Reality check

I was working on a cheery best moments of 2013 post that I started last night, but I guess I never feel so motivated to write anything as when it emotionally affects me seriously.

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Today I learned that one of my long-time very favorite musical artists, Conor Oberst, has been accused of raping a teenage fan when he was in his 20s a decade ago; he has publicly denied the allegations.

I was shocked to see this news, then sickened and saddened.

Immediately, everyone seemed to be picking sides. That seems pointless to me; no one other than the alleged victim and Conor know the truth. Either way, his career as a musician is tarnished. And most likely — because OK, I’m prone to believe her accusations — some poor girl has suffered the worst possible violation of her dignity as a human being short of having her life taken from her.

I have never idolized Conor Oberst in a role model sense. He has clearly suffered from both alcoholism and drug addictions, as well as what seems to be clinical depression. Sadly, at the height of his musical career — what I would peg around 2005 with the double-release of I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn — he was quite a mess on stage. The guy clearly needed professional help, and no one was offering it because all of us deluded young fans thought it was “inspiring” or whatever you want to call it to see someone “suffer for their art.”

What I’m saying is that the notion of this guy being capable of rape, especially involving an infatuated 16-year-old fan, does not seem like any kind of impossibility to me.

But it is not fun having to re-imagine one of your musical idols as a monster. All across the Internet (well, OK, the strange indie-fueled hurricane that is tumblr), I keep seeing other 20-somethings sharing similar sentiments.

conorIt sounds soooo cheesy to write down, but Bright Eyes (Conor Oberst’s primary musical project) has been a huge part of life. Loving Bright Eyes in high school shaped my musical taste into what it is today: a fierce devotion to independent labels and artists, with a special soft spot for the folksy alt-country/singer-songwriter revival scene. And the boy’s a poetic genius; I still contend that. I mean, come on, “We must blend into the choir, sing as static with the whole/We must memorize nine numbers and deny we have a soul/And in this endless race for property and privilege to be won, we must run, we must run, we must run”? I think that’s pretty clever.

I discovered Bright Eyes when I was 15, and truthfully, I’d never stopped listening to the albums. My friends and I wrote Bright Eyes lyrics on our school binders, listened to the latest singles on MySpace (MySpace!), and I even cut out a couple photos of Conor from a music magazine as part of a collage on a storage container. That I still have and use!

I have treasured every handwritten “thank you” I’ve received from Saddle Creek Records, the Omaha-based label Conor co-founded, in response to an online order. Bright Eyes songs found their way onto many a mix CD I gave to Sean when we first started dating; we contemplated “First Day of My Life” as our first dance for the wedding. A framed Bright Eyes at Radio City Music Hall poster features prominently in our living room. We must own five of the Bright Eyes album in MP3, CD, and vinyl format…and the whole catalog digitally, at least.

Bright Eyes was the quintessential mopey teenager music: hyper-emotional, hyper-sensitive, and dramatically real compared to the autotuned stuff you heard on the Top 40 radio station. Conor was again and again hyped as a “modern-day Bob Dylan”; I didn’t even know what lavish praise that was, or who Bob Dylan was really, I just knew Conor’s lyrics spoke to me in a way no music has communicated to me previously — about figuring out your own identity, wrestling with the troubling idea of the divine, the delicate balance between loneliness and self-imposed isolation. I did a lot of growing up listening to those albums. They were my companion on cross-country road trips from my hometown to college, during final exam cram sessions, and many a lazy summer afternoon.

And of course, Conor was at my first concert: Monster of Folk, an indie supergroup, at Stubb’s BBQ in Austin. And I saw Monsters of Folk again and later, for my birthday, Bright Eyes … on what was rumored to be their final tour, no less. I have a whole post of Bright Eyes-loving here. I had songs picked out that I would have to share with my future children one day and say nostalgic things like, “This is the song I listened to on repeat on the bus one snowy morning our first winter in New York that made think…” Short of having my favorite lyrics permanently etched into my skin, it’s hard to separate my life from those albums.

Maybe I care too much about music, but I feel betrayed, in some way.

I don’t think that having such allegations surface means that impact the music had on me and so many others is negated. But it is very difficult for me to separate the man fully from the music. The primary reason I was drawn to Bright Eyes is how deeply personal the songs sounded: you could hear Conor’s sighs and emotionally wavering voice (god, he had the sensitive heartbroken thing down).

