Recently, an interviewer for JAM magazine asked me, "Which phrases do you over-use the most?"
My answer: "Cry me a fucking river" and "The world should have my problems."
Indeed. The reason I haven't posted a blog since the New Year has been that I've been consumed writing my latest book, which, I'm happy to report, is turning out to be every bit as agonizing, soul-crushing, and demented as my other three.
I've also been on the road. A lot. You'd think I'd have blogged about this, but no. The whole point of traveling, these days, has largely been to avoid writing. But among the top ironies and headline-worthy events: I recently went to Luxembourg, where I visited an exhibition on poverty. Yes, you read that correctly. It seems the tiny nation is so full of, well, luxe, that it felt compelled to put poverty -- past and present -- on display in its city museum.
As icky as this sounds at first, the exhibition actually had merit. First, it showed how, up until the turn of the last century, Luxembourg looked pretty much like the worst slums on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. "Just hold on a minute there," it seemed to be saying to all the bankers and well-heeled Luxembourgians (?) who now hurry through its boutique-lined streets. "Check your sense of entitlement at the door. Not so long ago, you were all sleeping six to a bed -- or on the floor with the rats. Your forefathers were starving."
Its comparisons of monthly salaries between day-laborers in developing nations, the President of the United States, and Prince Charles were also illuminating and sobering (and enough to make you want to take a polo mallet to all those commemorative plates for Will and Kate's Royal Wedding). So were its displays on its drug-treatment centers for the homeless. Amazing what you can do when you're a tiny country with a lot of wealth that you haven't frittered away on a mismanaged war or subprime mortgages.
Smartass that I am, I'd entered the exhibition primed to make derogatory remarks; instead, I found myself thinking that it wouldn't be a half-bad export: a bit of high-brow consciousness raising for Masters of the Universe everywhere.
Continuing my procrastination, I also had the great pleasure of hosting three fabulous, teenaged nephews on a whirlwind, Short-Attention Span Tour of Europe. Four countries in two weeks. How truly American. But I taught the boys how to say "Auntie Susie needs a cocktail" in Spanish, French, and Italian, so we were pretty much good to go. Rome, Barcelona, Paris: we hit 'em all. With the skyrocketing Swiss franc, I shit thee not: it was actually cheaper to fly to all three of these cities on Easyjet than to eat dinner in Geneva.
Once, years ago, I'd gotten it into my head to lead a group of high school students through the British Isles for three weeks. I'd had the idea that it was crucial for American kids to see the world beyond our borders (plus, I was a starving writer: Hey, a free trip to England!) But by the time I got back to America, I told my friends, "If I ever volunteer to lead teenagers through a foreign country ever again, put me in a straightjacket."
Well, this time, no jacket was required. Seeing my phenomenal nephews respond to the works of Bernini, Gaudi, the ancient Romans, and Da Vinci was amazing. So was watching their world-views and their sensitivities dilate. Best yet, however, was accompanying them to do extensive research for my foundation, the Susan Jane Gilman Institute of Advanced Gelato Studies. I will write more about the Susan Jane Gilman Institute of Advanced Gelato Studies later on, but suffice to say that its mission is global -- and globally important (who doesn't like ice cream?). Its cutting edge research, which is often both quantitative and comparative, is required up to three or four times daily in certain cities, and you would not believe how demanding it is. I cannot for the life of me imagine why those bastards at the National Science Foundation have yet to award me a grant.
So this, in short is why I haven't been blogging. Cry me a fucking river, indeed -- but thanks, readers, for sticking with me.