Friday, July 31, 2009

My spiraling level of professionalism

After a three week break, I reassumed my temp position at this particular office because I'm so awesome. The office shall remain nameless due to the oath I took upon my entry into the super-secret, super-awesome Guild O'Tempers, which is like the Knights Templar but with more ninjas. However, I will say that the office is within walking distance of my apartment and there's a lot of whiny artists that make demands on my coworkers. But not on me. One of the tempperks.

Today is my fifth day back to work after my hiatus, and to illustrate how comfortable I've gotten at this office, here is a timeline of my level of dressiness and professionalism. See how it decreases almost exponentially from Day 1 to Day 5 on a scale of, uh, 1 to 5, 5 being Hillary Clinton and 1 being a Grateful Dead fan on the third day of a rainy summer festival in Toronto.

Day 1: Modest silk blouse in pale pink, sleeves down to elbows. Charcoal gray trousers. Hair in tight bun. Covered shoes. Level of Professionalism (LoP): 5

Day 2: Blacked ribbed tank top that's from a good English department store and hides my bra straps. Knee length black skirt with floral pattern. Hair in bun held in place with Hello Kitty chopsticks. Covered shoes. LoP: 3.8

Day 3: White ribbed tank top that shows my stomach, but only by accident, because the extreme New York heat forced me to ripped off the spangly pink scarf I've threaded through the belt loops of my jeans in the vain hope that maybe it's the scarf that's turning my back into the Niagara Falls of sweat. Tennis shoes that I shove under my desk for most of the day because it's so freaking hot. Messy bun I keep having to reknot because the humidity makes it slippery. LoP 2 (Most of my sloppiness can be blamed on the heat, so I'm grading myself on the intended effect of my outfit and not on the sodden, ragged mess I actually ended up being on this day.)

Day 4: Black dress with tiny white polk adots, slightly puffed sleeves, and a sash around the waist. Black ballet flats. Bun held neatly in place with ornamental hair picks. LoP: 1.7 (This description doesn't sound so bad, but this dress is one of the freak articles of clothing that, no matter how much skin it covers, will always make me look like a stripper. My high school and college graduation gowns did the same thing.)

Day 5 (today): Blue sarong. White Ninja Masu tank top that I'm pretty sure shows my bra straps in the back. Slippers. Hair down. LoP: 1

Did I mention that today is also laundry day?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Neurosis Delusions and other subliminal messages hidden in my data entry

I'm a temp. All hail my mighty temp powers! HAIL THEM!

Excellent. Now that that's taken care of, let's talk about office work. There's been a lot of art coming out the last decade about the dangers cubicleland wreaks on the human psyche. "Dilbert," "Fight Club," "Office Space," "And then we came to end," just to name a few. You've seen or read at least one of these.

Now, I'm a pretty experienced office worker, in that I've never worked any other job. I've never flipped a burger, folded a sweater, or worked a cash register in my life, but I can do data entry and answer phones like nobody's business. Furthermore, I am a fourth-generation office worker. My mother works in an office, her mother worked in an office, and HER mother was the secretary to the Ambassador to the Philippines. So I know what I'm talking about when I say that the hatred of office culture and cubicleland, while not entirely unfounded, isn't exactly a new phenomenon, despite what pop culture may indicate.

The fact is, women have been stuck pushing paper and compiling TPS reports at cramped desks since the turn of the century. It's often the only work we can get. But as soon as men began to sit at desks and compare numbers to other numbers for eight hours a day, suddenly we have a cultural movement. Suddenly everyone is worried about the ennui produced by such mindnumbing, soulsucking work, and books are written about the detriment cubicleland is having on our collective consciousness, COMPLETELY IGNORING the women who have been enduring such work since our great-grandmother's day.

I've been seething over this for a while, and I think the people in high places are starting to take note. Today, I read this sentence in a series of course descriptions that I'm proofreading for blah blah blah, it doesn't matter, it's data entry and it's in my blood, I'll never escape it.

Here is the sentence: "The viewer is in your mind with your neurosis delusions."

I think I'm being watched...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I can has famous?

