Arts and (Selfie) Culture – Yayoi Kusama Exhibition at David Zwirner

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The following is an excerpt from my piece “Is It Possible to ‘Find Ourselves’ in Selfie Culture?” as seen on The Style Con:

Standing in line for the Yayoi Kusama exhibition outside of the David Zwirner Gallery in New York City, you begin to notice a few things. One, the wind coming off the Hudson is blisteringly cold. Two, you’ve begun to lose feeling in both of your hands. And three, the average age of everyone waiting patiently to get in seems more appropriate for a club in the Meatpacking District on a Friday night. Far from your geriatric retiree crowd hitting up the MET, the 84-year-old Kusama has some serious sway with the youngsters. And not to discount the significance of the work, but that reason is due in large part to Instagram.

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Field Trip: Richard Prince’s “Monochromatic Jokes” on CR Fashion Book

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The following is an excerpt from my piece on Richard Prince’s “Monochromatic Joke” series, as featured on CR Fashion Book:

Tiny fissures run through the letters when viewed up close, decade-old consonants and vowels revealing their age. For the first time in fifteen years, Richard Prince’s “Monochromatic Jokes” have found their way Stateside, affixed to the white walls of New York’s Nahmad Contemporary, displaying your usual off-colored jokes in unexpected colors. 

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Field Trip: Clare Rojas Interview on VMAN

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The following is an excerpt from my interview with Clare Rojas for VMAN:

After nearly a decade since her last New York show and a multi-year hiatus from painting, San Francisco-based artist Clare Rojas officially returned to the scene last night (Sunday, November 11th), with the help of Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld, for an “untitled exhibition” of over thirty new works. The welcome was a warm one.

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Field Trip: “Kel Markey: From Nada to Prada” on The Style Con

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The following is an excerpt from my piece “Kel Markey: From Nada to Prada” on The Style Con:

In our ongoing series, From Nada to Prada, we explore the transformative power of a hair switcheroo, as seen in the competitive world of Model Land, where an agency-mandated bang cut or a bleach job can make the difference between booking a Prada campaign or slaving away in the gray ether of e-commerce for the rest of your livelong days.

Today, we bring you a vintage success story, further demonstrating the long-term consequences of an excellent (or not so excellent) cut. So the next time your hairdresser fucks up your shit, you may hold up this article as evidence while you scream something like “You just cost me a Versace campaign, goddamnit!” Yes, whether you’re Giselle Bundchen or Gertrude Lewis, CPA, it’s a big deal. You have license to scream. You’re welcome.

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Field Trip: “Getting Burned by Iceage” on The Style Con

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The following is an excerpt of my piece on Danish punk band Iceage, as featured on The Style Con:

All the cool kids are here. The kids who think they’re cool are at the Lou Doillon show, wearing their $400 haircuts and denim jackets, Instagramming pictures of Doillon’s 38’’ inseam along with comments like “#goosebumps” and “Ooh LaLa!” Right now, they’re eyeing each other over, standing in heels, ranking themselves in a falsely perceived hierarchy of what matters. But as I cross the threshold of the Acheron, a black-walled room in Bushwick with no circulating air, I pass the handwritten sign screaming “THIS IS NOT A CMJ EVENT” and I know that yes, this is definitely the place.

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Field Trip: CMJ Coverage, Day 2 on VMAN

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The following is coverage from Day 2 of NYC’s CMJ, featured on VMAN.

Yesterday marked the second day of the CMJ Music Marathon and the performances continued to impress.

Lou Doillon drew an expectedly large crowd to the Highland Ballroom, where she crooned with that famously husky, mournful voice, singing songs about cheating men and jealousy. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Doillon, charming as ever and clutching a coffee cup, entertained the room between songs with requests for “snogging” and dedications to her mother, Jane Birkin.

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Social Vampire Diaries: Dinner and Drag

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“Oh, crap.”

A heavyset lady in a fuchsia wrap dress negotiates the ostensibly deserted front side of ______________, a dinner-and-drag spot smashed between Time Square and Broadway. The windows are dark, tinted like the dropped Honda Civic of a San Fernando weed dealer. Taped to them are various signs suggesting closure or construction, floating above a “B” rating from the Department of Public Health. CALL 212-455-2355 for entrance. UPS PLEASE RING BELL. She presses her face to the glass, seeing what I saw earlier – a few lithe stragglers at a sparsely populated bar, an equally empty dining room just behind that. This is an establishment on the precipice of death.

A giant man in white stripper heels, pink fishnets, and a purple wig services my awkward “we have reservations” announcement, averting my eyes from his silver, heart-shaped beauty mark, the hanging gold chains, the sweep of his false eyelashes, the joker-like curvature of his overlined lips. It’s all so… so… much. So much man. So much lady. So much wholly unfamiliar territory. If Marge Simpson mated with Mister T and a Chiquita Banana, you would get this drag queen.

