NOW I HAVE TO GO TO QUEENS

When I tell people about my novel, they’re curious to know if I based my character on a real person. I suppose it’s time to reveal that amateur sleuth Melissa Morris is based on a friend I used to know. I think I mentioned her in a previous post. She used to work for the Mossad.

After leaving the job, Lysette drifted, taking work no respectable person should ever consider. She was a secretary, a sales assistant, an ESL teacher and an archivist in a cruddy, dark basement in Queens where she had to drink instant coffee and microwave her lunches. Eventually she trained to be a social worker. Really, it was a nightmare to be her friend. Obviously, we lost touch.

So when it came time to write a novel, I thought, what if, instead of working with abused children, Lysette found dead bodies and solved crimes? This is the kind of stuff you have to think about when you’re a writer. You have to ask that really good ‘what if’ question. You have to put normal people in extraordinary situations. You have to sit down and write after drinking at least two gin and tonics. Most writing teachers will tell you that.

Oh yeah – did I mention my novel sold? My future ex-husband was so right. Four different publishers were bidding for it by the end of last week. My badly aging agent, Elaine Totsky, closed the deal yesterday. This industry moves so fast that it’s dizzying.

So back to Lysette. I called her to tell her that I based my detective character on her, and do you know what she did? She invited us for dinner. Now I have to go to Queens. What a nightmare.

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THE LAST ANTI-SEMITE ON WALL STREET

I always say, it’s important to be open-minded.

For three generations, the Schwartz family finances have been managed by a capital market firm with a history as old as Wall Street itself. It’s a proud tradition that has ensured the members of our family the maximum amount of income with the minimum amount of work. I’m sure we can all agree that this is a huge component of the American dream.

And who do we have to thank? The hardworking white, Protestant men who took on our family’s portfolio back in the 1920s in spite of their traditional aversion for Semites. Sure, my father could have ditched them years ago, but what would be the point? As long as we’re talking about the American dream, then surely, at its spiritual center, is not the notion that one ethnicity will love the other, but that a people might overlook that queasy feeling that comes with making contact with those you find revolting, when the shared end goal is profit. Yes, I think that everything we’ve learned about America in recent years has confirmed this thesis.

I realize I’m getting a little high fallutin’, but I’m still on a high after my meeting yesterday with our family’s financial advisor, Charles Cornelius Endicott IV, the fourth Endicott to condescend to serve the Schwartzs. We had a ball, and more importantly, a bottle of Dalmore.

“The problem with you people,” Chuck said after he started to slur, “is that you make it all too obvious.”

“C-Corn in the house,” I said. “C-Corn in the house.”

“It’s better to have money than to chase it, Jasmine. Although I must compliment you on your cleavage today. Absolutely astonishing.”

“I just get so worried,” I told him, bursting into tears. “What if…”

“What is it Jasmine? You can tell me, if it’s not too personal.”

“What’s that?”

“That? Oh, it a toy helicopter. I can make it fly with my phone. Let me show you.”

Do you see why I will never abandon this man? In a way, it’s my most loyal relationship. Future ex-husbands come and go, parents are generally horrible, but financial advisors? They’re the ones who will stand by us, for all equity.

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SOMETHING STRONGER THAN A VALIUM

So I just finished the second novel in this detective series I’m writing and it got me to thinking. Why do people write anyway?

My future-ex-husband says that writing is a big waste of time, because you’ll never make enough money to justify it. He also points out that writers fall into that category of people who feel important and self-satisfied for no good reason. He’s right, of course. Then why did I choose this career?

I asked around, and it turns out that people write for all kinds of reasons. They need to be creative and express. It makes them feel good. They want to influence others. They want to escape into a different world. They feel like they have something important to say. They generally hate interacting with other human beings. And some people are actually good at it. All fine reasons, I suppose. Me? I never really considered any of them.

As my readers know, I write because I got too old to do my real job – I used to be a hostess in an unambiguously private gastro-pub in Manhattan. I couldn’t think of any other work, and writing seemed like something I could do quickly and be successful at without much real effort. I mentioned this to my mother, who lives in Palm Beach, and she just laughed one of her mean little laughs.

I don’t know what she’s so angry about. She did well in the divorce, but you’d never know it, the way she behaves. It reminds me of when I was seven-years-old, and my father was home for a change, and he took me to my ballet lessons because my mother was too drunk to leave her bed. On the way to the studio, we passed a bookstore. My father stopped to look in the window. There was a book on display, something about a World Series in the 1960s and some team that wasn’t supposed to win, but did. What did my father do? He got choked up. He cried.

It was the only time I ever saw my father cry. I forget why I started telling this story. I wish I had something stronger than a valium.

