Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Grand Prospect Hall

Look, New York has its parochialisms too. This is best seen, as is true anywhere, in the local tv spots.

One that runs all the time is for the Grand Prospect Hall, in Brooklyn. I tried desperately to find it for you, but could only find its 1986 predecessor which, obviously, does not disappoint.

The new version, I can assure you, is essentially the same, only Alice and Michael are 20 years older, and still can't say "ProspecT". (And, interestingly, they no longer say "Minutes away in Brookyn," since anyone who can still afford to live in Manhattan these days is no longer in their target audience.) Oh, wow. Somebody marry me so we can do it there.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


As Kate said, "In three cities, at three desks, three siblings stared at excel files..."

[Christian] For the love of Pete and his butterfly-catching minions get back to work you girls!

[Kate] You're bizarre.

Actually, I'm plugging away at this cellular audit. I have to hand it over to someone else on Monday and I want it to look halfway decent. I think I can get the doc itself looking tidy but, since it's an audit, I've kept all of the incoming emails with info pertinent to my project and that's just one big clusterf*k to hand over. IT suggsted printing everything up. That could be 1000 pages long. Perhaps I'll just copy/paste it all in a word doc and email him that. That was he can even ctrl+f to look for certain numbers or names.

[Me] Christian can help you with ways to condense and/or make look pretty.

[Christian] Tell him he can go ctrl+f himself! He he. It's okay to type FUCK, Kate. Everybody does it. Does your server filter filthy files the fifth time? Another cool tool is your autofilters. They give you drop down menus that allow you to choose to view only certain data. Data -> Filter -> AutoFilter. It's useful for finding stuff fast. It will also allow you to set up custom views like, show me, of this list of numbers, only those numbers between 15 and 20. Or, any number that contains the sequence "230".

[Me] I am knee deep in Excel also. This is my 4th last day here. Or 5th.

[Christian] To condense, boil until thick with cover off. Wait, that's reducing. Uhh, make your font size for the entire sheet 1.5. Well that's kind of reducing too. Just tell your boss that his cell phones are a giant clusterfuck. Wait, that's summarizing. When you print it, print it on flowery stationary, that'll pretty-ize it.

[Kate] Was it seasonal employement or have you decided to quit ('cuz working three jobs is bullshit)?

Pff. Working ONE job is bullshit.

Yeah! So is brushing your teeth! I like to skip that every four days.

Starting in September, I will be teaching three classes, taking three, and working at the stationery store.

Gotta do watcha gotta do. They should make pit stick for teeth. Like a shower in a bottle.

They do - Listerine pocket packs.

Oh yeah, totally. K, now just need shower in a bottle for feet.

What do you get paid for teaching? Is it enough for NY rent?
Wanna see my giant bitch bruise I got from taking a hard line drive in the shoulder while pitching? I can picture message it to you guys.

Show us your bruise.

On it's way. I've never had a bruise like this before. The dead blood just continues to run down my arm. It looks like the chernobyl aftermath, where the soil isn't arable for 300 years.

That's a doozy. How come you're sleeveless at work?
There was some article at the beginning of summer about how to wear mini-shorts at work. My response was, "You don't; they're inappropriate." I think they should remain inappropriate, whatever the fashion. Women can't wear miniskirts or short-shorts and men can't wear sleeveless shirts or open shirts or short-shorts.

Nice bruise, and nice description.
I get paid [redacted] for one teaching job, [redacted] for another, and [redacted] for another. Rent is [redacted], so about [redacted]% of my monthly income, leaving me with $1119.50 per month for subway tokens, electricity, food, toiletries, internet, phone, and screwing around.

Wow. So I'll make more than you for teaching high school plus I won't be paying tuition and my mortgage will be cheaper.
Envy, decreasing...

I just pulled up my sleeve to take the picture, silly.

We should do a collaborative 3 way blog. Each taking turns writing a paragraph to comprise a single entry then we'll all post the same finished product.

That is an excellent idea.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Guest post

Jimmy's films will make you laugh and cry. He is so unassuming that he seems only vaguely aware of this. He has written us a story...

So there I am on a weekday afternoon riding the “R” train from Brooklyn to Manhattan. In order to get the proper feel for this story, one has to understand that there exists a long pause between the stops of Court Street in Brooklyn and Whitehall in Manhattan. The reason for the Pause is that it is when the subway travels through the East River. It is on this long pause that the crux of this story takes place. Thoughts that take place between the rhythmic opening-and-closing of the doors understandably take longer between Court and Whitehall, so much so in fact, that even while reading, the mind notices when one has entered the Pause.

