Re: Postcard, Summer 2015

Hi, buddy!

Thanks for your letter. Your summer sounds like it was tremendous. Wish I could have been there, too.

The fugue state that is Chicago summer feels like months ago, instead of merely weeks. With October quickly approaching, we’ve entered the season of Impossible to Dress Yourself Since It Will Be Fifteen Degrees Warmer Later, or ItDYSIWBFDWL, for short. But fall truly is the best time of year. It holds so much promise—even without the beginning of the school year, autumn feels like the perfect time for reinvention and revitalization. Am I a Pilates Person who Reads the News now? Hey, at least for September.

autumn gorilla

But let’s go back in time for a moment. Here are some of the things that I was jamming on this summer, about which I may or may not have already texted you.

Podcasts

I wish you had more patience for Beverly Hills, 90210 because Tara and Sarah (#squadgoals) are doing an amazing job recapping every episode on Again With This. You should at least be checking out the accompanying Visual Aids because, you know, comedy gold. I, on the other hand, subscribed to Hulu Plus to watch every second of the ten-season series because, just like Dylan and Brenda, I am going all in on this relationship.

90210

Co-sign on Death, Sex & Money. I teared up listening to Chaz Ebert’s episode. Love is real! All of Anna Sale’s interviews are handled masterfully—they each feel so honest. It helps, too, that her guests are game to be open books. I loved listening to Jane Fonda, Scott Aukerman with Kulap Vilaysack, Ellen Bustyn, and Joy Williams, too. And all the rest of them. Just go listen, already!

Books

I finally finished Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, five hundred months later. I appreciated the book more than I enjoyed it, but No Regrets 2015! Now, onto the miniseries…

Everyone should experience Aziz Ansari’s book Modern Romance via audiobook. Internet, contact me for more details. (Seriously.)

Mindy Kaling’s new book made me laugh out loud in public more than once. She’s a boss.

mindy

TV

As readers of this blog may have noticed due to my sudden decline in coverage, I dropped True Detective like a hot rock. As much fun as I had mocking it, I could not carry on because it was total trash. If any of you out there are holding on senselessly to any shows that have gone off the rails, follow my example and let go. I also gave up on Masters of Sex, and I’m feeling great.

I binged Season One of Empire last month, which was amazing, but no one did batshit as well as UnREAL did this summer. Get on it, everyone. It may have aired on Lifetime, but UnREAL has an FX sensibility.

I already miss Playing House, but thanks to the podcast Womp It Up (a Comedy Bang Bang spinoff) and an iTunes purchase of the show Best Friends Forever, I’ll still have some Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham to keep me warm this winter. As a dude that I met on a dating app texted me the first night we started talking, “Alison, you are definitely crushing on Lena [sic] and Jessica.” The next day he passive aggressively complained when I didn’t respond immediately. Feeling great about my twelve-hour summer fling of 2015!

I still have not finished The Wire. I’ve got a real “slow and steady” thing going. I average about an episode every two weeks, which is the perfect pace for forgetting everything that’s happened so far.

Movies

I just Googled “summer movies 2015” because I had no memory of what I saw this year. Great sign!

I liked Trainwreck and Straight Outta Compton, loved Spy, and had my brain exploded by Magic Mike XXL. I’m a different, better person now.

mmxxl

Music

James Bay (or Bae, if you will) is my new twentysomething-Brit-with-a-guitar crush. I saw him at Outside Lands in San Francisco, and have tickets to see him in Chicago in November. On a related note, there is a RedEye employee in my office who wears a similar round brim hat at his standing desk. My amateur diagnosis is that he’s trying too hard.

Lianne La Havas is a goddess. For Christmas, I’d like her jumpsuits and her casual cool.

I’ve re-signed my lease for the 2015-2016 year, which is a funny feeling. I’ll have at least one more winter and one more summer in Chicago. So much will be different by this time next year—mostly the newly wedded bliss of some of my favorite people, as 2016 is The Year of Weddings. The other changes, however, the changes in my own life, are ones I cannot foresee. And I’m excited for those.

Love,

Alison

P.S. Of course you brought corn on the plane. Of course you did.

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GIRLFRIENDS.

