Tell Me, Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

My uncle recently sent me a link to a website called Family Watchdog US. It's endorsed by John Walsh, who established "America's Most Wanted," and designed to "let you see where registered sexual offenders live and work around you." You enter your zip code and get a map showing all of the sexual offenders in your area:

The Brooklyn Sexual Offenders Map

The red dots are people who commit "offenses against children"; yellow dots are rapists; blue is sexual battery, and green is people who committed the ominously huge category of "other offenses." The whole thing is topped by the alarming and ungrammatical notice, "There may be additional offenders who cannot be properly displayed on this map."

Scrolling around to see all of New York City, I'm fascinated to see where these people live -- primarily poorer, denser neighborhoods, as might be expected of people who have spent serious time in jail. There are a lot of rapists, child molesters, and "other offenders" in Fort Greene, Bed-Stuy, and Williamsburg. Quite a few rapists and other offenders in Chinatown and the Lower East Side. The sexual batterers appear to have settled down en masse in New Jersey -- three times as many as the rest of the entire metropolitan area. Queens as a whole seems to be the most sexual offender-free borough, but most of the rich neighborhoods are clean: Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights, TriBeCa, Soho, midtown, the whole Upper East Side.

And I was indeed relieved to see that there weren't any rapists or child molesters in Park Slope. But an "other offender" lives right on 12th Street, between 4th and 5th Avenues, about three-fourths of the way down the block. And when I clicked on his dot, his name, address, mug shot, and offense popped up: Michael Hands, 243 12th Street, "Sodomy-3rd degree Male, 14 years."

Oh God. The poor, poor boy -- such an awful thing to have happen to him, if it was forced, and I hope, wherever he is, he's gotten the help he needed to recover. And yet I can't help feeling a twinge of pity for Michael Hands too, who will be stalked by this offense (and Family Watchdog US) the entire rest of his life. . . . There is no allowance for the individual story here, that the boy consented, that Michael repented, that it was one time fifteen years ago and he has a partner now and two safe, happy kids of his own. (Yes, I know how unlikely these scenarios are, and about sexual-offender recidivism rates. But I hope.) There is no mercy, after he has, after all, paid his time.

But I admit that, knowing this, if I lived in the apartments at 243 12th Street, I'd have a harder time saying hello to him in the lobby. And if I had a child, by God, I wouldn't want mercy, I'd want safety.

So I am fascinated by this map as a sociological tool. I am troubled by it as a supporter of the right to privacy and a believer that people can change. I am grateful for it if it helps prevent even one sexual offense.

I am conflicted. And now I'm going to eat dinner.

Marathon Mania

This all began with a bridge. Two years ago, I made a New Year's Resolution to walk all the bridges linking Manhattan to the mainland and other islands. I have always loved bridges -- the beauty, the height, the connection, the betweenness -- and in 2002 I had crossed the Brooklyn, the Manhattan, the Williamsburg and the George Washington; in 2003, I decided, I would finish them off. The effort turned out to be one of the great joys of that year, as it took me to parts of the city I'd never seen before (the Bronx, Roosevelt Island, Inwood Hill Park) and provided many wonderful walks, stories, and views.

But it also created a thorn in my side: the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island. The V-N is the tallest, highest, longest, bridge in the New York City area and the sixth-longest suspension bridge in the world, 4,260 graceful feet from span to span. Even though it was out of my Manhattan-bridge purview, it was so big and so beautiful I longed to cross it on foot, and I felt I couldn't say I'd walked all the major NYC bridges until I conquered that one. But the V-N doesn't allow pedestrian traffic and never has, which means I've been talking disconsolately about it for years.

Until finally, this last September, Rachel brought up the one exception to the pedestrian rule. She said, "Why don't you crash the Marathon?"

"I don't want to run the Marathon," I said. "I'm not in shape, I'm not registered, it's too late--"

"You crash, idiot," she said. "You don't register officially. You sneak into the starting area, you run across the bridge, and that's it."


The more I thought about the idea, the more I liked it. If I were officially registered, I'd be taking a place away from another runner who could actually go 26.2 miles, and I'd feel guilty cutting out without completing the whole thing -- I could just picture my ancestors with their Protestant work ethics frowning down on me for leaving a job unfinished. Running unregistered avoided those problems and provided an attractive air of minor illegality. And I would finally get to cross the Verrazano-Narrows.

