Friday, March 31, 2006


east village mural

If I owned my own company – excuse me, when I own my own company- I would mandate a strict policy of wellness days. By implementing this policy, I would instruct that all employees take mandatory daily siestas from the hours of 1:00-3:00 PM, approximately. After our siestas, we would reconvene in the office to do highly productive work until the hour of 7:00 PM. On days like today, however, our office would hold requisite meetings in Central Park and Out of Office email replies would read as such: Apologies for the delay, So&So is busy playing Frisbee and will get back to you at her earliest convenience.

Thankfully, today I will actually be out of the office for the latter half of the afternoon. As I am the lowest one on the totem pole, in my current office, I am the one selected to run all of our outrageous errands. For instance, on Tuesday, I spent the afternoon shopping for preserved ladybugs. ((Side note: Did you know that preserved ladybugs cost $9 ? )) Today, I am being forced to go to the floral district. I just hate my fucking life, you know, my job is sooo hard and I can’t believe my boss makes me go to the floral district when I would much rather be indoors, staring at my computer.

Oh, and it’s Friday, in case you didn’t know.

Thursday, March 30, 2006


I wouldn't mind carrying this on the subway.

your feet

painting courtesy of Lucas

Last night I walked alllllll the way home. I hadn’t made that trek since the transit strike and, in hindsight, I probably should not have conquered all of that distance in two inch heels. I don’t know if I deserve a medal or a slap in the face for that one. One thing is for certain: this city is much more pleasant when I’m not rushing around in an Eskimo coat and two dozen layers of clothing.

((insert Pablo Neruda poem about spring here))

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Happy Songs for Happy People

I don’t like talking about music. Whenever people ask me what I’m listening to, I tell them I don’t like talking about music and they assume I’m a music snob. Not so.

I just only like talking about music with people who own a substantial record collection. Personally, I only own one record (long story), because I move around too much and records are hard to transport. Also, I don’t have a record player, so what would be the point in starting a record collection?

Yeah, so people who have a record collection generally know a lot more about music. I’m not a music snob, but I only like talking to people about music if they know what they’re talking about. In general, however, talking about music tends to bore the hell out of me.

My favorite person to talk about music with is my buddy, Zach. Zach is like some strange fossil of 1966, stuck in the body of a 25-year-old in the year 2006. He has grown out hair, an expansive vinyl collection and, with that, an extensive knowledge of/passion for music. If his family and job weren’t situated in Chicago, he would most definitely be lying in the sand of Big Sur, belly up, with his headphones on and a joint in one hand. I once commented that receiving a mix from him is like getting a giant bowl of ice cream in the mail. Moreover, his compilations are like history lessons.

A couple years back, Zach was giving me a ride to a show and he put on an album by a ‘lil band called the Silver Apples. I’d never head anything like it. The Silver Apples sound like two highly intelligent carnival freaks having sex and when their first album (sadly, they only had two) came out in 1967, they were way ahead of their time.

Around the same time I was introduced to this gem, I had just started interning at Sub Pop. This was the wisest move of my college career because with that internship, I had tapped into an endless resource of free music and concert tickets. All I had to do was go into the office a couple hours a week, push some buttons on the copy machine and send out a couple of emails. In return, I got a bunch of free stuff and college credits. In the process, I learned a lot about music and met some long lasting friends.

One afternoon, I was filing the archives and I came across a band called The Vaselines. I asked my buddy, Jed, about them because I though it was the dumbest name for a band I’d ever seen. “You don’t know about The Vaselines?!” I think the entire office froze. Jed snapped his finger at Dean, across the cubicle, “Pass me The Vaselines.” Then he played the album

and I was head over heels.

The next day, I was going through Jed’s records. What’s this one, Television? He didn’t say anything. I think he was too fed up with me. At this point, everybody in the office already knew I had bullshitted my way through the interview and I didn’t know anything about music; the jig was up. I didn’t care, though, I was like Bartleby the Scrivener and I was not giving up that internship. I got my college credits after my freshman year, but didn’t quit that gig until after I had graduated and moved away.

Everybody remembers the first time they heard Marquee Moon. For me, it was on a rainy, spring afternoon, while I was stuffing five million envelopes for a new mailing of the Postal Service album. That album would eventually go on to put Sub Pop (back) on the map. This allowed the company to finance even greater, lesser-known artists, like Michael Yonkers, and, with due time, acquire a gold record (that Jed would later sell on EBay to fund his own record company). The Postal Service is not one of my favorite albums, but Marquee Moon, needless to say, blew me away.

It was then that I was introduced to psych rock. But like I said, that was a couple of years ago, and I have since run the gamut of psych rock. I don’t know what genre of music I feel like digging into now. This summer, when I went home to Nashville for three months, I caught up on all of the old country music I had ignored throughout my childhood. But Waylon Jennings didn't quite make the cut when transitioning to New York. The last band I was really crazy about was Dungen. They're Swedes. Gorgeous, gorgeous Swedes. I saw them in October, at the Bowery, and even though I never understand a damned word they were singing, since then, I haven’t been able to find a new band that I looooovvvveee. But it’s not because I’m a music snob.

