Friday, December 30, 2011

reflex grimacing

Returning home at 26 feels strange and uncomfortable, like you've swam back into the shallow end of the pool and there are flotation devices everywhere and the water suddenly feels too hot. There are reminders all around you of a former life: Airwalks in the closet, photographs of graduations and soccer teams seemingly at every turn, a "Little Miss Sunshine" ad ripped out from a magazine affixed to your bedroom wall (the bright yellow now a muted brown). It's suffocating.

Within hours, though, the rhythms begin to return. You share a glance with your mom as your dad launches into an overzealous defense of his latest favorite TV procedural. Your brother complains about having to sit in the middle in the back seat of the car ("Don't dwell in the sorrow," you say; he responds, "I don't even know what that means, but I know that's advice you've never taken.") You march into the living room to complain about the internet being slow and end up sitting down and eating 17 crackers and watching a half-hour of a football game and forgetting why you entered the room in the first place. You still feel like an impostor - like you're playing yourself in a play, kind of - but it all, at least, starts to feel familiar.

When it's time to leave, you pack up your stuff quickly (you never bothered taking your clothes out of the suitcase). Before your mom drives you to the train station, she asks if you want to take some bagels with you; you respond that you don't need them - "I'm going to go shopping when I get home" - and you look away from her immediately. You wonder if you'll ever stop reflex grimacing when you refer to your New York City apartment as "home" in her presence, and if you can really be considered an "adult," whatever that means, until you do.

Friday, December 16, 2011

"not sure if you remember me..."

Recently I e-mailed someone whom I've never met before but with whom I exchanged e-mails a few years ago (we had become Facebook friends at the time, too). Even though this guy - let's call him Doug - has been floating at the top of my gchat list for about two years now, and even though I see Doug's updates all the time on Facebook (I could name his three most recent jobs, tell you what neighborhood in NYC he lives in now... and I'm pretty sure I could pick a guy he briefly dated last year out of a lineup), when it came to writing this e-mail, I began it with, "Hey Doug, Not sure if you remember me, but...."

Doug wrote a friendly e-mail back to me and included somewhere in his first paragraph "Of course I remember you!" And since then I've cringed like at least twice a week thinking about my "Not sure if you remember me..." opener. There should really be some sort of Gmail tool that prevents all e-mails including that phrase from being sent! It creates the opposite kind of uncomfortable strangeness as when some disaffected woman at a party whom you've met a bunch of times shakes your hand and pretends she's never met you before. It's self-deprecating to the point of nauseating. The response is always "Yes, uh, duh, I remember you, weirdo."

But the impulse makes sense to me. Somehow it's extremely easy to convince ourselves - even though we see so much online everyday about people we barely know - that our own online presences are somehow obscured, hidden, secret. That girl Macy from high school whose wedding pictures I looked at last month certainly never looks at my profile! Even though Caitlin and I follow each other on Twitter, I'm sure she just glazes over my tweets without reading them! Even though Doug's on my gchat list, he probably looks at my name on his and wonders who I am! Actually though, this willful ignorance is probably for the best: I'm pretty sure that if we didn't all think of our online selves as "invisible," in a certain way, none of would ever post anything at all.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

BCCed

It sometimes feels like a good number of my "friendships" subsist solely on party invites. A former co-worker I haven't seen in two years, but whom I still dutifully include on every invite for a birthday party or housewarming. A guy I got drinks with once seven months ago whose Facebook statuses I occasionally "like." A high school friend who lives in Chicago whom I add to the BCC field as a way of saying "hi," I guess, even though we've been in the midst of a nine-month long game of phone tag and I think I'm the one who's meant to call her back?

Of course, these people never come to your parties. (The people who come are the 20-40 people you actually see regularly, the ones you expect to show up.) But you keep including them out of habit. You copy and paste your BCCed list from last year's birthday party e-mail and, sure, you delete a few people - a friend's former boyfriend, a past subletter - but there are a few relics you leave on. There's something nice about the thought that your "birthday drinks!!!!" e-mail might remind that former co-worker of that time you sprinted to a cab together holding two boxes filled with party hats. Maybe she'll write back a quick hello ("Sooo sorry I can't make it that night. How are you???"), though she won't respond to your (probably too enthusiastic) response. Or maybe she'll just think to herself "Oh, Josh," before archiving the e-mail. But either way, your having included her in the BCC field - however inconsequential it may seem - reveals that there's some part of you that wants to hold on just a little bit longer.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

behind her back

There's this weird perverse thrill when you find yourself talking about a friend behind his or her back with another mutual friend. There's a sense of guilt, sure ("we're talking about Emily behind her back! she's our good friend! that's so fucked up!"). But there's also this catharsis in venting, in finally getting this stuff off your chest with someone who understands ("gahhh I didn't realize how much Emily annoyed me until talking it out with Rachel like this!"). And then there's also the comforting realization that if you and Rachel are talking about Emily like this, you and Rachel must be closer than Rachel and Emily are ("Rachel feels comfortable saying all this mean stuff about Emily to me! we are so close!").

Of course, as "fun" or therapeutic as these conversations may seem at the time, they almost always result, later, in your feeling super crummy. You get on the subway and you stand against the door instead of sitting in one of the open seats. You have a momentary paranoid flash of Rachel divulging to Emily all the awful things you said over a bottle of wine on some future Friday night, and you feel nauseous. Most of the time, Emily's great. You love Emily. And if you and Rachel fell into a Emily trash-talking conversation that easily, aren't the chances pretty good that the two of them have had a similar conversation about you at some point?

You get off the subway and immediately text Emily some stupid forced joke and ask if she's free for dinner later that week.

Friday, November 11, 2011

tom and kendall

It's rare, I've noticed recently, that I have a conversation with someone (anyone: a best friend, someone I've just met...) in which one of us doesn't reference something specific we read/watched/listened to on the internet: a YouTube video, a New York Times article, a mashup of "Teenage Dream" and cats purring, whatever.

Usually, these conversations go something like this:
Tom: "Man, I feel like I'm more tired on the weekends than I am during the week... even though I sleep later on the weekends! Weird, right?"
(Tom is clearly a winning conversationalist.)
Kendall: "Oh, did you see that Slate article about that?"
Tom: "No, what did it say?"
Kendall: "Oh, uhhh, just what you're saying, sort of. You know, our bodies release more... or, like, on the weekends, our... you know what, I'll just e-mail you the article."
Tom: "Oh, cool, okay."

Like 90 percent of the time, Tom doesn't get an e-mail from Kendall. Kendall probably just forgets, or she looks up the article the next day and realizes it doesn't say anything close to what she told Tom it did, or she thinks it would be kind of weird to send it to him since they've only met like three times and she'd have to find his e-mail address on Facebook.

But, in the occasions when I've been a Tom and the Kendall has sent the article the next day ("Here's that sleeping article I was telling you about... xx"), I always find myself like weirdly and irrationally impressed. "Wow, what a competent person!" I think, "She followed through." I don't even click on the link and probably archive the e-mail immediately, but my whole perception of Kendall changes. "She must really have her shit together. I bet she's never late to dinners and has a super clean apartment."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"... and before you know it, the whole day sucks"

I arrived in Boston a few weeks ago to find a bunch of large cardboard boxes stacked in my childhood bedroom. "We're going through all of this before you go back to New York," my mom said, glancing at the boxes, which I knew were filled with notebooks, papers and other memorabilia saved from the 18 years I lived in Boston.

I ended up parting ways with about 75 percent of the work and relics, to my mom's glee, but kept some choice artifacts that looked potentially interesting. I've been slowly working my way through them since, an undertaking which - though it's mainly resulted in lots of Facebook-ing of old teachers/classmates and plaintive staring out of windows - has garnered a few gems.

One of my favorites is this journal entry (?) I wrote on a piece of loose leaf paper on "2/13." ("Some thoughts" will follow.)


Some thoughts:

1. Originally I thought this was from, I dunno, fifth grade? NOPE. After some cursory investigating, I learned it's from ninth grade. I wrote this when I was in high school!! Yes, that was still over ten years ago, but this is not the conception of my ninth grade self that I've been working with. I guess I'm just happy that Twitter and Facebook weren't around then as I can only imagine what sorts of over-the-top emo statuses I'd have been posting.

2. Who keeps a journal on separate pieces of loose leaf paper like this instead of, you know, finding a book? Even a memo pad would have been more normal.

