If I’m gonna die, I’ll life the live that frees me

Four years ago today – rocking out with my friends. It was the closest I’ve ever had to that fabled, only-in-the-movies experience of “being in the band,” where you throw yourself into the music and the lights, and the headaches are many but worth it, and you spend far too many late nights and too much money in the bar, not because you’re trying to drown your sorrows but because you want to have as much time as you can with these delightful people who are somehow all here together.

I’ve spent the past few days incapacitated by rage and also regret that I did not punch somebody in the face.

It was just a few days after the happy memory from four years ago that we went to a nearby bar following tech rehearsal. My assistant and I were the last ones to arrive (par for the course for stage manager – first ones in, last ones out), but as we approached the table where we saw our colleagues, we could tell that something wasn’t right. The place was surprisingly packed for a Wednesday night, even in Hell’s Kitchen, and the energy was… charged. And not in a good way.

You know how difficult it can be to remember more than snippets of dreams? And how the parts you tend to be able to remember are whatever have the most narrative coherence? Because it’s a challenge to hang onto things that just don’t make any sense. So I can’t tell you many specifics of what we overheard being said. But it was enough to, in the moment, put together that we were in the middle of a bar packed full of Proud Boys.

Yes, those Proud Boys.

It wasn’t clear if this was their event itself or some sort of hangout following a meeting. Either way, we heard all varieties of offensive things, ranging from simply bizarre to simply hostile.  

The feeling of violation was visceral. Intellectually you might know that “it can happen anywhere,” but it’s a hard slap to the face when it actually happens, especially if you’ve had the privilege of being relatively sheltered from the blows of the world. Or maybe there’s a special sting with the awareness of how harsh things can be elsewhere – “at least here, in this place of my own, I find safety.”

Eventually, they noticed us gawking at them. That’s when things threatened to get ugly. One man began aggressively getting in the face of the largest white man in our group, demanding that he answer if he was “a Republican, a Democrat, or an American.”

I can’t remember if that was the trigger. I can’t remember if it was another trigger. I can’t remember if the trigger was anything in particular or just a final straw landing on the camel’s back. This is something that I know about myself – I’m very precipitous, a stretch of even ground that’s almost too extensive to be able to see where the cliff drops off. Simply as a matter of personality rather than any sort of conscious decision, I don’t do warning shots. So all I know is that at some point, I saw red. And that was when I felt someone grabbing onto my elbow and pulling me outside.

My friends and I absconded to a nearby little hole-in-the-wall gay bar. (Has that refuge survived the pandemic, I wonder?) We got many drinks and shouted our outrage to each other. When I got home that night, I couldn’t sleep. I grabbed my iPod classic, put on clipping.’s Splendor & Misery, and went for a 3AM run in the (technically closed) park near my apartment. If anyone had had the foolish idea of messing with me, it wouldn’t have ended well, but that part of my night, at least, passed without incident.

A few days later, I put on my cowboy boots and returned to the bar to demand answers. The owners weren’t in, but the bartender, who was outraged on my behalf, took my information, and the owner called me later that day. He affirmed that that wasn’t what their establishment stood for and that such gatherings wouldn’t be tolerated in the future. A week after our incident at the bar (although unconnected to it, at least specifically), the Ghostlight Project gathered theatre practitioners to pledge to stand for and protect the values of inclusion, participation, and compassion for everyone – to create a light in the darkness.

What a fine, fine resolution that all was.

All I’ve been able to think about over the past days is that I should have just fucking punched someone in the fucking face.

Continue reading “If I’m gonna die, I’ll life the live that frees me”

Nothing like summer in the city: a dispatch from off-Broadway

Now is the summer of our discontent made mind-numbing winter by the air conditioning of the Public Theater. No, seriously, I was getting cold urticaria on my hands the other night. It feels like a horrible thing to complain about when last week was hot enough to drive Lin-Manuel Miranda and Shockwave to release the third installment of their hex-annual “Hot as Balls” NYC Heatwave series, to say nothing of other discomforts such as Scarlett Johansson colonizing yet another demographic, precedent for the revocation of naturalized citizenship being set, kids in cages (some resources to help listed here), and the threat to the Constitutional rights of vulnerable citizens for decades to come via hostile takeover of the judicial branch of the United States government. But sometimes, it’s the little things that are just insult to injury.

