Field Trip

Check out my piece on The Flip today.  Click through image below.

Years ago, when I was young, I had a friend named Lucas who told me about trips back home to Boston.  These were conflicted journeys; when he saw his old friends – friends from high school, friends from the neighborhood, friends from youth – everyone inevitably fell back into the patterns that characterized each of them some ten years ago, patterns they had often long outgrown.  The nerds would be The Nerds.  The jocks would be The Jocks.  No matter where everyone was in their current life, they would compulsively shift into the people they had been, finding it strangely easier than behaving like the people they had become…

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Nowhere, USA

Our hotel is a perfectly square box in the middle of nowhere.  Bloomfield, Minnesota.  Population: Who Fucking Cares.  I stare out of the window of my room at another airport hotel – the same building with a different neon sign – and a gray parking lot filled with sad-colored cars.  In the distance, just off the highway, a sign advertises the state Lotto.  “What is Your Dream?” it asks, touting the opportunity to win 48 million dollars.  If winning that money meant I had to stay here another day, I’d still go home.  I look down at the windowsill, a fallen army of dead bugs resting on the air conditioning unit.  Everywhere here is dying to escape.  It’s only been thirty minutes and I am clawing at the walls.

I share an elevator down to the lobby with two doughy businessmen who I will later listen to tout the benefits of Big Box centers like Wal Mart as their female coworker discusses the New Yorker’s seemingly confounding attachment to their local bodegas, stores, restaurants.  “They’re very protective of their little communities over there,” she says, sounding confused, as though we New Yorkers are a bizarre species of humans meant to be studied and not the other way around.  These are the people destroying our country, filling every nook and cranny with the same configuration of shops.  A Best Buy, a Macaroni Grill, a Crate and Barrel, and a Starbucks.  Everything always packaged and always the same, routinely pleasing and similarly disappointing.

The clouds are coming in as I walk the black asphalt road through Minnesota fields, passing more airport hotels and a Hertz rental parking lot.  “Auntie M!  Auntie M!” I hear Dorothy calling out before the tornado comes.  In fact, it would sort of be nice if a tornado came, as it would give me something to do for the next three days, something to talk about with my bored coworkers instead of what they’ve recently learned in the latest issue of Shape Magazine.

I look back from where I came, the Mall of America distancing itself from me with each step forward.  I spent two hours there this morning, waiting for a fitting to start and then having the fitting and then waiting for a shuttle to come and take me back to the hotel, a distance I could have easily walked.  I sat there in front of the giant looming behemoth, the words MALL OF AMERICA plastered on the side in patriotic shades.  Hotel shuttles came in and out, dropping off the eager and out of shape for a day spent consuming food and other things they don’t need in 80,000 feet of recirculating air.  They sell shirts here with the mall’s logo on the front.  And hats.  People buy them.  This is what’s wrong with America.

Get me the fuck out of here.

I take Hiawatha Line 55 down American Boulevard, sitting across from a little boy with a Mohawk afro, an early rebel, dying to get out.  I’d want out, too, if I were him.  His feet can barely touch the floor from his seat on the train and he’s already contemplating how to run away.

We move through suburbs: green neighborhoods with houses featuring Victorian gingerbread porches.  The suburbs give way to industry, brick replaces wood, trees turn into telephone poles.  The periphery of downtown Minneapolis is quite beautiful, though it has been obviously abandoned for bigger, better, newer things.  Weird triangular buildings made of brick stand empty, no longer servicing the railroads so inefficiently snaking around them.

Finally, something redeeming about this place.  And, of course, no one seems to care.

Photo courtesy of Time

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The Route to Higher Ground: Hurricane Irene, Saturday Continued

[Update 11:24 a.m. Saturday]  Nervous that I am not going to make the trains before Mayor Bloomberg’s mandatory shutdown of the entire transportation system, I walk briskly to the ever-unreliable G train.  People walk towards me with more grocery bags, back towards the water.  Oh, you poor, unfortunate souls.  I wave goodbye to my favorite ancient Polish man, still sitting on his stoop in his nylon chair.  I have a premonition of him sitting in his living room while water overtakes his apartment (more visuals largely inspired by Titanic).