I still keep up with music, still go to shows, and still listen to music every day/night. Although I think I’m the only one among my friends who doesn’t fervently download and search for music. I don’t feel like it, there’s too much other stuff I’d rather be doing. Besides, there are approximately four people who know what I like and I just wait for them to tell me about a band. Recently, I was pleased to be introduced to the music of Jens Lekman (another gorgeous, gorgeous Swede) and I think that Hot Chip is pretty catchy. I'm also looking forward to seeing Holy Fuck again and if somebody wants to fly me out to the Coachella festival to see Daft Punk, I wouldn't argue with that. But for the most part, I am sticking to the classics because they're reliable and I don't want to talk about it anymore.

Book It

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Belated Valentine

New York Is Not Exactly America
This phrase, which I had read in all the books on New York, is repeated to us ten times a day, and it's true, but what does it matter? It's New York, a place which is neither exactly America nor exactly Europe, which gives you a burst of extraordinary energy, which you immediately feel you know like the back of your hand, as though you had always lived here, and at certain times, especially uptown where you can feel the busy life of the big offices and factories of ready-made clothes, it lands on top of you as though to crush you. Naturally, the minute you land here, you think of anything except turning back. --Italo Calvino, Hermit in Paris

((In other words: I like you very much, New York, and I hope you like me, too, because I think we make a very good couple.))

Monday, March 27, 2006

I Thought She Said Maple Leaves

Once we were buzzed up, we walked straight into one of those sprawling SoHo lofts, where the closets are bigger than my bedroom and the artists are far from starving. The last apartment we were in, at Astor Place, was converted from an old dance studio and I’m pretty sure that this loft used to be an art gallery. Or at least they had kept all of the art from the gallery. With dark, red walls and gigantic acrylic murals, it was definitely one of the most remarkable New York apartments I've ever seen.

Upon entering, we were confronted by a total contradiction (if not confusion) of New York inhabitants. On one side of the room, a European-style dinner was concluding, with a group of middle-aged Argentineans seated around a long, wooden table, drinking wine and casually puffing on cigarettes (inside !). The women were all extremely classy, in that artsy and wise way, stunning. The men were a jovial bunch, all obviously still very much in love with their wives.

Thirty feet away (30 ft !) , there was a boy’s club of sorts, a Lord of the Flies-esque example of what happens when your teenage years are spent in Manhattan and you don’t exactly pan out as expected. My friend, Sam, made the astute observation that we had just walked into a Twilight Zone predicament.

The boys didn’t notice us at first, because they were too caught up in their pool game. I’ve never seen a game in which the pool balls skip across the table at full force, landing on the floor, and we made sure to steer clear of both the game and the boys. I don’t think they knew quite what to make of three girls and, when they finally noticed us, all they could do was blankly stare at us.

They were checking us out and it was uncomfortable. In turn, we headed for the liquor table, and poured ourselves a glass of wine. We stayed there for a second glass. “The one with the dark hair, navy sweater, he’s kind of cute,” I point out to Melissa. “Toby, he’s, like, 18.” Oh. But that was the oddest thing about this group: there was no median of age. Some of the boys appeared to be 15, while others looked like they were at least 25 and we couldn’t tell where exactly any of them fit in this spectrum.

This entire arrangement was awkward and, quite honestly, a complete buzz kill. We couldn’t sit down with the Argentineans because they were speaking rapidly in Spanish, and seemed to think that we were friends with their sons. I felt like a call girl, and was growing increasingly more pissed off at my asshole friend, Luke, who had invited us to the “cocktail party at a really cool artist’s apartment in SoHo that always has good drugs.” I was also mad at myself because, collectively, I’ve probably sat through over 100 Spanish classes, and I’m still not fluent in the language.

So we sat down in front of the TV, and hand-crafted coffee table, and watched music videos. The TV was situated in between the dinner party and the group of kids, whose Ritalin supply was running dangerously low. It felt like we were sitting in some kind of vortex, where we could clearly see the disintegration of a generation. The cross-generational differences were staggering. On our left, was the old world and to the right, the new world: culture versus no culture, history versus no history and the fullness of the past versus the emptiness of the moment. In the middle of all this, Green Day videos were starting to give me a headache.

Two of the guys came over and sat with us, promptly taking out their sketchpads. The first one had a mustache, fisherman’s cap, and the voice of a 12 year-old prepubescent boy. Either he had a speech impediment or the mustache had cropped up fives years too early; it was hard to tell. He startled us a bit, although I did kind of admire his courage at being the first one to speak. He was cordial enough, but his little sidekick was giving us the third degree about who knows what. They invited us out onto the fire escape to smoke. Eh, why not? I tell Sam and Melissa that maybe it will have a good view.

For some reason, I had confused ‘fire escape’ with ‘balcony’. It wasn’t until we were outside, standing on a rusty piece of iron, with ten of these conversational terrorists, passing around their crappy east coast pot, that I became very nervous. I looked from Sam to Melissa, who were just as shaken – I mean that in the literal sense; it was very windy out there- and we decided we had to get the hell off that fire escape. Even though we were only two stories up, I was pretty sure that none of those boys would be able to break our fall.