 

 

 

I’m currently on Day 18 of my 39-day long streak without a day off. By far not the longest that anyone will ever have gone without a day off, let alone at jobs that they love and completely voluntarily agreed to. Still, I’m undeniably glad to be almost halfway through this bed that I made to lie in. Five and a half weeks of 74-hour work weeks (and that doesn’t count the two days per week where there are hours between shows when I’m technically not working but am physically stuck at work) is a lot of time, even for something that you enjoy, to say nothing of the resultant trashfires that are my apartment (there’s an actual tower of unopened mail on my desk) and also me (#tfw it’s a predicament situation between sleeping and showering… but at least showering is less of an urgent matter because it’s not like I’ve been exercising).

In other words: kids, this is why they say “don’t do it unless you love it.”

The first few days of this period of time, one of the jobs was still being done remotely, as it was the pre-rehearsal preparation work. I was starting to experience some mounting anxiety, which is normal for me during any prep week, especially if I haven’t worked with anyone involved. People sometimes jokingly refer to first rehearsal as the first day of school, but as a description, it’s not all that off. Who are these people? Will they like me? Will I leave a good impression? Am I prepared? Have I taken care of everything that I need to? Sure, I may technically be holding the same position, but everything is still entirely new and different – will I do a good job? Do I even know how to do my job anymore?? What is stage management??!!

Knowing that I would have the personal challenge of starting this second production while still running the first just added to my anxious energy. It was like I was getting pushed closer and closer to that pool where you know that the water is freezing cold and your legs suddenly stop listening to your brain because you  know the pain that lies ahead of you – only in this case, whether my legs were listening to me or not didn’t matter because I stand upon the relentless treadmill of time that’s carrying us all to our eventual biological deaths and erasure from memory. Barring apocalypse, the day of first rehearsal would arrive even if I did finally suffer that nervous breakdown and go running for the Adirondacks to live the rest of my life as a hermit. I might as well stare it dead in the eyes and meet it like the honorable warrior that I am in my very active fantasy life.

The production that I already had running is Ma-Yi Theater’s Teenage Dick by Mike Lew, currently playing at the Public Theater. (Yes, the Public is the Hamilton people.) Commissioned by the Apothetae, a theatre dedicated to productions that explore and illuminate the disabled experience, the play is a reimagining of Richard III set in high school – a Shakespeare high school AU, so to speak. Richard is now a teenager with cerebral palsy who has his sights set on the senior class presidency, with a tongue no less agile, charm no less entrancing, and mind no less dangerous than his namesake. Gregg Mozgala, the actor playing Richard and artistic director of the Apothetae, noted that part of the impulse of making the show happen came from the experience of all of the uncertainty and physical indignities of adolescence amplified by the realization that, unlike most of one’s peers, one’s body wouldn’t grow out of this phase to become “normal.”

Another part was having the play titled Teenage Dick.

Continue reading “Nothing like summer in the city: a dispatch from off-Broadway”

By Monday I’ll be floating in the Hudson with the other garbage

Wednesday – is it really Wednesday? There’s a reason that I have post-it notes with the days on the week stuck to the wall above my desk in my bedroom with a smaller post-it that I move to mark which day of the week that it is. When you not only aren’t on the standard Monday-through-Friday that is reinforced as the temporal norm but also do scheduling as a large part of your job (meaning that your brain is often working on a day other than the one that you’re in), there’s a non-negligible risk of losing your place, so to speak.

My current disorientation, and tardiness, however, is due to a more specific occasion: starting a new show.

