Los Angeles, Writing

On not knowing what you’re doing, ever

I heard from a friend who heard from her therapist that when a relationship ends, it’s a good time to take stock of things: what you need and what you want, things you’re proud of, moments of discord and scenarios to avoid moving forward…you know the stuff. The past few weeks, I’ve found a new application for that kind of psychic rummaging: I started a new job, after three years at a job that I really found fulfilling. It’s got some things in common with a break up, and as such, it’s certainly a good time to hit pause and reflect.

When I’ve transitioned to new jobs in the past, the whole thing sweeps me back to adolescence in a funky way, surfacing questions that tremble with uncertainty, idiocy, and perhaps even hopefulness. I’m back to high school philosophy club, back to declaring my major in college, back to turning everything over in my hands a billion times to uncover its angles. You might say I’m back to not knowing what I’m doing at all. It’s a steeping in the whys: why we have to dedicate our lives to one particular field, for example, when humans are interested in so many subjects. And why success in the creative arts depends on some grotesque social hierarchy of who you know and how can you sell what you’ve got. 

Whys and wahhs. But heck, while we’re at, it’s worth diving into the oldest standby of them all — why working rarely gives people enough money to live a comfortable lifestyle. Society can feel like T. Rex’s “Rip Off” coming on the radio, while a Marxist graffitis “Yikes. Capitalism.” along the highway, ad infinitum. Some pass go, the rich collect $200 (million), and others allude opaquely to ’70s British glam rock and communism in the space of three sentences in a strange attempt to make sense of it all.

But I’m happy to report that while I did have my standard internal screamy “AHHH” moments, this go-around was different. I was able to reflect on what I’ve even been doing at work over the past decade-ish. And this was actually quite comforting. I’ve been fortunate enough to find writing work that’s creative, paid my bills, challenged me in surprising and intellectual ways, and even revealed “business” and “marketing” and “product” issues as truly stimulating subjects (despite the fact that the words “business” and “marketing” and “product” have, at times, made me feel like I’m in an episode of Silicon Valley, and thus recoil). Huzzah! Perhaps I’m no longer a disillusioned, obnoxious teen. And mostly, I’m so grateful for such interesting jobs, where I’ve met wonderful friends — some of which have become the people closest to me — and how much I’ve learned, too. I know many people hate their jobs, and I have rarely felt that dread. 

It seems like one day you wake up and, against all odds, you have something vaguely resembling what they call a “career path.” For me, all of it’s connected by writing. And I’m quite lucky to get a paycheck and health insurance for stringing sentences together, which is an all-too rare thing in this very effed up world of ours. 

Even though it’s pretty sad to leave my former place of work (as if on cue, the NY Times just had an article about mourning your former employer), and even though it’s scary, I’m OK taking the leap of faith, and excited about the prospects of what’s ahead. It’s like starting a new school year. And I’m excited.

***

But this transition has given me more than the 9-5 job stuff to marinate on. The main reason I moved to LA was to reclaim a bit of work-life balance, so I could dedicate more of my free time to writing. And, when you’re in that space, namely that you’ve committed to something, you’ve got to contend with the writerly trap. The trap being your brain, which can become something of a heckler the second you dedicate yourself to something. You stare at a blank page, maybe you type a pararaph, maybe you avoid tackling the work at all because there’s some small yippy chihuahua in the front row saying,”You suck, idiot! Get off the stage!” And the invariable crane around the neck ensues. 

And sure, it’s easy when you finish watching The Staircase and The Handmaid’s Tale in the span of two weeks to feel like you are, perhaps, a bit too lazy. You suspect that there’s something in your DNA, something deep within your guts, that skews unceasingly toward procrastination. And really — why should you be a writer, anyway? What do you really have to say, and what do you really know? So many people are more talented, and more intelligent, and maybe you’re a bit too old to push this old dream forward. You didn’t capitalize on your personal social media brand and the world has moved on without you. And the people you see succeeding, the people who claim to be artists but have instead gussied themselves up in a sales pitch, are playing some game you don’t want to be a part of — and if that’s the only way, why play? They’re not real artists. They have sold out for profit. Not participating at all is to act with integrity.

And oh, how I could keep going! There’s a lot this brain of yours has to say to you. What all this is getting at, to sum it up, is that it’s quite hard to write if you’re a human being. 

The only thing that’s worked for me is to take a breath, and say hooey to it all. You can be kind to yourself, too. And sometimes to be kind, you have to be like, “Yo, brain. You need to step aside right now because I’m trying to do stuff!” I remind myself I’ve taken two writing classes since I’ve gotten here — something I was never able to commit to in NYC — and while nothing is in submittable shape yet, I’ve done more fiction writing the past six months than I have in the last three years. And I have a goal! Imagine that! A personal goal. I’m hoping to submit some fiction to literary magazines by the end of the year. And then, y’know, accruing subsequent silences or rejection slips to add a few layers of thickness to my epidermis. But even to have a tangible goal like that is something! 

And anyway, everyone else seems to feel the same way about their own stuff, too. I hardly believe in talent anymore. Just people who finish their shit. 

***

Because I work from home, and because of the general vibes of LA anyway, I feel like I have so much more time in the day than I did in NYC. That’s not to say I don’t love the NYC lifestyle. That energy showed me I had it in me to work my tuchus off. And I also learned I can squeeze mezcal cocktails in almost any night of the week. But I’m trying to soak up the strange energy of this city while I’m here and see how it shakes things up within me. The slow-as-traffic pace, the vegan avocado everything, the fact that no one here seems to have an actual job except pitching movie concepts to producers in coffee shops.

But there’s a burgeoning fiction scene here that’s really cool, and I’m clinging to the subversiveness of fiction writing in the land of screenwriting, even if that’s really just a psychological tactic to quell the pang you get when you see all the bookstores closing and most people you know don’t read very much fiction. Let alone short fiction! Aye yi yi. Sometimes I think writers are just writing for an audience of other writers, who are writing for an audience of potential agents, who are ultimately writing for an audience of editorial assistants combing through their inboxes, filled as they are at the slowly-going-under publishing houses.