3. The content is so nonspecific! It's like the most dull Angsty Journal Entry possible in that there is absolutely nothing revealing about it. Isn't the point of a journal to let everything out and vent? I really want to know what had happened beforehand that worked me up enough to underline the word "always" and close with that emphatic "fine"!

4. "Often, I know not." ?!?!?!?!

5. The conclusion is so dramatic! I've "come to the point" where all I can do is "sit back" and wait for people to come to me? For one thing, I'm not even sure what this means. For another, knowing me, I probably wrote this defiant entry and then five minutes later couldn't help myself and fired off passive-aggressive e-mails to whichever friends had been irritating me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

10:38pm

You're at a friend's apartment on a Friday night with two or three or four other people and you've finished dinner and you're on your second bottle of wine. Someone mentions Mark's party and a few replies are muttered (you're all aware, of course, that none of you are actually going to go). You realize you're picking furiously at something you'd never usually eat (onion-flavored chips, carrot cake). A laptop surfaces, either because someone wants to pull up the profile of a dude she went on a horrific date with ("No, he's actually cute... like, short though... oh, let me just show you") or because someone wants to play a song or a YouTube video or something.

Ten minutes later, everyone is crouched around the screen as Megan clicks through a Facebook album of a college acquaintance's vacation to Bermuda. You've already seen this album, embarrassingly, but you feign shock or disgust every ten pictures or so ("Again with that black top?!" "He really does look like Jesse Eisenberg, it's so weird!"). When the album's finished, Megan opens another one ("Oooh, it looks like she's wearing a bikini in this one, guys!"). You take out your iPhone even though you know you haven't gotten any texts... and then slide it back into your pocket. Someone mentions "Moneyball" and, though you've seen it, you remain silent as Megan's boyfriend delivers his somewhat inane critique.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

my own private itunes

I am fairly certain that I have not once answered the question "What kind of music are you into?" with anything that even resembles the truth.

Usually - not that this question comes up THAT often, but, you know, it comes up - I'll just mutter something like "Oh... I dunno... all different things" or "durrrrr, you know... Adele? And, uh, I've really been into the new... Bon Iver album?"

I'm not really sure why it's music that gets me all clammy and self-conscious. I've got no problem telling people I still watch "Gossip Girl" or that I saw "What's My Number?" on my birthday (though I did shamefully refer to it as "that Anna Faris movie" in one e-mail... as if it would somehow make it less "reprehensible" if I couldn't remember the actual title? I don't know what that was about). Anyway, yeah, for some reason music just brings out this weird insecurity complex in me (and, I think, in other people, too?). There is nothing that freezes me up like being asked to "control the radio" in a car of people I don't know that well. It doesn't matter what song comes on the station, I change it after a few seconds for fear of condoning a song I shouldn't be condoning.

But ever since the advent of this new, annoying Spotify synchronization thing on Facebook - which means I now see what like 25% of my friends are listening to at all times - I've started to realize most people's music tastes are not as "cool" as I'd always imagined them to be. I suppose it's been sort of comforting in a way? Even the most self-avowed music snob people - sure, they mostly have their Werewolf Sacrifice or M&@42 going on - but they also sneak in a LMFAO or Rihanna track every now and then! It's not that I thought that these people never listened to so-called guilty pleasure tracks on occasion, but having concrete proof of it streaming through my news feed every day has been oddly satisfying.

Of course, this doesn't mean I'll be sharing my music anytime soon. And when some dude I'm talking to at a party dismissively says something like "Ugh, this, really?" when "Teenage Dream" comes on, I'm sure I'll continue to perform one of those foot-shuffle/look-at-the-ground sequences instead of responding, "Oh, this song? It's actually the fifth-most played in my iTunes."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

weekend, 9/23-9/25

Friday afternoon. At coffeeshop. I overhear a couple at the table next to me debating whether or not they want to meet up with the girlfriend's friend Jen at some park. The boyfriend is not really into it ("You're sure you don't just want to go to Whole Foods and then go home?"). "Lemme call Jen," the girlfriend says, as if this will solve everything. "Jen... hi..." she begins. She gossips with her for a minute, then asks about her location... and finally it comes, drenched in exaggerated nonchalance: "Who are you with?" The girlfriend gives her boyfriend a relenting smile while listening to Jen's answer. Dawns on me how many plans live or die on that question.

Saturday afternoon. Mom on Sarah Jessica Parker: "She's trying to hold on to something that just isn't hold-on-able."

Saturday afternoon, later. Family of four on the subway: mother, father and two young sons. One son is eating some sort of sticky candy on a stick (looks like something Katy Perry would put in her hair). "Travis, how did you get stuff on your cheek?!" his mom says, all exasperated, trying to wipe orange candy remnant off his face. "It's Travis," his brother says, "How did he get spaghetti sauce in his ear last night?" I realize that this type of name-based exclamation ("C'mon, it's Mary we're talking about..." etc.) always strikes me as the most poignant and affecting kind of description.

Sunday evening. It hits me for the first time ever just how strange it is that the Thai place I've been ordering from for the past year is called "35 Thai." Like, what???? Imagine "71 Italian" or "88 Mexican."

Sunday evening, later. Never feel more "of my generation" than when I catch myself, hardly even conscious of the action, lethargically dragging my mouse to open Photo Booth at 12:23am.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

stepping out

Surprisingly invigorating: You're at a family dinner in a hotel restaurant (or in some other "small group amongst a whole lot of strangers" setting). Something happens (not like something terrible, but rather a logistical development... like, your aunt cuts her finger and needs a Band-Aid) and you're entrusted with completing the task. So you do this half-run though the hotel lobby to ask the concierge for a Band-Aid and then you walk briskly back into the restaurant and exchange nods with the hostess and you have this sense for a split second that you're the protagonist in a CBS procedural or something.

Related, to me, somehow: I realized the other week during an especially boring meeting I had to sit in on that one of the qualities in a person I've always found most attractive is the ability to synthesize. I always found it weirdly appealing (hot even?) in high school/college when -- during one of those classes when the teacher would break us up into small groups for inane/unproductive discussions -- the chosen representative from my group would present our "conclusions" to the class in some unexpectedly sharp and articulate way. All the better if he hadn't really contributed much (or seemed like he were even paying attention) during the small group discussion.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"get some pants that fit"

After tossing my suitcase into the trunk of my brother's car, I walked around to the front seat and gave my mom a hug goodbye. As I got in the car and my brother buckled his seat belt, my mother held the front door open and said - her parting words to me after a week-long family vacation on the Cape a few weeks ago - "Please Josh, get some pants that fit."

My mom has been on my case about what in her mind is an egregious "sagging" problem for years now. Every time I return home, within minutes of my arrival, she makes some pointed remark about my jeans (usually mid-sentence in a story she's telling about something completely unrelated). "Really, Josh? Do you see where those pants are falling on your waist?" "Josh, just being honest, you look completely ridiculous." (A common variant: the television will be on and she'll say something like, "Josh, do you see how Mario Lopez's pants look compared to yours?")

There's something about the clich├ęd nature of the complaint and her refusal to quit the campaign and the fact that my pants really don't sag that low (I swear!) that makes this ribbing mostly innocuous and charming to me. Sometimes I'll protest ("These aren't the kind of pants I wear out in New York!" "You have no idea how people dress," etc.) but most of the time, especially as of late, I'll just respond by rolling my eyes exaggeratedly or hiking my pants up to right below my chest ("Happy now?" "Yes.").

I imagine everyone has something like this with their mom - some weird, idiosyncratic, nitpicky thing that she just can't seem to let go of. In college, every time she brings whatever it is up (on Parents Weekend, at Thanksgiving, etc.) is so irritating; it only makes your parents seem crankier and more out-of-touch. But eventually their familiar, specific nagging feels as much a part of home as your childhood bed. You're 25 and so many aspects of your life seem like they're spiraling, but knowing your mom is out there worrying about the waist of your pants somehow keeps you from drifting out into orbit.

Monday, August 22, 2011

"media WORTHY justin BIEBER video"

About two weeks ago, I got an e-mail from someone named "Kyle" with the subject line "Boy Asks Bieber To Prom." The e-mail was short - explaining that a guy had made a YouTube video in which he asked Justin Bieber to be his date to prom - and it ended with a link to said video. "OK," I thought to myself, "This dude must be spamming blogger types with a link to his video. And, while it seems a little early to be inviting someone to a springtime prom, this is probably harmless."

