Thursday, December 30, 2010

LIST-O-MANIA!

Being a psychotically dedicated maker of lists, the end of the year always gets me all excited: there are superlative lists EVERYWHERE. Typically, they pop up on news sites and my Facebook sidebar and I can't help it... I always click on them. How can you avoid these tempting morsels of distilled and perfectly categorized information?

Top 10 Things Kim Kardashian Tweeted about While On An Airplane!
Top 25 Pictures Published in the New York Times That Involve Snow!
Top 15 Quotes from this season of The Jersey Shore!

The men's lifestyle website for which I currently work has ludicrous Top 10 lists all year long ("Top 10 Reasons Men Love Top 10 Lists" was, honest to God, a headline this year).

But, since high school, my most favorite list every year is put out by a guy I've been friends with since 1st grade.
I can't remember if I've posted it in years past, and am frankly too lazy to double-check, but this list is intense, informative, and incredible.
He alone - without help and without the backing of a bigger blog or music site- takes the time, and more importantly has the passion, to craft an annual

TOP 50 ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

It's a pretty amazing feat and he does it EVERY. YEAR. I generally haven't heard of 85% of the music on the list, and it isn't because he tries to be obscure or obstinately hip - he just listens to SO MUCH MUSIC, and always has. World music, underground hip hop, mainstream radio pop, folk, fusion, classical, instrumental, and any and all combination of them make it on his list.
You can find it here, at AnotherSuckerOnTheVine.blogspot.com.
His past years' lists are there, too.

Happy reading, listening, and discovering!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It Appears I Inadvertanly Moved Home

After the busiest social week of my life in NYC (sing it with me now, "3 Christmas parties, 2 client engagements, and 1 Mr.Big sighting at a whiskey bar near Central Park"), my exquistely cozy and gray hometown of Portland welcomed me with damp and loving arms, pulling me into the fold of holiday everything.

I managed to artfully squeeze in most everyone and everything I had been missing into my 8 days here, with plenty of family time, Christmas movie classics, Portland bars, and old sweatpants... and then Snowpacalypse, 2010 Edition hit the east coast and SURPRISE. I GOT ANOTHER 5 DAYS AT HOME.

Literally between the time I checked in at the airport and arrived at my gate, my flight was cancelled. The next available seat on ANY flights to JFK, LaGuardia, Newark, Philly or Boston from Portland OR Seattle was this Friday, the 31st.


As I said in an email to my boss and co-workers today, I am starting to think this was all an elaborate scheme orchestrated by my mother to get me to inadvertently move back to Portland by simply stranding me here.

It's not a big deal, as my work has been very cool about it and I don't have any pressing NYE plans to get back for, so I'm trying to be relaxed about the whole thing... but lack of schedule and independence is starting to wear me thin and I think I'm ready to leave, now. Please cooperate, sky.

I feel like we need to talk about something... I've been avoiding it, you've been distant...I've said it once but I'll say it again:

I don't know how to write about living in New York!
As proof that it's all been said, a friend emailed me the following and I feel so honestly that I could have written it, it's eerie...

From this site, is the following:

How to Live in New York City by Ryan O'Connell

Move here when you’re 18 or 22, maybe even 24. Come from somewhere else-the north, south, west, Xanadu- and come to realize that everyone living in New York is a transplant. Even the ones who grew up on the Upper East Side end up moving into a place downtown, which, as you’ll soon discover, is like moving to a different city.

Discover the cruel and bizarre world of New York City real estate. End up spending an obscene amount of money on something called a broker’s fee, first and last month’s rent and a security deposit. Cry a little bit in the leasing office but remind yourself that you’re so happy to be here.

Picture hearing a man playing the saxophone outside your bedroom window. End up hearing a lot of sirens instead. Figure it’s okay because it’s New York and you’re still so happy to be here.

Go out to bars in the Lower East Side because the Internet told you so. Fall in love with a bar called, Max Fish, and always stay out till four in the morning. Eat a falafel and have someone pay for a cab back to your apartment. Watch the sun start to rise while going over the Williamsburg Bridge and feel like your life is becoming some kind of movie.

Eat bad pizza but trick yourself into believing it’s good because it’s made in New York. Do the same thing with bagels and sex.

Meet people who will be your best friends for three or four months. They’ll help you transition into city life and take you to weird bars in Murray Hill. It will be like the blind leading the blind but once you get a firm grasp on things, you can stop returning their phone calls.

Watch your life in New York go through phases. Spend a summer in Fort Greene with a lover and get to know the neighborhood and its rhythms. Once the fling ends, forget the blocks, parks and restaurants ever existed and don’t return unless you have to.

Encounter a lot of people crying in public. Watch an NYU student cry in Think Coffee, a business woman in midtown sob into her cellphone, an old man whimper on a stoop in Greenpoint. At first, it will feel very jarring but, like everything else, it will become normal. Have your first public cry in front of a Bank of America. Cry so hard and don’t care if people are watching you. You pay good money to be able to cry in public.

Work long hours at a thankless job. Always be one step away from financial destitution. Marvel at how expensive New York is, how when you walk out the door, $20.00 immediately gets deleted from your wallet. Understand that even though no one has any money, everyone is privileged to live in New York City.

Go home for the holidays and run into old friends from high school. When you tell them that you live in New York, watch their eyes widen. They’ll say, “Oh my god, New York? That’s so crazy. I’m so jealous!” Have a blasé attitude about it but deep down inside, know they have good reason to be jealous.

Go home and feel relieved to be away from the energy of the city, that punishing 4:00 a.m. last call. Spend the first two days eating and sleeping, getting back to normal. Spend the last two days feeling anxious and ready to get back to your real home. Realize this city has you by the balls and isn’t going to let you go.

Someday you might grow tired of it all though. You might start crying in public more often than you’d like, have a bad break-up and want to pack it all up.

Certain moments of living in the city will always stick out to you. Buying plums from a fruit vendor on 34th street and eating three of them on a long walk, the day you spent in bed with your best friend watching Tyra Banks, the amazing rooftop party you attended on a sweltering hot day in July. These memories might seem insignificant but they were all moments when you looked around the city and felt like you were a part of it all.

When you leave the city, you probably won’t come back. Eventually your life in New York will seem so far away and sometimes you’ll even wonder if it really happened. Don’t worry. It did

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Displace/Diss Place/'Dis Place

Low, full sky. Wrapped like gauze and heavy with rain. Short distances for the eye. You stand on a roof and are confronted with a horizon torn like construction paper - green for trees on the bottom half, ash for the clouds. The ripped, cut, and glue-sticked feel of an organically assembled Pacific Northwest landscape surrounds, encloses, and comforts those living in its fertile cocoon.

I started to have this deep sense of longing for this place- I think they call it homesickness. In French, when you miss someone or something, the verb is reflexive, so it's not "I miss ____". It is always, "_____ is missing from me." I think this is truer.
The homesick feeling started about a week and a half ago and I couldn't pinpoint quite why...
friends aplenty here, and good ones at that. I've been making headway on my quest to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie, so, it couldn't be that. The apartment is coming together slowly, so I'm not sure it's that. The weather has been great and the leaves are changing and every day brings something new here, so why the feeling that something is actually missing from me?

And I realize that this is the longest I've ever been away from home.


To fight this feeling, I have been reading Ken Kesey's masterful work of Pacific Northwestern prose, Sometimes a Great Notion.




"You must go through a winter to understand.

For one thing, Jonas couldn't see all that elbow room that the pamphlets had talked about. Oh, it was there, he knew. But not the way he'd imagined it would be. And for another thing, there was nothing, not a thing! about the country that made a man feel Big and Important. IF anything it made a man feel dwarfed...Important? Why, there was something about the whole blessed country that made a soul feel whipped before he got started. Back home in Kansas a man had a hand in things, the way the Lord aimed for his servants to have: if you didn't water, the crops died. If you didn't feed the stock, the stock died. As it was ordained to be. But there, in that land, it looked like our labors were for naught. The flora and fauna grew or died, flourished or failed, in complete disregard for man and his aims. A Man Can Make His Mark, did they tell me? Lies, lies. Before God I tell you: a man might struggle and labor his livelong life and make no mark! None! No permanent mark at all! I say it is true.

