Spawn of

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Laura's Brant has moved! Again!

Laura's brant has just moved -- again! -- to a new location!  Please forgive her on-going Escape Fantasy Disorder and constant brant-address-switching but it was time to have a site with a clean white background, big type, and a different format.

Come visit and continue to follow Laura's bragging and ranting at  
-- thank you!

See you there!

Monday, August 31, 2009

GPS Upgrade

Given last week's brant about Laura and her GPS, she couldn't resist posting this link about the possibility of Bob Dylan becoming a GPS voice.

Laura would definitely get lost on purpose as much as possible (as opposed to getting lost not on purpose the way she usually does every minute of every day).

(photo credit: AP Photo)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

(Mis)Reading the Map

Laura and the family just returned from a 9-day modified staycation -- she'll call it a drive-cation -- which included five days in Maryland/DC and then three days in, or at, or down, the Jersey Shore.  They made the trip because Laura's sister Linda and her husband Richard and their fantastic kids were coming east from L.A. to see DC and go down the shore, so Laura and the family decided it was a perfect opportunity to glom on to their plans and go along for the ride.


Laura's friends and loyal brant readers know that one of the (many) things Laura hates more than carrots is flying, so taking a drive-cation is one of her favorite things to do.  She packs up the car, sets Ben up with DVDs and her Nano in the backseat, makes sure the dog is in the crate with a big fluffy $2 faux bone from Petco, and prints out a whole stack of mostly wrong Mapquest maps and sets out across the great frontier that is her road trip thinking her deep thoughts.  This time was no different -- the DVDs, the Nano, the dog, the faux fluffy bones, the deep thoughts -- except for the fact that there were no Mapquest maps. 

There was a GPS instead.

Yes, Laura got a GPS for her birthday and this was the first time she was going on a real road trip with something other than a stack of printouts and her lousy sense of direction.  She ended up using the station wagon that has a Stonehenge-type-built in GPS with a cumbersome and annoying GPS already it in (the car that Brendan always drives) and left her brand new stylus-pen touchscreen no-frills unit at home), and she ended up having a completely ridiculous and infantile meltdown somewhere off I-84 because she couldn't figure out how to communicate to the GPS that she wanted it to calculate her route from Newton to Maryland via the Tappan Zee Bridge, not the George Washington Bridge -- anything to avoid the traffic sinkhole that is I-95-- but aside from that, and aside from the fact that it literally took almost 15 minutes to set the fucking thing every time they went somewhere, it was an amazing way to travel.

Laura's actually been reading a lot lately about how navigational systems in cars are changing  the way people relate to each other -- she's thinking specifically of an article that ran recently in the NYTs about how couples are fighting less because they're not getting lost as much (she can't find the link but will add it when she does)-- and she'd like to add, just for the record, that she thinks this is absolutely ridiculous.  Couples aren't fighting less because they have GPS units in their cars -- they're just fighting differently. Because the GPS instructions are so incredibly confusing and annoying.  Every time they set the GPS on this trip, the monitor became a kind of test -- how to read the instructions, or more exactly, how to interpret the instructions the GPS was giving them.  Did the yellow arrow on the upper left corner of the screen pointing to the right mean take a right right now? Or did it mean, take a right later.  In a little while.  You know, when you feel like it.  Did the thick blue highlighted road mean the road they were on, right now? Or the road they were trying to get to next, in 04. miles, the way it said in the upper right corner of the screen?  

Their differing interpretations -- sometimes vastly differing interpretations -- of the instructions on the GPS -- reminded Laura of why she got such shitty scores on her SATs (and GREs): because she could never really understand the questions.  I mean, she understood the questions, sort of, but after reading the question the first time she would start to have questions about the question:  did the question mean this? or did the question mean that?  did it mean this AND that? or THAT and THIS?  Half the time she got so confused about the question itself that she had no idea what to pick for an answer.  Which is exactly what happened while driving.  Half the time she would get so confused about what the GPS was telling her that she would end up getting lost anyway.

Parsing out the directions was, though, a small part of an otherwise great trip.  A trip during which lots of small thoughts occurred to Laura:

-- After her 10 1/2 hour drive from Newton to Maryland two Saturdays ago in her black Volvo XC wagon, Laura realized that hers was the only wagon without a  Thule storage unit on the roof.

-- After walking the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ, she realized she was the only 47-year-old-mom without a tattoo.

-- After days of super-high humidity, Laura realized her hair had gone horizontal and there was nothing she could do about it.

-- After eating crap for 9 days, she realized she was sick of eating crap and wanted to stop.

-- After paying almost $45 to get into the Spy Museum in DC (not including parking) and paying over $50 for lunch at the otherwise free National Portrait Gallery, Laura realized sightseeing in the Nation's capital wasn't as cheap as it was back in 1972 when she went with her parents.

It had been a pretty long time since Laura had taken a family-type vacation -- the past few years had been kind of complicated and difficult for a variety of reasons and she'd had to forgo this type of thing.  But after a terrific 9-days, a few bigger thoughts occurred to Laura, too, including realizing that:

-- Life is short and kids grow up all too quickly and even though three extra nights at a hotel feels like it's going to almost break the bank she should break the bank anyway because her niece will never again be 14 and eavesdropping on her son and nephew talking about skateboarding and school is priceless.

-- Memories of family vacations, especially good ones, have a very long half-life for children, which is why she should do anything to take them.

-- Life is good, and she is lucky, no matter how she mis-reads the map or mis-interprets the directions.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Writing a Good Bio

Laura's been kind of obsessed lately with networking -- and "kind of" is kind of an understatement (kind of!) -- so she's been spending a lot of her time ("a lot" is kind of an understatement, too) on-line on every single social networking site known to man.  This includes Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and she has to say, while she's been ambivalent about these sites for a long time, wondering if they waste more time than make good use of time, she's definitely not ambivalent anymore.

For one thing, she sent an email to lots and lots of friends on Facebook -- friends in publishing -- editors and agents and authors (Laura's not bragging, just trying to make a point) -- to let them know she was interested in ghostwriting and collaborative work and she got a great response!  From everyone! Except from the Facebook Team who threatened to shut down her account because apparently you're not supposed to send around a giant email letting people know you're interested in gainful employment. Instead, you're supposed to set up a "Page" of some kind to "advertise" and "promote" your "services" but that seems like an awfully passive way to go about expanding your work-sphere compared with just being direct.

Then she went on LinkedIn and had another positive experience (and no one there threatened to shut down her LinkedIn account.  At least not yet.)

Twitter proved to be the biggest surprise because while Laura had been slow to realize how fun Twitter is with its 140-character micro-blogging business, she didn't have a clue that it was a good networking and friend-making tool, too.

