Saturday, June 30, 2007

Being Honest

It happened the other night. I was miserable. My flu symptoms came back – aches, thudding head, fever. Plus it was hot, so hot that a heat warning was issued for our area. Plus only one of our ACs was working – the other decided to leak into our landlady’s apartment and we had to turn it off and take it out. Plus Movie Dictator and I had an idiotic fight.

Did I mention I was miserable? I hid in the bedroom – the only vaguely cool room in the apartment – and Movie Dictator insisted on stewing in his office, and all of this made me think about blogs and how we often try to present the best and cutest versions of our lives in our posts. At this point, I rely on blogs to keep in touch with many of my friends. And I swear, judging from the blogs, they all seem to have perfect lives, perfect relationships, perfect children, perfect houses...

And I’m guilty of the same.

Part of it, of course, is the issue of privacy. Blog is not a diary, and no one wants the deeply intimate and possibly troubling details of their lives to be available to strangers. Or acquaintance. Or even friends sometimes.

And yet, and yet…as I read all the impossibly cute posts adorned with the impossibly cute pictures, I start getting a sense that all my friends are leading idyllic lives. They never fight with their partners. They never cry. They never consider therapy or worry about their health. And then, I go and add my own impossibly cute stories and pictures, and my friends are probably thinking I’m leading the perfect life as well – never fight, never cry, never consider therapy… Am I living a lie?

Not that these posts aren’t true. They are. It’s more about what I omit.

But of course, I have to omit things. This blog is a public thing. It’s not even anonymous. By now, it’s linked to my “official” website and anyone can read it and figure out who I am. Editors, booksellers, book-festival organizers, other writers, potential readers. Which is to say, I can’t be self-indulgent, or gossipy, or snarky. Nor can I complain about my old Somerville landlord -- oh, if only you knew how much I want to complain about him! – and how much he contributed to the misery of this past week. Nor would I want to bitch about Movie Dictator – who, apart from that one idiotic fight we had, has been an angel.

Maybe there’s no solution. Maybe everyone has to reach his or her own balance, decide how much private information he/she is willing to divulge. I’d be curious to hear how others who have “public” blogs are dealing with this. Or those who went from private to public ones. Do you miss the anonymity?

But it’s not just about blogs. I’ve been in America for almost 15 years now, but I still feel it – people here are kind of reserved. Too reserved. And I’ve learned to be reserved as well. The way I understand it, it’s either a matter of politeness – people are afraid to burden their friends with their problems – or it’s a matter of appearances – people wanting to pretend their lives are better than they are. For me, it’s both. That’s not to say that heart-to-heart conversations never happen. They do. But sometimes it takes a while to establish that degree of trust. And even then there are limits and boundaries. Sometimes, we are more likely to talk about a health condition – a UTI or an IBS – than about couples’ counseling. And as for sex, no one ever has problems in that department.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to my best and oldest friend in Russia. We’d known each other since we were twelve. She told me she would never need therapy. If something was wrong with her life, she’d go to her girlfriends and they’d comfort her. That’s right. Comfort. Having left Moscow in 1992, I’m hardly an expert on its current culture. But what she said felt true. There was always a culture of lament in Russia. People would lament their personal lives, their work situation, their living conditions, the country in general, and it wasn’t considered shameful or anything. It was normal. We used to say that a real friend is someone you can call in the middle of the night if you’re having a hard time. I have some wonderful close friends here, but the only person I would dare to call in the middle of the night is my sister. (Because she’s family and won’t disown me : )

And now, in the spirit of honesty, I should reveal some things I’m not terribly proud of or happy about:

1) I’m currently reading a book called The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. With a pencil in hand.

2) My health is freaking me out, and it’s not just the flu symptoms. I don’t know what it is. Maybe anxiety. Maybe a combination of things. I can’t go to my regular doctor, because she’s all the way in Boston and because I don’t like her and because she’ll prescribe antibiotics, which I don’t want, or send me in for tests – i.e., more trips to Boston. Instead, I have an acupuncture/Chinese medicine appointment on Monday, which is something that’s expensive and that I use as a last resort.

