Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Darling I Love You, But Give Me Park Avenue


ANYWAY I've been thinking quite a bit lately about real estate. This is not only because I spent the greater half of my Memorial Day weekend embedded in the housing throes of Craigslist, but also due to the new terms in my vernacular that did not exist prior to my New York relocation six months ago. Rent control, prime location, ratios of square feet to dollar, exposed brick, dilapidated structures, rooftop additions, interest rates, adjustable mortgages, etc. etc. I want to learn more.

So once this publishing stint turns sour, I think I'll try my hand at real estate. Looking out the window of my new office, down, down, down onto 42nd Street, Bryant Park during lunch hour, onto the human ant farm (gosh darnit that's a tired metaphor but it fits so well!), I notice that I no longer take into account new expansions in my community, as I once did, but rather, what vacant spaces have not yet been developed.

If I were a real estate agent, the city would be my office. I love it. I would get to run around all day, showing newly weds where they can hang their plasma screen TV's on the Upper West Side, and hip hop stars where they can abandon their dying house plants in Tribeca for 3 G's a month. Of course this new occupation will take more consideration partly, ostensibly, because the sum total of my knowledge of this subject is zero. However, I did a bit of person to person research this weekend and figured out that I can take a 45 hour course for $200, after which I would have a real estate license.

Then, assuming I could find a job, I would only be required to show up to an office from about 10:00-2:00, at which point, I would go out "into the field." It might take me a while to wrap my brain around this new lingo but, ultimately, this shit is not rocket science. Besides, it's not the unwieldy commitment of grad/architecture school so if I don't like it, I can be a real estate dropout and there is absolutely no harm in that.

Monday, May 29, 2006

This House Is Not a Motel

So Brittany, the sweet roommate, is moving out because she was accepted to grad school and she has to start right this very minute. She spent all of last week interviewing Craigslist candidates to take her place and she finally found one who was set to move in by June 1st. This girl, we'll call her EMILY STENSON, was nice enough, not that I really cared. I don't need another friend, I just need a roommate.
EMILY STENSON was supposed to move in this weekend. That is, until she decided to look me up on Myspace. My profile then directed her to this little blahg, where she read my posts about Anne (my other roommate, who has quit her job to plan her wedding, which is not until December). EMILY STENSON then sent me some bullshit email where she was all lol-ing it up, telling me she likes my apartment, but she doesn't want to live with Anne.
I tell you what, Emily, I'm a survivor and living with Anne is small potatoes compared to the nutcases I've been paired with in the past. There was Crazy Karen, my freshman year of college, who would go three weeks at least without bathing, and Brandy, my sophomore year, who deemed it necessary for our dorm room to be fully armed with a set of butterfly knives. I escaped the next two years without incident, for the most part.
Well, Emily. You aren't fit to be my roommate and I don't need your LOL's and dangling modifiers poisoning the bloodline of my roommate lineage. I suppose I didn't make enough of an impression in the flesh; you needed some sort of validation from Myspace that I am cool enough to be your roommate. In some regions that's called stalking -- or at least a mild form of stalking. Good luck out there, kid. Yeah, living with a slightly unbalanced devout Catholic is not always a walk in the park but at least I have a roof over my head. LOL that.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Difficult Fun

Allow me to reflect, if you will, on my ass. Around this time, a year ago, I was crouching down while a friend (of the truest variety) was painting a blue 'S' on my left butt cheek and a 'U' on the right. We were behind the parking garage, stark naked, with about twenty others, getting ready for the senior streak. The soundtrack to Kill Bill, Vol.1 was playing, Mount Rainier was somewhere in the backdrop, and we were pounding down shots of vodka in preparation for the nude swan song we were about to offer over 200 of our closest, fully clothed, friends and faculty members.
Now, twelve months later, Empire State Building in view, I'm sitting here, on my ass, wearing Banana Republic slacks, with a red pen in my right hand and an acquisition proposal in my left. I'm drinking coffee that could better be described as black water and, because it's Friday, there are free bagels in the conference room. As a matter of course, it's a different location and a noticeably diametric pastime, but it's still the same ass.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Seven Ways of Going

I was about 900 words in, when I decided that there is no need for a thesis statement in a letter of resignation for a freelance, entry-level position. The guilt I feel for leaving my current job is wholly unnecessary but for some reason I feel like I'm breaking up with a long-term boyfriend. It's not you, it's me; I'm not ready for this kind of commitment.

