29 June 2008


Sometimes I think maybe we really are living in a Matrix-like fantasy/reality. The weird coincidences that pop up and seem to defy the laws of probability (though maybe they conform absolutely to the chaos theory) sometimes truly astound me. Last weekend I met a friend of a friend, named Amir. The name reminded me of a boy I knew, very casually, in ninth grade. He was one of a set of twins, last name Amir, first names with-held. We had no classes together, but somehow he became interested in me. A few times I'd seen him speaking with a girl in my Latin class, whose identity I only knew in Latin, Vesta.

Vesta (Hestia in the Greek version of the myth) was Goddess of the home and hearth, and in Rome Vestal Virgins tended to a fire that was never allowed to go out. She was an odd girl, Vesta, and I think a sophomore or even junior. So Amir twin #1 (also older than me) started talking to me in the hall. My friends called him my "Latin Lover", though I wondered then, as I do now, if it was because they thought he was Latin (Amir doesn't sound so Latin American to me, but looks-wise he could have passed), or because it was outside of Latin class that he attempted to woo me.

Vesta, I suppose, must have seen the wooing. She and I chatted, occasionally, and I remember distinctly one day standing outside of our classroom before class began. She had a purple button up shirt on, and a paisley patterned vest over it. She was very mid 90s Winona Ryder chic, down to the short black hair and pouty lips (this was 1994, mind you). We were chatting about the twin, I think she asked me about him (or maybe I asked her?), and she told me that she'd lost her virginity to him. I wasn't really interested in boys at the time, and especially not interested in this particular boy, but I was struck by her confession which I didn't take to be insincere or manipulative; just a statement of fact. Also, I was so far from any kind of physical interaction with a boy that I was in complete awe of her being sexually active. I don't really remember how things shook down with me and the Amir boy; maybe I gave him my number but never took the call, maybe I just started to avoid him in the hall. But Vesta disappeared mid-semester. I wondered about her, whether she moved or maybe dropped out. Like I said, she was an odd girl.

But I came here to tell you about coincidences, not my awkward high school non-love affairs. Yesterday I finished Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins (brilliant, by the by). It's chock full of references to various mythologies, cultures, arts sciences, etc. Mind blowing. But I digress. There was mention, in the course of a chapter I was reading a couple of days ago, of Hestia. Of course I was struck by this coincidence, but moved on.

Today, though, came the real sock in the gut, knock the wind out of you, head over heels, ok now who the hell's pulling the strings here kind of coincidence. (Forgive me in advance for discussing a social networking site, but I must; it's a fact of life: mine, yours, and everyone we know.) Today I signed into Facebook to play a scrabble move. Facebook, for any who are unfamiliar, has a "newsfeed" that updates you with your friends' updates: relationship status, events they will attend or did attend, new friends they've added, etc.. Friends added, such as: Amir brother #2. Yes indeed, one of my old pals from high school connected with him via Facebook (it seems they may have gone to the same college), and I was there to witness the whole thing! Has your heart ever gotten stuck in your throat? Your stomach dropped to your feet? Ever felt a little bit of vertigo out of the blue? I dunno, maybe I was just hungry.

18 June 2008

Drnk txtrs

Why is this so crazy funny??

13 June 2008

Modern Love

Ok so in the NY Times Style section there's this weekly essay called "Modern Love" that's written by someone different every week, someone who's had some particular experience with modern love. I don't read it often, but this essay basically blew my mind so I'm going to put it everywhere so that everyone reads it. Here's the link to the story if you wanna go to that place: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/08/fashion/08love.html?_r=2&sq=modern%20love&st=cse&oref=slogin&scp=1&pagewanted=print

June 8, 2008
Modern Love
Let’s Not Get to Know Each Other Better

A FEW months ago I liked a girl — a fairly common occurrence. But being slightly ambitious and drunk, I decided to ask her out on a date.

This was a weird choice, as I’m not sure I know anyone who has ever had a real date. Most elect to hang out, hook up, or Skype long-distance relations. The idea of a date (asking in advance, spending rent money on dinner and dealing with the initial awkwardness) is far too concrete and unnecessary. As the adage goes: Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Why pay for dinner if you can sit around watching TV? If you stay at home, you hardly even need to stand up, let alone put on a nice shirt.

Despite misgivings, this particular foray felt legitimate, a coming-of-age moment straight out of a John Hughes movie. I had always wanted to go on a real date: flowers, dinner and all that. I thought that maybe in doing so I would feel more like an adult and less like a dumb little boy.

So I called this girl, feeling a little sleazy as I searched for the right words: “Hey, um, this is Joel. Do you want to, like, go out? On a date?”

