Feb 28, 2010

More marketing mysteries

So I just bought this new lipstick. But there's this problem:
Not only does the case have this cheesy purple swirly thing going on, there is also a freaking sword handle sticking out of the top of it. (By the way, for those of you who, like my boyfriend, might think to mention that maybe a miniature sword could come in handy once in a while, it's worth noting that one cannot actually pull out a whole miniature sword, there's just the little handle sticking out the top.)

I like the lipstick. I really do, even though it's a bit more severe than what I usually go for. But honestly, a girl just can't be pulling a Sword in the Stone themed lipstick out in public. Even if she really did like the cartoon when she watched it back in the '80s home sick from elementary school one day.

Feb 27, 2010

As an aside

Just one more thing about The Liar's Club. Promise.

"Sure the world breeds monsters, but kindness grows just as wild, elsewise every raped baby would grow up to rape."

And that was tucked away in some parentheses, no less.

Fuck yeah ice sculptures

Feb 26, 2010

Re: overvaluing your own goods

A few nights ago, at the end of a miserably long one-and-a-half-damn-hour subway ride, the guy sitting across from me pulled out this thick folded wad of $20 bills and started counting.

I didn't start out counting along with him, in fact I tried to avert my eyes because I didn't want him to think I had any designs on it, although now that I'm thinking back on it this was clearly a very silly thing to worry about, since I couldn't have possibly posed a threat to him. But the counting went on for a long time, and eventually my curiosity got the better of me. It's not so often that you see someone pull out a huge wad of cash money at 2 am on the subway and count through it, bill by bill after bill after bill. I got up to $1,000 and then lost track. When he was done he snapped a rubber band back around the bills, slipped them into the breast pocket of his puffy jacket, then got up and stood by the door.

Personally, I try to hide anything remotely valuable that I might be carrying around because I assume that if someone took it into their head to take it from me there would be very little I could do to stop them. So it was sort of fascinating to find someone so completely confident in his ability to protect his own goods that displaying them, bill after bill after bill, even on the subway at 2 am, didn't concern him in the least. This confidence made him seem dangerous to me, because what kind of crazy fighting/weapons skills must he have? But this is obviously ridiculous. Anyone carrying around more than $1,000 in his breast pocket is not going to be interested in my wet New Yorker, or my $20 Victoria's Secret gift certificate, or the $15 in my wallet, or anything else I might have on my person, for that matter.

Feb 25, 2010

Shoe and cigarette miscaculation

Huge shoe miscalculation today. Huge. Also, how is it that there was a period in my life when I could smoke half a pack a day and never get sick, while these days four cigarettes in a week is enough to get me down with a cold? In fact, there was even a little while when I was smoking a full pack of Marlboro Reds a day and never getting sick, although that was back when I was 15 and had virgin lungs.

I should have known better, though. Three out of those four cigarettes were Natural Spirits, and Natural Spirits almost always make me sick. Even smoking just one Natural Spirit has sometimes made me sick. And yet because they're "natural" and have no preservatives or whatever, apparently I find it inconceivable, all evidence to the contrary, that they will once again give me a sinus infection. This time, though, this time I swear I will remember.

Feb 24, 2010

Tutoring, a few months back

This family had an endless amount of children. They kept appearing at the front door, one after another after the other. They had just arrived from Iraq via Syria and most didn't speak more than a few words of English.

At one point one of the girls brought some juice to the living room and when I pointed to it and asked the boy I was working with if he knew what it was called he jumped up and said something to his sister in Arabic. She left the house a few minutes later and returned with a gallon of orange juice. Then she brought me in a glass of juice with two pastries and set them in front of me with a shy smile.

Another little boy kept running through the room and pinching the brother I was working with on the arm, who would laugh and only occasionally slap him lightly on the neck. The littler boy had extremely short hair - his dad had just shaved his head, his brother managed to tell me. An older brother kept coming through with a balloon, too. "This is so easy," he said about the English test his brother was taking. A few more sisters were sleeping in another room.

The boy I was tutoring had this humongous smile. I wondered about what he had seen. Apparently he had been kidnapped at some point. And an older brother had died. I wondered what public school was like for him. I wondered about that equation where the suffering of some people is required for the privilege of others, and how much of the relative ease of my life had been paid for by the displacement of his.