[Update 11:28 a.m. Saturday]  Miraculously, the G train arrives just as I swipe my MetroCard at the turnstile.  I run towards the middle of the platform (where it stops because the G train utilizes only half the normal number of cars), praying that the conductor will have mercy on me and hold the train.  She does.  “Thank you,” I say, imagining that this could be the turning moment in my life.  That fateful moment.  The train is filled with other like-minded people: the hyper-prepared and the paranoid, mandatory evacuees and voluntary flee-ers.

[Update 11:54 a.m. Saturday]  The 5th Avenue 53rd Street Station is eerily quiet, the platform filled with no one.  I take footage with my FlipCam and imagine myself to be quite the filmmaker, capturing moments never before seen.

[Update 12:07 p.m. Saturday]  I arrive into the lobby of the St. Regis, the door pushed open for me by a white-gloved man in a hunter green suit meant to infer subservience.  I take the gilded elevator with the chandelier inside to the 4th floor.  Oh, Decadence, grant me safety.  My hallway looks like something from The Shining, only like rich and shit and without the creepy girls.

[Update 12:11 p.m. Saturday]  My friend gives me the tour of the suite, which is bigger than most New York City apartments.  Our fourth floor windows shall be a fine place in which to view the end of the world.  Oh, yeah, about the weather.  I guess it’s sort of kind of maybe starting to sprinkle.  A little. Sometimes.

[Update 1:02 p.m. Saturday]  We dine in the luxurious opulence of the most awkwardly silent, disastrously boring, terrifyingly uptight dining room, surely looking like two misplaced, blonde and leather-clad prostitutes, as indicated by the way the two girls next to us insist on stopping their own conversation after each sentence uttered from both me and my friend.  Our menu selections consist of the usual crisis-on-the-horizon fare: tuna tartar with grilled calamari and fennel salad, white and green asparagus paired with goat cheese, warm gnocchi, lobster gazpacho, and two iced coffees to fortify us for the long, arduous journey ahead.  My friend pays for the bill with no expectation of sleeping with me.  Life is good.

[Update 2:45 p.m. Saturday]  We have a few more hours before the hurricane begins to unleash its ferocious torrents of icy Atlantic rain.  Logically – with everyone trapped in the safety of their homes – we fancy this to be the most opportune time to window shop.  We bemoan the closure of Bergdorf’s (“Uggghhhh, I’d totally go in there right now if it were open.”) while whipping up rather brilliant marketing schemes for them upon the next NYC natural disaster (“They should like, have a Hurricane Sale, where the first person who spends five or ten thousand dollars gets a hotel room with catering.”).  We check out Yves Saint Laurent (“God, that bag is good.”).  Note the state of Mui Mui (“Wow, they’ve moved everything away from the windows.  Crazy.”  Finally, the rain is beginning to fall more aggressively.  Being sensible girls, we head back towards the hotel, if not to run for safety, then to ensure my friend’s new Alexander Wang booties don’t get destroyed.

[Update 3:51 p.m. Saturday]  Reinforcements come in the form of a male friend, who will surely provide the protection we need when our hotel becomes attacked from people wielding pitchforks and torches, desiring refuge within these warm, wallpapered hallways.

[Update 4:08 p.m. Saturday]  It rains.  Like, a little bit.

[Update 4:32 p.m. Saturday]  Mayor Bloomberg is on the television giving his I’m-The-Fucking-Mayor speech and I’m buying it.  I say something like, “He’s really doing a great job,” because I’m still thinking that this hurricane is going to take this city by storm and he will be the reason millions of lives were saved.  His campaign team is rooting for the apocalypse.  His campaign team is praying for reelection.

[Update 4:44 p.m. Saturday]  Someone orders Something Borrowed on TV.  We have an intellectual debate on the cause of Kate Hudson’s unattractive, bloated face: beer or baby…beer…or baby?  This movie fucking sucks worse than the worst hurricane on earth.  Oh, I think it’s raining outside.  I’m not sure.