So we told them we had to get going, which is when the one with the mustache grabbed my arm, telling me I had to stay a while longer. I told him to back off. He did. We climbed back through the window, I took another piece of bread pudding, said “gracias,” and we left for our next destination.

Meanwhile, 3,000 miles away, in my old stomping grounds, another group of partygoers was about to meet their ill-fated demise.

Friday, March 24, 2006

That’s it, some of you (one person) criticized my use of Toby Shuster, of Jerusalem, as my blogging mascot. You wanted more sex, more drugs, more NEW YORK. But the truth is, my life is not very exciting. Unless I lived in DC and was getting paid to blog about my sex life, I refuse to write about sex in this forum, being a virgin and all. That type of blog is enitrely too overplayed, anyway.

So, back by popular demand (and by popular, I mean two good friends. And I’m pretty sure they were drunk), I am reintroducing Ms. Toby Shuster of Jerusalem.

This morning, when clicking around, I stumbled upon a document from the Seabreeze, Bulletin of the Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue.

Here is an excerpt:

“After finishing my coffee, and listening to the usual amount of boy-meets-girl patter, I took my suitcase across the street to a “Bed and Breakfast”. Really, it was an apartment with a well-appointed extra bedroom, and an incredibly vivacious hostess named Toby Schuster. Toby, an American from Philadelphia, has lived in Jerusalem for over thirty years. “

This revealing document shares several key pieces of eyewitness information about Toby Shuster of Jerusalem. Just in case you missed it, Toby Shuster’s “Bed & Breakfast” is really nothing more than a “well-appointed extra bedroom.” But we’ll ignore that eye-opener for the time being.

Even more interesting is the fact that Toby Shuster, of Jerusalem, is actually an American, from Philadelphia. Why is this so fascinating? Because my parents are from Philadelphia, therefore Toby Shuster, of Jerusalem, and Toby Shuster of Nashville/Seattle/New York could possibly be related. Possibly maybe.

She might be “incredibly vivacious” in person, but on the Internet, Toby Shuster of Jerusalem is nothing less than a shrewd businesswoman, running a “Bed & Breakfast” entirely on false advertising.

I’m onto you, Toby Shutser, of Jersualem. Sure, on the surface, I may appear to be merely a wistful English major, trying to make it on my own in the real world. But I know a thing or two about marketing. I know how Google works; I’m aware of the different venues e-commerce takes, such as Paid Inclusion on search engines. Any of this sound familiar to you, Ms. Philadelphia-Jerusalem, whatever you go by these days? You think I don’t know about the problems involved in dealing with Key Word Optimization Programs (that’s paying a specialist to make sure a specific site appears in a better, ie. “higher” listing, on Google), the feasibility of having a budgeting, or marketing, program to include both Online advertising, in conjunction with Offline advertising and then, of course, the entire issue of whether traditional advertising is even viable in this day and age, or whether a promotional program should consist entirely of straight Public Relations, trying to get your message across through well-placed media contacts.

Now I do not pretend to know anything about these terms, but I do want you to know that I am aware of them, Ms. Bed&Breakfast. You’ve got a nice thing going over there in Jerusalem and I’m not trying to step on anybody's toes. I just want you to know that I plan on staking that first slot on Google under our name. I mean no harm. After all, we could be long lost sisters, or cousins, or you could even be my real mother...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Modern Things

Last night, at this viewing, my fascination with Iceland grew to the point of obsession. I once looked into moving to Iceland, because I heard it’s the most literate country in the world and Bjork lives there, so it must be a utopian country. But did you know that you can only get a VISA for up to six months, until they kick you out of there? Yet for six months, you could walk around like a Viking goddess, where everybody eats whale blubber, drinks mead, and the social cohesion is greater than in both U.S and Canada. Reykjavik is the northernmost national capital in the world and the country has more glacier-submerged land than in all of continental Europe! Okay, that last part would be a letdown.

Anyway, the films. The first short featured a blonde, baby doll type woman sitting at a table next to a birthday cake, with mice crawling out of it, while a fishing hook slowly emerged from her mouth. The second half showed her on her knees, crouched in front of a green toilet, licking whipped cream and cherries off the seat, for about four minutes, like a porn star. Icelandics are weird. The second short was a beautiful animation of Poe's The Raven.

The feature film, I Sknon Drekans (In the Shoes of the Dragon), is the only film that has ever been banned in Iceland. The enchanting director, Hronn Sveinsootir, was there to present the film and explain the background of the 2000 documentary: Initially entering the Miss Icelandic beauty contest, for the sake of making an expose film on the tawdriness of beauty pageants, Sveinsootir eventually gets caught up in the competition, documenting her transformation into a beauty queen diva. It was basically like watching America’s Next Top Model, except it took place in Iceland, and Sveinsootir is a lot hotter and cooler than the girls featured on that show.