3) It’s been a month since we moved to Connecticut, and I’ve done almost no writing. I’m scattered, distracted, poorly organized, and I’m hating myself for it. In fact, I’ve done almost nothing since last summer – apart from some more or less serious Chicken edits. My novel’s been languishing. Not because I’ve been avoiding it, but because I can’t quiet my mind enough. There’s always something that’s taking priority: teaching, job search, paying bills, buying groceries, having a long conversation with Movie Dictator. I feel like I’ve wasted a year somehow (I still measure time in school years) – especially when I think of my amazing writer friends who've managed to finish drafts of their novels while adjuncting at multiple schools or giving birth to multiple babies.

Anyway... I think this should be enough for the first dose of truthfulness. What do you think? And now that I’ve confessed some of these things, I can go back to writing cute posts about my idyllic life in Connecticut.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Being Healthy

I desperately want to go swimming. I got a membership at a community center next town over, a comfortable swim suite, and the rest of the swim accessories. But I can’t go. Because I think I have a bit of a flu.

Flu in the summer? It just doesn’t make sense. But I think that’s what I have. I’m usually okay in the morning, but in the afternoon/evening I start getting achy all over. I also get a bit of a fever. I spent most of yesterday in bed, reading and sleeping. Movie Dictator seems to have something similar – though not as bad. We’re pathetic. We’ve been taking Lemsip, which is this amazing UK lemon drink with paracetamol, perfect for aches and pains and fever.

This flu—or whatever it is we have—is really messing with my plans. I just started exercising. Last week I went to two yoga classes, and this week I was going to get into swimming and maybe even running (or at least using one of those low-impact elliptical trainer things). Also, I’ve been trying to eat well. On Saturday I went to one of the nearby Farmers’ Markets and bought strawberries, new potatoes, scallions, and something called chard (a substitute for spinach, but, as I discovered, way more bitter). I try to eat fresh salads every day, drink plenty of water, take multi-vitamins. I am still hoping to go hiking this summer, learn to ride a bicycle, and try indoor rock-climbing Manchester.

To motivate myself, I watch Amazing Race (recently finished Season 5). Somehow it makes me want to be athletic -- fast, strong, adventurous. Though actually, Season 5 was kind of disappointing, especially the three finalist couples, one married, two dating. All three women were pathetic and refused to do any “road-blocks” (a task that must be performed by only one member of the team). Honey, you’re doing it – was their standard response. No matter what the task required -- running or climbing or just getting dirty – Honey, you’re doing it. They would snicker at the camera and admit that they are basically doing nothing. But it didn’t seem to upset them. Nor did it bother their partners.

If I ever do anything like Amazing Race – which I’m not really planning to, but it’s a fun fantasy to have – I’d want to be able to do any of the tasks, from eating a kilogram of black caviar to hand-gliding to going down some crazy rapids.

Fantasies aside, though, I do need to get healthy. This fall will be crazy: a lot of book-related travel + new teaching job + writing + everything else. So I better train for this marathon. And shake off whatever bug I've got. And go swimming.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Tea and Sympathy

Here we continue to explore the gems of Willimantic and the nearby towns.

A few days ago, we went to the Third Thursday festival – which takes place on…you guessed it…third Thursday of the month, 6-9 pm, from May to October. The Main Street in Willimantic gets closed for traffic, vendors set up their shops, and people pour in. There’s food. There’s live music. There’s some political activism and a couple of palm readers. I got cornered into a 30-second survey about dreams. Ukrainian food proved to be disappointing. But falafels were quite good. The festival wasn’t huge – and in fact, Movie Dictator thought it was kind of pathetic – but I liked it. It was good to see so many people out on the streets and enjoying themselves. Besides, for a town as small as Willimantic, I thought it was rather impressive. It might not have been as politically adventurous as, say, a similar festival in Somerville (which had not one but two pro-Palestinian tables), but it’s better than nothing.

(Speaking of political activism, Willimantic has something called, Wrench in the Works, which for some reason, I keep calling Monkey Wrench. It’s a “member-run coffeehouse and social justice center.” Movie Dictator has gone a couple of times -- they have a movie night on Thursday -- and I keep encouraging him to keep going. But we’ll see. I can't tell yet how active or organized they are. Though I see that on Wednesday Green Party is having a meeting there. Hmm...)

Another gem we discovered is this little brewing place that offers beer-brewing and wine-making classes. We wandered in there in search of malt (for bread) and discovered that the person running the place is currently making cheese! We watched him for a bit and had a long conversation about cheese-making. The guy was a fountain of useful information. We also ended up buying some malt and a book on cheese-making.

