HLS: Olivia

Olivia’s wrists ached under the weight of a five-pound apple pie, a treat her mother had taught her to make when she was still small and could be taught things.  She wished her parents had pushed her harder during those malleable years – force-feeding her Spanish and French lessons, throwing her in front of a piano or a guitar or anything that she could use to channel her occasional malaise.  Instead she had turned twenty-five and was just another useless, ignorant American, speaking English and going to concerts, not performing in them, making pies for holiday parties she didn’t really want to go to anyway.

As an adult she had found herself more reluctant in the acquisition of new knowledge.  Knowing too much made her feel small and insignificant; the more she knew about one singular topic, more subtopics would spring up around them like relentless weeds begging to be pulled, though when those were pulled new ones just grew up in their place.  Knowledge was an infinite void.  Stella never felt satisfied because there could be no satisfaction in the infinite.

Olivia should have taken a car.  Her pack was heavy with two bottles of wine and a festive homemade trail mix of dried cherries and pistachios, less obvious shades of the holiday season.  Instead, she was left to awkwardly negotiate the pie in her hands with the subway turnstile, onto a platform filled with the only other idiots in New York City willing to endure a similar hassle.

The voice of the robotic subway announcer – a sexless woman always telling Olivia when her Manhattan bound train was arriving – echoed around the filthy tiled halls, absorbed into nothing and no one the same way her apartment did.

She had been in her place five months already and hadn’t bothered to invest in any furniture save for a mattress, two forks, and a knife.  She had nested before, inspired by a boy and the concept of home.  She knew what it was like to spend weekends at flea markets, finding trinkets that accurately expressed her personality in brass and porcelain.  “I’m like this,” the chandelier in her dining room proudly stated, shining down over the faces of her beautiful friends in a beautiful kaleidoscope of light.  That time was beautiful.  Their apartment was beautiful.  They were beautiful and then they were over.

Olivia found an apartment far enough away from that place so she never had to walk past it.  He didn’t live there anymore but she couldn’t be bothered reliving times that had already passed.  There was no point in looking back; life was about charging relentlessly forward.  Forward and away.  Inventing new parts of yourself so you could forget about the old.

Her new place was not as beautiful as the last, in part because she couldn’t afford what they had been able to afford as a couple, but also because she just didn’t care.  It was a newer building, without crown molding or high ceilings.  Her neighbors were twenty-somethings who dressed like people who didn’t understand aesthetics. It felt a bit like a prefabricated cave with that fake wooden flooring that gave underfoot.  An apartment was just an apartment.  It lacked all of the things that Olivia had always associated with home and that was precisely the point; if it was perfect, if she made it perfect, she would get attached, and when the day came that she had to leave it, it would be that much more difficult.

When she moved, she vowed not to repeat the mistakes of her past.  Everything was temporary and everyone was transient.  Everything about New York City was a constant reminder of that fact: the internationals who came and went, the weather that changed by the hour, the constant flood of new things that indicated a forcing out of the old.  She knew all of this and she spent her time and money accordingly: sparsely and with a hesitant hand.

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Hipster Christmas Wish List

Let’s be honest – being a hipster is expensive.  At the end of the year, we’re all broke after 300 some-odd days trying to be so cool.  So, in an effort to start off the next year still looking fly without having to break the bank, here’s a list of things to ask for other people to get you.  All of course in keeping with your hella hipster taste.  There’s no reason to feel bad, especially if you’re asking family members.  Likely, they don’t live in New York City and have way more disposable income to spend on you.

A Surfboard

It doesn’t matter that you can’t surf; you’ll learn eventually.  You can keep it in the shared living room of your loft space next to your roommate’s shitty art until it’s warm enough outside to drive out to Montauk and bum a room from your rich friend who rents a house each summer.  Even though you didn’t want to live the life of a suit, it’s important to befriend the suits – they’re the ones with the cash.

Leopard Print

A terrific option for boys and girls alike.  In 2011 we see animal prints going an entirely new direction.  Along with eyeliner, the reintroduction of hair gel, and Britney Spears.  Plaid might soon be falling to the wayside!  Okay, maybe not, but a change is surely afoot.  Hipster has become too accessible and mainstream.  Gentlemen, if you’re not feeling adventurous enough to delve into these territories unknown, feel free to ask for a light blue denim button-up or the aforementioned plaid if – for whatever strange reason – you didn’t receive one in the last two years.