So you lean on the things that make sense to you in a nonsensical world. Bryan and I cooked breakfast the other morning at his place. He put on 70s funk (he is going through an Andy Gibb phase), and we danced around like crazy people as the eggs fried and the turkey bacon defrosted. Afterward we went to the record store so I could grab some Michael Jackson and Aretha (even though, yes, I should have already had both). But they were out of Aretha and the only MJ left was some funky (in the not good way) later-days Jackson 5 album. So instead I grabbed Stevie’s Songs in the Key of Life, a Coltrane compilation, and Nat King Cole’s Love is a Many Splendored Thing that was somehow only $2.99, despite the fact that Nat’s voice is sent straight from heaven. The kids today don’t even know. 

I wanted the cashier, a middle-aged white dude in his 40s, to comment on my taste or something, since you always kind of feel like record store dudes are judging you. He didn’t say anything and I didn’t probe into my weird desire for him to be impressed. Bryan and I left, and we drove to my place with the Verdugo Mountains behind us and a wave of cars and palm trees in front. And then I sat down and wrote this thing, which took me far too many weeks to edit, but it made me feel good even just to do so though it’s not going anywhere, and instead ends inscrutably like so. 

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Random stuff

The glowing parallelograms

I begin every day by looking at a screen. Sometimes my laptop, usually my phone. Either way, it’s a square emanating blue light. And though it has caused many terrible things for many people (addiction, depression, totally incapacitated social skills), it has, at least, opened up a chasm of literary opportunities for writers. Nary a Nabokov nor Nietzsche had the chance to wrestle with cell phones. The subject is rife for the kvetching.

When I was in high school, a boy wrote a poem about “glowing parallelograms” that were progressively taking over our lives. I liked that description. It’s good to remember the simple weight and shape of things. And it’s good to remember adolescents waxing lyrical in their lovely adolescent way — “oblongs of absence,” “glimmers of the grotesque,” “cell phboners” — and so on, as I imagine in the scribbled in the Google Docs of today’s high school juniors.

I bring all this up because I started working remotely a few months ago, and that means I keep the company of a glowing square, and not much more, for several hours each day. I don’t spend more time on the screen than I did in New York really, but I have fewer humans plugged in next to me. It’s unclear if the takeaway here is that there is comfort in community, or it’s just chaos all the way down.

But life goes on. Several weeks ago I got lunch with my friend Robert. He took me to his favorite taco place. It’s a thing I don’t take lightly because you never want your top hangouts infiltrated by too many acquaintances you know. (And let’s face it, most people come with a few bozos in their networks.) But, should you ever find yourself at a good LA taco stand, may I suggest the tinga de pollo? Anyway, we munched on the goods. I talked about the woes of fiction. He talked about the woes of screenwriting. We both felt bad for poets, who don’t have a prayer of a chance.

We were somewhere around Little Armenia when we parted ways, and it was 45 minutes or so back to my place by foot. But it was a good day for that kind of walk. Griffith Park Observatory was off in the horizon, the tawny dome vaulting into a sky filled with cotton ball clouds. So I started my trek, and taking a cue from the facility overhead, observed. People watered their towers of cacti and succulents, turfgrasses and sea sprays, and various potted architectures that guarded the grounds of their front yards. While I walked down Fountain, I passed street art that read:

Someone asked Bette Davis for “the best way an aspiring starlet could get into Hollywood.” She said, “Take Fountain.”

Perfect strolling fodder. I thought about how I’ve managed to carve out, against all odds, a little slice of New York life in LA. Namely, I don’t have a car, and thus walk everywhere. I live in a hip little neighborhood, half a block shy of the main drag. I can skip to a pile of coffee shops and taco stands. I can take 15 minutes to stroll to the Rite Aid for shampoo and light bulbs. I can even walk to get my groceries — both the normal one, and the overpriced organic one. And, since I work from home, I have nowhere to be during the day except attached to a screen. Which I can use to order a Lyft, should I need.

I split my time between working from my desk at home and my neighborhood coffee shops. So I’m next to other people who work out of coffee shops a lot. In New York, you’ve got a lawyer, a grad student, a nurse, a playwright all sitting side by side. But everyone in LA is part of “the industry” — or its cousin, “trying to break into the industry.” I have heard so many screenwriters pitching their plotline to producers, it has spawned my own short film idea which is just a composite of all the pitches I’ve heard. The things you overhear in coffee shops are one of the biggest differences between New York and LA.

I quite like working remotely. Sure, there’s an intense expectation of laser-sharp communications and airtight autonomy, less human interaction, and you miss out on the in-the-room vibes that happen in all rooms with more than one person. But it’s also kind of nice to just own your work, wholly, and try to exceed the trust that was placed in you. And do laundry if you need to. And, anyway, we’ve got the screen to connect us anytime, any place, and that has taken us some real distances — for better or worse or very weird.

Ah, well. As they say, turn and face the strange. And perhaps grab a taco or two while you’re at it.

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Random stuff

Go westward, 30-year-old.

This week, I turned 30. Next month, I’m moving to LA. Here are some things I’ve learned, some advice-to-self, and a few things I’ll miss about New York. The list is no particular order, and is by no means exhaustive (it’d be very sad if I could fit seven years of New York into list form, and even sadder if I could fit 30 years of experience in). But it seemed a natural juncture to jot a few things down, in case it proves interesting to others and noteworthy to myself in the future. 

50 things I’ve learned and/or will miss. 

1.) Everyone who’s in their 20s in New York goes through a Vanessa’s Dumplings phase. I’m glad I had mine, and likewise, I’m glad it’s over. 

2.) I knew this before I turned 30, but it only becomes more true over time. Titanic is the best movie in human history. And if a dude will watch it with you several times, that dude is of serious caliber.