It's hard being from Hawaii. Not only because it's as expensive as New York while being--let's face it--a rock in the middle of the ocean instead of the center of the universe, but because we just don't have that many claims to fame.

Hawaii killed Captain James Cook, one of the greatest navigators in the history of the world. Can you imagine showing up to a cocktail party with that on your social resume.

"So what do you do?"

"Kill Englishmen."

Actually, some parts of the world might be okay with that. India, for example.

But it's hard to live in New York and be from Hawaii because no one I meet has any frame of reference for my background.

"Where are you from."




"Oh. Wow." Blank stare. Monkey grunting noises.

If I was from California, people might ask me if I've met any celebrities. If I was from New York, I could tell about the first time I was mugged. But people don't know anything about Hawaii. There's no where for the conversation to go.

At least, until the Internet, or the Interwebs as my hero Ben Huh puts it. Who is Ben Huh? If you're not spectacularly dorkish, the name might not call up immediate assocations, so here's a visual aid.

Ben Huh, Hawaii native, invented He's the father of the freaking Lolcats meme. And he's from Hawaii! Take this information, roll with it. Hawaii brought you kittehs.

Oh, and the president. He's from Hawaii, too.

Not as cool.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


A Short Story by Me

The cars were packed onto the Queensboro Bridge so tightly you couldn’t get a sheet of paper between the bumpers. People had long given up the fight to keep overheated engines going in the jam and sat on hoods and even roofs, trying to catch a breeze off the river. Somewhere an ice cream truck had been playing the same tinkling music for six hours, the slightly off-key, infuriatingly upbeat melody winding on and on as the miserable afternoon slide towards darkness.

Emile sat in the open hatchback of the yellow cab he’d had the misfortune of flagging down outside the Village Voice offices to take him back to the apartment he shared in Greenpoint with some strangers he’d met on Craigslist. He’d read on one of his scifi websites that today, July 12th, was Mahattanhenge, when the path of the sun lined up precisely with the east-west streets of Manhattan. This phenomenon occurred two nights a year in midsummer, today and yesterday, but yesterday had been overcast, so Emile had decided to put off his weekly trek to the city so he could see the solar event first-hand and maybe slip in a few Druid jokes while he flirted with the receptionist at the Voice.

Now, after being stuck on the Queensboro Bridge for six hours, he deeply regretted his commitment to geekery.

“Any news?” he called up to his driver, who had been lying across the backseat with his cap over his eyes since he’d shut off his meter an hour and a half into the event.

“Motherfucker still won’t jump,” the driver growled, not even bothering to lift the baseball cap from his face. He was pissed because Emile had tried to give him precise turn-by-turn directions to Greenpoint that included taking the Williamsburg Bridge instead of the Queensboro, and he—believing that his 22 years driving the mean streets made him a bit more qualified to navigate than some faggoty hipster with a box full of Voice t-shirts—he just had to insist on taking the bridge with the jumper. As his Navy father always said, You gotta be hard, pronouncing it “hawd,” You gotta be hawd cuz life is hawd, Jacky. Gonna toughen you up.

“This toughening you up, kid?” Jacky muttered, but Emile wasn’t listening. He was busy watching the sun through the windshield of the semi behind him and thinking how goofy those big trucks looked when they weren’t pulling any containers. Like great bit Tonka toys, Emile thought, or a midget on a big motorcycle. The driver of the semi-semi had gone away about two hours ago, yelling that he was going to pop that sumbitch ice cream truck driver right in the balls, or bawls, and then come right back with a box full of popsicles and a look that just dared some asshole to ask him what happened and why was that goddamn music still playing. Emile had had grape; Jacky the Cabby had pineapple. They didn’t ask any questions.

It was still just the sun, Emile thought, nervously chewing on his popsicle stick and sucking the last traces of syrup out of the wood. Sure, it’s cool and everything that it’s lined up with the streets, but it’s nothing special, not like the Northern Lights or that ice city they build up in China every year. Maybe if you put up some kind of mirror or crystal on the East River at 57th Street, some kind of kinetic sculpture that only works during Manhattanhenge, that would be interesting. But this is just the sun.

“So who gives a good gat-damn?” he said aloud without realizing it.

