It Was a Hipster Love Story

It started with vomit.  Projectile vomiting, actually.  And not the kind that happens in the Lower East Side at 4 a.m. but the kind that happens unexpectedly and without provocation in the form of eight whisky sours.  No, this vomit rocket took the shape of a young girl, wearing a backpack and sitting next to her mother.

“Oh, no.  Oh, no.”

Jill turned when she heard the splatter hit the floor of the L Train.

James saw the whole thing happen, having unfortunately chosen to stand right in front of the kid.  He looked down at his shoes, making sure that the strategically distressed and aged leather was untainted; scuffs and tears were okay, but throw up was another beast entirely.

Jill watched as James moved towards her.  She thought she might have seen him before, but maybe it was just that haircut that was so familiar.  She’d been seeing that one a lot lately.  Their eyes met briefly and shared an accidental wink and a nod about what they had just seen.  And then they continued to not look at each other, as people in the subway so often do, holding the rails and feeling the shuddering sway of the train on the tracks.

Together, they watched as a second bout of illness quickly came, the young girl now standing on her feet and completely at the whim of her fickle stomach.  “Oh, no.  Oh, no.”  Politeness being a dangerous road to tread at this point, most everyone parted ways to create a large circle of space around the kid, like an unwelcome dance floor.

Again, the two caught eyes.  Again, the accidental acknowledgement.

First Avenue arrived and the two made their way for another train.  With everyone from the last car in this new one, the boy and girl were forced to stand more closely to one another.  Jill flashed her iPod James’ direction, angled casually to minimize the glare, hopping that he might see her Belle and Sebastian remixed cover on display.  She peeked up just in time to see his eyes moving away from her screen and down to her black boots.

“Madewell?” he asked, though the question was more the assumption of someone who shopped often and knew the minutia of marked designer characteristics – stitching, leather quality, and other trappings of the post-heterosexual days.

“Lanvin,” she countered, immediately following with a self-deprecating apology for having purchased such a grossly expensive item, separating herself from the real artists.  She couldn’t help that her parents came from money, could she?

James nodded his head in a nonjudgmental manner and placed his headphones back on.  She did the same, though she didn’t press play yet.  Instead, she listened to the thumping baseline of her new favorite song play loudly into his ears – the one by that guy who lives in a loft somewhere in Bushwick, you know, the one that sounds like all those other ones with, like, the reverb and stuff.  Her song was on his iPod.

She turned her face away.  He looked over, swearing he caught a wave of blush cross her cheeks.  But then again, it was getting cold outside.

Third Avenue arrived and he departed, off to work a retail gig for a brand that had perfected the art of skinny jeans for boys.  You know, that one.  Jill watched through the dirty glass windows and he disappeared, noting that she hadn’t realized until just now that they were wearing the very same plaid shirt.

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Show Ponies

They shuttle us to the middle of beautiful nowhere to walk in front of rich people wearing nice shoes and eating family-sized gobs of buffalo mozzarella.  The property is an estate from a bygone age when the wealthy owned grotesque amounts of land like British royalty, gardens and horse stables, brick walls and ivy.  Through the trees is a house, sturdy and Georgian, with white-painted windowsills and dormer roofs.  Soon enough, it disappears and the shuttle drops us off at a big plastic tent, which is so often the case.

The models and generator equipment make unnatural sounds in utopia and I sit in the middle of a large piece of grass praying for the wind to take them all away.  Their chitchat and deepening wrinkles.  The wind doesn’t listen and instead blows the hair around my face like fading wheat.  I watch it take to the landscape invisibly: the blades of green bending with a rubbery pep, the trees groaning in unison.  It makes ripples in my watery coffee like the surface of a pond.

An effeminate man wearing rhinestone brocade and a chinstrap beard gathers us round like the dumb chickens we are and provides us with directions.  “It’s pretty straightforward,” he begins, following with instructions to simply walk all the way down the runway and back.  I want to correct him and say that it is entirely straightforward, but I say nothing.  “When you go out there,” he continues, “I want you to have a strong and pleasant coun…” The word I presume he is going for is countenance but he stops short, assuming that its meaning would be wasted on us.

