Sunday, December 23, 2012

December Snapshots

Sometimes in New York, one has the distinct pleasure of experiencing several lovely events in a short period of time and one, namely moi, is confronted with the dilemma of how share them all. Until now, when I present to you a series of short vignettes about some fabulous evenings of weeks past. 

Une Petite Crise

When we walked into Marie's Crisis, I had visions of that scene in The Birdcage where the magical Mrs. Coleman (Goldman?) appears and the entire dinner party, conservative Christian family and closeted drag couple alike, burst into "I Could Have Danced All Night," from My Fair Lady. Except instead of a smaller dinner party, there was a large crowd of people sitting, leaning, standing around the piano in the center of the room, behind which an older gentleman in a beanie and a hoodie made his choice of show tunes, handed out solos and directed the evenings vocal acrobatics with thick, wrinkled hands. Gay and straight people alike sang in perfect and not-so-perfect pitch, and some, like me, just sang loud because why not? My, er, untrained voice hid amongst the crowd. I was able to Fosse my way through "All That Jazz" with hands and hips the way I always wanted to on the long road trips north when I was stuck in the passenger's seat.  All my mother and I would listen to were show tunes because she hated my dirty punk music ("Turn off that acid rock!" she'd say) and Kander and Ebb or Cole Porter or Jule Styne were the only things we could agree on. Consequently, I have some entire soundtracks memorized without even trying. I even got to flex my muscles a little bit at Marie's with Anything Goes, Chicago, Gypsy, and Cabaret. A glass of wine and a dirty martini in, I added some choreography. Fun story: Marie's was a brothel when it first opened in the 1850s. So my choreo was hardly the strangest thing that had ever passed in front of the bar's dark red walls. 

Cowgirls on the Run

EPL decided on a whim to come in for her 25th birthday the same weekend EH and ALC had become available to play, so we all went out and had a lady night. You don't get much more lady than a restaurant called Cowgirl, decked out from floor to ceiling in heavy handed and utterly ridiculous cowgirl paraphernalia, be they pinup cowgirl drawings, longhorns tacked to the wall, or a lamp made of smiling ladies wearing stetsons. Not to mention a menu featuring good ol' ranch grub like chili, chicken fried steak, fajitas, and god knows what else. We drank sangria, talked about things you can't talk about in front of boys or people you don't know very well. After many a beverage at another bar, we tried to find a cover-free gay bar to go dancing in, but we were at a loss. Instead, around 2am, we headed to Solas in the East Village and danced until we shut the club down. Next day, over home fries and omelets at new brunch spot Tolani, chosen to avoid all of the weird-ass cold rain flying around, we all conferred with each other--is your entire body sore? Mine is, too! Totally worth it. 

Taylor Mac

Even as someone ravenous for drag, I find myself unqualified to talk about the magic that is Taylor Mac. I had the pleasure of seeing the internationally acclaimed drag entertainer at Joe's Pub, tucked inside the newly renovated and legendary Public Theatre in the East Village. In a new series of one-hour shows he is workshopping, Mac uses his gorgeous, classically trained pipes to share re-tooled songs from every decade of music since the 1800s. In outrageous, outlandish costumes designed by the delicious Machine Dazzle (including a hat made from an entire box of Christmas ornaments), Mac is utterly bewitching, funny, and absolutely fabulous. Excuse me, sir--did you just perform a rock piano rendition of Silver Bells? Are you downing chocolate panna cotta in one bite and tossing arugula on your forehead betwixt songs? Will my life be lacking a certain amount of glitter until I see absolutely every single one of your 24 shows in the series (to be performed all at once, in one 24-hour period) as an ode to imperfection? Could doing so possibly lead to an overdose of brilliance and would it in fact be the most lovely way to die? Yes to all. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The L.A. Story, Part III


In light of the miserable New York weather this week, I am going to post one last blog about California. It has been almost a month since I’ve seen a sunset or left the house without wearing socks. I hate wearing socks.

Much is right with the world now that I have seen this.
I only had to wear socks a little bit in California, though. On Saturday, when KL picked me up at the hotel, I had actually overdressed for the weather, my cardigan and leather jacket too much for the 70-some-odd degree weather. It had been three days and I still didn’t know how to dress for the city. No matter. KL had been kind enough to take me out to fulfill one of my life goals: putting my hands in Marilyn Monroe’s handprints in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Now I’m fully aware of my anti-tourist demagoguery, but this was a special occasion! And Grauman’s is much smaller in person than the sprawling postcards on which it usually appears. But tucked neatly to the left side of the entrance, there she was. There’s a big glass bead on the ‘i’ in Marilyn because she hoped the studio would let her leave a diamond in there. Fearing it would get stolen, they let her put a rhinestone instead…which, in a matter of days, was itself stolen. So they put in a glass bead to fill the place, and it’s been there for 60 some-odd years now. There were other celebrity signatures there, but I didn’t really care, nor could I really handle it—that area of L.A. is like Times Square, claustrophobically seething with tourists (I guess much like myself). Besides, Marilyn was the goal. After I got my picture (rather, happily, a series of them because KL went to film school!), we left to have lunch at a rather “California” restaurant called Aroma and, to my delight, up to see the Hollywood sign.

Before we get to that, though, fun fact: did you know the parking meters in L.A. take credit cards? KL informs me it's quite the plastic town. Obviously, in more ways than one. KL is a film producer, so he has to sort through a lot of garbage and has learned a few things about the city. For example, a screenplay isn't really worth anything--it's just ink on paper. But it's everything that's attached to it--potential, money, etc.--that make it worth something. L.A., he says, is a town that continually makes something out of nothing. The city itself was just a desert before people found a way to bring water to it. It wasn't worth anything. And now it's worth so much. Technically, anyway. Like the screenplay.

But, to the Hollywood sign. Something people forget to tell you about L.A., or maybe forgot to tell me about L.A., was how beautiful the hills are. I've never been in an environment like that before, one that's so distinctly urban and still so natural. Up near the Hollywood sign, the road twists and turns past one-of-a-kind homes slouching into the hillside and opens up into this open, green area where all you can see is green, dotted with the occasional house. There are deep valleys and dirt and fields and the air is so crisp and cool I could really just stay there forever. The letters in the sign shone bright white on the green hillside, just hanging out. No big, we're only just one of the great American landmarks, la di da. I tell KL he should ask a girl to marry him up there, but for him it's far too cliche--like asking someone to marry you on top of the Empire State Building--and I can understand that. I don't really want to leave. I just want to sit up there and breathe some more of that air (as I'm sure you know, we don't have too many hillsides in New York!), but KL is a busy man and has other places to be. It's all for the best, though, because maybe if I spent too long there I wouldn't want to go back. But I didn't, so I do. 

**

The view from the photo shoot loft!
Monday morning brought an early rise as the Affinitas ladies picked me up and took me to our shooting location, a gorgeous loft on the seventh floor of a building close to downtown. Looking out the windows, you could see all across the city, and when the sun set, it oozed lavender, melon, and yellow across the sky and through the panes of glass. I forgot how much I missed sunsets. The entire day was a blast, working with the photographer, makeup artist, and marketing team to get everything set up. I picked out the different lingerie and jewelry ensembles that will appear in an upcoming catalog, which is incredibly exciting! 

