Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I put on my complain pants today. They don't fit.

I may be experiencing a holiday season hangover. I can't really blame my doldrums on work, seeing as this week I'm only working three days and only four hours out of those three days at that. I have tried and failed a few things to ease myself back into some kind of sense of not being in a funk. These things included but were not limited to: cleaning my refrigerator (it was rather nasty and shameful), finally putting batteries in my digital point and shoot camera to take quirky photos of junk and the neighborhood (haven't taken one yet), set up an online dating profile in the hopes of meeting a man who is single, attractive, interesting, not weird with commitment issues or embarrassing online photographs and not 21 years old (this whole process made me even more depressed and I quickly took that profile down), took out my flute and tried to play it only to realize it needs to be tuned up (and after pricing such a thing online realized it was way to expensive for a whim), tried to arrange several plans with different friends only to be shot down because people have lives and I don't this week (woe is me), stuffed my face with marzipan fruit shaped candies (my stomach hurts) and watched a French musical, namely The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (which I found to be a bit melodramatic and blah. Yes even Catherine Deneuve prancing around in yellow didn't cheer me up.) 

He just wanted to open a damn gas station.

So, seeing as I have roughly two more days left of this week (that aren't holidays) I decided that tomorrow I'm going to visit the Met. I'll be car-less (my car is going into the shop for an undisclosed amount of money) and, as is well documented, if one thing cheers me up, it is a trip to NYC. There is a Stieglitz exhibit that I'm interested in and after carefully researching all the different exhibits currently going on now, I decided to go with the one that is closing soon. And if a well earned back ache from long lines and museum going doesn't cheer me out of my post holiday funk, nothing will. Well, maybe booze.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Empire of Dirt

Random things.

Thing 1

One of the most fascinating things I've encountered is eavesdropping on a conversation between people during which they slowly convince themselves that something is true. These conversations are usually based on 100% conjecture, preconceived notions and deep, subconscious prejudices. I know this is vague but next time you are listening to, I don't know, say coworkers talking outside your office about someone new in the group, notice how all these assumptions turn to scripture, right before your ears. I shudder to think what is said about me in new groups. Probably that I'm TOO nice or TOO pretty. I mean, clearly.

Thing 2

Two nights ago as I was driving home from work in the cold darkness, I was all alight inside because the guest on Fresh Air with Terry Gross was Trent Reznor. Everytime I hear something about him or listen to something he releases I can't help to feel that familiar flutter, a flutter first born when I watched him spin through  the air, untethered, adrift and yet paralyzed. Oh and covered in leather you know what I'm talking about don't you?

Yeah, you do.

How could he be from Cleveland? Anyway, his existence was integral to the person I was back then. I bonded with friends and lovers over this man. I spent long hours alone in my room with him. I used to have a ginormous poster of him in my dorm room and I don't have many memories of that time in my life that don't include his voice in the background.

Anyway, he is now an Oscar winning film composer. His next release is the score and soundtrack to David Fincher's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and Teri Gross was interviewing him about it among many other things. It was a pretty great interview and one part of it in particular really struck me. It was when he said the following:

I feel great now. I addressed my issues and I continue to address them and I've seen a dramatic change in every aspect of my life. You know? I like myself again, I am able to have mature relationships, I'm able to be a good friend. I'm a father and I think that my art has gotten much better and I enjoy the process of making it now. And i really couldn't ask for more and I feel strangely optimistic about everything.

I mean, how awesome for him. Sincerely that's amazing. Yet it just makes me feel...I don't know....bizarre. My memory of him and of that time is just like gif up there, spinning aimlessly and wallowing in it. I suppose it should make me feel hopeful. Sometimes people come out of their darkness and go on to just be okay.  Regardless, I'm grateful for whatever it was that inspired him to make his music, especially "The Downward Spiral." It left a big ol' thumbprint on my brain.

I might spend the day revisiting those albums. This is the first day of my last day (nerrr nerrr nerrr nerr nerr)...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rats! on Bleecker Street

There are few things as irritating as being awake when you don't have to be. Yet my saucer eyes were wide open and the only sound I heard on Sunday morning was this bizzare pulsing coming from I don't know where the hell outside my window. Part of the reason I was up is because I woke up laughing from my dream. I will not be a person to describe my dreams but only to say that in the end of that particular dream, my cat Thelma was speaking Spanish. I'm sorry but that shit is hilarious!

Saturday I went to the city to hang out with my friend Lauren. At her Christmas party a few weeks ago we decided to see "the Artist" together because she, like at least four other people in my life said "that preview reminded me of you." I love seeing films with Lauren because she sees and does everything with an open  mind. Few people will react to me saying "Come over my house for a silent movie marathon" with as much genuine enthusiasm as Lauren and I just love that about her.

I got to the Angelika a bit earlier than I expected, after an uneventful train ride in and noticed, as is happening more and more lately, that my cell phone battery was dying despite me leaving the house with it fully charged. It annoyingly forced me to plug it into a rickety old outlet that was just high enough on the wall to be awkward. For some reason I thought of David Cronenberg's "eXistenZ" and people plugging themselves into machines. It could have been the notion that my arm was plugged into the wall. This was probably my dumbest digression to date. Onward...

Lauren arrived and we had a lovely brunch at an Irish/Mexican NYU college restaurant. It was amusing seeing hungover college students come to quel their nausea in greasy, cheese covered nachos. Ah, memories. Then it was time to watch the film. As if further enforcing the idea that I was born in the wrong era, the film delighted me. For a few months now I have been convinced that nothing could top "Midnight in Paris" for me as the film of 2011. But this came very, very close. It cracks me up that a silent movie, especially one like "The Artist" which is fairly typical of silent films of the early part of the 20th century is getting such acclaim. I suppose everything old is new again. Since I was born in the wrong era, this makes me smile.

After the movie, we walked around a bit, stopped into Crate and Barrel, witnessed a black Santa giving out pretzels inside the store, perused gorgeous furniture I'll never own and braced ourselves for the cold. Suddenly it was winter. We walked until we ended up on Bleecker Street in a bar called 1849. Immediately I was struck by the NYU-ish crowd but the guy at the door was nice enough and told us to sit on these low to the floor red velvet chairs that seemed to have a timed heat release on the bottom. We ordered a beer and got to chatting. About 15 minutes later my eye wandered to the floor next to me and there it was. The one and only mouse I have ever seen inside a bar or restaurant in NYC. Because that had never happened to me before, not once in the 10ish years I lived there and not once since then, I had a minor moment of panic wherein I stood up suddenly, told Lauren through clenched teeth what was happening and silently squealed "ewewewewewew!" Mice are everywhere in the city but few are so brazen as to come up to the main floor of a crowded restaurant and saunter around. I was shocked and still am.

We downed our beer (clearly, not so disturbed as to not drink Guinness) and then headed off to find less infested surroundings. There is this Belgian beer place on Waverly, the name of which eternally eludes me but I go there often when I'm in that neighborhood and so we ended up there. One Framboise later and I had to leave to catch my train home because I have been banished to a hell of my own making.  to get back to Long Island on the railroad's time. Had I know what a palaver that was going to be, I would have stayed in the city like a wayward drunk instead of being herded onto a hot and uncomfortable train with the rest of the suburban chattel. (Man, I'm hard on the burbs sometimes.)

There were approximately 9 million people waiting to board the train at Penn Station. All of them sober, as it was 7pm as opposed to the drunk 3am train. Which is worse? I mean, no one vomited on the train but everyone was so pissed off. Leonard Cohen popped into my head Everybody's got this broken feeling, like their father or their dog just died. Something about weekenders on the much anger and irritation. The irony of course being that these were mainly people who had come into the city to do Christmas crap and were supposed to be all full of donuts and joy. Could have fooled me. I was full of Framboise so I was all good. Also, and this could be because I had seen that movie earlier that day, the young man across the aisle from me looked just like John Gilbert, circa "Queen Christina" and we kept making accidental eye contact.

"I've been memorizing this roooooom."

So that was fun.

All in all, another exciting Saturday. I successfully managed to avoid doing anything practical or productive and I did this by doing fun and meaningful things like spending time with a friend, taking in a beautiful film, standing in Penn Station looking up at a digital board for 10 minutes among a large group of angry people and imbibing Belgian beer. I enjoy my life.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cough. An acronymic blog post

C) for Chuckle. Something I've noticed in the past three weeks, living with a cough that won't die, is that when someone is talking to you and they start to cough after you say something you will start to laugh because you will, at first, mistake their mini eruption for a chuckle. This is regardless of what you've just said. For example you could be talking about how your grandma has been forgetting things and if the person you are talking to jerks forward just a wee bit, you start to laugh. I don't know why I made this observation but if you ever want to see someone laugh, just start to cough after they say something. I mean it could make for a somewhat awkward aftermath what with concerns for your health and fear of contagion. But for a chuckle? Worth it.

