Back Again, I See

my school bus is my limo

This is my quilt. It literally has nothing at all to do with my post; I’m just putting it here because I really hate that when I link to this on Facebook the WordPress logo will show up. I really, really hate the WordPress logo for…no actual reason I can justify.

I suppose I failed pretty spectacularly with that thing I had been trying to do: blogging and writing and such. The thing about failing though, is that once I’d already failed I didn’t really get back on the horse.

A contributing factor is that I had a bunch of things to write that weren’t for my own pleasure. Some of them were amazing, but those ones were simultaneously daunting so I procrastinated those as long as humanly possible. And some were quite tedious and I’m still, somehow, managing to procrastinate those ones.

But Annie From HR actually requested a post, even if I that request is mostly made in jest, and seeing as she is in HR I kind of want to stay on her good side. So, Annie From HR, this is for you.

This still is not that treatise I’m promising about how artistic literacy is a requirement to combat homogenized onslaught of advertising culture and the general mind-numbing suck of society (wake up sheeple!), and it’s not even something kind of entertaining like a separate post I have planned about the physical letters and packages I’ve been receiving in the mail: gifts from friends that I truly appreciate.

But whatever it is, it’s all I have. It’ll just have to be enough.

Code Monkey came by from California and the gang got together for lunch. We ate at a bar called Smithfield, which is in that weird area between Midtown and Chelsea that I think may actually be Hell’s Kitchen? (I just looked it up, it’s actually kind of juuuuust in Chelsea. Side note: if Hell’s Kitchen ends at 34th St and Chelsea doesn’t start until 30th St, then what the heck is that area in between? No Man’s Land?!)

The food there is surprisingly good, as everyone already knew because we all eat there all the time since it’s spitting distance from where many of us work. Well, I don’t exactly work there very much anymore. But what’s notable about this meal in particular is that, within our mutual circle of friends, there were people who Code Monkey (being from California) had never met in person before, which I guess can’t be uncommon in this day and age, but it’s still interesting that we can know more about each other’s lunches than we know about each other’s faces. (An example occurred when someone told Code Monkey that they were frankly expecting someone taller.)

There were other memorable things about that meal, like the moment Annie From HR cried out that she still didn’t know what Python was, even though we had repeatedly informed her it was a computer language (or, as someone falsely stated a “computer science”). She then professed that in her head she was forming an idea that it was short for Pythagorus, as in the venerable mathematician. Seriously. Maybe, she thought in her strange Australian brain, that’s what Americans call Pythagorus. 

Needless to say, this was met first by stunned silence. Then by me choking on a mouthful of bread. Because guffaws just happen: they don’t care that your mouth is full and something could potentially fall down your throat and make you die horribly.

But Annie From HR’s statement is a great example of the total honesty that allows us to study the world. Because that moment was a great insight into how people from outside a culture (in this case, American culture) and a field of study (computer science) try to parse what’s going on within. She was, of course, terribly off course (and by the way I immediately informed her that I was going to tell the Internet what she did so don’t look at me like that) but mistakes are so much more interesting than truths sometimes—are more interesting than someone being astoundingly, perfectly right.

Because the truth is so much weirder: Python is a computer programming language developed by a dude named Guido in the Netherlands that’s named after a British comedy troupe that specialized in surreal humor. How could anyone guess that? You couldn’t. And so you reach for the nearest thing you know in your frame of reference.

But this process that Annie From HR went through is exactly what we all go through every time we try to guess what’s going on in someone else’s head. Granted, we usually aren’t so ridiculously far off, but sometimes we are. And the chance that we’ll be completely wrong is radically higher when we don’t know the person well. But we do it all the time, anyway.

We are all Annie From HR.

After lunch everyone else went back to work, but my shift wasn’t until six so I third wheeled it pretty hard with Code Monkey and his girlfriend Veggie (who, I need to mention, was my friend before they were dating and so you shouldn’t just think of her as Code Monkey’s girlfriend—which is an uncomfortably patriarchal signifier—she’s my friend Veggie who’s dating Code Monkey).