“O.K.,” she said uncertainly, no doubt suspicious the whole thing was a joke.

Her positive response did nothing to calm my jitters. Give me a party, a front porch gathering, or a random encounter, and I’m comfortable talking to anyone. But this kind of formal planning unnerved me. Riding my bike home, I realized I didn’t even know what a real date was, beyond some vague Hollywood notion.

In my 21 years, I have had my share of trysts and one-night stands. I’ve been in love. I know it was love because I shamelessly clung to her. I have had my share of ups and downs but have no idea if I’m doing the whole love thing right or wrong. We don’t tend to define it that way.

In this age of cyberselves, with hookups just a Craigslist ad away, the game has evolved to the point of no rules. It’s not the ’50s where I can ask some lucky girl to wear my pin and take a ride in daddy’s car. This change probably benefits me in the end, as I’m sure an offer of a ride in my dad’s Sable would be swiftly rejected.

For my generation, friendship often morphs into a sexual encounter and then reverts to friendship the next day. And it’s easy as long as you don’t put yourself on the line or try too hard. Don’t have a prospect? Check Facebook. Afraid to call? Text.

With so many avenues for communication, one might expect an onslaught of romantic soliloquies, but that isn’t the case. Casual is sexy. Caring is creepy. You don’t want to show your hand, and you certainly don’t want to fall in love. At least until you do, and by then it’s too late.

Planned romance is viewed as nothing more than ambition, so it’s important that things be allowed to happen naturally. Sex is great, and so are some relationships, but not to the point that they should be actively pursued.

It’s hard to even flirt with a girl without feeling obvious and embarrassed, since the greatest displays of cheesiness come from the pursuit, making it disgusting: “Oh, you drive a Volvo? What’s that like?” Realizing I’m flirting, I cringe and do my best to restrain myself. An encounter is best when unsullied by intentions, leaving lust or boredom to take over.

The typical sequence goes like this: Friends meet up at some sort of bonfire or impromptu game of night volleyball. Maybe that girl from your history class is there, and you start to talk. Neither of you has expectations. But just hanging out and swapping stories, laughing a little, creates a spark and the attraction builds, eventually leading to the big wet kiss that changes everything and nothing.

This is the perfect hookup, a pressure-free surprise. With a stranger, everything is new and acceptable. Her quirks are automatically endearing. This first encounter is the perfect place, but where does it lead?

In the best case, nowhere at all. The next time you see her in class, you act the same as you did before, and so does she, except for the knowledge you share that what happened last week might happen again.

If it continues, you have an understanding, physical chemistry and great conversations. You meet two or three times a week for no-strings sex and long-winded philosophical talks.

Most importantly, you aren’t lonely. Maybe deep in the recesses of your mind you think about possibly loving this person. What’s the standard response? Nothing. If she asks, “How do you feel about me?” you answer from the heart: “I see you as an unexpected treat from the heavens. I don’t know how I deserve this.”

Your relationship is good. Your relationship is strong. But it isn’t a relationship, and that’s the key. You aren’t hoping she will become your girlfriend, and ideally she is not looking for anything more, either.

A friend of mine, a normal girl who is neither especially social nor aloof, engages in hookups unabashedly — she’s just doing what she wants and doesn’t regret or overthink it. Except for one time when she woke up in some guy’s embrace, got out of bed and noticed his bookshelf.

I’m not sure what it was about the contents that impressed or moved her; maybe the books suggested a gentle soul. All I know is what she told me: “I only felt bad after seeing his books.” The books had made him a real person, I guess, one she liked. Or pitied. Because then it was on to the next.

I might not be a typical youth, and maybe my friends aren’t typical, either, but hardly anyone I know aspires to be “that guy” or “that girl,” those once-dynamic individuals who “found someone” and suddenly weren’t so cool. On some level, we envy the scope of their feelings, but we certainly don’t want to become them.

But staying out of relationships can be just as much work as maintaining one. After hooking up with the same person several times I’m sometimes haunted by the “Relationship Status” question on Facebook, and I’ll linger over the button, wondering whether to make the leap from fun to obligation. I envision holding hands, meeting her parents and getting matching ankle tattoos.

Then I come to my senses and close the window.

Sometimes, though, it’s not up to me. I work at one of the campus libraries, and for some obscure reason my bosses, who are mostly middle-aged and female, decided to hold a Library Prom. I had to take someone, so I asked a girl, one of the truly rare fish worth catching (or being caught by).

That didn’t stop me from introducing her as “my friend.”

Which didn’t stop one of my bosses from asking, “Are you two dating?”

“Yeah,” she said.

“Um, we are?”

“Well, this is a date, isn’t it?”