“Uh huh! If you could just check in under the disco ball.”

It is under said mirrored orb that I am greeted by a father/daughter-looking maître combo, both better suited for seating gray-haired widows at an American Legion bingo night in Burden, Kansas. He, in his Tommy Bahamas shirt. She, in a sweet dress, with her white teeth and virgin hair. I imagine what her memoirs might read like when she turns sixty years old, reminiscing on her first job in New York City, working as a hostess at a drag bar to pay for her 4×11 bedroom in Astoria.

“It’s not like a bitch would DIE! It’s not like she’s a VIRGIN.”

Thin men with less arm musculature than myself squeal at the bar, in front of another drag queen, the de facto bartender, this one like Helena Bonham Carter playing a man playing a woman in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a red wig flowering above cartoonishly severe bone structure.

I wait on a black and tan leopard print sofa that brings to mind peep shows and hand jobs, some of the more grotesque pages from Diablo Cody’s “Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper.” The air is fetid, stagnant, smelling slightly of a boy’s locker room and a Hometown Buffet. That being said, I like this place. This is the less-cool/more-cool New York, the kind that isn’t trying to be anything more than what it is: A Grade B, vaguely Chinese-restaurant-drag-queen show in Midtown Manhattan. Nothing less. Nothing more.

My friends arrive, standing out like polar bears on the streets of Mexico City. Well-dressed, decidedly untouristy, red lipstick on feminine mouths. We’re seated front-and-center, placed directly in front of the stage, a wooden, circular expanse of red paint and black scuff marks.

Maggie-Simpson-Chiquita-Banana-Mister-T is our waiter, though the term “waiter” should be used loosely here. The place is run by the drag queens. They do the show. They serve the food. They make the drinks. Back in the kitchen I imagine there is another, the unseen queen, wearing a wig while he pops our lackluster pineapple fried rice into the microwave, ashing a Virginia Slim cigarette in an empty can of Agua Fresca, dreaming of the day he might be given stage time.

After Eva’s boyfriend clarifies what “with a twist” means in martini terms, our server lopes off, having already announced he’s “horrible at this.” When he returns, it is to lament the loss of their entire catalogue of martini glasses in an unfortunate accident, announcing that the bartender will serve them in wine glasses (“If you don’t mind.”)

Amiable group that we are, we tell him that we don’t mind. Though when I take a sip of my room temperature, dirtier-than-I-ever-imagined martini from the bulbous depths of my comparatively massive glass, I understand why some people do mind, and realize that a martini in a wine glass would make a raging alcoholic of even the most well-intentioned soul.

The food, as one might imagine, is about as unappetizing as the beverages. I slurp down a helping of once-frozen green beans covered in a sauce that, some two hours later, will send my stomach into confused regret. (How does one get ill from vegetables?) But the food isn’t why we’re here. We’re here for the giant basketball-player-like men parading around in wigs and leotards, their junk tucked into unseen, unknown crevices.

Jim the Drag Queen, as she likes to be called, takes the stage as the evening’s emcee, hollering at us with a mouth that could deep throat a honey baked ham. “Are you ready?! I said ARE YOU READY?!”

Jim the Drag Queen then points at Eva’s boyfriend, saying “this one’s for you” before launching into a mouthy lip sync of Galt Macdermot’s never-known tranny hit, “White Boy.” I marvel at the curvature of her legs, the glossy sheen of her wig, the nonexistence of her penis.

“Where does he put it?” asks Amber, genuinely curious. The yellow bathing suit Jim the Drag Queen is wearing over her pantyhose leaves little to the imagination and a lot to the rapt fascination of our table.

Jim the Drag Queen is followed by Anita Dick (our server), Amanda Hatter (the bartender), and Mother Dolores (the shockingly feminine Asian man who makes that “lady boys” thing make a whole lot of sense). Minutes after Jim discovers – and introduces – the 14-year-old girl in the front row, wearing a mouthful of braces and sitting next to her mother, Anita Dick gets on the stage and starts singing a song consisting mostly of the phrase “you can fuck me anywhere,” accompanied by a few salad tossing references thrown in for good measure.

I do not eat my tofu stir-fry. My lime-green martini goes untouched. The foursome of square, slick-looking dessert sits on a white plate, destined for the trashcan. I haven’t had this food this bad since my NYU dorm days.

Countless profanities, some ass shaking, and a handful of Paula-Dean-is-a-racist jokes later, our show comes to a close. Amber and I stand guard while we both take turns using the restroom, as the doorknob has fallen off and, even then, doesn’t shut all the way.