And Code Monkey doesn’t really care for New York, but for some reason Veggie and I really wanted him to like the city. So I took them down to see SoHo and Greenwich Village, because those are my favorite neighborhoods…and also the ones I’m least likely to get lost in. Honestly that was probably the most significant factor. Code Monkey, though still not a professed fan of the city, latched onto the food: we hit up Financier and Ippudo, Yogurino and Dean and Delucca. Actually, we hit up Dean and Delucca twice. 

And over a slice of green tea crepe cake thing (I’m so not a foodie) I articulated my idea of New York City as an open manhole.

At first, you think you’re above it all. Which, in this analogy, means you’re at street level. But one day you’re not paying attention and you fall right in: down into the city’s warm, but nonetheless putrid, embrace. I don’t disagree with Louie C.K.’s claim that New York is a piece of litter, but I’ve lived in North Jersey, and trust me: New York is a very nice, very shiny piece of litter. Glitter litter?

Also that’s a weird thing for Code Monkey to hate on us about. I mean, he’s from near San Francisco, which is like the dirtiest major coastal city I can actually think of. It’s not huge and cement like New York but it’s just…filthy everywhere.

Anyway, even though they didn’t give even the slightest appearance of minding, I did feel kind of bad for third wheeling him and Veggie all afternoon. It’s gotten to the point where I almost feel like it’s socially awkward for me not to have a significant other I can just drag to things. Laurasaur and I were actually talking about this the other day. Normally, I’m pretty happy to be by myself. But it’s also true that a large portion of this week was spent in a state of lonesomeness or whatever. Not just this week but this month, even. Maybe I just shouldn’t have time to think. That never seems to help.

It doesn’t help that every guy I’ve shown interest in for months has turned me down. Which…yay that makes me feel inadequate.

It’s whatever. It narratively makes sense for me to be alone right now. It’s funnier this way. I’m the punchline.

It is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it.
—Rainer Maria Rilke

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An Open Letter to Myself

I actually wrote this back in January, I’m pretty sure. But I needed a reminder today.

There is a morning to the way you think.  Even if it’s one that you’d rather not acknowledge for how exposed it looks at high noon.  The world is pitiless: full of sun and harsh against your eyes.

But there is no purpose to your misery.  Your misguided dislike of the universe in general seems justified at first, but then you remember that this is the universe where an old friend was stumbled into you on the train last night: literally falling into your subway car, fresh off the L.  You never knew that he was so close to you.  And his stumble will set off a whole new chain of events in your life.  Then those events will, in turn, branch out and bring to you yet more and more beginnings.    

This universe is the one where you found out that boy you’d written about for pages and pages actually knew your name, which is in itself an astonishing thing.  And in this society you live in, no matter how bad it gets, you at least are allowed a few years to accumulate debt. To get your bearings and think. So use this time, and sit in heated rooms in the winter, and roam the streets every summer, and think about music and sound and other miracles of human consciousness.  Do not be so preoccupied by living that you are unable to see life, for at any moment this could be taken from you, or the Milky Way itself could become lost and ourselves within it—just a speck in the great cosmic firmament.  You, girl, live in an age that is in between that past greatness and whatever it is to come.  There is no better time to be alive.

Hearth

I don't remember what this is called.

A work in progress: one of the last meals Mom ever made. I’d gotten…whatever this is because I thought it looked cool. She thought I was an idiot.

Mom never cooked with measuring cups, or really any tools that told her how much of anything she was using. And diligently, I’ve more or less inherited her style.

My brother-in-law took me grocery shopping on Saturday. We spent 200 USD and the fridge at this apartment was full for the first time I can remember. He seemed astounded by it all but, admittedly, it was at my instigation. This was the way I used to live: shopping happened every couple of weeks and it was for a family of five. A full house, if you will.

I guess I forget that now it’s just the three of us, and we’ve been eating most of our meals outside the home.

Which means I usually eat garbage. While it’s something you think you’re aware of, it struck home again that eating and eating well are such a privilege: food and time are both money.

But I’ve been fortunate enough to have the time lately, and, thanks to my sister’s job, have the purchasing power to buy soybean paste and fresh noodles, fruit and dark greens.