Enough of that garbage. I can have a heart of mold sometimes and this state of remorse will fade as soon the health benefits and Summer Hours of my new job start rolling my way. So I trimmed the e-mail down to an economical twenty-five words, keeping the subject line brief and to the point: Resignation.

As for you, dear blahg, I think we will have to take a brief hiatus from one another. In this case, it is you, not me. I'm not sure of exactly what I will be doing in my new position but I'm almost positive that I'm heading into a bona fide cubicle farm and I can't sit there, stealing hits of myspace and whatnot, while my co-workers are milling round the water cooler, eating soggy tuna salad sandwiches and discussing their mortgage payments. I just don't think that would be very professional.

And finally, New York, you've been a good remedy for somebody as hopelessly peripatetic as myself but I'm taking the Amtrak to Montreal tonight, where I will be spending the weekend with another city. I am clearly still mad about you, New York, so consider this a fling and nothing more.

I may not be the most consistent motherfucker around but I am loyal and when I find something that suits me, I stick to it. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm quite smitten with you, New York, and I think we have a good thing going, I really do.

Over and Out,

Thursday, May 18, 2006

My city's a creep


A Triad, three reasons New York almost turned me off this morning:

one) girl next to me on the train, at 8:45 AM, eating SpaghettiOs, raw
two) baby stroller, better equipped than my first car, almost ran me over
three) dude, w/ BlackBerry, gave homeless man a $1, asked for change

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

And Your Bird Can Sing

ah yes, katie howell and i go way back. in 1990, we spent three weeks preparing the duet dance number, 'we're a couple of swells', for the 4th grade talent show. she was to be judy garland and i fit the role of mickey rooney because i had shorter hair. yet on the day of our big show, katie became mysteriously ill and had to bail. having no other choice - as they say in the business, THE SHOW MUST GO ON - i performed by myself. it's not easy to do a solo duet; the dance moves are all off and one voice doesn't carry as well as two. it was the single most traumatizing event of my entire life. today, after more than a decade's worth of therapy sessions and several trips in and out of rehab (pain killers), i've finally learned to forgive katie.

OK, fine. Maybe I lied about the rehab part, but the rest of it is fact. However, Katie and I would eventually drift apart -- through different schools and whatnot-- because friends often do that.
Until one evening, some years later, we would meet up in NYC. She would look the exact same, except now she has boobs, and I still have the shorter hair. Now we talk about real life boys, instead of Ken dolls, and on an avenue in the LES, we would hand off cigarettes for Red Bull. When deciding what to do next, it would hit us, just like one of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney's revelations, "Hey, I know, we can start a show!"

"Hey, I know, we can get another drink!" And there you have it; we picked up right where we left off, because friends often do that, too.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Suicide Invoice

I'm not chopping today, but I couldn't not post this.

Kids With Guns

So I have this other roommate, named Brittany, but she isn't nearly as fun to write about as Anne. Brittany is sweet. She looks like Katie Couric and everything she does is sweet. She has a very steady boyfriend, named Ned, who lives in Hoboken, and is equally as sweet. She's so sweet that after I helped edit her essays for grad school, she made me a batch of brownies. So sweet was this act, that she burned them a little bit, just because she knows I like slightly burnt brownies.

Anyway, Brittany is what you might call a homebody. She loves TV and she watches a lot of it. I try to bond with her by watching a TV show together about once a week. This worked well until Project Runway went into its off-season. Since then, we have run through the gamut of mindless programming. There was that mother swapping show, unethical; Desperate Housewives, unsavory; and 24, unsettling.

She LOVES the OC, so I tried that one out for a while. During my second episode, I jumped up from the couch, ran into the kitchen, and poured myself a glass of Brita-filtered water. I couldn't take it anymore. Why are all of those kids so blonde and stupid and why do they always throw fancy banquets and where do they get all those guns?? Those are absolutely the most dim-witted kids I've ever seen.