Mast Brother’s Chocolate

Nothing less will do.  We love the Fleur de Sel because it sounds fancy and worldly when you say that you have some back at home.  Bitches love fancy boys.

The Art of Shaving Shave Kit

For when spring comes and you have to get rid of that grizzly beard you’ve been working on for the last four months with a clean shave.  Sad, we know.  The world weeps with you.

“Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel” by Gary Shteyngart

Look hip and educated while riding the subway.  You don’t have to read it, just do some YouTube research or something.

Anything Kiehl’s

Just because we look like we don’t take showers, doesn’t mean that we buy our grooming products at Rite Aid.  Suave is for ten year old boys and poor people.  The latter being a demographic we still probably fall under, but that’s what credit cards are for: smelling good and looking fresh now…and paying for it later.  We fucking love America!

The No-Brush Hairbrush

Keep those stray hairs fashionably astray, but not I-just-got-out-of-the-psych-ward astray.

Brass Knuckle Jewelry

Ladies, not only will you look tre chic as you walk down SoHo, but this will keep you tre safe while walking home at 4 a.m. though Bushwick because you can’t afford a cab.

A Whole Lot of Four Loko

Because they’re taking this shit off the shelves and it’s the only thing that makes Don Hills a tolerable venture.

Taxidermied Anything

Deer are feeling a little played out, as of late.  Maybe suggest something like a wild boar, an antelope (if your apartment can accommodate such a beast, in which case, you’re the man), or a mouse (doesn’t make you any less of a man, don’t worry).  These are just suggestions; get creative!

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Keep it cool, kids.  Keep it mad cool.

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Waking up with the Aquabats

I’m sorry, the who?  I open my inbox, which over the course of the evening has flooded with invitations to try Starbucks’ newest whipped cream and get fifteen-percent off my next Barnes and Noble purchase.  Crammed in between a request to review the toothpaste I just bought on Drugstore.com and a Christmas card from a total stranger, Goldenvoice has sent me an email with the subject line, “Cat Power, The Aquabats, and happy holidays.”  I’m confused.  Since when does any of that belong in one single sort-of-sentence?  And what in God’s name are the Aquabats doing still touring?

For those of you unfamiliar with the Aquabats, they were (and apparently are still) a band scraping the edges of self-parody, if not fully submerged in it (it’s literally been a decade since I’ve listened to their music or watched them perform).  It’s an ensemble cast, each boy man decked out in a super-hero-worthy spandex onesie and a dignity-salvaging black eye mask.  Travis Barker of Blink 182 and other subsequent bands catering to the politely tempered angst of suburban high school children used to be a part, though I believe he fled the scene some time ago.

The music brings to mind the era of No Doubt and commercial punk blended with a heaping boatload of Weird Al Yankovic.  It’s music for the nerdy kid who doesn’t think he’s nerdy.  This was all around the same time as Bloodhound Gang and Reel Big Fish (sorry, um, still amazing to listen to).  The music of the Aquabats, in a word or two, is insanely fucking obnoxious.  Their ska band horn section, their lyrics about guacamole and pizza parties, their…overwhelming lameness.

I was in middle school when I first heard their song “Idiot Box.”  I’m fairly certain that the intel was provided to me by my friend Valdas, though when I think about it now, Valdas was too cool to be listening to this stuff.  Valdes wore Yves Saint Laurent ties before any of us knew what YSL was and drank Robo on the weekends (that’s Robitussen for all of you squares out there).  Valdas was too refined a spirit in the late 90s to have brought the Aquabats to my attention.

In doing some research as to how the band has “evolved” I stumbled across their website, which is sort of like a time capsule that you never quite finished making, forever adding stuff to it while you forget to change anything about yourself.  There seems to be no marked difference between the Aquabats of my middle school days and the Aquabats of today, except maybe the fit of their snug uniforms.  And I suppose that’s all well and good, the whole stay-true-to-your-roots thing, but I find it hard to believe that there’s an audience for this act anymore.  The Aquabats really seem like something you should have left in your middle school locker room at the age of thirteen and never looked back.  It just doesn’t have that timeless, take-it-with-you-for-the-rest-of-your-life quality that say, Simon and Garfunkel probably had for my mother at that age.