You must go through a least a year of it to have some notion.
"


I am 350 pages in and am sure it will rank among my all time favorites (barring any type of bullshit hooligan nonsense ending like that other book I've said this about, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle).

______________________________________

Last Monday at work:
"Hey, clear your plans for the week."
"I already did in the evenings, since that VP is going to be in town and you said we should be ready to go out-"
"Nope. The whole week. You're going to San Francisco tomorrow."


And so, on Tuesday, I was on a plane to San Francisco, back to the Best Coast, for a full on real work training at our headquarters, along with another new Account Coordinator from Chicago.

Having been to SF many times and having so many wonderful and close friends there, I was thrilled at the opportunity rather than put out or annoyed at the inconvenience (it was literally such late notice I had to go out and buy socks rather than have clothes laundered).
I got to stay in a gorgeous big hotel room all alone, see said friends, meet many great people at our office there...
and surprisingly, came to find, that after only 10 weeks as an inhabitant of big, mean, New York City, I was a big, mean, New Yorker.

WHY ARE THERE NO CABS!?! I screamed silently, and then, aloud.
WHY ARE YOU ALL WALKING SO SLOWLY!?! I wanted to yell at everyone in my general warpath on the sidewalks.
WHERE ARE ALL THE PEOPLE?! I wondered.
WHY IS IT SO QUIET!?! I asked aloud to myself at 1 AM in my luxuriously fluffy hotel bed.
I had been so eager to get out of NYC and then all I could think about was getting back to its constance: constant energy, constant flow of traffic, constant noise levels, consistency in scenery - block after block of the same coffee shops, repeated in an endless Escher-esque tessellation.
It seems I have developed quite the passionate love/hate affair with this place and basically fostered a burning hatred for the "city" of San Francisco.
Yeah, I said it.
____________________________________

I arrive in New York late Friday, around midnight.
I sleep late Saturday, waking only to let the exterminator in the building.
I go back to sleep, and then finally rise around 1:30. In the space of the next few hours, all on foot, I am able to pick up coffee and a bagel, buy detergent, do a load of laundry at the laundromat,walk to the local second-hand store to purchase a nightstand, go grocery shopping, and walk to the post office to retrieve a package.

Feeling quite accomplished with my day's work, I hustle upstairs to tear open my parcel as reward.

Reward doesn't even begin to describe it. The modest cardboard box from my dear and darling friend Drew at home says simply that it is a belated birthday/care package and CARE doesn't even FINISH describing it! The contents include:

- One ready-make Chocolate Chip Cookie package
- One bag of Lemon-Herb Ricola throat lozenges
- Two bags of local Portland coffee (!!!)
- Two pairs of delightfully warm and soft winter socks rolled into a
- Gigantic green Oregon Ducks mug!
- A bag of holiday PEANUT M&Ms
- and a cute little Duck LED light keychain that QUACKS.

All those things from home make THIS place feel like it could also be my home.
That was the best gift, tucked among those goodies.

Friday, November 5, 2010

When is a house a home?

We have been living in our apartment for about two weeks, now.

Due to the costs of “getting on one’s feet,” and the fun circus it is to start getting paid at a new job, the apartment remains woefully empty.

One of my roommates has picked up the distinctly New York practice of “street shopping” wherein one simply drags things home that they find on the street, size and practicality of the item depending on the level of alcohol consumed.

We have forbidden anything upholstered, but she has reaped a butcher block for the kitchen hall, a nightstand shaped like a fish, and not one, but two broken microwaves.
Other than our beds, and some fabulous $9.99 clothing racks from IKEA, that is actually all that currently furnishes the place.

Which begs the question, when does a house become a home?

Because right now, I feel like I’m living in a storage unit that has a bathroom.

I realize how little time I actually spend in the apartment, and thus, don’t think it’s urgent to furnish it. But then I think maybe I don’t spend time there…because it’s not furnished.
We’re all in a financial state that calls for a diet of dry ramen and 99 cent slices of pizza, so it’s sort of hard to justify filling a kitchen with fancy pots and gadgetry.

When I got paid the other night, I did actually buy food at the nearby market, and was dismayed to find it was a fancy, expensive specialty market. I spent $50 on hummus, a bag of pita chips, a packet of shredded cheese, a packet of sliced pepper jack cheese, one cucumber, a tray of pre-cooked turkey meatballs, a roll of tin foil, a box of red beans and rice, a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, baby carrots, one can of soup (with a pop top, because we don’t EVEN HAVE A CAN OPENER) and roach traps.
Yes, roach traps.

But that’s a story for a different day.


I don’t think about it much but people keep asking me how the apartment is, how I like living here, and I’m realizing the state of affairs regarding the desolate apartment is really affecting my answer.

Like, one of my favorite parts about living in this city is that you can actually have someone pick up your laundry, do it for you, fold it, and return it. For 75 cents a pound. It is frankly fantastic, and I can justify it as it’s the monetary equivalent of buying detergent & dryer sheets, and spending a few hours in a dingy Laundromat feeding machines with quarters. But this experience was almost ruined for me this week as I got all my clean laundry home and…had nowhere to put it. I lined a cardboard box with plastic bags and put my clothes in there. Oh hey, ghetto dresser.
The raw materials of the space are great, as you can see:






It just takes a little effort, and money, and prioritizing, to create a haven in this crazy place. Which is something I hope to tackle this weekend.
Care packages welcome.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Bag + A Bed + A Bad Day = A Blessing = A Bag

Be prepared: this one's coming full circle.

Part I:
It is August 19th, my last day of work at previous Portland job.
In a flush of pride and freedom, pre- post-work cocktails with co-workers, I stop at Nordstrom.

The bag I have been wanting sold out during the Anniversary Sale. I mention this to the sales girl, who promptly finds me a few around the country that have been returned. As a gift to myself - as a celebration, really- I plop my card down and make the purchase.

The purchase:


It arrives in 8-10 business days: in time for my New York departure, but not small enough to fit in my luggage. I set it aside, tags in tact, to be reunited with me later.

Part II:

It is mid-October. I fear the darkening days and the gusts of biting wind warn of the cold to come, so I send for some winter things I have packed up at home, which my mother is nice enough to take care of for me. Among the sweaters, fur accessories, scarves, mittens and boots that arrive in the package, my Badgley bag is the thing I missed most.
It is prettier than I remember- all soft gray leather and bright gold hardware. I leave the tags on a few days longer until I am sure I have my job secured, and then I gleefully break them off and debut the bag.
I wear it every day for a week. It goes nicely with everything, I get some compliments on it, and I am pleased with my purchase.

...Until Saturday, while lunching at the (totally luxe and very fun) SoHo House*

*
with my cousin who is visiting from London, the strap clasp on the bag just up and breaks. Like, out of nowhere, all of a sudden, the thing is in pieces and I can't even FIND all of the pieces.

I am more annoyed and baffled than sad, and my cousin does his best to just knot the chain strap so I can carry it for the rest of the way home. Hmph.

The closest Nordstrom is a train ride away and frankly, I'm not sure I want it fixed if the quality of the bag is such that it could happen again. It's just that, well...it looks SO LOVELY with all of my other things and I feel, without being dramatic, that I need it in my life or I will die.

Part III:


It is October 24 and the roommates and I are moving into our new apartment.
It is bright and spacious (the rooms are not large, but, the spaces between them are, which is kind of remarkable for an NYC apartment) and the flooring is new, and it's only on the third floor, which is an improvement over our 4th floor walkup, and we're all very pleased to have a place to truly call home for at least a year.
Although, we notice rather quickly that it's hard to call a few walls and windows a home when you have absolutely, quite literally, NO FURNITURE with which to make it the calm, comfortable, zen-like space we crave. The one item of décor I have is a framed print that I bought a few weeks ago because the color combination caught my eye, made me stop on the busy street, take a deep breath, and feel wonderful. Anything that has this effect in this city belongs with me, without question.

