Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 10s of 2010

I'm working on a post trying to sum up what 2010 gave to me, but it's been really hard because I learned more in 2010 than probably in any year prior. But I came up with a couple of my top 10 lists to bide the time. Deal with it!

Top 10 Albums of 2010

1. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
The haunting sound of tires spinning on pavement managed to conjure so many of my high school memories, along with a wicked nostalgia, and cemented this album’s place at the top of my list.

2. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Big Boi’s solo debut gave us the best and most innovative rap album of the year. (Sorry, Yeezy.)

3. Freelance Whales – Weathervanes

This album is the musical version of puppies. Additionally, it’s brilliant.

4. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – The Social Network Soundtrack
Transcends Facebook.

5. Girl Talk – All Day
How does Gregg Gillis know every single song from my childhood and probably yours?

6. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening
The album that defined summer 2010 for me – and reaffirmed the legitimacy of the cowbell.

7. Drake – Thank Me Later
The album that changed my mind about Drake.

8. Robyn – Body Talk
Because it’s the best dance album of the year, and because she ate a banana on stage when I saw her perform.

9. Owen Pallett – Heartland
Owen did dark and twisted and beautiful way before Kanye.

10. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Because it’s legitimately a great album, albeit over-hyped – and because if I don’t everyone will poopoo my list.

Top 10 Films of 2010

1. The Social Network, David Fincher
What everyone expected to be simply "the Facebook movie" transcends its subject to tell a human story about ambition, creation and the sacrifice required for both. Brilliant writing, directing, acting and scoring make this the best all-around film of the year.

2. Blue Valentine, Derek Cianfrance
My second-most anticipated film of the year (behind a disappointing Black Swan), BV didn't let me down. Raw and honest, it is perfectly beautiful in its beautiful imperfection; it captures the feeling of a first film but with 12 years of development. 

3. I Am Love, Luca Guadagnino
This Italian film trumps genre by being stunningly beautiful in every category. It made me fall totally in love with Tilda Swinton, and John Adams' score, reminiscent of Philip Glass' work for The Hours, became my writing soundtrack for weeks after I saw it.

4. The King's Speech, Tom Hooper
I watched this film a few days after I watched A Single Man for the first time, and I now hold firm to my belief that Colin Firth is our best living actor. His face can change in a millisecond and is utterly convincing; the story is great, the cinematography is gorgeous and Helena Bonham Carter is one of my favorites.

5. The Fighter, David O. Russell
Two words: Christian Bale. If he doesn't go home with an Oscar, it will be outrageous. The story is good and Mark Wahlberg and especially Amy Adams shine too, but Bale outperforms every other aspect of this film. Just unreal.

6. The Town, Ben Affleck
This is one of my favorite films of the year, and would have probably ranked higher had it not been for the other amazing films I considered. I love Affleck's performance and Jeremy Renner will certainly be nominated for an Oscar for his role. Transcending the traditional cops and robbers film, it tells the familiar story of leaving home and the people you love in search of a better life.

7. 127 Hours, Danny Boyle
While my fascination with James Franco isn't exactly understated, this film is an achievement separate and apart from that. It tells a story about the slowest, most boring subject - one man stuck in a canyon for days - using quick camera shots, rapid-fire humor and a thumping, brilliant score by A.R. Rahman.

8. True Grit, The Coen Brothers
I will happily watch Jeff Bridges eat a sandwich. The Dude does not disappoint in this re-make, delivering humor and, yes, grit in equal proportion for a country-style feast. The Coen Brothers are surprisingly less nihilistic than usual, which I appreciated.

9. Howl, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
Franco shone again in this bio-pic about Allen Ginsberg. The film was obviously inspiring to me as a writer, and I liked the use of the poem, which is cut in with the interviews Ginsberg did with The Paris Review, to reveal something about the creative process. I also saw it a few doors down from the Chelsea Hotel, which gave me the warm fuzzies.

10. Burlesque, Steve Antin
Yes, I'm really including this in my top 10. Like the wise Cher once tweeted, it isn't Shakespeare, but it's not supposed to be. The film is actually very well done. Fun, entertaining and glittery, yes, but the writing isn't bad and even rather witty at times. I only saw it once, but after it was finished I wanted to watch it again and again, which is more than I can say for Black Swan, the other "dance movie" which I did see twice in theaters. And I adore Stanley Tucci.

Worth noting: I have yet to see Rabbit Hole or Winter's Bone, which are both lauded as two of the year's best films. But I can only rate what I've seen. I'll consider them honorary contenders until I see them - which should be soon - at which point I may edit my list accordingly.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

and you won't look back

A year ago I ran through the front door with my phone in my hand. It was cold out but I didn't put a coat on. Cut glass rattled in wood as the door fell shut behind me. It would be my last ditch effort, and your response would be the last ditch period. You told me she was moving there to be with you, I paced the driveway. I asked you how that felt, you paused and said, pretty good. I went back inside and later I drove my car to a friend's house and made some more phone calls but this time no one picked up.

Just something about this place, if I'm here too long I feel swirls of a person I used to be, and it makes me surly. Sitting at a table of family friends, sweet people with happy unexamined lives, being asked over and over if I have a boyfriend yet. When am I getting married, ideally. I shrug and churn out a number. Really I'm only dreaming up answers, but I can't say that aloud. I'm already too strange, too far away.

She said, times have changed. She said, in my day, if you weren't married by 21, you were considered an old maid. I said yes, times have changed. The thing is, my parents didn't raise me to be an expert at finding boyfriends. They didn't buy me school workbooks at the toy store so that I would be a good wife. Most people can have babies, and most people do. Most people want to get married, and most people do. Most people vote, but it doesn't mean most people should. A woman in a mall looks me up and down and says she likes my outfit, asks me where I'm from. My mom smiles and says, she lives in New York, she's a writer.

