normalcy is coursing through my veins
Thursday, January 30, 2003

When I have had a bad day, one of my favorite things to do is go to the movies by myself. I saw Talk to Her last night. It was amazing. If I were writing my best-of movie list over again, it would move to the top. I have this desire to write a long review of it, but I wouldn't do it justice. I will stick to saying that the music, the dance sequences (choreographed by Pina Bausch, whose company I was fortunate enough to have seen perform at BAM last year--thanks, Susanna), the silent movie within a movie, the strange love stories, all come together just perfectly. It's smart and funny and full of heart, which, in the end, is always the most important thing to me. Go see it. If you need further proof, please read this review.

Afterward, I wandered around Manhattan for quite a while, enjoying the (35-degree) reprieve from arctic temperatures. It occurred to me that it had been quite some time since I just walked around the city, with no specific errands to run, no particular destination to reach. When I first moved here, I did a lot of wandering around by myself. I didn't know very many people, was on odd terms with some of those I did know well, and was generally a little overwhelmed and lonely. Some days I would walk from 26th and Madison all the way downtown, across the Williamsburg Bridge to my crappy little apartment, and by the time I got there, I would feel alive and okay again. These days it's hard to get me to leave my apartment on the weekends, let alone leave Brooklyn to trek into Manhattan. It's sad, really. What's the point of living here if I'm not out in the middle of it every once in a while? Anyway, last night I was feeling kind of overwhelmed and lonely, and the walking did the trick. I feel better today. The best thing I can do when I am upset is keep moving. And being able to be out among plenty of other people trucking along by themselves but not bothering me is one of the reasons I love this place.

(The independent films and the pizza don't hurt, either.)

Wednesday, January 29, 2003
Keeping you informed

The full text of the State of the Union address can be found here.

A piece of commentary I think is worth reading can be found here.

A very smart book about the reasons we decide to go to war and the ramifications of going to war is by Chris Hedges and is called War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning. I encourage you to read it. You can buy it here.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Monday, January 27, 2003
Things I learned last night

If you wear the stacked-heel, knee-high boots that make you stand six-foot-one, and you stand back from the crowds of celebrities and their hangers-on, looking a little bored and distracted, people just might think you are Someone.

If you wear those damned stacked-heel, knee-high boots that make you stand six-foot-one for more than about half an hour, you may find that a free party turns into a twenty-dollar one, after you've added in the cost of a cab ride back to Brooklyn to save yourself having to amputate your own feet right in the streets of Manhattan.

Friday, January 24, 2003
Don't hate her when she gets up to leave

My office is moving. In addition to the inordinate amount of work I usually have to do, I now also have to sort through, dust off, throw out, ship out, reorganize, and redistribute things for the move. Forgive me if the weekday posting is looking a little sparse these days. For now, I will do what I often do when short on time and energy: make a list.

Songs that break my heart, but that I continue to listen to anyway
"Alison"--Elvis Costello
"I Found a Reason"--Cat Power
"Two-Headed Boy, Pt. 2"--Neutral Milk Hotel
"Jackson"--Lucinda Williams
"Call Me On Your Way Back Home"--Ryan Adams
"Train Song"--Tom Waits
"Hundreds of Sparrows"--Sparklehorse
"It's a Motherfucker"--Eels
"Sunken Treasure"--Wilco
"Via Chicago"--Wilco
"Don't Be Crushed"--Chris Mills
"Caroline, No"--Beach Boys
"Hallelujah"--Jeff Buckley

There are probably more, but these are the ones I can think of right now.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003
Winter tundra-land

I sincerely apologize for that truly awful pun. My brain is frozen.

I like cold weather, I really do. I find a crisp breeze refreshing. I like to see my breath in the air. I think people look better when their cheeks are ruddy. But the current weather in New York is a little too frigid for my liking. I am trying to call upon my reserves and remember how it was that I survived four years of college on the Finger Lakes of upstate New York, but it isn't working out so well. At least there was always snow to brighten things up there. Here, it is just gray and bitter and windy.

