Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Precious Moments

I walk by these restaurants, Stromboli and Indian Something, daily. I file their "signage" (an obnoxious, made up word that I detest, along with "pagination") under the "Reasons to Live" category in my brain. They occupy a prominent position in this category, nestled alongside marsupials and funny vaguely Latino accents- Ay Papi! It seems like I always catch a glimpse of these guys when I am on some self- inflicted lunch break murder mission, like pleading my case to the public librarian to weasel my way out of library fines, for example.

And there you are, brow furrowed, some hobo telling you to smile, trail mix spilled into the crevices of your clothes and hand bag, the unbearable lightness of being so burdensome upon your Protestant work ethic, feeling sorry for yourself, and BAM! There's a fish holding an umbrella imparting the message of empathy and love for one's neighbor. And then you think, "Oh shit, this fish knows more than I do, open your ears sucka."

And then you remember a story you heard the other day about how they used to send kids into coal mines in the 1800s NAKED because they were more likely to spontaneously combust if clothed (It's true! I know, I can't believe it either, and it's been haunting me ever since the story touched my ears, and now I'm passing it off to you. Even George Orwell was duly horrified:

Oh, and your daily existential crisis is not all that bad, you live in a world where you are not some wretched of the earth naked child coal miner and you have little fishies encouraging you to become your dream, and to carry a parasol, both of which are totally underrepresented these days.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Alfred Kubin: He a FREAK!

While my daily meanderings often lead me to locales where one can feel free, the Neue (pronunciation: NOY- ah. I definitely called it the NEW Gallery until like a month ago) Galerie ain't that. The German and Viennese art museum's home in a 5th Avenue mansion with all its GRANDIOSITY, its Gilded Age flourishes of burnished gold and marble make one feel especially not free, even confined, but in a good way, like wearing Spanx for example. It is just a downright civilized place. They even pipe in classical music into the galleries, which provides a nice foil to drown out the inane art criticism of the douche bag next to you on a first date. I think children are banned at this museum, or perhaps they are served in the café downstairs in a light wine sauce. Very, very civilized.

(Left: A scary thing)

So I stumbled into the Alfred Kubin exhibit, whom I had never heard of before today, but the Austrians tend to produce model humans, except for Hitler of course. Kubin was a deeply disturbed young man whose bizarre and frightening worldview manifests in some fifty- odd drawings on display here. He has been referred to as the "Austrian Goya." His work will be exceptionally popular among: Tim Burton followers, goths, industrial music/ ambient soundscape enthusiasts, sadists, Jungian dream interpreters, fans of M.C. Escher, readers of Foucault and vampires.

Below: OMG! I am wicked scared!

Although I am a card carrying member of one of these categories (I'll leave that to your imagination), I fell in love love love with this freaky guy from the opening photograph to the show, in which the artist is pictured nothing but a top hat, a fig leaf, and a dastardly smile. Holy mackerel! But even better, the clever curators displayed a huge quote from the artist on the wall above his drawings:

"I wandered aimlessly in the dark streets, overcome and literally ravished by the dark power that conjured up before my mind strange creatures, horses, landscapes,
grotesque and frightful situations."

That sentiment captures my current frame of mind, especially the bit about the grotesque and frightful situations. So many grotesque and frightful situations. Anyway, get your ignorant ass out from in front of "Rock of Love Bus" and to the museum, because you'll leave feeling a little relieved about your many onerous and loathsome situations.

(Below: aaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!)

This Shit is Bomb

Best. Trader Joe's. Instant. Meal. Ever.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cougar? Petit Coquette? You Decide!

So lately my significant feminine charms (a vast lap, ample upper arms) have been overwhelmingly attracting a new demographic: schoolboys. Like, young young dudes. Like guys not old enough to buy lotto tickets, or even graduated middle school. Or elementary school. Maybe. I have no idea what I did to merit such unusual and potentially damning overtures. I have not taken to wearing Hannah Montana apparel, I do not slick my hair back into a high ponytail with Jeri curls tumbling out the back, I do not own a Sidekick. In my daylight hours, I typically resemble a mother of three without the children. When I worked in the Bronx, a fourth grader told me I looked like Britney Spears on crack. I'll take it!

But thank god a creature of some stripe has taken a liking to me. In this Siberia of foul urban winter and dispositions, attention from any human specimen is at the very least refreshing, if not welcome. Commonly, I have been quite popular with the type of suitor who stands on street corners/ works construction/ is a Vietnam veteran/ is homeless. In the gilded days of summer, any off- handed commentary regarding the generous proportions of my backside would have been greeted with an aghast, "How very dare you! I am a tax- paying, upstanding citizen of high moral fortitude!" Now if the local wino shoots me a sidelong glance, I prance and dance away.