O) for Old Timey Illness. Having a cough is not the worst malady on the infinite list of "things that can malfunction in/on your body" but the steady stream of irritation doubles as a subtle reminder of your mortality. I may be alone in this but each time I erupted in a coughing fit I kept thinking of old timey diseases. These included but were not limited to: dropsy, pleurisy, consumption, bad blood and Bronze John. Turns out I had none of the above but rather bronchitis, the gold standard of coughing fits.

U) for Untreatment. In general I try to avoid antibiotics. Don't get me wrong, antibiotics are 2nd on my list of mankind's greatest inventions. It is just that my armchair general practice degree (aka--the Internet) has given me "ideas" about taking them willy nilly. When I want them to work, I want them to work. I can usually handle a snotty nose and a scratchy throat for the average duration. I just now realized the irony of my practice of being super careful about antibiotics but drinking alcohol on a regular basis does nothing for the hackles of my health consciousness. Anyway, after three weeks I finally gave in and visited the wood paneled office of my family doctor. In a shocking turn of events, he prescribed antibiotics and sent me on my way. I'm on day 2 of the treatment and I just coughed as I typed this. Nevermind that, I have faith in the thing I avoid. That's a blanket statement.

G) for Getting Hammered. On Saturday I attended a wine party. This differs from a normal party where wine is served. Think Tupperware party but for wine. Although I've never attended a Tupperware party (as an adult--I have a vague memory of accompanying my mother to one as child.) I can't imagine that the attendees get as hammered as we got at the wine party. Perhaps that is oversimplifying things a bit as we also ate pretty amazing food and learned about the wine we were drinking. In fact the more I think about it, the party was a kind of perfect dichotomy of classy adulthood and drunken revelry. To wit: we learned about pinot noir and after that we drew on the host's face with a marker after he passed out on the couch. This part of the acronym has nothing to do with coughing apart from the fact that thanks to all the wine, I forgot about my cough.

H) for Hangover. Let's be honest. Hangovers are terrible, made all the more so because one arrives in such a state due to one's own inability to be disciplined. I can't really accurately describe having a phlegmy cough while hungover except to say that the following words plowed aggressively through my brain like a cable news ticker: retch, spew, shame, nauseate, throb and oh let's just say dropsy.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Like Lazy

Fridays are my early days. I have the fortune of working for a library (one of my jobs) that observes all the Jewish traditions and  holidays and closes early every Friday afternoon. Honestly I can only guess that this is the reason I've been able to work two jobs for going on four (I kind of feel like screaming after admitting that) years. Needless to say, I LIVE for Friday afternoons. They afford me the privelege of getting home before darkness, of pretending like I have stuff to do that doesn't involve work, of diverting from my routine. Strangely, I feel rebellious on early Friday afternoons, when I'm at the mall shopping or I'm at my apartment napping or I'm at the movies. These are tiny rebellions. Like hitting the snooze button twice. Or parking outside the marked stalls in an empty parking lot.

So yesterday I opted for the movies. I used to go to films alone all the time when I lived in the city. I suspect I did it so often and with such ease because the sheer volume of people in NYC is enough to make it easy. You get to and from places constantly surrounded by hundreds of other people. I used to eat out alone quite a bit too and never really shook the feeling that I just attended a huge dinner party. (I'm often the quiet one at dinner parties anyway.) Out here, living in the sprawl (and there's no end sight), people notice. You go to a restaurant with couples and families surrounding you and people don't blend you in to the background of their subconscious, a smudge on a Monet postcard from the museum gift shop. No, they think "why on earth is that person here alone? I feel so bad." I know they do this because I do it. I don't know why but the contrast of aloneness and togetherness is so much more stark here, in the sprawl. I say this not because it bothers me (I'm content being alone most of the time) but just because it is true.

The film I saw yesterday was Like Crazy, which is a love story with two attractive leads (make that four attractive main characters), a weepy soundtrack, all kinds of critical acclaim and tons of buzz surrounding it. I knew a Friday afternoon would be sparse what with people having jobs and lives and things to do during the weekend. But for some odd reason I thought this film would be semi-popular. However, there was not another soul in the theater. Not one other person. I experienced the same two part reaction I experience without fail when I first enter a movie theater that is empty.
    Part 1: elation at being given a special screening just for me
    Part 2: confusion as to whether I'm in the wrong place and/or there has been a zombie apocalypse and I  
    am trapped forever alone with only a bag of popcorn and my water bottle.
You would think I was joking about part 2 but no, no I'm not. Anyway, I had the theater to myself.

 Forever alone.

I went into this film knowing I was going to cry. It was kind of like the time I went to see Brokeback Mountain alone in the middle of the afternoon; I knew what I was signing up for and I willingly did it. Like Crazy is a beautiful film that will remind every single person who sees it of their first love. That is a guarantee. I don't care if your first love was so long ago that you can't remember his or her face or you just broke up with someone yesterday (caveat: don't see this film if you just broke up with someone yesterday.) You will more than likely shed a silent tear of nostalgia and regret or, if you aren't weepy like I am, you'll sigh heavily, remembering. There is a genuine quality to the film that I can only assume is because the dialogue was entirely improvised. That, and it is based on a true story. The two young college students (who, incidentally bond over Paul Simon's Graceland an album likely released the year they were born) were so vulnerable and naive and brave and worked so hard for their love. They reminded me of two newborn chicks. Of love. Two newborn chicks of love.

They also reminded me of how lazy I am or how lazy I've become about love. I just don't even want to bother with the pursuit of it. The other day for some giggles I looked at some online dating sites. My reaction could be accurately described as severe laziness. I actually took a nap right afterward! Seeing the two characters in Like Crazy in all their tortured baby chickhood just reaffirmed my desire to have love dropped squarely in my lap out of nowhere, to have to do little else but acknowledge it and then have to do nothing whatsoever to preserve and maintain it. Is that too much to ask?

Regardless, I'd recommend the movie. Tonight I'm going to a tree trimming party in Manhattan. My good friend Lauren throws these every year and every year they are a rollicking good time. So good in fact, that I don't remember a large chunk of last year's party. I was told that there would be candy cane cosmos served this evening. Nothing I say after that will be as good as that prospect.

Monday, November 28, 2011

These trains are the color of sadness and bad pornography

Today is Monday but it feels like the first Monday that ever was. I attribute this to the fact that I had what felt like the longest head cold/cough and viral infection that ate up nine of my days. And normally I would not have cared but it arrived just in time to mar Thanksgiving and my sister's birthday celebrations. Wah wah wah. You guys, it is HARD living in the first world. Regardless, by Wednesday I felt not unlike Ray Miland, circa 1945, without the effort or detriment of ingesting large quantities of booze. And really what is the fun in that?

Thanksgiving arrived and vanished, leaving behind only about 2 pounds of fat and really funny memories. This may be the warping of my memory by the illness but this year was louder by quite a few decibels in my family. It was really nice to see a few members of my extended family that live far away though and my brother brought the most delicious pumpkin pie I have ever eaten in my life from his job. That pie ran a very, very close second to the stuffing which is always the highlight of my thanksgiving meal. I am always beyond thrilled to find that food can one up itself. I'm not entirely sure that the tense/prounoun usage of that phrase is correct but here's to the contemplation of grammar. I nerdly enjoy it with same aplomb that I enjoy adjectives and adverbs and the inventing of them. Again, awkward sentence I don't want to edit.

Much of Friday is foggy. I know I ate a lot more what with leftovers and my sister's birthday dinner. I know I watched a lot of television and I blew my nose a lot of times. I purposely avoided black Friday shopping and murderous crowds of hungry discount seekers because rudeness makes me stabby. After the birthday dinner for Lorraine, we took our little cousin Ashlyn to see the Muppet movie. I was awash in nostalgia and I teared up more than once just because the Muppets make me happy. Or they remind me of being happy. Or I remember what it is like to be happy. Something involving happiness. And it was so wonderful to see so many young children truly enjoying that first Muppet giggle of many. It was a circle of life moment. Go see it with a tiny tot, unfamiliar with the Muppets. You shan't regret it.