So I walked in and bought it on the spot. There is a nail in the wall of my new bedroom and so the framed print finds a home.


Part IV:


But one cannot sit nor sleep on a framed print, so I call 1-800-Mattress and select a mattress, boxspring, and frame with free delivery.
The only problem in this flawless plan is that they decline my credit card.

I don't get paid until later in the week and think it best to put a purchase of this nature on a credit card, so I ask if I can just pay on the day of delivery (2 days from now) so I can have a day to clear things up with Capital One. The mattress man says this is no problem and agrees.

It is October 25th, my second Monday at my new job. I end up staying until around 7:45 laboriously working on something that would probably take the previous Account Coordinator about 10 minutes, and leave, starving, and prepared to do phone battle with Capital One. I find the only quiet place between my office and the subway station to talk on the phone – one of those debit-card-entry ATM kiosks at the corner of a bank I don't belong to- and go to work.

I will spare you the details but basically, the credit card company assures me there is nothing wrong with my account, I am not eligible for a credit limit increase, but that this bed purchase should be totally fine. I say, “Well, nothing has changed since yesterday on your end, and it wasn't fine yesterday, so why would it be 'fine' today?”
“It just should be. There's nothing wrong with the account, no holds, no problems, here.”
“Okayyyyy,” I say unconvinced.

To avoid embarrassment on delivery day, I decide right then and there to contact the mattress company again and try to run my credit card again. Of course it is declined. Twice.

I call Capital One again. I have to talk to a different representative. I have to ask for a supervisor.
The moral of the story is that I end up crying in this strange bank kiosk out of helplessness and frustration with a company that is incompetent, incorrect, and infuriating. One young woman is actually compassionate enough to stop and ask if I am okay- this makes me cry harder. Also, I realize I haven't eaten anything but a bagel since about noon.

Part I (Back to the Bag):


I give up and head "home" to my (empty) apartment. I emerge from the station after a suffocating ride on the crowded 6 train, and as I am walking home, something hits me.
I realize there is a little idea sitting in the back of my brain, waving its arms frantically hoping I'll notice. This idea is small, but obvious.

I take heed, pull out my phone, and call a number I know well.

"Hello, this is Lisa in Handbags at Nordstrom Washington Square, how may I help you?"
"Hi Lisa, my name's Jessica. I have a problem, and I think you might be able to help me..."

Lisa reassures me that despite living in a city wherein there are no Nordstrom stores, I can ship the bag in with a note and my account information, and they will credit my account with the amount for which I purchased the bag.

I hang up, quite pleased with myself, and to my surprise, find in the giant black hole of a purse I am actually carrying, a receipt. Not just another Starbucks receipt or a bar tab, but the actual Nordstrom receipt I got when I bought that damn bag.
Seriously, I can't ever find my subway card in this thing, but in the dark, on the street, of course it only makes sense that I would reach into the bag and pull this out.

The amount I paid? $10 more than the bed I just bought. Which means it will just cover shipping.

I am still chuckling about this vivid illustration of divine providence when I get home and walk into my room, and see there, framed on the wall, the print:



Keep Calm and Carry On it reads regally. A commandment, an encouragement - though I see that they are one and the same.

It is all that I need to make peace with that fact that I am sitting on a deflated air mattress and eating candy corn while listening to How to Dress Well.
This was part of what I was looking for, right?
I signed up for this, I remind myself.

I stare at the print and listen to the sirens, the sports bars, and the city outside.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Necessity Accessories

One of the hard things about relocating geographically is the total lack of context you have for anything, anyone, traditions, landmarks, necessities, or luxuries.

The first time I traveled to Europe in 8th grade, we had multiple-session prep courses about what to expect, the nature of culture-shock, the lowdown on the buildings we'd be visiting and why, the political climate of the different countries we'd be visiting, and a detailed packing check list.

When I lived in Morocco, there were some hefty orientation classes we sat through upon arrival, and then a series of culture and daily-life seminars we took throughout our summer there. I also had a built-in tour guide in the form of a bubbly host sister.

In moving to NYC, I regrettably did not prepare in the same manner.
I mean, I've seen basically every episode of Friends, Sex & the City, Seinfeld, and Law & Order:SVU, so what else is there to know, right?

To be honest, I did actually start a list of literature and film selections I deemed worthy of absorbing to aid in my New York Education, but did I get around to any of them? No.
I still have yet to see a Woody Allen film.

So I am sort of stumbling along and learning like the grand majority of the other inhabitants of this city did when they first got here in their early 20s, looking for a job and a new sort of challenge with a wisp of adventure.

Part of what I am learning is that things that are "popular" really are popular, meaning, many of the great traditions and quirks of this city are upheld by the population at large, and usually for good reason.

Like, for example, women don't wear Hunter boots (or Sorrells, Sperry's, etc) simply because they're trendy: women wear wellies because they HAVE to. There is so much walking, and when the streets get wet and gross, encasing your foot in a waterproof stomping hoof is pretty much the only answer.
Rainboots are available at every shoe store, in every imaginable color and height and style. Being from Portland, I know that it rains a hell of a lot, but I also know that not every woman owns a pair of rainboots. We have the luxury of driving most everywhere, or own plenty of other weather-wise shoes, and I have never been able to find a really nice selection of boots at local retailers.

Same thing with the great notion of "owning a house in the Hamptons." Hearing of such a thing in Oregon, it sounded like a far off thing that famous people did with an excess of money and a lack of responsibility.
Then after spending a mere week of humidity laden oppression in the city, where the air is trapped between all the buildings and blows up hotly at you from subway grates (and even worse underground, where the thick stagnance of air rests heavily on your skin, and sweats itself out of your pores) I realized people started going to weekend homes out of necessity. Spending a full summer in this city is going to be painful, so I should probably work on securing a space for myself come next June. I'm sure the Trumps have a spare room for me someplace.

Another example is Central Park.
I honestly did NOT understand what all the fuss was about the park when I got here a few short weeks ago. Great... it's green. And pretty. Yep... not as pretty as all kinds of land right outside city limits, though, so, what's the deal?
And then on Saturday afternoon, the weather was so crisp, so gorgeously fall bright, all I wanted to do was be outside, and all of a sudden, the park was the only place I wanted to be. It was the only green space that reflected the sunlight just the right way, and there was all kinds of music playing and food being sold and people playing volleyball and picnicking on the lawn. It is the collective front yard of the city, and I realized I needed it, too.


I also met this guy,

whom I had seen on the subway last week. You know you're making yourself at home when you have a catalogued list of the local bums.
He tried to sell me a two-dollar bill in the park. I declined, but told him I'd seen him around, and I liked his fabulous hat.
"Well thank you, you know darling, things just come together when you got nothing but time on your hands to get high and sew. They just come together."

Another thing I have come to understand is why mod, sleek furniture got popular: I am pretty sure it has to do with the fact that a lot of us here in the city live in ridiculous walk-ups and the idea of getting a fancy bedframe or sofa up 4 flights (nineteen steps each) of stairs is laughable.
Most people my age here just sit at the tables left by the last tenants, and make do with the shelving units that have sat in the apartment for years, and eat out of the bowls left in the cupboards. This might not be a terribly green city, but there is certainly a culture of recycling, reusing, and repurposing.

Take for instance my little studio:

Honestly one of the bigger kitchens I've seen in the city. Furnished with an odd assortment of the lessee's old plastic plates, chipped mug collection, and one bread knife I've been using to slice everything from zucchini to cheese.


Our living room looks like a Goodwill donation center. I think the lessee is coming to claim his "art" this week, but I am going to insist we keep the amazing leather chair (in which I am currently sitting).
I sleep up there!




