Thursday, December 18, 2008

Will call

Alright, I'll tell you this even though you'll make fun of me for it. I went and saw Shrek the Musical last night. Free tickets! Friend and I were there ironically but I can assure you the rest of the audience was not, and by rest of the audience I mean the 5-year-olds and the middle-aged gay men. And it turns out that the people who write musicals know exactly which side their bread is buttered on, because both of those audiences were specifically catered to, although sometimes not at the same time (unless 5-year-olds know what "hot tranny mess" means). Seriously people, there were jokes I didn't even get. By the way, booze at musicals is expensive.

Am I done disavowing this now or do I need to transcribe the conversation we had about how Broadway is a terrifying radicalization of pure appearance, technically perfect (stage design, lighting, singing) but completely devoid of essence - witness: a musical, based on a cartoon, in which every joke is a reference, and every reference a cultural meme, born on another television show or movie, all of which effects not a social commentary or even successful diversion but merely an endless inversion (and inversion and inversion) OOOKAY I'll stop.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

New York Unconscious

New York is an old city, but the lack of an institutional memory is what "allows it to live forever." Meaning: even the most momentous of events, buildings, architectural feats, street names in New York can be forgotten, and hence unused, preserved, left alone to survive, remembered only in the city's unconscious - as ridiculous lore and mythology and rumour - and perhaps by a select few individuals, knowing enough not to paint over this or dismantle that. Today I took a tour of a long forgotten tunnel under Atlantic Avenue, the oldest subway tunnel in the world, dug 170 years ago by eight hundred Irishmen (who hacked their English foreman into pieces and buried him in the walls), then sealed 150 years ago and forgotten by almost everyone, aside from bootleggers and Murder Inc. throwing bodies down there (perhaps) and the Germans making mustard gas during WWI (presumably not). The tour was given by the guy who finally rediscovered the tunnel, in the 1980s, after years of piecing together this footnote and that microfiche and this old trunk of maps in the city planning office. He gives tours whenever he feels like it, and as a result of luck and machinations (I was supposed to work), I was on the tour today; in fact I was the very first person down the ladder, the very first into the tunnel, across the passage, under the beam, through the hole in the wall, down the wooden steps. It was humid and silent. The guide is himself rather paranoid, his stories (especially about himself) don't quite add up, muddled with self-aggrandisement and conspiracy theory, but that is precisely why he was able to insist on finding the tunnel, under the rubble and the mud... and precisely because his stories conflate both his own fantasies and reality (there were pirates in New York harbour; you used to be able to walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan by skipping from one ship's deck to another; spikes used to jump up and impale train riders in the olden days), they are the truth of New York.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Why are there no bakeries in this town?

On the Upper East Side, there are a lot of conversations about "the neighbourhood."

"They were on Second (ave) for thirty years, now they're on Third."
"Is the construction of the new subway line disrupting business?"
"I live right around the corner but I've never come in here."
"It's such a shame - the landlord is basically forcing them out."
"Have you seen that new place on 85th?"

Today, in line behind an elderly couple at Orwasher's kosher bakery, I overheard them gossiping to the man behind the counter about some place in the hood, "Do you know they just sold the business? Just like that. I don't know why they would do that - they were very popular, they must have been making a lot of money."

And the young man replied, "Well, I'll never sell this place. Then again, I just work the cash register, so I probably can't."

Monday, December 08, 2008

Hockey game

So I finally made it to MSG - to a Flames game in New York, no less. We got seats in the very last row and watched Calgary beat the "Rangeahs" three nothing. Seriously, Rangers fans are the best. Our lives got threatened and everything. Their favourite chant last night was "Sloppppppy seeeconds!" But I had the line of the night: in the final minute of the game, as the disappointed started streaming out of the stands I yelled "SHUTOOT! SHUTOOT!"

Sunday, December 07, 2008

First Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum

First Saturday of the month, admission is free at the Brooklyn Museum, and there is music and drinks. So that is what I brought Kate to, on her first night in town. Also, a lovely young man and I managed to reenact this scene. I am still giggling about it on the subway.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Phenomenology of 12.05.08

