Thursday, June 21, 2007

a new start

So first off, no apologies for my online absence. Since my last post I've been busy writing papers on Renaissance pastoral drama, going to a few great concerts, figuring out what temporary work I could do for the summer so that I could eat, play, and pay my rent.

I ended up working one of the crappiest jobs ever at a mid-sized Manhattan law firm. Imagine a room without windows, lots of boxes, bad air quality, and more than a few unhappy temps shuffling around without desks, wondering where they could sit when they weren't enlisted to do six hour copy jobs. It was also against firm policy to listen to one's iPod, so I was needless to say quite unhappy given that I had only the thoughts in my brain to teleport me to another happier dimension.

The thing about these silly office jobs is that you begin to not question after a while. You get tired, you get bored, you do just about any task you're told to do just so that you can pass the time and get out of there. As your world gets smaller, about the size of a floor of a Manhattan office building, you forget, or don't think about, the reality that there are a lot of other alternatives out there. That there might be a better office, where your boss doesn't toss around words and phrases like "synergy and "best regards" like a stapler that doesn't work anymore. So with that in mind, after having been told not that I couldn't use my iPod while reviewing 10,000 pages of documents online, I wrote the following email. Call it rebellious, immature, angry--it's all of those--but sometimes you just gotta regulate.

Subject: Re: Policies and Procedures
Date: June 20, 2007 9:01:57 AM EDT

I'm not coming back to this assignment and would prefer you to never call me again about an assignment. I dreaded going there every day. I could understand the policy of no headphones if I wasn't subject to ridiculous conversations, homophobic, sexist and racist remarks from other temps and full time paralegals, constant loud moving of boxes and a general level of mediocrity that would make any person with a soul want to stab themselves with a cafeteria spork. In truth, I got more work done with my headphones on than off because I could tune out of the nasty environment, which is why I kept them on.

I also don't take too kindly to receiving bullying emails requiring everyone's presence until 10:30PM because no one thought to come up with a realistic timetable with clear expectations weeks in advance. And, then, to have Dan come in to the office to "emphasize" the email and then admit to us that the email was overly dramatic and meant to "scare" temps in to working faster... . That's just unprofessional.

Also, some parting advice, since I am a "consultant": Someone needs to do a cost/benefit analysis of having an armada of temps scan 300,000 pages for name hits versus actually OCR'ing the documents (an admittedly more expensive and labor-intensive process on the front end) and then being able to perform name hit searches in just a few minutes. What happens when you need to search another name? I guess you'll just have to make 10 temps miserable for a few more weeks because you decided to take a cheap short cut.

Bottom line, I enjoy working hard, and staying late, for true professionals who treat people with respect and take pains to make working conditions livable for those they supervise. I've worked and thrived in such an environment. So, I'm not going to return to do the same brain-erasing tasks hoping that today might be better, while fearfully chasing the next paycheck. That's insanity.

Hats off to XXXXX, though--every interaction I had with her revealed to be a great paralegal manager who would take her time to say hello and chat, respond to concerns, and get her hands dirty to clear out an office for some temps. She's a rarity in the field!

On Jun 19, 2007, at 2:08 PM, wrote:

Hi Jonathan,

I just wanted to remind you to strictly adhere to the policies and procedures given to you by [xxx law firm]. Specifically cellphones, IPods, headphones or other electronic devices are not allowed while you are working. Thanks!


Friday, May 11, 2007

music, in good places

(been a while...)

When Tonic was forced out of the Lower East Side by high rents, I was sad. But now I am not so sad because I can see experimental music in an old oil silo in Gowanus.

And the MUTEK guys--Akufen, Crackhouse and Deadbeat--are at Bunker tonight in Williamsburg. I've seen them twice at the old Tonic and was blown away. Who's in??????

Friday, March 30, 2007

SCENE 2 ///to be nowhere

JFK airport, waiting to go to Richmond: the dull roar of a crowd awaiting their delayed flights to depart.

The funny thing about being here, now, in this space, and what connects me to those around me is that we share the experience of being nowhere. We are going somewhere. And we do not care where we are now as long as we get to that somewhere.

Perhaps this accounts for why people (read: me) are such bungholes in airports and why America looks like a so-called third-world country if you look at the general happiness level of those in its airports and pair it with the shitty airport architecture. Munich! Copenhagen! Singapore! Those are airports.

