You could be anyone, celebrate boy

30 05 2012

Late late, so quick quick:

A., a photographer and secretary in my CUNY department, has been hosting an Italian artist the past couple of months, and while she’s had fun with him and has learned from him, she’s also a bit bumfuzzled by him.

He’s a dreamer—a dreamer! She says this with her hand in the air.

A few weeks ago he was looking to fall in love and stay in New York, but now he’s looking at all of the reasons to leave.

Fall in love! He’s here for two months and he wants to fall in love and have a relationship! He did not fall in love; he leaves for Italy in a few days.

He’s gonna stay here and he doesn’t have a job? How’s he going to pay the rent? She gave me a look.

It’s good he’s an artist; he should stay an artist. But what was he thinking? This is New York!

That’s one of the things I like about New York: You can say you’re an artist or a writer or a dancer and people will take you seriously, because here these are practical occupations. You are not dismissed as a flake for pursuing this work, even with the recognition of  the unlikelihood of making of living doing only this work.

New York: the place for practical dreamers.


And I’ve fucked up so many times in my life

28 05 2012

Is May over yet?

I know: May only leads to June, which leads to July, a month during which I gradually lose my mind until I end up in August hating everything.

Still: May has been a month of half-thought unwritten blog posts, grading, problems with grading, problems with my printer, problems with my computer, and, most importantly, the last month of a job which had me skittering around trying to find my balance.

I never did find it, which is why it was my last month.

C. asked if I still felt bad about quitting, and, yeah, I do. I wonder if I tried hard enough to make it work, if I wasn’t looking to get out long before I actually got out. Did I fuck up—that is the question.

Alas, it’s not a question to which there is any ready answer; more to the point, I don’t know that I could answer the question.

This is how I am able to get off the Neuroses Tilt-A-Whirl: If you can’t know it, let it go. Let it go.

You may have noticed that I repeatedly have to remind myself to Let It Go—which repetition means that I am not so good at Letting It Go—but such reminders do actually work to [warning! metaphor switch ahead!] loosen my fingers from their death-grip on What If? I may manually have to pry each digit from the What If? using various devices (including, most usefully, the This-Is-Out-Of-Your-Hands multi-tool, with, among others, its You-Can’t-Know-It lever), but I am able, finally, to pull my hand away.

Sure, my fingers may wander back over the What If? or Why Did I [Not] Do That?, but a deep breath and a reminder is usually enough for me to set the regret back down and sigh, Let It Go.

Anyway, this was not a big regret, just the most current one. It might stick around for awhile, might recur at odd points far into the future (I still occasionally think about the fan I couldn’t fit into my car when I left Minneapolis and had to leave behind), but it will shrink, and will lose its stickiness.

In the meantime, I’ll remember how much better I feel now that I quit, and remember that fuck-up or not, I’m glad to be done.

Welcome back my friend to the show that never ends

23 05 2012

I was in Camp Fire Girls as a kid (We are the Camp Fire Girls/We wear our hairs in curls/We never smoke or drink/That’s what our parents think. . .), and my mom and B.’s mom were our Camp Fire leaders.

That meant B.’s little brother P. sometimes came to our meetings.

P. was a dork*—not in a geeky or fumbling way, but in the way that younger brothers appear to pre-adolescent girls—and not infrequently managed to draw attention to himself by engaging in some little-brother dorky activity.

Like the time he repeatedly shocked himself.

He’d shuffle his feet along the carpet in the meeting room, then touch the metal radiator cover. OUCH!

Shuffle shuffle shuffle, OUCH! Shuffle shuffle shuffle, OUCH! Shuffle shuffle shuffle, OUCH!

His mom probably told him to stop, and he probably didn’t. We girls all just looked at him and thought, What a dork.

Now, what does this have to do with anything?


Yep, those folks just keep shuffling shuffling shuffling and yelping OUCH whenever someone points out the idiocy of their quest, but, unlike, P., they don’t have the excuse of being dorky 9 year-old boys.

