Day whatever of quarantine

90 degrees hit like a truck last week. We all live in LA for the weather, but c’mon dude. April, in the middle of day whatever of quarantine, is too dang early for a heatwave! I suppose there’s no one to blame but humans fudgin’ up Mother Nature’s groove, per usual. 

Pepper the Afflicted, first of her name, has had a whole suite of issues warranting several money hemorrhaging session to the vet. I touched on this in my last post, but I fear the people deserve more than just a splash of pup tales to add to their quarantine reading list, and thus I’ve typed away to bring you the latest.

It began with red, occasionally pus-filled bumps on her tummy and VULVA (quoting the doctor’s notes here), which we had to apply ointment to twice daily. But because we’ve tried to hold off grooming her during this time, she’s got crazy thick fur all over the place. I’m talking dense patches of fuzz sprouting all around her legs, tummy, and yes, vulva. This meant that 1) we had to apply appointment daily to her NETHER REGIONS (quoting the doctor’s directions, but caps lock for my artistic emphasis), and 2) the ointment would then stick to her fur all day, and then she’d walk around, and get God knows what superglued into her fur. Scientists may never know what was truly collected in her hair during this time, but I can tell you it was dirty and brown and essentially a petri dish of the very unique breed of grime floating around Hollywood (this is worse than the grime in other neighborhoods, btw) — and this happened, every single day, twice a day, for a week. There was no getting her clean, there was no avoiding making a cringe face when putting the ointment on her, and there was not a care in the world coming from Pepper herself, who seemed to kind of enjoy the ointment and ensuing garbage stuck to her. 

Finally, just as the bumps started to recede and her stomach began to not look like one giant turd bath, she then began to violently scratch at her left ear. It started in the morning and we looked in the ears and found nothing, but the scratching became fully nonstop by evening (the peak occurring right after I made myself a huge bowl of ice cream, to boot). So naturally we hurried as fast as possible (I will admit I did finish the ice cream) and took her to the animal ER that night, where a brave vet assistant in a hazmat suit collected her from our car, and we were directed to wait in a parking lot for three hours — and it is at this point, dear reader, when an earthquake struck. To sum: dog bumps, ointment trash collector, ear infection, three hours in a car, earthquake. The whole thing was about as LA as a holistic wheatgrass cleanse and reiki session, wouldn’t you say?

The funniest thing about all of this — and when I say “funniest thing,” I mean the colloquial, “heinously diabolical and hellish thing” — is that I’ve had to navigate Nationwide pet insurance’s website and policies and coordination between vet invoices and doctor’s notes, which has been a whole to-do, and exactly -5000 degrees away from how anyone should spend their time. Nationwide came back a week or so ago and told me they classified Pepper’s skin issues as a pre-existing condition for reasons I can only deduce as “corporate greed” and “making a profit at all costs” and “hoping consumers just give up instead of fighting stuff.” Luckily, this ol’ Jew (I can say that as Jew) is ready to combat injustice where I see it, and this time, that injustice is an animal coverage provider trying to make pay for dumb shit. So now I’m gearing up for an epic battle with my dog’s insurance company because this is America, and what would life here be if you didn’t have to spend time and energy to fight tooth and nail for coverage to protect not only yourself and the humans you love, but also your freakin’ dog with a minor ear infection and bumps (on her belly and VULVA, lest you forgot), totaling a whopping $378.14, as my bank account cries out to no one, et tu, Nationwidè?

Alas, our dog is now recovering (and blissfully unaware of anything except the joys of ripping the wings off her stuffed animal duck). I’ve learned earthquakes on top of a global pandemic are not my cup of Xanax. And it turns out that pet insurance is just as horrible as the human variety. 

I’ll end with a plea: c’mon, Nationwide PR person who reads random internet blogs. Give a dog a bone!!! Me being the dog, and the bone being the 90% coverage per our contractual agreement. 


What was that all about?

