Thursday, October 30, 2008

the stranger sangria

More interesting than people not being friendly in NYC is that when people actually are, we are so hesitant to acknowledge it.

The other night when I was at dinner, my guacamole gorging was interrupted by the woman sitting at the table next to me. "Excuse me!" she barked at my friend and me, "I know this is - like - the weirdest thing, but do you guys want to finish our sangria?" My friend and I made eye contact in that half-smile way and then looked at our half-empty sangria glasses. Neither of us answered right away. "We're not going to finish it," she explained, gesturing to their pitcher. "It's just going to go to waste." I gazed at the floating fruit chunks gestating in the Kool Aid-colored liquid in their pitcher and felt a little nauseous. Somehow, her sangria - offered up as if it were a French fry - did not make me feel at ease.

"Sure, we'll take it," my friend answered, adding - who knows why - "Just so long as you didn't roofie it!" Our Sangria Supplier laughed shrilly, handing me the pitcher. "No, we didn't! Don't worry!" It troubled me that she responded as though my friend's question had been serious.

I smiled and thanked her and she and her mute dining companion left. My smile left with them. "People just aren't that nice," I said. "People don't just give people their sangria pitchers. They're expensive! I mean, we are in New York, where I get elbowed repeatedly every morning as people stomp past me on the escalator. NO ONE CARES ABOUT ANYONE ELSE ENOUGH TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT." My agitation was undermined by the fact that my fingers were already in the stranger sangria, retrieving the small pieces of mango for my consumption.

Monday, October 27, 2008

honor and regret

Two things before we begin:

1) Sometimes, it takes the realization that you missed out on something that will never happen again to realize that you ever wanted it in the first place.

2) This is a story about Jessica Alba.

On Saturday night, I arrived with my friend Katie at a pretty nondescript party in a pretty nondescript apartment in Union Square. It was your standard low-key affair - clusters of two-or-three people scattered about the dimly-lit apartment clutching beers and making small talk, checking their cell phones while laughing at jokes. You know the scene.

I knew a small portion of the small crowd (of about 20 people) so after making my rounds and saying my hellos, I found myself extremely tempted to take my friend Liz up on her offer to meet up at our favorite late-night food joint in 15. So I finished my drink, took an umbrella (which probably wasn't mine, but when it comes to umbrellas this is for some reason permissible) and left. I headed out into the night towards the Ukranian restaurant that is my heaven.


I woke up in the morning the next day (=yesterday) to find a text message from Katie that was nothing less than earth-shattering: "Omg so after we left that party apparently JESSICA ALBA and her husband showed up bc they are friends with the girl who was throwing the party's work friend."

Now, I am no great fan of Jessica Alba (as I expressed in my very first blog post here): she was the worst thing about the Oscar-winning "Fantastic Four" franchise; she named her daughter the most awkward name you can name a daughter ("Honor"); and those posters for "The Eye" really freaked me out. BUT, whatever, the fact that I could have totally hung with Jess on Saturday night is too much for me to handle. She could have asked me about my job and what I think about Tina Fey's Sarah Palin impression; I could have asked her about where she lives in the city and if she's ever been to that place downtown where they only sell different kinds of macaroni and cheese. It could have been the beginning of something awesome.

Who really knows why she would want to go to a party which consisted of twenty 23-year-olds, or where her months-old daughter was at the time, or what in the world she actually did talk about with the hipsters and art majors that comprised the party, but somehow that all seems irrelevant. When it comes to celebrity, there are somehow different rules. A not-so-exciting story becomes something truly noteworthy. The fact that you have never seen a Jessica Alba movie with any redeeming qualities just isn't important. The chance at a brush with fame is enough to make even the most sane people into crazies. Which is why I spent the better part of yesterday moping about my bad luck and imagining what I would have said to Cash Warren after shaking his hand. Because even though we're talking about missing the chance to hang with a celebrity I never even wanted to hang with in the first place, the fact that I missed out - and now I'll never have that chance again - is almost as bad as having to sit through all of "Good Luck Chuck."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

emotion involved

Nowadays, it seems like everyone is kinda ambivalent about Starbucks.