Saturday was the piece d'resistance. That is due to the fact that I was feeling eons better and I had plans. I went Mount Olympus NYC to visit Lambden (Nancy and Jon) at their apartment which is filled with good feeling, a huggably fat cat or two, cinnamon raisin French toast, an early afternoon viewing of Birdemic (which left us all with pounding headaches) and general fun. This was all a terrific prelude however to the epic fun I had with Nancy at a screening of Breaking Dawn: Electric Boogaloo (that is the actual title of the film). I knew ahead of time that it was going to be a good experience when, right before boarding the subway, Nancy said "I hate these trains because they are the color of sadness and bad pornography."

Bam chicka boo hoo.

Nancy and I have a long running love to hate affair with the Twilight series. The reason for this is that those books are godawful which would be fine on their own but when you couple that with a rabid fan base, the mockery it inspires in us reaches a fever pitch. Nancy is my humor soul mate in many, many ways and the opportunity to experience something like the Twilight series made film, complete with vampire pregnancies (seriously? wtf?) and a severely unattractive vampire love interest is a gift of manna. I will spare the blog the blow by blow of this film as I'm reasonably sure the Riff Trax guys can and will do something superb when this series is over but suffice to say that I had an awesome time watching this film. Go see it with a grown adult who is silly and understands the kind of love that only a bad movie can inspire. You shan't regret it.

Saturday night after a lovely dinner we all headed down to the East Village for Lorraine's birthday celebration. On the way there Lamden, Lorraine and I shared a taxi that was freshly arrived from depths of fear. By that I mean it was the most frightening cab ride of my life, complete with slamming brakes, turn indicatorless lane changing, speeding and a driver on his cell phone. More than once I felt the urge to vom. More than once I clung to Lorraine and Nancy with the kind of intense purpose that I haven't used since I was 5 and clinging to the doctor's office chair to avoid getting a booster shot.
As for the party, it was everything a birthday party should be: drunken, intimate friends and family surrounding you, loud laughter and music. And dark and stormies by the vatful. Happy birthday my sister! I arrived back at chez Lorraine and Andrew with Kristen and James and I was introduced to my new favorite bagel concoction: salt bagel with cucumber and dill cream cheese. I was born to taste it.

Sunday was a day to start late and aside from getting back to wrong island nothing much else was done. I tried to mentally prepare myself for the week ahead but since it is now Wednesday and I still don't feel prepared, I think I did a bad job.

And so life carries on in the waning days of 2011...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

If I didn't drink for four days straight, I'd know how to blog about this wedding

I have been trying to formulate a cogent way of describing the wedding of one of my best friends, Marianne to her betrothed (I love that word.) Rob last Friday for about a week and change now. For some very odd reason I cannot seem to gather my thoughts into anything understandable and one of the major reasons I suspect this is happening is that I was drunk for a large majority of it, as you do. I have also been "suffering" the lasting effects of a cold that will not die. Barring all of that, this is one of those times where I was just having too much fun to sit around observing everyone and their nuances. It may make for a disjointed recounting of events in this blog I'm afraid.

Being part of a bridal party is a unique experience, unless it isn't, i.e. I have friends who have been in more than 5 weddings. I really did enjoy it and I did like my dress as the bride was kind enough to not pick the same dress for every bridesmaid. Why that was ever a "thing" I will never know. It probably falls under the same category as making jeans with incredibly wide legs also have incredibly wide waists because naturally, all women are tubular. I'm getting off track. How about recount what I can remember in bulleted points?

  • The rehearsal at the church was for many of us, bride and groom included the cold water in the face as it were that this wedding was, in fact, happening. More than once Rob said "Wow, it is really hitting me now." I agreed. The engagement happened two years ago and even after all the planning and discussing and whatnots, all it takes is your loved ones to walk in a procession in front of you to make you take a step back and go "oh, so this is what it feels like."
  • The rehearsal dinner was lovely, tinged as it was with anticipation (and wine). Catching up with out of town friends, family members of the couple all over a meal...these traditions are worth preserving, whatever you think of weddings and their trappings.
  • Thankfully all the wedding related events took place within a mile of my apartment, allowing me to relax about getting from A to B (that is a euphemism for "allowing me to drink at my leisure") and as a result I remember having several interesting conversations, the kind of which I feel like I'm always chasing and never having time for in normal life. But the details of those conversations are foggy. I know we discussed Paris and trepanation and love for certain but don't ask me details because I wouldn't know. I left the rehearsal dinner party after party feeling tipsy and satisfied. Is there a better state of mind to be in?
  • The day of the wedding came sluggishly b/c I awoke very early and very groggily and had 1.5 million things to do on a very tight schedule. But problems don't get more first world than having all the things one has to do be related to hair and makeup and getting ready in a pretty satin dress. 
  • I made it to the bride's house on time and in time for a lot of milling around excitedly and the first cocktail of the day which was made out of wine. I should probably just fully adapt to the life of wino right now. 
  • Marianne and Rob had rented a school bus to transport the bridal party to meet up with the groomsmen at Rob's house and then to the place where we took the photographs. I really loved that idea and it proved to be such a fun part of the afternoon, all of us as excited as overgrown schoolchildren only in wedding gear. And with beer.
  • Standout snapshot of my memory: seeing Marianne traipse through the endless backyard of Rob's parents' house with Dana behind her, holding the train of her dress to the tree where Rob was waiting. The day had turned out to be quintessentially autumn with leaves falling and a chilly breeze blowing. It may pain Marianne to admit it but it was really quite romantic. 
  • Taking the portraits was freezing and I anxiously await the final products as I'm reasonably sure my hair was flying in opposing directions. I'm told that wedding photographers can defy gravity in the photo lab (old school) so I'll be looking forward to that. Amazingly everyone's hair looked fine as we boarded the bus again so I'm optimistic. But most of us were buzzed so maybe I should be worried.
  • Before this wedding I had no idea that the bride and groom sat facing each other on the altar in the Catholic (cat-lick) church. I liked this as well. It could have been the 100 year old church we were in but everything about the wedding ceremony felt so charmingly traditional.
  • I am the type of girl that cries at weddings. I wouldn't think so about myself but there is something so fearless about promising something to another person for the rest of your life.
  • All of us in the wedding party piled into pedicabs to get from the church to the reception. It was a charming way to travel, if a bit freezing. I focused mainly on the straining muscles of the calves of our driver and my chattering teeth.
  • The reception was gorgeous as the many, many photos peppering facebook can attest. By this point in the day I had continued my steady drinking, with fortitude so what I remember is a room full of happy, dancing people. That's really all weddings should be.
As time goes on the best part of wedding celebrations is in the remembering.  I started this post three days ago and over the course of those three days, my cold has gotten worse. I'm sitting in a darkened living room,coughing, blowing my nose and drinking tea to the click clack of my keyboard and were it not for recounting the memories of the wedding, life would certainly seem a bit grim. That's all I've got and that ain't so bad.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Meditations during a bit of quiet

For several weeks now I've had an unopened but very old copy of Frank O'Hara's Meditations in an Emergency. I borrowed it from work because I saw again the episode of Mad Men when Don Draper asks a stranger in a bar about it. I enjoy it in movies and films when a stranger in bar imparts information that moves the character to do something; it's probably why I so enjoyed Looking for Mr. Goodbar. Anyway, it has sat on my living room table for weeks and weeks because I am in the habit of a short attention span and very little time simultaneously along with the desire to remain a well read individual, a well watcher of films, a well listener of music. Facebook, Twitter and texting has melted away key parts of me and lately, I'm looking to be a bit more solid. (No, not like that.)

So I finally got around to opening this ancient edition. It is entirely possible this is a first edition; it certainly smells like one. The binding is breaking but the thinness of the volume keeps it together. Anyway, amidst the chaos of my recent days Mr. O'Hara's words have managed to reach across half a century and they have given me pause. It is what I used to experience daily when my attention branched out and spanned longer. I loved having this respite from the din of clickety clack and one word responses and the ease with which I can shrink away from actually thinking about much of anything. I just thought I'd share my favorite part so far. It is variation 2 from the poem Two Variations.

I'm glad that the rock is heavy
and that it feels all right in my heart
like an eye in a pot of humus.
Let's write long letters on grand themes,
fish sandwiches, egg sandwiches and cheese;
or travelling in Mexico, Italy and Australia.
I eat a lot so I won't get drunk and then
I drink a lot so I'll feel excited
and then I've gone away I don't know where
or with whom and can't remember whom from
except that I'm back with  my paper bag
and next time my face won't come with  me.

Something about that particular stanza...I don't know what it is exactly but I don't think I want to know. I guess I just want to read it over and over again for a little while.