That night, I reconnected with RH, a dear friend from college. We hadn't seen each other in years and had barely spoken, but somehow it all fell away. I guess that's how you tell who your real friends are--when time can pass and it never matters. RH took me to lovely Santa Monica (where I think I would like to live if I lived in L.A.), which reminds me so much of Fort Lauderdale Beach but with less tourists and better weather. We walked up and down
Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier at night, sort of L.A.'s answer to Coney Island but not at all dirty, chatting about life and the universe and family and progress and personal growth. Neon lights from the rides slashed through the dark night sky while our shoes click-clacked on the aged wooden boardwalk. The sea was silent and dark, scary and endless but in a beautiful, uncertain way. We found a lovely little restaurant called The Misfit, where we dined on small plates (I still cannot get the bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese out of my mind. RH, if you're reading this, please go back and eat them all the time for me.) and interesting cocktails and talked and talked. RH effervesces--L.A. agrees with him, and it shows. Far more than the cold and grey of Pittsburgh where we went to school. 

One of my favorite things in the world is seeing someone's city from their point of view. "Take me where you go!" I say with a bright smile on my face to my friends. You get to see a part of them you might never see otherwise, a part that is love for a place you don't know and can't duplicate on your own. But seeing them love it makes you love it too. So for all the things that people say about L.A., I have to say I liked it quite a lot. But then again, I had excellent hosts. I only wish all visitors to L.A. the same experience. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The L.A. Story, Part II


I have not had the privilege of traveling many places by myself, much less those that require a car, but my gander about downtown L.A. my second day in town was just delightful. Stationed in Little Tokyo, I had Japanese food for breakfast (also dinner the night before…and dinner later that night. I swear I've never eaten so much rice in my life.) and then took a walk around the area. The Japanese Village Plaza was right next to my hotel, done up in red and white lanterns, dotted with Japanese restaurants, and sprinkled with stores vending Japanese paraphernalia. So it was a little touristy, but I decided to embrace it because, really, I had no other choice! But it was a delight to roll up to a restaurant at around noon (yeah, breakfast at noon, I'm still a New Yorker at heart) and order Chicken Donburi, prefaced by green tea and miso soup. A couple from France next to me took pictures of their food as I sipped my earthy-and-wonderful-tasting tea. Seriously, I asked myself, why don't I drink proper green tea more often?

Innards warmed, I took to the street again to explore. To my delight, the Japanese American National Museum was free that day (thank you, Target!), and I decided why not have a bit of culture today? I explored the awesome street art installation on the inside, decked out in amazing pencil illustrations by Albert Reyes. I learned it was a part of the Giant Robot Biennale, the museum's third so far. Named of course for Eric Nakamura's famed "Asian American pop culture juggernaut," the Biennale featured a variety of vinyl toy sculptures, and works from a variety of pop artists. I was also quite taken with stunning watercolors and drawings by Rob Sato and teeny tiny sculptures by Sean Chao. There was even an awesome sticker vending machine where you could get stickers showing the works of artists in the show. The rooms of the Biennale were exploding with color in toy, painting, and sculpture form. 

"Go for Broke" Emblem on the monument

Upstairs, I also learned about the history of the Japanese people settling in America--their triumphs and tribulations, the culture they created for themselves in America and, sadly, about Japanese internment during World War II. An older gentleman took a group of young girls on a tour of the museum just in front of me, and I listened as he explained the plight of the Japanese with great emotional intensity. It's something we don't really learn enough about when we study American history. Not everything about America is butterflies and rainbows. One part of this story that really resonated with me was that of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (among others), the segregated portion of the military made of second-generation Japanese Americans, rescuing Holocaust survivors despite their questioned American loyalty after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Their motto was "Go for Broke," as in give it all you've got, and they did, not only proving their loyalty (and showing the government how wrong they were) but far surpassing expectations. I bought a magnet with the "Go for Broke" emblem on it and it's now on my fridge. Incidentally, the "Go for Broke" monument is just outside the museum, too. What a pleasant surprise, stumbling into a museum like this on a Saturday! And for free! 

And then, right next door, as if a gift from the culture gods, was the MOCA Geffen (aka The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA). MOCA Geffen is a contemporary art space that was once a former police car warehouse, revamped by none other than Frank Gehry. It has a variety of nooks and crannies for housing artwork, this time the large exhibition, "Blues for Smoke," which featured only work inspired by blues music and the culture of the blues. Not only were there fantastic pieces on view (Basquiat, photos by Roy DeCarava and Mark Morrisroe, Zoe Leonard's installation of a long line of blue suitcases) but music to listen to as if to give every piece of artwork a context beyond just the floating white walls. I walked around the 24,000-square-foot space with dreamy, wide-eyes, like a teenager stumbling upon the dressing room of her favorite pop star. Seeing this exhibition felt like that tiny moment when you exhale after a sigh and everything feels lighter. I am completely, unapologetically, an art junkie and "Blues for Smoke" was my cocaine.


Floating in my delicious art-coma, I returned briefly to my hotel room to drop off some museum goodies I had procured and found a bookstore not too far from my hotel called The Last Bookstore, featuring not only used books, but records, too! It seemed like my kind of joint. Having brought less reading material than was actually necessary, I realized today would be the only day I would have to make sure I didn't just sit and twiddle my thumbs on the almost 6-hour flight back to New York. Walking to the store, even though it was still light out, I was unsettled--absolutely nobody walks around the streets of downtown L.A. on the weekend, apparently. Though it did make for nice picture taking of some of the buildings around (the Los Angeles Times building and City Hall among them). Walking down Spring Street (ha, we have one of those in New York, too!), it looked like if you took a snap of Manhattan, set a pastel watercolor sunset behind it, cleaned up the streets 'til they sparkled, and took all the people off of it. How strange to walk down a street decked out in lovely buildings with not a person walking in front of them! But I arrived at the bookstore eventually (with the help of a French gentleman who ran a cafe), and was instantly in love. Enormous glass windows painted with 'The Last Bookstore' in gold let me know I was in the right place, as did the shelves upon shelves of books and CDs and records bathed in golden light. White columns held everything up, grungy vintage furniture strategically placed nearby. Raunchy romance paperbacks sat side by side with football stories and pulp novels, DVDs arranged by color. I laughed at myself a little--this is a place I would find. After much deciding on books, however, I settled on An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin (yes, the Steve Martin) and The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson. By that time, though, it had gotten dark--would it be safe to walk back to my hotel? I asked the clerk and was pleasantly told to just walk straight up Spring to 1st, as to avoid "the apocalypse" of a not-so-nice area. I did as I was bidden, stopping first for a hot beverage to warm my chilly bones on the way home. 



And that was only the first part of my day. 

