Monday, July 31, 2006

Summer Afternoon...The Two Most Beautiful Words in the English Language

Up exceedingly early for a weekend morning, I was sick of being stuck in my middle class social life and my middle class neighborhood and my middle class apartment, with not a single swimming pool in sight. Sure, my friends are nice enough, but they aren’t really getting me anywhere.

And so Lucy, my batty (middle class) Scottish pal, and I decided to hop the 10:30 AM Hampton Jitney for a social climbing adventure. This was it, our big chance: All summer long, I’d been telling Lucy that she can get anything she wants in America and so far, what had I gotten her? I introduced her to the novelty of American Apparel and Sparks alcoholic beverages -- some American friend I am.

I already know how the readership of the Village Voice lives, but now I wanted to see how New York Magazine readers go about their daily lives. I wanted to use ‘summer’ as a verb, damnit, and I was sick of waiting around for an invitation to do so.

We had no real road map of the Hamptons, save for the e-mailed advice of a highbrow friend of a friend:
"In terms of stores, South is Bergdorf, East is Barney's and West is Macy's."

Establishing Your Social Ladder
At the very least, we intended to perch our ladder in the local ice cream parlor and hope for the best, i.e. a pair of dashing trust fund boys who would be so taken by our charms, that they would give us a tour of their swimming pool and maybe let us tag along to a mansion party or two, and a polo match, if we could squeeze it into our busy social schedule.

The Hampton Jitney is a very comfortable way of traveling to your social climbing destination because included in the $50 round trip, is a complimentary muffin and cup of orange juice, as well as the added entertainment of listening to crabby New Yorkers quarrel with one another about whether the bus is too cold or too hot.

Lucy and I made good use of our time by constructing a story with which to woo people at the top of the ladder. From then on out, Lucy would be Lucille, the daughter of a Scottish baron, and I would be Rose, her New York publicist, scouting out locations for her next film. Together, we would be the “It” girls of the Hamptons, at least for that Saturday.

Two hours later, when we were dropped off in the East Hamptons, my illusions were shattered.

What I wanted: A bustling beach side town swarming with overdone Fellini-esque starlets, who accessorize their bathing suits with strings of pearls, and striking young lads whose shirts are adorned with miniature alligators and pocket squares.

What we got: A quiet pool side town teeming with families, shabby tourists, Starbucks, designer stores, and a dire lack of public transportation.

I thought champagne and string quartets would be flowing in the streets, but nothing was flowing in the streets. And the traffic actually stops for you.

According to my informant, we were supposed to be at Barneys, but I felt more of an Anne Taylor vibe. I once heard that it is frowned upon to wear red high heels on Tuesdays in the Hamptons and that women are referred to only as ‘darling’ and ‘honey’. Yet instead of hearing the clicking of high heels, we heard the ubiquitous sound of feet smacking against rubber, flip-flop.

Nonetheless, we headed off to the beach. About fifteen minutes into our walk, I remembered that this, among other reasons, is why I love living in New York. I had forgotten what it is like to be stranded in an American town, on a hot day, without a car.

Social Hitching
Time was wasting; we had to get to the beach soon in order to scope out the social territory.

So we did what any self-respecting Hamptonite would not do: we stuck out our thumbs and waited. And we waited…and we waited…and we waited…after about a dozen cars had passed us, an SUV slowed down and a sunny retiree, named Fred, gave us a lift to the beach on his way to pick his wife up from a “private yoga.”

Let it be noted here that the entire stretch of Hamptons beach, however many miles that adds up to, is completely public. Meaning, we could have pitched a tent on the beach in front of Anderson Cooper's house if we felt like it. All of the beautiful people were in their private swimming pools, safely tucked away within their beautiful homes.

Social Drowning
Unfazed by the fact that there were people armed against the waves with surfboards, Lucy and I proceeded to take a dip in the Atlantic. This "dip" turned out to be a terrifying test of human versus nature, when we were quickly carried into the undertow of the Hamptons Sea. Lucy, being Scottish, and thus made of iron, escaped first, but I must admit that I feared for my life as I saw, in between gulps of salt water, surfers shooting me angry looks for getting in the way of their sets.

Social Crawling
The most important component of social climbing, so I hear, is timing. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time, but first you have to gain access into that place. Our only hope at this point was to find some stray Hamptonites, who had ventured into the public, and leech onto them for all it’s worth.

The problem, though, is that the East Hamptons is not the East Village. It is a town made for either the very young or the very old. Or, OK, fine, not the very old, but the very comfortable, and by young, I mean, younger than myself. Just as there is no middle class in the Hamptons, there is also no median of age.

Back in town, we surveyed our situation. It was almost nightfall and we had not a single invitation to a mansion party.

So we struck up a conversation with a group of kids outside a sandwich shop. These kids, though, these kids were cliquey. They were also boring. How could you not want to make friends with the daughter of a Scottish baron?

