As I was making my way down Avenue A last night, a young girl in combat boots asked me for a light. I stared at her, confused. It seemed obvious to me that before she left the house that morning, she had remembered to smear her eyes with liquid liner, wrap her hips in enough metal belts to refurbish a John Deer machine, and carefully paint each of her nails a different shade of black, but she forgot a lighter. A torching device seemed an essential part of her outfit.
“Here,” I gave her a neon pink Zippo that I had been carting around since the last time I was hounded by Marlboro promoters at ACE bar. She flicked it aflame with her midnight lacquered nail.
“Thanks,” she said, and then she promptly threw the lighter into the hollowed depths of Tompkins Square Park, provoking the muffled sounds of an annoyed rat. Maybe she thought it was a large, cold, match.
Perhaps it was because I’d never seen her around the block before or perhaps because she threw away the best conversation piece I had in my purse, but I found the behavior odd. I scratched my head and headed home, only to hear the cayenne peppered sound of her voice again.
“Yo, do you know where Pianos Bar is?”
Oh right, it’s CMJ: The biggest music festival in New York. I have no idea what the acronym for this concert marathon stands for, who gets the privilege of performing, or why it exists, but it’s impossible to ignore when it’s here. Every year on a random Monday in October I’ll look out my window to find even more people in combat boots and keys on their belt loops outside my bars, even more underage kids pushing amps down Ludlow, and even more pigeons feasting on abandoned pizza crusts and taco shells in the early mornings. The entire neighborhood becomes a hub for music journalists and the bands that they drool over, though it is very hard to say who is working and who is playing.
To say the East Village neighborhood becomes a caricature of itself during the five days of CMJ is a trite understatement; rather, the area unabashedly lets itself go for a few days. Everything is dirtier, everything is drunker, and the massive buffet of live music is so constant and flowing that some of it can’t help but be really, truly bad.
A year ago, I sat on my roommate’s bed in our 1.5 bedroom apartment on 11th street, eating peanuts and watching illegally downloaded movies on her computer. This is what bartenders in New York do in the daytime when they aren’t aspiring actors. My phone rang. It was Tucker, my friend from back home in California. I answered, thinking someone had died or was getting married.
“We’re in big trouble.” He said.
“Who’s we?” I poured a generous serving of peanuts onto my stomach and ate them off of my pajama shirt.
“Me and the band,” said Tucker. I could hear the faint whir of driving on the I-95 South in the background of his phone call. “We’re on our way to New York for CMJ.”
“Well that’s exciting.” I gathered my shirt and peanuts up like a marsupial pouch. I ate three standing up. Tucker and his two friends were in a band based in San Francisco. They were moderately successful, but in the way that they all had to have day jobs and make music videos with FlipCams. I was impressed that they’d landed a gig at CMJ.
“When are you performing?” I asked between chews.
“That’s the thing,” Whoever was next to Tucker coughed. “We’re on a bus right now from Boston and we have nowhere to stay.”
I don’t like visitors. Visitors need directions. I knew I shouldn’t let them stay with me. In the short time of that phone call I’d already visited every corner of my apartment four times, finding it physically possible to become shoulder to shoulder with myself. But Tucker sounded desperate, and saying no to poor artists made me a bad person, and even worse, a bad New Yorker. I looked around. Maybe three grown men could sleep in the dishwasher in our kitchen. The machine was unnecessary considering we didn’t have cabinets to put dishes in.
“Please?” said Tucker. “It’s only for one night. We have no where else to stay.”
My peanuts fell out of my shirt pouch. It took seconds to pick them up off of the square foot that is my floor. I took one more look around the Tee-Pee sized place and sighed. I figured I could stand having the boys in this tiny space just for a measly twelve hours. My roommate was away anyway, and besides, badges for CMJ are upwards of $400, so knowing a band would be my free pass in to shows.
The three of them – clad in tight jeans and pit-stained plaid – arrived with guitars, wind instruments, and of course, amps. I learned that amps are like snowflakes, or maybe more like public restrooms; you can’t just use one from any ballroom on the Bowery. We fit all cymbals and sticks into sinks and behind toilets, leaving just enough room for each of us to sleep in the shape of our best cannonball dive.
The boys also brought whiskey, which we quickly drank in the apartment before setting out into the village to appreciate some music, eat some pizza, smoke cigarettes and carelessly throw borrowed lighters into the foliage. It was the night before the CMJ festival began, and everyone on the street was fresh, energetic, and stowing procured drugs like hibernating bears. The neighborhood looked like the inhabitants and contents of Lit Lounge had exploded onto the streets. The energy and excitement of the crowds matched those of NYU freshman in the first week of September, except there were less drunk girls crying outside of bars and more drunk girls head-banging inside of bars. It was awesome.
When I awoke the next morning, the band had gone to retrieve their badges for the festival. They had left a bag of David’s bagels, a tub of cream cheese with no top to speak of, and an onion, which I never found, only smelled for days and days. Their eight-piece orchestra still rested in my kitchen/living room/bedroom/foyer. This had not been the agreement. I said they had to be out by noon and had to buy me more toilet paper, not bagels. They also had made an agreement to put the seat down on the toilet, which I probably don’t have to tell you, was not fulfilled.
Though bagels are very important, I realized that day that it is much more important for me to be able to straighten at least one of my legs when sleeping in my bed. I began to get anxious about the band taking their stuff and getting out of my hair, which also didn’t have room to be in the apartment. I called Tucker.
