Thursday, May 29, 2008

boring, book, parties

My friend, who's a chef, but looks a lot like another guy I know who isn't a chef but is actually a stand-up comedian and a screenwriter, was having a book party for his first book, a cook book which I highly recommend. Danny Meyer was hosting for him, in his loft apartment which doubles as a yacht.

As the party went on, and everyone mostly ignored me as is generally the case at these sorts of events, the loft--yacht detached from the building and floated around the streets of New York City, which were conveniently flooded at the time.

Everyone wanted to talk to my chef friend, so I wandered to the front of the yacht and befriended the housekeeper, who was working double duty tonight as the yacht captain. She showed me how to steer and let me take the wheel for a little while. We reached the end of the West Village and launched out into the Hudson River. There were some great views, but they were hard to see, what with all the rain.

At some point, my glasses fell off my face and flew overboard. I'm pretty sure it was somewhere on the LES. After the party was over, the housekeeper and I backed the yacht up over our route, checking the gutters for them. Of course I didn't find them. I'm pretty much blind without my glasses.

Monday, May 26, 2008

you, me, everyone we know

I went to the beach with my whole family, my parents and my grandparents and my aunts and uncles and cousins and all my brother's friends and some of my friends, too. It was a warm day, but not very sunny, and the ocean was a depressing slate gray from far away. When you were actually in it, the water was amazingly clear and full of giant koi in bright oranges and yellows and white.

So we were all hanging out on the beach on assorted beach blankets under rainbow umbrellas. Suddenly, my grandmother announced that my aunt was missing. She had gone swimming in the ocean and never came back. This aunt died twelve years ago, but I guess she was back for the day. We all jumped in the water to look for her. I hugged the coastline to the north, treading water through the koi, looking down at the bottom. Eventually the ocean narrowed into a sort of canal that cut inland. I continued to swim along until it started going through rooms with dramatic lighting from above. There was an apartment, a kitchen, a dorm room, a computer lab.

Eventually, I ended up in a giant restaurant at the University of Michigan. It was packed full of everyone I'd ever met. I started going from table to table, staring at all the faces and asking people if they'd seen my aunt. No one had.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

rock show, church, rock show

My friend Joe's band had a show with a bunch of other bands. It was in some kind of church, and it was pretty good. After the show, I went to hang out with all the bands at a giant house in the suburbs. I was way tired, but they never went to sleep. People kept locking themselves in the bathroom and having to be coaxed out by their friends, which was annoying whenever I needed to use it. At 4 a.m., I finally passed out on an air mattress in the living room, which was more like a gymnasium at an elementary school that could double as a cafeteria. But before I knew it, everyone was pulling me up to do calisthenics. We pranced around the main room in a big circle, doing jumping jacks and skipping. Not exactly what I was expecting for an after-party.

The house was in a hilly city that was like San Francisco, but darker and more forested. There were tunnel staircases that went from one street to another, but they were kind of creepy looking so I generally took the long routes.

Later on I had to drive my family to church, but there was nowhere to park. We skipped the first mass and lurked in the parking lot until everyone left so we could steal a good spot. But that meant we were way early, so my dad suggested we check out a Pixies concert in Somerset Mall. I never got into the show because I spent all the time in the car trying to decide what to wear. For some reason I only had a suitcase full of dirty running clothes. My options were sweaty shorts and t-shirts with holes in them. I also had one pair of pants that were too small and made wooshing noises when I walked. I went with the pants, even though I knew I looked stupid.

Monday, May 19, 2008

bowling, desk change, swimming

I was having trouble with directions. My best friend was trying to follow me around New York in a car. My dad was driving like the out-of-towner he is and breaking all the traffic laws. We accidentally got into the lane for a bridge out of the city, but my dad pulled a U-turn at the last second. My friend got stuck in traffic on the bridge for an hour and was late for bowling.

I was a terrible bowler. I'd throw the ball one way and hit pins in another lane. My roommate wasn't much better. We were all having trouble following the rules and remembering not to throw more than twice in a row. I kept hitting the thing that comes down to reset the pins, which at this place looked like a red velvet curtain.

Then they offered us new desks at work, but I was back in high school and those desks were reserved for the newspaper staff. I was jealous of them because I never had room in my schedule to take the journalism class. As it was, I was going to have to drop regular orchestra or Girl Scout orchestra. My mom thought I was crazy, but I was leaning towards dropping the Girl Scouts. At least then I wouldn't have to wear that stupid uniform anymore.