For now, I guess I will have to settle for rushing as quickly as possible from apartment to train station and train station to office and office to after-work event (because it's just my luck that I somehow managed to schedule something every night of this arctic week), although every morning I wake up and wonder if it is possible to call in cold:

"I'm sorry I can't come in today, I'm cold."
"Oh, you have a cold? Poor dear."
"No, actually I am just cold. I think I'll stay under the blankets. See you tomorrow."

I think that would go over just fine, don't you?

In other New York news, I live in the 11th most expensive city in the world and the most expensive in the United States. Whee!

Saturday, January 18, 2003
Game face

It began with yet another round of Taboo, because somehow we ended up Trivial Pursuit-less. (I’m not naming names, *cough* Sean *cough* Erica.)
Favorite clue from the sweater, for governor: “He leads us….and sometimes British people call each other this.” I answered in a faux British accent.
Favorite clue from Neil, for Bill Clinton: “I did not have sex with that woman.”
Favorite guess from Liz: After Alissa gave the clue, "When I'm all sweaty and annoyed," Liz exuberantly shouted "Homeless people!"
Married couple moment: When Whit said, “Used to do funny movies, now just tries to win awards,” and Sean, without missing a beat, yelled out “Tom Hanks!”

Also, I had forgotten. Encore can ruin you for days on end. Just try hearing someone say “friend” without trying to come up with every song you can remember containing that word. “You’ve Got a Friend,” “You’re a Friend of Mine,” “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places,” “Here I come again and I’m bringin’ my friends”…. The list (and the beat) goes on. And on and on. And categories? Even worse. City names? Do you people know how many songs there are about New York?

We were reaching into the back catalog. Sarah N. busted out the Amy Grant and then followed shortly after with some Dre. Seany busted out the new Elton John and the Tori Amos, which was followed by the assertion, “What do you want from me? I shop at Pottery Barn, for christ’s sake.” Erica whipped out the Indigo Girls. Liz and I sang two Johnny songs from Exile in Guyville, which both of us happened to have been listening to on the subway ride home that day. Alissa sang Shabba Ranks’s “Mr. Lover Man”—twice—with Sean providing the deep background “Shabbas." Bryan belted out “I Will Always Love You” in his best falsetto. The game lasted for hours. No one (not even me) cared about winning by the end. Sarah climbed onto the couch. The barrow curled up on the floor. The bottle of Beam was empty. Ditto three six-packs of beer. And half a bottle of Absolut. There were two sips left in the Coke bottle and the Bloody Mary mix was nearly gone. Sean and I played rock-paper-scissors rather than go another round of singing. He won. There was minimal gloating, although there was a discussion and demonstration of all of the different clever ways you can give someone the finger.

It was record cold outside (we’re talking below zero, folks), and still these people trekked to my apartment. Several of them were recovering from or fighting off illnesses and yet they came and ate pizza and had energy and didn’t make (too much) fun of me for being competitive. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought everyone knew each other a lot better than they did. I had a good time. I have great friends. I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot lately, but I had really lost track of it for a while, so you’ll forgive me if I repeat myself.

And then it was nearly four in the morning and I put the dishes in the dishwasher and wiped the spills up off the floor. I put on some Son Volt, which I think might be the best late-night music there is, and crawled into bed content.

Thank you all for coming.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Someone just told me we have Monday off for Marting Luther King, Jr. Day. I had no idea. I just finished doing a happy little dance. Hooray for unexpected holidays and obliviousness that results in a pleasant surprise.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003
Don't say you love me if it's just a rumor

