Wednesday, March 25, 2009

the NY breakfast barrier commute

I work in the Journalism Department at Columbia University, which is about an hour commute from my Brooklyn apartment, which I share with two roommates; it's a typical NY situation.

Every morning I wake up around 7, take a shower and assemble myself while listening to itunes on shuffle; I leave the apartment at 8, walk from S1st St. to S7th and catch the L train to 6th avenue in Manhattan; I transfer to the 1 train from there, if I'm not in a rush (but if I am I take the 2 or 3 express trains and transfer back to the 1 on 96th St) and read or write in my moleskine until I get to 110th St; from there I walk to 116th St, usually with a large coffee from a market right outside the subway entrance. I start work at 9, and work from a desk until 6pm.

This morning, since I got a pretty early start and all the trains were on time, I got off on 103rd St to enjoy the sunshine of an early Spring day with a 13-street stroll, to admire dogs flashed out in their adorable outfits looking for various places to sniff and relieve themselves onto, to stop off at my bank's ATM for cash.

I walked by a McDonalds and felt tempted; and I could not resist the temptation; I looked at my watch, hoping I didn't have enough time, but had plenty of time; I went inside and got in line with this mixed feeling of excitement and shame.

A Mexican girl about 5'2" asked if she could help me; she looked 16, but I figured she was probably more like 23 with a kid or two in daycare; she seemed young though, in the way a person looks if they've never had to deal with things like suicidal goldfish, like she still had the all same friends from elementary school, in her life, as her friends, now; her eyes looked impatient and curious like that--spoiled-stupid and completely unaware of psychology.

I said, "A Deluxe Breakfast
and a large black iced coffee, please."
She said, "black?"
I said, "yes, black."
She said, "iced?"
"Yes, iced, please."
"With no flavoring?"
"No flavoring, at all?"
"No, just black."
"Would you like sugar
or liquid sweetener?"
"No. Black."

She turned and said something in Spanish to another Mexican lady, looking flustered; the other Mexican lady said something in Spanish back, unemotional, as if she were used to and exhausted from explaining the ways of the world to the younger girl. They were standing in front of the 2 for $1 apple pie warmer.

A moment later the first girl slid what looked like a clear cup of iced milk with a tinge of brown to me and said, "Here you go."

I looked at the cup, slid it back to her and said, "black."
She looked shocked. "No cream?!"
"No, black."

Then I started to mumble something about needing it more for the caffeine than the calories, but decided the communication barrier was already too complicated and let the general notion evaporate into a sad series of tired ellipses.

She took back the coffee, handed it the the second girl who she'd spoken to earlier in Spanish, then glanced back at me like I was holding the Grim Reaper's sythe while he was doing jumping jacks beside me; she said something in Spanish again.

A few moments later she finally handed me the large black iced coffee I felt like I'd been waiting my entire life for.

"Thanks," I said.

She looked at me as if I'd already ruined her day as the strangest human alive she never wanted to meet again; she finally handed over my Deluxe breakfast with pancakes and a hash brown.

I asked for ketchup; she looked scared, reached down without breaking any indirect eye contact and handed me three packets.

"Thanks," I said again, and walked away looking for a straw.

When I finally got to my Columbia desk, after passing two of my usual AM coffee places along 13 streets strutting the walk of shame with my golden M bedazzled bag of pure delicious nonsense, I wasn't in the mood for a Deluxe Breakfast anymore; but after slathering the crisp, greasy and salty piece of potatoey work, with two-of-the-three packets of fancy ketchup, I devoured the hash brown that came with it, in two-bites anyway.

I took a sip of my watered-down coffee from its straw and rolled the brown taste around my tongue and teeth before swallowing it.

As I suspected--perfect.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I have an eye infection

I am bed-ridden, home from work with a massive eye-infection caused by either: stress, sleep deprivation, passing out w/eyeliner caked on after a hard-core night of Friday night birthday karaoke; or maybe even popping a sty with a sewing needle & squeezing it--without having a bowl of boiled water around, or peroxide.

Now my eyes are hot and swelled shut and leaking goop and I can't do anything with myself but lay in bed clutching a book trying to doze off into a world of dreaming, until I get a text of sympathy for my warped and mutated-looking condition.

Earlier, I could barely stumble across the street to buy juice, and living near Bedford in Williamsburg, even though it's difficult to admit, I had to kick off my gray death sweats for more appropriate black pants, I threw shawl around my shoulders and applied some lipstick; mother would have been so proud.

