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Hand-Eye Coordination

I work the early shift. I wake up at 5 a.m., am in a car to the office by 5:15, at my desk with both hands on the keyboard and a mic at my mouth by 5:45, and I leave promptly at 2 p.m. This allows me more afternoon flexibility than the normal working New Yorker, though my evenings in da club have been severely curtailed.

This afternoon, instead of going to yoga as I normally would, I decided to get a manicure. And a pedicure. And a ten-minute massage in one of those cushy chairs with the rotating iron fist behind the leather.

It was a pleasure made sweeter by the fact that everyone else was on their way to or from a meeting. There’s a line in a fine movie, Priceless, where Audrey Tautou says to her beau, “I love drinking in the afternoon. It’s like you’re keeping a secret.” That’s how I felt.

As I was rubbed and scrubbed, I couldn’t help noticing (as I always do) the sense of surprise when someone touches my hand. I believe that hands are the window to the soul. (I’ve never bought into that whole eye thing. My main complaint is that the eyeball itself can convey very little. The pupil can dilate, which expresses either “I’m on cocaine” or “I’ve just seen the doctor.” It seems to me that most expressiveness is really from the eyelids or the upper cheeks. Anyway, I’ve never met someone and seen more in their eyes than color.)

We touch many things with our hands each day, including each other. But it’s a rare instance when another hand directly touches ours in a non-romantic setting. And when it does happen, the mind is brought back from its wanderings in an instant. Shaking hands takes only the briefest of moments, but think how much stock we put into the exchange. There’s something intimate about it. I think I developed this idea in high school.

Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting

I’m not a big Shakespeare fan, though I appreciate his contribution. (Perhaps this is because I just don’t like the word ‘bard.’ It sounds to me like someone vomiting.) But one thing we agree on is the power of the hand.

I was in ninth-grade English class when I first saw Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting in Romeo and Juliet. And with them, I was able to transcend the snoring around me and do exactly what I was supposed to do. Despite the grainy film. Despite the sounds of other teenagers shuffling by the open classroom door, slouching towards detention (our own Bethlehem, in a way). I shall never forget their ‘holy palmers’ kiss.’

I suspect the other contribution to my theory is my mother. When pressed to list her favorite things about my father, says she knew he was a good man because she liked his hands.

And he’s never even been to get a manicure. He has no idea about the massaging chairs.

Olivia Hussey

Knock Knock

My writing goal is to become a humor columnist, most of you know that. There’s no clear path to get there, which is why I’m working as a full-time headline reporter and blogging here once a week. This is the place to hone my skills and test my wits and enjoy my father’s weekly commentary at the bottom of each post. He, by the way, has for some reason decided to pen-name as Briggsie, our dead family dog. One wonders.

I don’t plan on being in New York forever. I’d like to spend some part of my 20s in at least one more city, hopefully abroad. With this in mind, I feel pressure to meet and learn from other writers. I should say that, so far, I have met no other humor writer. Nor have I met any writer doing what I want to do or who appreciated, particularly, what I had to offer. This is very discouraging to someone who thought she had plopped herself in the bosom of a million other writers who’d at least get her jokes. Not so.

I tried to network through friends. I researched writing groups. I signed up on mailing lists of book groups. I tried to go to one storytelling event at The Moth but it was rained out. Apparently insects don’t like to get wet. I’ve been to a few journalism networking events and have met some lovely (and kooky and unemployed) people, but no one I thought could teach me more about being funny. Very disappointing.

Last week, wavering between calm desperation and desperate calmness, I attended an event hosted by the Paley Center for Media. The evening featured a panel of women who write for late-night comedy shows like The Colbert Report and The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon. I arrived with five minutes to spare, having spent half an hour waiting for Obama’s motorcade to pass my blocked-off street. I finally cut towards the park and slipped under some Do Not Cross lines, reciting in my best David Attenborough: “The intrepid journalist moves along the forest edge, trying not to disturb the other creatures around her as she stalks her prey.” In any case, I arrived. And I very much enjoyed the discussion. I…. aspired.

I was fascinated to hear the experiences of women “in the writer’s room,” creating gags and monologues for our most revered comedians. Some of them grew their humor through improv comedy and one (the funniest, Morgan Murphy) regularly does stand-up. I have no interest in either of those genres. I asked a question at the end of the panel about whether any of the women also did humor writing for print. None did.

I left feeling more inspired and energetic than I’ve felt in a long while. So much so that I signed up for a sketch and sitcom-writing class as soon as I got home. I fell into bed feeling happy, content and on my road again. Moving forward.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I learned there was a waiting list and it could be months before I ever get the opportunity to bomb a joke in front of peers. I shall endeavor on, one titter at a time, until I’m famous or knock-knocked out. Which brings me to what I really want to know: who’s there?