After dropping as many hints as possible, Lucy and I finally gave up on scoring an invite to their mansion. Besides, how can we possibly be expected to befriend people who don’t even know where the closest liquor store is?

Talking to these idle kids for twenty minutes left me feeling drowsy and so I headed inside for an iced coffee. When I came back outside, Lucy promptly introduced to Barry and Anto, in town for the summer, from Ireland, working as golf caddies.

Barry and Anto are at the very base of the social climbing ladder. Because they are circumscribed in their caddy shack, social climbing limits are imposed and they do not even have the chance to be at the right place at the right time.

Social Loafing
And so we resigned ourselves to the very bottom rung of the ladder, which turned out to be the best decision we made all day. This was a much shorter ladder to climb and thus it took much less effort. Barry and Anto were thrilled to be spending the afternoon with the daughter of a Scottish baron and her famous New York location scout.

Not only were Barry and Anto able to take us directly to the liquor store, but they were also able to show us the perfect picnic spot, in which to watch the gardeners play soccer, as well as a swimming pool we were able to sneak into, in the backyard of a mansion fit for Jay Gatsby.

To conclude, one cannot expect to be dropped off in the Hamptons by a bus and wind up at Stephen Spielberg’s mansion by the end of the afternoon. You need good timing and, even more so, good luck. It would be wise to accomplish your social climbing in the winter, when the weather permits you to have patience with humdrum conversation, because during the summer the heat makes you lethargic, and climbing, of any type, really does take a lot of energy.

So it is better to climb down the ladder, to recline on the very bottom rung, with a rum & coke in one hand, and a cigarette in the other, than to bother scaling your way to the top, or even the middle, where the people are so exhausted from their own climbing excursion, that they do not have enough energy remaining to fully enjoy the view.

And so we hopped back on the Hampton Jitney, to New York, and two hours later, to bed.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Celluloid Heroes

Movies in the park – What’s not to like?
It’s a very public event, a shared affair. Yes, you go for the film, but you also go for the sense of community, the nature, and all that stuff.

One friend, who shall remain without a name, disagrees:
“…the feeling is of watching a film with my ass parked on a bbq grill placed in the middle of a very loud party.”

Yet my friend has not seen the first half of Strangers on a Train while sitting underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, or the intro to Boogie Nights, from a rooftop on Orchard Street, underneath a pirate flag.

Admittedly, I have never sat through an entire outdoor movie. Obviously, you do not go to an outdoor movie to watch the movie.

Last night was no exception to this rule although, I swear, I had the full intention of watching the film from beginning to end.

Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet were live-scoring Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931) in Prospect Park.

I appreciate Dracula in every interpretation and while it is near impossible to top the novel, it is a story that would be tough to botch in film form, no matter how the details are altered.

Unfortunately, not more than ten minutes into last night’s screening, the production was interrupted by a Hollywood-esque thunder storm.

It was so gothic.

The social and cultural unifier was washed away. There would be no more live score; no more film; no more civic lounging.

Instead, there was a light stampede of sorts as the tribe members rushed out of the park for shelter.

And that, my dear reader, is why God invented Netflix.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Living Proof (Revisited)

Weeks upon weeks ago, I recorded a nugget about a house sitter who tries to dispose of a dead dog, only to have her plans thwarted by a thief. To this day, that entry continues to be the crowning achievement of this blahg. In it, an urban myth is (unintentionally) perpetuated because, at the time, I (naively) believed that I was unearthing an original, groundbreaking story.

It was not until last week, when a friend of mine, an avid Google user, revealed to me that this story is not my story at all. Nor does it belong to “Brian” or “Sarah.” In actuality, it truly is an urban myth.

Google: dead dog, suitcase, subway

See here, here, here and here. Most especially, make a point to drag your mouse over to that last link, wherein a young woman from a small town relates the story to her grandmother, spurring a local rumor mill.

There is no factual origin to the legend, no matter how far back in Google you search; the myth, being urban, belongs to the city. I chose New York for the setting, while others placed it in Chicago and Boston. For the purposes of this blahg, however, I will maintain that the myth belongs to New York.

Here, today, I could go into a discussion on the source of urban mythology, distinguishing it from that of old fashioned mythology, or folklore, and examining the transportation of such stories, from that of the spoken word, i.e. The Iliad, to the Internet.

I would rather save that dissertation for another day.

Now. As I mentioned in my original post, and as exemplified in the above links, the details of this tale are subject to change. Yet the story itself remains the same. The narrative structure allows for such a rambling of imagination that the particulars are of little importance.

At its core, no matter how it is shared, this story is contained by clear levels of loss.

To begin with, you have the loss of responsibility as Sarah (whose name will now be taken out of quotations) fails to fulfill her duties as a house sitter. How hard is it, really, to take care of a dog? One would think that if a friend had enough confidence in your ability to take care of his dog, you would do everything within your power to prove their trust was not misplaced. Yet Sarah failed this task, thus leaving the dog for dead.

