by Bianca Ozeri
Two months ago I lost a dear family friend, Jonathan. His death was sudden. Unsurprising—his mother says—but sudden. I’m spending this holiday on Grand Cayman with his family.
The Lewis’s are those closer than blood friends. Jon was my cousin, his mother I call auntie. Staying in their house, where Jonathan and his three siblings grew up for four years, has been a challenge for everyone.
I’m still not sure how to write about the tragedy—I’ve never been so close to the center of one. Here, there’s only murk.
by Bianca Ozeri
This week I read New York magazine’s cover piece about the legalization of pot. I thought the article was a little dull, or at least not what I expected. I was hoping for a heady prediction of what legalization—which isn’t going to stop at Colorado and Washington—might do to our politics, our economics, and our kids. Instead, it was a bland recap on some hippie town in Northern California, a tangential anecdote about a bounty hunter in heroin-plagued Baltimore, and an abbreviated account of Mexico’s drug wars. To me, the article felt desultory.
The author, Benjamin Wallace Wells, seems to make the argument that the war on drugs is over—and has been lost. He has some reputable supporters, Kofi Annan and Chris Christie among them. Wells suggests though, that this failure may simply be because we’ve won as much ground as we can:
The war on drugs has always depended upon a morbid equilibrium, in which the cost of our efforts to keep narcotics from users is balanced against the consequences—in illness and death—of more widely spread use. But thanks in part to enforcement, addiction has receded in America, meaning, ironically, that the benefits of continuing prohibition have diminished.
In other words, fighting the distribution and possession of narcotics simple isn’t worth it anymore.
by Bianca Ozeri
I haven’t posted on A Brie Grows In Brooklyn for a while, so I decided to do a life update before I launch into my 2013 commitment to Brienne to give her a post every single Friday for the rest of my life. My apologies to those of you who rely on her to pump up the start of your weekend.
I’m moving into my own apartment on December 1st, which is great news because for the past yearI’ve been my mother’s spouse. Home is currently a two-bedroom apartment that lives my mom, Denise, my sister, Chelsea, and me. Chelsea is getting her masters in social work and spends three days a week counseling inner city children with autism, dyslexia, and Aspergers. She has been afforded the spare bedroom. I fill the extra space.
The extra space includes a corner behind Chelsea’s door where I keep a mass of clothing in a suitcase that I can’t move because there is tar on the wheels; the second sink in my mom’s bathroom; and—here it comes—the right side of her king size bed. It took me about three weeks to say that to my therapist. I’m hoping that airing it to the faceless audience of the interweb will help me heal from it more easily. Help me laugh at its absurdity, anyway.
Bianca wrote this impassioned response to Elizabeth Wurtzel’s recent article in Harper’s Bazaar, “Looking Better At 45 than 25.” I love impassioned letters, and I love Bianca, so I asked her to post it.
I just think it’s funny that Elizabeth Wurtzel is advising women on how to look put together, because if my eyes aren’t fooling me, she kind of looks like a mess.
But maybe it’s because I don’t appreciate multi-color highlights and pancake make-up. In any case, without further ado, here is Bianca’s letter.
Dear Elizabeth Wurtzel (and your horrid editorial),
Our mothers probably would have gotten along. A Brooklynite with stale notions of empowerment, my mom can apply liner and lipstick while driving her car, her impossibly narrow feet will die, I assure you, in vintage heels, and when I go out at 11 PM for some milk, or a sweet tooth satisfaction, she encourages me to change out of sweatpants because, “Bianca, you never who the cashier is going to be.” (Rarely do I comply, rarely am I enticed by the bodega clerk.)
In this piece, Bianca—who is now interning for Bomb Magazine—writes about her first professional rejection as a writer. My heart cries for her, my young protégé!
In fourth grade I got dumped at recess. We had been dating about three months, and from what I could tell — what with my nine years of shrewd emotional experience — we had pretty decent chemistry. We made each other laugh, we weren’t terrified to speak the way my sixth grade boyfriend and I would be, and in the third week of our love affair, we were the sparkplug of an epic grade-wide water fight. It made us infamous. When Language Arts resumed afterwards, a teacher aid ushered me to Mrs. O’Toole’s office (seriously, that was our nurse’s name) to borrow clothes because my diminutive nipples were visible through my white tank top. I probably loved it. I know Rich did. That was his name, Rich Damato. The nice Catholic Italian in an all-Jew neighborhood.
He ended it in the middle of the soccer field, my girlfriends and his buddies congregated on the sidelines, awaiting my ignominy. I exited stage left with a bowed head and watery eyes, nurturing rejection like the quintessential drama queen I was back then. Even though part of me was truly pained, most of me relished in the attention pity affords — a quality I’ve worked to rid myself of over the years.
