It Hardly Matters

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Axis of Cleanliness

Well, it's almost here.

It is my debut as a totally-grown-up-Martha-Stewartesque- domestic-goddess-Thanksgiving-dinner-host. The kitchen has been scrubbed, the vegetables purchased and stored in appropriate locations (potatoes: cool, dark cabinet; carrots: crisper), the clutter of everyday life has been craftily hidden in closets, drawers, and under furniture. The unopened bills are in the hall closet under a pile of scarves.

The best way to get me to clean is to invite people over. The longer they stay and the cleaner their home is, the more I clean. It's actually pretty scientific. For example, if I were to invite a bunch of friends over for, say, an "August 20 Party For No Reason" where the primary host-like activities would involve cleaning up spilled drinks, emptying ashtrays, and dancing in the kitchen, the cleaning would be light--perhaps pick up a bit, wipe down the counters, and break out a Toilet Duck. A hostess for this type of affair should instead focus on deciding how much beer to buy and locating the flashing disco ice cubes. On the other end of the spectrum, you have, say, your parents and grandmother staying at your place for two nights over Thanksgiving. A whole other ballgame--the opposite plot on the Axis of Cleanliness.

As we all know, Thanksgiving is the Holy Grail of hosting. The Olympiad of domestic talent. Although I've been cooking a bit more lately (!), I am nowhere near my mother and grandmother's level of organization and raw talent in the kitchen. So, the least I can do is scrub the shit out of my house, break out the fancy butter dish, buy a bunch of wine, and pray for the best.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Pop Culture Haiku #1

My name is Jewel.
I used to live in a van.
Now all must suffer.

Friday, November 18, 2005


How can a 9 AM corporate quarterly meeting with no food be made worse than it already inherently is? Two words: overenthusiastic clapping.

Now I understand, as a corporate drone, that I must do my part to politely support whatever results, announcements, and other managerial hijinks (e.g., wacky PowerPoint presentations, digital videos of beaming employees, the playing of Outkast's Hey Ya!) are presented. So yesterday, when our bar graph towered over that of the competition's, and even when the new org chart was revealed, I contributed to the requisite applause with a clap that could be categorized as somewhere between the one used after a drained 3-foot putt on the 8th hole and the one used for my ex-boss's sister's band's performance at 7 PM on a Sunday night. A clap that can be summed up in one word: obligatory. Let's say a 2.5 on a scale of 1 to 10.

As I started drawing my hands back and forth, I expected a certain amount of noise (300 people, auditorium), but nothing could have prepared me for the woman next to me's clap. Besides being ear-splitting, it was wholly inappropriate. I'm talking a clap usually employed to try to get Pavorotti to come back for a third encore at the Met. I'm talking an 11.

Her hands seemed to hate each other. They smashed together with the determination of a caged bull raging against its pen, each crash of hands louder and more furious than the last. After the initial shock to my left eardrum, I looked over at her surprisingly small and delicate hands (white and veiny, held out and up, framed by the cuffs of a billowy polka-dotted blouse), trying to discover the secret to THE. LOUDEST. CLAPPING. EVER.

All I could make out was that her hands were slightly cupped (which improves decibel output--a fact even an amateur clapper would know). But I believe that it wasn't this cupping technique alone that created the jackhammering beside me. It was much more than that. I believe that this woman was experiencing rapture. I believe she so genuinely wanted to share her visceral responses to the corporate announcements (throughout the 2 hours, she emitted reactionary gasps, twitters of laughter, sympathetic ohs), that, when faced with the fact that she was one of many people in an auditorium, she chose the only way she knew she'd be heard in a blur of 600 hands: by clapping as loud as humanly possible.

I can categorically say, that nothing ever presented at a corporate quarterly meeting will illicit my overenthusiastic clap. I'm saving that for Stevie Wonder's third encore. That is, if I can still hear.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Midtown West

So this drunk with a hook for a right hand told me a story this afternoon. It stopped me in my tracks. Really.

B and I were downstairs, me smoking, him playing on the scaffolding, when this guy (ruddy, wiry, tattooed) came up to me asking, I thought, for a cigarette. Instead, he told me that he had smoked for 29 years and had quit. Good for him, etc. (Coincidentally, I had been at a company-sponsored Health Fair earlier and was asked if I knew anyone who needed to quit smoking. Nope! I was just there for the free magnets.) Really, good for him.

Then he asked me for 50 cents, and after I politely (weird, I know) said that I couldn't spare it, I was sorry, etc., he said "Don't be sorry...once I was in Penn Station sitting across from this girl. She was writing a letter or something, I don't know, and I asked her 'Hey, why don't you write me something? Write down what you really think of me and then give it to me.' So she did. And you know what it said? You ain't nothing but a drunk and a piece of shit. You're a perfect example of a drunk.'" And B and I stared. And I said, "Well, they're just words..."

Agog. Would you ever ask a stranger to write what they thought of you and give it to you? If asked, what would you write?

