Psychodrama Is Here!

My friend Liza and two of her wonderful actor pals wrote, produced and acted in Psychodrama: The Series, a webseries about 3 girls who discover they have the same therapist. (All based on real life events.) I’m really excited about it and am so so so proud of Liza, Kimmy and Luisa for pulling this off.

I’m embedding the Intro episode below. You can watch more episodes on the Psychodrama site or on Vimeo! (The Intro and Episode #1 are available now.)

Also, here is a photo of Liza, Jen, and me (and my really cute hair and double chin) from the premiere party at The Gutter on Sunday.

Cheese? (Photo credit: Sarah Balch)

Cheese? (Photo credit: Sarah Balch)

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Moving On Up

me + aidan at middle school graduation

me + aidan at middle school graduation

Last night, my brother Aidan graduated from middle school. As we all know, middle school graduations are bullshit. They are ceremonies that mark the end of one harrowing phase of existence and the beginning of another, hopefully less difficult but probably just-as-good-at-draining-any-self-esteem-you-possessed, phase. Therefore, I was prepared to be bored and annoyed and awash with feelings of second-hand embarrassment for Aidan and his peers last night. But instead, I found myself surprisingly entertained and feeling very proud of my brother.

I arrived at the school 30 minutes before the ceremony and sat in the seats my family had saved. I quietly read a book as hundreds of parents and friends of the graduates buzzed all around me, as if they were attending a coronation. (Props to my mom for that comparison. It was spot on.) At one point, a parent sitting near us asked me my name. She knew I was a Flannery, but didn’t know which one. This is a common observation, often made to my face. As soon as I told her my name, another mother, seated behind us, jumped in. “Oh, you must know my kids,” she said. She gave me their first names, which were fairly ordinary and therefore not totally recognizable to me.

“Uh,” I said, my face likely contorted in confusion. She repeated their names. Still, nothing. She gave me their last name. I had never heard of them. I told her that I graduated from high school in 2005 and that I’m almost 26, hoping that would help her.

“Oh, you look so young! I thought you were in 11th grade.” Everyone around her agreed. I told her that I would take that as a compliment, which I do, because there are plenty of people my age who are starting to look not-so-young these days. It turned out that her kids were like 14 and 16 and one of them was graduating with Aidan. So yeah, I definitely don’t know them.

Once my mom reappeared from flitting around the crowd, saying hello to everyone in attendance that she has ever met, I asked her when the ceremony was going to start. Apparently, she told me, the principal had told the boys at their practice session that there was no dress code, so some of them showed up without jackets and ties, while others did because that was the dress code printed on the invitation. Of course, some of the mothers would die rather than see little Winston or  Thatcher graduate from the eighth grade in just a dress shirt, so they took them home to get a jacket and tie and held up the beginning of the ceremony for a few minutes longer than I would have liked.

Finally, it began and we watched Aidan, dressed in a dapper new bow tie and Nantucket reds, process in with the rest of his classmates. The ceremony started off with the Pledge of Allegiance, which for a moment I was afraid I had forgotten, and an opening speech by Aidan’s principal. I have to say, I tuned out for most of this speech. Earlier that week, I’d learned that the principal had “changed” – and by that I mean, censored – a short speech that Aidan was to give later in the ceremony. He took out any specific mentions that Aidan made of classmates and teachers and events, nearly ridding the speech of its context and originality and transforming it into a collection of empty statements about the meaning of middle school. All of this was apparently so that no one’s feelings would get hurt. I think, though, if someone’s feelings are hurt by a mention or non-mention at a speech given during middle school graduation, the memory of that will fade quickly enough. And if it doesn’t…Well, kid, you’ve got a rough life ahead of you. Anyway, I did not clap at the end of the principal’s speech.

When the six or seven kids chosen to share their remarks spoke, they were perfectly poised and lovely, delivering ruminations and a few extended metaphors about friendship and growing up to the crowd. If I may say so, I found Aidan’s speech to be the best. (This statement was not made with the intention of hurting anyone’s feelings. It was truly good. Also, he’s my brother.) He was witty and thoughtful and he even called out a teacher by name, because it was important to his point about learning about integrity during his eighth grade year. I was so proud of him for not letting anyone get him down. It’s one of his greatest qualities.

