Thursday, April 29, 2010

tiny shreds

Something that I'll just never be comfortable with is that thing people do in casual conversations or on dates where they latch on to one detail in whatever you're talking about, connect it to something they're familiar with, and then just go off talking about that, as if it somehow totally relates to what you were just talking about. Like, I'll be telling a story in which I get on a bike to ride somewhere (it should already be clear this is a fabricated example since no story I have ever told starts with me getting on a bike, but let's move on) and then my anecdote quickly gets to whatever it's actually about, maybe some wacky interview I had at a coffee shop or how annoying Tyler was being that afternoon... but then the person I'm talking to will cut me off (in this half-polite way) and start talking about the biking (the most superfluous detail!) and will just launch into this totally rambling and totally unrelated tale (it'll start with something like "You know, I was biking across this bridge the other day..." or "You know the thing about biking...") and then, because I'm too self-conscious to be like "Um, I actually wasn't finished talking about Tyler!" or because I don't know the person that well and want to be "civil," I end up "talking" (by which I mean, "nodding my head every time they pause for a moment") about bike paths with them for like eight minutes, the duration of which they spend doing lots of things with their hands while I tear tiny shreds in the napkin resting on the table.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Now that I no longer have to take the subway to work, I have stopped purchasing "unlimited" monthly subway passes. And though I thought I would subsequently feel chipper and cheery about now saving a good chunk of money each month, I've actually found myself feeling sort of ... deflated, even heartbroken.

A good friend of mine once described the relationship between a New York young person and an unlimited subway card as the best kind of relationship you could have: the card never lets you down, and it's always ready to offer that empowering/encouraging "go" right when you need it most. What more could you ask for, riiiiight? And now, without it, I feel kind of emotionally isolated! About once a week, I have to buy a pass for a specified number of rides (with each ride I then take ticking off $2.25), which has made me way pickier about what merits a leaving-the-apartment event. Do I really need to waste two rides on a boring doctor's appointment? (No.) Do I really need to spend $4.50 so I can go buy new jeans in Soho? (Yes.)

My break-up with unlimited passes also means that gaffes I made with embarrassing frequency before but was somehow able to justify because they didn't cost me anything (getting off 34th St. instead of 14th St., swiping in for the downtown train when I'm heading uptown) now come with financial penalties and feelings of private shame. And there is nothing worse than ramming into the turnstyle's motionless bar and then looking down to see a flashing "Insufficient Fare" signal. Like George Clooney when he found out Vera Farmiga had a family, or any other young tyke who realizes love is more complicated than candy and rhymes, I wince and recoil... and then walk over to the machine and sign up for the cycle all over again.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

music musings

Not sure if it's that I'm getting old in Internet Years or just increasingly ornery, but I've found recently that my desire to watch/listen to music on the internet has been dissipating, and it's not just about being too impatient to withstand a longer-than-three-minutes YouTube video (though that of course doesn't help).

1. I've noticed, weirdly, that lately when I'm listening to a new album online, I'm half-hoping that I won't really dig the songs so that I don't have to go through the arduous process of trying to actually obtain the album. Is it worth shilling out $9.99 on iTunes for this? Should I send out a mass e-mail to see if any of my friends have it slash if I can convince them to obtain it? .... Or should I troll the blogs for sketchy downloads which invariably will include at least one mp3 that's just a repeated loop of the first verse and one that has "DJ PARIAH HOT 23.9" repeated every thirty seconds?

2. I really can't remember the last time I watched a music video to completion that didn't feature an extended bit about making a sandwich.

3. I used to think covers were the coolest thing since that ladder that Sam used to get into Clarissa's room. I would just eat 'em up. The All-American Rejects singing "Toxic"? Neat! But it has been a long, long time since a cover has truly wowed me. The "slowed down version of a fast song" meme hit its peak with Mandy Moore's "Umbrella" (probably the only time Mandy Moore has been associated with the "peak" of anything) and rock covers of slow songs have become similarly tired. Covers are just boring, you know? We've already heard the original song a thousand times, do we really need to hear it 13 more times sung in a less awesome way? I saw a link to Hot Chip's "She Wolf" cover on a blog the other day, which in the past would have caused me to froth at the mouth or something - and though I wasn't able to stop myself from right-clicking and downloading it (this is a slow process, guys), I deleted it from my iTunes after one listen. Progress!

4. This has nothing to do with music, but I now only take the time to watch movie trailers online if they feature an actress who was in Mean Girls.

Friday, April 16, 2010

meeting gretchen

Almost everyone has, one time or another, been in the both exhilarating and uncomfortable position of finally meeting one of their good friend's friends after hearing about the person forever. Perhaps it's your BFF's cousin Marc who lives uptown and is always busy with law school. Or your roommate's co-worker Gretchen who you hear about every night over dinner. You are retold the story about Gretchen and the birthday cake 17 times, you get updated with each new twist in Gretchen's love life, you know about the really awful vests she tries to pull off and her grandmother who buys her fancy earrings.

She's basically a character on a TV show at this point. You know the twists and turns of her plot, and you can reference her past with strange authority ("Oh, but isn't that basically the same kind of thing she did when she told your boss about the sick day?"), but she's ultimately as real as Angela, Phyllis or Pam.

And then, finally, you meet her. It's usually some unceremonious occasion. "Oh, I think Gretchen might be in the area," your friend will say after you leave a Vietnamese restaurant one night, "But I'm pretty sure she only has like ten minutes before she has to get to some party." The timing is never quite how you imagined it (you envisioned some Thanksgiving-style dinner accompanied by wine and followed by charades) but you say "Oh, I'm excited!" and wish you were wearing something a bit more memorable.

