Wednesday, December 29, 2010

new york vs. home

In New York, I try to make snacks last as long as possible, carefully rationing my Wheat Thins intake and literally scotch-taping boxes and bags shut as an extra precaution against any potential stress-related or half-asleep binges. When I'm home for the holidays in Boston, however, I tear through all food in sight; I'll spend a day systematically working my way through the items in a neglected holiday gift basket on the kitchen counter or alternating between a name-brand and off-brand bag of pita chips (finishing both in less than a hour).

In New York, I have my phone by me at all times. And while I may not pick up many any calls, I am always - as they might say in a New York Times trend piece about teenagers - "plugged in." At home, though, I will abandon my phone in all sorts of locations, sometimes for hours (!) on end. It's almost like I get to shed my ankle bracelet when I'm home and roam free (you know what I mean).

In New York, colds/coughs/sore throats are serious hindrances: they make everything (going to work, traveling on the subway, interacting with humans, etc.) more trying and exhausting. At home, however, sicknesses are... indulged? It's like the minute I walk in the door I am coughing, breaking out in some rash and "feeling nauseous" all at the same time, as if my body just waits to break down until it knows it is within a 50 feet radius of someone who will dote on and cater to me.

In New York, I feel like I am constantly playing catch-up on e-mail and social media, starring things and scrolling furiously and opening new tabs to make sure I'm up-to-date. When I'm home, it's a completely inverse phenomenon: I feel like I am constantly refreshing, waiting, impatient. A watched inbox never boils, etc.

In New York, I (generally) wear different clothes every day. At home, I... do not.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

re-gifted

A few nights ago I was about to leave for a Christmas party when I checked the e-mail to find the address and realized I was meant to bring an ornament. I scanned my apartment for something that could pass as even vaguely ornamental and came up empty. (I briefly flirted with the idea of bringing the small stuffed gorilla which sits on my dresser... and, considering the unappealing display of beer cans and Duane Reade ornaments that would eventually adorn his tree, I kind of wish I had.)

I was muttering about my predicament when my roommate suggested I just bring a bottle of wine. I decided that would suffice, looked over to the countertop in my kitchen (where four unopened bottles of wine that were brought to my birthday party two months ago stood), grabbed one, and left.

When I left the holiday party after a few hours, I noticed my bottle of wine was just hanging out, untouched, near the refrigerator. Maybe it got opened up later... or maybe it did not and will end up getting brought along to a New Year's party or something ("Oh, I picked this up on the way! I thought you'd like a red... please tell me I'm right").

Something about this re-gifted bottle of wine left neglected amongst the half-empty bottles of mixers struck me as depressingly "New York": a totem of the faux-gentility of the city, reminiscent of holiday-themed Starbucks cups ("Stories are gifts to share" written across them in cursive) strewn about the floor of a subway car, or e-mails that end with proposals for drinks that both parties know will never happen.

Friday, December 17, 2010

this week, 12/13-12/17

Monday evening. I overhear a twentysomething woman tell her friend - as they walk down into the subway at about 10:15 p.m. - that it's "past her bedtime," in the requisite resigned/sing-song-y voice. One of those "expressions" that just, for no reason, drives me crazy every time.

Monday evening, later. As I troll through Facebook, it dawns on me that the "like" button has created this strange construct/expectation where if you don't "like" a message or a link that someone posts on your wall, it's as if you're saying you don't appreciate/agree with it or that you just don't find it especially funny. There is nothing (ha!) that feels ickier than a "sympathy like."

Tuesday evening. At a post-screening Q&A with a movie director, an audience member asks a question about how the director chose a child actor in the film. The director tells a brief anecdote about how he saw this 5-year-old actress' audition tape - in which she described a funny, nonsensical dream she had had - and was immediately smitten. As soon as the director was finished with his response, this dude in the front row immediately raised his hand and was called on next. What was his question for the director? What was the one thing this guy just had to know about the film? "What was the dream about?!" he shouted. That kind of person - the kind who just asks that immediate follow-up without a second thought (the director reiterated that the dream hadn't followed any sort of linear plot and promptly called on the next hand) - is a kind of person I just cannot understand.

Wednesday afternoon. iTunes recommended, presumably based on my previous purchases, that I buy a Jessica Simpson album. Her country album.

Thursday afternoon. A guy tells me he "literally always has HBO on, you know, just in the background while I'm doing whatever," a concept which seems to me as foreign and bizarre as if he had said he "literally always has his feet in a bucket of a jelly."

Thursday evening. I ask the woman working at a coffee shop what "kinds" of coffee they have which, admittedly, is kind of an annoying question. She says something about Brazil and Peru and "special drinks." "I'll just have the peach tea," I say. "What?" she says. "Peach. Tea." She looks at me as if I am deranged: "P. H. T.?!" "Peach... Tea," I say again, and she finally understands. "I'm so sorry," she apologizes. "Oh, it's OK... it's so cold that my lips are probably half-frozen," I say, as if that is a perfectly sensible explanation for why she wouldn't be able to understand me.

Monday, December 13, 2010

e-mail-related musings

1. Lately I've noticed a shift in my e-mail behavior: if I click on a new e-mail and it's some five paragraph-long thing or it begins with the sentence "Sorrrrrry I've been so MIA" or it's an e-mail from my landlord, I'll just "star" it immediately without actually reading the e-mail. Sometimes it will be DAYS later when I'm scrolling through my "Starreds" that I'll take the time to read the e-mail, in which I'll learn my college roommate is now dating that girl who was in our art history section or that there will be no water in my apartment the next morning. (After re-reading this paragraph, I am now more sure than ever that they wrote "Like a G6" about my lifestyle.)

2. Have started dropping question marks and abbreviating idiotically ("ur" "2" etc.) with increasing frequency and to a wider swath of people, which I feel like is the opposite of what's supposed to happen as you get older.

3. One of the most disconcerting e-mail-related phenomenons is when you send Sasha an e-mail and, while you're still waiting for her to respond, a mutual friend (James) mentions the e-mail to you over gchat or something. James will type "so I hear you're not going to make it to the birthday dinner..." and you'll write "ohhh, yeah, i meant to tell you" and then "where did u hear that?" and James will respond "sasha mentioned it at brunch yesterday." And then you start feeling all weird and panicky, wondering if Sasha is mad at you and worrying about why she isn't responding to your e-mail but yet talking to all these other people about it. You notice Sasha is signed on to gchat and contemplate gchatting her, or even texting her, just to make sure she's not mad... but then decide to just do nothing about it.

4. I've noticed that when I'm nervous about how a friend is going to respond to a particularly important/emotional/formal e-mail, I'll follow it up almost immediately with a really silly/short/meaningless e-mail (like a link to a "funny article" or a pasted Facebook status of someone we both can't stand). I'll write "LOL" in the body, as if the average of this e-mail and the previous one comes out to something totally normal and nondramatic.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

platform surprise

My world was completely shaken up this weekend. No, I'm not talking about the Facebook profile page redesign (though it should come as no surprise that I have decided to hold out until the last possible minute to "upgrade" to the new profile) and I'm not talking about the fact that I tried the legendary Four Loko for the first time this weekend (when I texted my friend Sarah to inform her of my "achievement," all she wrote back was "is that last text a joke"). No, I'm talking about the installation of this display at the City Hall subway platform.

For almost two years now, this has been my subway stop. Excluding the months I was working nights, there has rarely been a day I haven't at some point waited for a subway there. Whereas my days are typically scheduled so rigidly that moments of inertia or slothliness (inadvertent neologism but I'm keeping it) stand out glaringly, the time spent on the subway platform existed in this sort of grimy, dream-like world where time just did not exist. Sometimes the train would arrive and I'd realize that I had finished reading a profile on the platform, even though it had felt like it had been only a minute. Other times I would arrive on the platform out of breath, hurtling through the closing doors, coffee spilling all over me. Occasionally I'd be standing there looking through text message histories on my phone and get transported to an awful fight from two months ago or find myself meditating on a disintegrated college friendship; the train would arrive and I'd feel like I had been on the platform for hours.

Now, it's all different. The instant I arrive on the platform, I know if I have 60 seconds or eight minutes before the train arrives. Questions like "Do I have time to finish these chips before the train gets here?" or "Should I bother cleaning out my bag?" now have answers. While you would think that this would be comforting to someone as neurotic as myself, I actually feel kind of mournful. I feel like I'm in The Jetsons now, like I'm being conveyed around the city by this computerized, all-knowing system.

