Sunday, March 18, 2007

After The Party

Last night I celebrated my birthday with a few friends, colleagues, and friends of friends downtown in Chelsea, doors away from trendy galleries and museums, in a new high-rise.

My roommate and I didn't head downtown until 6:45 p.m. because I didn't expect anyone to arrive before 9 p.m. for the scheduled 8 p.m. start. As stated in a previous blog here: I dislike planning parties because people ALWAYS flake out at the last minute, or never have any intention of attending when first invited.

Last night was no different to anxiety-filled past parties I've planned. I prepared Cajun (dirty) rice with ground beef, pasta salad with broccoli, mozzarella, and peppers, and crudité and fruit/cheese platters. I busied myself with cooking in a new kitchen and on a new stove with a crackling, popping burner that I knew would catch fire and explode, a fitting end to what felt like would be an empty party.

After slicing into my index finger with a new chef's knife, Jorge (roommate) and Mort (party host) returned because I was fast losing blood, with a bandage from the concierge. It turned out that there was a simple fix to the crackling and popping of the front right burner -- adjust the knob just so that it stops the aforementioned annoying noise, which probably grated on my nerves so that I wasn't paying attention to the sharp knife.

With the crisis averted, I continued cooking and tried not to read the digital cock on the stove as the minutes ticked by and no one had yet to arrive. A member from my screenwriting group and a former private student arrived within minutes of each other, but I still wasn't happy. Where were those who RSVP'd that they'd definitely attend?

I resisted the urge to drink alone in a corner and continued cooking and setting up the buffet-style platters on the countertop.

A former member of the fiction critique group, Katie, arrived with great news. She's recently been accepted into two MFA programs, one more appealing than the other, but it's an accomplishment all the same because of the number of original applicants to better MFA programs.

It wasn't until Katie arrived that the room felt differently. It'd no longer be an all-male party with an underlying awkward tension as those outside of the kitchen tried to make small-talk.

By night's end, nine people were in attendance besides me, a jump from last year's birthday party at my place with six, but well below previous twenty or three people crammed into my uptown apartment.

I reflected on the importance of last night's celebration as I rode the subway home in the wee hours of Sunday morning, and I'm resigned to know that the number of guests in attendance doesn't matter, nor does receiving gifts, but the intention of the gathering.

One of my friends returned from Miami and headed over to the party. This was one of the invaluable blessings I received last night. Anyone else would have claimed exhaustion after an evening flight, but not Carlos.

I had a great time last night.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Literary or Commercial Success?

I've been thinking lately about why I write, and to what I aspire to be as a writer. Is it better to be a literary or commercial success? Would I rather be hailed by Kirkus Review, Publisher's Weekly, and The New York Times, or have throngs of fans that line up for book signings in cities large and small?

Personally, I'd rather have a mixture of both. I write fiction, screenplays, and recently memoirs, to be read and to create a dialogue with readers with similar and dissimilar experiences.

I'm currently reading The Quince Seed Potion
by my good friend, Morteza Baharloo. Click here for a sample of his reviews. I would love to have stellar reviews for my first novel or short story collection.

I am not writing solely for accolades. If I wanted to be lavished with praise I'd have continued acting, or joined the circus as a trapeze artist.

Books last a lifetime, as do films, if preserved properly. I write when the muse visits; and when she's stubborn, I do my best to coax her out of her hiding place, although she recently opted not to show up. Bad muse!

I still remember my high school English teacher, Dr. Joeris's perfect penmanship, chignon bun, and birdlike lips with lipstick slightly worn away by the time her fifth period junior English class showed up.

I write to make her proud. She believed in me in high school, and we kept in touch via letters until her death several years ago. I was distraught when I lost an engraved Cross pen she'd given me as a birthday gift on a NY subway. Fortunately for me, both the pen and pencil were engraved with my initials. I use the pen on special occasions. And I plan on using it when I sign my first book contract.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Birthday Party Planning

My birthday is the first day of spring, and lately it's been anything but birds singing in trees in nearby Central Park.

I hadn't planned on celebrating my birthday this year beyond taking day or overnight trip on Metro North outside Manhattan. I'd take my laptop and notebook, and return with a new short story inspired by yet another viewing of The Wonder Boys on DVD.

I'd asked a friend to celebrate with me, but he gave some lame ass excuse about not wanting to clean up afterwards (his birthday is two days before mine). In years past, four or five friends celebrated together at my apartment. One of the celebrants would always buy a cake from Veniero's Bakery in the East Village.

Those days are gone. No more group parties with multiple Pisceans gathered around a birthday cake serenading each other. With the exception of one of the previous participants, everyone has disappeared or moved out of New York or New Jersey.

I don't like planning parties because (some) people will undoubtedly flake at the last minute and not show up. Your dog did what, where? Your boyfriend is on the ledge, again? Oh, you decided to travel by mule from New Jersey at 10 p.m., and he collapsed?

As a child, I always had built-in attendees with my family, friends from school, and neighborhood kids. Mother would always bake a sheet cake and make a lime sherbert and 7-Up frothy drink.

I'm crossing my fingers and toes for my small birthday/St. Patrick's weekend party downtown at a friend's apartment.