So I researched the requirements to enter the starting area (a timing chip and a number) and procured the chip at a NYRR race last week. I consulted Jimmy about his 2004 Marathon experience; Melissa Anelli offered me the use of her apartment in Staten Island (which I had to decline); Katy and Rachel encouraged the skullduggery. Most crucially, the most excellent Jeremiah scanned his number and, through the miracle of Photoshop, made it mine:

(He changed the number and removed his name from the left side so it now reads "Cheryl Klein.") On Saturday he even nobly took time out from the Notre Dame game to help me fake a decal for my timing chip. That night I laced the chip on my shoe; laid out my new running top, t-shirt coverup, and favorite shorts and socks; reviewed the plan; and went to bed in a state of high excitement.

Sunday morning I was up at 5:30, on the subway by 6, on the S53 bus by 7, and at 7:30 I was lying through my teeth to a nice man from Dallas who wanted to know how long I'd been training and what my pace was. "Oh, about four-thirty," I said.

That is four hours and thirty minutes, for the record. Who's crazy enough to run that long?

The answer is 37,000 people, and all of them were in Fort Wadsworth at Staten Island. I tried to be inconspicuous, but I wasn't enough of a runner to know that you always wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to a run to keep your muscles warm, so I stood out a little in the 55-degree cool. . . . I kept my number covered and my chip out of sight. I was supposed to be in the green group, which was relegated to the bottom level of the bridge, but fortuitously I met up with Jeremiah and his friend Mike (Jeremiah's on the right in the picture), and we decided to join the blue group instead. We hung out for two hours (much of it in line for the Port-A-Potties) before the Powers That Be finally began to move us to the start.

This was where it got exciting. People yelled, whooped, did team cheers. Clothes flew through the air as runners stripped off their warm-ups and threw them into the trees. Jeremiah and Mike peeled off for one last bathroom break. I streamed forward with the crowd through a few bends, down toward the toll gates, around a big U, where I tossed away my t-shirt . . .

And there was the Verrazano. It was gorgeous, but I was almost too caught up in the energy and exhilaration of the morning to appreciate it: We were running now, all of us, up the long straightaway to the first anchorage, with volunteers cheering on the sidelines and TV cameras capturing our first enthusiastic sprints. I loped two hundred feet, took a picture, ran another two hundred feet, took a picture, and kept that up pretty much all the way across the bridge, trying to preserve as many memories as possible. (I discovered after about ten pictures that my memory card was full, so I started running and deleting old pictures from my camera at the same time, which must have looked incredibly goofy.) The morning was bright and cool and the spirit was electric. I whooped as I crossed under each anchorage, the Verrazano mine at last.

And then we were off the bridge, following the curves, descending into Bay Ridge. The good people of Brooklyn greeted us with shouting and signs and applause and encouragement. Here I came to my big dilemma: I had thought that I would come off the bridge, run to Fourth Avenue, and catch the R straight back to Park Slope -- I had to be at church to count the offering at 12:30 and I definitely needed to shower before then, so that was surely the most sensible thing to do. But it was only 10:30, and I was curious about how far I could go. . . . I passed the 92nd St. station and thought, I'll just run to the next subway stop.

By 89th Street I'd decided: I was running home, all the way to 9th Street in Park Slope. And it was a glorious happy four miles after that, waving to the spectators, humming along with the bands, grabbing water, taking the occasional picture, all the time forward forward forward in that blind runners' drive. Everyone yelled or yodeled as we crossed under the highway bridges. The shop signs changed from Italian to Spanish to Arabic to Chinese to English. I watched the street numbers count down and thought about how much I loved New York. Is there a greater city in this world? No, there is not.

I turned off at 9th Street with regret; I had gone nearly seven miles, my longest distance ever, but I was still so hyped up I wanted to run even farther -- to do the entire marathon, if I could. There was one picture left on my camera, and I asked a passersby to take my photo before I removed my wonderful number:

And then I walked up to 5th Avenue, went straight into a Dunkin Donuts, and ordered a Boston Kreme. Best. Doughnut. Ever.

Next year, I'm running the whole thing.