There were a few younger Italians in that place, buying 40's of malt liquor; they already smelled of booze and it was barely 6pm; they were attractive boys who looked like they played soccer in one of the nearby Brooklyn parks on warm Saturday afternoons; a posse of dark skinned, dark-haired, dark-eyed Adonises; and even with my swollen eyes, thankfully, I got the proper attention I'm used to receiving with their silent stalking once-overs.

One day I will not receive that treatment anymore when I am older, unless I find a way to molt my flesh like some crusty sock and drown myself in expensive creams that actually do what they're advertised to do, or by then, perhaps, some company will have a pill, or a duplicate will be available that shares the same conscience as me, like in that Battlestar Galactica show.

Hopefully by then though, I will be settled with a loyal love of my life, my story collecting behind me and on pages for the world to read, settled, no longer wild; still and relaxed.

I sent a few texts to my oil painter today, as I was stranded quietly in my bedroom, eyes too sore to read, attention span running rampant all over the place, everywhere for the sake of mischief.

I'd call him my "ex," but I hate the way that sounds when people bring up "their ex," as if they only have one, knowing these gorgeous people I talk to have many actual "exes."

It makes them sound hung up in the past of some love affair that's hopelessly incomparable to anything the present or future could offer--my "ex." Give me a break.

So my oil painter is a lovely, lovely man whose lovemaking and patience spoiled me into spending a good deal of personal time with him, watching movies, sipping wine, eating cheeses and sleeping; though, I'd have to say one of my favorite things about him was the way he was an elitist, so aloof in every sense of the word, in public, so elegant.

Girls, ladies, and men alike became smitten with his presence at any event; they would ask him to talk about his art and try to find a way to become close to him, to obtain and ounce of his attention...and he was relentlessly bored with them, calling them sycophants to me later when we were alone, if they acted too much like excited puppy dogs filled with unwarranted glee.

It's not that he was a bad person; he was raised by a Mormon mother in a good family in Utah; he had old-fashioned values--just as a second generation painter who'd studied at Cambridge, he didn't have time for bullshit with people; he was too busy for that.

The only people he considered his equals were also beautiful, talented, brilliant people constantly immersed in projects.

I fully and finally developed my people palette with him, after many transitions and transmogrifies in my own constantly evolving world of never-ending heartache, brought upon by repeated tests of mortality, and morality.

These efforts were to obtain useful ways to bend the world and the people occupying it, according to my seasoned wants and needs; for my tired memoirs begging excitement, drama--lessons which others would subsequently regard as useful in contexts of stories.

It made sense that the artists let me in, wrote songs and stories about me, painted me, let me play in their films and listened to my opinions respectfully. It was nearly impossible for me to start and finish a project of my own from an my inability to take myself seriously as a feral, self-taught miscreant of sorts, and always having a finger in other people's projects from being curious.

I became a muse who loved to drink and make love, and did a lot of this; and my heart knows how it feels to be satisfied and enraged and worshipped, and when it is neglected I feel very empty.

So I sent texts to my oil painter, after barely communicating with him every so often--because he knows all of this about me, and knows what I know about him, which is everything, and in the texts I said, "I miss wine and movies with you, and your lovely body, hope you are well, New York is fine" and his response was, "thanks, I like you too..." amongst other sentiments, and my life seems sad and perfect like that a lot, and ridiculous.

Today, I spoke on the phone with another man, whose Manhattan place I spent a few warm nights in, before our relationship took confusing twists with third and fourth parties, in experimenting with something called an open-relationship, and now we are back to trying to be friends again in an effort to salvage something that seemed worth starting in the first place.

I admire his effort; he's one of the brightest and sexiest people I've met in a while, though he has a history of dating ditzes and air-head doormats for some easy reason that I don't have the time or patience to think about and try to understand.

This made me weary among other issues, but his shit taste in women did not make sense for someone who seemed to have all his cards in a stack, and I judged him harshly as being "shallow" for not caring what's "upstairs" as well as caring about what's below.

Hence, my sabotage radar shut me down, shutting him down, in a big smoke bomb of mystery, from which we sift little pieces to stare at blankly to this day, in wondering what went wrong.

From my new found attempts of progress from my own merits, which had little to do with what he had to offer in status and stability I realized what I needed was as much inspiration and outlets for personal artistic growth, as I could absolutely muster; and I saw him as a potential source of confinement or what I call a Property Manager Type.

On the phone today, "PMT" told me I should get out and date, like some imperative order, after I chastised my love life as being a huge source of my dissatisfaction with the world lately--as if it's really that easy for me, as it would be for him to sponsor some toy to play with for a while, with field trips of this activity or that.