I think the hardest thing about this whole ordeal for me has been realizing that as cynical as I am about our celebrity-obsessed culture and idol worship, I seem to have fallen a bit for it myself. I fear turning into a crazed, defensive fan, Michael Jackson fandom-style, rejoicing as he exits the courthouse following the “not-guilty” verdict. Apparently my weakness is not the beautiful faces that grace magazine covers, but rather, the comfortingly familiar voice coming through the headphones.

Anyhow, as a logical person and a woman, I think it’s absurd to automatically dismiss the allegations and disgusting to place the blame on a victim or brush it off as a mere cry for attention. I mean, really? Who blames a little-known singer-songwriter who is admittedly past the prime of his “popularity” (in quotes, because I know he only picked up in certain circles) for a crime that allegedly happened a decade ago…for the sake of ATTENTION? Doesn’t it seem much more plausible that a 23-year-old soaking up praise from music critics and listeners alike, visibly struggling with a number of addictions and mental illness, just might unacceptably cross a line?

You see, that’s the trouble.

Maybe I don’t like Conor Oberst so much at all. I mean, if this is all true.

But it is so hard to end a 10-year relationship.

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Not a holiday movie: 12 Years A Slave

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This past weekend, Sean and I went out to see a movie. No, not one of those cutesy, uplifting family-friendly holiday features that are so popular this time of year. Far from it. We went to see 12 Years A Slave.

My God.

This is a film that you can’t really recommend to people because it’s basically asking people you like and appreciate to feel like they are getting kicked in the stomach for two hours straight.

But it is a very important movie that needed to be made. And more importantly, to be seen.

12 Years A Slave is the true story of Solomon Northrup, an antebellum African-American man who was born free and lived as a professional musician with his wife and two children in Saratoga, New York, and then was deceived into a false business proposition that led him to Washington, D.C., where he was then kidnapped and sold into slavery in southern Louisiana. He eventually is freed again and recorded his 12-year nightmare in a published book, thereafter dedicating himself to the abolitionist cause.

This movie is very, very, very, very hard to watch. There are graphic scenes of brutal whippings and beatings, utter dehumanization. It’s the kind of movie people walk out on midway through, and for those who make it to the end, they’re left emotionally vacant, silent, and…transformed.

The film’s choices are deliberately uncomfortable. I started squirming in my seat during one lengthy shot near the beginning of the film, when a character is nearly lynched and is straddling the line between life and death as he dangles among the Spanish moss from a tree, his toes barely supporting him on the boggy mud below. This shot stretched on for what must have been the longest three minutes of my life.

This movie is also very beautiful: featuring haunting panoramics of the Louisiana bayou country, the soundtrack of cicadas throughout. There is something perfectly chilling about the overlay of misquoted Scripture and African spiritual songs. And I’ll be shocked if Michael Fassbender doesn’t get an Oscar for his performance as the sadistic, abusive plantation owner Epps.  I thought Gravity was an incredible cinematic experience (it totally affirmed the existence of 3-D movies, in my opinion), but seriously…give this movie all of the Oscars.

I CRIED ALL OF THE TEARS AT THE END. ALL OF THEM. I heard the collective sobbings of women (and probably men, too) all around me in the theater.

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The fact that this movie follows a free man who must suffer the psychological, as well as physical, brutalities of slavery makes it not just a “black movie,” but a “human movie.” Although admittedly Sean and I had a collective feeling of self-loathing and horror upon boarding the train after, and finding ourselves in an extremely small white minority. White Man’s Guilt. It’s a thing.

Holocaust movies we can stomach despite their very real atrocities because that was them over there, not us over here. Slavery in the South? Well.

(Don’t even get me started on White Southerner Guilt. This is probably what fueled all of Faulkner’s Southern Gothic novel-writing.)

I read Gone With the Wind this summer and didn’t care for it as much as I felt like I was supposed to. This movie and story certainly throws that whole “Mammy” myth into the garbage. Solomon could have been any of those anonymous black, and falsely merry, slaves in the opening credits to Scarlett O’Hara’s story. And that’s the thing: this is one story among many untold stories.

This is the kind of movie that they should be showing in high school history class. But the parents would never allow it.

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Favorite nonfiction reads of 2013

I’ve read 46 books so far this year, toward my goal of 50. I’ve been challenging myself to read longer books, classics, and especially nonfiction this year, so although I don’t think I’ll reach the same book total as last year (52), I have read more pages in less time! This year I participated in two book clubs: the mail-based one with college friends and a neighborhood book and pub club, which have both motivated me to delve into titles I might not otherwise choose on my own.