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Nearly There

Halloween and haunted houses.  Being small again.  My neighbor with the daughter who stole crystal rocks from me covering my face in heavy makeup because my mom was never good at such things.  My hair curled and spilling from the top of my head out of a toilet paper roll spray painted gold.  Gypsy woman.  Harem girl.

The smell of dry ice – chaulky, plasticized, unnatural.  The fake blood that stuck to the hair by your ears and stayed in place for weeks, no matter how fiercely you scrubbed.

There were rules.  Don’t eat unwrapped candy.  Don’t eat the rice crispy treatsDon’t go too far.  Stories about razorblades and candy that never came true.  White pillow cases filled to the brim and the organization and tallying of our winnings.

23 Snickers Bars.  12 Kit Kats.  32 Tootsie Rolls.

Mom gave us twenty dollars a piece to not eat all of it.  She kept the bags of extra junk on top of the refrigerator which we were not tall enough to reach for.  The chocolate eventually turning grayish white, thrown away sometime in December.

Pumpkin carving and orange knives.  Slimy innards.  Roasting our findings in salt and eating them for weeks.  Candles that smelled like vanilla wax.  My brother as a baseball player.  My brother as a ninja.  My brother as Batman.  We were young.  Sixteen months apart in age.  I was always three inches taller than him until I was not.  Then he started looking like my dad, bearded and German.

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The Freaks Come Out at Night

Exhibit One

He made his way towards the subway doors prematurely; we were still stuck somewhere between 6th and 8th Avenue, moving quickly past concrete and pipelines.  I watched him from behind as he braced himself for an event that was not yet known until it was.  A pink, foamy puddle quickly formed at his feet as he held his stomach, adding to it just one more time before taking his place at the door, standing upright and casual, his legs crossed like John Wayne at a watering hole.  We finally stopped, the doors opened, and he got off, leaving pieces of himself behind…literally.

Exhibit Two

“SUDDENLY!  SUDDENLY!” he booms from behind our table at the bar.  I turn in time to see a man in a tangerine Polo shirt and a sensible haircut lunge in slow motion towards another man in all black.  Mr. Tangerine looks not unlike a client of mine I once had: a kindly family man with a wife, two children, and reading glasses.  “SUDDEENNLLYYY!” comes the roar again and they move towards each other with anything but what “suddenly” might imply.  A taller man has somehow found his way into this strange argument and all three of them fall to the floor in dense and cautious thuds.  One after another, like fat, lethargic dominos.

Exhibit Three

I walk through the park, my headphones lodged deep into my ears in a way that probably causes hearing damage.  The song moves my feet with a rapid pace, taking me to a dinner I am already over an hour late for.  My friend waited for me; he is French and possesses a repertoire of manners and niceties generally lost on Americans, especially someone originally from Los Angeles.  “Excuse me,” he says over my music.  I give a wave that says, Yeah, I’ve seen you but this is New York and why the hell would I pull over and actually talk to you. “Excuse me.”  He waves me down, but his wave is something more akin to what someone does when alerting another person that their gas tank lid has been left open.

“Hey you!” comes with a smile through teeth I am unfamiliar with.  “I love your strut!  Your energy!  Where are you going?”

I am confused that I have been conned into this social participation with a stranger, no matter now nice this person is.  I laugh and try to shake off the conversation again, taking steps towards the direction I was heading and moving to put my headphones back in.  Each time I make to leave, he says something else about what a great connection we have and his smiles get tighter and stranger and I am finally able to back away after four stolen minutes.  “Have a good night,” I yell.  I leave him firmly convinced that The Secret or any other positivity Jedi mind tricks are bullshit: no amount of buoyant enthusiasm was ever going to get me to connect with this person and his briefcase in the middle of Union Square at 10 in the evening.

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Two Minutes with Grimes

When I looked up from my drink a young girl had appeared behind her fort of musical equipment I don’t know the name for.  Computer tech things made for making your own beats – looping, thumping, thoughtful electronic music my brother would have hated when we were in high school.

This was Grimes.  She reminded me of Wednesday Adams sporting an at-home Amelie haircut, bangs cut high above a face with cheeks grandmother’s love to squeeze lovingly.  Her gaping Depeche Mode t-shirt hung loosely over a skirt paired with tights and a pair of tennis shoes.

