Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Let me know what you think

Please visit:


To see what I am up to. For now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A distressing event

Clearly, I am not a web designer. Many things I am, but that I am not.

So for a while now, I've been thinking about starting a new blog. Not because there's anything wrong, but mostly because I feel like I've entered a new phase of my life. I am not in college anymore! I am an employed 20-something! I make next to no money!

Then that annoying little icon popped up in the left hand corner letting me know my photobucket account has been inactive for 90 days, and that it removed my header. Folks, I didn't even remember I have a photobucket account, let alone what my username and password are. So here I am, thinking about jumping ship and finding a new place to post my ideas.

Since I don't have internet at home and I'm in the middle of moving, this is not really the highest priority in the world, but I'm just letting you know.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Perhaps I am not so entitled to this

Not too long ago I had to go into a tourist store near Times Square. This is the equivalent of going into one of those stores on Hollywood Blvd. near the Walk of Stars. If you’ve been to neither of these places, then you might not fully appreciate what I’m going to describe, but if you have, you know exactly the sort of torture I experienced. At its best, it’s like going to Hell and back again.

Since people have been visiting us in California (so nearly as long as I can remember), one of the pilgrimages we made was to Hollywood Blvd. and to one of the many souvenir stores there. Now, I have to admit that despite how much I abhor these places, I have a sort of fascination with them. Where else in the world can you buy salt and pepper shakers in the shape of Elvis, towels with Marilyn Monroe’s face printed in garish colors on it, flip flops with “BABE” printed all over them, or have shot glasses with unmentionable things in or on them? The answer to that is nowhere. Nowhere in this world can you buy such glorious crap as you find in those stores!!!! And what remains a mystery to me is how even though there are mountains of stuff just everywhere, mugs, cups, key chains, t-shirts, sweaters, etc., EVERYTHING is in order. Everything looks like it was just arranged two minutes before you got there. Absolutely all this stuff is neatly lined up and in order, and it looks like no one has touched anything, even though millions of eager tourists paw through this stuff daily.

So my roommate and I knew for a while we might have to pay a visit to one of these godforsaken places, but I suspect we were holding out actually going to see who would cave first. A battle of wills, in a manner of speaking. Much in the way roommates see who will actually take the initiative and put the toilet paper on the toilet paper dispenser instead of keeping it on top of the toilet. And since Mary Kate had been the one to put the toilet paper on the roller most recently, I decided I could take one for the team and go visit the nearest tourist shop.

I will remind everyone again that we live near Times Square. Lately my mom has frequently been asking me if I’ve been looking for a place to live next year, reminding me that it can’t be in a dangerous part of town and that she has maternal concern for my safety. Now, I know that it seems like a tourist magnet is not the most dangerous part of town (people always around, they try to keep it relatively decent for out of towners) but after living here for close to a year, I can confidently say that I am ready to live in the roughest part of town. I am ready to face any hooligan I may cross. Ladies and gentlemen since living in close proximity to Times Square I have witnessed such frightening things as Very Large Women squeeze themselves in between cars to go pee. I have seen people shoving pizzas as large as beach balls into their mouths while loudly contemplating what time they should go to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. I have seen small children narrowly avoiding certain death dodging between speeding taxis to get to the Sephora or M&M store on the other side of the street. I have had every manner of person shoving flyers, brochures, tickets to the biggest bus tours in the world, to comedy shows, stand up comedy, jazz clubs, Yankees games, to Lord knows what shows, condoms, deodorant, shampoo, trash, EVERYTHING and ANYTHING they could get their hands on in my face. And I’ve seen people sitting on the sidewalk. I have seen girls wearing shorts so short and tank tops so small in the middle of winter that I wonder if they ever had mothers. I’ve seen people trampled to a pulp into the sidewalk. I’ve also seen tourists pick things off of the ground and eat them. I’m pretty sure I have seen people lose their minds in Times Square. This place is, for lack of a more delicate descriptor, the biggest shit show in the world. I am battered and bruised, but I have emerged victorious from the battle and thanks to them, I now doubt that all the excrement found on the sidewalk of my street is strictly canine. And my mother is concerned for my safety in the future. HA. Every day I walk through Times Square I take my life into my own hands, and I pray that if I see a tourist barreling toward me I’ll be the ones to get my hands on him first instead of vice-versa.

