Friday, September 26, 2003

Liz Phair 09. 25.03

Happy birthday Ellen H., Leah W.

I am very happy for Liz Phair and my happiness means nothing to her, of course. But I was listening to some of the songs from her latest effort, Liz Phair. And it makes me think about how long I have been seriously listening to music, and how cool it was to listen to Exile in Guyville back in the day. And of course how I told everyone what I would do when I met Liz Phair. In fantasy there would be a lot of sex and falling off the bed. In reality it would have been much more like Paul Barman said, expect bad sex and slapstick.

That was high school. Ms. Phair’s first album was widely owned and traded around the school. And yet I remember that feeling that this album, the way she told specific stories, the way she knew it was fuck and run even when she was 12, told a lesser publicized story about how boys and girls were living. It wasn’t any different than any other generation’s “artist with salacious tale.” But this was our story. And Ms. Liz Phair was subtle in voice yet stark + direct with words.

Of course I remember hearing that she wasn’t making bank. And for the effort on the first and the second album?

So she mainstreamed the sound and she’s come to this Liz Phair album to make cheddar. It’s fine, poppy. I love pop music. It has all the necessary quirks for the radio, you can sing along with it, she’s a little dirtier than average, we can relate to being breathless and wanting to get some.

In the same way I relate to Sheryl Crow and Faith Hill and such. I understand, I can put myself in that place, but the specifics are for me to create from generalities. I, You, Love, Baby, All Night. Fill in your details. We can rock out to the anthems all together. She can throw in a couple of pop culture mentions to make the song slightly different from Jewel’s offering and to tie it to our lives—thank you for the X-Box playing boyfriend character, Ms. Phair, I love video games!

But without those bitter stories that make us sit in diners and in hallways and on subways asking, “did you hear what happened to her?” and “I wonder if she’s creepy to be around in person?” there is nothing different between Liz and the rest of the semi-sassy women on the radio dial. She can't fault me for being cheesy and reminiscing. I can’t fault her for changing her sound, or for not mining more traumatizing relationship memories. One can only do that for so long or turn into Johnny Cash, may he rest in peace.

Monday, September 22, 2003

It Won't Be Long 09.22.03

***Saturday Night***

I bid my goodbyes to Pixel and the newly-arrived Kat, pissed at myself that I tarried too long. I knew I had to go home! I know the LIRR only comes at 1.04 and at 2.55! I knew I had no place to go!

Pissed but happy. Their waiter—I’d say “our” but I didn’t order anything—was loving his day, spewing sarcasm all over the ladies like Lexington Steele spews… other substances…

Diversion. The waiter was quick with the comebacks, the overworked attitude, the suggestions, the cracks, which was perfect for Kat + Pixel, but I got so caught up in playing that I was, well, at the point the first paragraph started us with here. Pissed at myself at tarrying.

I took off. In a very Prefontaine manner. I got the speed up—after all, I only had twenty minutes to make it from 7th and Avenue A to 34th and 7th Avenue—and I ain’t taking a cab. Because I could do better. I could make it. And if I did not it is my fault anyway.

The feet are moving one, two, one, two, I have a good rhythm. The streets, empty until almost 2nd Avenue, start to become clogged. Couples are in the way, Trash bags, dog-walkers, threesomes of women. I run like a football player, looking for my holes. Slow. Studder step. Get low. Burst. Stride long. Short steps. Slide steps. Burst. Blinking red = sprint, on toes, power from the thighs, sprint high, pump arms.

Until I reach the N/R a.k.a. the Never Rarely train. There is also the W that runs local sometimes, but that does not fit neatly into the “never rarely” mythmaking; because the N/R is always true to form. Never there. Rarely comes when you need it. Even and especially during rush hour. The train line is like a practical joke.

I sprint down the stairs in two-by-twos, hoping a train will be pulling in, softly coming to a stop, so I can swipe the mighty Metrocard and take a swift ride to commuter rail.

Of course there’s no train there. Were you really thinking that there would be a train? I mean, I led you this point with Never and Rarely. It wouldn’t hold to form if a train actually came. Sigh.

