• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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I flex the rol’, sign a check for yo’ hoe Jigga’s style is love, X and O Save all your accolades, just the dough

I always thought that I would step in front of a bus, but today, dear friends, I think I just might jump from the roof of a major publisher. I know you’re not supposed to joke about THAT, but why not? Literary agent leaps to her death. Or better yet, Literary agent and beloved blogger leaps. Why is it so hard to get a fucking contract done and paid? Why isn’t everyone like so and so at such and such. My dad, who you may recall owned a lumber yard, always said that business was about collections. How could that be, I asked him, shocked  that it all boiled down to chasing checks. But now that I have my own business, I see how right he was. Creative work is a cinch compared with getting  laid. Er, paid. Today is my dad’s birthday. He would have been 83, I think. We clashed a lot, but he was a great business man. No college. Maybe a high school equivalency, maybe, but he was fair and smart and no bullshit. He got things done. He made a mean fried salami and scrambled eggs. He infused me with my love of film and television. And he was always as good as his word.

What else is there in life?

49 Responses

  1. Seriously, he sounds like a good guy.

  2. walk away from the edge

    is it the publisher?
    your dad?

    either way, don’t do it. don’t jump. even if you decide to stop rep’ing everybody buy your own damn self—don’t do anything that would cease me getting to read bits like this (and last night’s and the night’s before that…)

    sycophant? sure, whatever.

    seriously, though, get off the roof.

  3. I hate the show-me-the-money part of life. I think I would have made a good slave, actually. Holed up in some back room with my gruel.

    But Betsy, really, don’t be talkin’ roof-jumping smack. Besides the myriad viruses that seem to be infecting my computer daily, your blog is the only thing I can count on!

  4. Yeah, the business world scares the shit out of me. On behalf of soft people everywhere, may I offer our thanks. We are all well aware that you are taking a bullet for us.

    Happy Birthday to your dad. No matter how deep the clash, these kind of days always suck.

  5. “beloved blogger”

    You got that right.

    Step away from the edge and tell soand so atsuch and such to take a hike.

  6. Maybe you need a goon squad. Effective but stylish, think Miller’s Crossing…


  7. In a similar vein, it kills me that our library has to have a collection agency—and that other public libraries are turning to their sherriff’s departments to arrest people who can’t quite figure out that keeping library books well past their due date is indeed actual theft.

    It’s not rocket surgery. A library card is a legal agreement to play, and pay, by the rules. Bring the stuff back. The item can be checked out again.

    Ahem. Sorry.

    • My family became good friends with the library collection guy in our neighbourhood. He’d drop by our house every few months, mom would make him coffee and a sandwich and we’d all chat, and then he’d load up his little station wagon with all the library books mom and dad had been hoarding and drive off. It wasn’t until I was about ten years old that I realized this wasn’t how library books were supposed to be returned.

    • Collection Agency. For library books. Wow — if you can’t figure out that out, how’s the rest of your life work??

  8. a mean fried salami and scrambled eggs is enough for me….but then your dad said the business was about the people too, didn’t he? So there you have it…

  9. I always thought I’d walk in front of a bus,too. It’s so sweet we have that in common. What are you doing after lunch?

  10. Your comments made me think about my dad. He would have been 100 on Jan. 1. He was a business man, too. He came from a Holy Roller nutsy family in Ontario. His father was a fire-and-brimstone preacher who forced my father to become one, too. But he hated it, moved to the states, married my mother, and worked his way up from pumping gas and washing cars on the weekends to owning a big successful toy store–the kind that carries quality brands like Creative Playthings and Madame Alexander dolls and books–lots of books. Plus, they gift wrapped everything and even delivered orders. But then the seventies came and the chain stores arrived with their cheaper prices and “the shop around the corner” slowly went under. It was the only time I ever saw my dad cry–when he had to sell his inventory and rent his building to K-Bee toys and work for them. My father never told me that he loved me, but the way he treated me showed me–even better than words–how he felt.

  11. Betsy, seriously, are you thinking of hurting yourself? Because even though that seems to be your schtick on this blog, this entry has me worried.

    **hugs** as you miss your dad today.

  12. “What else is there in life?”

