Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Man in the Elevator

A few days ago, on what was already a particularly stressful day, I was in the elevator at work on my way to lunch. (It's relevant to note that I work on the 15th floor, and the elevator that I take runs express between the first floor and the 14th floor, so there's a fairly long period of time during which it is impossible to exit the elevator.)

On the 14th floor, a man stepped into the elevator. I moved to the side to give myself more space, and looked straight ahead toward the elevator buttons. I never really saw what he looked like, except that he could have been middle-aged and white -- but I could see, out of the corner of my eye, that he was staring at me. The elevator began its descent, and I started to get nervous.

Then he started making kissing noises at me -- and I realized, that no matter what happened in approximately the next 90 seconds, I was trapped. I could feel my hands start to sweat, and I pointedly kept my gaze away and my body as far away as possible. I reached down to check my phone with faux nonchalance. He continued to stare at me and make kissing noises until the elevator reached the ground floor.

But rather than feeling relieved when I stepped out of the elevator, I was angry. I was angry at myself for not saying anything. I was angry at myself for feeling threatened -- after all, nothing happened. I stood in an elevator with a creepy dude. No big deal, right. Again: nothing happened.

But it could have. And I know that if it had, I would have had to make the choice to say nothing or to enter into a situation during which everything I have ever done or haven't done would be brought against me as "evidence".

And then, walking down the street to the pizza place, another man caught my eye and told me to smile. I ignored him and walked a little faster.

I just cannot understand how we can live in a society in which it's perfectly acceptable to have half of the population trained to be afraid -- and if they lack the necessary fear, then whatever happens to them is their own fault. I'm not blaming men -- just like women (and anyone anywhere else on the gender spectrum), they're breathing in messages that are healthy for no one. The system is broken -- and I know I'm not immune to perpetuating it, even inside my own mind. When I've been harassed, I'm ashamed to admit that one of my first thoughts is if I might have done anything to provoke it, and how I was dressed at the time (answer: it doesn't matter). And yet -- both of these thoughts can end up as courtroom "evidence".

And the men on the street who've told me to smile? (This one was not the first, and I'm sure he won't be the last.) My face is not here for your enjoyment. My body isn't, either. By telling me what I should do with them, you're telling me that body isn't mine. You're telling me that I'm public property. And as hard as I try to fight it -- sometimes public property is exactly what I feel like.

And I'm sick of it. And I'm tired of violence against women being treated as something to laugh about. I'm sick of rape jokes in the mainstream -- on network television, in movies, even in Broadway musicals. (Melissa McEwan at Shakesville sums it up far better than I can.)

So, that's part of what's been on my mind.

I went to a Sarah Lawrence alumni seminar yesterday about how post-modern art influenced the work of John Cage. I would like to find more opportunities in the city to go to lectures, because in addition to learning being awesome, they always put me in a great mind-space creatively. Plus, I can look super-academic and intellectual when I furiously scrounge for a notebook and a pen, when the real reason is I just thought of a poem or story idea. (Oh, and there was classy food! I have decided that one of my goals for the New Year is to learn how to identify different kinds of cheese. My first new one -- taught to me by my friend Monica, who was also at the seminar, and apparently knows things about cheese -- who knew? -- that I can identify is Gruyere.)

Anyway, the topic of the modern dance world in the 1950s came up, and the professor mentioned Merce Cunningham's interest in departing from the "tyranny of narrative". While I think it is definitely possible to go too far in that direction, I started thinking about how, out of all the art forms, the only one that I haven't heard people complain that they didn't know what it was "about" was instrumental music. If Bach Sonatas don't have to be "about" anything, why does modern art? Why does poetry? Why does it bother some people so intensely to watch a dance performance and not know what it is "about"? I would argue that beauty should be enough of something to be "about" -- although I suppose the problem there is that no one can decide what beauty is, and it's frustrating to encounter a piece of art that not only do you feel like you don't understand, but you don't think it's beautiful. (I had this experience when I was assigned to read Recyclopedia by Harryette Mullen for a poetry workshop. I got that she was doing stuff with wordplay and sound -- but when I wasn't particularly interested in what she did with wordplay or sound, I found myself struggling more with the feeling of "not getting it".)