My secret to survival? Every time I walk through this cursed place, this armpit of the world, I imagine myself astride my pet rhinoceros, lion, water buffalo, or any other dangerous (usually African, but always fierce) animal-pet, galloping through Times Square wearing nothing but a loincloth and with a sword drawn from its scabbard hanging at my waist (sometimes I have a bow and arrow), my faithful pet dismembering any person who stands in our way to the subway station entrance. The sounds of trumpets blaring is also involved. Because in my short life I have learned a couple of things and one of these is that there is no force of this world that can sway a Midwestern family wearing matching Crocs enroute on their way to Red Lobster from their projected path or a group of high school girls wearing their tightest jeans and highest heels and carrying their newest purses on their way to a club where they MIGHT not be carded. An atom bomb explosion can’t stop these people from altering their projected path. I think the only thing that can stop them is an act of God.

Back to the point, though, I obviously survived my excursion to the tourist shop with minimal damage done to my person. I walked in and was almost bowled over with all the t-shirts hanging on the walls 45 foot high walls! Seven for $10.00! And the cups! And the towels! And the snow globes! Oh God, the snow globes! And look! Hats! And socks! And magnets! And key chains! And shot glasses! The result of all this was that I bought a can of tins with “I <3 NY” and the name “Lori” written on it (incidentally, I know no one named Lori, least of all the person who is getting the tin), socks with the subway map printed on them, and a cup with, once again “I <3 NY” emblazoned on it. When I went to the checkout the clerk smirked at me as if he had once again won. “Another tourist has succumbed!!!” he was probably thinking. I know I would if I were him. I just smiled back because one happy day when I am retired I will come in every day and gleefully mix up the magnets and put the green pencils with the purple ones.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Even scarier than a murder

I recently rewatched Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window.  The first time I watched it I was in 9th grade.  I would not say that it left a great mark on my impressionable mind, despite being the tender age of… Lord, I have no idea how old I was in 9th grade.  If you remember, I had watched Leprechaun in kindergarten, and I looked under my bed for the little man until 6th grade every night.  I wish I were kidding.  I was scared of leprechauns grabbing my ankles and biting me.  I also VIVIDLY remember watching a TV show about extreme encounters with animals, where a boa constrictor slithered out of a toilet and a few rattlesnake bite victims talked about the tremendous pain they experienced after they were bitten.  These anecdotes might seem comical in a way (A boa constrictor in the toilet, everyone!) but I remember the people on the tv show were genuinely scarred, looking around as if they expected a rhinoceros to charge out of their bedroom closet next.  What I took away from that show was that I had to get to a hospital 11-13 minutes within being bitten by a rattlesnake, and that I should always look in toilets for boa constrictors.

Anyhow, Rear Window did not scar me in this same way. One of the only things I took away from it is that I remember the person I watched it with told me New York was like Alfred had portrayed it: one could see into another’s apartment and just sit around looking at everyone go about their business. 

I guess this is sort of true.  Let’s take a look at what we can see outside our windows.


Not too much from this window.  This happens to be the view out my bedroom window.  A couple of inches over to the left is my neighbor’s window, from which I can hear him pushing snooze every 10 minutes from 6 AM on.  He, on the other hand, probably didn’t hear my alarm clock this week because I put it on silent.  And I wondered why I wasn’t waking up on time.  Silly me!


This is the view from our bathroom window.  Unfortunately.  I feel an apartment has much more character when you can see people outside while you shower.  However, let’s move on to the south facing windows.


Nice, no?  We have great full sunlight in the afternoon, which brings the temperature in the apartment up to a comfortable 95 degrees upon occasion.  At night we can sit around and look at the city lights, and during the day we can look down at the neighbor’s yard and observe bunnies hopping around.  Due to its enclosed nature, if someone is having a party with any sort of music involved every note reverberates off the buildings as if it is being played on a timpani. 

