Are There Any Window Seats Left?

I rarely write at my PR gig, but I keep having an hour here (waiting for meeting), 15 minutes there (yesterday before I went to see my shrink), and I’ve been spending too much time in the office to be able to do any writing of quality at home. The new Plan involves racking up some serious hours this month, and doing something completely insane in April or May. I mean really insane. Trust me – it’s off the insane-o-meter.

I haven’t had enough opportunities to talk trash to friends or people I corner in line at Subway so here are some thoughts from the week so far:

1. Haiti Yesterday from the wire stories on I read that Cap-Hatien in Haiti came under Rebel control. Synergistically enough, American Airlines is offering a Weekend Getaway special to Port-au-Prince for the low low price of $249.00. I like the way my self-determined content is all working together here, except that $249.00 seems awful steep to be dropped in the middle of a war zone. Under normal circumstances a ticket from NYC to Haiti, which I think is still on the wrong side of “would you like an armed robbery with that road closing today?” can’t be more than $300-350. When there is full-on civil war and the American Embassy has marines surrounding it (“Let them kill each other – but lord keep them away from the rubber passport stamps!!”), that price should be more like $19.99. Also I heard on the radio there is a man collecting some sort of leaving-the-airport tax with an automatic weapon and a really nasty stare. The tax is all the money and jewelry on your person.

2. Global Warming More good news in the form of this article on global warming in The Guardian. In a nutshell:

A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a ‘Siberian’ climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

All I could think was, I really rather that shit happen now, when I’m 27, and not when I’m 40-something. There’s the obvious: that I have more spunk to rob and loot in my current sprightly and elastic body. But more importantly, I have no children to feel guilty about, I haven’t invested in any real estate I’ll feel compelled to defend, and I’m not on multiple regimes of hormone, inflammation, cancer, digestive, and emotional pharmaceuticals. You know Duane Reed will be the first place looted to bits, and I’ll be the one with the arnmload of ludes.

3. Schizophrenia On a related note, at the Pharma PR gig one of my projects is a pitch for the latest in schizophrenia medication. Like nearly all my projects at this place, I got a nagging fear that I have whatever illness the drug I’m pushing is meant to cure.

Yesterday I asked my shrink what the chances were of me having schizophrenia. I could see her strain under the pressure of having to take even my most ridiculous utterances seriously. I couldn’t keep a straight face. She cracked too. I haven’t started to hear voices, or have hallucinations, and there’s no little man giving me a running commentary on my life yet, but I feel like it could be just around the corner. And it wouldn’t be so bad because there are whole new families of anti-psychotic medications that don’t have the burdensome side effects of yesteryear.

I was a lot worse when I was working on Irritable Bowel Syndrome, by the way.

No Revolution, No Revalation

I read somewhere once that listening to music brings you everything in the world, all at once. It’s like being in a revolution and revelation all in an instant, and more intensely than revolution or revelation actually is. I’m paraphrasing here. I think it was an album review somewhere. I may just be making it up completely.

Last night after a half a bottle of wine and several beers, I walked down Hudson Street, ostensibly to find a cab back to Brooklyn, but something about the not freezing air, the clear skies, and the perfection of the random music selection on my iPod made me walk all the way home by myself. Down to the end of town, across Canal Street, and over the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn, which is my favorite bridge to walk over. I like the Manhattan Bridge because it’s never crowded, and from it you get to see the Brooklyn Bridge in all its beauty against the lower Manhattan skyline, which you can’t really see when you’re on it. It’s like that saying about the architect who built the Eiffel Tower. He ate lunch at the restaurant in the tower everyday and when asked why, he said it was the only place in Paris that he didn’t have to see it. Is that a true story? I don’t remember any restaurant in the Eiffel Tower.

In any case, my somewhat frightened walk over the Manhattan Bridge may have been the longest solitary walk I’ve ever taken in ten years in New York City. I passed not a soul, and not a soul passed me until about 15 feet from the end when a bike rider dressed to the nines in reflective clothing boarded in the other direction. We gave one another the I’m-not-a-crazy-murderer-you’re-not-a-crazy-murderer-we’re-just-insane-out-here-tonight wave hello, and kept on in our opposite directions.