Projects Update

In case anyone is curious:

  • Knitting: I'm still figuring out some of the stitch patterns (and I need to buy the right yarn), but I think I'll be able to start my first real scarf in the next week.
  • Wardrobe Refreshment: I've acquired a lovely new winter coat and a couple of swanky shirts. Now I'm in the market for a new LBD (Little Black Dress), as my current one feels a trifle nunlike, and a pair of pretty black heels to go with it. (This last makes Rachel ridiculously smug, as she's been as loudly in favor of heels as I've been loudly in favor of not breaking an ankle -- grace not being my strong suit. So they need to be stable black heels.) Prada has some gorgeous LBDs in its window on Prince St. right now, but I need to pay rent this month, alas. . . . If you're in the city and you spot a great dress or a sale, please let me know.
  • Keeping a Plant Alive for One Year: After ten months of health and happiness, my philodendron has suddenly decided to have half its leaves turn yellow and droop. I cut off some long-dangling branches and gave it lots of Miracle-Gro, both to little avail. Fingers crossed it can make it till January 1.

NaNoWriMo: I've gotten up at 6:20 each of the last three mornings, stumbled to my hot water pot, brewed a cup of tea, and sat down at the laptop promptly at 6:30 to write for an hour before work. The first morning was backstory; the second a vague attempt at action; and this morning, in an effort to get myself excited about the thing, I decide to go the William Goldman route and write the Good Parts. It worked. It is utter crap, most of it, and if my editorial brain were functioning at all on this project it would probably be perfectly appalled; but since the entire point of NaNoWriMo is to turn off the editorial brain, I'm having a great time. And with 5,076 words, I'm on track with my word count too (I need to write 1,666 words a day to make 50,000 by the end of the month). Yay! We shall see how this continues to go.

  • Editing: Many things, chiefly Lisa's Emily Ebers Explains Everything.
  • Reading: Currently The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky; Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie (a reread, because goodness it's good); The Freshman by Michael Gerber (book group selection for November); The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber (still).
  • Crashing the Marathon Just Long Enough to Cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge: Plans are in place, and I am excited. Stay tuned!

Three Joys of Apartment Living

1. The guy in the apartment below me is apparently blasting an AK-47, swinging a lightsaber, driving a motorcycle, knocking down and sanding walls, and occasionally speaking in an echoing, soulless female voice. I am not sure what video game he's playing, but it sounds like a good time.

2. I made this very good spaghettini with blue cheese for dinner tonight. It's insanely easy and intensely flavorful -- so flavorful that indeed my mouth is numb. Recipe courtesy of the cookbook Vegetarian Pleasures via Ted; serves four.
  • Cook 1 pound spaghettini (or any long, thin pasta) until al dente in a large pot of boiling water.
  • Melt 3 tablespoons unsalted butter with 1/4 cup olive oil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup minced fresh parsley.
  • Drain the spaghettini, pour on the parsley sauce, and toss well. Sprinkle with 1 cup (about 4 ounces) crumbled blue cheese and toss again. (Option: Add pine nuts or diced cooked chicken for texture and taste.) Serve immediately.

3. Wireless DSL. God bless it, everyone.

What's a Modern Girl to Do?

Well, this article is depressing as all hell. I don't think it's meant entirely seriously -- Maureen Dowd cares more about being provocative than she does about being right -- but the statistics she cites in the "Power Dynamics" section are enough to make any thinking woman gag (particularly since for every 16 extra I.Q. points we use to think about the statistics, we're becoming 40 percent less likely to get married). I don't have any idea what to do about that.

But I do know that the feminist movement was not designed to limit women's choices by telling us that we have to keep our maiden names or always wear flat shoes or go to law school and then make partner. Rather, it was designed to open those choices up so that they were as wide and varied and full as men's, so our lives could be as wide and varied and full as men's. We feminists sometimes condemn more traditional female roles (as Dowd implicitly does in this article) because it's hard to see a woman choose not to take those hard-won freedoms; but choice, possibility, is really what feminism is all about. No more, no less.