I remember in high school, I got into this fight with my parents. I don't remember what we were fighting about, I can just vividly hear myself saying, I'd rather be alone at the top than not be at the top at all. The memory is transcendent, like I'm remembering someone else say it. I see myself standing there with a fire in my eyes. I find it equally comforting and frightening, like the old me knew the new me would eventually show up and was readying the fort. In my darkened bedroom, I taped my poetry to rose-colored walls.

There's this amazing poem that's stuck in my head since I read it. These lines: This is for every little boy and girl who stood between home and a tornado, weighed the options, and took a chance on the twister. The image of the tornado is violent and accurate, but I think the writer neglects the other half of the story, something the Dorothies may find comforting. That once you've chosen the tornado, it becomes your home.

People keep asking me when I'm coming home, coming back to the South. I just smile and say I don't know, we'll see, we'll see. But really the tornado is my home now. I love the turbulence, pressing my face to the wind and stretching my limbs over an unlimited expanse. I can never go back to living on the ground. I need the scorch to live. The only way to go is up. Up and away.

Friday, December 24, 2010

she's like montana

She likes to wear layers. T-shirts over dresses, dresses over jeans, things that don't make sense. She pulls her socks up to her knees and wears high heels with them. I don't understand how it's possible, how I see her body better in all those clothes, how it deviates and distends as she reaches to fill her cup with coffee each morning. The more clothing she puts on, the more I want to disrobe her, piece by piece. It's devastating.

The first time I saw her, it was raining. She walked in the bar on a Thursday night, when I go to drink beer and watch soccer with strangers. I've gone every Thursday for three years and had never seen her before. She walked in like she knew the place, and she was dripping wet. The rain pounded against the panes but I couldn't hear it over her voice. She sat at the bar three stools down from me and asked 'tender Tommy for a towel and a tonic. Just a tonic? I asked. I don't drink, she said. You walked into a bar, I said. She said, yeah, it's raining and I wanted to dry off.

Later, much later, I would ask her why she drank tonic. Why tonic, and not soda or juice or water. She just smiled and said she liked the natural taste of bubbles. We would lie together on the floor of my apartment, sometimes naked sometimes not, smoking and listening to film soundtracks on vinyl, our heads sharing a pillow but our bodies in opposition. She would listen to me talk about anything and that's why I fell in love with her. That, and the softness of her ear as it grazed mine. It's amazing, how her ears are good for all kinds of things.

She got very angry at me one night about something I said to her friends at a party. I remember not knowing why she was so mad. She wouldn't speak to me on the way home. I got on my knees in our bedroom and unbuttoned my shirt and told her I adored her and didn't know what I had done wrong, but everything I said just made her more and more angry. She locked herself in the bathroom for a few hours and I sat on the floor leaning against the door frame and when she came out she climbed on top of me. Her face was covered in tears and I held onto her and she kissed me and said she would love me forever and I believed her.

I took a photo of her that night, after the fight, after we made piles out of our clothes and I ran my fingers along her body. I brushed her hair out of her face and used my thumbs to rouge her cheeks, and told her to look at me like she had never seen me before. Her mascara was smeared and her lipstick was gone but she let me take her photo anyway, and it's the most beautiful thing I own or will ever own. There is only one copy, and I made her promise to let me keep it no matter what, in case one day she is gone and all I have left are sweaters and socks.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

ask, tell

I woke up at 9:30 this morning and read Twitter. I'm in Alabama and I read that Obama was signing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal into law at 9:15 EST, and there was going to be a live video feed of it on the website. I had my time zones confused and thought that meant I could still watch it. But it was too late.

I went to the website anyway and there was a live video of a press conference with Robert Gibbs. I thought about how I hate publicists, how the implication of a publicist is that a person doesn't trust himself to self-represent in an appealing way. The implication of a publicist is that somewhere, truth is lost, or that truth doesn't matter. I don't like to think about how the artists I admire probably have publicists. I admire them because I believe they are telling me the truth about life.

I shut the computer and burrowed back into the covers and slept til noon for the first time in months. It felt good. While sleeping, I had a dream. I had a co-worker who was a teenager, maybe 16 or 17 years old, a boy. He asked me if he could come over after work and I said yes. He came over and we talked and he sat beside me on a couch and leaned in and buried his head in my neck. He cried and said his grandmother had died that morning. It made me very sad and I ran my hands through his hair and told him it would be okay and that I was sorry. Then he started to kiss me, but he didn't know how to kiss because he was so young. It was so sweet, it made me want to cry. I kissed him back.

A person I used to love works as a publicist now, or did the last time I spoke to him, nearly a year ago now. I thought about that as I crawled out of bed at 12:45 and fixed myself a sandwich. I don't know if it was breakfast or lunch.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

it must be nice, to disappear

This Christmas, a loneliness has crept up on me, a feeling I haven't felt in a while. That feeling of wanting so badly to kiss someone and having no one to kiss. Going to a holiday party at a friend's house and staring at a flickering candle, wishing you were anywhere else with any other flickering candle. Trying to be social but not able to fake enjoyment or interest in new people. Trying to drink more, to feel brighter, but just feeling sleepy.

But it's okay, because the fear of loneliness is so much worse. Living in some dark in-between place where you write letters to former flames and pray to god for some guidance, anything, a response, some hate mail even. You trick yourself into believing you can't be alone if someone hates you. You shield yourself from the reality that you are always alone, no matter what, hated or loved, a night light flickering on and off. The fear becomes your shadow, or a security blanket you drag behind you like a weight. It never leaves you.