I am covered in sweat. I lean against the painted black metal grate, catch my breath. A young couple tries to explain that they used their Metrocard at a nearby station and it was not accepted; the token booth clerk has little pity and the couple, kids, really, become all constipated about it. They try to relate to him, they try to browbeat him. He lets them in anyway (was it a pay-per ride? Their argument made no sense to me) and they don’t even say thank you. I have been watching this exchange…

…For five minutes. Time is critical. I need some commuter rail. I promised myself that if I didn’t see a train in five minutes I would go topside and see if I couldn’t find the cabbie willing to pick me up, even though I am on an uptown street and similarly hued as Danny Glover .

But, what if a train is just on the underground horizon? Lighting its way from two stops down, not yet heralded by bright lights or the clarion horn that splits our rush hour ears? It is decided. I will check first since I am f**ked anyway.

The platform is packed. I hear a beep right behind me. More people entering the station. With this many people, a train is bound to come, right? The MTA knows our needs, that’s why they charge us 2 bones. For service!

I take a stroll down the platform and I admit to engaging in my favorite pastime, “birdwatching.” There is no train, and I one can see to the Prince Street station from the back of 8th Street, maybe a little further, before the tracks recede into a maw, lit by yellow dots of light. There is no hope coming.

The rest of the people feel it. They find spots near the two exits and use their cellular phones, playing with their pleated skirts. They lay on the ground in their faded jeans and scruffy faux-hawk hair. They lean into their significant others who adjust the buttons on the three button polos which prove a little thin for the evening.

This platform one is very clean… looking. As such, two women and two men are in various states of bored, one woman sitting on the platform, one man leaning over her and keeping her occupied, the other pair by the wall, looking at their counterparts next to them.

The leaning over man is obviously frustrated. He paces back and forth and is making cracks, not audible from my distance but evident in his language.

He starts with almost a wail. “Lean on me!”

Then I realize he sang “N-R train.” (These are all approximations—I didn’t transcribe the lyrics. For the real Bill Withers lyrics hit this) Followed by more chorus:

where have you gone.
I need a train.
I need to gooooo home.
please don’t be long,
cause I need a train,
a train to carry me home.

You, could be a N,
Could be an R,
Maybe a W,
no train is wrong,
I need a train,
a train to take me home!

By now, people are giggling, putting down their cellular phones, smiling, singing along, clapping! The underground is alive with reverberating claps! Almost in sync, that sound bouncing off the walls and waking up the drunk and jaded and blue-balled! He went back to:

N-R train
where have you gone.
I need a train.
I need to gooooo home.
N, R,
please don’t be long,
cause I need a train,
a train to carry me home.

Then he got into it:

Just call on me brother,
I need a train
We all need a train to take us home
I just might have a problem,
I got to go home
We all need a train to lean on—

And I could see the lights illuminating from Prince Street, coming on strong, and the rising gust of wind, and the feel of the subway running, and the sound of the wheels and tracks racketing, and a mighty cheer exploded from the waiting passengers, cheers and claps and laughter.

If a rain song brings rain then a train song should bring train, correct, by the same naming conventions? Our very own train song, then, for:

the boys in the jeans with the i-pods and tattoos, for the overdramatic kids discussing being high and whether the boy with the poems knows her mom well enough to sleep over, for the bachelorette in the pink feather boa and her helpmeets in flowered tops and knee-length skirts. All finally, going home.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Buckle the Swash! 09.19.03

It's official talk like a pirate day, if you didn't know.
Tongues 09.19.03

I woke in the middle of the night, before the rain, to find my teeth on my outstretched tongue. I was confused. Mostly because I was mostly asleep. But there was my tongue. And I could not remember how to put it back in my mouth, or how to raise my jaws. Kind of creepy. I thought out the steps. Lift jaw. No, not that way. Yes, there you go. Bring tongue back in. Does it roll back like tarp? Will it just shrink? It took me a few moments to think that one through.

Finally, tongue back in the mouth. Now, jaw-- go down, down, there you go.

Never happened to me before... I went to wash my face, get my bearings.

Does this happen to anyone else? Or did I just post my freak flag?

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

County Blues 09.17.03

On my way to the OC I was pissed off. Perhaps, if you can imagine such a thing, I was not in the mood for the OC a/k/a televised candy.