Though I didn't feel like I had particularly done much that day, I was pretty beat so it was off to the hotel again for a disco nap. Followed by, you guessed it, more Japanese food. I realized there were other restaurants I could have looked for, but by the time I had realized I was already seated at the bar at Suehiro, a friendly, diner-like neighborhood Japanese joint. To my right were two giggling teenagers and to my left was an older gentleman in a blue blazer, who was also by himself. Eventually this gentleman, Bert, and I began talking, about New York, about careers, about family, about Los Angeles. Though he was from the Philippines, he had lived in L.A. now for about 25 or 26 years. He told me about his family, and his late wife who I could tell he loved very much. It's times like these when the universe throws people together. Why didn't I find another type of food to eat tonight? Why didn't I sit somewhere else? "You make me feel young again," Bert said. I smiled, and he was kind enough to buy me dinner. We took pictures together and said our goodbyes. If even for a moment you can positively affect change in someone's life, then it's all been worth it. 

Post-dinner, I returned to my hotel and changed for another fabulous evening out with RE, punctuated by another disco nap. RE drove us out to West Hollywood, which I'm told is "the gay part of town" and we went to a gay club called The Abbey. Though it was outfitted like, well, an abbey, there was nothing holy going on in this place. Delightful! Go-go boys and girls (mostly boys) swung from poles and rails and did all sorts of muscularly things with their bodies. RE and I watched in delight whenever we need a break from shakin' our thangs to Gaga, Beyonce and Whitney or sipping our Long Island Iced Teas. West Hollywood is sort of like if Hell's Kitchen were pristine, spotless, and near one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in America (Beverly Hills is right down the street). And then, just like the other night, 1:30 rolled around and it was last call. Then at 2am, all the lights came on in the club and all the boys (and the occasional girl) slowly tottered out of the club. Another freeway ride and a big hug goodbye to RE later, I was back at the hotel, ready to see what else L.A. had in store for me the next day. 

(to be continued…again)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The L.A. Story, Part I

An entire state bursting at the seams with marijuana. Plastic surgery and Botox floating behind tanned skin. Celebrity. Vanity. Convertibles. People who are so laid back they might fall over. These are some of the things that the general public attributes to California, giving it a near-mythic quality, framing it as only a neverland of endless youth that generally lacks substance and has a movie star for a governor. 

Not to mention what people have to say about Los Angeles itself, especially while living clear across the country in New York. LA is where culture goes to die, people say. It's an industry city where people are only out for themselves. Strangely, I always wanted to go. I wanted to see if people were right or, if like so many other parts of the country, the ideas were all just rumors that were blown out of proportion. But I knew I'd have to save my pennies if I ever wanted to get there.

It was, then, a happy surprise when I found out I won the Affinitas Lingerie Stylist for Hire competition. After submitting a look and then a video inspired by the company's lingerie, I was selected by two top lingerie bloggers as the contest winner. As the winner, I won some prize money, lingerie, and a roundtrip flight and hotel stay in LA to style a photoshoot for the company's catalogs. I got back this past Tuesday, and I absolutely had a blast. 

My journey began at 6am on Friday, November 9 as I woke up and got fabulous before a car arrived at 7 to take me to JFK. On the bumpy ride to the airport, I was tired but unable to sleep, becoming nauseated by the persistent, clunking, stop-and-go of the car in traffic (life is hard, I know--cut me a break). Upon arrival at the airport, a bagel and cream cheese  eased the nausea, as did free wi-fi in the Jet Blue terminal! All was right with the world, except for a nasty stuffed and running nose. But I was going to LA! And I was excited! 

Six hours later, I landed at LAX and, like Miley Cyrus, I too had a dream and a cardigan. But also a leather jacket because I was told it gets surprisingly cold at night in LA. The kind ladies from the lingerie company picked me up and took me to my hotel and on the car ride I proved how…green…I was in terms of California-ness. "I CAN SEE THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN!" I said, as I stared out the window, only to discover that it was actually just a building. I talked about the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, the famous punk club and, when asked where it was, I said, "Uh…it's on a boulevard?" Which is like saying "It's on the corner of a street and another street next to the bodega," in New York (or anywhere, for that matter). 

After checking in to the Miyako Hotel in Downtown LA's Little Tokyo neighborhood (I also found out, on my last day, that the different areas--West Hollywood, Santa Monica, etc.--are not referred to as neighborhoods, but as cities. Oh. But Little Tokyo is actually a neighborhood.), the ladies treated me to lunch at Daikokuya Ramen, a DELICIOUS ramen/noodle/Japanese joint directly across from the hotel. Normally there's a line outside of the restaurant to get in, but since it was the middle of the day we only had to wait 10 minutes. Vintage Japanese advertisements from the '50s lined the walls, also peppered with the occasional, handwritten-in-black-sharpie 'Cash Only' sign. I wanted to keep eating the ramen, filled to the brim with pork belly, noodles, and bean sprouts, but my stomach wouldn't let me. Though the hot soup and an accompanying green tea did ease my sad little nose. I was in LA only minutes and already I was feeling better. What is it they say about that desert air?

Post-lunch the ladies took me to L.A.'s Fashion District in Downtown L.A., which is a lot like the one here in New York, except it's more of an open-air market and the shoes are really inexpensive (but totally fierce!). I returned to the hotel, shopped and near sleep, but I wanted more.

I called the delightful RE, who had just begun a Master's degree at USC because he is baller and amazing. What are you up to tonight? Let's have a drink! And so we had a cocktail and a lovely chat downtown. Not before I took the first of my many disco naps in L.A., the product of coast-to-coast jet lag. If you are not familiar, a disco nap is a nap taken post-dinner, pre-going out(to the disco, as it were). Sometimes I call just taking a nap a disco nap because it's just snazzier. 

Interestingly, in L.A. the bars close at 2am! Last call is around 1:30. I found this interesting because when people talk about L.A., it seems like a never-ending party. But really, everyone drives so they can't stay out too late, or something along those lines? What I learned from living in Pittsburgh, where the bar hours are the same, is that it just means people get drunker earlier. Whatevs. What I found most interesting about our trip downtown, however, is how empty the streets are. Yes, people line up to get into clubs and whatnot, but nobody really walks around. It's almost unsettling, until you get into a store or a bar or a restaurant and it's packed with people. Such is life and the car culture of L.A., but more on that later. After a grand hug, RE and I part ways. I practically fall into bed, having been up for almost 22 hours. But so far, so good!

(To be continued)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Petite Soiree


I seem to have the extroardinary? Unusual? Quite strange? luck of having all of my New York birthdays so far clash with the interests of the general universe. What I mean by that is, usually so many people are sick and cancel, or it’s on a Thursday so everyone leaves early, this one’s boyfriend’s head is bleeding, that one has to suddenly be in at work at 6am or, as in this year, there’s a hurricane.

So I was not holding too-high expectations for my birthday this year, given the fact that the tri-state area (if not more) was in a state of near-if-not-total, chaos. Trains from New Jersey were suspended, trains from Brooklyn were impossible, power was still out in parts of downtown. I was expecting a petite soiree this year. This is not to sound ungrateful, however! I knew that even if two friends showed up we would spend the night laughing and I was not wrong. Except more showed up and we really laughed into the night. It was, I must say, one of the best birthdays in recent memory.

I decided early on that this would be so. There were very few things I wanted from my birthday evening:
1) dinner out with my girlfriends
2) A birthday cake of my own design
3) A visit to see the Andy Warhol Retrospective at The Met
4) Champagne
5) SO MUCH LAUGHTER

We already know I got number four, but here’s how the other four went down.