So when I walked past a middle school yard (and the yard part quite clearly resembles the prison type of yard rather than a place in which to play croquet) at lunchtime and a rotund Latino boy whose voice had not yet experienced the tinges of pubescence threw himself against the chain link fence and shouted, "Miss, I think you're so beautiful," I smiled in spite of myself. How charming! What elevated tastes and preferences!

But then a few days later I was walking by those basketball courts on Houston and Allen behind a group of four (maybe) junior high boys. They were doing a super annoying bad walking thing that makes it impossible to pass, and this will drive me to physically assault to old ladies on the subway. So I sighed obnoxiously, and one of the young scamps said, "Sorry Miss, but he [Asian boy, ill- fitting button down, gay] wants your number." I was wearing a puffer jacket, maybe that threw them off.

BUT THEN, a few days later, I experienced a run- in that begs the question: do I look young, like a dewy faced nymphette, or matronly like, "Hello Mummy?" I work in an all- girls school where all the pupils are paragons of virtue, but we unfortunately share our building with a gauche boys- and- girls- together institution. On Friday, I was walking in one of their halls, and granted I did look fucked up. I was wearing Minitonkas, jeans missing several closures, and a bargain basement poly- blend monstrosity. As I walked by a pair of young men who were no more than 18 years old (although they looked as if they may have been 30 and work on the docks), they did dinner plate, cartoonish, elevator "AAAOOOGA" eyes and said:
"Ooh, god bless you! She like a full grown woman!"

Well, yeah, for like seven years now. So, I beg the question again. A Cheetah Girls skank or a regal Catherine Deneuve? You decide, my friends, you decide. I am officially shoving off this mortal coil to my Jonas Brothers sheets.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Brazenhead Books: Unassuming Ornery Literary Utopia

Every once in a while you can catch yourself in a moment of contentment about one's station in life, the realization that, "Holy mackerel! This is really happening to me." A moment of realizing that you are in fact engaged in the life you always imagined for yourself as an indignant young person in too- big clothes in the post- industrial wasteland Worcester, Massachusetts. And these are, well, precious moments.

Brazenhead Books on the Upper East Side is a 500 square foot haven of schoolgirl dreams. Proprietor Michael Seidenberg has been in the book business for a while now. Yeah, he and his shop were recently profiled by some rag, the New Yorker, or whatever, yeah he saw some Jonathan Lethem's early career as a shop boy/ 'round the way ingenue, blah blah blah, but these credentials do not enlighten the vast charisma of this fellow, which is to say he is charismatic as fuck. First of all, he has one of those New Yawk accents that are veritably unknown to individuals born after 1975, kind of like Elenore Roosevelt crossed with a shoeshine boy/ newsie and put into the throat of a man missing a tooth with salt and pepper hair.

A good portion is uttered in that accent is quotable. Second to writing in this illustrious publication, my first favorite pastime is eavesdropping. I eavesdropped on a conversation Seidenberg had with a friend in which he explained exasperatedly how to use a rice maker. "First you put two cups of rice into the machine. Then you fill it up with water to the line that's between one and three!" Seidenberg sounds like the kind of kid who would have played stickball in Brooklyn with hooligans in short pants and high tops named Seamus O'Grady and Spuds Vinacelli, but I would venture to say he probably read Nabokav and got crushes on girls and planned a cross country trip to California. In short, the kind of fictional, speculative, bespectacled boy I adore!

How dismayed you are! A bookshop is not a cult of personality! So since it's a bookshop, the prodigious books within are for sale, which didn't even dawn on me as I spent like three hours there leaning and talking. The place is so disarming that it feels like you've just stumbled into an finicky eccentric's closet of crap, except all the books are handpicked by Seidenberg himself, so crap they are not. Nary a chick lit title or a book starring a dog or featuring recipes as an extended metaphor, this place is the anti- Borders. This is a space where you can actually mine a small coal compound of something without having set out to do so, a place you can smoke, a place you can interact with other humans. In short, it is a place where you can revive that rusty lever and pulley you once knew as your imagination. And how fortunate I felt the other night to be leaning up against a wall of books full of history, in a time and place that I had imagined for myself, someday, someday.

Del Gaizo and Seidenberg: National treasures in a moment of repose.

Thursday, January 1, 2009