We all live these extremely controlled lives in New York, Gcal-ing our existences, mapping our pathways, resolving bar arguments by deferring to our smartphones; there was something serene about those uncertain moments of utter powerlessness on the platform, reminiscent of the moments when your alarm clock goes off in the morning during which you're aware of being awake and of dreaming at the same time.

Monday, November 29, 2010

sinking feelings

1. Those seemingly eternal moments after you've concluded a one-on-one side conversation with someone at a dinner/party and the two of you are trying to fold yourselves back into the main conversation are the absolute worst. You're both silent, avoiding eye contact with one another, listening intently to your companions' conversation to try and figure out what they're talking about so you can work yourselves back in.

2. The more emphatically your friend expresses her enthusiasm at the beginning of the evening about spending the night out with you ("I seriously am so excited that we're hanging out right now," "After this week, I am so ready to get wasted tonight"), the more likely she will apologize profusely at like 10pm that she is just so tired and needs to check in early and it was so good to see you and she wishes she wasn't feeling so out of it.

3. One of your good friends is telling a story at a party to a small audience about something that happened to the two of you, and you notice that she is altering the details of the story in a minor, but notable, way. She's exaggerating the harrowing circumstances, making the funny parts funnier, leaving out a few key context-setting facts. You wonder how she would tell the story if you weren't there.

Friday, November 19, 2010

things that have been ruined for me

1. Movie trailers. I remember when I was about 12 years old and like 65% of the fun of going to the movies was the trailers. Watching the trailers was like opening the five smaller Christmas presents before the big one that you already knew was going to be an iPod because your mom had told you the week before that's what you were getting. I would sit in the theater in wonder as each trailer unfolded: "Oh, it's a romance... or a period piece?... Nicole Kidman AND Jude Law?!?... oh wait, no, it's a war movie?... are you serious?!... IS THAT RENEE ZELLWEGER?!?" (Yep, my inner monologue has the cadence of a Kristen Wiig SNL character.) But nowadays, in the midst of what your cool uncle calls the "digital age," I can't even remember the last time I saw a trailer in a theater that I hadn't already seen online. Now when I'm watching a trailer and have a funny observation, instead of whispering it into my friend's ear and being rewarded with a Sour Patch Kid-scented snicker, I type it into my Blackberry to remember for later and feel like an idiot.

2. The summer. I don't think I was ever necessarily IN LOVE with the summer, so saying it "got ruined" for me is maybe a touch melodramatic. But, I suppose, summers did used to be lovely breaks from that MIDDLE SCHOOL DAILY GRIND and I got to go to camp and eat a lot of candy on benches and gossip about all the counselors with my friends -- so I guess summers were sort of great. But now I absolutely detest the summer. For all the obvious reasons that everyone always mentions, like the subway being really hot and there not being new episodes of One Tree Hill. But there's also just this terrible, still, sluggish feeling in the air, reminiscent of the inconsistently paced, montage-laden middle third of a movie during which nothing actually happens.

3. The Cosi on 6th Avenue. This one is raw, you guys. I was all excited two weeks ago because I found a Cosi near my new office in Chelsea. At about 1pm, I went in, walked up to the counter, flashed a smile and waited for the cashier to finish her conversation with another employee. "Oh, hi, ma'am," she said as she turned to face me. Quickly catching herself, she proceeded to HOWL with laughter as I just stood there like a mute dunce. "Oh, I am so sorry, sir. I just wasn't paying attention. I cannot believe I called you 'ma'am.' Oh my god." She then turned to the friend she had just been talking to and said, "Did you hear I just called him 'ma'am'?" Smooth as ever, I stammered, voice nearly cracking, "You can call me whatever you want, I don't mind!" (Cast me in the new Superman movie ASAP, Warner Bros.!)

She laughed while I looked away, mortified. I ordered a chicken Caesar salad, but she paused before ringing it up. "You're sure you don't want shrimp or... steak instead?" she asked, inexplicably shuddering when she said the word "steak." "Um, no, why?" I asked, "Is the chicken, like, bad or something? Are you warning me?" "Omigod, NO," she said, "I just, you know, wanted you to be sure." I fumbled with my change and said, "Uh, well, you're kind of making me feel less sure, but I think I'll stick with chicken... I guess?"

The next day I walked to Cosi, looked in the door, saw that she was at the register and... I decided to keep walking and go to Chipotle.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

recent developments

1) Last week I achieved two feats which made me severely depressed about the amount of time I spend on the internet: a) I was able to fully detail the plot of last Tuesday's episode of Glee via gchat BEFORE I watched it (an excerpt: "kurt gets bullied hardcore by this big meathead / and then at the end the meathead kisses him / it gets better, all bullies are actually gay, etc.") and b) After digging myself into a giant hole on a date by lying that I "sometimes watch" The Vampire Diaries (holes don't get more giant, right?) I was able to successfully have a five-minute conversation about the show without letting on I had never seen an episode ("Oh, totally agree... nothing is worse than a dual identity story line," "Are they serious with the werewolves plot this season?," etc.).

2) I wore the same button-down shirt as an overshirt on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights last week. REAL LIFE GOSSIP GIRL OVER HERE

3) Sunday night I scrolled through a 78-picture Facebook album that I had already clicked through at least twice exclusively to see if there had been any untaggings since I had last checked.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

on friendship & the outdoors

My brother had just moved to New York City for the summer and I was on the subway to meet him for dinner (we ended up going to Cosi for some fine dining). As happens every so often, I was struck with a surge of 'emo' feelings that night, annoyed with my stable of friends, no doubt imagining some sort of alternate life in Berlin or Paris. After zoning out for a few moments, I took out my Blackberry and, naturally, crafted a list of the four qualities I value most in a friend.

This list has now been on my phone for about 18 months and I'll look at it every once in a while and just... roll my eyes. Three of the four bullet points – while signifying attributes most everyone would agree are perfectly nice qualities to have in a friend – are totally basic. They are the sort of things Charlotte on Sex and the City would probably list if she was asked "What are the qualities you most admire in your friends?" in some magazine questionnaire. But the fourth bullet - "knows me well enough to not invite me to an outdoor activity" - not only still rings true but has become something I think about a lot.

When I shared the list with my brother at Cosi, I spent a while explaining what I meant by this last trait. "It's a metaphor... sort of," I explained. "The absolute worst thing in the world is when you have this best friend and you think she knows you inside and out... and then she goes and suggests you go somewhere or do something - as if it's this great idea that she just assumes you will be totally into - and you have to find some awkward way to get out of it because it in fact sounds like the least desirable way to spend time you could ever imagine."

"But isn't it good for friends to force you to do things out of your comfort zone?" Sam asked (though I'm sure he said it in a much less stilted/weird way).

"No," I answered. "It's not that she suggested we do the ‘outdoor activity’ that's the problem. It's that she truly believed it would be something I'd enjoy."

I realize this metric sets a kind of high bar, with the built in expectation that your best friends have this deeply intuitive understanding of your desires. It's also arguably narcissistic ("I only wanna do things I wanna do!"). But there are really few things I find more depressing/distressing than when a friend asks me to go see a movie I clearly would never want to see, when a friend sends me a video with the subject line: "you will love this" that I find totally inane, or when a friend forwards me an e-mail about an outdoor music festival with the message "Immediately thought of you when I saw this! Let's go!"

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

costumes optional

On Friday night I was getting ready for my first-ever "costumes optional" Halloween party. Due to general Halloween apathy and also lack of time (as dangerous as combinations get, basically), I was thinking I would just go in "normal clothes." But then as I was getting ready to leave my apartment in a button-down shirt and jeans, I decided that going without a costume to a Halloween party - even one that was "costumes optional" - was like going to Paris and actively avoiding the Eiffel Tower or something. So I came up with a simple idea that only took a few minutes to execute: a "Myself in 8th Grade" costume consisting of my baggiest jeans, sneakers, a dark zip-up hoodie and a backwards hat.

On my way out the door, I asked my roommate what she thought of my get-up. "Uh, you look just like you always look except with a backwards hat," she said. I put on a show of acting insulted ("Have you ever seen me wear pants this baggy out??") and actually was sort of insulted, but there was no time to change or alter my costume. (I briefly flirted with the idea of drawing "pimples" on my face with a red marker, but I was worried if I did that people would think I was going as a smallpox victim...?)