On three hours sleep, I get up, shower, and put on my "nice clothes" (which consist of a pair of black slacks and a white button-down shirt. I look like band rehearsal). When I leave my apartment, there are no lights on in the hallway, so I literally have to feel my way down the stairs in the pitch black, which eventually starts to feel like impossibly many flights, shouldn't I have reached the bottom already?, I'm in an episode of the twilight zone. Then I take the 2 to Wakefield/241st Street, and for the first time instead of the usual dozen guys yelling "taxi! taxi miss!" there isn't a single gypsy cab, so I have to wait for the bus, while a Jamaican woman yells at all of us to repent, if I were you I would repent, if I were you I would not sleep at night until I had accepted the Lord Jesus Christ. Then I lecture on Nietzsche and God is dead, it falls flat as it always does in the Bronx, and decide to take the commuter train back instead of the subway, because passing through Grand Central is good for the soul, and I have my oral comprehensive exams at 2, which is soon. On my way into my exam, I run into a friend coming out of his, and he informs me that the letter size page of notes I have is illegal, we're only allowed a 3x5 index card, read the handbook. My exam goes wonderfully well, and soon all I have left to do today is a job interview for a teaching fellowship at the New School, which is exciting because it is one of the highest honours at the school. So I wait outside the Associate Dean's office, in my band clothes, with the glass of water-cooler water her secretary gave me, trying to think of how I'm going to use my words, but by now I have had two cups of coffee and no food, and I have to focus all of my energy on readjusting my scarf so that it covers any possible cleavage and not spilling any of the water. The interview also goes wonderfully well, and we all head over to Café Loup for some moules frites and prosecco. Huzzah!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Guess why I am drinking Prosecco (this time)?

Remember 1997? In 1997 we connected to the internet via the 486 in the basement, through some service called Freenet. It brought you the whole internet, which back then was written in yellow courier font on a blue background and didn't contain any pictures. Email was composed in something called Pine, which would get really fucked up if you put the cursor on the wrong part of the screen. I used to email my dad at work, because he was the only person I knew with an email address. In 1997, the only person I knew with a cell phone was the cook I worked with at Smitty's who dealt pot out the back door (it would be three years before I got one). I bought new music on CDs, but my favourite things to listen to were still the mixtapes friends and I had made for each other. Even though punk was dead (like princess Diana!). Speaking of which, my friend and I travelled through London and Brussels and Amsterdam and Paris. We didn't have credit cards (they do not give credit cards to minors) so we just started out with about $1000 each in our pockets and just worked our way down to zero (and then to the kindness of strangers, and then to a Western Union in the deuxième arrondissement). We lost a lot of money on currency exchange, since back then they hadn't yet invented the Euro. Back then I had spiky lesbian hair.

Anyway, 1997 was the year I took my first university class, and today I took my last.

Cake in the dumpster

It rolls off the tongue. Cake in the dumpster. "Guys, I gotta go. I've got a cake in the dumpster, if you know what I mean." Hahahaha. (Oh, I should explain - it was funny because it was a construction dumpster. And seredipitously sitting there on 16th street, for whoever it was who was walking by and immediately had to throw out an entire chocolate cake. No, I did not have some. Yes, I did. No.)

I'll be posting non-nonsense again soon, after my exams and my last lecture (both Friday). Not least because Kate and Mike will be here and want to do things like skate at Rockerfeller Plaza. Wait, maybe I'm not invited to that.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I have a super-ego supervisor!

To write a PhD dissertation, you need to a supervisor, someone who will tell you to finish that goddam chapter by next week I don't care if you're teaching a full course load. Or to put down the Derrida, it's great but you can't use it for this. As with any decision that will impact the next three years of your quotidian life and the first five years of your career, it is easy to let anxiety take over and defer... Well today I approached a professor in the department, and he told me he would be "honoured" because my performance in his seminar thus far had been "impressive." And then he read my prospectus and really liked it and offered me tea and we chitty chatted about Bakunin and laughed at how Zizek has become such a Leninist of late.

Ich bin ein Americaner

What a difference a year makes. It feels like a holiday. I have been looking forward to it a lot, in a sentimental way, even though I have to take advantage of this time off to read about the paralogisms and antinomies for my oral comprehensive exam next week. Tomorrow I am going to a good friend's house for dinner. I already hit the stores for my contribution (two pies and four bottles of Prosecco, of course. Oops, I am drinking one now) and rolled my eyes at battling the holiday crowds. I'm gonna watch the parade and/or football. Four downs instead of three. Maybe I'll hit up J&R on Black Friday.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We were talking about this in the cab the other night

New York is magic and it never gets old. I had to pass through Grand Central a few times in the last month, and I always end up staggering across the main concourse for a while, staring up at the ceiling, which is so high aloft that it doesn't move when you walk, and if you are not careful tears will drip into your ears. The Park, the Library, the Bridge - you can routinize these things but they never become mundane.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Very excited about my future again

So I neglected to mention last week that I had a bit of a coup. I am in a year-long seminar for people in my stage of the program (mid-forever), where the task is to pick a dissertation topic, and write a prospectus about it. Well, last week it was my turn to present my preliminary prospectus, and I "rocked the 'dome" - are you with me, Calgarians? If you're interested (if you want to know what ten years and $200k looks like) I have attached a copy.