But when you stop fearing your solitude and accept it, then graduate from accepting to embracing it, loneliness gets this odd sterling lining. You feel sad but the sadness doesn't dominate you. There's no shadow, no blanket, and it's okay. You watch couples holding hands on trains and you don't feel bitter or wonder if you'll know what that's like again. You pick a person and a place and you make up stories to fill that space, you temper loneliness with creativity. You see a diner on a cab ride to an airport, and you imagine stopping in alone on a rainy day, your rubber soles scuffing linoleum, sitting at a table and warming your hands on a cup of coffee. You look up and a man is watching you from the counter. Not in a creepy way, he's just drinking coffee too. He walks to the bathroom and on his way back you reach out and grab his hand and ask him to join you, just something they do in the movies. The whole script takes place right there, just a conversation across a table with a man you love by the time the check comes.

When you embrace your solitude is when you can make something beautiful out of it. Until then, you're just a coward, cowering in the crevices of the candlelight, hoping a strong wind won't blow you out.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

i wish it was christmas today

It is really cold in New York right now. It's February cold in December; the kind of cold that makes you hurt from the inside. The sort that makes you want to work extra hours at your job, out of gratitude for being able to pay for the roof over your head, the clean pillow underneath it, the chocolate you eat under blankets.

I left my office tonight and saw the same man I see often, sitting underneath the scaffolding outside the door. He's in a wheelchair. The first time I saw him, he was grappling for his dropped cell phone. This time a woman, a stranger, was helping him with his sleeve. I couldn't really see what she was doing, but I heard her say, Is that better? His face is partially paralyzed so he can't talk very well, but he mumbled something in response. He was bundled up, and I wondered who had helped him dress. I thought about goodness.

In my work neighborhood there is a Dunkin' Donuts with a mirror on one side that runs the entire length of the space. I go in every morning and spend three dollars and 48 cents on a coffee and an orange juice, plus tax. I don't like to think about how much money that really is, or how I never used to drink coffee. There is a Latino woman who works the register. Sometimes she remembers my order before I say it, and sometimes she smiles. Some mornings she does neither of those things, but every morning she's there.

The other day as I was leaving an older man was coming in. I let him in first, and in passing I smiled at him and said good morning. The blue sky was making me feel friendlier. As I went out, I caught a glimpse of him in that long mirror. He had whipped around and I saw his face following me, stunned. I think he had forgotten what good morning sounded like coming out of a complete stranger.

The thing about a city is that it embodies all the people in it. It is only as good or as bad as the eyes that see it. It contains the properties of the people who observe it. The thing about a city is that it is just like everything else.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

the worst are full of passionate intensity

I bought a new type of soap the other day. I thought it was lotion and it was really cheap and it promised to provide seven different types of hydration, so I bought it. When I discovered it was soap I felt surprised then disappointed then excited I wouldn't have to buy soap for a while. For sale, soap and a full range of emotions.

The soap is scented. It smells like my ex-boyfriend. Not the one who pushed me down onto the bed, but the one who tied me there. When I shower now I feel mesh knots grazing my wrists and hear flesh rubbing against flesh and taste red wine. One time we got really drunk on red wine and stayed up til six in the morning fucking and talking and fucking some more until the sun came up and we blacked out. Even after living in New York for two years, that night might be the closest I've come to a rock star life.

We had problems. He drank too much, like everyone else in college. He was on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds to help him cope with the loss of his parents. He was an orphan by the time he was 19. When we started dating, I knew his mother had died fairly recently, and one night we were at his apartment watching a movie and there was a scene with a funeral or something. He mentioned casually that it reminded him of when his dad had died, years ago. I told him I had to use the restroom, then I sat on the toilet with the fan on, crying.

The pills made him numb, I think. Not completely, but partially. He always appeared to be just on the brink of a sincere emotion, except for when we were intimate. When he kissed me, when he held onto the back of my neck while he made me come, when he rested his head on my stomach, that's when I saw who he really was. But outside of that, he lived in a shell. I saw him cry one time, on the eve of his college graduation. He said, No one will be there to watch me walk. A lone tear fell from his eye and I crawled  into his lap on the edge of my bed and pulled his forehead into my neck and cradled him. Women who say they don't want to take care of men are lying. People want to take care of other people.

He was good at comforting too. Since I was a kid I've had this compulsion to scratch myself. My parents always said it was scented soaps and detergents, but really it's a coping mechanism to deal with stress and anxiety. Sometimes I scratch myself in my sleep. I would wake up in his bed with these red welts on my legs, blood drawn. He would pull me into the bathroom naked, bend down and run his hands along my marks and say, Oh sweetie, you have to stop scratching. 

Another time, I was with him when I found out I had ovarian cysts. I had the worst period I've ever had in my life. I lay in his bed in the fetal position, unable to move from the pain. He went out and bought heating pads and laid them across my lower abdomen. They were the kind that stick to your skin, so I fell asleep with them on me, like leeches. I woke up in the middle of the night covered in sweat so I ripped them off and cranked up the central AC and curled my body into his. We were only together for eight months or so, but we took care of each other like we had been together for years. It was strange, like children, we never said I love you.

I asked him once if he believed that things happen for a reason and he answered no so immediately and coldly that I knew he wasn't lying. It was the first time I knew we wouldn't end up together. They say the strongest human sense is smell, but really I think it's loss. The sense of loss and the scent of it, haunting and halting only when you reach the bottom of the bottle.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A conversation with Ciara

A few weeks back I interviewed Ciara at her album release party in the West Village. Then I reviewed her album Basic Instinct, which comes out tomorrow. The album is basically a buffet of female power anthems. It makes me miss living in Atlanta, driving around in summer with my windows down and my speakers cranked.

When I met Ciara for the interview, we were both wearing fur vests. It was sort of hilarious. Here's a photo of us together. Sorry for the crappy quality.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

teach me how to dougie

Just a couple thangs.

When I was home for Thanksgiving, my childhood best friend Ashley made me walk on train tracks in six-inch heels while she took photos of it. They are here.