[Update 5:20 p.m. Saturday]  I cannot take one more minute of Something Borrowed without causing myself some bodily harm to release the frustration.  I put on my gym clothes and pretend to work out for an hour.  I do ab work (ah hahahaha) on an overly padded floor mat that makes doing sit ups feel like I’m doing them in bed, or maybe I’m just out of shape.  I lie there watching a TV show about miners who work 6,500 feet underground for 10 hours a day.  I think about how similar we all are: me, one floor below the lobby of the St. Regis; them, 10,000 leagues under the surface of the earth.  I feel an unspoken connection to these strangers.

[Update 6:32 p.m. Saturday]  I take a shower under a beautifully generous golden showerhead, which is kind of like being stuck in a hurricane.

[Update 7:01 p.m. Saturday]  It’s finally raining harder outside and the wind has picked up.  I decide to throw myself into the fray, dangerously facing gales of wind and sheets of rain.  Okay, it’s not that bad.  My umbrella doesn’t even turn inside out, but I attribute this feat to the fine manufacturing of my St. Regis umbrella, obviously made with the demands of the rich person in mind.  I do, however, manage to sustain temporarily blindness after witnessing a homeless man jerking himself off while half-asleep on the stairs of the local church.

[Update 8:16 p.m. Saturday]  Tired of sitting our asses on the plush, beautifully upholstered sofa watching the same doomsday prophecies on loop (Water could rise 20 feet…Subways could be underwater…not sure when things will get back to normal), we decide it’s time for dinner.  Provisions are still high, though we are regrettably working on a limited menu, having to choose from the same things we ordered at lunch.  This whole hurricane thing is starting to be a really trying experience.

[Update 9:34 p.m. Saturday]  We’re all vaguely drunk on a bottle of red wine.  We make a toast to traveling to Tokyo and then say something like, “To a life filled with suites.”  When I wander to the bathroom to, you know, go pee, I notice that water is starting to pool in the streets.  Here it comes…

[Update 10:29 p.m. Saturday]  The adjacent bar is supposedly where they invited the Bloody Mary.  I call bullshit.

[Update 11:03 p.m. Saturday]  I’m full off of a dinner followed by an excessive number of bar nuts and so I suggest we go upstairs and watch something but I’m really just going to go upstairs and crawl into bed.  Before I do, I will set my alarm (rather ambitiously) to 8 a.m. in the hopes that I might catch the tail end of the storm that will have ravaged our great city all through the night.  I fall asleep and dream of the aftermath.

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Batten Down the Hatches: Hurricane Irene, Saturday a.m.

[Update 7:34 a.m. Saturday]  I wake up and stare out my window at a tableau of suspiciously still trees.  Not a leave moves.  The gray sky is brooding some yet-to-be-seen horror.  I hear a bird chirp and think about what might become of these poor little chickadees when the storm hits.  If they were pigeons, I wouldn’t much care; the pigeons in New York just look like a bunch of worthless fucked-up chickens that somehow survived the fallout of the A bomb.  If Hurricane Irene wipes out the pigeon population of New York City, I’ll be fucking stoked.  The rats, too.  Dear sweet Jesus, take the rats.  No, I’m thinking about sparrows and other avian charmers that likely had cameos in that scene in Cinderella where they’re waking her up out of bed and singing duets with her.  Those kinds.

[Update 7:57 a.m. Saturday]  I eat breakfast, the last meal I might have in my apartment while it is still one piece.  Afterward, I make a salad out of all of the fresh vegetables I stupidly purchased yesterday that are now going to go to waste while I’m holed up at the St. Regis, finding refuge in foie gras and flutes of champagne.

[Update 8:37 a.m. Saturday]  I consult my mother’s emails from the previous night.

Fill some water containers (your Brita and any big things like a big pot or container and maybe the bathtub ½ full in case).  Pack a small bag too and leave it by the door just in case you have to run.  Tennis shoes, snacks, a clean toothbrush and thong (hehe) and a jacket and hat.  Think elementary school emergency backpack.  Also, have some small bills ($1 and $5) and some change in a bag in case the electricity goes out.  Nobody will be able to charge anything.  Are you really prepared?  Now I am getting concerned.