But the next day I got an e-mail from "Devon" called "Justin Bieber News" which included basically the same message (with a few minor changes to sentence structures). Since then, I have received the same e-mail every day, though each comes from a different sender (the most recent missives have come from "McKenzie," "Ciara" and "Jade") and has a different subject line ("Prom Fever," "This could potentially be a BIG story," "Justin Bieber's Popularity").

I had something of a panic attack a few mornings ago when I checked my phone after waking up and saw I had gotten one at 3am ("EPIC Justin Bieber story" from "Larissa") - I leaped out of bed and set up a spam filter for all e-mails with "Bieber" in the subject line and hoped that would be the end of it. But, as if this multiple personality disorder-inflicted spambot could read my mind, the next e-mail came into my inbox the following day (from "Morgan") with the subject line "Kim Kardashian News." Still the same content about the kid asking Justin Bieber to prom... but with a trickster-y Kim K. decoy subject line!

I must admit I've had a few daymares about being 70 years old and still getting these e-mails every day. I refuse to actually watch the video itself for fear of some "The Ring"-style repercussion. I've contemplated writing back to one of the addresses (they all come from AOL accounts, of course) demanding for the e-assault to end, but have restrained myself from engaging with the enemy.

Perhaps one day I will come to actually tolerate or welcome the e-mails - in what would be a sort of online version of Stockholm Syndrome, I guess - but for now, I will continue to cringe every time I see the red "(1)" on my iPhone, desperately hoping that "Laura" or "Tori" or "Nicki" won't be waiting for me on the other side of the click.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

surreal interactions

1. As I approached a volunteer for some nonprofit up ahead on the street Tuesday, she extended her arms (nearly whacking me with her clipboard) and looked me right in the eye. "If I was drowning in water, would you save me?" she pleaded. I looked down and kept walking past her. "No, sorry," I said.

2. After leaving a rooftop party in Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon (#megaswag), I was craving a sugary drink. I stopped in a nearby deli and settled on a Pomegranate Pear Nantucket Nectars drink. I looked to my left and noticed this guy sizing up the beverage options. He turned to me and asked, "If you had unlimited funds, which of these drinks would you buy?" "Uhhh," I responded, trying to work out the connection between the two clauses. "I just sold my bike, so I have all this money," he explained. "I figured I'd buy a drink." "Oh, uh, well, I'm getting this pomegranate pear thing!" I said, before turning around and shouting "Good luck!" as I bolted to the register.

3. I was in line at Duane Reade yesterday and the woman at the front of the line was loudly complaining about the fact that they only had one register open. "This is a disgrace," she shouted, along with some other unintelligible stuff about "vacations," "brain-dead employees" and "deodorant." She continued ranting even as the cashier rang her up. After she left, the man who had been behind her in line (and in front of me) went up to the register. He took his receipt and then put his hands down on the counter and said to the cashier, in an eerie drawl, "Hang in there. It gets better." He walked out and, as I approached, the cashier just shook her head and widened her eyes. I couldn't think of anything to say so I tried to smile "empathetically" (though I'm pretty sure I just looked like I was trying to hold off a sneeze).

Thursday, July 28, 2011

the longest minutes

1. You've arrived at a date 10-15 minutes early, so you stroll around the block at an absurdly slow pace or browse the Barnes & Noble next door, flipping through books without taking in any of the words. You keep checking your phone, waiting for it to be at least three minutes past the planned meeting time so you can head to the bar.

2. You recognize an old acquaintance sitting in a booth at a restaurant or in the lobby of the theater, but you make the initial, instinctive decision to look straight ahead and walk right by. For the rest of the meal/intermission, you keep your gaze locked on the face of the friend you're with as if you're taking an eye exam and the chart's on her forehead.

3. You've accompanied a friend to a party at which you don't really know anyone. Your friend starts talking to a co-worker or a college pal and you stand there and try to involve yourself in the conversation to limited success. Suddenly your friend says he has to go to the bathroom, leaving you with the co-worker/college pal. "Uh oh," you realize, "I've gotta turn it up from 20% to 85% now."

4. You're on the subway and it's late at night and there are only two people in your car: one is sleeping and the other is singing or repeatedly cracking his knuckles or not wearing pants.

5. You're sitting on an airplane and you're waiting for the flight attendant to come by to pick up your trash.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

june 30-31

Last week I accompanied a friend of mine to a poetry reading. It was the first poetry reading I had ever attended and it definitely aligned with the expectations I had had going in: one female performer took her shirt off mid-poem; another (who was wearing a skirt over jeans) introduced her poem as a "micro-lyric essay"; one guy shouted an angry rant about insomnia. Everyone in the audience (men and women) looked like they were going as Sufjan Stevens for Halloween.

Earlier, on our way into the reading, my friend had recognized this blond guy with a rattail who was smoking a cigarette by the door. We had stopped to chat with him and I learned he was a "gardener" from Philadelphia. He was the kind of guy who says things like "Facebook is going to be our generation's downfall" and who wears hiking boots and shorts in spite of their perceived aesthetic rather than because of it.

I asked him if he was going to be one of the participating poets and he explained that, though he did write poems, he would not be reading any that night. I said that that was too bad and he then presented two fliers for a poetry festival he was going to be reading at later this summer on Governors Island. "You guys should come," he said, and my friend and I nodded in the most disingenuous way humans can nod.

After a few seconds of scanning the flier though, my friend blurted out, "Hey wait, did this... already happen?" and she pointed to the top of the flier where "JUNE 30-31" was written in huge, bold letters. I mumbled, "But June 31 isn't...." (I was too bashful to outright suggest there had been a typo.)

Our green-thumbed, rat-tailed friend did not look fazed in the slightest. "Oh, yeah, weird," he shrugged. "It's supposed to say July 30-31. I should let them know... I've been putting these up everywhere."

He smiled goofily, tossed his cigarette on the sidewalk and stepped on it, and then turned toward the door. "Let's head inside," he said. Something about the way he tilted his head and bent his knees as he walked through the door made me feel utterly silly for ever taking anything that happens in my life too seriously.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

what i've learned from living alone

I wrote a piece for Thought Catalog about living alone that went up today! I think the tags they put on it sum it up pretty well: Childlike, gchat, Katherine Heigl, Living Alone, Lonely, Martha Stewart, New York City, Ownership, Personal Writing, Studio, Wine

Check it out here!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

half-measures

I watched all of "Breaking Bad" over the past few weeks (highly recommended) and there's this one quote that's stuck with me. This menacing "fixer" guy named Mike (don't worry, this isn't going to be a major spoiler or anything) tells Walt (Bryan Cranston, a.k.a. the dad from "Malcolm in the Middle") this long, super intense story about a time he was working as a cop and had the chance to kill this terrible guy who was abusive to his wife. Instead of killing the guy though, Mike threatened him and let him go; a few weeks later, the guy ended up murdering his wife. Says Mike, "The moral of the story is: I chose a half-measure when I should have gone all the way."

Obviously the specifics of his story are not applicable to my own life in any way, but the message really struck a chord. I feel like I'm almost always settling for half-measures and, when I started to think about it, they rarely pan out all that well. I'll get this idea for something I want to do (anything from sending an e-mail to a cute dude to moving to France for a few months) and then I'll get in my own head and talk to people about it and start feeling all self-conscious and come up with all these reasons I should scale back and go with a half-measure instead. ("Instead of an e-mail, I'll... friend him on Facebook and wait until I see him again in eight months!" "Instead of moving to France for a few months, I'll... take a weekend trip upstate!") The risk and, of course, the reward are both diminished.

I've also been thinking about how the internet is this great enabler of half-measures. There's this degree of separation that social networks provide that makes it so easy to hold back -- to end a terse e-mail with a "hope everything's well," to write a passionate blog post anonymously, to not say what you really want to be saying -- and that's, ultimately, completely numbing. It's enough to make you want to scream; but instead you gchat a ":-("

Friday, June 24, 2011

ezra and me

Seems like this happens in every conversation I have lately:

- The person I'm talking to (let's call him Ezra) makes a statement about how something coming up for him is going to be exciting/fun/easy. ("I am so excited to get Summer Fridays starting next week...!")

- I respond positively, adding some sort of unsophisticated observation just to show that a) I'm listening and b) yeah, I agree, [whatever it is] does sound great! ("I'm so jealous! It'll be so nice having your weekends start early... especially if you're, like, going somewhere...")

