Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hello 2010.

And then, just a few weeks ago, as I was buying a Christmas tree, I got the best present ever.


Needless to say, it was a relief. AND I LIKE IT. A LOT.

In 2009, despite my ordeal, I managed to move into an apartment that I absolutely love. For the first time since I moved to New York, I really have a home. I launched my professional website. I founded a literary quarterly. I continued to write, and thank you to my editors at Bookslut, The Second Pass, This Recording, Time Out New York, Identity Theory, More Intelligent Life, Planet Magazine, and The 99%.

Shout-out to my girl, Lady Gaga. Thanks for giving me something to dance to when times were tough.

Things that kept me going in 2009. Thanks to all.

So here's to you, 2010. Show us what you got.

Fuck you, 2009.

This image was taken from the lovely Escape to New York.

In January 2009 I got laid off.

On January 12, 2009, I started a new job, thinking it was a miracle.

It wasn't.

For six months, I worked at a desk for ten hours, with no lunch break, in fact, no breaks whatsoever. It was terrible. If I had to go to the bathroom, I had to ask someone to watch the phone. Very frequently my request was denied.

Day after day, I scoured the internet for a better job. I didn't find one.

Some mornings, walking to the L train, I wept.

On June 19, 2009, I got laid off. Again.

This time, it wasn't so easy to find a job. I applied and received unemployment benefits.

I went on countless interviews, most of them I was "overqualified" for, them being editorial assistant jobs, a job I had already worked for nearly three years. One potential employer actually told me, "I'm a bitch. I'll make life hard for you. Do you still want this job?"

On my way out of the interview, I cried.

Another potential employer mocked me in an interview for a misuse of boldface. FUCK YOU, bitch. How do you like that use of boldface?

I didn't get jobs because I didn't have enough journalism experience. I didn't get them because the boss decided to hire her friend's niece. I didn't get them because there weren't any. Literally. One day after I found out I didn't get a job I wanted, the entire department was laid-off. Canceled. Destroyed.

I went to a temping agency because I was desperate. They offered me the most wildly inappropriate jobs, not consistent with my skills set, nor meeting the minimum 40% of my previous gross wages. One time, they offered me to interview for one of those jobs. I turned them down. They reported me to the government. I lost my unemployment benefits, and now I owe the government money. If you are unemployed, please feel free to e-mail about this. I would never want this to happen to anyone else. You need to know your rights.

One afternoon, I realized I had forgotten to send in my Cobra payment. They discontinued my health insurance. The payment was one day late. I had to beg to be reinstated.

My former boss refused to act as a positive reference on my job interviews in the worst economic recession since The Great Depression.

Again, I cried.

Throughout all of this, my mom, my boyfriend, and my friends offered an intense amount of support, talking to me on the phone, paying for my meals, taking me out for a drink, patting me on the back and telling me how they weren't worried. That I'd find something. My boyfriend bore the brunt of my frustration, my depressive moods, my anger at the situation. He's an absolute saint, and no matter what happens, I will never forget his ultimate kindness and support through what was the darkest period in my life to date. If anyone ever doubts his supreme goodness, I will cut a bitch.

Another month went by. I started freelancing. Writing. Editing. Things felt better. I was working. And I was doing work that I actually enjoyed. It finally struck me, that perhaps all of this had happened to show me that what I really wanted to do was write. To freelance as much as possible and make the life I wanted for myself. It was a stunning conclusion. But I still needed a job.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I was 12 years old when James Cameron's Titanic was unleashed upon the world. I saw the film six times in the theater, never tiring of it. I understand fanaticism. But I like to think I loved Titanic for its story, the unbridled narcissism of the men who made her without enough life-boats, never imagining she would sink. I loved Titanic for Kate Winslet, her bravery, her real-girl body, her free-spirit. Also, I was 12.

Avatar, possibly the most expensive film ever made to date, by guess who?! James Cameron, is not as terrible as I thought it would be. There, I said it. I like big blockbusters. Putting on the 3D glasses and running to the theater to get good seats is an exhilarating experience. By the way, if you're at all interested in seeing this thing, do it now, in the theater with the glasses. It won't be the same on DVD. Mostly, I'm still in love with the idea that it's possible for a director to make an entire theater filled with people sit down, shut up, and pay attention.

