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.

(Mexican) Food for Thought

No, I promise you this is not turning into a food blog (and because I know several friends of mine actually have food blogs: there is nothing wrong with a food blog, I’d just be very bad at keeping one) but meals are worth mentioning occasionally. Especially since we so often break bread with our friends. Or, in this case, tortillas.

La Esquina: the Corner deli that can’t really be described as a corner deli

I have literally spent the summer living down the street from this place and it always piqued my interest. Problematically, I’ve always been too poor to try it, but hey: in a few days I’ll be back in Jersey and I’ll probably never live around the corner from it again. Carpe diem may as well apply to restaurants if you use it to justify anything at all in your life.

Eating out front. Warning: view contains Agent Smith

Eating out front. Warning: view contains Agent Smith

Agent Smith and the Laurasaur indulged me in my fancy, and we made a fine trio in the outdoor dining area. The evening was deceptively cool: you could almost forget that New York City is, in fact, a circle of Hell in the summer months. And the food itself made a decent excuse to gather.

There’s nothing quite like sharing a meal with friends. I am by no means a food critic, but everyone agreed that the yucca fries were quite palatable. We even broke the final piece into three, so as to limit any guilt one might feel for being the rat bastard who steals the last fry. That said, not all stealing feels wrong. There is no greater pleasure than snatching bites from another’s plate, as long as the said other returns the favor.

Oh, stealing and looting: such are the true hallmarks of friendship. And conversation, I suppose. Speaking a common (metaphorical) tongue is so important. This isn’t limited to, or commonly even delineated by, a shared spoken language but often has to do with gesture and allusion: an entire culture of verbal and non-verbal cues that build context.

How fortunate we are to meet each other, as friends. To share enough cultural context that we may find a halfway point when we talk about dance crazes or after school shows and know what the other actually means. To make running jokes about non-Euclidean geometry and how, because of it, clouds drive us insane.

And it’s almost awe-inspiring to think of the very act of communication it takes just to make an H.P. Lovecraft joke. It isn’t just that we’re forming words, those emissaries that vibrate their way through the air, it’s that on the other side the listener receives the whole idea of the thing—the shape of concept. It’s this that we pass to one another, and not just the words themselves.

This is the true power of language, and it’s not even something that we ever think about when we’re actually communicating with each other. To think: to tell a potty joke you’re using the same means your ancestors did to share ideas across empires—to create the ties to build the empires themselves.

And what goes on between any group of friends is more than a handful of casual words or gestures. Communication is so much more substantial than that: it exists almost tangibly, and it’s comparable the carne and the chile and the mole and the fritas we passed around. The food, the language, the mores and the cultural references: these make our common tongue.

I’m Actually Going to be Published. In a Book. That Will Actually be Bound. Like Books Are.

Something I wrote is going to be published.

It’s not a book.

But it’ll be in a book?

And it’s not the best thing I’ve ever written.

Thank goodness. I really don’t want to peak in college. That would just almost be as bad as peaking in high school, which, come to think of it: I may have actually peaked in high school.

Nah. Well…maybe. I’m way less cool in college, that’s for sure.

Mathematician John Nash was obsessed with making it before thirty: apparently a number of his contemporaries did their best work in their youth. And while Nash did do great work which eventually won him a Nobel Prize, the prize in question was for…economics. (And strictly speaking it’s not an actual Nobel Prize because it’s not in one of the original categories; it’s actually the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.)

Okay, as a writer/sound engineer I think I may not actually be allowed to take shots at economists. Also, my sister majored in econ. So everyone should just pretend my math major friend said it instead.

“As a writer.” Do I get to say that now? Probably not: that’s like calling myself a blogger because I keep this site. The terminology is technically accurate, but but you’ll never be able to take yourself seriously.