Then, you have the death of the dog, an obvious loss on all fronts. The couple, who Sarah was house sitting for, has lost their canine companion; Sarah has lost her trust; the dog has lost its life.

The real sense of loss within the story, though, is found in the character of the thief. Imagine, the lone thief, scraping by on the streets of New York, never knowing where his next meal is going to come from, never having a morsel of hope for a world that does not revolve around larceny. For the thief, life is already one uncompromising source of despair, and, in a story revolving around loss, he has nothing to lose.

So imagine, then, the hope Sarah’s suitcase offers to the thief. The suitcase being the heartbeat of the story, even though it contains a dog with no pulse, signifies the thief’s final escape from a life of poverty.

Consider the meaning of a suitcase. Conjure up images of WWII, Jews being expelled from their homes, with only one suitcase, everything precious contained within a small box with a handle; young girl moves to big city, bearing only one suitcase, but loads of motivation; refugees leaving New Orleans, throwing their most valuable goods into suitcases -- you get the point.

If the dog, which Sarah left for dead, was of a more compact size, say, that of a chihuahua, she could have done without the suitcase. Therefore, the entire story would change. Would the thief have bothered Sarah if she were just carrying a plastic bag or a designer purse? No. It is the mystery behind the luggage and the weight of the suitcase, symbolic and concrete, that compelled the thief to steal it.

Let’s say the dog within the suitcase weighs about 75 pounds, and the suitcase itself weighs about 25 pounds, so that the thief is running down the street with a 100 pound load. And you better believe that even if it was one of those suitcases with wheels, a thief is not going to take the time for a leisurely stroll. He’s going to hoist that case over his shoulder and run for dear life.

And the entire time he’s running, he’s envisioning how the possessions of that suitcase will liberate him from the confounds of poverty, ultimately changing his world for the better. He’s already planning how he’s going to spend his money. That evening, he will take his girl out to a real nice dinner, maybe buy a decent television set, a suit to wear to job interviews…

At last, the thief stops running. He’s about ten blocks away from the subway station where he first encountered Sarah. (Twenty New York city blocks equal one mile.) He drops the suitcase on the ground with a heavy thud, glances over both shoulders to make sure the cops have not followed him, falls to his knees, and struggles for a bit with the combination lock, before finally opening the suitcase.

Is the dog staring up at the thief, glassy eyed, or did Sarah bother to close its eyes before packing?

Defeated, the thief weighs his options. He now has even less than what he started with: the contents of the suitcase have no value, not even on the black market; his energy is spent; Sarah has probably filed a police report by now; he’s even more hungry, due to the tremendous physical activity of the crime; the time of his day has been wasted, lost forever.

Meanwhile, a couple of lovebirds are vacationing in the Bahamas, sipping Pina Coladas out of coconut shells, or whatever, discussing their defeat against the city of New York. They decide to cut out of that city, while their losses are still low. Better to be above the rat race, looking down, than smack in the middle of it, right? This is it, they determine, let’s take the dog and move to the suburbs.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sick Priest Learns to Live Forever

Monday, July 24, 2006

I Second That Emotion

Last Saturday was one of those rare nights where you go out only to stay in, if that makes any sense at all. We ended up in this high-flying mansion of an apartment in Midtown that has wings, left and right, multiple flights of stairs, and a balcony with a view and a half. Apparently, some friends of some friends are house sitting for the summer, while the owner, a 71 year-old man, who used to be married to a Rockefeller gal (before jumping out of the closet several years later), spends the summer in Connecticut. Unbeknownst to him, while he is on vacation, a young book worm like myself would land there on a Saturday evening in midsummer to paw all over the first editions in his library. It was more of a small get together than a party and it was very refreshing to dance around a living room without bumping into the furniture or, for that matter, one another. So we sipped Pipps, among other things, listened to Motown, and played Chopsticks on the baby grand piano before heading back to my hovel.

That Sure is Some Silencer

Friday, July 21, 2006

Everything Is Possible

This may seem like no great shakes to most of you, but tonight is the Os Mutantes show, and I, for one, have not been this keyed up for a rock gig in a very, very long time. This is because Os Mutantes, the Brazilian psychedelic pioneers, have not toured in forever -- or at least since 1973.

The original Os Mutantes consists of Rita Lee and the Baptista Brothers – Arnaldo, Sergio, and Claudio. Tonight, we will not see Rita Lee, which is tragic, but not show-stopping. It’s kind of like missing just one Beatle; you learn to accept the situation and build an appreciation for what you have.

What you have with Os Mutantes is a keeling, reverberating, keyboard-driven brilliance of frenzied pop, fixed in whims and loops, which just narrowly dodges the act of disaffecting its followers. Or, you could just refer to it as Tropicalia. Tropicalia is the Brazilian genre of psych pop, which the Baptista Brothers, the founding fathers of Os Mutantes, perfected more than any other band of the 1960’s psychedelic epoch.

((Now, today, we have the group, CSS, carrying on this Brazilian influence.))