The plot is essentially a re-telling of Pocohontas, except instead of Native Americans we've got natives from a planet called Pandora. The Americans are interested in Pandora because it's got this special mineral that we need for energy called "Unobtainium." Funny, James. Some nerdy scientists, including Sigourney Weaver, who should be bad-ass but really isn't (mainly because she has no idea how to hold a cigarette) have decided it would be easier to communicate with the natives if we could look like them, talk like them, essentially be them. Hence the Avatar program is born. A marine by the name of Jake Sully is harvested to take his dead brother's place as an Avatar on Pandora, because he has the same genetic makeup. Jake's paralyzed from the waist down, so entering an alien body where he can run and jump is worth it for him.

Long story short, Jake falls in love with one of the natives, Neytiri, who is a total babe, obviously. The love affair, on top of his newfound legs, pushes Jake to the other side, which really pisses off his military superiors. They get sick and tired of waiting around for the natives to move, so they decide to just blow the whole place up. You know, shock and awe and all that. Yeah, James, we get it.

Avatar has real nice things to say about the environment and how we've lost touch with Mother Earth. I totally agree. Do I think it'll make the dudes excited about its special effects go home and recycle? No. Why? Because, like Cameron, I think they're more concerned with "progress," i.e. the technology to make billion dollar movies like this so we can all forget that we've shat all over the planet and now there's nowhere for our children to live. Sorry, that was bitter and probably unnecessary, but that's how I feel. I like movies with people in them. Think Woody Allen. Yeah, I like all that real and neurotic shit.

That said, I do think it's possible for this technology (which is incredible, I admit, yes I was impressed by the way the creatures faces even read the actor's emotions) combined with good film-making (and that means good writing, James) to really make a fucking incredible, life-changing, world-changing motion picture. Avatar isn't it, but it's a step in the right direction.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

RIP Brittany Murphy

Shit, you guys, I never had straight friends before.

Wings of Desire, 1987

Last night as a snow storm raged outside our window we settled in to watch Wim Wenders' 1987 film, Wings of Desire. Incredibly, I managed to make it through 24 years on this Earth without having seen this beautiful piece of cinema, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I'd only seen the pseudo-remake City of Angels starring Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage.

Wings of Desire, a far superior film, was written by Wenders and Austrian novelist Peter Handke. The movie takes place in West Berlin sometime in the late 80s during the Cold War. It's worth watching for a myriad of reasons, one being the depiction of Berlin before the fall of the wall. The plot basically revolves around two Angels who listen-in on Berliners thoughts and dreams, wishing they could be human.

One Angel falls in love with a trapeze artist named Marion, and decides to "take the plunge," become human, and live out his mortal life with her. But the love story is really far from the centerpiece. In fact, the refreshing fact of this film is its ability to waft from story to story as they correspond to different people, whether they be random people the Angels encounter, or a fallen angel (Colombo! Peter Falk!) or Nick Cave (!) performing in a club.

An incredible score by Jurgen Kneiper and the poetry of Handke (who avoids his usual misanthropy here) alongside gorgeous cinematography and the comic relief of Peter Falk results in a film that wants us to remember the delight in being human. Wenders' manages to balance the black and white film and unorthodox narration which makes the movie feel older and wiser with the desire of his characters, who want nothing more than to understand their reason for being - they are close to us, totally empathetic, and real. We don't even think twice that this a reality where Angels watch over us and listen in. It all makes perfect, beautiful sense.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Guide to Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Williamsburg, Brooklyn may stand in many's estimation as a hot-bed of hipsters, trust funds, and annoying so-called artists under the age of twenty-five, but williamsburg is much more than the hackneyed clich├ęs. Williamsburg is a great neighborhood, filled with delicious restaurants, great shopping, excellent book stores, and parks. Here's an idea of how you could spend a Saturday in here in the Burg.

1) Take the L Train from Manhattan to Bedford Avenue. Exit, promptly head to El Beit for the best coffee you've ever had.

El Beit is a newish addition to the neighborhood, famous for their Clover Coffee. A clover machine lets the barista adjust three variables (dose, water temperature, and brew temperature) to create the perfect cup of coffee. You will pay $3.00 for a cup of regular joe, and probably more for an espresso drink, but it's a great start to your day.

2) Walk a few blocks to Artists and Fleas, the resident Williamsburg flea market.

Established in 2003, the Flea market features vendors selling silk screened t-shirts and accessories, handmade jewelery and other crafts, and lots and lots of vintage clothes and accessories. If you're in the market for clothes, especially vintage on the cheaper side, I highly recommend that you stop at this flea market, which recently expanded this summer to flow into the building next door. Most of the vendors are very friendly and you can haggle especially if you buy more than one item. This is also a perfect place to shop for gifts. I can spend hours in here.

3) If that's not enough vintage for you, head to Malin's, across Bedford Avenue.