This is my huge bedroom. And a super classy air mattress, which I am basically sure 50% of the city also sleeps on. (Not this one, specifically, but, whenever I tell someone I just moved here their first follow-up question is, "Oh, do you need an air mattress? Because I have one." City of transplants and nomads, I tell you).

The job progression is, at this moment, at a standstill due to the deluge of rain and my unwillingness to go scout out a Kinkos to scan and email all my paperwork... it's just so cozy in here!
Alright...alright... I'm going.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pins & Needles

My limbs fall asleep a lot.

I am not sure if this is a result of poor circulation or the fact that I am always trying to prop myself up in weird ways while I'm on my computer so as to keep the laptop off my thighs (it gets so HOT), but no matter the reason, I stand up and grimace while the pins and needles stick and unstick themselves into my nerve endings.

You know this feeling. There is always this sort of momentary shock, and then the dawning horror that the leg, or foot, is asleep and that there is a hard part to come. That trying to put pressure on the extremity will hurt, and the uncontrollable vascular missiles will fire and explode all up and down the appendage and all you can do is wait until it stops, when it is done.
But you can't just sit there, either: you have to get the blood flowing, the miracle blood that will fill all those barren capillaries, and there are things to do and no slumbering leg will impede your progress to stand up to get that power cord, or answer the phone, or whatever urgent call has drawn you from your awkward crouching position.

To move will hurt, and as you stand, it might kind of tickle, and then in a rush the wave of pain and anxiety burst at the apex. There is a blossoming ripple, a submission to the inevitable, and then, it sort of slowly ebbs to a trickle down one of your shins.
You shudder once as the last of the weirdness escapes through your minor phalanges, and then it's done. You straighten your leg to walk and you put the foot on the floor and follow with the other, and you leave the place where it happened.

That's basically how I feel right now.

I am rising from my cumbersome perch, a position I willingly entered to alleviate another problem-area in my life, and as I am rising to answer this new call, the tingling and the anxiety floor me. The idea that the next step will bring pain, before it is washed away by a pride in trying, scares me and I wait for that climax of a loss of control with dread: I will never find a normal roommate on Craigslist, I will never sell my car, I will never be able to afford an apartment here, no one will hire me. I will have to turn tail and start over.

And I take another step, and all of a sudden, I'm on the other side of it.
There are some loose ends not yet tied up, but there's a beginning to the end of the discomfort: I got a job offer yesterday, and found a place to sublet for the month of October for a VERY good price with a VERY nice girl.

The best news? The job is in an event planning division of an information technology consulting firm: I GET TO KEEP THE BLOG TITLE! Just kidding. Kind of.

I'm waiting to hear a few details, yet, and the living situation could burst at the end of October, but the first wave of terror has passed and I'm standing.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

And if you get into a bad situation, lie your way out

Part of the process of moving away from a city is a series of mini-breakups, I've learned. You leave your hairstylist, you bid adieu to your drycleaner, you abandon your piano teacher.
I mean, I know not every 24 year old has a piano teacher, but, that means my peers have been missing out on some serious life-advice. Here is an unedited 6 minute clip of wisdom that Diana bestowed upon me in our last session.

“Do you have any New York advice for me?” I asked, and inconspicuously clicked "Record" on my phone.

“Uhhhh I know...I was always very cynical, even as a kid, because I left at 13. And when I went to boarding school I met a boy who was 13 or 14 and he was from Connecticut, (and I learned later very rich) and so I, of course, fell immediately for him. And there was a Leap Year dance, and I went dancing, and I was NOT good looking at the time. I had a very good figure but, I had long legs- sexy, you know, but not good looking - and he was very good looking. So I asked him to go with me, and he agreed, and we went to the dance and we started to go out. And then one day he came up to me and he said, 'I would like to have my ring back. Because I now like Bobbi.'
So I went outside and it was raining- pouring rain- and it was a big drama.
And all of a sudden I stopped, and said 'I'm getting wet' and that's what I have to tell ya. That's what you have to do. Because they're very smooth operators. Extreeemely smooth operators- not like here."

I am a little confused by this explanation of her epiphany, but part of me gets it. Part of me perfectly understands what she's saying, in that you have to assess your situation and react according to the facts - according to self-preservation.
She didn't talk anymore about that boy, she just knew what she had to do to get herself out of the rain. It's taken me a few weeks to be able to pull that apart and put it back together again, but I am fairly certain that was her intent.

She continues, almost seamlessly, from one thought to the next:
"Here, the difference between - and I don't know if it's this way or not anymore- but, here in Portland the men are very insecure and they're awkward in their approach. You're not going to get that in New York. They're smooth. Very very slick. Got a whole routine. They're still using it on my friend, and she's 70!
The other thing, and it depends who you meet- what class of people- is that the men don't like to pay for the woman.
If you don't put your foot down, you're going to be paying all over the place. Just say 'I'm not used to it' and say that you can't. Because when you first go out with them, I did that, I thought, 'I'm not gonna pay my money for them. Too bad! You're gonna go on a date, you're gonna pay for it!' and sooo... well, of course if you go out with an older man he'll give you all his money- period, he'll sign it over to you, you know, but someone else, your age, that you're going out on a date with, I know that for a fact, a lot of people are complaining. But not in the high society. Don't let him. Say 'I can't go. I don't have any money.'
So watch out for that, too. I mean, this is what I hear. I'm not sure what goes on.
Oh, and if you get stuck in a bad situation, lie your way out.
I once was at a party, or out with some friends and a young man says to me, 'Would you like to come see my etchings?' Which is so stupid of me, because men have used that one from the beginning of time! What was I thinking?
And so I went with him to his apartment and he locked the door. And I was in there, and I always get out of these things (I'm a great liar) and so I said to him, 'You can do anything you want, but, I just had an abortion. So, I'd bleed to death right now.' And you know what he did?
He accompanied me all the way to the subway! Would have walked me right to my front door, if I'd let him. That kinda thing I used a coupla times there. If you get in a situation where you don't want to be...it works.
You don't want to say anything tacky, like I would, like, 'I have herpes, mister. Thats why.' but you could, if you're really in a mess.
I've been in a coupla situations like that, so, yeah...you just have to warn them what the disadvantages would be."

Thanks, Diana. Will do.
That goes for all of you ladies out there, too.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Conversations

"Can I just ask you one thing?"
"Okay."
"What are you passionate about?"

I anticipate that I will be speechless, but before I am silenced, I am interrupted by the sound of my own voice:

"Figuring out what I'm passionate about."
He smiles (sadly?) and says,
"Well, that's my hope for you, then. That you figure that out."

---

This song is haunting me. It's a conversation, too.

"Conversation 16" - The National

The National - Conversation 16 from Andrew Lawandus on Vimeo.



---

At a bar in Hoboken, NJ on Friday night, we were out for our friend's engagement party. She works with only guys, who call her "The Big Show", and they were all out with us. So when my feet hurt, I posted up at a table underneath the AC unit, and The Big Show and I chatted over the music while our friends danced, brought us drinks, came to talk to us, put their bags down, pick up their own drinks, etc.
Apparently all of this activity REALLY bothered an outspoken flamboyant young man who approached The Big Show and myself, looked us up and down and said,
"Why is there a rotating line of guys coming up to talk to you? Neither of you are THAT cute."
"EXCUSE ME?!" I shrieked.

My finger went a-pointing and a-waving in his smug face as I very calmly informed him how the gentlemen were with us, they were friends of ours, and what's more, he needed to turn around and walk away and that his unkindness was not welcome anywhere in my vicinity. I think I was too surprised to be anything other than totally honest and taken aback, so nothing clever was spit at him.

I felt very New Jersey, however, telling him to "Walk away. Seriously. Just walk away. You don't know me. Turn around, and walk away."

Another girlfriend had some words with him at the bar, I guess, because within minutes he delivered apology shots to the table. He still wasn't nice, but, a shot's a shot, so I took it.