3.) This story begins in kindergarten. One particular day, I stopped in the hallway and stared down the immense corridor toward the other end of the school, where the 5th graders had class. They felt so impossibly far away from where I was in life. And it occurred to me that the odds were greater of me dying than of growing old enough to reach the 5th grade. To age that much felt, frankly, insurmountable.

It seems silly now. But back then, every year felt so substantive, so long and filled with limitless promise and possibility. I’ve learned that your sense of time changes as you age, and it seems like the older you get, the faster the years go. But I try to remember my little kindergarten heart. Because it was so certain that every year mattered so much.

4.) Nothing beats watching Clueless with friends who were around when Clueless was the only thing that mattered.

5.) Get the mouse traps that instantly kill mice, not the sticky tape ones.

6.) There are few personal issues that can’t be fixed with ice cream or wine at 11pm. At the same time, there are few global issues that can be fixed this way.

7.) Over-communication is better, and that goes for jobs and relationships. This is a note to self though. Maybe you’re a person who needs to tone it down. I really couldn’t say!

8.) This thought will occur several times: “You’re just going to forget how to do math entirely, aren’t you?”

9.) Flee far and fast from self-identified “influencers.”

10.) For better or worse (it is worse!), nepotism seems to land more jobs than genuine book smarts or talent or potential. I got my first job through my aunt’s friend’s rabbi in Cold Spring, for example. The rabbi did not care that I majored in English with a concentration in creative writing and double minored in gender studies and art history — and no other employer has either.

So much depends upon who you know. No one gets anywhere alone. It’s a thing to be gracious about and also enraged about. Because if you don’t know anyone who can help you, how can you move upward? People who ascend have a responsibility to reach back and reach into new corners, to do the work to uplift those who we don’t know.

11.) Going to any other city and saying you live in New York is just fabulous. 

12.) This is one of my most heartening, joyous discoveries from my 20s: you can actually experience brand-new emotions as an adult. Things you have gone 20-something years without encountering can be stirred in you. Regardless of whether they’re incredible or melancholic emotions, it is something of a wonder. 

13.) You don’t need to keep up with every ex just because you can.

14.) It’s kind of nice to discover music you overlooked when you were an adolescent. For example, in 1999, I hated Blink 182. I listened to them a few years ago, and was like, actually, hell ya?

15.) People in New York talk about New York as if they’re actually dating New York. That’s because everyone in New York *is* dating New York. There’s no other way to explain it.

16.) Nothing in all of the heavens beats living with your best friend in Greenpoint for three years.

17.) Even after all this time, if you’re going to end up puking on the sidewalk, the Lower East Side is still the place to do it.

18.) Older men are not necessarily more mature. They are, however, worse at technology.

19.) At some point, weirdly around age 25, people will start saying “I can’t drink like I used to!” as if they are somehow lightyears beyond their youth. The truth is, you could drink as much, but people start getting their shit together and finding meaningful hobbies and it becomes socially untenable to bring PBR to a party around age 25. This is not a bad thing.

20.) Artists and investment bankers have more in common than you’d first suspect.

21.) There’s nothing more New York than being 10 minutes late to work because of a gyno appointment and an extremely long bodega wait for your bacon, egg, and cheese.

22.) Being single is great and terrible. Dating is great and terrible. Everything is both all the time!! #philosophy

23.) After college, people start to fork off very aggressively into their respective life paths. Some people get married. Some have kids. Finance people start earning ungodly amounts of money. A lot of people go into stand-up comedy for some reason. Etc. One nice thing about entering the work force full-time is befriending people of different ages. You discover a 45 year old may have more in common with you than someone who is your own age. Cultivate a friend group that includes people older and younger whom you truly love.

24.) Et tu, Xanga? The internet changes and dies quickly. 

25.) As a New Yorker, it’s enjoyable to read quotes about New York. Literally just Googling “new york quotes” for an afternoon. Sure, it’s somewhat masturbatory, and I suspect it’s the kind of behavior people would be disgusted to hear about from a New Yorker. But I freakin’ love doing it and saying “yes, yes, yes!” in my head when I read a really great quote I identify with. So here you go: “One belongs to New York instantly. One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” – Tom Wolfe. Yes yes yes!

26.) More book clubs.

27.) When I first moved to NYC, I subsisted on off-brand Cap’n Crunch (s/o to King Vitaman) for an entire year from the bodega downstairs. My blood pressure hurt, but the bank account stayed afloat. I will miss the comfort of bodegas.  

28.) Lots of touristy things suck. But Central Park is simply magical.

29.) If you can handle a few moments of shame with a cashier, you can pay exactly one penny and go to the Met. It’s a great thing to do with friends who are visiting and experiencing sticker shock at every turn. 

30.) You’re going to meet a lot of people who are very successful. You’re going to meet a lot of people who are really struggling. In my experience, it’s best to just be as kind as possible and proactively try to dismantle the really effed up systems that oppress people along the way. 🙂

31.) This is a good mantra: “Don’t spend more of your money on that shit.”

32.) This is an obvious one, but it’s worth writing down: keep up with your friends, no matter where they are. Sarah lived in Russia and Chicago, Al in SF and LA (and now several places in the South), Jesse in London. Other people seem shocked or impressed that my closest friends are my lil’ crew from high school. But friendships aren’t accidental — we’ve put in the work to stay in touch. And I’m going to lean into that because we have big plans to be in retirement homes together. 

33.) Sure, Sex and the City has its problems. But you know damn well that during Fleet Week, everyone on the street hears Samantha in their head saying, “Ladies, seamen, 12 o’clock!” That’s unity, people.

34.) I recommend trying one of my friend Hannah’s “Hangoritas.” Or, beef jerky from her purse.

35.) Because men are not socialized to be emotionally open with other men, they are often completely dependent on the women in their lives to meet all of their emotional needs. It’s worth remembering this and being sensitive to the cultural environment in which we were all groomed. But also, feel free to kick their ass to their curb when needed.

36.) Hiiiii, first strands of gray hair!