While New York rages on as the pandemic epicenter now, Angelenos are supposed to stay inside if they can at all help it this week, avoiding even grocery stores and pharmacies. Aside from two eggplants that have gone bad and a now-soggy box of matzah that I dropped in a sink full of water, we’ve got what we need. And having what you need right now is an un-earned stroke of luck. Thinking about it that way, which you have to do if you’re trying not to be part of the problem, produces an almost chemical chain in your body — twisting ropes of rage and sadness and gratitude. Humans like to untangle things, but this chain is as tight as DNA. 

Our dog Pepper started scratching her ears and shaking her head repeatedly the other day, like she was trying to get swimming pool water out of her ear. We looked inside those giant triangles and didn’t find any obvious culprits. Then we noticed tiny red bumps along the pink part of her belly, some with white pus. So we may need to head out to the vet despite it all. For her part, she seems in perfectly bouncy spirits, chewing on a crusted stuffed animal duck in the corner and oblivious to the catastrophe in the human world around her.

Things in the apartment are as good as could be expected. I think about the very tiny boxes I’ve inhabited in New York, and though our place is still a small box compared to homes in other cities (and certainly non-cities), Bryan and I can at least shut a door to separate ourselves from each other, or sneak onto our narrow porch to get some air without a mask on and stare at the smog lifting over Griffith Park just northwest of us. I think about how we can afford food and rent for now, even though Bryan was laid off. I think about how we’re not immunocompromised. And we have a dog! That helps. Even though she’s pimply and just began scratching the bejeezus out of ear once more. 

Two nights ago we watched On the Waterfront. I’d never seen it somehow, though I knew the big “I coulda been a contendah!” line. This spurred on an unexpected new interest of mine: Marlon Brando. I mean…oooof, whatta man. Bryan, being a good sport (and an actor) (and having his own celebrity crushes (hi, Zoe Saldana)), has allowed me to indulge in this deranged weekend obsession of mine. He’s accompanied me in watching A Streetcar Named Desire (damn), and Guys and Dolls (the lesson here: great voices translate not into great singing voices). On deck is Last Tango in Paris, though apparently we’ve got to clear over four hours to do it. But one thing we’ve got is time.

Naturally, I’ve now plunged into the bowels of the internet to get the scoop on all of his tempestuous relationships, his ridiculous roster of lovers — Rita Moreno! Marilyn Monroe! James Dean and James Baldwin! (Maybe.) — his whole bad boy, I don’t care about the establishment, I don’t care about this award, I’m going to support civil rights and pontificate about philosophy while gaining a lot of weight in French Polynesia… thing. Brando is so Brando, and just like everyone with a libido in 1951, I’m totally taken in. 

It’s a weird kind of nostalgia. To learn about, and maybe try to understand, some dead celebrity of another era. To be moved by them and wildly attracted to them. It brings to light the nature of celebrity-dom in general: how it spotlights these random beautiful people — and we feel we know them in some way, or don’t, or understand them or don’t, or care or don’t. But nonetheless, celebrities are collective touchpoints available to us. And in times of global isolation, perhaps these touchpoints mean more.

I haven’t been fascinated by a celebrity in so long. There’s Britney Spears of course, always my girl, but this kind of panging curiosity feels like I’m 11 again, cradling the radio to my heart, tuning into the B96 “Nine Most Wanted” at 9(pm), waiting for Backstreet Boys’ “As Long as You Love Me” to come on. There was Nick Carter — a big love, though I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with big loves at the time — and then things really took off with Leo, followed by Josh Hartnett. There was almost an anguish to the feeling, a deep sigh for all of them (and also a cut-up collage poster of Josh Hartnett I made that kind of looked like a ransom note). Unfortunately, out of my many too-distant loves in this life, I’ve got the lowest probability of hooking up with Marlon Brando, all things considered.

People need things to lead somewhere, Brando said, otherwise you’re just sitting on a pile of candy. So I’m thinking about who’s got the goods: Trump on his throne. People with disposable income who donate to solve problems instead of some institutionalized system that takes care of people in the first place. My own nonsensical privilege and the ability to watch Marlon Brando movies on my reclining couch, with the rent freshly paid, while people struggle for air on ventilators that can’t be supplied to the poor parts of town. It seems that for so much of human history, the world has offered piles of candy to some and dirt for others and if I knew why I’d be the genius among us. 