I don’t know if they keep trotting out their conspiracies because they like that feeling of getting zapped over and over again (which P. pretty clearly did), or if they somehow think that this time, THIS TIME, the outcome will be different.

Conspiracy theorists can be amusing, heartbreaking, scary, or puzzling, but in this case, they are just damned irritating, and if I were a citizen of the state of Arizona in general or of Maricopa County in particular, I would be MIGHTY irked at the waste of time and money thrown at the quest to prove that Barack Obama, born in Hawaii in 1960, in somehow not an American citizen.

Here is the appropriate response to anyone who suggests that the President was not born in the US: Prove it.

I happen to believe (along with with almost everyone else) that the birth certificate issued by the state of Hawaii is legitimate, and that the preponderance of evidence does, in fact, prove that President Obama was born in the US—but hey, if you don’t accept it, so be it.

But it’s not enough to yelp LIES! or PHOTOSHOP! or LAYERS! or whatever; you actually have to gather your own evidence which proves where, exactly, Barack Hussein Obama was born.

I’m not asking you to prove a negative (that the president wasn’t born in Hawaii) but to prove where he was born—with evidence that someone without your extra-special powers of perception could, in fact, accept as evidence.

That’s fair, don’t you think?

Oh, and one more thing: Shut up until you actually have that proof in hand. If you and Orly Taitz and Joe Arpaio insist upon shuffling through the static of birtherism, the rest of us really don’t want to hear you yelp when you’re zapped by reality.


*P. grew up to be a decidedly non-dorky and decent man.

One hand in the air for the big city

21 05 2012

No, I haven’t gone underground again: I had a visitor these past few days!

T. had last visited, with P., a few years ago—they’re the ones who bought me my air conditioner—and had learned that Everything Is Terrible In August; thus, the spring fling.

I took her through the Financial District on Thursday, and while we couldn’t get to the 9/11 Memorial (no tickets available), I did take her to St. Paul’s Chapel, where church workers and volunteers ministered to those who worked on “the pile” in the months after the attacks.

I’ve been to and taken visitors to St. Paul’s a number of times, and the exhibits never fail to move me. Prior to September 20001, it was simply an Episcopalian chapel, open to the neighborhood, and one which sponsored various sacred music events; the experience of caring for the men and women who helped to clean out the wound of the World Trade Center site transformed the church, making it over into place of healing and reconciliation. There is a power to this place, and while I attribute it to the quiet strength of the people within, those searching could probably find their God here, as well.

We wandered around and around the warrens of Wall Street, and I came across this shot of the (admittedly-ubiquitous) juxtaposition of old and new:

Water tanks and towers

That’s the (formerly-named?) Freedom Tower—now the tallest building in New York. Neither the name nor the design is impressive, but yes, this space needed a tower.

Another juxtaposition of old and new, this one near Battery Park:

St. Elizabeth-Ann’s? (shoulda written it down. . .)

A sense of scale:

We grabbed some food from Grotto, then headed over to the park for lunch; afterwards we ambled along the short boardwalk, then slid back betwixt the canyons as we worked our way out of the bottom of Manhattan.

We skirted City Hall and the various city, state, and federal courthouses, standing like sentries below the Brooklyn Bridge. Then into Chinatown and the Lower East Side, where we zipped through the Essex Market, then popped into Economy Candy.

Zotz, I got Zotz. Do you remember those? A hard sweet shell encases a powdery interior—which turns into a tart fizz on your tongue. No Marathon bars, but candy necklaces, dots, ring candy, and Aero bars, along with all of the usual suspects.

Then into Little Italy (gelato!), a swing by the Tenement Museum (we browsed the shop, but decided against a tour), and, for me, a quart of sour pickles from Russ & Daughters, and a brief shared remembrance with the counter-woman of our mothers homemade pickling efforts.