I basically told him I'd rather sit alone in my bedroom and rot than to waste my time on a date with someone much less than extraordinary by standards of wealth in personalities I live by.

For me, the new partners I elect to be my lovers are people my former lovers would approve of and nod their heads yes to, as if it made complete sense in so many ways, why I would chose to spend time with that person; and immediately, with no question, that person would be assumed to be brilliant and very good at something, if not many somethings, and a fantastic lover to boot to appease my voracious sex drive, which goes to maximum levels, when I am attempting to be monogamous.

I am trying not to play with my eyelids right now. They are itching and I don't want to agitate them more than they are already agitated. I wonder if David Lynch would date me? I think we would get along, but maybe I should try to publish few novels first, or get really huge implants, or something else drastic like that.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

taste, talent, and Amy Winehouse in 2009

Venturing out to pick up a load of laundry after sifting through the hamper for repeated wears of already worn socks with livable muck on the bottoms, I met a new comrade at the liquor store buying scotch on the way home; he's a musician, and a very nice young green-eyed human overall, from what I can tell so far.

Calder Hulse (isn't that just lovely?) gave me a delicious Jewish-culture-inspired triangle-shaped raspberry-filled cookie to snack upon, while standing amongst bottles of wine and other boozes, and another to take home with me.

In an hour-and-a-half, we exchanged what had to be the best conversation I've been part of in a while; as well as contact information, to be in touch for more conversations.

What impressed the most about meeting this young man, initially, was his somewhat pretentious confidence in explaining the differences between various whiskeys, scotches and wine.

I told him what I was looking for in reds: not too sweet, a cherry or raspberry versus citrus tone, not too dense, semi-transparent, less peppery, and most importantly--affordable. I stressed my search for the ultimate flavor in a bottle ranging between 10-14, that I preferred Pinot Noirs to Cabs, and then that whites were a rare craving, but mostly a summertime affair.

His take on this was that I drank more like a man than a girl, which was interesting to him, that I wasn't complicated to please in that I actually knew what I wanted, that what I was describing was what pricier reds brought to the table, but that it wasn't impossible to help me find what I was looking for.

After that, our discussion went by the way of how decent new music these days seems to be, and has been, in hibernation with all the pop and eighties and nineties sounds holding strong within its manifested realms of anti-originality.

Whether for the sake of nostalgia or to build a sense of community, hoards of individuals are confused, their identities strongly relying on the way their jeans fall around their carefully picked footwear; their left or right comb-overs looking amazingly effortless; their seamless sense of ennui perfected in times where the rest of the world seems to be in shambles compared to the luck and freedom we have in our lives as Americans.

I told a story of being in DC for a seminar discussing solutions for treatment for the mentally insane, how while waiting in a Renaissance Marriott restaurant for two $5.50 hard boiled eggs for a Nobel Prize winning panelist, an instrumental version Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" played like classical music over the speakers as I stood there in disbelief.

I juxtaposed that incident with one of waiting in a rat infested subway for a train to take me home two days later back in New York. There was an aged homeless black man playing the sweetest version of "Fur Elise" I'd ever heard in my life on what looked like a steel drum banged into shape with a mallot out of a garbage can.

A small child danced as if in a ecstatic trance, while the man pummeled his drum with home-made sticks, spinning and twisting his hips back and forth; his mother occasionally yanking his hoodie to bring him close to her again without even looking up.

It's as if some built-in mom radar sensed he was wandering not dangerously, but rudely, into passersby dropping dollars into the open backpack sparsely littered with dollars and change. The next song the man played, in his tattered, dirty bundle of clothes, was something familiar and Celtic by the one and only Enya.

The story I got back from Calder was about a world famous violinist who played these extravagant sold-out shows on a violin that was valued worth millions. There were people who decided to do an experiment and put the violinist in a subway station in plain clothes, to see if anyone would notice or appreciate the exquisite sounds of someone so revered by the sophisticate community.

Ultimately, the violinist was ignored for the most part, aside from random commuter children who would stop in their tracks and dance to his music as if possessed; or the occasional theater aficionado who would recognize the musician, whereby being flabbergasted and giving him piles of money as if he were downtrodden and begging for handouts.

What these conversations boiled down to was the idea that real technical talent is often unidentifiable by the masses, that they're more likely to be engaged by popular gimmicks, or catchy formulas rather than inventive ingenuity.

That people are so caught up in trying to fit into some category of intelligence or fraternity, their perceptions aren't inclined to fully develop in ways to branch beyond what they learn in books, or from positive social experiences that might make room for a-little-to-some practical impressions on their personalities.

