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

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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

Journeys End in Lovers Meeting

O mistress mine, where are you roaming?

O, stay and hear! Your true love’s coming,

That can sing both high and low:

Trip no further, pretty sweeting.

Journeys end in lovers meeting,

Every wise man’s son doth know.

—Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene 3

I’m just going to go ahead and start with a digression: every time I spell “twelfth” I think I’m doing it wrong. Seriously, just look at it. It’s all weird. And it makes me think of fish. I don’t know why. Maybe because of “gefilte?” It doesn’t look like gefilte either. It doesn’t look like anything but itself.

Well. That was quite a digression to start with. Day two of my Year o’ Blogging is going swimmingly, as you can see. Almost literally because for a moment I thought I was going to fall off the boat tonight.

There was a boat?

Right. A yacht.

Let’s start from the beginning.

This evening I had the immense pleasure of seeing two of my friends get married (on a boat). The Bride especially is dear to me. I don’t see her often, but she is heart-kin in the way that every time we see each other it seems no time has passed at all. She’s tiny and lovely: delicate and quietly graceful like Chinese women are supposed to be. And because I’m a fat slob, my mother used to spend lots of time comparing me to her. (Hint: these comparisons always came out in her favor.)

That may have been another digression.

Regardless, she is my heart-kin, and it was gorgeous just to see her with someone she so obviously cared about, and who cherished her in turn. The Bride and Groom are both graphic designers. Which made buying a wedding card for them a nail-biting experience. I mean: I had to pay attention to typography. You wonder why this blog looks as bland as it does? Yeah.

It also means they share a special kind of love. I’ve worked with them before: not together, that is, but each individually. They both have the capacity to be visionary and facilitating, which is an admirable range to pull off. They look good together, to the extent that I found myself thinking “Was I that blind? Why didn’t I see that coming?”

It took a while, and no time at all, for them to “happen,” I guess. Life is a trip like that.

Journeys end in lovers meeting.

A few couples at the wedding described love, and sometimes marriage itself, as a journey. Which, admittedly sounds hackneyed. But I don’t think we’re ever completely free of cliche once we breach this subject, and cliches are accurate often enough for them to become hackneyed.

Disclaimer time: I’m epically single. Preposterously single. I really have no place to be speaking about love at all.

But I remember sitting next to a violinist, years ago, on our way to Venice. I was expecting what we got: a hot, slightly smelly but gorgeous-in-its-own-dirty-way city that was overrun with tourists and gelato stands. She was expecting something a little more romantic. Her parents had honeymooned there, and in her mind’s eye she still had the snapshot of her mother, a young bride, standing before a fountain in a poofy skirt. And even decades later, in her parents’ kitchen they still had a knife from the hotel they stayed at. A butter knife. A small thing. A strange little souvenir of young love.

I asked her if she were to tell the story of her journey to Venice, where would she start?

Well, she replied, she’d start with the beginning of the day, and tell it chronologically. And the logic in that is sound.

But really I’d start with the knife.

Because journeys are weird things that don’t really ever end but splinter off into different ones. And, like the case of my violinist friend, journeys can even be inherited.

Even the wedding this evening itself became a journey as The Spirit of New Jersey made a slightly choppy turn about New York harbor. So I guess a touristy little spin around Manhattan can simultaneously pretty standard and also life-changing.

So standard we did a spin around Lady Liberty while playing cliched music about New York.

So standard we turned a circle around Lady Liberty while playing cliched music about New York. Seriously. The first three songs that come to your head are the ones the DJ played.

That’s pretty normal I think. Life is changed by little things all the time. I specifically requested that the New Couple spend the Crate and Barrel gift card I gave them on mini-spatulas for that reason. And my other gift to them, as partial-curator of the evening’s phat jams, was a little night music.

So in short: lovers met, and journeys began.

SoHo’s Skin

I want to capture the night before it slips away from me and becomes just another Friday in New York. They tore up Broadway, tonight, down in SoHo where the stores shuttered up early and tight. Friday’s usual victims were all just stepping out, all aflutter, clumping gorgeously in the streets with their high heels and blazers, pre-game faces on. But beyond them were great metal beasts, their maws tight against the ground as they chewed up the pavement, a layer of dust rising around them and blowing into the sidewalk. It swirled in the work lights hung low in the street, giving a blur to those holes punched in the darkness. I can’t quite capture what was ever so captivating, between the industry and the revelry, excess and renewal. But those great steel beasts giving Broadway a fresh skin of pavement drew attention to the scaffolding lining the streets, sometimes on both sides. It reminds me that this city is always changing, even if we don’t notice it at ground level, caught between sidewalks and skyscrapers, that it’s like a lizard that constantly sheds its skin. Let me remember that all things change around me, that they in turn change me.