Celebrities

Day #50: Celebrity Rabbit Hole

Today, I was supposed to get on a plane to Las Vegas to see Duran Duran in concert tonight, then Gwen Stefani tomorrow night. It would have been two orgasmic concert dreams come true and in one of my favorite cities. But hey, what can you do when COVID strikes? You can stay New York Tough.

No matter what plague is hitting, I will go on a celebrity adventure. Last week’s trip was to the land of all things Prince. My greatest music regret is the I never saw him play live. Friends tell me it was an experience you never forget.

My rabbit hole began with the Grammy’s Tribute to Prince a couple weeks ago. I discovered the majesty of H.E.R. and bought her self-titled album (a new obsession is born). Hearing Susanna Hoffs’s silky voice brought tears to my eyes before Usher summoned Princeness to a goosebump level–and with a gasp-inducing final five seconds. Seeing Sheila E., The Revolution, Morris Day and the Time gave me such warm fuzzies that I had to continue further down the hole. Wait, back up. I have to watch Sheila E. again.

On my tour, I watched Prince on the Muppets, his stint on New Girl, a show he loved. I then delved into all the weird-cute things he said in interviews. More recently, I coveted the time he and Lenny Kravitz sang “American Woman”. Then he shows up in other unexpected places–and RULES.

As with many, Purple Rain was the soundtrack of my teens. I feel every song on that album and no matter what’s going on, I can tune in to the genius. I blasted Purple Rain on my Walkman while training for soccer. It always helped me get around the track because fresh air sure didn’t. But, tragically, it was also the album being played during the most terrifying 90 minutes of my life. I never thought I could listen to it again, but I did–over and over and then moved on to his next albums. Before I go on, let me watch this one more time.

I first heard about Prince in 1982 thanks to Anita, who lived on my hall at boarding school. While I put up a chaste poster of a tiger swimming, her walls were all Prince, even the topless ones. She didn’t care. Anita played his music and kissed his posters. Sadly, both of them left this earth way too soon. I like to think that she’s cozying up to him right now.

The far-too-short trip down the Prince rabbit hole ended perfectly last Sunday. I went onto Facebook for random scrolling and stopped on my musical genius friend Jon’s live concert. Thankfully, he is entertaining us during this COVID nightmare. Not knowing about my Prince-themed week, he plays “Starfish and Coffee” right as I tuned in. Sam thinks it’s just a coincidence. I think it’s Prince.

Romantic Life Lessons

Day #37: Inevitable

Our friend had a once-in-a-generation mind, wrote books, taught, and sat at my family’s dinner table often. While most in my parents’ entourage liked to argue about important ideas, he was quieter, taking in the scene while his synapses fired on multiple planes. His measured tone brought down fiery tempers and made me feel better about my academic-lite thoughts (about Duran Duran, the Kardashians, cake). I didn’t know him well, but he is one of those regular characters who is now gone, likely from the virus. He inspired great affection in my family. Blessings on his coming and going, as my friend Lou says. We will remember him fondly and often.

Now over a month in seclusion, Sam and I take the one-day-at-a-time approach. Me, I have work as usual, which is awesome (and therapeutic). So, home is like any other day, but if you go outside, wear a mask and stay away from everyone. My mental health is solid due to decades of introverting. The goal is providing extroverted Sam with sparkling conversation, household tasks, and cooking shows. Netflix suggestions welcome!

Positive things we’ve done:

I learned how to use my new sewing machine and have made eight masks (poorly).

My Prince Charming has cooked every day for me since March 12. I’ve never eaten better in my life. There’s been okra, mac & cheese, artichokes, meatloaf, chicken, halibut, stew, pot roast, mashed potatoes, pot pie (not POT pie) and just plain deliciousness. A good meal is so satisfying. Who knew?

Am reading Glennon Doyle’s Love Warrior for the first time. Also got Untamed, which I believe just came out. Love her hide-nothing writing. My current numbness to emotions makes me AMAZED that anyone feels this much. Mindfulness is paying off since I only notice my hand typing this and not the germs hovering in this city’s every crevice. Maybe in six months, when this could be over, I’ll explode with anxiety, but I won’t worry about it yet.