This Year's Model is (lyrically at least) a fairly cynical record. The lyrics are all about doomed relationships, unfulfilled desires, sexual jealousy, and the negative effects of fame. And yet, almost without fail, listening to it puts me in a fantastic mood. I guess that's one of the many facets of Elvis Costello's brilliance. He can sing a line like "Sometimes I almost feel just like a human being," and make it sound so triumphant in its self-pity that I have to resist the urge to start dancing right in the midst of the rush-hour crowd on the 4 train. It is what I choose as my soundtrack for subway-riding and striding through the streets to work in the morning as of late. It is what I put in my discman when I awoke at some ungodly hour a few mornings ago and decided to run through the icy morning air until my lungs burned and my fingers were numb and I had to rush home to climb back under the covers. It is what I was listening to when I was putting on red lipstick and black eyeliner last Friday night. Maybe it's just a rumor, but I think I might be a little in love with Elvis Costello in 1978, the way you fall in love with the guy all your friends say is trouble, even though you know they're right. The trouble is exhilarating. I am intoxicated by the lip service and the pretty villains. So when he sings "Don't ask me to apologize, I won't ask you to forgive me. If I'm gonna go down, you're gonna go with me," I say bring it on.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Last night, I played an impromptu game of Taboo with two roommates and one of their girlfriends. The last time I can remember having played this game was when I was sixteen and a member of the Chemung County Youth Council, an organization that sought to bring together awkward teenagers from every area high school and have them work on one big project for the community, like planning a conference on a relevant topic. (Please note that I have absolutely no memory what the conferences I worked on were about. I am getting old.) Looking back on that experience now, it was actually pretty good preparation for the corporate world. Ostensibly, it was a group of people seeking to come to consensus on a project, plan it, and execute it. In reality, it was all about politics, politics, politics.

Anyway, that's all tangential. What really matters is that we had a retreat at the beginning of each year, where we would play all of those get-to-know-you and trust-building exercises that anyone who's ever had to go through an orientation of any kind has come to know and hate. We also played Taboo. Taboo, in case you don't already know, is a game whose rules are that you have to get your partner/team to guess a word without using any of the five taboo words on the card. Of course, those five words are all things directly related to the word you are trying to get them to guess.

Let me tell you something about my sixteen year-old self: I had a really hard time talking in front of people, even when I had it all written out in front of me. I'm serious, I once had a panic attack in tenth grade when called on to read out loud in Global Studies. Add to that the fact that as soon as I read the list of words I wasn't allowed to say, they were all that I could think about, and you have a mini-disaster on your hands. Add to that the really loud, awful buzzer the opposite team gets to use when you say a forbidden word and you have gangly, uncomfortable, teenaged Jackie-O nearly in tears. It was ugly.

So when the offer to play was extended last evening, I was understandably wary, but my competitive spirit got the better of me and I sat down at the table. Much to my pleasant surprise, the years between sixteen and twenty-five have positively influenced my Taboo-playing skills. My team won the first two games and lost the third, but only by two points. The buzzer is still terrible, though, and we were a buzzer-happy group last night. But there was a lot of uncontrollable laughter, too.

My favorite descriptions:
For headbutt: when two people push their noggins together
For mall: lots of promenades under a roof, commerce takes place there
For grin: shit-eating...
For sugar: pour some [blank] on me

If you're lucky, maybe I'll have some more board game tales to tell next week, as I am trying ever so valiantly to coordinate a game night this weekend.

Monday, January 13, 2003
Was I in your dreams?

Last night I dreamt that Sarah B. and Jason Royal's internet engagement was all a big publicity stunt, a la J. Lo. and Ben. They had publicists and photographers and everything.

Guess who needs to start spending less time online?

Update: Thanks to this news bite (please scroll to the bottom), I am beginning to think I might have psychic powers.

Now you be Emmylou and I'll be Gram

I think Gram Parsons's "Song for You" could be a great wedding song, if it weren't for the fact that he leaves at the end.

