Peer Review

in the throes of flash fiction contest
limit: 1000 words
time remaining: mere hours
genre: horror
with co-entrant Beret via gchat

Gina: I’m at 1100 and only one person is dead. and he was already dead

Beret: Obviously we have the start of longer stories we will have to do another day, in all of our extra time

Beret: in the meantime. CRAP

Gina: Maybe I’ll cut a character. One fewer to kill

Beret: I have fantasy. I don’t even have anything magical yet.

Gina: you should end with: “and he lived happily ever after”. now give me an ending and we’re all set

Beret: ok. “he dies”

Gina: all the hes are already dead. there are only shes left

Beret: well don’t kill them. maybe they become part of the evil machine

Gina: I’m at 1100 words. there is no time to assimilate, only maybe to die

Gina: maybe they die of word count

Beret: well cut 108 words, and then say: “and then they all died spontaneously and forever”

Beret: I’m helpful





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Since August

When I met The Boy’s parents, they took us to see the Broadway production of August: Osage County. He had seen it already. I had not. As the lights went down, he turned to me, as if realizing, and, with trepidation said, “You know, this might not have been a good idea.”

It was true. This play – while stunningly beautiful – is pretty much the story of the worst possible outcome of my life. It was two and a half hours of Steppenwolf showing me what might happen if I’m not very, very careful. By the end of the show, I was hysterically sobbing, unable to stand for the ovation. Unable to get up to let others exit.

It was not, needless to say, the best impression I could have made.

Now, it’s true that I cry pretty easily. Those ASPCA commercials kill me. As do Kleenex and long-distance phone service commercials – manipulative motherfuckers that they are.  August was bad though. And since then, it seems as though The Boy has been very, very wary of showing me anything I might find upsetting.

For my birthday, he gave me a book of short story/memoirs, a book he was currently reading. “She writes like you,” he said. I’d like to think so, because she’s good, this Sloane Crosley, whom I kind of hate because she’s clever and funny and moderately famous for publishing all the stuff I think about but haven’t managed to get written down.

“You’ll like this,” said The Boy.  “But …  don’t read the one about the bear.”

“Why not?”

“There are sad animals. Trust me.”

A day later he called me.  “Also don’t read the one about the cat.”

“Why not?”

“Just don’t.”

Later he called again.  “The last story! I want to prepare you! You have to know I didn’t know about it!”

“What are you talking about?” I was bewildered.

“The book!  I just read the last story!”


“I didn’t know, I swear! It doesn’t mean anything!”

“Just tell me what you’re talking about.”

It turns out that the last story in the book includes a narrative of the author being cheated on and subsequently broken up with.

“Ok,” I said. “And why is this such a terrible thing for me to read?”

“Well, I gave it to you for your birthday,” he said. “And that’s not the kind of thing a boyfriend should give, with that kind of parting message. I didn’t want you to think it meant anything.”

It might be time to toughen up.


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Gina vs. Time Warner

May 30th, 2013.  10:02 pm – Message, via “contact us” page on

Dear Customer Service,


I work for a non-profit.  I do not make much money.  I am paying far more than I can afford for the cable that is – frankly – what I often cling to after weeks of of cranky teenagers, belligerent and/or apathetic administrators, and, often, 14 hour days. Why is it that I rarely, if ever, start something on-demand without it stuttering out on me, with that yellow triangle pop-up telling me the program is ‘not currently available’, and forcing me to restart?  Again? And again? And freaking again?

I realize The Bachelorette is not intellectual viewing.  This is not something I admit to without a sense of shame.  But it’s what, dammit, I want to watch so I don’t have to think about test scores and graduation rates and hungry kids and deadlines for two magical, unrealistic hours.  Having to restart this show – I kid you not – over a dozen times after finally having those two hours after three weeks without a day off has left me seething with hatred.  Seething.

It’s not like this is the first time.  This happens every time.  Every time!  Old shows, new shows.  Shows I’ve already watched!  Stutter, stutter — die.  Restart.  Restutter.  Redie.