So here is what I think we Modern Girls should do:
  1. Know what will make us happy. For some women it's a husband and family. For some women it's job satisfaction. For some women it's sexual liberation. For some women it's a Prada dress. For some women it's intellectual work. For some women it's a clean house. For some women it's a really good book. For some women it's religious service. For most of us it is all of the above, or several of the above, or some of the above plus a bunch of things I've left off.
  2. Go after that. Or as much of that as we can.
  3. Let go of the need to have all of it. We probably cannot have it all perfectly, but we can have a lot of it badly, and if it makes us happy, that' s more than good enough.
  4. Recognize that every woman has the right to make different choices, just as every man does.
  5. Support each other. Or at least, if we can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
  6. Wear the clothes and makeup that please us and suit whatever situation we find ourselves in. Sometimes this will involve dressing to look sexy, because that is a perfectly acceptable thing to want to do and to do. I quote Bootsy Collins: "You have to bring some funk to get some funk." But sometimes this will involve sweatpants. Both have their time and place.
  7. Use birth control.
  8. Protest the Samuel Alito nomination. However one feels about abortion (and my own opinion varies wildly), it is a personal question, not one for the Supreme Court to decide. And the moment he gets confirmed, it's decided.
  9. Take care of ourselves. Physically: Sleep. Eat right and exercise, with occasional dark chocolate. Emotionally: Communicate. Rest. Spiritually, if so inclined: Be quiet. Pray. Mentally: Read Jane Austen as well as Us Weekly.
  10. Love deeply -- our friends, our boyfriends, our parents, our husbands, our lovers, our siblings, our children, our work, our communities, our activities, our pets, even our things -- and value all the love in our lives, not just the kind we get from men. I get frustrated sometimes when I read a novel and a character decides that his or her career success really doesn't matter because s/he doesn't have anyone to share it with (particularly when this is the big personal epiphany leading to the romantic climax) -- privileging romantic love over every other kind of love that exists. God knows romantic love may be the most dizzying and dramatic and intoxicating love there is, and the most satisfactory when it's reciprocated and fulfilled; but it is likewise the least predictable and the least controllable, and often the hardest to find. So let us love our friends (particularly our girlfriends), who will be there in every circumstance; our work, especially if it offers the pleasures of service or accomplishment or creation; our families and homes; our lives, with or without romance. The loving, the emotion, is what gives meaning.
  11. Feel free to disagree with me -- and make our own rules.

Link or Treat!

Catching up on my posts after a busy week:

You are a RAVENCLAW!
As a Ravenclaw and as an NFP, you value imagination, ideas and intelligence. You are
probably somewhat of an individualist and avoid conforming just for its own sake. You are
insightful and perceptive, and since you are empathetic and value harmony, you usually try
to avoid conflict. Of course, you may enjoy participating in heated debates, but only as
long as they remain on an intellectual level and not a personal level. In general, you are
open-minded and curious, and set high standards for yourself.

Enjoy your All Hallows' Eve, everyone!

Farewell, My Lovely

Earlier this week I was having lunch with an adult novelist who recently moved to New York. We were chatting about Park Slope, and she said, “I met this writer who lives in Brooklyn at a reading not too long ago. They just made a movie of his book, with that guy who played Frodo in the 'Lord of the Rings' films . . .”

Jonathan Safran Foer?” I said.

“Yes! That’s it. He owns a whole townhouse with his wife, who was there too. . . . Have you read any of his books?"

"Everything Is Illuminated. It's wonderful."

"Really? I haven't read it. But there were all these people buzzing around him, especially all these young women making up to him, saying ‘Oh, I just loved your book, oh, Jonathan, you’re so great,’—with his wife right there!"

"I've heard some women do that," I said.

"Hmm. Maybe it's because he's so famous, but he seemed very unconnected, very distant--he looked past you when he was talking. I couldn’t really see the attraction."

“Well,” I said, turning bright pink. “I haven’t read his new book, but Everything Is Illuminated kind of ends up being about love--it gets pretty nakedly emotional. And I can see how women in their twenties might think ‘Wow, a guy our age who’s not afraid to talk about his feelings—and he’s a smart millionaire writer too?’ Kind of hard to pass up.”

She nodded but looked unconvinced. And I went away amused but sweetly melancholy: Between this and Katy’s report on his height (there isn't much of it), another literary crush bites the dust.

Happy trails, JSF.

Book Randomness Tag!

"Our profound sympathy to Jack." -- Lobscouse and Spotted Dog, p. 123, fifth sentence

Ha! You've been tagged to bring a little more book randomness into the world! Right now you must:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open it to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence and the title of the book in the comments or your blog (along with these instructions, if the latter).
5. Don't search around for the coolest book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.

[I'm sitting in my wing chair (a.k.a. my work chair, because I'm supposed to be writing an editorial letter), so my Patrick O'Brian collection provides the most proximate books at the moment. Men-of-War: Life in Nelson's Navy was actually closer than Lobscouse, but it has only ninety-four pages. The sentence above is from a recipe for terrible wine called "Under False Colors."