My main reading goal this year was to read 20 nonfiction books, and I’ve read 18 so far! I haven’t been a big nonfiction reader since high school and college required textbooks made nonfiction seem dull and tedious, although I have remained quite the news junkie and a devoted subscriber to various newspapers and magazines. Not to mention that my entire career revolves around nonfiction!

This year I discovered some truly great nonfiction reads: gripping, moving, inspiring, well-written stories that resonate all the more because they are true. I’ve learned about things I would have never imagined: the astronaut selection process, the intricacies of mountaineering, the social strata of Mumbai slums, the symbolism of street art, the security levels in mental hospital wards. I got a lot of suggestions from the book The New New Journalism, which is an anthology of interviews with contemporary non-fiction writers about their research and writing processes. Highly recommended for writers and readers alike.

Here are my five favorites from this year:

1. Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in The Bronx by Adrian LeBlanc

510TA2HMBJLWow. I cannot say enough good things about this incredible family saga. This is the kind of book that sinks into your skin and stays with you for a very long time after. Random Family is the sprawling tale of three generations of a Puerto Rican family and their intertwining stories as they navigate all of life’s triumphs and obstacles in the South Bronx, one of the nation’s most notoriously rough urban neighborhoods. This book reveals a hidden world of gang culture, state prisons, drug rings and addictions, the welfare and food stamp system, teen pregnancy, and all other intricacies of poverty…right here in New York City.

LeBlanc won all sorts of journalism awards for this work, and with good reason. The portraits of her characters are rich and honest: I found myself rooting for somewhat naive, optimistic teenage Coco and her various children, clinging to every hope that they would just survive. But some of the other characters I absolutely loathed. Yes, there are welfare queens and crack addicts in this book, but there are also just people. It helps the reader understand the crippling hopelessness and insurmountable challenges of poverty in a way that mere statistics and headlines can’t capture. I raced through this book in three days and didn’t want to let go…and I still can’t, really. Read more about Random Family here.

(P.S. The New York Times just published an absolutely wonderfully written, LENGTHY expose on the current state of homeless children in the city, focusing on a portrait of one girl, Dasani, and her family. It’s like a crash course for Random Family. Check it out here. Hope for print journalism!)

2. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee

emperor-of-all-maladiesConfession: I’ve never been that interested in science. It has never fascinated or enthralled me the way it has a number of my peers. But I think if a book like Emperor of All Maladies had existed when I was studying, say, high school biology, my entire outlook would have been transformed for the better.

This is an incredible feat of historical and scientific research: a massive biopic of cancer from its first recorded victims, throughout the constant battle for a cure, to modern-day medicine’s astonishing abilities — and shortcomings. What I loved about this book is that it wasn’t just about the development of chemotherapy or experiments conducted on childhood leukemia victims, it also analyzed the intersection of the disease with culture. Mukherjee, an oncologist himself, delves into the origins of cancer’s first poster child, the foundation of the American Cancer Society, the explosion of fundraising for breast cancer research. It is all truly, truly fascinating. A book for everyone because I am certain that everyone has had their life impacted by cancer, in one way or another. Read more here.

3. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

220px-DWCityI love books that focus entirely on one specific moment in history and really dig deep into the details. This book juxtaposes the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect in charge of constructing the 1893 Chicago’s World Fair, and H.H. Holmes, America’s first known serial killer. The biographies intersect only slightly — Holmes constructs a “murder hotel” to lure in his victims who are visiting the nearby World’s Fair — so the construction of the book is a little odd, but as Larson explains, he chose these two contrasting stories to highlight the stark contrast in how men choose to live their lives. There are men who live to illuminate the world (literally, in Burnham’s case) by sharing their genius, and there are men who live only to bring darkness and death.

The H.H. Holmes chapters were obviously edge-of-your-seat material, and the kind of thing that infiltrated my nightmares for a bit after, but I really enjoyed the World’s Fair bits, too. Burnham and his team — which included Frederick Law Olmsted, the genius who gave us Central Park in New York — were racing against the clock, limited resources, an uncooperative climate and landscape to construct a miniature city so magnificent and inspiring that it would put all the nay-sayers in NYC and D.C. (two much more developed and reputable American cities at the time) to shame. A treat for all history buffs. Read more here.

4. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

urlI wrote a lengthy post about this book earlier this year after reading it. I would still heartily recommend it. So, so, so powerful. After you read it, watch this CBS story about Louis Zamperini, see what a humble and grateful man he is and his relationship with the author of his biography, and cry all over again. GAH.

You will have a lot of feels from reading this book, but the good feels outweigh the bad ones, I promise. Zamperini is incredible, his story is incredible, this book is incredibly put together and well-researched. It has also sparked my interest in reading Seabiscuit (Hillenbrand’s other bestseller) and other military nonfiction, like Flags of Our Fathers, which is awaiting me on my bookshelf. Check out Unbroken here.

5. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

urlThis darling little gem is a must for book lovers! This is the record of letter-based correspondence between Ms. Helene Hanff of New York, an avid reader, and stodgy bookshop employee Frank Doel of London that begins as purely business relationship and blooms into a charming long-distance, long-lasting friendship. (Warning: Quite a bittersweet ending.) It’s almost too whimsically wonderful to be true. Check it out here.

What are your favorite non-fiction reads?

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Happy almost-weekend!

I have a serious book-related post in the works, I swear.

This has been such a loooong week. Aren’t post holiday breaks always like that? Today at work we had a very serious debate in our bullpen area: Which is the more attractive Franco brother?

James?

Or Dave?

Dave won by overwhelming votes. Glad that’s settled. (James has a special place in my heart though, since we both went to see Scarlett Johanssen in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at the same showing. He also has been seen by co-workers outside NYU’s Tisch School, bumming cigarettes off students. Poor guy.)

More recently, I posted a link to an article to Facebook about where the Gilmore Girls cast are now, and inevitably, a fierce debate broke out about who is the best of Rory’s boyfriends. I’m Team Jess, and apparently that makes me a party of one because he’s not “good enough” for Rory and just “means trouble.” Whatever. He fulfills my three important criteria: 1) reads good books, 2) listens to good music, and 3) has dark hair. I think it’s because as a goody-two shoes, the boy with the perpetual smirk and the overwhelming sarcasm and the leather jacket is intriguing. I can understand what Rory was thinking here, OK?

In other news, by the end of the week, I revert into a 16-year-old girl (we all do, apparently). So ready for the weekend. Hope you spend it doing something better than debating the merits of fictional boyfriends from the early-aughts.

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Life, lately [picture post]

People can bash smartphone cameras and Instagram all they want, but it allows me to capture all those little private moments I truly savor and want to remember — the satisfaction of whipping up a delicious new recipe, the pleasure of updating a house style/grammar guide (oh, that’s just me?), the colors of fallen autumn leaves beneath my feet, the book quote that made me catch my breath. A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

So here’s my life from mid-October to the present.

Traveling:

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Tacos, avocados everything, endless coastlines, sunshine rays, sunglasses, sunscreen, sundresses. California is good for the soul. I also befriended a cat, a dog, and a couple of horses.

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Commuting:

IMG_2052My first Monday back from our West Coast Trip, I waited for the fifth train to get home because they were all so packed. I kept going up and down from the local platform to the express. An exercise in patience.

Working:

IMG_2055“Touchscreen” is one word, kids. “Selfie” is the Oxford English Dictionary word of the year. Aren’t you glad there are people out there like me who care about these things? Grammar Queen status!

Concerting:

IMG_2076A year ago, the Scottish band Frightened Rabbit gave me the best 23rd birthday present a girl could ask for: the best concert ever. EVER. You can’t recreate the crowd and the interaction with the band of that night. Trust me, we’ve tried. We went to our fourth FR concert a few weeks ago. Always a wonderful show, but never as magical as my 23rd birthday. I still listen to their music basically every day. Check these guys out:

Leaf-ing:

IMG_2110Best season of the year! My birthday! Pumpkin everything! Leaves! Boots! Scarves! Sweater weather! Halloween! Thanksgiving! Don’t even try to argue with me.

Cheering:

IMG_2117…on the marathon runners, of course! Human beings are amazing.

Volunteering:

kismetI’m still volunteering with Anjellicle Cats Rescue, and loving it. I have made a number of sweet friends through this organization, and not just the feline kind!