This was the afternoon that provided examples of why it is so easy to assume people are a certain way; in this case, selfish, unrealistic, retarded. Featured was the flagrant disrespect of mothers, an uncalled for shove, more of them damned kids speeding by on scooters, and the hood rich cat behind me who talked into the earpiece attachment of his cell phone:

*I was just thinking of you, Tonisha, I was gonna call you. Yeah. Like two days ago.


*I’m writing a song. You want to sing on it? I need you.

All in a deep rich baritone. All very seriously. But not smooth, no, more earnest. As if he was looking for a record deal, along with a taste of Tonisha. Which got me thinking. About people with schemes, in their late 30’s as this man appeared to be. People plotting out their big break when their time is passing. When they need to think about more realistic pursuits.

But, what are we if and when we stop dreaming? When we stop aspiring? And how MTV-cheesy is that statement? But it has validity, weight, relevance. We are only as hopeful as our next goal. Are dreams the province of youth, only?

My internal commentary about this man… he has a right to want to do something. I can’t look down on him because I think he sounds silly. But I also worry: that could be my life. That could be my sibling.

That could be my end. I could be flypaper’d where I stand, talking about oh, oh, I got a plan! Oh, oh, you know what I’m gonna do once I get the money for it? Oh, oh, I got a bad business idea. Oh, oh, I’m gonna do this crazy thing once I get up off of dropping this bomb up in le salle de bains.

This is why it is bad to have too much time to think, kids. On the subway, I was attempting to eat a Subway sandwich. I don’t like to be that person who’s eating on the subway. Sometimes it gets a little messy. Sometimes, there is a smell. It’s not the most considerate thing to do. My sandwich is the slippery slope to fast food, which smells bad enough if you don’t want to be near it. But then that leads to fish. Ox tail. Jerk chicken. You don’t want that up in your train car. Even if you like to eat it… you understand.

I’m settling in, taking a few quick bites with the plastic Subway bag on my lap, waiting for the train to move. I look over at people, both because I like describe people’s facial features (it’s good practice) and I wanted to see if any one was giving me the “you’re eating on the train” screwface.

One small girl of about 4 or 5 was giving me a face. Actually she was chewing. In rhythm with me. I stopped chewing. She stopped chewing. This girl was curled into the grey seat, her toes tapping her mother’s knee, she taking up approximately the space of her mother’s thighs and tummy. Not to say her mother was large, but this girl was so tiny. And bright-eyed, and cornrowed in parallel zigzags. She was kinda dark, and her cornrows were fraying a touch.

But I think she was mocking me. I started chewing again. She did a dead on, up and down, exaggerated chew, ending with her cheeks stuffed, starting with her face long. I stopped for a second hoping she would simply quit, but I know kids. I was like a game now. This time she looked up when I looked back at her, but when I would chew, she’d be right back at it. I’d look at her, she’d look up.

I opened my eyes wide to say “well? Are you done yet?”

Of course she imitated me some more. Opening her eyes wide. Then following as I closed my mouth and squinted to say “yeah, very funny.” The guy next to me busted out laughing, so did I. She had me. I stopped eating.

This girl also was talking to her mother, all smiles. The I believe she wanted something, screwed up her face and in the space of a minutes, generated real-looking tears. Her mother smiled through it and then asked her a question quietly.

“I crying,” the girl said, unable to hold the proud smile. “I crying. Sad.”

She brightened the ride.

The OC night devolved into a rain of bad jokes and voices as Pixel revealed her latest pun. Silver was filth, Stephanie was almost offended and we fear that we’ve scared off Karen.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Two Tickets 09.16.03

Last night, 9 pm Eastern time, I finished my trek from the evening’s classes to Dave’s Paradise Hotel party. I didn’t think it would be a “party” like that, but then… I forgot that Dave loves his newfound fame.

And how could he not? From the beginning he was getting airtime on the show. He’s is the center of the program really, and the whole crew whooped it up. There were 20-25 people in this apartment, centered around the couch. I have to say, these television parties-- not a bad idea. I admit it, I noticed how it was mostly ladies up in there and who can dissent to that? A-Lice and J-Cap were in the house, as were the old HS friends Rich, Pool Party Steve, Kevin; and kids popped out of the woodwork to watch this.