Lessons learned in New Jersey:

1. Twisted Tea gives you a hangover before a buzz.

2. Hoboken bar life is a lot like Eugene. I felt like I was at Taylor's.
3. No one cares about the Mariner game on in the corner of the bar, even when you excitedly rejoice that they (shockingly) won.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Everyone is Grumpy

New Yorkers have been living up to their reputation as grumpy jerks.

At first, I thought, "Oh, everyone is much nicer than in the movies and in 80's cop shows!" but then I actually started interacting with people and have started to feel like Will Ferrell in the movie Elf (a likeness that is developing at a rapid rate. I am positive it will only be a matter of days before I break into the guys' locker room and sing a duet with someone who is in the shower).



It started the other day when I made a stop at the New York Public Library. It was after an interview, and I was wandering around taking in the beautiful beaux-arts architecture half expecting to see an incensed Carrie Bradshaw fleeing from the building with a bird on her head.

First, I stupidly asked a library lady about the requirements for procuring a library card, there.
"You can't." She said shortly.
"I'm sorry?"
"You can't check out books here. It's a RESEARCH library."
"Oh." I smiled and forced a giggle to cover my embarrassment. And it wasn't until I apologized for my error that she FINALLY cracked a smile.

And then, I reluctantly realized I had to use the ladies' room, because it being a public building and all, it means you're sharing a restroom with the craziest of the NYCrazy.
The other library lady I asked for directions was similarly stoic, until I broke into a saccharine smile and thanked her profusely. She visibly softened. I was starting to feel like a Care Bear, distributing joy and smiles wherever I happened to break into a dopey grin.




I was washing my hands in the restroom when a young woman stalked in, muttering about how some "white b*tch needta KEEP WALKIN." I thought she was on a hands-free phone device, talking to a friend, so I didn't pay her much attention (at least, not conspicuously - you better believe I was trying to remember every word, though).

The tirade continued in low tones, occasionally punctuated with a loud "WALKIN'!" even as she entered a stall.
Then, and bear with me, but this is funny, a second woman, already in a stall, belched loudly.
The following conversation occurred, with each participant in her own stall, while I pretended to keep washing my hands.

Lady 2: *BELLLLCH* "Excuse me."
Lady 1: "UGH. Who DID that?!"
Lady 2: "I did."
Lady 1: "DAMN. That's NASTY."
Lady 2: "It's a restroom. It's allowed. Plus it's a medical condition, don't be ignorant."
Lady 1: "I don't care WHAT you say, thass GROSS. UnLADYlike."
Lady 2: "If you have a problem, you can leave." *BELLLLCH*
Lady 1: "EEEW! What the f$@! is WRONG WITCHU?"

This continued until I left. I almost opened my mouth to spread some more Care Bear joy, as instructed as a child of the '80s, but I decided I wanted to live to see another day in this fine city. So I kept it shut, and will continue to smile brightly at only people I don't suspect harbor a desire to kill me.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I am Mr. Adolf Kerber

It is a cold December morning in Portland, Oregon.

Lu is in town from New York for the holidays. We attended a sorority alumnae Christmas party last night, and are curled up in my queen sized bed, nursing cups of coffee to calm our vodka-soda induced headaches.

The floor-to-ceiling mirrors reflect and amplify the crisp gray light that floods in from the panoramic window, framing the skeletons of winter trees, buildings and river beyond.

She opens her Christmas gift from me- a mustard colored, alligator textured belt from Nordstrom.

"Ohh, I love it, it's perfect. Thank you!" she says sincerely. "But hurry up and open mine- I am too excited. It's so good." She shakes her head, smiling. "So good."

The first gift is a pair of stud earrings - little nude pink rosettes.
"Ahhh! I love them!" I gush.
"I found them at the Chelsea craft fair," she says excitedly. "You would love it. You could totally sell your jewelry there. But I saw these and thought they were so you - let me see. Yes. They go PERFECTLY with your hair and skin tone. Okay. Open the other one."

She hands me a yellowed envelope, brittle with the years it has weathered.

It is addressed, in simple courier typeface, to a Mr. Adolf Kerber, who appears to have resided in Louisville, Kentucky.
I glance at the postmark: 1945.


The envelope is torn neatly along one end, and the edges of a letter are visible. I pull it out, unfold it, and read it:

November 26, 1945

Dear Adolf Kerber:

I have your letter and note all you say. I am mindful of what Mr. Berkowitz asked me to do for you. To try to advise you is almost impossible. It is strictly a gamble and you have to come prepared to take the good with the bad. You might be lucky and get a job right away and you might have to wait for months. However, I will give you every assistance that I can, if you decide to come on to New York.

Every best wish.

Kindest regards and best wishes.

Sincerely yours,

(unintelligible man's signature here)



I have to read the last few lines a few times before I can finish, as I've gotten choked up and my vision is swimming.

I look at Lu, pull a face, and reach for her in a hug.

And now, here I am. In her apartment on E 53rd and 3rd Ave in New York City, using her bathroom, refrigerator, 2 dresser drawers, pantry shelf, and house keys. I have two suitcases with me that we've artfully squashed into two corners of the apartment (which, I should add, she shares with two other girls), and she took the day off on Thursday to spend time with me as I acclimated and caught my breath.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Coming Out Party

First thing's first: I have arrived in New York City.

I came to the conclusion tonight that writing about New York is probably one of the more daunting tasks one can undertake. It has just been done, and done, and DONE by so many authors, screenwriters, playwrights, poets, graffiti-artists, graphic designers, copyrighters, et al that I wonder whether there is really anything left to be said.

But places are always changing, and the permutations of people at any one place at a given time are infinite, and so I suppose the experiences are also infinite - just as they are in any other city.

I am staying with Lu on E 53rd St, between 2nd and 3rd Ave. This meant nothing to me yesterday, and already it makes a lot more sense.

This morning, we wandered around SoHo (which means "South of Houston", which is a street that runs East/West and is pronounced, "house-tin", I was graciously reminded in a text from the Dancefighter) for a few hours, mostly window shopping and allowing me to get my bearings. We ate brunch at a little place called Boom, which was reasonable and tasty, and then walked to the Trader Joe's in Union Square, on E 14th. From there, we took the subway back up to her apartment, where we promptly collapsed on the couch and watched two episodes of Mad Men.
This was my big debut in the city. Watch out, world. I am here, I am fierce, and I am wearing sweatpants.

From my absence here, you can probably surmise that the last few weeks have been brutally busy and I have been running around like Usain Bolt on crack.

The first week of unemployment was spent prepping for the end of summer bash I hosted. 12 acres, 120 hamburgers, 40 hot dogs, 18 Garden Burgers, 4 kegs of Natural Light (only the finest for my guests), 100 lbs of ice, 6 folding tables, one pop up canopy, two strands of Christmas lights, a stereo, and 500 ft of acquired extension cords later, I had myself a party.

Around 60-70 of my most beloved ones showed up to celebrate and send me off into the great big world, which was a joyful and humbling gift. I appreciated the presence of each guest, and my killer friends who were kind enough to provide the entertainment-
Goodbye Harrison and DJ Yo Huckleberry, as well as Mr.Dancefighter, who was a clutch friend and took about 471 pictures for me. A sampling:







And the second week of unemployment was spent recovering from all of that. And packing all my most important possessions (clothes, jewels, boots, and bags- duh) into two suitcases. And saying farewell/see you soons/see you laters/see you probably nevers to a lot of people.

But you know, people move every day. They make bigger moves than this, and they move farther and with less encouragement pushing and pulling them than I have, so there's no need for melodrama. This is just another day, except now, I'm just kickin it' in a bigger city.

With seriously huge cockroaches.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Evolution of Stumbling

Today is my last day of work.


