Monday, July 28, 2014

The Pittsburgh Diaries, Part II

Saturday, July 19
HanRo is getting married today! I have visions of her leaping from her bedroom like Monica on Friends wearing pajamas and a wedding veil, shouting "I'm getting married today!!" as she trips on her pant leg and falls to the floor in a moment of comedic perfection with no bruising. Or maybe that's just what I'll be like someday! Either way, it's an exciting day. Partly because it starts with Pamela's.

For the uninformed, Pamela's is a breakfast joint in Pittsburgh that makes easily some of the best pancakes--nay, hotcakes, as the restaurant calls them--this side of the...who am I kidding, some of the best pancakes ever. Loaded with butter, the spongy, thin cakes are crepe-like, with softly crispy edges that are somehow simultaneously sweet and salty. Standing in line as we wait for our table (because that is something else you will also do when you go to Pamela's, but fear not, time will go quickly and it will be worth it. Even Obama agrees...that's actually him in the restaurant, next to the Mrs.), I realize it has been over four years since I last had Pamela's, as my two trips back to Pittsburgh after graduating had not involved a visit, nor, I think, did my senior year of college, strangely. This location is new, decorated with endless accolades and publications and family photos of the owners and their staff, but here we are and we dive in and it's perfect, exactly as I remembered it however many years ago. It's nice when some things don't change.

After breakfast is another trip to Avalon. Everyone is able to find something rad, including moi: a pair of saddle shoes with silver spikes around the laces. Finally a pair of shoes to wear to Fashion Week in the winter! Praise be to Our Lordess and Savior RuPaul.

Then a brief stop in Shadyside, on Walnut Street, where there is a main drag of sweet little shops, but also an American Apparel and a Sephora. There's also very funky and awesome Kards Unlimited, always one of my favorite haunts in Shadyside. It has a fun, informed selection of books, some of which are labeled 'Books About Families More Messed Up Than Yours' and 'Books You'll Like If You Are A Serial Killer', alongside stuffed cartoon body parts, fake mustaches, hand-printed greeting cards, and handmade jewelry. Once we finish there, it is time for a disco nap because all the carbs from breakfast have caught up with us and we are old.

After a disco nap and a dolling up session, we are off to the wedding at Phipps Conservatory, a botanical garden. There are trees and flowers all around us, and there's even a waterfall! The ceremony is beautiful. HanRo looks stunning in an ivory gown, bright white flowers in her hands. I get the feels when she and her husband look into each other's eyes and repeat their vows. Afterward, we sip cocktails amongst the greenery. There are passed appetizers, including a famous Pittsburgh staple, a potato pierogi topped with a caramelized onion. Proceeding to the ballroom, we find that each of us have been given a special HanRo and JH coloring book (and crayons!), chock full of Pittsburgh history and word searches, as well as a pickle pin to don (long before Pittsburgh was known for its ketchup, it was known for its pickles!). They also have a cookie table, another 'burgh staple. Tradition!

Post-wedding, some of us wedding guesty folk head to another Pittsburgh staple, at least if you were ever a college student, anyway: Mad Mex, home of the 22oz. Big Azz Margarita. AM and I share one of these lovelies which, by some stroke of genius and Pittsburgh magic, is only $7 between the hours of 10pm and 12am. Mad Mex is near and dear to my heart--it is the place I went for my 21st birthday, had lots of margaritas and then drunk-dialed my mother. We nosh on Mexi-goodies and eventually shut down the bar.
 
Sunday, July 20
TS has set up a brunch for Pittsburgh folk and wedding guests at Zenith, on Pittsburgh's South Side. Though it hurt to wake up early, it was important to get there right when they opened (!) because we had such a large party. Also, it completed my superfecta of neighborhood visits -- Oakland, Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, and now the South Side. I had heard TS talk about Zenith many times before, especially something he called 'peanutty noodles,' but I had never been. Now having gone there, it is mind-boggling to me that I had never been before this trip. Zenith defines itself as a "Vegetarian Cafe-Art Gallery-Antique Goldmine" and it is so my thing I can't even believe how much my thing it is. Walking in, you're immediately surrounded by vintage oddities and curios, clothing, books, and god knows what else. Lamps stuffed with old Barbie dolls, mannequins wearing welding gear, antique liniment bottles and glass containers full of old Christmas lights. 