First of all, she became excellent "Twitter" pals with an author she loves but has never met -- Julie Klam, whose book Please Excuse My Daughter is the funny but really moving memoir Laura wishes she wrote (for a rave review by a #1 NYTs bestselling author, go to  Laura and Julie share a mutual friend, one of Laura's bestest [sic] friends of all time and book publicist-extraordinaire, Marian Brown, and Laura and Julie were Facebook "friends," but somehow the immediacy of Twitter really cemented their virtual-friendship.

Not that Facebook doesn't generate that same potential "heat" for making Insta-LUV-friends: Laura and Jane Green, another author Laura has never met, have had some great exchanges on FB, and Laura and Stephanie Green (no relation to Jane Green) met on Facebook (both are breast-cancer peeps -- Stephanie's amazing blog is and will hopefully provide tons of material for the book she's working on) and recently had a fantastic lunch together in Boston when Stephanie was in from Miami.  (Laura's sure she's forgetting a few other Insta-LUV-friends and will update this post later with additions...)

Back to Twitter, though, which started out being the point of this post:  Laura ended up answering a Twitter query from Marci Alboher -- Marci, until recently, had a blog for the New York Times based on her terrific book, One Person/Multiple Careers, and currently guest blogs for Yahoo on her new blog, Working the New Economy.  When Marci tweeted that she was looking for people with interesting bios (resume-related), Laura sent her a quick message with a few suggestions (namely, writer Tom Perrotta whose website bio is hilarious).

(Before Laura goes any further she wants to apologize for all the name-dropping which isn't the point of this post [you might be wondering: What IS the point of this post?  Good question...])

Anyway, Laura and Marci had a great exchange and it turned out that Marci included a link to Laura's third-person-website bio in the blog she was writing about bios -- which is the point of this post.  Here's the link to that post and Laura is not only grateful to Marci for the mention but would like to share Marci with anyone who reads this because Marci has some of THE best and most interesting and intelligent advice about staying relevant and hire-able in this ridiculously awful economy.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Laura's posting the link to the "Vows" piece she did for this Sunday's New York Times -- a great couple, Victoria Rowell and Radcliffe Bailey.  Laura's done a bunch of these in the past and she has to say that this one was her favorite -- despite the fact that she had to go up to famous people (e.g. Samuel L. Jackson) and interview them (Laura's really shy in case you didn't know it) and despite the fact that being in the midst of someone as fantastically and naturally beautiful as Ms. Rowell made Laura feel, well, like another species.  But what incredibly accomplished people and what a wonderful love story, which, of course, is what these Vows pieces are all about.

Laura would like to add, just for the hell of it here since it won't do any good, but she really wishes the part about how the groom's work is collected by over 25 major American museums (Corcoran, Smithsonian. Art Institute of Chicago, The Metropolitan, to name only a few) hadn't been edited out (it was in the last draft she received from the Times to look at).

Friday, June 26, 2009

Memoir with Braces

Laura probably shouldn't say anything -- she should probably have a chapter or a page or a paragraph or even a line done before she starts shooting her mouth off about starting something new, but she just can't help shooting her mouth off about the fact that she's starting something new.

Or, thinking about starting something new.

Or, probably more accurately, dreaming/imagining/fantasizing about starting something new.

Something new in the way of a book type thing.

Laura doesn't mean to be coy when she calls it a "book type thing" -- starting  a new book, or more acurately, dreaming/imagining/fantasizing about starting a new book is always really stressful -- stressful enough to make her not want to do it! -- so she thought she'd call it something other than a book and "book type thing" seemed close enough without being too exact.

Writing about her life -- her early life -- her life as someone with braces*, for instance (*braces being merely one visual symbol of her emotionally [or orthodontically] imprisoned youth)  -- has been something she's thought about for a really long time -- especially since she moved back to her home town for no good reason after bragging her whole entire life that she was the least likely person to move home to her home town.  In fact, one of her book editors -- the one who edited Piece of Work, told Laura after rejecting her book on failure -- yes, the failure book that failed!! ha ha ha!! (or, LOL for younger brant readers) -- that what she should really do is write about what it was like to move home to her home town after bragging her whole life that she was the least likely person to move home to her home town.

At the time, coming face to face with the giant massive billboard of her own egregious pathology -- what the fuck was she thinking?!?! didn't she know living a mile away from the temple where she went to Hebrew school would spawn the biggest dissociative regression of all time?!? -- seemed impossible.  She was, after all, in the middle of the aforementioned biggest dissociative regression of all time since there was nowhere she could go without that giant massive billboard of egregious pathology being completely visible.  Writing about herself -- namely, writing about her own stupidity, just didn't seem like something she wanted to do right then.

Not that she hadn't written fluently and with great glee about her own stupidity in the past!  Why, just look at the marvel that is/was Animal Husbandry with it's self confessed supreme gullibility and willful ignorance of the fact that someone she -- oops, I mean, "Jane" -- was still in love with even after he had dumped her (stupid fact #1) was dating someone new right under her nose at work! (stupid fact #2) (Read the whole book to find all the stupid facts in it.) (Including the shockingly stupid fact that even after finding out that he was dating someone new right under her nose she was still in love with him!!!)

But even though Laura had written about stuff like that, she'd always written about it in her trademark (<--pardon the self-important "labeling" of her style as "trademark") thinly disguised autobiographical fiction -- something she'd written a lot about, too:  for she had no shame not only using all her past stupidities (for some truly epic stupidities find a copy of Her and enjoy!!) as material but telling everyone how she used her past stupidities as material by turning it into thinly disguised autobiographical fiction!

She had, though, never really written about herself - her life, her family, her true thoughts and feelings -- in actual non-fiction.  Straightforward, non-inside-out-non-fiction-into-fiction.   Except in her brant.  And even there she wrote/writes about herself in the third person.

Hiding.  Always hiding.

And so for some reason recently, out of the blue, little synapses started going off in her head, little flashes of light that made her want to write about things she's never wanted to write about -- or, actually, she'd never been brave enough to write about -- not because there's any Running with Scissors type stories in her past -- far from it, unfortunately! -- but because she'd always assumed it would be boring and because she's always been kind of a puss when it comes to being honest with herself.

Laura wishes she could point to some wonderfully memorable symbolic line-in-the-sand type moment when she realized she simply had to write about her life and couldn't remain silent a minute longer -- but she can't (except for the past week when two important people in her life told her she start looking inside for what to write about instead of looking outside).   All she can say is that she figures she should take advantage of that giant massive wonderfully bittersweet billboard that's been telegraphing the painful merging of her past and present -- a merging she herself was responsible for and is only now just beginning to understand -- before it gets replaced with an image of lame apathy.

And so she's going to take the plunge and start peeling back the layers.  She'd like to do it really fast -- like, over the summer -- but she knows that the onion she's peeling is bigger than she'd like to admit and more stubborn.  It's an onion that doesn't want to be peeled -- or, at the very least, is ambivalent about being peeled -- and even though right now she's lost in this bad cliched metaphor -- Is Laura the onion or the peeler? or both?! -- she knows that there's going to be some tears involved.

