Monday, April 30, 2012

Temperance So Long Girl

In my ongoing attempts to move away from a state of being, the nature of which adjectives such as 'slovenly', 'tiredly' and 'fatly' can accurately describe, I am dieting which also requires me to be sober. The sobriety was at first a disappointment to me as readers of this blog and real life friends and family members will know how dearly I love the sauce. But the fact is that alcohol is The Great Expander and frankly, I cannot enter the next phase of my life drunk, no matter how great and fun that would be. I don't now nor have I ever had a dependency on alcohol, at least I don't think so. What I do know is that since the year I turned 21, I've always been a social drinker. There may or may not have been a time during my mid-20s, living in a post 9/11 NYC when I was in danger of becoming an alcoholic but my debauchery never took to becoming dangerous and whenever I felt too full of it all, I could and did just stop for an extended period of time. (Side note: I kind of feel like no matter what I ended this paragraph with, it would sound like rationalization, even if none of it is so let's just leave it at that shall we.)

Sobriety this time around has proven to be....depressing and boring. However, I'm convinced that is because it has only been two weeks and also, I'm also dieting, which is a huge bummer. Also, life is generally depressing and boring so there's that. I did have high hopes that a clearer head would arrive hand in hand with my muse. While that has not happened yet, I am willing to give it time. In the past week, when I've set aside whatever little time I have in my day to write, I sit at my makeshift table (no desk yet) and all I want is a glass of wine. So to distract myself I shop online. (Keep your eye out for my post involving my spending addiction!) Then I get caught up in gchat. Then I look up old crushes on Facebook (chronic, memory altering romanticism) and before you know it I'm streaming Family Guy episodes for three hours and then it is time to go to work again. I might be even less creatively productive at the moment than I was at this time last year, which is kind of hilarious-ly sad. Like I said, I'm giving it time. I feel great things on their way  for me in May, I don't know why, I just do. As it stands, I don't intend on drinking or overdoing anything really until my trip to Chicago at the end of this next month. (Vegetarianism will also take a vacation as I must needs eat a Chicago hot dog, unless I can find a veggie one but really, why bother? I'm not going to find a "safe" hot dog to eat in Chicago or anywhere on earth.)

Time and money are both like twin blue whales trapped inside the the garbage and crap of my life. I'm not really confident in that metaphor since it would have to be a lot of fucking garbage that would trap a blue whale and I'm not sure that has ever even happened but I'm going to go ahead and leave that there what with the endangered nature of both blue whales and my time and money and largeness and all that being what I'm talking about.... You know what? Here, look at this pretty picture:

Stop killing me.

Wait, I thought of a better metaphor: Time and money are both like twin blue whales, hunted with the barbed harpoon of my jobs. Eh, kinda juvenile. Whatevs. I have no time or money! But back to my original point (I'll have you know that I just read about whales for an hour online because that is what I do. I innocently think about a topic and, enabled by the internet, I interrupt what I was doing and thinking and writing to read about random crap, like blue whales.) But yeah being sober has provided me with marginally more of each (time and money haha, you guys I am such a GOOD WRITER). Yesterday I reorganized my kitchen and my bathroom, I cleaned my apartment and decluttered a huge section of my life. No small feat for someone descended from pack rats.

And while all that sounds positively life affirming, being sober did absolutely nothing to prevent the following situation from happening to me.

After clearing out my kitchen I thought, I can do it all. Today. I never vacuum my car. It is kind of gross. But yesterday, high on dumping unnecessary crap, I decided to find one of those automatic vacuums that cost $1. So after I finish vacuuming my car from top to bottom (I was too late in some spots so my car will always carry the air of unvacuumed, or AOU) I felt even better and sat back in the driver's seat, ready to go home and enjoy a nice tall glass of wine water when I realized I couldn't find my keys. Thinking they could have fallen underneath the car, between the seats, inside a shopping bag I had in my car, near the vacuum somewhere, I essentially tore apart the car looking for the keys, panic rising. I had visions of tiny car wash gnomes mischievously sneaking into my car and swiping the keys for giggles and it hurt my feelings. So I had to call my parents, like a complete loser, to bring my extra set of house and car keys. When they arrived, after staying quiet about how slow their daughter is and helping me look even further, it occurred to me that perhaps my keys, like Phil Collins before them, against all odds had been sucked up in the vacuum? I was able to pry the container open and there they were, like tiny silver gemstones in a coal mine (?)! SOBRIETY.