1) Dinner with my Girlfriends
A success! Though originally I chose a different restaurant downtown, I conceded to an uptown establishment due to the stroke below 34th Street. But it ended up not being so much a concession as an equally wonderful delight! We got all dolled up and I even put on those special “these are cab-to-curb-only” gold heels I got in London. I can barely walk a block in them and the mere idea that I spent an entire evening wearing them in London one time actually blows my mind.

The restaurant I wound up choosing was Sel et Poivre, a charming French restaurant located on Lexington Avenue at 65th Street. Older couples surrounded the tables near us four ladies and we smiled. Escargot by the dozens! Duck l’orange! Pate! Cabernet! Delicieux! And a three-foot-long pepper grinder that caused each of us to cock an eyebrow toward the ceiling. Who would like some fresh pepper?

2) The Cake
Because really, how often does one have a proper birthday cake at a birthday soiree anymore? Not often enough, I say! So to The Food Emporium I went to order myself a cake: vanilla cake with white buttercream filling and frosting, red frosting roses and ‘Happy Birthday Elyssa’ also written in red on a petite circular cake.

“Oh, you’re ordering it for yourself!” said the woman behind the counter. Yes indeed, I was! I didn’t realize until then how rather out of the ordinary this was. Nevertheless, it was my birthday and I was going to do whatever I damned well pleased.

Yes, it's upside down. Deal with it.
When I picked up the cake, the man behind the counter said, “Oh, why doesn’t your husband get it for you? Your boyfriend? Why you don’t have a boyfriend? You are so pretty!” Well, thank you sir, but I like to pick out my own cakes, with exactly what I want on them. Harrumph. Though I appreciate the compliment. I walked gingerly with the cake back to the apartment, thoroughly ready to scream at any wayward child loping irresponsibly down the street. Out of my way, small person! I have just purchased myself a cake and I PATENTLY REFUSE to have you ruin it for me, DO YOU UNDERSTAND?

Later that night, I realized I had no candles to light for myself and pulled out one from last year’s hurricane. Turns out it was a Shabbos candle. We are what we are. I lit the candle for myself and everyone sang happy birthday. So, okay, maybe it is a bit weird to get yourself a cake, put a candle on it, light the candle for yourself and then blow it out, but a lady’s gotta take care of herself, ya heard? You only get one 24th birthday, might as well make it as unusual as possible.

My dear roommate also made me a Pavlova for my birthday, topped with luscious cream and fresh fruits. It was a delightful treat and a scrumptious act of love. My home is usually bereft of any cooking supplies (a mixer, etc.) but SEP managed to make it work and produce a lovely, frothy, sweet concoction we all loved. It’s nice when people make things for you on your birthday. I am not brilliant in the kitchen, however, so for her next birthday I will have to practice making her a martini of some kind (Cosmopolitans are my specialty, currently, but I would be glad to expand my repertoire).

3) Warhol
The Warhol Retrospective opened at The Met in September, but I simply hadn’t gone yet. Knowing it closed on December 31, I knew I may not have another chance to see it, so I took myself there for my birthday (after having a yummy brunch of whole wheat pancakes, tofu scramble, potatoes, and veggie sausage patties near my house. Devoom!). I love all the bright colors Warhol uses in his work, and it was interesting to see all of the artists he also influenced since he first came onto the scene in the late 1950s, early 1960s. I was especially intrigued by Matthew Barney’s work, and was delighted to see a Maurizio Cattelan sculpture on display. There was also a chainsaw fashioned from Chanel shopping bags that I adored, though I can’t remember the artist currently.

4) Le Champagne
I went to the store and bought four bottles, one of them my favorite, Veuve Cliquot. Because every woman should have champagne on her birthday! It turns out I did not purchase enough, but luckily friends brought other bubbly beverages (including another bottle of VC! What luck!) and then it turned out to be just fine. And now I have one more bottle of champagne in my fridge. Because every woman should have at least one bottle of champagne in her fridge at all times.

5) SO MUCH LAUGHTER
It’s great when your friends all get along and have had enough personality drinks to really be even more interesting and hilarious than they already are. It’s especially brilliant when it’s complimented by the ‘Drinkin’ with my Bitches’ birthday banner one friend gets you (Thank you, AS!!). 
 
So, despite the hurricane, my petite birthday this year was a pure delight. Good things come in little packages, non?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

For Better or For Worse

When you move to New York, you develop a strong bond relationship with the city, no matter the borough. As a New Yorker, you promise to love and cherish your city in good times and bad, in sickness and in health. When it hurts, you do your best to ease its troubles and when it falls, you make a promise to pick it back up. It is simply the commitment you make when you move here, whether you know it or not.

Last week, Hurricane Sandy whipped through the tri-state area, leaving over $50 billion worth of damage. Homes without power, businesses shut down, beaches and boardwalks destroyed, families displaced. Sadly, these are typical circumstances for any powerful storm and I have seen them in action before while living in South Florida, but seeing my new city in ruin, my adopted home a crippled shell of itself, was and is frightening.

Perhaps like most New Yorkers I do and always have put the city on a pedestal. The city that never sleeps, the lights that never dim, the people who toil endlessly in pursuit of their dreams because they know there's no other city on earth who can give them what this one does. New York City is one of the most powerful cities in the world--the epicenter of countless industries, the city where, truly, if you can make it here you can make it anywhere. Its power is also raised to mythical proportions, the city taking on a life of its own, a strong silent god-like figure glowing and beating in the heart of every New Yorker. The city could be filled with atheists and heathens, but everyone believes in New York--it is in itself a force of nature.

So to see this giant of industry, this giant of dreams, beat up by another force of nature, is unsettling. Living uptown, thankfully, we didn't experience too much damage. But downtown lost all of its power, it was flooded, it was completely dark--no heat, no water, nowhere to buy food. It was, as a friend said, a war zone.

On Friday, I took part of the day off of work to do what I could do give back. On a bus ride downtown (the subway service had only been partially restored at that point), I saw my favorite neighborhoods, often lit up with neon, with people and with taxicabs, reduced to ghost towns. In the middle of the day, businesses were shuttered up as tight as they would be around 5am. The bus ride downtown was jarring and I kept forgetting what time of day it was.

People lined up around the corners at shelters and churches for free coffee, diapers, food, and necessities. The National Guard and the Army were stationed giving out water on the Lower East Side. Volunteer groups went into housing projects to make sure everyone was okay and had supplies they needed--if not, they brought the supplies. Businesses opened their basements to clean and the air smelled of mildew. I could not will myself to take pictures of it all, for fear of capitalizing on others' misfortune, and my camera stayed in my bag.

The most unsettling, though, was to see army vehicles stationed up and down 1st Avenue near 14th Street. Covered in camouflage, they lined a few blocks in front of a grocery store. Soldiers in fatigues leaned against them, some took a picture with a little boy whose mother was poised and ready with her iPhone. At sweet as it was, it was also scary. Army vehicles in Manhattan? My city, she is not okay.