The table was half filled with beer and half filled with pictures from the wrap party, screen shots of Dave and Charla, and Paradise Hotel stationery. The show itself was good for once; tension building as the players try to figure out what the twist is as they mark who their allies and rivals are. The show displayed Dave guessing at what each participant will choose as a rival, and as an ally. He gets most of them right, playing up the intelligence factor…

A-Lice guessed the people who would be voted off the show and won some hot Hotel memorabilia, a t-shirt and the shirt Dave wore on the show—a white t, with Happy B-Day Tara in red marker on the front. Hottt!

It was raining outside, cats and dogs and horses, but inside, we were getting back in touch, laughing at how ridiculous Amy is, was, and will continue to be on the show, and cheering Dave on. Marla, Nicky Marie, I forgot to pass on how much you and your friends dig him, but I’m sure he knows. Write him an email! Check the message boards! hey... and he might even be in your town very soon.

And if you want to join the OC party tonight... let me know.

Monday, September 15, 2003

From the EUR:

*We've always kind of wondered how R. Kelly
views himself in light of being indicted on child
pronorgraphy charges. Well, it turns out that
Mr. Kelly thinks he's another version of Osama
Bin Laden.
"People can say whatever they want about
you without knowing the facts," Kelly tells Blender
magazine in its October issue. "They can criticize
you without even knowing you, and hate you when
they don't even know you. All of a sudden, you're,
like, the bin Laden of America. Osama bin Laden
is the only one who knows exactly what I'm going
C'mon Rob. Osama Bin Laden? Last time
we looked, the Taliban leader didn't have a hit
CD and sold-out tours going for him either.
Speaking of CDs, Kelly's kept himself busy
in the recording studio for the past six months,
and says song ideas come to him in the kitchen,
on the basketball court, everywhere.
"I love music, and music loves me back. We're
kind of married, and I'm pregnant by music," the
36-year-old told the magazine. "I have three to four
years' worth of work you've never heard in the
vaults. I've come up with at least 20 to 25
From the New Yorker... 09.15.03

from the New Yorker, read here for the full article, it is very good.

Goals as morally grand as defeating terrorism and ending tyranny make any objection to the program for reasons of logic or practicality look puny, niggling, and cynical. The President’s rhetoric divides the world into those who have passion and courage and those who believe in nothing except a self-defeating caution. The willingness to make the gesture overwhelms whatever difficulties there are on the ground. This is not just a habit of thought that Bush conveniently seized upon after the war. The understaffing of the reconstruction and the lack of post-combat planning wasn’t the result merely of Donald Rumsfeld’s bullheadedness. It stemmed from the President’s soaring conviction that courageous intentions must inevitably produce pleasing results.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

No Makeup, Saturday Morning 09.13.03

I awoke in the dark, too tired to actually go up to school and find the articles I promised myself I would this morning. I also woke up next to Selvadurai. That is NOT the optimal outcome of a Friday night. At least he didn’t violate me.

I crashed at Selvadurai’s after an evening featuring the return of Dave from Paradise Hotel. He won’t tell us who won, or any juicy upcoming nuggets. There are four shows left, after all. And good for him, good for him; I don't need to know everything about the show. But he gave us some behind the scenes insights, as we discussed our "relationships" with the characters we'd seen, the characters who pissed us off as they verbally assaulted Dave. The idea that they did other things besides complain about each other (creating personal relationships, playing tennis... listening to non-copyrighted music as they "partied"). The idea of being isolated from friends and family with no contact, no letters, no telephone, no carrier pigeon.

J-Cap + A-Lice and myself were up in his Gran-mama’s apt, drinking with his friend Andy Kaufman, watching Dave bask in the glow of his newfound semi-fame. We were around Washington Square Park, the sky clouding up outside, on hard-backed chairs as Dave reclined in a loveseat with a Red Stripe in hand. Dave answered questions, waved his hands, laughed a lot. Jenna smiled, Alice leaned in with interest. He talked to us about a talk show pitch, about how everyone in the cast of course wants to greet the sun-kissed City of Angels like so many before them have—with dreams of acting stardom.