Monday, April 23, 2012

I Never Wore Zubaz

Some observations that have occurred to me in the last, oh let's say, three hours.

1) I had some free time today in between jobs and decided to go return something and do what my grandmother and aunt used to call "taste" at the stores. In actuality that just means going from clothing store to clothing store (read: one Macy's to another) and looking around with little to no intention of buying anything and just killing a few hours. This was a rite of passage for me when I was moved up here at age 12 and I'd be lying if I said that since day one I didn't love every second of it. So sue me; I'm often a very stereotypical woman. Anyway, one store I wandered into to taste contained clothing that I can only sufficiently describe as "aggressively 80s." I'm well aware of the retro vibe that every single season carries with it. (Side note: There was a very interesting item on NPR over the weekend about the nature of nostalgia that you can (and should) read here.) Apparently, the present culture becomes obsessed with the culture that came roughly 40 years before it.  But if the cycle of pining for things every 40 years is to be believed, I wish someone could explain why I saw these in the store today:

Cue Saved By the Bell music.

Ok, maybe they were not Zubaz per se but they were very, very close. The 80s were not 40 years ago were they? And don't we all, who lived through them, always, infallibly look back at photos of us in godawful outfits and say "never again" with solemnity? This store was filled with example after example of this kind of "in your face" ugliness: cropped shirts that were jagged at the hems, neon yellow fake Ray Ban imitations, large plastic earrings. Why? I was enjoying the 90s revival that seemed to be going on recently what with leggings and vests and tunics and the Pulp reunion. But this is bananas. In addition, in all of my many versions of utopia, stores have no music playing. I do not require music to spend hours upon hours in a clothing store but somehow today's clothing stores always find the EXACT song that will make me want to leave immediately. Today the song was Rihanna. Her voice is annoying in a "I can't really sing but I'm hot" kind of way.  I remember fondly the one tape of Muzak we used to play when I worked at Barnes and Noble. It had a killer rendition of Peter Gabriel's Mercy Street that no one paid attention to because it wasn't obnxiously pounding the walls for attention. If there must be music in a store, it should be nondescript and hovering in the background, not booming in your head for hours after you leave.

2) There are more days during which I thank my lucky stars and the fates and whomever else is in charge that I have made it to my age and do not have children, than there are days in which I think I might actually be a good mother. I suppose this means that I'm not supposed to be a mother? In the span of one reference desk shift, I witnessed no fewer than five tweens tell off their parents, loudly and in full view of a large group of people. One kid even said to his father "What the fuck? Are you stupid or something?" I wanted to punch him in the face. I don't know how I would react if I had a child and that child, through no real fault of mine, grew up to be a disrespectful shithead. My instinct tells me that my instinct would tell me to cut off all ties and financial support and buy the bar a round with his or her tuition money. What? Is that not feasible? I want to take this opportunity to say god bless you to the parents of children at any age (but especially of teenagers). No but for reals, do you want a drink? Because I will buy you one.

3) I just re-watched Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy and I have astutely come to the conclusion that I fucking love Krzysztof Kieslowski and that watching a film directed by him is like watching poetry. That's all. 

4) There needs to be a social networking site that does for film watching what goodreads does for book reading. And by "needs to be" I mean that I'm positive that there is one but if someone could let me know, that would be awesome, awesome in a way that Zubaz could never be.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My brain, infatuated

I decided to quote myself for this entry but only because I find myself so droll. Is it droll to find oneself droll, or is it merely vanity? Do I sound pretentious right now? I'm trying to.
I was gchatting with Nan-C just now about a recent stillborn romance I'm experiencing and, after a few weeks of sitting in my apartment alone with a psychic whittling knife, trying to carve some shape of sanity in the hot, throbbing mess of my brain, infatuated, I was telling her that I've adopted a wait and see mentality. From our chat:

I look forward to the day when whatever is going on will reveal itself to me,
not in a creepy, naked man under a trench coat kind of way
but in a heavenly light from a cumulonimbus cloud kind of way.

