slip slop slap

My Visa bill this month is $800. Yep. I bit my lip and scanned for possibly fraudulent charges. The universe does have this way of separating me from my belongings you know. No dice. All mine. Most notably a plane ticket to LA for next month. But all in all a lot of me falling back into my old New York City habits. One of which is putting dinner on the credit card and then collecting cash from the mates to avoid a trip to the cash machine. On the upside, i save that 1.75 that i always get snookered into because i really must have that Mango Froze Fruit noooow. And then of course, the extra cash has miraculously appeared in my pocket, yet my bank balance remains the same. Neat right? This is the kind of accounting that gets a girl promoted at Arthur Anderson, but one that doesn’t play out quite as well while opening mail in my vestibule at the end of the month.

Aside: On the Visa bill, below my months’ adventures, in between the reminder that i have no preset spending limit and the blurb encouraging me to give to Easter Seals is this:

Before you step into the sun, remember to SLIP! SLOP! SLAP! (R) Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher, slap on a hat and wrap on UV protected sunglasses – They’re your best defense against sun damage and skin cancer.

Since when did Citibank Visa start caring 2 milligrams of ink worth about the dermatological health of their cardholders? And more importantly, why would anyone register a trademark like “SLIP! SLOP! SLAP!”, much less Visa? Puzzling. I have no theories yet.

So i may be slip-slop-slapping back into old spending habits because i am also slipping back into old full-time-office-job working habits. The coffee and rotating breakfast item from the coffee cart guy, the $7 Soho sandwich, the afternoon snack cause there aren’t any windows and i quit smoking so i need something to go outside for just so i can make sure that the city hasn’t crumbled away or burned down while i was centering and aligning little lines and boxes on a computer screen. Oh, and did i mention i work in Soho which everyday validates my theory that it has the highest density of pretty people anywhere on earth (wearing generally the coolest shoes ever). I suspect this is contributing heavily to the current self-esteem condition.

I never ever thought i’d think this let alone say it, but from time to time i find myself longing for the swarms of blank-eyed, business casual commuter types who filled the narrow streets at lunchtime in wall street. Each neighborhood has it’s own desperation i suppose. In Soho it’s that i just don’t care to see if low rise jeans can rise any lower then they did yesterday. Alas i am in the minority on this one. Everyday there’s some girl who’s on a mission to have the lowest low rise jeans this side of.. well, this side of Broadway.

On the upside, after a very rocky start, i’ve made friends with the godzilla sized Calvin Klien model who stares down at me cockily as i emerge from the Broadway-Lafayette F train stop. At first we didn’t get along. I didn’t like the way he looked at me, and he has this stupid way of tucking the sleeves of the shirt around his waist into the pockets of his jeans that really bugs. But lately we’ve come to terms with eachother’s presence, and even have a chat on occasion. He asks about the coffee today, i inquire if he thinks it’ll rain. And yeah ok, i do think he’s hottie. But we don’t have a future. I swore off billboards years ago.

Summer UnSocial

Dear Lois,

Lois dear, do you ever stop and look up through the skylight of your windowless office at the beating rain and doubt every skill you once thought you had down? Do you ever start stuttering like one of those big self-esteem-less losers that you ordinarily make fun of because you figure it’s better than half-assed pity? YOU DO? Thank god.

Umm. Yeah. Ok. I don’t know. I am experiencing waves and waves of self-doubt right now. Take for instance, me being a cool cat from way back. I thought i had gone through the years and years of akwardness, embraced it, and then became cool by wallowing in my own retardness. I said, “Yes it’s ok to mention punky brewster during small talk.” When delivered with the appropriate panache, it makes one seem quirky in that comfortable detached and ironic sort of way, even if you are neither detached nor ironic. But it has become painfully aware to me (and possibly to you) in the past few weeks that my social skills have dried up and blown away.

The worst has happened. I’ve forgotten how to do everything. Either i’ve made too much or too little eye contact. I may not realize that the conversation we’re engaged in is “just small talk”, and i may keep talking long after you’ve considered fake fainting as a ruse to go get another drink, make that two actually. I keep inserting uninformed non-sequiturs involving the Eight Fold Path when all you really wanted to know was if i was the line for the bathroom. Aside: If you want a steady stream of captive small-talkers, just keep waiting in line for the bathroom at a club or party all night long. And naturally, my daily hits are taking a graceful double pike dive this month.