I was not around back then to see these legends perform their magic and neither was my comrade, Bree, who first introduced me to the music of Os Mutantes, and who planned her New York trip around this very show. So you can understand, I'm sure, why I am a little more excited than usual to get the hell out of this meat locker excuse for a cubicle.

Ten Storey Love Song

Thursday, July 20, 2006

These Boys and Girls Are Not Spare Parts

New York is supposedly in the middle of a heat wave right now and here I am, freezing. I’ve got a thick, wool cardigan on, and I’m drinking a cup of hot tea, in the month of July. It must be at least 40 below in my office building. If you think I'm exaggerating, as I am sometimes wont to do, then talk to the woman two cubicles over from me. That is, if she can hear you through her ski cap. I shouldn’t be complaining, and I’m not. All I want to know is this: Why do they keep these offices so cold? Why?

A possible solution to the problem of getting blood circulating back in one’s hands would be to go to the copy machine and run off twenty blank pieces of paper. Then rush over to your desk and sandwich your hands in between these papers, with five sheets under each hand and five sheets over, forming a pair of mitts. Depending on the size of the stack, the transfer of heat from a copy machine to a piece of paper only lasts for about 30 seconds, 45 if you’re lucky. For environmental purposes, you should only do this a few times out of the day and, most definitely, do not forget to return the papers to the bottom feeder of the printer.

But that would take so much effort, not to mention time, and humiliation. Being parked in one place for eight hours a day makes you lazy. So instead, I just sit here, numb.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Tago Mago

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Some Girls

Anyway, like I was saying earlier, it’s important to make new girlfriends when you move to a new city, but nothing beats having a group of steadfast girlfriends. Not a big group, I mean, just three will do. Proust called them gangs of flowers, or something like that, and this week, my gang from Seattle will be visiting me in New York.

My girls don't care about Manolo Blahniks; they don’t do brunch; and yeah, they like sex, but they don’t make it the focal point of their lives.

First you’ve got Anna. Anna works harder than most people I know and I probably trust her almost as much as I trust my own mother. Like my own mother, Anna rarely takes shit from anybody. She’s tough as nails, that one.

Then you’ve got Bree. Bree, on the other hand, I do not trust for a second, which is why I adore her. She has a higher creative IQ than anybody I have yet to meet on this coast and I could fill up this entire blahg describing her character.

But I won’t do that just now because it’s time for me to meet up with my little gang. You see, we have not been together in the same place since June of last year and that is far too long to go without seeing one’s gang. Yet I have not planned anything for their visit, as we don’t need much to be entertained.

Back in Seattle, it was our routine to roll around in Anna’s car, listening to the Cars, and getting stoned. Eventually, we would find a party to crash, or other such trouble to get into, but, mostly, we would just laugh. However, I have no pot and no car in New York. Such is the dynamic of our gang that we will be content only to roam the streets and laugh at/with one another.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Master of Reality

Apparently you can in fact get jet lag on a train trip from Penn Station to Albany. Or maybe I was just getting the city out of my system when I went to bed at 11:30 on Friday night and woke up at 12:30 on Saturday afternoon. I think I could really get to know this part of the country, though, I really do. It wouldn’t take that long, actually. Taking a road trip in this region is not like the south or the west coast, where you can drive for two days and still be in the same state. Here, you can get from New York to Massachusetts in the span of six tracks of Graceland. This allows more time for swimming and eating and sleeping, which is all you could ever want in a mini vacation. Well, that and a porch that has been around since 1739 and good friends with whom to converse with on said porch.

Even so, how far do you have to get away from New York, in order to get away from New Yorkers? You can be lying in the sand, of Massachusetts, thinking about nothing at all, when you hear, “Now Adele, can you pullease stop hitting your brotha with the shovvvell?” That’s when you jump back in the lake, because even the voice of a New York mother cannot carry through water.

The train ride back to the city makes you remember that this is Rip Van Winkle territory. As soon as you pass Riverdale and you see the George Washington Bridge, when you look down at the Sunday Times and see that the Middle East is still burning, and the U.S. is being attacked by heat, you remember that your phone is back in service, there are people you have to call, for no particular reason at all, an important appointment on Monday, because all appointments are important, houseguests arriving on Tuesday, and the list could go on, until you reach Penn Station again, which you kind of forgot exists, until every single smell of New York punches you directly in the face. But it’s a good punch, more like a solid tap to wake you up, because although they say that sleep depravation is not healthy, at least you see more than when you sleep too much.