Sam has become the King of Teaching Online. Knowing that this could be long-term, he immersed himself in tutorials and now makes it seem effortless. His French classes are front-row entertainment.

We’ve been watching The Great British Baking Show and there’s nothing like cooking in a tent in a beautiful part of the world (where you are not LIVING ON TOP OF millions of others).

Gotta go. Sam thinks he dropped a Band-Aid in dinner. Crisis.

Romantic Life Lessons

Day #28: From Sam

Patience has asked me to write a guest blog, or “golb,” as her stepfather would say in palindromic fashion. Palindromes are much more entertaining than pandemics, although really not that much. I have been resorting to more sarcasm than usual these past few weeks and suppose that that is owing to a higher-than-normal level of anxiety. It’s hard to narrow down the source of the latter, which might sound silly, given the fact that we are all more or less confined to our homes because of the coronavirus — new and improved!

But as one train hides another, so does one traumatic event another, and another, and another. 

Oh, where to begin? The birth canal? It was a tight squeeze, Ma, but I made it! Honestly, while I don’t remember that one, there are others that come to mind, in particular the summer of 2006 when crude Russian-made rockets rained down on Haifa for a month. There were air-raid sirens, like the kind you hear portrayed in World War II movies, and bomb shelters, neither of which would do you much good if you were in the wrong spot at the wrong time. And people died and you heard about it in the papers and on tv.

I suppose that fear is not such a bad thing. It is the natural adaptation that prevents most of us from standing too close to the edge of the cliff, pinching the cheek of the child soldier who stops up us at the roadblock or, today, leaving our homes without a facemask. That is not to underrate courage, without which we could never overcome our fear. If we lacked either, it’s safe to assume we would die off as a species. If firefighters were too afraid to fight fires, we would really be in a pickle; and, if, we threw caution to the wind and stopped looking in the rearview mirror before merging onto the interstate…. Well, you get the picture.

Without that delicate balance of hesitation and derring-do, we would hardly be of much use to one another, as couples, families, neighbors, citizens and human beings, in general. Living in close quarters – and I hope that Patience agrees — we learn to temper one another’s fear and courage. “Should you really be doing that?”, and “I think that’s okay” are really sometimes the only words that one needs to hear, bringing a loving perspective to the imperatives of day-to-day physical and emotional survival.  

Romantic Life Lessons, Whining

Day #24 of Staying Home

Greetings from Awfulville!

How is everyone doing and when is this going to end? Remember the days of *no* daily press briefings and packed streets on a Sunday?

I hopped off listening to the “coronavirus task force” updates and transferred my allegiance to local reporting since urban COVID has a different twinge and I just want facts. Today was the first day where the number of deaths had gone down from the previous day. A grizzly, sad but positive-ish sign.

Here are other positives about staying home indefinitely:

*It’s training for your future nursing home/hospice care. You make your own schedule. You get a fifth wind at 4am? Go for it. You have nowhere to be.

* Wearing a bra is optional. Sorry, Mom. You know it’s true. Your own mother is applauding this point from Heaven.

* Impulse (not affordable?) purchases are excused because mental health is crucial. I bought a trampoline and a sewing machine! In addition to wanting to help healthcare workers, I made Sam a shitty mask but it brings out his beautiful green eyes.

* Talking with loved ones rocks. I don’t need a lot of human contact. My phone convos are purely altruistic. Just kidding! I usually feel better after a good chat on the phone. It’s fascinating to learn that I actually miss people.

* Makeup tutorials are relaxing. Bobbi Brown’s MasterClass is excellent. I also enjoyed Kim Kardarshian’s five-minute contouring routine. Her use of bronzer to minimize her forehead is one I’ll attempt. Kim is a total face-Monet.

* RuPaul’s MasterClass releases endorphins. Best quote so far: “If you want money, wear a suit.” I want money. Not enough to wear a suit, but I get it: Get your lazy butt out of those pajama bottoms. Also, RuPaul recommends meditation to get in touch with one’s “frequency.” This in itself triggered deep vibrations to my frequency.