Soon, the ceremony was over and we joined the reception on the school lawn. It was amusing to reflect on all of the times I stood on that same lawn, all dressed up like an adult like Aidan and his classmates were, with my own friends and classmates. I’ve watched many of Aidan’s peers grow up over the last thirteen years, either because they’re friends of his or because I babysat them long, long ago. I sincerely hope that they continue to enjoy one another’s company – or at least, aren’t too horrible to one another – during the next four years they have together.

We ended the night without Aidan, who attended a party with his entire class at our country club. We happened to eat dinner downstairs from the party on the terrace, looking out on the pool where I spent most of my days during the summers of my childhood. If I’d let myself reminisce anymore than I did last night, I probably would have gotten sentimental. But I didn’t, really. I was too busy laughing along with my family and all of our weird memories of days past and stories we’ve recounted a thousand times. No one mentioned that we’ll never have another middle school graduate. I think this was for the best. We’re all ready to move on to the next chapter.

bonus photo: me & aidan back when i was 13. oof.

bonus photo: me & aidan back when i was 13. oof.

Weekend Accomplished

Recently, I’ve been feeling unmotivated on the weekends. I think a lot of it has to do with my terrible habit of going out on Friday nights. I know, it doesn’t sound like it’s that bad of a habit. Everyone needs to blow off a little steam after a long week at work or whatever. However, I tend to blow off a little too much steam. Which usually puts me behind schedule on Saturdays. Which usually makes me feel, I guess, disappointed in myself for not getting everything done that I said I would do, like write and shop for a dress to wear to this wedding I have coming up and drop off my dry cleaning and grocery shop and all of the other things I put off until the weekend. Anyway, this past Friday, I did not go out. I went to the gym instead.

The thing about going to the gym on a Friday night is that it gives me this weird mixture of feelings like, “I’m so awesome because I’m so dedicated to working out that I’m here on a Friday night” but also “I’m so depressed because I’m not socializing”. I’m actually not at all dedicated to working out and I did go to happy hour with a co-worker before hitting the gym, so one might say that I had no right to have either of those feelings, but I had them nonetheless. After about ninety minutes of performing some variety of movement on several machines while reading The New Yorker and watching the combination of chubby teens, Polish dads in inappropriate gym clothes and intimidatingly sinewy tattooed women cycle through the cardio room, I hobbled out of the YMCA – again, I am not a very dedicated gym-goer – and to Grapepoint Wines, which is very convenient to where I live. I figured I would grab a bottle of wine and partake in some while reading some more and relaxing in my living room. Instead, I ordered a large-ish amount of sushi, watched Side Effects on demand with my roommate, drank more wine than I’d intended to and stayed up until 2 am.

I felt…just OK the next day. Not as great as I wanted to feel. But I got up at a decent time because I had things to do and went to Cafe Grumpy where I thought I’d do some reading. However, I couldn’t find a seat that I liked, so I took my coffee to go and went to Baker’s Dozen on Manhattan Ave. to grab a bagel. I sat there for a little bit, reading a little of Lucky Jim but I mostly was just annoyed that they hadn’t toasted my bagel as much as I would have liked. After that, I walked to the Bedford L stop and hopped on the train to Manhattan to go shopping.

I’ve known that I needed to buy a dress for a wedding I’m attending on June 29th for over a year at this point. Obviously, I just got around to it on Saturday. I went to the Anthropologie on 5th Ave. (and 16th St.) because I’d stopped there last week and saw a few things that were (surprisingly) reasonably priced and wedding-appropriate. There was one dress in particular that I saw and loved, but after walking through the store about five times, I couldn’t find it and assumed that it had sold out. Eventually, I grabbed a bunch of other dresses and hit the dressing rooms. While I was in line, I noticed a rack of dresses that were all priced at $89.95 for a limited time. And my dress was there! In my size! It was the first thing I tried on and it fit like a glove so, I bought it.