Back to the story at hand. It was a few stops before the Pause began. I was sitting down reading a book when suddenly I noticed someone very strange-looking seated about five feet away from me. The train was nearly half-full, but this guy clearly stuck out. Judging from the glances of fellow riders, I wasn’t the only one who noticed him.

The man in question was black, probably in his mid-to-late forties, had a full beard and mustache, and judging from his dirty and ragged clothing, looked like he was homeless. Based on that description the man would not stand out on the subway. Well, that’s not all he was wearing.

The first thing that made the man stand out was the article of clothing he wore on his head, something best described as a gypsy veil. The veil, with its intricate bright purple and gold design, was a stark contrast to the drab beige-brown of the rest of his clothes. Additionally, golden-beaded tassels hung down from the veil over his eyes, partially obscuring his eyes.

In his left hand he held a massive Calculus textbook. In his right hand he held an antique mirror. The mirror’s glass was broken but that did not matter to the man. It was almost as if he did not notice that the glass was shattered. From behind the golden tassels of his veil, his eyes would scan page after page of the Calculus textbook. After turning a page, in a low voice the man would say, “Mmhmm” or “Yep” or “Yes Yes” all while nodding his head. Occasionally after looking at a page, he would look at his reflection in the broken mirror, stare at it for a few seconds, and then go back to the textbook.

He went on reading for a few stops until we came to Court Street. When we arrived, the car had nearly emptied out. The man closed his textbook and got up to move to another seat. I went back to reading and soon was lost in my book. The doors closed and the Pause that I mentioned earlier began. About a minute into the Pause, I began to smell cigarette smoke. With my head up from my book, I sniffed to find the source. I quickly discovered that in the far right corner, the Calculus man was smoking a cigarette. The smoke rapidly began to fill the car. I looked around the car to see if anyone else noticed that the man was smoking. The first person I looked at was the only rider who was closer to Calculus man than I was. He too had been reading, but was now too distracted to peruse his book. While I found Calculus man to be humorous, and was at peace with it being a New York experience, this rider was clearly displeased. Rather than say anything to the homeless man with the broken mirror and the gypsy veil, the rider tried to passively suggest that he was irritated by shuffling in his seat and grunting, all while occasionally looking at Calculus man. Calculus man, of course, paid him no mind. In fact, he didn’t pay anyone any mind.

I think that’s when I realized two things: 1) No one was going to say anything to Calculus man because people assumed he was crazy and would not listen to them anyway and 2) This situation was going to last a while because anything that happens in the Pause, happens for a longer time than any other point on the train ride (thus making the situation that much funnier to me).

After watching the rider shuffle in his seat, I looked to my left. Seated was a young twenty-something couple that had previously been making out, but now were both looking at Calculus man. The looks on their face, if spoken, would have said, “How long is this gonna last? Is anybody gonna do something?” The man was slightly irritated while the woman, in between whispers, arched her neck to get a better look at Calculus man.

The only other riders in the car were two young boys, aged fourteen or so. While both stared at Calculus man, one said to the other, “Man, I remember the last time I was on a train with a smoker.” “Oh yeah?” the other boy replied. “Yea, I sure do,” he said.

Fourteen, I thought, and yet out of all of us, they’re the experienced riders. A Calculus-reading man in a gypsy veil who is filling the car with smoke is nothing new for them.

My eyes went full circle back to the rider who shuffled. He had finally closed his book and stopped shuffling. Rather than grunt, he was left merely staring at Calculus man. Wearing a look of incomprehension combined with resignation, the rider leaned forward deeper into the smoke and closer to Calculus man as if moving a foot closer would help him to understand the enigma of Calculus man.

Finally, my eyes rested on the man of the hour, the gypsy-veiled jester who prodded us out of our weekday afternoon sleeps through the city. Calculus man, with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, looked at peace. No longer studying algorithms or the gray hairs of his beard. Instead, merely letting the rhythm of the Pause take over.

We arrived at Whitehall and I exited the car and moved to an adjacent car, the smoke and the experience was enough by that point. Sitting down in the adjacent car, I felt I had learned the lesson of the Calculus man. I have never seen him since.

image source

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Little Trouble in Big China

Sometimes you get free entertainment on the sidewalk when a little bit of shit breaks loose (as Mom says, New York is simply "too many rats in the box"). And the streets are crowded enough that when something interrupts the peopleflow, it pools rather quickly into a crowd. Today, as far as I can tell, the drama had something to do with a guy dining and dashing at Au Bon Pain - see photo; there was actually croissant detritus forming a comical evidence trail all the way down the block - but the manager who chased after him was also being heckled by one of those UHO hobos... I was confused. It was awesome.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Barney's Warehouse Sale

First, there is a long line up, adjudicated by a bouncer, where they will make you check the big canvas tote you carry instead of a purse. Then you snake your way through Mens, upstairs to Womens, where you will find that the shoes and dresses and clothes are still on average $500 to $1500 after having been marked down 50% to 70%, and yet are sort of tossed around and piled and smashed, so that you have to make sure you don't fall in love with something too abused by the Warehouse Sale process.

