— Reading a book on the fall of Yugoslavia. Can’t get enough of the Balkans. When times get tough, I usually start reading books about war. Maybe it satisfies my need for carnage and revenge. Who knows. I recently saw Angelina Jolie’s film In the Land of Blood and Honey (very good, good for her), and found my psyche turning towards those historical fault-lines once again.

— Saw Whip It this week and thought it was adorable. Juliette Lewis was hilarious, a perfect snarling villain in a sports movie. There was a Slap Shot vibe to some of the action (these women were a hard-drinking food-fighting MESS), and I wished there had been more of that, but I really enjoyed it. I also liked that romance was not part of the triumph at the end. The triumph at the end was being awesome without romance. True girl power. Being okay by yourself, being committed to a goal outside of yourself, having something to work towards that is not a happy domestic life with some guy. A bit radical and I liked that.

— Also reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63: A Novel. Siobhan gave it to me for my birthday. This summer I had been reading Under the Dome: A Novel, along with Cashel, and Siobhan had just finished 11/22/63 and couldn’t stop raving about it. I was so surprised and happy when I opened up the package to see that beautiful paperback lying there. Despite its length, it’ll be a quick read. I am already sucked in. The first two pages take care of that.

— I’m starting to get ready for Memphis. My departure date cannot come soon enough. I want to get the hell OUT OF HERE. But besides that, I have stuff to accomplish, and I have a little itinerary, with lots of room for what I am going down there to do. I’ve said it before: I think I would be a much happier person if I could LIVE in hotel rooms. The one I found seems nice, is centrally located, and I’ll be there on New Year’s Eve, which will be totally bizarre, but I have some plans already. I’ll be there long enough to stretch out into a routine a little bit, and that’s what I was really going for. Can’t wait. Is it time yet?

— A good week with friends. I am quite tired, but I had dinner with Ted one night, I went to the movies with David another night, I went out with Brooke, Sheila, and Liz another night. A busy and social week, which did much to prop up my spirits. I am lucky to have such friends.

— And yesterday, I picked up Allison, Michele and Anthony and we drove out to Long Island to wrap presents for the Sacks for Sandy toy drive. Organized by Michele Catalano (old-timers will recognize that name, her blog used to be called “A Small Victory”), the response far exceeded her goals. She had been hoping to procure 500 holiday gifts for kids displaced/impacted by Hurricane Sandy, and the response was more than double that. She set up an Amazon Wish List, and the response was phenomenal. People are good. Then, all of these 1000+ presents had to be wrapped, before they could be distributed. Michele, whose connections with the NYFD run deep, had all the volunteers gather at the Nassau County Firefighters’ Museum (which, by the way, local people – would be an amazing trip – I wish I could take my nephew William, he loves firetrucks and firemen!) – to wrap all of the gifts. Michele had chosen certain areas really impacted by Sandy (Massapequa, the Rockaways, etc.), and there were tables set up for each of those areas with toys piled around the table to be wrapped. The four of us were the “Lido Beach” table. We referred to ourselves as “Team Lido Beach”. We had to wrap, and then label each gift with the age, and either Neutral, or Boy or Girl. (We were joking about going into subsets, and writing on the labels: “This is typically for a boy, but some girls might like it.” “This would be wonderful for your small gay child.” “If your child is a tomboy, she would love this.”) Funny comment from Allison: “I am thinking that any toy labeled 6 to 36 months is automatically Neutral, wouldn’t you say?” In general, though, the toys were neutral: stuffed animals, Legos, Jenga (which were a bitch to wrap, I might add.) Michele had a table of coffee and donuts set up, firemen were there to help organize the gifts for distribution, and there was a Girl Scout troop who carried the gifts from the wrapping table to the distribution wall. The museum is incredible, a giant tribute and memorial to 9/11, but also with old-school gleaming fire trucks and memorabilia. So many people showed up to wrap that we finished in an hour and a half. Michele had been sure that we would be wrapping until 7 o’clock at night! It was a great day. Here are some pics.

And a final reminder: While the impact of Sandy has been under-reported and in some cases totally un-reported – there are still many areas that have not even begun to recover. People are homeless. The Rockaways and Red Hook are nearly destroyed. Please remember these people, please donate. The American Red Cross is a good place to start, but there are many other charities that are helping. FEMA has some good lists on their website. This fight is not over yet. People need help!

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