FWIW, I have my hair pinned up with a binder clip right now, so I look all editorial even if I'm not acting like it.]

Announcing: Talking Books!

I have collected a few things I've written about writing and publishing and put them on a web page here: Talking Books. They include:

Yay! Finally got all that up. But now I suppose I have to get out of bed and be productive . . .

Things I Have Been Thinking about This Week

(a partial list)
  • Hedgehogs
  • Cheese
  • My New Year's Resolutions for 2006
  • The Elements of Style, now illustrated by Maira Kalman. (I bought a copy at the opera on Wednesday night, and it's a gorgeous example of both creative illustration and fine bookmaking.)
  • The most beautiful indoor space in New York City: the Tiffany-colonnade room in the American Wing of the Metropolitan? the Rose Reading Room at the New York Public Library? Other nominations?
  • A novel and a picture book I want to acquire
  • The fact (and the excitement!) that Lisa's first draft of "Emily Ebers, Starting Over" is due on Monday
  • My lovely tall black boots, which I wore for the first time this fall this week
  • New clothes and makeup, and the uses of fashion in general
  • How to crash the New York City Marathon, just long enough to cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
  • The excellent, funny, sexy, smart novels of Jennifer Crusie
  • The equally excellent, funny, and smart essays on her website about writing and romance, particularly "The Five Things I've Learned about Writing Romance from TV"
  • Alan Rickman's voice
  • Rachel's birthday present
  • My next Scrabble play
  • Vegetable love
  • Zits
  • Purling
  • Friendship
  • Which of two novels I'm going to write for NaNoWriMo, and whether the hell I can actually write one
  • Literalism vs. imaginism, for lack of better terms -- living within certain rules of thought and action laid forth by an ancient text or leader, versus living unbounded -- and the consolations and perils of each
  • Better terms than "literalism" and "imaginism"
  • Marketing books with nonwhite characters to white people
  • Writers who are brilliant plotters and mystery-builders -- Joss Whedon, J. K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, others? (I would include J. J. Abrams, but I think he's actually more of a tease than a qualified mystery-builder, because he either doesn't know where he's going or he refuses to pay off.)
  • "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," posters for which have started to appear in NYC subway stations
  • "Elizabethtown," which I want to see, despite it's likely being incredibly frustrating
  • How having lots of money shapes (and especially warps) one's thinking
  • My bridesmaid's dress for my sister's wedding
  • "Entertainment Weekly"
  • Ted Kennedy's head

Your thoughts on any of these items or questions more than welcome.

Excellent Word of the Day: enchiridion

I was going over the first pass of The Valley of the Wolves last week, which Rachel had already reviewed, and she queried the use of the word "manual" to describe one of Dana's books of magic -- "Perhaps a bit technical?" she wrote. This seemed like a good point, so I went to and searched for "manual," and one of the words it offered me was this:

Pronunciation: "en-"kI-'ri-dE-&n,
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural en·chi·rid·ia /-dE-&/
Etymology: Late Latin, from Greek encheiridion, from en in + cheir hand -- more at IN, CHIR-: HANDBOOK, MANUAL (definition from Merriam-Webster online)

Such an inspiring, flavorful word! I decided in the end not to bestow an enchiridion upon Dana -- it was just a bit too flavorful for this particular story/voice -- but here are some other suggested uses for it:

  • "Honey, the blender's broken. Do you know where I can find the enchiridion?"
  • Ancient Greek for Dummies: An Enchiridion for the Rest of Us
  • "Yes, Officer, the registration is in the glove compartment, right next to the enchiridion."


Knit One, Cast Two, Rock On

I am going to write this in a very small font so I don't attract and displease the Needlework Gods, but: I seem to have conquered knitting! I have ten and a half inches of more-or-less decent knitwork, more-or-less twenty-two stitches all the way up and down. I got all the way up to twenty-four at one point, but then Rachel showed me how to drop stitches, so I've been at twenty-two for about the last six inches. (For the first couple inches, I would very nearly hold my breath as I counted the stitches on the needle, releasing it only with the lovely tiny rush of pleasure and relief that I'd gotten twenty-two -- but now I almost take it for granted. How quickly the small pleasures pass.) These last nine inches took me through one episode of "Veronica Mars," two of season-three "Buffy" on DVD, and fifteen minutes of "Desperate Housewives," which I enjoyed right along with the handiwork. And the stitches may still be tight, I suppose, but they seem competently tight to me rather than obscenely so. We will see if my knitting instructor agrees. I'll finish the last inch and a half on the subway and at lunch tomorrow, and then . . . purl, baby, purl!