After my dress success, I headed over to Chelsea to have lunch with a friend at the new-ish Meatball Shop on Ninth Ave. I was still kind of full from my bagel but…I managed to eat veggie balls over a salad and was content with that. (That meal sounds lame but it was actually really good.) We hung out for a bit outdoors after lunch and then I walked to The Strand, mostly because I hadn’t been in a while but also because I wanted to find something for my dad for Father’s Day. While there, I was very tempted by a whole table of NYRB Classics, but I ended up buying the first volume of A Dance to the Music of Time for myself and a book of Greil Marcus’s writing on Bob Dylan for my Dad.

dream book table @ the strand

dream book table @ the strand

I took the L back to Brooklyn and walked home, stopping at the Van Leeuwen Ice Cream store on Manhattan Ave, which has unfortunately become a regular thing for me now that the weather is nice. Once at my apartment, I had a few hours to kill so I watched some of Orphan Black, a show that aired on BBC America this spring. I just heard about it a few weeks ago and am about halfway through the ten episodes, which I guess means that I’ve been digging it so far.

Later in the evening, I met my friend Mandy at Europa, a night club on Meserole Ave that I literally did not know existed until recently. We were there to see Chance the Rapper. (Download his mixtape, Acid Rap, here.) I would say that, at 25 years old, we were in the upper quartile in terms of age in the crowd. But we had a pretty good time anyway. After the show, which ended quite early, we headed to a nearby cocktail bar, where Mandy and I had a long overdue catch up session and also where, before leaving, I very casually (not casually at all) left my number for one of the bartenders on a napkin, because that’s something I do now. It hasn’t worked yet, so um, let’s see how long I can keep this up.

chance the rapper

chance the rapper

The next morning, I got myself ready and headed up to Bronxville to celebrate Father’s Day with my family. My grandmother and aunt and cousin were coming for dinner but I got there early to help my mom make dessert. We had decided earlier that week to make Chocolate Hazelnut Crepe Cake from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbookwhich I just got my mom for her birthday. By the time I got home, my mom had already mixed up the batter for the crepes and had gotten started on the hazelnut pastry cream, but I took over from there.

didn't even mess up a single crepe

didn’t even mess up a single crepe

The crepes were a lot easier to make than I had assumed. (It was my first time making crepes!) Once the pastry cream had sufficiently cooled, I assembled the cake on a cake stand, layering the crepes and pastry cream. After I had finished that, I made the chocolate topping from some semi-sweet chocolate chips, heavy cream and Frangelico. The final product promised to be delicious.

assembling the cake

assembling the cake

almost assembled

the finished product

the finished product

It was…okay. And that was because we didn’t refrigerate the cake, which we totally should have, but there wasn’t really any room in the fridge. The cake tasted really good, it just didn’t set up very well. But…now we know for the next time. My mom also made Lemon Bars from the same cookbook and they turned out really well!

mom's lemon squares

mom’s lemon squares

The whole day was really nice. After our guests left, I read outside while it was still light out and then I put on some pajamas and read in my favorite place to read, in the living room in the biggest, comfiest chair. And then I watched Mad Men. And then I went to bed.

So, I woke up yesterday feeling tired but quite accomplished. I did a bunch of things and I had fun doing them and that’s good, I suppose. Of course, I still feel like I should have gotten some writing done or purchased shoes or accessories to wear to this wedding or like, a million other things, but…I still have time. Which will be true for a while, you know, until I don’t have anymore time. Yet I will keep telling myself that I still have time. Because if I don’t, I’ll spiral into an existential crisis, which is usually really bad for my mood and most of all, my motivation.

This Is A Summer Reading List

When I was a kid, our public library had this summer reading program where you would keep track of the number of books you read during the summer in order to receive prizes, like gift certificates to the local ice cream store. I participated in it every year, until I realized that my friend and I were the oldest kids still doing it at age 10 or 11. I quit out of embarrassment. But I continued to keep track of the books I read that summer.

I’ve always had a competitive drive when it comes to reading. With others, of course, but mostly with myself. Since my summers spent skulking around the children’s section of the Bronxville Public Library, I’ve obsessively kept lists of books I’ve read and books I’d like to read. I love reading lists of books that other people make so that I can mentally – and sometimes, physically – cross off the ones I’ve already read. (I still carry around a handwritten list of Time’s 100 Best Novels, which I’ve been working my way through since 2008.) I know it’s unlikely that I’ll ever read all of the books I want to read in my lifetime, but I’m going to try to read as many as I can.

I’m coming into this summer fresh off a month-long spell of not being able to finish a book. Luckily, that spell has just been broken and I’m hoping I’ll be able to get through some of the following books that I think will make for some good summer reading. So. Behold, my summer reading list!