A stage manager is generally involved in the rehearsals and performances for a show. The week of lead-up to the first rehearsal is quite the busy one, as one might expect for the launch of a new project. The last couple days before starting (and the morning of), in particular, tend to be very full, as in an ever-evolving work, you want information to be as up-to-date as possible (which means that front-loading or evenly distributing the workload isn’t always best), and oftentimes the physical rehearsal site is not yours until the day before (or even the day of), so all preparation of the space must happen then.

And, of course, I need to have my standard miniature nervous breakdown the day before.

I am a professional stage manager. I have a terminal degree in my field. I’ve accumulated, if I do say so myself, a respectable resume. And yet in most instances as I approach the first day of rehearsal for a project, I am seized with the panic that I have forgotten how to stage manage.

Having discussed the feeling with a couple other friends (a director and a translator), I’ve come to the conclusion that this is not an uncommon aspect of the freelance experience. Although I’ve been fortunate enough not to have many gaps in between projects, when it comes to theatre, the job changes dramatically depending where you are in the process. The job that I’m doing at the start of a rehearsal process is very different form the job that I’m doing at the end of a run of performances. And if it’s a long-ish run, with maybe a small break afterward, it could have been a couple months since I was last in rehearsal. Not only that, but the nature of the work can vary greatly from project to project. (Is it a physically-challenging large classic musical, with almost everything set and mostly a lot of people wrangling? Is it an experimental art piece with a lot of non-traditional problem solving? Is it a straight play with a small cast but a very intense emotional toll?) And going from employer to employer, the organizational environments can differ greatly as well. (What is the budget like? What is the scale of expectations?) Given all of these variables, even though the position may technically be the same, it actually is not dissimilar to starting a new job… every couple months.

Being the professional that I am, I generally go absolutely neurotic for the 36 hours preceding the first rehearsal, frantically switching back and forth between being obsessively focused on my job and obsessively focused on anything but my job.

My kitchen looks amazing right now. And the writing that I planned on finishing one day late is now instead two days late, due to my collapsing into uselessness on Tuesday night, after two days of insufficient sleep.

For all of this rigmarole, the job that I started yesterday is lighter than many for me, as it’s just a two-week workshop for the writers – there isn’t any performance, and thus no production elements (props, lights, etc.) to manage. However, it was an instance where we did not have our own office space (so printing had to be done via Staples and picked up the morning of) and got our rehearsal room only two hours before starting for both all of the room set-up and all of the assembly of the aforementioned printing. Did I mention that this is a music theatre piece? There was music printing. Those who have been there know what I’m talking about.

None of this was unreasonable on the part of the producers. The theatre is based outside of the city, and for a short development workshop, you want to work in a central location to most of the team rather than shipping everyone out somewhere. And real estate in NYC is not cheap, so it would have been nonsense for them to have rented the rehearsal hall, which is now completely ours straight through to the end of our workshop, starting any earlier. But it was simply a set of circumstances to be tackled. Were the results a textbook-perfect example of stage managing? Hell, no! Especially since I hecked up understanding our printing capabilities within the room and, as a result, small-batch printing didn’t get done until after rehearsal actually started. But was it a disaster? Did the world end?

No. No, it did not. The planet spins, and the world goes ’round and ’round.

The needs of and expectations for this project are vastly different from what has become my usual. But I still have the foundational skills. And most of all, I still care about things being done correctly and well. I still value people being treated with courtesy and compassion. I still believe in the importance of creating good art.

I don’t know many people, and especially not many stage managers, who enjoy making mistakes. But I’ve said before that I feel like knowing how to make mistakes is one of the most important skills for a stage manager to develop. Because no matter how hard you try, you will make mistakes. Knowing how to recover, how to make things right, how to learn, and how to move on are invaluable. Like when you’re at the piano and giving a concert, the worst thing you can do is get hung up on a mistake. Of course don’t fucking make it again. Life isn’t going to stop moving forward because you made a mistake, though. So you have to let it go and just be better. You don’t win points by punishing yourself. Anyone for whom punishing yourself earns points isn’t someone worth earning points for.