Friday, July 14, 2006

No New Wave No Fun

On days like today, I am glad that this is a blahg and not a blog. If I were running a blog, I might feel some sort of responsibility to discuss the escalating conflict in the Middle East. Yet because this is a blahg, I feel no such pressure and am therefore allowed to stay comfortably on the surface as I yak about swimming pools.
Swimming pools. Or swimming holes, the beach, the ocean, rivers, lakes, streams, creaks, kiddie pools, slip n’ slides, water slides, water falls, wave pools -- take your pick. I could go for any or all of the aforementioned bodies of water at this point.
Would you believe that here it is, the middle of July, and I have not yet gone swimming this summer? Not even once. There’s an excess of almost anything you could ever want in this city, at almost any time, but good luck finding a swimming pool in the middle of July.
If I ran this little town, I would personally make sure that each and every rooftop was supplied with a body of water. It wouldn’t be anything too fancy, just a wading pool here and a pond there. This might not be the best idea in terms of the environment, but I would make sure that each rooftop pool was surrounded by a plentiful amount of foliage. And in the fall, there might be dead bodies floating in the oasis rooftop additions of the city, but I would take care of it.
That way, when you are walking down the streets of Chinatown, unable to escape the stench of melting garbage, or when you are in Midtown, and you look up, thinking that it might be raining, only to discover that some air conditioner is jizzing all over you, it wouldn’t really matter. You could just hop into the first available building, climb a couple flights of stairs, and take a dip in the rooftop pool.
But none of this is my responsibility as of now. I’ve got a train to catch to some lakeside town in Massachusetts that I never even knew existed before last Wednesday. I’ll only have three days to cram in nine months worth of underwater activity, so I really have my work cut out for me.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Perfect Day for Banana Fish

The first time I met someone who was named after a Salinger character, her name was Franny. I would later confess to Franny that had it not been for her namesake, I might not have befriended her at all. “Not to sound shallow, but you’re just so sporty!” I told her. And it’s true; Franny loves her sports. Likewise, I do not think Franny would have befriended me if I had not made the first move.
Months after we met, when we were standing in awe at the Coliseum in Rome, Franny turned to me and asked, “You look deep in thought, what’s on your mind?” I wanted to tell Franny, the history scholar, that I was ruminating on the ruin’s centuries of history but instead, I guiltily admitted that I was thinking about how awesome it would be to see Radiohead play at the Coliseum.
Franny is still really into sports and I would still give my right arm to see Radiohead play at the Coliseum of Rome, yet our friendship fruitfully persists despite these differences.
The next time I met someone who was named after a Salinger character, her name was Phoebe. We hit it off right away, no doubt about that. As we stood on a sidewalk on Avenue B, this past April, we both took turns squealing at each and every thing we have in common.
I am not a squealer. I like to laugh, quite a bit, and I like to scream at the top of my lungs, whenever I get the chance, but I am not partial to squealing. Yet I could not help but squeal that night, as I made my very first new New York girlfriend.
I haven’t seen enough episodes of Sex and the City to know whether or not there is ever a flashback scene that explains where those bitches met, but if such an explanation exists, I would be very interested to see it. When you move to a new city, nobody ever tells you how hard it is to make girlfriends. The job, the apartment, the boyfriends, these things all fall into place, eventually. But finding girlfriends is a whole other ordeal.
I already have a plethora of girlfriends. Different hoes in different area codes; Yup, that’s me. I’ve got girls in England, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Nashville, Atlanta, etc. And I know that I can call on any of these girls whenever need be, but for the time being, they are not right here, in my new city.
SO that is why I squealed, a little too much like a girl, upon meeting Phoebe, who is named after Salinger’s Phoebe, the most authentic character in his great masterpiece.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Tangled Up In Blue

Explanation: Today, if it is clear, Manhattan will flood dramatically with sunlight just as the Sun sets precisely on the centerline of every street. Usually, the tall buildings that line the gridded streets of New York City's tallest borough will hide the setting Sun. This effect makes Manhattan a type of modern Stonehenge, although only aligned to about 30 degrees east of north. Were Manhattan's road grid perfectly aligned to east and west, today's effect would occur on the Vernal and Autumnal Equinox, March 21 and September 21, the only two days that the Sun rises and sets due east and west. If today's sunset is hidden by clouds do not despair -- the same thing happens every May 28 and July 12. On none of these occasions, however, should you ever look directly at the Sun.

For shame

Hard Times

Somewhere in the middle of carousing around last weekend, I caught the video for Donna Summer’s 1983 hit, “She Works Hard for the Money.” I’d never seen the video before and, even though the TV was on mute and I was in a crowded bar, I was drawn into its vision of labor, the daily drama of making ends meet. Now THAT, I thought to my entitled self, is working.

Although I could not remember a specific instance where I heard this song, which came out the year after I was born, the lyrics are somehow imbedded in my memory:

She works hard for the money
so hard for it honey
she works hard for the money
so you better treat her right

The video, however, stands in stark contrast to the upbeat tempo of the song. If you hear the song on the dance floor, it’s pure disco; if you watch the video, it’s heart wrenching, albeit a little melodramatic.

The video is unsettling, even in a bar, twenty-some years later, on mute, not necessarily because of the 1980’s fashion, but mainly due to the working woman’s passive behavior towards those who mistreat her. What surprises me is that Summers portrays the working woman on the cover of the album, yet in the video, she plays the narrator, omnisciently speaking for all the working women out there as she follows a white woman through her grueling day. So Summers is not the working woman, she’s just telling the story of a working woman who represents all working women.