Saturday, January 11, 2003
Like catching snow on my tongue

I left the Zombie Hut after hanging out with Sarah, Liz, and Alissa, and I was thinking about how fantastic my friends are, and then it was snowing. Not this gross, wet, almost-rain snow we've been getting, but actual big white flakes. Alissa and I hugged and screamed "It's snowing!" Just before we left the bar, we were drinking rum punch and Jimmy Eat World was playing (I put that in especially for you, Amy) and a woman came over and told us we were beautiful. I think she was there with her fiance. She gave us cigarettes. She guessed our ages (twenty-five for me, twenty-four for Alissa) and then told us that she was thirty-one, and if there was one thing she had learned, it was that things have a way of working out and that we should have fun. Usually, words like this coming from strangers make me scoff, but for some reason (perhaps the rum, but I like to think it's that I'm coming out on the better side of some self-doubting/self-hating phase), I believed her. When she left, she said "You're rad, have no fear," and I laughed hard. I talked to the driver of my car in Spanish on the ride home. I've stayed up late writing all week, and it feels great. The snow fell hard and cold against my face, and I stood for an extra minute on my stoop to enjoy it. I feel goddamned alive and all right, and I just wanted to tell you. Good night.

Friday, January 10, 2003
Bust a move

So our office is moving in a few short weeks, and preparations have begun.

Yesterday, we all got a little memo about what to pack and what to leave, how things will work, etc. Included in said memo was a section concerning plants, which the movers are not allowed to move because they are living. If we have plants that are in good condition, our company will provide a "safe room" (their words, their quotes) where we can put them until we are all situated and able to pick them up.

I am still, a whole day later, laughing at the idea of a plant "safe room." All I can picture is a scared little ficus wilting in a room manned by armed guards, just praying that the gardener who's been stalking him doesn't find him and "clip his leaves."

In other moving news, each of us has been provided with stickers with which to plaster our belongings so that they can be matched with their owner in the new building. They resemble those Hello, my name is... stickers, except they have the word Certified and then a number. Mine say Certified 10. I wonder how they knew.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

What follows is a list of my favorite films of 2002. Please note that I say favorite, and not best. There are movies that might be better, but I did not enjoy them as much. There are also films that should probably be on this list, but that I simply haven't seen yet. Perhaps I will update later. No commentary from me this time, just a list. I have decided I am not a very good reviewer.

Far From Heaven
Sunshine State
The Kid Stays in the Picture
Y tu mamá también
The Good Girl
Morvern Callar
Catch Me if You Can
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
About Schmidt

Should probably be on the list, except that I haven't seen them: Talk to Her, The Pianist, The Fast Runner (which, good as it may be, is something I am probably never going to see)
I hope never to see: 8 Mile, My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Worth seeing for the performances: The Hours

World traveler

Overheard on the street after work this evening:
Guy1: Haven't seen you around in a while, where have you been?
Guy2: I was on vacation in Italy.
Guy1: Oh, really, where?
Guy2: Florence, mostly.
Guy1: I've been to Florence.
Guy2: Oh, yeah?
Guy1: Yeah, a couple of years ago. Do they still have the restaurants?
Guy2: [long pause] Uh, yeah.

No, actually, Florence closed all the restaurants in the last couple of years. This is why small talk is bad.

Monday, January 06, 2003

You know it's been that kind of weekend when you arrive freshly showered at work on Monday morning, but your hair still smells kind of like the bar on Saturday night.

Friday, January 03, 2003
A big round of applause, please

Recent realization: I'm a sucker for a song with handclaps.

Thursday, January 02, 2003
The song, the song, the song is shaking me

So I guess I was supposed to do this before January 1, but, as usual, I'm running a few days behind schedule. Here are some 2002 records that I really like:

Wilco--Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
I know, this is on everyone's list. As well it should be, because it is fantastic. This is the first cd I've ever bought at midnight the day it came out. I bought it at Virgin megastore, after seeing Frailty (which, incidentally, will not be gracing my year-end films list, because it is not good). More than anything else, this is the record that defines 2002 for me. It tries to break your heart, succeeds, and then helps you pick up the pieces. This is music to listen to in the car, on the subway, at the beach, in your bedroom in the middle of the night. I have listened to it almost daily since April, and I love it just as much as I did when I first ripped the plastic and put it in the player. If you haven't already, go out and buy it right now.

