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.