“We’re playing at so many venues right by your place!” he squealed into the phone. I could hear him put out his cigarette on the side of his 9th street Espresso cup. “It’s so convenient! Thank you so much for letting us stay there, you’re the best!”
Now might be a good time to mention that Tucker isn’t really my “friend from home.” He was a friend of an ex-boyfriend whom I was desperately trying to win back. I had to remain cool, relaxed, chill even. By housing Tucker and company, my Ex would see me as someone who likes band members and appreciates art, not a crazy girl needs a quiet place to eat peanuts out of her pajama shirt like a mama kangaroo.
“Awesome,” I said. “See you at home!”
Tuesday came and went. The band played to a bored crowd of four at The Cake Shop. We went to a party that you had to be on a list for. Everyone’s makeup looked really well done. More whiskey was consumed.
On Wednesday morning, I awoke to another smell mixing with the pungency of the onion. My nose crinkled, and my eyes watered. I opened my eyes, hungover from the whiskey and saw a mouse gnawing on a pink slab of lox while his friend snacked on one of the David’s Bagels. They still hadn’t bought me any toilet paper.
I told Tucker they had to be out of my apartment by that evening. I immediately decided no boyfriend was worth the torture of having to get rid of mice. “But we have a show,” Tucker whined. “Not my problem,” I said, then I stuffed their bagels in their suitcases in hopes a mouse would make one its home.
On Wednesday night, when I got home from the bar, the string section of my houseguests’ symphony was still gathering dust in my conservatory. Tucker said they were drinking with some girl band, a band that had a name that sounded like the name of a coloring book, and that he’d be back at 4 am to pick it all up.
I sat in front of my dishwasher, now housing a banjo, and buried my head in my hands. The great part about living in the East Village during CMJ is the proximity I have to great music for five full days. The neighborhood is teeming with interesting people and hopeful young artists. Conversations on street corners are laced with hooks and riffs, and lyrics are written down by the second. I often long for an East Village that I never saw, one with hungry artists and beatniks talking about the man. CMJ is the closest we’ll get to that spirit, and here I was threatening to put one of the bands contributing to the whole process on the street. But I’m not in a band. I’ll never be in a band. My apartment is much too small for a cello. So I told Tucker I was throwing it out the window if he didn’t come get it that second.
I gave up on trying to impress my Ex. I could never be with a man who was indirectly responsible for a vermin infestation. After Tucker retrieved the rest of his keyboards and synthesizers, I went out of town for the weekend. When I returned, the cigarette butts were swept out of the gutter, the brown bags of Sparx had long since been recycled, and all band members that had participated in CMJ had gone back to their parents’ houses in Jersey. Tucker and the band didn’t leave a note, they didn’t leave me toilet paper, but they did leave me several traps for my new vermin tenants and a note that asked how could they ever repay me. I thought I’d been clear about my desire for toilet paper, but I appreciated the gesture.
This year, at my new job (no longer at a bar), I received an email from my co-worker inquiring about a showcase we would be putting on for CMJ. We had a lot of work to do, she said. We had to book bands, find a venue, come up with a marketing strategy to get the CMJ crowd to come to our show as opposed to the hundreds of other performances that will be going on around the one-mile radius at the very time of our show. There will be no time for drinking whiskey or attending parties with guest lists. There wouldn’t even be time for us to go over what CMJ stands for, which I still do not know. There are stories to be covered and performances to be reviewed. It is going to be a lot of work.
I told her I knew of a band we could book for free. They owed me a favor.
Being young and in a relationship in New York is very hard. Not only are dinners expensive and the majority of the males barely break 5’9”, but trying to meet up with someone for a late night rendezvous is almost impossible. Cell phone service sucks, no bar has a quiet place to use your phone in peace, and ambulances roam the streets specifically looking for people on their phones so they can drown out any conversation with the wail of their sirens. My theory is that they do this to provoke us to text message more so we can all bend over our phones and walk straight into the street, giving them more business.
On Saturday, I was standing outside Pianos with my friends. It was late in the night, a music band had just finished playing, and I was loudly telling a story to whoever would listen. My friend Tyler and I were holding unlit cigarettes in one hands and our iPhones in the other and giggling about whatever people in music bands giggle about, when a young lady in a sateen navy blue bandage dress, blue glitter eyeliner, a push up bra and sky-high Steve Madden heels with zippers and studs on the heels approached me.
“Could I use your phone,” she said, not asked, without taking her eyes off her dead Blackberry.
“Who are you gonna call?” I asked, knowing that if she answered “drug dealer,” or “friend from Brazil” I would politely say my phone was one of those phones that was actually just a candy dispenser.
“My boyfriend.” She lifted one of her heels. It looked very sharp.
Normally, I don’t let people use my phone because I have a natural tendency to believe that they will steal it, but perhaps because I was giggling and perhaps because I’d had a few margaritas earlier, I told her “Just keep ‘em where I can see ‘em,” and then threw my phone at her head. She caught it and made her call.
Moments later my phone was back in my hand. I briefly wondered how it had gotten there, but before I could loudly voice this question, the phone rang. My phone didn’t know the number. My phone was annoyed at this, it made the strange digits gigantic and white. The confusing string of symbols was hard to make out on that dark, drunk sidewalk. “Who is THIS.” I yelled. No one answered me, because no one was listening, so I ignored the call and went back to waving the unlit cigarette.