I heard that it rained today. As lovely as our rehearsal space is, there isn’t any window access, so the stories of weather happening and time passing seemed strangely distant.  (“It’s raining,” one person commented. “Where?” another asked. “Outside,” the first replied.) After rehearsal, I tried to get part of my work to-do list done tonight, but the person ahead of me in line at Staples turned out to be buying about 20 gift cards and I had a dinner reservation with friends. So I moved it to my to-do list for the morning, and I left. I had a delicious meal with a couple of friends (one of whom I was meeting in person for the first time – the excitement of internet-based hobbies!) at The Eddy And on my way home, with two cocktails charming me (the Sherry O’Cherry and the Honey Badger, both highly recommended), I encountered three darling friends playing as a portion of The Good Morning Nags in the 2nd Avenue F train station.

There are times when “I’ll do it tomorrow” is procrastinating. And there are times when “I do it tomorrow” is absolutely the right answer.

Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. But all the more reason to take the time to enjoy a song tonight.

When I think of home

Last Monday passed in something of a shocked haze. No, “shocked” is too strong of a word for it. Perhaps “bemused” or “confounded” would be more accurate. Just the night before, the news had dropped that Delta Airlines was dropping their sponsorship of the Public Theater due to the Public’s production of Julius Caesar as part of their annual free summer Shakespeare in Central Park. Bank of America also dropped their sponsorship of the production, though they did not cut off their sponsorship of the Public entirely.

There has been a lot written about the incident and its implications since then, so I won’t rehash the entire affair. This NYT article gives a concise summary of the chain of events, this NYT article analyzes the production history/context of Julius Caesar, the Daily Beast opines on the wrongheadedness of portraying the production as anti-Trump, and the Public Theater itself has a cogent statement in response, as well as video of the artistic director’s live remarks on opening night.

To deride people for misunderstanding (or having zero awareness, let alone understanding, of) the context and meaning of the imagery within Shakespeare’s play is, at best, unproductive and, at worst, intellectual self-back-patting. However, I also don’t think that the fact that the outrage comes from that specific image (a Trump-like figure being murdered) being divorced from its context (the play proceeds to conclude “oh hey maybe stabbing that dude was not such a good idea” quite unambiguously) is something to be brushed off without comment. What is implied is that the image of this authority figure is so sacred that enacting harm upon it is unforgiveable “bad taste.” This gets rather scarily into “insulting the dignity of the monarchy” and “Dear Supreme Leader” territory for me.

(And that’s not even touching upon the hypocrisy of the lack of outcry against similar imagery using other personages, notably Obama. Or the false equivalence between an image of violence that punches up and an image of violence that punches down with all of the weight of the history of a country in which the mob murder of black men has been a spectator sport.)

(There are also the disquieted ponderings about how this is not technically censorship, but at what point does a body outside of the government have enough power to become a sort of ruler? At what point is deciding for oneself to avoid getting on a ruler’s bad side due to vindictive past behavior on the part of said ruler actually the government’s hand?)

The other aspect I’ve seen discussed less is how the behavior of the corporate sponsors, who are certainly free to do what they want with their money and about whom we should not ever be deceived into thinking care about more than their own profit, demonstrates an understanding of and relationship to art that is superficial, consumerist, and hardly limited to corporations. Sponsors need to decide if they are sponsoring art – the continuous process of creation and subsequent community effect that I believe is vital to a functional society – or if they are buying a product: the theatre production, the painting, the published book. It brings to mind for me the issue of the drawing back from long-term investment in science and innovation. We need to be willing to invest in processes that, in the short-term, may create products that fail.

But more personally…

I was incredibly caught off-guard by the blow-up because I’d actually seen the show and was not particularly impressed.

The cast was strong as a matter of course (John Douglas Thompson is a living legend of classical theatre, as far as I am concerned), and the production values brought no complaint. I simply found it to be un-noteworthy to the extent that the last thing that I expected was a giant controversy and national argument about the value of art.