I didn't write about it (not really), but at the beginning of November I went to a taping of Inside The Actor's Studio with James Franco. It was so amazing and inspiring. A few weeks later, author/fave writer Stephen Elliott wrote about Franco in his Daily Rumpus e-mail. Franco optioned The Adderall Diaries and plans to direct/star in a film version of the memoir. I wrote Stephen back and told him about the taping, and he asked me to edit my notes into an article. So I did. Then it was linked to by USA Today. So that was a good day.

Because good things usually come in threes: I have watched this like ten times. I think it says something.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

i have seen the moment of my greatness flicker

Have you ever loved someone so much, whatever love might be, that you just sit in their lap and cry? You look at that person, and think about all the times you ever felt so alone, so ceaselessly alone, like the universe. You take that person's face in your hands and you try to say something that will touch your universe to the other person's. You say, I love you. You say, oh my god. You say, before I knew you, I waited. You say, never leave and I won't either. A tear might fall from the other person's eye, or maybe the person laughs, and that's when you lose it. A hundred nights of asking God for a sign seem like another life altogether. Once the sign comes it's easy to forget about the miles of stretched out concrete that led up to it. And equally easy to forget that whoever is in charge of making the signs does so without err, but doesn't account for the flecks in your eyes.

You take the person's face in your hands and a tear falls or a laugh bubbles up, and that's when you cry. You cry for every person you've ever loved, your mom and your dad. All the people you used to love but don't anymore. You want to actually curl up into a ball so small it's visible only to that person, then you want to press into their stomach and disintegrate into their skin. Being in love is wanting to disappear.

And all the other times, when you've been alone so long you nearly forget what it's like to love someone, you can allow yourself to remember. You can lie in your bed with a book and a pen and you can write in cursive letters, Sometimes I want to fall asleep with the light on. And then you'll wake up at 4 a.m. and the lights will be on and you'll crawl blind to switch them off, and then just before you drift off again, there it is, that feeling you haven't felt in this life. 

You pull the blanket up around your nose, take your face in your hands, and cry. You pray for a sign.

Monday, December 6, 2010

we are all little boys and little girls

Yesterday was my Kid A reading. It was really amazing - Cake Shop was packed out and pretty much everyone I know in New York City was there, plus a couple people from out of town. It was definitely the largest group of people I've ever read in front of.

My assignment was to write a poem inspired by Radiohead's song Motion Picture Soundtrack off the album Kid A. The song is a part of who I am, and I wanted so badly to do it justice. After listening to the song for the 10,000th time this year, I came to the conclusion that it's essentially a love letter to suicide, a tale of the battle between the good and evil forces that plays out in all of our lives.

Here is my poem. Thanks to everyone who came out yesterday. Sometimes it is like the movies.

we are all little boys and little girls

I had a discussion with a friend
over monitors
about Freemasons,
who is one and who isn't.

I said I didn't know what
the big deal was.
People always say artists sold their souls to the devil at a crossroads
to get the talent they have,
whatever talent might be.
He said,
who knows.

maybe they sold their souls to God
in the back alleys of their minds.
Because eventually the road ends,
and it's either death or nothing.

People start to believe things they said they'd never believe.
People curl into themselves under sweat-soaked bedsheets.
People tousle the clouds under their feet as they walk upon high,
on rooftops so gilded,
they strip soles of humanity.
People smoke cigarettes and flick ash into the fire.

I have measured out my life with IM boxes.
I have cried onto my keyboard,
drawing myself into a cube with tears running a river through Qs, Rs and Ts.
I have confused names and old faces and
I have forgotten who I am.

I have imagined defenestration
and masturbation
and a different nation,
one run entirely by machines,
leaving people like me
to capacitate and then undo their demons,
all while in their pajamas
or maybe never getting dressed at all.

I am a Freemason.
You are a Freemason
And you and you and him
and his yellow dog too.
It's one of those things
we can never disprove so it may as well be true.

God is a Freemason.

The fall is nearly as thrilling as the high,
and it’s a cheek turned to God.

Because eventually the road ends.
All the parts you thought made you
shut off at once.
The grinding halt reverberates off slick bricks,
the rooftop blown off.

You're left barefoot and childless.
Loveless neon signs vibrate through whiskey glasses,
wooden stools steal your shirts,
people tell you things but you can't remember.

You remember when you used to hope,
but the feeling is distant
like a city you read about in a book but never visited.

I think you're crazy maybe,
but worse yet I think you're dead.
Every day is a memory of the next.

I have seen you beg for your soul,
stirring it around in a bucket of shit,
over and over to the tune of a harp
that's strung with the hairs of the people you loved
who didn't love you back.

At the end of the road,
there’s a sign.
It is the same in all languages, at all times,
and it reads:
What do you live for?
What do you live for?
What do you live for?


I live for a newspaper pressed into seedy cement on the street in Harlem.
I live for nights spent with strangers on SoHo benches.
I live for my mother, who said you can always come home!
I live for saltwater seeping into my skin as I step onto the floor of silent seas.
I live for must, and do, and will, but never should.
I live for the guiding light of glow in the dark stars stuck to the ceilings of our skulls.
I live for muzzles butting mirrors and stretching to their ends.
I live for a saxophone in a subway station squealing syncopated sadness.
I live for reflections in rocking cars, breath beating upon bombs planted in our bellies.
I live for my disembodied spine dancing in the dark to an invisible drum.
I live for church organs and choirs and stained glass thrown across my chest, broken.
I live for visions and revisions and reversing my decisions.
I live for the smell of your incense, your insensitive hands throwing me against the wall.
I live for the fucking Freemasons.
And I live for myself,
The only person who will never leave me,
Because I won't let her.
The law of their God is in their hearts.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

cultivating habits

She went with a friend to a chain bookstore on her lunch break. She went to buy a new book by a famous rapper, in which he writes the meanings behind some of his lyrics, like with footnotes. The book has one of Andy Warhol's Rorschach paintings on the cover, in gold metallic foil. She was waiting in line to pay, talking to her friend about Camus, because he was looking for a copy of The Stranger. She said, did you know that Bohemian Rhapsody is based on The Stranger? He said, yeah you've told me that before. She said, oh yeah. She said, what's that other book he wrote? Something about a man in a cage. And then there's the one, like The Flu or something. Not The Flu but an epidemic of some sort. The Epidemic? No. Shit. What is that book called? A man in front of her in line turned around and said, I think it's called The Plague. They both laughed. He said, but I like your title better. He walked off to pay for his book. She laughed and laughed, then bought her book about rap/poetry. On his way out the man turned around and said to her, You just made my day. She said, no sir, you made mine. They both laughed again. Then later, walking on the streets of New York, in the drizzling rain, she said: Now I will never forget the name of The Plague. She thought, I'm glad I didn't buy this book on Amazon.