She had me trapped. I nodded blankly. With one word, she had changed everything. Now I’m asked about her at work, even though she is currently hooking up with a friend of mine.

I wish I could explain this to the librarians. They’re sympathetic to my other complaints: about studying, about having my license suspended, about taking care of my pet chicken, and so on. “I was there once,” they tell me. “You’ll be fine.”

But when it comes to love, all they can say is, “How’s that girlfriend of yours?”

Maybe this disconnect has always existed. As one of my classmates, a genteel 60-year-old, said to me, “Every generation thinks they discovered sex.” Which might be true, but I’m not sure any previous generation has our plethora of options and utter lack of protocol. This may reflect how our media obsession has desensitized and hypersexualized us.

But I think it goes beyond that. Our short attention spans tend to be measured in nanoseconds. We float from room to room watching TV, surfing the Internet, playing Frisbee and finding satisfaction around every corner, if only for a moment.

Out of fear, we shrink ourselves. There have been many times I should have cried but stifled the tears. Instances where I should have said, “I love you” but made a joke instead. Once, a girl dumped me and it nearly ruined me. How bad was it? I ate nothing but Wendy’s for an entire week.

I’m fairly certain I could have saved the entire endeavor with a soul-baring soliloquy of what was true and what mattered to me, but I couldn’t muster the courage. I don’t know many who can.

We’ve grown up in an age of rampant divorce and the accompanying tumult. The idea that two people can be happy together, maturing alongside each other, seems as false as a fairy tale. So when a relationship ends, it isn’t seen as bad. It’s held as evidence that the relationship was never any good to begin with.

MAYBE it’s just that we have learned nothing can compare to the perfect moment of the unexpected hookup — wet lips on the beach, lying in the sand — and so we aim to accumulate as many as possible. Or maybe we’re simply too immature to commit. That has been the rap against guys forever, but now women think the same way. With the world (and the world of sex) at our fingertips, it’s difficult to choose, to settle, to compromise.

But I do occasionally wonder: If we can’t get past ourselves and learn to sacrifice to be with another, then what is in store? A generation of selfish go-getters fueled by nothing more than our own egos, forever seeking that rare dose of self-esteem? An era of loneliness filled with commercial wants and mate selection based on the shallowest of criteria?

As a staunch proponent of my generation, I believe that, despite what it may seem, we appreciate the ways of love and affection but are simply waiting for them to take over. We might dally in the land of easy sex and stilted text-message flirtation, but deep down we crave the warm embrace of all-consuming love.

I do, anyway. What else could have been behind my crazy idea to ask a girl out on a date? Alas, she and I ended up going to Chili’s and never went out again. Welcome to adulthood.

Joel Walkowski, a runner-up in the Modern Love College Essay Contest, is a senior at the University of Southern California.

08 June 2008

God's Sick Sense of Humor

Whoa, an unprecedented THREE blogs posts in ONE twenty four hour period! Yes, I do have better things to do, but I have to tell you about the things I already did. Or that were done to me, by fate, or perhaps the chaos theory in action.

I suppose I get exactly what's coming to me, after dating via the interweb for years. At this point, it seems that no corner in the city is safe from a run-in with an awkward first/last/only date, no restaurant, no store; it's all game now. Today at the grocery store I had my second encounter with a fellow who I ran into on Spring Street yesterday on my way home from the Housing Works outdoor book fair. His friend was barbecuing on the sidewalk; he'd rolled out a patch of astro turf and everything! I declined his offer of a veggie sausage and swam home through the murky pre-thunderstorm air. He's a nice enough guy, but there was just something...off about our interaction.

On my way home from the grocery store I scuttled quickly past a man sitting on a bench outside of the American Apparel on Houston. Thank God for my superhuman power to recognize anyone from any angle even after not seeing them for over two years, or else I wouldn't have noticed creepy depressed guy, the one who spoke only in self deprecating comments, who accosted me with his tongue in the middle of the sidewalk at around 8 pm on a weekday after meeting for coffee at, get this, the Housing Works bookstore cafe (yes, the very same), who didn't leave me alone even after I very nicely explained that the chemistry just wasn't there, who contacted me months later to tell me he bought a building in Williamsburg and needed someone to design a deck. Well, that is who I rushed past on Houston. I have a feeling this is only the beginning.


I ran into LSG again this morning; he on his way from 88, I on my way in. Over two years in the same building and I barely ever see the guy, and then twice in one week (after overhearing the sex, natch)? I sense a Tank Top Tom situation coming on again. Is it my lot in life to have some strikingly attractive but totally not my type not to mention out of my league man living in my building and taunting me with his charms at random moments, reducing me to an awkward, giggling school girl?