IMG_2131I also started volunteering with a second group, PAWS NY (Pets Are Wonderful Support), which I actually found out about through a fellow rescue cat volunteer! This group provides free pet care to elderly and/or disabled NYC residents who are in financial need. This way, they can maintain the wonderfully beneficial bond with their pet. I’ve been walking little Charlie here, for a sweet lady and her bedridden sister who live a couple of blocks away. I’m becoming a dog person! What is happening?

Ali-stalking:

IMG_2080Because you didn’t really think I’d forget about my No. 1 fur baby, could you?

Discovering:

IMG_2142Serendipity is stumbling across the Breakfast At Tiffany’s apartment building on a stroll around the neighborhood. This, after stumbling across Cafe Lallo (yes, the one in You’ve Got Mail) in the Upper West Side the night before.

Exploring:

IMG_2109I wish I could live in Central Park. As long as Ali could come with me.

Holiday-ing:

IMG_2181Too soon, Tiffany’s. Too soon.

Reading:

No pictures for this one. But I do have recommendations! The Art of Racing in the Rain (for animal lovers), Bel Canto (for music lovers), and The Night Circus (for escapists). Currently exploring Mount Everest with Into Thin Air, to up my nonfiction ante.

Onwards to the next adventure! Tomorrow is a post-work happy hour with office friends, and Wednesday is “An Evening with David Sedaris” at Carnegie Hall. Thursday is rescue cats because I have to keep my coolness-to-nerdiness ratio in check.

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Girl power: Female singers who, well, rock

I went through this really long phase of listening to only bands with lead male singers. This wasn’t a conscious decisions; it’s just nothing with a female singer had really jumped out at me for some time. But since last fall, I’ve discovered a handful of really solid/catchy female-led acts to obsess over.

CHVRCHES

999517_10151635433996743_1229253383_nThis summer we went to see this electronic band from Scotland, CHVRCHES (pronounced “churches”), that I had discovered on the Internet and that barely anyone had heard of. Most of their music was found on YouTube at the time. Their first album, “The Bones of What You Believe,” just came out a couple of weeks ago. But like all things cool, New Yorkers were on top of it and the show was packed. The bass was way too loud — thank goodness for bringing ear plugs, like old people — but still really fun. And although I already knew I loved the lead singer, Lauren Mayberry, because of our mutual adoration of cats and similar petite frames, her Glaswegian accent and politeness really won me over.

Then she wrote an op-ed for The Guardian about online misogyny toward female singers, I decided she is extra-super awesome.

Purity Ring

248479_10151235235441743_218374958_nLast fall we went to see the Canadian electronic duo Purity Ring (I sense an ironically religious theme to these bands’ names) in Brooklyn, which is what made me interested in the indie electronica genre and was how I was introduced to CHVRCHES, to be fair. Anyway, the girl member, Megan James, has a great voice. And these songs are hard to get out of your head. Especially this one:

I probably don’t need to tell you about Purity Ring anyway, since they played at ACL this past weekend and everything, so they are basically famous.

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WEBOKMG_7840Even though I saw these two open for Grouplove last year right after Hurricane Sandy, I forgot to take a photo of them. This New York-based (woohoo) musical duo sing sort of jazzy/soul-inspired pop music. Mostly I remember being mesmerized by Lizzy Plapinger’s overwhelming coolness. I mean, look at the hair! She has this crazy hair and she was wearing deep red lipstick and this flapper-style dress and singing her heart out, and all I could think is, “I will never in my life be that cool.” I know you’re thinking, “purple hair, Rebecca, really?” You had to be there, I guess.

Here’s a video in which blue-haired Lizzy looks cool in a retro diner and cheerleaders inexplicably vomit glitter.

She & Him

She-Him-she-and-him-22649560-560-457Oh, like you didn’t know this was coming. Indie darlings Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward are adorable. Their music is fluffy and adorable and vintage-inspired, making it perfect for a July 4 weekend outdoor concert in Central Park. And, oh, hey! I went to that concert. It was hot and humid, but Zooey looked flawless, as always. (Fun fact: People seem to have a strong association between me and Zooey-related things, although I do not care for her TV show, “New Girl.” Like they’ll be all, “Zooey D is growing out her bangs?!? You know who needs to hear about this? Rebecca!” I kid you not. But I do care deeply about Zooey’s bangs, I do.)

I know it doesn’t fit with the theme of this post, but my main tiff with She & Him is that poor M. Ward gets shoved into the background a lot. Check out his solo stuff or work with indie supergroup Monsters of Folk to get a real feel for this guy’s talents.