She took to the stage, a small elevated platform on the side of the room.  Above her hung an explosion of frothy paper clouds fit for a Michel Gondry set piece, from which inside Christmas lights softly glowed, sometimes hidden and other times exposed, like the full moon in a snow storm.  Light undulated through layers of paper.  Softly.  It reminded me of the flowers I used to make when I was young out of stiff paper so intensely colored that it would bleed onto your hands if they were clammy or damp.  We made them for celebrate Dia de los Muertos even though we were only eight years old and didn’t want to think about such things.

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Book Club Edition

The Book of Other People.  Edited by Zadie Smith.

The book is comprised of short stories created by different authors – their quest simply to create a character.  The result is a series of glimpses into the lives of the boring, the insane, the trite, the bloody.  A recommended read.

The following is an excerpt from Hari Kunzru’s short story, Magda Mandela.

She’s standing on the top step, the lights of the house blazing behind her, a terrifying mash-up of the Venus of Willendorf and a Victoria’s Secret catalogue, making gestures with a beer can at the little knot of emergency service personnel gathered on the pavement below.

One of the younger and less experienced constables has obviously asked her to accompany him to a a place where, as an agent of the state, he will feel less exposed.  A police station, perhaps.  Or a hospital.  Anywhere that will tip the odds a little in his favour.  Magda has met this suggestion with the scorn it deserves.  She knows she outnumbers these fools.  YOU KNOW ME, she says.  Then, with a sinister leer, AND I KNOW YOU.

Being known by Magda is a messy and unavoidably carnal experience.  All of us neighbours are known by Magda.  Last time she knew me, she pushed me up against the side of my car.  I know you, she breathed huskily.  I knew I’d been known.

 

Link on Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/Book-Other-People-Zadie-Smith/dp/0143038184

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Midtown Mornings

Everyone stacks silently on top of one another, countless numbers of layered footsteps muffled by rebar and concrete and other things stronger than ourselves.  The radiator twitches noisily beneath me, pattering away like rain on a tin roof and smelling of burning summer dust.

Twelve stories below, people of indecipherable shades carry their miniature briefcases, wearing miniature raincoats built for these fall days.  This is the 8 a.m. crowd – shuffling, dark, and presumably serious.

“LANE FIRE” the road reads if read like a book and not a road.  The letters are mismatched and accidentally idiosyncratic with a secret beauty beyond the comprehension of any Department of Transportation.

The glass windows delicately separating myself and the morning obstructs the noise from outside.  Those omnipresent city sounds.  The noise you forget that is there, endless and always, like love, dulled by the patina of time.  It wails and screeches and clatters and hisses – obnoxiously and continuously in a cacophonic loop.

Across the street, in a building not unlike the one I am in, early morning meetings commence and paperwork lays strew about haphazardly, as if the work and the orderly completion thereof is secondary to simply showing up.  Headless, faceless hands rise and fall with the fervor and deliberation of points being made.  Here and here and here – the fingers jut into the air, stiff and determined.

These are humorless places and there are hundreds of them.  Row after row.  Avenue to street.  Places for commerce and coffee mugs with pictures of dogs in mowed backyards.  Made in China places.  Fucking kill me places.

 

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Oh Mom, Don’t You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz

As seen on Flipcollective.com

I was in a lake house somewhere in Wisconsin, waterskiing and eating gourmet hot dogs, when my mom telephoned me, opening with, “Guess what?”  Oh, no.  I hated these theoretical invitations to participate in choices that were ultimately not mine.  Being an angry teenager, I didn’t want to play that game.  I didn’t like anything, let alone games.

“What?”  I said.

“I got you a car!”

Resisting the urge to relay my excitement that someone had bought me something with two to four doors and reliable tires, I opted for a more adolescent approach: to be immediately and incredibly irritated.  How dare she pick a car out without me?  How could she write that check that she never expected to be repaid for without consulting me first as to what I wanted to drive?

“What kind?” I asked, my voice grating against my teeth.

“A Mercedes!”

Of course.

