an epiphany in August, when I spent four days biking through the vineyards of Chianti and Montalcino in Italy. “The grapes have been harvested,” I thought—our kids started out as grapes, and now they’re on their way to becoming a velvety wine. I’m not an empty nester, I’m a harvester.

Harvester! To the question “How are the kids?” I’d say, “They been harvested.” People could ask, “So how did the harvest go?” And I could say, “Good. It’s all done.”

Back in New York, amid the concrete and asphalt, it all sounded a bit out of keeping. A bit too …agricultural. My sister liked it, but her kids are in middle school—what does she know?

Then I had it—free agent. Free agent! “The feminists might take issue with that,” said my mom, a ’70s feminist (sort of). If Gloria Steinem ever talked about free agency, it didn’t ring a bell. But then I suddenly remembered there was a very common sports meaning for “free agent.”

I’ll do some “harvester” polling among my ED friends. And I’ll keep brainstorming. My younger friends will thank me.

Harry Potter!

Harry Potter’s back! Behold the window display in my local independent bookstore for a midnight release party for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

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A release party! Just like the good old days, when J.K. Rowling produced her seven Harry books ever year or so, starting in 1998 (stunning, given how long and complex the later books were). My bookstore, Bookcourt, has clearly been missing those years. “Costumes welcome!” the handwritten sign (so Mugglish) reads. “Butterbeer! Get sorted into your Hogwarts house! Make your own wand at Ollivander’s!”

I have to admit I hadn’t been paying too much attention to the news about a Harry Potter play opening in London. I’d gotten the Amazon emails, trumpeting my chance to pre-order the script. “Why would I want to read a play script,” I grumbled to myself. I’m as big a Harry fan as the next person—which is to say big—but this just seemed like a massive, cynical marketing ploy Why would Rowling write a play when she could write a novel? The play couldn’t be any good. Well. it’s rave review in today’s New York Times changed my mind about that. The review tried not to give too much away—in keeping with the level of secrecy that Rowling always insists on prelaunch, quite rightly—and I know just enough to know I’m going to have to buy this damn thing, a “rehearsal edition script,” whatever that is. After all, I won’t be getting over to London anytime soon. (The play is reportedly sold out until next May.) When’s that release party again?

I have fond memories of going to a midnight bookstore party for the seventh and last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. My husband and I were in Hanover, N.H.,  spending the night before picking our son up from camp the next day. It was the night be before  would be released–and of course, we didn’t know the title then, we didn’t know anything. The Hanover book store was having a release party at midnight. We went with another couple, friends who were  picking up their son at the same camp. The bookstore was packed, of course. I remember being pushed backward by the crowd. I was resigned to waiting many hours before being able to buy a book, when all of a sudden our friends–tall and determined–pushed their way to the front of the line and bought a book for all of us. Heroes!  I remember reading late into to night, and having trouble rousing myself for the trip to camp. When we got there, our son took possession of the book, and for days afterward, I waited impatiently for him to go to sleep at night. There was no other time for me to read, except when he was in bed. My longing to get on with the book drove me to distraction. But we did end up sharing the book,  the three of us, Dan, my son and I. For some reason, it never occurred to us to buy more than one book. No, there was one, and it was precious.

How nice it would to have that feeling again! And maybe I will.

 

 

 

 

L.A. Story

In Los Angeles for two days, there was time for only the highlights of the sprawling city–food, art and beach. Heavenly fare at Gjelina, not too far from the Getty Center (and we glimpsed Christoph Walz, of Quentin Tarantino’s must-see films, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, having lunch with his wife and a son ). Also tasty: Norah, in West Hollywood (I feel kind of cool being able to throw around “West Hollywood,” as if I know what I’m talking about) and Otium, next to The Broad museum. You’re now starting to get a sense of our schedule: Museum in the morning, then satisfying lunch with some kind of alcoholic elixir. Brilliant combo, which leaves the rest of the day pleasantly open to aimless wandering. The distance between areas of interest are usually enough to discourage concentrated site seeing.