There was a time when I was a kid (err, last year, as Georgia just pointed out) when I got excited about going to the airport. Last year before my trip to Madrid and Berlin I was so amped that I couldn’t even sleep the night before. Where’s this excitement now?

The excitement vanishes when there’s a wrinkle in the plans—precisely when my arrival is deferred and I am nowhere for a bit longer. Perhaps I should resign myself to being here for a bit: to being with these people, to be near others who I will probably never see again; to delight in the dislocation of transit, where for a time I am not quite myself, not quite in control everything in my life, where I am far from my life. The lesson of travel literature is that the traveler returns home after the voyage irrevocably changed. Home is never the same again. In a turn of the same logic, the destination is never the same either. You can’t go home again and you can’t return to the destination. In a sense we’re always at the limit of home/destination, never quite anywhere.

I’ll write from Richmond, where I am going to hang out with my mother and nephew, and to celebrate the marriage of my cousin to his awesome wife.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

my week

Scene 1:

10:30PM, I'm at the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street mega-station, walking from the D train walking in the big corridor between the two lines. I’m feeling a bit tired, but nonetheless a but bouncey listening to the new LCD Soundsystem song “Someone great”, when, suddenly, I lose my balance. Brain registers the sticky floor surface. My left foot goes forward but my right is stationary. I’m on the ground, doing the splits, like a 9 year old girl. I slipped on a deconstructed Big Mac. My jeans are covered in that mystery ketchup-mayo orange sauce , pasty, dead-looking lettuce, and half-soy, half-cow burger meat.

I look up, and the crowd that was just running to make the connection to the 2/3 has slowed and is looking back at me. An older guy walks past, and without helping me up, says, “Damn boy, you just did the splits!”

Yes I did, sir. This is Brooklyn.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

More of San Francisco

I know I promised you some more reflections on my trip, but since returning to New York, I've been inundated with all the work I've half-doing/not-doing since the start of the semester. Someone needs to write a book (no, not me) that treats graduate school as a constant negotiation of guilt--of work that's been deferred, put off, not done or not done well enough. It would help if I didn't care, but I do care, hence I am in graduate school, so I am stuck with guilt until I decide to do my work. I have done quite a bit this week, but it's not enough. See, there's the guilt.

Maybe I should just chill out, eat 5 more choco tacos, and wait until inspiration hits.

San Francisco was great, if I haven't said that already. The weather was perfect, the food arguably as good as New York, and the people much nicer and less crazed in their goal(stress)-orientedness than the Newyorkese. I was having such a good time going on long runs by the bay, watching old people on the nude part of Baker Beach, and getting lost in the Presidio, that I forgot to take pictures until the last day, when Anna and I went to Sausalito, Miur Woods to see the redwoods and then to the beach.

Here's a picture of Anna in Sausalito, eating an overpriced breakfast. I'd like to tell you that we were surrounded by fishermen, but we weren't. Anna looks hot. Great colors, right?

Anna was at first resistant to our expedition into nature, but she soon turned down the Avril Lavigne on the radio and began belting out Ani lyrics as we descended into this misty valley!

Ok, Anna belting out soulful Ani DiFranco lyrics didn't happen, but we did descend to the misty valley where the big trees live.
They were big, and they made us quiet.

When I am in New York, I miss being quiet and thinking in unbounded space. Being in New York can make you a cogitation machine, always responding to external stimuli through systematic procedures, dealing with inputs and outputs, being attentive so as to avoid a threat or to take advantage of an opportunity.

We drove up out of the valley to a lookout over the coast.

And then headed down to Miur beach!

I bought a $6 kite in Sausalito, and tried to fly it, but the wind was not helping. Anna laughed as I ran up and down the beach, trying to catch the wind. I think my spare tire was jiggling quite a lot. Beyond those rocks was one spare (old) nudist, rather tanned, with his ball sack hanging low. Hanging around were some great starfish that looked like bigs purply disfigured brains from the sea.

I later learned on wikipedia that starfish have external stomachs that swallow mollusks whole! Can you imagine your stomach reaching outside of your body to catch your dinner? I can.