East Village, McSorley’s Ale, Pete’s Tavern—both McSorley’s and Pete’s claim to be the oldest bars in the city—then back to Brooklyn.

The plan on Friday was for T. to wander the west side by herself—she particularly wanted to see the Chelsea Market—then head to K’s place Friday evening for book club. Alas, T.’s allergies kicked up and the wind did a number on her peepers (“I think I got New Jersey in my eyes”), so we bailed on book club and stayed in.


T. got us bleacher seats in center-right for a game against the Cincinnati Reds.

That’s Jeter at the plate—can’t you tell?

We made it through 8 innings under the full sun, then bailed before we both fainted.

I’m not a huge baseball fan, but I did always want to see a game at Yankee Stadium; mission accomplished. (And oh yeah, the Yankees lost.)

Back to Brooklyn and into Dumbo:

Dumbo: A nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Then we moseyed down Fulton (where T. got her husband a Brooklyn Nets sweatshirt and cap) and Flatbush, ate at Burrito Bar (amazing! lemonade), then hopped the Q back home. Early (i.e., before noon) Sunday, she left.

Her favorite place? The Wall Street area. We’ll go back (or I’ll send her there alone) her next visit.

We had beautiful weather the whole time, and neither of us (as far as I know) got on each other’s nerves.

You’re a good host, she said.

You’re a good guest, I replied.

Just as it should be.

Hey, you’ve got to hide yourself away

12 05 2012

Is it time for another anti-Facebook rant?

(Well, okay, not really an anti-Facebook rant so much as an anti-YOU-MUST-BE-ON-FACEBOOK!!!! rant. And if it’s not time, I don’t care, because it is time.)


Farhad Manjoo loves him some social media. He loves Google and Apple and Facebook and smart phones and probably Twitter and Linked-In and implanted RFID tags which will “let” everybody know where everybody is and what they are doing at all times.

(Well, okay, probably not, but this is rant so I get to lie exaggerate for literary purposes. And, seriously, it took him until May 1 to ask Is it Time to Stop Trusting Google?)

Manjoo and Emily Yoffe have been tag-teaming on online etiquette for awhile in audios for Slate, and their most recent venture has them pondering whether it is possible to opt out without being a weirdo?

Yoffe cautiously suggests that, perhaps, for the young ‘uns, it might seem a little weird. It’s fine, but it’s going to be odd. Still, for those over 35, say (the age of the letter writer to the manners-duo), I really don’t think we’ve gotten to the point where if you don’t have a Facebook page, you’re somehow signaling you’re socially inept.

At which point Manjoo throws his pom-poms into the ring and starts yelling Give me an F! Give an A! Give me a CEB! . . .

Let me first address what I said before. That question came up in the context of a debate about online dating. I said that if you’re going to set up a date with someone and you can’t find anything about them on Facebook… I’d extend that to other social networks. If you can’t find a photo of them and there’s no photo on the dating site either, then you should be suspicious. That person seems to be trying to hide something.

At which point Yoffe helpfully interjects, We’re all trying to hide something, Farhad.

But the Head Cheerleader WILL NOT BE DETERRED!

But to the letter writer’s question beyond dating, I think that it’s better to have a social networking profile for a couple reasons. You are taking control of your online life then. If you have nothing about yourself online, your friends may post stuff about you on Facebook, you may come up on a news story, you may come up on a search engine. I think it’s better just generally to take control of your presence online.

And if you don’t have one, I think people will judge you based on that. Maybe it’s different in some circles. This guy says he works in the trades. I think that in some kinds of professions, it’s not as necessary as others. In our profession, it seems like it’s required.

I’ve looked at the numbers for Facebook. If you look at the demographics, it’s not like only young people have Facebook. It pretty much cuts across most demographic lines, and from what I can tell, also socioeconomic lines. They have a billion people around the world. Lots of people are on Facebook and I think you’re kind of judged now, for better or worse, if you don’t. [emph added]

Aaaaannnnnd we’re all back in junior high.

