Tag Archives: literature

Eating Flesh with All the Other New Yorkers in Mordor

SoHo fashion ghetto

SoHo fashion ghetto

I’m in NYC now, the Chobani cafe in SoHo to be exact. Everyone here is beautiful. Many people have shopping bags and are wearing patterned clothing that is expertly mixed. Also, since when does Chobani have a brick and mortar store where I can buy a $2.50 coffee or get yogurt creations? It’s a crazy world.

I’m in a fashion ghetto. There are designer stores as far as the eye can see, and everything except the trash on the ground screams I’m not good enough. Even the pigeons look groomed. Thank God I wore all black today. Maybe people will think I’m making a fashion statement and not just wearing the top layer of my backpack. Also, since when do I care what people think? New York is changing me.

If you ever wonder where all the attractive people in your hometown have gone, they are either in California or NYC. There are too many people here to fall in love with. My heart can’t take it. But could I date a man who spent more time thinking about his appearance than I do? Could I date a man wrapped up in his Warby Parkers and the New York lifestyle? Is that what I want for the children?

When I got in last night, the friend I’m staying with in Brooklyn told me that New York City is Mordor, that the people who inhabit Mordor are orcs, and that orcs eat human flesh. We are human flesh eaters.

San Francisco is too shiny, I said. I need something dirtier.

New York is the grossest place on earth, he said.

Good, I said.

He had to leave at 4:30 this morning for work at the cafe and gave me directions to the subway. It’s just around the corner, he said. The vagrants will help you find it, he said.

Good, I said. In the morning, I remarked on just how much his neighborhood reminded me of Cairo.

I sat today on the High Line – the former above-ground railway turned into walking path/garden/park – and read the book I bought in Capitol Hill. It’s called “Cowboys are My Weakness.” It’s a collection of short stories about women who fall for burly, hunty, meaty, cowboy type men and are invariably hurt by them. It’s not exactly feminist literature, but Chobani isn’t exactly a coffee shop. Sue me.

In one of the stories, a woman flies to New York to meet up with a man her father knows. He plays a Texan cowboy in a soap opera. They kind of fall in love in Chelsea. I’ll be in Chelsea tomorrow night.

Cowboy, if you’re out there, meet me tomorrow at UCB. If you’re the one for me, you’ll know what that means.

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How an Overachieving Work Monger Learned the Benefit of a Good Nap

staged napping photo

staged napping photo

I’m staying at a friend’s co-op which is unsurprisingly full of long haired hippie types with slow eyed dreams. Despite the fact I’m also pursuing an “alternative” career as opposed to something in office dronery, I’m still skeptical of those who dream of nothing more than working on a farm for six months out of the year and going south to roost with the birds come October.

Where’s the ambition? Where’s the love of early mornings and hard work? Where’s the drive to produce every single moment of the day and have a list of goals hanging from the wall and over your head that you must accomplish or suffer failure?

To me, even travel can and should be considered work, which I love. If I’m successful at the work of travel, I go out and see a great many things, write a good many blog posts and thoughts, draw a picture, talk to a stranger and spend little money. I fail by staying in bed and being lazy. Being lazy must be avoided at all costs.

I’ve always felt righteous about my overbearing work ethic, which has often stressed me out and caused me to spend too much time working on things that didn’t matter as opposed to relaxing with friends. In fact, I hate the very word relax. It offends me. I don’t want to relax. I want to learn, to work, to be productive, to produce, to experience, etc. etc. It’s exhausting.

When one of these hippie types pulled out a book two days ago called “How to be Idle,” by Tom Hodgkinson, I nearly vomited in my quinoa. Could there be anything more disgusting than a book dedicated to laziness and encouraging these kinds of people who needed nothing more than a swift kick in the ass? I scoffed at the very idea of it.

Then, minutes later, I picked it up. I started reading the first chapter “8 a.m.: Waking up is hard to do.” And within a couple more minutes I was hooked. I saw my life and culture in a completely different light. The emphasis on productivity hasn’t served me but my corporate overlords. Busyness is a cult that degrades our quality of life, our freedom, and the ability to reflect on and live contemplative existences.