But what about tea, I'm sure you're wondering by now. Well, we found a place, about 30 miles from Willimantic, called Mrs. Bridges Pantry, which doesn’t sound all that British, but it is. It’s got a lovely tearoom and a shop. I had tea with a cucumber-and-cheese sandwich, all the while feeling like a character in an Oscar Wilde's play. Movie Dictator had tea, steak-and-kidney pie, and mushy peas. Afterwards, we stocked up on pies and sausages and marmite and Bisto sauce, and drove away feeling slightly broke but quite happy.

Friday, June 22, 2007

New Website

The “Chicken” finally has an official website:

Check it out. It’s mostly finished, except for reviews (which I don’t have yet) and a few other things. Also, the list of readings will be updated. I'm currently working on scheduling something in Seattle and Pittsburgh.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Food Matters

Movie Dictator has been baking bread. Corn Bread. Wheat Bread. He’s also been making pizza, hummus, yogurt, and biltong (a South African version of jerky).

Ever since he arrived in the US -- a little over a year ago -- food has been an issue. He said everything was too sugary, like candy. Even plain bread. Even vegetables. I didn’t understand what he meant at first. We bought some green peas at a Stop and Shop, and yeah, I thought they were sort of sugary. But it wasn’t until we got some other peas at a farm-store on Rt. 2 that I really tasted the difference. It was unmistakable.

Back when my family first arrived in America – almost 15 years ago – I didn't know all that much about food. Which is to say I’d eat just about anything. I was that hungry. We were unspoiled and unused to the ideas of healthy eating. (In Russia, you ate anything you could find in mostly-empty stores.) We were equally unused to the large quantities of pre-processed, pre-packaged, pre-cooked foods. We did notice that strawberries were huge and mostly void of any taste. (“Pink cucumbers,” my father called them.) But overall, we were just thrilled at the abundance of everything. No long lines. No shortages.

I know better now, of course. Thanks to Movie Dictator, I actually know quite a bit. We’ve watched all sorts of documentaries about food industry and supermarkets (in the US and UK), and I’ve read What To Eat by Marion Nestle. I also started paying attention to the ingredients lists on the packaging.

(A side note: The most disturbing bit of information, I guess, was a documentary we watched just a few days ago, The Future of Food, about genetically modified foods. It’s the same old story: big companies (e.g., Monsanto) trying to take over the world, and politicians, either on the board of those companies or otherwise generously supported, doing everything they can to help. Here’s how these companies operate: when the fields of small farmers get accidentally (or allegedly!) contaminated by Monsanto seeds, Monsanto takes them to court and they are ordered to destroy all of their seeds, go into bankruptcy, give up their farms, etc. The scary thing is, it virtually guarantees that in a little while there won’t be any non-genetically modified seeds left. Even scarier is that these same companies are trying to do this abroad, by intentionally cross-pollinating fields, leaving the people to either starve or to pay to the likes of Monsanto.)

Back to our story: Movie Dictator’s theory is that food is the reason there’s so much cancer in America. (Plus, it’s overpriced.) So in an effort to stay healthy and not broke, we’ve been focusing on homemade and un-American foods. Back in Boston, we had a whole list of ethnic stores we frequented: Super 88 (Asian Supermarket) in Brighton, Russian shops in Brookline, a series of Lebanese/Middle Eastern shops in Watertown, a little shop in Methuen that made British-style meat and vegetable pies.

Now we’re in this new location, and the search begins all over. We spent this past weekend hunting for good Farmers' Markets. Given how rural this area is, we figured there would be a lot. Every town, in fact, seems to have its own, and there are quite of few of these little towns around. Unfortunately, even the bigger markets were disappointing small. Yes, I understand, it’s still too early in the season. (But I’m spoiled. I lived in Madison, WI, for a year, the home of the biggest farmers’ market in the country.) Anyway, we did buy a few things: strawberries and farm-made sausages.

We also went to West Hartford, where we found a huge Asian supermarket (better than Super 88!) that sells inexpensive vegetables; a Vietnamese restaurant next door, full of wonderfully healthy food; a Russian store (and a bookstore across the street) – small but well-stocked; an Indian shop, a Middle-Eastern shop, a true-blue Irish pub that does fish-and-chips and bangers-and-mash. It’s a bit of a drive to get to West Harvard, but not too bad.