Immediately after rejecting the call, the same 954 number called me back. Perhaps they know me, I thought, perhaps they have a match to light my cigarette. “Hello?” I answered. When the voice on the other end of the phone called me by a name I didn’t recognize, I immediately remembered that a girl had borrowed my phone and this was the number she dialed. In fact, I think I had dialed it for her because I didn’t want her to dial Brazil.
“Wrong number, “ I said when the deep voice on the other line asked for some name, a girl’s name. I hung up the phone.
“If he calls back, you should just be like, ‘hey,’” said Alex, another member of a music band. “Pretend to be his girlfriend.” He said.
In the Lower East Side, after it gets dark and drunk out, it is very difficult to find people you know who are in other dark and drunk parts of town. I’ve been victim to having to call friends on a late Saturday night and try to explain, after many, many margaritas, exactly where I am. It’s almost impossible when there are distractions of other bars, other people, and of course, the ambulance text message police. Texting is no better because drinking inhibits one’s ability not just to operate big machinery, but small machinery as well. And, this process of meeting up is hardest to complete when your phone doesn’t even work. It can often result in a botched night out, a botched romantic rendezvous, and the crumbling of trust in a person’s relationship. So, though I knew it was wrong, when the number called back immediately after I’d said “wrong number,” I answered the phone.
“Hey,” I said. Everyone around me giggled.
“Where are you?” boomed the voice on the other end. I gathered he was not too far away. An ambulance drove by on his end of the phone and matched the soprano aria of the ambulance driving by me at that moment.
“I’m outside Pianos having a cigarette.” It was true. And it had been true of his girlfriend.
There was a brief silence. I stifled a giggle, waiting for a response. Then he let it out.
“FUUUUCK YOOOOOU!” He screamed into his receiver. I hung up the phone and we all laughed at the joke. He sounded like an ambulance! Ha! Fuck yoooou! Then we started talking about something else entirely, and then I got hungry and decided to walk home and get a piece of pizza.
As I trotted by Tompkins Square Park, my phone buzzed with a text. It was from the disembodied male voice that had told me to fuck me earlier.
At this point, I was away from my music band friends and had no reason to continue to pretend to be this guy’s girlfriend. I was about to ignore him, but I began to remember all the times I tried to meet up with people in the city and found myself getting in cabs going to nowhere. I was confused as to why this guy would TEXT a number that he knows is not his girlfriend’s, but I figured I had been lucky. Perhaps his girlfriend was known to steal phones and text with him. But, to show him that I was not victim of her theft, I sent him this:
“your gf borrowed a phone from a stranger and this is that phone, so you don’t need to contact this number anymore”
To my surprise, I got an immediate response.
“Can I talk to her”
Thirty seconds went by, then:
I was annoyed. What a dumbass, I thought, but he probably can’t help being a dumbass since he was pining for companionship. I didn’t want to ignore him because I had big plans to eat pizza and go to bed, and I didn’t want to be disturbed. So I responded again:
“I’m not with her dude! I don’t even know who she is! Sorry man”
I really was sorry, New York is a lonely enough place as it is, and when there’s an opportunity to NOT be lonely, even for one night, the chances of finding that other person while you’re young and drunk and in the Lower East Side are nearly impossible. I thought it was over, that he would see that he is texting a strange number that is not his girlfriend’s, then spend his time actually going to Pianos to find that girlfriend, who was THERE, smoking a cigarette in those trashy shoes like I told him, but instead he spent his time typing out five separate, consecutive hate texts:
“I’m so mad at u”
“I hate u”
“Leave me alone”
“I hate u”
“I never want to talk to u”
This seemed to me to be the end of the conversation. I wrote:
“Great! Good night!”
A few seconds went by, then:
“Good fucking night”
It’s one thing to be lonely in New York but another to be a dumbass. I wrote:
“Lauren, who I assume is your girlfriend, borrowed my phone to call you. I do not know Lauren, nor am I with her, so all of this I hate u business isn’t getting to her. So good luck, but you will not find her by texting me.”
Then, for good measure, I added:
“You fucking idiot.”
“Fuck u u piece of shit”
“Oh now I’m the piece of shit”
“Nice attitude fucker”
“You’re the one texting your girlfriend at a strange number that you hate her you disrespectful little prick”
At this point, I called his number and hung up immediately just so my iphone could tell me what region of the country his area code belonged to. I crossed my fingers for any embarrassing state; Jersey, Connecticut, West Virginia, I could have said something mean about them all. Unfortunately he was from New York, and though I was fine with calling him a prick, I knew he’d hunt me down and kill me if I dare say anything about the Empire State, and he’d crucify me if I even mentioned a malintention toward the Yankees.
I was hoping to have the last laugh. But he went on, putting me to shame:
“See ya Later”
To which I answered:
“Great! Good night!”
I really hope we see each other later. I think we could both use a friend.
The editor of the magazine that I work for has all sorts of ideas as to what a “hipster” is. If you ask the thin boy in large headphones and tight jeans on the J train what he classifies as a hipster, he might have a different answer. And, if you walk into Forever 21 and head to the rack of lockets with simulated rust and tarnish on the chains, I think their buyers would also have something to say about what, exactly, is a hipster.
I don’t have much of an answer; I just know that I am not one of them. Not only am I physically unable to troll the Internet looking for new music to listen to (I blame Elton John for making my life so comfortable), but I also find that no person in a vintage cardigan and amish-style leather boots has ever looked at me with anything but disdain.