A few things I love about L.A.:

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That you can find a exterior museum view as breathtaking as anything inside. This is from the Getty Center.

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This, too. And:

 

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At The Broad, Robert Therrien’s big table and chairs!

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Without warning: beautiful cacti.

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Paparazzi! They look like something…out of a movie! Here hanging outside of Craig’s restaurant on Melrose Ave. in West Hollywood. They shrugged when we asked who they were waiting for. “David Spade’s inside,” one offered. David Spade…who knew he was still famous?

 

An End and a Beginning

My daughter has graduated from high school. It’s been two weeks but I’m still up to my chest in emotion, all the stronger this time around because she’s my youngest child.

There’s no holding back the swelling pride and wonder that comes along with seeing your child, in the long black robe, walking down the aisle as you look on, in this case under the vast vaulted nave of St. John the Divine in northern Manhattan.

It was a joyful, celebratory day, but—underneath it all, for me, the sadness of knowing that life as I know it—the parenting life—is coming to an end. Do I have to say I’m empty nester? The bird analogy is so cheesy.

Do people who are empty nesters actually call themselves empty nesters? I’m starting to think only people who are about to be empty nesters—and are dreading it, like I am—use that term. Sort of like people who are about to turn forty or fifty can’t stop talking about how awful it is to be turning forty or fifty. Once you’re actually there, once the condition is real instead of speculative, then you don’t need to label it. You’re simply in it. It’s once again your life, but a new way of living in which the kids are in college. Once they are out of college, they are officially grown up. “Our children are grown.” I’m going to feel so old when I have to start saying that. That’s a whole other issue: How old I’m going to feel without kids in the house. There’s no getting around it. Once you have to say your kids are in college, people know pretty much how old you are. They know you’re at least in your 40s, and probably older. Which is fine, I’m not at all trying to hide my age, but it’s just unsettling, that the math is so obvious. It’s less so when you’re in your 40s and have toddlers. People may suspect you had kids late, but no one’s going to ask; it’s info that’s yours to share or not.

It’s weird to think of the free time awaiting us. Granted, Vanessa doesn’t take up a ton of time at this point; long gone are the crazy days of 6 am-9pm parenting. I’ll miss what little I do do, though. Making sure we have Vanessa-only foods—almond milk and almond butter, sweet potatoes and cartloads of bananas and those amazing dark-chocolate-covered pretzels from the fancy market around the corner. Come to think of it, keeping her fed is the main thing. I love that role. I’ll miss having coffee with her in the morning before school, one of the day’s few quiet moments. I’d commiserate about tests coming up, with any luck get a snatch of high-school gossip. Only a few moments, ten, fifteen minutes. Then a few words maybe after school, but then then we convene again at dinnertime. We mostly love the same foods and on weekends we cook together. It’s usually just the two of us, because Dan travels frequently and is often home late. Throughout the kids’ childhood, he’s rarely been home when the kids ate at 6:30 pm. Vanessa and I still generally eat around then. When she leaves, so will the dinner routine of twenty years. That’s an odd thing to contemplate. I’m likely going to have many nights when I’m on my own for dinner. Will I go European and have something like soup or bread and cheese? Will I drag empty-nester friends out to hip Bklyn eateries? I could become a regular at a cool but low-key local joint (there are some definite possibilities in my ‘hood). “I’ll have my usual, Louie.”

I have to concentrate on how absolutely great it’ll be to have all this new time—for writing, for one thing—and not on why I have all this free time. I get all weepy when I think about all that is coming to an end—not just child-rearing but a twenty-year period that looking back, were the bounty years. The years of being young but with responsibilities, years of energy and ambition, when the future was still vast.

I know I’ll shake off this melancholy and come to terms with the next stage. I figure by mid-fall—a month or two after Vanessa’s gone. With my first-born, Davison, I moped for three months, but everything’s faster the second time around. I’ll shoot for one month, because I have a terrible feeling Vanessa will has some kind of school break come October, and I’ll need to be on solid emotional footing by then. Wish me luck.

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