I’ve already given up calling the support number over my abysmally slow internet service.  I’ve decided my time is better spent waiting for a page to load than to speak with yet another condescending ‘support provider’ who asks me what I expect, I live in Brooklyn. “It’s crowded there.”

If I had a choice in cable, I would run have leaped from this train long ago.  However, since I live in New York, I do not get a choice.  I realize this means you have no actual incentive to fix this issue – but please. For the love of all that is dear and precious, afford me this ONE BIT OF HAPPINESS and give me on-demand that works. Let me watch bad reality television and detective shows all in one sitting.  Surely, surely this is not too much.

Yours in fury,


May 30th, 10:29 pm – Response, via email 

Thank you for contacting Time Warner Cable. Your feedback has been received. If a response is needed, please Chat Online or Call Us.

The hours of operation for chat support are 24 hours a day; Seven days a week.

Many customers find the link below helpful.

Customer Service:

We all knew there would be no real answer to this message. I do not expect a follow up.  I do not expect this issue to be resolved.  But it’s out there.  And I can only assume that when I run screaming into the street, armed with a chair leg and demanding justice, the words “Time Warner” will grant me instant leniency, if not immunity.

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Gina and Scott Continue to Be Geniuses

The Saga Of Jennifer

A horse name named Jennifer Lopez arrived at noon.  “Goodness,” moaned Jennifer Santiago, “I hope you still plan on changing those slippers.”  Suddenly, Jennifer Lopez recalled her mother, Gilda.  She wouldn’t have worn new slippers to Nevada either.

By Gina and Scott, alternating words.

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The Genius of Gina and Scott

This is the story Scott and I wrote, passing a notebook back and forth, instead of listening to the really boring readers at our final stop on our Literary Pub Walk.  Scott’s lines are in italics.

The Story of May

“I’m leaving,” she said.  “You can come with me if you want, but I’m leaving.”  She grabbed her paper-bagged lunch and her Hello Kitty umbrella and stormed out.  With a sigh, he followed her to the door.  “I’ll pick you up after school,” he called.  “Have a good day.”

At the bus stop, suddenly self-conscious, May zipped up her hoodie, hiding the Rainbow Brite tee she had put on so proudly just minutes earlier.  Maybe Christine would laugh.  Maybe she hadn’t meant it when she said rainbows were cool.  Fifth Grade was hard, even for aspiring actresses as fearless as May.  She squared her shoulders.  It didn’t matter what Christine thought.  She would weather today.  By the time the bus arrived, she was belting Pat Benatar at the top of her lungs.

“Lord, May, give it a rest,” the driver moaned, and May trotted down the aisle to plunk herself beside Stewart, her by-default best friend.  “I’ll never be understood,” she told him, as she threw her head onto his shoulder.

“Quit,” he muttered, shoving her away.  “Why are you always so LOUD?”

“Even you,” May retorted, “oppress me.”

Stewart sighed.  “Are you trying out for the play this afternoon?”

“Darling,” she cooed, “you know I’ll just die if I’m not Miss Hannigan.”

“If you want to be a famous actress,” he said, pushing her towards her end of the seat, “why aren’t you trying out for Annie?”

“I’m too tall, and besides, wouldn’t you rather follow in Carol Burnett’s footsteps than Andrea McCardle’s?”

“I don’t even know who that is,” Stewart said.  “Can I copy your math homework?”

She reached into her bag, digging it out while ranting about the tragedy of his poor comedienne education.

At lunch time,* Stewart having abandoned her for a Student Council meeting, May braved the cafeteria alone.  She took a deep breath before walking to Christine’s table.

“Hey guys,” she called cheerily, plunking her bag into an empty spot.  “Who wants to trade today’s Jello for my mom’s famous oatmeal cookies?”

The table blinked at her, then conversation resumed as if she had not spoken.  “It’s a way better part than Annie,” Christine was saying.  “Better songs, even if it is smaller.”  After a round of agreement from the rest of the table, Christine finally acknowledged May.  “Oh hi,” she said.