Though I don’t agree with Hodgkinson completely on everything about the idler lifestyle, I did suddenly realize that my relentless focus on production is not productive. Boom. It’s as simple as that.

I’ve not finished the book, but it has been interesting to hear this man’s thoughts on how our culture of work conspires to keep us chained to our desks, away from home, and most of all, to keep us from thinking.

In honor of my newfound appreciate for idleness, I took a nap and spent five hours today in a cafe merely reflecting. It was certainly time well spent.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book so far: 

On working long hours and doing nothing: 

“After all, aren’t modern companies always saying how much they value creativity and innovation? How much they need ideas? Perhaps the truth is rather sadder, that they actually value steadfastness, application and your bum being on your revolving seat for as many hours in the day as you can stand.”

On the culture that rejects illness and taking any time off for it: 

“Drug companies make vast profits out of magic beans which promise to deliver us from torment and return us to the desk.”

On napping: 

“Don’t think that you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imagination. You will be able to accomplish more.” – Winston Churchill

“Employers would rather you put in four hours of sitting and accomplishing nothing than an hour’s nap, clothes or otherwise, followed by three hours of productive toil.”

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The Life of a Grown Ass, Improv-ing, Traveling Lady Nerd Ain’t Easy

nerd: (noun) (informal): a foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious. Synonyms: bore; a single-minded expert in a particular technical field. Synonyms: badass

nerd alert

nerd alert

Before all of this, before the improv glory and the blog fame, before I knew how to order coffee and shamelessly ask for water at bars, there was just me with a purse full of pens, and I was a nerd.

I did not realize this growing up. I didn’t think I was cool, but I certainly did not consider myself of the nerdly sort. There were, however, blatant clues that I missed, like the fact I listened to The Lord of the Rings soundtrack on repeat for much of my senior year of high school and tried to write a poem about track 17.

And now, years after high school, I’ve matured into a full fledged traveling, improv-ing grown-ass lady nerd, which pretty much means I do what I want and don’t give a s****j.

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’ve also felt the pull of the bookshelves at a friend’s house and spent 30 minutes perusing, and also using the word perusing in your head. Maybe your first destination in most cities is the public library or a museum. Maybe you read academic articles for fun and enjoy wordplay. Maybe you also relish finding used bookstores on your travels and then sit and enjoy a cup of coffee with your new book. Secretly, however, you’re peeking over the top of its pages and imagining a life with the man on the other side of the cafe who has a very ironic mustache and is reading something by Alice Munro.

Maybe you’re him. Maybe you’re that man. Are you that man? Is it you? Do you like the book Dear Life? I almost read that one, but I went against it for Empire Falls. Did I make the right decision? Should we be together forever? Oh oops, I haven’t even introduced myself. I’m Emily and you’re….

No, tell me your name! I mean, you’re clearly smart, funny, attractive, well-kempt, good-smelling, and you like reading, so just tell me your name. We have so much in common let’s grow old together! Wait – where are you going? Come back! I love you! No don’t leave me here!

(sits down in silence)

Being a traveling, improv-ing, grown-ass lady nerd might not get all the men. But it will get at least one. Eventually. Good thing I have my tennis shoes on. All the better for chasing you down with, my pretty.

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When My Body Comes to Rest Beneath the Willow Me

Photo credit: Emily Drevetes

Photo credit: Emily Drevets

Let’s start with my sausage fingers and pie-dough hands. It seems like an appropriate place to start. Many things start here – the words I’m writing right now for example, or a properly tied sneaker.

My pinkies can’t even stand out straight. I’ve always thought it was because of the hump of fat my body put on them when my thighs were full, but now I think it’s because one of my sisters chewed off a tendon in the womb.

My fingers are the primary way I experience face grease and t-shirt texture. They’re seldom at rest – sometimes they do the thinking for me. I’ll be in a meeting at work, and before I know it, I’ve completely covered an entire page in flowers that look like they were screamed into being in a mad house. Problem solved, everyone. Let’s get coffee together.