    Fuck. You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ some trash about leapin’ to your death from a high building over what? A contract? Closin’ a deal? Collectin’ the check? You serious or you jokin’ or what? I mean, what the fuck? You lookin’ for words of wisdom here or somethin’? From me? Some schmuck scrawlin’ on your blog? You wanna know “what else is there in life?” Well I dunno. Go look around. See what you can find. Here. Try this. Just for the fuck of it. See if there’s some way you can work with inmates for a while. Jail, prison, loony bin, it don’t matter much, they’re all sick and they’re all crazy and they’re all fucked (by who or what? God? Would God do that? Why? Any good guesses? Anybody?). Talk to the inmates, work with the inmates. The schizos. The psychopaths. The baby-fuckers. The crack whores. The meth-heads. The junkies. The clever boys always bending the wrong angle. Go ahead, tear your heart out. Ask ’em, “What else is there in life?” See what they say. Then pick up your check every payday. Shit, don’t forget your check. I mean, what’re you doin’ this for? Feed the cat or the dog when you get home, and be kind to those close to you, someday you may need them real bad. And remember, when you leave the way you been jokin’ about–when you step in front of that bus or leap off that roof– you don’t get to come back. It’s not a movie or a book. No retakes, no revisions. “What else is there in life?” Fucked if I know.

    • Shit, Tetman. Maybe we need to talk you down from the ledge, or into another line of work. Can I get you a whisky and soda? A kind bud? Your favorite slippers?

  13. My day job requires the occasional hardball, and if I may offer, Betsy, put your head down and try to separate the real you from what needs to get done. There is a side of me that can take care of business, but every time I have to use it, it sucks a little bit of my soul out too. Cauterize the area, protect the creative, and know when to save yourself for another day.

    After all, I remind myself that when they get to me at that level, they win. That’s what would keep me from jumping, damned if I’ll let them win.

    I was called into a meeting once, to” clear the air” after somebody went around me and did something they really shouldn’t have, insulting my intelligence among other things. Your reputation is everything in this business. I can’t get into detail, but suffice to say, when confronted by a manager looking at his folded hands because he knew I was right, but forgot to wear his big boy pants that day, and a senior co-worker who asked me “Why are you so hostile?”, with a fake sincerity that made me question my ability to handle such things professionally, I stood up, slammed my fists into the table, and said “Because I am hostile. Anything else?” They looked at me stunned, shook their collective heads no, and I left.

    As good as your word is one of the great underrated qualities of humankind. Hats off to your dad.

    • “Why are you so hostile?” is one of the smarmiest pieces of passive-aggressive verbiage to come out of the deconstructed swamps of psychobabble. Sounds like you handled that situation well.

      • Fortunately, people still find crazy frightening.
        The best part was thinking I’d be intimidated. My flight response died long ago. I may go home in a rage that turns into depression, but they’ll never see it.

    • I learned this from a co-worker, back in my days when I sold Faberge and worked with minor Russian royalty (and there is no bigger pain in the ass than minor royalty) who used to use me as his flunky and I never understood how he managed to make me feel so bad whenever I tried to talk to him about boundaries.

      When a master manipulator deflects the focus of discussion from himself onto you (by suddenly making you have to defend yourself for being “hostile”, for example), you always always always answer the question with a question of your own. “Why are you so hostile?” can be answered with, “Why did you go behind my back and etc etc etc?”

      It takes practice, if manipulation doesn’t come naturally to you, to use this Answer-A-Question-With-A-Question tactic, and at first you might to have give yourself time to think by simply asking (in your best Real Housewives of Atlanta voice) “Excuse me?” But realize that this, the sudden re-direction of talk to put you in an entirely irrelevant defensive mode, is a devise that all manipulators use, and be ready to recognize it and combat it.

      After I learned to communicate on his level, my princely co-worker and I hammered out a very functional relationship. And I saw with my own eyes that he used Super Glue to put back some loose diamonds on an Imperial Egg. I’ve always wanted to rat him out to the world about that. (See: Betsy’s post yesterday re: Revenge.)

      • This post intrigues me. It seems to have a memoir lurking in it that could be told (the dynamics of a working relationship with abusive minor royalty, the Faberge business)…

  14. Happy birthday to your dad. I’m not sure if I miss my mother more on her birthday or death day — both suck. So as many have said, step away from the edge…

    In other business news, my husband had to fire a guy this week for surfing something like SexyRedhead.Com 5 hours a day. It was hard to get the guy to leave the building. “No severance pkg! What the hell am I supposed to tell my wife?!”

