'Not From Here,' stories by Nathan Deuel

Thanksgiving Bingo: Creative Types edition

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving

Simmer resentment, salt in wounds to taste. (Image via Wikipedia)

Tara Parker-Pope over at the Grey Lady takes on the grim, often hilarious ritual of family Thanksgiving. Sure, there are those who love the assembling of elders, middlers, and the young — all of whom share blood. But for others, the gathering of the tribe means a litany of abuse, criticism, eye-rolling and more.

Why not make it into a game? Pope quotes two ladies who do just that, assembling Bingo cards with key phrases — “That’s an interesting outfit” or “Your children won’t sit still.” The first to fill her card rushes to the bathroom to call. Rejoice, your family is more maniacal!

I love the idea, but given my own demographic and the background likely shared by many of my readers and colleagues, I thought I’d assemble a list more appropriate to our unique brand of failures, inadequacies, and annoyances. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Family, Food, New York City, New York Times, Thanksgiving, , , , ,

In Defense of Verlyn Klinkenborg

Bob Woodward

Bob Woodward: Not a guy you'd ask to review the Pavement tour. Than why have music critic Jody Rosen take on the Times's Rural Life columnist? Image via Wikipedia

For several years now, I have kept in my wallet a few paragraphs by my favorite New York Times writer, Rural Life columnist Verlyn Klinkenborg:

Here is how things stand at midsummer. One of the Tamworth pigs is tame enough to be scratched behind the ears. The other isn’t. Two of the white geese have clubbed together and banished the third white goose from their society. The lame Ancona duck has taken refuge under the old chicken house. We would put her out of her misery, except that her misery is her life. The old Dominique rooster seems to be in a vertiginous state, always leaning and nearly always dozing. During the listless heat of the day, the chickens all lie in the dust beneath the pickup. The horses stand in the hickory shade, incognito in fly-masks, tails flicking.

The vegetable garden has gone feral. The walking onions, the chives and the blueberries are the only signs of civilization there. The less said about that the better. Hopes are high for next year. The crop of chipmunks is incredible. There have never been fatter woodchucks. The pasture is filled with the trial cawing of young crows. The swallows nearly clip me with their wings as I throw hay down from the loft. The bees are populous. The pasture at dawn is covered with spiderwebs that look like the footprints of ethereal elephants. The scarlet bee-balm is in bloom down by the mailbox, and the thistles are purpling. The hollyhocks are coming into blossom and also rotting in the leaf, as they always seem to do.

The days still come in order. Gray light collects in the bedroom long before dawn. Then comes a bleached noon and nearly always the threat of a late-afternoon thunderstorm. The darkness is notated by fireflies, who have been unusually numerous — or is it unusually bright? — this year. The crickets are now whining away, as if they were reeling in August. I am laying in all the thinking I can against a time when summer is in short supply.

via Small Farm Report – New York Times.

I keep this sheet of newsprint, pausing to reread it when perhaps I’m feeling rushed by events, crushed by tasks, or frustrated by something bleak and unappealing. I have come to love Verlyn’s spare, detail-laden writing. His pieces are these quiet detours from the rest of the paper, a chance to reflect and derive great meaning — the same big meat you might get from the Saturday Profile or a big magazine story  — from among the bones of a much smaller animal.

So I was dismayed to see a Slate headline yesterday: The Windiest Windbag in Newspaper History.

I knew instantly the headline referred to Klinkenborg, who most recently filed what I admit is an over-long, mockable meditation on college bicyclists. With that column’s smallish crimes of over-handsome prolixity in mind, I braced myself for a mean-spirited, snide, and unfair critique of the writer’s work. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Journalism, Media, New York City, New York Times, , , , ,

Transgendered pianist at first shunned, now triumphant

A post-concert photo of the main hall's stage ...

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Call yourself Sara and hope bigoted jerks accept that you're a woman now. (Image via Wikipedia)

A story last week suggested America’s cross-dressing teenagers are earning more and more rights at school. The article made me feel both proud and old: Back in my day, you had to be a really brave, badass, or beautiful dude to pull off a skirt. And hapless administrators, when they weren’t too lazy or incompetent, generally always fell safely on the “don’t disrupt class” end of the freedom of expression spectrum.