I do not hate the hipster, and like to think I have many hipster friends. I truly appreciate those who love music and art and fancy cheeses. They are much more interesting to hang out with than people who don’t, and they tend to be better listeners because they’re waiting for a reason to think you’re cool. But I have had some unfortunate run-ins with those prickly hipsters that disagree with completely unironic love for the movie Robocop. I find their pretentiousness and the fact that they look over my forehead when I speak to them incessantly annoying. I also hate how they can eat so much lavender infused deep fried banh mi’s and still be waifs. And the males. The males are always a little unapologetically sweaty.
The magazine I work for puts on a four-day music festival throughout Brooklyn at the beginning of the summer. Modeled after Austin’s South by Southwest, the festival is four days of music, arts and film. At any given time throughout the festival, there are dozens of shows going on in venues across the trendy neighborhood of Williamsburg.
For the festival-goer, this giant clusterfuck of concerts that are overlapping creates the slightly uncomfortable feeling that one is having a good time, but could possibly have a better time somewhere else. So, said one boasts his or her location and having of a great time on Twitter to avoid any regret. The people of Williamsburg (both those who live there and those who just dress like they live there) thrive in this environment and take their stress of not knowing where they should be having a good time out on $1 tall-boys of PBR, which we are happy to provide. I know. We’re geniuses.
Since we had a staff of fifteen and were producing a festival that would entertain thousands, I took on about 29 jobs. Though my resume says I’m a team player, I most certainly am not, but I will do what it takes to just create the illusion of participating.
Early on, I decided I would take on the role of headmistress of badge pickup and headquarters. My reason for this was simple: I wouldn’t have to move. If my boss asked me to do something, I could look at him, hold up a list of checked off names and gape my mouth a little. Well I’d love to help you fill bowls of hummus in the band’s green room but I can’t just leave. Who will take on this important task of perching on a high stool and barking orders at other people? Plus, headquarters was at a bar with ceiling fans. Outside, it was hot as Richard Nixon’s armpit and I knew that there would be unlimited free beer inside the bar.
I think everyone that works at the magazine was hired because they were the kids in high school who “went to shows” on weekends and fried their bangs by straightening them to swoop across their foreheads just so. This was a trip back in time, a nostalgic re-living of the happiness that comes with standing in one place and bobbing your head. No one wanted this job at the headquarters because it went against the thrill of being part of something creative. We’d all been chained to desks but now was our time to get out there and listen to some tunes!
But by having to stay at HQ for the first two days, I would miss out on any actual fun. Sorry Sarah I can’t stay and staple press passes with you, I’m off to see the Chapped Caveman Collaboration show. Well boo, that sounds so interesting, I wish I could come see culture happening with you.
In truth, my idea of a good show is Phil Collins live at Staples Center (and it was), I didn’t know a single band playing in this festival, and I have found that I can’t take the music seriously when the band name includes the words Shark, Dinosaur, or Bear (which eliminated about 240 bands, leaving only Electric Tickle Machine and all the groups whose band names are just constanants in all caps), so I didn’t complain or pass this task onto someone else. I wanted to stay as far away from the actual festival part of the festival. I didn’t want anyone to know how much I didn’t belong and how much Urban Outfitters clothing I didn’t own.
This was a terrible idea. Not only was it smoldering inside headquarters, but because I would deny people badges who weren’t on my lists, I quickly became the most hated person in all of Williamsburg, and I had never even tortured any of these people in their respective high schools.
Normally, I own up to my penchant for power tripping and being mean to people who are thinner and better at applying their makeup than me, but I had met my sassy match in the Williamsburg crowd. Trendsters seemed to walk in off the street and expect their stupid eight-syllable name be on one of my lists to get a free badge, despite not being in a band, knowing anyone at the magazine, or actually purchasing anything. They would look at me as if I had told them their flight to Iceland had been cancelled, then get on their phones and stand in silence, every now and then uttering the words “bear,” “shark,” and “dinosaur.”
Sometimes, they would argue with me before they called on their people. “I work at Juliett’s.” one man said with a flash of the tattoo on his rib, visible through his floppy tank top.
“Where?” I was sweating on the high stool.
“Juliett’s. On 6th? You don’t know Juliett’s?” He took off his Annie Hall bucket hat and wiped sweat from his brow. No, sir, I don’t know Juliett’s. It sounds expensive and possibly vegan, so I doubt you’ll see me there. Also, unless you’re going to come in here with an entrée from said Juliett’s and feed me because I haven’t moved from this swampy seat and I’m fucking starving, you can kiss this badge goodbye.
When I denied him of a badge, he stepped to the side and got on the phone with someone who would get him one. I noticed on our magazine’s twitter feed that a certain someone was complaining about a girl at the badge pickup with “sorority whore eyes.” I then crumbled and sheepishly gave him a badge, in hopes for him to make amends, either in real life or in cyber space. He didn’t.
The more people who came in and were mean to me, the more I was worn down. I started to give badges to people I found most intimidating, and especially, the people who wouldn’t take off their sunglasses once inside. My bosses caught on to this, and scolded me for abusing my powers. Sorry, I said, I just want people to like me. Do your job, they said.
I felt so out of place. When the headquarters was full of people, my boss would tell me to put music on for godsakes this is a festival. The only thing on my iTunes was The Best of Rod Stewart and every single No Doubt CD, even a collector’s edition of Tragic Kingdom. I played it, thinking the hipsters would find it ironic and appreciate the nostalgia that is “Spiderwebs.” No. No.