If you're in the neighborhood, you should definitely check out this nonprofit art space in Tribeca. The Tank.

Afterwards, there was an open bar with Icelandic vodka and an Icelandic DJ- who chose, of all things, Michael Jackson- and you really can’t ask for more from a Wednesday night.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Paperback Writer

This article is very good news for book nerds like me. Not only does it mean that our bank accounts will be in less pain, but it also helps solve the problem I discussed last week, about carrying heavy hardback books around town. Not to mention the positive effect this change will have on the publishing industry, as well as up and coming writers.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The One They Call The Warlord

First, a disclaimer: I do not like the Matrix series. Maybe it’s because the first time I saw The Matrix, I was drunk and it was playing in Spanish, I don’t know. I just never really “got” the Wachowski brothers’ “vision.” I do love action films and didn’t really get into Sci-Fi until just this past spring, when I saw Brazil for the first time. I then spent the entire summer catching up on the Sci-Fi genre, only to find that Brazil is still the best of its kind. I appreciate Sci-Fi movies because, unlike real life, they do not allot much time for boredom. Also, I should add that I am not a fan of graphic novels and, I will admit right now, I didn't even know V for Vendetta was an adaptation; I just saw the preview during the Super Bowl and thought it was the coolest thing I'd seen all night.

I really, really liked V for Vendetta and felt that the film fully lived up to its hype.

There is nothing original in this film. It is entirely a pastiche of references drawing from: Phantom of the Opera (music, mask), A Clockwork Orange (rebellion, violence), 1984 (um, everything), V. (mechanization, paranoia), Batman (darkness), and Fahrenheit 451 (censorship). Additionally, the creators make no qualms about hiding the obvious jabs at our current administration by linking Bush with a dictator who has an overt resemblance to Hitler. And what a timely release – postponing after last summer's train bombings in London- for the weekend that marks the fourth year of the Iraq War.

If you don’t catch any of these allusions, then you’re a dimwit and I’d appreciate it if you no longer perused my blog.

So I’m just going to talk about Natalie Portman’s role as Evey, because I don’t feel like getting into the other stuff. For starters, the actress seems to have reprised her very first Hollywood role, that of Mathilda in The Professional (1994). Again, she plays the helpless, orphaned girl, saved by a man- the villain/hero type- who destroys others for the sake of the greater good, and passes his skills onto her before he dies. Yet Natalie Portman is older now and allowed to play more of a seductress (the sexual undertones in The Professional were, after all, a bit creepy for a 12 year-old actress and a much older French actor).

Evey (Beauty) falls in love with V (Beast) and how could she not? He’s cunning, speaks in alliteration, and has a pretty impressive lair. Why she tried to get in his pants, after seeing his hands, only furthers the testament of her love. After he rejects her physically, assuring her that she does not want to go there, he dies, furthering the pattern of significant males in her life who have abandoned her for death.

But what about the women, I ask you? Evey is the only woman in V for Vendetta. The film shows Evey constantly seeking safety, from a totalitarian world in which she ends up on the most wanted list, each time with the refuge of men. First, there’s V, then her boss, and then, with visual impact, the hundreds of civilians donning Guy Fawkes masks in the film’s conclusion.

Yet she is most inspired by the (sparse) female roles in her life. Most notably, her mother, the political activist who dies for her beliefs. I think, however, that it is the pair of lesbian actresses who carry the biggest influence on Evey’s life. It is through their story that Evey is able to find the inspiration to survive in the tortuous solitude of her prison cell and, upon escaping, to carry on a revolution without fear of death or rule.

I don’t know what this role says about Natalie Portman’s acting career, exactly. Did anybody happen to catch her on Saturday Night Live a couple of weeks ago? Well, I did and I watched, with my grandmother, as she performed a skit in which she starred as a hardened gangsta bitch, rapping in verse and knocking journalists out with her fists. It’s the only time I’ve seen her do anything remotely funny and even my grandmother was taken aback, asking: “What’s a nice, little Jewish girl doing in a skit like that?”

So maybe Portman is aiming for a new image, or at least trying to give her career more attitude. I think I’m rooting for her because we’re around the same age and there aren’t many other actresses that offer much hope for my generation. Kirstin Dunst, Kiera Knightly, Maggie Gyllenhal, etc.? Coming up empty. Before Vendetta came out, I counted The Professional as the only movie worth watching Portman in, although I still haven’t seen Closer. Because, let’s face it, her role in Garden State was horrendous and she wasn’t all that good in Star Wars, either. At least she gets to play a hero in V for Vendetta and she even pulls off the buzz cut pretty well, kind of.

But I also think that before Natalie Portman started all of this, she should have found a better voice coach to help with her shoddy English accent.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Hearts In The Beerlight

My stomach was still staggering a bit from the sushi fiasco, so I abstained from drinking on the night of St. Patrick’s Day. I think this made me the only sober person in all of New York, bringing me to one conclusion: my friends are idiots and I love them for it.