Pilot season this fall has been dominated by marriage, and explorations of committed, boy-on-girl relationships. I literally cannot be argued with–just look at the series titles: Married on FX. Marry Me on NBC. The Affair on Showtime. Seriously, it’s right there.

Thing is (and I’m definitely not the first person to say this, nor the last): What I’ve seen of this new crop of shows isn’t…good. I’m already missing some of the fresh, hilarious gems that brightened my summer–when, in a surprising and delightful turn of events, lady comedians and female friendship dominated the airwaves. Here, a tribute to one of my very favorite new shows, and a personal plea to USA TV execs for renewal:

The premise of USA’s Playing HouseEmma and Maggie have been best friends forever. Emma returns to her small-town home for Maggie’s baby shower. Maggie promptly discovers that her husband is a cheating Internet weirdo, and Emma drops everything to move in with Maggie, and to help with the newborn. Co-creators and co-stars Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham are real-life best buddies and collaborators, and it shows. The show glows with warmth generated by their love and their crazy. Awkward plot moments and the super-thin secondary characters (thus far, but improving) move to the background when Emma (St. Clair) and Maggie (Parham) come together onscreen. This thing is begging for renewal.

I don’t love it when girls touch me. I’ve never quite understood the GIRLS-style female friendship that requires joint nudity, or doing that horrible arm-in-arm walking thing. It is the least effective, least comfortable way to walk.

But ladylove, Emma and Maggie-style? I have that. Let me tell you, that kind of friendship is pretty singular, and I am not sure a girl should be allowed more than one. One at a time, at least–maybe one in a lifetime. There is a ridiculous abundance of brilliant, hilarious and wonderful women in my life. But this one, with my co-blogger, and the one I see when I watch Playing House, examines something uniquely female and totally underrepresented on the small screen ’till now. One where the emotional stakes don’t necessarily manifest physically–with touching, hugging, curling up together in bed or snotting in a bathtub. You just–feel them.

boundaries

Since I moved to San Francisco, Alison and I have stayed in shockingly close touch. I’m actually pretty good at keeping up with people, in general (I lied in our first post). But there are only so many bi-monthly hour-long phone-call-type relationships one can sustain. It’s exhausting. But then texting happened! It’s so great! And, if you’re Alison and I, it’s also the perfect tool to hone our writing-based, cynicism-powered observational one-liner skills.

In the way that so many ladies decide they’re “a Miranda” or “a Carrie” in their friendships, Alison and I both agree that if Playing House were a thing that happened to us, we’d both be Emmas. But the dynamic is us–two smart, stubborn and fiercely independent women who also, somehow, need each other. But NEVER talk about it. Because that’s sort of gross and also because–who cares? We don’t need to say it out loud. It’s there.

That kind of easy female comfort, coinciding with a deep mutual respect and awareness of boundaries/wants/desires is incredibly rare. And unbelievably hard to write. That’s probably why we haven’t seen it on TV until two BFFs decided to make it together.

Emma can go take a nap when she’s tired of hanging out. Maggie won’t get pissed–she’ll probably be glad for a moment to herself. Maggie can bust out Bosephus, and Emma can reminisce briefly about dry-humping some guy they both knew under the bleachers in high school. Most especially for girls, shared memories lay the foundations for the kind of wrought-iron friendship these ladies have. But memories are not the sum of that friendship–Emma and Maggie are invested in the present tense. In creating that present tense together, and also by supporting and celebrating their independent experiences.

This, I think, separates it from a show like Sex and the City. The show is a classic portrait of feminine friendship, yes–but you can’t divorce that friendship from men. Male relationships and sex are the foreground for each character’s story–again, it’s baked right into the title.

So, I’m excited about Playing House–for all the reasons that any person should love good art. They see themselves in it. I see Alison and I, albeit quietly, in Emma and Maggie. And it makes me hope–nay, believe–that were I pregnant and divorcing my cheating ex-husband, I’d have someone to call. Or that if Alison found herself in that hysterically funny situation, vice versa.

springsteen

To Alison, and all the Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parhams out there, let me illustrate what I mean with one final example, drawn from another Very Important Female Friendship Moment on TV: if you were Carrie, your diaphragm were stuck, and you genuinely, seriously needed a Samantha-style “helping hand” (terrible), I would be that hand. Without question. But I will not hold your hand for no reason. That’s weird.

-Elise