Three smelly, chubby men with beards came in and inquired about badges. I didn’t see their names anywhere and started looking extra hard as I knew my bosses were close by. I apologized, asked them to perhaps call their contacts to see where I might find their names. They were a band, so maybe their agent could call me? They didn’t take their sunglasses off, and I sweat a little bit more.
“What the FUCK.” The fattest one declared. “We’re the FUCKING headliner at this shit.” My bosses looked over, starstruck. They indeed were the most famous people at the festival. Suddenly, everyone in the room was ogling them and updating their Twitter statuses. I blushed and pretended to got a phone call.
My boss had wanted to add some outdoor shows to the festival. He found a modest space in the oily and undeveloped third world neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn called Barge Park. There, we would have a giant outdoor stage and four outdoor concerts with three big indie bands to perform.
Barge Park was close enough to Williamsburg to be trendy, but far enough away that we chartered busses to cart hipsters from the Bedford L stop in Brooklyn to this park. I would sit at the will call table, again on a high stool, desperately waiting for the whole thing to be over while waif-like men and women would emerge with eyes squinting in the sun, their minds reeling as to how they were going to stay fresh in this heat while wearing high waisted shorts and red lipstick. “Where the fuck are we?” they would ask as they saw a giant oil barge sail by behind the stage. I still don’t know where the fuck we were. No one, of the entire fifteen of us, had visited Barge Park prior to the festival. It was probably one of my jobs to do so, but I didn’t want to move.
By this point in the weekend, I had started trying to pass off all disasters to other people. This was a bad idea. Delegating powers severely stresses me out, as I found to my utter surprise that most people are infinitely stupider and less capable to make a decision that I.
We had set up a stage on what looked like a run down tennis court. The venue was something out of a family vacation with your poor boyfriends’ family; we’d resorted to cooling 1200 keg cans of Heineken with a little dry ice and elbow grease and the only power outlet in the park belonged to the taco purveyors, San Loco (Therefore, the same generator that powered the guitars also powered the carnitas). We did all this, and we were proud. Amidst the nodding at my boss while he yelled and popping of adderol pills in the port-a-potties, I only stopped to think about how unloyal I was to any of this, and never stopped to think twice about stealing tacos for my breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Ten minutes before the first outdoor show, we realized all of the will call lists for the 400 people who had bought tickets were on my computer. I opened it up to find that it had about ten minutes of battery charge left on it. In my incredible ability to work under pressure and successfully delegate tasks, I handed the computer to an intern named Carly and told her to go inside the park and charge the computer for ten minutes. She clutched the computer and ran off. I gave clipboards and blank pieces of paper to two other interns, instructing them to ruffle through the papers and pretend to locate people’s name on a list when they came up to the willcall table. Then I ran and threw up in a trash can, praying that my bosses wouldn’t walk behind the interns as they pretended to locate people’s names on a blank piece of paper.
Twenty minutes later, Carly was nowhere to be found. I began to freak out that she’d taken the computer and bounced, perhaps sold it to an Italian restaurant owner or taken it home to her family in need. She was from Jersey, I had no idea what she was capable of. She wasn’t answering her phone, and one intern claimed he had seen her walk away with someone who looked like Eminem. My boss called me.
“How’s everything going?”
“Terrible, one of my interns has been kidnapped.” I ran to a trashcan, ready to puke again. An intern tapped me on the shoulder.
“Isn’t that her?”
There, through the sprinklers, was Carly, sauntering with a smile on her face, no computer.
“Where’s the computer?” I screamed. SCREAMED. People were staring. The adderol had been a very bad choice.
“It’s okay! I made a friend.”
“YOU DON’T MAKE FRIENDS IN NEW YORK CITY.” The children playing in the sprinklers were running back to their parents, but even they knew I was right, and they knew she must be from Jersey. I told Carly to take me to the computer immediately, and then I was going to fire her for being stupid.
“The computer is fine, it’s just one guy in a room…” she said as I made her jog with me. This was punishment for all the non-moving I’d done in the first days of the festival. She led me to the deli around the corner. We went to the back room where two men were bartering over a large Boar’s Head hock of ham. They stared at us, oil dripping from the well-sculpted curls in the middle of their foreheads. Carly led me behind the wall of bagels. There was the computer, plugged into a melting outlet.
“Why is this here, Carly? Why didn’t you go into the park like I asked you?” She did not look like an intern who knew she was in trouble. She looked like an intern who had a crazy boss. I began to dry heave a little.
“I thought we didn’t have any power! And I thought that by ‘San Loco’ you meant this deli.”
Indeed, the name of the deli was San Jose Deli. But I had misjudged Carly. She had not been to get tacos that morning as I had done twice already.
My hand clenched to a fist. I wanted to shake Carly and ask her what, no really what, did she think the GUITARS were going to be plugged into? Before I even opened my mouth, I heard a voice.
“Yo, Carly, everything okay?” It was her Eminem. He wore a large brimmed black Yankee hat with the sticker still on the brim and held two six packs of Brooklyn lager.
I began to cry. I was so tired. I was so messed up. And to be totally honest, I didn’t care who bought tickets or didn’t buy tickets. I knew I was going to get fired for not caring about indie music.
“What do you need?” He asked. Carly took over. “We need a printer,” she said.
