Would you understand if I tried to explain what this song means to me? How it became a frame for all my expectations about living in New York alone. The loneliness, the crowds, and the lust for company or tenderness. I sing the words to this song in my head all the time. I see myself in this song. My long walks. My nostalgia. I see Union Square and Brooklyn without air conditioning. I see men leering on subway platforms. I am attracted to this hot city and its late night establishments. I am living out this song. I am telling strangers personal things, and missing something or someone so much.
It would benefit you to listen to your dear, wise mothers. Please, don’t merely succumb to the wishes of your brothers. It would be in your best interest to take a step back. It would help to take a look at one another. You need to know- do you know?- the difference between a father and a lover.
I took myself out to dinner last night at a pretty little Vietnamese place in Soho. The food was delicious and I sat outside on a cozy patio. I wanted to treat myself to a movie at the Angelika afterward, but I found myself between shows. So I settled for wandering the streets aimlessly, looking in shop windows, and vowing to pare down my wardrobe to only the things that look like they might have come from some place nicer than Forever21.
Soho is a place where everything is beautiful. The men in suits have movie-star five o’clock shadow, loosened $300 dollar ties. The girls on the streets look like models. They get expensive haircuts and weekly manicures. It’s hard not to become massively self-critical around them.
I wondered where the other girls were going. On dates or to gallery openings or one of those gorgeous bars with the antique velvet couches and crystal chandeliers. I went home. I put on a party dress and cleaned my apartment and fell asleep watching Anastasia on Netflix instant.
I don’t know what I feel. I guess it’s a mixture of pride for this city that’s so lovely, and feeling like I don’t belong. Strolling down cobble stone streets, past designer ice cream trucks and lit up cafes, I felt like I was on vacation. It’s beautiful, but it doesn’t always feel mine. I’m content to window shop for now. I’m content to see everything as untouchable, but possible. I will grow into this place, and call myself a local, and strangers will ask me for directions.
“I love not having to worry about another person and how much fun they’re having, or not.
I love the way thousands of thoughts pulsate through my brain, like little worker ants, until I don’t love it. Until it’s an infestation and each little buddy is carrying emotional baggage 10 to 50 times their body weight, because worker ants are one of the strongest animals…
I need to find balance. I can’t even roller blade, so this will probably be hard.”—
I feel as though I’ve been reading Atlas Shrugged for a thousand years, and I like this book, but I would also like it to end.
Coincidentally, that is how I feel about a lot of things right now.
I like that I have a bar where I’m friends (or friendly) with the bartender. It’s such a silly, sitcom thing, and strange for me, as I’ve never liked the idea of being a regular anywhere. Normally I prefer to slip in and out of places, never making small talk or trouble. I was comfortable in college lecture halls where my unraised hand went unnoticed and I took note after messy note in a spiral notebook. The back pages often had scribbled descriptions of my professors, or words they used that seemed brilliant in the moment. I don’t know what happened to those notebooks, but nothing ever seems as brilliant when you take it home and open it up, anyway. I like to think of the sort of bartenders my professors would have made and suddenly there’s very little difference between the two professions. You pay for the books or the drinks, but you’re mostly paying for the moment when they lean toward you, suddenly, perfectly, and tell you something wise or funny or true.
On my way to work I transfer trains near Jay St. and pass by the Helen Keller Institute For the Blind each day. Blind children - small, amazingly small children - walk out of there with their tired mothers and their tiny white canes and it’s almost unbearable to see them smiling into the sun. To see them conjures a feeling more like pride than pity. Gratitude, maybe, though it doesn’t make much sense. It’s the sincerity that I’m grateful for. The reminder that there are things that can’t be faked or forced or pretended. There are professors repeating themselves to another thirsty class and bartenders smirking behind their bars, and they’re alright. But I am comforted that there are people walking down the sidewalk, staggeringly vulnerable and resolute. There are children that are navigating this city, blind, and I am ashamed to say I often think of myself as one of them.
“You will find yourself loosening up, of course. You will find yourself being forthright. There is a point during any period of drinking at which you are inebriated enough to have acerbic thoughts but prudent enough to not utter them. This the moment you want to maintain. You want to be able to roll out blunt points responsibly. Irresponsibility is as grave a sin now as it was when you were a sitting at your desk an hour ago. So, you maintain. And you listen way, way more than you talk. Which is always a good idea in a meeting — with drinks or without.”—How to Drink at Work - Drinking at the Office - Esquire (via wineintowater)
I saw Inception, too, you guys! It was good, not great. I am constructing a conspiracy theory about Marion Cotillard movies all being eerily linked, especially this one and Love Me If You Dare (which is great, not good). The similarities are freakish.
Does this picture of me in front of Washboard Hank’s house (that I just went out and took) answer your question?
You better believe he has a fire alarm for a doorbell!
For those who are unfamiliar with the regional phenomenon known as Washboard Hank, he is an infamous local performer of whom Stompin’ Tom Conners once said “I’d rather go deaf than listen to a full album of Washboard Hank.” He plays a Stradavarius Washboard of his own construction, which can be seen below (along with the best musician faces you ever will see):
Washboard Hank is woven into the very fabric of my life. Here are a few of my encounters with him, both on and off stage:
I saw him perform when I was about 8 years old. After the show he signed a program for me, taking a good few minutes to draw an anthropomorphic washboard saying “Howdy Joe!” When I told him my name wasn’t Joe, he said “Well, I guess he’s not talking to you then!”
