New Year, New Post

Happy New Year, faithful reader! I didn’t even bother to write reader in plural form considering that I update this about as frequently as I eat steel, which is never. I could say that one of my New Year’s resolutions is to write in this blog more, but it isn’t. I make the same three resolutions every year: eat better, exercise, and get over my paralyzing and hysteria-inducing fear of the Build-A-Bear workshop. Last year, I managed to do the former two by virtue of living in New York City and being a poor graduate student. I walked regularly because no one at school wanted to invest in a pedicab with me (jerks), and I was too destitute to afford food beyond a bag of frozen vegetables a week. But Build-A-Bear… if anything, the phobia has gotten worse. I will never set foot in their debaucherous den of sin.

If everyone on this pedicab is as happy as I think they are, that must mean that everyone not on a pedicab is miserable and lonely.

If everyone on this pedicab is as happy as I think they are, that must mean that everyone not on a pedicab is miserable and lonely and hates their life.

So, New Years. I didn’t spend it in New York, certainly not Times Square, for a multitude of reasons. As a general note about New Years in Times Square, and this is especially relevant to this year– I just don’t enjoy hypothermia as much as other people do. I don’t care how many layers of adult sized footy pajamas and Slankets ® I wear or how much alcohol I have in my body, standing outside in the freezing cold for hours on end will always feel cold and uncomfortable, like a neutered polar bear. Even so, my main reason for avoiding Times Square is that I have a deep and genuine aversion to the overly symbolic Waterford crystal Times Square ball. This is surprising considering my Icarus-like love for bright and shiny objects. But every time I think about it, there are basically two mildly disturbing connotations the ball can take.

No thank you.

No thank you.

First and foremost, I don’t like the idea of having a symbol of pubescent manhood for New Years Rockin’ Eve. I certainly don’t want to see it in person. I often wonder what sicko decided that balls dropping would be a great way to ring in the New Year. Ball drop? Please. I-see-what-you-did-there, you sick bastard.

The second area of discomfort is the idea of having the most prominent symbol of the New Year also symbolize Americans “dropping the ball” as in, “You have seriously f*cked up in 2008, and here is a giant shiny object that, over the course of ten seconds, will symbolize yours and many others’ utter failure in life.” Maybe that’s looking into it too much. Maybe you have had an amazing year and I am projecting my ill will onto you. Alright, maybe I will concede that the preceding last sentence is entirely true.

Made you look!!! The childish games of the Chinese Olympic gymnastics team. Juveniles. Shawn Johnson is so above this.

"Made you look!!!" The childish games of the Chinese Olympic gymnastics team. Juveniles. Shawn Johnson is so above this.

But looking at this year’s events in general, the human race and American people sort of have majorly f*cked up in 2008. Can the US stock market go into negatives? Because as far as I can tell, we’re trying to make it happen. Israel/Palestine and India/Pakistan are a powder kegs, with powder not being the name of a delicious beer; there will be no camaraderie-building keg stands in these parts unless you want your arm shot off with an Uzi. Heath Ledger died and will be forever immortalized in my memory as a Joan Rivers-faced psychopath in The Dark Knight rather than the adorable rebel-with-a-soul Patrick Verona from Ten Things I Hate About You or Jake Gyllenhal’s little spoon in Brokeback Mountain. A sixty degree day in December has me convinced that Al Gorestradamus was right and the world really is ending in 2012 because I didn’t buy a Toyota Prius. The American gymnastics team got crushed by a ragtag group of Chinese kindergartners. The tragedy goes on and on.

Instant Win!

Instant win, all year round!

It has been a rough year for the United States and the world at large, and I don’t need a giant crystal ball to further motivate me to find pessimistic symbolism considering that I do this on a regular basis. On a more positive note, I guess you can use the election of Obama as a trump card for all things awful, kind of like how the Hellen Keller card is an automatic win in Apples to Apples. Here’s to more Hellen Keller cards in 2009. Happy New Year, everyone.

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The City That Never Sleeps (with me)

If I weren’t creepy enough with my subway-staring ways, I would have taken a picture of the Bronx-bound 1 train I was on tonight for the sole purpose of proving to you that I was THE ONLY single person in the entire car. Yes, the entire car. Across from me, an adorable lesbian couple flipped through the Village Voice together while holding hands. Next to them, an extremely myopic couple squinted curiously at me– not myopic in the closed-minded sense, but in that both of them had the thickest glasses lenses that I have ever seen in my life. Sliding suggestively down a subway pole on the far side of the car was an attention-seeking teenage girl trying to subliminally seduce the fidgety, barely pubescent boyfriend who sat in front of her. To my right, a scenester couple with matching asymmetrical haircuts, flannel, and skinny jeans scenely snuggled while they listened to totally scene music from a shared set of ear buds, which were also quite scene. (I’d list more, but I’m running out of categories in which to pigeonhole all the couples I saw.)