37.) You’ll go from being the youngest person at the office to being slightly less young at the office to, I imagine, being old at the office. You’ll find yourself prompted by Justin Bieber, of all people, to philosophize about the nature of youth and pop culture, and why no “old” people really break into entertainment industries when ostensibly they have the most wisdom, talent, and expertise to share. Ah, well, you’re headed for that aging group, ol’ gal!

38.) Dinner with your parents + your mom making you tea afterward + vegging on their couch in Chicago are still the ideal ways to spend vacations.

39.) Being a phone-call person is going to come back. I can feel it. 

40.) Studying gender studies was a tad prescient. At the time it was still somewhat freaky to my peers. Now it’s in their FACES / I’m really happy we’re all starting to grapple together with a lot of things despite the fact that it’s had to come with centuries of suffering and the current political and environmental shitstorm we’re in, the likes of which I could not have imagined in my wildest apocalyptic nightmares.

41.) Just go to the Bluestockings’ “Women’s / trans’ poetry jam” event hosted by Vittoria Repetto — “the hardest working guinea butch dyke poet on the Lower East Side.” Just go.

42.) Surprises keep your endorphins flexed. Bryan showed up at my door at 1am on my birthday, having secretly flown in from LA. It was the kind of thing that up until that point I assumed only happened in movies or paid influencer Instagram stories. I want to maintain the comfort that ritual brings, without forgetting the virtue of spontaneity. 

43.) Sometimes you just gotta buy an egg challah and sleep for 14 hours.

44.) Note to self: host a Britney Spears and feminism workshop with Suri, why don’t you?

45.) I recommend wearing really weird shit sometimes. For example, I have a polk-a-dot dress from Trash and Vaudeville where the sleeves are attached to the dress itself, so you can’t lift up your arms. Wildly impractical? Yes. Conversation piece? Sometimes!

46.) Moving is terrible. You’ll do it 457 times.

47.) You will never learn how to install the metal support thing that’s supposed to go under your A/C unit.

48.) Some people get married from work relationships, so I can’t 100% discount them. But in general, if your friend is hooking up with someone at work, the safe route is to persistently tell them it is a terrible, terrible idea.

49.) It’s easy to make excuses for not traveling (money!), not writing (time!), not running errands (mozzarella sticks!). Come now, we know most legitimate reasons can be worked around.

50.) You can’t ever really leave this city even if you leave because you love it so much and all the people here and it’s part of your heart and bones and brain, right? There’s a quote about that somewhere … right?!?

 

Love you, big bad apple. </3 Ready to grab you by the cojones, get my groove on, and organize my file cabinet, LA + 30s.

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Random stuff, Writing

There are things to do

I went to a coffee shop to work on a new website (no offense, WordPress dear). Even with Squarespace’s robust help center, the nuances continue to evade me. So I tried to write something here. The muse came not. Focus lacks on all fronts, homies. Is this an internet-induced attention span issue, or my own stupid noggin preventing me from accomplishing something this Sunday? Perhaps a to-do list is in order:

-Write something here

-Finish creating a website that doesn’t look terrible

-Call my parents

-Do taxes without decapitating self

-Transcribe an interview for work

-Do a bunch of other things for work

-Put my laundry away

-Listen to the new Drake album

-Determine once and for all if it is even possible to have small talk with a stranger given our political situation

-Determine once and for all if it is even possible to have small talk with men given our political situation

-Eat a vegetable today? That egg sandwich, while delish, was nutritionally neutered.

-Figure out how much I owe Jesse

-Figure out how much Jesse owes me

-Invent something to save the environment immediately because the globe as we know it is toast, literally

-Learn science to achieve the above point

-See if the Drano I dumped in our sink earlier worked

-Watch every movie ever that’s important

-Do homework for my design class due tomorrow. Subtask: master every possible action in Photoshop tonight.

-Call super about freezer: ice stays frozen, but ice cream does not, and that simply will not stand.

-Figure out a better way to articulate the value of empathy in radical leftist socialist circles after I’ve consumed one beer and three vodka sodas because oddly this keeps coming up

-Reschedule dentist appointment

-Sit down to create a budget, and do not 1) break out into hives, or 2) determine that I need to decrease ice cream purchases

-Think more about that conversation we had about horology, and how human development is tied to the harnessing of time in various ways: agricultural systems, women’s cycles and the moon, circumnavigation, aviators, and Louis-François Cartier and that whimsical French balloon rider you told me about who birthed the modern wristwatch

-Land on one side or the other re: Bruno Mars

-Cough it up already, and acknowledge that I basically use to-do lists as a procrastination tactic, not an action plan

-Take time for self-care after acknowledging last point and eat a vat of mint chocolate chip ice cream, unless it’s melted due to aforementioned freezer situation, in which case, bitch endlessly to Jesse and/or this blog about it

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Random stuff

My first Tinder date

On the afternoon of December 25, 2015, you would have found me on Tinder, swiping right and largely left while on vacation in New Orleans. The people who spend their Christmases flexing phalanges are exactly who you’d image: atheists, fellow Jews on holiday, and those whose family ties fall somewhere between nebulous and nefarious. But there was more in the air for me than just Mistletoe Swampwater Daquiris (a thing), for this was to be my first Tinder date. Was I excited??? No. We all know Tinder’s a big pile of shit.

But I reasoned — and my travel companion Daniel concurred — that Christmas is an ideal time to acquiesce to the thrills and repugnances of modern dating. Tindering on vacation means that every date is destined for long-term doom, which was oddly comforting. Vulnerability, that old “getting to know someone” standby, was squashed like a muffuletta between a tourist’s incisors. Hallelu!

Given all of this plus the fact that very few things are open on Christmas, I hopped onto Tinder with Daniel faithfully Grindring by my side.  

Getting a date

Once you decide you’re OK with online dating, the next step is to actually find a date. This part, as it turns out, sucks tremendous garbage-dump juice. Weird gender succubi take shape here, I hate to report: males tend to swipe on everything while females tend take on a more reactive role. 