Enough for now.  Laura's got to go find a peeler...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Newsflash: Laura Left the House and Saw a Movie!

It's a(nother) rainy day (duh) here on the East Coast and Laura finally hauled herself out of her house and out to a coffee shop for a change of scenery.  She's not going to lie -- she's been feeling pretty, well, uninspired lately and one of the things that happens when she feels uninspired is that she kind of forgets to leave the house (you know, for reasons other than pick up or drop off, food shopping, shrink, Ben's music lessons, etc).  She doesn't actually forget -- she just forgets to remember that leaving the house and changing her scenery is an option.  

Yesterday she really shook things up -- she actually went out to a matinee movie -- a 3 p.m. showing of Sandra Bullock's new movie, "The Proposal" that she'd heard was hilarious and had earned, through this alleged hilarity, to claim the #1 spot at the box office this past weekend.  Laura can't believe she just said "#1 spot at the box office this past weekend" like she knows anything, but it and the great reviews sure sounded like selling points, and so she decided to go against her normal routine of staying home in the rain and pretending to work and shake things up a little. She recently even started Twittering so she thought what could be better than a cheap afternoon movie and a little mini-micro-tweet-branting?

She was a little embarrassed leaving the house and going out into public with her ridiculous Jew-Fro from all the rain and humidity but she shouldn't have been because hitting a suburban movie theatre at 3 in the afternoon isn't really "going out into public." The only people there besides the two teenagers selling tickets and popcorn were about 4 or 5 or 6 senior citizens, getting their discounts and their teeny-tiny little cupfuls of popcorn (sidebar question: did you know that at the AMC theatre chain there's the 'kiddie' cup equivalent 'Senior Size" cup of popcorn? and when Laura says "cup of popcorn" she literally means CUP of popcorn.  It was served in a small paper cup, the kind they give away for free to cheapskates like me to get water at the water fountain -- not the big giant super gulp size with the Coke logos all over them).  

Laura also realized that she was wrong about it being a cheap afternoon -- the "matinee" ticket was $8 and the non-senior citizen small size popcorn was $4.75 and that plus all the text messages and "Tweets" she sent from her phone about her big day out probably put her over the $50 mark. (Just kidding. Probably over the $100 mark.)

But this was all worth it once the lights went down because Sandra Bullock was hilarious -- Laura would like to go on record here and now and say that she has always been a huge and unabashed Sandra Bullock fan because of her incredible comic timing and willingness to make herself look completely ridiculous and do absolutely anything for a laugh while somehow being able to jerk a tear from Laura every single time (okay, maybe not in Speed, but how she managed to do that in "Miss Congeniality" Laura has no idea). Ryan Reynolds was also hilarious though of course she's not demented enough to pretend to herself or her eagle-eyed brant readers that Ryan Reynolds' comic timing is all she's interested in.  Because that would be a lie. And while Laura doesn't brant that often when she does she tells the truth.  And the truth is that Ryan Reynolds is entirely celebrity-crush-worthy and even quite possibly (God strike her dead) a Hugh-Jackman-replacement.

(Laura figured she'd give that last line a second or two to sink in.)

Of course, one of the real reasons she went to see a movie was because she figured that she should start seeing movies if she wants to write them.  She may not have branted about this yet, but Laura did actually just finish polishing her first attempt at screenwriting -- the adaptation of Piece of Work (her fourth novel)(which had been optioned by Tom Hanks' company Playtone)(but the option lapsed a long time ago and Laura only now got around to trying her hand at writing the script and hopes her agent will be able to re-sell it). She's really happy with it, believe it or not, and has to say that she never ever in a million years could have possibly written it without the help of the amazing screenwriting book Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder.  More about Laura's adventures in screenwriting in future brants, but suffice it to say that she had a lot of fun -- yes, writing can be fun! -- sort of! -- kind of!  -- but not really!  -- I mean, fun is relative! -- and hopes to do more of it in the not-too-distant future.

Laura hopes to leave the house tomorrow, too, which would make it three days in a row and give her lots to brant about!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Real Estate Correction

Laura's friend Wendy sent her an email tonight to let her know that she always checks Laura's "brant links" and when she checked the link to Laura's house listing she discovered a major error:  namely, that the link Laura provided in yesterday's brant is to the wrong house!  Laura can't bear the thought that people think she lives in this other house that the link went to -- not that there was anything wrong with that other house! it's just not hers! -- so she's not only corrected the link in yesterday's brant but has provided a few photos of her actual house and the correct link in this emergency correction-brant.  Feel free to share the new correct house-link with anyone you think may possibly want to buy it.
Thank you!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Back to Branting

It's been so long since Laura last branted that she can barely remember how to log on and get to the New Post page.  

Another measure of how long it's been since her last brant is how many new photos of Hugh Jackman there were to pick from to pimp her brant and get people to read it.  Obviously there were gazillions of gorgeous photos, but she didn't want to waste the whole afternoon, you know, staring at photos of some gorgeous person she met once and will probably never meet again -- I mean, seriously, why torture herself with the way things were and aren't now? -- so she just took one of the first ones that came up on Google images so she can jump right back in.  

Speaking of HJ, and let's face it, every time Laura brants -- especially after a long hiatus -- she needs to kind of do a recap of HJ news -- just to put her new brant post, and her life, in context.  This might sound strange -- because of course it is strange -- putting her life in the context of his life -- but let's just accept the fact that this is the way things go when she's starting up again.  Because, you see, deep down, Laura's really shy, and insecure, and doesn't believe that anyone would be reading her brant right now if she didn't have a picture of HJ's unbelievably ginormous bulging biceps up at the top of it.

What struck Laura as kind of strange when she sat down to catch up on her branting is the oddness of her hiatus -- the fact that she would cease branting at a time when Hugh Jackman was more in the news than he ever was before.  Yes, okay, so she didn't win the screening of the new movie in stupid Newton, Massachusetts.  Who cares. And yes, okay, she didn't win the charity-fundraising Lunch with Hugh Jackman back around Valentine's Day because she didn't have any money to bid on it. But she missed HJ's whole world tour to promote the new Wolverine film and a few other interesting stories about him as well.  One of Laura's friends, in fact, Kathy Mintz, someone she knew long long long ago in the old Random House days, has been kind enough to email her really fabulous Hugh Jackman news -- like sightings of HJ downtown and news of his future Broadway projects:  Laura will dig these up and share them in a later brant -- and she's really grateful for this and wishes more friends and readers would share their Hugh Jackman news.  Because what Laura's really been trying to create here on her brant is a community -- a community of people connected by their interest in Hugh Jackman and his life and his work.  And if in between the HJ news there's a little bit about Laura well, then, hey, that's an extra little bonus.

But enough about Hugh.

It's May 31 -- practically June -- and Laura has had a busy few months.  If she had to characterize things in one short Twitter-like sentence -- one Haiku-esque line that would capture the essence of the recent past in general and Laura's life of late in particular, she would have to say this:  

Laura feels like she is waiting for her fate to be decided.