“You’re trying out for the play?” asked May in disbelief.  “I thought you weren’t into that kind of thing.”

“Well, I wasn’t, but after my solo in choir last month Mrs. Windelman convinced me I should try.”

“But … you don’t want to be Annie?” May had a sinking feeling.

“I just don’t think I can pull off a character as poor and pathetic as an orphan,” Christine stated with a pointed sneer.  “It’s all about typecasting and look.”

“It’s the lead, though,” said May. “It’s the biggest part.”  She could feel her face getting red.

“I’m more interested in really showing my range,” said Christine, sounding bored.  “Ms. Hannigan is such a … complex character.”

“Cool,” said May, opening her brown bag and zipping up her hoodie.  “I was, um, thinking about trying out for that part too.”

“Oh?” Christine smirked.  “Don’t you think the part’s a little … mature for you?”

“Well, I guess that’s why they hold auditions,” May finally choked out.

Christine rolled her eyes and turned to the friend next to her, leaving May staring into the crusts of her sandwich.

* * * (**)

Sipping the iced tea from the prop whiskey bottle, May paced back and forth, nervous about her first cue. ***  “I feel like I’ve missed some key plot element leading me logically to this place,” she thought, “but no matter.  Apparently I was cast and Christine wasn’t and we will move forward accordingly.”

Stewart, now her stage manager, called to her, “May, it’s not about Christine anymore.  She’s a scunt.”

“Oh, you’re the SM?” May vaguely remembered a series of events that made this convenient arrangement happen, but was unable to recall the exact circumstances due to the bizarre fast forwarding of time. **** “How’s the crowd tonight?”

“It’s better than when we did this same play in Middle School,” Stewart said, stroking the beard on his 22 year old chin. *****

“I’d hope so, asshole, being that we’re on Broadway,” May snapped.  She couldn’t believe she was still saddled with this punk-ass kid from MS51.

“At everyone thought you’d have aborted at least two mistakes by now,” Stew added.  “I’m proud of you.”

“Shows what you know,” thought May, unscrewing her flask and dumping the contents into the prop bottle.

* * * (******)

“It was a mean eulogy, but honest,” Stewart told Christine.

“Maybe if she hadn’t been cast as Annie, all those years ago –” Christine mused.  “Take me home, darling.”

The End. *******

*Please note the normal, appropriate time jump I wrote here, bringing us to a new scene.  This will be important later.

** I added these and whispered, “That means time is passing!” to Scott, as I passed the notebook to him.

*** “Cue?” I hissed.  “Did we skip the audition?”  “You said time had passed,” he hissed back.

**** At this point, Scott whispered, “Oh really?  Well I can play that game.”

***** It all goes downhill from here.

****** Added by Scott, who pointed and said “TIME IS PASSING.”

******* We are clearly geniuses.

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Belated NYTimes Irritation

Written over the summer, lost in document folder until this week.

I had a miserable high school theater experience.  Far from being my place to belong, Drama Club made me feel alienated, self-conscious, and friendless – with one notable exception: our production of Godspell.

Not the rehearsal process, oh no.  That was much the same as it had always been: me, alone, while the cast made inside jokes with the music director and snickered at me. On stage was a different story.

Godspell is inherently about belonging.  It is the story of a group of friends who love each other and cavort about having a great time.  When that’s done well, that feels nothing but real.  Our cast frolicked.  We cavorted.  We sobbed through the ending, singing as best we could through tears.  Anne – my nemesis!  Anne! – and I held hands through the final song, finding comfort and friendship in each other for those fifteen minutes.

Much of my love of Godspell, comes from that experience, but that love is in no way unconditional. Vassar put up a Senior week production that was less a musical than a lecture, managing to suck all the joy out of the script.  A show at the Oxford Playhouse had me wishing aloud that Jesus would just die, already, so I wouldn’t have to watch him anymore.