Initially, I responded to everyone who wrote to me because how do you really know who’s a schmuck and who, heart be still, is a non-schmuck? How do you suss out a good match in this vast and pixelated libidinal sea? It feels cruel to so casually ignore and reject people — and dozens of them, and in microseconds! This is why anyone who reached out to me with anything non-perverted received an answer.

If you think this logic is sane, I’ve got some sad news for you, homies: it isn’t. You may have noticed that the internet brings out the worst in people, and online dating is a breeding ground for nuisances, depravities, and rotten gender hullabaloo. We have not yet figured out how to translate the best of humanity into technology.

But who’s got time for all this half-baked intellectualizing? Certainly Daniel and I did not. Swipes were accumulating and vacay time was ticking. And eventually Daniel threw down the gauntlet: “Please pick a schmo so we can go eat 10,000 beignets at Cafe Du Monde.” So I buckled down!

And finally, someone seemed to pass the test. His name was Ray (his name was not actually Ray), and he was visiting New Orleans with a friend as well. We all decided to meet at a famous Irish bar in the city center, one of the few places that was open on Christmas.

Prepping for the main event

It goes without saying that a reduction in sobriety was needed beforehand. So Daniel and I made our way over to Carousel, a rotating cocktail lounge that, despite its name, is not filled with carnival tchotchkes. Allegedly they perfected the Sazerac here (which was invented, also allegedly, at an eponymous bar across the street). I don’t care much for Sazeracs, or for spending $16 on cocktails, but I was going on a Tinder date soon! Butterflies were brimming, banshees were traipsing my intestines about to and fro, and days of beignets were bungling about somewhere in the same vicinity. Suddenly, I scrambled to hit the giant red panic button that would eject my tuchus into the sky.

“I want to bail. Let’s just hang out the two of us. Screw men!” I probed.

“Oh, stop being a child,” Daniel said. He’d already found a guy on Grindr 200-feet away and was engaged in his own mini-glowing-screen romance.

“I just hate first dates. Or want to meet someone in a normal way. Or something!”

“This is a normal way! Look around. There are a hundred people here, and all of us are congregating in the groups we came in with. Most people just look at their phones, get wasted, and hope for some connection while avoiding it all. So if it takes an app to meet someone now, then who cares?”

“I guess so…”

“Plus, I’m going to be with you. And if it’s terrible I’ll just pretend someone died and we’ll leave.”

Boy had a point! Some friends, no matter how much liquor you ply them with, simply wouldn’t be down to join you on your first real app date. This is not the case with my beloved Daniel.

So we imbibed more, chatted on mundanities, obscenities, and philosophies. Feeling jazzed by the conversation along with the actual jazz pouring in from the side streets, my resoluteness sharpened. Soon we made our way over to the wackass bar where it was all slated to go down.

Tinder, realized

Once we arrived, Daniel and I grabbed a new set of libations and headed to the grated metal tables outside, next to a flaming fountain and vulturesque waiters. They glided by in frantic figure eights, donning oversized leprechaun-green suit jackets that I suspect have been in establishment circulation since the ‘70s.

“You must be Rachel and Daniel.” TinderDudeGuy Ray had found us.

The first thing I noticed was his shirt, a vintage green short-sleeve button-up, speckled with red palm trees, penguins, and skiing figures. It was a pattern befitting of hipsters today, though I am certain that at the time of its manufacturing a designer promptly found himself at the unemployment office. Ray felt familiar to me instantly because of that shirt: strangely, a thought of my college boyfriend came to me. Ray was undeniably cool, an easy smile, his stupid shirt, a supremely serene and positive demeanor. I was instantly attracted. 

We moved over to Ray’s table, joining his friend and two girls they’d met earlier. You’d think the group dynamic might make the date awkward, but everyone was interesting and extremely fun to drink with, and I exhaled. 

Ray and I talked of the usual things, what we’d seen thus far in New Orleans, what we did for work, etc., and then religion inadvertently came into it. 

“What’s on your necklace?” he asked. “I feel like I’ve seen that somewhere before.”

“Oh, it’s a Jewishy thing.” I’d worn it that night because I liked the pattern, but I’d forgotten what the words across it even meant in Hebrew. I wondered what it might imply to him. 

“Are you Jewish?”

“Yep. But you know, Jews are like a race and a culture and a religion, so I don’t know how much that explains things.” Hoo boy, here we go. Now we’d have to talk about God!! I’ve no aversion to God talk, but it’s not exactly on the “top 10 sexy things to talk about on date one” list. I continued, “What about you?”

“I’m not religious, but my family is Muslim and that’s how I was raised.”

“Well, that would explain why we’re both here on Christmas.”

He laughed, I relaxed, and a cheers was had. As we got more comfortable, we cracked our shells a bit, let some yolks spill out into the oxygen, tested what was safe and what would be reciprocated. At some point I noticed him angle his chair towards mine, and soon after he kissed me (#holla!) — but I tried to minimize the PDA because I am not a goon and knew I already owed Daniel 1,000 drinks for giving up a perfectly good Grindr date to attend my heterosexual-filled date. 

We spent a few hours all together at the bar, drinking electric-red frozen monstrosities that seized our hearts with palpitations, before we headed to the streets, brass jazz trumpets spilling out onto the hot pavement and chattering crowds pinging like a timpani. I was reminded traveling’s insouciance, of meeting strangers below a new city’s smattering of stars and sky.

It was not what I expected from Tinder. Ray was smart and handsome and not a serial killer. His face had such a subtle softness to it, and the kind of eyes that put you at ease — two wells of sincerity, two gemstone yolks that would have appeared too intense if they weren’t framed by such a kind face. I could see sorrow there too. And I found myself completely endeared.

