Friday, August 29, 2014

2:00 A.M., Thursday night

I'm half asleep. There's a scuffling from downstairs. Eventually, Itta, freshly home from her restaurant, trudges upstairs.

ITTA: Sorry, I ate your leftover falafel.
ME: I was planning to take it for lunch tomorrow!
ITTA: You should've gotten food for me!
ME: You work at a restaurant!
ITTA: I can't eat restaurant food all the time!
ME: But my leftovers were from a restaurant!
ITTA: Okay, I'll make you sandwiches to take for lunch.
ME: You so don't have to. It's two o'clock in the morning.
ITTA: It's fine.
ME: You really don't have to.
ME (thinking): jackpotjackpotjackpot
ITTA: It's fine.

ITTA proceeds downstairs and makes two sandwiches. I return to sleep.

And that, my friends, is what is known in the vernacular as a win-win situation.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The End of Lost Time

From LitBooks' Twitter, here is the last page of Proust's In Search of Lost Time.

Kind of reassuring to know that, after writing 3000 pages, you're still not entirely sure about everything in your story.

Monday, June 30, 2014

I Hate Birthdays

First thing: I promise this is not a subtle, passive-aggressive way of saying that you should really say happy birthday to me. Second: I really am grateful to my parents and Hashem and everyone who's pushed me out of the way of a moving vehicle or woken me up out of an alcoholic stupor or otherwise contributed to the very unlikely occurrence of my still being alive.

So I guess, technically speaking, I do not hate birthdays. But all the same, every time someone wishes me a happy one, or goes out of their way to talk to me when they wouldn't otherwise talk to me, it feels like a knife applied to a particularly sensitive and recently-fed area of my stomach.

Most of all, it's that I haven't done anything to deserve it. Like, what is this day which demands more compliments and wishings of wellness than any other? I didn't do anything. Actually, if we're going to get technical, today's the day I probably least deserve it, since I put my mother into more pain than she's ever been and started the long downhill slide of dependency on other people for my basic human needs.

Like, can you please save it for when something good happens that I've actually earned? Because my pirate novel is still sitting in a corner unsold, and I'm still wearing crappy clothes that don't entirely fit, and I just demanded an entire dialogue rewrite, which is probably necessary, but is going to cause a bunch of people a bunch of nightmares, and I haven't brokered peace between Israel and Palestine, or even between my 6-year-old and 4-year-old.

But I know at heart that it isn't a bad thing that people are wishing me stuff. Even if it's something I would rather gets slipped under the table and forgotten, good vibes are -- should be -- always appreciated. And I don't mean to shoot you down, and I can just see my mom's face when she reads this, But don't you feel good when..., and at this point in my life (old) (sick) (and kind of sweaty) I can use all the points I can get. So if you really want to wish a happy birthday today, probably the place to go is here: My mom's facebook page. Feel free to post on her wall. She deserves it.

In Judaism, you don't really get presents for your birthday. Instead, you're supposed to give blessings to people. Maybe that's the way it's supposed to happen, both to relieve my birthday depression and to make me work a little harder: instead of getting stuff, maybe I should be giving. So, seriously, hit me up.

Oh, and here's a present: They Might Be Giants are giving away their first album free. I know. I know. Happy birthday to me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

36, Stage Fright, and You Should Hang out with Me on a Farm

Last week I was performing, and then there was a Q&A session afterward -- which is always kind of weird; I feel like I should be the one asking everyone else questions, "What did you think?" and "Did that make any sense?" -- and someone asked me about my blog. "Yep," I said, "it's my weird place where I write whatever random stuff is on my head and doesn't fit anywhere else." "I guess you haven't had many random thoughts lately!" he said, "since you haven't written anything in almost 2 months." While I was reading, he'd Googled me and called up my site on his phone.

I have got to get better at covering my tracks.

matthue roth performing

I have suddenly started doing more readings, which is a weird thing. Not sure how it's going to square away with my anxiety issues -- that is, if I start hyperventilating onstage or ducking and hiding behind the monitor speakers, you'll know why -- but, so far, so good. Tomorrow night (Wednesday!) I'm going to be reading a very new story at Soda Bar as part of the Buzzards' Banquet series, and there will be music, too. And at the end of the month, I'm giving classes (and probably speaking, too) all week at ArtFest on this amazing kosher organic farm. And if you're there, my kids can teach you how to milk goats, because they know.

And the other big thing is this:

Itta and I were named two of the 36 under 36 by the Jewish Week. Here's Itta's and my feature directly, but you should check out the full suite of characters.