Laura can't remember a time when she didn't feel like everything was hanging in the balance.


Laura feels stuck and wishes something (good) would happen already.

Laura could go on and on and on with these one-liners -- no wonder people are addicted to Twittering, she's suddenly realizing now -- it's like graduate-level branting -- or the Reader's Digest Condensed Version of branting -- one little line that could basically replace an entire 5000 word brant and save her, and her readers (hi Wendy!  hi Janet!) some precious time.
And maybe she'll indulge in a few more before this post is finished, but what she really wants to say here, today, is that she feels like her life is up in the air in a way that it hasn't been in many many years.  

Laura feels a little bit lost -- which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

For instance, she's trying to sell her house - it's been on the market since early February, and obviously it's a really slow market -- the slowest in decades!  what fabulous timing!!! -- and so it's not selling.  It will sell -- she knows that -- I mean, it's a great house and someone's going to buy it, she just doesn't know when and for how much because it's a very "unusual" house -- architecturally interesting and a little complicated in the stairs-department -- but, just like people used to tell her when she was "dating" (she puts the word in quotation marks because she never saw herself as someone who was "dating" as much as she saw herself as someone who was looking for human salve), it only takes one.  All it takes is one person -- one family, one couple -- without a fear of heights or a fear of living at the end of a dead-end -- and she will be able to take a breath and think about a less-expensive more urban future.  Now of course, if her house does sell, she has no idea where she's going -- she doesn't want to make any big decisions or lock herself into another stupid giant mortgage, so that sets up its own anxiety-producing situation: where will she go? where will she live? what will become of her? -- but somehow that is a better anxiety-producing situation than the one she is in now: because the one she's in now just makes her feel completely and utterly stuck and inert.

Laura feels like a bug trapped in amber.

Not that she's complaining or anything -- people have far worse problems than feeling dead because they live at the very end of a dead-end -- literally -- or feeling utterly stuck and inert -- but she's just a little tired of feeling like she has no idea what's going to happen next.  And not knowing what's going to happen next is something that's been happening for a long time since her line of work isn't exactly something you can bank on -- even in good times, and God knows these have not been the best of times for Laura's work.

The stress of not knowing where or when her next paycheck is coming from is really starting to take its toll.

Which is an understatement:  it's not "starting" to take its toll.  It's taken its toll in a big way over the past few years and has aged her enormously, so a revision to that last Twittery line is probably in order:

The stress of not having a steady paycheck is fucking killing her.

Yet despite all her self-avowed pessimism, deep down, in small pockets of life -- like earning a living from her writing and keeping her boat afloat --  Laura is kind of a ridiculous optimist, believing that just when she thinks it's all going to come crumbling down around her something unexpected comes along to save her, work-wise -- that there's always a Hail Mary catch she's going to make -- and Laura believes that now. Which is why she's been throwing an awful lot of spaghetti at the proverbial wall in the hopes that something will stick -- that one of the new irons she has in the fire will turn into something viable and profitable.

Laura feels old and fat.

Which is why she's going to bring this brant to a close -- with the promise of more brants soon -- so that she can go downstairs and use the treadmill.  Or take the dog for a walk outside on a day that is glorious enough to almost make you forgot how stuck and inert you feel.  Right after this one last Twit:

Laura always forgets how much she loves branting and wishes she would remember.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hugh Jackman Contest! Please help Laura win!!

OK. It's been a while since Laura has posted a bonafide Hugh Jackman brant but this one is truly exciting. Laura thanks the fabulous Helen Hill for sending her this clip of Hugh Jackman asking for people to enter the contest to win the premiere of the new Wolverine movie -- "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." It means that the town with the most votes will get the premiere, but more importantly it means that the town with the most votes that gets the premiere will also get HUGH JACKMAN because he will be there for the premiere. Laura knows it's piggy to think she should be able to go to TWO premieres with Hugh Jackman in one lifetime (the first being Someone Like You, of course), but fuck it. She's a pig when it comes to Hugh Jackman and that's just the way it is.

Obviously, Laura's here begging friends to enter the contest with her zip code. Arrangements will be made to transport and house all of Laura's Hugh Jackman Voting Elves if she wins. The contest ends on April 17th and winning town will be announced April 20th so time is of the essence, people. Please vote ASAP.

So watch the clip, then go to the voting site, then enter the contest with this zip code: "02466"

Thank you!!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Ben's Vakay Part II

Laura's had a lot of shitty jobs in her life, but if she had to pick the shittiest one she'd have to go with the one 12-hour shift she spent working the Drive-Thru at the Burger King in Hadley, Massachusetts, during a UMass/Amherst winter-session in the early 1980s.

That's an actual picture of the actual Burger King she worked one shift at -- and you might be wondering how she got that photo. Well, she got that photo when she suggested to Ben that they make a trip during his vacation to Mass MOCA (the supercool museum of contemporary art in North Adams, Mass) and then drive through Amherst, her old college town, on the way back home from there.

You might be wondering, given Laura's discussion in last week's Bird-on-the-Head brant, why on fucking earth Laura would be interested in taking yet another drive down an unhappy memory lane -- her college years were, she thinks, among the worst years in her life -- and all she could say to that at the little hotel they stayed in at Porches, right near Mass MOCA, she saw a whole bunch of brochures -- one with a Natural History Museum at Amherst College -- and, being in her new Kerouac-ian Road-Trip Frame of Mind, figured it would be fun to show Ben where she went to college and some dinosaur bones.

First of all, they got off the highway in Northampton, a nearby crunchy college town that is part of the "Five Colleges" business (Smith, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire, UMass, Amherst College) in what's commonly called "The Happy Valley." (Seriously, that's what they call it.) This was kind of a lucky accident, given the fact that Laura was "improvising" her way there -- instead of using the exit off the Mass Pike that she normally used to go to UMass, she decided to go a "different" way which she figured would be faster. Whenever she thinks this she knows deep down in the pit of her stomach that she -- the person with absolutely zero sense of direction -- should not be "improvising" her way anywhere. But it was kind of too late for that as she looked for road signs to Amherst and instead took the exit for Northampton since she knew her way to Amherst from there.

All of this is a long way of saying that they parked the car and went to a diner for lunch. It was one of those old fashioned metal diner-car type authentic diners which Laura knew could be really great or really shitty, and, as it turned out, this place was the latter. Laura's not going to name the place by name but she has to say that not only was the food mediocre but she had one of the strangest restaurant experiences of her life there.

This is what happened: Ben and Laura sat down, looked at the menu, and proceeded to argue about what Ben was not going to get -- meaning that Laura had to narrow down his carb-choices from like 6 to 2. Whittling down the tempting options to "French Toast" and "Nacho Fries" (fuck it -- it was vacation, she thought) they waited for the waiter, a big guy, probably in his late thirties, who was actually very friendly and kept Laura's coffee cup constantly full, to swing by and take their order.