I can’t remember exactly what I was listening to but there was some old Bobby Marley and some new Chili Peppers and possibly some Clash. I ran my fingers down the chain link fence, and my heart was beating pretty fast. I hate that chain link fence that’s been slapped over the original railing. You have to stop to see the view. Otherwise the bridge and lower Manhattan has a grey waxy film over it. I was walking with an extra bounce as I was expecting to be jumped at any second. I had just gone to the ATM so I figured what ever I could give a mugger would be sufficient, but on the other hand I said to myself, “Fuck it.” It dawned on me as I was nearing the middle of the bridge that I was surely being watched. It dawned on me that every bridge touching Manhattan must be under constant surveillance and at that moment there was probably someone somewhere, or more than one someone, wondering if the new shoes I was carrying home in an unmarked black shopping bag was an explosive. After that I breathed easier. The adrenaline slowed down a touch.

I made my way down Flatbush Avenue where there were people again, and a bus slowed down beside me on Fulton. I was walking and not at a bus stop, but the driver must have seen me look longingly at the bus and took pity on me. I was tired, and I slunk into a single seat by the window. I love taking the bus in Brooklyn. And it stops just in front of my house. I was listening to Salif Keta. I knew my apartment would be just the same as I left it. Just the same as I always left it. I’ve taken enough mind-clearing, toe-freezing walks into nowhere in this city to know that the apartment is always the same as I left it. Sometimes it’s comforting, but most times not. The revolution and revelation found at the midpoint of an empty Manhattan Bridge are washed away by that familiar smell of home. But I was grateful to lock my door and walk in bare feet on the wood floors to bed.

Nostalgia by Numbers

I started, tried, and gave up on, doing my own taxes this year. Too much thinking, too many little scraps of paper, too few rubber bands, certainly not enough desk space. After several hours on Turbo Tax, broken occasionally by cigarettes, a game of tennis at the Prospect Park bubble, a Corona, and more cigarettes, I gathered receipts and bills and all the rest and put them back into the tin Ikea box and called it quits. The many fine rewards of freelancing are paid for in part by the nightmare of filing your 1040, 8829, 203-IT, and enough itemized deductions to make your fingers bleed (if you’re lucky).

I went through receipts and credit card bills for all of last year, and it was unnerving. Like reading over a year’s worth of e-mails or web-site posts or whatnot. All of 2003 was spread out before me in the sparse language of dollars and cents: invoices, payments received, unemployment checks, dinner receipts, equipment repairs.

I spent $27.82 for a lunch Bonita Diner in Williamsburg. It was March 27th but a splendidly warm day. I was wearing my one and only good suit, a charcoal grey laser-cut Dolce & Gabana number that my mom had bought as a sample. I remember walking through the air of smug weekday Williamsburg hipness, self-conscious in my yuppie garb. But I was somewhat smug myself since I had undoubtedly cashed an unemployment check sometime that week.

On November 11th I bought Chris, who wanted help on a furniture website, a $6.00 glass of Bollini Pinot Grigio at Art Bar. We were both depressed and floundering. His mother had died, and his finances were a disaster. We had eaten at Tortilla Flats earlier, which ended in some minor drama among our other friends. A cruel winter was just around the corner.

I put a $95.00 dinner on my Visa at Starfood (incredibly overpriced, but tasty) in the East Village on September 26th when I begged John to design a website for a project I had taken on. I was drowning in work after I had spent the first six months of the year walking everywhere to save on subway fare and kill time.

I spent $25.32 at Sam Flax in midtown after an interview with a PR firm that went spectacularly well. I realized afterwards that if I wanted people to pay me more I should present my work in folders that hadn’t been with me since college. I was again in my Dolce & Gabana suit. It was April and I couldn’t wait to tell my boyfriend the good news. We were to break up a few weeks later, and I would subsequently have a total emotional meltdown.

I spent $349 with him the previous January 27th when we bought a new mattress at Ikea in Elizabeth New Jersey. It was most likely the coldest day of the year, and we narrowly avoided frostbite strapping the thing on the roof of his car. On the Polanski Skyway, the wind was blowing under it so much it looked as if the entire car would be lifted off the road into the Hudson River. The mattress I was replacing was so old and cheap I could feel the coils invading my dreams. That and I wanted to get rid of the years of chi that it had collected and start fresh with him.

Just a few weeks ago I returned that mattress to Ikea. It was sagging terribly. I had taken to sleeping curled tight up against the wall where the mattress was still firm. I remembered that’s how I would sleep as a kid every night, the wall giving me this strange comfort. I exchanged it with the same model this time around, not wanting to invest the time or money on anything else. And once again I needed new chi.