We finally made a compromise on this television show called House. The writing for this show is pretty mediocre (it's not Doctor Who) and it's kind of a rip-off of ER and CSI. But to me, it has all of the components for a quality thirty minutes: it's gory and bizarre and the leading characters are easy on the eyes and, evidently, quite learned. Also, the drama is kept to a minimum, because the characters never allow their interpersonal relationships to interfere with their work. So if you miss one or two episodes, you're not left out on your ass for the entire season. Mainly, though, I have developed the strangest attraction to Dr. House. Dr. House is sooooo sooo sexy! I mean, he's sexy for an older, pompous, pill-popping gimp. And I really want to do it with Dr. House, Jane Fonda&Jon Voight/Coming Home style. Totally.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Energy Fools The Magician

How do you do it, New York? I thought I was supposed to be all jaded by now, but yet again, you presented me with another gratifying weekend. Friday night was the Mogwai show, one of the holiest concert experiences you can get, without shelling out $2,000 for a Radiohead ticket. Afterwards, there were offers of parties and Brit Pop, but anything after Mogwai would be a letdown, so I opted for an early evening.

Saturday....I headed over to one of my favorite weekend cohort's, where we listened to a SUMMER '06 mix...well, mainly we kept Gnarls Barkely on repeat...and we probably would have stayed in all night, dancing around a tiny living room, if we didn't remember it was Saturday...and then we were off and going...even though all of our destinations were within the span of two blocks, it was still an escapade...there was Arlene's Grocery....some burlesque birthday party at the Slipper Room....and the Comic Shack...where it was useful to be traveling with a team of graphic designers, allowing me to play the old transfer-the-stamp-to-the-hand-trick...because let me tell you, the thump thump thump music was not at all worth ten bones...dot.dot.dot...

Sunday, I met up with another visiting Seattle darling at the most delectable wine bar, that I only just discovered, even though it's five blocks from my apartment. Then we saw Army of Shadows, which you guys have to see. For the New Yorkers, go see it tonight, because it's only playing for one more day at the Film Forum, and my Seattlites, I dunno, maybe it'll be at SIFF?

Seriously, though, New York. I hate to sound ungrateful, but it's almost June and I'm freezing. When does summer start around here?

Oh, and even though it's Monday, don't forget to laugh.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Hang On To Your Ego

There are some things that you should make an added effort to see in New York. For instance, I had to see a Spike Lee Joint in New York; I would like to see Sonic Youth play in New York; Jackson Pollock's masterpieces are more effective in New York.

Last night, I had to see Edmund White do a reading in New York. I've never actually read any of his work, as I've always been more captivated by his life than his writing. He is the closest persona we have today, I think, to Oscar Wilde, in that he stirs up controversy and is not afraid to have a little fun. Sure, he's teaching at Princeton right now, because he's old, but it is not as though he spent his entire writing career detained in academia.

So it was positively vital to hear him read from his new book, My Lives: An Autobiography. At sixty-five, he's not quite as old as I expected, though. And the urgency with which I tore out of my office last night -- under the reasoning that if I missed the reading, the famous writer was going to fossilize at any moment -- is admittedly dramatic.

He's very charismatic in-person and had the small audience at McNally Robinson Booksellers completely enamored. ((I was surprised to find that George Saunders draws a bigger crowd than Edmund White.)) Because there were a few French audience members, White chose to read about his friendship with Michel Foucault. Or, as he said, "Foucault and I were merely acquaintances because I only met him about thirty times." Most amusing was White's anecdote about rescuing Foucault from a bad LSD trip, where he went down to one of the bathhouses in the East Village to find "a ball of naked French philosopher, crazed and hissing, in the corner of a cubicle."

White's continuous namedropping is more endearing than flashy and, when I get around to it, I plan to read more of his work, especially now that I can read his musings on New York in New York.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)

From an email I sent to a friend in January:

...and on my lunch break, i must have been all bleary-eyed from staring at the computer. as i was leaving the building, i accidentally stepped into the same compartment of the revolving door with some dude. neither of us noticed at first, until my purse got stuck in the door. then he looked down at me, i looked up at him, and he goes, "what are you doing?"

what am i doing??? i am not fit for new york!

