Friday, September 17, 2010

The Ladies

My second week in New York, a woman in a straw hat sat down next to me on the bus. Her black suit was neatly tailored and a string of pearls hung delicately around her neck. Blonde hair the color of popcorn swirled around her ears and loosely wrinkled face. She sat with her hands in her lap, on top of a black leather handbag. She chatted with me in an accent that at one time must have been distinctly Southern but had faded to a mere wisp on every other breath. She talked moving to the big city, like I told her I had just done, and I hoped on some level that I would be like her when I was her age. Elegant and poised, a well-mannered, well-dressed lady to the core.

These women are on the bus all the time. Southern women, New York women, but always ladies. These are the ladies who don their finest whenever they leave the house, whether they go to Bergdorf Goodman, one of the finest department stores in the world, or to get flowers from the local market. They wear hats, suits and pearls, or elegant little dresses or cigarette pants with delicate colorful wraps and scarves. They know what it means to go out, to leave one’s place of residence, be it mansion or studio apartment, and look like you own the world.

The ladies in New York are not like the women in South Florida. The women in South Florida get their hair backlit and updone into oblivion, with hair combed in globes so thin you can see through them to the other side. They wear polyester pantsuits with and smear their lips with hot pink lipstick, begging to pinch your cheeks with their long red fake nails.

But in New York, the ladies are so much more youthful. Secretly gray or white hair is dyed chocolate brown into smart, blunt bobs or blasted red into shoulder length curls. The ladies in New York make no case about pretending they don’t dye their hair—rather, they own it, as if to say yes, it’s dyed. And your point? Ladies in New York have hair of all different colors, not just the same thin blondish-white of the women in South Florida. Well, all the women except my grandmother Amy, may she rest in peace, whose hair was Black Cherry until the day she died. But she was from New York, too.

What’s nice, though, is that these ladies are not aging relics from a generation gone by. Yes, maybe women don’t wear suits every day anymore, but here in New York, ladies of any age get dressed when they leave their homes. None of this sweatpants business. In fact, they wouldn’t be caught dead leaving their homes in such attire. They go out every day with their list of things to do, be it the post office or the matinee of some show or lunch at Bloomingdale’s, and simply live in their world and look fabulous doing it.

One day I too will bury a husband, dye my hair and wear pearls on the bus. Later than sooner, if all goes as planned. Thank you to the ladies of New York for showing me how to do it in style.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mish Mosh

I kicked off the weekend on Thursday night at the dirty glam Gershwin Hotel. A former hangout of Andy Warhol and his gang, the Gershwin is a colorful, inexpensive hotel where lots of young people stay when they are traveling to or through Manhattan. I was only up to the second floor, but the walls of it were plastered with the pages of a 1970s magazine called Night, which was really just a smattering of black and white photographs of people being fabulous in nightclubs, spandex pants, leisure suits, afros and all.

But the real fun was just next door in Birch Coffee, a sparsely decorated but hip coffee shop attached to the hotel. Up Birch’s stairs was The Library, where people could get lost in a big once-white couch or snag a book or two as long as they left another in its place. But I was there for Mish-Mosh, a comedy show produced and hosted by my dear friend Gaby Dunn and her friend Gonzalo Cordova (Normally I don’t use names, but I think it’s important you know theirs so you can check out their show and their comedy). Gaby and Gonzalo knew each other from their work at Comedy Central, and started the show because of a mutual love of comedy. “This is what I do,” says Gonzalo. It’s almost as if his day job is done in his spare time, and the same goes for Gaby.

In this tiny little Library area, Gaby and Gonzalo brought together what must be some of the brightest young comics today including but not limited to Saturday Night Live writer Colin Jost, star of Comedy Central’s Big Lake Chris Gethard, Last Comic Standing’s Jared Logan, and The Onion’s Dan St. Germain. And the room was absolutely packed, standing room only. I was lucky enough to snag a speaker to sit on, and it turned out to be a great seat. I was just far enough away from Chris Gethard that he couldn’t see me, so when I started sneezing my stupid little sneezes in the middle of his set, he was able to say “Most adorable sneeze ever! Did someone let a kitten in here? I can’t see you, but I hope you’re like a 250-pound man or something.”

Putting together a comedy show isn’t easy, I imagine. First, the comics must complement each other in persona and/or material. Second, the comics shouldn’t have performed too closely to the date of the show because their material won’t be fresh enough; it will be “no, too soon, too soon” as Gaby says. Eventually, though, people’s schedules work out and through Twitter, Facebook and other social media accoutrements. The show happens, people laugh, and the German metalheads with ponytails get made fun of.

Young people do amazing things all the time and nobody ever hears about it because it’s not curing cancer or something, but when I left the show that night I truly felt as if I was in the presence of greatness. Two people my age had done something really awesome with their time instead of coming home and sitting in front of the television until they pass out as young people are stereotyped to do. It was inspiring, and it restored my faith in myself a little bit; like if they can do something neat like that here in New York, then maybe, eventually, I can do something neat too.

“How long have you been here? 5 days? 5 minutes?” Gaby asks me.

“5 weeks.”

“Ohhhh. Sorry, did you say 5 seconds?” We laugh, but I know she’s right: I just need to give it time.

So, if you’re a young person or an old person or someone in the middle, check out the Mish-Mosh comedy show (on Facebook:!/group.php?gid=112905265407372&ref=ts). Locations vary, but it’s now every two weeks (and free!) and you’re sure to laugh or, if you’re like me, get inspired.