Now there’s the story of Sara Buechner, who as David had made a successful career as a concert pianist. When in 1998 he began living as a woman, not only did a prominent therapist counsel his mom to choose rejection, but halls and universities began to shun the pianist as well. Too quickly, Sara’s career was over:

In the next years, Ms. Buechner largely disappeared from public view, though not by choice. David had done 50 concerts a year — performing with philharmonic orchestras in New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland and San Francisco — but as Sara, she couldn’t get bookings. “Apart from local gigs, from 1998 to 2003, I did three to five concerts a year,” she said. David taught as an adjunct professor at Manhattan School of Music and New York University, but as Sara, seeking a full-time professorship, “I applied 35 places and wouldn’t even get a response. Behind my back, I’d hear, ‘Is it safe to leave him in a room with undergrads?’ ”

In a really graceful tale, Timesman Michael Winerip shares Sara’s growing success and acceptance. It’s awesome: Read it and marvel at how far she — and all of us — have come.

via Generation B – A Work of Courage and Determination – NYTimes.com.

Filed under: Music, New York City, New York Times, Women, Writing, , , , ,

As 'Times' constricts, a look at its sickly sweet heart

Image representing New York Times as depicted ...

Image via CrunchBase

A regular feature in the Monday edition of the Times, the Metropolitan Diary is a typically quiet collection of Dear Diary submissions from readers with a unique New York experience to share. Often drawn from overheard conversation, tender accounts of stolen moments, or funny encounters, the feature sounds pretty treacly. And it can be. But for whatever reason, I absolutely love it.

Take this entry, from this Monday’s paper.

Dear Diary:

When you work at a luxury hotel, as I did, employees must make sure the guests get exactly what they request. This can be especially frustrating when a guest is asking for something completely irrational.

In this instance, a couple of years ago, it was a businessman on a fiery tirade about reducing the noise that garbage trucks make in the morning. I stood at my doorman station with a hotel security guard and watched the man berate our co-worker at the front desk until the guest finally picked up his briefcase and stomped in our direction.

He passed me and stopped directly in front of Julio, the security guard. “Call me a cab,” the businessman ordered.

This was not Julio’s job, but not wanting to ignore the guest’s request, Julio looked him straight in the eyes and calmly replied, “You’re a cab.”

Julio turned around and walked away as I wandered into the street, waving for the nearest cab and grinning from ear to ear.

Maybe it’s because I’m homesick, or because I’m excited to see evidence that New Yorkers can be impressible, humble beasts, but I can’t look away. This is an appreciation made more poignant given that later this fall, my favorite newspaper will be letting go up to 100 — or eight percent — of its newsroom staff.

If it’s not already part of your routine, head to Metro section each Monday and enjoy. Who knows how long it’ll be an option?

PS: There’s some question as to how rigorously, if at all, the Diary is fact-checked. This seems important, but I read anyway.

via Serious Money in New York, but Chump Change in Greenwich – NYTimes.com.

Filed under: Entertainment, Homesick, Journalism, Media, New York City, New York Times, , , ,

Twins embrace ancient art of NY bartending

USA 2006 (October 9th) New York, New York City

New York: It's hard -- always has been. (Image by Paraflyer via Flickr)

I do feel sorry for Kristy and Katie, twins from the Midwest who’ve lived difficult and unrewarding lives in New York for a year. College graduates and aspiring journalists, the ladies describe their year-long job search to The New York Times:

SEVENTEEN months out of Rutgers University, they live in an unwelcome continuum of mass rejection. Between them, Kristy and Katie Barry, identical twins who grew up in Ohio, have applied for some 150 jobs: a magazine for diabetics, a Web site about board games and a commercial for green tea-flavored gum; fact-checking at Scholastic Books, copy editing for the celebrity baby section of People.com, road-tripping for College Sports Television.

The story —  by N.R. Kleinfield — goes on to list the pair’s travails. Highlights include:

  • Eating too many canned beans.
  • Busking for business cards — networking! — not money.
  • Having their mom tell them she’s embarrassed by them.

Like I said, I am sympathetic to the ladies: It sucks to tend bar and be broke and eat beans and wonder if things will work out. (Hint: They will or they won’t.) But I’m still annoyed.

After all, aside from a select few — the rich, the lucky, the talented, or a combination thereof — most everyone’s first year in New York is less than glamorous, not the “lush time of stimulating work, picturesque travel and a rich social orbit” the twins say they expected. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Economy, Islam, Jobs, Journalism, New York City, New York Times, , , , , ,