Monday, November 22, 2010

i will see you in the next life

My love affair with Radiohead's song Motion Picture Soundtrack began in January of this year. I bought the album Kid A online and was sitting in my room on E 118, listening and writing. As soon as the song came on, I stopped what I was doing and sat straight up in my bed. I started sobbing, and sobbed and sobbed. The song struck a very real chord in me, it felt like it had actually come out of me instead of coming from outside. It haunted me for weeks.

You can hear the original version of the song here.

The song played an integral role in the writing of my first short film, Love Sand, and earlier in the fall I was asked by Melissa Broder to write a poem inspired by it for her Polestar Poetry Series. The reading is Dec. 5 at Cake Shop, and there's a possibility that Love Sand will make a real-life premiere there - I hope some of you can make it!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

a love letter to st. jerome's

I've never told this story on my blog, which is a massive oversight on my part. Better late than never: how I came to fall in love with St. Jerome's.

On a brilliant but oddly cool Sunday in April - it's always "oddly cool" in April in this city, it never seems normal to me - four friends and I got blitzed on bottomless mimosas at Benny's Burritos' brunch in the West Village. Then we went to a convenience store and bought Darjum Specials and walked around the city like we owned it before heading up to the High Line for a lovely stroll, then drinking (more) afternoon beverages on the Gansevoort rooftop. Two people had to make their exits, leaving Zachary, Jenny and I the sole troopers remaining to find something to do with the rest of the evening. We were still on the West side, but I suggested we go get dinner at the Sunburnt Cow, one of our favorite restaurants on the LES. So we hopped on a bus across town and got (yet more) wine and food while we talked about art and our dreams and hopes for the future.

The Sunburnt Cow, it should be said, has changed a little bit in the recent past, but it used to be staffed by only gorgeous and super-friendly Australian men. While we were drinking and eating, we decided we still weren't done with the day, and wanted to go to a bar to wrap it up. We asked our server what he recommended in the area, and he told us about an awesome bar named St. Jerome's on Rivington and Suffolk. He said, on Sunday nights they play an awesome mix of rock-and-roll and old school blues. He said, there's no sign on the door, you just have to know where it is. He said, I go there every Sunday night after work. We said, sounds amazing, before stumbling over, taking photos along the way.

Taken moments before our first trip to St. J, in a graffiti-covered alcove across Rivington.

We walked inside, and it was like a dream. It was dark and foggy. There was a disco ball spinning, and classic rock bumping on the stereo. The bar was practically deserted. I don't remember if there were any people in there aside from us and the bartender and maybe a few people sitting at the bar. The rounded seats were musty and falling apart at the seams. The walls were maroon, but everything seemed like it was in black and white. I didn't learn that the walls were maroon until later. Candles flickered on wooden tabletops. It smelled of whiskey and wood and tack on the backs of punk rock stickers. We sat down. A sign behind the bar read, $2 buds, every night until midnight. It was perfect. I had found my bar.

Before that first visit to St. Jerome's, I knew a little about Lady Gaga's pre-fame life go-go dancing and playing shows on the LES, but I didn't know any specifics. Some time after we first went there, I learned that St. Jerome's was her bar. She danced there, and she and Lady Starlight and Luc Carl and that whole gang of LES outcasts used to hang out there all the time. I couldn't (and still can't, really) believe that I learned about and fell in love with this place completely independently of any knowledge of Lady Gaga's former presence there. Some places just have energies.

Lady Gaga and Darian Darling in St. Jerome's, circa 2007.

Zachary and I in St. Jerome's, summer 2010.

Lady Gaga and Lady Starlight in St. J, circa 2007.

Zachary and I in St. J, summer 2010.

St. Jerome's is my bar, it's our bar. I haven't been in a minute, and I miss it terribly, especially now that Zac has moved to New Orleans. It just seems like our place, and it feels weird going there without him. I still love it there, and I'll drink a $2 bud anytime, but it's not the same.

Lady Gaga released her first song off her new record, "You and I," this summer. It's a love letter to her boyfriend/St. Jerome's manager Luc Carl, but I hear it, at least partially, as a love letter to St. Jerome's. I learned the chords and recorded myself singing a version of it - my love letter to St. Jerome's, a bar that materialized at a time when I was just beginning to be re-born and which has stuck with me throughout. I love you.

There's somethin, somethin about this place
Somethin about lonely nights, and my lipstick on your face...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Premiere: Love Sand

On a late-night stroll through the LES en route to St. Jerome's this summer, Zachary asked me if I would write a script for our friend Haley - an actor transplanted in NYC from L.A. for the summer - that he would then shoot, direct and edit into a short film. I was sort of taken aback by his request, as I had never written a film before and had no idea how to do it. But I said yes, and asked if he had an idea of what sort of film he wanted to do. He said no, I could write whatever I wanted, no guidelines. Thrilled at the opportunity to create something without any rules, I played the phrase "no guidelines" on repeat in my head until the first scene came to me, while I was walking alone one night on Bedford in Brooklyn. The rest was largely inspired by Radiohead's song "Motion Picture Soundtrack" off their 2000 album Kid A, which had a deep impact on me during the winter months earlier this year. Love Sand was born.