Because that's what I'm really doing. That's what I spend most of my life doing. Waiting for the outcome, the shining light of a satisfying denouement. What I forget, over and over and over again is that no such thing exists outside of fiction or drama. Sure there is boy meets girl, they spend a little time together, they fall in love, they get married. And if Nicholas Sparks is to be believed, their story ends there. But this is why no one should believe in Nicholas Sparks novels: life continues on apace and lots of other shit happens or it doesn't and all of that is regardless of your romantic entanglements. I guess I will continue to forget that each time my buttons get jabbed. Then again, maybe my denouement will come on the day when I realize that everything that happens in life is one long chain of random accidents. 

But back to Nicholas Sparks, that new film that is coming out based on one of his books looks like your standard romantic fare wherein there is virtually no line between romance and stalking. To be fair, I have not seen it nor read the book so maybe I'm wrong and if I am, please correct. The synopsis and previews make it seem like some guy saw a picture of a woman while he was at war and then stalks finds her and they do it and love and poo poo the naysayers and then they grow old and he reads this notebook to her because she has Alzheimer's and it is really the story about how they went to high school together and she died of cancer after singing some song at a school play which was about some woman finding a letter to some other random woman in a washed up bottle and then she goes to find the man who wrote it and she stalks and finds him and they do it. Or something.
Side note: this is probably why no one asks me to the movies anymore.
K, bye.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A quote and a little something for your nightmares

This goes against my dogged dislike for personifying food but it was so good, I want to remember it.

I'd go to the bakery, look past the glass cabinet at the donut machine, I'd remember standing on a chair watching the yellowy dough extrude into the hot oil, watching the donuts form, roiling in the agony of becoming.

--from "Another Bullshit Night in Suck City" by Nick Flynn

I guess that speaks to the sometimes notion I have that things that cook can feel, even the ones that didn't used to be sentient. It bothers me that something can be made self aware, only to be consumed. However, if it is well written, apparently I like it. Have I mentioned before how stupid I can be?

Before you answer that, ask yourself, does this disturb you?

Why God? Why?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Things go better with a little bit of Razzmatazz

The band Pulp has been part of my consciousness since that fateful afternoon in Bouton Hall when my friend Ama and I were chatting and she said "Listen to this." I can't tell you how many times in my life a friend or family member will say those words to me and my life alters in an instant. Granted, this happened a lot more between the  years 1994-2000, but those were formative years for me anyway. I've never been able to adequately describe music with words (a strange and noble pursuit, btw) but this is how the conversation between the album "Different Class" and me went down, all those very long years ago:

Jarvis Cocker: Well, hello there. This is what my life is like.
Me: I am beatified.

Needless to reiterate, I. Love. Pulp. When I heard they were doing a show, the first in 14 years in NYC, I jumped up and down. I assure you that is 100% true. When was the last time you jumped up and down out of elation? If it has been awhile, you need to go out right now and find something that will make you do such a thing.
They played everything I wanted to hear apart from one song (Pink Glove), which is not something I'm going to dwell on because frankly, I would have been happy to see them if they played a set composed of entirely songs by Nickelback. The energy of the band, the in between songs banter (Cocker peppered the conversation with facts about April 11, including quotations by Kurt Vonnegut), the stage and lighting design, the timeless timeliness of the music has not changed. Too often, when older bands reunite, they teeter too close to the edge of being hokey or even depressing. None of that happened. It was perfect. It was like reliving my early 20s but with all the knowledge and experience of my 30s. A few weeks ago I made fun of a reunion tour of Aerosmith and Cheap Trick but I take it all back. If you feel that way about those bands or any band that reunites, enjoy it. REVEL in it. It is the only way to go back while staying here.

It would  not have been a show without weirdness going on in the crowd. First of all, I was on the younger side of the crowd. This never, ever happens lately so that was awesome. Secondly, the guy who sat next to my sister smelled and he came equipped with a clipboard. To "impress" us he showed us the set list for the night. I didn't look because I don't need to know every goddamn thing before it happens (this has GOT to be a culture shift...we are a culture of spoilers) and when my sister asked how he got it he simply said "I got it." Loserly, he also told her that Axl Rose "emailed" him to tell him he wasn't going to participate in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Two things:

1) Who the hell cares?
2) No he didn't.