Malin has some of the most eccentric, interesting vintage from all over the world, but mostly Scandinavia. She has so many shoes in her store that I frequently have to walk on the other side of the street to avoid entering and spending copious amounts of money. Malin is frequently in the store and she will greet you and ask you what you're looking for. Return and she'll say she's pulled something perfect for you. It's a great environment and can be a little intimidating for those not used to fraternizing with fashionistas, but if you're looking for great vintage clothes, you've found them.

4) Stop for lunch at Egg, or, if the wait's too long, Blackbird Parlour.

Egg is by far one of the best brunches in Brooklyn, if not in the entire world. The cheese grits and eggs are incredible (and I say this as a Southerner, a girl born and bred in Georgia). You will not find grits like this anywhere else in New York City. Their lunch sandwiches are amazing as well - but everyone knows this, and on the weekends it can be up to an hour wait for a table. If that's the case, saunter over to Blackbird across the street, they have one of the best grilled cheeses I have ever put in my mouth, and it's a lovely place to sit and read.

5) After lunch, browse a great bookstore:
Spoonbill and Sugartown

Spoonbill may not have every new release, but they have the ones worth reading, and a great selection of used books, notebooks, stationary, artbooks, magazines, and lit journals. With two resident kitties, the store has a lovely homey vibe and a helpful staff. They also have the occasional reading or event. Do your part and support this lovely local bookstore.

6) Head to the water!
There are several parks that run alongside the water. The first is the East River State Park, on North 8th and Kent. Here you'll find sunbathing hipsters, and a breathtaking view of the city. Concerts (formerly of McCarren Pool) and thrown here in the warmer months. You could also opt to wander through the Northside Piers apartment buildings. Behind them you'll find a gorgeous pier that juts out into the water, also with incredible views. Or the Grand Street Park on Grand and Kent offers a smaller, more intimate view of the city, complete with picnic tables and benches.

7) Grab a drink at Iona Bar
Iona is the resident Irish bar in Williamsburg. It boasts great beer, not so expensive liquor, and a beautiful backyard patio. In the summer the doors are opened and in the late afternoon it can be one of the most romantic bars in town. In the winter, outside, there's more of a youthful vibe to the place. But it never gets too rowdy. A nice pre-dinner drink bar.

8) Dinnertime at Marlow & Sons, Aurora, or Five Leaves

Marlow & Sons is, by far, my favorite restaurant in Williamsburg, and maybe on the face of the planet. But a seasonal menu dictated by smaller plates makes it an expensive choice, and oysters and an incredible bar will really make you want to spend the big bucks. So I recommend reserving it for special occasions. Its sister restaurant, Diner, has an excellent dinner (a great burger) and an even better brunch menu.

Aurora, nouveau-Italian food, is not exactly cheap, either, but still reasonable for the quality food you'll get. They have a beautiful indoor and outdoor dining room, a fantastic wine selection, and a great wait staff. This is a great place to go on a date, or to bring your fam on a visit.

Five Leaves
, "Heath Ledger's restaurant" was indeed the baby of Heath and a few Australian friends. After he died, they opened the place with the money he had left, and it's been a very successful venture. The Five Leaves Burger (which features beef, cheese, beets, onions and a fried egg) is a favorite. With oysters and excellent cocktails, this is a great place for date-night or a gathering of friends. Be prepared to wait, though. It's a small joint and everyone wants in.

9) Finish up your night with swanky drinks at Hotel Delmano or slum it at The Levee

Hotel Delmano has some of the tastiest cocktails off of Bedford Avenue, and an incredible bar. The biggest draw to Delmano, besides the alcohol, is the beautiful interior, with tiny tables in sectioned rooms or even seats in the bar area: the atmosphere is like a secret speak-easy in your rich friend's living room. Another wonderful date destination. But the drinks will cost you.

If you're not into rich-friend speakeasy's, head over to The Levee instead. The dive to match all dive bars, The Levee is where you'll find the kids of Williamsburg and their friends from other boroughs. With drink specials (my favorite is the Sportsman, a can of cheap beer and a shot of wells whiskey for like, $7), hotdogs, frito pie, and cheese puffs at the bar, this place is pretty much the most incredible bar in the world. Hang out in their new outdoor patio, or play a game of buck hunter with your friends.

10) Dance the night away at Legion
Legion's a bit of a walk, in south Williamsburg, but it's worth it if you feel like dancing. The DJ's are fantastic, and it feels like everyone's in a great mood. Not the place for drinks (just stick to beer), but it's the end of the night anyway. The cool thing about Legion is it's a melting pot of all different kinds of people. There's no label after this bar. Just great music and fun.