All this receipt-induced nostalgia coupled with Valentine’s Day made it a pretty crummy weekend. Single and severely pre-menstrual I cried during the Prom scene in She’s All That, which was playing on the Superstation yesterday morning. You can only imagine the waterworks I had in store when Philadelphia (which I had never seen) came on a few hours later. Luckily some friends dragged me out of my gloom for red wine and arguments about the new Nets stadium.

The only good thing about a crummy weekend is that it makes me look forward to going into the office. Am I actually sorry it’s closed tomorrow?

Twenty-Nine Trees

I spent my last day in California laying in my dad’s yard – which is not really a yard, but an open blacktop car-park surrounded by a wooden fence on one side, and by a chain link fence on the other two. Albert, my dad’s dog also splayed out in the sun, and napped. Across the alley two men were laying new gutters on the roof next door. I watched them hoist an impossibly long metal gutter up to the three-story roof.

The one in charge yelled to me, after finishing the complicated maneuver, “You didn’t think we were gonna make it, did you?”

I laughed, and said truthfully, “Yeah, I couldn’t really watch. But congratulations!” I had visions of the entire thing crashing on my head, or through someone else’s roof.

I might have felt a little funny, a Tuesday morning lying with my book and my glass of juice outside like a princess, were it not for the dilapidated state of affairs in my dad’s yard/car-park. The man who lives in the apartment upstairs has an old truck and two motorcycles parked on one side, surrounded by tools and rusty parts. He comes out to work on them every afternoon. My dad will often look sourly in their direction holding a broom and mutter how the man is turning the place into a white-trash junkyard. My dad is also angry with the man upstairs for how badly he treats his dog. The dog is covered in strange sores and he only takes him out to pee or poop, never to run around and play.

I’ve been reading stories in The New Journalism today. I have been off and on reading this collection of 1960s and 70s journalism for quite awhile. The pieces, culled from magazine and newspaper articles of the time are short, but each one is so dense with story and meaning it’s hard to read more than two a week. Many are about Vietnam. One is from Slouching Towards Bethlehem, which I’ve read and reread many times. It reminded me of the day before yesterday when I went to Twenty-Nine Palms with Gina.

It strikes me that the articles in the book have a tenor of the mangled world of this decade. Just saying “the 00’s” puts a finer point on how off things seem now. The Vietnam pieces are especially hard to read. In one paragraph a soldier tries to save a seven year-old Vietnamese girl who’s head has been blown apart by an American grenade. In the next paragraph the soldier’s own head is blown apart in a minefield.

I wonder when stories like these, with names and faces and real quotes instead of army-issued talking points, will find their way into newspapers and magazines. In the 10s perhaps?

In Twenty-Nine Palms there is a Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. Marine recruits, easily spotted by their jarhead haircuts, wandered in to bookshops on Highway 63 and waited in line at McDonalds with their young girlfriends or pregnant wives. Behind us at the Ranger station at the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park one young Marine got out of his white Nissan to pay the entrance fee. There in his t-shirt, tucked and belted into his jeans I could not believe how young he was. All of them I saw are shockingly adolescent. It’s even more startling than the reel of dead soldiers they run off in silence at the end of The News Hour every night. Those pictures of young men and women, kids really, usually in military uniform are heart breaking. They break my heart in my Brooklyn apartment, and then I clear my dinner plates and turn the water to scalding levels to wash the dishes. Steam lifts out of the metal sink. It’s 8 PM.

The pictures are accompanied by name, rank, and hometown. But the worst is the ages: 18, 23, 19, 20. Twenty is the worst of the worst. I’m not sure why, but 20 gives me a lump in my throat.

The Joshua Trees are charming. The guidebook describes them as Dr Seuss-like. We played a game where we pointed out the mood of all the trees. That one is confused, with its thick branches reaching in all different directions. That one’s getting out of the way, its trunk is bent backwards from the road. That one’s a split personality, its trunk divided in 2 perfect halves. That one’s given up, its branches all point downward: “It’s just had enough!” I yelled gleefully.

Those are waving goodbye, its branches reaching up over us.

Sitting Through The Whole Thing!

Today Gina and I hit the open road and drove out to Joshua Tree in the desert. It’s the part of the west that I love best. Vast arid empty spaces. Room to think. Wildlife that defies imagination…

But I came back tonight to the city of angels full force – cell phones, and the Grammys lighting up the Staples Center like a big lopsided green hubcap. I usually can’t sit through it. Notoriously the most boring awards show, The Grammys are more predictable than my sour old grandpa. But the combination of Prince opening the show and watching it with my dad made it unusually interesting. Not to worry, I was still able to correctly pick nearly every winner, even the country ones. My dad refused to get me something for my amazing prescience.