But that was way back in January and I am now proud to report that I fucking own that revolving door. I sent that email around the same time that I started looking for a job. This search took much longer than I expected -- surprise, surprise. By luck, my first job practically fell into my lap, so I naturally assumed that it would not be that difficult to find a new position elsewhere. Yet being an English major in New York, trying to break into the publishing industry, is not unlike an actor moving to LA to become a movie star. But at least you can sleep your way to the top in LA. In a city/industry based almost entirely on conacts, I had none; my father does not play golf with So&So's father (he does not play golf at all, for that matter). Just when I was ready to curse the Baby Boomer generation, for taking its sweet time with retirement, leaving the rest of us incapable of moving up a notch, I finally found a new job. It's not my dream job, of course, but I'll be an Assistant Editor and I really like the way that sounds. Plus, there are TVs in the elevators of my new office building.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sympathy For The Devil

Fine, I should have paid the Verizon bill for our apartment on time, instead of letting it sit on my desk at work until, eventually, Verizon would take it upon themselves to cut off our phone/internet privileges. Yet I am a good roommate, honestly.
When I get home and find Anne (who has quit her job to plan her wedding, which isn’t until December) on the couch with her fiancé (who is paying her rent until they get married), cuddling together while watching Fox News, I do not mind that they make out in my living room. If you do not want to have sex before marriage, that’s your problem. But to kiss without using any tongue at all -- MWAH, MWAH, MWAH, like the sound the button of your jeans makes when it hits the wall of the dryer -- that makes me sick, really it does. However, I do not puke on their feet, like I often feel like doing. No, I hold my puke and then I swallow it, because that’s the kind of high-quality roommate that I am.

So today, when I received a voicemail from Anne, yelling at me for not paying the phone bill, I was a bit surprised to tell the truth. Anne, is this some kind of joke played by you on me?
I am not at all amused by you calling me in the middle of my workday and yelling into the phone like that. Really, she screamed into the phone so loud, I had to hold it away from my ear!
Well, Anne. You had me right up to the point where you claimed you had “work” to do because, you see, there are people out there who get paid to plan weddings. They’re called wedding planners. That’s their job. So for you to interrupt me at my actual job is a little offensive, understand? I take my job very, very seriously. In fact your message made me so flummoxed, I had to take a moment to gather my bearings.
Meanwhile, Anne, you are at home and I’m sorry you are unable to plan your wedding without the Internet. I’m sorry this city we live in, together, is not technologically advanced enough to offer more wireless services. May I suggest getting out of the house every once in a while, maybe walking around our neighborhood with your laptop until you find a signal? Or, here’s a novel idea, how about trying the library?
Needless to say, I paid the bill immediately after receiving Anne’s message. After all, I understand the plight of a bride to be, all of those details to keep in order, wow! How do you do it, Anne? Like Anne, I am wholeheartedly dedicated to the cause of making that wedding the best day of her entire life.
Dear, dear Anne. Although I am not invited to the wedding, I will be there. I know when it is and where it is and far be it from me to miss out on the opportunity to eat a $75/plate dinner. And, as my one concession to you, I’m even going to bring a plus one (or five) and we are going to get hammered and then we are going to show you, and your 200 guests, how to really make out.

Monday, May 08, 2006

No Fit State

The equation was simple: six parties in one weekend. And I did it, mostly. How, you ask? I have stamina, that's how. But somewhere between the Cinco de Mayo/birthday tequila shot, the pineapple prop, and The Living Room, when a new friend turned to me and said, "You know, Toby, we should really get a drink together sometime when we're sober," I decided that next weekend, I'm only going to shoot for four.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Up There Down There

Last night I had dinner at the Harvard Club. But you cannot leave it as so. When somebody asks you what your plans are for the evening, you must reply, "I will be dining at the Haarvaard Club."

The history of the club is as follows:
"The name or title by which the society or Club into which we desire to form ourselves as aforesaid shall be known in law, shall be the
The particular business and object of such society or club shall be to promote social intercourse among ourselves and others, our associates and successors, who are to be persons who have been connected with Harvard University as students or instructors, or who have received honorary degrees therefrom, and for that purpose to establish and maintain in the City and County of New York, for the use of ourselves and such others above mentioned, a club house, having a library, a reading room, a gallery of art, and such other appurtenances and belongings as are usual in clubs and club houses."
From the Certificate of Incorporation, April 16, 1887

For more, see here.