Now, hop back on the L Train and head home! Or, if you're smart, take a cab. Get home safe. You've had a fantastic day in the Burg.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I just want to give everyone an early shout-out and thanks for all the comments and support on this blog - I had an excellent day yesterday and should have good news to share with you all very soon. I'm so happy 2009 will end on a great note. The boy and I got our first tree together yesterday - it's maybe the most beautiful Frasier Fur I've ever seen.

Hope you all are happy and looking forward to the holidays!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Santa Baby 2009

What yours truly wants for Christmas . . .

I'm dying for the complete series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The big box set is pretty pricey, but apparently people on EBay are selling season 1-7 separately for a deal.

Multichain necklaces and bracelets.

Or, a more dainty long gold chain, like this one from Erica Weiner.

A cast-iron casserole dish from Le Creuset or somewhere less expensive so I can make Boeuf Bourguignon.

Long Purple Leather Gloves (thanks, Prince!)

A weekend trip to Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

A lifetime supply of Falling in Love by Philosophy.

Inglourious Basterds, DVD.

More running pants, like these from Puma: spandex, this length.

A set of 15lb barbells.

If someone can find me the Orin, the necklace from The Neverending Story, then wow.

This dog.

Vintage Leather Briefcase like this one.

Anthropologie's novel scents collection.

Biography of Mary Shelley

Continuation of my New Yorker subscription.

Tickets to see Lady GAGA.

Hi There!

Hey y'all, I apologize for the delay in post-age again. I launched my lit magazine, we had a little party, it was lots of fun. I've been doing a lot of interviewing and writing and the blog has taken a hit because of it! I apologize. Anyway, I hope you writers out there will think of submitting something for the next issue of Candor which will pub in March (the deadline is the end of February). Check out info here if you're interested.

Since I left you, I saw Paranormal Activity, Twilight: New Moon, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I hope to see Up in the Air, The Messenger, and The Lovely Bones next week.

I'm currently reading Changing My Mind, the occasional essays of Zadie Smith. They are fantastic.

Last Monday I ventured uptown to see the Tim Burton retrospective at MoMa. A few words:

Walking through the exhibit, which, contrary to what reviewers have said, is incredibly complex and thorough; it covers Burton's career from his grade-school homemade movies up to Sweeney Todd. Maybe you aren't a Burton fan. Maybe you lived under a rock during the late 80s and 90s, or maybe you were too mature, or too little to appreciate his films. But I was the perfect age - and these things defined my childhood. I don't think I ever thought it was possible for someone to articulate isolation and pure unadulterated awkwardness like Edward's - and never in my life had I seen a man wear so much makeup and remain as soul-crushingly handsome as Johnny Depp in that film.

Beetlegeuse, to a large extent, still defines my sense of humor, and my interests, when it comes to movies, books, and theater. Hell, I write a column about ghosts and zombies and other dead stuff. And I love it. Winona Ryder became my absolute IDEAL GIRL TO BE. She still is, in a lot of ways. I think lots of us ladies still feel a kinship with Winona. Watching her movies today all I can think of is that voice! It's like a forty year old half Englishwoman in a thirteen year old's body!

I can still sing The Nightmare Before Christmas the entire way through, and no, I am not ashamed. I remember getting Nightmare Before Christmas dolls when I was little for Christmas, and my brother and I lining them up on the carpet before we watched the movie, ready to sing along. It's one of my fondest childhood memories.

And of course, then there's Batman. I think, for most people my age, and maybe everyone ever, Jack Nicholson will always be the Joker - even though Health did an incredible job, I look at Jack Nicholson and I see that purple suit and that green hair. Not to mention Kim Baisinger and Jerry Hall were maybe the first women that made me want want long blonde hair and big high heels! And in Batman Returns, what a beautiful Gotham, a winter-y landscape, a portrait of lust and violence. Michelle Pfeiffer: enough said. Michael Keaton is still my favorite Batman. He's the most sensitive, the most emotive of all of them, the least ridiculous - and he still has the best lips.

While Burton's later efforts aren't quite as unique or successful (Planet of the Apes, Big Fish, Willy Wonka, Sweeney Todd), I feel this has more to do with the change in how people make movies, with uber special effects and weak plotlines, and Burton's human and he's trying to adapt and stay relevant at the same time. It's a difficult task.

These movies not only defined my childhood, they define who I am as a human being. I can't say that about many directors or many films, and I'm proud to say that about Tim Burton. I have a kinship with him. If you're at all interested in the genesis of an auteur who for many people his work is as personal as it gets, I recommend you head to MoMa sometime before the exhibit closes in April.