So I’ve been trying to remember what I know (knew?) about cooking. Like I said, I’ve inherited my mother’s style, but I can’t actually remember all that she taught me. And by that I don’t mean just her recipes or any specific dishes, but the things that I learned without her speaking: how her kitchen varied wildly from efficient to scatterbrained; how we used to eat burned meat because she was checking her email and not the stove.

I do wish I remembered more of her recipes. Not really the fancy stuff, but the simple things I sort of vaguely recall from when I was a kid and she’d make dinner for us after coming home from work. She never showed me these things really: there was always time. It wasn’t like either of us were going anywhere.

Strangely, even though I associate most of the cooking with Mom, I think my sister and I learned more specific things from Dad. Mom didn’t suffer fools in her kitchen, but Dad enjoyed teaching us: it meant he didn’t actually have to do any of the foot work. Instead, he could direct us around while we did all the chopping and stirring. That was probably actually the ideal food prep experience for him.

So it’s Dad I remember whenever I make fried rice, following his orders as he (figuratively) stands behind my shoulder and advises me on how much oyster sauce I should use. For Mom it’s more a measure of capturing her spirit. She was an infinitely pragmatic cook: always adapting to circumstance and incorporating new tricks. And even when she found a recipe, she never followed it exactly.

So I’ve been trying to find Mom while I have a fridge full of things to practice on and two or three other people who are forced to eat my results. So far, it’s going well. Most meals have been frankensteined from what I remember and a quick glance online to see what other people are doing. Using this method, I’m proud to report that I have not accidentally perpetrated a poisoning.

I’m sure, at least, that my parents would be proud of that much.

The Promise of Good Things to Come

I started working on what I thought was going to be a simple blog post on aesthetic cognition (okay, now that I look at that I’m realizing that the belief I could write a simple post on cognition is kind of baffling) but it turned into a strangely long-winded treatise on why we need art programs in public schools so I’m going to actually have to put some more time into writing it, meaning it’s still unfit to post tonight.

In the meantime, I noticed that this Murakami book I’ve been meaning to read was looking at me funny. It was literally giving me the side-eye. I suppose this means I should read it before its sheer animosity gets out of hand.

The Promise of Good Things to ComeI…probably should stop blogging at night.

Anyway, have an outtake from Social Empowerment: Why Art Needs to Stay in School. It’s spoiler-free because this is from the cognition bit that the education bit sprang out of.

We think of color as solely within the domain of the visual arts, but music has it too, just in a figurative way. The timbre, or tone color, of sound is the third dimension of music (dimensions one and two being pitch and rhythm respectively). Instruments have different colors: that’s why a violin doesn’t sound like a saxophone. And the whole argument for being able to learn perfect pitch, which is commonly held to be either something that you’re born with or you’re not, is that individual notes have their own color as well. Not only that, but many times if you ask people to describe the quality of a note they will describe it in a similar manner. It’s part of our shared musical experience.

And then there are people who can play colors, but I’m not even really going to go there because it’s ridiculous and they make the rest of us look bad. One of the people I know who’s good at this is synesthetic, so that’s basically cheating, and the other one compensates by having no sense of rhythm. So I wonder if, in a weird, brain-wires-crossing sort of way, her music is more visual than it is musical: it has color and it lacks a sense of time.

How did I get social empowerment out of that? Your guess is as good as mine.

Mixed Messages

Mixed Messages

Snapped this back in May. From other pictures in the same upload, I’m going to hazard a guess that this was in the Village somewhere. My friend had gotten sick the night before his graduation, so I was headed out that way with a sack of comfort and my own damn self to keep him company. In retrospect I wouldn’t actually say that I was good company, seeing as I was dead on my feet from the end of finals.

Anyway, In Pursuit of Magic are street artists, and I quite like this section of brick they chose to stencil. Their work gives a new context through which we can re-interpret the wall’s  previous messages in a different light.

Seeing things like these are why I like to live at street level. You’ll see me ambulating by on the slow path: one that doesn’t take me as far or as quickly as a longboard or a scooter would, but it does allow me to experience the world as more than just a passing blur. Magic, indeed.

Broome St Bucket List

Broome St. from my window

Broome St. from my window.

