Archive | Essays

The Quiet Revolution of ‘Diane’

What follows is a film talk I gave a few months ago on Diane, about a 60something New England widow struggling to reconcile with her past and the ravages of time. I always loved talking to the now-defunct Westchester Film Club, but it was especially meaningful to discuss this small, mostly overlooked indie with them. N.B. To read this, it’s not necessary to have seen the film, but I encourage you to do so. It’s one of the best of the year.

I consider Diane a quiet revolution of a film.

Its median age is above 60, everyone is lower middle class, and it is is mostly populated by women–the kind of bossy, pointedly unpretentious women who are the backbone of every New England town I knew growing up. For that matter, this film stars Mary Kay Place, whose plainspoken, peevish manner I’ve loved ever since Mary Hartman Mary Hartman, and who has deserved a hefty starring role ever since. That Diane also costars the great Andrea Martin in a rare serious turn, Joyce Van Patten, and Estelle Parsons speaks to how unobtrusively grownup-feminist this film is. Even the crew is mostly female. Continue Reading →

Be Here Next: Mercury’s Mixed-Up Parade

I never permit my Ruby Intuition clients to tape our sessions.

My reasoning is simple. When people know they can watch or listen to something later, they tune out of the moment. And when they’re not present, they’re almost impossible to access so the sessions become useless.

It’s not like I don’t let my clients take notes. Some take a ton. But writing, like reading, is active. Even the act of transcription requires engagement. And when we really engage in a moment–any moment–it transforms us, transformation being the foundation of any practical magic. Continue Reading →

Cities of Lost Children

I’ve been thinking a lot about Nathan, my father’s father. I often do when pretty weather makes me regret my solitude.

Nathan was a survivor and he never let you forget it. He also didn’t like to think of himself that way.

He was born in Poland to a determined woman with a schnorrer of a husband. That Yiddish word isn’t in the kind of rotation that other ones are–schmuck, for one. But it should be because schnorrers are everywhere. They’re hustlers who aren’t good at hustling, people (men mostly) who drain your resources without profiting from them. They’re what my grandmother Basha, my grandfather’s wife, called losahs without their mezuzahs.

She was a pissah, that one. Mean, judgmental, super clever.

When my grandfather was alive we didn’t exactly get on because he was funny about women, especially big blondes. When his mother arrived in America with him and his little sister, his father already had found a better-off wife, and here was my great-grandmother not speaking English with nowhere to live, nothing in her pocket. But with two small children in tow she wasn’t about to fall on her face, not while she was young and had spring in her step. So she started going by Mary Banks and turning tricks and well–

My grandfather didn’t understand shall-we-say normal sexual boundaries.

Any sexual boundaries. Continue Reading →

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