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I get in from my trip to Table Mountain just as I’m supposed to be on a van headed to a work event for an evening spent with booze and light snacks in one of Cape Town’s most “breathtaking settings.” I need a break. No more wine. No more canapés. No more breathtaking sunsets. I need to sit and do nothing. I want to eat hummus out of a jar with a spoon and watch really awful movies that were never released in the United States. I want to talk to no one but the wall in front of me.

Leah, the Guest Services Director, however, does not see it that way. I see her on my way in. Fuckity fuck. Now what.

“Leah,” I start, thinking that I am somehow going to wrestle my way out of this evening on account of my running late, “I’m supposed to be leaving for Summerton Ridge right now but I haven’t had time to change.”

Leah scans her thick packet of various itineraries. She’s having to deal with two hundred guests going to about six different places, all via different vans and buses. We are like pieces of luggage getting sorted at Heathrow International. She is on the verge of hating everyone.

“Yes,” she says, not quite picking up on where I am going with this (or, maybe, totally picking up on where I am going with this).

“Do I have time to go up to my room and change?”

“You look fine, dear!”

I glance down for an aerial perspective of my outfit: distressed jeans, tattered Brooklyn boots, my black coat, a bag with a giant bottle of water in it slung across my body. I look as though I’ve just come back from some thrifting expedition in Hipster Town.

Leah grabs me by the shoulders and turns me round, sending me through the revolving doors towards a van with “Summerton Ridge” clearly printed on a sign. I climb aboard, reluctantly.

On the van already are people who have taken the time to shower and change. These are proper grown ups with groomed hair and freshly applied lipstick. God, I’m such a child. Modeling has instilled in me a careless whatever-ness that does not make me well suited for the real world. I’m like Anne Hathaway’s character in Rachel Getting Married, here to destroy everything with my inappropriate crop-top and an alcohol problem. I do my best to make up for this with biggish words and an intellectual cadence. Don’t look at me, it says. Listen to my $200k education!

The van takes the long way, getting lost a winding, beautiful road until it deposits us in front of an estate that looks as though it’s undergone one too many renovations. The bones are old, but the surface is suspiciously contemporary. Kind of like the building equivalent of that “Catwoman” beast of botched plastic surgery, Jocelyn Wildenstein.

Someone leads us through a hallway lined with artwork until we are on a patio looking out onto a bay. The sun sets over Cape Town, the lights from expensive condos twinkling into significance as the purple and pink give way to navy, a bluish bruise blackening in time.

We dutifully take pictures.

Tables are set up in a room, covered in full bottles and empty glasses. Two young men play contemporary music on classical instruments. Servers have started to walk around with a whole host of uncomplimentary – and fairly disgusting — snacks: Japanese sushi, Indian samosas, Greek spanokopita. Something for everyone and no one at the same time. In desperation, I start eating fistfuls of almonds and biltong, swiped from little white bowls.

Without my boss to trail around, I am left to fend for myself. I travel from brand new acquaintance to brand new acquaintance with the dutiful peckishness of a hungry little mouse. What did you today? Where are you from? How many hours did it take for you to get here? And you? And you? And you? Right now I am craving — more than anything in the world – a sit-down meal and a meaty conversation.

Just as I suspected, I look like a stowaway who snuck into the event for some free booze. I am the youngest person here by at least ten to fifteen years. There are women in kitten heels and silk blouses.

I find one of my newer friends, a gentleman that reminds me of Stellan Skarsgård, who I met the evening previous. I make some comment about my attire.

“It’s been noted,” he says.

I’m pretty sure he’s kidding. I really hope he’s kidding.

I take another handful of almonds and biltong. The two gentlemen playing in the corner have begun their rendition of “Call Me Maybe,” with no hint of irony. I take this as my cue to leave.

“If anyone asks about me, tell them I’ve gotten food poisoning,” I tell New Friend, and then I escape up a set of stairs, past people drinking wine in weird living rooms, and towards the road, as though I’ve just been freed from an abduction.

Eating Standing Up

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I imagine our generation feels the same way about Instagram as our great grandparents felt about toasters: Exactly what was life like before? Just as Great Grandpa Paul Otto Bahn surely couldn’t imagine what it was like to stick a loaf of bread over the open hearth for a BLT, I can’t imagine what I did with all my time before Instagram. Did I, like, actually pay attention to my surroundings? Did I interact with people through the entirety of a meal without that chronic, attention-deficit-disordered, technology-is-making-me-retarded flicking of my pointer finger against a smudged iPhone screen? Jesus Christ, did I even exist before Instagram?

But I digress. This isn’t about me. No, this is about Instagram celebrities, those people who have so many followers their extraneous numbers are merely replaced by a “k” – the scarlet letter of Instagram awesomeness.

Fashion week has provided excellent spying into the world of the underground and the upper crust. Runway shows, after parties. There’s nothing better than sitting home on a Friday night, scrolling through pictures of what other people are doing on their Friday night, especially if these people are popular.

[Side note: Now the good news is that we no longer need children to live vicariously through someone else!]

Through some intelligent lurking research, I have come up with the following recipes for becoming fashion famous.

1. Live a generally edgy lifestyle that Danny Boyle might one day want to document. Heroin abuse optional.

2. Dye your hair. Any My Little Pony color will do.

3. If pink, purple, or periwinkle does not work for your skin tone, try working the platinum blonde with no eyebrows angle.