I probably would have been better off costume-less. About 25 percent of the attendees weren't wearing costumes and the whole time I was at the party, NOT ONE PERSON asked me what I was dressed as. People would sort of consider me for a second, ask my more-obviously-costumed friends about their outfits, and just... avoid my gaze. I thinkkkk no one asked because they weren't sure whether I was wearing a costume... and they didn't want to risk offending me in the event that I just normally dressed like a Pacific Sunwear catalog model. And because there is nothing I would detest more than a stranger I will never see again believing that I typically look like the dorkiest member of Avril Lavigne's band, I made a point of blurting out "I'm myself-as-an-eighth-grader!" to anyone I met at the party (even before introductions), adding, "This isn't how I normally dress!" People would laugh politely or smile and look away. One person said, "Yeah, I heard you tell someone else already," which made me feel uncomfortable and unsure what to say (KIND OF LIKE I FELT ALL THE TIME IN EIGHTH GRADE).

Saturday night, I went to a party as Justin Bieber. Nobody knew who I was in that costume either, but at least that night they asked.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

plus one

Few things are as harrowing as bringing a friend to a party where he isn't going to know anyone.

Showing up by yourself to this event isn't ideal, so you've invited your friend or roommate or date. Beforehand, you totally overdo the precautionary warnings ("Now don't be mad at me if it's really lame," "It's entirely possible like only two people from my office I know will be there"). "I'll be fine!" your friend persists and suddenly you feel like a parent taking their unhappy child to a family friend's house for a long dinner party or something.

The whole time you're at the bar you're anxious that your friend might be feeling bored or uncomfortable. You're talking with your coworkers but you keep contextualizing everything for your friend so he's not lost ("This woman seriously wears the exact same cardigan every day"). And when each conversation ends, you get paranoid and weird and whisper some sort of excuse to your friend ("I think Mark was kind of tired tonight," "Kate doesn't usually talk about her boyfriend so much") and your friend will say something like "No, she seemed really nice!" and you think about how you don't even really like Kate and now you're ready to leave the party even though you've only been there for like ten minutes.

You go to the bathroom and return to find your friend talking to the one coworker who always acts sort of weird to you and you don't want to go over to them because then it's like you're relying on your friend to survive socially at your thing, so instead you read old texts on your phone for a minute and finally, left with no other options, you uncomfortably insert yourself in a conversation Kate is having with some guy wearing a scarf.

Monday, October 25, 2010

recovering vampire

At a party a couple of weeks ago - after telling some people that I was going to be "returning to the daylight," leaving my night job for a "normal" 9-to-6 gig - a friend quipped, "So basically you're turning from Robert Pattinson into Taylor Lautner?"

In February, I took a job which required me to work evenings (with Friday and Saturday nights off). From that point on, nearly every conversation I had with others about work went like this:

Random Guy: Whoa. You work at night? That's just, like... so crazy.
Me: Yeah.
Random Guy: So... what are your hours?
Me: Usually I get to my computer around 6 or 6:30... and then I usually finish up by 3 a.m. or so.

(At this point, Random Guy and any of his friends who may have been standing around would look at me in this kind of stunned/pitying way, as if I had just told them I'm not able to digest chocolate or something. In an attempt to lighten the mood, I would then deliver my go-to line.)

Me: Yeah, sometimes I feel like I am turning into the world's most boring vampire.
Random Guy's Friend (after polite laughter): So when do you sleep?
Me: Usually from 3 a.m. 'til about 9 or 10 the next morning. So, you know, it's like six or seven hours of sleep. Not that crazy.

(Random Guy and Random Guy's Friend would consider this point carefully and nod, as if I had just solved a tricky math problem.)

Me: It gets weird though when it's like 2 p.m. on a Tuesday and I'm lying on my couch watching 'Glee' while everyone else in the world is, you know, at work.
Random Guy: Yeah. It must have felt sort of like you were back at... college.
Me: Yeah... sort of.

There were lots of other weird things about working at night which I wouldn't generally talk about with friends-of-friends at bars. Since I couldn't see any of my friends during the week, I started to feel on weekends like Katherine Heigl in '27 Dresses' when she had to go to like 17 different weddings in 17 different outfits in one day. There was also the time I realized I had gone two full days without saying a single world out loud. And there was the havoc it wreaked on my eating schedule (let's just say that most of my eating during the week took place after 6pm and leave it at that).

But there were some not-so-bad aspects, too! I got to see movies by myself during the day. I could schedule doctor's appointments for WHENEVER I WANTED. I had a built-in excuse for missing all sorts of social engagements that I probably would have had to begrudgingly attend if I had had a normal day job.

But now it's... over. When I think about how I've felt these past three weeks since I stopped working nights as compared to the prior eight months, it feels sort of like I got in a really bad accident eight months ago and lost feeling in my legs... but there's just been a medical breakthrough and suddenly I can walk again.

The job itself was wonderful, but I certainly won't miss walking into Starbucks at 6 p.m. each night, exchanging resigned looks with the barista as he would hand me my iced coffee, the day over but also just beginning.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

traveling

1. In Newark airport. A clean-shaven man in a button-down shirt (who looks vaguely like the guy in Lonestar) is sitting near one of those "power outlet hubs" (which always strike me as sorta 2003-ish). He is reading a book (appears to be The Things They Carried... which is really too fitting), but he continually looks up at his charging Blackberry. Finally, he stands, takes the charger out of the outlet, and walks over to a woman (probably in her late 20s) who has clearly not been reading the magazine lying on her lap. "Thanks so much," he says, handing her the charger. She flashes a quick smile (she seems like one of those girls who sat with the chatty gossips at lunch in high school, visibly anxious about making sure she was laughing at the right jokes and making fun of the right people). "No problem," she says, standing (!!!) to shake his hand, "I'm Brianna, by the way." "Oh, uh, I'm Jake," he says. He shakes her hand, then immediately pivots and makes a beeline to the food court. Brianna sits back down, expressionless, and puts the magazine into her bag.

2. On flight to San Francisco. The flight attendant is this overly jolly, theatrical guy with a shaved head and an Anna Paquin gap between his front teeth. He makes grand pronouncements like "Coming through the aisle with a cart! Watch your arms! Coming through the aisle... with a cart!" and "Tell me exactly what you want! Whatever you want. If you want five Sprites, that's fine! Just tell me! I've got nothing else to do for the next five hours..." When he comes to my aisle for our drink orders, I ask for a Diet Coke. The woman next to me asks for coffee with milk and sugar. The man by the window asks for tea with hot water and then a separate glass of cold water. The flight attendant makes this clown-ish face, pats my back and exclaims, "Why can't you two be more like this guy?" before letting out a huge howl of laughter (he then mutters a strained "just kidding"). When the mother in the aisle in front of us asks for a small orange juice with a straw for her son, he bellows, "This isn't a restaurant!" And then laughter. And then "just kidding."

3. In the San Francisco airport. Husband and wife are sitting in waiting area at gate. They've just spoken to the husband's mother on the wife's cell phone. Wife is wearing what appears to be four layers of clothing. Husband is on his smartphone throughout this conversation (wasn't able to actually verify this with my eyes, but I'm, like, sure).

Wife: She sounded tired.
Husband: Yeah.
Wife: I feel bad. We were gone a long time.
Husband: Yeah, we were.
Wife: It'll be easier when they're older. I mean, in five years, they'll be... what?... 8 and 6? They'd be in school then. She could just, you know, give them breakfast, send them to school, give them dinner. So... we can take our next trip in, uh, five years.
Husband: Right.

Long pause. Wife gets up and throws out some trash. She returns and sits.

Wife: It was a fun trip, right?
Husband: Yeah.... I think I took over 800 pictures.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

birthday-related

1. It's much weirder/more uncomfortable to actually pick up a call you receive on your birthday than to just let it go to voicemail. People expect to leave voicemails when they call on your birthday... to "sing," to say "I bet you're... uh... out celebrating," to end their message with a "I'm sure we'll talk... soon." If you do pick up, there's this weird kind of "How does... 25 feel?" and "What are you doing... later?" banter that's even more stilted than the usual phone call conversation (which is, of course, saying something).

2. As you get older, the just-past-midnight "omg it's officially your birthday!" texts become much less common.

3. There are some people who without fail write on my Facebook wall every year on my birthday. They are, almost without exception, people a) whom I haven't seen in person in five years b) whom I've never met IRL c) who are friends of my siblings.