Anyway, just like every liberal arts-based university in the US, NYU students have to take an expository writing class in freshman year. Because I’m in Steinhardt, the red-headed stepchild of our fine university, I had to take two, but that’s beside the point. The point is that I wrote something my professor liked so much that she suggested I submit it to Mercer Street: the publication of our school’s expository writing program. Every year, around thirty essays (out of 500+ submissions…I need to make this sound as good as possible) are chosen for a new edition. And this year, one of my essays—Beyond Death: The Aesthetics of the Human Corpse—made the cut.

Warning: contains my face. But yeah, that's the letter they sent me in the mail. After they sent me an email like a month ago? I guess they're actually printed now, though.

Warning: contains my face. But yeah, that’s the letter they sent me in the mail. After they sent me an email like a month ago? I guess they’re actually printed now, though.

As you can extrapolate from the title, the essay is about art and death and dead bodies and poses the question: who do human corpses belong to, anyway? So you know, basically all the bright, positive things you expect me to write about from reading my daily ramblings.

Whatever. I get two complimentary copies and a $35 gift card for the NYU Bookstore. Obviously, I’ve made the big time.

Okay, I usually like to at least end these things on a positive note (see previous entry for a particularly poignant one) but we’re going to take the time to talk about how sad this is. On the submission form for Mercer Street it says chosen essayists will receive a $35 “honorarium.” Hey College of Arts and Sciences: just call a gift certificate a gift certificate. I’m a nerd. I guarantee you that if you’d given me actual money I would have spent it on stationery and books anyway.

Well…a book, some pens, and maybe a froyo. I’m a fat nerd.

Genius Loci and Jamais Vu

Image

Neil Gaiman offering a little bit of inspiration up in here.  You’d think the solitude would make the words come to me more easily.  Untrue.  My greatest distraction has always been myself.  It’s how it always was: that blank page staring so accusingly, crushing your rosy dreams with its stark truth.  

My friend recently talked to me about the jamais vu phenomenon, which is best explained in relation to deja vu.  Deja vu is the feeling that you’ve been somewhere before, even though you’ve never actually been to that particular locale in your life.  But it’s not so much that the place is familiar to you seeing as the location is still alien. Rather it’s that the emotion it evokes from you, that rises like a treacherous serpent from your chest, is familiar.  Jamais vu is the opposite, sometimes more sinister phenomenon.  It’s when a familiar place suddenly seems foreign.

I’ll admit that it has come to me amicably.  Notably, on a clear, cloudless morning on my way to The Strand bookstore.  Union Square wasn’t its usual eyesore.  The farmers’ market blanketed the earth with its early harvest.  And the city didn’t feel like home suddenly, like my old stomping ground, but rather as a place wholly unfamiliar and utterly foreign.  It was amazing.  I should explain that I was suffering a great deal of wanderlust at the time.  For me, that morning was a chance to leave while my feet were still tied to the ground.  If I could bottle that feeling to take with me and give the world just a light spritz whenever I feel too stuck in one place, then maybe I wouldn’t have the urge to travel every few months: to tie up my scarf and roam like a nomad over the packed earth.

Still.  There are times when it’s not so pleasant.  Like my mother’s whole apartment after her passing.  All of its home-like qualities vanished, and an unnerving darkness settled there instead: as bleak as the River Styx.  It was clearly and irrevocably not ours anymore, or familiar except in surface.  If it weren’t, you know, actually sharing three walls with other people’s homes I would have wanted to torch that place to the ground.  When I’m writing, in the future, and I need a genius loci or two I will have a model for one that is wholly unpleasant to the point of being evil—not in the double double toil and trouble sense necessarily, but in the twisted sense of reality gone horribly, awfully wrong.  Of the world careening off axis.  Of the familiar becoming alien to the point of incomprehensible.  Jamais vu.

