Friday, May 06, 2005

Acts of Love

"I loved it so much from the beginning that I can't understand why everyone isn't doing it, not playing piano. Later I realized when you perform you give yourself up to God. That's why you do it. That's why I don't care that I have such a small apartment."
-Pianist Katya Grineva, from A Concert Pianist and a Concerted Effort

Sometimes just picking up the New York Times makes me burn with envy. Especially the Sunday real estate section. Usually, this kind of lust for other people's lives is mostly sparked the damn Style section wedding pages. (Or by New York magazine, even though god knows I don't want to be some vacuous Park Avenue princess obsessing over seating arrangements at the Costume Ball, nor could I stand being one Amy Sohn's equally self-absorbed trolling hipsters. Just living here and paying my insane--and Brooklyn!--rent is already enough to make me feel inadequate, thank you very much, without internalizing the magazine's nearly pure-consumerist aspirations. Nevertheless, it still gets me.)

But the real estate section is so seductive, and so heart-wrenching. It goes right to the heart of things--home, hearth, family, safe haven--and then smacks the door shut. You didn't buy in that sweet neighborhood when it was cheap; you didn't have a funky artist dad who locked in a vast Soho loft back in the 60s so you could raise your 6 kids there with your childhood sweetheart. Everywhere you might have wanted to go has already been discovered, and nothing, not even a cottage on a tiny island in Canada, is less than half a mil. Is it any wonder that the hottest new play on Broadway is the revival of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross?

But the article quoted above is a rare oasis of sweetness and generosity. Bereft after her father's death back in Moscow, Katya Grineva was on the latest of one of her near-constant music tours when three of her closest friends decided her studio apartment needed an intervention. Says Stephanie Charczenko, "We thought Katya really needed to be cheered up." So for months, the friends browsed antique stores, put silk shades on the chandelier and pretty pillows on the daybed, and organized her desk. When Grineva came home, she walked into a little party: champagne, candles, food and a newly cossetting home. The before-and-after pictures reveal some judicious shopping, but mostly the friends repurposed what was already there. "I was shocked. It was an act of love...Look at these things that belonged to me that I never used."

How much love and stuff--mental, spiritual, and otherwise--do we all forget we have, and forget to be thankful for? How much wealth is there in the heart?

But still, a brownstone would sure be nice.

1 comment:

sugarkill said...

On thing that has not been discovered yet, my dear, is you. Why is it--how can it be?--that you are not writing for Harper's, or The New Yorker, or The Atlantic Monthly, or some Glossy Conde Nast publication?

I think the Pie Queen might be the great undiscovered literary talent of her generation. Well, I might be a little biased. I have seen her in fishnets, after all.

But she's still my favorite writer of short fiction (which she really needs to write more of, even though it doesn't pay the bills), and anything to do with food.

Come on, New York! Wake up! Or we San Franciscans will have to reclaim her...