The illustrious E. Jean Carroll - Illustration by João Fazenda

The illustrious E. Jean Carroll - Illustration by João Fazenda

The saying (I’m bad at remembering sayings) about how if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person?  I so agree with that.  Now that I’m working more,  selling more writing, I feel better, more confident, and better prepared to tackle challenges. Getting published by the New Yorker last week was a treat (, but so was confidently cooking, preparing, and hosting a Passover Seder for 26!  I almost equate the two achievements, although my success ratio in the kitchen is much much higher than my acceptance rate at that particular magazine.

Ariel Leve - Photo credit: Catherine Talese

Ariel Leve - Photo credit: Catherine Talese


In any case, I am revved up and happy to inform you that my guest today is journalist, columnist, and memoirist Ariel Leve.  She published her memoir, An Abbreviated Life last year.  It is now available in paperback.


What was best this week?  It was a good week.  Frankly, when I’m feeling this upbeat I don’t necessarily want to unpack it and parse it; I want to enjoy it.  But that’s not the point of this exercise.

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1) The smell of other people’s French fries. Let me explain.  I am mad for French fries.  I don’t care if you call them pommes frites, chips, strings, or anything else.  I eat far too many of them.   I know how they smell and they smell divine and irresistible.  However, I wouldn’t eat from a stranger’s plate.  I am not a monster, I was raised with manners.  So other people’s fried potatoes give me the aura of successful self-control utterly fraudulently.  But I’ll take it.


2) The King Koil Florence mattress.  My back was happy when I woke up every morning at my friend’s guesthouse.  I had to know the name of this magic cushion.  And so I have.  When I buy a new mattress, it will definitely be on my to try list.


3) It’s lilac season, and I bought my first blossoms – in what was called a bale.  It weighed about 30 pounds and was the size of a tall round bush.  So while my kitchen resembled a compost heap for a couple of hours, the smell of lilacs intoxicated me.  When I sniff them up closely, all I can say is “Oh My God!”  It’s just a visceral and deep pleasure.

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4) Speaking of which, since the weather has improved about 1000 percent, I walked through Central Park this week with Exhibit B ™, and that was a joy.  Whenever I do walk through the park I feel envious. Of myself.  It’s hard to explain but maybe you actually understand what I mean.

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5) Community within community.  I mean the little circles of friends and colleagues that become our immediate word.  It could be anything that brings us together – former classmates, co-workers, ex sorority sisters or even a friend of a friend of your ex’s.  It doesn’t matter.  Some of these people become your family of choice; others become your go-tos for your reality check.  One thing I know:  it would be hard to survive without them.

Ariel Leve - Photo credit Yaeko Masuda

Ariel Leve - Photo credit Yaeko Masuda

And now, from our guest, Ariel Leve.


1) I was given an electronic milk frothing machine as a gift. I was hesitant to try it. My morning coffee was already pretty great — how could it possibly get better? With a warm, light foam that makes life worth living. The only downside is, (are we allowed a downside here?) the best part of the day is now over by 8am.


2) Eavesdropping. I love listening in to other peoples conversations. In the elevator, on the subway platform, walking down the street, standing in line, sitting at a restaurant; it’s free entertainment. 
This week’a highlights: two old ladies discussing Mark Morris, one millennial telling another millennial a story with “do you know what I mean?” after every sentence, and a guy on the subway confessing to a murder. That’s the eavesdropper’s jackpot.


3) Bringing things to Goodwill. I’m always amazed at how much stuff I don’t need.


4) Susan Orlean’s The Library Book. She recreates with forensic detail and excellent reporting the story of the fire in 1986 that scorched hundreds of thousands of books at the Los Angeles Public Library and got very little coverage because it occurred the same day as Chernobyl. It’s an ode to libraries and books and it’s really good.


5) Ugly oranges. I don’t know if that’s what they’re called (Sumo maybe), but that’s what I call them. The pock-marked, cellulite dimpled rind is easy to peel and they’re sweet and seedless. Trader Joe’s sells them for less than anywhere else which also makes life better.


As always, stay strong, and act natural.