His other friends came. Now, A-Lice is obsessed with reality television, watches it all. These two women had specific questions on their Clie. They could describe the rooms from what they saw on television. They watched before Dave got on the show. And this, my friends, is why I steer clear of the Upper East Side.

Good luck on your Arizonan endeavors, Mr. Crushman. Don't take a drunken slumpen fall like that bald pallid man last night at the bar's brick wall. Welcome back, New Top. Hello, New Top’s blogging friends such as Electric Honey. I was tired and standoffish last night, ached in the lower back, and in the mood to sleep in my bed, so I was less gracious than I meant to be.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I Think... 09.10.03

You want to be a part of the next OC night. Wherein we watch the OC on Fox. And Nip/ Tuck. This is what all the cool kids are doing, not going out and "meeting people" or "drinking" or "making sex."

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Ru’ Baby! 09.09.03

Anonymous sources inform me that Ja Rule was confronted by one of his haters recently near the set of a movie shoot. This hater, not more 12 years old, accosted Mr. Rule outside of a school with a boom box playing one of the many available Ja Rule dis tracks—let’s go with Eminem/ 50 Cent/ Busta RhymesHail Mary” as an example. Mr. Rule became furious, grabbed the boom box and smashed it on the ground.

Post-script: Ja Rule was ordered by the producers to buy the boy a new boom box and a new cassette containing the track.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Overheard on the Dollar Van 09.08.03

The scene:

Our hero Darnell is a male of African descent (whether he be/ considers himself African-American, Black, Afro-Ameri, Caribbean-American, et cetera, I cannot speculate on), about 18 years of age, an almost stocky or husky build. Not one to be called fat, he stands at approximately five feet ten inches. He dresses in popular “street” gear circa 2002—red jacket covering a replica basketball jersey, sweatpants, du-rag and red cap as garnish.

With him are two ladies of the African diaspora, both sizable in nature. One (whom we shall refer to as “1”) wears denim jeans, tightly fitted to contours like the plastic that holds a wall clock together. These contours are especially noticeable and healthy at the midsection + hip. She accompanies these with a denim blouse, which opens three buttons downward. Her hair is extended in plaits and reaches up and out like a mane covered in grease.

Two, heretofore known as “2,” wears a striped shirt, short on the belly and tight on the chest. Here, the denim jeans are as tight but curve at softer angles. Her hair is braided close to her head, her skin is paler than the other two. Judging by her teeth, bulging eyes, and muffled speech, this observer would not be surprised if she were kin to Raekwon the Chef of Crack Rock.

They discuss clothes, the homosexual population of Springfield High School, and how they are too old for sneakers at age 18 on a dollar van, typical for the area; the van is 13 people thick, a collection of folks from the Southeast Queens area ranging from (guessed) ages of 12 to 55. Traffic is moderate. The time is mid afternoon.

Darnell begins his story by talking of a friend’s cousin. He has known her briefly. She is looking for a new job because she dislikes her position at Rite Aid, and she also desires male companionship for a somewhat long-term period. Darnell’s brother is a male who is suitable for companionship. He informs her of a job opportunity with said brother. Which pays $800 every three days. But the job is only at night. In the South Bronx. To which she says,

Darnell: “when can I start?” And I’m like, I don’t know, it’s my brother’s deal. Let me get in contact with him. So I get in contact with him, call him on the cell, you know, and he’s there and she’s there so I’m like talking to him. And I’m like, she wants to work for you, and he’s like on the phone, all right all right. She got some references? And I’m like, I’m calling on her behalf, and I’m her reference. He’s like can I speak to her.
2: He’s up in the Bronx?
D: Nah, hold on, hold on, let me get to it. So he’s talking to her and he’s like you work at Rite Aid and she’s like yeah, and he ask her have you had any trouble at your job and she’s like, oh, you know, I got in trouble once because I was late.
He’s like, no, no, we don’t tolerate that around here, and she’s like, no, no, I’m a hard worker, I want to do this job, when can I start? So he’s like I need to meet you first, when can you come up? She’s like, I got night school and all. He’s like, when you get out of school, and she’s like I got class at 5. So he’s says to me, bring her up.
2: Up to the Bronx.