And then I started thinking about how, even if a work of art is "about" something, it can easily be misunderstood -- and then subjectivity comes into play, where each individual person experiencing the work of art will inherently get something different out of it, based on their own life experience, preferences, mood, and biases. And maybe it's not necessarily a wrong interpretation, so long as somebody gets something they think is beautiful. (I'm going somewhere with this, I promise.)

So, then, if wrong interpretations can also be right in terms of attaining the goal of providing beauty -- how can we, as a community of artists, use miscommunication as a form of art? And I returned to an idea that I had several months ago, about writing a poem in two columns that is intended to be read by two voices simultaneously. When I finally got to my laptop, I remembered that I had already started to write a poem based on this idea back in October or November (and the working title, GIRLBOY, made me laugh a lot because it reminded me of MOTHERBOY). As the name suggests, I originally wrote it for two speaking voices, one male and one female (though maybe a bit older than one would think from GIRLBOY -- I imagine early 30-something). I don't usually like to post poetry, for a number of reasons, one of which being that when you're submitting to literary journals, you're supposed to give them most of them the first publication, which technically includes online self-publication if you're being totally honest. But since this one is so far from what it's going to be when it's done, and I really wanted to talk about the ideas behind it to see if anyone else is similarly inspired so we can start an awesome cycle (you know, as opposed to a vicious cycle).

So when I got home late from the lecture and my roommates were asleep, I very quietly recorded myself speaking each part individually into Garage Band. Then I played them back together.

What I think is interesting is the way that the two parts end up lining up. I like the moments in which you hear one voice say one word, and then you hear the other voice responding with the same word in a different context. I like the part where it seems like the two voices breathe together, which is a total coincidence since they were recorded separately (obviously, since I can't do multiphonics with my voice -- but oh how cool would that be?!). I'm interested in new ways to experience poetry other than visually (why are visuals more important than say, smell? how would it affect your experience if a poem smelled like lemons?). It's also interesting to me how confessional this ends up sounding, simply because I was speaking quietly so as not to wake anybody, and how because both voices are me, it's easy to let the voices conflict until neither of them make any sense. (If somebody wants to lend their voice to help me experiment -- that could be pretty cool. And if you have a Mac with Garage Band, it'd be easy to record the tracks separately.)

What I think isn't working: Well, I actually hate each part on its own, and a lot of the lines individually. Each part alone sounds melodramatic to my ear, and trying a bit too hard to get wherever they're going. I would be a bit embarrassed to see this in print. Oh, and clearly I need to think of a title other than GIRLBOY, at some point. And if I wanted it to be put this on the page, how would I print it so that a reader had close to the same experience as it would be to hear it aurally performed by two people? This may not be possible -- but how would one even approximate? And how do I fix all of the problems while keeping the parts I think are interesting (the way the words line up together, the fugue-like quality to the repetition)?

GIRLBOY by littlemissdictionary

In other news: it is still winter, and there are few things more oppressively grown-up than being at work while kids are off from school and sledding in front of your office.

In other other news: people still think it is okay to lick their hands while handling papers or money. This is gross.

That is all.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Instead, here is Johnny Depp holding a puppy.

Well, I was planning to write a post about street harassment and how it's ridiculous that any situation in which human beings feel threatened is still seen as a feminist issue, but I just don't have the energy today. I think all I would like to do is wear a bathrobe and drink a rather strong fuzzy navel (haters gonna hate; sorry you don't feel secure enough to enjoy delicious beverages with funny names), and think about snuggling with puppies.

So, please accept this photo of young Johnny Depp holding a puppy.

I got a thank-you over at Cute and Cuter for submitting this article. Although I think the following photo is more in the true spirit of the blog than the one that was posted over there:

Hadn't heard this Ingrid Michaelson cover 'til today -- makes me want to get back into tango & ballroom.

EDIT: Oh man, I just went to Google Usher and one of the suggestions was "Usher with Pitbull". Talk about disappointing when I found out that meant this guy.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Mother Knit Me a Capelet

Starting today into next week, I am going to make some headway and all of the projects I've promised to do for people and haven't follow through yet, while fully intending to do so, even if this is months after the fact. Some of these projects include editing the beginning of a friend's novel, and writing a the text of children's book so my friend Matt can illustrate. Get psyched.