Let’s return to this same scene at night.  Ala Alfred Hitchcock, something sinister takes hole once the sun goes down.


Maybe I have an overactive imagination (I did major in liberal arts.  I guess I thought I would be able to support myself with it.) but I think this seems like the perfect setting for murders to take place.  What's going on in that lit window in the bottom right corner?  Oh, nothing, Ben is just strangling his wife.  And in the window with the big lampshade?  That's where Joe is dismembering his son Al.  And what's going on in the top left corner?  A closer look you need?  Is that what you said?

My roommates and I have each, on separate occasions, sat down on the couch, looked outside, and jumped up exclaiming something to the effect of "HELPTHEREISANAKEDMANINTHATAPARTMENTIJUSTSAWHISUNMENTIONABLES!"  Now that I think of it, this should phase me no more.  I walk down the streets here and everyone is nearly as naked as the day he was born.  I guess we just weren't bracing ourselves for the sight.

So no, this is NOT a naked man.  This is not George, who just can never seem to find his underpants.  This just happens to be a mannequin perfectly positioned to give us a full front view whenever we happen to glance outside, sometimes giving us a start, but by now just a normal fixture on the horizon.  And something that provides me endless entertainment when we do have visitors come over to see what the world outside our windows is up to.

Monday, June 22, 2009

It's rained here for about 10 days straight

I will be the first to admit that I am a pretty sub-par interior decorator.  This skill has mostly gone unnoticed to the unobservant because I have been lucky enough to live with people who put a lot of thought into surrounding themselves with pretty things arranged in pretty ways.  

I wouldn't say that I don't have the eye.  I can definitely tell you what colors look good together and what don't, mostly based on my knowledge of the color wheel from 9th grade art class, and I can also tell you what is a piece of junk and what isn't.  And I wouldn't say I don't have style.  No, the biggest drawback I have with decorating and domesticating a place is that I lack the experience.  You see, all my friends and their friends grew up in households where they were allowed to decorate their room within reason.  I suspect this is because they all spent a lot of time in their respective bedrooms, either grounded or on the phone talking about boys, perhaps doing the occasional homework, so the parents were all right with them decorating their space with things they wanted to see, since they spent a good chunk of their lives there.

In my home, the situation was very different.  After we were old enough to move into separate bedrooms and when my sister and I randomly decided for about 10 minutes what our favorite colors were one month, my mother's deft hand and quick thinking transformed our rooms to reflect our preferences.  And so since about 5th grade, my bedroom in California has remained very blue, and Agnes's has remained very yellow.  Arranging furniture, buying appropriate colored rugs, and the correct colored comforters all announced to the world what color our favorites were.  The fact that we spent very little time in our bedrooms (we were never grounded, punishment was as public as possible and going to hide in our bedrooms was not an option as a method of discipline, as then we would run the risk of not being reminded every 10 seconds what we had done wrong), so it never bothered me that I was not the one who had called the shots with the decor.

To illustrate how little I thought about what went into my bedroom, let me tell you the following: I was in a summer program in St. Louis for 5 weeks.  During those 5 weeks, everyone unpacked, decorated, some even put up curtains and posters in their room.  I placed my opened suitcase under my raised bed for easy access to clean clothes, and so it stayed until the very last day.  Unpacked.  Unloved.  And unwanted.

When I went away to college was when I started to have problems.  The first two years in the dorms were okay, there is only so much you can do with an extra long twin bed and a 4'x8' space, but I viewed moving into apartments with apprehension.  My secret would be exposed!  And so the first year I moved into a place, I had an air mattress for the whole year, and the second year I got a bed so big there was no way anything else would fit into the room with me.

In New York I've had a rough time.  The layout of my room changes with the weather.  I've moved things this way and that, dragging furniture out into the common area so I have enough room to maneuver the dresser two inches in one one direction or to shove my bitty bed into one corner.  I think I've finally hit on arrangement where the furniture and decor combination isn't completely offensive, and I think this is due in no small part to what I've been surrounded by at work.  

Here we have the Avenging Narwhal Play Set brightening someone's day a couple of desks over.

