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cold nostalgia

There is a note, stuck to the front entrance of our building. The hot water will be turned off for ten days. This is something that happens every summer, although it snowed a week ago and children wander the playgrounds in ski hats these days. At night it can be 40 degrees fahrenheit.  The hot water is always turned off like this, at some point during June or July. It is a long-standing Soviet tradition, and people begrudgingly accept it here. But the baby, V does not. She wants to stand in a hot bath before she goes to sleep, to splash and pour water all around her, and N. She wants to stand and wiggle her tiny hands under the spout, as she grows pink and clean, as she howls and shouts for us to see what new trick she has improvised. There is no explanation for her, why the hot water is off today, and will be tomorrow. She is angry, furious even.

I used to buy the story that this offered a chance for the water department to fix pipes, to take care of routine maintenance. Hot water c…

the hardest thing

I used to call it the magic thousand dollars. I was twenty-one, fresh in New York living in Greenpoint before you could buy Thai food there, when everyone spoke Polish or maybe some broken English and I was the minority. I had a friend named Sal, and he was getting divorced. He asked me if I could lend him some money, so he could try to find his own place, try to pull his life together. I gave him much more than he expected, that even thousand. He did not know what to tell me. I remember his hands, frozen in mid-air, his jaw loose in his face. But Sal was tough, did not want to talk about it after that, just that the money would come back as soon as possible. It did, less than a year later, a crisp check written out to me, a hushed thank you. It was easy to help him. Almost thirty years later, I begin to understand how hard it is to ask for help.

That thousand dollars, it never stayed with me too long. Another friend, another tough moment and I sent it away. I imagined it circulating New York, like some ultra-karmic collection of birds. It went on like this for almost twenty years until I suddenly needed it back. And it came. 


Two weeks ago, I began a crowdfunding campaign for an episodic narrative project. I could call it a book of short stories that happen to be little films. I made a video, sitting in a chair baring myself to the naked eye of the camera, then edited it, seeing my face as not mine any more at some point. I wrote long explanations about where the money would go, what the challenges would be. I pressed the launch button in the middle of the night and went to sleep. When I woke up, there was already one pledge. My elbows jumped, as if I had knocked my funny bone against the wall.

Like many creative people, I spend a very long time thinking about something before I begin to make it. It is an insular, meditative experience and a lonely one. Just the idea, and me going to buy milk, or sitting on a bus, maybe scratching notes on a napkin in an airplane. When I am ready, I tell N about it, on a quiet Saturday night at the kitchen table with just the light over the stove on, us sitting in the shadows, our hands close together. I watch her face. She asks questions. She helps me understand what I want to do. It becomes ours then.

Eventually, the real work begins and I only share bits of pieces when I think they are working. This crowdfunding has turned me on my head. I find myself talking to a universe of people, with nothing but the raw ideas, a few little tests, and me rambling until I think I have explained it well. It is already terrifying, and I think of Sal. I think of the way he looked at me, and begin to understand what he must have felt. It is completely overwhelming.





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