Also attaching it because this analysis is going to bring contemporary political philosophy to its knees, and want to publicly assert that I had this idea first.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Missed connections

Hobo, why so many bags? What is in these bags? How do you get so many bags on the subway before STAND-CLEAR-OF-THE-CLOSING-DOORS-PLEASE-BINGBONG-CLICK? How do you carry them all around when you get off the subway without a shopping cart or a dolly? Why are some of the bags so dirty? Is there dirt in those bags? Because it smells like dirt. How come some of the bags aren't dirty though? How do you pack them so well that they stand up nicely like that?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's a two-way blog

I got a ton of emails after yesterday's misery post. You guys are the best and you make me smile.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Awwwwww ;)

Ugh. I can't blog because I am busy and miserable. More specifically, I'm not even noticing interesting things anymore such as to blog about. The week is nothing but a work cycle with no reprieve. And somewhere within that I have to fit in pulling my sideways wisdom teeth (my face is sore from my inner ear to my collarbone) and doctor's visits and can I just say how much I hate teaching this semester and I haven't washed my sheets in a year and a half and I keep getting fatter and look, I know I live a charmed life. This ain't no coal mine. I went to the dentist today (I hate my dentist, by the way) to pick up my x-rays to take them with me to the oral surgeon tomorrow (I found him on the internet!), and on my way in and out of the "Medical Arts Building" in downtown Brooklyn I held the door open for diabetics with gangrenous feet and fat middle-aged women with ovarian cancer (probably), and this is not that. So that's fine I get it, I'll shut up. Do or not not, there is no try. Riiiiight?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Being there

Being that* I have my finger on the pulse of the United States of New York, I will relate the post- election mood to you Canadians: everyone is ecstatic. As one person described it, it's reverse-9/11. People were cheering and screaming in the streets until well into the night, and today everyone is goofy-happy-on-the-verge-of-tears. Even the cynics, even my temporary visa holding friends. And being that I have an appropriately total cynicism towards the threat-backed Public Relations system that passes for politics in this country, but profound investment in peoples' right to run their own lives, I cannot help but feel excited too. Because one thing that is very different today is how black people feel about their relevance and empowerment as a community, and that matters immeasurably.

*this idiom has mysteriously become not only acceptable but ubiquitous since October of 2008 and I'm going with it

Friday, October 31, 2008


Friend and I got drunk and watched the parade in the West Village. It was great. However, there was no place to pee. And I won't tell you what happened next.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ceci n'est pas un Banksy

Someone blue-balled the Wall Street bull a little while back. He basically had to do it in front of a bunch of tourists, because there are always tourists swarming it during the daylight. Hence this hilarious photo, which friend took. It's funny, the artist says, how people just do not react to what is going on around them. Tourists especially, maybe.

The bull itself was kind of an act of vandalism. It was not commissioned by the city, and in fact the artist had no permission to install it. But when the city removed it, people protested. And when its balls were painted blue, the City couldn't take a joke, and quickly scrubbed them clean.

Friday, October 24, 2008

This is important

Babies, you know how your house is always dirty, and/or there is something in your house that should be fixed but is not being fixed? Babies, you also know how any attempts to work within the capitalist system are doomed to end up being ridiculous caricatures of economic justice, and yet as Camus points out the Marxian logic of deferring justice for the universal class until the end of history quickly degenerates into a callous and anti-humanist stance with respect to reform?

Well I have found the solution for you. Workers' collectives in Brooklyn! Workers' collectives are businesses owned by the workers themselves. All and only workers own the business. So everyone has a stake, everyone has a say, and everyone gets to reap full reward of their work.

My friend used their handyman service. So wonderful and helpful and inexpensive. I am calling the mujeres today about my disgusting radiators.

New York people, please pass this on...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Two stories about the UES

Okay, this first story is not mine, it's Dominguez's - we sometimes commiserate about the UES because he spends time there too. In a cakeshop, he overheard an obsessive woman purchasing a $150 cake for her child's third - mind you, third - birthday party, which she was planning, as it turns out, six months in advance. Why? Because last year she had made the mistake of only giving herself three months to plan and she "simply won't put little Dillinger through that again." Or Soren. Whatever.