The video begins with the working woman’s alarm clock interrupting her dream sequence, as she rises before the sun, optimistically greeting the street cleaners and newspaper men, before heading into her janitor job, where she is shown on her hands and knees, scrubbing the floor. Her next job begins at 9:00 AM, a waitressing gig at the local diner, where she jovially shrugs off sexual harassment from regulars, and seems to be manning every station in the restaurant. By the time the working woman reaches her final job, at a clothing factory, exhaustion has officially set in and yet she must endure.

Through all of this, Summers is singing, repeating the catchy chorus with an upbeat tempo behind distinctive synthesizer hooks that are somewhat deceiving. As the working woman clocks in at the factory, you see Summers, leaning against the time card box, with her sultry lips, hips and eyelashes protruding, repeating the chorus once more, with a matter of fact expression. She’s still singing.

When it is time for the working woman to go home, the viewer follows her as she walks across railroad tracks, to a small house, where she arrives loaded down with groceries, only to be greeted by her two squabbling kids, neither of whom offers to help with the groceries and, when the carton of milk spills on the kitchen floor, only laugh at their haggard mother. Still, Summers is watching, singing. Summers shows no sympathy in her facial expressions, rather she is hardened. As the working woman collapses on her bed, while her bratty kids are still bickering, she turns to a framed picture of her younger self, and then the camera pans out, as the woman recounts her day in an agonizing series of flashbacks.

Summers suddenly leaves her status as observer to intrude, disrupting the narrative by offering her hand to the working woman. But the woman rejects her help.

Finally, the video concludes with another dream sequence, in which a variety of working women, from police officers to doctors, are dancing in the street, Fame style, with Donna Summers, watching from above, poised on a fire escape. It’s a happy ending, but the viewer knows, as does Donna Summers, as does the working woman, that the alarm clock will sound soon enough and the woman will be torn from her dancing dream, only to repeat the working cycle all over again.

Now. Let’s put the video back into historical context. Take it out of the bar, in the year 2006, and put it back into 1983 – another period of time, another type of labor, another mindset. It’s 1983, the Reagan era; it’s several years after the 1965 Immigration Act has passed; you’ve got anti/pro welfare mother issues; black women were identified with that kind of labor and yet here is a black woman singing about a white woman, a single mother, slaving away; there were still American clothing factories, this is before it all went to China and way before American Apparel; it was not rare for a single mother to work three jobs at a time, without a pension plan or union protection. The working woman, who Summers was singing about, was, like America’s working class, in deep shit, future wise.

Also, it’s 1983; MTV has only been around for one year. Donna Summers, discovered and imported by the German producer, Giorgio Moroder, is the first African American musician the network places into heavy rotation. Now MTV has to deal with what radios never dealt with – actual black flesh. Her videos are totally of the era. Besides the 80’s fashion, which is all music videos are supposed to be about, Summers has a message behind her disco pop: she’s the narrator, ignored by the white woman, trying to get in, while the white woman is playing black/brown face, as a single mother in the hood.

The next year, 1984, Madonna would enter the picture and hijack all of the limelight from Summers, along with pretty much every other female musician for the next decade or so. Like Summers, Madonna has a feminist slant to her image, but it is more an issue of sex (the original Summers stance) than labor. Summers would eventually pursue a career in Christian pop and settle down in Nashville, TN.

Now it’s 2006. All of that has changed, obviously. In fact, the subject is outdated. Today, that white, single mother is probably in a cubicle somewhere, staring at a computer screen, while immigrants are doing the janitorial and factory work.

Where am I going with all of this? Oh yeah. I do not work hard for the money. Sometimes, I work longer hours than usual, but I never bring my work home with me or stress out too much. I have worked hard for the money before, I mean, not as hard as the woman in that video, but I’ve worked. I like to work hard, either for the money or for something I am passionate about at the time. But right now, I am a white, working girl, of the 21st Century, who happened to see a music video that made me think about things that one does not normally consider while drinking a whiskey sour in a bar on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. So I decided to write about it in my blahg. Yet if you have the leisure time to spend on the Internet, if you are perched on Gawker all day long, perusing blogs, such as this one, you are not working hard for the money and you know it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk

You in Reverse

Monday, July 10, 2006

Rhyme the Rhyme Well

Friday and Saturday presented a “professional origamist,” who couldn’t even be bothered to fold a swan out of a dollar bill, and yet another, much appreciated, Ra Ra Riot show, a semi-private Brooklyn dance floor, followed by an intersection of friends outside the Knitting Factory which, although in Manhattan, always feels like the middle of nowhere.