In any case, I almost never write posts about television. If you keep reading you’ll probably see why, but the laptop was in front of me. I’m supposed to be working on a piece for the newspaper. And things turned out in such a way…

Just some of my PMS-induced opines:

Prince – I miss you, you look hot, come back, come back

Beyonce – a little overexposed no? And I’m not talking about the dress, it’s the bad movies, the Diane Sawyer interviews, the Feria commercials, sending a clone into the Black Eyed Peas Performance…

Andre 3000 – That’s why we’re getting married

White Stripes – I was trying to explain their popularity to my dad. The best I could do was, “Well.. I don’t know.. people really like them.. umm.. I don’t know..umm..”

Aerosmith – were they in soft focus again?

Justin Timberlake – I want to think you’re cool but you keep acting like damn pussy. Are you running for president or are you a pop star. Just own it.

Joan of Arcadia – at 15, has she ever heard a Carole King song?

Alicia Keys – I’m still unimpressed. My dad: “She’s got great teeth. I mean great teeth!”

Celijne Dion – Was it the sound forcing her to make those facial expressions, or was the microphone reacting to her paranormal face contortions.

Madonna – Yawn.

Sting – God, go away already.

Christina Aguilara – I maintain that she is the only famous person that’s actually happy.

Yoko – I like you but you are so so strange – but stranger still is the parading of the tearful widows. It made me sad, in a bad-sad way for how creepy the music industry is.

Black Eyed Peas – How’d that girl turn into Beyonce like that? Do they sell it at GNC?

How many lifetime achievement awards are there? Was that what that gilded envelope I spilled Coors Light all over was?

50 Cent – Yeah you shoulda won it, but there wasn’t a chance in hell. Actually they probably made a typo when writing Sting out on the Best New Artist nomination form.

Earth, Wind and Fire – They musta been really excited not to be at another PBS pledge drive. And it showed.

Outkast – Please please please make your next album together again.

Samuel Jackson – How you pulled that cornball shit off, I don’t know. But it friggin worked.

Robert Randolph – Who are you? What is that you’re playing? And can I have some?

Parliament – Aw Jeez, I think you’re all too old, except Bootsy. Bootsy no too old.

Snoop & Jason Alexander – Yes.

Except Coldplay – I didn’t pick that one, but my dad was asleep already so shhhh. And of course only the Brits are not so weenie as to stay apolitical at a time when Rove & Co. are destroying/selling this country and the world.

Foo Fighters, Osbornes, Etc – Getting very very sleepy. Why so long, this show? Why so long?

So many commercials – so sleepy. May not finish this time either…

Richard Marx & Luther – No way. I had no idea. An odd odd pair, no? Or am I hopelessly uninformed?

Digital downloading and music education in schools. Nice. You taking lessons from Bush’s state of the union address. What about the evils of steroids and life on Mars? I can’t fucking take anymore. I think I may not be able to forgive Dre for showing up.

Outkast – A predictable win. I appreciate that they were apart but together. And I still hope they will be together together next time. Maybe? Dre’s performance – ok. I mean it’s a good song but hasn’t it been on every awards show and half the movie trailers in the English-speaking world? I couldn’t even shake it, not much anyway.

More files from LA

Usually as I’m in Los Angeles during regular bouts of Must Get Out of NYC Symdrome, I write posts (with the gloss of my eyes rolling far back into my head) about the baseless mystisicm, the brain melting sun, the traffic, the traffic, the traffic.

But as I’m here for less than 12 hours, I’ve noticed some things about this fuel-injected wasteland that just work with me. In no particular order, with none to very little irony:

1. In line at the DMV at the crack of dawn this morning (see post about me leaving wallet incl. driver’s license in cab in New Year’s Eve), I meet the DP (Director of Photography you philistines!) on Mystic River and we banter about Clint and the desolution of Bohemian culture in NYC while on line. I almost wished the line were slower.

2. The local bodega has a juice bar and I pick up a fresh-from-the-morning orange-strawberry juice for two dollars (two dollars!).

3. Without my bulky North Face parka and three layers of fabric on my hips I have a body.

4. My skin begins already to be “olive” again, instead of the pale green I get from east coast winters.

5. My hippie clothes blend into the scenery, instead of illiciting somewhat patronizing compliments from the Kate-Spade-Ladies at my work: “I love that big safety pin (holding the sleeve together). Where do you even find those these days!”

6. My dog. My dog. My dog.