Was it worth seeing? Yes, I’d say so. Even before this controversy erupted, I would say that this production was effective in translating Shakespeare into something current and accessible. Was it a can’t-miss artistic event of the summer? Naaahhhhhh. I found the means by which the story was made contemporary to be by turns broad, superficial, and distracting. There are issues with how the production treats its traditional women. (Marc Anthony is played by a woman, whose funeral oration is one of the better executed moments, but Calpurnia and Portia don’t fare half as well.) But I do appreciate the civic ideal of free theater for the people that goes all-in with a big idea, even if the execution succeeds at maybe only 70%. I’d much rather see an interesting failure than the safe, polished success of a tiny idea that is intended to have no effect.

Once the surprise settled, however, I found myself still feeling unsettled, in a much more personal, emotional way that, while related to the Constitution and artistic freedom and civic discourse, was based out of something much more instinctual.

You gonna come for me where I live? In my own damn house?!

It’s like that gif of the white guy blinking brought to righteously offended, earrings-coming-off life.

You’re going to go after a play? In New York City? From the Public Theater?

It flashed me back to the January evening when my friends and I were in tech in Hells Kitchen, and we dropped into a bar after work that night… and found ourselves in the middle of a white pride meet-up.

In Hells Kitchen.

(That night was, incidentally, the closest that I’ve ever come to getting into a bar fight. Many thanks again to the friend who must have seen the intention in my eyes and grabbed my arm and dragged me out of there.)

It flashed me back to a few weeks ago, when I accidentally bumped a man with my bag as I was going down the stairs in at the 14th Street subway station. As he turned around, I realized that I must have made contact, so I apologized. He just stared me in the face and spat, “Fucking Chinese bitch.” I repeated my apology with no small amount of incredulity, and he just went on his way, calling “Go back to China!”

In the L station.

(Thank you to Jonathan Larson for me not being able to take anyone saying “Go back to China” seriously.)

But through all of this, as invasive and shocking as these things are, I nevertheless feel a certain sense of gratitude. Because the reason that these things do feel invasive is because I do otherwise feel a sense of ownership. My reaction to incidents like these is not to feel displaced, but rather to feel the urge to defend what is rightfully my own place. This comes not only directly from being fortunate to have had those who have strongly welcomed me to this country, this city, this life, but also indirectly from the support and love that have shaped me to be confident in claiming what is mine.

Not in my backyard, utensils. I live here. And I’m not moving.

I remember the time I knew what happiness was–

There are spans of time when I get hungry. So hungry. “My lunch on Friday was a quarter-of-a-dinner-plate pile of brown rice, a half-a-dinner-plate pile of collard greens and onions, and two pork chops” hungry. “My dinner Saturday night was six slices from an eight-inch radius pizza pie” hungry. The latter was made even more hilarious by the fact that my dining companions (who had been the ones to suggest getting pizza after getting groceries after work — we’re working on a project out of town and I’m the one with a car) apparently hadn’t been aware of the fact that I’m a, shall we say, heavy eater.

I’ve always been a small person with a huge appetite. I won’t lie — I’ve sometimes played it up for laughs, I’ve sometimes gone further than I should out of a macho impulse. But while I might occasionally give it an extra push, it’s not faked. And while it’s a great ice breaker, a fun thing to be known for, and actually makes all-you-can-eat buffets good value meals for me, it’s not always easy. I’ll be the last to complain about having a high metabolism, but when you’re hungry all the time? It’s not cheap. All that food don’t come for free.