So what can you do? I mentally call out what I’m grateful for once more, and try to think of new ways to help — volunteer, get my building to write notes to healthcare workers, call my congresspeople, brainstorm with friends — and hug my boyfriend, and pet my itchy pimply dog, and cook a meal with no eggplant, and Google “james dean marlon brando hookup” again.

In some ways I’m relishing in my escapist fantasy right now. I’m finally watching all these classic movies, the kind that embarrass you when you have to publicly admit you’ve never seen them. I’m learning the ecosystem of Old Hollywood, seeing extras become stars and connecting the dots of the B-list names that pop up time and again. Who knows why humans need storytelling so much, and why we sometimes find ourselves consumed by an actor or band or movie or book or video game, moved at that particular moment in our lives by the world that these things have created or exposed to us? I don’t know why it strikes when it does. And in the face of a global pandemic, one thing you’ve gotta comfortable with is I don’t knows. 

Alas. So here’s a scene. You heat up some tea, and discover some ex-love who treated you bad publishing beautiful vignettes in impressive places, and try to salvage your dying snake plant of all things (they’re supposed to be nearly death-proof), and read the news again, and watch your boyfriend put a mask on before walking the dog and think, Who could have imagined this scenario?

Well, if I may, it’s at this point that you may want to think of what Marlon would say, with that beautiful intensity in his eyes and that nearly trademark-able smirk on his face: “Life is a mystery, and it’s an unsolvable one. And you just simply live it through. And as you draw your last breath, you say… ‘What was that all about?'” You may want to let out a real, deep laugh afterward, because you do know something. You feel in your guts something like hope, and remember that whatever amount of candy ya got or don’t got, it’s not ordained by heaven.

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.

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.

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

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.

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!

From Xanga to ello

In 2003, I was a freshman in high school. Up until that point, I’d used our shared family computer mainly to flirt with boys on IM chats when I should have been sleeping. I joined Xanga shortly after I had my first kiss. I know this because even though the website is now defunct, they made the archives available, and I downloaded mine. I had a Xanga long after it was acceptable – all through high school, all through college (mid-college was when it became embarrassing), and through several years of living in New York (by this point it was so past embarrassing that it actually felt like a character flaw. Fortunately, it was an easy secret to keep since no one else was on the site.) I suppose I have a hard time letting things die, and it took a company literally hemorrhaging funds for several years and collapsing into ether for me to give it up, by default.

By the end, I didn’t even like Xanga. When it died, it was a relief. Like finally having permission to let something out of its misery (me, or the journal itself). In the final years of my Xanga, every bitchy entry was me bitching about bitchy New Yorker things to essentially no one, like 1. how I didn’t know what I was doing with my life, 2. how other people seemed to know what they were doing with their lives, 3. smatterings of lyrics from feminist musicians or The Smiths that seemed important to copy and paste and post, and/or 4. me blabbing about how half the food in New York has ingredient names I can’t pronounce, then bitching about how I suck at cooking, then bitching about my rent, which somehow always feels tangentially related to every topic when you live here. The point being, it wasn’t fun anymore.

It’s easy to forget that creativity can be (should be?) fun, or at least, derivative of some form of joy. When I began my Xanga at age 14, I didn’t know what I wanted to do or be. The first entry is downright painful to read (dramatic, attention-seeking, and about some dbag senior who made out with me and said he liked me a lot but then didn’t really want to date!!!). As time went on, however, I began to look forward to coming home from school to write in my Xanga. Not just because I disliked a lot of my classes and thought eating microwavable Pizza Bagels and talking to my friends on a landline for six hours was what life was all about (not sure I was that far off, actually), but because I found a community and a voice on Xanga. And I felt autonomous over that voice.