By Bianca Ozeri
You’ll like Ted if you’re a chunky seventeen year-old boy, a middle aged man with a blue collar job, or if you resemble my brother, Superbad, because those are the people whom I derogatorily imagine worship the situational comedy. And Ted is a two-hour sitcom that I was over by minute 30, the duration that a sitcom should be.
(Actually, Superbad, a talented filmmaker, found Ted as mediocre as I did.)
At Superbad’s behest, we arrived a half hour early to the theater. And it paid off because I sat center row in those get-to-put-your-feet-up-on-that-weird-barrier-separating-the-stadium-seats-from-the-shitty-seats seats for this awesomely unexceptional film! Superbad bought Air Heads. But only because I begged him to get something healthier than nachos.
Waiting for previews, we kicked our feet up and answered those outdated, multiple choice show business questions. I kicked myself for getting them wrong and then I kicked Superbad for getting them right. My brother, to his dismay, is often the victim of my slapstick comedy (secretly, we all know he loves it though). I sparked up a conversation about our great seats with the lifeguard-kind-of-sexy man next to me, but made it quick because Superbad gets jealous when I don’t pay attention to him.
By Bianca Ozeri
Horace Greasly was born on Christmas. Into a world plastered still by snow, that kept families indoors, huddled over fires. The year was 1918, and the place was Ibstock, Leicestershire, a farming village in the English Midlands where the Belvoir Castle stood on the distant crest of a rolling hill. Born into the arms of a mother called Mabel. Born into romance.
Nicknamed Jim, Horace was the town barber. He kept hair out of the faces of locals and a few days before he left, at the behest of the draft, Jim was cutting the right hair. That of a man responsible for the next intake of firemen in Ibstock. Firefighting was a reserved profession during the war and meant exception from the draft. The client, a rotund man, offered Jim the job with a wink and a nod.
And Jim went to war instead. After just seven weeks of training with the 2nd/5th Battalion Leicesters, he went to battle against the might of an ethnocentric nation. With just thirty rounds of ammunition strapped across a boy’s heart.
Jim’s soldiership fell prey to captivity however, when on May 25th, 1940, the twenty-year old was taken Prisoner of War. En route to Holland, comrades beside him and enemies before him, Jim endured a ten week march. Food was scarce, and many men, fallen to exhaustion on the side of the road, received a bullet in the back of the head — a savior for some, I imagine. Jim survived on dandelion leaves, small insects, and parcels of food offered by sympathetic villagers. Rain water was drank out of ditches in the road, and Jim just barely made it.
A three day journey from Holland to Polish Silesia, then annexed as part of Germany, landed Jim in the country’s second PoW camp, attached, at the south end, to a granite quarry. I imagine the vast ravine of stone in grays was one of two things to prisoners: a daily reminder of German potential, or the last vestiges of any visible beauty. For Jim, it must have been the latter, for he fell in love with the director’s daughter.
Rosa was seventeen, living outside the camp and working as an interpreter for the Germans. The two, with the emaciated bodies and marred spirits of war, were drawn to one another instantly.
A clandestine romance, theirs was one lived on secret trysts and handwritten notes. Lovemaking in muddy corners of a barbed wire fence beneath an unpolluted sky. One that, somehow, survived the light of day, when the watchful German eye felt omniscient.
At the end of 1940 though, Jim was transferred to Freiwaldau, an annex of Auschwitz, some forty miles from Rosa. The lovers’ separation lacked a farewell, and continuing the affair seemed possible only in the dream of a very good sleep.
(A gaunt Greasley demands more rations for prisoners, unaware he was demanding them from Heinrich Himmler.)
Letters were exchanged via members of outside work parties, who would often come to Jim for a haircut. They wouldn’t suffice though — letters and dreams. Rosa, it seems, would be the only thing…
(I regret to inform that this lovely lady is not Rosa. It seems there are no accessible photos of Horace’s beloved. A detail, I think, makes the story even more ethereal.)
And so, in an otherworldly devotion to love, the barber escaped from his camp almost four nights a week to meet his lady, who, often assigned to interpretation around Auschwitz, lingered on the outskirts of the dastardly camp, waiting for the consolation of love. The arrival of whom could never be certain.
But certain it ended up being, for the over two hundred times that Horace leaked out of that fence, only to return to captivity, every night, under the cover of a darkness, which seemed to postpone twilight just for him.
It’s no radical idea that hardship has a way of splintering one’s shield. It is in fact, probably, the oldest, the most clichéd. In the black abyss of cruelty, love shows itself in its purest form, in the same way shapes become illuminated when you shut your eyes tight, for very long.
I often find myself in the throes of a cruel, apocalyptic daydream — an interwoven thread of romance my most visited plot line. And I emerge from them, only to remember, that this race is not innocent of monstrous savagery, but nor, in those times, bereft of our addiction to love.