- Ezra will look vaguely perturbed (not in a show-y way or anything) and come back with a kind of qualification, seemingly attempting to downplay the "awesomeness" of the news or caveat it in some way. ("Well, I'll probably end up having to stay in the office most Friday afternoons anyway...")

(Also, there's the inverse: Ezra brings up something frustrating/depressing/annoying; I shake my head and offer some kind of sympathetic comment; he responds after a moment with this different, more optimistic "well, it's not that bad" remark.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

behaviors I can't relate to

1. Writing "I miss your face" in any forum (Facebook wall, text message, etc.).

2. Wanting to exercise in any capacity (especially running on treadmills side-by-side) with a friend/significant other.

3. Referring to anything (especially people and GIFs) as your "spirit animal."

4. Beginning an e-mail with a reference to a half-hearted/failed attempt to meet up in the past before getting into the actual question/subject of the e-mail. ("We still need to get that coffee sometime!," etc.).

5. Making a "joke" about the number of jokes being made about the "rapture"/Anthony Weiner/Charlie Sheen/whatever.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

on seeing movies alone

As I entered the movie theater late Friday afternoon to see "X-Men: First Class" by myself, it dawned on me that I could easily recall every movie I've ever seen alone: "Babel," "The Town," and "The Bourne Ultimatum." It's not because these movies were so memorable (with the exception of that one scene in "The Town" where Don Draper and Serena van der Woodsen flirt at a bar, they weren't), it's that the awkwardness I felt about seeing a movie by myself was, in each case, so all-consuming. I would self-consciously sit in the back or far to the side in order to attract as little attention to myself as possible. I would fake text in my seat before the movie started, looking past people when they walked by my row as if I were searching for a friend I was waiting for. I imagined everyone around me was whispering to each other "OMG, do you see that guy in the sweatshirt who's here by himself? What a geekwad."

But this time was different! Like a mutant who learns to be proud of his freakish abilities, I actually felt just fine about being on my own. In fact, I realized after the fact that there are some really nice aspects of seeing a movie by yourself:

1. I could sit wherever I wanted to! Usually, since I like to avoid confrontation at all costs, I will nod in agreement no matter where my movie-going companion suggests we sit. ("Sure, the front row for this two-and-a-half hour long gore-fest sounds great!") Not an issue when you're by yourself! Additionally, when two teenage girls sit near you who are yammering loudly and eating sandwiches they smuggled in their purses that smell like fish tanks (I dunno), you can get up and move without a second thought. (You can do this when you're with someone, too, I guess, but it causes more of a commotion and just seems more dramatic.)

2. One of my biggest irrational pet peeves is people I'm with texting during a movie. Aahh, it annoys me so much! To set an example or something, I always make a point of not even looking at my phone during movies (not that my friends probably ever notice/care). But - and this is something I should probably bring to a therapist - when I was watching "X-Men," I checked my phone all the time! I looked at every text, checked the time every 10 minutes, etc. It was kind of great, I must admit. It made me think of an imaginary mother who always makes everyone take off their shoes in her house returning to an empty home one day and like jumping on her couch and stomping on the carpet in her heels and just loving it.

3. It's nice to be able to evaluate a movie on your own. I feel like, half of the time, I leave a movie and I'm not sure how I feel about it yet, but the person I'm seeing it with is like "omg I loved it so much I'm actually tweeting a rhyming ode to it right now" or "well, thaaaat sucked" and I feel like I have to just nod along or equivocate if I disagreed ("yeah, I guess it was weird how they never told us why he didn't eat the pancakes..."). It was kind of nice to leave "X-Men" and be able to just come up with all of my conclusions and evaluations on my own. Oh, and it was also nice that there was no one around to interrupt my prolonged post-movie daydream about walking around Paris with Michael Fassbender.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

weekend, 5/27-5/30

Friday afternoon. On our way out of "The Tree of Life," we overhear a 50-year-old man practically shout at his wife, "That's the last time I see something that Terry recommends." He then half-heartedly tries to warn people waiting for the next showing to "save their money" and see something else.

Saturday morning. I attempt to text "Lol" to Amanda, but the iPhone auto corrects it to "lollipop." It dawns on me that it's somewhat surprising (?) that "LOL-lipop" has never been a thing/punchline/meme (as far as I know, at least). Actually, maybe it's not that surprising.

Saturday afternoon. Walking on the street by myself, I wail "nooooo!" kind of loudly after accidentally archiving an e-mail on my phone. Recognize that that response is exactly the kind of thing I only find myself doing when I'm in a good mood.

Sunday morning. Get in elevator with two parents and their tween daughter. "So I am going to have a little chat with the doorman on our way out," the mom says. The daughter and father don't say anything, and then the mother exclaims, "What? The machine ate my money!" The father and daughter briefly exchange a smile behind her back.

Sunday evening. Passing movie theater, it strikes me as odd that there's never been a quirky female character in an indie romantic comedy who buys popcorn in an oversized bucket from the concession stand on her way out of a movie and then takes it with her to the park or the roller derby or wherever she and the guy are going.

Monday afternoon. On a search for extra strength Tylenol, I stop in two different Duane Reades (and a CVS!), only to find that they're all out of it. Weirdly, I find this sort of comforting, imagining all of these zombie New Yorkers traipsing around the city on fruitless journeys for Tylenol.

Monday evening: A mother tries to say goodbye to her 10-year-old son outside of Whole Foods while a babysitter type stands a few feet away. The mother keeps repeating her goodbye while her son just makes robot noises and shuffles in place, clinging to her shirt. Somehow heartbreaking.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

thoughts, two weeks after getting an iPhone

1. So I finally got an iPhone two weekends ago after years of (somewhat inexplicable) resistance. My go-to "excuse" - whenever I would be asked with disdain why I still had a Blackberry - was that I had "fat thumbs" and was worried I wouldn't be able to type quickly on a touch screen, which for some reason I would always say as if it was this hilarious punchline, and which almost always resulted in either a thumb-width "contest" with the questioner or a confused nod (both disconcerting!). Anyway, one of the great things about my now having an iPhone is that I will (hopefully) never be tempted to embarrass myself with this weird "fat thumbs" riff ever again.

2. Related, an almost-as-great thing is that now I no longer have to put up with everyone lecturing me about how much I need an iPhone/offering me their iPhone to "try"/telling me that "if only I had an iPhone, then I could easily find the best Thai restaurant within a two-block radius of our current location that is cat-friendly and only plays rap music and serves imported ale."

3. Also great: I no longer have to feel inferior and sullen whenever I see an iPhone screen shot posted on Twitter or on someone's blog. (Seriously, I think "desire to finally be able to take screen shots of my text message convos" comprised about 78% of the "what motivated me to finally get an iPhone" pie chart.)

4. But - surprise, surprise - I have some complaints. For one thing, I still, some two weeks later, sort of feel like I am slapping on a cheese board when I try to text. Or, to attempt a different metaphor (I know, topping that cheese board one is going to be TOUGH), when I'm typing on the touch screen I feel like I'm a dolphin jabbing at typewriter keys with one of its fins.

5. I'm guessing this is probably a common source of frustration (and humor, I suppose) in the "iPhone community," but the auto correct function - while sometimes "smart" and helpful - is at other times terribly frustrating. Every "like" somehow becomes a "Luke," every "you" a "toy," etc. So far, almost all of the texts I've sent have ended up reading like Google Translate results.

6. I was given the choice at the store between a white or black iPhone and decided to get a white one, assuming that was the original iPhone color... only to find out later from my brother (and everyone else I've seen since) that, in fact, white iPhones were just recently released. So now I feel especially regretful about my choice to get a black case, which basically negated any "cool" points my accidental hip choice may have earned me. I also feel like this says a lot about my observation "skills" considering all my friends have had iPhones for like the past 15 years.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"wait and ditch"

So there's this restaurant near my apartment that I've been going to pretty regularly (let's say, once or twice a month) for about a year now. It's a casual wine bar kind of place; they don't take reservations; you can get a small bowl of almonds for a few dollars, etc. A few months ago, I noticed that a new waiter had joined the stable who looked like a slightly more attractive Landry from "Friday Night Lights" (square jaw, cropped blond hair, thick glasses).