It seems apt that I finally opened this book on a day when I found out an old (and I mean old) professor had passed on. Aside from that whole hilarious/creepy story (the man claimed to have bedded Mae West...I told you he was old), it reminded me of a state of mind I used to inhabit. Amazing how sometimes the news of the end of someone's life can be a footnote to another, bigger thought. Well, maybe not amazing. Interesting at least.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Initial Smell

As weekends go, this past one was right up my alley in that it contained many of life's little bonuses including but not limited to friends, cleanliness, booze and television. Here's a recap because this is my blog and you arrived here somehow so I assume you want to know about this non?

I count Thursday night as my weekend beginning because I didn't have to go to my second job and whenever that happens, an angel gets his wings. My friend Dana and I had heard about a wig party happening at a local bar on Saturday so compulsory wig shopping and dinner eating had to happen despite the cyclonic weather we were having. Going to a party supply/Halloween costume supply store three days before Halloween is not the smartest thing I've ever done in my life. I picked up a geisha girl wig that was really random but the randomness was offset by the fact that it was $10. The long, long wait to pay combined with the long, long line of people waiting to get their "custom" costumes drove home the fact that Halloween is like Mardi Gras for me: a once magical and amazing day of the year that has since been muddled by the boozy fakery of it all (booby fakery if we are talking about Mardi Gras). In my memories I don't ever see the brassy falseness of Halloween wigs and the lame, lame things people try to sex-FY. But there under the fluorescent lighting, the grown ups buying their own versions of cat suits and the candy stealing toddlers, it was all on blast, so to speak. Most people love Halloween. I love the idea of Halloween and the way my brain conjures up a filtered version of the past. So sue me.

On Friday I made plans with an out of town friend, Sylvia, in from Houston for the week and as previously stated in this blog, I will take every single opportunity to hang out in NYC. My sister also joined us and found out about this incredible speakeasy (strangely they still exist) right in the middle of Chinatown. Though I lived in the city for about 10 years, I think I only ever really went to Chinatown about three times, each time to eat. And if I recall correctly, each of those three or so times, I got lost. Apparently when the city becomes anything more intricate than a clearly outlined grid, I'm hopeless.  Friday, however, was different due to the fact that I simply followed the exact opposite of what my instinct told me to do (made a left when I really felt I should have made a right) and I ended up on Doyers street, a street which is really an alley. Apart from the clear signage of the post office on that small street, there were quite a few unlabeled/ unnumbered buildings and I was the first one there so I kind of stupidly walked up to nondescript doors only to discover they were closed. As I stood there waiting, two women walked by looking very confused. I asked if they were looking for the same place I was and they told me about a "secret" Mexican restaurant on that same block. Ok, so a speakeasy I understand but a whole restaurant that is hidden? I felt so exclusive. And yes I acknowledge the falseness of that "exclusivity" but I've already explained that my brain makes things more fun after they are over. Can we move past this?

Sylvia arrived and we spent some time catching up and walking around Chinatown while we waited for Lorraine. Among other things we talked about how much we miss the city. My first apartment in Manhattan was with Sylvia and that was many, many moons ago. Walking around chatting with a good friend with no schedule or aim to adhere to is truly one of life's pleasures.  Eventually we made it back just in time to meet with Lorraine and we decided to try out the "hidden" Mexican place before drinking expensive cocktails at the "hidden" bar. It was the right choice. The food was delicious, authentic Mexican and I tried a cocktail I've never had before (perish the thought) called a pulque. Honestly I didn't much care for it. It was rather viscous for an alcoholic drink. I think I will stick to nectar when it comes to agave.

And after dinner was the piece de resistance, a visit to Apotheke. For my birthday this year a group of my friends and I went to a show called Sleep No More that was a whole experience in itself but this particular bar we went to on Friday night reminded me so much of that show in its design and in its concoctions. I could visualize the Lady Macbeth of Sleep No More downing one of their cocktails.
And oh, what cocktails they were. Lorraine got this amazing beet cognac based cocktail that I will never forget. I drank the "Violet Hour", each sip of which was like an event. There were layers to it that you could experience separately on different parts of your tongue. Lorraine kept saying "I love the initial smell you get from each cocktail." For a drink to have an initial smell is both hilariously put and really kind of incredible. It being the weekend of Halloween, the bar had the smoke machine going, the lights dimmed (there is no natural light in this bar) and the bartenders and wait staff were wearing ghoulish face paint. It was positively Victorian. But you know, dirtier? I wish I had the capability to explain it.

I crashed at Lorraine's house and made it home early the next morning due to an impending nor' easter we were bracing for and pretty much just scrubbed my apartment clean, nursed a slight hangover and endured the cancellation of the wig party plans due to inclement weather. Because I am loathe to stay at home (only when I'm told I should do exactly that) I decided to go see a movie. I originally wanted to see Anonymous but when I arrived at the mega maxi extreme ultra multiplex it was sold out. (!) A film about Shakespeare selling out in suburbia blew my mind. And though the sensible thing was to go home I decided to watch 50/50, again. Yes I enjoy watching an attractive young man as he suffers through cancer. Twice. No but it is a really well acted film. With a very attractive lead. Did I mention that?

Sunday I helped Marianne do some wedding shopping for the wedding which is unbelievably next week We had an early dinner which involved a lot of wine and not nearly enough food to be the foundation for all that wine. As a testament to that, I started writing this blog on Monday and am now just finishing it on Wednesday.
I expect the rest of this week will be uneventful as weeks often are in the buildup to a big event. I'm working on some poetry that I'd like to share here but that is turning out to be way more torturous than it used to be. I'll keep at it though.

You keep at it too. Yes I'm talking to you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Look at all that green grass over there!

Last Saturday I was subjected to taking yet another civil service exam for the Librarian positions in Suffolk County. In order to get a full time job as a librarian in a Suffolk County public library, one must take these standardized tests every year. They are mandatory in order to even be considered for a full time position and even that isn't guaranteed. It costs money to take these tests each time and because the offices of civil service in this county are apparently unable to keep applications on file for more than five minutes, you have to fill out a new application each time you take a test. And that shit is not online either. It may as well be on that dark blue carbon copy paper we had in the 80s. The system, the testing, the questions on the tests, all are such complete and utter bullshit that I never forget to pack an enormous chip in my bag for placement squarely on my shoulder during the test. This time was no exception.

The tests are always given in the local community college. I think of this as the one bonus because I am bereft of formal education at the moment and have been since completing my masters' degree back in 2003 and I miss shoving my shapely form into the hard laminate of school desks, reading the grafitti scratched into the desktops telling me who "wuz there", smelling the industrial cleaner on the floors, etc. Yes, I am one of those dorkuses that enjoys class, school, degrees, regretful hookups, Pearl Jam, Vivarin tablets, insecurity, cheap beer, inappropriate touching, Goth skirts, badly written poetry and gross living quarters. Ok maybe not ALL of that but I sure did like it in the 90s. I digress.

The test took almost three hours to complete and I can say, definitvely, that out of all the time I've wasted in my life up until this point, I have never wanted three hours back so badly. I literally paused during the test to contemplate the myriad things I could be doing otherwise and cleaning my bathroom was one of them. You are in dire straits, my friend, when you daydream about cleaning your bathroom. But the test was finally over and because I was hoping to catch a train to NYC to meet a dear friend for brunch, and the fact that I could not find it in my heart to care less about a test, I hightailed it out of there. I am confident that I will never take another one of those again, as I am planning to move back to the city in the next two years. And though the public libraries out there don't pay very well, at the very least they do not make you prove yourself beyond your expensive graduate degree and years and years of experience. And you can stick a #2 pencil up that, civil service.

I had a lovely brunch with my friend Lauren (aka Wactwu) here:

Kitchenette Tribeca

which was kind of like throwing a party and inviting 20 people to fit in your apartment and then having 45 people show up and sit on top of each other. But we do these things in restaurants because the food is worth it. And so was the company!

I say this now because I am once again ensconced inside a prison from which I may never escape work, but I will take any and every opportunity to go to NYC. In recent weeks I have come to a conclusion that I'm accepting as fact: it was a mistake to leave. And presently I have my eyes focused on getting back. Don't get me wrong. A lot of very significant things have happened in my life in the past four years since I moved underneath the long, long skies of long, long island. And I can't say that any of it was bad. Seriously. The ending of a relationship, the clearing of (and subsequent rebuilding of) significant credit card debt, quality time spent with my family and the two close friends who live here as well and the sheer proximity to vineyards are nothing if not life changing. But try as I might, I can never seem to squelch the unease of not belonging. Sure, I'm a restless sort of person in general, as the people who know me best would tell you. In the past it was generally accepted (by me) that the grass was always greener where I was not. But I know I belong in NYC. I sort of always have.
Adding to this feeling is an insight I gained from a complete stranger I was chatting up in a bar in the city a few months ago. We talked a bit about our lives and he asked where I live. When I told him he said, without knowing me mind you, "Well you need to find your way back here." See? A drunk stranger told me that. I bet I can find a Magic 8 ball that will back that up as well. Fate!