This one no longer applies, being that I am going to be staying at the St. Regis, though I am happy that my mother so kindly cited $1 and $5 bills as being my Small Bill Options, as I had contemplated getting a ton of $2 from the bank the previous day.  And opposed to my clean toothbrush, I was thinking about bringing my dirty one.  Phew.  Crisis averted.  I scan through to the next, hoping to procure some more Mommy Wisdom.

The emergency backpack still applies [at the St. Regis], AND know where all the emergency exits are (in the dark) and don’t stay high (fire safety).  Take water     and snacks, small bills (could be a big tipper gets the best food and water             situation) and tennis shoes.  The staff will want to be home not there so plan to take care of yourself just in case.

My mother should work for Mayor Bloomberg.  Effectively terrified, I am now envisioning scenes from The Poseidon Adventure – the original one from the 70s, not the shitty remake – as well as the last two hours of Titanic, an analogy not lost on my St. Regis friend, who is actually able to quote a snide remark Billy Zane’s character makes regarding how half of the passengers will not be saved.  “Not the better half,” she says in a later reenactment.  We laugh, evil and victorious.

[Update 9:08 a.m. Saturday]  I take this time to renew my renter’s insurance online.  I had been pondering switching over for the last week, hoping to find a more competitive rate, but, hey, who’s got time for price shopping when your trees are about to get bashed in by the broken limbs of trees and 100 mph winds?

[Update 9:21 a.m. Saturday]  I move all of my notebooks and journals to what will be the safest, driest place in my apartment if the hurricane is get in through broken windows.  I hide a laptop in a closet, put books away in my dresser, and tie up my kitchen cabinets with black hair elastics, which might just be the knee-jerk reaction of a Southern California native used to earthquakes, not hurricanes.

[Update 9:39 a.m. Saturday]  I pack for the St. Regis, which ends up looking more like I’m going on a delightful little vacay to the Hamptons than preparing for Armageddon.  This hurricane requires one Philip Lim tunic, a Stella McCartney skirt (to be paired with a gray silk top), a leather jacket, some gym clothes, my passport, and my mother’s necklaces.  I put on my outfit for the day: Stella shorts, white button-up tank, Alexander Wang leather vest, and a Jenni Kayne trench.  If the ship’s going down, I’m at least going to look good.

[Update 10:15 a.m. Saturday]  What was once such a grand idea to fill my fridge up is now a potentially smelly situation if the electricity is to go off while I’m on holiday uptown.  Soymilk will be fine.  Kale I can live with if it wilts for six days.  The cheeses might be questionable.  Yogurts will contain themselves until I can throw them away upon return to the homestead.  My freezer, however, poses different problems: frozen salmon and frozen apple-chicken sausage, artifacts from moments when I actually envisioned cooking at home some months back.  I call my mom.

“Hey, Mom.  You think I should throw away the salmon in my freezer just in       case the power goes off?  That could be really gross.”

“Just leave it in the freezer; it will stay cold.”

“But what if it defrosts?”

“I think it’s going to be fine.”

“Whatever.  I’ve had it for four months and haven’t used it.”

As an adult, I compulsively ask for my mother’s advice and then refuse to take it. The salmon, chicken sausage, and an icicle-encrusted tube of polenta get tossed into my garbage bin.  I think about chucking the eggs in my fridge but decide against it – a fortuitous decision if there ever were one.  Kind of like the time I realized that I had been putting money in a Roth IRA for the better part of 3 years without investing it – naively assuming that someone else was in charge of doing it for me.  In the depths of the recession, after having heard my friends discuss their decimated mutual funds on multiple occasions, I went online only to realize I had been funneling money into what was essentially the underside of Fidelity’s proverbial mattress, at which point I invested all of it at rock bottom prices, proving that sometimes sometimes being a complete moron pays off.

[Update 11:02 Saturday]  I tape my windows up with blue painter’s tape, smugly proud of the responsible adult I have become.

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On the Eve of Our Doom: Hurricane Irene, Friday

A minute-to-minute, in-depth account of Hurricane Irene.

[Update 3:04 p.m. Friday]  Being as I do not have cable and I find news to be a generally frivolous assault on my easily rattled nerves and an already abysmal confidence in the human race, I have gone the better part of the day ignorant to the severity of the impending doom apparent.  That is until I get a few phone calls from my parents asking me if I have candles and flashlights.  I best look into this whole weather thingy.