One is the lonliest number that you'll ever doooo...

One is the loneliest number that you'll ever dooooo...

I’m not intimidated by being single, but it was definitely one of those uncomfortable instances where I couldn’t help but hum “One of These Things Is Not Like the Other” to myself. The plight of the single woman is especially hilarious in the context of my graduate school. Of the incoming class, eighty-seven per cent is female and thirteen per cent is male. And of that thirteen per cent, I’ve estimated about eleven per cent to be completely faaaabulous. It’s not important for me to be romantically involved right now– since I’m transitioning to the city life, I know that I need to establish myself as an individual rather than in relation to another individual. But for about forty blocks, the subway car was a surreal and disturbing wakeup call from hell, if hell were my biological clock. Also, honestly, I just really love spooning. It’s like crack, but it’s not the kind of crack that you can do by yourself. Okay, there really are no similarities between spooning and crack aside from how terrifyingly addictive both are and how both make you get kind of sleepy. Or so I’m told.

But nothing, NOTHING will ever be disturbing enough to cause me to turn to good ol’ Craigslist and its personals section. Today’s winner is from the “platonic section”:

can you tie me up in a fully clothed/platonic way? – m4w – 29 (Greenwich Village)

Date: 2008-09-09, 9:02PM EDT

I believe so! I want to be tied up and gagged . You can just watch TV or surf the net, whatever works, sure it can be fun for both of us I will be helpless, and you can do whatever you want to another human being, oh this of the possibilities!!! 🙂

Other then that, I have a corporate job and have normal interests such as roving around Central Park and Broadway!

Phew, I’m so glad that he has normal interests!! I LOVE roving!!! Good to know, because for a second there I thought he might be a weirdo, or worse, totally not platonic.

On second thought, being single works just fine, thanks.

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Step 2: Remain positive. Cynical, but positive.

It’s been awhile, but in the last few weeks, I gave up on the housing search and settled for what I affectionately (?) call my “fakepartment.” If I were to describe it on Craigslist, my new crib would sound something like, “This brand new, luxurious, junior studio with penthouse views is located on a historic street in a community-oriented, secure building.” Translating that into reality speak, it would be:

1. Brand New = Not actually brand new, though still retaining that sterile, unwelcome feeling of a new building.
2. Luxurious = Way overpriced, but also not a complete shithole.
3. Junior studio = Bedroom, small bathroom, no kitchen, claustrophobia abound.
4. Penthouse views = You are on the 18th floor. Your view is of the Triborough Bridge and Robert Moses’ spartan public housing monstrosities, with both being a constant reminder of how he displaced poor minorities on a massive scale due to his control-freak, power-hungry mentality. You are completely f*cked if the elevator breaks.
5. Historic street = Surrounded by beautiful historic buildings! Yours isn’t one of them.
6. Community-oriented = You share a kitchen. On a different floor. Feel free to make friends with the yuppie grad student you are currently butter-knife fighting with over access to the back left corner of the stove.
7. Secure building = There’s a uniformed man who occasionally checks for vagrants that wander into the lobby during his breaks from what he’s actually paid to do, which is reading dirty magazines under the front desk.

It’s easy for me to be critical of the place, especially when I’m so set on making myself a home in this big city. It’s hard to make a home out of one and a half kitchenless rooms that force you to hard boil eggs in your hot water heater. It’s hard to feel at home when No Diggity by Blackstreet comes rumbling through the walls from another fakepartment, waking you at eight in the morning. Oh, and don’t forget the whole initial loneliness of it all, in addition to your denial of being lonely. That’s not an easy feeling to deal with. It is so, so easy to pick this place, this transition, this entire experience apart. But, it’s not impossible to love it, either.

Even I, Bitter McSourpuss (it’s a family name) recognize some great things about living in my fakepartment, even beyond my respectable cable plan. Side note: Jon and Kate Plus 8 is the Crystal Meth of reality television. Really, my favorite part of my fakepartment is that it’s located in the city. Low standards, I know. But I can’t describe how immensely relieving it is to have a busy, tiring, but fulfilling day in New York and know that you’re only a subway ride away from your bed instead of subway, a train, and a significant drive away from home. The diversity of the people and streets and neighborhoods in my immediate area is astounding. There’s a lot to see. A lot to bitch about, I’m sure, but a lot to see and love, too.

Blackstreet approves this post. PLAY ON, PLAYETTE!

Blackstreet approves this post. PLAY ON, PLAYETTE!