In summation:
  • Civil service can suck it.
  • I like classrooms.
  • Brunch is good with dear friends, even in an elevator sized restaurant.
  • NYC has a thin, steel wire wrapped snugly around the center of my heart.
  • You can gain insight about yourself from total, drunk strangers. (wow, I dig the placement of those adjectives.)
That's it for now.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cats. And how they freak me out sometimes.

My cat was being a total wang this morning and would not let me get her into the carrier so I could take her to the groomers. How do they know the difference between a friendly cuddle and one that is tricksy and a ploy to get them to do something they wouldn't normally do i.e. enter the confines of a carrier to be poked and prodded at? I often believe cats can read minds. In fact when I was considering adopting my cats I did a lot of reading up on what to expect as a cat owner and at least three books mentioned that a somewhat effective way of teaching a cat to do or not to do something is to think and visualise what you want the cat to do or stop doing. It really freaked me out when I read that just because why is that advice from cat experts? Why am I just now learning about the psychic abilities of cats?

I had a cat growing up. He was named Catsy. Yes, I know, I know. He was all white and we adopted him as a kitten from what sticks out in my memory as the white trashiest house in Louisiana and that is REALLY saying something. I have this memory of picking him out of a litter that was in a dilapidated cardboard box in the front lawn. In actuality it was likely just a normal house and the kittens were cared for but memory is a tricky thing. Back then and down south, people rarely neutered or spayed their pets. I don't know why. It just wasn't/isn't done that often. A lot of shelters up here in NY will make trips down south to bring up the excess stray animals for our shelters. Anyway, I loved Catsy with all of my heart. I adored that cat. The problem with him was that he was a bastard. That cat hated us and he was feral and mean and he would scratch the ever loving shit out of us at every opportunity. He had the gait of an alley cat and the indifference of Saharan lion, chillaxing in the desert. He hated being pet. What fucking cat hates being pet? Catsy, that's who. One time my mom tried to pet him as a last ditch effort for you know, a purpose to having him at all and he cut a gash so deep in her lip that she not only had to get stitches but she still has a scar. I honestly don't know why my parents let us keep him, he was that mean. But we all, my mom, my father and my sister all developed an attachment to him. But to this day I honestly think I loved him the most. Does this speak to my constantly seeking out affection from people who are indifferent/mean to me? Or am I watching too many episodes of "In Treatment"? What do you, the viewer, think?

Catsy lived with us for many years up until we moved out of our home after my parents split up. We couldn't take him to NY with us and both my mother and sister told me that on the last day when we got our stuff out of the house they called for him but he didn't come. He was an outdoor cat, he had no patience for being indoors. I always got the sense we were his hotel. So we had no choice but to leave. Catsy became just another casualty of that sad, sad time for me and I have felt guilty about that ever since. In my heart, I know he was likely totally fine since he didn't really like us much and spent most of his time outside, killing animals and burying them under our house (the John Wayne Gacy of cats mayhaps?). But still, that was one of my first hearbreaks. I hope he psychically knew I didn't want to go.

And in keeping with the whole cats are weird, psychic, creepy yet adorable animals, about 6 months ago I saw a cat that reminded me of Catsy, all white and sleek, arrogance written on his face. I was flooded by memories of him and felt this incredible guilt (a feeling I'm really adept at frankly) and I was thinking about him and how I missed him and hoped he either made his way with a new family or at the very least was able to live off the fruits of his hunting. As I sat there thinking about him and feeling terrible I had my front door open with just the screen door closed. A neighborhood cat who I know well came walking up right to the door and he just plopped right down in front of me and did that stretchy thing on his back that cats do when they want a belly rub. And he just stayed like that for a few minutes as I pet him and then flipped himself over and lifted his nose up to me and off he went to find some adventures. I don't really know what to make of this, if anything so what do you, the viewer, think? If someone had told me this story I would have said "What a lovely, comforting coincidence." But since it happened to me, I think that cats read my mind and I may need an intervention soon.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Over the past weekend I attended a bachelorette (why does blogger make that a misspelled word?) weekend for one of my besties and an assorted crew of women from all walks of life. Not being in any way ordinary, my friend chose to go away for a murder mystery weekend in beautiful Jim Thorpe, PA. If you don't know about/haven't been to Jim Thorpe, you should. It is a small, small town in eastern Pennsylvania with a storied history and colorful locals. We stayed here:
at the Harry Packer mansion, erstwhile home to one Harry Packer, son of Asa Packer, coal baron and all around big wig. Actually, I found the story of Asa and Harry Packer quite interesting but suffice to say that they were father and son and they were incredibly rich and they lived next door to each other along the steepest hill known to man. Some words exchanged while climbing said hill in various states of inebriation and food coma are as follows:

"I'm so out of shape."
"Man, I need to rest."
"My hamhocks hurt."
"I shouldn't have eaten that entire crab cake."
"I'm detoxing on Monday."
Silence...apart from heavy breathing.

Harry Packer died when he was just 34 and it may or may not have been a direct result of climbing that hill to get home. But I digress.

We had reserved the carriage house because even in this day and age, we aren't really "main house" people. I, of course, speak only for myself. The carriage house had five rooms and we had four of those booked for the eight people at the party, necessitating our sharing the fifth with a couple of strangers. Due to the murder mystery goings on we had the opportunity to talk to our carriage house mates and get a good look at them. They were a couple away for the weekend, the woman shared my sister's name, which was odd and the man was about 2 years away from being the old pervert that everyone in the neighborhood goes out of their way to change their schedule arond in order to avoid passing conversations. But they were nice enough and I really didn't see them at all aside from the murder mystery sessions of the weekend. And they didn't see any of us. This didn't stop the pervy older man from saying stuff like "So you gals didn't make too much noise last night. I guess the stripper was late." In fact, there is something about the words Bachelorette Party that send people's (in particular people beyond a certain age) imaginations into orgiastic paroxysms, imagining Caligula's den despite seeing the participants in broad daylight, being told they are all (way) older than 21 and discussing fine wine, children and professions merely hours before. Over the weekend we heard comments and were asked questions by all the anniversary celebrating older couples in attendance. It reminded me of how pervy everyone is. Again, digression.

After settling in, we took a walk around town to get some lunch and explore. We got some booty pictured here:

That was to take home people. Didn't I just tell you how tame we all are? 

I also bought some rather delicious hot pickles, the thought of which is currently making me salivate. We ate a lovely lunch at a restaurant called Crave which was situated, as most things in Jim Thorpe are, inside an old mansion. Whilst there we drank pumpkin martinis, pumpkin beers and wine. Because we didn't just buy a case and a half of wine. Oh and also we had to finish up lunch so we could go back to the mansion and participate in a wine tasting. I'm starting to think my blog should be titled "After So Much Wine Girl." Thoughts?

The wine tasting was enlightening, the small town wine distributor was worldly and knew what he was talking about and most importantly he left the bottles out after the wine tasting and enabled us to serve ourselves. A particular highlight of this event was looking over at Marianne, the bride to be as she caught my eye and slowly mouthed the word "Balls." This was a throwback to a private joke that took place in the van on the way down to PA (oh who am I kidding, the word balls is bandied about in our group of friends.) and it was triggered by the man running the tasting saying it in context. Seeing my friend's happy face as she mouthed the word balls for some reason just sent me into a fit of laughter. This resulted in a nice, quiet state of drunken happiness. Which was just what was needed for the intro to the murder mystery story.

The mysteries that they do at the Harry Packer mansion really play off the setting and from what I understand they all feature real historical figures and members of the Packer family as main characters. The purpose of that first night was to get our character assignments. I was assigned the wife of an explosives magnate based on a real life man who may or may not have caused the deaths of 200 Irish immigrants and coal miners. Without going into a long detailed description about the murder mystery game, suffice to say that a cook named Brumhilde was dead and we all had to find out why/who. Like I said, I was drunk but it was fun!

After our character assignments we went back to the carriage house exhausted and sat up talking and snacking and general catching up, well most of us anyway. Our plan was to tour the town the next day and come back in time for rounds 2 and 3 of the game and dinner. So we went to bed with nary a penis in sight.