And you know the word “hangry” — hungry + angry, anger stemming from hunger? It’s not a joke. What other people usual describe as the monster that is born from their not having had their morning coffee is what takes me over as my hunger grows, like a full moon rising to pull forth a rabid werewolf. And what that means is that I have to plan a lot of my life around food, the ease of which varies widely depending on where I’m working, when I’m working, etc.. It’s also interesting being in a field where it’s common for people to, at least during certain phases of a production, work rather than do things like eat, sleep, or shower, just in order to get the work done. I’m at the point in my life, however, when I don’t apologize for needing to eat. I know what I need to function as a professional and just as a human being — trust me, you won’t like me when I’m hungry — and I don’t feel a need to apologize for that.

Anyhow, that’s all to say… Here’s another restaurant round-up! New York City this time, from places I’ve eaten within the past few months. Again, these aren’t so much reviews as recollections and recommendations.
Continue reading “I remember the time I knew what happiness was–”

What a day! Fortune smiled and came my way–

Oh gentle reader, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’d originally had some Ambitious But Sensibly Realistic plan to write one full post per week once school started, but then allergies killed my soul for nearly two weeks, leaving me scrambling afterward as I was swept up in the relentless socializing that is the beginning of the school year. During the course of which I was roped into working a show that had lost their stage manager and ended up being an awesome, epic and absolutely huge undertaking. I was generally working straight from 4:00pm to 3:00am for that last week, with classes during the day.

It wasn’t pretty.

But we had a giant snake puppet track all the way across the ceiling of the theater above the heads of the audience. No regrets. Take that, Phantom.

Aside from being debilitatingly busy — I’ve been mildly sick ever since we closed this past weekend, running a low-grade fever at night — there has been one thread weaving its way through from orientation before classes to me sitting here now.

As I was sitting there in the audience of the theater, waiting for the next person to talk to us about IT or turning our receipts into the business office or whatever else we needed to be re-oriented about for the new school year, I saw some of my friends a bit farther down the row crowding around the screen of one person’s phone. They were all watching some video, as the owner of the phone pointed out the mechanics of the dance moves happening. I was far enough away that while I could see the brightly colored clothing and energetic movements, I couldn’t make out who was performing or hear any of the music. Ah, well, I thought, another trend that I could only hope would be performed at some party or another at some point during the year.

I didn’t give it much more thought than that, though I noted its ubiquity over the subsequent couple of weeks, with even the producer for the show I was stage managing telling how she had gone home one night only to find her 18-month old dancing that dance which is all the rage for the babysitter.

On a completely separate track, my Facebook feed had been peppered by some K-pop Youtube video that apparently a lot of people had been watching.

It was only when the “Gandalf Style” parody was posted that I was hooked by geek bait and then, that lightbulb slowly began glowing over my head. And it took a while for my brain to integrate the information that this K-pop song and this raging trend that was sweeping through my friends and across the world were the same thing, finally culminating in shock.

The reason was this: based on the limited glimpse that was my first impression, I had assumed that all of the people involved in the song were white.

Continue reading “What a day! Fortune smiled and came my way–”

Summer lovin’, happened so fast–

It’s been a good half week of my life flashing before me in various ways, for better and for worse. It started out with a shower of mixed blessings this past Saturday, when I was out at the farmer’s market and the heavens, which had been gently raining, verily did open up and dump the floods upon us. But the weather was warm, and you reach that point where you’re so soaked that you don’t mind getting wet because you’ve just released all hope of ever being dry. I had the purse-size umbrella that I keep with me at all times, but it was basically just a visibility tool, for all the good it did the rest of me — if I didn’t wear glasses, I would have just abandoned it completely. It was the sort of downpour where the sound of rain is roaring in your ears and the sensation of nature, even walking the sidewalk of an urban downtown, is inescapable and awesome. And hell, people pay good money to go to water parks.

The downside of all of this Romantic transcendence was that my cell phone had been in my backpack, which was thoroughly soaked through from the top but very sensibly had a reinforced bottom, resulting in water pooling in said bottom, in which said cell phone ended up resting. It was completely non-responsive when I fished it out. I found myself suddenly seized by that calm which accompanies emergencies: do what needs to be done. Take out the battery and bury the phone in a twenty-pound bag of jasmine rice. Send an e-mail to my co-workers letting them know that I’m unreachable by phone. Likewise send an e-mail to my mother, also soliciting information for our family’s wireless account so that I can go about getting a replacement. Change out of my soaked shorts and tank, into a sharp shirt, mini-skirt, heels and make-up because heavens to betsy, I am like a rogue CIA agent gone off the grid and shit is gonna get crazy around here.