It’s ok though, it’s that sort of overly dramatic devil-may-care self-doubt that does not respond well to encouraging words or reassurances that i am indeed Lovely And Amazing (a great movie – go see it now). It’s the kind, that like a long overdue western forest fire, needs to devour everything dead or alive in it’s path for a few months, and then peter out simply because continuing on would be too much effort. So occasionally i put on lipstick in hopes of digging out a gram or two of self-esteem from between the couch cushions. I assume i could even paint my toenails once or twice this year. But mostly i’ll be spilling drinks and saying the wrong thing on streets and buildings all over Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan for the rest of the summer.

Big kisses,


Artsy and Smart

I know, don’t say it. It’s Bastille Day and i haven’t done a thing.

What i did do is work, bordering on maniacally, on figuring out a certain right way to make my current flash project accessible in two languages (why yes English and French) in a certain way that will accommodate the art i already designed and built. It’s driving me slightly nuts and i kept having to get up from the computer and drink ice water and then flop on the bed and sigh dramatically. That was all day.

And then tonight a send of party for our friend Eric who’s off to architecture school in Houston. The festivities were thusly themed New York and Texas. I suggested a French twist as a nod to the frogs across the water, but nope. Instead there was an amazingly delicious brisket which actually led a certain Joe to announce that he was mistaken in ever thinking his mother was a good cook. What i’m saying is that it was delicious. And also there was Hormel chili with melted American cheese spread over Fritos. Yummm. And on the roof we watched The Cruise projected on to a shower curtain tacked onto the wall of the apt behind. I had seen it for the first time just a month or two earlier, but already i had filed it away in my mind as a favorite old classic.

The memorable moments in the film come every scene, but the one that struck me most was one of the less exciting. Before speed orgasmically serenades the facade of a certain New York building, he mentions that a key quality of terra cotta, the material with which much of the outer facades of the buildings in manhattan are made with, reflects light. This is as opposed to stone which absorbs it. A few months ago this struck me immediately. It seemed to crystallize the difference in feeling between the streets of New York and the streets of Paris. A sunny day in New York is blinding. It’s everywhere. the city, the sun, the life, it’s all overflowing. The same sunny day in Paris has a completely different feeling. A quieter kind of bliss. Subdued and subtle, it’s much harder to eavesdrop on the conversations of the people passing you in the street. The facades in Paris are all stone and absorb the light, as opposed to reflecting it. First there’s quality of the light itself, and then there’s how it imposes itself on the life of the street. It really is striking.

I was talking with a long lost college friend about it who had spent a semester abroad there and he agreed with my reading. But what was funny was how he said it, “Yeah, i mean i used to think talking about buildings like that is how girls make themselves seem artsy and smart, but i really get what you mean.” I could only laugh. Alot.

Innocent of Innocence

Ftrain snarks on yoga hype in Crucifixion for Better Abs. As always i’m excited to get to a newly updated Ftrain. This one’s tagline is “A cranky meditation (not really, that’s a pun) on marketing other people’s sacred beliefs and approaches. ” Myself, i’m off to my guided meditation session in about an hour. I’ve been trying to sit for 5 minutes a day, and i can’t tell you how friggin hard it is. A couple of weeks ago my downstairs neighbor locked himself out and we sat and chatted in my apartment while waiting for the super to come over. Right away we started talking about Buddhism, which anyone one from LA with a sense of humor knows, can get really cheesy really fast. But i could easily sense that he knew a lot about this, and well yes i’ve been trying to meditate since i returned from France by virtue of a serious of accidents which i would have described as “totally meaningful” when i was 18, but which i think now are “totally arbitrary.” In any case there’s the pillow i set up in my bedroom and books and xeroxes strewn around. Sometimes i open the pocket version of The Teachings of Buddha on the train and i feel as conspicuous as if i had just opened Hustler.

What is it with being earnest about eastern thought that makes a person practically drip with self-consciousness? The Yoga For Better Abs bit is probably what it is. That yoga and meditation and all it’s trappings have been embraced by the ditsiest among us for the most superficial purposes. Like abs maybe. Like my could-be-mistaken-for-a-hipster look on the train makes it more silly to be looking for a more consistent way to live (yes, consistent). From my limited understanding of it all, the ideas contained in the dharma apply as well to abs and hipster threads as to reaching ultimate connection with the universe. That becoming the Buddha happens on the train, in the office, in the gym, as much as in the temple, on the mountain top. Something like that is hard for us modern westerners to accept. We go to a spiritual service one day a week, or just major holidays or whatever, connect ourselves to a different place for that few hours or so, and then act like assholes for the larger part of our lives. Our hero is someone who dies while saving a baby from a burning building, regardless of how he’s lived the rest of his life. I would like my hero to have been kind and morally consistent every day, in ways that are subtle and don’t much get rewarded.