The next day we were able to have breakfast on the porch of the beautiful mansion that overlooked the mountains on the clearest, bluest day in a long while. The town was having a fall harvest festival and we had been warned the previous night that it would be "mobbed" and to our city sensibilities we doubted. Sure it will be mobbed but mobbing is relative. Yeah, no it was mobbed. Not unpleasantly of course but still. After wandering around the three or four blocks that comprise the town we drank some more and ate some more and then climbed back up mount Everest to nap and refresh for the evening. All in all, not too shabby a way to spend an afternoon among friends.

And then we had a quick round wherein more secrets were revealed and none of us were any closer to figuring out who the killer was but although he was rather long winded, the leader of the game was really knowledgeable about local history and he was adept at creating the mystery. He just needed to stop talking after awhile! Also he looked like this:

Which was odd considering one of the other participants looked like this:

True story.

Dinner was delicious. Our group was seated at a long table. On one end some of our group were really, really involved in their cell phones and on my end of the table, I was sat next to a mother and daughter, cousins of the woman who could be confused for Molly Shannon. They were cute but you could tell the daughter was very embarrassed by her mother as evidenced when the mother said "I really hope I don't get a lot of gas from this food." and the daughter said "Please! Please stop it." Guess what else we did? We drank more wine!

As a side note, the mansion has its own "bar" which was really a table with a lot of booze that was called the LIBATIONS LOUNGE. This was to the dismay in particular of my sister and Dana S. who conjured the word labia each time libations was brought up. I know they are both reading this so this is for them: LIBATIONS.

After dinner we all gathered to find out who the murderer was and to my own personal disappointment, it was someone I had completely forgotten about in the game heh. But the game guy brilliantly gave us a bunch of false endings a la Peter Jackson and those made me chuckle. I have to say I really enjoyed the murder mystery. I just kind of wish I'd been more sober for a lot of it. Funnily enough, that's how I feel about all four years of college.

Anyway we went back to the carriage house energized and five of the eight of us went out for drinks in town while three of us stayed home and looked at cell phones and magazines. I think you probably know who had more fun. While at the bar we ran into Norm MacDonald, a very friendly woman who waved vigorously at us but none of us recognized, a father and son from Long Island of all places, some lovely pinot noir and a handful of friendly locals. Jim Thorpe is a lovely town!

Stumbling back up the hill in utter silence due to our inability to breathe comfortably it occurred to me how lucky I am to be living the life I live with the people I live with and among. Maybe it was the wine but I just felt happy to be able to be with a friend, celebrating the fact that she found someone great to spend the rest of her life with, something that is both natural and awe inspiring in the same breath. 

The next morning was breakfast on the porch again. I was a tad bit hungover but nothing terrible and we decided to visit the famous jail that is in Jim Thorpe. It was the scene of the hanging of four members of the Molly Maguires. Google it, lazy people! The jail is also said to be haunted. It certainly was creepy enough for me to believe it was haunted. Our tour guide was 15 and spoke too quickly so I tuned out a bit of what he said. The coolest part of that tour was seeing this:

The hand print that does not disappear, even after several attempts over the last 200 years to remove it from cell 18. Again, Google might be your friend here.

After the tour we wanted to eat something for the long drive home and unfortunately chose a Mexican place in town. Scratch that a Mexican place in a town that had two Hispanic people in it, myself and my sister. The food was horrendous but the company was worth it. 

Thoughts on Jim Thorpe? I'd go again. Thoughts on murder mystery weekend? I'd do it again. Maybe in a haunted mansion. Thoughts on my soon to be married friend? I love you and hope you had a good weekend, despite the fact that there were dicks, but no penises! 

Peace out!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What hell might be like

Man I'm complainy today.

Several months ago I mused that the walls of hell were lined with law serials, needing updated looseleaf parts. This was mainly due to the fact that I had to go through a large quantity of law serials where I work to see what needed updating. Yeah you know some people my age are making movies, travelling the world on the company dime or simply sitting at home eating pork rinds. Me? Oh I'm checking bookshelves to see if the law serials need updating. Or I was a few months ago.

I've amended my assertion to include book review publications. The walls of  hell are lined with law serials needing updated looseleaf parts and book review publications. Maybe it is because I have two jobs and I'm tired by the time I get to my second job. Maybe it is the mostly ass backward way they do almost everything there. Maybe my back really hurts today and I'm not in the  mood to be sitting up much less reading some review of a book that this place either is or isn't going buy based on everything BUT the review. Maybe I'm antsy because I'm on the cusp of a three day weekend and I really don't want to be here right now. Maybe the teenagers that are in here every day for hours and hours just laughing to themselves that are about to send me over the edge. Maybe I....I have completely forgotten what my point was going to be here. Oh right, I don't want to read any more book reviews. Frankly, I'd rather nosedive into a swimming pool full of mayonaise than look at another review publication.

I know when I am feeling stressed because I get really annoyed by really stupid things like I outlined in the paragraphs above. My comedown from Paris, my inevitable return to the doldrums of life and the ease of my first world life is apparently congealing into a large sized and rather painful knot in my lower back.
I think maybe I need to take up yoga again as often as I did it last winter. Three times a week. Unfortunately my very good yoga instructor got knocked up (why are babies such ruiners?) and I strongly disliked the woman who replaced her. I mean how exactly does one teach an hour of yoga in which no sweat is produced? Meh.

I'm really only posting this right now to avoid the stack of publications on my desk. THAT'S why this post is so lame.

Ah well, I'm going away this weekend to a murder mystery weekend for one of my best friend's bachelorette parties. I hope I'm the murdered one so I can spend the rest of the weekend drinking wine.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Car Full o' Visors

Since returning from my trip about 2 weeks ago, it has pretty much rained in either torrential downpours or in little spittles for 20 minutes and then the tease of sunshine. This has resulted in a couple of things:

Firstly, I've discovered that I have a bottomless supply of (5 dolla! 5 dolla!) umbrellas. All of these umbrellas are kept in my bedroom, the place I almost never am when it begins to rain. In addition to those, I have two very large and long umbrellas in my car, provenance unknown, that I'm reasonably sure I've never used before. I think I need to get rid of them. That seemingly insignificant factoid has led me to accept that...

 I sincerely need to rid my apartment of unnecessary things, namely, large mountains beyond mountains of clothing I no longer wear.  I began this process over the weekend when i opened one of my closets and saw a huge mound of sweaters and it moved slightly. Turns out one of my cats was embedded underneath one of the piles and it made me feel instantly hoardy, you know? Like I was one step away from justifying keeping an empty bottle of body wash in the toilet bowl because I've run out of room elsewhere. I just can't go down that road. Plus I have seen so many wonderful things in the stores that I can't really justify buying with the amount of stuff in my closets at the moment. Yet I...

...continue to purchase clothing. This has to do with the fact that I'm very bored at work of late and that coupled with hours on the computer coupled with a shrinking waistline propels me forward to Spendyville. The internet can be an evil place for a woman just returned from Paris, a city where everyone emerges from deep sleep fully dressed in fashionable outfits and glowing skin. Kind of like most of NYC. In my neck of the woods, most people look fine, some people look supercool, other people are effortless in style like....

...that woman I was stopped behind at a red light this morning. She drove a Mercedes station wagon. (Side note: If you are going to purchase a Mercedes, just get a proper fucking Mercedes and not a station wagon, k?) She wore a visor, nestled deeply in her bottle blond curls. As we waited for the light to change, she looked in the rearview mirror to adjust the hotness that is her essence and decided that she should lose the visor. So she tossed it nonchalantly in the backseat, looked again in the mirror and reached into the passenger seat and put on ANOTHER, albeit shinier, visor. After adjusting it to perfection, she drove off into the promised land, a land where everyone is from the 80s and no one can tolerate a full hat. A visor is the fanny pack of hats, just as a Mercedes station wagon is the visor of Mercedeses. The woman I was idling behind at that light this morning may have been the fanny pack of Tuesday mornings.

That was my stream of consciousness post. Did you enjoy it? This weekend I'm taking a road trip as part of a bachelorette (aka hen) party. Expect hijinks. Expect me to write about them.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

French wine gives me false memories

And now we come to the last blog about Paris (for now) and we can all go back to the halcyon days of me having nothing to do or say of any importance whatsoever from the long, long LONGNESS of Long Island.