Sleeping overnight in its rice bed restored the phone to the point of being able to turn on and show that its data was all intact, but it was otherwise nonfunctional and visibly damaged. I’d already made plans to go to the city on Sunday, though, and Monday was scheduled to be a day at the beach with friends (and the rest of that day ended up being pretty much killed), so I didn’t end up getting my phone replaced until Tuesday.

Granted, I’m not in the thick of things with work right now, but goodness, I did not miss it at all.

I’m not too compulsive of a phone-checker (or, at least, I don’t perceive myself as such), but it still felt so freeing not to even have the option. If I was bored, I couldn’t use that as a mindless time-suck. There wasn’t the slightest feeling of being on-call for work. And it was like a breath of childhood, particularly on Sunday, just the notion that when you were gone somewhere, you were gone. Austin doesn’t exist for my generation in the society in which I live today. I was suddenly in an entirely different lifestyle, from which my leaving had been a gradual, unconscious thing.

Which isn’t to say that I’m not happy to have a phone again. Even if I am wary because my plan had allowed for me to upgrade my handset and they no longer made the model that I’d been using, with my only options available to me being clearly down or up. And well, only one of those made sense. So, after years of digging in my heels: I now own an honest-to-goodness smartphone.

On the one hand, I do despise myself a little bit for selling out to the demands of a materialistic, interpersonally dysfunctional society. On the other hand, goodness me but is it shiny. I keep reaching over to play with it because it makes me feel like I’m in a science fiction movie. “Hold on a moment, just let me get out my handheld data control doomsday device and page down the beautifully lit color screen to bring up the information that you requested. And also tell you the current weather.”

Still, much as I like it, a smartphone is a big step into the future for me, which made Facebook finally forcing all profiles into timeline format on the very same day just a little too much. I hate the Facebook timeline. I really do. I find it counter-intuitive and messy. I also hate the “places” feature because it makes me feel stalked, in addition to infuriating me by its conflation of hometown with place of birth, if the little icon’s pacifier graphic is to be believed.

And then, continuing along the line of generational internet hijinks, there’s the issue of how my grandfather forwarded me an e-mail encouraging me to watch a linked slideshow of various beautiful nature photos fading from black and white to color in order to show me what amazing gifts God has given us or something. Obviously, the theological aspect was a bit wasted on me, but I love me some beautiful nature photos as much as the next guy, even if my particular angle of appreciation differs from that expressed in the MS PowerPoint text on the photos in the beginning of the slideshow. Anyways, the pictures were nice, thought the last slide fades in a towering Jesus, in that semi-iconic style that brings to mind (for me, at least) the creepier aspects of mid-20th century America, superimposed over the last photo.

All well and good. The thing is, Flash has been acting up in my Firefox lately, so whenever it has a glitch, it flashes — haha! — images of the last things that have been viewed using Flash components. As a result, I keep getting random flashes of Jesus in the process of using the internet. Add onto that the fact that I’ve recently been reading summaries of various Asian horror movies about evil spirits lurking in pictures or the walls or videotapes, and it’s honestly starting to creep me out a little in that holy shit Jesus is coming to steal my soul sort of way.

It seems to have gotten better today, largely thanks to my having been staring at the PDF menu of a Japanese restaurant back home quite a bit over the past two days. I really want to eat there. I really want to eat a lot of places. For over a week now, I’ve been experiencing enormously strong cravings for fried crap. Korean fried chicken, American fried chicken, fried calamari. Also, carbs. Fried chicken and waffles has sounded like the perfect meal for a number of days. I’m not really sure what’s behind the fried food craving, as I always want fried food to some degree while also not eating much of it, just as a general lifestyle, but this has been markedly more severe than usual. I have, on conversely, actively been cutting down on carbs this summer, so that craving has a more easily identified source.