The man then proceeded to sit, stock still, in his seat for the length of the show, exhibiting not one ounce of excitement at anything happening on stage. The girl who sat next to me asked me "how long" I'd been a fan. Geez. Are we still doing that? Rating each other's true fandom by how long we've been made aware of something's existence? Anyway, I told her since about the early 90s. She looked to be about 17 so I kind of enjoyed it when she seemed surprised. Also, when did young people start dressing like the 90s again? I still have some slip dresses somewhere...

Earlier on the day of the show I got to meet up with Morven and her daughter Ramona since they are vacationing in town from Scotland. Some highlights:
  • Meeting them at the bookstore in the village where I worked as a bookseller THIRTEEN years ago, omfg. The store has not changed one iota. This is a comfort
  • Chatting over coffee about their adventures in Florida and their all too familiar odyssey from Newark airport to midtown Manhattan.
  • Catching up with Spiro and walking around the Village and Chinatown.
  • Eating this:  
Doughnut Plant's Coconut Cream
  •  Meeting up with Nancy, Tim and Spiro for dinner at 7A, which weirdly has a bunch of fingers drawn everywhere. Fingers.
  • Being on vacation by proxy, hence all the eating and walking aimlessly around. 
  •  Naturally, spending actual time with friends that I feel like I speak to everyday but really don't.

I had an uncharacteristically significant amount of time off this week. This is likely the reason for my buoyed mood, despite the fact that I work this weekend, not that I did anything productive whatsoever with my time off. I think perhaps I need two full days of doing nothing in order to become productive. This poses a problem for someone who never has two full days off in a row. I've planned a Memorial Day trip to Chicago with Lauren. Chicago always puts me in a good mood, especially so now, what with the dearth of any major travel for me in 2012.

Completely unrelated: I just helped a woman at the library with the most amazing arms I've ever seen. I wanted to compliment her on them but that may have seemed weird. But seriously, I want guns like that, muscular but not manly. She must be a yogi.

So, in summation:
1) Ama, if you are reading this I thank you for introducing me to Pulp. It has been a joy of my life ever since.
2) Pulp, forever.
3) Don't attend concerts with clipboards, unshowered and bearing fake stories about washed up rock stars emailing you.
4) Facebook is nice to keep in touch with people but nothing beats face to face hanging out.
5) Go to Doughnut Plant, even if you only go once.
6) Only go to Doughnut Plant once if you want nice arms.

I'm really nothing if not concise.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A piece of what I'm reading

"His angry heart calls for his attention, a fist on the door of his ribcage, beating"-- from Arcadia by Lauren Groff.

This is the third book I've read by Groff and she makes me jealous. She writes poetic prose. I love her stories. This book is wistful. I hope I get to meet her at one conference one day. She's younger than me by a few years I think. THAT makes me feel wistful too.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


I remember distinctly the first time I heard The Magnetic Fields. It was 2000 and my friends Rowan and Katie were visiting me from Edinburgh in my little apartment in Washington Heights. It was November. We had met up with college friends and were driving upstate to visit our old college and on our way up our friend Spiro said "Listen to this song." And he put on 69 Love Songs, Vol. 1, specifically "Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side". I was hooked. Ever since that mini road trip, that album and in particular Stephen Merritt's deep, deep voice makes me think of November air, that long stretch of road between NYC and New Paltz, my besties from across the pond and a whole bunch of other things I love. There are just no other albums that radiate romantic longing and quirky love so poetically and so concisely.
Last night I got to see them live at the Beacon Theater and I think they played every single song I was hoping to hear last night apart from two. So I'll include one here just because I feel like hearing it now. (They may have played this during the encore but I had to leave to catch a g'd train back to Guam.)

The Beacon theater was a perfect venue. It is an old and very gilded theater,the perfect receptacle for the sometimes melancholy, sometimes humorous but always beautiful sounds of this band. The venue was filled to capacity and still it felt so intimate, the sign of a great show.