How do you describe a skunk to someone who has never seen one before? Are you supposed to eat both pastries or leave them? Is it rude not to finish the orange juice? Did I do something wrong when I reached out to shake the father's hand and he only let me grab his wrist? And after the mother handed me the phone and gave me a questioning look, did she understand when I tried to explain that it was just an automated message about bad credit?

When I left, the boy eagerly pressed the unfinished half of my pastry into my hand. I carried it out to my car, past a cat sitting on the steps, and some dogs barking, and a cop pulling somebody over. When I got home, I brought it in and set it carefully on the counter in my kitchen, because I didn't want it, but I didn't want to throw it out, either.

Feb 23, 2010

Death by water gun

My grandfather lived in Malibu but worked downtown in LA, and so five days a week for decades he took the Pacific Coast Highway to work. One day, he pulled up to a stoplight and the guy in the car next to him slowly raised a gun to his head. The kid held it there for the length of the light. I imagine it was a very long light. And then the kid pulled the trigger. It was a water gun.

Feb 22, 2010

There are so many things I love about this


On a slightly related note, this came into my life via Gideon, and if you like this maybe you will also like his paintings, in which case you should go to his opening next Tuesday. His paintings aren't exactly like this, but just as good.

Mirabelle's weekend

I think it was pretty great for her. She came with me to my friend's birthday party, took a dump in the bedroom, and almost got a bite out of the birthday cake. She also jumped up on my chair in an effort to get a bit of my bagel the next morning and got to play a long game of tug of war with a sock.

It all reminded me, a little, but frighteningly just the same, of what it used to be like to bring my childhood dog anywhere with me. That dog, Lulu, was kindhearted but so bad that one year she even stole the whole Thanksgiving turkey and dragged it under my parents' bed, furtively crawling around down there with that giant bird in her mouth like she was in some sort of war games exercise as we, ridiculously, tried to crawl around after her.

But my embarrassment didn't seem to phase Mirabelle in the least. Look how happy she was (see below) running around wildly in the backyard with my friend's dogs. She seems to be going through some sort of wretched teenage phase. That or the terrible twos, depending on whether you measure her age in human or dog years.*
*A note to anyone who might one day invite me to bring Mirabelle to your house: Usually she is not like this! I swear.

Feb 21, 2010

From one Molly to another

I am this ornery-looking cat's namesake:
For some reason I am inordinately proud of this fact. My friend Carolyn named her after me one semester when I was away from college, which made me feel cared about in a way that few things have successfully done before or since. I mean check out these whiskers:

Feb 20, 2010

Being seen as you don't want to be seen

After going to the Tumblr Reads thing at Housing Works last night and seeing all these bloggers crammed together in one room looking so real and all three-dimensional, I was wondering—do we have blogs, in part, because they allow us to curate the version of ourselves we put out into the world? Because they give us the illusion that we can control how we're seen by other people? We do this in real life, of course (try to manage the version of ourselves we put out into the world) but maybe it's just easier to do so online. Easier, at least, to do so in a way that makes this version of yourself you're presenting seem more authentic, or real, contradictorily enough, because people don't even have a chance to glimpse whatever is being omitted. The insecure glance around the crowded room, the awkward joke before you've managed to joke about it later with your friends, the off-key comment before it gets forgotten by everyone but you.

Feb 19, 2010

The preferability of being little versus annoying

One of the odd benefits of having a slightly unusual name is that when I google myself (I feel like one is not supposed to admit doing such a thing, but I'm afraid it's just the truth), every single link that shows up is about me. Every article that shows up with my byline was, actually, written by me, something that is occasionally quite embarrassing, although the truth in this case is that probably no one else in the world has ever googled me.

The last time I did this, I discovered a new addition that brought me to the New York magazine archives. Since I have long tried to be published by New York, and have the pitch rejections to prove it, I was quite curious to discover how I had managed to do so without my knowledge. And I found this:

I had been in this Off Broadway play, you see, and it had shown up in this "Ruth Recommends" section, but who Ruth was or why she recommended the play I do not know. The fairly brutal New York Times review, I discovered a few minutes later, had this to say about my performance: "The annoying little daughter of the household, Sarah, talks like a character out of 'Dallas,' insofar as her lines can be understood." I was very grateful that New York, at least, only described me as little.

What there is to look forward to

At the bar last night:

Guy: So how old are you?