“That’s what I say!” Jacky burst out, bolting upright and sliding down to the softening pavement beside the cab.

“Just JUMP ya bastud!” he screamed passionately. “No one gives a good gaddamn about you anyway!”

A few people gave him the sideways New York glance to gauge his danger level, but no one took up the cry. Even after six hours in the heat, there was still an almost sacred barrier between the people’s anger and the jumper on the north edge of the Queensboro Bridge. Even in New York, the city of getthefuckouttamyway, no one was going to hurry a suicider teetering on the edge of watery oblivion. Not of respect or anything arcane like that, Emile decided, but because no one wanted to take the responsibility and be that guy, the one who’d given the figurative final push so he could get home in time to catch the Yankees game on ESPN.

Suddenly feeling this social pressure, Jacky slunk back into the cab and put his cap over his eyes again. Emile turned back to the sun so that when it finally did happen, he wouldn’t have to see the tiny speck of a human body tumbling into the drink.

Although, he reflected further, drumming his fingers on the box of t-shirts he’d be handing out at the Prospect Park concert the next day, it’s not like the guy would actually die. Six hours was plenty of time for New York’s finest to block off traffic and get negotiators, squad cars, ambulances, helicopters, and even boats on the scene. Emile could hear them all now, the idling of boat motors, the drone of ‘copters, the occasional squawk of a bullhorn. No doubt there’s a safety net beneath him and men in white coats with tranquilizers beside him, or her, let’s face it, this is just the sort of hysterical stunt some crazy chick who was too ashamed to just go to the Planned Parenthood and get a goddamned abortion would pull.

I’m not normally that guy, Emile defended himself to himself. It could be a hysterical male or a hysterical female, who am I to say? I’m just some poor guy trying to get home myself, I didn’t ask to be put in other person’s soap opera of a life. But there I am, six fucking hours on this bridge, and I’m tired and sweating and I’ve got to piss and there’s a splinter on the inside of my lip that just won’t go away, so by Christ, whoever you are, either cook or get out of the kitchen. Jump or fall back, for the love of God, jump or fall back!

His conscience stabbed at him, though with less force than it had during the fourth hour, and for less force than it had during the first. He tried again to imagine who it was, who would be depressed and desperate enough to end it all, and to feel pity for them.

But, he thought, I’ve also got to picture someone rude enough to hold thousands of people hostage in the baking sun and think about it for an hour or six before actually jumping.
Without really realizing what he was doing, Emile crawled slowly out of the back of the cab and starting walking towards through the stalled cars and sweating people.

If it’s that little punk girl I saw on Astor Place, he decided, that sixteen year old who was high off her gourd and wanted me to buy her ice cream, then I’ll let it go. She was just a babe, poor thing, and so high, and so dirty, her ratty blonde hair tangling to unintentional dreadlocks because she’d been sleeping rough in a rough city.

The ice cream music jangled fiercely, burning in his mind like a soldering iron and causing his normally peaceful-vibe thoughts to link up in new and rageful patterns.

And if it’s some white hippie with dreadlocks, he decided, quickening his pace, then I’m going to do something. Some hippie with delusions-of-Rastafarianism-dreadlocks like an unmown lawn dying in the sun, all sad and lonely because his asshole neighbor stole his pot plants while he was out at Coney Island eating a mango on a stick he bought from some Mexican woman and her kid, then fuck him.

Emile had reached the outermost ring of police cars and paused. He was afraid again, afraid of the tumbling fall, the collective gasp of all of the people watching, the responsibility—afraid of being that guy.

If it’s an immigrant, I won’t, he decided. Especially a woman, some poor old Chinese woman with feet like hooves from walking barefoot in the fields when she was a girl and maybe getting tortured in the streets during the Cultural Revolution, brought over by her grandkids to a country where she didn’t speak the language and couldn’t eat the food and where everyone was just waiting for her to die so they could turn her room into an art studio—no, then I won’t.
But if it’s a young woman, a girl really, with soft hands and shining hair and half a carat of diamonds in her Sweet Sixteen birthday ring, one of those girls who can cry without scrunching her face and getting snot down the front of her shirt—if it’s someone who looks good crying and turns around every now and again so the news cameras can get a good look at her perfect skin glistening with tears in the sunlight, then I will.

