18 May 2008

Actual weekends!

So, this was my first actual weekend in about six months! I was able to have brunch food at actual brunch time again! I was able to walk the Hell's Kitchen flea market-- at which a vendor tried to charge me $140 for a mirror! I went to the Natural History museum and the Ninth Avenue International Food Festival! And I had some lovely company throughout the weekend as well, and lots of laughs, which make the best weekends. Not to mention the So You Think You Can Dance marathon on MTV today and yesterday...
I am a bit obsessed with So You Think You Can Dance-- I could care less about the bad auditions. I'm not interested in watching others be humiliated. But once the real dances start...it's magical, especially the lyrical numbers. I'm thinking specifically of Allison and Ivan to Annie Lennox's Why, and Lacey and Kameron to Elisa's Dancing. The premiere of the new season is this week!! I'm so excited for a television show that actually provides some interest, since I've been relatively unimpressed by American Idol this year...
Another weekend highlight was the outdoor viewing of Crossing Delancey on the Lower East Side. It's one of my favorite movies. For a while I was convinced that I was Izzy (Amy Irving) reincarnated, and that therefore I was destined to marry a pickle man. She works in the book world, lives uptown, has a meddling Jewish family, has curly red hair...we are practically twins! And although Anton Maes turns out to be the obligatory uptown entitled asshole, I still long for someone to inscribe a book to me "It's women like you who make the world liquid and even, still in beauty born."
I love Amy Irving. I'm reminded about how in Yentl she "always burns the baked apples." And I love that Apartment Therapy/The Kitchn profiles the movie and mentions the same change that I always lament-- the loss of independent spirits (bookstores, pickle sellers) and the Lower East Side character. Where Bubbe once shopped for groceries is probably now a velvet-roped lounge; the store where Sam bought Izzy's famous hat is probably now a bar where skinny-jeaned pretentious hipsters pretend to play music that "matters." It's funny-- it's like that sophisticated shallow fake artist world of Anton Maes that is the "enemy" in this movie still exists; it just has moved about 80 blocks south.

15 May 2008

I do believe in fairies, I do, I do!

I can't decide which Peter Pan statue I like better-- the one in Kensington Gardens or the one in Liverpool. There are very subtle differences between the two. The Kensington Gardens statue will always have a special place in my heart, since I've been there. Also, there's the story about how J.M. Barrie had the statue constructed off-premises and then brought to the gardens in the middle of the night, so that the neighborhood children would think it had appeared by magic. This announcement appeared in The Times on April 31, 1912:
"There is a surprise in store for the children who go to Kensington Gardens to feed the ducks in the Serpentine this morning. Down by the little bay on the south-western side of the tail of the Serpentine they will find a May-day gift by Mr J.M. Barrie, a figure of Peter Pan blowing his pipe on the stump of a tree, with fairies and mice and squirrels all around. It is the work of Sir George Frampton, and the bronze figure of the boy who would never grow up is delightfully conceived."
But then there's this picture I found of children frolicing around the Liverpool statue in Sefton Park...I'm torn!
I also love finding connections between favorites-- and it turns out that J.M. Barrie was one of Thomas Hardy's closest confidantes and was actually a pallbearer at his funeral.
Finally, some not-so-happy facts about the Llewelyn Davies brothers, who were the inspiration for the Peter Pan stories and later his foster sons. George, the eldest brother, was killed in action in World War I. The eponymous Peter resented his public identification as "the original Peter Pan" and, after a prolonged battle with alcoholism, committed suicide by throwing himself under a train at the Sloane Street tube station. Michael, the fourth child and the model for the Kensington Garden statue, drowned at Oxford at age 21 in what is now thought to be a suicide pact with his presumed homosexual lover. It's so sad...Finding Neverland is one of my favorite movies, and it's just heartbreaking to know that the original bliss ended in tragedy!

14 May 2008

Got the "blues"

sapphireberry. blue seafoam. serenity. skylark song. crisp morning air. soft sky. blue hydrangea. old pickup blue. highland breeze. morning glory. fairview blue.
I can't get enough of Benjamin Moore paint names. Now if only I could decide on the perfect happy-but-not-too-deep-or-too-sky-blue color for my living room to be...