We filmed it over the course of a weekend in June. It was an incredible experience. The filming fell together so beautifully and easily - we had 10 people come together and lend their talents for no pay to make it happen - that it seemed like it was meant to be. Zachary and I sound edited it on a Friday night over burgers and fries in his bedroom in Harlem. The entire thing was edited and uploaded using his four-year-old MacBook Pro. The film's budget was less than $10 - for a pack of cigarettes used in the third scene. Time is a more valuable currency than money.

I'm so excited to present Love Sand to the world now. Although the time it took to conceive and film the project is relatively small, I consider it to be the product of a year's worth of experiences. 2009 was one of the hardest years I've ever had, and I went through some things I had never been through before, and while I learned a lot, I was essentially destroyed. It's an incredible miracle to be able to take a year of my life that, at the time, seemed like it was comprised of pointless devastation, heartache and hopelessness and to have a group of super-talented people help me bundle it up into a singular work that gives validity and even beauty to those experiences. I now see 2009 for what it is, at least in part: the year that gave me Love Sand.

Sometimes things just fall into your lap and happen so easily that they seem to somehow spin your life in a new direction, and I think Love Sand might be such a thing for me. That's yet to be determined, but at the very least - the project is extremely close to my heart, and I feel proud of the finished product. Zachary put together a beautiful website for the film, and you can also watch it below or here. If you watch it on the Vimeo site, it's in HD, so you can blow it up to the size of your screen and the quality is the same. Pretty amazing!

A big thanks to everyone involved and especially to Zachary for doing so much work on the film, and for asking me to write it in the first place, for having faith in my words. And thanks also to anyone who takes the time to watch it - your thoughts and ideas are more than welcome.

I will see you in the next life...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

a little bit man, a little bit

This summer I told photog friend Jenny I wanted to get dressed like a man and have her shoot photos of me. She obliged, with Zachary art directing and lending boy clothes. The transformation shots ended up being some of her favorites.

Click on it to see it larger. My breasts were not all too happy to be taped down.

Friday, November 12, 2010

inside the franco: a dirty tale set on the nyc subway platform

 I thought I just saw James Franco on the subway platform. I imagined James Franco boarding my car and me saying to him, you're James Franco, and him saying, yes. And me telling James Franco I was coming to see him tomorrow night, I had a ticket. And James Franco asking me what I was doing today and me saying, going to work. Him asking me where I work and me telling him. James Franco asking me to play hooky. Cut to us sitting in a diner, drinking coffee across a table. Him telling me, this isn't about sex, and me saying, right because you have a girlfriend. Him saying, no because I'm gay.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

when thanks are in order

Today is Veterans' Day. I think it's so important to take some time out to show gratitude to the people who have made so many sacrifices for the everyday freedoms we often take for granted. My dad is in the military, and has been my whole life, so I know firsthand even the smallest sacrifices armed service people and their families make in the name of serving our country. Say what you will about the wars we involve ourselves in and the politics of war - I've said them too, much to my father's chagrin - but there's no denying that as a woman, I can freely sit where I'm sitting and do the things I'm doing and write what I want to write thanks to the people who gave life and limb because they believed and had faith in something. 

So, in this week's The Local Voice, I show my slice of gratitude by dedicating my column to all the veterans who have served our country. Thank you so, so much.

Monday, November 8, 2010

daylight savings account

I know we've only won an hour,
But it feels like twenty, more,
The time fairy
Has dropped it off in the night,
Deposited it in a bag made of dreams.

How many hours I've spent
Pondering your eyes behind glass -
They remind me of childhood,
Like how the yellow bumps
Of a New York subway platform
Press into my soles,
Resurrecting an era of baths
In a stranger's house.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

scenes from a waffle house

I see you in the light of the table lamp, switched off.
Sprawled on your back, chest to the sky, arms open,
I am filled with a sudden rising anxiety that you might take off,
A vessel in flight over swelling waters.

I crawl to you like a fish sprouting legs,
Evolution guiding my fingers over land,
Skin and bones and meat and heartbeat shocking my tendons.
One nail in front of another other other,
No longer starved, they simply linger.

You stir,
Dancing shadows across your face,
Watching me from behind your lids,
Fashioning your limbs into a trap -
I volunteer myself, a nubile victim,
In your sleeping ear: "Tie me up."

We stir,
Coffee and cream across a lacquered table.
Your wheels are up.
In one motion you slide from your seat to share mine,
And in my pouring ear: "With you, silence is not so bad."

Browned on the griddle,
I'm done.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My name is Weezy but I ain't asthmatic

So I've got a guest post up today over on Una's blog, The Sassy Curmudgeon. I wrote about my recent STD testing (serious) and how it interwove nicely with the release of a Weezy song named after an STD (not as serious). Hope you like.

On that same note, my coworker/friend recently pointed out to me a massive oversight on my part. Weezy and the predator look just alike!!!! How have I never seen this? Really, y'all. Really.

Monday, October 11, 2010

when discussing lunch

A strawberry and a honeydew were in love and wanted to get married but none of their friends or family were supportive so the strawberry suggested eloping and the honeydew said, "We cantaloupe! They'd think we were bananas!"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

love is a lemon now-and-later

She is thinking about him a lot lately. Waiting for December, wondering again what it will bring, wondering why that month in particular always holds this magical promise for her. Last December she wanted to kill herself. She thinks this one will be better.

Wondering if she will be less pretty or prettier than he remembers, and if his body will feel different under her hands. If they will fall in love or start anew in January. If he will have an apartment full of Bibles and other books she's never read, movies she'd never watch on her own. Wondering if that matters.

She asks, what is love? Is it the way someone makes you feel when he walks through the room where you're sitting on a couch twisting your hair? Is it knowing what he means when he says he's never been much of a poet? Or knowing and not caring if the only writing he's done is your digital exchange. If he's graduated from college, or not. What the fuck is love? It's making her angry, this debate of deserts. She considers that maybe these things keep us from love, not help us find it.