“Well, fuck, I live six blocks away. And I’m a music producer so I have lots of printers.” Carly who had clearly not heard me when I said you don’t make friends in New York City, said, “Oh great! Thanks!”
I followed them, Carly and our new friend Joe the Music Producer, clutching the computer close. Joe went on about sneaker shop he and his father were opening up in Greenpoint. I thought of all the people I’d met who were into sneakers and called themselves music producers. I knew Carly and I were in for some sort of hipster version of that scene in Pulp Fiction, but I thought at least a true kidnapping would be a great distraction for my incompetence at managing the will call booth when my bosses spoke to me next.
“Yeah I was heeyuh before awwwl a’ dis” said Joe, waving his hands to show me the large array of laundromats and abandoned salt factories. “Befowuh you hipstuh folk moved in and put in all your boutiques and vegan cawfee shawps. That’s why I gotta open a sneakah stowah, too many a’ yous hipstuhs like sneakahs and I gotta keep up!” He and Carly laughed as if we all shared some sort of inside joke.
“Yeah I’m a music prudoosah, but I don’t do any a’ dat hipstah shit.” Carly giggled and asked what music he listened to when he wasn’t picking up girls in delis. I took what I thought would be one last look at the sun.
We entered Joe’s apartment to find his father and a construction worker standing in the rough skeleton of what will be a really cool sneaker shop one day. Behind the rubble, Joe led us to his music studio, which was quite real. And he did have several printers. Perhaps you can make friends in New York City.
As the will call list began to print out, I finally relaxed. Joe’s father came in and asked us the story of how Joe had brought us back to his studio. I, back to my normal attention-seeking self, decided to tell the tale in an effort to gain the affection of everyone in the room and make myself feel better. Joe, Carly, and Joe’s dad were all laughing and slapping knees, up until the part about Joe holding two six-packs of Brooklyn Lager.
“Hold on a second,” Joe’s Dad held up a finger. At this point I was standing up with one arm miming the carrying of beer and the other hand miming a wide-brim yankee hat. I was annoyed he’d interrupted.
“YOU were buying beer?” He crossed his arms and stared angrily at his son.
“It…it wasn’t for me.” My story was ruined.
“Alright girls, get out.” We were hustled out of there faster than the pages could print. I grabbed what I could and scurried away as Joe’s dad screamed the words “un-FUCKING-believable” over and over.
“I’m just going to use the bathroom real quick.” You’ve got to hand it to Carly. Not only did she refuse to believe that you couldn’t make friends in New York City, she also refused that you could make enemies.
As she skipped off I managed to get a moment with Joe alone. I apologized for tattling, and he said it was fine, its just that, well, he was in a program. I nodded, I felt so bad.
“Oh, are you in one too?” Apparently my nodding was a little too sincere.
“Thanks for the printer.”
When I returned to Barge Park, I took a moment to cry, vomit, and then decided to drink heavily. Before I could go to the dry ice volcano for a beer, a young man in a striped tank top, suspenders, and a white milk-man’s hat wiped the sweat from his faint mustache and asked me, “Where the fuck are we?” I stuck my apartment key into a PBR and shotgunned it. Could none of these people could realize the stress I was under, that we were all under, just to give them a good time. “Give me a fucking break.” I said, but he was looking over my forehead as I said this and I do not think he heard me.
I concluded that among the musically inclined and musically talented hipsters, I felt uneasy and uncomfortable. At any given moment, I knew they would bring up a band I didn’t know or an instrument of whose number of strings I was unsure of. When they asked me where I got my locket I would say “H&M” not “from an old woman I met at a bar while driving to Bonaroo.” I don’t know what I was intimidated of, because I know we’d just never see eye to eye. Perhaps it was just that all these cute guys would never like me because I had too much of a tan.
It occurred to me that throughout the whole weekend, the only time I actually caught a break from anyone was from a guy who was trying to explain to me why he himself was not a hipster, but planned to make money off of the demographic. Kind of like…me. I didn’t know it at the time, but he and I had so much in common, and I ratted him out to his dad! The universe will never forgive me for that, but I know that we both suffer from a form of feeling left out. We happened to find ourselves in a room full of well dressed people and though we don’t intend on changing out of our wide-brim Yankees hats, we have to look busy before someone notices.
The very last show was a giant performance from the band that I had denied passes to a few days before. They played one song and then screamed into the microphone asking me, girl in charge, to let in all the people who hadn’t bought tickets that were peering through the fence to watch the show. Drunk and wanting to be accepted, I stood on a chair and screamed that everyone would be let in, despite security urging me not to. My bosses were away and I figured that any good press we got from my valiant act would distract them from any revenue we lost. I ran up to people and told them to go on in, that they didn’t have to pay. No one smiled or thanked me, but I knew that wasn’t their style. It would show up on Twitter later.
I kept telling people it was the coolest thing I’d ever done. I felt awesome, and left the eight boxes of cash with the interns and danced to music I’d never heard. After the show, I made all of my interns drink like I was initiating them into a fraternity. We went to a bar and got so drunk that we all lost control of at least one bodily function later in the evening.
In the Twitterverse, no one had Tweeted my act of generosity. Instead, people wrote,“band hates the bitches at the front because they won’t let people in what the fuuuuck.”
Oh well. I tried.
