Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Underinsured Drivers, Have I Got a Pleasant Surprise For You

My friend, who rides a Kawasaki, was on his way back to school when a European motorist in a rental car rammed into him, sending him flying into an intersection.

My friend sat stunned in veering cars for about 10 seconds. He proceeded to pick himself, his ripped shorts, his skidded Nikes and his cracked, damaged bike up and wheeled them all to the side. He continued his text conversation with me without devolving to hysterics, calmly filled out an accident report only because the motorist insisted, and then, with three layers of skin left smeared on the pavement, limped away.

No legalities, no excess of claims, no whining that he was scarred for life. Even though it was the other guy's fault. Even though 2% of his body will be forever affixed to the street outside the cornerstone building of the Tribeca Film Festival.

My friend is a badass. But is it wrong to wish, and I mean really wish, that the next time I have a fender bender, I hit him?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Quote of the Day

Me: Well, that's the craziest story from Guatemala. Pretty insane and scary right? You ever had anything like that happen to you?

Enormous trainer, lifting his shirt, showing a scar: I got shot when I was fifteen and lost a kidney.

Me: Fine, you win.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Get Busy Being Busy

Why is it that when I had nothing to do at work, I would spend fifteen minutes with my mouth open, staring at the wall, dreaming about candy, or whatever the hell it is I think about, instead of paying bills, managing my calendar or returning emails? Even though any normal person would think that would be a perfect time to do such a thing, to go on writing the new book or managing the management of the old one, or even go down a floor and say hi to my old boss to let them know I didn't perish in Nicaragua, didn't even get dysentery?

Some times in life, there are no answers to questions. There is no answer appropriate to explain why I, at 26 years old, cannot do anything unless I explicitly have a prominent kick in the butt to do it. I sleep with papers on my bed because there is enough room to do so after I'm reading at night. I will drink coffee all day instead of picking up the phone to order actual food. I will write if I have a schedule and someone to answer to. Work out if there is an actual goal, not just the process of maintenance. Doing things just to do them, or because I should, even though there is no end in sight feels all too A Wrinkle In Time to me. Bouncing a ball because I don't want to fall out of line with the others. It's like when my parents forced me to do Kumon Math and there was a choice: do fifteen minutes a day of math problems OR leave them all to the last day of the week and spend over an hour doing them.

I let them sit until the end every time. I hate math. But I like an equation in which I am under a certain amount of stress and then must perform. I like pressure. It's...weird.

It's a strange thing, not doing work unless I have some imposing deadlines, and then suddenly I'm that much more productive. Banging out work-related projects, personal writing projects and scheduling a dentist appointment is so much easier when you've got a deadline on at least part of that to-do list. At least for me. Otherwise you're in this nebulous state. You could or you couldn't. No one would know either way. You yourself would know, but that's never really pushed me. I'm not that great of a self-coach. I can critique myself but not come up with any sort of constructive way to improve. Also, I have bursts of manic productivity and then stretches of extreme laziness. And I'm kind of getting used to it.

I decided this weekend I was going to have a busy week. I actually have a lot to do. I'm going to try to do it. Give myself some pressure. Because after the trip, I feel like so much of this is self-imposed. I thought the hamster wheel I was on was necessary, but really as I look at my piles of unopened mail and crushing in-box I see that it wasn't. But I liked it, deep down. I like feeling a little crazed. Otherwise I'll spend all my time staring and thinking. And if I'm going to fund my next trip, this time to Southeast Asia I think, I need to have both.

Because no one is going to pay me for ruminations. Not yet.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


On the subway this morning I sported wet hair, taped-together headphones and a truly embarrassing pair of sandals, the others having been ripped seam to seam in Costa Rica after the ATV incident where I smashed against a cliff rock, and I was a few minutes off my normal schedule and fumbling more than usual when I entered the F train.

One stop and a seat opened up near two guys and I sat down between them, trying not to drop my bag, trying to keep open my eyes, adjusting my falling iPod and various other balancing acts and the guy to my left looked at me and so, I looked at him. His eyes were sad or confused, or maybe it was just me, but it struck me that he looked kind of familiar in the way that I had seen him around, in my neighborhood or in my office building or something, except he didn’t look like he normally did, he didn’t have a hat, bright sneakers. He was wearing something marginally office appropriate the way certain people under a certain age do, slightly off, still with that rebel shaggy hair or a skirt that is a little too downtown, uneven bangs, the posture still swaggering, the shoes flagrantly anti-establishment, anti-loafers. The way one shows the rest of the office that one still doesn’t belong on one's own volition, that this is all just eating time before that artistic endeavor pans out. And it didn’t fit him, maybe precisely because he didn’t want it to, maybe because he just didn’t look like he’d ever be right at home in a button-down, no matter what he did, because it wasn’t who he was underneath it, in the way you wonder if people become exactly what their genetics predispose—a skinny-pale misfit must then become a punk, a blonde boy from California, a surfer.

And he was reading a battered copy of Ulysses, one from the 70s with a hideous black font on the cover, yellowed pages, a broken spine. My own novel just got handed over for a pre-read, and when I started it I had nothing but Ulysses on the brain, I had wandering ideas about the entire thing, I had just gotten back from a journey of epic proportions myself and had all these new ideas about it and I thought, now is the time to say something, to reach out and connect with a stranger, because it would be the right thing to do, because this sort of thing doesn’t happen too often, and we all only intersect with about 20 people on a regular basis and how are we ever to meet anyone new unless we make an effort, without a beer in our hands, without wanting to make out, get a job, get directions.