The day began rather late due to the heavy drinking that went on the night before and I had wanted to do a last minute touristy thing to either the Musee d'Orsay or the Musee Rodin. The day before on our way to the RER train of destiny we saw the Musee d'Orsay and I really feel like if you've seen the front of the building you have seen the museum which is probably why until I just looked at my notes that i realize that we didn't even actually go inside. I've been including it on my list of "stuff I saw" in the retelling of my trip and what can I say about that except that I drank a LOT on this trip so my apologies for my open faced lies.What happened was this: we took the metro to the Musee d'Orsay and had planned to go in when we realized that we had been granted yet another amazing day of clear and bright weather and opted for the Musee Rodin.

But before that, since we got a relatively late start we decided to go for one last salad. I'd like to marry each and every salad I ate there but that would be impossible since I ate them. We picked a place that was right near the metro stop and it was just about lunchtime so it was hopping with businessmen eating gorgeous plates of various meats and drinking quite heavily. Awesome. It being Paris, there was also a fair share of couples swooning and sharing their third courses. I don't actually see how Parisians work. I mean they seem to spend hours drinking coffee and eating and this is why I must live there immediately. But I digress. Salads. Oh salads how I miss them on the very warm and rainy afternoons that have been happening since I returned. Could it have been just one week ago I was a world away?

So after all that eating and observing we went to the Musee Rodin. Upon entering, I knew instantly we had made the right choice. I had only ever been familiar with Rodin's famous works like the "Thinking Man" and the general attributes of his sculptures; the sinewy, sleek marble, the dichotomy of realistic humanity portrayed in marble.

This was my favorite scultpure, called "Dreaming":

 I was glad to be seeing the sculptures for the first time in that setting. It was remarkable. Again we were blessed with perfect, if a bit cloudy, weather and we lingered over the works and on the grounds for hours. It being our last full day in Paris, I think we all accepted the fact that we weren't going to do much else and just decided to relax into the experience of the place we were in. After touring the grounds and the museum (this was Rodin's Paris residence toward the end of his life) we decided to get some glace, relax in the picnic area and while away the hours like proper Parisians.

A couple of observations from that afternoon:
There was an art class touring the museum at the time we were there and they had been given an assignment to sketch a statue of their choice. In fact there was a lot of that going on that day and, I presume, everyday. There was an artist there, a young woman, who was the skinniest person I've ever seen. Her body curved in on itself and took on the shape of a question mark. I thought she was someone Rodin would have loved to sculpt.

I don't lie around in the grass looking up at the blue sky enough back home. I need to do more of that. (And more of walking around everyday and wine drinking. I really believe all of that is good for me.)

This was pointed out by Rowan: a lot of the Asian tourists we saw took souvenir novelty photos and never just one normal one. Either they would be flashing the peace sign, or chanting a little song before the photo was taken or something else equally quirky. This was true at every single touristy place we went. They have fun with their photographs.

We stayed for a few hours and then decided to head back to the Latin Quarter for a drink and then some dinner. On Tuesday we had gotten lost in particular neighborhood and were determined to go back there. Again, I have to credit Rowan with her navigation skillz and soon we were back. We sat on a street bar that advertised happy hour and frankly had the only open seats, it being Friday evening and all. We ordered margaritas and they were gross. Also gross? The sewer smell that would waft up every five minutes or so. The available seating at this place was becoming explainable. When the couple sat next to us began feeling each other up, we decided to walk on. I'm glad we did because not only did we find a shop where I found these amazing red earrings, but we also found a shop that sold nesting dolls. Unfortunately they were so very overpriced that I was not able to add to my collection (and there was nothing overtly French about the selection) but I was happy to see that yet another city had a shop dedicated to them.

We came across a dive bar and went in for a kir and some beer and honestly I could have stayed there all night. There was a young student-y crowd in there and a small but strong selection of extraordinarily good looking people. Why are the French so cool and good looking? I don't get it. But they are. It appears they live in one long Truffaut film. I wanted suddenly to be 10 years younger and just starting out. Bastards.

We decided to go for Indian food, it was a whim we followed and it was the right choice. We had an amazing dinner with more wine and laughter and the bittersweetness of a vacation coming to a close. After dinner we walked along the Seine and saw all the couples sat along the banks drinking wine and kissing and it was all so very romantic and just exactly what I wanted from Paris. I wanted to run into Owen Wilson. But I settled for the amazing everything that was this trip. Nothing seemed ordinary in Paris and I will be returning.

We went back to the apartment to drink our last bottle of wine and reflect on the trip that was. I hate how quickly everything good ends.
The shuttle came to collect Lorraine and I in the morning and Rowan hopped a train to visit her friend in the south of France. On the way to the airport the shuttle driver, a very handsome French man who looked a bit Jesus-y asked if we had a good time. I wanted to tell him everything and then ask if I could come home with him and marry him and stay forever. Instead I just said "Paris is beautiful. You are so lucky to live here." He said "I know."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pressing every button you can find will land you in Versailles

Okay yes I know I'm incredibly late with this post but I promised I would blog about the whole trip and I've taken copious, studious and thorough notes on the rest of the time and what we did (if, by "copious, studious and thorough notes" you mean "drunken scribblings in a notepad on the floor after copiously,studiously and thoroughly finishing the wine before our last night in Paris") and will update accordingly.

Alors, on Thursday we headed for Versailles. I usually have mixed feelings about visiting the grand homes of the past, especially the caliber of Versailles simply because no matter how beautiful they are, there is always that sense of "man, were these people assholes or what?" that pervades my brain and does not let me simply enjoy prettiness. But I immediately digress. I've admired photos and documentaries and silly portrayals of King Louis(es) and Marie Antoinette and am always intrigued by the hot sweltering mess that is royalty and so Versailles was a must for me.

I know in my last post I praised the efficiency and honesty of the Paris metro. I stand by that...with one very glaring exception. The RER trains. There is a very distinct lack of/confusion inherent in the signs that populate those railways. We took the metro to a stop that said "RER C" train connection which is what one needs to get to Versailles. Ok, so usually, and I'm just going by my 10 years worth of experience with connecting trains in the tangled spaghetti of the NYC subway system, when the map says there is a connection it is usually through a tunnel of some kind or up or down some stairs. And in keeping with the infinite branching of the city, we followed a series of hallways and stairs expecting that at the end of each would be the RER station. Instead we were lead to the street level. I'm sorry, I'm just laughing out loud at how confused we must have appeared to passerby. I had the sensation one gets when one is on an elevator expecting the doors to open to a familiar floor and finding that the elevator has not moved. To make a long walk a short story, the RER train is connected, via about three blocks on the street with an entirely different ticket needed. Not that you'd know that. I can't tell you how we found out where to buy tickets or how to get there but I can relate to you the following anecdote:
     Sometimes when a DVD player or television speaker system is on the fritz at my folks' house my mother will often just press every single button on every remote and device she can find until something changes or works. That is essentially what we did. We visited each kiosk and pressed buttons. Eventually we ended up with tickets.

While all THAT was going on Rowan befriended an elderly New Zealander travelling alone and shaking. I'm exaggerating but seriously, this man was 90 million years old. He was very sweet and just as lost as we were so he was watching as we pressed every button in the room and then asked for tickets from some dude, two levels below the entrance to the RER. So he waited with us on the platform we assumed was the correct one (turns out we were wrong on that count as well) and the platform started to fill up with more and more tourists looking beleagured and confused. I tried to make sense of the posted train schedule but it simply looked like a physics equation and I figured we could just follow the group that looked the most confused. Barring that, we could find more buttons to press.

The train arrived on the wrong platform, there were no signs nor annoucements in French or any other languages and this resulted in all of the tourists crowding on the train, some with one foot on and one foot off just shouting over and over again "VERSAILLES? VERSAILLES? VERSAILLES?" Imagine that said over and over WITH increasing panic. We all assumed it was the correct train though why, I have no clue and took our seats.

Then I looked over at the set of seats next to us and I saw this woman:

aka the Madame Bijou that Jack Dawson, the dude that couldn't figure out that if he laid down sideways next to Rose Dewitt Bucatur on that huge door that he could have lived too. No but seriously, this woman was sat next to us on the train to Versailles only on this day she wore these blue cat eye, bejeweled glasses. So that was entertaining.

Then, after waiting on a short line to get tickets and me getting my cafe noir to go we made it to Versailles. A few of Lorraine's photos from the iPhone:

Yeah, so those beautiful photos only vaguely capture the grandeur and ornateness and the size and shape of the palace. And again might I point out the blueness of the sky? Yet another postcard perfect day.