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I KNOW I’M SUPPOSED TO LIKE GAY MEN…

There are construction workers in the house even as I type. Did I mention that we’re renovating the bedroom? It was all red and ottomans and antiques. No one should have to live like that.

The problem is that our designer, Mark Moualem, was supposed to oversee the whole thing. It was scheduled to be finished a week ago but, surprise surprise – Mark is having “boyfriend” troubles. I know as a Manhattan woman I’m supposed to like gay men, but to be honest they never appealed to me. Now, with the delays and the bitchy neighbors and the aggravation, all the bad feelings I’ve ever had towards gay men seem totally justified. I mentioned this to my mother, who lives in Palm Beach, and she just laughed one of her mean little laughs. That’s the way she is.

My future ex-husband bought a place on Meadow Lane last year, and I should probably just move in until the work is done, but it’s so dull there now. And tomorrow is my weekly mani-pedi-hot-stone-neck-massage-hydrating-rejuvenesence facial.

I know what you’re thinking: Jasmine, why are you putting yourself through this? Just check into a hotel. But as you may recall, the last time we renovated, my future ex-husband and I stayed at the W Hotel in Midtown. It was fashion week and everything else decent was booked and well, you know what it’s like there. With the tourists in the lobby and the small rooms and Tom and Jerry playing in the elevators. I needed a week in Maui to recover from the whole ordeal.

So here I am, trying to answer Pavel’s incessant questions about the position of the Alvarez pendant lights. Someone get me the Dalmore.

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MY BADLY-AGING LITERARY AGENT

I once had a girlfriend named Lysette who did some work for the Mossad. It was a good gig, but eventually she got tired of seducing Syrian businessmen in cheap East European hotels. She drifted for years. I urged her to give up and marry rich, but Lysette refused, and now she’s living in Queens with an ethnic boyfriend.

Think about it for a second. Lysette could be in Fairfield county, fooling around with her Bikram trainer while her husband blogs about Wall Street. I’m just saying, people should be more open. The world would be a better place.

I’m thinking about this because since I last posted, I wrote the novel and now have an agent. Her name is Elaine Totsky.

Elaine may have been good looking once – it’s hard to tell once the sun spots set in. At first I thought it didn’t matter how she looked. I figured she’s in a job where no one has to see her face. But it turns out that agenting is all about lunches, and lunches are all about impressing people with your body. I’ve seen other agents at parties, and they’re young and hot and skilled at drawing attention to their cleavage. Frankly, I’m a little concerned. How did I get stuck with Keith Richards?

My future ex-husband told me not to be worried. “Babe,” he said. “She’s selling you. Not her sagging neck.” Easy for him to say. He still thinks I’m 35. But I thought just in case, I should give her the number of my plastic surgeon. I also handed her a card for a “cosmedical” spa on Lexington because of her facial hair situation. And do you know what? She didn’t even thank me.

Speaking of cosmeticians, did I mention that my father is dating his dental hygienist? She’s a Kosovan single mom, so that’s three offensive things about her already. I’m really having a bad day.

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WITH NO OTHER SKILLS, I NATURALLY TURN TO WRITING

My future ex-husband always says, “If they can’t afford to live in Manhattan, don’t waste your time.” What he means is, life is short. Pursue your dreams. Don’t let anyone tell you no, especially if you’re attractive enough to get your way. It’s so true. Five years ago my uncle Myron was skiing in Verbier and Bam! Just like that, he was gone.

I was thinking about this the other day when I decided to write a novel. As my readers know, I’m the hostess at a private gastro-pub in Manhattan. We don’t give out the name, we have no website, and the sign on the door is written in invisible ink.

It’s terrific work. I love the pleasure of turning people away. I would do this job forever, if I could. But I can’t.

You’re probably as sad about this as I am. You’re asking yourself: Why, Jasmine, why?

I had this plan to be young and glamorous forever, but it never panned out. It’s a shame because I’m gorgeous. But tragically, my beauty is fading. I didn’t realize it, but the decline in beauty, as it relates to increasing age, is not gradual. It’s exponential. Did you know that? That once you pass a certain age, you might as well get fat and dress in that cheap, synthetic clothing that they make people in the Midwest wear? I wish someone had told me about this years ago. I would have come up with a different plan.

Given these unfortunate circumstances, it’s unfair of me to keep my job. Our customers deserve better. The men who grace our establishment should be greeted and seated by a woman they want to have sex with. The ladies deserve someone who makes them feel overweight and bad about themselves in general.

It’s time to face reality. I need a new career that doesn’t expose others to my crow’s feet. As Mark Twain said, “wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been, but unfortunately they end up making women ugly.” So here I am, bravely looking ahead, wondering what’s next for Jasmine.

With no other skills or training to speak of, I naturally turn to writing. Tomorrow I start my first novel. How hard could it be?

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