Oh! Cover photo by Karuna Tanahashi, taken at Chevra Ahavas Yisroel.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


BAD: This morning, one kid refused to get dressed, just refused. I cajoled. I promised rewards. In the end, none of it worked and I had to throw a My Little Pony out the window. I am a horrible person. (I think it was even Twilight Sparkle. Like I said: horrible.)

GOOD: On the train the kids played one of the games I designed, and they were actually liking it, liking it a lot.

BAD: Dropped them off. Got on the subway. Was really hungry, and was going to snag a part of my lunch. Opened my bag and realized that same kid left her lunch in my bag. The train was coming in 7 minutes.

GOOD: Ran the distance. Bolted up the stairs, gave the kid her lunch. Was halfway back down the stairs when she called me back. I implored her, "Poppa really has to leave." She beckoned me again. I ran up. She thrust one hand in each of my pockets. "These are the blue crystals," she told me. "Just in case you run into any evil purple crystals on the train, you can make them better."

BAD: On the train, I realized I'd forgotten not only my notebook, but any sort of paper. I dug in my wallet. I found a Duane Reade receipt for a bag of chips I'd bought for a class party eons ago, and I had to continue my story on that.

GOOD: I continued my story. And I'd been plugged up on it all week. And now, in spite of (or maybe because of) forgetting my real notebook, it all came out.

matthue journal

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Three Things I Forgot About Babar: Death, Incest, and Shrooming

So today my kids and I crashed the enviable-but-stuffy Brooklyn College library. We didn't exactly get kicked out, but we definitely got enough snarly looks so that at least two out of three of us knew it was time to hit the road. Despite the fact that this particular wing of the library was almost empty, and it was, indeed, the Juvenile Section of a college library, we definitely turned most of the heads in there at one moment or another, and by the point that I was being asked if we could read just one more Dr. Seuss book (kudos to the library for actually having them), we were using our ejector seat buttons.

One of the books we read, for my first time in hmm hmm years, The Story of Babar. Three things I did not remember, in no particular order:

  1. His mom gets killed. Not like Bambi's mother, at an emotional high-point of the story. It's just like, Babar is playing in the sand, he's out with his friends, his mother gets shot by poachers.
  2. He marries his cousin. This is a little less over-the-head shocking, if only because half a dozen pages or so elapse between the line where Babar is visited by "his cousin Celeste" and his grand return to his tribe, whereupon he announces that he and Celeste are to be married. Is this really based on actual true stuff? Do elephants actually marry their cousins?
  3. Um, this:
There's also definitely that uncomfortable undertone of colonialism--something which I did not pick up upon my last reading at the age of five or so--but there's also a weird, snarkily subversive rejection of colonialism on the part of Babar and his clan. I'm not sure if that was intentional, but I'm sure somebody's written a paper about it some time.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Greatest Love of All

Today was long and intense, and almost entirely devoid of adults, and after I put the kids to bed -- we read the last chapters of Baby-Sitters' Club #3, Mary Ann Saves the Day, the graphic-novel adaptation, which has an amazIng scene (which I can only guess was not in the original, as it was wordless, and well-paced and utterly beautiful) where Mary Ann goes to visit her mother's grave and lies down on it -- and I emailed Itta and asked if she could bring me something from the restaurant when she gets home. I was so in the mood for restaurant food. sometimes you need food that you didn't cook, that no human being has cooked, that's fresh and warm and comes to you via a server and some cutlery that someone who's not you will wash (or, alternately, that's plastic and that you can just throw out).

Then I zoned out, except apparently I think I might have zoned out more than I warranted, because instead of writing I watched Sherlock -- a gorgeous episode, and one that I didn't think would come together at all, and in the end it totally did.

And that last scene, where Sherlock really wants to dance with someone and then he almost does and then he thinks better of it, a quick cut, and he's alone outside, hit a little too much home for me.

I really do want to write a great Disney movie. But even though the latest (Frozen, it's so incredible, I nearly had an artistic breakdown watching it just wishing I could make something that good and at the same time that inoffensive), where they (very minor spoiler) replace the girl/prince love story with a sisters/best friends love story. But I think what I really need to write, or to experience, is a movie where you learn that yourself is good enough? And I'm not sure if Disney will ever be capable of making that. I'm not sure if I'll ever be capable of writing that.

Tomorrow is my wife's due date. Or, as I've started saying it, her officially-overdue date. Feels so weird, that the world could change so radically at any given moment. And then I remind myself about what the Alter Rebbe said, that the world is created anew from nothingness at every moment, and I realize that all of us only exist by some whim of some Supreme Being anyway, so enjoy the sameness while we can. I feel like I'm hovering at that moment of Tron right before he gets sucked into the computer and everything turns to neon. Like stuff is nowhere near as cool as it's about to be, but I should appreciate the natural colors and relative boringness while I still can.

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