The Mountain Lion

Author: Jean Stafford

Year Published: 1947

OK, I actually just finished this, but it was the first book I read in June, so I think it still counts. This is a book about two children – Ralph and Molly Fawcett – who travel each summer from their home outside Los Angeles to their Uncle Claude’s ranch in Colorado. Over the course of the novel. the siblings confront the precipice between childhood and adulthood in different and startling ways. Spoiler alert: This book is dope.

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The Likeness

Author:  Tana French

Year Published: 2008

I’m reading this excellent mystery/thriller right now. My friend Jen chose it for our next book club discussion, which I’m sad to say is over a month away because I actually can’t put this book down. (I almost missed my subway stops during my commute this morning.) The Likeness is Tana French’s second book and follows a character from her first novel, In the Woods, which was a pretty big deal when it came out in 2007.

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Lucky Jim

Author:  Kingsley Amis

Year Published: 1954

For a long time, I’ve been telling people that Lucky Jim is one of my favorite books, if not my absolute favorite book. I actually say this about books all the time in attempts to get other people to read them but I really mean it about this one. Lucky Jim has always been a summer-y book for me, since I read it at the very end of my freshman year of college. (School didn’t end until June for me.) My opinions about many books have changed over time, so I’m looking forward to revisiting Lucky Jim this summer and seeing if I still feel the same way about it.

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A Dance to the Music of Time

Author:  Anthony Powell

Year Published: 1951 (A Question of Upbringing)

Welp, this is actually a twelve-novel cycle. I’ve intended on starting it for a long time and I intend on finishing at least the first novel, A Question of Upbringing, or the “First Movement”, which consists of the first three novels, by the end of the summer.

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The Bling Ring

Author:  Nancy Jo Sales

Year Published: 2013

What can I say? Sometimes I like a good beach read, as long as it’s not the chick lit sort. (Though based on my current schedule, I’m not so sure that I’ll actually get to the beach this summer.)

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HhHH

Author:  Laurent Binet

Year Published: 2012

I’ve been wanting to read this book for the last year and I think I’ll finally get around to it this summer. This highly praised historical novel is about the hunt for Reinhard Heydrich, known as the “Butcher of Prague”, during the Second World War. I’m really hoping HhHH lives up to the hype.

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The Middlesteins

Author: Jami Attenberg

Year Published: 2012

Another book from last year I’ve been meaning to read for a while. Luckily, someone just loaned me a copy of this family drama, so I will definitely get to it pretty soon.

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The Wooden Shepherdess

Author: Richard Hughes

Year Published: 1973

I read The Fox in the Attic, the first novel in Hughes’ intended The Human Predicament trilogy earlier this year. I was completely pulled in by the story of Augustine, a young Welsh aristocrat who escapes accusations of the murder of a young girl for his German cousins’ castle outside of Munich. I wanted to take a break between The Fox in the Attic and the second novel in the trilogy, The Wooden Shepherdess, but I think enough time has passed now for me to get started on this one.

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Infinite Jest

Author: David Foster Wallace

Year Published: 1996

Haha. I don’t know. I kept telling myself I’d read Infinite Jest this summer but like, we’ll see.

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Nights in the Gardens of Brooklyn

Author: Harvey Swados

Year Published: 1986

Short stories about Brooklyn (and the rest of New York City) in another time.

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A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century

Author: Barbara Tuchman

Year Published: 1978

I miss reading history books – I was a history major in college – but I find that now I can’t get through them unless they’re written with some sort of narrative. I’ve had A Distant Mirror on my list for a while and the book examines the fourteenth century through one figure, a French nobleman named Enguerrand de Coucy.

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Seraphina

Author: Rachel Hartman

Year Published: 2012

And I’m gonna round out this list with a young adult fantasy novel because WHY NOT?

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So, happy summer reading! I’m going to check back in later this month with what I’ve read during the past three months. (You can check out what I read from January through March here.)

Images via New York Review of Books

Happy Birthday, Mom!

mom

 

 

Happy, happy birthday to my beautiful mother, who still looks freakishly the same as she does in the above photo, which was taken almost but not quite two decades ago. Thank you for…well, pretty much everything! But especially my life and good looks, etc.

Also, I’d like to publicly apologize on behalf of our entire family for not getting you any gifts a few years ago. We’re all still really sorry.