[Update 4:01 p.m. Friday]  Having now cnn.com’d the shit out of this Hurricane Irene business, I decide it might be wise to take a trip to my local organic market and stock up.  I purchase provisions for the duration of my anticipated lockdown – which, according to the news, could be up to five days.  Said provisions include: pomegranate Greek yogurt, Fuji apples, kale, two kinds of hummus, and coconut water.  When I remember that I might be without power as of tomorrow, I randomly select canned soup, refried beans, and Nayonnaise for the tuna I think I already have in my pantry.  I anticipate the next three days will be spent dining on cold legumes beside the warmth of my IKEA tea candles, romancing myself with movies from a pirated Netflix account.  That is until some fallen tree knocks out my WiFi.

[Update 4:27 p.m. Friday]  I subject myself to an additional supermarket trip to procure two rounds of Laughing Cow cheese, which I’m fairly sure, despite suggesting it be refrigerated by its manufacturer, could withstand being left at room temperature for the better part of a decade.  Laughing Cow, as we all know, is not really cheese as much as it is a nuclear, Swiss-flavored paste.  I take note of the palpable nervousness amongst the Brooklyners waiting in line – an electrical human energy that rests on the outer banks of widespread panic’s precipice.

[Update 4:36 p.m. Friday]  I walk down to the hardware store to purchase a flashlight per my father’s orders.  “Sorry, we’re out,” the black-polo-shirt-wearing man says, his arms straddling the counter.  When he says it, I swear I see a smirk cross his lips, an unspoken chastisement for my unpreparedness.  I walk down the street and immediately find an alternative purveyor of a finely shitty Made in China flashlight.  Take that, black-polo-shirt-wearing asshole.  I’m going to make it out of this thing alive, no thanks to you.

[Update 5:06 p.m. Friday]  A friend who lives nearby tells me that we are included in Bloomberg’s Area A and will be required to evacuate tomorrow morning.  After a frantic search for a street-by-street map that lasts the better part of forty minutes, I discover that I am actually in Area B, just a street away from the where the East River will come up and swallow us whole.

[Update 5:22 p.m. Friday]  A friend informs me that she will be staying at the St. Regis hotel starting that evening.  I contemplate the idea of free room service, a generator, and a 5th Avenue location that puts me smack in the middle of the East River and Hudson, upping my chances for survival.

[Update 6:09 p.m. Friday]  Another buddy is hosting a little get-together this evening.  I am torn between staying in and obliging my ramping nervousness or partying like it’s the end of the world.  An hour later, I will commit to going out after my friend points out that we will be trapped indoors for a long time coming and we may as well being around humans as long as possible before disaster strikes.

[Update 7:18 p.m. Friday]  I walk down to my beloved pier, afraid that it might be swept to sea at some point this weekend.  I stand on its synthetic surface and say a little prayer, hoping to come back to find it all in one piece so that it and I may share many more sunsets together.  “I love you, Pier,” I whisper, and I swear – beneath the sound of the crashing tide – I hear it say something back.

[Update 9:08 p.m. Friday]  Sarah and I walk through the still streets of Manhattan, the stagnant humidity ravaging our sweat glands with no breeze to provide relief.  “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” says Sarah.  I look at her with wide eyes and the uncanny feeling that we are both tapping into some underutilized 6th sense.  “Me, too,” I say.  “Me, too.”

[Update 11:46 p.m. Friday]  Our End of the World hurricane party has turned into the typical Hey It’s Friday Night Let’s All Do Cocaine party.  People keep disappearing into the back bedroom to “secretly” snort chemicals out of a twenty-dollar bill, as if their constant disappearance and red-nosed reemergence isn’t telling enough.  I am forced to drink or die of boredom.

[Update 11:48 p.m. Friday]  The aforementioned friend who is currently getting settled into the St. Regis informs me that she has been upgraded to a suite and that we have a butler named Charles who claims he can bring tea up to the room in 3 minutes.  “See you tomorrow morning!” I say.

