It Hardly Matters

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Craigslist Poetry #2 and #3*


We shared a cab out of convenience
en route to home
you stupid stupid boy
I am so mad
it's weird to miss you
damn me and my timidness

Not Mad

A sign from the Universe
my lunchtime crash
Beth you were right
I am not mad
(insert swear word)
I'm still here I still think of you
It's going to be my hardest year ever

*constructed from message subject lines on the New York City missed connections board

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Quitting: A Timeline

We waited for a table. It was warm in there. The bar was full of people talking about their days, their plans. We said nothing. I sat on a barstool, you stood close. My fingers wrapped around your belt, pulling you a millimeter closer to me than you already were. You were nervous, but looked at me straight and steady. Trust, that confident snake, wedged itself into the crack in my heart. We ordered red wine. You kissed me. We ate arugula salads with sliced pears.

Every time you drove away, leaving me wrapped in covers, writhing, the crack widened. Eventually, after so much leaving, it spread to my whole chest and brain and imploded me. A person can only take so much leaving, you know.

I've quit you. I've never quit anything before, besides piano lessons when I was nine. Never thought I'd feel so good about quitting something. The snake is back in its hole, waiting for permission.

It's going to be a long wait.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Craigslist Poetry #1*

get over it K8
it was two times
it wasnt right from the start and you wanted it too much
sorry if you have bitter feelings
i was honest from the start
it all got so blurred
so let it go
im tired of feeling your weirdness

*constructed from message subject lines on the New York City missed connections board

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

U.G.L.Y. You Ain't Got No Alibi

I'm not a vain person. I mean, I like to look good, and take the appropriate girly measures to do so: I moisturize, get my hair did, paint my nails, even apply eyeliner for special occasions. I wear lipstick every day. I own lots of pairs of heeled shoes. I'm pretty secure with how I look, and can usually laugh off a silly or unflattering photograph of myself--it happens. I'm not a super-insecure diva-like chick. But I totally pulled a diva move the other day.

Newsflash: I take lots of pictures. A significant number of said pictures could be (are?) deemed unflattering by their subjects. Aware of this fact, I sometimes edit out terrible pictures of my friends from my silly flickr account, figuring my best friend wouldn't appreciate a picture of her nasal canal or one where her eyes are Gary Busey-closed. But most of my stuff on flickr is not of terrible importance, so it's not the end of the world if one or two less-than-flattering images make it up. None of the albums up there are my wedding album. Wedding albums are a whole other deal--they represent the most important people on the most important day in a couple's life together.

I usually don't love pictures of me at weddings, mostly because I'm drunken and nowhere near as luminous and beautiful as the bride (which is the way it's supposed to be--all girls pale in comparison to a bride, even when dolled up for a wedding). And I'm totally fine with that--it's their day, who cares what I look like? But usually there's one or two of me and everyone else that are tolerable enough to include in the wedding album. Or so I thought. On Monday, a close friend of mine shared his online wedding album with the whole world. On it, there are 176 photos of a gorgeous and beaming couple and happy, well-dressed, fabulous-looking wedding guests. And then there's the one of me.

It is a photo inappropriate for viewing for any and all grandmothers, potential mates, babies, dogs, model scouts, boy scouts, Mounties, ex-boyfriends, future ex-boyfriends, and/or employers. And yet it lives and breathes and is currently being clicked on (to expand!) by most of my close friends and anyone else who was at the wedding.

Let's examine the evidence:
  1. My dress is falling down. After a series of evaluations I concluded that no, that's not a nipslip. But it's damn close.
  2. A mighty wind has blown my hair into a power mullet. Like Charles Bronson on top and Vanilla Ice's unbraided rattail in the back.
  3. An unlit cigarette is clenched between my frowning lips. True class.
  4. From the way my finger is positioned, it looks like I am flipping off the photographer and whoever else happened to be in a 20-mile radius.
The first time I saw the picture, I shuddered, but knew, because of its hideousness, that it would never be included in any album, so I forgot it existed. Until Monday. The second time I saw it, bookended by a photo of the bride's mom and sister sharing a tender moment (both looking fetching, I might add), and two of my chain-smoking friends (sans cigarettes and smiling widely, of course), my body temperature alert level rose to "mortified" and I immediately begged my friend to take it down. Surprised by my vehemence, he said that everyone loved it but that he would add another one of me to offset the terrible one. O...k...?

I know, I know, I know: it's their wedding, their pictures, their friends, their album. I should just keep my mouth shut. My one small point is: I'm single. I don't want a picture of myself that elicits laughter (not to mention ridicule, revulsion, or moral outrage) representing my presence at a lovely wedding between close friends. But I guess I'm stuck with it and have to own the fact that I did, for that split second, look like a haggard boozehound with a palsied face. Could be worse. I suppose I could look like that all of the time.

And no, I'm not linking to the picture. Those of you who've seen it know what I'm talking about.

Vain in New York

Friday, January 13, 2006

Hang Up Your Fucking Coat

So last night B, C, and I went for a post-work drink in midtown. For Brooklynites like us, going to a bar in midtown is a daunting proposition. There are so many great bars in NYC. Settling for a sports bar filled with 100 screaming bankers with their khakis in a bunch about how long it's taking for the girl to bring them their goddamn potato skins goes against everything I stand for. But, in the interest of time or temperature, it is sometimes necessary to ignore all standards of taste and just go wherever the beer flows. Last night we hesitated in the doorways of a few places like the one I just described, but, sick-faced, we pivoted our way back outside, depressed, confused, and bereft of alcohol.