I'm kick-starting this with two such projects before I head out for the night:

Project Request #1: Take pictures wearing the capelet that my mother knit me for Christmas.

Project Request #2: Take a picture next to a drawing that my friend Kenly drew of me.

So here we go with project #1:

When my mom told me she was knitting me a capelet, I didn't know what it was, and I had to Google it. She explained that I could wear it a bunch of different ways, but she was concerned that said capelet would not be stylish in New York.

I don't make any claims to being stylish -- in all honesty, I pretty much still dress like I did when I was 12 except minus the Catholic-school uniform -- but I think it works, don't you?

(All stupid Myspace-y faces are to demonstrate said high-fashion of capelet, obvs.)

It started simply enough, with intentions to photograph a few of the capelet-wearing methods that my mom had mentioned to me over the phone. This is the over-the-neck method!

Capelet on the go!

Capelet over-the-shoulder!

Arguably, the safest way to exercise second-amendment rights.

And then, once I tried the over-the-head capelet method, things started to get weird:

I call this one: "Why, yes, I will make you cupcakes. AND THEN KEEEEEL YOU."



The lighting is pretty egregious in my apartment (capelet is more purple than brown, as it appears in some of the photos) -- I really should have taken these while I had natural light earlier -- but anyway, CHECK. Mission accomplished.

Project #2:

Kenly is a professional artist and does storyboards for movies. I met him while I was couch-surfing between apartments last January. I was leaving for work one day and he asked if he could draw me -- and this was the result:


Oy, got carried away -- it's later than I thought. Into the night, zoom zoom!

QUICK EDIT: I think I just really like the word "capelet".

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Songs That Bear Repeating

Since I mentioned my rather compulsive habit of song-repeating in my last post, I've had a request to post some of the songs that have gotten this treatment in the past. And since I'm a sucker for reader-requests (whoa, people actually read stuff I write?!), I'm totally game. This is also the most I have actually planned out a post ever (I actually wrote down notes on my lunchbreak -- true story), which may have not been a great idea because of course, I kept thinking of more songs to include. For now, though, I'm keeping it to a super-concise nine (if I counted right). I pared it down like so:

You see, dear Reader, even though I, in theory, subscribe to the idea that there should be know guilty pleasures in life -- after all, you enjoy what you enjoy; in practice, I can usually recognize when I should be embarrassed to like a particular song. (Hence my admittedly defensive note about the T.Swift song in the last post.) These songs, however, are all songs that I am not even remotely embarrassed to love, nor do I feel like I should be. If someone were to put out a huge press release to the world that said: "[The Watermelon-Shirt Type] has played all of these songs on repeat before!", I would be okay with that. (To be fair, that's pretty much what a blog is, anyway. So, done and done.)

Also, it should be noted that although I'm putting unofficial YouTube videos up for your listening convenience (you'll notice I had to make some compromises here in terms of the visuals), if you like these songs as much as I do, please support the artists and buy their music! I paid money for almost all of these -- the exceptions are two songs which I received on mix compilations from other people.

#1- Fiona Apple, "Paper Bag"

I was staring at the sky, just looking for a star
To pray on, or wish on, or something like that
I was having a sweet fix of a daydream of a boy
Whose reality I knew, was a hopeless to be had

Hunger hurts, and I want him so bad, oh it kills
'cause I know I'm a mess he don't wanna clean up
I got to fold 'cause these hands are too shaky to hold
Hunger hurts, but starving works, when it costs too much to love


He said, "It's all in your head," and I said, "so's everything" -- but he didn't get it.

Her voice sounds like bourbon tastes.

Ms. Apple may be surprised to find that this song has been co-opted by some pro-anorexia groups as a "thinspiration" song, due to its use of food-hunger as a metaphor for love-hunger. But although she has discussed struggling with an eating disorder in past interviews, it seems clear to me via context that's not what this song is about.