This observer failed to get enough notes on this part to provide actual dialogue. But the woman goes to the Bronx with Darnell, very late at night. They see a man pull into a parking space, where the woman declares “that n***a’s cute.” She is pleasantly surprised to find that the person is Darnell’s brother whom she is slated to meet. There are four people in this imagined apartment; one can imagine a small couch, a dark pallor over the place. There is another woman named Ebbie in the apartment along with Darnell, his brother, and the unidentified female. We continue.

D: So I was like, didn’t you say you thought my brother was cute? And she’s like, come on, Darnell, why you blowing up my spot? But my brother, you know, he’s kissing on her neck and Ebbie’s passed out on the couch by now.
1: You ain’t mess with her?
D: Ebbie? Nah, nah, I already messed with her and she’s like (sound indicating dissent, or flatulence), so nah. But she on the couch, snoring like a gorilla. My brother comes out and he’s like, I think you should see this.
I go in and she’s like buck naked, up on the bed.
1: No!
2: Come on.
D: Yeah. (coyly) So we trained her.
1: Trained her?
D: Yeah, trained her.
2: More like ran a train on her.
1: Oh, that’s hood. That’s nasty.
D: Nah, you know. It’s not my fault if she’s gullible.
2: You ain’t mess with Ebbie?
D: Nah, Ebbie’s like (indicating a size too rotund for his liking).
2: Nah, she slim down. She a size 3, 4, 5, 6.
D: She might look a size 3—she’s no size 3. She’s like, you take her clothes off and all of that fat—it’s like skin all over the place. She got stretch marks too.
1: I got stretch marks.
D: Yeah, but she... but one time, I got with Ebbie, and we were like on a table and there's this piano there and she's coming and coming all over the place, but I'm not coming, I'm like working but she's come like twice now. So I'm doing my thing and working hard and she comes again and her arm and her head jerk back and she bangs her head into the piano and her arm goes limp--
2: Nice conversation we having on the dollar van.
D: Come on, everybody grown here.

Friday, September 05, 2003

And When I’m Done With Your Wife I Go Straight to Church 09.05.03

I discovered a great many things today. Walking is a direct cause of sweat. With some prodding, one-hour photo can become 2-ish hour photo, which is an improvement. Linen should be dried carefully and not with the rest of one’s rags.

Also, while walking past the worst pick-up games I have ever seen (son, don’t try a crossover dribble if you can’t do a basic dribble), and wondering what these blame-fool kids were doing, still on the street with their scooters and their giggles, I realized I had been hearing non-stop Eminem.

Still. Didn’t 8 Mile come out last year or something? Still cars are yelling at me to lose myself in the moment. And filling kids’ heads with hope. That g*ddamned Eminem! It is very difficult to pry the youth from MTV dreams of musical success, childish excess, and flashy flagrance as it is. And this cat is spouting this “hard work will bring you success” line which is great and edifying in the real world but not in the completely flipside planet called the music business. That planet’s next to Mxyzptlk’s planet, Kltpzyxm.

In a sense, I am wrong. Reaching is beautiful. Safety nets are good too, kids. Get them in the next aisle.

Then I think of 50 Cent—or Fitty Fat as we like to call him when he comes out of his cave for Easter dinner. He, at least, has the courtesy to go to tried and true standbys. After all he has been doing this for a long time. Did you hear the verse on Kobe Bryant’s album? Do you know Kobe Bryant dropped an album in 2000? Or that Chris Webber did the same? Or that Jason Kidd was one of B-Ball’s Best Kept Secrets?

Just checking.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

The Admonisher 09.04.03

The library is the one you know, both a tourist spot and a grad student stop, ceilings the height of 5, 6, 7 people. With rain outside. I can check the weather by looking up into the ephermal grey. Like a stocking tossed carelessly by a goddess over the world. Stretched taut in some places and letting light through the thin. Thicker in some places, bunched up or with some sort of sediment or dried... I do not wish to speculate.

But the rain can be seen against the close corner of the building as I look up and right, phantom impressions of drops, that let me know it is still slick outside. The lamps to my right and left wave heat upwards if you can patiently watch the patterns.

And damn, that was approaching some maudlin s**t. I need lunch.