4. There is almost always one TOTALLY UNEXPECTED person who comes out of the woodwork to wish you happy birthday. Either it's a longtime crush who stopped responding to your e-mails a while ago who comes at you with a Facebook message. Or an old friend who sends a five paragraph e-mail three days later (subject line: "belated"). This is (in some ways) the most awesome part of birthdays.

5. Birthday parties are weird for so many reasons, one of which, I've found, is that when you're floating around your own birthday party there ends up being one (usually awful) line or question that you regurgitate to EVERYONE ("There's something about 25 that just feels serious, you know?").

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

on facebook messages

No one likes Facebook messages. More often than not, when people are forced to write one, they will go out of their way to dismiss the form of communication completely. ("Oh, sorry it took me seven months to respond to this lunch request... I really just never check these.") Everyone just acts like they're such an awful hassle... which is, I suppose, sort of understandable. It is irritating that every Facebook message is accompanied with an e-mail (which, by the way, makes the weirdly common "I always forget to check these" excuse dubious). Also, there's something about them that just feels cumbersome, as if the Facebook message is the voicemail to e-mail's text message.

This all being said, there are three occasions I can think of where Facebook messages are considered acceptable:
1) The quick dashed off observation or instruction (almost always Facebook-related) to a BFF ("check kim's new album now. lol. 36 and 40 especially.").
2) The "hey, check it out, this is a casual but flirty message" to someone you met at a bar or whom you notice has just updated his status to "back in nyc!" or whatever. These are the kinds of messages that cause you to squirm and shudder if you come across them months later (especially the ones that never got a response), but which - thankfully! - are pretty easy to block out completely once they've been sent.
3) The brief, friendly message to a potential new friend whose e-mail address you can't find/don't know. These are OK, sort of, as long as they are of the "lunch next wednesday?"/"here's my phone number" variety, and not the "blah blah blah"/"how are things at work going?" variety.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

signs a friendship has reached the "next level"

1. You don't think twice about sending him an immediate second e-mail (subject line: "also") after realizing you left out something clarifying/notable/funny in the first.

2. You feel comfortable expressing annoyance about a vague plan that doesn't come to fruition. You had talked about seeing 'Scott Pilgrim' together at Nick's party. A few days later, he texts to let you know he ended up seeing it with someone else ("It was the only movie she hadn't seen!"). And instead of responding to the text with "No problem :)" you find yourself writing back "Ah, OK."

3. You stop ever listening to his voicemails.

4. You occasionally send him e-mails with no subject line that include only a link in the body and no other context.

5. You'd rather stay in bed and watch 'Friday Night Lights' than go to that crowded brunch place, but instead of texting him "Not feeling well" or whatever, you text "I'm in bed right now watching 'Friday Night Lights' so..."

Monday, September 20, 2010

weekend, sept. 17-19

Friday, 8:45 p.m. In cab after fancy dinner with parents (who are in town for the weekend). Send out a mass text and then follow up with friends who respond - reminds me of the kind of fireworks that explode immediately but then just droop and take so long to fully disappear.

Friday, 11:35 p.m. Outside movie theater with Sam, Liz and Lauren.
Me: Weren't those trailers great?
Lauren: It seemed like you guys had seen all of them before. . . You, like, screamed at the beginning of each one.
Me: *LOL*
Sam: Yeah, it's like we were responding to each trailer the way you would to a song you love coming on at the club.

Saturday, 5:30 p.m.: Intense family argument concerning the question of who "seems" older: Katherine Heigl or Christina Hendricks.

Saturday, 8:00pm.: Two glasses of wine down. Text Sarah "Plz make sure I never turn into a 50something with a mustache who makes exasperated noises when clinking glasses for a toast."

Saturday, 10:30 p.m.: Notice there is chocolate on my dress shirt (the placement is unfortunate - when I remark it looks like blood, Liz notes that it does sort of look like I "had an Andy Bernard situation"). I change into Liz's bright orange Reese's Peanut Butter Cups t-shirt which I later get complimented on by a girl I meet at a party. "What a fun 'change of pace' shirt," she says.

Saturday, 11:23 p.m. Text from Sarah: "note to self: stop using 'get it in' and 'smush' as verbs."

Sunday 5:00 p.m. Credits roll on "Never Let Me Go." I turn to my friend and say "Should we wait around to see if there's a blooper reel?"

Sunday 11:55 p.m. Google the lyrics to Fergie's "Paradise" just to make sure I'm not mishearing the line "c'mon everybody, put down your latte."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

bon appetit

Meals in New York with co-workers/semi-friends/family friends (i.e. people you don't know super well) are as predictable as rush hour subway rides or Lower East Side birthday parties. I honestly can't remember having such a meal that wasn't marked by the five following moments, which occur, pretty much without fail, in sequence.

1. You both sit down and immediately begin a languid review of the menu, during which one of you asks the other "Have you been here before?" If the answer is "Yes," the questioner will then ask "Oh... so what's good here?" and, oddly, continue with unnecessary follow-up questions ("So... you're saying the salmon was just OK?") If the initial answer is "No," however, both parties will slump and return their gazes to the menu.

2. A minute or so later, one of you (usually the one who asked the "Have you been here before?" question) asks "So what are you gonna get?" This sparks a tepid back-and-forth that lasts roughly a minute. "I can't deciiiide between the Cobb salad and the burger..." ".... Oh, yeah, those both sound really good."

3. Once the food arrives, it's obligatory that both parties immediately comment on the attractiveness of the other person's meal. "Wow... I should have gone with that turkey wrap, huh?" "... Your fries look amazing."

4. During an awkward pause a few minutes later, mid-chomping, one of you asks how the other person's food tastes. "Good... good... I really need some more water though." (Interestingly, I've noticed that this is a question that isn't always reciprocated.)

5. The meal ends with a half-hearted promise to "do it again soon." "I've been really wanting to try this sushi place down in the East Village..." "Yeah..." "And don't forget to send me the link to that Kevin Kline article you were talking about!"

Friday, September 10, 2010

i've got mail

The first e-mail account I used with any sort of regularity was my AOL address. I wish I could remember what kinds of e-mails I sent back in middle school, but it's mostly just a blur of bright neon text, chain mail which I took very seriously ("Add the names of three of your crushes and then forward this to seven of your dearest friends") and "please be my friend!!!" e-mails masked as questions about homework ("did you understand question #3? hahahaha").

Even though I eventually started using other addresses, I kept my AOL account active, mainly for the purposes of signing up for or buying things on the internet. (I think we all have one of these probably, the e-mail equivalent of a shirt you would wear to, uh, paint in, but wouldn't wear in public, or something.) Nowadays, some ten years later (which makes me feel older than Dakota Fanning), my AOL inbox consists of 70% spam, 15% e-mails from Ticketmaster, 10% e-mails from J. Crew and 5% CNN breaking news alerts.

In the same way that some people call their parents every Sunday afternoon or take out the trash every Tuesday night, I weed through my AOL mail every Friday afternoon. It's a chore I mostly dread, but yet I persist: I suppose I like how it functions in the rhythm of my week, a turnstile of 80 or so e-mails that I must pass through to get to the weekend. Sure, I could stop checking it or just cancel the account altogether, but I know that, were I to do that, every once in a while I would be reminded of the giant heap of unread, accumulated AOL e-mails, sitting like a mountain of trash in a dump, and I just wouldn't be able to bear the smell.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

rear-view mirror

There are few feelings as great as waking up in the morning, getting out of bed and into the shower, and realizing that whatever it was that was stressing you out the night before - causing you to write spastic e-mails, or listen to a song you used to love (or hate) on repeat, or toss and turn in bed - is just nothing. It was so silly, you'll think as you brush your teeth, that I devoted any amount of thought at all to that.

Related feelings: walking down the street past a construction site and remembering that week earlier in the summer when you were SURE you had an "irregular heartbeat"; reading a journal entry from 6th grade describing how you had "hadn't been eating" after asking Alison on the phone if she wanted to "be a couple" and suffering the blow of her response (laughter and a sympathetic "aww, that's cute").

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

love the way you lie

I generally have no problem with lying, fibbing, embellishing. I'll say I "need to get ready for dinner" to end a phone conversation; I'll tell the dude with the clipboard on the sidewalk that I'm "on my way to a doctor's appointment"; I'll tell my doctor I eat three meals a day. This is pretty standard stuff, I think/hope. Recently I've noticed though that, when I'm prompted to lie, I almost always inexplicably clam up.