While walking down the street in front of his house with a friend, I heard “Hey! You kids chewing gum?” Hank was sitting on his front porch, a huge grin on his face. “Yep, we sure are.” I said. “Well, when you’re done with it, that’s where it goes!” he said, pointing to a tree in front of the porch, onto which hundreds of pieces of gum had been affixed, along with a sign which read “Treeus Gumus Gumus - The North American Gum Tree.” He was later forced to take the gum off because it was attracting ants, which is too bad.
I went to high school with his daughter, who kept her local-celebrity father a secret. I found the connection out when she decided to stay awake for as long as I could and invited us to watch her slowly lose her mind. Washboard Hank was there, filming his daughter battling hallucinated dragons with a tennis racquet.
When my sister got married, we took my brother-in-law to a now closed pub called The Peterborough Arms, where Washboard Hank played a set every Wednesday night. In a drunken stupor, my usually conservative brother-in-law went up to him and said “Hey Washboard! I’m getting married on the weekend!” Hank said “Well for that, do you want to wear my hat?” So we have a picture of the two smiling wide, a construction hat with an attached bell on my brother-in-law’s head. After we took the picture, Washboard Hank had a word with his band and they adapted a song to include the names of the bride and groom. It was awesome.
When I had some UK visitors over for the summer, we drove everywhere in a convoy, each car equipped with the album “Hoorah for Washboard Hank.” By the end of their visit, we had learned the words to “Donut Shops of Ontario” by heart.
I’m going to try to find some of his music. Stay tuned!
Washboard Hank is my dear friend (and former housemate)’s father! I also filmed a short documentary about him in my second year of college. Fortunately, she is one of my few friends who reads this blog. So shout out to Eva!! PS: YOU GUYS KNOW EACH OTHER???
And that concludes this ridiculously small world post.
I am coming to you from Boom Restaurant in Soho. I’ve been on the megabus all morning and then dragged my painfully heavy duffel bag around Soho for 15 minutes trying to find a particular restaurant, which I’ve decided doesn’t exist. I look like hell I’m sure - no makeup, tshirt drenched in sweat. But this place is cute and I have a basket full of bread and some pizza on the way. There’s a skylight with an orange glass chandelier and I’m in a cozy corner with my wifi, so I’m happy. It’s a nice atmosphere for a date, but I’ve been in a relationship with my laptop longer than I have with any man, so I suppose it’s fitting.
I have to go to work in an hour, which I’m dreading (as usual). I’d like to add that my previous post is in no way related to any consumption of alcohol, though I’m not sure if that makes it more or less embarrassing.
I’m worried about a lot of things right now, not the least of which is the distinct possibility that I may come home to find myself locked out of my apartment again and too scared to call that sketchy locksmith again. Cross your fingers for me?
You know, one of those weekends where you end up crying on someone else’s bathroom floor at two in the morning in nothing but a tshirt? One of those weekends where you’re past the point of “pulling it together.” The kind of weekend where you’re sunburned and tired, cradling a box of kleenex and you’re sitting with your bare ass on the tile, plotting in detail how you’ll quit your job tomorrow, like that will make everything better?
“I’m onto him,” I said. “I realized he was acting the way he did because he was insecure. What I was drawn to were the other parts of him: his brilliance; his spontaneity. I’d say his sense of humor, but every woman is deluded into thinking whoever she’s with has a superior sense of humor. It’s a way women approve of themselves.”—
“Everything is made to perish; the wonder of anything at all is that it has not already done so. No, he thought. The wonder of anything is that it was made in the first place. What persists beyond this cataclysm of making and unmaking?”—from tinkers by Paul Harding (via sharingtime)
“Last night, while trying to explain my vision of a possible new sitting area, I heard myself saying incomprehensible things like:
“I’m thinking conservative meets terrifying,”
“The room needs gravitas,” and
“It’s time that the concrete floor finally had its say.”
At one point, Shane gave me a look that I translated as, “You’re an idiot”.”—
My dream last night consisted of there being an oil-monster (Scooby Doo style) that chased me off of a dock in Alabama. So, obviously, I flew to NYC to visit you. Logical, right? We got ice cream (you had sweet cream with mini chocolate chips, and I had sweet cream with Oreos), and then got in the car with your aunt and cousin. You made fun of me because I asked if we were in Manhattan. Guess we weren't. I wanted to move there because the graffiti was so moving. We never made it to your place before I woke up. Either way, I had a lovely dream time. So thank you.
You’re welcome! I’m glad I could give you some sanctuary from the oil monster, but I would never make fun of you for not knowing if we were in Manhattan, as I honestly didn’t know a borough from a neighborhood until a couple of months ago. You are completely invited to come live out this dream in real life. I’ll start scouting cool graffiti spots and stocking up on the ice cream.
“I was probably totally obnoxious in the opinion of anyone who met me, and ten years can’t have done anything but improve me, but still I am quite proud of that crazy loud tween and so it feels a little sad to be ten years away from her.
But sincere nostalgia doesn’t pay the bills, WHICH I HAVE NOW BECAUSE I AM OLD.”—
After being locked out, I found myself still awake at 5:30 AM with a sore throat and the dread that I had to get up for work in three hours. I called out sick at 7:30 and slept til 1. Circumstances beyond my control, right?
Now it’s technically my weekend and I’m going to Saratoga tonight, earlier than I planned. And I’m packing my dresses and ignoring my headache and I’m happy and relieved and I’m not putting on clothes until the last possible minute.