I ended up with one of the new desks anyway. It was way worse than the desk in my old office, set up hastily on those fake wood tables with uncomfortable plastic chairs in a large library-like room. We didn't even get our own areas. I had to share a table with this girl I've always hated. The computers looked like they were from 1985. I can't believe I signed up for this switch. To make matters worse, new desks were in a contained living facility. We were not allowed to leave for any reason, although I was seriously considering breaking out to go meet up with my parents at the beach.

We lived in dorm rooms above the work space, and they offered us a shopping area once a week that everyone was excited about. I climbed down the stairs to the outdoor fenced-in area to check it out early one Saturday morning. Beyond the fence, giant fields of rich green grass flowed out in every direction. Large groups of students dressed all in black were practicing different group exercises inside the fence. Yoga, tai chi, miming.

Then it was open swim and everyone jumped in the pool. I was shy about getting in because I thought I didn't know anyone, but then I noticed all these girls I knew from high school splashing around. My Caribbean lit professor from the University of Michigan was there in a flowery bathing suit. She gave me a hug over the divider between the shallow end and the deep end and asked me when I was going to call her up in Toronto and meet her for lunch. I promised to do it really soon, although I'm not sure how if I'm stuck in this place.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

aliens, fires, the end of everything

It was the end of the world, aliens arriving by water in giant dragon-faced ships. We could see them from the beaches in L.A., coming in fast. Forest fires broke out spontaneously on the dried-out summer hills. It was hard to maneuver around the flames, even if we knew where to go.
We pretty much knew we were all going to die.

Jamaica, suburbs, floorplans

I went to Jamaica with my grandparents to visit a small town on the northwest side of the island. This wasn't like the Jamaica I remembered. Actually, it looked a lot like an American suburb, except slightly more jungle-like. My usually overly protective grandparents even let me walk around on my own, wandering down a tree-lined street to find a an orange grove and a collection of colonial-style houses. Kids were playing baseball in the street with plastic bats.

We were staying at my uncle's house, a giant place full of extraneous doors and mysterious staircases. The place just kept expanding. Eventually, I found a staircase that led up from the attic to a spacious loft apartment, a little dusty but otherwise fantastic. Floor to ceiling windows, a baby grand piano in the kitchen. Apparently no one had known it was there.

When we went outside and looked up at the house to figure out where everything was, we saw a twelve-story apartment building rising from the roof, above my uncle's house and the newly discovered loft. The whole thing looked like it was about to fall over. In Jamaica, homebuilding is kind of an iterative process.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

camping, animals, danger

A few days ago I went camping in the redwood forest. There were tall trees and tents and wild animals and s'mores and everything. Late at night, after we all pooped out in the aforementioned tents, the wild animals began to forage. A bear went after our food, and my friend wanted to jump out of our tent to stop it. I held him back. "It isn't worth it!" I said. That's when the tiger arrived and started slinking around our campground like it owned the joint. When it roared at us, we both popped back inside the tent and stayed put. Strangely enough, the animals didn't end up taking any of the food. They did rip open my friend's brand new Skip-Bo game, though. Animals love Skip-Bo.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Hamptons, Patrick, housewarming gifts

I have a place out in the Hamptons. I tell myself it's cheaper than living in the city, but I'm probably wrong about that. We have a kiddie pool out back, and I steal water from the neighbors when they aren't looking.

Patrick Stewart came to visit and presented me with a jarful of quarters, each individually wrapped in blue cotton fabric and tied with a tiny little bow. I said, "Wow! Thanks, Patrick Stewart!" But really I was thinking, shit, it's going to take me forever to unwrap all these quarters.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

adventures, babysitting, swamp

There's this big swamp right by the Hudson River in New York. At one end, there's a dock where people desperately try to get on boats and emigrate to the other side. Jersey, I guess. Things must really be bad in New York. There's also an outdoor bar at one end of the swamp, with tree stumps for chairs and vines all over the place, where I spent hours with two friends from work trying to find something good on the jukebox.

We'd just about given up when we met this guy who writes for an adventure magazine. Their thing is to profile crazy adventurers by taking the whole staff and reliving entire journeys. Every month, the publisher and the writers and the copy editors and the sales team and the intern would all take off for a remote locale, climbing Mount Everest in t-shirts, crossing the Pacific in a dinky little raft. This month they were living in the swamp, which is full of snakes and alligators in the wet bit in the middle. This guy had just walked/swam across, and he looked terrible. We all felt bad for him and bought him drinks.