11 May 2008

RIP Elaine Dundy

I've written here about how I just finished the book The Dud Avocado. It wasn't easy to get through, and parts of it were flawed, but overall I thought that the portrayal of a young girl aching to just LIVE, LIVE, LIVE was extremely accurate and poignant. The New York Times called Sally Jay Gorce a precursor to Isadora Wing (agree) and Carrie Bradshaw (not so much) and compares her to one of her contemporaries in "fictional characterdom," Holly Golightly. Sally Jay is selfish, wild, and impetuous, but those are the characteristics of a teenager who has been cooped up in suburbia and is suddenly released into the Real World. Masterful sentences include: “A rowdy bunch on the whole, they were most of them so violently individualistic as to be practically interchangeable.” “It’s amazing how right you can sometimes be about a person you don’t know; it’s only the people you do know who confuse you.” “Frequently, walking down the streets in Paris alone, I’ve suddenly come upon myself in a store window grinning foolishly away at the thought that no one in the world knew where I was at just that moment.”
If Sally Jay were a man, I'm sure that her whirlwind life, casual attitude to sex, and urge to soak up life whatever the cost would be a non-issue. Hello, Kerouac (I think I've already written here how much I hate the Beats, but whatever, there's always room for more). A woman saying what she actually thinks? A woman having the same urges that a man has?? SHOCKING!!
So while on a whole I can't rave about The Dud Avocado, I appreciate it immensely. I would recommend that it be included in high school literature courses so that girls can have a female counterpart to Holden Caulfield (another "hero" whom I dislike!). And I feel like overall the novel was a breath of fresh air, not of shallowness and selfishness, but of youth and beauty (to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald...there's something a bit Daisy-esque about Sally Jay, isn't there??).
So thank you, Elaine, for paving the way for literature that shows woman not as cookie cutters, housewives, whores, or the secondary character thrown in for romantic interest. Thanks for Sally Jay, and thanks for freeing us from the pedastals and dusty corners of the past and bringing us into the light of the Champs Elysees.