A few months ago, when I was buying a new laptop with my brother, the Mac "genius" (you know him: shaved head, goatee, strange teeth) asked if I was a student.

"No," I said.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm not a student. I graduated from college two years ago."
"I am going to ask you again," he said.

I turned to my brother, who was looking at me the way everyone looks at that oldest daughter on Modern Family: half-pitying, half-incredulous. I got it.

"Oh... yeah... I am a student!" I exclaimed, a little too loudly, causing the genius to make some sort of ostrich-like movement with his hands. And then, to really show him that I got it (?), I added: "Yeah, I study history."

A few days ago I found myself in a very similar situation at Starbucks. In for my daily venti iced coffee (watch out for my "healthy lifestyle" diet book in stores this fall), this dude who isn't even my usual Starbucks guy recognized me and started to make my coffee (are there other things to be achieved in life once ALL the baristas have memorized your coffee order?). When he went to ring me up, he said, "This is a refill, right?"

"Uh, no."
"You didn't come in earlier?" he asked with this devilish grin.
"No... I - "
"I'LL RING YOU UP for the refill price of 37 cents then."

It dawned on me, ten seconds later than it should have, that not only was this dude doing me the pretty awesome favor of saving me three dollars, he was doing it in spite of the fact that I was actively working against him.

"Oh, thank you so much," I said. "I will... enjoy this refill." (You would think I live in that weird-looking Ricky Gervais movie where no one can lie.)

I guess there a few things I've learned here: (1) I am always going to be innately distrustful of people who want to just cheerily hand over free iPod touches and student discounts and iced coffees, (2) once you're removed from it, the charms of the caffeine-addicted, college student life become much more evident and (3) lying is so much easier when you're the only one who knows you're doing it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

philosophy of the hat pan

I was playing hangman with my 8-year-old cousin Julia at dinner earlier this week while we waited for our entrees to arrive. (I suppose it says something about my maturity level that I will ALWAYS pick hangman and tic-tac-toe with 8-year-olds over discussing the weather outlook and what good books everyone's read lately with the adults.) Julia had stumped me twice, employing a smart strategy of choosing three or four-letter words ("May," "five"), and she managed to solve my two ("pineapple," "firefly") without too much difficulty. But I took my game to the next level for round three: Julia wrote down six blanks separated by a space and I got it to "_at _an" within four guesses. It had to be "bat man." When I guessed "b" though, Julia twitched and laughed nervously, shaking her head as she avoided making eye contact. When I eventually ran out of guesses and faced the guillotine, she filled in the words as "hat pan."

"That's not a thing," I said.

She paused. "Yeah, it is," she said. And, just like that, she drew a top hat with a protruding handle. "See."

It was, unequivocally, a hat pan.

There's something about this Philosophy of The Hat Pan that's stayed with me. It's about creation and imagination, for sure, and about expunging limits, all of that. But it's also about flexibility: when you've had your sights set on "bat man" all along - so much so that it's all you believe exists out there - it can be depressingly easy to forget that you're capable of making your own "hat pan." All you have to do is draw it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

moments that are awful


1. You're driving with your friend and you're in the middle of telling a story that you've been building up for a while now ("let's save it for dinner tonight" you gchatted earlier that day) and for whatever reasons (maybe it's the heightened expectations you've created?) the story isn't popping like you thought it would; you find yourself adding in a few adjectives here and there and embellishing some details. Suddenly your friend interrupts you with a "Wait, which street are we looking for?" and you say "Oh, I'm not sure" and offer to look it up on your phone. So you do that and then there's about a minute of silence while you figure out where you are. And then, once you've found the right street, you say "So, should I... finish the story?" and your friend says "Oh, yeah, sure."

2. You're waiting on a street corner to meet a casual acquaintance. Neither of you was bold enough to suggest an actual restaurant or bar for drinks, so instead you're just meeting at Broadway and Spring and "finding a place." You're there a few minutes early, and you feel especially unsure about the snug fit of your t-shirt as you hover near a mailbox.

3. An old friend has sent you a long e-mail which, while a generally enjoyable read, is also, woefully, peppered with enough questions to necessitate a response. You put off responding until a few weeks later, on a Sunday afternoon when your other options consist of calling your parents or dealing with the pile at the bottom of your closet. You churn out this awful, stale e-mail - with sentences like "I'm slowly adjusting to it though!" and "How are things with the new roommates?" - and you click "send" without even re-reading the e-mail once.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

STOP CHANGING

Logging into Gmail or Facebook or Twitter and noticing there has been a change to the layout or the addition of a new feature is like returning to your bedroom and finding everything has been strewn all over the place so you can't find anything AND AT THE SAME TIME realizing all your stuff has been dipped in strange-colored paint. Just like that. I know, I know, I'm resigned to the fact that in three years Gmail as it is now will look positively archaic and I've just got to get with the program or whatever, and I know I've written about this kind of thing a hundred times before, but I just gotta VENT for a moment.

Twitter, believe me, I've been long aware of all of these people whom you are suggesting I follow (in fact, I'll tell you a secret: I check many of their feeds on the regular!); the effect of having them watch over me at all times is that of being continually judged by the snarkiest panel of internet-famous people ever. Don't want! Facebook, I am probably the only person in the world who LIVED for the "View all Photo Comments Made On This Album" feature, and now that you've removed it, I have, consequently, ceased to live. And Gmail, Gmail, Gmail.... I don't even know where to START with this redesign. I have been accidentally clicking on the "Contacts" tab for two days now and, every time, I feel the visceral panic and anguish of a guinea pig trapped in a confined cardboard box.

Monday, August 9, 2010

goofus and gallant

Two times in the past few months I have found myself in the undesirable position of arriving to a group dinner first. In both cases I have told the hostess, "I'll just, uh, wait... here," and then moved to stand to the side. The hostess will occasionally glance at me with bored condescension that makes me feel like I'm waiting for my mom to pick me up in the carpool line at elementary school. I'll take out my Blackberry and send out completely unnecessary texts ("Can't relate 2 people who don't know who Joan Rivers is"). I'll fidget and (alert: Kardashian-esque style tip coming up) try to discreetly check how I look in the reflection on the wall.

Now, the first time I was in this position, a few months ago, it was for a birthday dinner of 14 people, some of whom I didn't know. Standing a few feet from the hostess' station, I watched as a girl in a black dress entered and told the hostess she was there for the party that I was. I couldn't quite hear what the hostess said next, but I saw the girl turn to look at me and shake her head. She then turned away from me somewhat abruptly and took out her iPhone. I debated approaching her to introduce myself, but her head-shake and back-turn had frozen me in place. A few minutes later, the birthday girl arrived and we were introduced. "Oh, god," the girl said to me, "How rude of me. The hostess asked if I was with you... but I thought you were a waiter." I nodded and smiled. This was clearly the kind of girl who is just able to get away with delivering excuses that make absolutely no logical sense. "Oh, of course," I responded. Needless to say, a Facebook friendship was not in our future.

Meanwhile, the Gallant example to Black Dress' Goofus occurred this past weekend. I was early for a dinner with a visiting college friend and one of her friends I had never met before. I was waiting outside the restaurant when I got a text from the college friend ("On my way - should be there in five"). A few seconds later, a girl seemingly appeared from out of nowhere and tapped me on my shoulder. "You must be Josh," she said. "Yeah!" I responded, "Wait, how did you know it was me?" "Oh, I saw you pull out and check your phone at the same time I got a text from Cari," she said. I was immediately infatuated with this Modern Day Nancy Drew. "Damn, that was smart," I said. And by the time Cari arrived, the two of us were already past jobs/neighborhoods/roommates and on to making fun of the bickering couple sitting on the bench near us. No surprise, we became Facebook friends the next day.

Friday, July 30, 2010

ilovesheepalot

Lately I've been spending most of my afternoons at this coffee shop a few blocks from my apartment (the site of the infamous "cookie incident"). My first time there, after my misguided order of hot black tea (it was like 95 degrees outside, but my "throat hurt"), the barista informed me that the wireless password there was "ilovesheepalot," information he was barely able to deliver with a straight face. Used to the typical "STARBUCKS1" or "joesnetwork" or whatever, I must admit that I was pretty amused, and I immediately texted my go-to roster to share the finding.