I have that feeling now, slightly, sitting on the floor I actually spend the majority of time at at school.  I’m technically working, actually.  It’s Friday night around ten o’clock and I am seriously wondering why I’m still here, seeing as it’s become abundantly clear to me this evening that no one else will be showing up.  And in the quiet stillness, there is a slight sense of jamais vu.  Not for any sinister reason, merely because in my mind, except for in the very, very early mornings, this floor is always packed.  At least one of the buchlas is always screaming like a theramin, music and AV clips are always leaking out of different studios, and there’s always a bunch of stupid undergrads like me with our feet blocking the aisle, cursing ourselves blue.  To be honest, it’s a bit unnerving not to have all of that.  It sounds kind of stupid but this place has been my bedrock this semester.  While I’ve been losing my last parent and burning my childhood and leaving home, it’s been kind of constant. Unwaveringly alive.  To feel alone here is foreign.

Nothing like a little jamais vu to spice up your Friday night.

Possibilities

Image

I like to think that the image is blurry because the colors ran in the heat, but there’s the Empire State Building lit up all purple for the Violets.  

Congratulations class of 2013!  If I had started college right after I graduated high school, I would be with you.  But then again, I wouldn’t be here in New York probably, or studying music of all stupid, wonderful things.  Or trying to be an engineer (seriously, what is up with that?).  

But more than anything else this last week has reminded me of the forward motion of existence: how the gears of the universe keep pushing us forward in spite of any inner inertia.  Let go of the irreversible past, it tells us.  Every moment is a chance for change.  Apparently all of our lives have been predetermined since the first particle burst into existence.  I don’t believe that.  Note: I have no background in particle physics.   Still, there are days when you can almost see that everything is in flux, riding on the currents of a greater force that is thundering through nature, knocking old plans askew and opening up possibilities.  

A few nights ago Ace and I talked about what we could say to your younger selves.  I remember as a child hating change so much that any new beginning—or rather any ending—would make me physically sick.  But life is full of little deaths, and that’s fine.  Progressions begin and end but the beat goes on.  

3 Poems For Spring

Image

Outside Cole’s at NYU

It seems as if all the flowers of the world have blossomed at once, or did you just now notice the forsythia outside your window? Yellow and bell-like, inherently graceful with their long necks stemming from that brown branch. But look again, and lean your head back to see pear trees with their heads adorned all in white with an almost invisible green veil, standing bridal at the street corner.  Or turn and stoop with the magnolias while you can: those  fat purple-pink-white petals always rain down onto the earth far too soon. They fade, they all fade. When better to see the sweet sakura than in bloom?   You will turn back again to remember this time when you were just so happy and grateful to be alive, still standing on a planet made of packed earth, because of the wild twist of trees against a perforated sky…

A cool breeze flits about my bare legs, enough to hurry me along.  But the cotton swish of skirt against my skin makes a passing thought to the smell that finds me in the dark: the calling card of a short pear tree made more ornate than a candelabrum, than a cake on Christmas. I am so in love with spring: so drunk on the feeling of it. So many things come alive around me, no longer locked in their cold shells. Foolish, I mourn their passing when they’ve barely arrived.   Every petal will soon fall: like the water drops that slip through my fingers to melt into the earth. I am greedy: I cup my hands and catch them, unable to just enjoy the falling rain.

Why is the city so beautiful on spring nights? Stunted trees twist in their planters to dapple patterns on skin bared beneath neon lights. A crowd of hedonistic youths undulates past, howling up to that punctured skyline of mis-matched fate. Take me with you, I cry to them, wherever you are going. There is too little for me in the hermitage of my own life. I want to feel a beat tattooed across my skin, like the pulsing of the packed earth itself breaking into song. There are wilds beneath the pavement, but maybe just the loam and the stones and the corroded wood husks remember. There is nothing to do but walk over them, weaving down Broadway between the backs of those packs from out of state. They let me experience the lights by proxy: Times Square is an eyesore of a show with money in screaming colors plastered across every surface. So we’ll slowly pick our way south, to the more organic glow of bar lights spilling out onto these dusty streets we call home.

Because finals and final projects are coming up and also because I, understandably I feel, didn’t feel like writing any odes to the weather this spring, the above are three poems I wrote last year.