Me: 30.

Guy: Huh. But your skin is so tight.

Us Scorpio bitches

I had heard the girl on the F train. Mostly I noticed her voice, which was low and husky but still somehow betrayed her age, which seemed to be about 16.

We got off at the same stop. In the station, she and her friends walked behind me, messy and sassy and rowdy the way teenagers are. At the bottom of the stairs she busted through the busted door out on the street and strutted past me. She was wearing tight jeans tucked into black Reeboks, and a bomber jacket with the hood on.

"Naw, naw," she was saying. "Us Scorpio bitches, we don't never die. We don't never die. My grandma, her birthday's the day after mine, and she had two strokes and she's still walking."

She had been passing from one group of friends to the other as she said this, so it was almost as though she was talking to herself. It reminded me of the way Mohammad Ali talks in When We Were Kings, as though he's building himself, actually physically reinforcing himself from the inside out, through only the power of his own words.

And because I was feeling pretty spent and beaten down that night, I was appreciating her really immensely, and I turned to her to say something regarding us Scorpio bitches and how we really do have something going on, don't we. But by then she'd caught up with her other friends, and I was walking into the bodega, and she was saying how, hey, girl, she was going over to so-and-so's house to get mad fucked up and I smiled, because she was really just a teenager after all. And her friend was saying how, well, girl, I'm gonna let you go cause I know you gonna be walking fast, but you tell them all what's up, and they hugged goodbye and the unexpected tenderness of it all surprised me and moved me. It really did, which, I know, is odd, because it was really just two friends being friends.

If I had known how I would feel for most of today, like a husk of something, like the person, in movies, who disappears, leaving only their clothes floating down to the ground, I would have made sure to say something to her about us Scorpio bitches after all. And I would have told her I hoped she had a good night.

Feb 17, 2010

Oh life, you're so exhausting sometimes

For the first time in my life, I have made an honest-to-god life decision based exclusively on advice I was given by a psychic. I am very curious to see how this turns out.

Feb 16, 2010

Maybe I just bring this out of people

Last week, two nights in a row I spent a good long chunk of time in a crowded bar talking to a man about the stock market. Apparently, I have entered a strange new period in life where I do things like this. Depressingly, both agreed that they would not be surprised to see the Dow go to 5,000 by August. About both, I wondered if they might, just possibly, be serial killers. But probably only because American Psycho has been on my mind.

Feb 15, 2010

Valentine's Day, 2005

A few years ago I worked on Valentine's Day. My relationship was in a state of disarray, due to a misunderstanding that really was no one's fault, and my boyfriend and I both worked, actually, since we were waiters at the same place. We didn't speak to each other all night (this was my doing) but instead served couple after couple their Valentine's Day dinner—every table in the restaurant had been turned into a deuce.

During that whole shift I was enmeshed in a deep bout of self-pity, but gradually I began to notice that many of the other couples in the restaurant were fighting too. I found this both depressing and invigorating. The way some people love to watch street fights or videos of accidents, I am this way about verbal arguments.

Every Valentine's Day since then has been immeasurably better, even the one I spent in St. Louis reporting on couples who choose to spend the night at White Castle (it's not as bad as it sounds, they decorate and everything). And even that night ended up turning out just fine. Somehow during our shift my boyfriend got us a reservation at Florent, that little 24-hour place in the Meatpacking District that should still be open but isn't, and we went there at 2 in the morning and split a bottle of wine. "I know we haven't spoken all night," he said to me as we were clocking out, "but do you want to go to dinner?" And immediately our fight was over.

Feb 13, 2010

The Soul Wash

Back at the beginning of December, I wrote something here about a friend of mine who had been accosted by a lady telling him he needed a spiritual bath. He and I had both agreed it would be great to do such a thing, but how?

Well, recently, while perusing photos of Copenhagen Design Week 2009 (why he was doing such a thing I don't know), look what he found!

"Easily one of our favorite parts of the exhibit was the 'Soul Wash'," it reads below this picture. "Think of it as a human car wash sans suds. The giant spinning cloths are meant to give a karmic cleaning."
(If you, like he is, apparently, are interested in learning more about Danish Design Center's "It's a Small World" Exhibit, you can see more pictures of it here.)

