Friday, July 30, 2010


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.