Hope you all have wonderful Mondays!

"A Color of the Sky," by Tony Hoagland

Windy today and I feel less than brilliant,
driving over the hills from work.
There are the dark parts on the road
when you pass through clumps of wood
and the bright spots where you have a view of the ocean,
but that doesn't make the road an allegory.

I should call Marie and apologize
for being so boring at dinner last night,
but can I really promise not to be that way again?
And anyway, I'd rather watch the trees, tossing
in what certainly looks like sexual arousal.

Otherwise it's spring, and everything looks frail;
the sky is baby blue, and the just-unfurling leaves
are full of infant chlorophyll,
the very tint of inexperience.

Last summer's song is making a comeback on the radio,
and on the highway overpass,
the only metaphysical vandal in America has written
in big black spraypaint letters,

which makes us wonder if Time loves Memory back.

Last night I dreamed of X again.
She's like a stain on my subconscious sheets.
Years ago she penetrated me
but though I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed,
I never got her out,
but now I'm glad.

What I thought was an end turned out to be a middle.
What I thought was a brick wall turned out to be a tunnel.
What I thought was an injustice
turned out to be a color of the sky.

Outside the youth center, between the liquor store
and the police station,
a little dogwood tree is losing its mind;

overflowing with blossomfoam,
like a sudsy mug of beer;
like a bride ripping off her clothes,

dropping snow white petals to the ground in clouds,

so Nature's wastefulness seems quietly obscene.
It's been doing that all week:
making beauty,
and throwing it away,
and making more.

Present / Perfect / Tense

It has long been suspected, whispered, nay, occasionally even said aloud, that I have a little problem with perfectionism. I don't know what gives people this idea, of course. All right, so maybe I'm a Virgo copyeditor who enjoys ironing -- but I make mistakes all the time! And I live with them! Okay, so perhaps I grind my teeth a bit over them, but I live with them! Things happen! I'm human! I tend to hate this fact, but it's true! And it's okay. Really. Yes. Deep breath.

(True story: Once I printed out a document at work, made twenty copies of it, and only then noticed an extremely minor typo -- forgetting to cap all the letters in a job title or something like that. I took the copies and walked back to my desk, but once I got there I realized I was saying to myself in my head, "I will not be anal, I will not be anal." Sigh.)

But all that is about to change. I am going to learn to live with my mistakes and love them and go on despite them. And what has worked this miracle, you ask?

I have taken up knitting.

Learning how to knit was one of my New Year's Resolutions. I love to cross-stitch, but there are only so many decorative pillows and wall hangings that one can make, and the appreciative audience for such items among my friends-and-relations was dwindling fast. So I signed up for classes at the Point, a neat little knitting cafe on Bedford Street in the West Village. Last night was the first class. We talked about and felt different varieties of yarn; we discussed weight, gauge, how to hold the needles, casting on, and knitting itself. The instructor (a nice gay man in his 30s) showed us the basic techniques and got us started.

Is anyone surprised that my casting on was held up as an example of extreme tightness? (Note for non-knitters: This is a bad thing.)

** sound of crickets tweetering on a summer night **

I sort of loosened up, or my stitches did anyway, by the end of the evening, when we were assigned to have twelve inches ready for next Monday, twenty-two stitches per row. I continued working on it tonight while I watched "Gilmore Girls," and I'm loving the easy slip-swoop-slide rhythm of the knitting and the smooth scrape of the needles as I pull off a stitch.

But I make mistakes. A row will have twenty-one stitches, but somehow the row after that has twenty-four. The result looks far more rumpled and curlicued than it ought to -- Dale Chihuly as opposed to plate glass. I've unpicked the whole thing and started over four times already. And try as I might, my stitches are still locked up tighter than Fort Knox; I think that's just going to be my personality as a knitter, and I have to live with it.

Because I am not starting over again. I decided that after the fourth time unravelling the damn thing. The fact that my stitches are so small means it will take quite a lot of knitting to make twelve inches, and I need to keep going, not worry over every little error. So that is what I am going to do.