08 May 2008

Defining-- aka modern love

Defining relationships is something that I am still not good at. I've had the fling, I've had the guy I was "seeing," I've had the hook-up, the dysfunction, the massive, all encompassing love...but at the time I've never called any of them anything while I was with them. The title just seemed like a box, a way to lock us into prescribed roles and conventions-- a norm. And it never really bothered me. But what did bother me was that I was looking for permanence, for something to cling to, and for some reason I sometimes felt that without the title I could never be sure of him really being there. And that not knowing was a very destructive feeling. It's funny-- the same thing that could have "locked us in" was also the same thing that kept us out-- apart, from each other. So with all of these thoughts about titles and relationships, I was particularly struck by this article in the New York Times written by a college student for the Modern Love essay contest.
Want to Be My Boyfriend? Please Define
RECENTLY my mother asked me to clarify what I meant when I said I was dating someone, versus when I was hooking up with someone, versus when I was seeing someone. And I had trouble answering her because the many options overlap and blur in my mind. But at one point, four years ago, I had a boyfriend. And I know he was my boyfriend because he said, “I want you to be my girlfriend,” and I said, “O.K.”
He and I dated for over a year, and when we broke up I thought my angsty heart was going to spit itself right up out of my sore throat. Afterward, I moved out of my mother’s house in Brooklyn and into an apartment in the East Village, and from there it becomes confusing.
So, a few days after the chat with my mom, when I found myself downtown drinking tea with my friend Steven, I asked him what he thought about dating. He has a long-term girlfriend, and I was curious how he viewed their relationship.
“The main thing,” he said, “is I don’t mind if she sleeps with other people. I mean, she’s not my property, right? I’m just glad I get to hang out with her. Spend time with her. Because that’s all we really have, you know? I don’t want her to be mine, and I don’t want to be anybody’s.”
I sucked my teeth and looked over at the next table, where two men sat opposite each other. One looked over his shoulder and gave me a closed-mouth grin.
Steven explained that it’s not a question of faithfulness but of expectation. He can’t be expected not to want to sleep with other people, so he can’t expect her to think differently. They are both young and living in New York, and as everyone in New York knows, there’s the possibility of meeting anyone, everywhere, all the time.
For the sake of brevity and clarity, I’ll say I’ve dated a lot of guys. It’s not that I’ve gone out anywhere with a lot of these guys, or been physical with most of them, or even seen them more than once. But there have been many, many encounters.
I’ve met guys in the park, at the deli, at galleries, at parties and on the Internet. The Internet idea came from thinking that if I could sift through people’s profiles, like applications, I could eliminate the obvious lunatics.
And that didn’t work out very well. One leaned across the table an hour into dinner and screamed: “You love me! I know you do!” Another stood outside my apartment with one finger on the buzzer and another covering the peephole, occasionally banging his fist, until he finally exhausted himself and left.
As for the guys I first met in person, there was the construction worker I ran into on the train twice before saying anything, kissed the third time, kissed the fourth time, got stood up by the fifth time and never saw again. Then there was the guy with tattooed knuckles, the young Republican, the Irishman on vacation and the guy who stole $300 from me to buy drugs. There was the activist, the actor, the librarian, the waiter and the bond trader.
So when my friends and I started having a conversation about the nature of monogamy, I thought I knew something about monogamy. Because, despite the fleeting nature of most of my encounters, and despite my own role in their short duration, I think what I have been seeking in some form from all of these men is permanence.
Sometimes I don’t like them, or am scared of them, and a lot of times I’m just bored by them. But my fear or dislike or boredom never seems to diminish my underlying desire for a guy to stay, or at least to say he is going to stay, for a very long time.
And even when I don’t want him to stay — even when he and I find each other as strangers and remain strangers until we stop doing whatever it is we are doing — I still want to believe that two people can meet and like each other well enough to stay together exclusively, without the introduction of some 1960s rhetoric about free love or other noncommittal slogans.
But noncommittal is what we’re all about.
There was the guy with red hair and big steaklike hands that walked with me arm in arm through Washington Square Park, kissed me on the stoop of my mother’s brownstone and said he wanted to be my boyfriend. Until our next walk, when he kept his hands to himself and said he meant boyfriend “in the theoretical sense of the word.”
Then there was the installer of soy insulation who cooked soggy pasta and made me watch football and whimpered and kicked in his sleep. In the spring there was the guy 12 years older than me who shared an apartment overlooking Tompkins Square Park with an antediluvian man who walked around in graying long underwear.
There was the guy who wore more makeup than I did, and the one who waxed his eyebrows clean off his face. And the one who slept with a guy when he was drunk, then with another when he was sober. (But he insisted he wasn’t gay, just curious, and since when was I so uptight anyway?)
Over the summer there was the Jesuit taking a break from the seminary who stopped calling after I said I wouldn’t sleep with him on our third date. In the fall, back at school, there was the banjo player from the woods of New England who took me home to meet his family, then moved away and told me to wait for him. And I did, for months, until he called to say he was falling in love with me, and oh, man, I had to come see him right away (“Buy your ticket tonight!”), before he called again to say it was moving too fast and he wasn’t ready.
And on, and on, and on.
Then this winter I met a guy while waiting to have my computer fixed. He had big blue eyes and a wide red mouth and delicate hands and greasy brown hair. He sat down and asked what I was reading and did I have a boyfriend because he was asking me out. He smelled like incense and clean linen, and I was overwhelmingly and instantaneously smitten. Among other things, I liked his indifference, confidence and knowledge of foreign film directors.
On our first date he explained his theory of exclusive relationships, which was that they shouldn’t exist. We talked about our (and all of our friends’) divorced parents, about how marriage was nothing but a pragmatic financial venture, and about the last time we cheated on someone. He said that his disregard for monogamy wasn’t a chauvinistic throwback, but quite the opposite: the ultimate nod to feminism.
On our second date we watched coverage of the Iowa caucus, and later, after listening to jazz at his apartment, he crawled onto his bed, leaned against the headboard and said he didn’t burn artificial light after dark. I sighed and edged into bed next to him.
During the night he kicked and snored, grabbing greedily at me with his well-moisturized hands like a child snatching at free candy.
We overslept. In the morning I watched him dress frantically, the way a drifter would (gray pants and shirt tucked in and tie and vest and brown wingtip shoes and gray sweater and red scarf and jacket: it was lovely). He looked up occasionally from his scrambling to give a big toothy smile. I made the bed and drank the orange juice he bought for me the night before. We left his apartment and tried to find a cab.
As we crossed Hudson Street, we waded through a passing stream of preschool children walking in pairs, holding hands. I watched their teachers — one at the front of the line, one in the middle, one at the back — while he hailed a taxi.
A week passed before I saw him again. I was about to go back to school in Vermont, and he was headed to Jamaica on vacation. When I entered the restaurant, he said: “The nice part about having a shoddy memory is I forget how pretty some people are. You look beautiful.”
As we ate, we theorized about the effects of pornography on romantic relationships. Dinner ended; he had to go pack for his trip. I asked casually when I was going to see him again.
He sighed. “That’s a loaded question.”
I asked what he meant, because I thought the question was fairly straightforward.
Then it came. The story. The long, boring, aggravatingly rehearsed and condescending story. It spewed, overflowed and dripped off our table and onto the floor and underneath the shoes of the other patrons and into the street.
He said he had just gotten out of a long relationship, and now he was single and didn’t really know how this whole dating thing works, but he was seeing a lot of other people, and he liked me; he thought I was special. Cross my heart, he actually called me special.
WHEN he was done, he asked: “That’s what you were talking about, right? Seeing me again and the nature of our relationship? Like, what are we to each other?”
I said I just meant to ask when we were going to see each other again, because I thought that was the polite thing to do after a few dates, and I wondered if he wanted to make time for me to come back to New York to see him. And he said no, that was “too much, too soon,” but if I’m ever in town I should call him. He would love to see me.
We left. It was raining, he hailed a cab for me, and we hugged without looking at each other. I got into the cab and rode away.
And tried to process it. And tried to remind myself that when we first met I thought he was an arrogant, presumptuous little man. I tried to think about my conversation with Steven. I tried to remember that I was actively seeking to practice some Zenlike form of nonattachment. I tried to remember that no one is my property and neither am I theirs, and so I should just enjoy the time we spend together, because in the end it’s our collected experiences that add up to a rich and fulfilling life. I tried to tell myself that I’m young, that this is the time to be casual, careless, lighthearted and fun; don’t ruin it.