Since they had no idea what "Nacho Fries" actually were, Laura asked the waiter about them. "They're French Fries with nacho-cheese dipping stuff on the side." Laura's certain her face must have fallen -- she could just imagine the sad little cup of microwaved liquid neon orange cheese -- but she ordered it anyway. As she already said, it was Ben's vacation and she thought WTF.

About five minutes later, the waiter brought the basket of Nacho Fries to the table -- incredibly hot incredibly greasy fries in a small plastic basket on top of an unabsorbant sheet of waxed paper. Nestled in the basket of greasy fries was the sad little cup of micravied liquid neon orange cheese, just as she'd pictured it, and as she stared at it and thought how grotesque it all looked, the waiter stuck his food-service-plastic-gloved hand into the basket and grabbed a fry, then dipped it into the cheese dip. "Looks like I'm going to have to try one!" he said as he put the cheese dipped fry into his mouth and chewed loudly. And then he turned and walked away.

Laura's mouth dropped, and so did Ben. Never in her life has she had a waiter so brazenly try food upon serving it.

After that, the day just wasn't the same.  I mean, how could it be??  But they continued on down Route 9 toward Amherst and that's when Laura saw the Burger King, still there after all these years.  She had told Ben about it many times -- how she worked one drive-thru shift on one winter day years and years ago; how she had to wear the disgusting Burger King uniform which was a brown polyester tunic and elastic-waist pants with one red stripe (ketchup) and one yellow stripe (mustard); how at the end of the long day learning the drive thru thing and manning the "flame-broiler" (a giant toaster oven with moving heat belt that the frozen hockey-puck burgers rode) she had to help clean the entire kitchen area -- a place where every single stainless-steel machine and counter and hood came apart and got hosed down; and how after all of that she had to mop the entire restaurant -- you know, with one of those giant heavy wet mops and metal buckets --and how it was a work-shift that almost killed her.

(Note:  Laura had endured and even flourished during her tenure at the International House of Pancakes near Cambridge working weekends  and the graveyard shift during high school and college vacations so readers shouldn't assume that she was a puss when it came to hard labor.)

Anyway, after pointing it out to Ben who was long past his love of Burger King kid's meals, they finally arrived in Amherst.  They parked, found the museums on the Amherst College campus, thought they both kind of sucked, and got back in the car and drove home.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Book Jackets

Maybe it's just Laura, but don't these jackets look incredibly similar? Both have one-liner titles!  That end with exclamation points!  Not that there's anything wrong with the similarity between the two -- it's not like Laura's complaining or anything.  She just figured she'd post them next to each other to see if anyone has an opinion....

Scary Carrot Nightmare Photo

Laura feels like she's channeling the fabulous The Mock Dock site by posting photos and then commenting on them but she couldn't help sharing this photo because it embodies everything Laura fears most about orange vegetables:  namely, having a whole bunch of them in your mouth and a giant bowl of them nearby.  Close friends and eagle-eyed brant readers know all about Laura's fear of orange vegetables -- especially carrots -- and including pumpkin, squash, yams, sweet potatoes (but NOT including orange peppers)(or orange FRUIT).  Anyway, here's the explanation of the gag behind the "Carrot-Off": 
"Legendary actress Glenn Close sat down with Jimmy Fallon Tuesday night and ended up shoving a bunch of baby carrots in her mouth.

Jimmy showed a picture Close had brought of her daughter with 42 baby carrots in her mouth after a family competition, then pulled out a bowl of veggies for a carrot-off on the show.

Close easily prevailed as she tucked them expertly up by her gums and Jimmy had giggle fits."
That's all Laura's going to write about this because looking at the picture is making her want to gag.  But she's wondering if she would still hate carrots if someone slipped her one of those purple ones.  She thinks she would....

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bird on Laura's Head. Literally.

Close friends, shrinks, and eagle-eyed brant-readers will be familiar with Laura's "Bird on her head" issue -- a phrase that came from one of Laura's oldest and bestest [sic] friends, book editor extraordinaire Julie Grau. Julie came up with this phrase to describe the look a certain boss of Laura's gave Laura every time she opened her mouth to say something. The boss would tilt her head and then stare at her, mystified, as if, Julie so rightly described, Laura had a bird on her head.

One of the reasons that phrase and that issue "resonated" so deeply with Laura is because she realized she'd spent most of her life dealing with people who looked at her in that exact same way -- as if, as Laura had always described it herself non-metaphorically, she was "weird." Sometimes people would actually give her the bird-on-the-head look AND say she was weird, but most of the time it was just the look. And believe Laura when she says that the look alone was, is, and always will be enough to make her feel like a giant loser.

Laura's trying to think of easy-to-describe examples of incidents where she got the total bird-on-the-head look -- besides every encounter with her aforementioned former boss who thought Laura was just 100% weird and bizarre and strange and God knows what else.  

  • There was Laura's insistence on wearing a three-piece brown corduroy suit (skirt, vest, jacket) for her bat mitzvah instead of, say, a fucking dress.
  • There was the time Laura dropped out of her graduate MFA writing program after only two days (total bird-on-the-head not only from the head of the program but from everyone she knew: friends, family) because it just didn't "feel" right.
  • The time Laura told some highly-ambitious ivy-league bound high-school acquaintances that she wasn't going to get Stanley Kaplan SAT tutoring because "she didn't believe in it." 
  • The time she had a "college rejection" party to offset her embarrassment at having gotten rejected from every one of her non-safety schools because of her stupid fucking non-belief in SAT tutoring.   
  • The time she told her Stanford-bound ex-boyfriend that she wasn't going to get Stanley Kaplan GRE tutoring because she "didn't believe in it" even though the last time she refused test prep classes her scores sucked so bad she didn't get into any of the colleges she wanted to get into.
  • The time she retook her GREs and English Subject Test -- still without taking any standardized test-taking-preparatory classes and -- big surprise!! -- and told a few close friends that she got the same appalling and embarrassingly low scores that she did the first time she took them.
  • The time she told her closest girlfriends that she wasn't going to wear anything special to meet her new boyfriend's ex-wife because "she didn't believe in that kind of thing."
  • The time she told her close friend that she was going to her 25th high school reunion when her close friend knew that she was completely 100% miserable in high school, mainly because kids gave her the bird-on-the-head look every minute of every day because she wore long skirts and boots instead of preppy kelly green sweaters and chinos.
  • The time she told that same close friend that she was so deeply depressed after attending that 25th reunion she needed new medication and couldn't understand why.
  • The time she told her matchmaker Patti Novak that she'd written half a book about failure and that it had failed to sell to a publisher -- during their first dinner together when Laura was "auditioning" to be her ghostwriter.
  • The time she told one of the geniuses at the Apple Store genius bar that she wished one of them just once would fucking say "I'm sorry for the inconvenience" for her having to bring in her dead MacBook four times to be shipped down to Tennessee for repairs.
Laura could go on and on and on here with bird-on-the-head moments -- and she'll probably check back every now and then to add more and to see if any of her readers will be inspired to share their own bird-on-the-head stories.  But the reason she wrote this post today is because when she and Ben spent some time with her nature-obsessed amazing-cook writer-friend Jenny from 7th grade -- one of the few people who has never ever given Laura a bird-on-the-head look -- Jenny took them on a bird feeding walk.  This essentially meant that they put birdseed in their hands and held their hands up straight and flat so that the birds would fly down and eat right out of their palms.  But Jenny also did something else:  she put birdseed on top of Laura's hat and on top of Ben's hat which -- drumroll please -- caused the birds to fly down and sit on their heads! Hence some real-life actual bird-on-the-head photos.  