There were two rooftops, one in the middle of Manhattan and one in Bushwick. Some day, I’d like to hang out on a rooftop when it’s not freezing outside, like so:

Oh, and another realization: parties are always more fun in Brooklyn rather than Manhattan. But I think I already figured that one out about three months ago.

So there was dancing and smoking and cookies and awkward exchanges and more dancing. And then some more dancing until, finally, it was 4:30 in the morning and a select few of us realized that we were the last ones standing and it was time to go home.

Saturday was my favorite pen-pal’s show at Piano’s, followed by the long awaited Silver Jews show at Webster Hall. They were good, just as good as you would expect. But if I may make one suggestion to Mr. Berman for next time: don’t let your wife hog the microphone.

My stomach was 99% better that evening, so I rewarded it with wine in my newest friend’s apartment and whiskey sours at the Milk Bar. Yeah, like in the movie.

Somewhere in that weekend, there was a series of shadow puppets, a wager between strangers about my real age, pizza, a Broadway show, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels , and quite a few missed connections.

Sunday was devoted to sleeping allllll day, until ‘V for Vendetta,’ which, like the Silver Jews, was just as good as I expected. Screw all the mixed reviews, any super hero who speaks in alliteration is fine by me.

Anyway, as always, I am assertive and askew in another afternoon, anxiously anticipating an amusing anecdote answering an awry aspect of alternative aspiration.

Edit: According to one critic, "toby, just one thing. I wish you reviewed v for vendetta. i wanted to know your thoughts on the film. that's what your post should really be about, the film, as it made a strong impression on you, whereas the parties didn't seem to thrill you much."
But I don't have time today, because management is breathing down my neck(well, not really. i've just always wanted to say that), so I'll do a movie review for tomorrow's post.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Week in Review

This morning, I stepped off the train, up two flights of stairs, and began my six block walk through SoHo. I pass the girl on the street, not much older than me, holding a sign begging for money. Stopping at the fruit stand, I hand the vendor a dollar, in exchange for which he gives me an orange and $.25. Even though the street is one-way, I look both ways before crossing. The buildings in this neighborhood are considerably shorter in stature compared to other neighborhoods in the city, which is strange, when considering that I always seem to feel smallest in this neighborhood. I stop again, this time paying a vendor $2 for an Americano. He knows me by now and doesn’t even bother asking what I would like. I tip him with some lose change. This consists of the $.25 from the fruit vendor and the change I almost gave to the young girl. Finally, I arrive at my office, say ‘hello’ to Carol, the doorwoman, to which she says, "Hello, sweetie. How are you doing?" Some time, I’d like to have a real conversation with Carol. I take the elevator to the 15th floor, sit down at my desk, and begin my day.

This morning, I stepped off the train, up two flights of stairs, and began my six block walk through SoHo. I pass the girl on the street, not much older than me, holding a sign begging for money. Stopping at the fruit stand, I hand the vendor a dollar, in exchange for which he gives me an orange and $.25. Even though the is street one-way, I look both ways before crossing. Continuing, I contemplate briefly the ramifications of playing hooky for the day, before crossing. I pass a group of models, three legging-clad pairs of legs that reach my hip, approximately. I stop again, this time paying a vendor $2 for an Americano. He knows me by now and doesn’t even bother asking what I would like. I tip him with some lose change. Finally, I arrive at my office, say ‘hello’ to Carol, the doorwoman, to which she says "Hello, sweetie. How are you doing?" Some time, I’d like to have a real conversation with Carol. I take the elevator to the 15th floor, sit down at my desk, and begin my day.

This morning, I stepped off the train, up two flights of stairs, and began my six block walk through SoHo. Stopping at the fruit stand, I hand the vendor a dollar, in exchange for which he gives me an orange and $.25. Continuing, I consider briefly the ramifications of playing hooky for the day, before crossing. Even though the street is one-way, I look both ways before crossing. The buildings in this neighborhood are considerably shorter in stature compared to other neighborhoods in the city, which is strange, when considering that I always seem to feel smallest in this neighborhood. I stop again, this time paying a vendor $2 for an Americano. He knows me by now and doesn’t even bother asking what I would like. I tip him with some lose change. Finally, I arrive at my office, say ‘hello’ to Carol, the doorwoman, to which she says "Hello, sweetie. How are you doing?" Some time, I’d like to have a real conversation with Carol. I take the elevator to the 15th floor, sit down at my desk, and begin my day.