This song gives me a visceral reaction every time I listen to it, and has since I was twelve years old. (Most other music I liked back then hasn't aged quite as well -- but the best songs, like the best books [Chronicles of Narnia, anyone?], seem to evolve with time.) I have a distinct memory of waiting to leave on the St. Joe's Middle School ski-trip bus with my friend Liz at about six in the morning, and sitting with our Discmen (Discmen!) and listening to this CD. The same year, I memorized the full title of the album (When the Pawn) and can still recite it on command:

When the pawn hits the conflicts he thinks like a king
What he knows throws the blows when he goes to the fight
And he'll win the whole thing 'fore he enters the ring
There's no body to batter when your mind is your might
So when you go solo, you hold your own hand
And remember that depth is the greatest of heights
And if you know where you stand, then you know where to land
And if you fall it won't matter, cause you'll know that you're right

#2 -- Fiona Apple, "Shadowboxer"

You made me a shadowboxer, baby
I wanna be ready for what you do
I been swinging around 'cause
I don't know when you're gonna make your move

Oh, your gaze is dangerous
And you fill your space so sweet
If I let you get too close
You'll set your spell on me

So darlin' I just wanna say
Just in case I don't come through
I was onto every play
I just wanted you

It's still amazing to me that the album this song is on, Tidal, came out when she was only 17. The whole album is breathtaking. There are rumors that she might be coming out with a new (fourth) album in the spring, and although they are unsubstantiated, I sincerely hope that they're true.

#3- Janelle Monae, "Tightrope"

We call that classy brass!

This lady needs to be a bigger star than she already is, stat. Talk about triple threat. I also love her in interviews -- other stars talk about their love lives; meanwhile she talks about ALIENS. ALIENS, YOU GUYS.

#4- Nerina Pallot, "Geek Love"

In the race to get out of this place, I am checking my face in the back of a spoon.
You're accusing, you say I'm not here -- but I'm here, yes I'm here, yes, I'm not on the moon.

I got this song and first heard of this artist from my friend Aly. It was on one of the few CDs that I brought with me on my cross-country Greyhound trip, and it was one of my favorites for looking-out-the-window-listening-to-music-and-writing, which is pretty much what I did on that trip. (Miss you, open road.) Also, her song "Idaho" is the main reason why I was super excited when my trip from California to North Dakota took me through the northern Idaho, where I had a layover in Coeur D'Alene.

#5- Amy Winehouse, "Rehab"

This song reminds me of summer '09, a/k/a Nomi and Abby's Summer of Glory, when we would drive around and play this song on a summer mix CD I made, and she would make me skip the one T. Swift song (Track 1, "You Belong With Me") that was on there whenever we got to it.

For the record, I may love this song, but I am not a heroin addict...yet. (Just kidding, M&D! No desire for that sort of thing, as you probably know.) Hilariously, though, the GoogleAds on YouTube advertise rehab facilities alongside this song. ("They advertised that I should go to rehab, but I said no, no, no.")

#6- Johnny Cash, "Hurt"

What have I become, my sweetest friend?
Everyone I know goes away in the end.

You could have it all -- my empire of dirt
I will let you down. I will make you hurt.
If I could start again a million miles away,
I would keep myself. I would find a way.

Is it terrible that the phrase "heroin addict" made me remember to add this song (which I wrote in my notes, but didn't count in the nine I listed above)? This is actually a Nine Inch Nails cover, but I find the Johnny Cash version a million times more enjoyable.

#7- Lily Allen, "The Fear"

I want to be rich, and to have lots of money
I don't care about clever; I don't care about funny.
I want loads of clothes & fuckloads of diamonds
I heard people die while they're trying to find them.

& I'll take my clothes off, and it will be shameless,
'cause everyone knows that's how you get famous.

I mentioned this one earlier as a Perfect Pop Song (TM). I really admire how Ms. Allen manages to combine saccharinely-perfect catchy pop melodies with actual social issues. The whole album "It's Not Me, It's You" is wonderful.

#8 - Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories, "Stay"

Major throwback. This song came out in 1995, and I can remember being in the health-club locker room with my mom and enthusiastically singing along. A few years after that, I remember staying up late to watch Lisa Loeb on Loveline with Dr. Drew.

#9 -- Adele, "Right as Rain"

Who wants to be right as rain?
It's better when something is wrong.
You get excitement in your bones & everything you do's a game.
When night comes, and you're all on your own,
you can say I chose to be alone.