God I feel like I'm Jack Hanna on his animal adventures show. I'll get back to regularly scheduled blogging soon, with more details of my totally sweet, downtown! life soon.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Back from San Francisco

Dear Loyal Readership of 3 (or 4?),

I have returned to our unfair city after five wonderful days in San Francisco. After changing planes in Charlotte, NC (it was a frequent flier ticket), where they have "cute" rocking chairs in the terminal so that all the women in pastel sweatpants and seasonal sweaters can have a rock before catching their plane to Pensacola, I boarded a five hour flight to San Francisco on which I developed a nice case of Airplane Butt.

Does anyone else get Airplane Butt? Jesus, it is an experience. Airplane Butt usually entails the following symptoms:
-generalized dampness, not necessarily centralized around the crack area.
-a particularly "not so fresh" feeling, perhaps resulting from sitting in a seat in which several thousand people over the years have developed Airplane Butt in as well.
-constipation: dampness and not so freshness aside, symptoms which go away after a nice long hotel shower, constipation is the most destructive of Airplane Butt symptoms. It remains long after you've left the recycled air and bad attitudes of the airplane, conspiring to turn your holiday into a gassy defecation-fast. Perhaps my rectum is just a little more sensitive than most to the pressurization of the commercial airliners, but it's really a problem. And I'm not the only one! Friends have also experienced Airplane Butt.

This was taken on the flight out, with a raging case of airplane butt:

Airplane Butt was definitely a foe on this trip, but it did not completely impinge on my touristic activities. See, Anna and I were able to complete some performance art in Fort Mason Park. This one is called “The Fall”, and it is really quite obscene!

Delicious, if I may comment on my own performance.

Please begin an artistic analysis in the comments section. We’re hoping that you’ll see that it’s part of a long genealogy beginning with Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Reveries of a Solitary Walker and then Albert Camus.

I’ll post more in the coming days about the trip. I got sunburned, took great runs by the water that seriously made me consider why I live in New York, went to a nude beach (twice! But I remained clothed), had some great meals, and caught up with good Dartmouth people.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Grizzly Bear

Tuesday night I saw Grizzly Bear, along with the Paper Cuts and Beach House, at the Bowery Ballroom, thanks to Joseph, who had a heart and an extra ticket. It was a great night. One thing, though: the crowd made me feel OLD. Nothing like sprightly 22 year-olds in north face jackets and NYU girls in cowboy boots to remind you of your impending mortality.

I'll keep my comments brief on the openers. The Paper Cuts are a great (young) band. definitely excited to hear what they put out in the coming years. Their arrangements are a bit too uncomplicated and undulating...there was an eery sameness that pervaded their set. They have some great melodies and lines, but their energy is a bit too emo-boy-angsty.

Beach House, a band I came across on Said the Gramophone, was just not solid.

Maybe it was the messy sound that comes with sound people not wanting to fuss too much with getting it right for an opening band or specifically the echo that Victoria Legrand persisted in using to obscure her vocals while banging away at her toy piano, thinking it was "lo-fi" cool, it was just off. I wanted to barf. The sound was like pouring 5 sweet n' low packets on your tongue, and then crushing some barbituates into a large glass of maker's mark, and then swallowing it all, slowly, to the sound of a Somali girl getting circumcised in the bottom of a well 500 yards away.

Finally around 11 Grizzly Bear came on.

First impression: the drummer Christopher Bear is really cute. Second, their BIG sound. Their album Yellow House has a spare yet full, acoustically rich quality. Their first few songs were rambunctious and drum-heavy, in a Vermont jam band-y way. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but it took some getting used to. Drummer Bear is pretty skilled and has a subdued presence on the new album, so it makes sense that he would let loose on tour. "On a neck, on a spit" worked well with this big sound. It wasn't until they played "Knife" that their melodies stood on their own, and then walked, slowly, tenderly, to a new place. The latter half of the set was more like the album: beautifully arranged voice, bass, acoustic guitar and good sampling. Most of their tight set consisted of amplified versions of the songs from Yellow House, plus a cover of a Crystals song that I am having trouble remembering right now.

The thing I like about the new album and the songs live: I imagine a rag tag dance hall in the country, with a bunch of old people sitting at tables drinking. The music starts, the old people start bopping and clapping, and pretty soon they're on the feet, dancing. There's a sense of rapture, of possibilities in old familiar spaces, of renovations and making sounds that endure long after the lights are out.

Looking around at the crowd at the show, this sound resonated. I didn't feel so "old" anymore, and I was happy bouncing my head like all the 22 year olds.