My mom’s foray into the world of Mercedes started with the purchase of her own nearly-vintage model a few years back, an event that had created a Benzo fanatic who constantly praised the quality and craftsmanship of the sturdy German car.  I, however, didn’t care about safety or quality; I just wanted to look really fucking cool.  And to me cool meant a two-door Tahoe or a dropped Chevy Silverado, preferably in midnight blue.  Lesbian was apparently my look du jour.

When assessing what type of car would be suitable for my mother to purchase for me, a Mercedes was not on the list of cars that fit the bill.  I knew that it wasn’t going to be a new Mercedes, which I might have actually been okay with.  My mom was always a woman who steered away from car payments and preferred to only buy items she could pay for with a singular wad of hundred dollar bills.

“What’s it look like?” I muttered.

“It’s a 1990 190E.  Charcoal.”

At least it wasn’t periwinkle or burnt orange or, God forbid, champagne, a color my mother often fancied but one I always found obscenely offensive on moving vehicles.  Keep that shit in the glass, I say.  Charcoal was a sophisticated and understated color, not unlike, say, Dolphin Gray or Nimbus Gray.   At least she had done that much right.

I offered my half-hearted thanks, hung up the phone, and then went back to my week at the lake, paid for by…my mother.

When I got home from Wisconsin, the car was sitting in one of three spaces in the large garage of my soon to be ex-stepfather.  My new chariot was clean and sparkling and the inside of it smelled like leather cleaner.  For any normal and thankful child this was a really nice car.  It was safe, reliable, and clean.  There were no chips in the paint, no questionable stains in the upholstery, and because it was so old, registration was cheap.  Not like it mattered: my mom paid for that, too.

My mom has always been hypersensitive of asking too much out of my brother and I financially because she was largely left on her own from the age of seventeen onward.  Her first car had been a ten-ton Volvo with bad breaks and a missing window.  She didn’t feel like subjecting us to the same street hazards.  Thusly, I was blessed by the events of my mom’s shitty childhood.

I attempted to put what I thought was personality back then on and into my car.  The license plate holder read something like “JB and SC BFF” and the actual license plate was a personalized disaster reading “OHSOPH*T.”  That of course, meaning that I was “Oh, so phat.”  “Phat” was a ridiculous late 90s term standing for Pretty Hot and Tempting.  Jesus.  Inside, I had wrapped some leopard fabric around this inserted strip of plastic under the armrest.  All of which indications that teenagers should not be allowed to make decisions about pretty much anything.

When I had saved enough money for a sound system, I ripped out the tape player and crackling speakers and replaced all of it with a superior, booming, ear-ringer of a contraption, most of which had to be placed in the trunk.  Of course I needed a 12-inch subwoofer to really get the intended sound of “Picture Me Rollin” and all my other favorite Tupac jams.  And that 12-inch subwoofer needed to be run by something, so I had to buy an amplifier and that amplifier had to be the pretty one with the insides that glowed with a purple hue.  A thousand some-odd dollars later and I had what I considered to be the best stereo system in the school parking lot.  Boo ya!

In the end, though, it was a good thing my mom had invested minimally in my first car.  Less than six months after being issued my driver’s license, I almost got my wish – except I didn’t crash into a tree, I got crashed into by a Jeep Grand Cherokee going 45 MPH.  As I waited on the sidewalk, shaky with adrenaline, none of my pathetic concerns about being cool much mattered at that point — not my stupid over-priced stereo system or the fact that that my car was ten years old.  The gnarled Mercedes stood in the middle of Topanga Canyon Boulevard, a shameful indication that not only was I a brat, but I was a brat that couldn’t drive.

My mom, however, saw the silver lining in the situation – she found an excellent opportunity to do one of the things mothers do best: tell you when they’d been right.  “I told you these were safe cars,” she said, “In any other car, you would have been dead.”

And then she paid for my repairs.

 

 

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Subway Stories

The train comes quickly, in a hurry to get everyone to work on time – the train is less forgiving when it comes to getting its patrons to bars at midnight, but one can only be so demanding on the G train.  We cram in like that fish that comes in tin cans, my shoulders rubbing against the shoulders of two other people, openly inviting those bed bugs everyone keeps talking about.