It is in sickness that we are compelled to recognize that we do not live alone but are chained to a being from a different realm, from whom we are worlds apart, who has no knowledge of us and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body. Were we to meet a brigand on the road, we might perhaps succeed in making him sensible of his own personal interest if not of our plight. But to ask pity of our body is like discoursing in front of an octopus, for which our words can have no meaning than the sounds of the tides, and with which we should be appalled to find ourselves condemned to live. --Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

((In other words, eating a sushi dinner, directly after practicing a temporarily vegan diet, caused the sea to take its revenge upon my stomach. ))

This morning, I stepped off the train, up two flights of stairs, and began my six block walk through SoHo. Stopping at the fruit stand, I hand the vendor a dollar, in exchange for which he gives me an orange and $.25. Even though the street is one-way, I still look both ways before crossing. I stop again, this time paying a vendor $2 for an Americano coffee. He knows me by now and doesn’t even bother asking what I would like. I tip him with some lose change. Finally, I arrive at my office, say ‘hello’ to Carol, the doorwoman, to which she says "Hello, sweetie. How are you doing?" Some time, I’d like to have a real conversation with Carol. I take the elevator to the 15th floor, sit down at my desk, and begin my day.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Photo Essay: The Far-fetched Parallel Between The Rise and Fall of Two Superstar Musicians

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

B & W

Last night was a catch-up dinner with a friend, who somehow managed to bring a cold front from Arizona, insisting that it was charm. Sushi was followed by a birthday party at Black & White, in which the hostess was the only person wearing black and white and the guest of honor showed up two hours late. How our table managed to win the trivia contest, I do not know. Oh wait, that’s right, we cheated. But how were we supposed to know David Bowie’s real name off the top of our head? Our prize, free beer, was much appreciated but hardly warranted at that point.

As two very white girls left Black and White, a conversation, that they have been continuing for almost a decade now, proceeded about the fact that human relationships are never, ever black and white.

This morning, after hitting the snooze button five times- with each three minute interval, hoping to wake up to a Saturday morning- I listened to a voicemail from a concerned friend:

There you have it, I missed something!

Oh and it seems to be the general consensus, between the four people who frequent this blog, that I should sever all ties with Toby Shuster, of Jerusalem. Apparently, that gimmick got old ten posts ago. So I’m letting you go, Ms. Shuster, and I will no longer be riding your coattails. Fare thee well, Toby Shuster of Jerusalem, fare thee well.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Book Space

I’m usually more partial to long, drawn out novels than “quick reads.” I like reading the same novel for weeks at a time; the longer, the better. But seeing as I am now getting most of my reading done in my commutes to and from work, it is not that practical to carry around a book that could easily double as a doorstop.

The most obvious solution, to reading on the train, is to neatly fold a magazine under my arm. But I don’t like 90% of magazine writing so I’ve been reading quickie works of literature lately. There are two in particular that I found to be perfectly suited for the fragmented bus and subway trips of my mornings and evenings.

The first one is Orphans, Essays, by Charles D’ Ambrosio. I picked up this densely packed book in Seattle, about a year and a half ago, after seeing D’Ambrosio do a reading. For some reason, I didn’t get around to it until last month. Now I’m wondering what I’ve been wasting my time on for the past year and a half, because I think this guy is hands down one of the best contemporary writers we have going for us today.

The second, Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino, I was able to finish in one day, between two 30 minute commutes. And I read it again, the next day, which I so rarely do. Calvino, a very prolific writer, was recommended to me by my friend Charles. I panicked at the bookstore, not knowing which Calvino to start with, so I chose Invisible Cities only because it has the coolest name. But I now plan to read everything he has ever written, which my friend, Charles, does not recommend.

These two writers have close to nothing in common: they are from different generations, yet of the same century, and two totally different regions (Calvino, born in Cuba, raised in Italy, D’ Ambrosio, born and raised in the Pacific Northwest). Yet they both display flawlessly the skill of saying a lot with as little language as possible: Calvino, with his poetic prose and D’Ambrosio, with his poetic journalism.

Although I must confess, when my eye catches a headline like, HOW BRONZER CHANGED MY LIFE, I do tilt my head in curiosity as I look over the shoulder of the passenger next to me, breaking from literature to magazine fluff.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Good Cop, Bad Cop

This weekend, we took a vegan tour of Manhattan and I decided to convert to veganism. Just kidding. I could dedicate myself to a life of soy, I think, if it weren’t for all of the readily available nonvegan food venues in New York. After all, it is the freaking Melting Pot. For instance, it was difficult to finish a plate of tofu, knowing that a perfectly good creperie was only two blocks away. Now I am by no means a "foodie," in part because of my tight budget, but mainly because I'm simply lazy and a platter of Ramen Noodles will tide me over just as well as a meal that would take me 45 minutes to prepare. But I persisted, as a vegan, for three whole days.

I’m sure you're familar with the challenges in denying yourself of certain food products, Toby Shuster of Jerusalem, as you sustain a kosher kitchen.

Our journey began at Red Bamboo, on West 4th, with the Creole Soul Chicken appetizer and Seitan Sandwich with caramelized onions. Not bad at all, but it wasn’t that good, either. This restaurant is definitely not made for the portly, as the crowded tables do not allow much room for breathing. This meal was followed by lemon-flavored cupcakes, from Baby Cakes and, if presented with the challenge, I would be hard pressed to discern the difference between a vegan and non-vegan cupcake. Then again, I would eat anything with sugar in it, so I’m not too picky in that arena. We also visited Blossom Café, in Chelsea, which was slightly fancier and meant for larger bank accounts. I can't recall the meal we ate that afternoon, so it couldn’t have been very good. My favorite vegan eatery was definitely Kate’s Joint, in the Lower East Side, an unpretentious restaurant that serves vegan comfort food. While I was a little apprehensive about the fake buffalo wings- I've never been able to wrap my palate around meat substitutions of any kind, no matter how charming the presentation-I hardly missed meat while eating the grilled veggie platter.