Gretchen arrives, and she's cuter than you expected... and after giving you a brief hug, she launches into some story about cardigans and text messages and you suddenly feel overly dull. You accidentally step on her foot or jut her elbow with your arm and you totally overdo the apology ("Oh, I'm so sorry!" you say, and you touch her shoulder for added emphasis). You ask a follow-up question to her inane story that you've barely been following ("So he didn't tell you that you couldn't return it until after he scanned it?") and she hesitates for a second before answering, as if it took her a moment to decide if she should hear you.

She leaves, as dramatically as she arrived, and your friend turns to you and says something like "Isn't she the best?" "Oh... yeah," you respond, and take out your cell phone and change the subject.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

chatroulette blues

So I finally got around to giving this Chatroulette thing a spin on Sunday. Perhaps you guys have heard of it? Seriously though, I'm sure most of you had your Chatroulette fun weeks ago and are already on to iPad video sexting or whatever, but bear with me here.

I was in San Francisco painting and eating Oreos with two of my friends on this rainy Sunday afternoon (my life is really no different than a 7-year-old boy's, it would seem) when we decided to make use of the laptop sitting on a chair nearby and entertain ourselves with some Chatroulette (I was the main instigator here, as both my friends had already had fairly unremarkable Chatroulette experiences).

After a few nexts (as every article and blog has already said in some pithy way, about 50 percent of users appear to be using Chatroulette as some kind of cybersex station), I came across a dimly-lit fellow (whom my friend Andrew immediately exclaimed had my "exact same jawline"). As I rearranged the computer and tried to take a screenshot (see above), he just sat there patiently waiting: things were off to a promising start! I finally positioned myself to type "hey" and soon thereafter he responded, informing me he was from Portugal. We traded short messages as if we were in some sort of virtual English language class ("Weather nice California?" he wrote / "It's actually raining," I responded), and after bouncing a few softballs back and forth, he finally made the bold move of turning on the light by his computer. Just like that, he was a real person!

We showed him our paintings; I translated a confusing explanation into Portuguese using Google Translate (to which he wrote back: "nice gestur!"); I breathlessly read all of his responses out loud ("He wants to know if we've been to Europe!" I shrieked). After about ten minutes, my friend Sarah noted that I had spent a pretty intense amount of time talking to this nameless Portuguese dude: "You know you're allowed to next people," she said, "This isn't like a virtual dating site." But I was lost. I was on some Portuguese beach with this guy, teaching him English by writing in the sand with a stick, and laughing over a pitcher of sangria as I revealed to him I actually can't paint to save my life.

And right then, after he had just asked what kind of music I liked, I accidentally exited the browser in a fumbled attempt to take another screenshot. He was gone, forever, unceremoniously, probably assuming I was just another callous asshole who had become bored with our little language games. As I overexaggerated my agony and rolled up into a ball on the floor, Andrew and Sarah mocked my inadvertent "missed connection." I eventually got back behind the wheel, er, keyboard, but the sea of blurry genitalia and peppy tweens only made me more depressed. I don't think Chatroulette is meant for the emotionally fragile.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Not sure who should be more embarrassed here: this guy for blasting the Justin Bieber-Sean Kingston collaboration "Eeenie Meenie" at a red light, or me for immediately knowing that's what song it was.

Monday, April 5, 2010

every anouk and cranny

When I found out that the woman who was going to be subletting a room in our apartment for two months was both named Anouk and had never been to the United States before, I of course had to tell everyone I know about her imminent arrival. And, other than misunderstandings relating to her name ("Oooh, I thought you were talking about a nook in your apartment!"), the resounding response was: "Well, at least she'll give you hilarious fodder to blog about!" And look, friends, you were right! Well, sort of right.

Generally, the Anouk experience was pretty... unremarkable? A 32-year-old born in Korea who moved to the Netherlands right after she was born (haha, in the infinitesimal chance you ever read this, 'Noukie, "What's up!"), it seemed to me she approached her two months in New York as I might approach a DVD set of the first season of a TV show I want to watch: I am going to methodically work my way through you, trying my best to keep a positive attitude (even when you throw an ill-conceived plot twist at me mid-way through!), knowing that you come with a clear termination point.

She saw all the sights, got lost on the subway all the time, went to a jazz club on Christopher Street after asking me what a jazz club was, you know, New York things. She always seemed to sort of have a guard up against New York, preferring to spend her weeknights in bed watching TV than soaking up every last gritty drop of the city over her eight weeks here, an approach I can generally sympathize with.

She tried her best to relate to me, smartly using pop culture as an entry point. Of course, her references were never quite on point, but her phrasings were so cute it hardly mattered. "Who do you support in the war between Rihanna and Beyonce?" she asked me as she unpacked her Whole Foods bag one day. Another time she asked me if I was a Sandra Bullock fan. "Of course," I responded, to which she giggled and cackled, before screaming "I hate her movies!" with a massive smile on her face.

When she left last week she kissed me on the cheek (surprise!) and I told her if I was ever in the Netherlands, I would let her know, which of course we both knew wasn't true. We had hardly shared more than ten minutes of conversation over the course of two months living mere feet apart. After she was out the door though, on her way back to her home country, I was struck by how strange it was that this woman had come to the United States for just two months - perhaps the only two months she will ever spend in this country - and had spent the majority of her time living in a room next to me and Amanda, as we blasted Lady Gaga, shrieked about text messages and ate takeout Thai food every other night. For a woman who grew up conceiving of an America based on the myths of "Sex and the City" and Britney Spears, we were her unwitting representations of an entire population.

The next day, setting up a new router in our apartment, I renamed our wireless network "Anouk." It seemed a somehow fitting tribute.