Sunday, May 04, 2003

I mentioned in my previous post that I'd read a really good book. The book is called The Parker Grey Show, by Kristen Buckley. In thinking why I enjoyed it so much, I realized that it had been awhile since I'd read a book with a female protagonist living in the city. I've avoided such books, always afraid they will make me feel inferior, or not as "with it" as I could be. That I'll lament for that lost that part of my life, being hip, cocky, always in motion, and "movie moments" waiting around every corner. I was my own action hero, doing crazy things like roller skating in New York City at 3 AM because I couldn't sleep, gaining speed, avoiding potholes, weaving in and out of the deserted side streets, through the caverns of buildings. Moist summer air wrapped around my skin and dampened my hair, and I was exhilarated, oblivious to the danger, and living life to the fullest. I went to one of the top art schools in the country, Parsons School of Design, and when I wasn't in class I was working at the American Ballet Theatre under Baryshnikov while he was artistic director. I had an up close and personal view of the insider's New York, and even made the W society pages. Of course, I didn't tell the paparazzi that I was wearing a borrowed dress. Life was a silly adventure and I was stumbling into cool situation after cool situation.

I'd come a long way from Topeka, Kansas.

As an artist though, I am also very sensitive to my surroundings. And that sensitivity would eventually turn into a powerful adversary. New York, particularly on the inside, can be very cruel as well. Especially to a budding art student who had no formal training. My art, that I so enjoyed creating since I was in grade school and had gotten me into Parsons, had become a burden of deadlines and cranky teachers who were all too willing to crush your ego. Creating art wasn't fun anymore, and most importantly, it had ceased to become mine. It was a means to please a teacher, or obtain a grade, and during my four years at Parsons, my artistic voice slowly eroded into a whisper, then eventually became mute. After graduating, the paintbrushes and drawing pencils were stuffed into a corner, I boycotted going to art museums, and I never went on one interview to be a graphic designer for fear of failure. The girl who would fearlessly roller skate through perilous streets during the wee hours in the morning had shed those skates for snow shoes. And she didn't even have the courage to follow one job lead. So instead of being the creative genius, I was checking coats at New York nightclubs.

Parker GreySo what does that have to do with this book, The Parker Grey Show, that I read? Aside from being a funny, clever, involving read, something amazing happened. Instead of making me feel inferior, it made me feel as if I had a friend in Parker Grey. She reached out to me through the pages, and revealed herself to me. All of her, even the sides that she was expertly hiding from those around her. And, that made me feel a lot less well, strange.

Parker Grey lives in New York. Though she is an extraordinary classical guitarist, who was trained at a top music college in NYC, she abandoned her craft, much to her confusion, frustration, and guilt. She is now working as a waitress, her nights are filled watching reruns of MEDS, starring "M," the object of her infatuation, and she lives with her roommate, Lil, in a loft owned by Lil's father.

In a New York minute, everything can change, and for Parker Grey, it does. Lil gets kidnapped. And it's up to Parker to get her back. In order to rise to the occasion, she creates in her mind the Parker Grey Show, Le Femme Nikita style, with her as the star. It's something that she has done before on a lesser extent to get through the days of being a waitress. A white lie here and there to customers and coworkers, so she doesn't have to tell the truth about her lost passion. Eventually, when Parker's fantasy world and the real world collide, (including some very surprising players), that's where things get even more interesting. And through this meeting of the real and imagined, Parker embarks on an adventure of self discovery which manages to be funny, at times harrowing, and very touching.

What I like about this book, is that Parker Grey feels real. She isn't the "it-girl" who seamlessly navigates through life in her Jimmy Choo's. Like all of us, she can be caught off guard and has at times felt a need to put up a facade. Kristen Buckley reveals a woman with a lot going on underneath the surface, and several times I found myself shaking my head at the similarities between myself and Parker. And, I laughed out loud more than a few times.

The Parker Grey Show made me realize that I haven't lost that part of my life. That I have been carrying it with me and like Parker, it will emerge again when the circumstances call for me to meet adventure eye to eye. Most importantly, that the fun, daring "mad roller skater of Manhattan" isn't so deeply buried after all, and that our happiness with who we are isn't as out of reach as it may seem.

If you want to get this book, you can wait to buy it on the stand on July 1st, or if you are the type like me who forgets if she doesn't act now, you can preorder it at Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.com.

It's well worth it.