Tables are adorned in vintage tablecloths in a variety of colors and textures and you drink out of vintage glassware in infinite patterns. The buffet is chock full of delicious food--cucumber salad, couscous, cakes in infinite flavors you didn't know cakes even came in (mint chocolate, chili chocolate!), and of course those noodle dishes. My favorite is a penne walnut balsamic raisin concoction, but TS's peanutty noodles, which really taste like a ton of peanut butter has been stirred in with them alongside a bunch of vegetables (and I mean that in a really good way), come a close second. After eating, I traipse around the restaurant taking pictures and I even find a rad little pair of earrings for $1. Good god, Pittsburgh, you are spoiling me.

Post-brunch, it is time for AM to leave. We hug our goodbyes then TS and I hang out on the porch and have a long, meaningful conversation about relationships and academia and the two combined. There is something in the air that tightens my throat, makes me know that I'll be leaving soon. It's that same emptiness I felt when I pulled away after graduation: who knows when you'll be back? However, I still have a few more hours in Pittsburgh so I'm going to make them last. We head to Harris Grill, on Ellsworth Avenue, for drinks and vittles with SC, who is also visiting this weekend. We sit outdoors and make selections from their massive crazy drink menu, but as I page through I don't know who I'm kidding--I'm obviously having their famous frozen Cosmo. Or two of them. TS and I split a mac and cheese with veggies and it is absurdly delicious.

A few sunshine-y hours later, it's time to head back to the house. EL is picking me up and we're going to an outdoor concert at some place 30 minutes away that I've never heard of. Adventures! But before we go, TS has to leave. His drive back home is hours long. My throat does that tightening thing again. But luckily he's around New York with relative frequency, so I feel better when we say goodbye.

In EL's car, she says she hopes I don't mind that Pandora is on the Shakira station. We drive through Lawrenceville, the place where all the cool indie and DIY crowds hang out, and into the suburbs. The suburbs in Pittsburgh are different than other places I've seen because they're so country. Not in mannerism, but appearance: long, winding roads cushioned by green grass and a whole house's worth of space in between houses. Eventually, we roll up to the Hartwood Acres Amphitheatre and my brain sort of explodes. It's all trees and grass hills and and people in lawn chairs (some with Pittsburgh Steelers tattoos) and I just love it.

The air is cool and it feels like being in the mountains. We set up camp on a beach towel EL brought and we listen to the band Lake Street Dive strum their jazzy-bluesy sounds--one of my favorites is the song "Bobby Tanqueray." Parents hold their babies and a girl spins her LED hula hoop when it gets dark.

I felt that mythical summer feeling when everything is slow and moments have more meaning. In just a few hours I will be up and at 'em on my train back to New York. I want to sit and take everything in just a little bit longer.



**

And for your viewing/listening pleasure, here are two videos I took of my friends talking about what they love about Pittsburgh, while driving to Mad Mex. Probably more for listening since my video skills are sub-par at best. Listen for my chaotic ramblings interspersed with their commentary.

video
video

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Pittsburgh Diaries, Part I

This past weekend, my dear friend HanRo got married in Pittsburgh, where she lives and where we went to school (at Carnegie Mellon, I'm not sure if I've mentioned this on here before). The weekend was a gorgeous swirl of friends, tree-lined streets, five-dollar cocktails, porch sitting, hilarious memories and sublime happiness.

Thursday, July 17
Penn Station
I board my very first Amtrak train out of Penn Station. The journey will last about nine hours from New York to Pittsburgh. It is the longest I have ever traveled anywhere by myself (even a flight to England is about 8 hours!). I am a little nervous, and I don't know what to expect. I loathe the bus for long trips, so the train was an easy choice on a budget. Throughout the course of the trip, I see beautifully decaying industrial buildings ("decay porn" as I think it's known), a bunny (!), and bikers and children alike waving enthusiastically at the train as it passes by.

On the train itself I meet a man named Rick who was in Massachusetts visiting his granddaughter. He is eating some excuse for a hamburger that has been warmed up in the microwave and his hands are covered in yellow mustard. He offers me Doritos and he has criscrossed America by rail. He doesn't like to fly because he doesn't want to have to take all his clothes off to get on a plane. As we get closer to Pittsburgh, I see a woman sitting in front of me wearing a Steelers' Polamalu jersey.

TS and AM meet me at the train and I am instantly excited to be back. "YOU GUYS! PITTSBURGH!" I squeal loudly, repeatedly the entire trip home. "HAPPY HanRo's WEDDING WEEKEND!!!" I have not been back in two years, and it is exactly as I remember it. Winding hills dotted with houses, each different than the last. Cars dotted with WRCT bumper stickers (Carnegie Mellon's radio station) and Steelers logos; the big, old brick buildings of the Strip District which once housed factories but now house a variety of funky restaurants and grocery stores; and lastly, Oakland, rife with its college-student friendly restaurants, coffee shops, and bookstores. It's where we spent so many days and nights trekking up and down Forbes Avenue, Fifth Avenue, Centre Avenue, and everywhere in between.