Laura's main mission in life as a mother is to never give Ben a bird-on-the-head look and to try to keep him away from any and all horrible stupid annoying small-minded unimaginative non-creative un-weird people who could possibly give him a bird-0n-the-head look (not that all the people who gave Laura bird-on-the-head looks throughout her life were horrible stupid annoying small-minded unimaginitive non-creative un-weird people -- but you know what she means...).  So it's deeply ironic to her that she actually has pictures of herself and of Ben with birds on their heads...

And not only that:  the photo above is doubly perfect because it shows Ben giving Laura a bird-on-the-head look because she literally has a bird on her head!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fried Dough is the New Hugh Jackman

Fried dough is the new Hugh Jackman. This unscientific announcement is based on yesterday's brief paragraph about Laura and Ben discovering a place in Watertown that serves fried dough (in perfect bite-sized chunks) all year round which drew more than a few passionate comments about....fried dough. Technically, brants about Hugh Jackman -- anything to do with Hugh Jackman -- have drawn many more comments than her brief mention of fried dough yesterday but you get the drift. Helen Hill, Laura's new friend from L.A. (Sidebrant: Laura and Helen met in the parking garage underneath the Skirball Center after Laura's panel on Chick Lit back in January. They had so much to talk about there that they ended up taking the conversation out of the parking lot and onto email and then again onto Facebook where Laura regularly receives incredibly helpful and thoughtful and intuitive emails from Helen about the various things Laura is going through these days - oh did Laura happen to mention that Helen is a therapist?!? -- more on Helen eventually.) Anyway, Helen provided a link on Facebook to the Hungarian version of fried dough called Langos (or krumplislangos, langosh) -- here's a link she included to a site about "Ethnic Doughs" with a page called "Fried Dough Around the World" -- further confirming the fact that every culture has it's fill-in-the-blank: pizza, knish, ravioli, etc. The Italians have zepolle (little fried dough balls available at Saints Festivals), New Orleans has beignets (note: Laura is aware of the fact that if this were an SAT she would get the stupid question wrong because obviously "the Italians" and "New Orleans" are not comparable in their congruity [whatever that means], and the only reason she's saying "New Orleans" instead of "France" is because she actually ate beignets when she was in New Orleans about 15 years ago on Publicist-Duty and never ate them in France -- Laura's brant, as her loyal readers know [both of them] [hi Wendy] [hi Janet] is about authenticity, if nothing else), and if Laura had the time she write a whole long brant about other cultures/cuisines and their own versions of fried dough. But she doesn't have time for that. Because she has to finish her brant and spend the rest of the day taking Ben to his music lessons and his rehearsal for his next show, The Stones, and making sure the dog has pooped and peed a hundred times.

But Laura does have time to post the link to the page in Helen's link that has all of this information!  With illustrations and photos and descriptions all right there!  Go there and feast your eyes on all the cultural variations of fried dough and tell me if it doesn't make you want to roll yourself around in flour and jump in a fry-o-later....

And oh my God!-- there is even a history page on this site tracing fritters and fried lumps of pastry throughout the ages!  Thanks Helen for a veritable treasure trove of information on fried dough!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ben 's Two Week Vakay: Part 1

If you're anything like Laura who went to public school her whole life, including college, you have no idea about private schools and what their vacations are like. In fact, you have no idea that private schools aren't called private schools anymore but are now euphemistically referred to as "independent schools." Anyway, Laura learned that this year, along with the fact that "independent schools" have a two-week vacation in the spring -- in March -- instead of one one-week vacation in February and one one-week vacation in April like the loser plebes in public school do. This works out well if everyone you know goes to "independent schools" too, because that way you can all have your two-week March break together and make plans to go to warm sunny sandy places with umbrella drinks and laugh at all the public school kids stuck in school in between their two shitty-mini breaks.

Laura doesn't know anyone else in "independent schools" -- except for the kids Ben knows in his "independent school" -- and lucky for Laura the economy sucks otherwise she's positive most of them would have been away on real vacations instead of the usual "staycations" that Laura has become famous for during all the years that her own personal economy has sucked. Ben was actually able to have some playdates -- mostly skateboarding playdates with his other friend Ben -- Laura calls them "The Bens" -- and except for having a thousand Jewish-mother-you're-going-to-die-on-that-stupid-fucking-skateboard-even-with-that-helmut-on moments which are really completely unnerving and unrelaxing, especially since The Bens were skateboarding while Natasha Richardson was tragically dying of blunt trauma to the head due to a fall on a bunny ski slope. But Laura did what any modern mother would do to allay her fears -- she made calls and checked her email on her Blackberry and tried to ignore the fact that skateboarding is an incredibly dangerous sport that she wishes she'd never let Ben try, let alone do.

Let's just say, too, for the record, that two weeks is a long time for a kid's vacation. A lonnnnnnnnnng time to have a kid home from school -- a kid who is an only child (except for a puppy) -- a kid whose neighbor friends are not on vacation -- a kid who has (wait a second -- Laura's counting) -- 16 days on his hands. Which means 16 days to fill up with planned activities and interesting things to do and see and learn. Laura's good friend Jenny can vouch for the fact that Laura is not the planned-activities-and-interesting-things-to-do-and-see-and-learn kind of person, not just with kids but in any situation (Laura cites her friendship with Jenny, her oldest and bestest friend from 7th grade, because of all the times Jenny has come to visit Laura and Laura has only wanted to sit on the couch and talk, as opposed to all the times Laura has visited Jenny and Jenny has planned tons of amazing activities and interesting things to do and see and learn). So she's been hitting the Klon a lot the past week as she tries not to panic about boring Ben to death and having him finally realize what a fraud of a parent she is because she is so, for lack of a better word, lazy.

And so, in order to combat the possibility that Ben would finally look behind the curtain and see Laura for who she actually is -- Big Sitting Bum (what she would be called if they were Native Americans) -- Laura and Ben went on a mini-long-weekend-with-a-few-extra-days-attached road trip. They were going to meet up with her aforementioned friend Jenny and her boys and husband, and visit a few other people and places along the way. This is actually Laura's favorite kind of trip because one huge element of fear and phobia is absent: airplanes. Laura will go anywhere -- drive anywhere -- she doesn't care how long or how far -- happily and without complaint as long as she doesn't have to stop foot on a flying deathtrap.