As I attempted to find an electrical outlet with the grace of a international ballet champion, I considered the password further... and imagined how much FUN the baristas probably had when they got off their shifts. They're the kind of people who go bowling on a Tuesday night spontaneously, I thought. They're the sort who could take or leave the internet, probably only venturing online to check recipes and get directions, maybe to post some photos on Facebook. When they were tasked one day with picking the wireless password, they probably broke out in smirks and asides. One of them (maybe the guy who looks like Ryan Gosling's huskier brother) brought up that hilarious story of Jeremy's awkward interaction with that businessman customer on his first day. And then another one (maybe the girl with the tattoos who told me "every tea is her favorite") suggested they choose the password "in his honor." And then they probably laughed more and drank sweet tea vodka and played charades in their loft filled with bales of hay.

But then last week... I noticed THESE SHEEP sitting on the divider, which I had somehow neglected to note over the course of two months. "Oh," I processed. "I guess sheep are like the theme here." I looked over at the three baristas currently working. One was sending text messages; Gosling's brother was wiping down the counter; one I hadn't seen before appeared to be undressing their cookie selection with her eyes. I looked back at my laptop and reached into the paper bag to see if there were any crumbs remaining. I felt the same way you do when you click the "Photos" tab on Facebook and it becomes evident the person's profile picture was telling a different story.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

kim and mike

Sometimes you'll find yourself talking to two people at a party - Kim and Mike, let's say - and, because of whatever social factors are at play, one of the two (Mike) really wants you to know how amazingly, fantastically tight the two of them are. Maybe Mike feels threatened, maybe he wants to impress you because he knows Kim's a hot property, maybe he just really loves Kim so much that he can't help himself from displaying mad affection on a constant basis. Whatever the motivation, there seem to be five key tactics these Mikes of the world utilize for making such a BFF-ship clear to the third party.

1. Thrusting phone in face. This one seems to be the most common. You'll be talking to Kim and having this great conversation and Mike will sort of just be leering - he's not saying much. Then, all of a sudden, usually when your conversation with Kim is gaining steam, Mike will take out his phone, make this exaggerated "OMG, seriously?" face and just up and thrust his phone in front of Kim's face without saying a word. She'll pause - maybe even shoot you a quick sympathetic look - and then give him a half-hearted "oh, wow" or "wait, which guy is that?" (it's never quite what he wants her to say!).

2. Referencing something they did together. You'll be talking about bars that give free snacks and out of nowhere Mike will blurt out "Hey Kim, remember that amazing Italian place we went to with the bread? We need to go back there." This kind of comment is typically met with about three seconds of silence.

3. Revealing an embarrassing - but intimate! - detail. Kim will be telling a story about some drunken hookup she had and Mike will interject "She is gone after like one glass of wine" and then shift his weight to the other foot.

4. Referring to a mutual friend you don't know. After Kim says she really likes your iPhone skin and wants to know where you got it, Mike will ask if he can look at it. "Oh, you know who would love this, Kim?" he'll say, "Megan."

5. Using "we" in an uncomfortable/unnecessary way. Maybe when the conversation's reaching its end, or at a high point ("Wait, you want to see 'Salt,' too?!"), you'll start discussing the possibility of meeting up in the future. This is where Mikes pounce. Before you can even get to the actual logistical details, Mike is marking his territory. "Oh yeah" he'll tell you, "we'll just text you the next time we're there" or he'll turn to Kim and say "Maybe we can fit that in after we go to Megan's dinner?"

Thursday, July 22, 2010

cookie conundrum

I was sitting in a coffeeshop the other day trying to work -- and by "trying" I mean spending 15 minutes trying to will myself to close my browser ("...but this video of a little boy rapping over 'California Gurls' is so short!") followed by 15 minutes of making a playlist of "writing music" followed by giving up entirely and re-logging in to Twitter -- when I noticed the woman sitting next to me was trying to get my attention. She was wearing army green shorts, her hair was unbrushed, and she was looking up at me as if she had just been accused of stealing my iPod or something and knew she had no viable excuse. I took out my headphones.

"Do you want... this?" she muttered. She gestured to the table, where a lovely-looking chocolate chip cookie sat in front of her. "I got it... and... I just, can't. I don't. I can't. I don't want it."

My general distrust of others - especially those who appear to be on the verge of tears and suspiciously don't want delicious-looking things - was nearly overtaken by my very specific and very real love for cookies.

"Wait, you don't want it?"

"No. I got it, and I just... I'm sitting here, and I don't. So: have it."

She didn't wait for my response and thrust it next to my laptop. Apparently I didn't have a choice. Her eyes widened as if now, now that she had unloaded this burden of a baked good, she would finally be able to get on with her life.

"Oh, uh, thanks." I said.

And with that she jumped out of her seat and scurried out of the coffeeshop. Just like that. As mysteriously as she had appeared. I wondered if she often did this sort of thing: walking into coffeeshops, impulsively purchasing fattening snacks, then freaking out when it came to actually ingesting them. What a mystery woman! Had she laced the cookie with something? Was there a wire tap embedded inside its crevices? Was she on a Fatten the Underfed Twentysomethings of New York City tour? Who purchases a MOIST, DECENT-SIZED, BEAUTIFUL COOKIE and then just hands it off like that?!

My hand hovered over the cookie.... and... in the spirit of "Inception," I will tantalize you all and leave the ending a mystery. How you will go on with your lives not knowing if I ate it or not I do not know. But! I want to know what all of you would do so I can either feel better about my decision... or feel even more self-loathing than I do normally. How would you respond if handed a cookie from a stranger? Would you devour the treat... or toss it into the trash? Cast your vote below in this poll for the ages.



Monday, July 19, 2010

the oral news feed

One of the things I find strangest about "friendships" when I spend time really thinking about them (which typically only happens when I'm alone in a taxi or watching Gossip Girl) is how much time is spent talking about other people. It's rare I'll see one of my good friends and not ask about a certain, familiar roster of characters. "So any updates with Brad? What's the latest with your brother?" I'll ask "How's Katherine?" even though Katherine is my friend's college roommate who I met maybe twice and who I probably will never see again (or if I do, the interaction will consist of a gloriously phony exchange at a bar where we can't really even hear each other over the blaring music). But, nevertheless, I know everything there is to know about Katherine's life! I know about her relationships and breakups (and that night she spent with her ex that even her boyfriend doesn't know about!). I know about her biking accident and semester abroad in India and where she's applying to grad school. I ask questions like "Do you think she's going to marry him?" and say things that are just ridiculously unfounded based only on the two brief conversations I've ever had with her. ("Oh, yeah, well she did seem pretty flighty at that party four years ago.")

And considering there are siblings, roommates, exes, old college friends and the like related to the narratives of nearly all my good friendships, I sometimes feel like that's what holds good friendships together, weirdly enough - this oral version of a Facebook news feed (though with juicier information and snarkier commentary) that gets revisited, updated and critiqued whenever you see each other.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

anything but direct

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to send a Twitter "direct message" to an acquaintance. This is not something I am really in the habit of doing, but I had a question for him and chose the medium based solely on the tabs open in my browser at that moment, in the way you'll eat the kinda gross "chicken thing" in the refrigerator for dinner rather than make something good.

I clicked "send"... but when I refreshed the page, there was no sign of the sent message. Perturbed, I impulsively cranked out a new message. I refreshed Twitter again and, of course, both messages were now appearing as sent. And it was in this instant that I realized I had two things to be horrified about: (1) I had just sent this guy I don't even know all that well two messages with the same vaguely personal question and (2) crucially, the language of the two messages was noticeably different. What would he think?! Would he intuit the foolish logic that had governed my actions? Or would he conclude I was just some kind of spastic internet freak and unfollow me in a huff? I took the only course of action that made sense in my state of panic: I sent a third direct message, explaining why I had sent the back-to-back variations on the same question. I also made a really weak attempt at ending the message with "humor" that is too embarrassing to share here. (Somehow I managed to fit this all in within the 140 character limit.)

I never heard back from him, but then - this past weekend - I ran into the recipient of my assault at a party. "Oh, those Twitter DMs..." he started. (I nodded imperceptibly as if I didn't know what he was talking about - ha!) "Sorry I didn't respond," he continued, "I thought your Twitter had been taken over by a virus."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

shouting out loud

When I was a sophomore in college, my roommate and I planned a trip into New York City to see this band we liked at the time called the Shout Out Louds. We were at that stage where "smuggling vodka" on the MetroNorth train is an idea discussed for days beforehand and sleeping on a sofa is not only acceptable but expected.