On Saturday, as I was taking the long subway ride from Prospect Heights to the East Village, my tranquil walk of shame was disrupted by a large family wearing neon yellow shirts. Not only were they large in number, they were each the size of a small Navy submarine, causing the subway car to be filled with fleshy lovehandles only guarded by the thin lemon colored material of their T’s. Each of the women in this group had a child – the kind that is probably two months old but the size of a hefty toddler – draped over her shoulder.
Since they didn’t try to sell anything once the car started to run and since they all looked pretty angry, I knew they were special. The patriarch of the clan immediately screamed which stop they would all be unloading and reminded everyone to keep their belongings close because “this the big city now.”
They each wore their yellow shirts proudly and without irony, despite the t’s looking like they would double as toddler sleeping bags. Their hic language resounded in the tin car as they complained about the chinese people to one another and I struggled to get a look at what was on the front of their shirts. Finally, one of them turned and I snapped this photo:
Yes, it says “White Family” on his shirt, which seemed repetitive at this point. More specifically, it says “White Family Outing” with some chicken scratch of four stick figures and some suns and clouds.
The conversation among the many members of the White family (who turned out to be from rural Pennsylvania and on their way to see a show called “Banana Schpeel”) about the attrocities of Chinese People quickly turned to the atrocities of Black People. Almost as soon as I hoped for a black man to enter the subway, one did, and this amazing photo happened:
The White woman in front of me said to her White brother next to her, “Well you can put this in your sermon tomorrow!” And with that I exited the train and tried a little harder to melt into the pot that day.
Last night, in a very great New York moment, I saw Madonna. I was in the bathroom of a very fancy sushi restaurant. By being at this restaurant, I was setting a DSW salerack shoe-wearing foot into a New York niche that I had not earned my stripes to be a part of. But I didn’t care. When I saw the material girl, I said, “Hi Madonna.” And she did not answer. My friend offered her a tampon. She again did not answer. She zipped up her $10,000 purse and floated out the door, seemingly on a cloud made from Kaballa water vapors.
She took her 18 year old boyfriend Jesus and gal pal Jessica Seinfeld and left the restuarant into a sea of papparazzi.
The article below was published online this morning. I like to think that I was the spy talking about Jesus and the sink, but I was really just talking about myself not being able to work the faucet. Fancy bathrooms are HARD.
Madonna organized a little power dinner last night at swanky NYC sushi spot Morimoto — and she brought her boyfriend Jesus Luz and gal pal Jessica Seinfeld!
HollywoodLife.com was there, and saw the trio arrive at 10:55 pm, along with a small entourage (minus Jerry Seinfeld!) The group was quickly ushered to a table in the back of the high end Japanese restaurant, headed by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and restaurateur Stephen Starr.
Madge and Jessica are actually great friends, and Madonna even went on Jerry’s show The Marriage Ref! Restaurant staffers were guarding their area, and not letting anyone get near their back area. Madge was wearing a verrry short red and black horizontal stripped dress and black boots, and her hair was wavy. Madonna and her BFF Jessica even wore matching knee-high boots!
One spy at the restaurant saw Jesus in the men’s bathroom, and told us, “He was primping in the mirror for a really long time! He spent awhile fixing his hair.” Also, “Jesus couldn’t figure out how to use the sink!”
In November of 2007, I wrote the following article for The Daily Free Press.
“The guy who makes my bagels at Espresso Royale recently asked me for my name. Thinking he needed it to label the wrapping or creatively write it in sprouts, I gave it to him. Unfortunately, he was not asking me for bagel purposes. “I see you in here every day and I always wondered your name. My name’s Brad.” he said. Crap. I sighed and rolled my eyes. “Forget the bagel,” I said. I walked out, leaving my breakfast and now ex-lover alone and unclaimed.
This happens to me every time I fall in love with someone from a distance. Last month’s prospect was the tall, dark and scruffy boy that never seemed to leave the counter at Boston University’s favorite pretentious coffee shop, Espresso Royale. He would sexily spread Toffutti as I made eyes at him from the couch. Once, I bumped into his right shoulder and he smelled of sultry cigarette smoke and Yerba mate. I was hooked. Every step he took made me fall deeper into lust with this bearded, wild-haired barista, and yet he didn’t know I existed.
But now he knows my name, and the fun is completely gone. What am I supposed to do now? Make conversation with him? Let him ask me out? Break up with him when I realize he has no personality? That sounds horrible. Batting my eyelashes at him was way more fun than any of that stuff. And I got to eat a bagel every time I practiced my silent flirting skills on him.
I fall in love with people who have no idea who I am more often than you think. I love falling for unnamed hotties. There is no way I can get through my day without the hope that my from-a-distance crush will turn the corner and we will silently fall in love while walking in opposite directions.
I spend months being seduced by a boy’s external qualities and fantasizing about us playing with each other’s hair in the Common and listening to Coltrane, only to lose interest when he discovers my existence and hits on me. It would be acting like a normal person to be excited when your at-a-distance lover acknowledges your presence, especially in a solicitation for romance, but sadly I lack that quality. I’m beginning to think I’ve lost my touch for being in love with people from afar, because I keep meeting them, and they keep liking me.
For instance, in high school I was head over heels for Ryan: long blonde hair, icy blue eyes, hemp jewelry and the personality of a paper bag. Every morning he got up early to go surfing and came back in time to go to school. I spent my entire first period biology class smelling the salt on the back of his head. I thought he never knew, until last summer when I saw him at a bar and he asked me out. “What? You know who I am?” I asked. He explained that he had a crush on me all throughout high school, and wanted to take me on a date now that we were in college. Great. Now every single one of my high school memories is ruined because the boy I was in love with actually knew I existed. He also probably knew I smelled the back of his head everyday and thought it was hot. Gross.