I've had this song in my head since I downloaded it for MemJam:

Marshmallow Fluff

On my way home from the Ear Inn tonight I decided to stop by Rosarios for a posh mushroom slice. I was quite famished after a long night of mingling and imbibing on a merely quarter full tummy. I was basically ravenous when I started the long trek from Spring and Greenwich and mentally drooled over the thought of Rosarios' mushroom pizza the whole way there. It was prime pizza time by the time I hobbled in around 3:30 am and of course the mushroom pie tray was empty as could be. I asked anyway, hoping against all hope, but it was a no go. I went with the spinach ricotta slice instead. The one with big dollops of fluffy ricotta on top. It was crowded at Rosarios so I decided to munch a bit as I walked home with pizza in hand. As I walked down Orchard toward Rivington, I spotted a girl who autmoatically made me think "prostitute". As in, what's a prostitute like that doing on Orchard Street right now? There was just something so Pretty Woman style prostitute about her look, what she wore, how she walked, all in an unironic way, that I couldn't help but think street walker. As I approached and passed her she took note of me was well. "Wha? Oh it's pizza." I sort of half smiled in acknowledgment, though with my face buried in a slice she probably didn't notice. When I was a few feet past her, and just a moment after she'd realized what I was nibbling on, she called out "I thought it was marshmallows", with the last syllable ascending, as if to imply, duh, it looked like marshmallows. And to be fair, it probably kind of did.

06 June 2008

Buttercream Dreams (or rather, nightmares)

Tonight I made my first buttercream ever. The real kind, made with real butter. I'm kind of a big deal, in the kitchen, so when I offered to make it for my boss' birthday cake I was thinking "No sweat!". But oh, the sweat! Mostly the sweating was done when I had added half the butter to the egg/sugar water mix and it was looking, shall we say, less than firm, and more on the curdled side. With one hand on the mixer (plop a couple butter cubes), willing it to fluff as hard as I could, I texted my cohort the cake maker (plop a couple of butter cubes) to warn her of potential disaster. As the butter continued to look like it had melted and separated from the rest of the mix (plop a couple of butter cubes), I scrambled to look for another recipe online and racked my brain for ways to fix the mess in my mixing bowl. My savior, I believe, came in the form of frozen fruit. I set the bowl on top of a bag of blueberries and a bag of mixed berries to appropriately chill, and therefore, solidify, the butter part (i.e. the namesake of) the buttercream. Ta-da! Either it just takes that long for to solidify and is supposed to look like death halfway through, or my smoothie obsession really did come to the rescue.

But that's not really my point. My point is: nightmares. Throughout the buttercreaming process, I found myself tasting the egg (raw, three of them), sugar, and butter mixture. Delicious! But my poor little tummy. Ow.

05 June 2008

Ain't Nobody Humpin' Around

I live on the Lower East Side in what was formerly (or some might argue, currently) a tenement building. The apartments are small, the walls thin, the doors thinner, and the hallways echoey. I've been lucky, on the top floor, to have no one above me, a relatively quiet dude next to me (except for a couple of late night loud music moments which I assumed were to cover up the sexers), and a very quiet and way too large for the size of the apartment Chinese family below me. A couple of times I've heard the sound of "relations" emanating from the apartment of a girl on my floor. Nothing terribly scandalous, but pretty obvious panting.

There's a guy that lives on the first floor, though, that might drive me to murder if my apartment was anywhere near his. One night quite a while back, as I was leaving to go out for the night around 11 or 12, he was playing crazy loud music, and I mean crazy loud. It would be hard to imagine your ears not being damaged if you were inside of the apartment listening at that level. When I came home around 4 am, a couple of police officers followed me into the building. "Uh, hi guys...". They were there about a noise complaint. As far as I know it hasn't been quite so offensively loud since then, though there's definitely some partying going on in there still.

A few nights ago I was coming home around 11, and I could almost hear it from the street level. It was porn level noises; I had to stop and listen for a moment. I thought man, someone's having some FUN in there. The girl on my floor wasn't similarly engaged that night when I passed her apartment.

Today when I got home from work, I saw a nice looking man on his cell phone rushing to my front door as I was unlocking it, beckoning me to hold the door; I sort of recognized him so I didn't blow him off as I did Tank Top Tom from apartment 1 just last summer. He finished his phone conversation while I checked my mail. He asked to see my tattoo and I showed him. We chatted walking up the stairs: about how long we've been in the building, about the many large families in the tiny apartments, about which apartment each of us occupied. It was him. He of the loud music/porn sex noise. As soon as he told me his apartment number, eye contact was out of the question. We shook hands, exchanged names; I was so distracted I've already forgotten his. I will just have to call him Loud Sex Guy (for now)