On Sunday, Lucy convinced me to watch the World Cup so, after wandering around and taking several detours, we found a homey little neighborhood bar where we sat with a bunch of manly regulars for a game of football. I’ve never been able to stomach alcohol during daylight hours so Lucy drank for me. After the game, Lucy was suddenly craving spaghetti, which was fine by me, as I told her, “You’re in New York, now, and you can have anything you want!” We headed over to Little Italy, where we saw a little riot, and a slightly overzealous Italian get the shit kicked out of him by the NYPD for no apparent reason. At which point, Lucy jutted out her stomach in feigned pregnancy (the oldest trick in the book), allowing us to avoid the walk back through the crowd, because barricades can be so cumbersome.

In a total change of setting, we then went uptown to Central Park, to watch the Public Theater’s production of Macbeth (a stranger adaptation than I’ve ever seen, with Macduff’s army wielding rifles, instead of swords, and Lady Macbeth wearing high heels), followed by the after party, where I stood in the buffet line with Naomi Watts, who I was quite anxious to meet, yet too nervous to talk to; she really is quite lovely with her translucent skin. Finally, there was a somewhat confusing midnight stroll through Central Park, with my Scottish comrade, that I hear you’re not supposed to do, but I lived to type about anyway -- And all our yesterdays have lighted fools…

Friday, July 07, 2006

Planet Caravan

Standing Room Only

Last night’s dining experience at S’Mac, the Macaroni & Cheese restaurant on E. 12th, was an exercise in survival of the fittest. Upon entering, after waiting in line outside the door, you get the feeling of being inside a vat of macaroni & cheese. With brick exposed walls, orange and yellow decor, and the human to human ratio outweighed only by the heat emitting from the ovens, you are stewing. I overheard the owner telling a couple of customers that on opening night, people were lined up around the block, waiting in the rain. I can only imagine a mob of cheese addicts with umbrellas clashing, grousing about the incessant rain, only so they could tell their friends that they were the first ones to experience S’Mac. Oh, my city is so funny.

Once inside, you need a strategy. Because I was with a group of three, I volunteered to find a table while the other two waited in line to order. You have to poise yourself just so and jump on the first spot you see; that’s urban dining. Once I found a table, I grabbed a chair from a table of two, who had the nerve to use this coveted resting spot for the upkeep of their handbags. While waiting for my friends to order, I had to tell at least five people that yes, in fact, we will be using all of these chairs and yes, this table is mine.

I ordered the creamy Brie, roasted figs-roasted shiitake mushrooms-fresh rosemary, Macaroni, while my dining companions chose the Cajun Cheddar & Pepper Jack cheeses, andouille sausage-green pepper-onions-celery-garlic Macaroni, and the Goat cheese-sauteed spinach-kalamata olives, and roasted garlic, Macaroni. My serving was of the “Nosh” variety ($6.75) while theirs was of the “Major Munch” ($9). ‘Nosh’, the Yiddish term for light snack, to be used as a verb or a noun, does not really apply to the servings at S’Mac, as I embarked on more of a small meal. I do not know how my gluttonous friends finished their “Major Munches,” except that maybe being 6'3 means you need to consume more cheese. Also, whether or not you are hungry when you step into S’Mac, after waiting in line for so long and battling for a table, you have most definitely worked up an appetite.

We were not five minutes into our meal when a biker guy, with a pot belly, bandana, and silver piercings coming out of every orifice of his face, began hovering over my friend. “You almost done?” he huffed. Not even close.

Reared on Stouffer’s Macaroni & Cheese, the stuff that dreams are made of, I am used to an overabundance of cheese in my macaroni and cheese, and while the gourmet mac n’ cheese did feel healthier, with wheat pasta noodles and roasted figs, there seemed to be a lack of cheese in my macaroni. Yet that did not stop me from eating it all.

I would not suggest eating at S’Mac before going to a crowded rock show, where you pay $12 to see a drug addled musician walk off stage after 45 minutes, or before you board a lurching train, but I would definitely go back to S’Mac. I will avoid that place during the summer months, unless they get a better air conditioner, and, most importantly during peak dining hours, opting instead for the fall and, of course, the winter. That is, unless you get your Macaroni & Cheese to go. That would be nice, as Tompkins Square Park is not too far away, I think.

As we were leaving, past the long line of patrons, the biker guy stopped my friend, “Sorry, man, I don’t know what came over me.”

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Spilled Milk Factory

When I started this little blahg, I decided that I was not going to write about dating. Not only is the subject exhausted but why would I want to air my personal laundry on the Internet? Well, it would be artificial, in this blahg that I use to store my New York observations, not to talk at all about dating in New York—dating being such a large part of living in this city. So I’m only going to do this once.

When Zac and I met up on Saturday night, we greeted one another with a hug, before he informed, "Watch out, I just got my tattoo retouched!" I apologized for hurting the band of three, vertical, green lines on his left shoulder.

He took me to this place that only a native Manhattanite would know about: a secret bar, but not a speakeasy, attached to a sushi restaurant. This bar is stunning, with tall windows looking out onto the city, offering not a panoramic view, but just a different view of New York, and the static clientele straight out of a Wong Kar Wai film. The cocktails are like desserts and, at $18 a pop, meant for sipping, not chugging. I ordered a watermelon vodka something-or-other and we proceeded with the getting to know you chit chat.