I went with Lorraine who has been my concert buddy for my entire adult life. I sincerely think there are only maybe five concerts I've ever attended without her and I have attended no less than 600 million concerts, beginning at the age of 10 (Rod Stewart with my parents, in case you were wondering.)

Anyway, before the show I was talking to her about how much things have changed in the concert going world. For example, people used to light up joints at nearly every show we went to at nearly every venue. We'd be in Radio City Music Hall, or Madison Square Garden or the Mercury Lounge or that weird VFWish place in Brooklyn the name of which escapes me and some gentle wafting of pungent weed would come floating by from some darkened corner, without fail, regardless of the performer. When I went to see a concert at Carnegie Hall...I kid of course. But for some reason, I couldn't remember that happening as often anymore, especially since smoking cigarettes indoors has become verboten in NYC. The memory of smelling weed from somewhere seemed so very far away and faint, like a misshapen smoke ring from a dirty teenager. No less than 20 minutes after we had this conversation, there it was: the smell of weed from somewhere behind or in front of or to the left of us. I feel comforted, as I type this from here in my windowless office at my respectable job that people are still doing this and I don't really know why. I should also mention that shortly after that we smelled a garlicky pickle, the source of which we were able to pinpoint. This also gives me comfort. People are still eating pickles at concerts, a tale as old as time. Side note of possible interest: the pickle eater was seated in front of us. We had noticed him earlier because as he and his girlfriend sat down, he waved to no less than five people in the surrounding area. We dubbed him the Mayor of the Beacon. So yes, the Mayor of the Beacon was eating pickles at the concert. What goes through someone's mind when choosing a concert snack, I wonder?
Seated behind us were two, what I can only assume intoxicated young men who talked, at full volume the entire show. Again, what goes through the minds of two people when they decide to "talk things out" in the middle of a concert?

I met Lorraine in the city before the show at her office building in midtown. On the way up the escalator after getting off the subway I was stood behind a man who was clearly transient with ratted, dirty clothing and a rolling basket full of several stuffed garbage bags. He was muttering to himself, as you do when you are lugging garbage around the subways and as a result I left a gap between us in case he put his crazy pants on before the escalator ran out. The uniquely NYC practice of leaving the "left lane" of an escalator open for those in a big damn rush often sees its fair share of failed attempts to rush up a really, really long and steep incline. One man, out of breath and sweaty  from his attempt gave up and decided to squeeze into the gap I left b/w me and muttering bag man. He regretted it almost immediately, I'm certain, when the transient gentleman turned around and said "Do NOT grab my ass!" He then proceeded to repeat it and mutter something about "There is no need in this world to touch my ass." If you are reading this, I really wish I could convey how hilarious this whole exchange was in person.

We took a crosstown bus and sat in traffic for a bit. I minded this not at all. I suppose I'm too much with the I <3 NYC thing but when I'm smack dab in the center of it, surrounded by the sounds (and smells) of the city, when I'm sitting laughing about the random exchanges of two strangers on an escalator, when I see the grey contrast of the cluster of skyscrapers so sharp against a clear blue sky, my brain just starts in on its mantra: Home. Home. Home.

After the main part of the show but regrettably before the encore I had to rush out and catch the Long Island Rail Road back to my current "home". Normally I don't mind the train ride but waiting at Penn Station when it is late and I'm tired and all I want to do is be in my apartment, abuzz with freshly seeing one of my favorite bands (and possibly a contact high from the mystery weed), waiting for that train's track to be announced makes me want to jump off a bridge. And then the last three stops before mine seem suspended in perpetuity. My iPod battery was dead and I read the magazine I had in my bag from cover to cover on the way in so my only respite was reading the train ads. One ad was for a local college and featured a smiling young woman with a quote that said something about finding her future at college. Someone had written a word bubble from her mouth that inexplicably read "Sssssssnake." This served to reinforce the part of me that truly enjoys pointless graffiti on dumb advertisements. It really was gravy for such a great night.

I'd like to thank the following:
  • The Magnetic Fields for being so awesome
  • Spiro, for playing that cd in the car all those years ago
  • Lorraine for being the best concert buddy ever
  • The "don't grab my ass" man for the laughs
  • Whomever wrote "Sssssnake" on that poster
Good night!