Our first stop after dropping off some things at AM's house is Union Grill. Union Grill was a staple for us in school, mostly because of their $10 bottle of wine special. I order the only thing I have ever ordered there, the Turkey Devonshire: an open faced sandwich laden with turkey, bacon, and, in true Pittsburgh fashion, a pile of endless cheese. My arteries cower in fear, but my tastebuds rejoice. Eating something like this once every two years won't kill me. And besides, even if it did, it would be a lovely way to die.

Next stop, Razzy Fresh. The self-serve frozen yogurt spot was the first I ever knew of its kind, and now similar places are absolutely everywhere. It opened my senior year of college and instantly had  a cult following. If we couldn't think of anything else to do, we'd just go to Razzy. I sprinkle mochi and graham cracker crumbles onto my taro and pineapple frozen yogurt. It's like I'm in college again.

And then, perhaps the best part of the night, we went back to AM's house and we just...sat on the porch. A porch! I could hardly believe it. Imagine, a place attached to your house where you can just sit outside! I tried to treat my fire escape like a porch at my old apartment and my neighbor yelled at me. We sat and we talked for hours. And then? We went inside, and fell asleep in front of the television, then went to bed at a reasonable hour. It was utterly glorious. I mean, who even does things like that, am I right?

Friday, July 18
Today I am meeting one of my professors, the utterly incredible and divine Scott Sandage (if you aren't aware of his work or his awesomeness, please check him out here and buy his book). Scott was my professor for two classes, The Roots of Rock and Roll and American Individualism, but he could teach Quantum Physics and I would sit there with rapt attention, taking in every word.

Jerry's Records, Squirrel Hill
Much to my joy and amusement, my Carnegie Mellon ID still gets me a free bus ride from campus up to the big ol' hill. Before meeting Scott, I meander around to some of my favorite old haunts: Avalon Exchange, a funky consignment shop that just so happens to be having its famous $1 sale this weekend, where select items are, yes, just a dollar. Then I poke around at Jerry's Records further down the hill, a place where I spent many an afternoon surrounded by hundreds of thousands of musky, dusty old records in hopes of finding something that really struck me.  Eventually I make my way back up to the 61C Cafe to meet Scott. He arrives wearing glasses with bright green lenses and tells me he was just trying to get some settlers across a creek (he is writing a book about race and Nebraska from 1804-1941). Hours fly by as we talk, and soon he has to leave for a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game. Later he will text me a picture of the stadium from his seats.

I decide to walk all the way from Squirrel Hill to Schenley Plaza, which is approximately two miles, give or take a bit. On the way, I stop at campus, checking out my old haunts in the photography studio and the creative writing center. It's a strangely powerful experience, walking through the halls of the buildings where I learned to be a person.


Behind Carnegie Mellon's campus














I walk through the back of campus and TS and AM eventually pick me up down near the University of Pittsburgh, just in time for me to take a few pictures of their famed Cathedral of Learning. We go to Lulu's, a Pan-Asian joint that's another of our old haunts, that, for me, has always been consistently mediocre. Still, it's fun to rejoice in its mediocrity and remember the times we used to go there in herds, and they could only seat us in the back where the one long table is. I have a plateful of noodles and a red bean bubble tea and we head home and back to the porch. AM makes sangria with peaches and cherries. She pours it nto our glasses from a pitcher shaped like a chicken (the "chicken spit" pitcher, as it's known), and I play with her orange tabby cat, delightfully named Hobbes. Fireflies sparkle as the night turns from periwinkle to navy to black. Tall trees in front of her house are highlighted only by the orange glow of streetlamps. Light rain begins to fall. The wedding is tomorrow.

***




Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Moving, Moving, Moved

"NO, I CAN DO IT MYSELF!"

I have visions of myself as a toddler shouting this at my mother as she'd try to, I don't know, tie my shoes or pack a suitcase or make a bed or something that typically toddlers do not do on their own. As most small people do, I just wanted to be responsible for myself, to know that in my heart of hearts I really didn't need anyone else to do whatever task, no matter how menial, on my own. I am, perhaps stupidly, the same at 25. Though my vocabulary has increased exponentially, the sentiment remained the same when my mother telephoned to ask when I would like her to come up and help me move.