I first heard this song during a happy event and assumed that it was cheerful, probably due to the upbeat tempo. After listening to the lyrics, though, I couldn't hear it the same way again, sort of like being unable to picture the way you imagined characters in a book after seeing the movie.

#10 - Adele, "Chasing Pavements"

If I tell the world, I'll never say enough
'cause it was not said to you,
and that's exactly what i need to do,
If i'm in love with you.

Should I give up, or should i just keep chasing pavements even if it leads nowhere?

Since I finally gave into the countless recommendations of friends and started listening to Pandora last year, I've come to terms with the fact that my taste in music, which I once thought was rather eclectic, is entirely predictable. My discovery of Adele is an example of that. What is that, Pandora? Lots of piano? Subtle use of vocal harmony? You know me too well...

***EL FIN***

Tune in next time for "Songs I Am Actually Pretty Embarrassed To Have Played On Repeat." Well, maybe. If people want it. And I'm not too embarrassed.

In the meantime, here's what I'm reading as of late:

Born to Believe: God, Science, and the Origin of Extraordinary Beliefs and How God Changes Your Brain by Andrew Newberg, MD
Lessons from the Fat-O-Sphere by Kate Harding & Marianne Kirby
Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men by Michael Kimmel
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
A World That Will Hold All the People by Suzanne Gardinier
Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Man's Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut by Rob Sheffield
The Real Facts of the Grimms' Fairytales, which I have been borrowing from my friend Charlotte since forever
Communion by bell hooks
Fragment of the Head of a Queen by Cate Marvin

I overheard someone say recently that sometimes, our worst qualities are the same as our best qualities. The more I think about that, the truer it seems. I'm extremely loyal, but that also means that I don't know when to bail. (But maybe part of that is from riding horses, and the knowledge that's tougher to injure yourself if you're still on the horse instead of the ground. On the other hand -- the emergency dismount exists for a reason!) I'm honest, but sometimes it's possible to be too honest and say things that are unintentionally hurtful. It also means that I don't build up the walls that most people have in place for self-preservation -- but even the strongest houses collapse without walls.

Also, you guys! I totally wrote a poem the other night and immediately sent it out for publication. I have never, ever done that and I probably never will again. I keep a folder called "Unfermented Poetry" and I usually let things sit for at least several months, sometimes several years, while I revise, ignore, or some combination of both. But every once in a long while, something leaks out so honestly that I'd feel like it was lying to revise it. I will probably hate it if I reread it (and so no one else can read it either, unless it gets published). It's basically about how I don't understand the Book of Job. I reread it the other day and it really made me think of this Onion article.

Also, my body is better than anything on TV lately! I wake up every day with something different. Earlier, it was a baboon-red rash covering my entire neck. Then, hives all over both of my legs. (I took a picture! If you are nice to me and like gross things, maybe I'll send it to you. But also, maybe not.) Then, I could see my heart-beat in my left wrist. (Paging Dr. Peters? What does this mean?) Always against my better judgment, I decide to Google these things, and the Internet tells me that I could die at any moment (this time: the allergic reaction could spread to your throat and it could close up! oh noes!). And will it be sleeping all day, or no sleeping? Being very hungry, or not hungry at all for two days in a row? Tune in next time!

I think death is probably the Internet equivalent of college health services suggesting that I am either pregnant (srsly, not even possible) or have mono. ("So, my eye has been pretty irritated lately, and now it's bright red and oozing." "Hmm. Are you pregnant? No? Are you sure? Why don't we do a test to be sure..." "But my eye! It burns! Do I have pinkeye? Should I not go to class? I need ans..." *collapses in puddle of eye ooze*)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Reasons I Will Never Have Street Cred

(Janelle Monae rocks Ariat.)