A few weeks ago, my friend and I were there for dinner and Landry was our waiter. He was polite but by no means chatty. (We asked him what his favorite sandwiches on the menu were and he answered with a series of what can only be described as shrugs.) After he cleared our entrees -- my friend and I in that "do we want that second glass of wine or not?" stage -- he returned to our table (keep it mind it was only like 8:45pm at this point) and announced, "I just wanted to let you guys know I have to leave the restaurant for the night. I'm going to give your table over to Joan... you'll be in good hands."

We both mumbled some variation of "Oh, okay, thanks" and looked at each other uncertainly.

About thirty minutes later (we had gone for that second glass), on my way back to our table from the bathroom, I bumped right into Landry in the back of the restaurant. He was carrying a few plates on his way into the kitchen.

"Oh.... um, you're still here?" I said.
"Yeah..."
"I thought you were leaving though...?" (The only explanation I have for my uncharacteristically confrontational behavior here is that I guess I felt sort of offended/perplexed that he had apparently lied to us about leaving for the night.)

He looked at me for a few seconds -- and for a moment I thought he might slap me (I wish I knew why my brain works as it does) -- but instead he just sort of shrugged and said, "What can I say? I just can't get myself to leave this place!"

My friend and I spent the next ten minutes at our table deliberating possible explanations for the mid-meal ditch. Had he just not liked us (we had, somewhat annoyingly, made a production of asking him how to correctly pronounce the restaurant's name)? Had we not ordered enough to make waiting around for the tip worth his while? Had he been planning to meet some girl/dude for a date, only to have received a "can't make it" text on his way out, at which point he felt too awkward to then return to our table?

After we signed the check, I asked Joan, who had been perfectly adequate, what had happened to "our first waiter."

"If only I knew," she said. My friend and I both nodded familiarly, as if Landry were a relative who, despite everyone's whispered hopes, was just never able to get his act together.

Friday, May 13, 2011

daydreamin'

I've found there are a few daydreams that I return to with some frequency. There's one in which I'm sitting by a pool with Blake Lively and she gets some text message and she reads it out loud and we break out in a fit of giggles. And I have another one in which I'm doing really good skateboarding stuff: just like astoundingly coordinated maneuvers on one of those half-pipes.

But the one I return to the most often involves this spaceship-y control room with five monitors playing different video feeds: the kind of room where the goon security guard gets knocked out by the superhero's sidekick in a movie. Anyway, in this particular daydream, I get to sit in the chair and the five monitors in front of me are each playing a different scene, representing the five moments that would most rupture my understanding of my life, incidents that would force me to re-contextualize everything about my relationships. We're talking on the level of seeing a loved one in the midst of an ongoing affair, or seeing your best friend steal something valuable from your house five years ago. (For some reason I always imagine these scenes would be "negative" moments, but I suppose they could be "happy/sentimental" reveals, too, like seeing your mother's secret art studio where she's been painting landscapes for years without telling anyone about it.)

Sometimes I contemplate what would actually be playing on my feeds, but, truly, just the idea of this room is what gets me completely elated - and also frustrated, I guess (but in the "gahhhh I wish this were a real thing" good way). I imagine getting off a subway car one day and taking a wrong turn and ending up there. Some attendant in knight's armor will hand me a Capri-Sun and direct me to the chair and each screen will illuminate one by one. I'll cover my eyes and watch through a slit in my fingers at first, like I did throughout "No Country for Old Men," overcome with anticipation at how everything is about to change.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

the wrong floor

I returned to my apartment with a few bags the other afternoon, on one of those days when it's too hot to wear a winter coat but too cold to wear a fleecy thing so everyone outside is uncomfortable temperature-wise. I had just stopped by this cafe near my apartment where I once spotted butternut squash apple cider soup but which has mysteriously been out of said soup every time I've returned to look for it since. I got off the elevator and, as I walked to my door, a father and his baby son passed me going in the opposite direction.

The baby sort of squawked at me as it walked past and I said something like "hi baby" (I tend to treat small children as if they are farm animals -- "you're cute but stay at least two feet away from me"). I got to my door and turned to catch another glimpse of the baby and suddenly realized the door was not opening. I jammed the key repeatedly, trying not to make too much of a commotion, but had no luck. I looked up and, to my horror, realized I was on the 16th floor instead of the 11th and had therefore been trying desperately to get into the wrong apartment. Meanwhile, I was aware of Baby staring at me as Dad scrolled on his iPhone. And somehow Baby's glare made me feel infinitely more panicked and embarrassed.

I thought about explaining my error to them, but it seemed like I was too far gone at this point. I had tried to open this door about seven times. Who doesn't notice they're at the wrong door for seven tries? And this was a guy I could potentially be seeing in the elevator for years to come -- did I really want him thinking I was some space cadet who just moseys around trying his key in various doors and seeing what happens?

At that moment, the dad turned to look at me, probably having just come to the realization that I had been standing in front of this door for about a minute without having successfully entered the apartment.

At a loss, I whipped my Blackberry out of my pocket and held it to my ear (years of fake-texting to avoid awkward situations have clearly had an effect on my instincts)... but I couldn't bring myself to actually say anything. I just stared ahead at the door, holding my Blackberry to my ear with clenched fingers, waiting for Baby and Dad to get on the elevator. Thankfully this happened about ten, long seconds later, at which point I just dropped my bags on the carpet of the 16th floor and exhaled.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

times i feel foreign to myself

1) When, while sampling some new brand of pita chips I bought the other day, I find myself taking a picture of the bag with my phone and sending it to a few friends with the caption "these are AMAZING!"


2) When a taxi driver makes some sort of attempt at humor ("Well, that guy is clearly a tourist!") and I laugh in this breathy, staccato manner for a few seconds.


3) When I'm struck with an impulse to send a "it was so good to see you last night!!" text to a good friend the day after getting dinner with him/her.


4) When I'm crafting the Paragraphs of Questions ("So how are things with you??" etc.) in a long e-mail to a friend.


5) Whenever I have to describe "how work is going"/"how I like my new apartment" to an adult I don't know well.

Friday, April 22, 2011

no thank you, gmail

This new gmail feature that suggests potential contacts based on addresses you've already entered in the "to" field is disconcerting in the same way as those Amazon.com "We think you'll like..." e-mails. Sure, if I've entered my mother's e-mail address, there's a good chance I'm going to add my father's next; and sure, if I bought Lauren Conrad's first book (obviously, we're talking about a hypothetical me here), I probably will think about buying her second one... but is this really the aspect of our internet life that most needed to be addressed with a flashy new feature?

There are a lot of things I'd love gmail to do for me: filter for passive-aggressive turns of phrase, remove people from party invites that I am going to regret having included later, auto-link relevant GIFs on certain key words. But this particular issue -- uncertainty as to who to include on an e-mail -- is not one I've ever felt impeded my e-mail efficiency or believed would benefit from a "helpful hand."

Sure, you could argue that having suggested contacts there "could come in handy" or something, but I'd argue, if anything, their inclusion adds time to your e-mailing process, either because it sends you down a tunnel of nostalgia ("Oh, yeah, I remember when I used to include Tim on these group e-mails....") or because it makes you feel more guilty about any sort of sketchy social maneuver you're pulling (i.e. consciously excluding Daisy from brunch while her name sits right there glaring at you).

Also, who wants to feel that their internet conduct is that predictable? Gmail, you've homogenized enough about how we interact/communicate -- give us at least the illusion of autonomy!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

putting down the chewy stuff

Don't feel like I'm hyperbolizing all that much in positing that my quitting gum about a month ago has majorly improved my overall mood and general quality of life.

There was a time, back in high school, when I was known amongst my group of friends for my gum supply. The top pouch of my monogrammed L.L. Bean backpack was at all times stuffed with packs of gum. My best friends felt it completely acceptable to use my backpack pouch as their personal vending machine, sometimes even coming up behind me without notice and withdrawing as I waited for the train or strolled across campus.

I chewed all the time: when I was nervous, when I was bored, after lunch, after coffee, after dinner, before a party, during a party, after a party, when I was feeling angsty, when I was feeling elated. It was disgusting. This behavior persisted throughout college and for my first few years in New York. (I sort of unwittingly fell back into my "gum dispenser" role at my old consulting job, which I'm sure made me seem so mature that it was almost intimidating for everyone else in the office.)

Anyway, a few months ago I decided that a true adult doesn't chew gum (please, someone submit that to inspirationalquotes.net) and that I would try to quit. And: so far, so good!