Watching Reel Big Fish perform “Beer” from 1998 some years later, I feel bad for these guys.  The persona they had created back then – bouncing, ridiculous, checkered wearing nerds with spiky hair – is a horrific thing to be a slave to for the rest of your life.  It’s not much different than someone asking me to act the way I did in seventh grade because, “That was your, like, most awesome year.”  The resulting Me would be an obnoxious, know-it-all who knew nothing at all, sporting khaki mini-skirts from Wet Seal and blue eye shadow.  I’d rather fucking kill myself.

These bands – Reel Big Fish, the Bloodhound Gang, The Aquabats – are one-album wonders, forced to play the same shit over and over again because no one ever cared about anything else.  And while I understand the root of the supply in the economic equation, I do not understand the demand.  These guys are playing because people are buying.  And who the hell is still jamming out to “Fashion Zombies!”  Like…really…who?  Tell me, because trying to figure this puzzle out on my own is giving me a wretched headache at 9 in the morning.

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Taking Lessons from Miniature Tigers

“I should be on Charlie’s list?” I say, a lilt in my voice that infers that I am unsure.  A petite girl scans a white piece of paper and hands me a blue sticker.  “This gets you upstairs,” she says.  I walk through the darkened stairwells of Webster Hall, arriving at a mezzanine cantilevered over a crowd I am normally a part of.  I watch them walk with their cups filled with alcohol, all waiting for the buzz to kick in, the welcome fuzziness of not having to think, thick like the foam on top of their beers.

On stage, a curly haired girl in a 70s jumper writhes on the floor, bringing to mind a pre-famous Katy Perry, playing for A & R reps in small, glamourless rooms.  The upstairs floor gives with the weight of us on it, as well as the motion of those below, creating a trampoline-effect in a building I would prefer to remain stationary.

Charlie is there attempting to enjoy whatever time he has before he takes the stage as the lead singer of Miniature Tigers, a band I have been following for the last few years, back when Charlie only had a demo and a Myspace page.  He is wearing a bulky red coat made out some something reminiscent of felt.  He has grown out his beard in an abridged version of something Kurt Cobain might have sported while he was still of the living, sleeping in Seattle and playing guitar in a ripped up hoodie.

The last show I saw of Charlie’s was nearly a year and a half ago, in the hall of a hip, renovated motel that left condoms and earplugs on the bedside table.  I know; I stayed there.  Before that, I had caught him in a tiny venue in LA, on the eastern portion of Sunset Boulevard.  Since then, then has toured the country and had his last album produced by Neon Indian.  This is a thing evolving.

We talk for as long as we can about touring, Brooklyn, whatever.  This is the last stop on their tour, an experience Charlie seems to have rather enjoyed.  I am happy to see him here, about to play for a big New York City crowd on a stage I think he deserves.

He takes off, disappearing from the mezzanine and appearing on the stage below, tuning his guitar and wandering the stage.  The filler music dies down and the lights dim.  Miniature Tigers plays, flanked by paper tulips and awash in green lights.  “You guys are lovely,” Charlie says, just a leader singer to a crowd of people who don’t know him.

The band dives into music that is perfect in its awkwardness.  The beats that are nearly right but nearly wrong, the pitch of Charlie’s voice.  I watch the crowd bob their heads below and I am overcome with the pride of someone else’s accomplishments.  We are all just waiting for our tipping points, the moments when life suddenly catches up to us, when all of the decisions we have made over the course of our lives seem to amount to something greater than the unnoticed catalysts they had been in the past.

Photo courtesy of LAist.com

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jennyblovespublictransportation

I don’t what possesses the MTA to grant advertisers the right to plaster their visual fury on the walls of my subways, but I hope it’s a lucrative venture.  Someone better be profiting from the raping of my eyeballs, because it sure as hell isn’t me.  Between full-size posters of open-heart surgery and macro shots of black lung, by the time I get from Point A to Point B, I am ready to gouge my eyes out.

