Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dining on Gold

That Christmas eve, I was prepared to stuff myself into transcendence with foie gras and chocolate. I had not expected to gorge on gold. Every course at Le Cinq, and there were too many to recall, was served with edible gold. In the Middle Ages, gold was thought to cure syphilis. By the end of the meal, I was syphilis free, as was my friend, who had flown to France to be with me.
We began with five fat oysters, each with a special topping, such as caviar or froth. But the most elegant oyster of all was blanketed in a leaf of gold. Then came a bowl filled with more fluffy froth, concealing scallops and God knows what else. On the surface of the soup, floated three golden pedals that mirrored the roses on the table.  And so it went, late into the night.
The price for this meal- just under $500 per person. It was my present to myself on the first Christmas that I was divorced and on my own.
After dinner, my friend and I decided to take the subway back to our apartment. We walked down the cement steps to the tunnels that run below Paris. A man in an orange vest yelled at us as we tried to explain that we had no spare change. He threw up his hands in disgust, walked out of the subway, and locked the entrance gate behind him. If we had been fluent in French, we would have realized that he was no beggar, and the subway was closed.
           We followed the urine smell down to the tracks where, late at night, churches bring soup to feed the hungry. The tunnels transform into dormitories for the homeless. My friend and I passed rows of sleeping people, until we came to an exit. As we walked back to our apartment, we could hear the bells of the great cathedrals ring out across the Seine. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


This time of year reminds me of wallpapering.  When my children were young, I nearly sliced off my knuckle with a box cutter in an attempt to spruce up my powder room, the night before Thanksgiving.  The paper was beautiful- a pastiche of birds in flight. At 2 AM, I hemorrhaged all over the walls and my lovely new birds. I clamped the bleeding with my good hand, splinted my finger with plastic spoons, wiped the blood from the rumpled panels, and pushed on. By 5 AM, the bathroom was perfect. My finger, of course, took six months to heal, and the scars still remain today.
            What does this have to do with publishing? Tenacity, I guess. The writer, like the injured wallpaper hanger, has to press on, against all odds. The published authors, who graciously write articles to reveal their secrets, and give us the skinny on getting our works published, say the same thing. The process of publishing an essay, a book, a poem, or a short story, no matter how beautifully written, is no slam dunk. And don’t expect to earn a living as a writer.
But I crave to see my words in print, so I pour over each of the articles, hoping to gleen any tidbit that will assist in breaking past the magazine or publishing house editor, and score with my manuscript. I read their advice carefully and highlight each important thought. When I look down at their articles, the black and white pages glow in florescent, highlighter yellow. These words must be pure gold, so I reread my notes and notice that what I have is a rather repetitious montage of minutia. Make sure your spelling errors are corrected. Don’t try to sound too cute in your cover letter. Make sure the pages of your manuscript are not coffee stained. Really? Don’t send in a manuscript with coffee stains sloshed across the top? This is the best you can do? Oh yes, learn to love the rejection slip. You will be receiving a lot of those.
I am a writer. I pride myself in rejection. The first piece I submitted was to The New Yorker magazine. I decided that if rejections were my destiny, I would start at the top. My reject from The New Yorker sits in the mouth of my Einstein memo holder, proudly displayed beside my golf trophy, my garden club blue ribbons, and the large painting of Wall Street that my attorneys forced my husband to return to me in our divorce settlement. These are the things for which I am most proud.
As difficult as it is to have a piece chosen for publication, the fact remains that most writers needs readers, and I am no different. I pine for readers like Edna St. Vincent Millay cried for lost lovers in her sonnets. So I created my own publishing company- The Smiley Face Publishing Company. Well not exactly, that name was taken, so I am officially- A bit wordy, but it’s cute, and it makes me, in the virtual world of the Internet, a publisher. I publish my own works.
My first published post was about Internet dating. I blogged about, a hip On Line dating site. I had forgotten to wear my magnifiers when completing my Nerve profile, and accidentally clicked the box, woman looking for woman. I didn’t get a date, but I did produce a funny piece that garnered me 26 followers. They became my new beloved readers. I also lured in a stranger from whom I will be supplied with abundant source material for years to come. Hurrah, for the Internet.
Another early post discussed my need for a personal assistant. I devised a job description in the form of an application and posted it. I am, after all, a publisher, and I needed a staff. I proceeded to apply for the job myself, and promptly got rejected. My publishing company has high standards. Who would know that years later, when offered a job as a personal assistant to Jules Feiffer, I would be fired before I began, just because of my Blog? With some fast talking, I explained to Mr. Feiffer that this was, after all, comedy writing. Didn’t he get it? He cautiously rehired me. I pause here to issue a word of warning from the publisher of the Publishing Company: Be careful what you publish on line. Your next job might not be in the employ of a comedy writer.
My Blog still boasts the huge following of 26 people. I am on line for anyone to see, and potentially, if Internet readers are bored, and haven’t been barraged by thousands of hours of daily On Line reading, they will pause for a poem, or an essay, or a short story that I have posted. Just knowing this possibility exists is enough for me.
I do not post On Line my best material; the plays, stories, or the novel starts, which I hope will one day find acceptance in good old-fashioned print. No, those little metaphorical birds fly from my study like Noah’s doves, and while I wait for their return with rejections in their beaks, I write, I hope, I send, and I paste reject slips on the wall like wallpaper. Then I repeat the pattern, over and over again. Why? Because I have to. I am a writer. It’s just what I do. And as I wait for that one bird to fly away and not return, I double check my spelling, reprint my manuscripts to remove the coffee stains, and keep on wallpapering.