It’s not that I fall in love with these boys hoping they’ll never find out I’m stalking them. I have elaborate fantasies and high hopes for surprise marriage proposals for the extent of our unspoken love affair. It’s just that the minute they acknowledge me I lose interest, and then I have to break their hearts.
Every Wednesday last year I would spend about four to five hours in the Warren Towers computer lab surfing CollegeHumor.com and writing emails to my grandparents just so I could be around the very exotic-looking clerk that put paper in the printer. He was half-Asian, half-Brazilian or half-Latino, half-Brad Pitt or something, and I was in love. I would constantly go on Paint and draw pink hearts with writing that said, “2: Exotic Boy, Love, Secret Admirer in Warren Towers computer lab.” They would pile up in the printer for him to look at later. Eventually, the sexual tension was so thick and I had used so much paper that he felt that he had to sweep me off my feet. He approached me and I quickly minimized the game of solitaire I was playing. “Are you shansa?” he asked, holding up one of my many printed document cover sheets. My eyes met his. In them I saw snuggling, nights of watching bad movies and a white picket fence. “Can you pick up all of your papers please?” He said and smiled. As I collected my love notes I realized things would never work out with us. I can’t be with a guy who doesn’t appreciate my art. I had to break up with him and still can’t go into the computer lab to this day.
I’m not a relationship phobe. I have relationships all the time. Relationships are great. It’s just more fun knowing that if you brush your hair in the morning, the man of your dreams might notice its shine. Boyfriends don’t notice these things, but at-a-distance lovers just might catch the gleam in the corner of their eyes. For me to be in a relationship, my man just has to know that I’ll always be in love with someone from afar who at any given point will fall in love with me and take me to Paris.” – Daily Free Press
A few days later, The Daily Free Press editor Matt Negrin published this letter in response to the article:
On Monday, the phone rang during the middle of my shift working in the Student Village. I answered to find my supervisor on the line. “Ryan, have you read today’s FreeP?” she questioned. Because I had not, she read me your column (“Falling in love from afar,” Oct. 5, p. 4). “This has to be you!” she exclaimed. “I checked last year’s schedule, and you are the only employee who worked on Wednesdays in Warren who would even come close to fitting this description! You had a secret admirer!” I glanced at the printer: toner . . . check; paper . . . check. Then, having completed my work for the rest of the shift, I decided to spend the rest of my time writing you.
There is no way that I, or any of the other lab consultants, can remember every person who pulls on the push door to enter the Warren computer lab or remember every job printed. But for some reason, your secretloveprintout.bmp printout seems vaguely familiar. If these printouts really did exist, and you really spent hours at a time in the lab to breathe the same stale air as me, then I am greatly humbled. Since the day I told you to “please pick up all of your papers,” I have been waiting for your return to the computer lab, hoping to express my appreciation for your art and to compliment your creative dexterity with a rolling-ball mouse. I didn’t want a single page to be tossed into the recycling bin with somebody’s cover sheet. I apologize for coming across as unappreciative, but what could I have said to a stranger who thought me to be The One? How was I to initiate conversation? “Hey, shansa. I’ve got magic fingers. I can type 110 words per minute, and I have the fastest double-click ever. Think what else I can do …” Or, “Hey, shansa. Am I the exotic boy for whom you are wasting your print quota?” Imagine how awkward it would have been when you falsely replied, “Umm, I don’t think so.”
I am heartbroken to know that we have been officially over before we ever started, and to find out thorough The Daily Free Press just pushes the blade deeper. I was hoping we could really get to know each other, and you could eventually meet my Chinese father and French mother. Now, obviously that will never happen. I guess I’ll just have to curl up and watch Ten Things I Hate About You by myself this winter break, while I visit my grandparents at their villa in southern France. I guess it’s better this way, as Paris is a long three-hour train ride away. I hope the scent of fusing toner reminds you of me — and of all the things we could have been.
Ryan Ung, the Computer Clerk” – Daily Free Press
I never did meet Ryan, or the guy whose bagels made my heart skip. I wanted to keep their beautiful faces embalmed in my mind, knowing that if in real life they spurned me or if I them, they would resemble some sort of Anubis head when I remembered them later. I wanted to see them as I saw centaurs; the mythical beasts that have the torso of a really hot man and body of a well-bred horse. Centaurs are frustrating because they not ony don’t exist, but if they did it would be impossible for a lady to have sex with them. So being that this was my logic back in 2007, I never followed up with Ryan, and I went elsewhere for my lox and schmear.
Plus in the years that have passed since I’ve written this, I realized (at least six or seven times over) that guys just say they’ve “always had a crush on you” to get into your pants. They’re so smart.
Being that this is the prudish and insipid month of February and the even more awful day of love-death is approaching this weekend, this article and the supplemental story make me feel better about living in New York. Yes, we live in a city with millions of people who don’t want to talk to each other, myself included (see my last post). But perhaps it isn’t as depressing as that. Perhaps, despite New York’s lonliness, there are romances going on every day that will never be spoken, never be told, and never be realized. And that, in itself, is pretty damn romantic.
***This post is dedicated to everyone who was genuinely worried about me after my last post, specifically, my mother. But not my dad, who said “atta girl,” and sent me cookies via airmail.