Back in middle school it used to be the hip joint ("I just asked Mickey to come study with me at Starbucks! OMG! I'm so nervous!"). Because none of us drank coffee yet but totally wanted to, it represented something rebellious, something adult. When my friends and I had a free period in high school, someone would often whisper, "Wanna walk to Starbucks?" as if "walk to Starbucks" meant "snort some drugs." Of course, no one would actually get coffee when they got there. It was all about the marble loaf and caramel frappuccinos, baby. And sitting in those big armchairs.

But then somewhere along the way, Starbucks became less "cool" and more commonplace. In college, I stopped there when it was necessary (i.e. paper due the next day, heading into 2-hour seminar, etc.) but never for pure FUN. I found myself ordering the same, boring drink every time (grandé French vanilla coffee). The chatty baristas who used to amuse me so no longer got a smile out of me. Give me my drink. I am not interested in exchanging pleasantries with you. That is how I felt. And if your friend in college asked you to go study at Starbucks with you, you would make a little frown. Starbucks?! Really?! Are you really that pedestrian? Don't you want to go to that funky coffee shop down the street where they give you cups made from recycled lamb hair and where you can use actual silverware to cut open your dazzleberry scone?

Now that I have a job that requires me to stay awake for 9+ hours every day with few breaks, Starbucks has become a morning habit. A habit. Nothing more. Nothing less. No emotion involved. I didn't think it was possible, but spending each morning in line with 40-somethings with stress lines on their faces and trench coats draped over their drooping bodies has made Starbucks even less cool.

Less cool, that is, until today.

Today, the bubbly barista (seriously? do they shoot these people up each morning?) asked me if I wanted a "splash stick" with my coffee. I looked at her and squinted. A splash stick? It sounded like either a pool toy or a sex toy. But then he handed me the green stick to slide into my coffee - which serves to block the SO ANNOYING splash of hot coffee (especially a problem for those of us who walk briskly). As I walked out the door, I grinned broadly (rare for Mr. TxtMsgBtl) at the recognition of a truly awesome idea.

"Oh, Starbucks," I thought, downright giddy at the introduction of the heavenly splash stick into my partly-cloudy life. "You may not be the coolest kid in the playground anymore and you may have lost some of that initial charm, but damn how often I forget just how happy you can make me. A splash stick! Starbucks, I take it all back. On my List of Things That Are Cool, you're back right up there with Tina Fey and Texting With One Hand. I promise, I'll never take you for granted again."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

shifting geres

I have never seen the movie “Autumn in New York.” But, for a while now, whenever someone mentions how it’s starting to get chilly outside or when Gossip Girl (as she did last night) says things like “There is nothing quite like autumn in New York!” I can’t help but envision Richard Gere and Winona Ryder walking amongst the orange and yellow leaves as some schmaltzy ballad plays in the background.

Here’s what I can tell you about this movie (because I am sure you love to hear about movies that came out eight years ago from people who haven’t actually seen them):
1) Richard Gere, as ever, plays someone who has never found meaningful love. He’s a wily playboy. He has gray hair.
2) But then he meets Winona Ryder. She’s cute! She’s spunky! She has a short haircut! What else could possibly happen but him falling in love with her so intensely, right? (Basically, WR was the Natalie Portman in “Garden State” before Natalie Portman in “Garden State.”)
3) Uh-oh. It turns out Winona’s got a terminal illness, y’all. She’s going to die. Just when she was about to totally re-energize Richard Gere’s life and give him a new purpose for living, too. What will he do now? Buy a sports car? Start dating Tara Reid? Dye his gray hair?

No joke, the tagline for this movie is “He fell in love for the first time… she fell in love forever.” Get it? She’s in love with him forever because she is going to die and will be loving him from heaven for the rest of time.

This is what I think about whenever some work acquaintance fake-shivers on the elevator and turns to me and says “Well I guess summer's over, huh?”

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Every morning when I get off the subway, I have to go up a giant escalator. It is such a big escalator. You have no idea.

I love the 45 seconds I spend escalating each morning for the same reason I love train and plane rides. I like the idea that to get from where I am to where I want to go, I need to take a certain kind of transportation and there's nowhere else I can be for that period of time but in transit. There's nothing else I can do for those 45 seconds of my life but ride the escalator. I love that!

The Escalator Culture is such that you stand on the right if you are going to remain stationary. Freaks who want to walk up the escalator can do so on the left-hand side. WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND wants to walk up a giant escalator I do not know, but when I watch the sleazebags and robotrons who stampede up the escalator as if they are climbing Everest, I seethe with fury. Seriously, it personally offends me.