Because in Nicaragua I made friends at the drop of a hat, wouldn’t hesitate to let whomever sit down next to me or comment about someone’s book on a bus, especially if I had been sure then, as I was at this moment, that I had seen this person before. That he had seen me. But now, on Wednesday morning in New York City, on the F train, even though I had something to say, even though it would have been too personal and maybe then it would have been memorable just because of that, I did absolutely nothing.

I didn’t even look back.

I turned my iPod up.

And then I got off the subway and while I was walking off, I knew that I had given up a small opportunity that would affect me for some reason, because it wasn’t just this kid, this moment, it was a symptom of an overlying disease of staid standards I just fell back into without even pursuing. It was natural to act this way, and because of that, it was wholly unnatural. I stole a glance as I got off, and the kid was staring at me, like he knew, I could have talked to him and didn’t. I just didn't.

It was all out of context—the situation, what we were wearing to go to work, the time of day, the day of week, it just didn’t make any sense. It was just another casualty of the city day, a million chances we have to make nice, to make friends, to make a connection and we just don’t.

I will figure out how to do this in NY, without alcohol, without sexuality, without an ulterior motive, I promise I will learn how to do this someday.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Quote of the Day

Enormous trainer at the gym: "Next up we're going to do Donkey Kicks."

Me, sniggering: "I was going to make a joke but, it's pretty inappropriate so I won't."

Enormous trainer at the gym: "No, go on."

Me, taking a deep breath. "Well, (pause), that's all fine and good but when are we going to do Donkey Punches?"

Thursday, August 14, 2008


1994 was the best year of British comedy. The cobweb is freaking fantastic.

I've watched this about ten times today alone. And I still laugh out loud when he says, "I stand right behind this guy when he pees."

Utterly shameless promotion for some boys I know. Go on, try to explain it to me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Business of Keeping Them Out

There's been a lot of talk lately, that opinions these days are just aggregate sub-genres, that whatever we like turns to crap once other people are aware of it, that there is a fierce sense of loneliness that lines the pride we hold dear. If I hear it, if I see it, and you haven't, then it's mine, I own it, I have a personal connection with it, etc. If you, or the internet by proxy, zooms it to you, then all of a sudden a band that I thought spoke to ME is speaking to a thirteen year old in Ohio. Tastes used to be this thing that brought kindred people together, but mass-marketing and too many choices and meta upon meta has made it all different now. We like the same stuff, and yet, we are not the same. We are still splintered.

And it's not just style or politics, it's our sense of who we are, where we came from and even, where we've paid to belong. I read this old article in Guatemala while a stray kitten bit my feet and it made me cringe and smile. I'm thinking about this article and all its abstractions today, how it relates to being a New York kid or adult, being an American, being anything. I don't have anything interesting to add, but I would love to hear your thoughts on it...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bah Hah Hah

I interrupt any revelations and beautiful pictures for a small dose of what I find to be incredibly hilarious.

Thank G*d for this.


Soon I'll start writing again, but by popular demand, here are more pictures instead...Nicaragua nights, Guatemalan pools, volcano climbs and freshwater lakes abound...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Nica, Rica

Costa Rica and Nicaragua streets and beaches....

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

More Cheating (Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica)

That beautiful Costa Rican drive, our bag of lychees, a sunset across a volcano cloud, the ruins of the Yucatan and the tropical cliffs below them, the before-sunrise jungle hike through the ancient Mayan city of Tikal, and my very dirty feet high above the green limestone pools of Guatemala...

Monday, August 04, 2008


And showing a few pictures from the trip instead of turning them into words...

Where do I live?

Home from Central America for 36 hours and then I'm on a flight to Chicago, nerve to swerve enough to jump back on the music scene and Santogold's hit the saturation point and I can recognize only 60% of the names on Lollapalooza's bill.

Well, if that's all I've missed in nearly 2 months away, it can't be all bad.

So we ran around some, saw Spank Rock, Grizzly Bear (amazing), Lupe Fiasco, CSS, Radiohead (unreal), Cadence Weapon, Foals, Battles, Does it offend you, yeah? etc. Chicago was bathed in a golden light, or maybe it's the fact that right now, I only see metallic, I'm so tan I look like I hail from Long Island. Hey-o! The boy says I'm a new race now and it feels pretty great not to be Nilla for a bit, even if I'm back to just being me.

So how to catch up, chase back what I left behind, that book growing moss on its side, that friendship I forgot to remember, that new roommate, that room that needs to be soundproofed because I play music too loud, and truth be told, I myself, am just too loud anyway.

I'm at a desk and it feels funny. Runny. I didn't look out the window once, I've been out there all summer, slapping on war wounds and accumulating picture after picture that has no place to be shown here. They want to see them, and what can I show? I couldn't snap a photo when we half-drowned in the lake, slightly smashed an ATV but really smashed up our own bodies, when I dropped a marshmallow into a pit of lava, when I realized that I didn't miss a single thing from home. Good trips do that it seems. They end when they're supposed to, and leave you to begin another. They make you wait to see The Dark Knight. They bruise you up so you can show everyone that you took the time to get out there, and it's a small victory, because well, you came back, and to some, that itself is a failure.

People say, they just "stayed" and I think to myself, who packed up your apartment? Who told your mother you were going to quit school and become a bartender in Nicaragua, huh? You big liar. You just stayed? No way, you had to go home, wrap up loose ends, say goodbye to say hello and all that, right?

But that's just the knee-jerk. Cause really inside, I'm thinking, I wonder when I will just stay somewhere. Just find the right place in the world to become who I want to be, and be still. Because I don't know how to be still. And really, I don't know if I ever want to...