And of course, when everything else fails, right here in Willimantic, we have a food Co-op, a Polish deli, and a bunch of Hispanic-food groceries we haven’t even explored yet.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

You Are Your First and Last Publicist

The line comes from the panel on publicity I attended back in May (at the Muse and Marketplace), and though I said quite a few disparaging things about the panel itself, the line is sort of true. No one cares about your book as much you do.

I do have a publicist now at Norton. Her name is Samantha and she’s wonderful. We’ve been e-mailing back and forth, exchanging ideas, and she’s been in touch with several booksellers. Things are starting to happen, it seems. She and I are in agreement that independent bookstores are the way to go – especially after Barnes & Noble declined to set up a reading for me at their Squirrel Hill location in Pittsburgh. I mean, are you kidding me? Squirrel Hill is where the book is set, where all the Russians are, and where my family has lived for the last 15 years. Hello?! But no, someone decided it wouldn’t be cost effective, I guess. So I’m exploring alternative routes. For example, booksellers who don’t have bookstores but sell books at the author events they organize. For example, fabulous Stephanie Gayle, whose book, My Summer of Southern Discomfort, is coming out in just a few weeks, will have her book release party/reading at Red Bones, a Southern Barbecue restaurant in Somerville, Mass. The people who organize the event are Haley Booksellers. I just got in touch with them, and maybe they’ll help me with Pittsburgh.

Other things that are in the works: readings around Boston; a reading/party here in Connecticut; a reading in Chicago on Nov. 4th (at Myopic Books), where my Syracuse buddy, Adam Levin, is running a fiction series. I’m also hoping/planning to be at the Wisconsin Book Festival in October. It’s going to be a busy fall.

Truth is, I’m really enjoying this -- coming up with ideas, getting to know booksellers, contacting acquaintances and friends. My web site is almost done, and I also need to create a myspace account. I like being my own publicist. Though of course, it helps to have a real one, too, who knows the ropes, can send copies of the book to the appropriate people, contact booksellers, order promotional postcards. So thank you, Samantha!

And now a little bit of bragging: I’ve developed this unfortunate habit (shared by many) of self-googling. Or rather, googling the title of my book. And last night, I came upon this article from Publishers Weekly. It’s nice to know that some booksellers (completely unrelated to me) liked the book. And it’s nice to be listed as one of the Indie Darlings, especially next to Junot Diaz and Peter Hoeg.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Frogs Are For Real!

The other day somebody asked me, “Have you heard the frogs yet?” I thought it was a joke, frogs being the symbol, the legend, the fun part of Willimantic (see one of the earlier posts with the pictures of the Frog Bridge).

And then, last night, I heard them. Loud and clear. Really loud and clear. They seem to live in an abandoned swimming pool next door, and they go quiet when they detect any motion around them. Fun neighbors to have, don’t you think?

Frogs aside, I’m heading to Boston this afternoon for a major Wisconsin reunion. It will be good to see some familiar and some new faces.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Slow Sunday and Movie Reviews

This weekend Willimantic celebrated its Victorian Days. From Afternoon Tea Sandwiches to the guided tour of Willimantic Cemetery to the 10 Victorian Gems (one of which is where our neighbors live). For two days we listened to the clomp-clomping of horse-drawn wagons. (Predictably, the streets of Willimantic are now covered with horseshit.) We watched much of the commotion from our windows – the horses and some big celebration over at the neighbors’ house. But we took no part in any of it. Maybe next year.

I’ve been trying to take it easy this weekend. Some e-mailing. Some slow unpacking. Some minor shopping. Some movie-watching. Speaking of which, here’s my new list of “recently watched.” Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Planet of the Apes
Beneath the Planet of the Apes
Escape from the Planet of the Apes
I know, it’s almost shameful that I hadn’t seen any of these before. I fell in love with the ending of the first one. (Just like everybody else, I guess.) The second one wasn’t as good, but I liked the sequence in what used to be a subway station. The third one was just plain silly. I have to admit though, Kim Hunter was strangely likable as Zira.

Robert Altman’s movie about movie business. It’s famous for its incredibly long opening shot. If that’s what movie business is really like…then I don’t understand why Movie Dictator wants to be a part of it. I loved the moment when Peter Gallagher suggested that writers could be eliminated from the movie business altogether. (Somehow it made me think of publishing business.)