There are security guards everywhere, one of whom I asked for the changing room, and she pointed to the far wall. Once I got there, I found no doors, but there were some women surreptitiously slipping one article off for another, in front of a row of full-length mirrors haphazardly taped to a wall. I stood there for a moment to make sure that this was in fact the changing procedure - not wanting to outright ask since I didn't want anyone to know this was My First Barney's Warehouse Sale - and then I jumped right in, when-in-Rome, kicked off my shoes, dropped my jeans, and was immediately told by a woman "Ma'am, you can't change right here, you have to go further into the corner."

I am not good at fashion so a lot of it looks like clown clothes to me anyway but I left with a very dinner-in-Montauk-ready Helmut Lang pinafore for $115, Size 2. Haha, SEE YOU AT THE WEDDING ON SATURDAY.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Another guest post

This one from my intern... enjoy!

Louise Bourgeois has a show at the Guggenheim right now. She was the first gal to ever get their main stage (that was back in the '80s) and now, in her 90's and still working, she has a retrospective there. This retrospective reveals that not only is the old bag still working, she is still working out her dad issues, or her phallic mother issues, depending on what angle you look at her triple-breasted-headless-dog-statue-with-a-penistail. Much of her stuff involves lumps: breast/penis fungal eruptions usually seen in groups, but sometimes appearing one at a time or in pairs, sometimes swaddled in drapery, sometimes nude. Many things hang sack-like from the ceiling (like balls or breasts), some things protrude from the floor (like peens or breasts). Any way you slice it, you most certainly feel like you're in a hybrid universe, somewhere between your own id and the think-tank for the Aliens films set design. It's kind of bad-ass. You will leave wondering what shape (egg, penis, breast, ball, spider, etc.) your unconscious desires would assume, if Louise was doing their portrait.

At one point, an old man came around the corner and, with a look of contempt/exhaustion/disgust, exclaimed: "now what the hell is this supposed to be??" I wanted to tell him, "look closely old man, those are your Oedipal wishes cast in plaster!!" But I think, at some level, he already knew.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Two stories about junkies

There is only one street in the Financial District that I will not walk down. I once ventured about 20 feet into it, in bright, bustling noontime daylight, only to quickly turn around and walk back out. That was about two years ago. Last night I walked down it with a friend, because we were in a hurry and it was the most direct route and I had grown naive and he didn't know any better. Well, my god. It was like running for that ever-receding door in a nightmare. It was very quiet and almost completely dark, the only light and sound coming from the flickering tv sets which the junkies have somehow figured out how to hook up outside. It smelled like piss, and nobody said anything to us, and I even felt sort of bad for disturbing them since it was just so obviously their alley and not my shortcut.

Today I was walking around Tribeca, killing a hangover and shopping for the luxuries I have been denying myself for months until I got my financial self sorted out (foaming hand soap! bedside Kleenex! moist towlettes for my purse!), and I saw a junkie lying next to a subway entrance. This is a somewhat common sight, but this one looked different. I couldn't see his face, only 8 filthy white bony fingers, and he was tiny the way that bodies only are when they are no longer alive. And too still. I actually walked for three blocks until I found a cop (which I hesitated to do because I didn't want him to be harassed), and walked him back to the spot, whereupon he took one look and said, "No, he's just a junkie. Look, he's breathing" - in a tone that said, "Sometimes people sleep on the sidewalk, little girl. It doesn't mean they're dead."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

In twos, or in multitudes

My downstairs neighbour had lived in the neighbourhood for forty years, and in this building for thirty. I asked him how much rent he was paying and he said, "They want me out real bad." Actually, he said "WHAAA? Oh. They want me out real bad." He was very hard of hearing, which suited me just fine because he lived directly below me and I knew he would never complain about how much I move my chairs around at night. I wanted to ask him what the neighbourhood was like before WTC and how it had changed, but didn't bother because he was seriously very deaf and it was hard to have a conversation with him. I used to run into him on the stairs a lot, because it took him a long time to climb that many flights, and whenever I made too much dinner I would wonder if I should bring him some.