It’s important to remain positive about living arrangements, even if it is in a van down by the river, a hovel in Alphabet City, or a fakepartment in Morningside Heights. Maybe there are bright sides to the crap sides. Maybe my Blackstreet-loving neighbor Ricco is just trying to tell me that he “likes the way I work it” hey yo hey yo hey yo hey yo. Okay fine, it’s important to remain positive, but not idiotic. I’m giving Ricco a piece of my mind first thing tomorrow. No diggity. No doubt.

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Posh Lesbians, really?

I’m not even in NYC right now, so this post is only half legitimate. Currently, I’m in Vancouver, which is French for “I swear, we’re not just about cannabis.” It’s a nice place– it’s not New York, but I do love it here. I’ll have more thoughts on it later, but right now my observations are:

1. Vancouver is really clean. Like, really really clean. Like, creepy Pleasantville clean.

2. Vancouver may be the only city in the Western Hemisphere where Asian men are just as likely as white guys to get with white girls. This may be sheer force of ethnic population density, but whatever.

But more on that when I get back home. In the mean time, I thought I’d share with you something that completely made my day. How do people find this blog? Why, by searching…

YES!

YES!

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Rule Number One: NEVER Talk about Fight Clu– Making Eye Contact on The Subway

The NYC subway system is a lawless land with a tacit code of ethics that I have yet to fully comprehend. What I’ve gathered so far is that it’s definitely not okay to make eye contact with people who clearly want to be noticed, like panhandlers, musicians, hot young women with old rich dudes, and ennui-ridden hipsters with pomade-fabricated hygiene problems. As for the other nondescript people who don’t really want to be looked at, it’s still not okay to look them, though they are probably too busy avoiding your gaze to notice.

This is a real problem for me. You see, I majored in Anthropology. (Yes, I will continue to wear this on my sleeve when it has little to no relevance.) Even though my studies in undergrad did not in any way condone staring at strangers and had very little to do with actual observation, I will continue to pretend that it is a legitimate excuse for my behavior. I’m definitely one of those people who views the subway bench as a visual buffet of people waiting to be judged.

Excuse me, sir playing the Djembe, you’re really talented and all, but you’re not fooling anyone. I know that it takes mad bank to buy a Djembe. Go away. I need my dollar for a shitty Au Bon Pain breakfast croissant.

Oh hello there, fat little Asian baby! Your mom is giving me the evil eye for making silly faces at you, but really I’m just imitating her own expressions. In fourteen years or so, read Joy Luck Club; trust me.

Young woman sitting across from me, I really, really like your skirt! And you’re doing the NY Times Crossword! Maybe we can be frien– oh, oh God, she saw me looking. Look down, just look down… oh hey, nice shoes!! Oh God, she saw me looking at her shoes. Oh God. My stomach hurts.

I’ve also noticed somewhat of a hierarchy of reading material on the subway. I’m not sure how the rankings fall, but I’m pretty sure the New York Times reigns supreme while Janet Evanovich, Danielle Steel, and James Patterson work the fields of its literary fiefdom. The New Yorker, thick and smart-looking books, and incoming messages on your Blackberry are up there, too. Highlights magazine and Japanese manga, not so much– I don’t care if you’re nine, you are going to read Fahrenheit 451 and you-are-going-to-like-it, mister.

This would be the best rewrite to Kafkas Metamorphosis EVER!!

This would be the best rewrite to Kafka's Metamorphosis EVER!!

Sometimes I find myself without reading material on the subway, which is unfortunate since it keeps my eyes glued to the pages instead of strangers’ phenotypic vulnerabilities. And since it’s taboo to furtively glance at everyone around me, I usually find myself reading the advertisements plastered around the subway car. Most are either pointless or in Spanish, but I did come across this gem of an ad. I don’t even know what it is selling, but whatever it is, I want to buy it. I bet Kanye doesn’t get judged for judging people on the Subway. And if they do, it’s completely within his right to blame them for Hurricane Katrina. Psh, whateva.

If you have any book recommendations to pass the time during my long commute to Morningside Heights, please do let me know. But make sure it’s something that will make me look totally cool and interesting, like Wuthering Heights or The Tempest. Except make sure that it’s not boring… like Wuthering Heights or The Tempest.

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Step 1: Finding the Right Shithole

In order to successfully find an apartment in New York City, it is virtually a prerequisite for one to become physically, mentally, and emotionally addicted to Craigslist. I don’t know who this enigmatic “Craig” is or why he decided to take time off from pleasuring himself to craft this amazing database of classified ads. What I do know is that if checking Craigslist were equivalent to drinking a half a shot of Malibu, I would be wasted by 10:30 am every single day.