Dangerous territory, breached only by drunks and masochists. But once you lose a hand in a rusty machine, tendons stretching then snapping apart and back, or sliced cleanly perhaps, like a log of pastrami, maybe hearing the truth doesn't hurt so much.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Invoking a Subroutine

It was a working lunch for me and the boys today, Massey with his beautifully printed orchestral score (amazing), marking away with a red pen, and B with his nerdy computer book, dog-eared and nearly incomprehensible to non-computer nerds. Although I have to admit, the table of contents sounded quite soothing when read aloud by B in his radio voice (the until control structure...the memory parentheses...). The book has a llama on the front.

It was the Personal Improvement Lunch Hour (PILH?), I guess, which is something new to me--most (read: all) of our other lunches have involved traipsing around Times Square trying to decide what to eat, scoping out a table in Bryant Park, unwrapping sandwiches, and talking shit for an hour. We also kick at pigeons (too close!) and stare at people. But today was different.

I must say, I like the idea of PILH quite a bit, but today of all days was not a good one for me to be (or even appear) disciplined. I'm not even sure what my personal improvement would have been, but that's beside the point. Last night, my sleep was interrupted by a nightmare (an injured dog, a crisis, a rescue, a green field), which then caused me to lie awake for 90 minutes, from 4 to 6:30 AM. Grrrrrrrrr. I think I watched an episode of Antiques Roadshow, a bit of Taxi, I swear I saw a little Oscar and Felix action, and I remember finally drifting off to the theme song from M*A*S*H 30 minutes before my alarm was to go off. So, today, I'm tired, headachey, unfocused, and cranky. And it has nothing to do with the two martinis I drank after work last night.

1. Orchestral scores are beautiful.
2. Computer books are weird.
3. Always know what your personal improvement project is.
4. Don't drink two martinis on a Monday.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Da of Pan

Obsession, thy name is Su Lin.

Su Lin. Translation from the Chinese: "a little bit of something very cute." It just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? I think so. (Although the name does--every time--remind me of Sue Ellen from Dallas, who, as we all know, is quite the opposite of "a little bit of something very cute." More like "a lot of something very drunk and full of shoulderpads." Anyway.)

For the last few weeks, a few friends and I have been combating boredom at work by watching a sleeping panda cub via the San Diego Zoo's Panda Cam (see link at right). The recently named, 104-day old Su Lin sometimes crawls around the birthing den, or plays with Mom, or eats--but she mostly sleeps. It's weirdly mesmerizing to watch her curled in a ball, one paw twitching in reverie as she reaches for dream bamboo shoots. I once got an email from my sister imploring me to "Look at the baby immediately! It's an upclose shot of her sleeping in a ball!" I love the internet almost as much as I love my sister.

For whatever reason, the floppy and deep sleep of the young and innocent is pretty damn compelling. Sometimes I think it's a kind of sleep I'll never have again. Although right now, in this overheated office, after a starch-heavy lunch of butternut squash risotto with pancetta, it seems somehow within my grasp. Night.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Pen Island

East Village, Hi-Fi, Thursday, 10pm: Girls with cool hair, wrecked and too blonde. I want it. A shaggy dude in coveralls air guitaring to Van Halen's "Unchained" while waiting for his turn at 2-player Ms. Pacman. A busboy of small stature (ok fine, a midget), wearing the same color as the walls, stealthily removing empty pint glasses from the copper countertops. A blingy doorman checking IDs, asking if I've been on "what's that new show...with Tyra Banks?" Smile. One of those good-hair girls resting her chin on the shoulder of her boy's (ironic) tweed jacket. Hate them.

Then, the red pleather booth, long enough to house me, P, J and all our stuff. Nice. Last night was the first day this year that everyone has to drag their piles of coats and bags, hats, etc., into the bar. These (usually puffy) items are unceremoniously stuffed between barstools, smooshed into backpacks, thrown over speakers or barstools to be semi-forgotten and spilled upon as the night (drink, dance) wears on. Then, late, scrounging on the trashed floor, feeling your way to that mini umbrella or favorite hoodie, only to grab someone's sheepswool-lined denim jacket that (sweet!) happens to be your size. I don't condone theft, just karma. Everyone's drunk anyhow.

Last night wasn't a drunk night, but it was a drink night. There's a difference. Drunk nights can be intentional or accidental, but they're always expensive and exhausting and they're never as fun as you'd imagined they'd be. Drink nights are, well, excellent. I'll get into them more later. But don't get me wrong, I love 'em both.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Cool and Breezy

What does it mean when Neil Young's "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" comes on my iPod (it's on shuffle) every morning as I ascend the subway steps at 40th Street to go to work? I'm sure you can venture a guess.

Also regarding the shocking entry into my office building every morning: Massey and I were saying that the turnstiles in the lobby of our building should greet us with a "Good Morning" in a soothing, vaguely sensual voice as we swipe our IDs, instead of greeting us with the usual mechanized whirrs and whizzes and frequent high-pitched BZZZZZZZZing for those of us who dare to step into a turnstile's realm too soon after the drone in front of us. The voice could also say stuff like, "You look handsome today," or "Excellent choice of footwear." Just an idea.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

first post alert

watch out, kids, I mean, Massey--here we go.