There's this song she likes that always reminds her of him. It goes if you're partial to the night sky, if you're vaguely attracted to rooftops. It's fast and light and bubbly and there is this line in it about martinis and then a line about lemon Now-and-Laters. She thinks, that's what love is. A lemon Now-and-Later. Sour, sweet, timeless. There's no reason this song should remind her of him. She's known him only two days and there was no music. It's a song someone else would have put on a mixtape for her two years ago, but that's not why she likes it.

She'll know she loves him if he tells her a story while they are naked in bed together and it doesn't seem long but she wishes it was.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

in the dark of fall

I've seen three movies in the past five days. There's something about fall this year - the way it's pouring onto the city in wet puddles and cold winds, instead of spreading from the top down with leaves red, then orange, then yellow  - that's making me want to sit inside in the dark and hunt for inspiration on a screen. I've not been disappointed so far. I saw The Social Network Friday night, the day it opened, and the theater was totally packed. Then yesterday Stephen Elliott, increasingly becoming my favorite contemporary writer, wrote about the film in his daily Rumpus e-mail. He talked about what touched me most about the film - whether or not Mark Zuckerberg is tragic, or an asshole, or neither. I wrote him back, which I do a lot, and he asked me if he could post my response to The Rumpus. I was thrilled. I said yes.

Last night I saw Howl and Never Let Me Go. Never Let Me Go was beautiful but ultimately bleak and it made me want to be in love. I liked Howl, mostly for the scenes depicting Allen Ginsberg's interviews with the Paris Review, which you can read here.  He talked a lot about his writing process, and a few things stood out to me as a prophecy for my own experiences with writing. Here's a snippet from that interview, and my response below.

"Usually during the composition, step by step, word by word and adjective by adjective, if it’s at all spontaneous, I don’t know whether it even makes sense sometimes. Sometimes I do know it makes complete sense, and I start crying. Because I realize I’m hitting some area which is absolutely true. And in that sense applicable universally, or understandable universally. In that sense able to survive through time—in that sense to be read by somebody and wept to, maybe, centuries later. In that sense prophecy, because it touches a common key . . . What prophecy actually is is ... that you know and feel something that somebody knows and feels in a hundred years. And maybe articulate it in a hint—a concrete way that they can pick up on in a hundred years." -- Allen Ginsberg

When Allen Ginsberg first read Howl at a bar in California in 1955, he was 29 years old and unpublished. I find that comforting.

I think if people have great things inside of them that are meant to be shared with the world, they will be shared. God doesn't operate on human timeframes. It's quite the opposite. Ideas will emerge in their own time. Before he wrote Howl, Allen spent eight months in a psychiatric hospital trying to '"rid" himself of his homosexuality. I think he was around 21 years old at the time. Do you think he wrote during those eight months? I don't know, but it seems unlikely. I wonder if he tortured himself about not writing. That seems more likely, but still improbable. I imagine it's hard to find time for either writing or self-injury when everyone around you is getting shocked with electricity and lobotomized. The act of brushing one's teeth becomes one's poetry.

Allen shared Howl with the world when he was 29, and I find that comforting. Self-injury is mostly just a waste of time. At my most self-injurious, I never really produced a piece of work I felt proud of. Mostly I just laid around and cried and struggled to find words to describe what I was experiencing and ended up submitting myself to my wallowing. But when I've found my path again, which by the presence of God I've always found a way to do, I've felt invigorated and filled with words. Even if on that path lied sadness or fear or grief, I could find the words for it. Spending a night watching television is better for one's poetry than spending a night hating oneself for wanting to watch television. God is, for the most part, very forgiving about television-watching.

If you were born to express something, do not be afraid. It will be expressed. Just keep writing, or whatever it is that you do. God will carry the rest.

And if you were not born to express something, also: do not be afraid. That too will be revealed in time. You can still lead a happy life and love and make the world better by living through your heart.

It's all useful.

Monday, October 4, 2010

guest post for a rainy day

George Wallace, a friend of mine and talented poet responsible for organizing a lot of the readings I've been to in the city, e-mailed me a poem this morning. He maintains as well as the Long Island Quarterly. The weather in Manhattan is rainy and cold and dreary today and it has been for a week and it's going to be for a week more. I've been feeling hints of depression and lack of inspiration, my insides mimicking my outsides. I haven't written a decent poem in weeks. But I really liked his so I wanted to share it with everyone. Sometimes things just happen and the reasons escape us and we go to bed and we wake up with headaches and we take the train to work and we don't know how any of it was possible before coffee.

biggie smalls is rapping on the radio

biggie smalls is rapping on
the radio -- biggie smalls
that’s his name – his
name's wallace too –
that’s right wallace like me
christopher george latore
wallace -- but everyone
calls him notorious
B.I.G. & he's got a 
cousin named Lil
Deceased or something
close to that -- which
& i know it's a little
obvious but I like
that name too & I
like how biggie spits
out his words -- drawls
them out -- a brooklyn
kind of loose easy action
he spits out his words
like broken teeth or
pieces of cement
& i like how
he tells a story
i mean not in the
usual way -- o & by
the way biggie smalls
is dead – shot four
times in the chest
in southern cal
in ‘97 -- that’s
thirteen years
ago -- it’s a
shame --
it’s a
mystery --
like wikipedia
says the murderer
was never
found –
o & by the
way last week
a college kid
jumped off
the gw bridge –
he was gay he was
from new jersey & his
roommates played
a trick on him &
now he’s dead –
people jump off
bridges a lot -- never
make a splash
-- but this one
makes a
splash &
the world
sits up from
its big stew
of nothingness
& says something
-- & now everyone’s
saying something even
ellen degeneres who cried
about it on national tv – every
body has an opinion & for
chrisssake the college kid
had a name -- tyler clementi
– nothing big nothing
notorious -- just tyler
& nothing’s ever going
to change in this world –
christopher george latore
wallace was just trying to
make some money for his
daughters -- tyler clementi
was just trying to find some
love – & me I’m trying to
make out the words
to this song –  there’s
words for everything –
this world’s a big stewpot
of words – this world’s
a big mystery  – this world
sits up & then it lies back
down again in its big
stew of nothingness &
dreams -- who killed biggie –
who killed tyler clementi --
murderers never get
caught -- ‘if you
don’t know,
now you know,