Calder and I agreed that whether the art or music or literature we made was good or bad according to the opinions of others, we needed to proceed in producing what we considered to be "beautiful" regardless--with the confidence to create and define compositions with and by our own unyielding standards.

How else are we to get out of this rut of pop songs about "Rehab" playing in $300 a night hotels charging $5.50 for two hard boiled eggs? I'd like to think that the best music our kids are listening to these days aren't what they catch a glimpse of on route to daycare.

Hopefully wine tastings and glockenspiel infused Indonesian music events with Calder are on the horizon, as well as more conversations regarding the progression of art against formulaic odds within the creative spectrum of New York and beyond.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

an attempt to talk about my childhood before the attempt becomes foiled by the part of my brain that's kind of an asshole

Lately I'm unsatisfied with this feeling in my head, which started about a week ago, when this strong sense of heavy decided to make camp in my throat, making it very hard for me to swallow and breath.

I'm not the one for a telephone conversation most of time, if I can help it; especially if I'd rather enjoy someone's company and conversation face-to-face for the sake of precious intimacy, but lately my talks with my friend Noah (who's a safe distance away in Youngstown, Ohio) let my heart come out of its protective case and stretch a little; he's extremely patient with me and I will adore always him for that.

He mentioned something interesting today: that I won't talk about my childhood. He said most Americans have a tendency to talk about their childhood, but I don't. I didn't realize that.

I'd like to think that I was a happy child (who wouldn't, right?), I had no brothers or sisters, I was very social--learning every classmate's name according to seat order on the first day of school, played well with my toys in my room alone creating universes scripting interpersonal relationships between My Little Ponies and various He-Men; was a tomboy; I colored a lot; liked rollar skating; I was always hurting myself falling; I rarely cried; made straight A's; and occasionally tried to see how long kittens could breath under warm bathwater.

I guess you can that curiosity...a few older adults who knew me said I used to ask questions incessantly: why, why, how, what; and wouldn't settle for vague answers that didn't seem to come together to make sense for me.

I remember being annoyed by the fact that I was patronized so much by people who seemed to be able to touch the sky with the tops of their heads; staring at their knees, I used to think anyone over 6 foot was a giant.

My mom was, and is a South Korean immigrant turned American by marriage to a playboy from Wisconsin; a guy who found her while he was stationed on some nearby Air Force base by the Air Force as an air-traffic controller.

Mom was a tiny eighteen year-old virgin with long black hair, I guess, who'd run away from an abusive home to work and reside in a coffee shop, and he found her there, married her, knocked her up (or vice-versa, I'm not really sure, still), made me, and the three of us moved to the states when I was a little over a foot tall.

Most of my life (and even since a few days ago--according to 15 minutes of maybe once-a-month smalltalk on how she passes her days lately aside from reading self-help books) my mother's biggest quest has been to perfect her English; so much more then even-before now, though, that she never tried to teach me how to speak, read or write her native language.

And she still chastises me occasionally, for not having taught myself the language when I'd had the chance, comparing me to full-blooded Korean-American kids who are fluent in both languages; telling me it's never too late to take classes.

This is the woman who raised me after my ABBA/gym/getting-a-golden-suntan-loving dad decided to start seeing a lot of different ladies at once, subsequently leading my mom to decide (and according to her) to leave him and start a new life in Tennessee with her much younger sister and her sister's husband, also a military guy (before he became a bartender with rock star dreams and a bad ass record collection).

This was the uncle who taught me about Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Frank Zappa, the Stones; knowledge came handy in high school when I went through my stoner/rock concert phase, when I had a thing for boys who could play guitars as a tie-dye wearing truent who smoked a pack a day of Marlboro reds even though they tasted like shit halfway through the pack. I was hard.

Am I avoiding talking my childhood here? Geez, it seems like my childhood actually finally just now ended after my move to New York...maybe that's why I'm mourning...

Why am I so unsatisfied? I know what my mom would say if I asked her. She'd say I've always been like that...that as soon as I got some toy I wanted, that I begged for, I'd immediately become disinterested in it...bored, and look for some new toy to want.

What the hell makes that so hard wired in a child, that it still seems to affect me like some lifelong curse? I-JUST-MIGHT-NEED-THERAPY. After all. Or is therapy too pretentious these days with the economy being in such rough shape?

I give up. There are much worse ways to live out the rest of my life than as a hermit who's lost faith in the fact that she's completely unlovable in a romantic sense.

I don't talk about my childhood because I don't like to dwell in the past when there's progress to lay paths for. People who talk about their childhood a lot are strange. I've decided this tonight. Right now.
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