Emile looked up. He stood on his tiptoes and craned his neck, trying to see over the shoulders of the cops, who paid him no mind, hot and angry as they must no doubt be in their heavy uniforms hung with guns and truncheons and tasers.

If it’s an old person, I won’t, he decided. If it’s a teenager I won’t. If it’s a black person, I won’t. If it’s a businessman, I won’t.

But if it’s that guy who held the subway door for five fucking minutes so his girlfriend could buy a new Metrocard, I will. If it’s that old Filipino guy on the second floor who always lets his dog shit by the mailboxes and doesn’t clean it up, then I will. If it’s some punk with a pierced lip, then I will, because people like that shouldn’t need an audience for destruction, it’s all about destruction for destruction's sake, but if it’s the little punk girl who wanted ice cream, then I won’t.

He slipped underneath the wooden riot barrier. No one stopped him.

There’s so many people that piss me off, he thought, walking forward like a man going to the gallows. Everyone’s got a right to live, but don’t we all also have a right to die if our lives are shitty enough? And don’t we have an obligation, a responsibility, to get the fuck out of the way if our lives aren’t doing anyone a damn bit of good and we know it? Is that person up there on the railing, are his problems or her life more important than the rest of us trapped out here?

He reached the inner ring of policemen now, and they weren’t looking at him, but at the jumper on the railing. Emile could see him now—it was a man, which was good, that made it easier—and it was just some guy, middle aged, not yet bald but balding, sitting on the railing and looking out over the river like he was on some kind of picnic, enjoying the fucking view, for Chrissakes.
I’ll bet you’re pleased with yourself, Emile thought, pausing to take it all in. Here you are, you’re getting more attention that you’ve ever got in your whole life, and you’re getting it on my time, on these people’s time, and what if there’s some woman here with a little baby who’s already shit in all his diapers and she’s got nowhere to clean him? What if there’s some diabetic who needs to get home for her insulin? What if there’s some bomb going off in Pakistan that’s going to send us tumbling down into World War III and the people at home in front of their T.V.s won’t hear about it for three days because all of the news will be focused on you and your pathetic sob story?

Does that make you feel better?

No one was looking at him. It was so easy to dart between a cop and an ambulance, such a short distance to cross that empty circle the jumper’s threats had created around him, and just a matter of gravity and a quick, hard shove.

The pushed screamed as he tumbled down to the drink.

I knew he wasn’t serious, Emile had time to think. If he was, he would have fallen in silence.

The ring of cops closed around Emile like a mouth, nearly pushing him off the bridge for his troubles. Crushed up against the railing, his head forced down so he was facing the glimmering surface of the East River, Emile saw that there were indeed safety nets, and firemen and Coast Guards and a water ambulance, because even in New York City, he reflected, a single life has a certain sacredness that must be upheld.

Emile heard no applause. He hadn’t expected any, this wasn’t a concert or anything, and he hadn’t done anything applause-worthy—haven’t I? a tiny voice inside asked—and he began to feel a bit depressed, especially when the handcuffs tightened on his wrists. It has to be this way, he told himself. They have to keep up appearances so everyone doesn’t think it’s all right to go shoving poor suicidal idiots off bridges, no matter how much they deserve it.

He’d never been inside of a police car before. It was remarkably comfortable. The seats were specially built for passengers with hands bound behind their backs.

“Hey. Kid.”

Emile looked up. The driver on the other side of the mesh screen smiled at him.

“Good for you.”

With a soft whoosh, the air conditioner kicked in. Emile was facing the sun, but the polarized glass kept the glare out of his eyes and he felt curiously cool and light. We’re exactly aligned, he realized, the sun and the bridge and me.

Perfectly aligned.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

It's a scientific fact that the Internet is made of kittens. I must therefore submit a post on kittens, lest my blog violate the rules of physics and send us all hurtling into a black hole of illogical nothingness.

Here is a random Interwebs kittah. The world is safe for another day.

I love cats. Always have, always will. The BF calls me "Cat Goddess" because cats everywhere want to be my friend, and I want to pick them up and squeeze them until they grunt.