Beck--Sea Change
Is it terrible to say that I think being brokenhearted is good for Beck's music? Sometimes it hurts to listen to Sea Change, but in the best of ways.

Sleater-Kinney--One Beat
It took me a long time to get into One Beat, even after seeing them live (although my lack of enthusiasm for that show had more to do with the venue--Warsaw--than with their performance). Only in the past couple of weeks have I decided I really like the whole thing, but it's sticking with me now. The songs take a while to seep in, but once they do, just try and get them out of your head. And the songs aren't just catchy, they're smart and grown-up, too. (Plus, if you must know, I have a rockstar crush on Corin.)

Flaming Lips--Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Okay, so it's not as good as The Soft Bulletin. Still, it's earnest experimental pop confection like only the Flaming Lips can do, and that's good enough for me.

Sonic Youth--Murray Street
I've never been able to get into much Sonic Youth except for Daydream Nation, which is what this one keeps getting compared to, so I guess it makes sense that I really like it. It has been in the workday listening rotation for some time now, and will probably stay there a while longer.

Elvis Costello--When I Was Cruel
The stuff with Burt Bacharach was fine and all, but I, like most people, was happy to see him return to the more challenging rock and pop that came before. When I Was Cruel combines all the best elements of Blood and Chocolate, Spike, and All This Useless Beauty, without as many of the misses on each of those records. It's a little all over the place, taking as its inspiration everything from latin pop to klezmer, but his (as usual) amazing songwriting (mostly) brings it all together. Not a perfect album, but a damn good one, and certainly the best he's put out in years.

I am sure I have missed a bunch of stuff, but these are the ones that come immediately to mind. I didn't buy as much new music this year as I usually do. Instead, it was all about returning to old loves and discovering new old music.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003
In New York City, low on cash

I arrived back in New York this evening. The rain was coming down hard against the bus windows and Tom Waits was singing into my ears about taking the long way home. I ran into someone I knew in high school at the station. Her older brother was the first boy who ever sent me flowers. She was putting her mother on the bus back to our hometown. Her mother hugged me like a long-lost one, and then I was rushing off through Port Authority, dragging my overstuffed bags behind me.

Outside, the cabbie wouldn't help me load my belongings into the trunk, so I fought with them as the rain ran over my glasses and made it nearly impossible to see. The window near my head leaked rain and cold air. The driver complained about having to take me to Brooklyn, saying he hadn't eaten. Before I could think I was telling him I had been on the bus all day and hadn't eaten either, and I was getting cranky, and could he just drive already? In Brooklyn, it was raining harder. Not surprisingly, he wouldn't help me unload my bags. I got soaked through struggling with them. I scratched the yellow paint on the trunk with one of my suitcase's wheels. I didn't do it on purpose, but I couldn't help feeling a little glee at the minor damage.

At the top of the stoop, I couldn't find my keys. The water was running down my forehead, under my glasses, and down my face, managing to find the one opening at the place where scarf met coat so that it could make its way down the neckline of my shirt. When I finally got inside, the only roommate home was the lazy one. He ate Chinese food while he watched me struggle with my luggage.

By the time I got everything to the top of the stairs and it was quiet and my bed was made, I burst into tears. I am sure it was a combination of the bags, the lack of food, the weather, but it was also that there are few things that make me sadder than returning to this city to find no one waiting for me. I haven't had that experience in a long time. I was unprepared. I miss having someone right down the street who was waiting to give me a hug and have dinner with me. I miss having that one person who always knew when I was coming and going. It made me feel grounded. But the person who used to be that is thousands of miles away, and I feel adrift, and I had no idea how hard this was going to be. And I know it's a new year and that it's supposed to be a good time for change, but right now I am sad and lonely and wishing for an airplane or a time machine.

Not the cheeriest of posts, I realize. I'm sorry, I will try to do better tomorrow.

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