I admit I have to convince myself that this is all right, partly by repeating mantras like "You're only a beginner, it's natural to make mistakes" and "It's okay, it's just a dropped stitch." I admit I don't really believe this. But whether I believe it or not, this is how the knitting -- and life -- goes forward, with letting it be and moving on. So it's okay, really, yes, deep breath.

And I pick up the needles again.

A Recipe for Eyeliner

Women in Palestine use this formulation to make their eyes stand out. Not New York women, though; New York women use chemicals.

  1. Catch a certain bird that can be found running about the mountains of Palestine. This bird is about the size of a grown man's hands cupped into a globe, smaller than a chicken and much like a pigeon, and yet not actually a pigeon. (If New York pigeons lived in Palestine, however, they would apparently be in great danger.) You can catch the bird with a wire trap or noose, though the trap is preferable, as it will keep the bird alive for 12 to 24 hours.
  2. Kill the bird, prepare it, and roast the meat. It is delicious cooked over a wood fire in the mountains, especially with lemon, but it would not be so good here in New York, because you can't make fires in the park and everyone uses chemicals in their barbecues. There is a place near Paterson, New Jersey, where you're allowed to make wood fires, but it's hard to get out there more than two or three times a year. It is very good then, though.
  3. Take the kidney and liver from the bird and put them in a hollowed-out lemon.
  4. Set the lemon near a low but steady source of heat and leave it there until the organs are fully charred.
  5. Mash up the charred materials with a finger or small stick.
  6. Apply to eyes.

This recipe and commentary courtesy of my very kind car-service driver from LaGuardia to Park Slope, October 9, 2005. I can also provide recipes for fish cooked in wine, chicken-rice casserole, and an easy cure for itching, on request.

Excellent Word of the Day

autochthonous: au·toch·tho·nous (ô-t?k'thuh-nus) also au·toch·tho·nal (-thuh-null) or au·toch·thon·ic (ô't?k-th?n'?k) adj.

1. Originating where found; indigenous: autochthonous rocks; an autochthonous people; autochthonous folktales. See synonyms at native.

2. Biology. Originating or formed in the place where found: an autochthonous blood clot.

au·toch'thon·ism or au·toch'tho·ny n.

au·toch'tho·nous·ly adv. (definition courtesy of

Your assignment, children, is to use this word in a sentence at least once in the next 24 hours. And if you're at the SCBWI conference this weekend and you use it in my presence, I will give you a (chocolate) Kiss.

Back to editing my presentation.

Writing is exciting / And baseball is like writing: / You can never tell with either how it will go. -- Marianne Moore

I'm not posting much this week as all of my writing energy is going toward finishing up my "Rules of Engagement" presentation for the Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference this weekend. Even though my job consists mostly of reading and writing, I forget sometimes how lovely writing can be -- really digging into a subject, making connections, thinking it through in words, then going back, revising, digging deeper again and again -- and I'm rediscovering that now. I'm about four-fifths done with the talk, I think; I have to finish up the third section, read the whole thing aloud to be sure it comes in under an hour, and give it one last shine. It's not quite as much fun as my "Finding a Publisher and Falling in Love" speech, but I have a great time analyzing the beginnings of some of my favorite novels and listing off my writing pet peeves. If I can figure out how to link to a Microsoft Word doc, maybe I'll post it here.

In the meantime:

  • The Not-to-Do List
  • I am honored (though mostly amused) to think that one of my rejection letters may someday end up on toilet paper. (from Maud Newton blog)
  • I get quoted in a Publishers Weekly Religion Bookline article: Religion Is the New (YA) Black
  • To my titles of (1) Editor, (2) New York Carleton Club co-chair, and (3) Nutmeg of Consolation, I can now add (4) Sunday School teacher, Park Slope United Methodist Church. We sang "All God's Critters Got a Place in the Choir" and finger-painted.
  • For fellow Patrick O'Brian fans: the WikiPOBia.
  • Funky Words Awards winners: Your prizes have been mailed.
  • I was feeling okay about the Harriet Miers nomination until I learned James Dobson approves of her because of something President Bush told him privately.
  • In that spirit: I especially like the "Jesus was a liberal" stickers.
  • I saw "Serenity" over the weekend and enjoyed it enormously, but we need Joss more on TV than we do in the movies, I think.
  • Finished Riders, on to V for Vendetta; listening to David Bowie's "Changes" and Dar Williams's "The End of the Summer."
  • Go Red Sox! Die Yankees!
  • Just desperately procrastinating now. Have a good week, everyone!