Everyone who lives in New York and hasn't already seen it should immediately get tickets to Striking 12, a glorious adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Match Girl" by the band Groovelily and Tony-Award-winning bookwriter (and my occasional collaborator) Rachel Sheinkin. The most enjoyable evening I've spent in the theater in a while. It closes this Friday, so don't delay.
And yes, the new house is in pretty much the same neighborhood as the old one. So there may be an ancient Indian burial ground in my future yet.
E.S. called me the other day, breathless with excitement after having spent an evening online researching the neighborhood we'll be moving into. "Guess what used to be where our house is now!" he burst out. "It's the best thing that could possibly have been there."
"An ancient Indian burial ground," I said immediately.
There was silence on the other end of the line. "No," he said. "I guess it's the second-best thing that could possibly have been there."
"A lunatic asylum," I answered.
A longer silence. "The third-best thing," he said, through obviously gritted teeth. I am actually terrible at guessing games, and I couldn't come up with anything else. When I admitted this, his voice filled with an almost palpable glee--no mean feat given that we were communicating telephonically--and he said, "the land where our house is used to be occupied by the Kings County Penitentiary."
"Oh, my God," I said, and melted. I took a moment to collect myself. "Now the next important question we need to answer is: who was the most famous resident of the penitentiary?"
He was clearly offended. "What do you take me for? Of course I already looked it up. Her name was Polly Frisch, and she was sent to the penitentiary after she poisoned her husband, his two children, and her own child by putting arsenic on their bread and butter."
"I love you," I said.
"She was eventually pardoned by the governor and released. Her fame was almost immediately eclipsed by that of another murderess named Lizzie Borden."
Since that day, my mind has been filled with fantasies of opening a café on the first floor (previously occupied by the Gospel Light Church, Inc.) called Polly's, or perhaps Polly's Pastries. It will be just like the café that Dallas Roberts and Colin Farrell opened in A Home at the End of the World, except that E.S. and I will have sex with each other and we will sell bread and butter both with and without arsenic.
The summer after my sophomore year of college, I spent two months in Berlin studying German at the Goethe Institut. After a few days spent adjusting to the time change and another few days spent having nightmares about things like being abandoned by my father at Auschwitz, I started to settle in nicely and get to know some of the people in my class. One of my closest friends was a woman named Sarah, from somewhere in the midwest. She was dating a Frenchman whose hair was too long but who was very charming nonetheless, so I could eventually bring myself to overlook his ill-conceived coiffure.
One evening the three of us were having dinner, and Sarah said, "I think the world can be divided into two groups of people." I was interested to hear what her two groups were, as I myself usually divide the world into two groups of people; namely, people I hate on the one hand and me on the other hand, but I suspected her groups would be constituted differently. Indeed, I was right. When I asked her what the two groups she was referring to were, she replied, "People who had head injuries as children and people who didn't."
I blinked. "What?"
"Yes. You had a head injury as a child, right?"
I had to admit that yes, I had been injured at the tender age of two, cracking my head and bleeding profusely and creating a tiny bald spot on the top of my head. My mother, who had been out shopping, yelled at my father upon her return, "I told you to watch him!", to which he replied, "I did! I watched him climb up on the sink. I watched him fall. I watched him hit his head."
"How did you know?" I asked Sarah, as her French boyfriend gazed adoringly at her.
"Oh, I can always tell." And then she went through our class, dividing its members up. Belen had not had a head injury; Michael had. Gary and Laurent had not; Patrice had. Mario she wasn't sure about but suspected not. And so on.
The next day, before class started, we went around and asked everybody. Sarah had been right in every single case.
And this is one of the many, many, many reasons I will never have children. Because it was crystal clear that people who had had head injuries as children were better than people who had not, so if I were ever to come into possession of a child I would feel compelled to give it a head injury, for its own future good. But I would have no idea how to hurt it just enough to make it interesting but not enough to make it developmentally disabled. And the resulting paralysis as I tried to figure it out would prevent me from ever getting anything done again.
When I was six, I picketed my house, hoping to be allowed to eat breakfast before getting dressed rather than after.
I marched back and forth in front of our front door, carrying a sign that said "BREKFAST FIRST DRESSED LATER."
My parents, being civil rights workers, didn't cross picket lines, and that was the only way into or out of our house,
so they were trapped there until they acceded to my demand.