Finding vegan shoes is another story. Those poor vegans! They don’t have many options as far as shoes are concerned, not yet at least. My companion was looking for a pair of non-leather shoes to match her wedding dress and neither of the two stores that we visited had much to offer her besides tennis shoes, austere Mary Jane’s, and hemp sandals. Sucks for her.

In between our vegan explorations, there was tons and tons of walking, an art gallery jaunt through Chelsea, a surprising amount of "hanging out," and some music, Pearls & Brass, at the Cake Shop Bar (which also offers vegan desserts).

And that is how two best friends, on two divergent paths – one dedicated to veganism and engaged to be married, the other decidedly single and carnivorous- spend a weekend in New York.

Oh, and dear reader, don’t worry about me, I’m not constipated at all.


Friday, March 10, 2006

Everything All the Time

This weekend, one of my dearest friends is visiting from Seattle,

my most beloved borough.

I lived in Seattle for three years and not a SINGLE person, with the exception of various family members, came out there to visit me. Now that I’m in New York, everybody I’ve ever met is booking a spot on my couch. Sure, they’re coming to see me but I know that they are really visiting New York.

It’s very difficult to show out-of-towners everything I like about New York within the limited span of three days. Another friend, who is visiting in April, told me that he doesn’t care what we do during his stay; he just wants to “hang out.”

I tried, in vain, to explain to him that there is no “hanging out” in New York. Well, not if you’re only here for a weekend. This weekend, like every other weekend I’ve been here, there are about 8,675 things going on and I want to do

My usual solution is simple: forgo sleep for a couple of days. It's true what they say, this city does give you A.D.D. Quite frequently, I will be out having a great time but in the back of my mind, I know that there is something else going on somewhere else. And I'm missing it. It’s sick, really, and an impossible challenge in that New York drains not only your wallet, but also your energy.

I have a coworker, we'll call him Mark, who laughs at my enthusiasm for the city. "Oh you'll get your fill soon enough. Just wait until you become jaded, like me," he taunts.

Why then does he choose to remain in New York? The second this city starts to turn me off, I'm outta here.

For this particular weekend, I was presented with the task of finding a selection of vegan restaurants for my herbivorous house guest. I also made a promise to abstain from meat and dairy products for three days. Gone, for three days, will be my time as a low maintenance eater, ducking into a pizza shop and grabbing a slice in under ten minutes. Now eating will be a production, albeit a healthier production. The last time I tried going vegan for a couple of days, I didn’t shit right for two weeks, so hopefully that won’t happen again.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

myspaced out

I’m getting sick of myspace and I’m not even kidding. I joined, about a year ago, because all of my friends were doing it and it was fun, at first. Friendster is dull, Facebook, elitist, and Dodgeball, scary.

It’s hard to have less than 100 friends, if you’ve attended more than one high school or college and, soon enough, your account begins to look like the end of some Fellini film, with all of the layers of your social life colliding into one. Also take into account the bands you add, to, you know, keep up with their tour schedules, and the people you accept, out of social obligations, even if you don’t really like them.

It does have its advantages, as far as networking goes. As an email account, it has more perks than Gmail or Yahoo and fine, I also use it to spy on ex boyfriends, but doesn’t everybody? myspace also works as a first-rate social crutch. Only knowing about three people when I moved to this city, I found it to be much easier to “myspace” a new friend, rather than cold call them.

While myspace Tom, bless his nerdy heart, did sell out to Murdoch, you have to give him credit for surpassing those Napster guys, in so far as entrepreneurship is concerned. He doesn’t get to me, as much as he does to other people; I actually get a kick out of his omniscient-creator-of-all attitude.

But talk about lackluster addictions! In college, I remember going to the computer lab during finals week, only to find everybody’s monitors flashing with ‘online now’ lights. Now, when I’m supposed to be in the real world, I hear of friends who are no longer allowed to sign on at the office, because of foolish coworkers who would stew in myspace all day long. So I feel justified in blaming myspace for my distinct drop in productivity over the past year or so.

Yet when I am stuck, staring at a computer for eight hours a day, it’s a comfort to sign on to myspace and see those signs flashing, along with the synthetic energy they emit. To know that my friends (by that I mean, my real friends) are also fixed at a computer, while on myspace, helps me get through my days. The ontological strangeness of everybody being ‘on’ in cyberspace and ‘off’ in reality will never grow old.

As for you, Toby Shuster of Jerusalem, I took the liberty of creating for you a myspace profile of your very own. I didn’t want you to feel left out.

Look at Those Seams

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Clouds In My Coffee

Jack Turner has in inspiring piece in this week’s New Yorker about the return of absinthe, in which he profiles Ted Breux, an absinthe “restorer.” Leaving New Orleans, one day before Katrina struck, Breux rescued only “a guitar, some vintage firearms, and a collection of hundred-year-old absinthes,” which seems to me to be a very wise decision.