Here are some of the ways I feel my life has improved:

1) I am saving money. I would estimate, thanks to some extremely scientific calculations, that I've probably been spending upwards of $75/year on gum. Not this year!
2) I no longer have to worry that I'm inadvertently resembling a character from "Clueless" every time I talk.
3) I feel "healthier." When I have a craving for gum now, I try to subside it with a glass of water or a cup of tea or some raisins or carrots or Tic Tacs. This "diet" makes me feel like I'm a middle-aged duchess and it's great.
4) I feel saner? I think? Life seems quieter since I've gone gum-less (due in part to the absence of constant chomping, I suppose), like the aural equivalent of being able to actually see the stars in the sky when you're out in the country.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

oh na na

There is a fleet of six doormen who take turns manning the front desk in my new building. Having a doorman is a new phenomenon for me, and it's certainly taking some getting used to. There's something almost uncomfortable about having your comings and goings "monitored" by a vaguely parental figure, one who mutters "good luck out there" when it's raining or "good morning" as you leave the apartment in sweats at 2pm.

Anyway, there is one of the six who is younger than the others and, if he wasn't wearing a suit, he wouldn't look out of place at a Sleigh Bells concert or Central Park on a Saturday afternoon. Rather than doling out verbal greetings like his comrades, he seems to prefer a barely perceptible head-nod or an extremely controlled wave. As such, I've identified a pretty embarrassing desire within me to "impress" him. But I reached a major road block in this quest last week when he accompanied one of his waves with a "Hey, Josh," and I found that I couldn't reciprocate his friendly gesture because... I didn't remember his name.

Now, this guy does wear a name tag but, aligned with his overall brand, it droops in such a manner that it's basically impossible to make out what it says (even when you're standing right in front of him). I have made up a whole series of reasons to stop and talk to him over the past week, trying to slyly kneel and crane my neck at just the right time and at just the right angle while I "listen" to whatever he's saying. So far, I've been able to conclude his name starts with a "B"... and that's about it. I got one momentary direct glance and I saw "Bloiche," which a) cannot be correct and b) I wouldn't even DARE try to pronounce anyway.

I've attempted the ole "have a friend introduce herself" trick (she reported back: "I think 'Ben'? Or, like, 'Bizarre'?"). I've also contemplated just admitting to him I don't remember his name (but keep deciding that it would be too embarrassing after having had so many interactions with him). I have even mulled asking my mom to call the front desk when I know he's on duty to have her coax it out of him.

So I wait for two possible resolutions: the day I am no longer so self-conscious that I can't just ask someone to remind me what his name is, or the day "Bloiche" gets his name tag readjusted. I feel pretty confident I know which will happen first.

Friday, April 8, 2011

"will get to this in a bit!"

The most frustrating response to an e-mail which is clearly looking for some kind of reply - a long story, a forwarded invitation accompanied with "thoughts?," etc. - is one in which the recipient just states his or her plans to get to your e-mail later. "Oh, hmm! More from me soon." Or: "Will look at this later." Same idea as when you send someone a YouTube link and they write back, "Oh, can't wait to check this out in a bit!" More often than not, in either case, you never get a subsequent e-mail from the person, as if they believe the mere act of having immediately responded somehow negates their not having actually reacted.

Friday, April 1, 2011

my favorite kind of lunch

After a long morning spent with your mom or your friend doing errands or shopping or something, you find a place to get lunch that doesn’t look at all remarkable from the outside. It’s one of those places with a person’s name in its name (“Andy’s Deli,” “Helen’s Mediterranean Cuisine”), a buffet-style station characterized mainly by steam, lighting that recalls a hospital hallway...

But from the second you walk inside, a particular kind of fatigue-fueled, punch-drunk hyperbole kicks in.

“Oh, this place is so cute!”
“Can you believe how much stuff they have on this sandwich menu? Seriously, look at it.”
“They have egg salad, too?! Are you kidding me?!”

The charade lasts for the entirety of the meal, chowed down in the nondescript seating area. “I would come to this place every day if I lived near here,” your mom might say. “Ohmigod, I almost want to ask them if I can just buy a jar of this honey mustard,” you might exclaim. The cashier says you get a pickle with your meal and you both audibly cheer.

Both of you are aware that you’re being sort of disingenuous, that there’s some sort of hard-to-qualify “joke” going on here, but there’s something about the repartee that seems familiar and makes you feel close with the person, so you keep it up until you leave the deli, almost certainly never to return again.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

three scenes from a strange week

1) I was awoken on Tuesday morning by Amanda, my roommate, who was in hysterics because she could not find "Mr. Cat," her sister's cat which she had agreed to cat-sit for ten days while her sister vacations in California. My immediate reaction was one of amusement (something about our disheveled attire, Amanda's tearful cries of "Mr. Caaaaaat," and my having told a slew of bad sitcom-y jokes about hating the cat the previous night). Eventually our superintendent showed up and found the cat hiding behind the washing machine next to a serving of rat poison (!) that had been placed there a number of months ago. (So yes, it is safe to assume the cat was contemplating suicide.) A few hours later, I took a picture of the cat staring at a pineapple (what, you don't all use pineapples as doorstops in your apartments?). I put it on Facebook and it got nine "likes," three of which came from people I haven't seen or heard from in at least five years.

2) I arrived at a party I had been invited to for a new Cosmo iPad app Wednesday night where Pauly D of "Jersey Shore" fame was DJing. After entering the club (with the requisite austere/vague name -- "District 36"), I surveyed the crowded scene. Buff caterers were carrying around trays of mini-cupcakes. Vanna-Whites-in-training, adorned with gobs of makeup, circulated the room showcasing "display iPads." Meanwhile, the crowd of young professionals danced half-heartedly, blithely mouthing the words of Rihanna's "S&M" ("chains and whips excite me") while alternately shouting into the ears of their friends and checking their iPhones. "This is what being an extra in an establishing shot on 'Entourage' must feel like," I thought.

3) I asked Amanda where I should get lunch today, my last day in this apartment before I move out tomorrow. "Um, why don't you just go to the deli downstairs for a sandwich?" Now, in the 22 months I have lived in this apartment, I have probably hit up "the deli downstairs" at least once a week for water, snacks, soda, etc., but, for some reason, not even once did I consider that they probably made sandwiches. I felt totally shellshocked by Amanda's suggestion, like when someone teaches you a new application for a favorite condiment that you had never considered or tells you you've been pronouncing a person's name wrong for three years. "Yeah, go down and get a BLT or something," she said. And so I did. While I was paying for my sandwich, Amanda walked in. "This is my roommate," she said to the woman at the cashier. "Aahhhh," the cashier said, "He just asked me for a bag - he's causing me a lot of problems." Amanda and her laughed at this like old college friends. The cashier handed me my bag and I said "thanks" three times before walking out.

Friday, March 18, 2011

types I just can't understand

1. The couple who enters a movie about 15 minutes after it started. They seem to be holding like five different coats and they're making no effort to whisper as they look around for a place to sit.

2. Your friend's friend's roommate who, when you ask him at the bar if he knows so-and-so who works at his company, responds: "Oh, yeah! Tim's good people."

3. A public figure who, while giving a speech or talking on a panel, notices someone in the audience has gotten up and left the room (probably just to go to the bathroom or something!) and decides to make note of it. "Uh oh. Am I boring everyone?" he "jokes," receiving a few unenthusiastic laughs.

4. The friend (who you see maybe once a month at best) who texts you on a Friday at 7pm: "Hey, know this is totally random but I'm like a block away from your apartment right now!! You around??? Wanna hang out??"

5. The person who uploads a Facebook album of pictures from middle school, titled "Look what I found!!!!!" or "MEMORIES :) :) :)"

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

comforting/distressing

A great feeling: when a friend is chatting about someone (it's better if it's someone you both know as opposed to someone famous) and she notes something annoying/unappealing (aesthetic or otherwise) about the person that is something you sometimes worry people perceive about you. "Oh nice," you think to yourself, "There's no way she would go on for five minutes about Becky's gross acne if my acne was really all that noticeable. She would never be that callous!" I'm sure there's some psych principle about how really people are just looking for affirmation anywhere they can find it, but it still feels reassuring in the moment in a really base way.