While power has for the most part been restored in Manhattan, it is still not back to normal. Many of the subway lines are running, but many are flooded and will be out of commission for weeks. After Katrina and Wilma, it took at least two weeks, if not longer, for everything to be back to normal in South Florida. And that is an area that is accustomed to hurricanes. It will be impossible to get gas, it will be impossible to get around the area as easily as we usually do, power may flicker, internet will be spotty, we will have to go to friends' houses to shower or even to have heat. It is what it is. But we survived, and we will have to persist with the knowledge everything will be back to normal eventually. Because it will. New York is not just built of concrete and steel and glass and whatever else buildings are made of. It is built of resilience, of rebirth, and that is one of the promises we all make to ourselves and to the city when we get here: that we will just keep going.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pirouette and Other French Words

I don't know if I've written this before, but prior to moving to New York I danced for about 20 years. Never professionally, never hardcore, but it was something I usually did at least once a week for a very long time. When I got to the city, instead of dancing, I started doing a lot of yoga instead. Perhaps incorrectly, I felt that I almost didn't deserve to dance anymore, that it should only be for people whose souls truly could not breathe without it. Plus, classes were expensive.

As time wore on, though, I noticed bits and pieces of my former dance life were missing--I would walk down the street listening to my iPod, choreographing in my head, when I woke up in the morning I would do the same stretches I used to do before warming up, and I noticed myself itching to get back into a studio and take class. It's not like New York wasn't filled with studios, and taking a class every so often wouldn't kill me or my wallet. But I was scared. I remembered the way I used to really get down on myself for not doing as good a job as possible, how frustrated I would be for not getting a combination quickly enough or when I fell off releve from a double pirouette at the very end of a turn.

At OXHEART's Dancetropolis event, though, where our art show was dance- and music- themed, I found myself freestyling in a large group of people to "It's a Man's World," by James Brown. Yes, I fell off my pirouette again, but I just laughed and then did some chaines (pronounced sha-nays) and long, luscious arm movements I missed from modern and lyrical dance and it was just fine. "Man, I wish I could do that again," I said to myself. There was really nothing stopping me.

Saturday morning last week I woke up and itched for some exercise, but there wasn't a yoga class that matched up with my schedule. Curious, I began to flirt with some schedules on various dance studio websites, and I found a class that piqued my interest--a jazz class at Peridance in the East Village. There were studios closer, but I have an affinity for the East Village and if I left my house in 15 minutes I would make it just in time. I scrambled into my dance bag, still hanging on the back of my closet door, and dug out my jazz shoes. I threw on some clothes I could move in, and I was out the door. "Quick!" I kept thinking to myself. "Go before you change your mind!" And I went. I had no thoughts except to just go and get there on time, first of all. Everything else I could worry about later.

Grant Chang's 2pm jazz class was filled with mostly ladies and the occasional dude. They all stretched before class, and I wondered if I should too but instead I just sat patiently and waited. I figured we'd have a warmup, anyway. I was not wrong. Grant rolled in with his super cool dancer dude trucker hat, white t-shirt, and basketball shorts, socks on his feet. Suddenly Rihanna started blasting. He clapped twice and moved to the front and center of the room, beginning a combination of stretches, leans, plies, and releves, which everyone followed. Some knew it already and I almost felt behind, but then I was like, uh, Elyssa, it's been 2.5 years since you've been in a dance studio. Cut yourself a break. And just follow along and pick it up because that's what you're supposed to do when you take class. Ready go.

And I did. I picked up the warm up, I sweated my face off, I did crunches until I thought I was going to pass out, and it felt wonderful. Sometimes I forget how wonderful it feels to actually experience your body doing the work--I love yoga, but it's slow, which can be both good and bad. I stretched my foot to my face for the first time in a while and my hamstrings yelped, partially with joy, partially not, but even so I surged with electricity and adrenaline. I felt sore and sweaty and beautifully alive. And we hadn't even gotten to the dance combination yet.

To my surprise, I picked it up faster than I anticipated. The performance part was always something I could get easily, and the moves came along with it. It wasn't perfect by any means, but I think another few times and I could have gotten it even better. Again, not too shabby for the first time in two and a half years. Insert 'riding a bicycle' cliche here. I found myself thinking instantly, "And next time you come, you'll do even better." It was pretty fair to say that my danceless days were over.

Drenched in sweat, I went and bought a bottle of water in the lobby. Grant was near the cash register, so I said thank you for the class. "You were great!" he said with a smile. Great? It was hardly the word I would use, but I just sort of mumbled, "Oh, thanks, but it's been a while." I could barely look him in the eye. "No, really!" he said. "You were great!" I laughed and smiled meekly, and said thank you again. Maybe he was just being nice, seeing that I was a new face or something. It felt nice to hear nonetheless, and I have always been my harshest critic so who knows.  My body quivered as I left the studio and walked down 13th Street, knowing full well that the delightful Stretch Armstrong rubbery feeling I had would soon be a celebration of Advil. Just like the good old days.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Borscht Friends

On the days when I can think of nothing to do and despise the idea of sitting in my apartment, I walk around. Sometimes all the way across Central Park, sometimes all across lower Manhattan, but always with no one particular venue in mind. It's days and nights like these when I make some of the best discoveries, too.

This past Sunday, I found myself frequenting some of my regular haunts (McNally Jackson on Prince Street, where I sat and drank a steamed milk with honey while perusing a stack of magazines I had previously never heard of) and began itch with sameness. You know, that itch where you simply cannot bear to do the things you always do and must do something different now.

So I wound my way from SoHo up through the East Village--which, granted, is not at all out of the box for me, but I was looking for something in particular. This something was food, but it had to cost less than ten dollars, and it had to be yummy, and it had to be open after 9pm on a Sunday. Come to think of it, the last part shouldn't have been too difficult because, come on, it's New York! But I'm on 2nd Avenue because 3rd turns into that "there's no possible good food in this area" no-man's land near Cooper Square/the Astor Place stop for the 6 train (there's a McDonald's nearby). I considered Pommes Frites, but decided it was too heavy for right now, and I wasn't in a junk food mood. And then I saw a little green awning floundering in the light Autumn breeze, and I remembered: ohhhhh, that place!

B&H is a tiny little nothing of a restaurant, as some of my favorite places are. I had remembered reading about it in New York magazine when I was looking for cheap but yummy (or at least consistent) restaurants to take friends who were visiting. For whatever reason, I never actually got in the door. But it was perfect for right now. The little, seafoam green space may have been a hallway for something at some point, it's so slim. It has a lunch counter, the wonderful old kind with the leather-topped, chrome stools stuck right into the floor; next to it are some two-person tables with one four-person table in the back. I sidle up to the counter and peer around at the laminated signs printed on neon paper: SPECIAL MACARONI AND CHEESE WITH SOUP $10 and KNISH: SPINACH, KASHA, POTATO. Near the ceiling, a black slate with those tack-on letters tells me some more of the restaurant's offerings. It is all vegetarian and kosher, two things I do not actively seek in a restaurant but am also not one to dismiss. The place serves Jewish soul food, and on that oddly warm-ish fall night, my Jew(ish) soul was craving a cold soup, preferably a borscht. For my goyim friends, this is a beet soup served with sour cream. And maybe a knish. "How much for a knish?" I asked the clearly not-Jewish gentleman behind the counter in a white apron. "Eh, if you get the borscht I give you knish and borscht for only $8 since you don't want the bread," he responds with a Spanish accent. But I wasn't that hungry, so I just stuck with the soup.