"I don't really understand the purpose of that," I said, full of maybe too much pride, maybe too much hostility. To be fair, the last few weeks had been a rough road. I was seeing, at times, multiple apartments per day, at one point walking the length of my neighborhood twice, meeting brokers who could really give a rat's ass about what I was looking for in an apartment and thinking only about their own bank accounts. Many were fake, many were rude, almost all of them were liars. I felt out of control. My work was suffering in a huge way--having to take time out of my day to look for an apartment meant I couldn't be home getting more work, and lord knows I don't get a steady paycheck. I needed to do something on my own, to know that I could still, somehow, take care of myself. That something turned out to be packing up my entire apartment on my own (save for help TL gave me packing up my dishes--thank you for that, because it would have been incredibly dull otherwise) and moving a month's worth of my life to a friend's apartment in case I didn't find a place by the time my lease was up. Every day when I finished working or seeing apartments I would come home and pack, much to the chagrin of my friends who wanted me to come play. It was also much to the chagrin of myself who, having my roommates move out a week earlier, stood in front of a wall of boxes, packing tape poised at the ready, alone. I put on records to fill the silence in the room but also to silence my brain, as it was filled with anxiety and lists of things to do before I moved out. Johnny Cash, Janis Joplin, Patti Smith all kept me company as I folded clothes, ripped tape, bubble-wrapped glasses and emptied trash can after trash can full of stuff I just did not want to take with me. Honestly, I wanted company more than I wanted help. Taking four years of your life off of your walls and out of your closets on its own is a sad task, but that coupled with being alone is not a good combination. At one point I needed a hug so badly I curled up with the giant, four-foot teddy bear named Randolph that my parents gave me as a Valentine's Day present. I was sad enough to feel him hugging back.

Eventually, everything got packed away, though. And on June 30, the day before I was set to move out, the call came in. I had been approved for an apartment. Instead of crashing on AS's couch for a month, I'd be there for just two days--I could move in on July 3. On July 1, the movers came and cleared everything away. I heard them ripping and disassembling and covering for hours while I crouched in the doorway of my roommates' old room doing work, leaning up against Randolph with suitcases and bags and a cart filled with stuff scattered around me. I couldn't bear to watch the stuff go away because it meant my own departure was not too far off. And after everything was gone and only lint and feathers (I own a comforter from which they escape much too easily) remained, I walked around and stared at everything. I wanted to see every soiree, every late-night kiss, every cigarette out the window, every day spent working on the couch because I was too lazy to walk to the kitchen table. But all I could think about were the possibilities in the next apartment. How I'd have all of those things again in a place that was no longer nameless or faceless. The Polaroids would go back on the wall, the old copies of Rolling Stone would get hung back up, the living room would again be filled with people and I wouldn't be sleeping on a couch. But first I had to get all of this stuff downstairs and out of the apartment. That seemed like the most difficult part not only because of all the schlepping, but because of the emotional weight of the act itself. It was the last step.

In a series of five stages, I first moved Randolph, the cart and bags and suitcases to the hallway. Then from the hallway to the elevator. Then from the elevator to the building entrance, from the entrance outside and from outside to the curb. Before I moved everything outside, though, I placed my keys on the so-empty-kitchen counter and said goodbye to the old girl. I walked through each room and took pictures, stared out the living room windows and said, "We had a good run, didn't we?" The back of my throat felt tight and I felt my eyes water but nothing came out of them. I preferred it that way. Eventually a car came and the driver helped me load everything into it. It's funny, after each of the previous four years in my life, there was some sort of pomp and circumstance signifying its end--high school graduation, college graduation. But after these four, all I did was close the door behind me and drive away. Nobody cared if I was leaving or staying, and really there's no reason why they should have. In New York, people leave all the time. My departure wasn't special.

I sat in the backseat clutching Randolph. I watched my neighborhood slowly pass away from me and I held Randolph tighter.

I would shortly move the carful of items into AS's apartment by myself; then, two days later, back out again. I would unpack my apartment by myself. I would decorate by myself. Perhaps in another four years I will see such a task as a fool's errand as I look back and think, what the hell? I felt like I had something to prove, I will say. I wanted to feel like a "real adult," whatever the hell that meant. But real adults ask for help when they need it, or so we're told. They aren't supposed to be stubborn and they know their limits, be they emotional or physical, or so we're told. I don't really know if I knew my limits this time; or if I did know them, I didn't care what they were. I just felt like this time I needed to be the one taking care of myself.