The other morning, I was in line at a Starbucks... Let me preface this story with another story, about the one time I recognized a celebrity without being prompted. Her name was Marcia Kurtz, and I checked her in at the Calgary Airport. I knew it was her even before I looked at the name in her passport. I know, you've never heard of her, but she played Joel Steinberg's fucked up victim-accomplice wife, permanently disfigured from BDSM, in the Law & Order adaptation of that case. Well this woman in front of me in line at the Starbucks could have been her, IRL. She had painted a ring of orange lipstick around her mouth. She was carrying six or seven battered Duane Reade tote bags, full of her belongings and a lot of crumpled kleenex, but obviously wasn't homeless. She spoke both to herself, and to the man behind the counter, as though they were other people.

Monday, October 20, 2008

SMS Highlight Reel, vol. 19

Friend lives on the Upper West Side. He takes the train all the way down the island to the Staten Island Ferry terminal, to Staten Island, to a gypsy cab, to a prison, to teach philosophy to minimum security inmates. I live in waydowntown Manhattan. And as you know, I take a train up the entire length of the island, under the Harlem River to the very end of the Bronx, to a gypsy cab, to a community college, to teach philosophy to kids who sometimes miss class because "my friend was shot and killed outside of his house with baby in hand."

Here is our SMS exchange this morning:

Just another morning no the boat to prison...

Jesus christ! Help her out.

Docs just wheeled her away.

And then, the concord just floated by in front me the statue of liberty!

Have fun in the chocolate factory, charlie.

We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Double-decker Sightseeing Bus

There are double-decker sightseeing busses constantly circulating the city. A friend of mine has a friend who grew up in the Bronx and who currently tour-guides on one of these buses, what for the easy money while he figures out what he wants to do with his life. She and I joined him on his bus yesterday. We ate Nuts4Nuts and watched his schtick and yelled at him when he was about to get hit by a traffic light or a tree branch. We didn't learn much new about New York, except that 14th Street was the first street in the world to have street lights. We saw a giant new Banksy mural in Soho. We got stuck for 15 minutes behind a double-parked car on Spring Street; its fat, thuggish, club-going owner only emerging from the D&C store to move his Acura when the bus driver got impatient and decided to risk trying to squeeze past it. By then a crowd had gathered to get a look at what jackass was blocking traffic all the way to the Hudson. Everyone gave him a Bronx cheer. I threw my empty Nuts4Nuts bag at him.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Street meat

I got food poisoning on Tuesday, the same day that I went to the dentist, the same day that I taught two classes. Wah me. I still have the food poisoning (don't eat from the pizza truck in Union Square). This is the first time this has happened to me, even though I eat from the trucks all the time because they are so cheap! I mean because they are so good. Seriously, have you ever swayed outside of a truck for 15 minutes in the middle of the night waiting for your philly cheese steak to toast? Delish. So is chicken and rice, especially outside of the Hilton in midtown. So are hotdogs, I don't care what anybody says. If you walk one block west from Union Square to 14th and 5th they are $1 instead of $2. In fact, don't let anybody charge you $2 for a hotdog, that's ridiculous. Excuse me I will be in the bathroom for five minutes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

SMS Highlight Reel, vol. 18

Not sure yet, there still in jersy. come get shit faced later with us

brown rice and mrs. dash totatally rocks...

i just found a bukowski book in your recycling room.

I think i've figured out this blog thing. It has to be interesting; it makes your life a bit more interesting

pinot grigio or sauv blanc

I laughed, i cried, i burbed, i snored. It was three bucks. It was charming

How long can boiled eggs keep for, refrigerated?

We're on a rooftop with attractive women, free food and drink. So we're not sweating it either.

I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.

Had dinner with Lisa from Top Chef last night.

o my god!! i just ran into my analyst at the gym!!

But Yasir, your late night drunk texts win:

You know... I miss you. And fuck you. But i wish i could say it. Cause its not at as bad as it sounds. U Are. Thanks. ;)

Monday, October 13, 2008

IKEA Brooklyn

This is my year of being a grown up, I guess. I have fifteen jobs and I bought a printer for home use and I order from Fresh Direct and I have a dentist and I even wear foundation. I'm so effing old that my idea of fun now, my idea of a date, my idea of a late night adventure if you will, is to board the 8 o'clock ferry on a Sunday after dark, and set sail across the East River to the IKEA in Red Hook; we push off and a sloop silently cuts past us, the Statue of Liberty emerges from the other side of the Battery, I and the rest of the passengers climb to the upper deck and take in the green salt air and the waterfalls and watch Manhattan retreat to an in-perspective view - all of that anxiety and arrogance taking place on a little island, after all. My date and I rendezvous for $1.99 meatballs and lingonberries and mashed potatoes (we are surrounded by working families wise to the frugality of the IKEA cafeteria; their kids wander off afterwards to watch cartoons on the couch in the living room section), and then we saunter through the showroom labyrinth. I emerge with a colander, some canisters, AAA batteries, and lightbulbs.