The opposite, sort of: when you realize that a friend has blatantly ignored a piece of "counsel" you gave him, the first response is always to see that as a personal reflection on yourself. You notice while scrolling through his iPod that he didn't actually save that album you e-mailed him a few months ago (which he had written back he was "really into") and you get all quiet for a few seconds and contemplate whether you should make a "joke" about it or not.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

at the table

A moment I love:

When your whole family is home for the holidays or Thanksgiving or something and you're sitting at the dinner table (dinner ended like twenty minutes ago but no one's cleared their plates yet) and an argument has broken out. Everyone's getting riled up and more entrenched in their particular point of view and the debate is escalating. And then, at a certain point, a family member (while making some "serious" assertion) incorporates a ridiculous/oddly-chosen phrase (e.g. "popcorn dust," "Rihanna hair") and everyone, including the speaker, has to really struggle to not smile as the argument continues.

For some reason, I'm often reminded of this sort of tableau when it's raining at night.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

weekend, 2/25-2/27

Friday evening. It dawns on me at dinner that the difference between Your Best Friends and All Your Other Friends is that with best friends you don't have to widen your eyes and say "oh reaaally?" when they tell you something you can tell they think is particularly surprising/interesting.

Friday evening, later: I spot this "Mila Kunis is Bored" flier in the East Village, taped on Amanda Seyfried's head in a Red Riding Hood poster. Decide this is the best thing that has happened to me since I moved to New York.

Friday night, 1:05am. I get in a cab in the West Village.
Cab driver, after about a minute of driving: "You going home?"
Me: "... yeah."
Cab driver: "So early?"
Me: "Um, yeah.... I guess so."
(Two minutes pass)
Cab driver: "I can drop you off at Greenhouse if you want.... it's a club."
Me: "Ha. Ha. Thanks, but I think I'm OK."

Saturday afternoon. Finish Justin Bieber profile in Rolling Stone. The word "swag" is used probably 78 times in the piece (mostly in Bieber-attributed quotes), which makes me worried we're going to see a proliferation of TV/movie dad characters "comically" using the word "swag" to seem "with it" over the next few years.

Saturday early evening. Decide I'm at my least sincere when sending "yeah, you should totally stop by if you can make it!!" texts on Saturday nights.

Sunday afternoon. A man in his mid-50s, probably, wearing khakis and a windbreaker, asks for a bagel "scooped." He waits a few seconds and then adds, in a husky growl, "and cream cheese on the side, please." The whole interaction makes me wonder if he's been Freaky Friday-ed with some tween girl who is at the same time ordering a black coffee somewhere across town.

Sunday night. Here are a selection of the brief e-mails my mom sent me during the Oscars from her Blackberry:
(10:35pm) "They are terrible hosts."
(10:37pm) "Nothing has been young about this show other than the hosts."
(10:38pm) "Billy Crystal on for 10 seconds made you realize what a host couldd be."
(10:50pm) "If. Iam ready to turn it offthings are really bad"
(11:35pm) "Unbelievable to me that they put the Kings speech thru all the best films"
(11:40pm) "Worst ever"

Friday, February 25, 2011

the man who walked with sticks

The "hottest" Halloween party when I was in college was this massive dance party thrown every year by the art and architecture graduate students. They had it in this building about halfway up some giant hill (though now I'm wondering if I'm just imagining that it was on a hill due to the "psychological height" I was forced to climb in mustering the courage to attend this party).

Senior year my roommate and I dressed as basketball players from High School Musical for Halloween (age appropriate as ever). We arrived at the art and architecture party and it was something of a mad house. We went outside for fresh air (I think? Actually more likely is that we wandered around inside for 45 minutes and didn't see anyone we knew) and while we were loitering we heard this guy calling at us from the window of an empty room. He asked us if we had a lighter (we didn't) but he was friendly and we were bored and we started chatting and a few minutes later we found ourselves inside his art studio.

His costume was really great. He was a Popsicle... which doesn't sound like it would be so impressive but it was like POPSICLE TO THE MAX (well-tailored one-piece red jumpsuit that I'm pretty sure he had sewn himself; red face paint; surprisingly "real-looking" Popsicle stick affixed to his back). As he sipped on tea, he informed us that he had won the art grad school costume contest earlier that evening.

He also told us about his senior project: a one-man "performance" he was planning in which he was going to carry about seven or eight giant sticks from New Haven to New York. Yes, he was going to walk the 80 or so miles, schlepping these giant eight foot sticks all the way. (I'm pretty sure he used some "artist-y" euphemism for "stick," btw, but I can't remember what it was.) My roommate and I were totally in awe. This guy was a smoking enthusiast/costuming champion/performance artist dude in his late 20s; we were college seniors dressed as Zac Efron for Halloween.

A few months later, I thought he might be a good subject for a profile I had to do for a writing class, so I e-mailed him about meeting up for coffee. He arrived wearing a gold spandex outfit (pants and matching top), which I decided must have been his version of "jeans and a t-shirt" considering the nonchalant way he sauntered into the coffee shop. He told me about The Walk (which had been completed successfully some months earlier) and I listened rapturously.

Even though I ended up writing the profile about a music teacher at a New Haven public school instead, and even though I don't remember a thing he told me about the walk itself other than that he wore the same shirt the whole time, I still find myself thinking about him now and then as if he were a character in a movie I saw a few years ago that I keep meaning to re-watch.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

vaguely depressing

1. When a musical act that was once super famous and that you were really into at the time just... keeps on releasing songs, even though no one pays any attention to them anymore. #maroon5 #ciara

2. When two of your friends from completely different eras in your life -- both of whom you've either fallen out of touch with or were never that close with to begin with -- become friends with each other on Facebook. They start writing on each other's walls ("OMG we HAVE to go back to Victor's next weekend") and you realize that they must have struck up a IRL friendship in Chicago or wherever it is they live.

3. After weeks of telling your best friend about how some new co-worker or roommate of yours (let's call her Charlotte) is mad irritating -- which, in turn, causes your best friend to scowl when Charlotte's name comes up and to make disparaging remarks about Charlotte even though she hasn't met her or anything -- your feelings about Charlotte start to change. Suddenly she isn't annoying you so much; you even start hanging out with her one-on-one now and then. You tell your best friend over lunch one day and she does a spit-take. "What?!" she says, "I thought you hated her." And then you find yourself adamantly defending Charlotte to your best friend (getting way more passionate about it than you actually feel) and contemplating how you got to this point.

4. When you realize you have inadvertently ended all of your text messages for the past week with the emoticon ":P"

5. When you have this long conversation with one of your good friends who is dealing with some sort of issue and you offer him all sorts of advice and you feel all satisfied afterwards (not because you're happy that your friend is sad but because you just feel especially close with him in that moment). Then, a day later, the friend sends an "update" e-mail or forwards some exchange about whatever you guys were talking about and there are seven people on the e-mail.

Monday, February 14, 2011

"catch what you hit"

As if I were emulating a McAdams/Heigl character, I've recently taken to sleeping with my Blackberry next to my face. To be clear, it's a "I am too lazy to roll over and plug this into my charger" thing rather than a "OMG! What if the office needs me?" thing. But, as a result, I've adopted this bizarre habit of waking up in the middle of the night and - in a more-than-half-asleep stupor - typing things (usually related to my dreams) in my phone. It's like sleep-texting. Thankfully, I haven't actually sent any of these texts (yet); but I've been waking up in the morning with like three drafts in my inbox.

Last night was an especially "productive" night.

1:47 a.m. "Those dumplings were unreal, bro."

I really have no clue where this one came from. I think I must have been dreaming/thinking about this bro-y guy I was fixated on sitting across from me on the subway last night (... and embodying his spirit/taking on his vernacular?).

4:42 a.m. I actually gave this one a "title": "Dream - best Modern Family episode EVER." And then I wrote the following lines (I have absolutely no idea how I wrote so much text in my phone at this hour):

Guy says to Leslie Knope, "you look like Amy Poehler but a lesbian."

Meryl Streep and Will Smith have a cute romance (Mom says this is the least believable plotline)

Sofia Vergara standing by water fountain adjusting heels, like at a nice hotel

Sounds like a KILLER "Modern Family" episode, huh?

7:11 a.m. "Catch what you hit."

I sort of remember the dreaming behind this one. I was playing baseball (as I so often do in real life) and I hit this far shot (definitely what that's called) and then I ran into the outfield to catch the ball that I hit (there was no one else on the field). I awoke with a start and wrote these four words in my phone in quotation marks as if it was the most profound aphorism in the world. When I woke up for real about an hour later, I read it and just shook my head.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

matt! hi!