Manjoo does at least insert a “for better or worse”, and later admits that It’s work. This guy says he feel overwhelmed by it. He raises setting up a generic profile, but that’s going to still be work. I agree. But,as he goes on to say,

it’s your reputation. You have to maintain your reputation in the offline world. If somebody is talking about you and telling untruths about you, you have deal with it and you have to deal with it online.

And how, pray-tell, does a Facebook account slay those untruthy evildoers? Will the mere presence of a Facebook page demonstrate my upright nature, disciplined work-habits, uncomplaining demeanor, and good hygiene? And in such a manner to override and overcome any possible suggestions otherwise?

Here’s a new tagline: Facebook: When You Need To Prove Your Innocence. And You Do.

Who knew social technology could be so liberating?

Well done, Mr. President

9 05 2012



Sullivan has a round-up of reactions, a fair number of which are. . . peevish. He only did this because he had to, or it’s not courageous because a majority of Americans now support gay marriage, what took so long, etc.

For fuck’s sake: really?

He is the first sitting president of the Yoo-nited States to state publicly his support for marriage equality, and bitching about suspect timing or impure motives is so much pissing into good beer.

This is a solid goddamned win. Learn to enjoy it already!


(Screenshot taken from Slate, because I keep forgetting how to do screenshots.)

Tattoo you

8 05 2012

It was ten or fifteen years ago when I thought, Huh, mebbe I’ll get a tattoo.

I wasn’t sure why I thought that—something to do, I guess—and whatever I got, I wanted it to mean something to me. I don’t want to get a tattoo just to get a tattoo, y’know? I told a friend.

Except it’s tough to see why one would get a tattoo other than that one wanted to get a tattoo.

Anyway, the thought passed in and around my mind but I was never able to settle on a particular design. While I was in dissertation mode I thought maybe a mock-up of DNA, but then I remembered that I’m not a genetic reductionist so, no, maybe not.

I didn’t need a tattoo, and was fine with never getting one, so I didn’t really have any other thoughts beyond Eh, no rush.

But about a year ago I got to thinking about writing and human history and oh hey what’s the oldest know written language and wouldn’t that be kinda cool to have whatzit oh yeah cuneiform. Akkadian or Sumerian?

Ah, Sumerian: it was the oldest.

Okay, Sumerian cuneiform: check. Now, what did I want it to say?

That took another while, and then when I figured that out, hi ho hi ho the online search I go and there (after some research and triple-checking is-this-really-what-it-is) it is.

Upshot: ten or fifteen years after first thinking I might get a tattoo, I got a tattoo.

And then two weeks after that, I got another one.

Both can be visible—they’re on my inner forearms—but I didn’t get them for (or against) anyone else’s viewing pleasure; I got them for me.

I don’t know about others’ relationships to their tattoos, but I look at mine and it seems to me a kind of claiming of my self. I still have too many moments where I can’t believe my life is real, and mine, and if these tats don’t make it any more real, they do at least signify that yes, this life is mine.

However absurd it may be.

Don’t know why I said goodbye, I say hello

7 05 2012

So it’s been awhile.

There was grading and headaches and a cold and the second job and a shitty mood and oh oh oh so much anxiety about. . . grading and headaches and a cold and the second job and a shitty mood. . . and you can see where this goes.

I was twisting the screw of the vice grips.

C. helped me untwist it and, without a recap of that conversation in which I went over and over what was wrong I can tell you that she said, patiently and firmly and repeatedly: You have to quit that job.

And so I quit that job—well, put in my notice; I’m done at the end of May.

It took almost two days after for me to unwind, for my chest to stopped feeling squeezed and for me to take a breath without having to remind myself to breathe.

It was the right decision, although I feel badly about it; I feel badly about it, although it was the right decision.

It just wasn’t the right job.