Friday, October 1, 2010

blogger's block, other things

I've been really busy recently, with a friend in town for a week, dealing with my ear infection and subsequent antibiotic-induced illness, and trying to combat a depressive writer's slump commonly known as "block." I've just been feeling sort of uninspired, like I'm not sure where to focus my energy. What I have been doing: reading a lot and writing a lot for work.

I wrote the culture page for Gotham's October issue, which drops today. Our cover star is Jon Hamm (Don Draper FTW) and I interviewed Galt Niederhoffer, one of the screenwriters for Prozac Nation and more recently the author of the novel The Romantics, about the film coming out based on her book. You can see the page here.

My latest column in The Local Voice talks a bit about my recent brief visit to an NYC emergency room, unwanted touching from strangers on subways, and the mystery of being a human being. You know, the usual stuff you talk about with people while The Price Is Right plays in the background.

PS, Happy October everyone! My favorite time of year is soon approaching. Scarves and coffees and boots FTW.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Free shoe day Friday

Working at a magazine def has its perks. Today, I got an IM from my managing editor. It went something like this.

Ed: What size shoe do you wear?
Me: haha, ummmmm.... 7/7.5. y?

Ed: Yay!!! You win!

She proceeded to bring a Sam Edelman box to my desk, which I opened to reveal these:

Shoes were always my big thing before I moved to New York. I was obsessed with them. Heels, platforms, stilettos, boots. I loved them all and wanted them all. Then I moved to New York and had to walk everywhere and was basically like FTN fuck that noise.

Today brought a nice reminder that I still, in fact, fucking love shoes. These are perfect. They are sparkly, they are black and they are flat. I can wear them in the city without wanting to kill someone, so that is good. And they were  FREE.  Thanks, universe.

It couldn't have  come on a better day, because I found out today that I have a fucking EAR INFECTION. All caps attack necessary. Am I five years old??? On top of that, I'm on my period, so yay TMI Friday this morning I basically felt like a snotified zombie lady with intent to kill.

But my new sparkly shoes made me feel better. Happy Friday everyone!

PS, I interviewed the guys who made the Facebook film CATFISH that everyone is talking about. My story is here. I encourage everyone to see it - it's shocking and thought-provoking, especially for those of us who belong to the Internet Generation. Ahem, that means you.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

standing and walking and wandering

When you stand on a street corner in New York with your eyes closed, you really feel the wind. It’s scary. When I was a teenager, I remember thinking to myself on the way home from a late night out somewhere that I knew the road so well I could drive it with my eyes shut. I closed them with my hands on the wheel and made it three seconds before I opened them again and thought about how stupid that was.

Testing blindness on a street corner is sort of the same. First, you know there are people all around you. You assume, at best, that everyone is looking at you, thinking you are crazy. You hope, at worst, that no one will attack you or steal your purse while you are defenseless. It goes against your every instinct to stand there still, listening and feeling and smelling but not seeing. Like lying down in the middle of the jungle, trying to sleep in a den of tigers.

Walking from my building to the train after work, I pass a disabled black man in a wheelchair. He is sitting with one wheel against the scaffolding that surrounds my building, not moving. He has his headphones in, and I follow the cord with my eyes as I walk: past his long arms, which are curved in places they aren’t supposed to be, and his hands, which are curved everywhere, to the end of the cord plugged into his cell phone. Then I see the phone fall to the ground, as if I had willed it there with my mind. It clatters.

I walk on, but I turn my head back. I see him struggling. He can’t seem to bend down at just the right angle. His phone has fallen slightly under his chair, and it is hard for him to reach it. I stop walking. I wonder if I should offer to help him. I wonder if it is safe and then I wonder if I might offend him. I watch for a few seconds longer to see if he picks it up himself. He doesn’t. I start walking back toward him.

I approach him from behind, watching him curl over and lurch for the phone in an awkward motion. I peek my head cautiously into his line of sight, and say, "Do you need me to help you?" He looks up at me just as his hand finally wraps around the phone and he retrieves it from the ground. "No, I got it," he says. The words are not articulate but I can make them out. His face is half-paralyzed, but he smiles at me. I can make it out.

A dear friend of mine recently told me he felt like he didn't know who I was anymore. It made me think. I thought about the changes I've gone through over the past year, all the pain and the fear and the joy and the anxiety and the loneliness of growing into a woman and finding myself as an artist. I thought of who I was a year ago today, and confessed to myself that I could not say with certainty, "I am the same person, at my core," which is what people say in these conversations. It's a gut response. My gut wouldn't let me say it. My core had been shaken so deeply, in ways good and bad, that I barely even recognized the old me. Like a friend I used to know but who moved far away and forgot to call on my birthday.

The man in the wheelchair smiled at me, and I realized something. I will always be moved by the beauty of tragedy and struggle and humanity. I will always try to help someone who needs it, if I think I can. I feel and do these things not because of some moral code stamped into me like a seal pressed into molten wax, and not because I thrive on the pleasure of knowing I did something good for someone else - but because those feelings and actions are who I am. They are not my core, not just a part, but the whole. They are me. Everything else is just wandering.

The man in the wheelchair smiled at me, a reminder that people are strong even when they seem weak. Simply moving forward in time is an accomplishment, and I am thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to wander.