I learned quickly that writing a self-piteous diatribe about a senior guy not liking me (totally over it by the way!!) did not get as good of a reaction as, say, me writing a story poking fun at a naive high school chick just trying to eat Pizza Bagels and talk to her friends and get over senior guys who were clearly using her. I began to craft, daily, some hybrid of journal writing and storytelling, that attempted to be funny or witty or maybe even beautiful on occasion, and have my peers (in its heyday, maybe 50), comment and react to it. And I got better based on their feedback, though none of this was a self-aware process. These were prehistoric likes and shares and comments. The whole thing was a natural occurrence. I didn’t have a goal to write daily and I had never even thought of becoming a writer.

Of course, the internet changed, and everyone left Xanga for the greener pastures of legit websites. I got older and wrote about things that were more serious and more elegant, but often less pure and joyous. As every writer knows (really anyone with an internet connection knows), you often have to write things in a censored way, or present yourself in a certain way, ever-aware that privacy is historic and what you post is public forever. There’s no moral compass or nostalgic value proposition I’m attaching to any of this, but when I got an invite to ello today, it made me remember what I used to think the internet was, and how much it helped me back when it was, perhaps, as naive as I was.

On Robin Williams

Last night my roommates and I were interviewing someone to take over my room before I move out in September. While absently flipping through his phone, one of my roommates gasped. He told us Robin Williams died. Of course none of us knew Robin Williams personally. Of course we continued to vet the potential subletter, letting him know about our cleaning chart and the protocols for having friends over during the workweek. Of course we went about our lives.

When our guest left, I headed to my room, searching the internet until 2am in the hopes of clarity, and perhaps some absolution from the tragedy. I read the tweets from his celebrity friends. I watched a skit with Carol Burnett and a clip from “Inside the Actor’s Studio.” I looked at my DVD of “Hook” sitting in the corner.

I don’t remember feeling this bad about other celebrities that have passed away. Sometimes it was shocking, and sometimes I did feel sad, but only in the abstract way that death is always sad to hear about. I cried for Robin Williams. I think about how my parents knew him so young and how I grew up with him. I think about how overwhelmingly, horrifically depressed one must be to feel that is the only way out. 

But from the outpouring I see on my newsfeeds and in the conversations I have with friends, it is nice to be reminded of the transcendent power of comedy and art, how it cuts through to universal human experience, that someone none of us knew could make us feel something. It’s easy to forget that. Fame can seem dependent on “selling out” at best, and cultural materialism and immoralism at worst. But Robin Williams was not that. He was charming. Did he make crude jokes? Yes. He made fun of all types of people, but it never felt malicious or mean-spirited or offensive. He was a verbal force, sometimes exhaustingly so, with an unbelievably quick mind that is stunning to watch in old Johnny Carson videos or SNL skits. I remember being a child and laughing along at “Mork and Mindy” reruns, and my not-so-brief “Aladdin” addiction, and feeling moved by “Good Will Hunting,” and weeping at “Good Morning Vietnam.” I remember being grossed out at his comedy specials. It feels almost inappropriate, but also remarkable, to say that I miss him. 

Feminism is for Everyone

‎”Males as a group have and do benefit the most from patriarchy, from the assumption that they are superior to females and should rule over us. But those benefits have come with a price. In return for all the goodies men receive from patriarchy, they are required to dominate women, to exploit and oppress us, using violence if they must to keep patriarchy intact. Most men find it difficult to be patriarchs. Most men are disturbed by hatred and fear of women, by male violence against women, even the men who perpetuate this violence. But they fear letting go of the benefits. They are not certain what will happen to the world they know most intimately if patriarchy changes. So they find it easier to passively support male domination even when they know in their minds and hearts that it is wrong. Again and again men tell me they have no idea what it is feminists want. I believe them. I believe in their capacity to change and grow. And I believe that if they knew more about feminism they would no longer fear it, for they would find in feminist movement the hope of their own release from the bondage of patriarchy.”

Get your free copy of “Feminism is for Everybody” by bell hooks, a leading scholar in sexuality and gender studies, class, and race relations.  This work in particular is a good introduction to feminist literature in its concision and clarity.  And who doesn’t like free literature?