As I was driving here this morning, the phrase that kept coming to mind was that I "stumbled up the back steps and am walking gracefully out the front door." Not that I'm walking all that gracefully, necessarily, just, I look much less like a baby giraffe than I did upon my arrival.

I can't remember when I heard it first, specifically, but I know it was in the context of my sorority. So I went digging around online for the poem, or the story from which it came, and I don't know if this is the one I heard, but I thought it was beautiful.

I also think it's not confined to the experience of being in a sorority, but eloquently expresses the pains and trials of periods of growth in our lives.


"What is __(name of group or organization here)_? If its really anything at all, it is not entirely, a logo, national conventions, monogrammed rings, worn-out
songs, Bylaws, Membership Standards, or a badge. And it is not
entirely an institution, a creed, a legacy, an obligation, or a way of life.
If you're going to insist that it is something, it is only......
Moving in for the first time and slowly learning that all beautiful people have fat legs and use mouthwash and wear last year's coats.
...Long, tired eternities of black coffee and exam snacks when you can't remember the Renaissance architects or the stages of photosynthesis and respiration.
......Borrowing a skirt from Karen and a blouse from Amy, and shoes from Meredith, and a belt and a coat from Liz and passing it off as your own.
...Sitting on the back steps and listening with all your helplessness because she's lost and she's lonely and it seems the whole world just fell into ugly pieces
......And it's coming in very late one night and closing the door to tell someone who's seen you through the hardest years of your life that you're happy now, and you've found someone
...And this all is, I suppose, a kind of evaluation.
You grow up inside these elegant halls, and perhaps you do learn more of the
grizzly, ungrateful circus we call life than if you had lived it somewhere else.
You learn that a football player is sometimes just shoulder pads and that skinny arms sometimes hide a great man. You learn that some lecture halls are just
watery echoes and that there are silent rooms for deeper rivers of
self-reflection. You learn that no matter where you come from or who took you
there, you've still got to find that one small acre that belongs to you, by
yourself.
You learn to wait, because change is slow and change isn't always
right.
You learn that there's still a lot left to believe in and a whole lot more to hope for.
You learn that love has never been easy, and that it's a long time coming.
And if you're very smart, or very lucky, you learn that no matter how big or how messy the world becomes, what is precious and what is permanent is always the same.
And in the very end, you learn that this experience can only be a better way to stumble up the back steps and walk gracefully out the front door."
If you tweak just enough of the scenarios, it could very easily be a job, or a new city, or any of the other things that force us to learn about ourselves.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Kickin I.T. To. The. CURB

I’ve had this job for two years, two months, and 9 days.
I have complained about it for about two years, two months, and 8 days.

I have worked with some real characters, some cardboard cut-out imposters of people, some fun clients, and a lot of people whose names I cannot pronounce.

I think I have come to appreciate certain things about it, though: my schedule is flexible, my vacation package is fair, I can get away with pursuing other hobbies during the day, I can work from home, I have a steady paycheck, I have my own desk by a window, I rarely have to take work home with me after hours or on weekends.

But we all know my heart is somewhere else, my talents better used elsewhere, and my life not to be spent doing this, blogging furtively in between struggling to figure out how the hell to update a Use Case Document about whatever it was they were talking about in that one meeting.

So why haven’t I left? Why do I feel a choking, knotted sensation in my chest when I think about what it will take to look my team in the face and quit? Why is it that I sweat and inhale shallow, rapid, breaths when I get serious about making myself happy?

I think it has to come down to being more scared of the known than the unknown: the idea that once a decision is made, predictable consequences fall rapidly as paving stones and cement into a path.. a path that I actually set myself.

Which is why on Friday morning, at 9 AM, I am nervously fumbling with my coffee cup and suppressing intermittent spurts of nausea, because I am seated in a conference room with my boss, and I say,
“I’m going to cut right down to business and let you know that I am giving my notice of resignation.”
Without being terribly dramatic, it was more like I heard myself say the words rather than actually think to say them.

My boss Allen wastes no time. “When are you leaving?”
“Welllll-“ I glance at the calendar behind his head. “August 19th.”
“Ah, okay,” he says, looking at something on his computer. “You’re only required to give two weeks’ notice, so we really appreciate that extra week. So, let’s talk about the reasons why you’re leaving…”
I take a deep breath and launch into ALL the reasons.

Ba said later I should have just given him this blog address and walked out of the room, but, I tried to be tactful and articulate while also direct and honest:

That we all know I sort of fell into the job, that it was a steep learning curve for me, that my talents are likely better suited elsewhere.

And oh, that I am moving to New York City the first week of September.

“You’re moving WHERE?!” He laughs. “Do you have a job lined up?”
“Nope!”
He laughs again. “Wow. Well what are you looking to get into?”I want to get into all kinds of things (trouble, my own place, a niche) but I only list a couple.
“Event planning and design, ideally nonprofit. Maybe work for a small media company.”

“Well,” he sighs, “I can’t say I’m surprised. I’ve seen this coming for a while.”

I relax, and start to resume normal breathing patterns. We chat lightly for a few minutes and I am overjoyed by his supportive and encouraging response, so much so, that I float away from the conversation and am consumed by an adrenaline rush: the realization that I have the power to make decisions and create change for myself.

I head back to my office, and am greeted by the only co-worker in-the-know, to whom I confided my plans over three or four mojitos a few weeks ago.

“SO?!” she whispers hoarsely, a question in her grin.

We take a walk outside and I recount the conversation, aglow with triumph.

“That is just so cool,” she says smiling, shaking her head. “I am so excited for you, and sad that you’re leaving of course, but only for personal reasons. It is so rare that we advocate for ourselves proactively, you know? There’s a lot to be said for that. So often we respond to the flow, and we roll with punches, but it is a unique and defining experience to grab the reins and really make a decision – make a change like this – for yourself. I am proud of you!”

I’m proud of myself, too.

So it’s really happening: I finally quit my job. I am going to move to New York City with no job, and no family, and no place to live.

I am kickin’ I.T. to the curb, and will start kickin’ it in NYC in September.
I hope you stick around to hear how it goes (spoiler alert: it goes awesomely).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tasty n Sun

The Redhead (whom will be renamed, henceforth as "Gingerlocks" because of a recent series of amusing adventures in which she usurped the clothing, bed, dog, and bicycle of a friend over the course of a few days... and then promptly destroyed the bicycle in what I can only imagine was in incident involving a cigarette and/or her mane of hair getting stuck in the spokes) and I have been busy brunching.

She's been terribly swamped with work, and I have been busy with... making myself busy, I guess, that we have had less time during the week to hang out, and thus our weekend brunch escapades have become mandatory, and then stretch far into the afternoon while we fill one another in on every minute detail of our weeks the other may have missed.


An example:
"I had a ridiculous dream Tuesday night. Basically, we were at Ron Tom's
out on the patio, but, everything was underwater. And I was wearing your long
gray dress and you were wearing that thing with the-"
"Oh the shorts. The black one."
"Yes. Same brain. And, we were sitting
there, and I was smoking, duh, and you were talking to me, but Scott was beside
you, and he was like, wearing glasses...AND he was speaking French? I dunno. But
it was WEIRD because behind us, was like, this field. And everyone was playing
kickball. That's all. I just wanted to tell you."
"Wow. That is hilarious. Oh, ps. did I tell you about
what's-her-face?"
"No! But I saw on Facebook that she went to the doctor? Everything cool?"
"Yeah, she's getting x-rays this week, and I guess her sister got a new job,
so that's good news. Oh, speaking of jobs, how's your cousin's boyfriend? Is
that going well for him?"
"Oh GODDD I FORGOT TO TELL YOU! So, last week..."

And so on.

Sometimes I feel bad for the people sitting around us...but mostly, I could care less, because it is my favorite time of the week.

Our new high ranking delicious spot for a food-fest is Tasty n' Sons. It's on NE Williams, and usually has a very long line in the mornings because everyone wants to come try the tapas-style breakfast the city has been raving about. I suggest going around 1 PM, like we did, if you want to beat the wait and have incredible service, like we did.