Strangely enough, the most terrifying posters are usually the ones annotated in Spanish.  I don’t know if it’s just that I am unable to give the grotesque photographs context, thereby nullifying their visual potency or what, but the few times I have really wanted to wretch, this has been the case.

The other day I had the pleasure of sitting across from a poster featuring the pulverized face of a man, sporting some gnarly gash on his forehead and a mélange of attractive bruises.  He looked like he’d either fallen off of a building or been subjected to a three-day gangbang.

I go to the first line, attempting to pull some of my rudimentary knowledge of Spanish out of the recesses of my high school brain.  “Dos tragos antes te hubieres marchado.”  Nope.  I got nothing.  There’s no mention of el bano or el gato; if you ever need to talk about restrooms or cats, I’m your girl.  Thankfully, I am able to work more easily with the second line: “Beber en exceso es peligroso.”  I sound the letters out in a moronic hooked-on-phonics pace in my head that would have put the tenth grade version of me to shame.  Drinking in excess is dangerous…I get that much, but what the hell was this guy supposed to be drinking?  Forty shots of Absinthe?  Fifteen flaming margaritas?

I think the real story here isn’t that Senior Boozehound knocked back two too many beers, but that he started his morning off with a fifth of tequila, chased that with a trip to Las Vegas, accidentally smoked a mysterious white powder, smacked a stripper’s ass in the champagne room and got thrown in jail for any one of the subsequent idiotic things he did over the course of that night.  Because that, mi amigo, would be truly peligroso.

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Twin Shadow: Music for the Neo Brat Pack

“This show is definitely not starting at ten, man.”

Mike looks around the sparsely populated main room of Don Hills with drink in hand.  I follow suit, taking the opportunity to study a photograph of two naked chicks wearing cowboy hats and hip holsters.  Artsy.  The place embodies the debaucherous rock and roll aesthetic, but pulls it off (barely) on account of the blackness of its walls and the relative lowness of its ceiling.  The tits and dicks plastered on the walls just remind me of a poor kid’s attempt to recreate Pangaea, a douchey club I often found myself in ten years ago, featuring, among other things, a black and white photograph of a naked girl, sitting spread eagle, wearing an animal head.

Mike and I sit on the red leather banquettes, discussing the spiraling nature of self-toxification and an impending winter while skinny kids slowly trickle into the room behind us.

“Maybe we should ask Twin Shadow when he’s going on,” Rinat suggests half jokingly.  The lead singer is wandering freely around the room, saying hi to people he knows and being, well, normal.  That’s the strange part about liking a band that hasn’t yet exploded into mainstream popularity: you can watch them perform in a venue the size of three living rooms and share bar space while you knock back shots, all for $12.

The first time I became acquainted with Twin Shadow was via his music video for “Slow,” a super low-budget riff off of the 1990s Calvin Klein commercial featuring models in a wood-paneled basement of some weirdo’s house, being interviewed on camera by an unseen creep in this psychosexual, rapey sort of way.  And so it was odd to see George in person, wearing a plum suit and not a white shirt and denim vest, looking less like a boy about to be taken advantage of and more like a man about to take the stage.

An hour behind schedule, the band arrives at the front of the room, being lent the appearance of the prom band in some quirky independent movie by a wall of shiny cellophane ribbons behind them.  “Fashionably late, as always,” George says, a not-so-apologetic smirk crossing his lips.  They launch into “Shooting Holes At The Moon” and I try to pretend that the acoustics in this room don’t sound like shit, an impossible feat.

Their live act comes across less reserved than the album does, which sounds more like the energetic musings of a softer soul.  In person, it plays rougher and with greater urgency.  The acoustics of the room do not do justice to the less obvious songs like “Castles In The Snow” – only the pulsing 80s/90s dance beats are really able to survive this place.