When Peters was visiting last weekend, we got into a discussion about how one of the things we both miss most about Hoofbeat is the physical labor and discipline -- going up to the barn, finding the barn director, asking what we could do, doing it, checking to see if there was anything else to do before we headed out, and thanking the barn director. Sure, there have been times in which the efficiency was there and not the spirit, and other times when the spirit was there but not the efficiency -- but whenever both elements were just "on" and camp was running like a well-oiled machine, it felt so amazing to work hard and feel the rewards of it. I enjoyed ending my days completely exhausted -- and maybe that's a little masochistic, considering how exhausted I was all the time -- but oh, how well my body sleeps after throwing hay-bales into pastures and kids onto horses all day. Somehow all of the so-called easy human things that I struggle with doing well occasionally -- namely sleeping and eating -- became easy because my body was mine. It belonged to me, and it was strong, and it did pretty incredible things.

(Once, a kid who was bigger than me expressed concern that I wouldn't be able to lift her while giving her a leg-up bareback, and I ended up accidentally throwing her over the horse. True story. She landed on her feet, we laughed about it a lot, and then we tried again.)

Anyway, I'm resigned to the fact that I will never feel that gorgeous physical kind of exhausted while working in an office.

(Every so often I consider joining a gym, but then I remember that I actually hate working out on my own. It feels too much like a hamster running on a wheel. In college I took dance and yoga through the dance department pretty much every day, and that was perfect. Unfortunately, that, too, is tough to fit into working in an office, plus it's expensive.)

But! I have a point! And I'm getting to it! And that point is that tonight I had my first working shift as a member of the Park Slope Food Co-op -- and it was the closest I've come to feeling a camp-like work ethic in awhile. I was assigned to the receiving squad, and I didn't really know what was going on -- and as somebody who happens to have huge eyes, I have to avoid this as much as possible because I absolutely look like a proverbial deer-in-the-headlights when I'm confused, and sometimes also when I'm not -- but I could feel my instincts kick in, shift into a sort of mania in which I was everywhere. Yes! I will unload that box! Aisle Seven! I will become one with Aisle 7! Restocking fancy organic kale! You got it! Crushing boxes? HULK SMASH!

Anyway, it felt fantastic to do real physical work for once. Plus, while I was restocking, I kept seeing delicious products that I want to eat, like dark-chocolate almond granola bars and pomegranate-lime juice. In the end, my squad (the same people I will be working with for my once-a-month shift) finished our work ten minutes before the end of our shift, which was apparently a record. Not bad!

Also, for posterity, I would like to establish a list of why I will never have street cred.

(So the beginning of this post ties in with the end, and also because it is true, I will add #.5 -- I'm pretty much a dirty hippie with my fancy organic kale and Kashi Crunch and Annie's Mac & Cheese. Deal.)

#1 -- This picture sometimes works on me.

AWW. Look! One is running the wrong direction! That one's me.

It is my dream to someday own a herd of corgis, so when I need cheering up, I can throw something and then they will all run toward it with their tongues all hanging in the air and their bellies flopping. No, better! I will pretend to throw something, and they'll run away! My imaginary corgis are getting better and better at entertaining me. (I mean, I'll love them, too, of course. I'm not heartless.)

#2 -- I am fond of pretty, shiny, things. You know, like a magpie.

(Alexander McQueen by Sarah Burton.)

#3 -- I will admit to liking this song and music video, even though it's creepy how T. Swift doesn't ever age even after she has kids and I know that there are differing points of view on how her lyrics fit into feminist perspectives. For the record, I think Kate Harding and her ilk are much more convincing than her counterpoints -- but for what it's worth, Taylor Swift manages to capture part of what it feels like to be a [admitting privilege here -- white, able-bodied, neurotypical, heterosexual, cisgendered] high-school girl. A lot of her songs aren't sophisticated, and some of her lyrics and metaphors are straight from the worst poems I wrote in high school, but there's an earnestness that makes me nostalgic. Her song structures are all formula, but the formulas are there because they work sometimes.

Relatedly, lately I've been obsessed with the idea of the "perfect pop song," and how to write it. My pick for right now is "The Fear" by Lily Allen, but I'd be curious to hear anyone else's contributions.



I don't know who the people are in either of these photos; I just found the pictures online and oh my goodness, those yawns! Yawn away, my leetle puppeh friend!

And on that note, good night.

1:29 AM EDIT:

#5 -- One last thing: when I find a song I like, I will repeat it ad nauseam (everyone else's nausea; not mine) and I just found a new one, which I have so far listened to five times.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Classiest New Year's Ever (TM)

Happy New Year!