Across the street from one of these cruel places, we spotted a dark storefront with a single red light and a sign reading "Lounge." From what we could see, it was a bar, and it wasn't crowded. Score! We swung the door open. Emerging from the semi-darkness to greet us was a long-haired (long as in "to-the-butt-long") woman wearing a half shirt and spangly waist jewlery. She softly asked us to hang our coats, and told us that after we did so, she would "get us situated." Hmm. Above the coatrack, a sign echoed her sentiment, albeit in a more direct manner: HANG UP YOUR FUCKING COAT. We hung up our fucking coats.

We had stepped into what looked like a hookah lounge/manual relase parlor/cocktail lounge. It contained a bed bedecked with pink feather boas and a curious staircase that lead to an even more curious second floor. A few patrons scattered themselves on floor pillows, low armchairs, banquettes covered in red fabric, cowhide pillows. We were seated at a glassbox table that encased various papers and artifacts that we couldn't read for the darkness. Candles strained to light the tabletops and red Christmas lights illuminated the underside of the bar. Shoulders were shrugged, beer was ordered, and we proceeded to chat away about work and Midtown and whatever, happy to have found a semi-empty haven where we could drink in peace. We gathered this place hadn't ever seen a platter of potato skins.

People started coming in. Some suits, some girls that clearly worked together in the marketing department, some old guys. At the height of our conversation, a screech that was a cross between a Cherokee war whoop and a high-pitched yodel exploded from above. All conversation stopped, all heads snapped to the top of the staircase, where all that was visible was a pair of light brown arms snaking in the glow from a streetlight. Low, rhythmic music was suddenly playing, and an exquisite, fifty-percent-clothed woman began descending the staircase. She slunk, she writhed, she did things with her ribs I had no idea could be done. Her fingertips picked imaginary petals out of the air. We sipped our Stellas, mesmerized, breaking our stares every few minutes to exchange goofy smiles.

Another pair of arms made their entrance from the top of the staircase. Then another. Eventually, all three women were downstairs, dancing amongst the suits and the marketing chicks. C and I faced the action on the banquette, while B, the boy, faced the wall. He sat in his low chair looking at us, bellies and spangles gyrating behind him. We laughed. The women whirled, hair flying in sheets. We had gone from trudging around midtown, weighing this frat bar versus this sports bar, to sitting in the middle of an authentic belly dance show. I'll use an overused phrase: only in New York, kids, only in New York.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Bullets Below Houston

I recently saw Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway again. Besides the John Cusack character reminding me of an ex-boyfriend (idealistic, stubborn, sweet), the scenes of the young playwright and a grande dame of Broadway sloshing gin martinis in Theater District speakeasies made me long for my first few years in New York -- the years when I acted out my version of these scenes with my screenwriter and barcrawler friends. The major differences were that drinking was legal and that none of us had written anything yet.

In 2000, my friends and I were what you could call professional bargoers (a direct result of most of us working in bars). We loved to drink, but the point of our almost-nightly outings wasn't to sample the trendiest cocktail in the sleekest new club or put on tube tops and do 11 shots of Jรคeger -- the point was to sip on a cocktail or two (or five), smoke a bunch of cigarettes, and talk. Talk about films, about writing, about love and sex, about how Yeats and Welles and Cobain were geniuses before the age of 27 and about why the fuck weren't we? We weren't seeking a buzz, although we welcomed it when it came (hello sweet friend); we were seeking inspiration. Enamored with ourselves and everything we said, we carried notebooks filled with direct quotes "for our screenplays." On bevnaps we doodled diagrams of the universe, poem fragments, and crude renderings of that pair of boots on 8th Street, slipping them into purses and jacket pockets only to throw them away the next time we had colds. When I think of this time in my life, J, of course, is in every scene.

J isn't a grande dame of Broadway or my ex. She's one of my best friends. J made it OK for me to move to New York -- she was already here, knew the ropes, and let me stay with her. She got me a job and practically got me an apartment. She lent me her clothes, her friends, $20, whatever. I paid her back in nights. On these nights, J and I would try on jeans for an hour, have a pre-cocktail cocktail, then walk half a block to Botanica, where the music was loud, the drinks were cheap, and the ashtrays were gigantic cut glass monstrosities that we would slowly fill to capacity. Boys in ring-necked T-shirts and shaggy hair would trip by us on their way to the back room to see how their belt buckles looked in under red light bulbs. Girls in newsboy caps and dangly earrings sat on couches, whispering to each other (about us? Bring it, bitches), eyes pasted on boys. J and I would order vodka tonics and light up, hunched on thrift-store armchairs, breathlessly telling one another about the book we'd just read the movie we'd just seen the couple that had come into the bar the conversation we'd had the poem we'd started. We'd pick books to adapt, come up with ideas for TV shows and song cycles. This would go on for hours. Bevnaps flew. Eventually, we'd get drunk and either go home or take a cab 6 blocks to Eldridge Street and dance with teenagers from Staten Island.

I'm not talking breathlessly in bars as much as I once was. J lives in LA now, has a baby; I work 9-6 in New York. We talk on the phone, but it's not the same as when we're actually sitting together. I only know two bartenders. People I once barcrawled with have quit smoking, moved away, gotten married, all three. The perfection and possibility of those nights seems far off, at least as far away as the World Trade Center was tall from where I sit, being a bad employee, typing romance and potential on a keyboard that should be used strictly for catalog copy and permissions letters. A lot can change in 6 years, but nothing can erase the time I spent downtown before everything changed. I'm just glad I got to play for a while before it did.