So after all of this, I am still in so many ways a toddler trying to tie my own shoes. Perhaps in the next four years I will be different. Or maybe being an adult means acknowledging you were a toddler all along.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Comfort/Discomfort

I have to post inspiring quotes on social media once a week for my job, and there are some that come up so often I've become tired of them. One of them in particular is:

"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." - Neale Donald Walsch

Although I must admit I'm finding it especially relevant these days. I am, currently, at the highest peak of discomfort I have experienced upon moving to New York. In less than two weeks, I will be leaving my apartment for...some place I don't know yet in New York, hopefully another apartment, but perhaps a temporary residence of some kind. I never know what terrors New York real estate will thrust upon me each day, and yet...I have to laugh. Because, as another oft-repeated saying goes, "life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."

This is not to say, of course, that we shouldn't make other plans. But man, has there been a whole lotta life happening these days. It's like New York is reminding me, don't get too comfortable! Never get too comfortable! It's bad for your health! Then again, so is a great deal of discomfort and maybe we're best just balancing somewhere in the middle?

I see the danger in comfort, New York, don't you worry. Like a really amazing couch, you just never want to get up and do something else. Especially after you have been out having a wild experience. Haven't we all had those days where we head to the comfort of our couches to recover after one too many margaritas, martinis, Jack and Cokes, or some combination of all three? We don't realize what comfort is until we've been away from it, but at the same time if we stay there forever, the comfort loses its power and it just becomes...stasis? It's no longer invigorating, so we seek out the wildness again, and the cycle repeats.

Well, here I am, uncomfortable. What I want to do is sit at my kitchen table and do work all day, and not see another apartment, not walk 30+ block length of my neighborhood twice in another day, not call another broker on the phone who tries to hustle me into telling him what I need in an apartment when I'm only really calling to see if this one listing is available. I am trying to get comfortable with the fact that I may be sleeping on a couch in someone else's home while I continue to look for an apartment after my lease is up, just to have some semblance of hope in the dwindling abyss that is the search for a place to live. 

But then there's the comedy of it all. In some of these apartments, I have to think they surely must be kidding me. Literal thousands of dollars for this? I raise an eyebrow and walk out. At one point I even said, "The thought of living here makes me incredibly sad," only to have my thought rebuked with the catch-all, you're-an-idiot-for-not-taking-this-literal-dump phrase, "This place is gonna go quick. It will be rented tomorrow. There's not a lot with your requirements." Fine. Then someone else can live in your apartment whose windows are surrounded on all sides by brick walls and I will take up on a very comfortable park bench with all the light I want, thank you very much.

I saw another apartment today that was not what I was looking for and I heard yet again what must be the requisite phrasing cited above. "I'm not concerned," I said with a smile and walked away from a woman I felt cocking her eyebrow at me. I felt nothing, except annoyance at how much of a liar she and so many others are. Apparently I have become so uncomfortable that I have come full circle and am now just comfortable in my discomfort.

Perhaps after all of this is over I will begin one of those delightful feast-of-freelancing streaks where the universe just hands more and more goodness my way. "Oh, you just had to find an apartment in New York? My b, let me help you out with a few heaping helpings of awesome." Oh, wow, thanks universe, that would be great!

So today, as of this moment, right now, I am feeling...like I have a ton of stuff to do. I'll find a place eventually. Honestly, knowing that and believing it is half the battle. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Soirée Compendium

I do this thing in my apartment called soirée. It started because I found that, when I first moved to New York, I was hanging out with a single friend here or there. I wanted all of my friends to meet each other, and I wondered how to do that. If there was just a way I could get them all in one room...

So I had a party, duh. At first, soirée had no name; that is, I didn't really decide to make it "a thing" until a few of them down the line. Once I did decide to make it "a thing," though, I thought saying "I'm having a party" was just so...ugh. I mean, it's something everyone says. I decided to use the French word for party because that's just infinitely better, as most things in French are. I wanted to have the soirées often, but I realized I by no means had the money for that, so I decided to make them potluck instead. That way, there's enough food and beverahhhhges for everyone, because everyone's bringing something (hopefully). They started small, but have grown to a sort of monthly event that people ask me about: "When is the next soirée?" I love hosting people and seeing all of my friends meet each other and make friends. I'm often surprised that my original intention for the soirée seemed to work out so well. The soirée is, I've found, one of the ways I've been able to define myself in New York for myself; they've become part of my identity. 

One of the reasons soirée was so easy to do was the size of my apartment. It has a massive living room and dining space that, at times, have held thirty or more people, all relaxing and drinking and eating and getting to know each other. In a few weeks, I will move to a new apartment, which is utterly bittersweet--my building is going condo and I am being kicked out, but I hope that means I will be able to continue my New York story and my soirées in another, equally wonderful place. 