On Monday, I had my first ever New York City apartment viewings. Both of the ads fit my relatively reasonable requirements for an apartment:

a) Female roommates in their early to mid-20s.
b) Apartment was located in either the Upper West Side, Morningside Heights, or West Harlem below 135th St and priced below $1200 a month.
c) Apartment was not described as “cozy,” “charming,” (read: “glorified closet”) or “kosher.” Don’t get me wrong, I love the Jews, but at the risk of unintentionally making a sexual innuendo, I like my meat and cheese together whenever possible, thank-you-very-much.
d) The ad had good syntax, grammar, and punctuation. I have visceral reactions to “IDK MY BFF JILL” types. Also, on some level I irrationally believe that if one possesses typing aptitude, one has a smaller chance of being serial killer or rapist. “Can I kill u in ur sleep?” “No pls kthxbai.”

The first apartment building, on W 110th and Broadway, was gorgeous. No doorman, but the marble-floored lobby had a vaulted ceiling, which looked fantastic. I took this adorably quirky elevator up to the fourth floor, and an overenthusiastic (perhaps rabid) Columbia med student let me in. I walked in and–

The apartment. Was. A Shithole.

I don’t think I would ever want the young woman who showed me this place to ever be my doctor. If her apartment is any indication of her work hygiene and bedside manner, she would probably lick her hands clean before entering the operating room, and then later after I regained consciousness, slap me across the face with an eight month old copy of the New York Times she’s been saving for a rainy day. The place was straight up disgusting. The kitchen appliances seemed to be gravitating toward a central, vortex-like sunken point in the floor, and there were cracks in the wall. I attempted some robotic med school humor by calling the cracks “flesh wounds.” She was not amused.

I quickly left the decrepit apartment and set out for the next apartment, two blocks downtown on W108th and Broadway. The two blocks were like night and day. W110th was a quiet, beautiful tree-lined street with picaresque stone buildings. W108th was a busy, dumpster-lined street with stone buildings constantly under renovation. Upon entering the building, I was immediately reminded of my visit to the depressing Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side, except it was far less clean than the museum. And people still lived in it.

The authors of the ad, despite having grammatical prowess, failed to mention that the apartment was a fifth floor walk-up. I finally made it to the apartment, thankfully without needing to enlist the aid of a Sherpa. The girl who answered my knock let me in and without any small talk immediately began the tour of what was an unexpectedly amazing hidden gem of a place. Some highlights: high ceilings, an absurd amount of natural light, newly renovated, new appliances, clean, wood floors, well-decorated, spacious bedroom, and seemingly sane potential roommates.

My future studio apartment in Morningside Heights.

My future studio apartment in Morningside Heights.

After sitting down with the two current roommates, I found out they were also interviewing a number of other “applicants” for the apartment, and my meeting with them was strangely intimidating and uncomfortable for that very reason. The whole interview process kind of freaked me out. Lesson learned– apartment hunting is a cutthroat business. I need to learn to better sell myself, but not literally (since it’s illegal and degrading), just metaphorically.

Unsurprisingly, the two girls did not choose me to live in their covertly awesome apartment on W 108th. I think I lacked the latent sorority girl quality that they possessed. Also, it probably didn’t help that I mocked the Zac Efron poster in their apartment, only to find out that they didn’t put it up to be ironic. Awk-ward.

I should have just responded to this Craigslist ad. What a perfect arrangement.

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Suck it, SJP

Living in New York is something I’ve always dreamed about, even before the Sex and the City wannabes decided to flock to my favorite metropolis and attempt to live the life of that beloved, horse-faced fictional character. Too bad that it’s virtually impossible for normal humans to afford a decent one bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side– not to mention comically ugly designer dresses and hard to pronounce brand name shoes– unless one marries rich, works in finance, or moonlights as Eliot Spitzer’s dominatrix.

Minus the dominatrix part, the Sex and the City World is actually sort of what my life will be like in a month. Except instead of a well-paying, low-intensity dream job, I’ll be an impoverished graduate student who will soon be an underpaid, overworked public school teacher in a low-resource, struggling NYC public school. I’ll have designer clothes too—exclusively from the House of Kohl. Psh, and who needs a newspaper column when I have all of THIS delicious grandeur? Oh yeah, baby. Livin’ the high life.

This show was about lesbians, right?

(This show was about lesbians, right?)

But that’s where the similarities between my amazingly glamorous life and estrogen-driven television fiction end. Instead of the posh Upper East Side, I’ll be living in the chic Upper West Side. Except by “Upper West Side,” I really mean Harlem. But whatever, my white friends tell me that it’s cool since Bill Clinton’s doing it. And he’s totally white.

So this is where I begin—my first step toward my New York City lifestyle. Excuse me while I compulsively check Craigslist’s housing section for the first time in approximately thirty-six point four seconds.

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