The night isn’t quiet out here. I don’t know how I hadn’t noticed that it’s always filled with horns honking or firetrucks racing from the department down the street. Maybe I even only notice now because I’m trying to commit this place to memory. The sounds and sights of it, at least: from the Little Italy sign flashing outside my window to my suitemate’s guests roving in and out of her room.

It’s my last night in the Broome dorm, and I’ve honestly spent more of it goofing off than packing. Chances are this may have been the only time I’ll live in on-campus housing at NYU, which I’m pretty okay with, even though Broome seems like it would be nice to live in during the school year. It’s always amusing to me when on-campus residents post screenshots of the housing system on Facebook from day two or three of assignments when there are one or two or zero rooms left in all of the preferred dorms…and then hundreds of spaces left in Lafayette.

Lafayette dormitory is only about five minutes from here and, as indicated by its popularity, it’s the least-preferred housing. I don’t actually think it’s that different from Broome, but my standards aren’t the same as everyone else’s. For instance, I specifically wanted a place near Chinatown. Because food.

Anyway, J-Bird was at Lafayette last year which meant I visited him there a fair few times, so I’ve been in this area.

I know the stretch going north of here the best, because I often walked straight from Chinatown to spend the night at Laurasaur’s old apartment in the West Village. It’s still kind of strange to me that they’re not in their old homes anymore. That now J-Bird is in Brooklyn and Laurasaur doesn’t have that cramped little space the above the loud wine bar with the scaffolding that was covered in pretty lights.

I’m a big sucker for pretty lights. (Not to be confused with Pretty Lights, which I also like well enough) Today I dragged the usual suspects with me to eat at a restaurant because I’d walked passed it so many nights and noticed that the lights became a beacon on my way home. I used to detour to walk past them, alone on the wet streets when it was so late it was early. Because it’s the little things that make it bearable to live at ground level, and if they happen to be Christmas lights all year ’round: so be it. Especially when they’re so blue they’re almost black—ultraviolet after dark.

Spring and Lafayette

Blue lights at Spring and Lafayette

It helped that the restaurant was actually good, I guess. But I didn’t even care what kind of place it was, really. I just liked the idea of becoming one of the people I so often saw sitting there, outdoors and between the planters. I knew I wanted to do this before I left: just like I wanted to walk into the abandoned caverns that Tribeca becomes late at night, or spend an early morning on the benches of the square off Centre Ave before the sun really even wakes up. It was all on this bucket list I didn’t even realize I had until now, even though I may have been adding to it unconsciously since the first week of my internship.

It was good food but a little bit of a letdown, honestly. I’m not sure what I expected to find there: what kind of fulfillment I could possibly get from sitting among the planters in a dress to match. As if I could visit the idea that the blue lights represented in my mind rather than the place itself, maybe. Which would be quite Gatsby of me, except I’m not actually sure why they’re so significant. They’re probably tied to the past. Everything is when you’re being borne ceaselessly into it.

Whatever it is I know I’m leaving it behind. And it’s not like I’m going far, but I tend to get attached to the places where I sleep, which is weird because I thought I’d spent years perfecting the ways of a nomad: living out of a tiny suitcase at the ends of the earth. But things are different when you carry your home in your skin, I guess. Before I’d left my home with my mother, but I’m going to have to find a way to keep my own bones, now.

And perhaps this is the problem with things: that I attach too much importance to places, like this impermanent dormitory for example. Or like the intangible thing that is Summer which is at once an idea and a beast and a time and a place you can walk upon and taste in the air. Like the blue lights that marked my path, telling me that I was almost home.

I’ve been doing some serious looking outside my window tonight, and I’ve noticed something in the distance. To the right of the Chrysler Building there lies a cluster of red lights: cell phone towers in the distance. They remind me of their brethren that I can see from my sister’s home in New Jersey. I’ve visited those ones before, in a time before time that I usually try to forget. They blink slowly out in the Meadowlands and, by train or by highway, are impossible miss. The benign gods of the red lights, I christened them from the passenger seat of a red mustang. The gods who blink benignly, but watch all the petty things we do.

Tomorrow I’m leaving Broome. Those blue lights won’t guide me home and, as such, have more-or-less lost their function as enchanted objects. And that’s what probably affects us most about leaving a place; it’s because we’re losing the idea of a thing even while knowing the object itself remains.