Today, some uppity woman was trekking up the left-hand side and of course managed to trip and somehow extend her arm into the back of my leg, which caused me to nearly topple over. I saved myself by grabbing onto the handrail thing with the grace of a trapeeze artist wearing a dress shirt. (Anyone who has seen how I move knows that is probably the most untrue sentence I have ever written.) Anyway, Woman Who Sucks steadied herself and then turned back to me. "So sorry," she said, as she kept moving upward.

My cherished 45 seconds had been ruined. I immediately began to worry about what this day would hold in store for me. Would this be one of those days when I just can't catch a break? Would I spill coffee on my pants and find out they're all out of the bread I like when I buy my lunch and would my phone run out of battery in the middle of the afternoon? Had WWS destroyed my Thursday? I sighed as I came out onto the sidewalk from the subway, and then I looked up to cross the street.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Public gyms creep me the frak out. Every time I step onto a treadmill and notice the sweat residue on the handrails, presumably from the person who was running on it before me, it takes everything within me to not just turn around and run out.

Things That Are Weird About My Gym:

1) It's weird that you can see what everyone who is running on treadmills/doing the elliptical things/etc. is watching on their personal TVs while they work out. Yesterday, I spotted a man well into his 40s watching "I Love Money" and a younger woman gazing transfixedly into her small slice of visual heaven: an "Everybody Loves Raymond" rerun. (Because I couldn't figure out how to change the station on my personal TV, it appeared to any passersby that I was watching a senate hearing on C-SPAN. Hah. Little did they know my headphones were connected to my iPod, not the TV... and I was listening to this. Joke's on you, sweaty man wearing a headband!)

2) In addition to these individual TVs, there are large TV monitors up on the wall that, theoretically, I guess you can watch while you work out - though that would be weird. At all times of day, these monitors are inexplicably playing pop music videos from 5-10 years ago, exclusively. Over the course of the past few weeks, I have witnessed a steady rotation of Ashlee Simpson's "La La," Mandy Moore's "Candy" and the classic JoJo ditty, "Get Out (Leave)." How much do you love parentheticals in song titles btw? (So much!) Apparently the dude who owns my gym has a thing for platinum blond nymphets who are pretty decent at lip-syncing.

3) There is a room in my gym behind where the weight machines are located called the "Communication Room." It looks sort of like an office, I suppose. I was going to take a picture of it with my Blackberry (yes, I bring my Blackberry to the gym - on the scale of tools, I'm somewhere between Brody Jenner and a wrench) but a gym employee was loitering in front of the door. What goes on in the Communication Room?! Is it for verbal communicating - as in, if two dudes need to talk things out using their words after getting into a locker room scuffle? Or is it for physical "communicating" - as in, if two exercisers who have been eyeing each other across the gym need to exert their bodies in a different kind of way? COMMUNICATION! What a word! It can mean so many different things!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

spotted bass

On my most recent post, an (anonymous) commenter wrote something I could not agree with more:

wait. back up. "I saw Ed Westwick on the street." you can't just casually drop something like that and expect us to let it slide. doesn't this encounter deserve its own post?

You are right, Anonymous Annie. It happened on Sunday and, believe me, I have needed these past six days to process it all. Seeing Ed Westwick in person is the kind of thing that merits an ample amount of post-encounter analysis and recovery. We're talking about a mythic figure here.

But now that I have fully digested what may have been the MOST IMPORTANT THING TO EVER HAPPEN IN MY LIFE, here's my tale:

I was lying in bed and scrolling through pictures on my laptop (how Dan Humphrey of me!) in the midst of the Sunday afternoon dead zone when I got a text from my friend Amanda. "Ed Westwick! Chelsea movie theater! We're waiting for him to come out! COME NOW!"

Say no more.

I threw on a yellow-and-blue striped sweatshirt and some jeans I found on the floor. I looked like what I imagine Helena Bonham Carter looks like when she wakes up in the morning after an all-night bender. But no matter. I was off to see Ed.

I raced down the stairs of my apartment, hopped on the C train, and got off at 23rd and 8th. Amanda was waiting with her friend in this café right next to the movie theater. The two girls had seen Ed walk into "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" (would have thought this was the kind of movie Ed/Chuck would sneer and laugh at, but whatever) and said that the movie would be getting out any minute. I stood in front of the movie theater next to Amanda's roommate's friend (let's call her "Basstalker") who was an even more obsessed Chuck-ie than me. (When I asked her where Ed lived, she responded with his exact street address.) "I have been waiting to meet Ed my whole life," Basstalker screeched. I nodded my head as if that was totally a) normal and b) possible.