* The Tiger King! It’s depressing, entertaining, seedy, and binge-worthy in not a virtuous way. Sort of how you saw that one thing in the garbage, and even though you insist you never eat anything once it’s been discarded you go back and–ugh–wolf it down and insist this is your last depraved act. Once we finished the series, I went to my closet and gasped. Sam is terrified of me.

* You may find unexpected beauty in watching A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. This one will cleanse you after The Tiger King. Mr. Rogers was one of my fixtures while growing up. Hard to believe such an angel existed.

* Reading and editing heal. I never regret turning off the TV for a book. I am about to start Harlan Coben’s The Boy from the Woods.

* No more endless campaign speeches or debates. Remember when the most stressful thing was that upcoming presidential election? And the Russians. What happened to them?

In today’s briefing, our gov said that Cabin Fever will make people irritable and resentful. Because it’s now an official illness, I blame Cabin Fever for my irrational resentment of Influencers giving us advice and support, saying “We’ll get through this” and “We’re in this together.”

That’s true. But really, this is a never-before situation. We don’t know what will happen, which in itself can be bonding. Some are natural social-distancers. Some have coping skills to manage during gigantic disasters (just not the little ones). At the end of this spectrum, there are some whose suffering is on such an epic scale that “You’ll be okay” isn’t nearly enough. Healthcare, essential workers seem to be the ones who bear the brunt of everything horrific.

I don’t even know what to say except, “You’ll be okay.” What else is there when you don’t know?

There is always Yossi.

Uncategorized

Day #19

Today was hard. We went out around noon. The streets were empty, even around Union Square, and we couldn’t wait to get back inside. Though, really, who is having a good day? Maybe China, the country seeing the other side of the curve with positive cases slowing down. In NYC, the virus is ramping up for an almighty wallop in 7-14 days. To me, it feels as if we’re already there so a bedtime story from Dolly Parton is the long-overdue crack that we need. I signed “our children” up for a reading this Thursday.

Chris Cuomo now has the virus and is confined to his gorgeous basement. How manipulative of him to contract it and woo me away from Rachel Maddow! He must know that this Bloom household thrives on hypochondriacal symptoms and surgeries on Youtube. Damn you, liberal mainstream media (I love you)!

Right this moment, my husband is teaching an online French class and tending to our meatloaf dinner. He is a patriot and a rock. We are lucky that we’re not destroyed by this virus (yet). But I’m also counting the seconds before we can launch back into The Tiger King, where drugs, cat prints, and murder-for-hire abound! After a day of answering emails, editing, and reading, I’m ready for some trash and a margarita.

My brother and I–both bad with money–decided to buy sewing machines and sew masks. We also talk about doing an uninformed history podcast (funny because our parents are historians and we’re pretty dim). Our sewing could go the way of the podcast. Or we could save the world!

Governor Cuomo urges us to find a silver lining in all of this. Here is ours: We are employed. I’m grateful to writers who write books that I love to edit and read. We don’t starve. Our family is fine. We have a lovely cat, who is now making sweet love to my fleece sweatshirt. He is fixed, we don’t really know what’s going on, except it’s sort of, you know, obvious. I’m sorry, that was indiscreet of me.

May you find your silver lining.

Uncategorized

Day #16

Greetings from COVID central! I didn’t step outside once today. As always, it’s my mission not to make things worse. There is irony to this staying inside thing.

Six years ago, I spent several months mildly paralyzed inside this apartment. It was painful to leave, almost Sigourney-in-Copycat bad. I thought I was dying. With time, it got a lot better. Now I *have* to stay indoors when all I want to do is go out! But it’s cool.

My new deadly virus schedule is the following: Go to sleep at 2:30 am after binge-watching Law & Order: SVU (there are 400+ episodes). I see New York through the eyes of Mariska Hargitay and Ice T. Wake-up time is around 8:00 am after COVID anxiety dreams. Chill for hours and hours, do work, check the news–repeat. This is luxurious compared to what health care workers and parents are dealing with.

Sam and I are conquering the minutia. Laundry. Squabbling over where to get groceries. Trying to keep parental units from the virus (some of them want to touch produce). My brother and his husband said there are hours of entertaining failed Zoom meeting nightmares. Google them! So bad but so good.