Less-cool/ more-cool, New York. I’m a big fan of yours. Even though your girls look like men, your food tastes like hell, and you’re in dire need of air conditioning and a repairman.

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Three Days of Frankenstorm

Sunday

The store is running out of things like bread and water. People stand in line holding cases of beer and itching at a dulled panic. Our instincts tell us to be prepared. Our arrogance tells us not worry. This is New York; nothing happens here, nothing happens to us. But on the news they’re saying that it could. My friend — who is working on a show about global warming and has been in daily talks with the hurricane control center — assures me that it will.

“Make sure you’re ready,” she says. “Buy food.”

Bloomberg’s waited to announce the severity of the storm, letting the weekend pass with its Halloween festivities, allowing us to get drunk and dance and dress up like bloodied homecoming queens and spandexed superheroes, unworried about impending doom. Now, with a day left to go, everyone is scrambling.

I’ve stocked up on a whole mess of useless, perishable things, incapable of imagining the worst case scenarios: stuck in my apartment, surrounded by water for weeks, with only wilted kale and room temperature hummus to sustain myself. Dutifully, I buy my cans of beans, a couple boxed soups. What a depressing series of meals that would be.

Today, everyone just prepares and waits. The clouds that have been hanging over the city for the past four days are still there, gray and omnipresent. The wind has started to pick up. It doesn’t rain. At 7 p.m. they close the subways.

Monday

Cops are patrolling the neighborhoods closest to the river, telling people they need to evacuate right away. I am on the border of Zone A and Zone B. When I try to walk towards the pier to get a look at the city before we are all extinguished, a cop flashes his lights and tells me to “move it along.”

I sneak down the next street where the police cars driving past are not so militant. The East River is already rising, well over three feet higher than normal and just beneath the pier. It’s noon and the hurricane hasn’t even made landfall. The wind is blowing hard. I go home for fear of falling trees and things that generally kill stupid people who never listened to their mothers.

The day progresses and sometimes it rains but mostly it’s the wind. It finds its way through the tiny spaces between the wall and the windowpanes and whistles through my apartment. Outside, it howls like an army of screaming men, strong and bellowing. Green leaves are wrenched off of boughs and sent floating through the air – not simply down, but around – yanked across the sky sideways.

With each unrelenting gust, the trees outside twist painfully, seemingly as pliable as strings of rubber – one bough goes this way and another goes that.

Before the power shuts off, I make dinner and take a shower, not wanting to do either by candlelight. The lights have been flickering for the past hour. Around 8 p.m., against my better judgment, I put on clothes and go down to the water, walking down the middle of the street with all the other storm chasers so that we’re not so exposed to the trees hanging over the sidewalk.

The air is sticky and warm, wet with mist. Red lights from a parked ambulance glow on black pavement. There are a surprising number of people here to see what’s going on — boys and girls in rain slickers and boots, hoods over their heads. The cops aren’t telling us to go away anymore because what idiot would go further; the East River has already breached the edge and made it up a whole block. To the left, where the road slopes ever so slightly, cars are half-submerged in water. We stand at the edge, the river making an impromptu shore of the asphalt, and wonder how much worse it is going to get.

Gusts of wind come harder, pushing at the back of my legs. The corrugated metal fence wrapped around an empty lot bangs angrily against itself, the wind peeling it back at an opening like the lid of a tuna can. You can hear heavy things being blow around and slamming into walls. The sound of sirens screaming somewhere distant.

It’s going to hit us soon.

I run home and Jared calls with an update from South Williamsburg. He and Lisa have been watching green lights flashing over the boroughs. “Looks like laser beams!” Lisa yells in the background.

We’re talking about Halloween parties and rave music and people being too messed up for after parties when the sky outside my bedroom windows flashes lime green, flaring up to the skies above.

“Whoa!”

Jared saw it, too.

That was a big one.

When I call Serena three minutes later, she is walking through the East Village in a panic. “ We just saw the ConEd building, like, blow up. I gotta go.” After she hangs up, the lower part of Manhattan loses power and cell reception. I won’t hear from her again until late the next day.

By this time, the Internet has gone out. I have no idea what’s going on in the real world, or how far the river has moved up my block. All I’m left with are slow-loading Instagram photos and Facebook posts, mostly from people updating in other cities. From what I can tell it looks bad. Lief sends me a picture of his part of Brooklyn, where the street grids between low-lying industrial buildings are flooded with about three or so feet of water. Cars are covered, trash bags float. They’ve run out of booze. Things are looking grim.

I fall asleep with four more hours of the storm to go, the power still running, the wind still wailing.

Tuesday

The sky is gray but the wind has mellowed. I miss the noise, the frenzied rustle. I pull on sneakers and a coat and head outside to see the damage. There are a few fallen trees, the sidewalks covered in a thick carpet of wet leaves and twigs. The water has receded, taking back with it garbage and leaving the remainder scattered in the middle of the streets. All of the wooden fences are down, separated and strewn about.