Anyway, She & Him did a second encore at their Central Park concert this summer, and performed a cover of “I Put A Spell On You” that was, well, spellbinding. Zooey held on to those notes like they were going to run away! The woman is talented. And flawless. Have I mentioned that yet?

Lorde

658ca3de6c101564273c1f1260977347So in case you live under a rock (or don’t obsess over these things, like I do), you know that this 16-year-old New Zealand-based singer-songwriter has been taking the music charts by storm with her single “Royals.” While this seems very random to me, it is a great song. Her whole album, “Pure Heroine,” is worth a listen. Or two. Or three. I have to go with the majority on this one: girl’s got talent.

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Twenty-four.

I turn 24 in 36 minutes and counting. I keep waiting for Hagrid to break down my door at midnight and tell me that Hogwarts is terribly sorry, I’ve had magical powers this whole time and my owl just got quite lost all those years ago.

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In all seriousness, I hate drawing attention to myself on my birthday, but it is always a weird awakening this whole aging thing. I distinctly remember turning 10 because the waiter at whatever restaurant I picked said something like “You’ve reached the two-digit years!” and I realized it is very likely I will only be in the “two-digits” for the rest of my life. Weird. I’ll probably feel nauseous when I turn 30.

24 is a pretty insignificant age. You still have to pay extra for renting a car, as Sean and I are reminded as we rent a car for our highly anticipated Highway 1/Pacific Coast Highway tour of California from San Diego to San Francisco this upcoming week.

Half of me can’t believe I’m already 24. I feel like just yesterday I was attending high school marching band practice, applying to colleges, studying for AP exams, shopping for my prom dress. But at the same time, I feel a lot older than 24 sometimes. I’m already married — a rarity for a 20-something in this city — I have a college degree, I’m entering my third year of full-time employment (say what?!?), I don’t live with my parents, I’m responsible for the care of another life (a cat’s, but still). I help pay for rent, bills, groceries, insurance. I recycle. I pick up prescriptions from the pharmacy. That makes me feel so old.

I never feel so much 24 as when I stay up too late on a weeknight or go to happy hour on a Tuesday or eat cookies for “second breakfast” at work or buy yet another coat because you can never have too many and it’s FALL!!! I mean, married and employed or not, you’re only 24 once. When I find out other people are buying houses in the suburbs or are having babies (and are more or less my age), I never feel so young and confused by their extremely responsible behavior.

 

Even though it’s technically our belated “summer” vacation, I feel like this California trip is partially a really big birthday present. I’m so, so excited to not think about work for a full 10 days and see the Pacific Ocean, eat amazing fish tacos, discover new craft breweries, learn more about American history, plow through another book on the long flight there and back, and generally get a break from the “East Coast” culture.

Last night when I had just stepped into the shower, Sean was trying to brush his teeth and the ENTIRE GLASS SHELF of the medicine cabinet somehow got stuck to the toothpaste tube, knocking a whole bunch of stuff off the shelf, and breaking my water glass in the process. As Sean angrily swept up the glass shards, he banged his head really hard on the sharp corner of the medicine cabinet door. Sign: It’s time for vacation.

This evening, as I left the office (late, I might add) from the subway, a rat practically RAN ACROSS MY TOES and dove into a pile of trash. At a busy intersection of Lexington in midtown! There were a million people around! How is this possible?!? Sign: It’s time for vacation.

Tonight, as Sean was loading our last pre-vacation round of laundry into the machines, a mouse stared at him curiously. In our basement. Sign: It’s time for vacation.

I love New York, I really do, but what’s up with the perpetual dog-urine-and-pot smell?!? There’s a really great skit in the third season of Portlandia when the temporary mayor of Portland complains that the city isn’t a real city because of this, that, and the other reason. At one point, people start dumping buckets of urine on the streets of Portland to give it that authentic, urine-ish urban smell. Soooo accurate.

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(I used to naively assume this was just dog urine, but one day I was walking home in my own neighborhood, and a homeless, handicapped man started peeing RIGHT NEXT TO ME on the side of the road. I stupidly did a double-take and practically sprinted away in horrific realization. It’s not like I was the only person walking by either.)

Anyway. Time to escape this place for a bit. I’m so excited to explore San Diego and San Francisco. I’m a little wary of L.A., but I’m more than willing to give it a shot.

Tomorrow we’re celebrating with a fancy dinner at Le Parisien. Because you can never go wrong with French cuisine on your special day.

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