Hope you are all okay. Is anyone feeling productive?

Uncategorized

Day #15

I had one of those “If I die of COVD-19” thoughts. So I’ll document what I can in dramatic fashion–and eat a Cadbury chocolate caramel Easter egg while my taste buds still work.

The psychological effects of COVID-NYC are real. Like many, I can’t focus on anything except the dulcet tones of Andrew Cuomo telling us that we will “kick Covid-19’s ass.” To get stuff done, I am trying a new game: putting my to-do list items in a bowl and picking tasks, then absolutely doing them or else. So far, it’s been unsuccessful. Sam tiptoes quietly out of the room.

As a devoted treadmill runner, I’ve had a hard time transferring to running outside. There is the uneven pavement and I am self-conscious.

It is eerie out on the streets, also. You can feel the anxiety with people moving away from each other (as they should). Sam and I don’t stay out for long so we are woefully lacking in cardio. Basically, this is all turning into an Emile Zola novel.

Last complaint, I am not sleeping. Because there’s no place to be, this isn’t too concerning, just annoying. Eventually, sleep will happen. And it will be glorious.

Comforts:

Don’t tell my mother, but I sneak into my deli every few days, wearing rubber gloves and holding my breath. The two sandwich artists behind the deli counter are always there. I’ve seen them almost every day since 2005–and now they’re wearing gloves and masks. I can’t quit them or their turkey club.

If anyone needs a sleep aid, I recommend Jeff Bridges’s Sleep Tapes. My subconscious digs it tremendously. You will find oblivion.

We’ve instituted an earlier cocktail hour. 4:31 is okay. Or even noon. Whatever works, right?

I’ve been knitting a complicated sweater for Charlie, a fellow editor. I started two years ago and am 60% done. But now it’s moving along. I think.

Counting my many blessings! Hope your TGIF leads to an easy and safe weekend.

Romantic Life Lessons

Day #14 in the Hot Zone

A few months ago, I thought how great if the world stopped, just for a day or two. Everyone needs a break. Introverts often wish for relaxing home alone situations, but this? Friends, it’s my fault we are here. I willed the bat to spread its infectious turds.

In Casa de Bloom, we are okay. Most businesses are closed except for Walgreens, supermarkets, and delis, with many restaurants doing take-out. My husband and I have stayed inside with the exception of going out for groceries and walks. We regret not having medical skills and I’m debating whether or not to buy a sewing machine to make masks. Our experience is unremarkable. We are just scared. We want to help. And we miss my mommy.

I have no handy tips on how to work from home during a pandemic, except this: Don’t make things worse. My feeling is that if I can’t stay inside for the good of others, that’s pretty bad. It’s a small thing I can do, along with focusing on work and washing my hands. So here is a video of Yossi grooming himself to music.

This will end eventually. Right now, it’s terrible.

In the meantime, what are you up to? And how is your writing going? Not good? That’s okay. Harlan Coben says you should give yourself a break. Wishing you and your families good health. Please tell me your stories.

Writing Tips

5 Ways to Outsmart the Editor

This past December, the list of “read immediately” submissions was longer than my winter scarf. We masochists love a challenge, especially if it involves staring at words. Reading for eons is a pleasure–not to mention my job.

I tackled this assignment because it was the end of the year and that’s what vacations are for. Open doc, read, make notes, decide yay, nay, or maybe. I got into a zone. Sometimes it took two pages or a whole chapter before I knew the verdict. After years of urging writers to focus on the whole book, not just the first three chapters, I’ve changed my mind. With our increasingly complex world of fast vs. thorough, we are in an age of just-get-me-through-the-door. On the traditional publisher path, here is what a writer might face.

I am a meaner reader than I used to be. It takes less time for me to decide if I want to keep reading, which is why I am now urging writers to pay extra special attention to those opening pages. Time is limited. Even as I write this, I am distracted by a new Cynthia Rowley sweater. It’s important that you grab an editor’s eye quick–and keep it. Read on, and don’t be distracted, not even by this.