[Update 2:03 a.m. Saturday] Sarah and I walk back north towards our respective destinations.  The journey up 3rd Avenue is fraught with obstacles, namely the Bridge & Tunnel crowd here for one last hoorah before all hell breaks loose.  The Jersey boys yell things to each other, moving in feverish packs.  The girls totter drunkenly in cheap plastic heels while they chew on gum like teething cows.  The boozed-up drug crowd emerges from the Bowery Hotel, eyeliner propping their drooping eyelids with a false appearance of alertness.  I turn to Sarah.  “I feel like this is the neo-tale of Noah’s Ark, and these are all the awful heathens who are about to be drowned en masse.”  If only.

[Update 2:11 p.m. Saturday]  Sarah and I part ways at 1st Avenue.  We hold each other in what might be our last embrace.  See you next week…if we make it.

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Field Trip

Check out my piece on the Flip today.  Click through image below.

I sit on my pier at the end of the street – the one I’ve ignored for two months too long.  Its jutting nose edges me closer to Manhattan, at a distance I find suitable.  It holds me there – removed from all the cacophonic nonsense, the hustle and clawing, the smells and shopping bags and other terrible things – twenty feet closer to it, just above a sloshing stew of filthy water…

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Field Trip…again

Check out my piece on The Flip today.  Click through image below.

We are a car of two boys and two girls.  The boys all dark and tan; one descendant of Mexico and the other from Spain. The girls as white and blonde as milkmaids.  The traffic is bad and the windows are down.  We play music with heavy bass lines peppered with tribal screams as we escape the city and the stagnant summer streets…

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After the Rain

Crazy from an afternoon spent hunkered down in my apartment, I take a ride around the neighborhood, wet and newly cleaned.  I make my way down to an empty concrete park with basketball courts, a baseball diamond, and some caged area likely for handball, though I don’t know if that’s a game that children play any longer.

Puddles stand still in lake shapes, reflecting back Brooklyn trees and the Manhattan skyline and the sky turns purple and pink within its grayness just for a moment, a singular effort on behalf of the sun to say goodbye as it leaves, though it is really us turning away, I suppose.

A man comes to play his dog while I ride around in circles, like when I first learned how to bike as a child, half my height and naturally blonde.  Around and around and around I went on an asphalt loop – a moat of black surrounding sea grass and a few trash bins – unattached to the training wheels I had become used to, aware of my wobbliness, enthralled by the possibilities of success and failure.

I ride away and down the street and I find a pier and I ride down that, too.  Couples sit on green metal benches, talking, leaning, kissing, enamored with their own affection.  Old men who have long given up on charming women stand side-by-side, talking pointedly in a foreign language.  Some young boy in a uniform of black picks at a guitar, the breeze sweeps my hair lovingly in front of my face, and all of a sudden I am in my very own Woody Allen movie – a romanticized version of reality that doesn’t exist, though tonight it does.

The wood on the pier is damp.  I sit down in my shorts, my bike leaning on the fence in front of me, Manhattan beyond that.  Sometimes it feels as though I’m staring at nothing – some beautiful Hollywood backdrop with painted-in lights and a fog machine, too wonderful to comprehend, too vast in scope.  A city built, brick by brick, light by light, not at all at once but over time.  The overwhelming achievements of man all crammed into one tiny island.

The boy finishes, puts his guitar in his case, and then walks away – with no fanfare, no clapping – and the pier becomes so silent all you can hear is the water lapping at the crumbling shore and the sound of hushed conversations built for two.  Manhattan stands there, big and seemingly silent, belying the frantic buzzing inside of it, a beehive with a concrete shell.

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Field Trip

Check out my pice on The Flip today.  Click through image below.

Photo courtesy of Tierney Gearon

It’s nearing midnight in the American Airlines terminal at LAX.  Gate 42B.  These marbled and carpeted floors have become all too familiar territory.  This is my fourth flight in seven days and I am tired, exhausted, ready for home, though technically I am here already.  I wanted this, I think, though I never thought about the complications that face the constant traveler: my offensive carbon footprint, changing in bathroom stalls, brushing my teeth in front of strangers, crying babies and flight delays…

 

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