  15. Maybe the editor/publishing company reads your blog and be ashamed.

    Yeah, right.

  16. I left out a word. The word Ieft out was “will.” I have a terrible, terrible, terrible feeling this means something.


  17. Your dad sounds wonderful. I used to go to lumberyards with my dad because he designed wooden boats so the sounds and smells of wood being sawed etc remind me of him (as a hobby,he loved to work with wood, too).

    Maybe do what your dad might do–call them and bug them. I used work in publishing and was the person in the editorial department who took care of contracts and when an agent called me, I’d go down the hall and ask the contracts guy (one overworked young man surrounded by stacks of contracts) to look for that contract etc.and he’d shrug his shoulders and maybe two weeks later it would surface (though I always sent the checks on signing the minute they hit my desk!)

  18. “He was always as good as his word.” I wish I could say that about my father: your dad is a hero to me.

    Happy birthday, Mr. Lerner.

  19. The older I get the more I think of my dad and the more I miss him. I wish I had been closer.

  20. Beautiful. Some of the best in life are gone; may your father rest in peace.

  21. Don’t do it, Betsy! Google Buckminster Fuller’s life to see why he decided not to do away with himself at the age of 32.

  22. Here’s to the book-smart daughters of street-smart men. They worked hard to get us through college, knowing it would mean leaving their world behind. It can take decades to admit we learned something from them.

    • Love this. My dad was the one who somehow figured out he was smart and worked his tail off getting an education (his dad was a hard worker, too, but couldn’t read). I will never be able to accomplish anything near what he did. But I’m so grateful.

  23. just pretend you’re Johnny Cash, be the (wo)man in black. stroll in and “enquire” about the cash. cowboy boots are a necessity.

    btw do not tuck your jeans into your boots.

    • Spurs.

      When I go in for the cash, I wear the spurs, too.

      Betsy, not only do we love you, depend on you — whether we comment every day or not — and need you, there IS that Oscar waiting. Seriously.

      When the edge is calling to me, I knock myself out until the urge passes. It always does. (And comes back, but that’s another day.)

  24. My father, who smelled of luscious smoke and wore a gold pinky ring, left us high and dry when I was nine, the rat bastard. So it was my hard-as-nails mother who taught me how to balance the books, crack wise, stand up for myself and cry behind a closed door. Here’s to smart mothers who refuse to cave.

  25. When my sisters and I were little, my dad used to ask us to squeeze his hand as hard as we were able. “OK, now squeeze it a little harder,” he’d say, and we’d grit our teeth and tighten our fist. “Alright,” he’d say, “now this time let’s see you squeeze the VERY hardest you possibly can.” So we’d turn purple with the strain and somehow manage to grip even harder, making him yelp and laugh at the same time.

    Even at age six, I understood his little lesson. But I had no idea how many life situations I would apply it to. It might not change other people, but it will keep you off the roof.

  26. ‘Creative work is a cinch compared with getting laid. Er, paid.’ And here I thought getting screwed was the problem.

  27. Ah, we’re all searching for truth, thinking it will be beautiful.


    Years ago I split with a producer over what I considered his rough handling of me and my novel, which he was paying me to adapt.

    Last week, an entertainment reporter friend of mine told me he used my name to get access to this same producer who was in town for the Oscar campaign launch of “Biutiful.”

    He later confessed to being surprised at the producer’s smile upon hearing my name, and at the fact I was not holding a grudge, either.

    Upshot? Our friction was run-of-the-mill stuff in the business world.

    The exceptional story worthy of recounting is: “Got payed on time-treated well-loved the experience-and got some fulfillment.”

    Sure creative work is easier than slogging after money. That’s why the ranks of the willing and able are so thick when the slots are so few.

    Don’t you laugh as an agent when your hear: “All I want to do is create my work and get paid enough to live on?”

    All you want? Does it sound like you’re asking for so very little?

    It’s everything and YOU CAN’T HAVE IT!

  28. My father would have been 84 on Jan 8th. He has been gone 34 year and I still miss him deeply. the best advice he ever gave me was to have faith in God but most of all have faith in myself. That advice has gotten me through many, many hard days.

  29. Dads…sometimes we hate to love them, but what do you do? Hang i there today Betsy.

  30. <> Love kindness imagination joy and devotion. And wickedness.

  31. To Betsy’s father (raises green coconut filled with pure, sweet juice) and his daughter: the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

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