When Roommate 3 moved in a few months ago, she brought Rupert, a gigantic monument of a Siamese cat. Seriously, he's the size of a cocker spaniel. The first time he came into my room, I heaved him up onto my lap for pets and he bit me so hard I still have a scar on my left hand. But then he started catching the mice that live in our stove, so I forgive him. He's a fierce hunter kitty, and you can't expect a hunter to enjoy being squeezed until he grunts.

I like Rupert just fine, but he's so big, he's almost not a cat; more like a force of nature. Not one of the fun ones, though, like a rainbow or Spam. He's more like a really big hill, just hanging around, basking in his own glory. He's very kingly, our Mr. Rupert. I don't have a picture of him. He considers it uncouth to pose for my blog. He'd rather see his image on money or a postage stamp than a 23-year-old broke writer's blog.

Fortutately for me, on Thursday, Roommate 2 brought this home. She calls him Evander because the tip of his left ear was bitten off before he came to us. (Obscure 90s reference: Mike Tyson bit off Evander Hollifield's ear in a boxing match.) He also only has three toes on his back foot. A proper Brooklyn stray, this one, plucked right off the mean streets of Bedstuy. A ghetto kitten. Evander the Ghitten. Needless to say, Rupert haaaaaates him. And I loooooove him.

Here's me squeezing him until he grunts. See him grunting? He's purring, too. You can't hear it, because he's too little (and because you're looking at a computer screen), but when I hold him his whole little kitten body vibrates like a cell phone.

Yes, I loves the new kittah. I loves him good. And he loves me. He's in my room now, playing with my wine corks. I call him Van. Van Cat. Van Kittah. Little Kitty. Awww... how does he not implode under the weight of his own cuteness?

Rupert is so jealous that today he came into my room and hung out on my rug to remind me who is King Boss Cat in this house. I stroked him a bit and assured him that he was still loved and that he would always be king. He was mildly reassured.
Here is another kitten.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tribute to 187

I am sad. Not because of the weather, which is beautiful, or because I'm a temp, or even because I live in New York City. No, I am sad because soon the phenomenon that represented the best the entire eastern seaboard had to offer is about to implode under the weight of its own awesomeness and scatter to the five boroughs like so many bits of dandelion fluff on a suburban lawn.

187 is moving.

187 is--*sniff* was--my first New York address. It's actually still on my NY driver's license, which I will leave as is in tribute to the people who made those two glorious months so, well, glorious.

I shared the first floor apartment with an opera composer, another writer, and a backyard mulberry tree that fed the local rat population. The second floor was one huge apartment of dreadlocked lesbians and one three-legged cat. The third floor was split between Studio 187, where my divine friend Yarrow held court with her fellow hiphop artists, and Bar 187, the beating heart, the nerve center of the whole operation.

Bar 187 was run by a couple who had a roots band called the Shithouse Lilies--"we're huge in West Virginia!"--and it wasn't just a clever name. (The bar, not the band name; that really was just clever.) They actually had a bar with a working beer tap, as pictured on the right.

And a foosball table, and a karaoke machine, and an old bar games machine with mind games and word games and games where you get to look at women's titties. They even had a big, fat kitty they'd dress up for parties by tying little ribbons around her neck. A proper bar, 187.

A memory: my second day in New York, my new housemates Andy, Kyle, and Bill, one from each floor, knocked on my door at three in the afternoon and woke me up to go drinking. (Ever traveled from Hawaii to New York? The jet lag is fierce.) They walked me down the street to their favorite non-house bar, the Tip Top, and settled me down to get hammered on cheap beer before I'd even had coffee or food.

Proper neighbors, 187.

So what if the floors all sloped noticeably downward? So what if there was exposed wiring everywhere and sweeping the kitchen floor always pulled up a few more linoleum tiles? A shitty house can always be held together for a few more weeks with some duct tape and a fervent prayer to St. Hugo von Dwellstoop, the patron saint of those who rent in New York.

Visual aid: a rare glimpse of St. Hugo von Dwellstoop in his natural habitat, spotted in July 2008 walking a puppy in a stroller and wearing a live parrot in his hair.