Sharing the experience of Versailles with about 4.5 million other tourists was annoying in the same way that visiting the Met in NYC is annoying; there is tons of shit you really, really want to see everywhere but the sweaty, adoring public is obnoxious enough to distract you from the fact that you are surrounded by all of this beauty. Also, I think three of us were famished, having had our pre-packed lunch of salads and sandwiches confiscated at the gate (which I understand completely as I'm certain there are people who exist at this moment just waiting for the next time they can leave their refuse behind on a pristine manicured lawn that is 500 years old). So we swiftly walked through the rooms, never really lingering anywhere but the hall of mirrors and I truly defy anyone to not linger there.

We finished the tour, reclaimed our lunches and sat out in the courtyard and ate salads (the French make salad an art form, even in the prepackaged incarnations) under a very, very hot sun and headed back to Paris.On our walk back to the train we heard an honest to goodness, stereotypical French laugh. I won't insult anyone here by typing it out but YOU know what I'm talking about. It was on my list of things that absolutely had to happen while I was in France and so I ticked it off the list. Brilliant.
Rowan then had an utterly amazing idea to get out of the RER at the Eiffel Tower and go and lounge in its shadow.

Here's a photo of her, soaking up the sun:

Lovely photo, yes?

Not pictured in this photo are the couple seated to our right and the couple seated to our left. The couple to our right seemed to be platonic friends drinking wine and laughing over a packed snack of French stuff. The couple to our left sat silently while she chain smoked and he looked on at the passerby, mutely. Neither of them looked like they were having any fun whatsoever. They will be important later.

So Rowan napped and Lorraine and I sat up people watching and being stupid and we saw this young girl in a very long skirt accompanied by a person in a gorilla suit. They were walking around from blanket to blanket and person to person just putting out their hands. Some people would give them change or some food, utterly nonchalant (apparently this happens often). Lorraine observed a group of Asian tourists taking a novelty shot (sir) and the gorilla suit person jumped and scared the ever loving shit out of them. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if one of them later discovered their wallet/phone/camera missing.

A short while later the couple to our right had laid back and were soaking up the sun quietly when they were approached by three pre-teen looking girls. They exchanged a few words with the three girls surrounding the guy who was shirtless and relaxed on his side. I can only surmise by his tone that he told them nicely to fuck off. So fuck off they did. The chain smoking woman to our left shouted something to the guy and he suddenly began looking for something in his pockets. Turns out those teenage girls stole his phone. I really don't know how they did it because I watched them all throughout the conversation. He immediately got up and ran after them and I watched him as he yelled and demanded his phone back. They were calm and not at all surprised and threw his phone back at him casually as he flipped them off. He walked back to his friend and they walked off in a different direction and the whole scene ended as quickly as it began. Who knew such dark grey deeds took place at the base of the Eiffel Tower? Well they do. Also, the lawn smells vaguely of poo. But that can't be blamed on thieving teenagers. Or can it?

After patting ourselves down and accounting for all items of significance, we decided to head home, freshen up and then go out to dinner. Only when we got home, we were so full of vitamin D and maybe a few glasses of wine that we decided to cook dinner at the apartment and save our energies for the next day. What followed was a lovely dinner with many, many glasses of wine and the drunkest night of the trip. I'd post photos of the antics that followed except we didn't take any and I'd kind of like to keep those memories undocumented.

I've got enough notes for a few more posts and those are sure to happen as I long for the fresh air of Paris from inside my windowless Long Island office. First world longing.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gleaming the cube

Days in Paris: 5
Baguettes eaten: I ran out of numbers
Wine: just poured another glass

Wednesday was for Pere Lachaise which, for those unfamiliar is a cemetery here, in the land of ornate death monuments. Everyone you have ever heard of that lived and died in and around Paris is buried there. On top of each other. The layout of the cemetery mimics the layout of the city: a million pathways branching off into a million more with no seeming end in sight. 

Pere Lachaise reminded me of New Orleans. It really should be the other way around but there you go. It also reminded me that as humans cursed with the knowledge of our own end, we will do hugely extravagant and elaborate things to make ourselves feel better about it. We do things like build chapels for our dead beloved.

You can't really see it in the above photo but many of these had stained glass windows and mini altars and elaborate inscriptions. I have to say that contrasted with the clarity of the day, it was sobering to be in the middle of all of this.

Of course we beelined for the most famous graves. Oscar Wilde:

adorned with lipsticked female kisses although he was an unabashedly gay man. I witnessed a young girl kiss it and while I can appreciate the sentiment, and I love me some Oscar Wilde, I was well and truly grossed out by lips upon a stone first placed there in 1900, kissed by hundreds of thousands of other mouths and exposed to the elements of 100 years. Blech! But graves and headstones are for the living. Not pictured is the whole headstone bc it was just too damn big to get it up on Lorraine's iphone which is all we've got while we are here. Later I will post some other, even higher quality photos after we're back home. 
There are a lot of very, very famous people from history/the arts/literature and music buried there but I found Chopin's grave to be the most elegant and pristine. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of it now but I will soon. It is a beautiful engraved statue that matches everything he left behind. I suppose graves serve that purpose if anything. Some kind of marker that even though everything you ever thought or felt disappeared in an instant, someone remembers you. So yeah, on that light an airy note, we'll move on.

The cobblestones throughout the cemetery just about destroyed my feet and consequently my lower back but we trudged on and out of the cemetery after seeing a few other famous graves (there were some middle aged men that Rowan and Lorraine saw wearing home made tshirts that said "Jim Morrisson Tour 2011 which, LMFAO.) We walked for a bit and realized that in the immediate area surrounding the cemetery were just long stretches of nondescript store fronts, mostly selling gravestones. Probably the only thing more depressing than death is the business of death so we walked in some direction to some metro stop. In between we came across a produce market in the middle of the street with fiercely aggressive grape sellers that really, really, really wanted us to buy grapes and frankly, I'd never survive in a place where people compete for your business so vocally. I just wanted to buy all the grapes so they'd stop yelling. But I didn't. 

On the suggestion of both a couple of guidebooks and a very sweet girl named Malia, we ended up visiting the Marais section of the city. Thank God it was a beautiful day because we were able to sit outside at a cafe for a bit while I drank my new crack, cafe noir aka espresso. Oh that reminds me, as we exited the metro station we saw a man walk and simultaneously light a crack pipe. A bona fide crack pipe. That kind of set the stage for the visit to this neighborhood.

As we sat at this cafe two things happened: 1) we met our first rude waiter. Nothing he said or did was remarkable, just kind of assy and annoying. and 2) a very large population of skate rats were there, gleaming the cube. "Hey guys! Where's Christian Slater? Oh right, he's 46."--Rowan.  But in all seriousness, it was all 1990 up in that piece. 

After paying the waiter, who snapped one last snap at us we wandered around aimlessly and I think we may have wandered off the regular path because there was nothing really especially of note to be seen. We did that for awhile until about 4pm when it was cocktail o'clock and I wanted to visit Harry's New York Bar, having punked out of it last night. So we hopped on the metro and headed to the historic bar to get some sidecars and bloody marys. Sidecars, which for those who are reading this and don't actually know me, is my drink. Living as I do in the 2010s and not the 1920s, no one knows how to make one aside from those fresh out of bartending school or old school bartenders so whenever I find one who knows, I take full advantage of it. So, um, Harry's is where the sidecar was INVENTED. Here's me drinking one in the place where it was born:

It tastes like happy.

Well we ended up getting good and drunk in the middle of the afternoon and also spending about 990 euros on alcohol, something I haven't done since I was about 22. Young at heart. Naturally we decided to leave as it was getting a bit more happening and move on to the next bar I wanted to visit, Willi's Wine Bar, very close by. When we got there I asked for a Kir. I think my French, while very limited and broken is believable enough as many people seem to want to continue the conversation after a "Bonjour ca va" from me. Naturally I just smile and nod so instead of a Kir, I got a glass of champagne. It was no sidecar but it hit the spot. Willi's clientele was a bit bizarre in that it was entirely filled with foreigners, mostly speaking English. However, we enjoyed it there very much and the wine was great. I think everytime I mention wine in this blog you should drink a glass. I'm much funnier after a few drinks. 

We spilled out of the bar and headed to get some more moules and frites because you need to make that magic happen more than once in Paris. Our waiter recognized us which was so pleasant. We could briefly pretend we were locals which was awesome. I like to pretend I"m from here. But I'm not leggy enough to really pass for it so I get the sense that wherever I go, I have the word TOURIST branded atop my forehead. 

Then we came home and drank some more wine (YOU know what to do now) that we had bought at the Verres et Vins right across the street owned by this amazing old French couple and called it a night to be sure we'd be up relatively early for Versailles the next day. 
You'll have to wait for the next installment for that as I have "something" to do right now. Heh.