But they can also be nosy little bastards, these fingers. Like, do you really have to pop every pimple on my right cheek, or frantically take off and then replace my ring while having a conversation with someone of high status, or scratch the back of my neck to feel that weird mole, just to make sure it’s still there? And seriously, playing with food is just not okay. So don’t do it, because we’re serious about the food we waste.

These hands don’t seem to understand that they shouldn’t obey every whim that fires through my synapses, like maybe they shouldn’t reach out and snatch the celery off Daryl’s plate at wing night, because he wants that celery. He really does.

When I’m watching closely, my hands do as I say, but if my mind is occupied elsewhere, it’s out to pasture and away they go, poking and prodding, fidgeting and snacking. How much do they know about each other? How much do I really know about them and their concerns? Maybe they wouldn’t hate having a stress ball around or another pair of hands to socialize with. Maybe they want to shake more hands or be part of more hugs or high fives – or maybe they just want to see the usual hands more often.

Maybe they’re tired of saying the same things over and over again, or want to give more instead of taking. Would they steal? Would they permanently lodge themselves into my ears? What would they do, if I let them do anything?

The body is one thing, and it has a life of its own. George Washington taught us that, right before he pulled the very first cherry tree out from behind his tutor’s ear. Without me inhabiting it, maybe my body would spend more time outside by the water, or go hiking in the redwood forests for a couple of months.

And then I could inhabit something else – a willow tree. I would whisper in the wind and tickle the necks of lovers as they made my roots uncomfortable. My body would come sit one day beneath the willow me and it would breathe in its oxygen and we’d see that things aren’t so different, after all.

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Some Words from John Muir, the Most Annoying Nature Lover in the World

John Muir

John Muir: Scotsman, nature lover, beard-grower

I thought I loved nature until I (partially) read My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir. There’s a reason this guy started one of the foremost nature clubs in the world. He’s wild for nature. So wild, his passion occasionally branches into the ridiculous.

In the book, he’s routinely describing pine cones or a certain tree for an entire page, bursting with exclamations on nature’s beauty, talking in dismissive tones about his shepherd companion, or wishing he could stay awake all night to watch the stars. Don’t take my word for it, though.  Here are some passages that I feel best demonstrate the heart of his book.

All quotes are exact and taken from My First Summer in the Sierra, which John Muir wrote while traveling in the Sierra Mountains one summer in the early 20th century.

His (low and slightly threatening) opinion of other mountain travelers:  

“Somehow most of these travelers seem to care but little for the glorious objects about them, though enough to spend time and money and endure long rides to see the famous valley. And when they are fairly within the mighty walls of the temple and hear the psalms of the falls, they will forget themselves and become devout. Blessed, indeed, should be every pilgrim in these holy mountains.”

On what he’d do in the morning if he always followed his inclinations:

“Cooking is going on, appetites growing keener every day. No lowlander can appreciate the mountain appetite, and the facility with which heavy food called “grub” is disposed of. Eating, walking, resting, seem alike delightful, and one feels inclined to shout lustily on rising in the morning like a crowing cock.”

“Exhilarated with the mountain air, I feel like shouting this morning with excess of wild animal joy.”

On showing proper use of the word, “hark:”

“Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality. Yonder rises another white skyland. How sharply the yellow pine spired and the palm-like crowns of the sugar pines are outlined on its smooth white domes. And hark! The grand thunder billows booming, rolling from ridge to ridge, followed by the faithful shower.”

On how to describe the sun’s transitions:

“And the dawns and sunrises and sundowns of these mountain days—the rose light creeping higher among the stars, changing to daffodil yellow, the level beams bursting forth, streaming across the ridges, touching pine after pine, awakening and warming all the mighty host to do gladly their shining day’s work. The great sun-gold noons, the alabaster cloud-mountains, the landscape beaming with consciousness like the face of a god. The sunsets, when the trees stood hushed awaiting their good-night blessings.”

On the night sky:

“Lying beneath the firs, it is glorious to see them dipping their spires in the starry sky, the sky one vast lily meadow in bloom! How can I close my eyes on so precious a night?”

If that doesn’t make you want to crow lustily at some alabaster skyscapes, I don’t know what will. Drugs, probably.

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