Later that day I had to babysit these two kids, a little girl and a little boy. I'm not sure where I got them. I had a feeling they were my niece and nephew, but that didn't seem quite right. These kids HATED each other. They were constantly fighting over who was better. The little boy was a lot like the guy who swam across the swamp. The little girl was a lot like me.

A bar is no place for small children, and I had to get back to work anyway. So I took the kids with me to the office. They immediately started to complain to my boss about all the horrible things they had done to each other. The boy pushed the girl into the swamp. The girl gave the boy cooties and played Hootie and the Blowfish on the jukebox. I began to think maybe these terrors belonged to my boss after all. I wanted to lock them in a room with a movie so I could get some peace and quiet. Does that mean I'm going to be a bad parent one day? I did take the girl to the bathroom to wash her hands, holding her over the sink so she could reach and making sure she used enough soap. Who knows what she got on her hands in that swamp?

From my office there's this great view of the swamp, a big green-blue bowl cutting into the landscape. Across the river, a giant sandbar juts out into the water. It looks like Jersey City created it as a parking lot, because it's covered with cars. From here, it doesn't look too hard to just walk across the barely submerged sand. I'd be in New Jersey in no time.

Monday, May 5, 2008

college, hobos, gasoline

I decided to go back to school, and somehow managed to get a lease on the same house I used to rent in Ann Arbor. The place looked like shit when I got there, like it hadn't been painted since 1955. I guess it's been a while.

I was the first roommate to arrive, so this time I took the good room. There was a time when I would have been more fair about things, and waited until everyone arrived so we could all put in a bid for the rooms we wanted. Maybe I would have suggested a lottery or something. Whatever. I took the big room, with two windows and a view of the street and fewer stains on the carpet. Just as I finished setting up my room, putting up photos on the walls for once like I was really living there, I heard someone else dragging stuff in downstairs.

It was this girl I went to high school with. We got back in touch through facebook when they added that friend finder feature. It's great for stalking all those popular kids I never really talked to. They're all engaged now. I don't know why that bothers me. Anyway, this girl didn't get engaged. I think she went through some rough times, never managed to finish college the first time around. She must have been doing some weird drugs at some point, because she seems a little out of it these days. She smiles too much and is way too nice for a former popular girl. It freaks me out.

I went downstairs to say hi, and ran right in to this homeless dude who also happened to be this guy:

Eddie Jemison

You might remember him from such films as Waitress and Ocean's 11. I kind of hope you don't.

My new roommate was guiding him into the house. I asked her what she was doing. It turns out the guy needed a place to stay, so she offered to let him stay with us. We had a quiet little talk outside. I told her no fucking way. She stopped smiling and stormed off, so I went inside, found homeless Eddie Jemison, and guided him back out of the house. Then I went and got groceries.

When I got back, the rest of my new roommates had already moved in all their stuff. And that crazy smiley girl was back, dousing my room in gasoline. She had a big can of it, the kind you use to buy gas for your lawnmower, and she was swinging it around so it soaked everything, my bed, my closet, the carpet, the ceiling. She walked out smiling and told me, you better be careful.

It was okay once it all dried. It didn't even smell that much of gasoline. Maybe she just filled the can with water and sprayed it around to scare me. Or maybe she thought water was flammable once you put it in a gas can. But just to be safe, I tried not to light any matches or have any open flames anywhere near my room.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Esther, bluegrass, pheasant

My boss sent me to Kentucky on business and Esther Newberg invited me to dinner at her mountainside restaurant. We sat out back at an unsteady table, in between the lawn gnomes and the bluegrass. I guess we talked about books and ate some wild pheasant. She was nicer than I expected.

Friday, May 2, 2008

sushi, art, beer

My best friend is dating a middle aged artist. He's foreign, although no one really knows what country he's from. He took us all out to a fancy restaurant that mixes Asian fusion with Tex-Mex. I had roasted pork sushi rolls, and they were delicious. Then we helped him set up an art installation in our apartment. I needed to use the bathroom, but someone was in there, so I went to the bar on the corner. They did some remodeling, and now they're a sushi lounge/art gallery/skating rink/bowling alley/beer garden. The hostess told me I couldn't pee there unless I bought some sushi. I didn't want any more sushi, so I held it, and she gave me a tour of their new facilities. The beer garden is lovely.