So the hardest part of sitting for me, is just convincing myself to stop what i’m doing and go to my little place for the measly 5 minutes. Even though i know i’ll feel good about it, even though i know it’s only 5 minutes, every day it’s a struggle. What what what? I keep asking myself. I asked John about it, in the larger context of the question, “When the way to contentment is so clear, and when we really do believe it, why do we continue to do or not do things in ways that we know are gonna make us feel like crap?” In good therapeutic form, John answered me with a serious of questions which i’m still running through in my head. But in good meditation teacher form he recommended i breath in gold coins on the “breathing-in” of the sitting, to signify all the riches that i am worthy of, and that i deserve (a “self-esteem breath” in Oprah terms). He also recommended i remind myself of my innocence at every sitting, which struck me as a particularly poignant thought. Me innocent? I find that so hard to swallow, but so fully compelling. I’ll be trying it really hard.

July 4th on the Island

For once i did the the 4th exactly right. After moping around the oven formerly known as my apartment for days, i snapped out of it and realized i have friends in Long Island who are practically living at the beach. For the last week i haven’t been able to do anything but contemplate things like how i might get to the kitchen without moving. I think it said on the news that it was only safe to be alive between the hours of 4am and 7am. No? Oh that’s right, that was exercise. Which i did anyway because my tennis partner is an animal. When the heat index is at 100, i figure tennis is off, but there are a handful of crazies who go out on the court and lose a couple liters of hydration. But actually it was good. It feels a lot better to sweat from exercise than from, say, turning your head.

So back to the 4th. I didn’t bring my camera because i figured it would be an ordinary coupla days on an ordinary LI beach. First off, going to the beach with scientists is a whole different animal. Isabel, evolutionary plantology (that’s almost right); Brendon, marine biology; and Matt evolutionary fish things. Ok i should have been taking notes. I.e.

Me, looking at racks and racks of rocks with what seems like paintings on them, “What are these?”

Matt, “Fossils”

Me, “Oh cool. How old are they?”

Matt, “uhh ’bout 10 million years.”

Me, “Holy shit! 10 million years!?!”

Anyway, yeah, scientists on the beach. Fun! Learning! Ecology! On the walk over i learned about the mating habits of fiddler crabs, got an up close anatomy lesson of a horseshoe crab, and lazily overheard many leisurely chats about plants and seaweed referred to by those long latin biology-type names. But lets not underestimate how hot it was even on the shore on thursday. We basically had to stay in the water the whole time. Poor us.

Then the fireworks. Oh the fireworks. We went in search of a certain party on this beach that i forget the name of, but i will have to find out because i’m definitely going back next year. It was a relatively narrow strip of beach, facing Connecticut i think. And for as far as you could see in both directions were clumps of (mainly drunk) amateur pyromaniacs, Long Island style. Stepping on the beach there were fireworks going off everywhere, and it was hard to figure out where to look. The beach had this surreal Disneyland type color to it, like Pirates of the Caribbean. Thinking about it now it was because of all the smoke that was generated by the fireworks. So when the sky was lit up by the exploding lights, it was all reflected off this pretty white haze in front of the ocean. It felt kind of like what i’d imagine the revolutionary war might have been like, swap the fireworks for cannons, and the cheering gawkers with generals and colonels shouting orders. And it all smelled like burining something. The great thing about amateur fireworks is being able to be right up close to them. We picked through each group of firebugs and found a nice stretch in between two of them, laid down towels and enjoyed the personal show. The finale of each of the groups came sort of at the same time and each pulled out all the stops and set off a succession of their best and brightest in a battle of fire that went on directly above us for ten minutes straight. It was marvellous.

Later the group on the right packed up and was replaced by a new group with a giant black trashbag full of new supplies. This group was considerably drunker than the average drunk pyro, and one of the dads kept lighting roman candles, then throwing them in any direction, and then tripping and falling down in the sand. He nearly took a woman who had lent him a lighter’s head off. It was scary yet funny. It was all the 4th of July things you are warned about repeatedly, yet sneakily relish for some sick reason. Isabel and Matt were not appreciating it though and we moved on (though honestly i could have stayed and gawked the whole night). We decided again to look down the beach for the elusive party. The thicker crowds of revellers were all partying teenagers. Someone would say, “Is this the party?” and then we’d look around and calculate the average age as 16, and then move on. All the while the sonic booms of firecrackers reeled off, and mostly rock music blared from crackling speakers. It was kind of like one of those Hollywood Armageddon movies where the world is taken over by blood thirsty and sex-crazed teenagers. Again i was entranced. Again a couple in our group were most definitely not.

Eventually we called it a night and headed to a diner where i fed my now full blown addiction to disco fries. Perfect 4th i’d say. Friends, beach, fire, beer, and disco fries. God bless America.