My bowl arrived, a plain white porcelain one with the fuchsia soup dripping over the side onto a plate. It was plonked down in front of me with a spoon. This particular borscht featured beet slivers, cream, dill and probably even some sugar since it was rather sweet. Each little spoonful was accompanied by a swipe of sour cream and made for a perfect little dinner on the go, for only $5. Wonderfully enough, everything on the menu is under $10, from blintzes to bagels to omelets. Sure, B&H may not look like much when you first walk in, but it's been there over 60 years so it's certainly doing something right. As I sat and ate my soup, I felt for a moment I was locked in the 1950s: a single gal at a lunch counter in the big city, the world at her feet. I could easily overdose on nostalgia, or I could just be excited by the fact that it's actually 50 years later and everything else is still true.

B&H
127 Second Ave., near St. Mark's Place
212-505-8065
(no website)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Last Night in Town

Forgive me, dear blog readers, for I have been remiss! It's great to be busy, but sometimes life just gets away from you for a bit. That being said, here's a story.

I had been blessed for a few months to have not one, but two fabulous Norwegian roommates! As I have said to other people before, most people don't even have one Norwegian roommate, but I have two!! SEP is a friend of CN's and now, of course, of mine too. I am sure we will have many divine adventures together, so you'll be seeing her name more often. Life in New York is certainly a struggle, for even the most successful people, but having a wonderful roommate--nay, a friend who lives with you and whose company you quite enjoy--makes life that much easier. So knock on wood!

CN departed for the Motherland this past Wednesday, and to celebrate we had one last night out. What was funny was that I thought we were just going for ice cream, so 10 minutes before we were supposed to leave, I threw on a pair of jeans and went to wash my face, only to see CN curling her hair in the bathroom. "My, you're getting awfully dressed up just for ice cream!" I laughed. "What?" she said. "We're going out! It's my last night!" Ohhhhh. Insta-fashion challenge accepted! I changed into something more fabulous and threw on a fur.

We made our way down to Serendipity 3, the restaurant famed for its frozen hot chocolate. Despite the chill currently in the air, CN had read about the treat in a book I had called "The Best of New York" and decided she wanted to go before she left. I skipped dinner because I wanted to have one little restaurant's famed desserts instead. So not only did we have the frozen hot chocolate, which tastes exactly as it sounds, but I also had a Drugstore Sundae, with three scoops of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and whipped cream. Trust me, friends, it may sound simple, but that is what a hot fudge sundae is supposed to taste like. Thick, almost pudding-like hot fudge--none of this chocolate syrup nonsense--and homemade whipped cream that was fluffy and cloud-like. I ate all of the ice cream, since the hot fudge was too rich to eat just by itself.

Our next stop was The Randolph, at the suggestion of CN's gentleman friend. I say this last fact because it was very much a man-bar, but not in the obnoxious frat boy way. This was the bar of a man who read GQ but didn't wear a suit all the time, who wore loafers or wingtips without socks and had a groomed mess of facial hair. Leather couches, walls of dark-paneled wood and, interestingly enough, only artisan cocktails--no Red Bull and Vodka up in this joint. We drank a bunch of wine and talked about nothing, as we are wont to often do. Having been on medication and without alcohol for a while, my one glass of Malbec left me muttering absurdities as we took a cab to our next destination at around 2 am. Because having a next destination at 2 am is one of the great things about New York.

It turned out to be Le Baron, where everyone (except me, comically enough) wears black or white or flannel and looks like they just left an art gallery in Brooklyn. The club is sandwiched between a series of Chinese funeral homes at the intersection to two streets I've never heard of in a sort-of Chinatown-ish area. Dear lord, these hip places are just in the most absurd locations, aren't they? I'm having a Stefon moment just thinking about it. Having the velvet ropes lifted for us, we entered into a dark space filled with false smoke from a machine nearby. On the tiny dance floor, the DJ was killer (Franco V who, surprisingly, was not a guido), though--lots of old school tracks mixed with fresh ones, like Snoop Dogg next to Hall and Oates next to Springsteen next to The Ting Tings. At 3:30, SEP and I decided to call it a night and we drunkenly talked about our exes and how unhappy they made us on the way home. While SEP smoked a cigarette on our fire escape, I checked my email, because that's what I do at 4am. CN called me and asked me what that drink was that we had almost a year ago, when I took her to "that Jewish place? Something creamy?" she half-slurred. It was an egg cream, I said. I will miss her.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Rockin' in the Free World?



I had heard about the Global Citizen Festival peripherally; that is, I vaguely remember someone posting about it on Facebook. There was some kind of lottery, something, free music, a park? But it wasn’t until HL told me about it that I actually listened.

The Global Citizen Festival arose from The Global Poverty Project, dedicated to ending poverty around the globe within this generation. It turned out to be the “largest syndicated charity concert online and in broadcast TV history,” drawing 60,000 people to Central Park’s Great Lawn. The show, completely on the free, included none other than K’Naan, Band of Horses, The Black Keys, Foo Fighters, and Neil Young with Crazy Horse. HL had entered the lottery to win tickets, got two, and invited me.

At 11:30am on Saturday, September 29, I went to buy snacks. I didn’t know how long we’d be in line, how crazy expensive food would be, if we’d even be able to move from our spots to get any. I knew 60,000 tickets had been given out, so I didn’t really want to be at war with that many people for a stupid sandwich. So Baked Ruffles and Pirates’ Booty it was. The gates were set to open at 2pm, so HL and I arrived at noon (well, she did—I got there at 12:15 because the crosstown bus is sometimes a bitch) and waited outside Central Park. We snacked, we talked, we tried not to listen to obnoxious teenagers standing in line with us. And, finally, the line moved and in we went.

We were sent on a long, winding expedition through the park, I think traveling something like 16 blocks north of where we were once we got inside. Slow walker that I am, HL reached out her scarf to me and said, “Don’t let go!” as she yanked on the scarf and hurried me along the path with her. We were among some of the first hundreds to arrive and found ourselves a snug little spot up against the barricades, in perfect view of the center of the massive stage, a massive reproduction of the Global Poverty Project logo. There were some not-so-great things about the way the concert was set-up, but I’ll ignore those here because, well, I got to see five pretty awesome acts for free.

While I have great respect for the concert’s vision, the way the information about poverty was presented was a little counterintuitive. That is, we were simply a captive audience: I’m willing to venture that most of us just wanted to hear the music. I’m basing this on the fact that multiple times throughout the evening groups of people shouted “MORE MUSIC” and the name of the band slated to appear after each informational video. This is not to say that I think the cause is stupid and I certainly do not mean to appear ungrateful, but I am saying it’s important to know one’s audience. It is, however, very exciting to know all of the work that’s being done to end poverty by all of these fantastic celebrities, supermodels and musicians. I am glad they all have the time and money to spare for such a worthy cause. Unfortunately right now in my life I am not in such a place, but I assure you as soon as I do I will donate some extra dollars to a worthy cause.