And then, just like that, out came Ed and two friends (one female and one male). ("Omigod, I wonder if that's Jessica...," Basstalker whispered urgently. Again, I just nodded.) I was having trouble processing the whole situation. Ed was so... not Chuck. He was wearing gray skinny jeans and a tight/ill-fitting gray t-shirt. He looked surprisingly short and, dare I say it... normal. Except for the fact that... he had a soccer ball (!?!) which he was juggling and bouncing off his body. Yes, he had a soccer ball with him on his way out of a movie theater. I don't get it either.

My companion didn't know what to make of it, either. "Do you think he's on drugs?" she asked, as he dribbled the ball down the sidewalk, his friends beside him. But I was lost in thought, thinking about the fact that I was standing so close to the legend himself, the man who had his way with Blair in the back of the limo, the creep whose favorite pastime is standing a few feet behind the popular girls during lunch time... the motherchucker himself.

I had no time to take a picture or say something witty or yell out for him to pass the soccer ball to me. It all happened so fast. The next thing we knew, they were across the street. "Well what do we do now?" I asked. "We follow them," Basstalker said, not missing a beat. And we did. For four avenues. Which is when we stopped because we decided we were being too creepy.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

parentheses, italics and hyperlinks: one year in the life of a blog

Generally I hate when people celebrate birthdays/anniversaries for things that aren't humans.

"OMG my car turned 2 today." Ugh.

"Tomorrow is the eighth anniversary of us living at 34 Yancy Street!" Groan.

But I am going to do it anyway in this post. A year ago today, 10/8/07, I wrote my very first post on this blog: "things i don't like." (As you can see, from the very beginning I've been a cantankerous 78-year-old man trapped in the body of a lanky 22/23-year-old.)

In all seriousness, a lot of changes have taken place in the past year. I moved from New Haven to New York. I found out I was lactose intolerant. I got a Blackberry. I saw Ed Westwick on the street. And, yes, I've started holding onto the handrails on the subway. Major things have happened in these past twelve months, yo.

Like most things, when you think about blogging for too long, it starts to seem really, really weird. Why write a blog when you can write in a diary, write stories... or, uh, write e-mails to your friends? And who wants to read the poorly articulated thoughts of some random dude who really loves hummus? I have no well-reasoned answers to these questions; to be honest, I try not to think about it too much (see the first sentence of this paragraph). All I know is that with every post, I feel myself letting my guard down a little bit more, feeling freer to try something a little bit zany, revealing a side of myself I never really felt comfortable revealing before. It just happens. And you don't have to really think about it. And it's nice. And all these people who read what you write are on the roller coaster with you, too (just follow me on this metaphor, plz). And that's nice, too. Because riding on a roller coaster with people you like is always more fun than when you ride it alone.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

know brains

The best argument I've seen in a while for saying your hilariously witty store name idea out loud before you ACTUALLY MAKE IT THE NAME OF YOUR STORE.

Friday, October 3, 2008

things that are annoying

1) When you are trying to find an article in a magazine (usually the cover story) and you keep flipping through the pages and it's taking you forever and for whatever reasons that don't really make any sense YOU JUST AREN'T FINDING THE ARTICLE - but instead of turning to the "Table of Contents" and finding the right page that way, you figure you are bound to find it if you keep flipping through all of the pages for long enough.

2) When someone decides it's a good idea to tell you something awesome she was planning on doing for you but then... didn't. Example: "Oh, I was going to get you a birthday cake from this really awesome place but I called them and they said they couldn't do it on such short notice. Sorry!"

3) When you are trying to make plans with someone and you finally decide on a time and a general area ("6:30/6:45ish," Union Square) after 40 texts back-and-forth, and so you leave work or wherever and then the person texts you: "Also, I don't care where we eat at all - you just pick a place." (I know you can't italicize in text messages, but just go with it and imagine a world in which such wonders were possible.)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

bad heir day

Sam: thanks
so the dutch was really good?
Sent at 11:21 PM on Wednesday
me: yeah
KK was great
and rf was awesome
it is my new fave of that genre
the genre being "why can't i birth a son? also, i hate my husband"