Correspondence and the City

Dear Couple on the Subway,

It’s cute that you’re so into each other. Really. At least someone has found love in this cesspit, right? But it’s Thursday morning on the commuter express train and you two are making out like teenagers. Which you are not, and have not been for a few years, possibly even a decade—I’m not sure because I didn’t get a good look at your faces. However, I can hear your faces: the adorable puckering sounds, the wet suction of lip to lip contact. And I can feel you. I don’t mean that on some metaphorical level. I mean I literally feel your bodies with my body because we are that close to each other. Continue reading

Mild-Mannered Night

night shot 2

A few weeks ago, West Village penthouse

I love the mild-mannered night
Who treats me cordially, without slight.
She stoops down, so we walk together,
Like blue-brown birds of a feather.
She brushes my arm and smiles a smile
That gleams like a moon-lit mile
Of sharpened beer-bottle glass.
For in her still, Winter lingers
And its Stygian fingers
Still seek to clasp.

But Spring laughs–
Like fairy claps
A mild sound,
Full of round nouns
And dew-drop crowns
Woven of polymer-fiber dusk,
Slowly turning the sky to rust.

Continue reading

Empire State

empire_state

midtown from downtown

I was out with my friend Frankie the other night. It was just the two of us after a show, which was itself after a party, so it was more-or-less the inevitable time just before you call it quits and find a cab home. We were at a bar. Some Williamsburg special with cut up playing cards festooning the tables. It wasn’t our first choice, but it was out of the cold and we could hear ourselves over the pulse of the jukebox.

“One day, I’m going to miss this,” Frankie told me. It was a thought that had come to him the night previous while walking home in Bayside, so late it was morning. It wasn’t, he explained, just a thought that struck him because he was walking home or because of the train ride before that (or the midnight movie before that); instead it was a strange awareness that passed over him, a pre-emptive nostalgia for being young and in New York. A knowledge that some day all of this will be over.

Continue reading

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

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.

A Brooklyn Adventure

"Make art?" You've got the right idea, old newspaper bin at a random Bushwick gas station.

“Make art?” You’ve got the right idea, old newspaper bin at a random Bushwick gas station.

I went down to Brooklyn last night to hang with the J-Bird, because I haven’t seen him since the end of the school year when we were both strung out on stress and a myriad of other, less tangible things; he maybe even more than I.

The original plan was to head down to SummerScreen in McCarren Park to maybe watch The Goonies or maybe not watch The Goonies (J-Bird doesn’t like The Goonies…can you even imagine?), but I’m a moron who can’t get on the right train, apparently. And getting anywhere in Brooklyn is always needlessly involved. So by the time we entered the park the ground was completely covered in a blanket of Brooklynites sitting on bedsheets and newspapers, beer and picnic spreads within reach.

We stayed for a while anyway: no one minding that we were shouting over the dulcet chords of Hector’s Pets because everyone else was also there to shout over the band and just hang with each other. I should have gotten a picture of that I guess, the crowd of people and a movie screen that was about as big as a thumbnail in the distance, but I often forget to take pictures when I’m around J-Bird. It’s a thing.

We ended up leaving for Bushwick pretty early on, anyway. One of the previews was completely in French and my companion couldn’t tell because he couldn’t hear so…

I’m writing this, by the way, under the assumption that no one I met last night will ever read this, and by and large I feel that this is a valid assumption. Internet: don’t fail me now.

Anyway. In J-Bird I’ve found someone who navigates very much like myself. We both use the Google Maps app like it’s a game of hot and cold, staring at our dots to see if they’re going in the right direction and doubling back more often than not. We miss turn-offs and subway stops and always find the most convoluted way to trace our steps back. If I weren’t us, I’d be worried about us.

I’m worried about us.

Eventually, we did make it to Bushwick. And I think I may have fallen in love with that neighborhood. J-Bird’s cousin bumped into us by the food carts, which in retrospect isn’t that surprising considering we were just outside the L stop,  and he now makes three people I know who work at the same tech start-up. Obviously, this is a sign from the gods; I’m just not sure what it’s indicative of yet.

We walked together on the shuttered streets: houses cluttered against warehouses littered against stores with their doors and windows locked away tight. It’s dark down there, compared to Manhattan. Compared even to when I’m the only one walking down Mott at three in the morning. Sparser, when you move away from the main roads. And maybe the street lamps even carry more of an amber hue, diffusing their light more dimly in the darkness.

J-Bird and his friends found a really nice place. A two-story walk-up with white siding and a mural of a girl despairingly turning her face up at the light pollution sky pasted all down one side of it. Her face looms along a rooftop balcony that looks out onto the tracks of the M train, elevated high above the streets.

The house itself was full of crazies when I got there. J-Bird and our friend (and one of his roommates) the Philosopher were already confirmed as mild-mannered sociopaths, but I finally met the third of their trifecta and now I understand the dynamic. I met a dancer with no inhibitions: not even the ones that are instinctual and are never taught. I met a Russian girl who was almost unnervingly earnest, and taking time off to get her life together. I met another girl crashing in the living room on a futon who, by description, apparently was more married to her boyfriend than many husbands are to their wives, and a final sandy-haired boy I didn’t speak more than a dozen words to. He was fast asleep by some normal time: dead to our inconsiderate loudness.

New York is a vertical city. And I guess that’s true even when you’re way out of the way in a place where the highest structure is the subway. Because even then life happens on rooftops, where cigarettes are currency and conversation is smoke wafting away like so many words to the wind.

And so we laughed and spoke of many things. Music, obviously, because so many of us present straddled that weird divide of aesthetics and technology. But also of more obscure things. The Gospel of Thomas, where Jesus plays the part of a bodhisattva. Of monastic life and sweeper monks and the almighty janitorial service. Of what it means to want to create art for the rest of your life but having no idea yet what to do about it. And then came the lull when I watched the other girls dance: unselfconsciously sure of their bodies in a way that was at once completely foreign and also a reminder of what I’ve lost.

I’ll be fascinated to learn what everyone on that rooftop will become. It was a strange brew of the casual insincerity that I’ve become accustomed to and am an active participant in, of probing questions that were at once innocuous and unmasking, and of the sheer force of utter insanity packed into tight spaces.

I stayed late with them there. J-Bird saw me to the door in the small hours, a sloppy smile hanging crooked on his face. He’s always happier by the time I’m leaving, which always leaves me to ponder what kind of terms I’m on with him, as a friend. Whether he’s happy to or indifferent to see me. He promises we’ll hang out again, this summer. I hope so. J-Bird is chill. I want to get him to make music with me, but he seems to like the idea of the thing more than the thing itself. I respect that. I do that a lot, too. But I always want to make music with my friends. We’ll see.

He sent me off by telling me just to follow the M tracks until I got to a station, without indication of how far I would walk until I found one. Which was fine, because the unknowing leant generously to the eerie splendor of that evening. The huge, rusting stilts of the subway tracks bit into the pavement like the legs of some monolithic creature with the body of a segmented worm that snaked high above the streets. The B buses passed beneath it, their low-hanging maws scraping the pavement with screeches that echoed off of steel-shuttered storefronts. And from the sidewalk, the road blurred into a dystopic dreamworld of graffiti tags and solitary walkers, each going their own ways.

The path was interminable, and so was the wait for a late night train. I didn’t mind much: it was like walking in Blade Runner without the rain. It was like sitting in my own imagination. It was the infinite pleasure of seeing train tracks in the night, and not quite being sure where they lead.