Unfortunately, the Hassidic landlord doesn't believe in the powers of St. Hugo and continuously tormented my new friends by doing stuff like locking them out of the basement, and then yelling at them because they had to break into the basement to flip the circuit breaker because there was a power outage caused by the crappy exposed wiring that the landlord refused to fix. Truly, a most unreasonable and most unpleasant man. Because I only lived there two months, I never met him and was never subject to his all-around shittiness, but any denizen of 187 has a horror story to share. Many suspected that he was just waiting for the house to collapse so he could convert the property to Hassidic-only condos. Since almost every other property on the block is Hassidic housing, and a synagogue is currently being built in 187's backyard, this seems plausible.

Especially since the landlord has just ordered everyone to get the fudge out by August 1st. And don't let the doorknob hit ya where the door shoulda bit ya.

I was only there for two months (though I confess that I picked my current apartment on the basis of its close proximity to 187), but some of the others lived there for 10 years. I can't imagine what it must be like to be forced out of their home. I can't imagine their sorrow at having to split up and find housing elsewhere. I can't imagine how they're going to get the foosball table down the stairs. Maybe lower it out the window on a rope?

So I'd like to take this opportunity to say to the Interwebs and anyone who might care that I am eternally grateful for my time spent in that amazing house, and say thank you to Matt, who gave me his room; Bill and Jason, who shared their apartment; Erin and Andy, incredible musicians who threw the best parties east of Spokane; and Yarrow, who connected me to all of the others. Mahalo nui loa and aloha oe... until we meet again...

In two weeks when I come over to help everyone pack.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Saucy Puppet Show

"Go see a saucy puppet show." ~ Fry on Futurama.

On July 10th, I celebrated my 1 year anniversary as a mainland transplant. I have now been in New York City exactly one year and two days. [Hold for applause and/or frantic weeping.]

To celebrate, my boyfriend took me out to see a Broadway musical. Now, the BF likes the thee-tah just fine, but to get tickets, we had to stand in the discount ticket line in the middle of Times Square.

Times Square is better than it was in Taxi Driver these days; not only have they banished the whoors and drug dealers, they've blocked a lot of the area off to car traffice and they even have public yoga classes when the weather is nice.

But like most everything in BF's world, Times Square was better in the twenties and thirties. Gargantuan electronic billboards, gigantic Hello Kitties, and a McDonalds large enough to feed the entire state of Kansas--I can see why he's nostalgic for the pretty marquis and gleaming movie palaces of times past.

But it was my anniversary, so he swallowed his good taste and stood in line (or "on line" as they say in New York) with me for an hour in the midday heat to get half-price tickets a the TKTS booth to Avenue Q, the only Tony-winning Broadway musical ever to feature nude puppets having sex. What a swell guy.

On a side note, while we were on line, a guy tried to sell us restaurant coupons like we were any other tourist. This is our exchange:

Guy: Are you folks going to a show? [Menu coupons and a pen thrust out at me.]

Me: Yes, but we're not interested?

Guy: You don't want to eat?

Me: No, thank you.

Guy: You must be a New Yorker! You said "no" quicker than my wife!

Hearty shared laugh. Off we all go on our next adventures. According to Random Menu Guy in Times Square, I am now officially a New Yorker. [Hold for applause and/or storm of cursing.]

Anyhoo... Avenue Q, for anyone who doesn't follow puppet theater, is Sesame Street for big kids. A recent college graduate with a B.A. in English moves to New York City and tries to find his purpose in life while struggling to make ends meet and have a relationship with another puppet. Much drinking and hijinks ensue, and everyone wishes they could go back to college where it was warm and safe and simple to figure out..

Wait a minute... this sounds familiar...

Yep, puppets and porn monsters and Gary Coleman aside, Avenue Q is my life, and I felt much better about myself after watching it. The final number reminds us that everything, good times and bad, "are only for now. Sex! Is only for now. Your hair! Is only for now. George Bush! Was only for now." (This show premiered in 2003, btw.)

Avenue Q finishes its five year run this September, so I'm happy I saw it when I had the chance. Now I'm going to go sing "You can be as loud as the hell you want when you're making love" and get in touch with my Bad Idea Bears. See where the day takes me...