To celebrate the last soirée--in this apartment, anyway--that just happened a week or two ago, I've compiled all of my soiree invitations together. They start out rather tame, then get utterly ridiculous, as do their corresponding titles and images. I found as time wore on that I got more and more creative and sometimes more (hopefully hilariously) obnoxious (often vulgar and completely politically incorrect but, you know, for comedy and in good fun) with the invitations; it really became another creative writing exercise for me. Looking back at all of the invitations allows me another way to see the passage of time, how crazily and quickly it runs past (including series of roommates and apartment names.) Take a look below at the insanity that is my house once a month or so, and please forgive the misnumberings, as I'm sure there are many. Math has never been my thing, unless I'm counting karats. 


May 27, 2011: Potluck Extravaganza
Hellooooo darlings! This Friday we're having a potluck at Sweet Caroline (our apartment) and you're invited because we think you're fabulous, interesting, and very, very sexy. So if you're an old friend or it's about damn time we were new friends, we hope to see you Friday night at 8! 

Bring your friends, lovers, your friends' lovers and, most importantly, something delicious! The kitchen will certainly be available for use if you so desire. Write what you're bringing below so we can make sure there are no duplicates (and that we won't just be drinking our dinner...). If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or proposals of marriage, please feel free to ask.

Champagne kisses and caviar dreams, Us



August 13, 2011: One Year Anniversary Potluck Spectacular!
Hello darlings!

Join me as I celebrate my one year anniversary in New York, and because I think you're amazing and I really just feel like throwing a party in general!

On Saturday the 13th, bring a delicious treat, your friends, your lovers, your friends' lovers and more for an evening of pure delight--I mean, how could it not be if you're there? :)

Yes, I will be making my world-famous baked brie, along with roasted vegetables and probably a pasta dish of some kind. As always, the kitchen will be available for use if you need it. Write what you're bringing below!

If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or proposals of marriage, feel free to ask away!

Champagne kisses and caviar dreams,
Me

October 7, 2011: Soirée! The Third
Hello kittens!

Yes, the time is upon us yet again for another S
oirée! You know the drill: bring something delicious (other than yourself) and all the friends, lovers, and friends-of-lovers you like. Come soirée it up and be fabulous...so, you know, no different than a typical Friday night.

As always, if you have any questions, comments, concerns or proposals of marriage they will be eschewed with a firm hand. Or addressed. I haven't decided yet. Hope to see you there!

Champagne kisses and caviar dreams,
Me

December 10, 2011: Yes, we are fabulous. Don't you want to Soirée with us?
Darlings, Soirée 4 is indeed upon us! This time we celebrate not only the coming holiday season, but the one-month anniversary of the arrival of Sweet Caroline's newest resident.

You know the drill, kittens--bring a treat of your choosing (edibles and libations are both happily welcome), as well as your friends, lovers, and friends of lovers. Elyssa's World Famous Baked Brie is on the menu, as always.

And again, if you have any questions, comments, concerns, or proposals of marriage, the answer is definitively no. Or just ask and we'll see.

Champagne kisses and caviar dreams,
The Ladies of 3E


January 21, 2012: Soirée the Fifth
Bonsoir, mesdames et messieurs! Soirée the Fifth is upon us, and you know what that means. Bring your gorgeous self (and your friends, lovers, and friends of lovers if you so desire), a delicious treat (solid or liquid), and your party face because we're going to soiree the night away. Oui? Oui.

Comments, questions, and concerns can be addressed to Her Majesty the Queen, c/o England. Or us. We might be too busy sipping Champagne, though, so we can't make any promises.

See you and your fabulousness then.

Sincerely,
Us and our fabulousness
The Ladies of 3E


September 1, 2012: Soirée V: Return of the Soirée
Yes, ladies and gents, it's true: Soirée is back! Just in time to celebrate the arrival of fall (well, sort of...whatever, it's September, new beginnings, la di dah).

You know the drill--bring something delicious, other than yourself, as well as your friends, lovers, and friends of lovers. Show up being awesome, and be prepared to meet other equally awesome folk. I mean, it is a 3E party after all. We're tall and short and blonde and brunette and fabulous, we just attract these kinds of people.

So yeah, see you then, fools!
The Ladies of 3E


March 16, 2013: Soirée VI: Return of the Soirée, Part Deux

Dahhhhlings,

It has simply been far too long since we have seen your gorgeous faces and lithe, nubile bodies sprawled across our apartment all at once at various angles. So we invite you to return (or join us for the very first time!).

You know the S
oirée protocol: bring a treat of your choice (animal, vegetable, mineral, champagne, etc.) to share potluck style with le crowd. Also bring yourself. And your friends, lovers, friends of lovers, and so on. No large-scale firework displays, please. You know what happened last time.