Just like with any trip, packing the car came first, and so they packed the car up with the bare essentials (Laura likes more than anything to travel light), only this time they added the puppy, which threw off the whole packing-light thing. Laura realized as she was packing up wipes and plastic poop bags and treats and food and plastic containers to serve the food in if they were on the road during meal time and chew toys and squeaky toys and rawhide twists and the dog bed and the crate and a thousand other fucking things this one small 9-lb animal needs -- that having a puppy, or any kind of animal, is just like having a baby. Laura's sure this is one of the least original thoughts in the history of human thought -- people for thousands of years have been forgetting to put their pants on when they get in the car for a road trip because they've been too fucking distracted by making sure that their dog has their special organic low-fat biscuits and faux-sheepskin chew kitty -- but it's a completely new and earth-shattering realization for Laura. Not to get gross or anything, but she seriously can't remember the last time she pooped -- that's how obsessed and concerned with and conscious of Friday's bowel movements she's become.

[Brant-erruption: A quick thought just popped into Laura's head -- the phrase Vet-Scam. She thought of this last week when she and Ben brought Friday to the vet for a routine appointment -- you know, the kind where there's one last vaccination and maybe a heartworm pill involved -- meaning the kind where Laura didn't expect to be asked to fork over $204 fucking dollars upon departure. Call her crazy -- and she knows for a fact that the vet place they take Friday to is highly reputable and one of the absolute best -- but WTF?!?]

One of the biggest and most exciting things that happened during the initial part of their Staycation -- before they even left! -- was discovering a pizza place in nearby Watertown -- Stella's -- that serves -- are you all sitting down? -- Fried Dough Babies. Eagle eyed brant readers will remember a previous entry about fried dough -- Laura actually making fried dough in her kitchen the night before Ben's testicular-correcting surgery this past December and almost setting the house on fire. This means that instead of risking death by fried dough you can walk into this pizza place, order a slice of pizza, and then for dessert, a grease-absorbing paper-plate full of little pieces of fried dough covered in powdered sugar. No mess, no carnie atmosphere, no waiting until the middle of July or August for some crappy state fair or festival until you can walk around in the muggy buggy heat and humidity while shoving a greasy piece of fried dough the size of a Dumbo's ear into your mouth. As you can see from the photo at the top of the brant, Ben could not believe what an amazing thing this is: to be able to get fried dough whenever he wants. Of course, Laura is now terrified that she -- the original lover of fried dough -- Big Sitting Fried Dough Bum -- will start visiting Stella's with frightening frequency, even without Ben...

[more about Laura's staycation in the next installment....]

Monday, March 16, 2009

Becoming a Dog Person

Laura has become a dog person. She can't remember if she branted about the fact that they got a dog almost six weeks ago, but they did -- an adorable Shetland Sheepdog who is almost four months old now. Ben named her Friday, even though they picked her up on a Thursday, and she could not be cuter, despite the fact that no matter how many times a day Laura takes her out in the freezing cold to do her business -- and no matter how many times a day Friday actually does her business outside -- not to mention the fact that they're "crate-training her" (which is really confusing Laura since she's not sure if you're supposed to get the dog to pee in the crate or outside the crate, in which case, why have a crate at all?) -- Friday still manages to poop and pee throughout the house on a regular basis when left unattended for even a few minutes. Laura's trying to find a few minutes this week to Google the fuck (372) out of dog training and puppy training, but until then she's just a slave to Friday, chasing her around the house with a roll of papertowels and that spray that takes the poop

and pee smell out of carpets.
The weird thing about having a dog is that suddenly Laura is being perceived as a dog person which, trust me, she has never ever been. She has never been an across-the-board dog lover -- in fact, Laura has never liked slobbering yapping hyperactive dogs, even when they've been her friends' dogs. She wasn't raised with dogs and that's the difference between true dog people and non-dog people. Now, taking Friday to school to pick up Ben, or taking Friday to the dog park, people -- other dog people -- come up to her and start talking dog business, as if she is a dog-person, too. As with so many other issues in Laura's life, she feels uncomfortable with the fraudulence of pretending to be something she's not, but, then again, maybe she is becoming a dog person after all. More on this later.

Karen Pike, Photographer, and Friend from Hebrew School, is Friday's Official Photographer. Laura can't believe part of that sentence when she looks at it and actually parses it: i.e., the fact that "friend" and "from Hebrew School" could actually co-exist in the same sentence, but there it is, and it's actually true in this one rare case. Karen was even in Laura's Hebrew School carpool, the motion-sick-fest that occurred before and after every day there, and Karen was often the loud one in the car, making trouble. Laura knew Karen a little bit in high school, but over 25 years passed before they saw each other at a high school friend's daughter's bat mitzvah and reconnected. Despite the misery of Hebrew School, Karen is now a happy person -- living in Vermont with her three kids and her wife, Gillian, and a whole bunch of dogs, growing her photography business. Laura thinks Karen's business should grow really big because the pictures she took of Ben and Friday a few weeks ago are probably the best pictures of Ben Laura has and will ever have. Karen, of course, was just snapping a little before she left -- she wasn't even trying to take great pictures -- and Laura can't understand why she can't figure out how to work her Nikon Coolpix well enough to take a decent picture given the fact that back in high school she and her sister had a dark room in their basement! Again, Laura's going to try to get a few minutes this week so that she can also Google the fuck (373) out of photography and camera settings, but until then she's hoping that you'll take a minute to check out Karen's website and blog:

Obligatory Hugh Jackman Comments: Okay, let's just deal with the big elephant in the room. Laura thought Hugh was fabulous, and doesn't understand why so many people didn't think so. Clearly opinions were split, as they usually are with such things -- judging Oscar Night's new emcee and new format is a completely subjective task, obviously -- but seriously, Laura can't believe that people don't have better things to do with their time than rip apart hugely talented beyond-belief handsome Oscar hosts for no good reason. Also, Speaking of Hugh Jackman: (isn't Laura always?), Laura would like to call your attention to this paragraph, which ran in a Spanish newspaper -- "Someone Like You" must have recently been released there on DVD or something -- and the reason she'd like to call your attention to it is because her name and Hugh Jackman's appear in the same paragraph.

Hugh Jackman, Ashley Judd y la oscariza Marisa Tomey son los tres pesos pesados del mundo de la interpretación que comparten escenario en 'Siempre a tu lado', filme que estrena cuatro. Tony Goldwin, actor del 'Último Samurai', que se estrenó como director con 'Un paseo por la luna', dirige esta comedia romántica basada en la novela de Laura Zigman 'Fauna Conyugal'.
Laura would write more, but she has to take Friday out to do her business. Again. For like the 80th time today....

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hugh Jackman Rehearsing for The Big Night.