Tip 1: Make that first paragraph, first page count, even if it drives you to eat twenty of these. Elmore Leonard has a helpful list of writing rules. Every little bit helps, right? I’m not a stickler, but weather descriptions are a bore unless you’re in an elevator and you have no idea what to say to your neighbor. And don’t be distracted by everyone’s tips, even these really good ones!

In this vein, if you start off with dialogue, it better sparkle like Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story. No mundane comments, like “How does this dress look on me?” Start with a big moment, without throwaway lines. Instead of showing off a dress, maybe she sees a dead body on her doorstep; her test says Not Pregnant which is funny given the kicking in her stomach; as she walks down the aisle, she notices the man she actually wants to marry and he’s officiating the wedding…and you have no idea who your groom is. Or you can knock your reader’s socks off with irresistible points of view (Hello, every Kristan Higgins novel).

Tip 2: So I hear you detail your car. Do that with your first three chapters. Go over every sentence. Every word. Every feeling, movement, description, conversation. Is there balance and flow? Do you repeat “very” and “definitely” and “actually”? As your editor shrink, I suggest you and your book become intimately involved. Does your voice shine through? Do you find cohesion in your plot? This is the moment when you pare away unnecessary sentences, without going overboard. Bribe yourself with treats (candy, beer, cat nip) all the way through.

Tip 3: I love a romance checklist, though you can distill all advice into one question: Will your reader care? If you have those first three chapters the way you want them, have gone over them a million times, and you definitely feel, Yes, my reader (and future editor) will care, you could be ready. But read the next tip first.

Tip 4: Pretend you’re at a glamorous reading for your book. Your hair/makeup are perfect. You manage to appear scholarly and hip at the same time. You have the voice of Maggie Gyllenhaal or Colin Firth. Read your chapters out loud to an audience. As you listen, mark down parts that don’t sound right. Fix them! Read that part again like it’s your audiobook.

Tip 5: During writer/editor pitches, if the story appeals to me, I ask for the complete manuscript and a synopsis. So yeah, it’s better if your book is done. It shows you can write a complete book. But between us girls, you really should have those first three chapters polished and shimmering with wit. Readers like me will likely make a decision based on your beginning. If the writing is solid, she or he will eventually request the complete story. Send three chapters, synopsis and, while you’re waiting for an answer, get that complete manuscript in order.

Bonus Tip: Don’t worry that the editor has read so much and you can’t compete in the slush pile. You totally can! Even after reading 30 submissions, editors will keep reading if #31 is page-turning. We are professionals so we don’t reject an amazing story if we’re in a bad mood. A great book makes the editor forget the real world.

You made it through. It’s now time to work on the beautiful adventure that is your book. Do not click on this harmless yet tempting link.

I am waiting.

Romantic Life Lessons

Intimidation Motivation

In olden times, before a date I cared about, I took three hours to prepare hair, makeup, clothes, agenda. This ensured failure, but still old dogs. Now I over-prepare to hang out with intimidating people and it is a joy. Intimidation makes me work harder, though the intimidator immediately senses my desperation.

Over the weekend, Sam and I went to visit two spectacular beings. He can vouch for my three-plus hours of hair, makeup, outfit preparation, though he was asleep until five minutes before we left. Half a century has cured me of expecting celestial bonds, talking till all hours about lifetimes past, present, and future, our own TV talk show. Now I do my best to see an intimidating person as someone who also spends three hours to prepare hair, clothes, and agenda. As my brother says, “It’s all about making friends.” Then you have some fun. I did not even spill coffee on the couch.

Other moments from my week:

While looking for non-violent content and came across Gary Gulman’s The Great Depresh on HBO. I could relate to growing up super-tall and skilled at basketball in the 70s and 80s–and also the journey with depresh. Very worth watching and moving.

If you need something to counteract any endorphins, I recommend ordering A Warning by Anonymous. Because we need more books about that person. My tolerance of prose re: this administration lessens with each tweet and book. Who is ready for a good primal scream until he is out?

But I’m grateful for the unique voices that have come forward this week. Here is one (Sam and I are big fans). Was inspired by some of the courageous witnesses in the impeachment hearings. The great Dr. Hill! Now she is someone I would have to prepare at least a day to meet. Intimidating in the best possible way.