Friday, October 10, 2008

SMS Highlight Reel, vol. 17

so i left and got something to eat and submerged it in my new thing of hair gel...

Yes I am and yes you may because yes I am (and you know it).

I feel smarter, funnier, and better looking. You?

Bitch is your facebook quote Rilke?? And who the eff knew that without (or actually, prior to) googling?

and i just ate an egg mcmuffin and i am so excited to see you. egg mcmuffin may have been a mistake btw

east 43rd. kill me

1st place of the women, 11th overall!

denis rodman is in front of la bagel and im not kidding...

Your boyfriend kucinich is on democracy now.

God Damn it i just crashed into a woman who darted into the street.

So i was just in the staten island ferry terminal washroom, and there was a twenty something woman in there, at the sink, topless.

Soup nazi at union square

Some scattered tornado damage up here. Interesting. Some tilted buildings, uprooted trees, signs blown over, shingles and siding missing.

I have your ear plugs. By the way.

i am so fucking pissed. i just spent like an hour prepping this really nice dinner and before i could cook the fuse blew... its dark in here

Had toast with peanut butter and nutella. It was like reese's toast. Awesome.

by the way. i have a very strong feeling that everything will be alright

Monday, October 06, 2008

But mostly a distaste for fashion

When I came here, I left some people behind, I brought some along, I found new ones. New York puts all of your relationships through a blender. However, once you get over (or used to) the dizzying pace, the social escalationism, the scenes, you give your head a shake and remember that your friends and the ones that share your priorities:

a sense of compassion
and a distaste for fashion.

So friend's article got published in the NYT this weekend. It then got picked up by Gawker and trashed. We celebrated at our neighbourhood pub with a game of sixes and a smuggled banana cream pie.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

This post sums up my life in New York

I finally went to Balthazar, a kind of stuck up French place in Soho which I have never been able to get into. I was in the neighbourhood and I had to run the clock down from 6 to 7, so I went in and had a $13 glass of Sauvignon Blanc at the bar (I asked for Pinot Grigio but was told they only have "French grapes").

Balthazar is also a bakery, and it supplies restaurants and grocery stores throughout the city. Including one on the Upper West Side whose dumpster my friends and I dived later on that very same night. I rescued a fat pumpernickel and took it home to the freezer. Apparently it's a $9 loaf of bread.

Aaaaaand here is the SMS I got from friend (pictured) an hour later:

"I just walked by people having sex in the street. Almost dropped my bread."

Friday, September 26, 2008

What's the neighbourhood like?

In the Bronx, where I teach.

I get on the 2 train at Wall Street, and take it straight up the line from the financial shit show to the real economy. Nothing but goods (used cars and affordable groceries), services (light manufacturing and hair relaxing) and dinero efectivo.

Even the subway changes from an anonymous transportation-function to a place of shift work and maintenance checklists.

I have consumed room-temperature fermented horse milk. But cow foot. No, this is too controversial.

I fantasize about working at this printing press, which is "open but we keep the door locked. Please knock."

Security is less of a concern at the pawn shop, where you obviously could easily punch a hole through their wall and take all their gold.

Where 2 party: Clover Club

When K-star was here (that was great), we hemmed and hawed about what neighbourhood to hang out in so as to maximize her New York time (my favourite establishment being the brasserie because I am Caucasian), and then decided that the answer actually lies not in the overpriced West Village / Soho / Lower East Side, but in Brooklyn, namely Cobble Hill. Cobble Hill is just over the Brooklyn Bridge and turn right, and is full of people our age ("29"). Especially smith street.

And the best place on Smith street is this spot that is capitalizing on the current "distology" trend (treating booze like food, and decoding now obscure pre-prohibition recipes: did you know there used to be hundreds of kinds of bitters on the market and now there are only four?).

Katherine stole me a menu:

"Cobblers and Highballs
Cobblers are said to have gotten their name, more than a century ago, from the little 'cobbles,' or pebbles, of ice they were made with. At one point, they were probably the most popular family of drinks going, with the Sherry Cobbler being the star. Why? Simple. Not only were they delicious, but they introduced a fun new invention of the time, the straw. They usually consist of wine or liquor shaken up with sugar and (usually) a scant amount of citrus and poured (usually again) over finely-cracked ice. Cobblers are always beautifully garnished with fruits in season."

There are also Juleps and Smashes, Collins and Fizzes, Bucks and Mules, Swizzles, Royales, Cocktails, and Punch. My fave is the Hoffman House Fizz: Gin, Lemon, Maraschino Liqueur, Cream.