Screw the pets, leave Spike and Missy to fend for themselves. Animals are perfectly capable of surviving in extreme situations; that’s why instincts were invented. Yet hundred-year-old bottles of absinthe are left completely immobilized, helpless to refurbish themselves. This is especially so in an age where the pastime of absinthe drinking has apparently died.

I’ve experienced absinthe before, yet I’m not sure now if it was the real thing. What I drank tasted more like a cup of Windex, although it did make me laugh uncontrollably and turn on my partner in crime, after he morphed into a talking cockroach. According to Breaux, however, “there are only a few dozen people alive who have had the opportunity to taste authentic absinthe.” So maybe I was just experimenting with Windex flavored vodka?

What we have here is an honest to goodness American hero: Ted Breux. Personally, I love addictions, they make people human. Addictions are a clear window to one's weakness and we all have them. It's just that some people choose really boring addictions, like Diet Coke. By restoring the absinthe addiction of the 18th Century, Breux is doing his fellow Americans a favor.

We are lacking in exciting addictions these days. Most drugs are either too expensive or life threatening and plain old booze only stimulates for so long. We need the return of absinthe, at least in order to provide some kind of renaissance to American recreation. The New Yorker, in publishing this article the week after Mardi Gras, and with that, the restoration of the city of New Orleans, is pointedly encouraging addiction.

Hopefully, by the time you get to the U.S.,Toby Shuster, of Jerusalem, Breaux will have succeeded with this restoration and we can go out for some absinthe after we watch a crappy movie.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Reese Witherspoon's Chin Takes All

Well, Toby Shuster, of Jerusalem, I am almost positive that you missed the 78th Academy Awards. It’s not that I doubt your commitment to the art of cinema, but rather I understand how busy you are these days, with tourism season fast approaching.

Don’t worry, the show was kind of a drag this year. Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep (and a very, very old Mickey Rooney and Lauren Bacall) were the only real movie stars present. Likewise, Jon Stewart was a pretty bland host and the entire event seemed almost completely devoid of glamour. Personally, I was more upset over Dolly Parton’s loss, than the failure of Brokeback Mountain to win best picture. Sure Brokeback Mountain was far better than Crash, but it’s all politics, you see?

After the sheer disappointment of the Oscars, I’ve decided that I am only going to the theater to watch crappy movies from here on out. Last week, I went with some friends to see Nightwatch, the Russian horror flick starring vodka-guzzling vampires, that caused such a big stir in Russia. Now that was a bad movie! Upon leaving the theater, we found the East Village to be eerily empty, maybe due to the time of week, a Sunday evening, or people were just scared shitless, as I admittedly am at the moment.

Yet this is all old hat and I feel like a failure of a blogger. I don’t want to let you down, Toby Shuster, of Jerusalem, so I will persevere to keep you better informed in entries to come. However, to tell the truth, this whole blogging thing is more of a pain in the ass than I expected. And if I hadn’t made a bet, with a certain buddy, to blog five days a week for the next month, then I probably would’ve thrown in the towel by now.

Some day, the two of us, both Toby Shuster’s, should join forces and go see a movie together. It has to be a really overrated movie, though, because those seem to be the best kind.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Everything But the Night

Hey,Toby Shuster, of Jerusalem, if I wanted to, I could run our name straight into the ground. I could turn this into one of those 'OhMyGodLastNightWasSoCRAZY' blogs. You know the type.

Watch me. I could make this blog's sole existence consist of digital photos of me with my friends, listenting to music at a bar. Completely wasted, all of it.

Toby Shuster, of Jerusalem, would you even care if I did such a thing?

Just kidding. Even though it is Friday, I wouldn't do that to you, to us.

Instead, I am going home, to the south, to eat a birthday dinner and watch the Oscars with my grandmother. And when I get back to New York, on Monday, it will be spring time and I will no longer have to walk around like this:

I hope you're happy now, Toby Shuster, of Jerusalem.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Damn you, Toby Shuster of Jerusalem! You still hold a monopoly on our name in the realm of Google. I see how it is: It’s not enough for you to own a bed and breakfast bearing our name. No, you want it all.

My name is Toby Shuster and I am going to continue with this blahg, despite the fact that it has yet to earn me a proper title on Google.

According to a friend, in order to correctly maintain a blahg, I must update at least five times per day.

Chop,Chop,Chop,” he said.

Quite frankly, that's a lot of pressure, especially considering I do not strive to be a professional blogger, because I have a real job to maintain. In fact, just talking about it makes me feel excessively nerdy.

Maybe, the more I blahg, the more slots on Google I can usurp from Toby Shuster of Jerusalem. Then, Toby Shuster, of Jerusalem, will be so upset, that she will insist on flying me out to Jerusalem, where we will hold name-sharing negotiations over a cup of tea. But not breakfast, because Toby Shuster doesn’t serve breakfast at Toby Shuster’s Bed and Breakfast.