The Incredible Shrinking Man
A man is exposed to radiation and begins to shrink. Watch him struggle with a cat and a spider. Very Gulliver’s Travels. It got a little boring somewhere in the middle. But the ending was really good. Made in 1957, it could use some of the modern special effect. And what do you know? The remake is scheduled to come out in 2008.

Paper Moon
I couldn’t believe this was made in 1973. It had a total feel of a depression-era movie, which was, of course, the whole idea. Ryan O’Neal and Tatum O’Neal are a pair of crooks who are made for each other. She’s eight (or nine?) and she’s a natural. He might be her father. Of course in real life, he is.

Go West
My first introduction to Buster Keaton. What a face! He’s a cowboy on a ranch. There’s a girl. There’s a cow. There’s a train chase. There’s love. I hope there's more to come.

The Last Man on Earth
The man in question is played by Vincent Price, and the reason he’s the last is because of a vampire infestation. They are sluggish vampires though, sort of like zombies but slower, and the movie itself is, well, sluggish.

Hitchcock at his best. World War II. A ship is sunk by Germans, and a few survivors are stranded in a lifeboat, along with one accidentally captured German. Is he to be killed? Is he to be trusted? Tallulah Bankhead plays a hard-as-nails reporter. (She reminded me of Bette Davis.) Now, you know how Hitchcock always made cameo appearance in his movies? Guess how he managed it in this one!

Soylent Green
Near-future circa 1973. Extreme poverty, pollution, and over-population. The rich get apartments equipped with live-in concubines, who are referred to as “furniture.” Food as we know it has all but disappeared (unless you’re one of the privileged few). Instead, the masses are fed by something artificial. And one police detective (Charlton Heston) is about to find out exactly what it is. Fun, but a bit dated.

A spy movie – based on a true story. I thought it was okay. (Plus it had Laura Linney.) Movie Dictator thought it was predictable as hell.

An ailing old man (Peter O’Toole), who was once a famous actor. A grumpy young girl, his best friend’s niece’s daughter, who appears one day at his best friend’s flat. An unlikely connection. Either he’s being taken advantage or she is being changed and seduced by him. Or both. A quiet gem of a movie. Peter O’Toole is glorious, and the casual banter among the characters is so much better than any Hollywood dialogue. The movie’s got the look, feel, and pace of a European movie. It felt almost Russian.

Mommie Dearest
Faye Dunaway plays an aging Joan Crawford, who adopts two little children and proceeds to make their life a living hell. The most famous line: “No... wire... hangers.” It’s based on a memoir of her adopted daughter, Kristina, and while I feel the woman’s pain, it doesn’t make for a very interesting movie. Once you realize that the "Mommie" in question is genuinely psychotic and needs medical help, there’s very little left to say. Instead of the daughter’s sob story, I would much rather see a story of Joan Crawford herself, from her early days (see Grand Hotel!) to her disintegration.

An Evening With Kevin Smith (1 and 2)
Kevin Smith, aka Silent Bob, aka the director of Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, etc., etc., goes on tour. The first installment is a compilation of the talks he did at various universities. In the second one, he goes to Canada, and then to England. The talks are not really talks but q&a sessions, except he doesn’t really answer questions, but tells stories. He does it very informally, and he goes on tangents a lot, so a typical answer can easily take 20 minutes. He’s very funny. Everything he says feels improvised. Movie Dictator totally loves him – because the man can talk! a lot! (He also loves his movies and general attitude towards life.) I love him too -- watched the whole thing while packing and scanning papers in preparation for the move – but I’m also more critical. I though in part 1, he was a bit evasive in his answers/stories. I mean, when a young college kid asks you how to finance a movie, and you tell him, charge it on your credit card… I don’t know. Even if that’s what you did, it’s still not cool. Funny, yes, but not very generous. But that’s just some minor criticism. He got better in part 2. There were so many highlights I could write about here, but it would take forever. So just find the DVDs.

Lord of the Rings
Extended version! I’d seen the first and the third one when they came out, but missed the second one. Now I got to see them all – on three consecutive evening. There are plenty of fans out there, both of the book and the movie, so I don’t feel like I need to say much. (There are detractors, too. Just ask Kevin Smith!) I myself read the book back in Russia – in Russian! -- and “Baggins” was translated as “Sumkins” (“bag” in Russian is “sumka”). What I love the most about the book and the movie is that incredible sadness that comes at the end. The journey changes and darkens you somehow. You should be celebrating, but you can’t.