When we got outside, Ray and I separated from the others so we could wander alone for a bit. We talked about how in many parts of this world, and in virtually every other time period, our night together would never have materialized: thinking of my grandparents in New York and their Jewish traditions, his grandparents in Turkey and their Islamic traditions — seemingly universes apart, and yet, all people who found, built, and survived in a community in which religion was integral. It didn’t feel weighty, but we mused a bit on it anyway. Embedded in the words was an overwhelming sense of self-determination and the luck of birth. Even just that we were both privileged enough to own phones, ones that geo-locate some version of romance for you whenever you want. The neurons contemplated: ridiculous life, surreal times, fortuitous atoms tapping toes — perhaps to an Armstrong jangle.

Eventually we called it a date, I wound my way back to the hotel, and crawled in next to Daniel, who was happily splayed out in a frozen daiquiri coma. Ray and I actually met up a few more times throughout the trip too, which was a nice surprise. Daniel reassured me that I hit something like the dating app jackpot, and this kind of experience is fairly unusual. “Cool!” I thought.

But that is, you know, it. The denouement tied up a thing that was drama free to an absurd extent. Which is what I’d assumed going in: future tense, null and void; vulnerability, vanquished. It came into view when writing this: Ray is not really a focal point, though the whole narrative allegedly surrounds him. I don’t think of him outside the scope, the arc, the memory anchored by the brain and not the heart.

Extrapolating the meaning of life, just because!

Romance is Proustian. I’m reeled into the vastly different cities I’ve traveled to that somehow enfolded such similar elements: for instance, I am back to age 21, with two Canadian men we met in Paris who roamed around with us for the weekend. I sentimentalize those days and use ridiculous language to describe it, like this: my profligate Parisian days, bleeding with wine and museums and wide soft-bricked streets, one of the boys and I pairing up, kissing at 2 a.m. by rose bushes beside the Seine, which was so corny we shook our fists in the air. And then a group of men passed us, smiling, asking us if we were engaged, we told them yes, they bought us shots, and my boy asked me, stars and liquor exploding in his irises, “Are we falling in love in Paris?” And I laughed because I did not know what to say, I never mistake love for something else, but I did not want to damper his excitement, and I was so happily swept up too. And we hid on a hostel staircase until the sun rose, and then the men left, and I remember my boy’s gait, the back of his head, walking away, and though we’d said otherwise, I knew I would never see him again.

And I felt that way again with Ray as it was happening, it was packed into every step though I could never explain that to him: it was young, fizzy, the world a wholly possible thing, a human whose life forever intersects with mine but also knowing never again.

Daniel said, “Why couldn’t you see him again? You live in New York. Everyone comes through New York.” He wasn’t wrong, but your guts tell you no despite the fact that you don’t believe in premonitions. It doesn’t bother you. Whirlwind romances are best severed quickly. An amputation preserves the fantastical whole. You’ve been through this before and you can rest on that.

It circles back to a fairly simple thought: once you find people you connect with, it doesn’t matter how you found them. It is a miracle when you zoom out and consider it. Because you carry all of your life with you when you meet someone. You bring it into every room as you pick your lips upwards, expose your cuspids, draw out your palm, and say “Hi” to a new person, who is also, amazingly, doing the same thing.

It’s not baggage, and even if it was, there is no moral qualifier to it. It’s why even though I felt odd going on Tinder in the first place, interacting with another person is still just that. It’s the same groping — sweetly, but groping — to connect, because it is what they refer to as the “the good stuff in life” and it is what everyone you know is looking to do.

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Random stuff

Things and stuff: commuter rails, decor tales, and other updates from my brain

It’s been awhile! Let’s hop into my life and times, for those who may be interested in my life, times, or lifetimes.

Work (and commuting) stuff

I started a new job! Now it’s less new. The work is wonderful, and pretty much my only complaint is that the commute is about as cozy as Chinese water torture. Given that having a job you enjoy is an absurd privilege — one which I do not take lightly, having once slung dog poop out of designer dog crates to pay the taxman — I would still like to put forth that the horrors of the L train during rush hour cannot be overstated.

How can I possibly convey the 9 a.m. commute from Brooklyn to Chelsea? I will try: think of people watching at the airport, then remove all the charm and spirit of human curiosity. Why is this so? Well, my friend, it’s difficult to find anyone charming when your chin is shoved into their armpit. Second, you become a Sapien Tetris piece: your shoulder is jutting out to the right. Your weight finds itself concentrated upon a singular, wary shin muscle. And your face — in case you forgot — is shoved into a stranger’s armpit. And even the most hygienic armpit is still, at the end of the day, an armpit.

Then, the temperature. It is not uncommon to find oneself pouring sweat, unable to remove a layer because even a phalange’s quiver is inconceivable in such crammed quarters. This is followed by the abrupt freezing of toes, nose, pantyhose, and all sorts of bodily ohs! as you step above ground and bow at the behest of the is-it-winter-or-not clime. Maybe you reach your 11th Avenue destination. Maybe you Wikipedia both gangrene and heat stroke. Or maybe you pick up a habit of shoving old people aside and blasting DMX’s …And Then There Was X without bothering to put on headphones in crowded public spaces. Either way, it is a veritable “fire and brimstone” situation.

Other than that though, I like my job a lot. Really! I can’t remember where I read this, but I came across a formula for workplace happiness that burrowed into my brain jelly: you need to believe in the company mission, feel fulfilled by your responsibilities, or love the people you work with. I have all three. So I’m counting my lucky stars, blessing the Year of the Monkey, and blowing smooches to my evil-eye charm bracelet for warding off the dybbuks of Greenpoint. If you don’t know what a dybbuk is, I’m not the best person to tell you, but you should watch the opening scene of a A Serious Man and befriend some bubbes.

Interior design stuff

My roommate Jesse and I have finally, after a year and some change, conquered our decor needs. He possesses a much stronger aesthetic sensibility than I do, so I probably slowed this process down a bit. But more than anything else the delay has to do with an allocation of resources. For example, I have a heinous Ikea lamp in my room that I’ve had since college. Truly truly, it is an ugly thing. But it turns off and on as lamps ought to do, and utility is more important than style at this point in my bank account’s lifecycle. I’d rather buy myself a cheese platter (utility!) than go hunting for a new lamp (style!).