This is a model of an actual exhibition traveling the world.

(just kidding)

Here we move closer to home as we get a shot of my desk.  A while back I was sent several broken fish from one of our exhibitions and I decided to take it upon myself to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the sorrowing, and here they shall remain.

This is the Terminator Pup Sam. 

I'm not saying my room is decorated with any or all of these items.  But hopefully some of the inspirations stick.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Only the lonely

Sara and I recently staged a weak attempt to bring a pet into our homes and hearts by buying a fish.  We already have three plants, several hidden mice we hear crawling around between the walls at 2 AM, and some pigeons we enjoy feeding crumbs to on our fire escape.  Considering our plants are still alive from November, and that we have managed to keep ourselves healthy for this same sustained period of time, Sara felt that it was time to try our hands at raising a fish. 

Our apartment building does allow pets.  Daily we see our painfully apathetic neighbor take her Pomeranian out for a wee.  Without fail she is dressed in a ratty t-shirt and gigantic sweat pants, walking down the street with her enthusiastic pup bounding ten feet after her, eagerly sniffing at anything and everything.  She occasionally stops to let the dog catch up with her, then she continues on her slow ramble for the dog to be distracted by the next leaf blowing in the wind.  Her indifference to her pet is only paralleled by that one time in Chicago where I saw a mother pulling her baby carriage with the baby in it behind her.  We always look after her in astonishment, thinking what better pet owners we would be if we only had one to love and to cherish.  If it were a dog, we would be carrying that pet around, putting it down only when it wanted to go to the bathroom, promptly picking it back up again so that its precious little feet would not be sullied by the city’s grime and grit.

We went over to the local pet store, Petland, our hearts in our throats, faces flushed.  “Would this be the day?” we thought to ourselves, “when we could bring another life into the apartment?”  We walked around the store, looking at this fish and that, examining them for spots of color, strength of teeth, speed, and flipper size.  Since we decided we did not want a tank and that we wanted to stick with a plain old bowl, that basically brought it down to one kind of fish: a beta.

I enjoy looking at betas, but they remind me of cats: you can’t really ever tell if they are sweet and loving, or if they are going to jump out at you and bite your head off.  We asked an employee to direct us to the betas, and he looked at us dubiously.

“You just want a fish bowl?” he asked, and didn’t believe us when we said yes, we just want a bowl, we don’t want the whole nine yards and take the tank.  I’ve seen what it’s like to have a fish tank, and I want no part of it, not while I am still in my 20s, anyway.  You have to sit there and scrub the side with a toothbrush, clean the gravel, transfer the fish, worry about losing one of them when you’re draining the water, and so on and so forth.

The employee led us over to a shelf of the saddest looking beta fish I have ever seen, each quarantined in a separate bowl, and demanded we take a good look.  Had we ever seen fish this sad?  Had we?  No, we said, and he declared the reason for this was because they were alone in the world and were not in a tank with other fish swimming happily.  We argued we would be getting it a bigger bowl, colorful gravel, a fake treasure chest, MAYBE EVEN FAKE SEAWEED.  The salesman, however, argued that the fish would still remain miserable, and that we should not buy the beta fish.

Needless to say, we left Petland empty handed.

What I’m wondering is how on earth did this happen.  The salesman was ostensibly there to SELL us the fish, and he actually talked us out of owning a beta fish.  Everyone has owned a beta fish at one point in their lives, especially in 3rd grade I think.  And I think everyone was jealous if someone had a prettier beta fish than them.  Now that I think of it, I think that still applies today.  I imagine if I had a beta fish, I would constantly be comparing it to other beta fish, because really, what else does the fish have to offer besides looks?  Affection?  Wisdom?  Speed?  No, I would still be comparing my beta fish to others, worried mine was somehow less colorful or spectacular looking.