In any case, I certainly didn’t lack for good food this past Sunday, when my life flashed before my eyes a few times in that “I just had an orgasm in my mouth” sort of way.

Continue reading “Summer lovin’, happened so fast–”

Just picture a great big steak, fried, roasted or stewed–

If I think way, way back, I can remember when New York City was a tourist destination for me. I have memories of getting onto a Wade Tours bus, day-tripping with my parents and other tourists down to that big, bright city. Had to make sure to wear those comfortable walking sneakers. Know which landmarks you’re going to hit. And don’t forget the map!

It didn’t begin to change for me until near the end of the undergrad, when it became just another place where some friends lived. And then even more so a few years after that, when it went from day-trip distance to commuter distance. I’m no native, but I’m more familiar with the parts of the city that I frequent — pretty much all of Midtown, as well as Union Square, NoMad, the West Village and Chinatown, plus Borough Park in Brooklyn — than I am with the cities within a half-hour’s driving distance of where I grew up.

That doesn’t mean that it’s not still a fun place to vacation.

It wasn’t something planned out too far ahead of time, but it turned out that my friend A. from Florida was going to be vacationing in the city for half a week, so I did my usual thing and crashed with her in return for providing my charming company. By which I largely mean a drinking companion and a garbage disposal for whatever food she didn’t eat. And we drank and ate at a lot of places.

I’m actually not really into aggregate review websites. I find them most useful for more service-related things, where what the most basic content of the experience is might be a question, for getting clarification about what you’re really getting for your money. It can be so easy to get buried in other people’s opinions, when there’s so, so many. For restaurants (general expectation: I pay money and receive food to eat), I’m still more of a fan of the old-fashioned “Did someone I actually know go there? What did they say?” or “I’m standing outside of the place right now and I feel like I want to go in” approach. Or reading actual reviews — you know, the ones that are more than three sentences long, whether they’re in a newspaper or a magazine or a blog or wherever. Some nice comprehensive, considered thoughts about the experience from a person with presumably some amount of knowledge or at the very least, some sort of specific interest.

These things here? These aren’t reviews. These are just me having opinions about things. Which I should probably do more often, as I do tend to Do Things on a semi-regular basis and often have opinions about them.

So here’s a piece of new news on the internet: hotels in Manhattan are fucking expensive. We stayed at the Best Western Plus, Prospect Park, which was pretty great and also in Brooklyn. The location was very convenient, being literally on the same block as the 25th Street station on the R line. Which is slow if you’re actually in a hurry to get anywhere, because it’s a super local line with more stops than I knew existed, but it’s pretty easy to transfer to something quicker.

The hotel is relatively new and pretty good value for NYC standards. By which I mean that the entire room plus the bathroom combined was smaller than the living room in my apartment, but it fit a bed, an armoire, a desk, two night stands and a dresser with a mini-fridge. The lobby featured an included continental breakfast in the morning, with Dannon Light & Fit yogurt, dry cereal, scrambled eggs, sausage, muffins, bagels, bread, juice, black tea and coffee available. The breakfast room itself was pretty cramped, so A. and I would grab food and bring it back up to the room.

They had a 24-hour fitness center in the basement, which featured an elliptical, a reclining bike, a treadmill and a weight machine, as well as a full-wall mirror. There was also an exercise ball bouncing around, though no free weights. The equipment seemed relatively new and functional. A couple of water fountains in the room, as well as a stack of towels — though no equipment cleaning supplies. Also, probably due to the “24-hour” thing, the light in the room worked on a motion detector. The downside to this? Apparently, at least the elliptical was positioned outside of the range of the detector, so after ten minutes, I would be plunged into darkness.

In an otherwise empty basement.

Just a little bit creepy.

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