That being said, let’s talk tuneage. Way to go, Band of Horses! I would definitely buy your album, and it was awesome to hear everyone sing along to “Great Salt Lake.” And a surprise appearance by John Legend, singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” with just a piano. The Black Keys? Killin’ it. BABY I’M HOWLIN’ FOR YOU (da da dad a da…). Dan Auerbach, why are you so sexy? You’re like an indie blues rock James Dean. Please and thank you. I didn’t remember you being that sexy when I saw you in Pittsburgh (also for free, incidentally). Foo Fighters, on point as always. Thanks for playing the hits! That girl three rows behind me screaming “WOOOOOOOO” was a little much, but you’re worth it, Dave Grohl. He said this was the last time they’d be performing for a while?!?! Sad days! I remember when I saw them in concert with Weezer in 2005 (side note: I’m old). Never realized how uplifting many Foo Fighters songs are! “Times Like These” indeed. Actually, it was hearing that song that finally incited my desire to purchase a Global Citzen Festival t-shirt. I wanted to look back and be able to show my kids or godchildren this cool thing I went to—as if someone would show me now their Live Aid t-shirt from the 1980s. Except I think people had to pay for those tickets? Whether I thought it was the most awesome concert ever or not, it was nonetheless historical, and it’s cool to know you’re a part of history.

A lot of people cleared out before Neil Young played last with Crazy Horse. After that, all at once a bunch of dudes over 50 simultaneously began to smell like weed and rock out. Curious. I didn’t really understand why until the end of the “Walk Like a Giant on the Land” song where it…didn’t actually end and was just a series of thrusts on the guitar and drum executed simultaneously for god literally knows how long. At one point I fell to my knees and just started laughing, holding on to HL’s leg. Since when was Neil Young and Crazy Horse a jam band? Even so, he can shred a guitar like nobody’s business, even though he is older than…lots of things. Until I heard “Giants,” though, I was all about getting some Neil Young records and just listening to him shred melodically while I worked. He didn’t play “Heart of Gold,” I imagine because he’s Neil Young and he just does whatever the hell he wants and he’s not getting paid anyway—I’ve been told Dylan does the same in concert. He finished with “Rockin’ in the Free World,” accompanied by Auerbach and Grohl on guitar, everyone shredding and being awesome (forgive me, I am a tad tired from standing for 10+ hours and my vocabulary is slightly lacking). It was cool, I got what they were trying to do, I don’t really know if they succeeded, but I got to hear some sweet tunes for free, so it wasn’t by any means a loss. It made curling up on my couch and falling asleep that much easier, knowing I didn’t have to be anything other than a pair of ears and eyes. And I am always happy to hear and see some good rock and roll.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Rosh Hashanah Drunken Potluck

As a young Manhattanite trapped in a South Floridian's body, some of my first exposure to New York was from Friends, only one of the greatest television shows of all time. I watch reruns of it like it's my job now, but that's beside the point. One of the episodes I remembered strongly this week was "The One Where Underdog Gets Away," where all of the Friends for whatever reason miss out on their family's annual Thanksgivings for the first time and wind up eating together.

While I haven't missed spending "the big holidays" with my family, sometimes the little ones slip by. For me personally, these are a lot of the Jewish holidays that, really, I didn't celebrate all that much growing up anyway. After I left home, these became the kinds of holidays I only celebrated if someone else was putting together a dinner or something for them. Luckily, though, since I have known JE and L, they have been kind enough to invite me to their annual Rosh Hashanah Drunken Potluck, which was this past Monday.

I don't mind the hour-or-so trek to their apartment because it's always filled with their warmth and kindness, cool people, and deliiiiiiicious food. Creatively decorated with old French posters, vinyl records, a stolen ottoman, and books books books, I envy the way JE and L have decorated their home so it truly looks like a home (sometimes I wonder if my own space is too spare-looking). A gold, hookah-style ashtray sits on their coffee table and people smoke cigarettes or not cigarettes. Blondie is playing on the turntable, and JE walks over to change the record. "Anyone mind some Sam Cooke?" she says, gesturing with a cigarette in her hands. She changes the record and bobs about the apartment, dancing and shaking her tailfeathers. I am sure, many moons down the road, if you ask me what my favorite memory of JE is, this is what I will say.

In the kitchen, people congregate around the square table, currently outfitted with a variety of challah breads, desserts, and dining paraphernalia. JE and L have two roast chickens in the oven--I marvel at their ingenuity because, well, I think being able to roast a chicken is quite ingenious (a friend of mine once noted that all of the things I make have three ingredients or less...we are what we are). Not to mention the spinach kugel and stuffing they've made and the sweet kugel another guest has made. It occurs to me that I am far from ever being a proper Jewish wife, given that I didn't even know the food associated with the holiday until I got there ("Is this the one where I bring chocolate covered matzoh?" I asked my mother when deciding what to bring. "Oy. No, idiot, that's Passover," she said).

While the chickens are chickening, people who normally might not know each other make conversation, and not begrudgingly because everyone is interesting. People work in publishing, people work in visual design in department stores, people are writers and artists in this little evening's little slice of bohemia. It's often easy to make friends with your friends' friends because they obviously have good taste!

When the buzzer goes off, JE and L assemble all of the foodage and we line up to dine, buffet-style. We have paper plates and plastic forks and mugs for drinks and I like it so much better than having to sit up straight at a dinner table and answer questions about who I'm seeing and whether or not they're Jewish. The chicken is juicy and tangy, the kugels are thick and filling, and the stuffing is lip-smacking. We drink Manischewitz, that oh-so-sugary and medicinal kosher wine (Grape flavored), from mugs and then listen to the Grease soundtrack, everyone singing along.

This may not be an experience that's necessarily unique to New York, but it is unique to my New York. As I've said many times, everyone's experience of the city is different--there is no one way to show people this city. There are often moments like these, though, that I just want to bottle and hold on to forever. Maybe one day, years from now when we're all living in apartments we've actually bought with our publishing royalties, we will look back and say, "Hey, remember the Rosh Hashanah Drunken Potlucks at JE and L's old apartment?" as we stare out onto the city from their penthouse, nothing above us but sky.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Last Days of Disco*

*And by disco I mean summer.

Those near and dear to me know it takes me nine years to put photos online, so you all now will have to forgive me for posting these photos from the end of summer now that we are fully entrenched in fall.

Harlem Day

















In Which I Learn You Can Take Pictures at the Met







The Incredible Miss Peppermint


Hula in the Park


Friday, September 7, 2012

Who are all the tall, skinny people?


Fashion Week takes over parts of New York in a big way--for seven days, anyone remotely related to the business of fashion eschews all forms of their “regular” work and clomps back and forth in high heels or wingtips to show after show after show. I have the pleasure of being a part of this biannual event, though I am often photographing and hanging out backstage, so my clomping is often limited to my motorcycle boots which, at times, I like better.

For the layman, Fashion Week just sort of appears, but to those involved, we see it coming far in advance, be it in the emails we get from PR companies, the construction of the tents at Lincoln Center or, my new favorite way, seeing the models slinking about town in the middle of the day going to and from castings. Every time I see one I think to myself, ‘Ah yes, the rare beast steps forth from its natural habitat and emerges into the wild in search of food,’ though in this case when we say food we are of course referring to modeling gigs.