The main dining room is built in proportions that no longer exist in today's restaurants, especially in the squeezed real estate of Manhattan. With fifty-foot high ceilings, dimly lit chandeliers and resonant paneling, the room seems better suited for ballroom dancing than dining. The chairs are made for robust (i.e. fat) men, the wine is poured into goblets. And there's taxidermy. Overlooking my dinner was the head of a dead elephant. This did not bother my appetite, though. I ordered the wild grilled salmon with asparagus and lemon dill sauce, which I found to be somewhat mediocre, given the ostentation of the setting. Looking back on it, I probably should have gone with the steak.

After dinner, we headed into the library for a concert/lecture given by Pianist/Psychiatrist, Richard Kogan, class of '77. The library features more of the same -- instead the walls hold tapestries in addition to stuffed animals. Kogan delivered a mostly biographical lecture on Mozart and try as he did to make it entertaining ("I don't know about you guys, but I think Mozart was a late bloomer!"), he was much better at playing the music of Mozart than talking about it.

In all, it was a welcomed change of pace. It had been a while since I went to a concert that did not require a stamp on my hand and it was refreshing to be home by 10:00. My date for the evening? An 86-year-old man and he was a pefect gentleman.

Flattery Will Get You Everywhere

Hi Toby

I'm turning 40 tomorrow and am currently living in Austria with my american husband and 2 small children. We have a TV but we receive not a single station, because I'm not willing to pay 16 Euros a month to watch badly dubbed shows on network TV. I'm telling you there are only 5 men and 4 women dubbing all the shows from the U.S. It's sad really and it makes my ears hurt. I could get original language stations from the BBC in England but that is too expensive for me as well.
Anyhoo, so instead of watching mindless TV, I read stuff. Mostly on the internet because I don't want to read German crap and I don't want to spend a lot of money ordering English books from amazon.de. After 20 years in the U.S. my German sucks and English just reads better.
A few weeks ago I decided to check out some random blogs to see what they're all about. Yours popped up first and I have been trying to catch up with all your previous posts. I'm still back in March. I just can't get enough. As soon as my kids and husband are asleep I log on to read about your life in the Big Apple. I haven't even bothered to look at any other blogs.
You rock Toby Shuster in New York!


thank you, marion!! it's nice to know that i have a reader who isn't just a good friend/acquaintance. and i love that you have to sneak it in, after the family is asleep, like i'm running some kind of porn site! do tell us, where do you live in austria? and what do you do? maybe you should start a blahg of your own. i was in vienna once and, after paris, it is positively my favorite city. as much as i love new york, i'd give anything to go back to vienna for a while...
oh and happy birthday!!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.

"welcome to new york. this ain't the south, where the jarhead yokels
and jobs at popeyes chicken are plentiful. shits hard, everyone is
smarter, richer, better qualified, and more attractive than you. but
hey, there's more stuff to do at night, right? hang in there, don't
take everything so personally, and you'll do fine, i promise. soon
you'll have an impenetrable shell of cynicism like me and you'll just
discount everyone who rejects you as being fatally flawed in some way
and therefore discountable."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

No Strange Delight

Monday, May 01, 2006

Good Times Roll Pt. 2

Last weekend was the Tribeca Film Festival and, although I spent the bulk of my time in Tribeca, went to quite a few festival parties and brainstormed ideas for movies, I unintentionally managed not to see a single film. Seriously, though, who has the patience to sit in a dark movie theater for two hours, when you are surrounded by so many more entertaining distractions?
There was, however, plenty of running around, bars, dancing, etc., a hypnotic dream room speakeasy (I don’t even know how to explain that one), an Ivanna Trump sighting (standing ten feet away from the blonde trillionaire, I swear she smiled at me, although she’s had so much work done to her face that she probably smiles at everybody), an exhibit of African rooftop dwellers, at the International Center of Photography (even though these were slum rooftops, I cannot think of anywhere I’d rather live than a rooftop), a Jeff Mills set (unfortunately underwhelmed), followed by a 4:30 AM molten wine nightcap with DJ Spooky (brandy library, swanky), a concentrated conversation on identity politics, between Salman Rushdie and Amartya Sen (holy moley, what an organized brain), at the New York Public Library, and, in stark contrast, a live performance of Point Break at Galapagos in Brooklyn (Seattle is taking over Brooklyn and, at $12 a ticket, making a killing. Suckers). And, as if those distractions did not sufficiently fill my weekend quota, on the train ride home last night, I sat next to, of all things, a pet duck.

That, my friends, is how you have a proper New York weekend and this is how you cure the Monday blues.