Imagine my joy, when the current Broadway revival brought back all that I held to my heart. The show is nothing but delightful from beginning to end, from a text-messaged re-envisioning of the too-often-neglected prologue, to choreographed trampolining during “We Beseech Thee.”  There’s a nod to the iconic Superman shirt, as Jesus considers, then passes over in favor of a baseball jersey, and the facepaint has been replaced with pin-on flowers, but the camaraderie remains, as does the joy, the dancing, the giddy-good-times that makes the inevitable denouement that much more heartbreaking.

Critics are claiming Godspell smacks too much of high school to have any credence, these days, on Broadway.  (Where, I wonder, is this backlash when Guys and Dolls comes back around?  Because Lord knows there are far too many pubescent tenors squeaking out  “Luck be a Lady” beneath ill-fitting hats.)  I suspect the issue is less about the show’s history than it is about critics having a difficult time evaluating a show that is meant, primarily, to be fun.  “Where is the art?” I can hear them moaning.

The New York Times’ Charles Isherwood’s rather condescending review makes it clear that Godspell was not worth his time, and also makes it clear that he has no idea what the show’s intention was to begin with.

Godspell is a close to bare-bones script, with room for each cast to improvise and to make connections to themselves, their audience, and the pop-culture of the day.  It’s what we loved about the show in high school, it’s what makes each production something new, and it’s what makes this show wonderfully accessible.   Someone didn’t pass this on to Isherwood, it would seem:  “The original book,” he sniffs, “has been stuffed fruitcake-full of gags about contemporary figures and current trends … You eventually start to wonder: if the story of Jesus and his apostles cannot be treated as timeless, what on earth can?”

I’d send him across the street to see Jesus Christ, Superstar, but I suspect Andrew Lloyd Webber is beneath his dignity as well.

“ … the juvenile spirit of the show tends to infantilize its moral and spiritual subject matter, turning the story of Jesus’ life and his followers’ education in the rewards of faith into a series of schoolyard games. (Remember Pictionary?)”

Ah, Pictionary.  Yes, I suppose I can see that adding Pictionary to the already scripted dialogue involving Charades might be an issue.  Well, no – I can’t.

Oh, Charles.  I wish I could loosen your tie and take you to see this show with me.  I’d convince you to let go of our preconceptions of what theat-ah “should be”, sit you down in first row with the throw pillows, and make you just. watch. It must be difficult to remain aloof in the face of the sheer exuberance and delight of the cast – I can’t imagine holding the façade in place on a second viewing.

It’s true – Hunter Parrish can’t sing that well.  He’s pleasant and earnest on the ballads, but “Alas for You” is somewhat distressing in its awfulness.  I’m willing to overlook that in the face of his genuine likeability. Truly caring about this character is, really, more important that being able to belt out a particular song.  And the rest of the cast will make you forget Hunter can’t sing that well – because, man, can those folks sing.  These are the kinds of voices we long for – pure and huge and ovation inducing.

Godspell is about belonging.  It’s about finding each other and being together. This is why some of us are actors: to find that kind of family, if only temporarily. If a production can achieve that for its audience, can make a family out of them for those two hours, can make us feel a part of the understanding and joy and togetherness –  isn’t that a good show?

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The Drawback of the G-train

Kate:  is it supposed to rain?
me:  dunno
Kate:  it just got super dark outside and this weird thunder-but-not-thunder sound was happening for a solid 30 seconds
me:  hm.  sort of dark here but not like that
the apocalypse will likely hit williamsburg first, it is true.
Kate:  yes. zombies hate hipsters.
me:  it’s true
their brains taste too much alike
Kate:  like PBRs and pretense.

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Why Would You Challenge Me?

Friday, May 25th, 1:10 pm, via gchat

Kate:  ‪i am obsessed with gillian anderson‬
me:  ‪still‬
Kate:  ‪omg still‬
Kate: just her
in love
AND hey
she’s bisexual
i have a chance!
AND moms love me
which she is
please don’t post this conversation anywhere on the internet

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Unforeseen Conclusions

Last week, I watched The Help.   Then I read the book.  After the various articles, editorials, and Facebook postings,  I wanted to form a thoughtful opinion about the responsibility of a writer when speaking in another’s voice, the roles given black actresses in Hollywood, my own place in the world as a well intentioned white girl — instead, I’m sitting on my couch with Crisco slathered on my face.  And this is what I’ve taken away.