We had iced coffees, two bambino platters (biscuit, egg, bacon), the maple glazed yams, and a sweet biscuit plate with Oregon blueberries and creme fraiche... all for only $24!

The Portland weather has been very conducive to brunching and gallivanting around town on the weekends.


But sometimes, we don't make it out of the 'burbs and eat at this little local place called The Village Inn, owned and run by a guy we knew in high school. Our server Connie knows Gingerlocks' special off-the-menu order, and Todd the bus boy likes to check on us incessantly.

If anyone has any Portland Brunch recommendations, by all means, send them my way

Monday, July 19, 2010

{ nothing gold can stay }

Late August: golden tall grass, golden wheat beers, golden days. And a golden birthday for yours truly, turning 24 on the 24th!

I know, technically, it's tacky to throw yourself a birthday party, so let's make it less about that and more about the end of the summer.

You're invited...


It's really just another excuse to plan and host an event with good food, good friends, and the potential for some good stories.

Plus, last time I had a birthday party on the 12 acres of land my family owns in a nearby suburb, it was for my Sweet 16. It was going to be the coolest party ever, except, at the last minute, the co-ed campout part got canceled ...and probably rightfully so. About 30 of us entertained ourselves for the evening playing Sardines in the field, eating cheeseburgers, exploring my grandpa's shedful of dangerous farming contraptions and wielding them like medieval weapons, sitting around a charcoal-briquette campfire (there was a summer ban on bonfires within city limits due to lack of rain), and suffering numerous injuries (two twisted ankles and a car accident for a friend who swerved to avoid a deer on the way to the party).

It's birthday party redemption time.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Re-Workin It

A friend is in the middle of reading this book, but, I stole it from him and now I'm reading it.

It's called REWORK by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hanssone, these two guys who started and run a company called 37signals.



Basically, its premise is that the business world is still using archaic models based on outdated technology. We have the resources and the potential to do such much more with so much less now, and this book outlines ways to capitalize on these things.

It's a fast read with lots of diagrams/word pictures, and I am about halfway through it after sitting down to read it twice.






I'd recommend this book if you have an idea for a business but can't quite seem to get momentum in getting it off the ground. Read it if you want to learn how to work more efficiently and effectively at your current job, or if you think your workplace would be receptive to some process tweaking to result in more productivity. It's a very fast, very simple, very powerful motivator of a book.

I wish EVERYONE IN MY OFFICE HAD TO READ IT. I am thinking about just photocopying pages and taping them up around here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Leomania, 2010 Edition

I woke up this morning and literally the first thing I thought of when my eyes opened was,
"Gosh, Leonardo DiCaprio has been famous since he was like, 14, and he's somehow managed to stay out jail all this time, and tabloids for most of it. I wonder what he's DOING...oh yeah, Bar Rafaeli and... he's MAKING AWESOME MOVIES. I need to brush my teeth."

I never really went through uber-Leomania when I was a kid. Granted, Titanic was definitely my favorite movie for a few years and I have seen it probably three dozen times, but I didn't have the Romeo+Juliet obsession like many of my peers, and I have never once bought a copy of Teen, or Tiger Beat, or whatever those periodicals are called.

And even in recent years, I have been known to scoff at him as a good actor, since I have this issue where I feel like I'm always watching Leonardo DiCaprio and not his characters on screen.
But maybe it's just because I have a large deep-seated crush on him, I'm coming to realize.



Here's the thing... this guy's filmography is nearly flawless. Look at this:

Shutter Island (2010)
Revolutionary Road (2008)
Body of Lies (2008)
Blood Diamond (2006)
The Departed (2006)
The Aviator (2004)
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Gangs of New York (2002)
Don's Plum (2001)
The Beach (2000/I)
Celebrity (1998)
The Man in the Iron Mask (1998/I)
Titanic (1997)
Marvin's Room (1996)
Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Total Eclipse (1995)
The Basketball Diaries (1995)
The Quick and the Dead (1995)
The Foot Shooting Party (1994)
What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
This Boy's Life (1993)
Poison Ivy (1992)
Critters 3 (1991)

That's almost 20 years of filmmaking and there is hardly a flop, a flub, or a fluke in there. He chooses smart, difficult roles. He works with talented and proven directors. He is lucky enough to be offered parts, but it's because he's shown he can handle them, as well as acting alongside the greats from an early age (Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Russell Crowe, Diane Keaton, Gene Hackman, Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks). I admit I haven't seen a few of the older ones, but most of the ones I have seen have been awesome (who didn't love "Catch Me If You Can" or "The Departed"?).

He basically has one of the most impressive film careers in the industry, and he's only 36. He dates super models (and not just any supermodels, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition COVER MODELS and Victoria's Secret runway models). And he stays out of trouble! DUDE IS BASICALLY REMARKABLE.



And now Inception is out this week and I'm sure it's going to be excellent and he's just going to give all of us another reason to love him.

Especially because he was in Gilbert Grape:



Friday, July 9, 2010

The Hardest Question

On my brief visit to E=MC in Durham, North Carolina (pre-cross-country 6 day road trip), we are at Allen & Sons BBQ, licking our fingers at red checkered table cloths and drinking sweet tea with a group of his grad school friends when someone poses me the question that probably gives me the most anxiety of all questions ever.

The guys have been throwing the question around the last few days, and are reciting one another's lists back to each other, and I am terrified they are going to turn on me and demand to know my answer. It makes me sweat (or maybe it's because it's 90 degrees with %143 humidity).

Halfway through a bite of my pulled pork sandwich, it happens.

"Okay, your turn. What are your top five favorite songs. Of all time."

Damn. There it is. The anxiety rises in my chest and I eyeball the nearest exit.

I don't know why I get this way! Definitive questions always make me waffle: I feel like I need a top ten, at least, for anything, and even then I have awkward addendums ("Honorable Mentions," Alternates, etc). I cringe when I think about the application I submitted to Princeton University as a high school senior: as part of their folio of information they request from you, they ask you ten simple questions about your preferences in music, movies, art, books and the like.

I stressed out about it for like, a week, filled in my answers, immediately second guessed the impression said answers would give about me, typed and printed new answers, and pasted them on top of the old ones. I might have even done this multiple times for certain questions. (I am sure all of the answers were wholly unimpressive and unremarkable, hence my ensuing letter of rejection).

But I still get like that. I don't even have any "Favorites" sections filled in on Facebook anymore because the idea that my list isn't actually correct or complete or truly representative of me really freaks me out, plus, it changes a lot. So I just scrapped it altogether.

This is all running through my brain as I flail around for a way to start answering this impossible, difficult, frustrating demand to put a box around your tastes and catalogue your love for one of the most lovable things in this life- music- and so I am wholly suprised when I answer almost immediately, with unequivocal confidence,

"Oh, Number 1 for sure is "Night Moves," by Bob Seger."

"AAAAAH! SUCH A GOOD ONE! Great choice! I can't believe I missed that one! So good!" choruses the table.



And then from there I throw out a whole bunch of other ones, only once every tenth suggestion or so moving it into one of the top five spots.

I think the list ended up shaking out something like this:

1. "Night Moves" - Bob Seger
2. "Fast Car"- Tracy Chapman
3. "Neighborhood #1" - Arcade Fire
4. "Lover, You Should Have Come Over," - Jeff Buckley
5. "Come on Eileen"- Dexy's Midnight Runners

With the following somewhere in the top 15:

"Beast of Burden" - The Rolling Stones
"Walking on Broken Glass"- Annie Lennox
"Let's Stay Together"- Al Green
"Just Like Heaven"- The Cure
"The Trapeze Swinger"- Iron & Wine
"Ex-Factor" - Lauryn Hill
"No Sleep Til Brooklyn"- The Beastie Boys
"I Want You"- Bob Dylan
"As Long as You Follow"- Fleetwood Mac
"Don't Stop"- Brazilian Girls

Which is weird, because none of these slots are represented by my favorite bands/artists(Ray LaMontagne, The Decemberists, Neko Case, Air, John Mayer, Fiona Apple, The Black Keys, Wye Oak, Everything But the Girl) which is maybe because I just can't pick a representative one song from any of them? Or maybe it's that a "favorite song" is just chosen by entirely different criteria.