We hope to see you there in all your radiant, effervescent glory. You really look great. Have you been working out?

Sincerely yours,
The Ladies of 3E
May 25, 2013: Soirée VII: What Happens on the Roof, Stays on the Roof

Yes, that's right: grab your sunglasses because the world famous Soirée is heading northward! And by northward, we mean the top of our building. You know, the roof. In case that wasn't clear.

We've got a delicious deck ready and waiting for your sinewy figures. Join us for some good ol' Vitamin D, not to mention yummy goodies courtesy of us and yourselves (you know Soiree policy--bring something tasty, besides yourself). We're starting early because day drinking is excellent, especially when it's (hopefully) warm and sunny out.

So yeah, see you there! Don't be lame or scared of the outdoors. I promise there will be no mountain lions. Though there may be cougars HEYO! Bring yo' frandz 'n' luvvvahhhz.

**CALL US when you get here so we can let you in! There's no buzzer on the roof because this is not The Four Seasons. Do they even have that there? Whatever.**


October 19, 2013: Soirée VII: C'est L'Automne, Mes Chiennes!

It's fall, my bitches!

(That's what the title means. In French. Clever, no? We know.)

It is our first official 
soirée as the Blue Banana Triad--see, that's us above!--so come into our home with your soirée face on, ready to lounge languorously on our furniture and contemplate the important matters of the day: Should Stephen do drag as a British woman? Will Jesse and Mildred elope to Hawaii? What is the likelihood of Elyssa breaking a limb once she starts skateboarding more regularly?

Come find out the answers to these questions and more, especially with your goodies in tow--not just your gorgeous face, but your potluck contributions. You remember how this thing works, don't make us remind you.

So yeah. S
oirée. Potluck. Bring your face, and the rest of you if you're so inclined. Friends, lovers, and friends' lovers are welcome, and our kitchen is at your disposal.

Okay? Okay. See you chiennes there. 


November 9, 2013: Soirée IX: There Will Be Champagne

Twenty-five years ago, there was an explosion of glitter in one of the operating rooms at Hollywood Memorial Hospital in Hollywood, Florida. The glitter was followed by a stream of feather boas, diamonds, and Veuve Cliquot. 

Somewhere in the universe a rift of fabulosity had opened and I was thrust into the world. Clad head to toe in Baby Dior (strangely, this part is not a joke), I made my way out into the world with a full head of brown hair and blue (yes, blue--they've since changed) eyes.

And now, in the midst of an endless parade of rhinestones and silk cocktail dresses, I have reached my twenty-fifth year of life upon this planet.

So you should come celebrate with me. Tres fabuleuse! <--I just made that word up. I can do whatever I want because it's my birthday.

There won't be Daniel Day Lewis and there won't be milkshakes (as far as I know) but there will be birthday cake and there will be champagne.

Bring your gorgeous face and your sinewy figure, dear loves of my life; your friends, lovers, friends of lovers are also welcome.

If you'd like something that's not birthday cake or champagne, you are more than welcome to bring it :)

(Was I laughing hysterically as I wrote this while sitting on my bed procrastinating from work? Yes.)

January 18, 2014: Soirée X: Year of the Degenerates
In case you're wondering, those are the Drapes, from John Waters' 1990 classic Cry-Baby.

Don your black leather jacket, or your metaphorical equivalent of one, anyway, and come on down to The Blue Banana, where morals come to take a nap.

The first rule of S
oirée? Well, it's not 'Don't talk about Soirée.' It's bring a goodie, or a bag full of 'em, or a bottle full of 'em, to share. Second rule of Soirée? Bring a friend or a lover or an aunt or an uncle, if you so desire--just make sure they're cool and don't mind a little debauchery and fine conversation, ya heard? We at The Blue Banana like to keep it klassy (the K is on purpose, thank you very much). And no, we're not entirely sure what we mean by that, either.

If you haven't started the year off right yet, now's your chance. Or maybe the day after...yeah, that might be better.

See your amazing faces there ;)

February 22, 2014: Soirée XI: U WANNA PUT WUT WHERE

It's February, so in the wake of all of the Valentine's garbahhhhhhge, we cordially invite you to not only 1) get tested, as the candy heart above so cheerfully suggests, but 2) come to our next soirée.

The Blue Banana will be ripe with leftover love and lust for you to revel in, like a good ol' Valentine's Day orgy. When did orgies go out of style, anyway? Ah, those were the days.