I keep seeing people online abbreviate New Year's Eve as NYE, and it reminds me of Bill Nye the Science Guy, which is appropriate because he occasionally lectures at the former school of an out-of-town visitor and old friend I was lucky enough to have over the weekend.

Before I get to New Year's, though, I'm going to rewind a little. Last Sunday, New York had a major snowstorm that resulted in a lot of businesses and transportation options getting shut down. Somehow, though, it seems I am the only person I know who didn't have any obligations (baby-sitting, cat-sitting, work, Park Slope Food Coop orientation, etc.) cancelled -- so I did a whole lot of tromping around in the snow, especially since the buses and subway service was questionable at best. (I still don't understand New York City's attitude toward snow -- it snows every year, but every year, it seems that the City doesn't know how to deal with it.) Anyway, I have a few photos to show for the tromping:

It's hard to tell, but that little bit of non-snow in the picture is a car, almost completely buried.

I got a kick out of this "COFFEE" sign because it is so obviously a lie, as there is no coffee on the ground where the arrow is pointing.

Another view of semi-buried cars. It was amazing to see how many cars had gotten stuck in the middle of the road, turned off, and left. I was very thankful that I didn't have to drive, even though I had a very interesting time getting home on Sunday night after babysitting. The trip home usually takes about 20 minutes, but this time it took 2 1/2 hours -- the train that I was on abruptly declared that a random stop in the middle of my trip was its last, so everybody got off. Everyone waiting on the platform groaned, complaining this was the third train that had done this. The rumor was that a train had gotten stuck somewhere. After futilely waiting for about 20 minutes for more information, such as whether there would be any more trains at the station, I decided to brave the snow and winds and go outside to look for a bus (which, according to the local news before I left, were all still running albeit on a delayed schedule, like the subway). I waited a long time for the bus, and about five jerk cabdrivers drove right past me -- why even be out in a blizzard if you're a cabdriver if you're not going to at least make some money from it? It was at least significantly warmer at the bus stop, since the partition blocked most of the wind. At this point, I called Cliff, who called a bunch of car services for me, none of whom picked up their phones. So I decided to continue on to the next-closest subway station, along the way passing strangers with whom I exchanged well-wishes.

There's a common stereotype as New Yorkers as rude, and despite my former barista-ish employment, I still don't think it's true. I do think it's true that people here are much more direct than Midwesterners, but it strikes me less as rudeness and more as focus. I have to say, I appreciate people who walk as quickly as me and say what they mean. Anyway, there is no other experience more illuminating to this stereotype than observing the way people behave toward one another in situations like a blizzard. Overall, people seem so kind -- giving directions, wishing others luck, sharing information. I went to a service at Trinity Church on Wall St. on Christmas Eve, and the sermon was about the kindness of strangers -- and it made me think about how much kindness I've experienced from people who truly owed me nothing. There's something to be said for people treating one another like people, and in a world that is devoid of this a bit too often -- both on a grand scale and a smaller one -- I really believe that unexpected kindness should be celebrated.

Oh, and by the way, the orientation was a success, and I am now a member of the Park Slope Food Coop along with about 12,000 other people. It basically entails working one two-and-a-half hour shift every four weeks, and getting reduced prices on groceries and household products (like Dr. Bronner's!). A lot of the food is organic or minimally treated, and I'm especially excited to have access to good meat, to be part of the community, and to learn a bit more about where my food comes from.

So anyway, back to New Year's. Peters, one of my friends from camp who I hadn't seen in roughly five years, came to visit, and we essentially ran around being awesome. On Friday I had the day off from work, so we went to the Met and wandered, summarizing some of the major life events that had happened since we'd seen each other last and looking at cool stuff. When we got hungry, we got delicious pizza that reminds me of the kind on camp trips to the Kalahari (I actually didn't realize until just now how appropriate that was, since anyone at Christmas Camp had eaten said pizza just the day before).

After that, it was already time to pick up some snacks and beverages and meet Cliff and Liza at Grand Central Station for the Classiest New Year's Ever (tm). We were a little early, so we sat down and did some people-watching until Liza showed up with signed letters on company letterhead that would permit us to be in her Times Square office on the 39th floor to watch the ball drop.