The branding of fermented mixed vegetables

Last weekend, in search of tamarind chutney, we finally made it to the international supermarket a few miles away. Most things had labels we couldn't read, but we bought ton of stuff—half a gallon of kim chee, a gazillion different kinds of chutney, frozen dumplings, two different kinds of "young coconut" juice (which tasted, by the way, about the same as what I'm guessing must have been the elderly coconut juice I've consumed in the past).

Seeing variety where I'm so accustomed to a lack of it made me feel unexpectedly acquisitive. And somewhere around when I saw this:
I realized that I was having the exact experience marketers hoped everyone would always be having in supermarkets—popping items in my cart based only on the pleasantness of the label. The actual foodstuffs could have been filled with arsenic for all I knew, though I'm not suggesting they were—everything we bought has turned out to be delicious.

Strangely enough, I think it was the very act of my not knowing a brand that actually made me trust a product more. But, of course, if this turns out to be a new trend in the collective consumer subconscious (and not just an anomaly on my part, in other words) I'm sure marketers will pick up on it soon enough.

Feb 12, 2010

MYSTERY!!

This awesome xeroxed doodle appeared in my purse yesterday. Where did it come from? Who are you, person who dropped a doodle deep into my purse but didn’t yank my wallet? Show yourself!

For richer and poorer

During my brief but sketchy walk home from the Smith-9th Street stop last night at 2 in the morning I walked very fast. This made me remember living in Bushwick, and the many very fast walks home I had there, usually after getting off work at 2 a.m. or later, past the spot where my roommate got her ear split in half by a mugger, and past the apartment that got robbed at gunpoint after some guy crept in the window.

I appraised myself, last night, as I imagined a prospective mugger would. And then I moved my credit cards to my jacket pocket but left a few dollars in my wallet, a weird sort of ritual I invoke to, hopefully, arrange for a mugger to take things I don’t care about and leave the things I do. But the sensibility of this has never been tested.

Strangely, I realized that these days, even though I am undeniably poorer than when I lived in Bushwick, I appear to be much richer. Back then if you mugged me you could have very well ended up with one of the substantial wads of cash I regularly carried home from my waitressing job, cash which often ended up stashed all over my room like I was some sort of drug dealer. These days you would only end up with a little less than $10. However, I wear nicer shoes. Perhaps this is a sign of growing up.

Feb 11, 2010

Blizzard of the century

It's strange to think there's a point in the winter when this is what warm can look like:

Feb 10, 2010

Live at Super Bowl 44

I was unprecedentedly excited about the Super Bowl, which is slightly strange, because I rarely watch sports, much less football, and know little about it. I determined that I would root for the Saints only because two bloggers I like were rooting for them and, you know, New Orleans. (Although, and I know this might offend someone, I do sort of think rebuilding a city in a below-sea-level former swamp is a little like trying to walk straight into the wind. But that’s a whole other conversation.) I was so excited, in fact, that I even had an anxiety dream about missing the Super Bowl and experienced, peremptorily, the disappointment I would feel were such a thing to occur.

It was only the day before that I remembered about the halftime show, and Janet Jackson’s nipple, etc, and thought to wonder who might be performing. “The Who,” Matt told me and I was disappointed. It must have shown on my face, because the next thing Matt said was this: “You know, one of the first questions my dad has about a girl I'm dating is whether she likes Live at Leeds.”

The truth is I actually know next to nothing about The Who. I’ve appreciated them on a jukebox now and again, but I don’t generally think of My Generation as some highpoint of rock and roll, and besides, and this will definitely offend The Who fans, I have been known to refer to the band as Kiss. But I decided to make a firm effort to appreciate them during halftime.

We watched the game at a local sports bar. The first half was extremely satisfying, even though I spilled my beer all over the table, leaving my friend’s pant leg wet and my hat looking like a bedraggled rabbit. And then Kiss! I mean The Who! My attempts to like them were somewhat stymied by Matt’s mention of Pete Townshend’s legal run ins regarding child porn. But the band was good. I could imagine seeing them play in the late 1960s, and it sort of blasting out your ideas of what it means to be alive. And when I looked it up recently, Townshend’s explanation for the child porn stuff seemed plausible, although who ever knows about such things.

The Saints, as I’m sure you know, won. Who DAT! More importantly (in my life), Matt can now tell his dad that while I may not know Live at Leeds, I do know Live at Super Bowl 44.

Feb 9, 2010

I am your butterfly.