I wanted to know all about what it was like to grow up in Manhattan. Raised on the Upper East Side, with Manhattan as his backyard, did he have a nanny who walked him to school every day? Did he go through a rebellion period during his teenage years and hang out with the kids from Kids? How many antidepressants is he on?

He shot down most of my sweeping generalizations (the only survivor being the antidepressants) and, after mentioning a sister, I asked him, "I thought you were an only child." I couldn’t really produce a reason for this assumption to which he responded, "No, I mean, I was an only child until the age of thirteen, but now I have a half-brother and a half-sister."

Oh, OK.

“What about you,” he asked, “How many boyfriends do you have?”
Thinking he was joking, “Just six, what about you?”

Turns out that this charmer is in an “open relationship” with his ex-girlfriend, i.e. they are still sleeping together, after breaking up a year ago.

At this point, I looked down at my half empty watermelon cocktail and downed it in one quick gulp. “What, you're not OK with that?” I ordered another watermelon cocktail and helped him try to see my point of view.

He failed to understand why I would not want to see him again, if he is still with his ex-girlfriend, who he screws twice a week, why I like to date only one person at a time, and why I never believed in backtracking with exes. He called me "possessive and judgmental," accused me of being "oppositional." He thought maybe it would help if I knew the ex-girlfriend's name.

The way he put it, it’s his sex drive that pushes him to need more than one girlfriend. This guy masturbates three times a day. "What are you, a 16-year-old? How do you even have the time for that?" He told me he has his own office at work. He made it seem like he was doing me a favor by telling me about his arrangement with his ex, because, you know, he didn't have to, and isn't he such a nice guy? And what, I still wasn’t interested in going home with him?

Now again, what in the hell is going on around here? This guy was out shopping! He made me feel like he was looking for dinnerware at Bed, Bath & Beyond, like I was the Fiesta set on the half priced rack-- kind of funky, only functional for a couple months out of the year, why not throw it in the cart?

You could have a different date every night of the week in this city, if you chose to do so. I once heard that waiters here don't really care which customers they are nice to throughout their shift because they know, that out of 8 million people, they are going to get their tips eventually. It's the same with dating: for every guy there is a girl, for every girl there is a guy. And for every girl there is a girl and for every guy there is a guy, they just can't get married yet.

Yet this guy sitting across from me, this nowhere man, claims to be single. Nope, he's just lazy. When I first arrived in this city, I noticed that couples tend to stick together either for six years or six weeks. Now, I am learning that it is not uncommon for people to carry several on relationships at a time. Have a couple crushes at once, fine, but having a couple girlfriends at once, these people cannot be serious about relating to one another. Is this a New York thing? I took an informal poll last weekend and some friends said that it was a New York thing, get used to it; while another friend, a dude, said, "No, it’s not a New York thing, it’s just an asshole thing."

Dating is one thing, but what about all these long term relationships, these couples who live together for six years in these confined little apartments? I really like to fall in love and I’m quite good at it. But how do people manage to do that in this place, where there are varying degrees of “open relationships” left and right, and carnal human contact is so readily available? With all of these different schedules, this congestion of humans, and with that, choices, how do you carve out the time to truly get to know someone? This city is, for lack of a better word, fucked.

The waiter shows up, asks if we would like another drink, my free loving companion says 'No thank you' and I say, 'Yes please, I'll have another watermelon vodka thing; it's on him.' So I downed that sucker, gave my new acquaintance a few more pieces of my mind, told him it was a pleasure, among other things, and went home.

Later, when relaying the story to my dad (who has been married to my mom for 32 years), we both got a kick out of it. "Where did you find this creep?"

"Oh, you know. We met at a party last weekend; we were making eyes across the room all night and then finally started talking."

"Next time you’re out," my father told me, "wear sunglasses."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

'Til the Morning Comes

Last weekend’s holiday extension made Manhattan seem half-deserted, almost on the brink of stillness, offering a welcomed change of pace. Saturday was a watermelon-flavored bust, an unanticipated dent in my four day weekend. Other than that, there was a night in Williamsburg (Union Pool, Supreme Trading, blah, blah, blah), two street fairs, a long, stormy walk with my favorite neighbor, an original Velvet Underground pressing (tarnished now), a rendezvous with my Scottish pal, a brief tutorial on American pop culture, Katz Deli, to go margaritas, and about two dozen barbeques.

Independence Day presented a major life decision: is it best to spend your first New York 4th in Manhattan, in the middle of it all, or in Brooklyn, with a view of the fireworks above Manhattan? (My life is so hard.) We chose the latter, beginning in Bushwick and then jumping from one Brooklyn rooftop to the next, eventually ending our night back on Orchard Street, underneath a pirate flag, six flights above ground, on yet another roof. Now, with Wednesday morning being the new Monday morning, I wish I hadn’t pretended that Tuesday night was Saturday night.