By Bianca Ozeri
When Brie asked me to write a post on GIRLS, I got nervous because she hates the show and I love the show and sometimes I mistake disagreeing with Brie for cultural ineptitude. Which, she tells me, really is a mistake given that she still listens to Lana Del Rey. So, yes, I love GIRLS. Lena Dunham has, to me, hit the proverbial nail right on the head.
More than a voluntary choice, this adoration feels the only option in order to maintain my dignity. For every Sunday, during HBO’s shit slot, I watch a simulation of my life. I have three primary girlfriends who compositely exhibit qualities of comical ignorance, serious priggishness, and chic wisdom (myself included). We’ve had dance parties to Robyn. We’ve lived together when we shouldn’t. Virginity still looms for one of us. We’ve dealt with death together (not that of an unborn fetus, but still). And now that I’ve written out what I thought an uncanny likeness, I realize that it’s pretty cookie-cutter, and you, if you’re a girl, probably (hopefully!) draw the same parallels.
(Clara, absent, takes a brilliant photo)
I saw Eric White’s paintings at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery yesterday. Referencing movies set in New York (The French Connection among them), the pieces made me nostalgic for Old Hollywood glamour: bouffant coifs, protracted pontiac hoods, and imperfect film — blurs that assured movies were dreamworlds. That, I think, was my favorite part about White’s paintings: his photographic composition maintained a lot of obscurities impossible to capture on digital film. A blurred realism that melded today’s photographic clarity and yesteryear’s nebulous images, by which we’ve learned our past. Looking at his work, I felt taken by two mediums, and a sort of simultaneous time. I walked all day, one foot in this concrete world, the next in my imagination.
Unfortunately, a lot of White’s larger, and more magnificent work is not in New York, but you can view it here. I still suggest the exhibition though, for I left in high spirits, a contentment not even those nice, little gallerina ladies could spoil when I told them, “Thank you,” and they looked at me like I was a neanderthal.
By Bianca Ozeri
Still falling prey to an inexcusable lethargy, I’ve continued reading short stories instead of returning to Shantaram, the 900-page novel I picked up six months ago about an Australian bank robber fugitive who escapes to Mumbai, joins the mafia, and falls in love. I’m about half way through, and my temporary abandonment of the narrative is no indication of it’s value. It is triumphant prose, all the more dazzling for being written by this guy (for real):
I’m sure I’ll pick it up again soon, but for the time being, I’m reading short stories: ephemeral things I think on for days.
Today I read the hilarious, “The Death of a Government Clerk” by Anton Chekhov, a man who, if I’m not mistaken on her taste, could easily end up on Brie’s “Dead Men I’d Like to Have Married” list.
(Side note from Brie: Yum.)
By Bianca Ozeri
Today is one of those days where I can’t believe I have to be a human for the next sixty-five years. On these days — more abundant in this post-graduate alternate universe — I become particularly cynical. With that being said, I’m going to write about something that I think about a lot, but rarely ever speak of, let alone publish on the internet. Self-pity.
It’s a taboo subject mainly, I think, because everyone hates a self-loather and yet, everyone, on some shitty day or another, is one. So, at the risk of sounding like someone who you don’t want to hang out with, let me say: I’m in a place of deep self-pity right now. I’m fucking pissed off — and more so, sad — that I work at a restaurant instead of a literary magazine, that all of my friends live in Los Angeles (where I went to school), that my parents will never be in the same room again, that I live under my mother’s roof, that I’m not in love…
By Bianca Ozeri
I’m at the point in my now autonomous education as a writer where I’m trying to get all the “Greats” out of the way. The Hemingway, the Kafka, the Woolf, the Melville, the Wharton: the works against which I read all contemporary literature. And this means, by the way, that my literary trajectory going forward will have a depressive, stifling, classist, and often painfully psychoanalytic base that somehow manages to read as beautifully as it feels to fall in love.
In recent weeks, I’ve felt a fierce aversion to novels—an affliction I attribute to laziness and an onslaught of ADD. Because of it, I’ve taken to reading short stories. (I prefer to write short stories myself even though it seems, these days, that the medium has been diagnosed with a rare terminal illness, and will be dying for as long as it has lived.)
Today, I read “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” by Flannery O’Connor, who reminds me of a hot Kristen Schall (minus the snaggletooth).
The interpretation of the story, which chronicles the murders of a Southern family on a road trip to Florida, is, like all great stories, dependent on the faith with which you read it—and if you’re faithless, I’m pretty sure your interpretation of it will be something like: A Southern family is murdered on their way to Florida. O’Connor though, who was raised a Roman Catholic, intends a great deal more.
Now, unlike Brie, my Catholic upbringing was not so strict: it had less to do with the bible and more to do with my mother’s obligation to her dead father, and retaliation against my own Jewish father, whom she divorced when I was nine. In other words, church, which we only attended on major holidays, was a day for glowering at my mom and, considering that I never completed communion, impiously eating a cookie that made me feel special despite it being stale and disgusting and fed to me by a smelly old man in women’s clothing.