A documentary by a young actress (Annabelle Gurwitch), who gets fired by Woody Allen. (Apparently, he tells her she’s so bad it’s like she’s retarded.) But the young actress won’t be deterred. She gets her revenge by gathering up some actor friends and other individuals and doing a film about the experience of getting fired. Turns out, almost everyone has a story to tell, and much of them are hilarious. But it gets serious, too, when she interviews the workers at a GM plant or talks to the woman who is fired for being a smoker (turns out, in some states companies are allowed to do that and more). Overall, the movie is really well made. It’s entertaining and tongue-in-cheek (imitating the style of Woody Allen’s movies themselves); it’s informative; and Annabelle Gurwitch is charismatic enough to make the whole thing work. Good for her!

The Night of the Hunter
A stylish black-and-white movie about good and evil. A murderous preacher, two little kids on the run, and the old woman with the heart of gold who rescues them. Movie Dictator is convinced that this is something that must have inspired David Lynch. I sort of agree, especially given the movie’s eerie opening scenes.

A gorgeous anime from Japan about dreams being invaded, modified, corrupted, stolen, etc. The logistics of the plot can be a little tough to follow, but the morphing images and the surreal, dreamy quality of the whole thing make up for any glitches in the plot. It’s so vivid, you just can’t look away.

Autumn in New York
Oh Hollywood! I had to keep my mouth shut, knowing how much Movie Dictator loves Winona Rider. But I had to wonder, what kind of a log line you write for a script like that? Let’s see: a handsome womanizer (played by Richard Gere) falls for a young dying girl (Winona Rider). She changes him forever. But only miracle can save her. How do you sell a script like that -- especially when the dialogue is trite and the characters lack any sort of personality? How do you get away with a scene when a girl starts collapsing at a skating rink? Haven't we seen it in The Love Story already?

Crying Out Love, in The Center of The World
More sickness. More death. A Japanese melodrama that’s way too long. A young man is supposedly searching for his fiancĂ© (a young, beautiful, limping girl, who disappears after discovering a tape she’s long forgotten about) and in the process, he is remembering his high-school love, long-lost to leukemia. It could’ve been okay, in a good tear-jerker sort of way, but it needed some major cuts. I did wonder how they were going to tie up the guy’s memories to his limping girlfriend’s story. This kept me going for a while. But in the end, I was too tired to care, let alone feel anything.

A rare treat from Movie Dictator, who found this one for me. A Russian movie with subtitles, which means we watched it together. It was just before our move, and I desperately needed a diversion, something sweet and beautiful. The movie isn't terribly orginal. A young woman is a DJ at a radio station in St. Petersburg (or Piter). A young man is an architect who's about to move to Germany for work. She loses her cell phone, he finds it, and then they try to meet and keep missing each other. Sounds familiar? Sure! But that's not the point. The whole movie is so gorgeously filmed, it's like a love letter to St. Petersburg. Plus it has a great soundtrack. I'm getting a little soppy here, but this simple movie made me feel so many things, a bit of nostalgia (even though I'm from Moscow), a tiny bit of sadness because I'm a city girl moving to rural Connecticut, all the small ways in which I identified with the characters, or perhaps recognized something of them in myself. And what I want now is the ring-tone from from the cell phone the girl has in the movie.

Friday, June 1, 2007

We Did It!

We’ve moved! And it went fine! And we’re almost half-way unpacked! And it’s June already! June in Romantic Willimantic. I’m pottering around the new apartment, admiring its spaciousness and coolness and making all kinds of plans for it. Mostly, though, I’m still recovering.

All moves are tough – everybody knows that – and this one was no exception, stressful and physically demanding. But unlike all the previous moves I’ve done, it wasn’t as lonely and soul-crashing. This time I was moving with a partner, and it made all the difference. Emotionally I was fine.

The move itself went swimmingly. We had the best movers, and if you’re moving any time soon and if you’re living anywhere around Boston, talk to me! I’ll put you in touch with these guys. They were amazing in every way!