We arrived at Hammerstein Ballroom on a Friday night wildly out of place amongst a sea of Skarsgard/Bosworth-esque couples and scarlet-haired waifs. We had arrived a few minutes late and I was immediately racked with anxiety: my generalized nerves were compounded by nerves about my height (Am I blocking the fedora-topped scruffy dude's view?) and nerves about my blatantly not-skinny-enough jeans. Buzzed off of what couldn't have been more than a poorly-mixed vodka tonic apiece, we quickly realized there was no way we were going to be able to blend in as just another set of Stereogum groupies who could pull off aviator sunglasses indoors. So we, uh, took a different route, channeling the loopy spirits of kids just released from a standardized test. We flailed our arms, sang along even though we didn't know the lyrics, shouted things ("We Love You, Cold-Hearted Swedish Back-Up Singer!" "Shout Out Loud For The Shout Out Louds, People!"). Just totally awful, embarrassing behavior. Like if it had been 2010, people would have tweeting about us with all sorts of mean-spirited hashtags.

And then, right before the last song, the band we had assumed was the Shout Out Louds for an hour - this was a band, keep in mind, whose mp3s we had been listening to for a year and whose t-shirt I had bought earlier in the evening (I told you: totally embarrassing stuff!): this very same band - announced "Stick around for the Shout Out Louds, guys, they'll be coming out after a brief intermission."

I think about this night often, especially when I start taking anything in life too seriously.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

lemonade and leo

I was scampering across the East Village on Sunday, late for brunch, when I was struck by a table set up on the sidewalk on E. 11th St., the kind of table that was just asking for a plate of stale cookies and some neon pamphlets. There were two small children, no older than 8 or 9, sitting on chairs at the table, and it took me a few seconds to realize that this was a lemonade stand. Having lived in city after city after city since I was born, lemonade stands are in the same bucket in my mind as typewriters and pay phones.

Even though I was running late and never really spend money on the street (?), I decided I would buy some lemonade. "It's really hot," I announced. (I always forget that my methods for ingratiating myself to strangers aren't necessary when talking to young children and are instead just kind of creepy.) "Yeah," the girl said. I asked for one lemonade. As she filled a plastic cup from the pitcher, the boy bounced around like a horse in the gate before a race. "You wanna see something?" he asked me. "Sure," I said.

He pointed at the ground. "That's my name," he said. "I carved that five years ago." Leo flashed a toothy smile and the girl rolled her eyes (so over it). "That's amazing," I said, making a show of overdoing my enthusiasm. I gave them a dollar and lingered for a second before walking away. As I turned the corner, I felt kind of inspired by the fact that Leo was still proud of something he had created five years earlier (I had seen Toy Story 3 a few days earlier is my excuse), but then I felt... deflated, imagining Teenage Leo feeling embarrassed by the carving, Adult Leo living somewhere else and forgetting it was there, and then Old Leo remembering the days when he used to run a lemonade stand with his sister and she would scold him for playing with the bills instead of putting them in the lunchbox.

Monday, June 28, 2010

video!

A few weeks ago, I mentioned I was going to be reading a story I wrote at a reading series in the West Village. For those of you who weren't able to make it, here's a video my kind friends Amanda and David took (a joint effort!) of me reading my tale. The theme of the night was "pranks."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

stranger times

I have found in my two years living in New York that if I want to have a conversation with a stranger, I am generally going to have to be the one to initiate it. Unlike in Minnesota or Mississippi or wherever, where people just accost you on the street to say hi (love how easy/acceptable it is to generalize like that on the internet...), New Yorkers just aren't friendly. This has been written about, parodied and championed elsewhere, of course, but this fundamental element of New York is what made yesterday such a weird day for me! So weird. From the time I left my friend Sarah's apartment to the time I got back to my own yesterday afternoon, three different total and complete strangers initiated (or at least tried to initiate) conversations with me. In a 45-minute time period! It was amazing.

1) In the elevator of Sarah's building on the Upper East Side, a woman with a long sleek braid and wearing a white pantsuit (Kathy Bates meets Raquel Welch, kind of) gave me a bemused glance. (I was wearing a V-neck and sunglasses, slurping down Diet Dr. Pepper.)

Pantsuit: "Dr. Pepper... how Southern of you."
Me: "Oh, yeah, uh... they were out of Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi at the deli..."
Pantsuit: "Well that's a deli to be avoided, isn't it?"

2) On the subway back to my apartment, I was standing up against the door when this little businessman - who was standing dangerously close to me (pretty common subway occurrence) - yawned loudly (slightly less common) and then looked at me, shifted his stance slightly and announced in this low-pitched drawl: "I'm tired" (doesn't happen ever).

3) On the walk from the subway to my apartment, I noticed this large group of people gathered on the street. I stopped to figure out what was going on and this woman standing there who was eating something that looked like a protein bar said to me, "It's not, like, a celebrity or Gossip Girl... there was a bomb scare so they evacuated the building." "Oh, thanks," I responded, wondering if my "OMG IS THERE A FAMOUS PERSON NEARBY?!?" face was really that obvious.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

things i find awful

1. Blueberries: Grapes' bland and overly sentimental cousin whom you always get stuck talking to at family events.

2. The expression "cleans up good" and any related variation ("Damn, Kylie, you clean up real nice!," etc.)

3. E-mails with no subject. Sure, when a friendship is in its beginning stages, these can be moderately charming and affirming, I admit ("Hey look, I'm just shooting you a quick missive without even bothering to abide by the societal convention of naming the e-mail... because we're so past that...") but when every e-mail comes through without a subject, the gmail-related ramifications (fragmented chains, hindrances to searching) become daunting, and all your e-mails from the person start to blend together into one gelatinous e-blob. Besides, there are few things I enjoy more than a long e-mail exchange that takes place underneath a completely unrelated subject line. (Once I had a prolonged back-and-forth with the subject "big brother through, really?" - the typo was mine - and that bobbing in my inbox for about a month evoked the same feeling as that guy at the corner cubicle you always walk by who plays surprisingly good music and once offered you some of his leftover candy.)

4. Drinking games. Mainly because there is absolutely nothing worse than being at a party and having everyone you know there decide they are going to play flip cup or beer pong or whatever, leaving you with the decision between (keep in mind, actually playing flip cup is out) leering over the proceedings like some sort of sexual predator, or leering by the wall by yourself like you're Paul Dano.

Friday, June 18, 2010

missing the signs

About a month ago, I decided I would go meet my friend who I hadn't seen in a while at this bar near my apartment. It was one of those Saturday nights where I didn't even bother to change out of the Josh-Hartnett-on-a-bad-day outfit I had been lounging in all afternoon. I just sort of schlepped to the bar, didn't bother getting a drink, and moseyed on over to where my friend was sitting. She was squeezed on a chair next to her new boyfriend (who gave me a barely perceptible head nod) at a table with four other girls. I had talked to one of these girls, let's call her Amber, a number of times, but we are by no means friends, on Facebook or otherwise. (We wouldn't make each other's BCCed party invite lists is what I'm saying.)

Amber and I were on opposite ends of the table, so trading pleasant smiles was the extent of our interaction. About ten minutes later though, this girl (who I am just going to assume was named Becky and who wouldn't stop talking about some "hockey player" standing at the bar) managed to drop her beer glass, and we were all forced to stand as two waiters descended upon the table to mop up the shattered glass. At this point, Amber and I were suddenly standing next to each other. "It's so good to see you!" I said and I gave her this overly warm bear hug. (I was pretty shaken up from the dropped glass incident.)

We caught up for about five minutes and I was whipping out some of my go-to talking points when she stopped me mid-sentence in the middle of my rant about subletters or whatever.

Amber: "Hey, what's your sign?"
Me: "What?"
Amber: "Your sign..."

(uncomfortable, five-second pause)

Me: "Like, astrological?"
Amber: "Yeah."

My excuse for what followed is that the combination of my sluggish mood, Hockey Groupie's accident, this just really odd reunion with Amber and her SUPER UNEXPECTED interjected question (who asks barely-even-casual acquaintances about their astrological signs?!) was enough to render anyone almost completely nonfunctional, lest of all me, who, of course, was in a mindset where it was taking me a good five seconds to come up with the word "astrological."

As the response came out of my mouth, I knew it was just awful, but there was no turning back: "I can't remember," I said. She made this sad/confused face, the kind of face Naomi Watts would make in a movie when she realizes her son has a learning disability or something. Like a first grade teacher might, she asked for my birthday. And when I said it, I immediately remembered my sign (Libra!) and told her. But it was too late; the damage had been done.

