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


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.