Rest in Peace, Red Burns

“I was in something called the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU and I was having the time of my life, finally. That place is heaven.”

That’s from the introduction for my first book, Cyberville. The Interactive Telecommunications Program, aka ITP, is where I went to grad school. I started ITP straight out of rehab. It was 1986 and I was lost in life, afraid, and struggling. I was also suffering from terrible anxiety attacks at the time and I remember it took all the strength I had not to run screaming from my classes and give up. I couldn’t learn much, I couldn’t raise my hand and ask questions. All I could do was keep my seat.

I’ve told this story many times: I was taking Red’s class, and we were given an assignment to write about “implementation.” That was actually my job at the time. I was a telecommunications analyst for Mobil Oil and my job was to design and implement data communications networks.

I tried and failed to write a paper about implementation, I just couldn’t do it. Instead, I wrote a play called Corpse in Space. It was about a company in the future. There was no longer any room to bury people and my fictitious start-up proposed an alternative—launch them into geosynchronous orbit with Earth. The characters in my play included a saint, a couch and a praying mantis. I was doing something I hadn’t done in a long, long time. I was playing. I was having fun. My story was, in fact, about implementation. I was showing how hard it can be to get a business off the ground, especially when you have a team as different as a saint and a couch.

I didn’t know Red well yet, and I was terrified to hand in my paper. She is often described as a force of nature and until you learned she was a force for good she could be very scary. I put my paper at the bottom of the pile and ran. The next time I was in the halls of ITP she saw me and yelled out “STACY! STACY!”

I froze. She looked so mad. That was just Red’s determined face. She rushed over to tell me how much she loved my play and what a pleasure it was to get something so completely off the wall.

That moment saved my life. I can’t emphasize this enough. I’m crying now as I type this. That Red force enveloped me and changed my world. It was okay to play! From that day on my anxiety attacks began to ease up and finally stop. I truly did have the time of my life in a place that was completely magical to me. I could write what I wanted, learn what I wanted, create what I wanted. Her acceptance changed my life. The place she created changed my life. I wouldn’t have launched Echo without Red, and I wouldn’t have gotten what I wanted to do most of all without Red: write books.

Thank you for heaven, Red. Thank you for my life.

A good article by Jason Huff about Red Burns and the history of ITP.

NYC Parks & Recreation: You Owe Me a Tshirt

I hit 25 miles last night. Woohoo! In honor of my accomplishment I’m going to see World’s End.

This is a picture of people having lunch outside in the rain. It wasn’t raining very hard though, and they were underneath an awning. It was probably very nice.

Slut! And you don’t want to know why the pool was closed.

I went to swim last night and the pool was closed. “Why,” I asked. Now I have to do my best to forget the answer when I swim tonight. Oh god. I get water in my mouth all the time. I learned about how they “shock the pool” when things like this happen, which means putting in so much chlorine the water starts screaming.

I love how sometimes when I come home Bleecker is sprawled out like this, waiting for me. The little guy loves his belly rubs.

A Q&A on Huffington Post

A Q&A I just did with author Brenda Peterson just went up on her blog on Huffington Post blog. Thank you, Brenda! I hope we go viral! I’m particularly proud of my answer to the first question.

Most people in my neighborhood dress better than I do, whether they’re visiting or live here. The girl on the right probably lives here because one of those bags looks like a grocery bag.

Oh God. I’ve been invited to do a TEDx talk and in all my excitement I forgot: I have nothing to wear. Universe, please get on that.

2 West 16th Street, Henry G. Stebbins, and Clara Louise Kellogg

I was walking home yesterday and noticed this dilapidated but clearly once beautiful small mansion at 2 West 16th Street. A little googling and I learned it used to be the home of Henry George Stebbins, a former congressman, briefly, during the Civil War, (I wouldn’t have wanted to be a member of Congress during the Civil War either) a banker/broker, and an intermittent president of the New York Stock Exchange. As a matter of fact, Stebbins died in that house on Friday, December 9, 1881, just before midnight.

2 West 16th Street, New York City

Here’s a beautiful painting of him by Henry Inman, dated 1838, when Stebbins was 27. He looks like such a nice young man. The painting was donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Josephine S. Stebbins in 2000 (clearly a descendant). Thank you, Josephine. It always amazes me when people donate such things of beauty. It’s such a generous thing to do. I don’t think I have that kind of generosity in me.

Henry G. Stebbins

Stebbins was involved with lots of interesting things (he was the president of the Central Park Commission and a trustee of the American Museum of Natural History) but of course the thing that got my attention was the fact that he was a music lover, and loved singers. He shows up repeatedly in the memoirs of singer Clara Louise Kellogg.

“In 1857, my father failed … and we went to New York to live. Almost directly afterward occurred one of the most important events of my career. Although I was not being trained for a singer, but as a musician in general, I could no more help singing than I could held breathing, or sleeping, or eating; and, one day, Colonel Henry G. Stebbins, a well-known musical amateur, one of the directors of the Academy of Music, was calling on my father and heard me singing to myself in an adjoining room. Then and there he asked to be allowed to have my voice cultivated; and so, when I was fourteen, I began to study singing. The succeeding four years were the hardest worked years of my life.”

This undated picture of him appears in her memoirs. Unfortunately, things are not looking good for his former home. This scathing Yelp review by a former renter was just written last month.

Henry G. Stebbins