This is great new video of Hugh Jackman rehearsing for The Big Night.

All Laura has to say is this: Yum.

Jumping on the Hugh Jackman Bandwagon

Yes, okay, so Laura kind of fell of the face of the earth for the past few weeks (personal "issues") but in the time she's been away from her brant the world has jumped on the Hugh Jackman bandwagon. Big time.

And can you blame them?

Tomorrow night is Oscar night and people -- people besides the ever dementedly obsessed Laura! -- are getting Hugh Jackman Fever like never before.

Case in point: this article by Joel Stein of Time Magazine. See Joel Stein's face stuck on to the little body next to Hugh Jackman's face stuck on to another little body? Well, Stein was approached by Jackman's producing partner, John Palermo, to help write for the big night. What follows here if you click on the link is Stein's hilarious account of working with Hugh Jackman which confirms everything nice Laura has ever said about him -- based, you know, on one brief 5-minute encounter almost 10 years ago. But whatever. Here's a really great little excerpt:
"The only proof that we really were writing for the Oscars is that Jackman would visit our room for a couple of hours each day. To my surprise, the best kind of boss is a sexy boss. Jackman greeted each of us with a giant hug, which would have been a perfect test of how gay I am, except I was totally focused on making sure I wasn't crushed to death by his giant lats. So ... pretty gay. Jackman would laugh uproariously at everything we suggested, which is one of the huge advantages of writing for a noncomedian. He acted out all our stuff, belted out our songs while standing on furniture and even watched most of Be Kind Rewind with us for no good reason. He was so omniscient in his niceness that not only did he look sad when we played him the Christian Bale freak-out tape, but he also, after agreeing to record a parody of it, called Bale to make sure it was cool if we put it online. He even let me try on the real, $18,000 plastic Wolverine claws, which made me want to do a bit about the moon and body hair; the reaction made me realize I probably should have seen an X-Men movie before writing for Jackman."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

ABC News: A Memoir of Mighty Proportions

ABC News: A Memoir of Mighty Proportions

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"The Mighty Queens of Freeville" is finally here!!!

Here comes another one of Laura's I-Know-This-Amazing-Person-Who's-Done-Something-Amazing brants -- the kind of greatness-by-association she often engages in, which might sound like name-dropping but which really isn't. After all, Laura can't help the fact that she knows really incredibly talented people who do really incredible things like write great books (like Amy Dickinson) and just happen to also be great friends (like Amy Dickinson).  But there's just no way around this one so she's just going to jump right in -- brag-branting about friends be damned.

Laura branted a few months ago about Amy's book, The Mighty Queens of Freeville, which is truly one of the best books she can remember reading.  It made her do Oprah's "Ugly Cry" and also do the "Ugly Laugh" a few months ago when she read it in galley-form on the Acela to New York City, and she's been waiting and waiting and waiting for the book to finally come out.  

Well it's finally out.  

And today is it's official publication date.  

And everyone should go out and buy a copy.

And until they can go out and buy a copy, they should go to the book's official site and watch a wonderful book trailer about Amy and her book and about Freeville, NY, which is where Amy grew up and where she returned to with her two-year-old daughter Emily after her marriage ended, and where she lives part-time now, spending the other time being the Chicago Tribune's "Ask Amy" columnist in Chicago.  Laura can attest to the absolute authenticity of the trailer because she was in Freeville this past summer for Amy's wonderful wedding (written up in the New York Times Vows section) and it looks just like it does in the book trailer.  

Laura can also attest to the absolute authenticity of Amy because Laura has known her for about 12 years, back to the time when they both lived in Washington, D.C. in the Kennedy-Warren apartment building both of them having recently had great career-things happen to them (Laura had quit her day job after Animal Husbandry and had just finished writing Dating Big Bird, and Amy had just added to her NPR freelancing a fabulous new job as "Family columnist" for Time magazine.  It was kind of a charmed time because Laura and Amy had both moved up through the building -- as financial times got better -- from smaller apartments to two of the best apartments in the building:  Amy in the center 3 bedroom, and Laura in one of the side 2 bedrooms with views of the National Zoo.  And unlike most people who live in great apartments, Laura and Amy were actually able to spend time in them, enjoying the views, enjoying the spaciousness of the rooms, enjoying having people over for coffee in the late mornings or late afternoons.

Back in the days of the Kennedy-Warren, when Laura was still single and even after, when Laura wasn't single anymore and was a new mother, Laura would pad down "The Shining"-style hallways of that wonderful Art Deco building, take the elevator a few floors down, and come into Amy's apartment, which was always full of light.  Light from the wall of windows that faced the front of the building, and light from Amy herself, who always seemed to be full of something interesting or hilarious to talk about.  Amy even threw Laura her baby shower -- on a hot and humid Sunday afternoon, Laura about 50 pounds over her legal limit, and Amy in a signature sleeveless belted Vintage party dress -- a lovely afternoon that someone committed to about 6 hours of videotape that Laura still has somewhere but can't bear to watch because of how little neck and how many chins she had at that point in her pregnancy.

But the best part of knowing Amy then -- and the best part of knowing Amy now -- is that whenever Laura had a problem -- and believe me, Laura frequently has big problems -- she could always count on Amy to talk to.  It sounds ridiculous and like the biggest most giant cliche to say that Amy the famous advice columnist gave great advice but it's true -- Amy gives great advice.  Just like she did then, and just like she did last week, when Laura emailed her with her latest unfunny life riddle and an hour later she emailed Laura back a wise and true and perfect note.

So Laura feels compelled to brant about Amy and her new book.  Not that Laura thinks her brant drives people into bookstores or anything -- she's not that demented! In fact, promoting a book that doesn't actually need promoting reminds her a little of way back when, in 1998, when she went out on her first book tour to promote Animal Husbandry.  It was sooooooo long ago (11 years) that Chick Lit wasn't really a thing yet, and Laura can remember going to her signings and readings and telling people about this new really cool book about being single that had just come out in England and that was going to be published in the U.S. in a few months.  She knew about the book because one of her closest friends (they knew each other as assistants at Random House decades ago) had a huge job at the time at Viking/Penguin which was publishing Bridget Jones's  Diary in the U.S., and he had sent Laura a copy of the manuscript because he thought she'd like it.  Of course she loved it, and thought it was hilarious, which is why she started using her platform to inform people about Helen Fielding's forthcoming book. As if Helen Fielding needed her help!   But how was Laura to know how absurd it would be for her to be "advancing" for Bridget Jones's Diary when a few months later Bridget Jones's Diary became a monster bestseller that eclipsed Animal Husbandry and every other book written by a female for the next two years. 

This feels a little like that in the sense that Laura knows that Amy's book is going to be a monster bestseller -- funny and sad and deeply moving and the kind of book you're really really sad to finish and want to start re-reading immediately -- and it's one of the very very few books that becomes a monster bestseller and actually deserves to be.