They are tall and slender, all of them; their faces are angular and of unusually precise symmetry. Females wear shorts and flats, carrying in their canvas tote bags the sky-high heels in which they will strut once they get to a casting. Faces absent of the makeup that will be caked upon them come Fashion Week, hair natural and free of the products that will be teased into them, their skinny jeans only slightly touch their protruding hipbones, their shorts reveal legs longer than I am tall. Men have sunken eyes, white t-shirts, and Ray-Bans; some wear Doc Martens or cowboy boots; their skin, like their female counterparts, is spotless. As irony would have it, they all do in fact look rather wild, untamed and unleashed into the daytime amongst the rest of New York’s creatures of all shapes and sizes.

I imagine the average New Yorker not employed in the fashion industry would not often have the occasion to see a lone model walking in the subway, mostly because these castings to or from which they are heading happen in the middle of the day. While bankers are office bound, safely tucked away in their suits, and PR girls wiggling about in their pencil skirts, the models stalk the land looking for their next opportunity to pounce upon. They are almost safer this way, free from the men who will grab their arms and try to buy them drinks, from street photographers snapping beams of lights in their faces as they take pictures. I don’t know if the average person would even know who they are or what they do, but might instead wonder, ‘Who is this tall, skinny person? I didn’t even know such creatures existed!’ or something perhaps less eloquent.

Backstage they are just human—they text, they listen to music, they (yes!) read books, they laugh with each other and they make annoyed faces when a hairstylist is somehow still fluffing their hair even though they’ve probably fluffed all there is to fluff and at this point are just being anal retentive. Girls sit passively while manicurists paint their nails in shades they might never normally consider wearing, brushes simultaneously thwapped against their faces making color appear where there was once none. And the men are sometimes even more beautiful than the women because they wear no makeup at all (most of the time, anyway, depending on what weird-ass designer decides to put blue eyeshadow on their male models).

The fashion industry gets a lot of flack for their use of these persons, their bones lacking less than the ‘normal’ amount of body fat of a person who might actually buy the clothes. Models aren’t “real” by whoever’s standards. And, to be fair, when I see models, part of me wants to sigh, ‘Ugh, not more of these people. Why don’t they just eat a fucking donut?’ but that part is outweighed by the sheer appreciation of seeing someone so unusual walking across (or under) the streets of New York. Hey, these people are people too, you know? They look pretty real to me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Next Time, Flirt With The Cops



I will preface this story by admitting to the following:

1) Yes, it was perhaps dumb of me to not be aware of open container laws in New York. We are, unfortunately, not living in Paris after all.

2) I am occasionally completely oblivious to the power of being female.

Now we begin.

This past Saturday was a warm but slightly cloudy day at Brighton Beach, where I met up with my ladies, EH and TDS, both of whom I hadn’t seen in some months. EH is usually off being an awesome med student, and TDS was finishing school and being all theatre-y this summer. But we managed to convene for a day of leisure and booze at the beach. Yes, we would imbibe wine—red, because it didn’t need to be refrigerated—and sit in the sand and sun and surf and it would be glorious lady time.

No sooner had we opened our bottle of wine and sipped from our tiny, clear tumblers, roll up two police officers in their police officer golf cart. “Hi ladies,” they said. “You’re drinking wine, right?”

Yeah,” I said, my voice weighted with attitude and an inherent distrust of the authorities.

“Are you from here?” they asked, smiling.

“Here?” I said, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah, the five boroughs,” said the one behind the wheel, leaning forward and giving me attitude right back. “Sometimes we get visitors drinking on the beach.”

“Well, I’m not from here, but I live here,” I said. Which is clearly not something I would have said if I thought I was doing something wrong.

“Oh, you’re just taking the out,” said the one behind the wheel, as if I was lying.

“Uh, I’ll show you my ID. I’m not from here.” I whipped out my Florida driver’s license when cops asked for all of them.

“We weren’t going to give you a ticket,” they said. “Now we have to.” They took our licenses and wheeled their stupid little cart around to the back of our towels. I sat and looked at them.

“Is there a problem, miss?”

“Uh, yeah, I’d love to know what you’re doing with our IDs.”

“We have to call in and see if there are any warrants for your arrest.” The three of us girls laughed, as if we three were somehow wild bandits who, after escaping all of the possible crimes we had yet to be captured for, had decided to finally get caught by the law by having a goddamned glass or four of Montepulciano on the beach. “And then we’re going to give you a ticket.”

“I don’t understand,” I said. “You just said you weren’t going to. Why can’t you not do that?”

He explained something about doing us a courtesy by only giving us a $25 citation because technically we were in the NYC Parks Administration jurisdiction and not NYPD territory. Normally tickets would be $150. Rather intelligently, EH chimed in, “Wouldn’t it be more of a courtesy to not give us the ticket at all, like you said you weren’t going to?” But they had already beeped into headquarters or whatever the crap they did and it wasn’t possible anymore. Meanwhile, I was wondering where they were this past week when that crazed shooter opened fire at the Empire State Building. It’s a rough life being a Brighton Beach cop, strolling around the beach in your golf cart all day, wearing shorts, and confiscating alcohol.

“Look,” I said. “I really don’t understand. I’m just trying to have a good time out here with my girls, we never get to see each other, we’re not hurting anyone, and we really didn’t know this was an issue.” I wanted to say, we all have college degrees, we’re not so dumb to so blatantly violate the law like that, but I didn’t want to take the chance and offend them into giving us the $150 tickets.

“We understand, Miss M,”—my skin crawled; I hate it when people I am clearly displeased with call me by my name. I much prefer “ma’am” or “miss” coming from jerks I can’t be bothered with.—“so we’re not going to confiscate your wine. You can keep drinking it. If another officer comes, just politely show them the ticket and they won’t bother you.” What the fuck? JUST DON’T GIVE ME THE TICKET, ASSHOLE.

Pubic Consumption
But they did. And thankfully it didn’t go on our permanent records, it’s just a citation for—as so beautifully, incorrectly printed on the back of the ticket—“pubic consumption.” The cops drove away in their stupid little cart. I felt bad for how small their penises probably were.

This all happened, of course, while we were surrounded by people drinking beer directly from bottles. I should have lied about where I was from, I said.

“I think he wanted you to flirt with him,” EH said.
“He what?”
“The one in the driver’s seat, the cute one.”

Christ. So if I had just giggled and pushed my boobs together the three of us would be $25 richer? This really didn’t even occur to me.

“You gave the cop attitude and you didn’t flirt with him?” my mother said. “You got what you deserved. Stop with the feminist bullshit because it’s only going to get you tickets. Welcome to the real world.” Because, really, why else would two fit cops roll up to three pretty girls (not to toot our own horns, just being real) when there was a beach full of flabby older folks also drinking from open containers all around them?

To be fair, the feminist angle didn’t even register at the time—it was more of the ‘get out of my face, cop’ angle that I was pursuing and, apparently, it was not a good color on me.
New life lesson: acknowledge you are an object and get yourself out of anything with your boobs and your smile. Three cheers for feminism, a woman’s rising place in the world, career goals, and a sense of general decorum. Also, no drinking on the beach. Well, at least not from so blatant a container.