Jesse isn’t like this. First, he’s dietarily restricted and is now avoiding dairy for some perfectly noble gut-related reason, so lamps outrank cheeses at the moment. Second, he knows a special item when he sees one and where to place it and why it matters. It is as if every object he picks out represents some interesting facet of his personality, as if when you step into our living room, you get the vibe of his soul. And so he invests in it. And I admire it, even though I don’t totally relate to it. It feels like a far-off “adult” thing to be concerned with. We go into shops all the time and I see his irises widen with possibility: fancy spoons that match wide-rimmed jam jars, woven Chilean rugs hanging from cerise walls, piles of decorative bowls placed everywhere because empty bowls are a thing now apparently. If I owned a home I might commit to these furnishings, but as a renter who has a tenuous relationship with her landlord and walls infested with lead poisoning, I’m happy to hold off for now. The good news is that it doesn’t matter how I feel about it. I get to reap the fashionable benefits of Jesse’s eye for éclat, and I get to enjoy having a home that does not resemble a hurricane more than I would be able to do if it was just me living by my lonesome.

One of the main motivators for the decorating spur is Jesse’s disdain for fluorescent lighting, which has experienced exponential growth over time. It seems he finally couldn’t take it, and now we have interesting lamps in every room. We also have scented candles up the whazoo. Other notable things: flamingo wallpaper surrounded by a gigantic Van Gogh-grey frame, a green marbled chess board (pining for a wayward black bishop), an un-scuffed copper serving platter displaying four bottles of passable liquor, homemade potpourri, a bookshelf with a row reserved exclusively for female authors, a white-clay cradle, suspended by braided cord, that holds the tiniest succulent you’ve ever seen, and a cartoonish faux taxidermy mini-zebra head, which I am against but have since relented.

Here is something I’ve seen several times in NYC: you walk into someone’s apartment — someone who has taste, flair, and probably some disposable income, but not necessarily — and their decor elicits a jaw drop and an audible yip!. New York apartments come crumbling, plagued with locusts and the aforementioned lead poisoning, and built for roughly ¼ of the space you require. To make that look nice means a lot. So, I shall ride Jesse’s sensational coattails to wherever he takes us, to whatever bespoke canteens may land upon our kitchenette on any random Tuesday.

Political stuff

I’ve been following our country’s political life. As usual, the situation is dire! It feels like we’re all in a circus from a lost episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, where the whole planet is doomed to stay inside a tent and watch a show against their will for all eternity. Having our Facebook feeds full of shareable memes parading as facts doesn’t help matters much either, though I can’t begrudge people for trying to connect about something important on a platform that connects us all, for better or worse. I was writing up a much longer post about politics, but it’s kind of rambling and purposeless, and like most things that feel purposeless, I feel I should abandon it. Also, perhaps the last thing the Internet needs is another white person pontificating about politics on her personal blog.

WAHHhhhhhh stuff

I still have not done my taxes, but I’m HOPING today is the day I get my rear in gear, be-hind in line, butt out of its rut, ass on blast, and tuchus into H&R Block. Uncle Sam waits not for the aged teens of generation aught.

Embarrassingly late to TV stuff 

I watched Breaking Bad for the first time. It’s so good. Totally get why you were all into it.

I’ve been writing this post for too long stuff

I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions because who cares! That being said, I want to do and improve upon lots of things! This might seem like a random bullet point, but I’ve been writing this blog update on and off since January, so I thought I’d just leave this in for 2016 kicks.

More to come stuff!

Quite soon (tomorrow or the next day) I will update you about other things in my life, things about dating and New Orleans and charcoal pore strips, tentatively entitled “love in the time of Drake.” Originally all of these updates were just in one post, but then this entry would have come out around seven pages, which would amount to about seven minutes of reading time, which is about four minutes longer than the Internet attention span.

Chit chat at ya soon, humans who read this!

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New York Living

Why I May Never Leave New York

When one happens to be a female holed up in New York, such as, say, our beloved narrator, one must inevitably utter (or get an eardrum full of) the age-old adage, “What the hell is up with the men in New York?” The type of people who live in New York, and therefore the type of people you date in New York, really do feel particular to this city. Of course, this point has been editorialized ad nauseam. Men suck, women suck, everyone who identifies in any other way sucks as well, big whoop, what else is new, you’re thinking? Fair enough, dear reader. But this goes beyond the garbage that’s out there on gender—whether it’s bad biology (men have a cheating gene!) or cultural constructions (men will be men and men sometimes cheat!) or shareable listicles (the top 10 boyfriends who will cheat on you before you’re 30 and the 15 cats you will subsequently own before finding the love of your life due to this one secret no one is telling you about!). It feels at times like there are concentric circles billowing outwards of New York and men and my own pre-conceived notions of love and dating and (dare I write romance? Well, I for one am fine if I have to chuck that out with the patriarchal bathwater—and simultaneously, may I add, giving that proverbial baby a whole other slew of analyses to mull over).

I realize one of the worst things a New Yorker can do is talk about what makes New York so different from everywhere else. But I’m having a nugget of a worry! I fear New York is potentially de facto wrapping my wrists in invisible chains. I say this because every other human in every other city in the U.S. is tying the knot (according to my Facebook feed, at least). In NYC, that pressure just doesn’t exist for 20-somethings in the same way. The only reason marriage has even come up on my radar is because of Facebook, which leads me to the conclusion that everyone else in the country must look at New York like a playground for people delaying adulthood to perverted extremes and throwing Monopoly money around. It feels like that sometimes! Which is why it’s shocking to me that my peers have apparently gotten their lives together. Or, at least, together to the point that they’ve found it a feasible and even desirable prospect to join their own lives with another person’s life. Marriage is for people who understand how credit scores work and have an interest in learning seasonally-inspired pancake recipes and things of that nature. Truly another echelon of existence from the typical New Yorker I associate with, people who say things like, “I will be Seamlessing burritos for the next three days and also I don’t have a 401K and also I just puked on the steps of Trash and Vaudeville.”