I saw Amber at a party last weekend and we walked past each other and smiled but neither of us stopped. It was just understood that we wouldn't be speaking.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

apple picking

I did something last week that has been on my Mental To Do List since I moved to New York two years ago: I bought an Apple laptop. While I have used Macs a whole bunch (at my last job, whenever I needed to print something from my college roommate's computer, etc.), I always remained attached (literally, if not emotionally) to my HP. Of course, before long, everyone I knew had hopped on the Mac Bandwagon. My brother got a Mac, my history teacher got a Mac, my mom got a Mac, the little guy who sang that "Paparazzi" cover got a Mac. Sometimes if I was feeling especially insecure I would tell people I had the "most Mac-like of non-Macs" as if that somehow would make me seem cool enough to be allowed to sit with them at Cosi. But I remained stuck in a world of Windows. What finally pushed me over the edge though was when, a few weeks ago, this computer consultant guy was in our apartment fixing our router (surprise, surprise, I am completely helpless when it comes to all tasks technical or practical) and he picked up my laptop and exclaimed, "This thing is running a fever," which was his "cute" way of telling me my computer was overheating and in the "post-retirement, pre-nursing home" stage of its life. I decided it was time.

Now that I have a MacBook Pro and am no longer a disgrace to Young People, a disgrace to New York City and a disgrace to Bloggers, I feel sort of excited and also sort of despondent. Excited because everything is sleek and pretty and precise and who doesn't want to be just like Justin Long? But also sad, as I sit in this coffee shop in Tribeca amongst a sea of aluminum MacBooks, because, as I open the same files and listen to the same mp3s and browse through the same photos - all of which are now housed in this new, sexy machine that looks just like everyone else's - I feel like I've just traded in my Lauren Conrad - boring, but durable and with quirks - for one of those nameless blondes who tries to get on the show by flirting with Spencer at a bar.

Friday, June 11, 2010

julia and jeanette

Last weekend my youngest brother graduated high school, an occasion which brought my two cousins (10-year-old Jack and 8-year-old Julia) to Boston (they walked by themselves from Washington D.C.). Julia, as tween girls do, became immediately attached to this small stuffed bear wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with my brother's school's logo that she found lying around the house. She carried this bear around with her all weekend, to each dinner, each photo op, each dull speech. Of course, she named it (Jeanette, which i think was a sweet homage to my mother, Janet), "groomed" it with her hand, and attributed wildly diverse emotions to it ("Jeanette's not happy right now," "Jeanette wants candy!"). I found myself growing kind of fond of Jeanette, to be honest. I imagined her having the tomboy spunk of Clarissa Darling but with enough charm to run in the popular crowd with the Selena Gomez-y bears.

Then, Sunday night, after the last graduation-related event was over, Julia came into my room to chat, grasping Jeanette by the head in her left hand. We were talking about something or other when Julia squealed: "Look!" She pointed at another bear, identical to Jeanette, lying on the floor beside my desk. She picked it up and dropped Jeanette to the ground in one swift movement. "I like this one's fur better," Julia said, already petting the new bear's head in the same way she had once doted on Jeanette. And with that she turned around and walked out of the room.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

times I've said things I wish I hadn't

1) Whenever I divulge some information or offer up some constructive feedback to a friend of mine and she begins her response with a "Listen, thanks so much for being honest" or puts her hand on my shoulder all phonily and says "You know, I really appreciate your telling me that," I immediately feel like I said too much and should have just kept my mouth shut.

2) Recently I've been doing this thing where I kind of zone out during trivial conversations and just say things to feed the conversation and - surprise - it often backfires on me. A few weeks ago I was chatting with my friend Andrew about this Lady Gaga article we had both read, and he was yammering about how the profile just fed into the perceptions of her he already had. I think I was busy devising a Twitter @ reply to Lindsay Lohan in my head or like trying hard to remember the name of someone I had wanted to Facebook stalk and I just absent-mindedly said something like, "Oh, yeah, totally... I didn't learn anything about her I didn't already know." THEN, I'd say about a week later, Andrew and I were with our friend Sarah when the article came up again (basically the only things I talk about with my friends are Lady Gaga and the internet). Sarah said something about how much she loved the piece and I just chimed right in with a "Yeah, it just totally changed the way I think about her," at which point Andrew perked up and called me out for the totally blatant about face. I got real jittery and muttered something indeterminable... but Andrew and Sarah, thankfully, just tuned me out and probably opened up Hulu on a laptop, easily forgetting about my faux pas. On the other hand, unsurprisingly, I still get sharp pangs of anxiety about this incident two months later.

3) Anything I have ever said to a celebrity I have instantly regretted, most notably when I asked Gwyneth Paltrow "What is your favorite vegetable?" when I was 10 years old sitting in the "Tonight Show" green room while my parents were in the audience.

Friday, June 4, 2010

gchat between two people without daytime jobs

Friday, 12:45 pm

me
: yooooo
on hold with go daddy
Sarah: hahahaha
sexxxxxy
me: totally
go
daddy makes me wait soooo long
12:45 PM Sarah: hahahaha
gets you all wound up
me: i know how to push go daddy's buttons though
so in a way i have the upper hand
Sarah: ur also the one paying
me: dayum
you just changed the game
12:46 PM Sarah: ive been doing that a bunch today
me: really?
what have you been doing today?
Sarah: well
i changed my twitter handle and now im drinking wine on my bed

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

outdoors and internets

In fourth grade, I got the lead role in the school play and was real jazzed about it. I approached the part quite studiously, highlighting my lines and forcing my little brother to test me on them all the time, telling my mom I was so over karate and rollerblading and just wanted to act (I think this is also how Peter Sarsgaard got his start). The play was called "Outdoors and Internets" and it was this original work by our drama teacher about a guy and a girl who met on the internet and IMed a whole bunch. The first two-thirds of the play literally just had me and Blair (the lead girl) sitting in chairs on opposite sides of the stage, what we said out loud representing whatever it was we were typing to each other. I think our characters fell in love at the end of the play, but it also could have just been that we needed to solve a mystery or something.

Anyway, I find myself thinking about this play A LOT. Sometimes, I guess, it comes up when I'm regaling someone with the tale of how I used to fancy myself an actor (which generally leads to my asking if they want to see a video of me in 8th grade playing a 70-year old man - they gave me a cane and ascot but didn't dye my hair gray - followed by the other person finding a polite way to say "Um, I'd actually rather alphabetize my text messages" or whatever).

But I actually think the reason the play remains one of those memories that just can't be shaken is that it was so egregiously ahead of its time! I mean, it was the mid-nineties then! No one knew a thang 'bout the internet: it was like the first season of 'Lost' when they were just awe-struck by polar bears and trying to find fruit. If we were even "online" then in any capacity, it was solely to check our AOL mail for five minutes before our dad yelled at us to get off the computer... maybe we were allowed to visit Ask Jeeves if it was a "homework emergency." Our drama teacher might as well have asked Blair and I to talk in Shakespearean English: "where r u?" was basically just as foreign to us as "where art thou?" "ROTFL" was nothing but a meaningless string of letters. I mean, I wish I could remember what the dialogue in this play actually was like, given that there wasn't any commonly understood internet vocabulary then. Like Britney's "I'm a Slave 4 U" (released five years too early) or Monica Lewinsky (who, nowadays, would have been able to land a "Betrayed by Bill" Us Weekly cover and "Dancing with the Stars" spot), "Outdoors and Internets" was tragically ahead of its time... undoubtedly going right over the heads of us fourth graders, our clueless parents and even the thirty-something Mr. Schue-esque "cool teachers." Hopefully my drama teacher, whatever he ended up doing, managed to eventually pull off his "Toxic."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

story time

For those of you who will be in NYC tomorrow night (and also, I suppose, for those of you who are into making last-minute interstate road trips to see what bloggers look like in person), I will be reading a story I wrote in the West Village Wednesday night as part of the next installment of the Papercone reading series. The theme is "pranks" (spoiler alert: I'll be reading a story about high school). It should be a fun time, and at least (hopefully?) more enjoyable than whatever else you'd be doing on a Wednesday night (watching DVRed 'Glee'? Getting dinner with that former co-worker you've been blowing off? Eating peanut butter in bed?). Check out the poster here, and hope to see y'all tomorrow night!