A new thing I've been trying ("new month, new things" = my mantra) is beginning my e-mails "PERSON'S NAME! Hi!" So if I was sending an e-mail to Matt, I'd write, "Matt! Hi!"... then hit "return" twice and get into the meat of my e-mail.

These are the issues I've had in the past with the ways people commonly address their e-mails:

"Matt," (variant: "Hi,")

Impersonal! Makes me feel like I'm a bank inviting you to try our new smartphone app.

"Hey!" (variants: "Hi!" "Yo!")

Too positive/cheery/that-girl-in-your-office-who-always-brings-in-baked-goods-y. And when the content of your e-mail is, like, a reminder to bring money to dinner tomorrow night, this kind of greeting seems especially gratuitous/disingenuous.

"Hey Matt!" (variant: "Hey Matt,")

Too much like a second grade teacher writing in a workbook to one of her students.

"Hiiiiiii"

I was so into this kind of greeting for a few months about a year ago and then one day I almost sent my landlord an e-mail that started this way and it was this really important reality check where I was like "Seriously, Josh? Relax."

No greeting

This is generally fine if you're e-mailing one of your very good friends, but if you're writing a so-so friend, it can be too personal, the equivalent of leaning in too close while talking to an acquaintance at a party.

So now I'm in a "Matt! Hi!" phase. It's kind of weird, I suppose, but I like the inversion of it and how it's (I think?) reflective of what people say when they greet people IRL. I mean, it's also sort of irritating and, thanks to the exclamation points, comes across as too friendly - and I'll probably be embarrassed when I see it in old e-mails a year or two from now - but, for now, it's light years ahead of "Hiiiiiiiiiiii" in my mind.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

'poultry in motion'

Every once in a while you'll be having a conversation and someone will ask "Do you remember what life was like before the internet?" (or a variation like "Remember when we had to CALL EACH OTHER to make plans?" or "Isn't it funny how, before Facebook, we didn't know anyone's birthday? LOL!"). I generally find that sort of "conversation starter" vaguely irritating because there's really no response you can give other than some form of "Yes! I do! Ha ha! Those times were before these times."

But for some reason whenever someone does evoke pre-internet days, I ALWAYS immediately recall the same memory from about ten years ago. My brother and I were staying up late on a Friday night watching "Chicken Run" on VHS in my parents' bedroom. I remember thinking the movie was going to be so lame (I was in the midst of my "ornery and discontented" phase). Yet Sam and I, improbably, ended up loving it so much that, as soon as it ended, we rewound it and watched the entire movie a second time, writing down our favorite lines on a pad of paper as it played. I remember presenting the eight or nine page document to my parents later as if it was a sculpture I had chiseled out of marble or something.

I guess the internet was sort of around in 2000 or 2001 or whenever this was, and I'm not entirely sure why THIS is the one anecdote I associate with the notion of a pre-internet life, but I suppose the whole thing - the repeat viewing, the handwritten list, the sense of embarking on a project with an utter lack of skepticism or self-consciousness - just strikes me as belonging to a completely different era.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

thoughts re: friends

1. I've noticed that whenever I'm in conversation with a "new" friend, I will almost always do one of the following: go on for too long about someone we both know in a way that makes me feel regretful when I think about it later; reveal an overly personal detail after a perceived lull (a lull which, in its multiple beats, seems "make-or-break" somehow); indicate strong feelings about an issue I really do not care about at all.

2. I rarely feel closer to a friend than when I call her because there's something I just desperately need to tell her, and she picks up and says "Hi, I'm actually at lunch with Fran right now so I can't talk" but I say "OK, but..." and I blurt out whatever the news is and she squeals in this muted way and says "Ohmigod, I'll call you later."

3. I realized the other day that, in a good number of my friendships (especially the more recently formed ones), there's often some sort of weird incident or circumstance between us - which occurred before we became close - that just always goes undiscussed, no matter how many times I see the person or how intimate the friendship becomes. Maybe I know she unfriended me on Facebook sophomore year only to re-friend me a year later (with a "how were we not friends before??" message); maybe we sat near each other in a lecture for a whole semester without ever talking before we were friends; whatever it is, I'll occasionally wonder if it's hidden away in her mental attic, too, or if this is something only I am aware of.

Monday, January 17, 2011

things that happened this weekend

- I watched the music video for Jessica Simpson's "Take My Breath Away" twice.

- The coffee shop I go to changed its wireless password from "ilovesheepalot" to the (moderately disturbing, I feel) "sheeplove."

- I stared at this picture of Mila Kunis and Jon Hamm for about seven minutes (no exaggeration) at about 2 a.m. on Friday night. I then went to brush my teeth and managed to snap my toothbrush in half while brushing (note: I've never heard of that happening to anyone ever). It just snapped. I can only assume there was some sort of energy buildup/release going on there.

- My feet got so cold in my apartment Saturday afternoon that I put on athletic, white socks over dress socks. That night, at a bar, I remembered that I was wearing two pairs of socks and did this little widening smirk thing with the lower half of my face that thankfully no one noticed.

- A homeless man called out at me "Hey, Max, any change?" and I was so taken aback by his just, I dunno, taking a chance and calling me "Max" that I stopped walking for a second. In retrospect, I'm wondering if maybe he actually said "man" or "hombre" (?) or "snacks" or something.

- The place I had dinner Saturday night had a page in its menu titled "White Wine in a Box" which was just a written parody of "Dick in a Box" that for some reason was about Lindsay Lohan.

- I found myself at a 80s-themed dance party Saturday night at which this guy started talking to my friend Marissa (who is a dancer). After a minute or two, he turned to me (I was basically just standing there bobbing my head and swaying slightly, hunching over to seem less tall) and asked earnestly, "Oh, are you a dancer, too?" (oh also, I was holding a giant coat). I was so amused that I couldn't even form a response so I just half nodded as if I couldn't hear what he was saying.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

insulation frustration

When I got back from Boston after the holidays, I was informed by my roommate that, in my absence, the superintendent had "insulated" the windows in our bedrooms. Now, as best I could tell upon examination, this "insulating" had consisted of his hastily duct taping some plastic wrap in our window bays, but I was still pleased considering my bedroom had been awfully chilly since early December.

Well, it is now about a week since I returned to New York, and I ain't so pleased anymore.

Here's the thing: while it is marginally warmer in my bedroom post-insulation, the plastic wrap is taped in such a way that it makes this crinkly, popping noise in its natural resting state. The best way I can describe the noise is "dysfunctional popcorn machine." And there's no pattern to the "popping" whatsoever: five minutes of silence will be followed by 45 seconds of an origami bird having a seizure.

About three times a night, I have half-lucid fantasies of tearing off my bedsheets, standing up in bed, ripping off the plastic sheet triumphantly, and then happily dissipating into Alex Mack-style goo in my bed, finally able to fall asleep. Once I woke up in the morning so sure that I had torn down the "insulation" during the throes of my slumber that when I heard the popping as I got dressed I thought I had gone mad and was stuck with this noise for life.

I feel like I am trapped in a miserable "Would You Rather?" game: would you rather be freezing cold but able to sleep in silence or be comfortably warm but woken up about three times a night and driven to near-insanity by the grumbles of the plastic monster?

Of course, I could probably tear down the plastic and construct a makeshift "insulation" of stuffed animals or avocados or whatever, but the masochist in me is loving this continual source of agony.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

boy with a beaded necklace

When I was home in Boston for the holidays I found this necklace sitting in a ceramic bowl I made for my mother for Valentine's Day or something when I was like 12. When I was in middle school, I used to think this necklace was the "flyest" accessory imaginable. Whenever there was some kind of big event (like a dance or a party or one of those "winter festival" things), I would always be sure to "rock" this necklace (after applying a squirt, or seven, of Abercrombie "Fierce" cologne).

I put on the necklace last week when I found it and, sure, it was funny in the obvious "look at this idiotic thing I used to think was super cool" way. But, after providing that initial giggle, it struck me more profoundly as a reminder that probably everything I think is awesome now - the clothes, the slang, the neckwear - will seem utterly, laughably lame in ten or fifteen years time.

I actually found that thought sort of comforting though, freeing even. There's really no reason to take anything in our lives too seriously: in ten years, you'll come across it in a ceramic bowl and thank god you're not as young as you used to be.