This is an art school drop-out's performance art project from South Africa—I think? It's pretty strange (rap-rave next level shit, is apparently how they are describing themselves), but for some reason I'm sort of fascinated. In case you don't believe me that it's not for real (whatever that means), this is what the main guy looks like when not pretending to be some creepy tattooed white-trash dude with a severe crew cut:
And then here's Die Antwoorp:
By the way, those Pink Floyd boxers are amazing. That was my first inkling that this was maybe fake. People don't just happen upon things like that by chance.

For their other, and even stranger video, check here. And it seems only fair to mention where I found this—Everything is Annoying—because otherwise I'm not sure I would have ever found it at all.

P.S. Kevin, this post is dedicated to you.

Feb 8, 2010

In the future

If I was given a couple extra lives, which maybe we all get anyway, who knows, here are the other careers I would choose, in order of increasing preferability:

—Florist
—Calligrapher of fancy wedding invitations/menus/place cards (this is a new addition)
—Hop video dancer. Sometimes, at really low points in my life, when I was feeling like I would probably never feel happy again, I would remember how I never feel sad in hip hop dance classes, and this thought was always immeasurably comforting. I mean, how wrong could anything be if you got to do this every day:

Feb 7, 2010

Place-specific customs

In Northampton, which I imagine is similar to most American small towns, I know a relatively small group of people, any of whom I am likely to run into three or four times in the course of one day's business. The custom is that the first time we see each other we stop and talk for a bit, but the next few times we generally just acknowledge each other with a silent nod and keep walking. This isn't considered at all rude.

Whereas in New York, a place I've lived in or near most of my life, I know a relatively large amount of people, most of whom I don't usually run into without specific plans. What I had forgotten about, though, during the last few years when I haven't been visiting New York often, were all the peripheral people I know there, too. Like the guy who bartended at the Williamsburg restaurant where I worked one summer, who I saw walking into a bar a few nights ago with a girl I'd gone to high school with. Or the girl I vaguely know from college, the one whose proposal you can find on Youtube (which I wrote about here just a few weeks ago, strangely enough), sitting a few feet from me on a crowded subway car. As far as I can tell, the custom in New York regarding these situations is for us to all studiously ignore each other. That's what we all did, at least.

Feb 6, 2010

New ways to measure time

1. Bottles of olive oil used.

2. Deep vacuumings ago. (We do vacuum regularly, sort of, at least, but it's only every once in a while that we really get down and dirty with the cleaning and run the vacuum back forth over the spaces between each of the floorboards, which can get pretty nasty after a while. By the way, would it be totally disgusting to call that deep throat vacuuming?)

3. Cigarettes smoked. (This only works for extremely sporadic smokers such as myself—currently I'm at about ten cigarettes a year.)

Feb 4, 2010

Like night and day

Post move-in evening picnic:
Morning view:

Feb 3, 2010

Sudden fear

That when the Oldies station starts playing the songs of my adolescence, that is, the songs of the nineties, which is imminent, by the way, that they will repeat over and over the songs I hated, and omit the songs I loved.

Overheard at Whole Foods

An overweight youngish black woman cashier is trying to squeeze by a very gay slightly chubby white guy cashier wearing hipster glasses. He puts the back of his hand up to her face. “Watch out, Precious,” he says. “Feel this white rage.”

Question: What is it about food service jobs that allow people to joke about subjects that otherwise would be too fraught to even bring up?

Feb 2, 2010

Animal, animal, animal

My three favorite moments of yesterday:

1. Watching a bowlegged dog with floppy ears lope its way down the street.

2. Watching a sleek grey cat in the window of a Brooklyn brownstone paw at a potted flowering plant as if it were some sort of animate object about to make a sudden move.

3. Watching subway rats eat the Cheetos someone a guy threw down into the tracks for them, holding those bright orange morsels in both hands, eyes furtively jutting around, just like they do in cartoons.

I think it is fair to conclude that I am becoming an incorrigible animal lover.

Feb 1, 2010

That smug hookah

This is from the tumblr unhappyhipsters.com, and yes, I know it is getting a little ridiculous that instead of just moving my blog to tumblr I am taking a screen shot of a tumblr blog I like in order to repost it here. I'll get around to it eventually, I'm sure, but change, in any form, always stresses me out, even the good kind. I've only recently realized this about myself.