Twin Shadow gets the greatest audience cooperation during “Slow.”  The lights flicker blue and red and yellow and purple and the band plays, taking me back to some imagined 80s memory, driving in my boyfriend’s convertible Camero while hot San Fernando Valley air whips through my hair.  When the chorus arrives, kids in the front thrust their fists in the air, shouting with George, “I DON’T WANNA…BELIEVE…OR BE…IN LOVE!”  There is something beautiful about this collective angsty resistance to love and I shout right along side them, dancing on the tips of my toes and watching my hair fly from side to side in front of my face.

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I Love You, Mike Birbiglia

It is freezing cold outside, the sun having disappeared hours ago, taking with it what little warmth it had provided over the course of the day.  I want to cancel my plans for that evening, mostly because they involve taking a forty-minute train ride down to Park Slope, a beautiful place so distant and removed it is safe enough for every New Yorker of child-bearing age to move there and breed.  My friend has invited me to see Mike Birbiglia’s show, which turns out to be one part intimate memoir, two parts intelligent standup comedy, and one more remaining part: me, left banging my hand against the adjacent wall, holding my stomach while fighting for the ability to breathe.  Needless to say, I was glad I came.

Union Hall reminds me of BJ’s Brewery, a contrived restaurant idea geared towards suburbanites who enjoy a good Pizookie (Translation: Pizza/Cookie – a deep dish, melted chocolate dreamscape that requires only a spoon and an elastic waist band).  It’s not that Union Hall is actually cheesy or contrived; it’s just that the room itself is so expansive and spacious, I feel obligated to make some comparison to my youth.  That, and after nearly a year in New York City, excessive amounts of room makes me uncomfortable.

I have beaten Sean to the venue and while I wait, I consult a wise friend back in Los Angeles as to how to pick up guys at a bar, something I have never been able to master, or even attempt, to be honest.  “Just stand up straight…be confident…and then get drunk and go back to his place…” she advises via text message.  Though the instructions sound fairly uncomplicated, I try desperately to conjure up a vision of me knocking back shots of tequila and winking at some kid who, at that stage of weakened judgment, probably wouldn’t end up being cute the next morning.  Sean arrives before I can contemplate this tactic more thoroughly.

We walk through the massive bar, passing by skinny kids holding tumblers of whisky and playing a game of indoor bocce ball.  Towards the back, stairs lead down to a much more humble room, where through the closed double-doors, I can hear the mumblings of a monologue.

“He just started,” the man with a list and blonde hair says as he stamps my hand, the one that doesn’t have the fresh burn scar on it.  I’ve recently discovered that the giant, bright pink, Fight Club-esque circle on my hand is something to contend with. The other day, while shopping for myself while I supposed to be shopping for Christmas presents for other people, I tried on a pair of dainty riding gloves with perforated leather and shiny snap buttons.  I pulled the glove over my fingers, buttoned a strap across my wrist, and stared at my scar, conveniently framed by an artful gap in the leather.  I stared down at my right hand, which now matched the fucked up one.  Perfect.

The room is packed, filled wall-to-wall with people standing near the door or sitting in chairs.  Lucky bastards.  We move to a back corner of the room and sit on the concrete floor for what turns out to be nearly two hours, a decision I feel the next morning in my lower back.  I am twenty-six going on eighty-seven.  When the real pain of old age kicks in, just fucking kill me.

I hadn’t heard of Mike Birbiglia until this morning when Sean sent me an email extending the invite, stating that I would appreciate Mike’s comedic sentiment, a varietal of humor suitable for NPR.  Sean described his typical set as “smart, self-deprecating, long-form stories that are super funny and super personal,” prefacing the comment with “Mike Birbiglia is right up your alley.”  My friends know me too well.

By the time we sit down, Mike has already referred to his receding hairline and protruding gut and called himself an “I’d Fuck Him Maybe,” which was better than what he used to be, which was an “I’d Fuck Him Never.”  His wounded boy humor is so good it makes me wish I was born with a penis and found myself ostracized from my peers for the better part of a decade, forced to spend my adolescence cultivating a brilliant sense of humor based on the fact that no one wanted to sleep with me, let alone kiss me.  As I stare up from the ground, in between white people in dark jackets, I fall in love with Mike Birbiglia.  But I am not drunk enough to tell him, nor willing to destroy a well honed act based on the beautiful fruits of low self-esteem.

http://www.birbigs.com/

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