When we arrived at the building, we presented our letters and driver's licenses to the security guards. "We don't have any record of authorized guests for that floor," one of the guards told us. There were about two minutes of panic as we conversed with the guard and tried to determine what had happened and, more importantly, what we could do to remedy it. The guard told us that she couldn't authorize us to be there, since we had not been entered in the computer -- even though Liza had gone through all of the proper guest procedures. Tension mounted until one of the other security guards logged into another computer, and said, "Oh, wait, what were your names? You are on the list. I'm sorry about that." We breathed a collective sigh of relief and headed toward the elevator.

My theory is that the computer mistake was due to Y2K.

Once we got to the office, we broke out the night's necessary accoutrements: Brie, champagne, and Settlers of Catan, among other revelries. (Like I said -- Classiest New Year's Ever.) After boggling over the awesomeness of our view and the huge windows that looked straight out toward the ball, we sat down, poured some drinks, and set up Settlers.

Cliff plans his next move.

Peters looks worried here -- probably rightly so, since we play for blood.

Ridiculously enough, my biggest problem taking pictures was that I was too close to get a good angle. (I know, cry me a river Justin Timberlake-style, right?) Also, the glare on the window, which resulted in the above becoming a self-portrait.

It was bizarre looking down at the huge, tightly-packed crowd (of which I was a part last year!). We also had a bird's eye view of the stage and could clearly see the monitor of the televised program, and we could even faintly hear the bands performing. (Sample moment: playing Settlers, I suddenly recognize the music of the Backstreet Boys and run toward the window in disbelief. Could it be?! And it was! And New Kids on the Block -- wait, what year is this again?! Pretty incredible. So basically, I have now seen both of these bands in concert. Don't argue with me. BSB4LYFE)

The crowd dissipated quickly after midnight (though the huge clock in the square remained probably purposely stuck at midnight for at least thirty minutes after the fact). In the above picture, I was trying to get a picture of how much garbage was left on the streets, but it's pretty tough to see. I also took a ton of pictures of the fireworks on every hour, all of which were in vain due to my phone's modest camera as well as, I'm sure, my own human error.

View of some of the confetti as we were leaving the building.

This picture of me is pretty crazypants, but I am including it anyway because I realized I didn't take very many pictures of people, and those probably make for more interesting blog posts. (You see the sacrifices I make for you! YOU!) One of our collective goals for the night was to remember to take pictures, and we definitely took more than usual -- though Liza and I note with amusement that since Gwen has been in England, we have almost no pictures of our friends from the past year, except for the few days she was visiting. There definitely needs to be one photographer in every group of friends.

After the Times Square mayhem waned, we headed out to Cliff's place in Bushwick for a little while. We intended on taking a cab home, but little did I know that it is almost completely impossible to get a cab on New Year's Eve. So when we got a burst of energy around 5:00 am, we made a break for the L-train. It was a treacherous ride that involved accidentally stepping in someone's vomit (I am seriously anti-puke), but we made it, and enjoyed seeing people on the subway acting so uncharacteristically friendly and talkative toward one another. It is fair to say that everyone was in a party-mood.

We got home around 6:00 a.m. and promptly went to sleep. In the early afternoon, we got up and went to Huckleberry's, my all-time favorite brunch place, in which we both got delicious breakfast-y foods with a side of BACON, and I decided that one of my goals for the year is to get really, really good at making bacon. (There might also be a joke somewhere here about bringing it home...)

All in all -- an excellent start to the New Year that couldn't have been more perfect.

2010 was a pretty big year -- on St. Patrick's Day I started dating Cliff (who somehow manages to not only be compassionate, brilliant, and talented, but also really, really, ridiculously good-looking as a bonus), I signed an apartment lease like a grown-up, I got two new jobs and quit one, I was a bridesmaid for the first time, and I got to take a solo backpacking trip around Wales. I took the GRE. I read a lot and tried to fill in gaps in my knowledge (which I'm continuing to do, voraciously). I wrote a lot, and founded Rooftop Reading Series, with three rooftop readings to date. I've reconnected with old friends and made some new ones.

So here's to 2011 -- onward and upward.