If I had to guess, I’d say that the rest of the country’s wedding bells hit a sonic peak around age 25, then crescendo to bachelor parties in Montreal at age 28, and on and on until the last cacophony of hashtags (#HappilyEverSteinenberg), maybe around age 32, are finally put to bed (somewhere in Bali or Croatia, according to the honeymoon Instagrams). Meanwhile, back in New York, we tend to go out not with a bang or a whimper but rather a middle finger, and not until age 45+ for men and unknown if ever for women (shout out to the UES facelift and the male-female ratio imbalance, respectively).

But who gives a shit if someone in Wichita got hitched last Saturday? Good for them! Go Wichita. Well, I agree! None of this would actually be a problem for me, esteemed reader, if I didn’t think that someday, maybe, I’d like to try living in a different city. I love it here, of course, the way one loves a mole you can’t seem to save up enough money of to remove. But sometimes I think life is too short to not try a few metropolises on for size. And anyway, as should be obvious, living in NYC is basically just forking over your entire life’s savings to go to a continuous party that other people are writing about and profiting off of while you’re simultaneously developing a panic disorder on a G train that’s stuck underground.

So if I ever do go to a different city, let’s say when I’m 37 and single and doing grown woman things, well, I might arrive only to find myself an insta-leper. Mid-30s seems to be around the the time in the average New Yorker’s life cycle when a person such as myself might start to think about marriage. But it is not so in other cities. Men in Chicago will have punched out a few kids who are old enough to rattle off the Cubs’ lineup by that point. Men in LA will be well into Holy Matrimony Round 2, and already seeing returns off their children’s robust probiotic yogurt commercial reels. And I can only imagine what grandfatherly state men anywhere below the Mason-Dixon line will be in. Thus, I may find myself having to return, by default, to New York, just so I can continue to go on dates with single men who, too, would be considered boorish or alien in any other setting. For all the festering cesspools of garbage one has to deal with while living here, and believe me, there are many (garbage here is a metaphor for piles and piles of more actual piles of garbage on the sidewalk), it is kind of nice to be reminded that no matter what, you aren’t a freak.

Let’s be real: it’s pretty damn hard to be a leper in New York. The other day I saw a man in a Wall Street suit and a clown wig with a gigantic flute in one hand and a book on Nietzsche in the other, and he was blasting Naughty By Nature, and his face was totally deadpan, and no one even looked twice at him!! It was awesome! Even this man blends! Why I think that bodes well for the dating scene is probably how I wound up here in the first place.

A related thought: It’s unfortunate that a byproduct of dating men here is that one has to resist the urge to categorize the ridiculous people you find yourself going out with (the digital strategist who’s into Sun Tzu, caffeine, and feet; the RoR developer with a penchant for fair trade turkey jerky and barbiturates, etc.)—the kind of groups I’d be quick to deem as misogynistic if the gender roles were reversed, and that is a place I don’t want to go to. Even for humor! Of course, humor is a natural impulse when dealing with the dating world, as humor often serves as our attempt to one-up the horrors of the human condition (among which is the dating world). But you know, it is also what makes living and dating in New York as a (relatively) young person so fun. There are so many ridiculous people and wonderful nights and stories to have while single here—like a man on the C train drawing your portrait on a napkin, or going to a 5-course dinner in Meatpacking with a banker one night and eating tuna from the can with a Bushwick painter the next, or having a first kiss on the bridge from Greenpoint to Long Island City, or having a first kiss anywhere— it’s kind of hard to imagine giving all of that up. Particularly when you still don’t care about making seasonal pancakes for someone else.

I don’t want my love life to read as a bad Elite Daily article, though as a writer, the impulse is at times to sell one’s love life. The fodder is deep and rich in New York, and internet blogging vacuums tend to pay a few pennies for “women’s lifestyle” drivel. I’m ashamed that there have been times that I’ve thought of my experiences with men as packageable article headlines. Because as a writer, I’m supposed to be good at making headlines out of life. And because it’s easier to make sense of  “likes” than love. But I like to think well of people, and people includes men, and when I tell stories about them I want them to be stories that conclude with how terrific they are, because I want men to think women are terrific, too, and I want to consider holistically the good and bad in humanity, and come out on the side of it being alright. Maybe it sounds extreme to go from dating to your stance on the human race, but if you want to commit “til death do you part” to someone else, it seems to me that you should have a few solid ideas about what “someone else” even means to you and the kinds of things you want out of life. Of course, this isn’t the first thing you want to probe about when you’ve had seven vodka sodas and you’re dancing with a dude you just met to “Bitch Better Have My Money.”

When you live here, even for a year, you get good at the New York dating thing (or the, he’s not my boyfriend but we’re kind of together but it’s also open millenial thing). I’m good at meeting the men of New York where they’re at, even if where they’re at is a place that seems insane to the rest of the world, or if they’re workaholics, or if they’re wonderful but they want to travel the world to build a yoga startup, or if they have the tendency to swallow up as many women as they can until one sticks in their baleen, despite their most aggressive filtering, despite the fact that they were only able to do so by casting out as many women as possible to always be floating nearby.

I’m less good at finding men who can meet me where I’m at. Maybe it’s because it’s hard in life to really know where you’re at. And when you’re on Facebook and you see people in Wichita get married and that feels so foreign from where you are, and when you read about people’s impressive promotions, and see an e-map of their staggering 5am long-distance runs, and their impossibly free and soulful decision to give up their day job and travel around South America to learn about coffee farming—well, it’s hard to be a univocal protagonist, knowing what you want and where you’re going and even just where you stand. But you suspect your friends are going through it, too. And you see all your friends on these dating apps, and it’s like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Love and Boning. Tinder at the bottom, a date for oysters in the East Village in the middle, and at the top I don’t know if it’s marriage and kids or just being able to afford your apartment and look at yourself in the mirror and know that you are trying to be a good person.

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