Well, he died. At home. The tenant next door to him told me that some of the other neighbours had started to notice a smell, and had called the landlord, so they came one day and banged on the door really loud for a long time, and finally let themselves in and found him.

This picture was taken on the rooftop of my building, when this neighbourhood was still a neighbourhood.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fuck White Plains

One thing that us gals like to keep secret from you boys is that we don't actually cry at sad things (too frequent) or tragic things (too comical) or even at the unbearable burden of quietly providing the metabolic and affective upkeep of society (heh), but only at stupid things like "I just stepped in a puddle in my new shoes AND this coffee has too much milk in it."

Today is that day.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Music and babies

I had only half an hour's lead time when I found out Bob Dylan - who I have always been such a fan of that when asked, during my Grade 11 Dutch oral exam, to name one of my heroes, I replied, having just read Robert Zimmerman's unauthorized biography, Bob Dylan - was playing at the Prospect Bark Bandshell, and that is barely enough time to get to Brooklyn. I knew I wasn't going to get tickets and get in, but I was counting on watching from the grass beyond, what you can always do with shows there. It turned out that they had built a giant gauze-y fence just for this (because I am sure otherwise they never would have sold those 800 tickets to BOB DYLAN), and so I didn't even get a glimpse. But there was something much better to look at: my friends' 16-day-old baby, who is so cute you could eat him with a spoon.

...And as I write this, guess who just came on CKUA.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The price of admission

I finally took that PATH train - the commuter rail between New York and New Jersey - for the first time, to get to a wedding. The rails snake through the guts of Ground Zero, and then out. New Jersey is ugly, ugly, ugly, and then it is wicked posh. The wedding was at the groom's house, in a suburb where each manse manditorily had to be built on an acreage big enough to accommodate two horses. Plaiiiiiinfieeeeeeld. The people my age all came from the same rich private school and spent the entire evening obnoxiously and disingenuously complaining about their alma mater. It is interesting being suddenly catapulted into someone else's extended family, grandma who everybody shouts at while she looks confused in her wheelchair, the lecherous uncle, the contents of the medicine cabinet in the downstairs washroom. That's me - social antropologist, wine cadger.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Scarsdale diet

Today I went to a barbecue in Scarsdale. The Scarsdale, with the high property taxes and all that. Where I went was not fancy, however. I hung out at a friend's, with a bunch of his friends, all of whom grew up there, in nearby houses they could point out from where we were sitting in the backyard. And their wives were tough Italian chicks, the kind who work hard at making ziti and babies, and smoke Marlboro lights, and will scratch your eyes out with those acrylic tips if you look at their husbands the wrong way. Tons of chicken and ribs and Grey Goose, the weather cooperated, and I like getting out of the city because I am getting old and sensitive to smell.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Things are still happening in twos

Taken in Brooklyn and New York in the span of a week by the same friend.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Free Aerial Views

When I was coming back from Canada, my flight inbound for Laguardia dropped altitude and then sailed right past the airport, continuing on south. And the people on board got a tour of the entire island of Manhattan while we reoriented ourselves for landing. I got to pick out miniatures of all of the landmarks and the places I know far better, where I used to live and where I live now. I apprehended the shape of the island in general, recognizing it exactly from maps and evenings spent poring over google satellite images. I got to see that little uninhabited island in the East River, for example, with a crumbling uninhabited building on its shore (one day I will rent the sloop at the South Street Seaport and make it take me there). We circled around Battery Park and flew back up the west side, past all the dominoes in midtown and the broccoli in Central Park, then so low over Harlem that when we turned back towards Queens at 125th St I could make out the people standing in line for the bus I would soon be getting off of, to transfer to the subway. And it was kind of terrifying, in that people really did fly planes into buildings, almost not worth it.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Money Shabbas

I have been inventing a lot of things lately, dear reader, including this one - on account of how impossible I find it to save money here, what with all of my money being somewhat imaginary, Canadian accounts drained via American ATMs, mounting debt debt debt following by a sudden infusion of scholarship cash, credit card bills whose statements I stopped receiving when I moved across the border two years ago. And so forth. Added to this the fact that I live in New York ffs, my rent is so high it may as well be higher (and as of last month it is), cooking casseroles to be frugal ends up costing more money because staples are so overpriced, and finally the fact that I make so many of my spending decisions while drunk.

And so I invented the money shabbas. You must get through the entire day without spending any money. It is fun, like an obstacle course. You have to raid the cupboards and pack food and know where to find free things and walk a lot. Very gratifying, though.