So come on over, bring a goodie (drinkable or eatable variety, or you know, whatever else), and bring yourself. Friends, lovers, friend/lovers, lover/friends are all welcome. Bonus points if you have a specific phrase for them that you use, with extra points for creativity. Examples: "This is my parole officer," "This is my manicurist," "This is my personal mixologist," etc.

So yeah. See you there. Try to leave your syphilis at home, but if you need to bring it, we understand.


Saturday, March 29: Soirée XII: Blue Banana, So Hot Right Now

This winter won't bloody end, so we're gonna bring the heat. In the form of you, our favorite supermodel. What?

Yeah, that's right, bring your best Blue Steel or Magnum (but leave those effing duck lips at home) and get ready for your closeup, Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms/Mx/Sir/Lady Fierceness because the world and the Blue Banana are your runway. NOW PUT THE BASS IN YOUR WALK, COVER GIRL/BOY/BOI/ZE/PERSON. Or don't, whatever.

But there may or may not be a walk-off and/or a pose-off. Remember, a photographer lives here with two supermodels already and she is used to striking at any moment.

You know the rules of S
oirée: there are no rules! Ha jk, there totally are. Bring a deliciousness in the form of food or beverahhhhge and, in this instance, your smokin' hottness is absolutely required.

Get in, loser, we're going strutting.


...And then I actually can't post the last one because it's much too vulgar, but here is the image I used, as our Blue Banana send-off. Whew, this was a long one! Thanks bunches if you got this far :)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Stand By Me

"Stand By Me," the 1961 classic sung by Ben E. King, seems to be a favorite, if not a staple, amongst older subway entertainers. I have heard the doo-wop group at my stop singing the tune many times as they try to sell the CD they've made, their a cappella beats filling the muggy station with a smoothness that makes the wait for the train just a little more bearable. Tonight on my train, there is a man singing an uptempo version of the song, tapping his cane along with the melody in a manner much faster than I think King originally intended. He sings and it's pleasant, and people give him a few dollars. 

I wonder why the subway musicians choose this song in particular; I'm pretty sure this is the one I've heard most often, out of any of the famous doo-wop classics.

"When the night has come and the land is dark, and the moon is the only light we'll see."




While I will admit the song now conjures up images of silver subway interiors and a barrage of disinterested passengers, it also makes me think of dark, starry nights and a couple holding each other close, dancing. I'm sure it's been a choice for many a bride-and-groom dance at a wedding. Yes, it's a love song, but it's also a song about support. I know the theme resonates far beyond subway performers, and I think it's a good choice for New Yorkers in general. Much unlike Manhattan, no man is an island, as the saying goes, and we all need some backup every now and then. It's nice to know that, even on this small tract of land swarming with people, there are those who are willing to make time for you, willing to stand by you and say, even when you feel like you're worth nothing, that you are worth their time. In a city that moves as quickly as ours, sometimes there is no greater compliment. 

In his 2012 New York Times article "The 'Busy' Trap," Tim Kreider talks about what he believes is the myth of busyness. We schedule and overschedule ourselves in hopes of giving our lives meaning when in reality, as he says, "More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter." We want to believe that we matter, and we don't want others to think we're meaningless, so we become "busy." It is, I believe, especially easy to fall into a habit of scheduling every hour of your day in a city like New York, where there is so much happening all the time. In the midst of all of this so-called "busyness," though, we doubtlessly make time for the people about whom we care the most. I find that when I give the excuse, "I'm sorry, I've been so busy," it means less that I haven't had the time and more that I haven't cared about making the time. We can make time for anything we want to, be it 30 seconds or 30 minutes. Standing by someone means taking the time to make the time. 

It means sitting in your friend's apartment on the Upper West Side on a couch covered in clothes because the hanger rod has broken, listening to your friend discuss an impending life change.

It means waiting outside a friend's dressing room at a department store in Soho and agreeing when they ask you to remind them not to wear lace-up shoes when you go shopping next time.

It means realizing you haven't seen someone in a while and having Indian food with them in the middle of their workday near City Hall. 

It means having a drink or two in the basement bar in the Financial District and reconnecting with someone who has been out working on their dreams.

It means scheduling a Hell's Kitchen brunch months in advance because you don't know the next time you'll be available and you want to make sure it happens. 

It means realizing that your loved ones are more important to you than any other "busy" you might encounter; you want to let them know that no matter how "busy" you might get, you will always be standing by them. And it's such an easy thing to do, an easy way to show you care, giving this gift of time we don't think we have. New York can be a lonely, isolating place, so knowing even in some small way that we are supported, that we're not alone, can invigorate us to take on another week, month, or year. Why would you not want to give someone such a gift? 

"I won't cry, no, I won't shed a tear, just as long as you stand, stand by me."