03 May 2008

The Big Move, part 1000

As I simultaneously try to re-rent my beloved NYC apartment and secure a new DC one with the beloved roomie-to-be, Flying Squirrel, as I struggle to tie up loose ends in New York but begin planning for my future, as I perform the day-to-day of my current job while stressing over whether I'll be good enough at my chosen field as of August 08, as I pay the bills, see the sights, say goodbye to lots of people who've touched my life and one who knows me better than the majority, investigate rents and commutes, placements and loans...I focus on one thing to distract me from everything and put a grin on my face:
Flying Squirrel and I have decided that our style is grandma-chic. You know, crazy grandma with lots of stories and travels, Victorian lamps alongside Eames-era sconces and tissue paper flowers from when she was a girl. She has more of a modern flair, while I have more of a quirky sensibility (which comes in handy and prevents my apartment from looking too Laura Ashley). I've been reading home decor blogs by the dozen (special thanks to DesignSponge for providing hours upon hours of distraction) and flipping through many a back issue of Domino.
Here are the rooms that have been inspiring me the most. Think I can recreate any of these on a pretty restricted budget??
www.patriciagrayinc.com Rita Konig's trompe l'oeil fireplace on domino.com
Guiness heirs in Vanity Fair
Living Etc.
Sara Bengur interiors

Blonde Redhead in Domino