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Julie and Gina

I am listening to Julie and Julia on audiobook, and there is suddenly a strange little musical interlude.  Some jazzy little bit, out of nowhere, having nothing to do with anything.  Since I have the abridged version, perhaps this interlude is letting me know that there should be more at this point but I don’t get to hear it.  “Ha HA,” it’s saying.  I tend to avoid the abridged, but Julie herself reads this version, and I do like her voice.

I’ve been avoiding actually reading the book, fearing that my realization that the Eric Powell of Julie and Eric Powell is actually someone I know will make hearing the details of their marital issues a little uncomfortable.  And it’s true, it does – both because I know him and because MAN do I love hearing about other people’s lives.  The fact that I get this much enjoyment out of essentially spying on a friend is awkward.

When I saw the movie, I had no idea the story involved anyone I knew.   Scott and I saw it together, rushing straight to Barnes and Noble for the cookbook afterwards. The two of us spent some time trying to figure out:

  1. How to make this blog read by hundreds and hundreds, ensuring my fame and popularity and reputation as a hilarious and brilliant social critic, leading to wealth and fame and someone adorable playing me on screen, preferably Maggie Gyllehnall


2. What kind of year-long project we could possibly take on in order to assure this inevitability.

“There’s nothing I can think of,” Scott moaned.  “I guess … in a year … I could make a whole ZOO of balloon animals!”

Eric and I went to college together, and we weren’t actually friends.  We knew of each other, we had some mutual friends, he lived down the hall at one point.  We became friends at our 10 year reunion:  both of us had married our high school sweethearts, and both of us were watching our marriages fall apart.  We didn’t discuss specifics, but we found each other, and it was comforting. It’s different, when you’ve been with someone since you were 15.

A couple of weeks after seeing the movie, I was lurking about on Facebook and saw that a Julie Powell had left a comment on my friend Michael’s page.  “Whoah,” I thought.  “How does Michael know Julie Powell?”  I clicked to her profile, which was private – but showed our friends-in-common.  “Hey!” I thought.  “Eric knows her too!”  Pause.  “Eric … Powell.”  Pause.  “Like in the movie.”  Pause.

I remembered the last time I had seen Eric, a year or so ago.  He had mentioned that his wife had written a book.  He had mentioned that the book had been optioned.  It was going to be weird, he said, because a lot of the book was about their lives.

Surely, though, if one’s book is being made into a movie with MERYL STREEP – surely, one mentions that.

I started googling “Julie Powell”, “Julie and Eric Powell”, and “the real Eric and Julie Powell.”  And yup, there’s Eric.  Huh.  This movie, this story, this was about someone I knew.

The movie, of course, focused on the blog, on the cooking, on Julia Child herself.  There was an allusion to marital distress, but the down and dirty was left out.  And now I’m listening, in Julie’s voice, to the marriage issues I didn’t hear the details of at Vassar five years ago.

One of my closest friends found out last month that her husband just ended a three-year affair.  She doesn’t know what to do.  She’s in the kind of distress that hurts to just hear about.  I’m three thousand miles away and don’t know what to tell her.

Since that reunion, my marriage has ended, and Eric’s is doing quite well.  This is something, honestly, I cling to – relationships can make it.  “Here’s what’s happened to my friend,” I emailed him a few days ago.  “This is awkward and personal, but is there anything you can tell me that I can pass on?”  “Remember that nothing is as bleak as it seems now,” he replied.

I’m heading to my next reunion in about twelve hours.  Five years ago, when I last saw this campus and these people, I wasn’t doing terribly well.  I was in the death-throes of a fifteen-year relationship. I looked terrible.  That’s changed.  In fact, everything’s changed.  All that was true – I lived in California, I was a teacher – all these things have changed, not just that which was unhappy.

There are days when I think, I am 36, what am I doing?  Is this my life?

There are days I think, I am 36, and this is my life.  This is what I’m doing.



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