All of lower Manhattan is without power and cell phone reception. The subways are flooded, the bridges are closed. The only way in and out of the city are through two tunnels that the mayor doesn’t want anyone using.

The Internet is back on and I can see the damage: the waterfalls of seawater pouring into the World Trade Center, the surging tide surrounding the carousel along the Brooklyn waterfront, the security cam photo from the inside of a flooded PATH station. Manhattan is a disaster.

But it’s business as usually in Brooklyn. I walk around with friends, work from home with my electricity that works, eat from a fridge that’s still running. I meet my friend for dinner and then head home, passing lit-up Halloween decorations and glowing patios.

Before I go back inside, I walk towards the waterfront to see the blackout from a distance.

Manhattan sits there, hulking and useless, half of it just a series of boxy shadows. It is bizarrely silent, save a solitary honk from a semi truck. The restlessness we are known for – the go go go go that never stops, never sleeps – has grinded to a halt, reluctantly.

A tranquilized giant.

Sparse strings of headlights and taillights pass along the mostly empty FDR. Cop cars dot the highway, evident by their blinking blue and red.

This reminds me of what the Titanic must have looked like right before it sank – eerily still and massive, all of the lights off, silent and agreeable, bound to its fate. It is such a strange thing standing here, seeing New York City like this.

I walk along the darkened pier, listening to the lapping of water, the rustling of plastic bags trapped in the metal fence. Trash clings to it: empty bottles, cardboard containers for Bud Light, dead sea grass. The unfinished parts of the pier have been upended and scattered.

Standing here, you get the real sense that we are just going to extinguish ourselves off of the face of this earth. We will be gone but our buildings will stand, and the wilderness will overtake it because the wilderness is paramount. But until that time comes, no one will do anything. We will just keep building our buildings and flying our planes, making money off of ransacking this planet, scooping out nonrenewable resources as though it were an all-you-can-eat buffet for which we will not have to pay.

I look out at a black Manhattan and turn to leave just as the old Polish men come out with their fishing poles and battery-powered lanterns, hooking bait and coughing loudly.

Business as usual.

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Social Vapire Diaries: Labor Day in Hamptons Part I

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Sweaty clusters of people stand in between silver terminals waiting for the train to Montauk to be announced. Everything about train stations is constructed to give me anxiety. If a train stations were a mode of communication, it would be the broke-ass beeper I inherited from my dad back in 1997. That damn little terminal with only three platforms announced at a time, the paper maps that are the only way you can figure out what your line is called, the hovering for crumbs of information. I’m not good at this.

I stand alone, my acid-wash denim sack at my feet, watching all sorts of Labor Day randos congregate in the same subterranean space. There are the twee gay men in front of me are trying to figure out if they need ice for their cooler or not, the girls with the Louis Vuiton totes and Chanel jellies, the bros wearing Rugby shirts from their college alma mater. Then there’s the man in the orthopedic shoes and the polyester pants. Every part of him twitches, his cheek wrenching up towards his lower lid with the frequency of a speedy reliable metronome, hands shaking a black leather wallet. He’s a rattling, nothing of a vision, transparent if he weren’t so matte, dusty as an old shelf.

Platform 19 scrolls along the screen and everyone starts running down the stairs like there’s an emergency greater than snagging a seat for the 20 minute train ride to Jamaica station, where we will transfer to another train for the 2 hour continuation to Montauk.

Speedy, selfish asshole that I am, I score a seat near a window and spend the next ten minutes listening to the conductor tell the scrambling masses behind me to “MOVE TO THE BACK OF THE TRAIN, PEOPLE. THE BACK OF THE TRAIN.”

Dudes in fedoras are piled into the aisles like refugees on a boat. Girls clutch medium-sized roller bags to their chests, awkwardly wrapping their arms around boxes of canvas and wheels. I’m saddled in between surfers and small families, fratty investment bankers and their punishingly high-maintenance girlfriends. We’re the Labor Day stragglers, fancy enough to be on a train en route to the Hamptons, but not fancy enough to take a car.

“THERE ARE NO SEATS IN THE FRONT. NOT EVEN STANDING ROOM. WALK BACK.”

Despite his persistence, the conductor does not seem increasingly irritated. I suspect he expects the worst, always, and operates on an even-keeled level of mildly annoyed for the better part of his workdays.

“WALK BACK. WALK BACK.”

Through my filthy window, bodies scramble along the platform, juggling bags and chairs and all sorts of travel things. Something dings, doors close, and we glide sluggishly towards a tunnel, blackness giving way to weeds and graffitied walls, fleets of numbered school buses.

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