Our first night in Romantic Willimantic, we visited a great fresh-sea-food place (store and takeout), where we bough two orders of excellent fish and chips (to be put in the refrigerator and eaten the next day). Then we went to a charming little Mexican restaurant “Cinco de Mayo,” where I quickly got drunk on one glass of sangria.

Have I mentioned how much I love our new apartment? (One of these days I’ll take some pictures and post them here.) I also love our quiet street and the overall neighborhood. It’s very green here. You can sit on the deck and watch the trees, the birds, the squirrels. There’s more space between houses, but the neighbors are very friendly and talkative. On our first night, some neighbors invited us over for some wine (as if I needed any more alcohol at that point : ) We sat in their lovely garden with tikki lights and talked for a while.

The next day (Sunday) was spent on shopping, which seems to come with every move: Home Depot! Wallmart! Linens-n-Thing! We spent way too much money, but that too is inevitable. We even became grownups and bought curtains!

Then on Monday, I went to New York. For Jewish Book Network Festival.

How does one get from Willimantic to New York? Easy. Especially if one has Mia the GPS device. I drove to New Haven, which took 1 hour and 10 minutes. Then I took a train to New York, which took 1.5 hours. I made one mistake though. Instead of taking Amtrak (expensive), I should have taken one of Metro-North (sp?) trains, which run every hour, cost a lot less, take a tiny bit longer, and end up at Grand Central Station (instead of Penn).

Going to New York right after the move wasn’t the easiest thing. It felt like I’d been running a marathon, and I really had to hold myself together to make it through the trip. (All I really wanted at the time was to sleep for a week.) My wonderful generous friend Andy, who allows me to stay at his place on 14th Street, met me a the Penn Station and we made our way home. Then he left, because he dojo was moving that day and he had to go help. He’s a huge judo enthusiast and has a new blog about it, Judo Notes.

At that point, I should have collapsed from all the tiredness or at least taken a nap. But strangely, I was still full of adrenalin or something, and I ended up playing a New Yorker instead: walking about 50 blocks, doing some shopping, soaking up the New York energy, buying sushi at a nearby deli and washing it down with some beer I found in Andy's refrigerator. It was great! Later, Andy, his judo friend Jeff, and I had an amazing Vietnamese/French/Fusion meal at a place call Safran. I think it might be my new New York favorite.

The following day, I slept until 10. Or maybe 11. I can’t remember. Then I had to get ready for my speech at the Jewish Book Festival. It was supposed to be a 2-minute speech, so I had to time myself.

This was the first day of the festival, the Meet the Author portion of it. I arrived at the Hebrew Union College, met up with my editor and publicist, and we went in. The speeches were held at a synagogue inside. Each author had an assigned sitting – in alphabetical order, which put me somewhere in the middle. There was a podium and a microphone, and a woman sat in the first row flashing time cards: 1 minute left, 30 seconds left, 10 seconds. At five o’clock, various representatives of Jewish Community Centers and Synagogues from all over the country filed in, and the speeches began. The idea of the speech was to introduced the book in the best possible and intriguing way. The majority of the books were nonfiction -- parenthood, memoirs, life issues, spirituality and religion, politics – with maybe 10% of fiction in the mix.

The speeches took 2 hours (5 to 7), and the same thing was to be repeated the next 2 or 3 evenings. Afterwards we went downstairs for dinner (aka speed dating). At each round table, 2-3 authors were to be seated. After a while we (the authors) would be told to pick up our plates and move to another table. And then another one. It seemed a little ridiculous, and yet, it was fun. There were people from all across America, and I loved chatting with them. There were two lovely women from Houston. There was a French teacher from San Diego (originally from Montreal). There was a woman from New Jersey (originally from Cuba), whose husband, like mine, was from South Africa. Lots of great conversations!

And what’s the purpose behind these? you might ask. Well, for the next month or so, the conference attendees will be perusing our books (the hundreds of them!). Then, they’ll decide who they want to invite for their local book festivals etc. Then they’ll issue invitations through the Jewish Book Council.

I hope something comes out of it. Now that the book is almost out (the pub date is September 7th, according to Amazon and Barnes & Noble), I want to travel and do readings. I want to really bring it to life. Wednesday morning, before going home to Connecticut, I met with my amazing agent, David, and we brainstormed various strategies for the book publicity, which made me really excited. On the way home, I was buzzing with ideas. Then I got to New Haven and discovered that my car battery was dead : ) Thank god for AAA.