So here we remain, Sara, Mary Kate, and I, fishless but definitely not friendless.  And I also now know the most dedicated fish salesman in the world.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Magical and Mysterious

I’m not sure if you know this, but I am a big fan of mysteries.  By the end of 3rd grade I had read 49 of the 50 Nancy Drew books (incidentally, I never read the last one, The Mystery of the 13th Pearl), after which I graduated to the local suburban library to bust through all the Agatha Christie books my greedy little hands could get on.  I’m ashamed to say my taste in literature hasn’t developed a whole lot further than this.  From where I’m sitting on the couch right now, I can see dozens of classics on the shelves my roommates have brought from home to New York, Moby Dick, Anna Karenina, Don Quixote, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Demons, The Everlasting Man, well-edified and refined friends they turn to when they desire some intellectual stimulation and high-brow conversation.  They virtually spill out of the bookcase demanding attention and praise.  I can also see from the couch my half-shelf of my own classics: The Historian, A Perfect Spy, Dirk Gently’s Hollistic Detective Agency.  This is not to say that I do not enjoy good literature.  In fact, I am a big fan.  But when push comes to shove, when I really want to cheer up or to just let my brain stop for a second and run wild, I will most likely grab a tried and true mystery book.

Luckily enough for me, I can be entertained with mysterious things no matter where I go here.  For instance, it remains one of the deepest mysteries to me why our trash room in our apartment building does not smell like trash.  Every other part in our building has guaranteed smelled like garbage at least once, but the trash room, never.  Our foyer regularly reeks of dog slobber, our elevator of rotten take out, BUT WHY DOESN’T THE TRASH ROOM SMELL LIKE THE PUTRID GARBAGE IN IT?!

A few weeks ago I got a membership at the local video store one block away from here.  This move was prompted mostly by my unfortunate experiences with the bigger video rental chains instigating my distrust of organized video rentals stores, beginning in high school when my sister and I locked the keys in the running car in front of Hollywood Video at 11:30 at night, and stayed there while our car ran out of batteries.  This new place is aptly called Video Café because they have both videos and they also allegedly serve coffee.  They also have the largest collection of Hell’s Kitchen paraphernalia I have seen in the area.  You can buy hats, t-shirts, sweatshirts, visors that all have Hell’s Kitchen emblazoned upon them. 

This video store has the largest collection of VHSs I have seen since the 90s.  I have no idea if anyone rents them anymore.  I have never checked any of them out, and I have never seen anyone else check them out.  Whatever time of day you walk in there, some sort of techno or hip hop song is playing as loud as the cheap speakers will go, and it is completely empty.  My roommates and I are convinced that if you actually did ask for coffee, you’d be taken into the back room to be shown the latest delivery of coke they got in that day.

Over the store’s awning there is a marquee-type display that proudly announces the latest movies that might possibly be in stock for the intrepid customer.  Movies that I never once saw lining their shelves.  For instance, one Friday night when my roommates and I felt like watching a movie we could make fun of and that would provide us with a store of ludicrous characters and quotes we could reenact for each other when we got tired of reciting poetry to each other Saturday nights, I went in search of Elegy.  You probably never heard of it.  It has Penelope Cruz in it, and I watched the trailer for it about 3,235 times solely because there was a catchy tune in it for about 15 seconds.  The store owner announced that someone JUST rented that movie seconds before I walked in, and it was out for the following 3 weeks.  I might add that it was a new release, and new release rentals are 2 days.  And the movie is so phenomenally bad that NO ONE would have wanted to watch it in all of New York.  If you’ve seen Autumn in New York with Richard Gere and Winona Rider, you’ve seen this movie.

A member’s account is also appropriately their phone number.  So when I am renting a movie, inevitably the city’s freaks materialize out of no where and I imagine they are there flipping through the dog-eared movie encyclopedia feigning interest only because they want to memorize my phone number.  Have I become too self-involved and paranoid?  I don’t think so.  As I said in the beginning, I just like mysteries.  So the next time I get a phone call at 4 AM on a Wednesday night and I hear a raspy voice saying something like “You’ve got to come to 145 and Amsterdam right now, they’re waiting for you.” I’ll just know it was the guy with the patch over his eye and the missing ear who was standing behind me in line at the Video Café and that I should bring the latest DVD I rented in exchange for…well, I guess I’d have to find out.