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

(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.

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.