4. Wear something by Jeremy Scott. Nothing will get you big-time hearted like wearing sneakers with wings on the back or a sweater with Bart Simpson’s head all over it.

5. Become friends with Dev Hynes, Alexa Chung, or Theophilus London and get your pictures taken together. Don’t forget the handle. If you can’t remember the handle, don’t bother. Consider yourself waylaid in anonymity forever.

6. If the up-and-coming music scene isn’t your thing, trying plugging in with well known fashion bloggers. Have them promo you on their own feeds. Shout out to @SOONTOBEFUCKINGPOPULAR!

7. Take pictures of yourself wearing things a lot of people can’t afford.

8. Take photos of your nail art. Make sure they are awesome.

9. Triple points if you are in close proximity to famous people. Stylist, sibling, hanger-on, whatever. You are well on your way to being Instragram-famous-by-association.

10. Man up, dudes. Stop being so goddamn normal. Stop taking pictures of what you’re eating for lunch (unless lunch is crystal meth). Stop taking pictures of your dog (unless your dog is actually a domesticated jaguar on leash). Stop taking pictures of you making a fish face in the mirror (unless you’re Giselle Bundchen, in which case, fish-face all you want). And please, dear fucking god, stop taking pictures of your weightloss progress. I did not sign up to Instagram to be someone’s cellulite cheerleader.

These are my recommendations. Follow them and watch your followers skyrocket, your self-worth take a trip to the goddamn moon. So many hearts and likes and smiles and shit, you’ll forget what it’s like to exist in the real world. Because, frankly, who needs that.

I imagine our g…

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“On the road again?”

The de facto granddame of ________ Street is already awake, wearing a polyester jacket and a navy beanie, tending to the trashcans.  To her right is the apartment with the Homer Simpson sticker in the window.  I’M HAVING A GOOD DAY DON’T MESS IT UP, it says.  Just below it, the planters filled with dirt and fake plastic flowers.  I’m not sure, but I’ve always assumed this is her apartment.  It seems appropriate.  She’s sort of insane.

“Yep!” I chirp, and keep walking briskly towards the subway entrance, secretly thankful she withheld her sartorial commentary this morning.  “So you’re going for the flight attendant look,” she once mused in a way that sent me spiraling into an abyss of self-ridicule and doubt, having just been – in my estimation – ridiculed by a woman who wears tracksuits and, for all I know, does not have hair.

This is what I like about this neighborhood: people keep tabs on you, even peripherally.  I’m not wholly anonymous and unimportant.  I like that this is the woman to talk to if I want to find out what the hell goes on around here.  Like that time there was a bucket of blood spilled on the sidewalk, evidence of a carnage I had been sure had been fatal.  I imagined stabbing, a terrible fall, Polish gang violence.

To find out what had happened, I asked Old Tracksuit what happened.

“My friend,” she said, in her ancient New York ancient, “He was just standing here, right here and blood just started shooting out of his leg, ya know?  Blood vessel burst, just right here.  So much blood.  You wouldn’t believe it.  And we called the ambulance and they came to take him away.  All the blood was in his shoe.  A huge amount of blood.  And the EMT goes to throw the shoe away and my friend, he thinks he can use it again!  Can you believe it?  Don’t throw it away, he says.  He was in very poor health.”

I didn’t eat for a few hours after this story.

Back on Broome Street – the location of my overpriced, renovated, formerly-a-piece-of-shit tenement apartment where an old man named Salvatore paid $380 a month until he likely died there – the only person who kept tabs on me was the perverted handicap Chinese man who would chase me down the street in his wheelchair, shaking a tin can yelling, “Hi, dollar, dollar, dollar!”

I don’t miss that time.  I certainly don’t miss that place.  And I fucking love Greenpoint.

It’s only 6 a.m. and the street is the color of morning sky, everything imbued with that bluish, new quality that only lasts a matter of minutes.  The wet cement sidewalk, the surface of leaves, the sides of buildings.  Blue.  All of it.

I catch the train right on time and move swiftly to the next, where the doors open and our train sweeps up construction workers and day laborers like dust bunnies.  The man across from me flips through a free morning newspaper with dirty fingernails.  His shoes are covered in a fine layer of concrete dust, yellow and gray.

The rest of the train sits with their eyes closed, likely regular sufferers of overwork and anxiety-induced insomnia.  They sit with their heads tilted back, mouths open like dying fish.  The person next to me – a man or boy I cannot tell – is buried in some invisible slump beneath the hood of a red sweatshirt, waiting until some invisible mechanism inside of him tells him he’s arrived at his destination.  Pavlov’s Commuter.

I get off the train and wait for the elevator and while I’m waiting this random guy stands next to me, says something like “You’re beautiful” which I politely acknowledge and then ignore until he says, “You a model?” and I say “Yeah.”  I look forward again and all I hear is him say, “Still?”  We get into the elevator and stand side-by-side, basking in the silence shared between eight other strangers.

Once again, I am headed through security, where I hand some TSA employee my passport because I lost my driver’s license the last time I went to California.  I’m waiting for the day someone tells me I look nothing like my photo anymore.  You’re too old, they’d say.  Too old.  And then I could tell them to fuck off, that I’m still attractive in an aging sort of way.

This interaction will never occur.

Still, I think about it.

This is likely where all the problems in my life begin and end.

“On the road …

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