These favorite songs are ones I NEVER get tired of, and am ALWAYS jazzed about when I hear them. They all make me feel something specific, and are often times tied to a moment worth remembering (or in some cases, a moment I wish I remembered, like, when Dance Fighter paid the karaoke DJ $15 so I could sing "Night Moves" at my 21st birthday party. There are pictures, at least).

So, I'm curious- what are your favorite songs? Can you pick just 5? What's your criteria? Are they representative of your favorite artists? Don't be shy!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pillars of Great Girth

Over our long holiday weekend I decided to get down to it and really tackle some work around the house to which I needed to attend.
I had some unfinished business, and mustered up the energy to confront the laborious task at hand.
So I brewed myself some coffee, put it on ice, poured myself a tall glass (with a neon bendy straw and a dollop of half and half) and sat outside in the sun:

I was on a mission to finish a book. This was not just any brain-candy beach read I wanted to plow through in a sitting - no, this was the culimination of weeks of reading diligently before bedtime, at lunch, and on weekend afternoons, because this book is something like 973 pages long:



The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett, who, it is rumored, took about ten years to write this beast.
Appropriate, as it took me literally 32-35 hours to read it.

The narrative follows the erection of a cathedral in 12th Century England, and all the many players involved in making this happen, as well as the characters involved in trying to prevent it from happening (and, let me tell you, if I learned anything from this tome, it's that it is F-ing HARD to build a cathedral).

I don't think Ken Follett is a particularly gifted writer in his turn of phrase (he overuses the same adjectives repeatedly, which drives me NUTS) , and he has a disturbing predilection for narrating lengthy visceral battle and rape scenes, of which there are both plenty in the book, graphically detailed to a fault. But his characters are rich, their motives believable, and each is integral to the movement of the story (except one character, Martha, who I kind of kept expecting to play a more pivotal role towards the end, but was disappointed).

There is a ton of interesting information about building in that era, and Follet does a masterful job of bringing the grime, grit, and gore of the 12th Century alive. Also, if you're not sold yet, there's a lot of sex (which always makes me uncomfortable to read about, mostly because I always imagine middle aged Ken Follett painstakingly penning the scene, which kind of weirds me out, because, as an aspiring writer, I don't think that would be fun, or that I could take myself seriously in doing so, but whatever).

If you don't like to read, lucky you:
They're bringing Pillars of the Earth to Starz as an 8 part miniseries this year!
Looks to be entertaining as Rufus Sewell and Donald Sutherland both have parts.

But, thanks for nothing, dudes...WHO THE HELL SUBSCRIBES TO STARZ?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Yeah, I Showered...Once. In May.

With all of my hype about this being my summer of wedding zaniness, I haven't backed it up (PICS OR IT DIDN'T HAPPEN).

I think this is because the tedium of spending 18 minutes locating your USB cord, plugging in your digital camera to your (inevitably dead) computer, realizing that maybe it's the camera battery that's dead, waiting for iPhoto to load, etc etc etccccc is eye-gougingly lame. When are they going to come out with digital cameras that upload to your iPhoto automatically and wirelessly? (HEY STEVE JOBS, HIRE ME PLZ. THX.) But, somehow, despite all that, I managed to finally upload some pictures of the bridal shower I threw for my dear freshman year college roommate, whom I am not sure has a blogonym on here or not, but will heretofore be referred to as Roommate, Esq. (She just graduated from law school).

Months and months ago, while I was, shockingly!, bored at work, I created this little inspiration board for her shower:


Of course, given the day of May 22nd's totally unpredictable precipitation record, I would have loved to host the event outside (as depicted in the greenery and freshness of the inspiration board) but had to compromise by holding it inside with a ton of flower arrangements.

I forgot to take pictures at the start, so in these the food is mostly gone (a good sign?) but it's the general idea:







I collected old Mason jars for a few weeks beforehand, and did the floral arrangements myself after ordering specific blooms from the local florist.

Roommate, Esq.'s other bridesmaid brought some adorably delectable cupcakes down from Seattle with her, as well as plenty of champagne for the 10 attendees. We only played 2 (tasteful) shower games, and had an excess of food and drink, so I think all in all it was a success.

Tips for myself, for next time:
1. Don't have so much food that needs to be prepared that morning. I tried to space it out over a few days, but, with prosciutto wrapped melon; fingerling potatoes with sour cream, sausage, and chives; a fresh fruit punch; mini cornmeal muffins best served hot ... it was a lot to prepare by 2:00 PM with picking up flowers and arranging them that morning and remembering to shower and get ready on time.

2. Include directions, not just the address in the invitations.

3. Be aware of what flowers are available at different times of year- I was making some rather expensive requests of the florist, who had to set me straight, as the types I was requesting were running around $10/stem in May. He educated me a little and found me some lovely, less expensive, alternatives.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Yeah well, review THIS

You know it's going to be a great morning when the following three things hit you in succession:

1. You wake up late for work because you're knee deep in a dream wherein you spot Barbara Walters hyperventilating in the middle of a suburban street. Instead of running to her aid, or calling an ambulance, or even asking her how she can even STAND TO BE IN JOY BEHAR'S PRESENCE EVERY MORNING, you swoop down and steal her dog. That's right, YOU STOLE BABA WAWA'S DOG.

2. Once you wake up and shake off that monumental weirdness, you pull into the parking lot at work...where you promptly drop your company laptop on the blacktop. No one's going to notice that dent in the right corner when you turn this thing back in on the day of your inevitable firing, right?

3. You get to your desk, plug in the machine, and, mercifully, it works. But then you get this unwarranted, unsolicited, and frankly UNCOOL email from a co-worker. Not even a boss... just...a co-worker:

"Hi,
Just a heads up (some information from our Test Case creation guidelines):

  • Analyst e-mails Client at least 48 hrs prior to the Test Case Review Meeting to notify Client that the test cases are ready for review
  • Documentation will be committed to shared folder; Client will pull documentation from shared folder
  • E-mail identifies the shared folder and filename(s) of each test case document
  • E-mail may be the meeting invitation or may be a separate e-mail
  • Documentation includes the following – all should be submitted at the same time:
    Test Matrix (if applicable)
    UC Test Cases
    UI Test Cases
  • Client reviews test case documentation prior to Test Case Review Meeting
  • Client reviews for test case coverage and content issues (inaccurate/incomplete test cases)

    Also, you should reserve a meeting room for the Test Case Review Meetings. That way anyone else that would like to or anyone else that is delegated to attend the meeting besides those you invited can come to the meeting.

    This is just a bit of advice for you. If all of the analysts are following the same guidelines it works out better for all of us as one team. I know it is sometimes hard working in an environment where we are not employees but are contractors and therefore need to handle ourselves more professionally and differently than if we were employees. I liked it better when I was an employee and felt more comfortable but having been working for this company for almost 16 years, I have kind of gotten used to having to handle things a little differently.

    Take Care. "


    WELL GUESS WHAT. IF I WORKED HERE FOR 16 YEARS I'D BE DEAD.
    Because I would have hung myself with a projector cord in said meeting room.

    Everyone complains about how busy they are - how overloaded and overworked they are and how our managers micromanage - and then my own teammate sends me something this nitpicky, obviously taking the time out of her morning to check my schedule, find fault with the way I'd set up a meeting (at the client's desk...because that's where she prefers to have them), take the time to find these archaic guidelines NO ONE uses, and email them to me.

    I admit I've never taken direction very well (Sorry Mom. Sorry Dad). But if I were going to start, it would not be because someone sent me this kind of email.