Over the white girl emo music floating through my cerebral cortex, I hear the disgruntled bass line of an angry schizophrenic.  I check my iPod.  Nope, not a remix.  I press pause and hear the following:

Better start being nicer!  I hope yo cell phone blow up in yo face, motha fu#$a!

My eyes bulge wide in they way that they do when I’m humored/ terrified.  Though I’m sure people this openly insane would most likely have a hard time putting together a bomb if they even had the means to acquire the materials, the thought still crosses my mind that if they could, they would… or at least they could start shanking people in the name of the economical wreaking of havoc.

After openly sharing his feelings about being affronted (my thought is that perhaps he was bumped into by someone tapping away on their Blackberry), Crazy Man goes into a political monologue.

Tell Bush to suck my d#^k!  Eat my sh@%!  F*&k George Bush!  I’ll knock his ass out.

Given the political climate as of late, I would think that if he wanted to make more of a stir, he might have joined the anti-Obama bandwagon.  I haven’t heard a rant about Bush in, well, about two years.  The next time I see him I will hand over an issue of The Economist so he can stay up to date.  Such things are important when it comes to pissing people off.

Crazy Man also has some personal thoughts on the international melting pot – or “salad bowl” as some have called it – that is New York City.

F$%cking Indians getting all the white bitches.  F^&cking hoes.

I didn’t realize that this was a citywide epidemic, but I am happy to have acquired the knowledge.  I share a look with a scary-looking gentleman sporting tattoos in many visible places, including three large stars across his neck, who is – to my surprise – also disturbed by the state of current events on this train.

From here, Crazy Man segues into childcare, etc.

I’m impregnating all the hoes.  I’m gonna provide for yo babies.  Don’t be ashamed if I take care of yo babies.  You can’t tell me shi^%.  Gimme some money.  Show me the money!  You tight mothaf%#!s.

If he offers to take care of all these bastard children, he should at least be able to pay for them himself.  But what do I know about these matters…

In an effort to better acquaint himself with his fellow New Yorkers, Crazy Man provides us with his back-story.

I’m an undahcovah agent.  I’m an undahcovah agent and I got the right to be hostile!  I was born in ’59.  Hernando de Soto the third.  And my stage name is Benjamine.

If this isn’t a performance, I’m not sure what is.  That being said, I’ll surely purchase tickets to his main act.

 

 

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Insensitivity Training 101

Dear Chubby Bunny,

You might not be aware of it, but you are taking up two seats, not just the one in which you are entitled to as a tax paying citizen.  Since you are morbidly obese, I will assume you are an American by default.  I know it must be terribly difficult to assess the seed of my misgivings since you are in the newer, “fancier” subway car with its blue bench seats and its fairly efficient air conditioning system, but you are indeed occupying (in addition to your own seat, the one under your right ass cheek) a seat that could be mine for a joyful five stops.  Instead I am forced to stand here, holding onto a round pole covered with malaria and other foul things that might kill me, watching as your gelatinous mass spreads itself over the blue plastic like a depressing solar eclipse.

I long for the older cars: pre-Guiliani nightmares with their sour McDonald’s color scheme and graffiti etched irreversibly into metal walls, the corners filled with trash that never seemed to be swept up and the jaundiced flourescent lights rendering us all subterranean zombies.  Please dear God, give me that, if only just for their clearly defined seats, each butt-sized dent perfect for just that, as well as various indecipherable trapped and stagnant liquids.

Back in the founding days of the subway car, there was a discussion about the average heft of a human being.  At this juncture, our slim and trim ancestors divided the area into what I might call “space cubicles” – the amount of room that each Homo sapien is entitled to, give or take a child or a football player with broad shoulders.  This, however, was long before the days of Quarter Pounders with Cheese and video games, when people could run without wheezing and there was no debate about if obese people were obligated to purchase an extra ticket for their third asses on airplanes.

These people oozing out of their personal space bubble and into my own need to be held accountable for their imposing girth and if that means taking it upon myself to draw boundaries on these unlined and dentless blue bench seats, so be it.  Until that time, might I suggest that you step towards the back of the car, where there is extra space for people and their bicycles, to attempt some lunges in the meantime.

Thanks,

Irritated on the L Train

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