Archive | Essays

The Church of Color

For a while in my twenties, I only could wear beige, white, and black. I was very sick at the time, and in my long recovery, I couldn’t handle the strain of real color. This, in retrospect, is how I know that I was gravely ill, for color is and always has been very important to me.

My abstinence from color had happened once before. That time, I lost my ability to perceive color all together, and it was that loss, coupled with a harbinger of the symptoms that later capsized me, that forced me to accept that I had to separate from my family of origin. The metaphorical and literal often blur dangerously on the blueprint of my body. I suspect this stems from the lifted veil that I take for granted.

By nature I am highly selective about the colors with which I surround myself. The off-tones of the early 1990s hurt my eyes, for example. Those mustards and greyish purples always seemed so joyless–sanctimonious, even, as if it were not PC to shine. (I never viewed a friend who got married in a brown dress the same way again.) In my mid-teens, I was known as “the green girl,” for I liked to wear as many shades of green as possible. It wasn’t an affectation. The green made me feel hopeful and connected to something bigger than myself. Alice May, my mother’s mother, was the only one who understood. She adored green, which she said was the color of life and love. She had a winter green couch that was my favorite place to read. Continue Reading →

In Defense of Real Science at the Movies

I keep flashing on what a colleague said to me as we exited a critics’ screening of “The Martian.” “Good movie,” he said. “But too much science.” I couldn’t help laughing. His comment reminded me of my favorite scene from “Amadeus” (1984), in which the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II dismisses a new work by composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart by saying, “There are simply too many notes.”

To be clear, I’m not suggesting director Ridley Scott is on the level of Mozart. (Sometimes he’s not even on the level of Salieri; hi, “Prometheus.”) But I do think that you can never have “too much science” in a movie, at least when the science is accurate and well-executed. Matter-of-factly miraculous, science is like cinema at its best. Continue Reading →

Hello to All That

Last weekend I went to Philadelphia for the first time in nearly twenty years. Just writing that sentence fills me with awe. Apparently when you live long enough, you become your own personal time machine.

It was a good visit if discombulating, especially since I made the trek without my dearly departed auto Sadie. I went to college on Philadelphia’s Main Line and, though I grew fond enough of the city, I never liked my alma mater or Pennsylvania overall. Over the years I stopped going back, venturing instead to other parts of the world on the occasions that I left Brooklyn.

This time I took Amtrak, which I enjoyed once I adjusted to the lack of privacy. It reduced the travel to a glamorous ninety minutes door to door, and afforded me the luxury of intermittently dozing and ogling the scenery. But something about going without my wheels to the place where I began my adulthood felt stark. Every time I turned a corner, I expected to run into stricken nineteen-year-old Lisa, bristling with unharnessed hormones and newly discovered anger and fear. It was a pleasure to offer that ghost assurances that I’d become some of what she’d hoped to be. It was a pleasure to catch up with friends over gorgeous meals and music.

On the way back to New York, my train was halted, and it reminded me of my move to Brooklyn from Pennsylvania decades before. If you have short pockets and all the patience in the world, you can take commuter rails the entire way between the two cities. It’s something I did constantly in the summer after college, when I’d perched in a professor’s house and shuttled to NYC for job interviews. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy