Monday, October 24, 2011

Like Crazy

A few weeks ago I had gone to see "50/50" and a trailer played for this movie during the previews:

 It's called "Like Crazy" and it's about a couple who meet and have a long-distance relationship. Having dealt with my own trials and tribulations in that area, I knew immediately that I had to see this movie. So yesterday as part of the Philadelphia Film Festival, I went and watched this film that was the darling of "Sundance" this year.

Anna is an exchange student from England who meets Jacob in college a few months before graduation. We start out seeing how their relationship begins and then how it's ultimately torn apart by her Visa issues banning her return to the US; both struggling to hold onto their love at so many thousand miles away. It's at this point that the movie begins to emit a feeling that perhaps only those of us who have been in a long-distance relationship can really relate to.

In one of the reviews I read for the film online, the viewer said that they felt a certain disconnect between the characters; that they were annoyed that the relationship is just given to them in bits and pieces, scenes of fun times the couple spend together laughing and playing, and that there's never any strength in the development. Well, that's kind of the point. There's never any progression of their relationship because there never can be while they're on two opposite sides of the globe.

While visiting Anna for the first time in England, Jacob complains "I don't feel like I'm a part of your life. I feel like I'm on vacation" and Anna laments how hard it is for them to keep always starting and stopping. That's how long distance relationships wind up working out unfortunately. You're always stopping and starting, having to pick up where you last left off; not just physically, but emotionally as well. You really do just feel like you are always on vacation, that you're not a permanent fixture in that other person's life. You don't get to experience their daily routines, hang out with their friends and family, to really nurture and grow that bond between you because you are always leaving. Perhaps I related to this movie most of all because, while Anna and Jacob are separated, they are basically going on with their own lives - moving forward in their careers, seeing other people while still having a deep emotional connection with each other inside - and that's basically how my relationship with Emmett played out.

Other films I've watched about LDRs have the characters frequently Skyping and texting or emailing, but sometimes when you're both in areas with such extreme differences in time zones, it's better to just stop trying to make it work after awhile. This is essentially what happens with Anna and Jacob. In the beginning they are trying to get their times synced; One night while out at a bar, Jacob calls Anna, who herself has just come home and is already in bed and he wakes up her. In another scene, Anna is leaving Jacob a voicemail and struggles to figure out what time 5 PM her time would be in his time so that they can talk in real time. While Jacob is able to come visit on a few occasions, the relationship is stunted because Anna can't reciprocate as she cannot enter the US due to her previous Visa ban. Anna's father jokes at dinner that maybe they should just get married and solve the issue altogether, but they brush it off as they are both still young and growing.

The most gripping part of the film for me was when Anna calls Jacob crying while he's out with his new girlfriend. She tells him that she loves him and can't live without him; he's the only one who understands her, understands how she thinks and feels, and no one else gets it. I started bawling because that's exactly how I feel with Emmett. No one gets me like he can, no one else can ever possibly understand like he can. Then, she says that they should just do it. They should get married so she can get the Visa and come back to America. Jacob agrees and heads off to England where they get married. According to Anna's lawyer, they will only have to wait six months after the wedding and they will be able to get her the spousal Visa needed to come to America. Unfortunately, because the issue with Anna's Visa came from the Student office, the judge cannot grant the marriage visa until they lift the ban. And so, the couple must part ways and live apart once more. They both return to the partners they were seeing in the meantime and going on with their lives, their marriage on the back burner.

Eventually, the day finally comes where the ban is lifted and Anna is able to travel to America. But at this point, so much time has passed, it's as though Jacob and Anna have become strangers. In the final scene, Anna arrives at Jacob's loft and everything seems so awkward, as they're unsure how to interact with each other now that Anna is here for good. Anna decides to take a shower at Jacob's apartment and he joins her. While they try to embrace and kiss, to rekindle their romance and enjoy this monumental moment that they had been waiting so long for, both are at quite a distance with each other emotionally. It's a complete contradiction to the affectionate wedding night scene between the two that we witness earlier. Suddenly, Anna walks out of the shower, leaving Jacob under the running water and the film ends.

The audience started laughing, perhaps out of discomfort, with a sense of 'That's it?? That's the end??", but I don't really think that anyone fully understood the meaning of that scene. Jacob and Anna had built this relationship up so much, they had worked so hard to fight with the Visas, to eventually be together, that - at the point when they finally got to be together for real - they just weren't sure that was what they wanted anymore. I completely understood because that's been my biggest fear. That if there were ever a moment where Emmett and I got to finally be together in the same place, at the same time, would I still want it? Would the feeling still be the same?

Or was it better to just always be on "vacation"?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Lost Decade

Every year since 9/11 occurred, the same routine has been played out at the WTC site: families gather and read all the names of the victims, political figures loom and read poems, someone plays or sings some sentimental music in an effort to help people grieve and remember the tragedy of that day. I've watched the memorial on TV most years and until this year it never really hit me that maybe it's time to just let things be. Yes, the 10th anniversary is a big deal and should have been treated as such. The 9/11 memorial officially opened today and the families were treated to the first look at this glorious tribute to their loved ones. But instead of going above and beyond, the same routine was replayed over and over again on TV for 4 hours. I understand the need for people to mourn, but have these yearly memorials really been helpful? Have they helped to ease the pain or have they belittled a tragic event in our nation's history? Families of those lost on 9/11 live with the grief every day. They remember every day. And for the past 9 years we've grieved along with them on this day. But maybe, it's time to leave well enough alone. To let them deal with it on their own, to mourn and remember in their own ways.

Do we really need to continue these lethargic monologues and canned speeches being read by former Presidents and Governors and Mayors year after year? Who are we really doing it for at this point? For the people in the Midwest who have never even been to NY, never known anyone who died on 9/11, so they can have some kind of holiday to cling on to and celebrate with their God Bless Americas and their American flags and eagles on the back of their pickup trucks and their ignorance about Muslims? Several news outlets this week asked people to share their 9/11 stories, their "where were you" stories. I'm sorry if it makes me a bitch or an elitist or insensitive, but I don't need to hear the 9/11 story of someone who was 2000 miles away - to hear that on that day they were in their pig farm or in church or in their college dorm. I want to hear stories of real people, New Yorkers, who were there, who lived it, who knew people living it, who were terrified, who knew that in that moment their lives were changing forever.

......

September 11,2001: 9/11 meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people. But most of all, it meant something major for America. It mean that American would never be the same again. It seemed for every step forward America had made in its history, it was taking so many steps backward. In the days after, people began to turn on each other. There were hundreds of hate crimes against Muslims and widespread racial profiling. The Patriot Act was passed in the month following 9/11 to help "fight terrorism" along with a military campaign in the Middle East touted as the "War on Terror". The TSA was created in November 2001 to try and secure our airports as the hijackers were able to waltz past our seemingly lax airport security on 9/11. Ironically, Richard Reid - aka the Shoe Bomber - was able to board a flight just a few days before Christmas with a bomb in his shoe which he was attempting to light and blow up a plane. (Yeah, you can thank that guy for the whole annoying process of having to take your shoes off at the airport and holding up the security line. Way to go, bro.)

The Department of Homeland Security was created in 2002 and merged with INS to try and control immigration and our borders and released that oh-so-easy to remember color coded advisory chart.

What began in 2001 as an invasion in Afghanistan to capture Osama Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda operatives strangely spread to Iraq in 2003, where we captured Saddam Hussein on December 13, 2003. (Hmm, that's funny. I don't remember Saddam Hussein having anything to do with the 9/11 attacks?)

2004: Michael Moore released his controversial documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" in what was already a very controversial election year. Hoping to sway the vote toward the Democratic party by revealing the lies and deception of the Republican party, he opened the film with the results of the 2000 election in which Al Gore won the popular vote, yet surprisingly lost the election to George W. Bush. He continues to undermine the Bush administration, drudging up Bush's lack of reaction time during the morning of 9/11 as he stuck around to finish reading "My Pet Goat" to a group of elementary school students, as well Bush's service record in the National Guard. He also focuses on the fact that Government officials were aware of threats made by Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, yet failed to act accordingly and concludes that the military movement from Afghanistan to Iraq was driven by the thirst for Middle Eastern oil reserves and G Dubya's quest to get back at the guys who tried to kill his Daddy. Moore also highlights how the war's "Patriotism" marketing campaign has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of young men and women, especially those in low income areas who were promised thousands of dollars in sign up bonuses to fight for their countries; bonuses that will never get used as these soldiers are never making it home from this war - and leaves many wondering what the real purpose of the war is for.

November 2, 2004: George W Bush, running on a ticket of religious ignorance, abortion banning and the promise to write an amendment against Gay marriage (aka the Defense of Marriage Act), is re-elected for a 2nd term on November 2, 2004, despite the best efforts of the Democratic party.

July 7, 2005: Bombings occur in London's transit system during rush hour. Islamic terrorists take credit.

August 9, 2006: A terrorist plot to use liquid explosives to blow up airplanes is uncovered. Thanks assholes. Because I really only need 3oz of shampoo on a week long vacation.

November 5, 2006: Saddam Hussein is found guilty of crimes against humanity.

December 30, 2006: Saddam Hussein is hanged to death. A grainy cell-phone video of the execution makes waves across the internet.

September 2007: Oil passes the $80/barrel mark.

October 2007: Oil passes the $90 mark.

January 2, 2008: Oil passes the $100 mark for the first time ever.

January 21, 2008: Stock markets plummet on the possibility of a US recession, fueled by the subprime mortgage crisis.

August 28, 2008: Barack Obama becomes the first African American nominee for President. His campaign promises hope and change. Many questions are raised about his background and heritage as he was born of a white mother and an African father in Hawaii and attended school overseas in Indonesia. Some questioned if he was really born in the US at all and therefore that would make him ineligible to run for president. Some claimed that he was a Muslim because of his middle name of Hussein and was in cahoots with the terrorists and couldn't be trusted. Others still simply were racist against him for being African American. However, Obama was overwhelmingly popular with the youth vote, with the minority vote and a star with celebrities - being backed by many of the biggest names in Hollywood.

November 5, 2008: Barack Obama is elected the first "Black President" in the history of the United States. He promises Universal healthcare for all the to bring all of our troops home by 2011.

January 20, 2009: Barack Obama is official inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States.

May 2, 2011: Osama Bin Laden has been captured in Pakistan and killed in a compound by Navy SEAL team 6. This is later confirmed in a public address by President Obama on live television. He proclaims that this was never a war on Islam - Bin Laden was murderer, not a leader, killing many people including his own.

Today:
The American economy is in shambles as a result of the War on Terror. Billions of dollars that were dumped into defense were siphoned from areas of our country that could have used it the most. Banks go under and President Obama attempts to try and bail them out. 14 million American are without jobs and the unemployment rate hovers at 10%. Our Government almost defaulted on its debts and America's credit rating dropped. Republicans and Democrats are at odds fighting over their own political bullshit as millions of Americans feel lost, buried in the rubble - hopeless, jobless, homeless.

Peace? Freedom? Equality? What do those things even mean anymore? They're nothing but lost symbols of what America used to be. In a year before what could possibly be an even more important election then our last, where is all that Hope and Change now? We as Americans want to believe in it, to believe it exists, that it can happen and help. That things can change so that we have hope. We hope that our Government will put our interests above their own and create change. We don't need any more buzzwords in this upcoming election - We need action. We need results. We know that it's tough but it can be done.

Tomorrow, President Obama will present his American Jobs Act to Congress which he hopes will jump start the economy. We need this, not just as a people but as a nation. America needs this to move forward, to reclaim this lost decade of progress and to make America the great nation we remember it being 10 years ago.Sure, we still have a lot of ground to recover but perhaps 10 years from now we will be having a different kind of memorial: a memorial of the day when America got a brand new start.

Side Effects

Today is the 10th anniversary of September 11th.

I'm not here to recap the "where was I" on that day; I've already done that in the past. And in fact, I've probably retold my 9/11 story dozens of times over the past 10 years. In the days following, my story was retold among friends and acquaintances. In the months following, every person at college heard the story after asking me if I had known anyone who died in the Twin Towers when I said that I was from New York. Every year since as people stop to remember that day on message boards and social networking sites, I retold my story.

But what about the story of what happened after 9/11? How has life been affected over these past 10 years?

That is the story I'm here to share today.

September 14, 2001: It was the day that I left for college. My father and I packed up a rental car and drove all the way to Boston. I just remember the eerie feeling of their being no planes in the sky, a site rarely seen in the northeast where so many major airports are in close proximity. In fact, it wasn't until the next day when they lifted the ban on aircrafts and, while crossing a Boston street, I looked up and saw a commercial jet and felt a little lump rise in my throat. Two of the planes that crashed had taken off from Logan Airport. What if it happened again? My first semester, I had a class that met in the mornings on the top floor of a building from which I could look out the window and see the top of the Prudential Building from my seat. Every day I sat in that class looking out at that building thinking, what if a plane crashed into that building right now? What would I even do? It would be a slow trickle back to normalcy.

October 26, 2001: I came home for the weekend to go to a Halloween rave party in the city with friends. We took the subway downtown and got off at the Chambers street station, just blocks from Ground Zero. The thing I will remember the most was the smell; of burning debris, steel, plastic, asbestos and most of all, the undeniable smell of burning bodies. We rounded a corner and there it was: surrounded by wooden fences, smoke still rising from the ruins. Even in the middle of the night, work lights were on and workers were in the rubble working diligently in their rescue efforts.The fences were adorned with posters: some were looking for missing persons, some were memorials. There were flowers and rosaries and prayers. There was a cop car on the corner across the street. We stopped to ask them for directions and I remember just wanting to reach into the car and hug one of the police officers, to thank them for anything they might have done on 9/11.

September 11, 2003: I moved back home and was attending school in NYC. I had a break in between classes and decided to go down to Ground Zero to pay my respects. I had printed the lyrics to the song "Believe" by Yellowcard, which is a tribute to the firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11. I put the sheet of paper in a plastic holder and I had found a rose on the sidewalk. I walked around the viewing area where the flower arrangements were and next to a metal memorial vigil of the twin towers, surrounded by flowers, candles and poems, I lay down my lyrics and placed my rosebud on top.

Think about the love inside the strength of heart
Think about the heroes saving life in the dark
Climbing higher through the fire, time was running out
Never knowing you weren't going to be coming down alive
But you still came back for me
You were strong and you believed
.....
Think about the chance I never had to say
Thank you for giving up your life that day
Never fearing, only hearing voices calling out
Let it all go, the life that you know, just to bring it down alive
And you still came back for me
You were strong and you believed

September 11, 2011: Ground Zero is no more. Long gone is the rubble, the ruins in the depths of which the yearly memorial was held in its early stages. What remains is a beautiful, glorious memorial in the footprints of the Twin Towers. The beginnings of the Freedom tower and several small towers that will surround the old WTC site. I watched the families of those lost on 9/11 find the names of their loved ones on the walls surrounding giant waterfalls that pour into the footprints, leaving roses and creating rubbings of the engraved names. A memorial not just for those who were lost that day but for those who gave their lives. A memorial for those in decades to come to look at and remember what bravery occurred on that fateful day.

"We still here! And we're building four more new towers!"
.......

I recently read an article about people who developed post-traumatic stress from the events of 9/11, even if they weren't directly in any of the buildings or in the area of the WTC; PTS developed simply from knowing, from watching the news non-stop, from worrying. All these years I thought I was being dramatic in my thinking that maybe I had developed some kind of PTSD after 9/11, but after reading their stories, maybe I was right? I can't even think about this day without bursting into tears, remembering my city in ruins, watching the people running, people jumping from buildings, people burned and covered in dust, firefighters and police officers and medical personnel simply overwhelmed. I've developed several anxiety disorders and gone through periods of social isolation, constant worrying, constant fear of the "what if" - things that have been a severe impediment on my personal growth in a time when it was needed most.

The 10 year anniversary of 9/11 has really amplified these past ten years of my life. In a year where I also graduated from high school and was going to be starting college, 2001 suddenly became this enormous cornerstone of my life because of the events of September 11th. That post-graduation decade, in which many young adults begin to find themselves and grow and come into their own with careers and families, was drastically altered by what happened that day and all the events that have happened since. I know at least 6 people who became firefighters (either through volunteer services, local departments or FDNY) because they were so touched by the acts of the firefighters that died on 9/11 that they wanted to give back. I have known another handful of young men who joined the Military to try and fight back and "get the bastards who attacked us"; one of which was my former roommate who was deployed in Iraq at the time when a fellow unit captured Saddam Hussein - to which he disclosed that they had actually captured him a month before it was announced here in the United States due to the fact that that they had to be sure it was really him because he had so many doppelgangers.

The invasion of the Middle East, the killings of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. The recession/depression/collapse of the American Economy. These are not the typical events that most high school graduates have to deal with but all of us who have become adults in these past 10 years have had to struggle with it. With deciding what to do with our lives and our futures while struggling to find jobs and stability. As children, we were promised safety and security, a solid education, a thriving jobs and housing market, a warm and welcome place to start families and raise children, freedom and equality, with liberty and justice for all. And instead, over the past 10 years, we have watched the America that we grew up with, the America that we were proud to call home, become a shell of its former self. Would things have turned out much differently if 9/11 never happened? The world will never know.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Video Killed the Video Star


This year, MTV celebrated their 30th birthday. You’d never know it though, as they scraped the glitz and glamour of such a milestone celebration to push more promos for Jersey Shore and Teen Mom down viewers’ throats. Perhaps they were avoiding dating themselves; I mean, based on demographical information, wouldn’t it seem that 30-something MTV should now be watching VH1? And perhaps as a way to keep themselves seeming fresh, young and hip, this year’s VMAs went unhosted and resulted in the type of disorganized chaos you would expect in a teenager’s bedroom.

The opening of the show was heavily promoted as being Lady Gaga’s “most historic performance in history.” As the audience remained captivated from the pre-show up until the seconds when the stage went dark, a Twitter topic trending worldwide touted “#WhatWillGagaWear”? Recalling her over the top ‘birth’ from an egg on stage at this year’s Grammys, as well as last year’s VMA Meat Dress, many wondered how the eccentric starlet would outdo herself this time. As a single spotlight lit the stage, Lady Gaga in her male drag alter-ego Jo Calderone, first envisioned in a photo shoot for VOGUE Hommes Japan and recently resurrected for her latest video ,‘You and I’, appeared on stage – part greaser, part Ralph Macchio. “Jo” then began a monologue lamenting his tumultuous relationship with “Gaga” and her artistic vision whilst puffing on a cigarette. Then, as the house lights came up, Jo theatrically rushed over to a piano to begin playing the newly in Top 40 rotation hit, followed it up with a West Side Story meets Cotton Eyed Joe dance routine, and concluded with a guitar solo from Queen’s Brian May.

Instead of making several costume changes throughout the show, Lady Gaga remained in drag throughout the entire broadcast, even creating an especially awkward moment when presenting the Video Vanguard award to Britney Spears by declaring that he used to have a poster of Britney in his bedroom to which he used to touch himself, leaving us to wonder if that was really Jo talking. However, as Gaga tried to stay in character, the back and forth during conversation and awards speeches led to several slip ups in pronoun usage, suggesting that maybe Gaga should have taken a few more improv classes during her short lived time at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

But where were the memorable moments that get talked about years later, moments that get recapped in Top VMA moment specials? Where was 2011’s equivalent to Kurt Cobain singing “Rape Me”, defying MTV producers’ warnings or Madonna’s iconic “Like a Virgin” performance where she was writhing around on stage in lace underwear and pearls? Where was this year’s answer to Lil Kim’s pasty, Howard Stern’s Fartman or Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim Commerford’s protest of Limp Bizkit being recognized as a real band (That is what he was protesting, right)?  Or hell, even despite it happening so recently, where was this year’s IMMA LET YOU FINISH moment? Perhaps the closest this year’s show could come to an iconic moment would be Beyonce’s high intensity performance of “Love on Top”, at the end of which – if you hadn’t already caught her revealing her secret on the black carpet – she opened her sequined blazer, cradled her belly, and revealed that after years of rumors and speculation, there was finally a bun in Bey’s oven. This sentiment was met with great applause and a standing ovation from the entire crowd, and an especially excited bro-hug from Kanye West to baby daddy, Jay-Z.

The rest of the show was a three hour long whirlwind of top 40 artists with heavy rotation singles and not a lot of other substance. Amidst the cacophony of bleeped curses and awful transitional spots with comedian Kevin Hart and rapper Rick Ross, several awards were presumably handed out to artists with the type of staying power that appeals to the need it now, fad crazy, Facebook generation. Justin Bieber won Best Male Artist, ironic considering he’s barely old enough to be considered a man. And even more ironically, Lady Gaga dressed in drag accepted the award for Best Female Artist.

MTV took a bold move deciding not to have an official host this year and, while the equation seemed to work well in the past (the VMAs have gone unhosted several times in its history), floundered miserably in a year that MTV could have really used it the most. In spite of pretending like this year was their “29th birthday part two” like most newly 30 year olds aching to hold on to their 20s, MTV could have certainly made 2011 their most memorable VMAs yet. But maybe that’s the point – MTV doesn’t play videos any more so why celebrate their crowning achievement, the spectacular mark they’ve left on society, music and cable television? From a channel that changed the world by bringing visions to the music we all know and love, to a channel driven solely by shows about underage pregnancy and drunken, overly tanned imbeciles, MTV has become Emp-tee-vee. Is it any wonder that mainstream radio is populated by at least 6 Top 40 stations per market when there isn’t an outlet for up and coming bands to be seen and heard like 120 minutes or Yo! MTV Raps, or hell, even Total Request Live (who ,at the end of their lifecycle, barely played full video clips on their Top 10 countdown anyway).

Every time I bother turning MTV on, every interview, news report and intro is narrated by Sway, who I guess is supposed to be this generation’s answer to Kurt Loder. On the black carpet for the VMA preshow, there were a bunch of skinny, hipster, nobody supposed VJs that all looked the same and weren’t even memorable enough for me to try to look them up for the purposes of this article. And there wasn’t even one single female VJ presence on screen for interviews; instead, Sway was flanked by pop singer Selena Gomez, someone who most people over the age of 22 probably couldn’t even identify. Where are the Serena Altschuls, the Tabitha Sorens, the Kennedys, the Martha Quinns, the Downtown Julie Browns? Whatever happened to the Wannabe a VJ contest where the second coming of Matt Pinfield, Dave Holmes (who now hosts DVD on TV on FX), lost to stoner kid and crowd favorite, Jesse Camp? Upon a recent Wikipedia search for MTV VJs, it listed that none are currently active at this time. And since MTV doesn’t play actual videos anymore, who needs to be there for transitions and intros? No talking heads are needed to discuss Snooki’s poof or the winner of the latest Real World challenge; all the thinking and conversation about these important topics can done by viewers via social media interaction. Maybe this absence of human identifiers also makes it easier for teens to zone out during Sixteen and Pregnant marathons.

So just what does MTV stand for these days, anyway? A sullen reminder of a time long gone, or the frightening reality of our dwindling attention spans and the fact that we can’t even be bothered to watch an entire 4 minute long music video anymore? What does this revelation mean for next year’s Video Music Awards and the future of music as a whole? Only time will tell.

The only thing I know for sure is, next year Beyonce’s baby will definitely be in attendance. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

HELP!

When I was little, I never wanted to ask for help. "I know!" and "I can do it!" were my two favorite phrases. Asking for help was showing weakness - you weren't smart enough if you asked for help on your homework; you weren't strong enough if you asked for help with something stuck or heavy. "Can't" wasn't in my vocabulary. I figured out how to be independent early on, do everything for myself, my way. I did things on my own, I never asked for help. I was too ashamed. Even when I should have been asking for help. I thought I knew it all.

When I was in 8th grade, I was in the pre-algebra class. I felt so smart - being there with all the other smart kids and my crush. I wanted to impress him, to do well. But class was hard and him being there distracted me. I would zone out in class. I wouldn't go to extra help.. I didn't like my teacher and was afraid of being made fun of for needing help. My parents weren't good at math so I couldn't ask them. And then, eventually, I go tmoved to a lower math class because I got a "D" in the first marking period; my first "D" ever. All because I wouldn't ask for help.That probably should have made me feel more ashamed. But at least I wasn't struggling anymore. I didn't need anyone's help. I am an only child. I don't have many friends. And I can do it myself. I can do it all... or so I thought.

When I was 21, I was even more naive then when I was in 8th grade. Again, I let a guy I liked distract me and I wouldn't get help until it was too late. I let this guy take advantage of me, abuse me, manipulate me. And I was afraid to ask for help because I wouldn't seem as strong and independent as I tried to be. And then finally, one day, I couldn't hold it back any longer: I had to ask for help. To humble myself, to prove that I needed someone else, and I couldn't do it on my own anymore. And I learned a valuable lesson; sometimes, it's ok to ask for help. We are human, not superheroes. We think we are invincible and can do everything on our own. But we can't always. Sometimes, we need to ask for help.

And when I did, no one laughed. No one doubted me. But they were ashamed that I had waited so long to ask for help when they had just wanted to give it all along. They were always there to help - even though I had never asked before. So now I know that I don't have to be embarrassed or afraid, because someone will always be there to help me. All I have to do is just be brave enough to ask.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

God Bless AA-merica

It's no secret that America's economy has been in the toilet for the past decade. The aftermath of 9/11 increased security across our country's airports and borders and threw us into a war overseas, draining our economy from billions of dollars with each passing year. Our banks crumbled, housing markets collapsed, our credibility as a rich world empire vanquished. As our country sank more and more money into fighting terrorism, companies here struggled and unemployment rates skyrocketed to nearly 10%. With each business that closed, more jobs were eliminated which meant less money being put into our economy, which meant less money to help our failing corporations, to create new jobs, to stimulate growth - it fast became a vicious cycle.

Our politicians and President want to keep things sugar coated. They downplay terms like Great Depression and Recession. Oh no, we're nowhere near a depression and barely a recession - we created 1,000 whole jobs last month... in a country of 307 million people where 10% of them remain out of work and without benefits to support them from losing their houses, cars and ways of life. And you know something? They're right. We're not anywhere close to the Great Depression - because when the Great Depression happened, there was no enormous discrepancy between the haves & the have nots, there were not 11 million undocumented illegal immigrants here, there was still a middle class. The playing field for the most part was level: the majority of US citizens at that time were working class people and immigrants trying to make a fair living and finding themselves being completely devastated by the stock market crash.

The difference today is that there are millions of millionaires in this country; the greed of the 80s stock market growth and housing market has left a majority of Americans with seven figure plus bank accounts. This increase in quick wealth led to the outpouring of over-indulgence and consumerism; Luxury vehicles, $800 dog bowls, designer clothes, private jets. And do you know where else the money of these millionaires goes? Into the pockets of our politicians, greasing the palms of those in Congress and the Senate to make choices like ensuring that the rich don't have to pay taxes and making sure that multi-billion dollar corporations in this country don't have to pay taxes, either. So, is it fair that a family of five who can barely afford their mortgage and to put food on their table have to pay a 15% tax every year, while a family that dines on caviar and champagne every night can jet away to their private villa in Hawaii in their tax-sheltered G5 jet? What happened to America's Horatio Alger-esque roots?

America doesn't seem like it's in a depression because there are so many people with so much money and big houses and riches that they are overshadowing those living in their cars, on the streets, moving back in with family, taking on second, third, fourth jobs just to make ends meet; overshadowing those who work minimum wage jobs and yet have no health insurance since their companies won't give them a full 40 hour a week shift because they're too cheap to pay the premiums. And yet, our politicians had the nerve to sit fighting until the 11th hour over a deal which would ensure that the United States doesn't default on its loans, struggling and cursing each other over which programs to cut and keep when the solution was simple, right in front of their faces: Tax the rich and stop turning your back on Real, hard working Americans.

This is the problem. America started out as a country by the people, for the people. Now, we have become nothing but talking heads and assemblymen, special interest groups, democrats and republicans who are only looking out for their wallets' best interests, completely forgetting that they're supposed to be in charge of a country full of people who are in need, desperate for their voices to be heard, desperate for jobs, for hope, for someone to stand up and remember the little people for a change. We (allegedly) elect these people and for what? We hope they'll do what's right and good for America as a whole - not just for those who can afford their $20,000 a plate political dinners. Whatever happened to Democracy?

And so, with that all being said, the United States had its credit rating downgraded this week from AAA to AA. Our reputation is shot, both economically and politically (I could get into the other reasons why other countries hate us, but there's enough fodder for its own separate post). And all I can think is, is America ever going to be great again? To be that land of the free, home of the brave, stars & stripes nation that attracts millions from around the globe to its shores because we are rich and powerful and strong once again? Can we ever have that same pride and trust in our country's leaders, in our economy and in our political system as in years past? To get back to our roots of an American community, with leaders who believe in the little people, who are willing to hear us and fight for us, to fight for America as a whole and not just those with a great stake in its financial interests. Hopefully this week's activities will be a wake up call; and hopefully it won't take the US losing another point on their credit rating for them to see where real change is needed.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Of Bums and Babies

Growing up in NYC, I've seen homeless people my entire life. Eventually, I got to the point where I became completely desensitized to them: the signs asking for help, the cups shaking with spare change, the dishevelment, the stench of someone sleeping on the train in the dead of winter because it's too cold to be outside... I could go on and on. You find yourself at a crossroads at times - wondering if this person really needs your help. Are they really hungry or are they going to blow that $1 on booze or drugs? Or, unfortunately these days, is it just someone who is looking for quick cash or experimenting for a sociology thesis? (My friends in Catholic school told the same tales of Nuns who berated them for helping the homeless because they once gave some poor, desperate soul their spare change and moments later, saw them get into a Lexus. All with the hopes of making you save your pocket money and donate it to the Church, I'm sure.)

But I wanted to help the homeless. I dreamed of winning the lottery and walking the streets of Manhattan, placing $100 bills into those empty, blue coffee cups. Taking those who were less fortunate out for lunches and getting them cleaned up; a new set of clothes and job opportunities to get them on the right track. I remember drafting a whole plan to turn Governor's Island into a shelter for homeless people - giving them free housing so that they could have an address to put on a resume, a place to build a new life for themselves. I shared my plan with my parents and was met with laughter. They asked me why I was even bothering; homeless people put themselves into these positions - there was no Horatio Alger story to be had from these harsh, cold streets. No one was going to magically pull themselves up by their boot straps and get off crack and join the ranks of the middle class. And more then certainly not, there was no way the Government of New York City would ever provide such lush accommodations and go out of their way to help the less fortunate on such a prime piece of real estate.

Over the years, I'd traveled to many other cities and witnessed many other types of homeless people. Those outside of New York seemed to be more angry, more aggressive, more in your face. I wasn't used to be hassled in the mall by someone looking for a dollar, or being threatened and racially discriminated against simply because I wouldn't give up a quarter. For some reason, New York seemed to be a haven for the homeless. Maybe it was the millions of generous immigrants and tourists keeping them well fed (with food, booze or drugs) and satiated. Maybe it was the 24 hour transit system providing temporary homes, keeping them safe and calm, instead of those who attempted to weather the storms or fight - literally - for a space in homeless shelter once a subway closed at 1 am. Maybe in NYC, as much as people like to stereotype us for being rude and distance, the people there just cared more.

........

We've been in the middle of one of the hottest summers on record. And if you don't have a home to go to at the end of the day, the weather can be unbearable. With heat indexes of up to 115 degrees, all kind of health crises can occur: heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hyperthermia, dehydration, even death. And so, on a 91 degree day, I walked to the bus stop one afternoon and saw a dishelved, homeless man, lying down on the sidewalk. The scene was nothing new to me, I'd seen it a million times before. And so, I just stood back and waited for my bus. Everyone else passed by and went about their business as well: reading books, talking to friends, checking their watches and cell phones. No one else even gave this man a second glance. As I waited, I happened to look over at the homeless man behind my big sunglasses, wondering if it was crack or booze that had him slumped on this sweltering sidewalk. I also noticed a hospital bracelet on his wrist; he had probably been brought in for being drunk and hooked up to a banana bag to dry himself out for the night, then quickly released since he couldn't afford to pay. Just your same typical homeless sob story.

But then, something happened. A man who I frequently ride the bus with knelt down next to the homeless man. He was asking him if he was ok. And I saw the homeless man weakly reach a hand out to touch the man's knee, and he shook his head "no". The man from the bus noticed the hospital bracelet and asked when he had been released. Then, he took his cell phone from his pocket and called 911. It was only at this point that other people began to take notice. Everyone at the bus stop turned their heads to watch the scene: this generous and kind and selfless man, not caring about who this homeless man was or what he had done wrong in his life to get him to this point - only worrying that it was hot and here a man was suffering on a scalding sidewalk. A man who was just like us: a human being.

You could sense now that everyone else at the bus stop had become unnerved, their self-consciousness beginning to show. (I was not immune to this feeling.) You could see the wheels spinning in their heads that maybe they could have stopped to help, should have stopped to help, could have called 911. A young girl with curly hair looked especially nervous. Another older woman made a face of shock and slightly disgusted worry while taking another look at the man lying on the ground. And as the man tried to explain on the phone where he was and what was going on, the young girl asked the homeless man if he needed water - to which he weakly nodded his head yes. Before she could produce a bottle from her bag, another young man pulled out a Gatorade bottle of water and placed it down on the ground next to him.

As my bus pulled up and I began to board, everything else in the world just seemed trivial to me. Normally, I would have complained about the bus being crowded and having to stand, but now, I realize that there are so many worse things that could happen to me. Worse positions that I could be in in my life. Standing on a bus right at that moment was almost a luxury. I felt like the biggest piece of shit on the face of the Earth for just letting a man lie there on the verge of death. And as we pulled away from the curb, the man who rides my bus had sat himself down on the ground next to the homeless man, who also had righted himself & was drinking from the gatorade bottle. He was waiting with him for the ambulance to come. He had made a sacrifice for someone else, done something that we all could do on a daily basis, if only we took the time to stop.

I hope to see him on the bus this week - and while I may not verbally thank him for what he did, I will always give a knowing nod.

Black, White, Red, Green, Yellow, Man, Woman, Gay, Straight, Transgendered - We are all human. It just takes instances like that to realize it sometimes.
.......

Speaking of human life, I have reached that age where it seems that everything has become baby-centric. Oh, don't worry, I'm not planning on getting pregnant anytime soon. (Or ever.) But recently, a friend of mine and I were at a party at which there was a newborn baby. Not being a very big fan of children, I spent the night giving this baby the side eye. Finally at one point in the night, my friend took over baby holding duty. I came slightly closer to inspect the infant with it's fuzzy head and tiny baby acne. I screwed my nose up at this tiny being, bracing myself for its inevitable wailing cries. It was being swaddled in a blanket and then, its tiny little foot poked free. Out of curiosity, I extended my index finger to poke at the bottom of its foot and then...

I caught baby fever.

The bottom of that foot was so silky smooth and soft. Like nothing I had ever felt before! I make it a point to avoid touching or holding or being around babies, so I had absolutely no idea what this baby foot was going to feel like. And then, like some kind of weird tic, I couldn't stop touching it. I was stroking the foot and holding it and then playing with both feet! What was wrong with me!? Did I know what I was doing? This was a BABY! You don't like babies, I told myself. But... but... so soft! I couldn't resist!

After I left, my baby fever wore off and I returned to normal. But I couldn't help but think about my friend holding the baby. I had never really thought of her as the mommy type; a tough girl from the Bronx with a biting tongue and a swagger like no other. Sure, we had worked at camp together with little kids when we were in college, but did I picture her with her own brood one day? I guess I had never really thought of it back then. She's been married for just over 2 years now; her husband coming from a very large family - and almost all of his siblings have already continued the blood line.

She had some problems conceiving last year, possibly the cause of bad genetics; her mother had had 3 miscarriages before my friend was born - and she was the first of 3 children. Her oldest younger brother was born with a disability. So I worried for her. Her and her husband want a big family: Would she have the same problems as her mom? Obviously, having a child with a disability wouldn't be a problem; she would be readily prepared for that and thoroughly accepting. That was one of my biggest fears about having a child. Would I be able to handle everything that goes into this process? Would I be able to handle the waiting for ovulation? Could I handle a miscarriage or a still birth? Could I handle it if my child was born handicapped? I just don't think I could be strong enough to deal with that. But my friend - well, she's the strongest person I know.

And now, she's finally pregnant. Due in February.

And I can't wait to reach my finger out to touch her baby's tiny little smooth foot for the first time and catch baby fever all over again.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Time Flies...

A lot can happen in two years. It doesn't seem like a very long time when you think about it, does it? It's only 730 days, 104 weeks, 24 months. But in that span of time, things can change drastically.

Two years ago, I was interviewing for my current job; now, I just interviewed for 2 other positions back home.

Two years ago, my hair was shorter and lighter and I was (at least) 20 lbs heavier. Now my hair is long and sleek and I am svelte and hungry.

Two years ago, Emmett and I met for the first time. We were sharing smiles and laughs and kisses and pizza. Now, we're not even speaking and I'll probably never see him again.

Two years ago, I was a lot happier. As miserable as it was living at home and working a dead end job, life wasn't going quite so bad for me at all this time two years ago. And from that point until now, I have had nothing but a rollercoaster of high highs and low lows.

......


"New York is not just a tan that you'll never lose... The tan of New York never goes away." - Lady Gaga


I watched this interview with Lady Gaga recently and she is just so passionate about her love for New York in exactly the same way that I am; it was so refreshing. I was home this weekend and there was just something so fitting, so easy about walking the streets and driving the roads. I stood on a corner outside of Grand Central station and watched at least two dozen tourists take pictures of the Chrysler Building. I stood in line for street meat and had a guy tell me he just moved from Oklahoma and was about to eat his first New York hot dog - and I had another person ask me what a knish is. New York, that's what makes me happy.

There is just something magical about that city that draws people there from all over the world: tourists, wanderers, vagrants, people looking to start over, to be someone new. As big and scary as New York looms to be to those who are freshly here, it soon takes you in with open arms and wraps you up inside itself. Even those who proclaim to hate New York, deep down secretly suppress their love for that great city. 

So why did I think that I could do that in Philadelphia? This is just not the kind of place you move to start over and be someone new. It doesn't have that vibe, that sparkle, that same welcoming appeal. I have been cursed at and called names by homeless people, had racial and sexist slurs slung in my direction, battled countless bugs, awful weather patterns (extreme snow and relentless heat), atrocious drivers, ear-wrenching accents, horrendous traffic, ridiculous liquor laws, overly confident sports fans and of course, had lovely interactions with my oh-so-considerate neighbors

........

I'm trying to move back home, trying to get a new job and hopefully trying to regain the happiness that I lost when I moved to Philadelphia. I am trying to separate myself from Emmett, separate these feelings for him that have been consuming me for the past two years. They have weighed heavy on me, weighed me down, held me back at times. Our whole relationship (or whatever it was) was the worst roller coaster of all, and has taken an extreme toll on me emotionally. I hate that I have grown to resent him and obsess over him because we have grown so distant in the past six months. I feel like these feelings have made us turn on each other. For as loving as we once were, I feel like we are back to back with our guns at the ready, ready to just expel the other from our lives once and for all. And in spite of everything that made us great together, maybe he's been my Philadelphia. Maybe I thought he could be the person to help me start over and it turns out that after all this time, he's not....


But I'm really hoping that in the end, he turns out to be my New York. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I do.

I have always been proud to be a New Yorker, but I have never been prouder to declare it then today.

I have always been Bisexual, but I have never been prouder to declare it then today.

Today is a historic day. New York State passed a bill 33-29 that legalized gay marriage.



Upon hearing that the vote was pending last week, I spent this entire week on edge; constantly checking news media for updates on whether or not the Senate had yet reached a decision. And of course, tonight, while I am napping, I wake up to find that the amazing news I have been waiting for has finally arrived. I literally jumped out of bed, started crying, began jumping up and down in my room shouting HOORAY! and clapping. Shaking. Overwhelmed with emotion. Grateful that this day had finally come for members of the Gay and Lesbian community who fought so long and hard for this right.

This is not just a step towards equality for all, this is a GIANT. FUCKING. LEAP.

To all the Homophobes and the haters and the Religious zealots and the doubters:

FUCK YOU - We're here, we're Queer, get fucking used to it already! We're not going away. We are not going to stop our fights. This achievement is only going to make us fight harder, push stronger and make it known that we will not let anything stand in our way. We will not stop trying to make sure that Gays & Lesbians everywhere get the rights that they deserve. To ensure that the Gay youth have a future that they can look forward to without hiding in the closet, without having to hide who they are, without worrying about being bullied or denied a job based on who they choose to love or being denied basic domestic benefits because they just happen to be in a same sex relationship. We are all human; we should all be treated the same.

Hopefully one day soon, we can all emerge from our naps and jump up and down with excitement as we celebrate the victory for the legalization of Gay Marriage in other states, the entire United States of America, and all over the world.



Love is Love. Equality for All. I can't wait to see the pictures from Pride this weekend in NYC. It won't just be a celebration, it will be a god damned victory march!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ten years, Teen years.

In exactly one month from now, I will have graduated from High School exactly ten years ago. A milestone like that can certainly make someone feel old. As I ride the bus to work in the mornings and see local teenagers getting off to go to school, it makes me feel even older. All the weird clothes and cell phones and strange music, vibrant hair colors - things that were blatantly taboo while I was growing up have all become common place. Kids used to defy their parents by getting a random piercing on their face; Today, parents are willingly taking or allowing their kids to get these metallic deformations. (like those 'snake-bite' double lip piercings. Really? You're letting your 14 year old walk around looking like they just got snagged by a fishing hook?) I remember my mom freaking out because I put red streaks in my hair. A teenage girl I ride the bus with has bright purple layering underneath her jet black dyed locks. As her and her friends hop off the bus, they're quickly lighting up cigarettes and texting their friends before walking to homeroom. Oh, sure, there was smoking and other debauchery that went on amongst my peers back then, usually under wraps and out of the unseen eyes of adults - but today, it seems to have become so commonplace.The times, they are a changin'!

When I was 14, I started my freshman year of high school. I had short, pixie/boy cut hair. I wore vintage t-shirts and pants with legs so wide you could practically fit another human being in them. I had a backpack covered in ska & punk band patches. I wore a ball chain necklace and rubber bracelets and a chain attached to my wallet. Sometimes, I was even known to wear a studded choker or a white leather cat collar with a bow, encrusted with blue rhinestones. I would wear a vinyl skirt with a button down shirt, tie and wingtips - occasionally I added a tiara to the mix. I spiked my hair with pomade and carried an old metal lunchbox as a purse. I wore a dark blue hoodie every day with holes cut out in the arm bands for my thumbs. I put red streaks in my hair. I wore oversized "metal" band (Korn, System of a Down, Kittie, Stain'd, etc of the day) t-shirts. I wore out several pair of red & gray contrasting Vans skateboard sneakers - even though I'd never skateboarded a day in my life. I was a band geek - I played the flute in the marching and symphonic bands. My best friend & I started and were the only 2 members on the marching flag squad - for all of one parade. I was part of the TV station. I played JV lacrosse for their start-up season. I went to prom my junior and senior year and wore candy colored dresses to both of them.

By senior year I had toned down my look, grown out my hair, started wearing more sensible clothes and was preparing to head off to college in Boston. I wore a pink flowered dress with white sandals to my graduation under my white graduation gown. I got my diploma and tossed my hat in the air - no more teachers, no more books! I worked at a camp with my friends all summer and partied on the weekends at clubs and raves and had a relationship with a boy while cheating on my shut-in RPG playing boyfriend. Little did I know that in three months, my life would be changing forever. And not just because I was going to college, but because that year, ten years ago, September 11th happened - exactly 5 days before I was due to move into my college dorm for Freshman orientation. (My college was on the trimester system, so we had a late start.)  

Now, 10 years later - here I am. Living on my own in Philadelphia with my Master's degree. My hair is all one color, my jeans are normal and I wear plain t-shirts. The road has been rocky, but I'm still standing. And as I speak, construction crews are working on rebuilding the Twin Towers so that they too can stand strong again one day.

10 years may seem like a long time, but we're just getting started.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Living Like a Pop Star

Have you ever wanted to make highly ridiculous demands of other people just because you can? Well, if you're a famous pop star like Katy Perry, you can do just that! (The Smoking Gun just posted excerpts from a FOURTY FIVE PAGE tour ride for her summer tour.) Honestly, I don't think she's really a big enough or legitimate enough diva to be asking for all this nonsense since people will be turning their heads and going "Katy who?" three years from now. But in the meantime, it got me thinking: If I were a famous pop star touring the country all summer, what kind of crazy shit would I ask people to jump through hoops and bend over backwards (no lube) to get me to satisfy my diva-rage?

Below you will find my totally fictitious, over the top, life rider in which I ask for shit to be available "above and beyond my expectations" simply because I make more money than you and in this world, that means you have to kiss the ground I walk on and do as I say.

Dressing Room:  
For Artist and Artist alone, unless otherwise invited inside. SERIOUSLY, don't even try to come inside the dressing room without knocking first and being given formal notice that you're allowed to set foot inside.
  • Room must have a private bathroom with full bath, preferably a tub with those little clawed feet, and separate shower room with marbled walls and dual shower heads. 
  • Room should also have a separate toilet room as the Artist does not want to take a shit and then smell it while bathing! (Bathroom is for Artist's use ONLY. If you are invited inside and need to use the lavatory, please excuse yourself to find one inside the venue or use bathroom at the gas station down the street.) Toilet should be a Toto (Japanese brand) with warming seat, bidet features (front and back), as well as musical "hide my fart noise" function.
  • Room must have a vanity area with those round bulb lights (with dimmer dial setting) all the way around the mirror, dual hand sinks with faucet heads (brushed chrome) that rise up from the counter top with single-handled hot/cold function on both. A 10X magnifier mirror must also be available (wall-mounted). 
  • Six (6) plush hand towels and Eight (8) plush bath towels that do not leave fibers on your hands after you dry them, that are all pre-washed in lavender scented detergent and warm when Artist has arrived. 
  • Three (3) bottles of scented anti-bacterial hand soap with lotion from Bath & Body Works. (Sweet Pea, Japanese Cherry Blossom and Coconut-Lime Verbena preferred. If unavailable, please choose a fresh or floral scent. No Sun Ripened Raspberry or Mango.)
  • Room must have wireless internet, 42" LCD (not plasma; SONY preferred) screen TV (mounted mid-way up the wall) with 1080pi capabilities. There should be a complete sound system and DVR in room, pre-recorded with latest episodes of all network and high-end cable TV episodes, as well as a Nintendo Wii system (already hooked up to the internet) with selection of 8-10 multi-player games and four (4) Wii-motes with joystick attachments and four (4) regular style controllers. A Wii-fit device should also be available in room.
  • Room must have plush gray (not shag or berber) carpeting, with walls draped in shades of pink. (This means magenta, fuschia, salmon, pink, carnation, shell pink, baby pink, and other toned variations.)
  • Two (2) comfortable soft leather (no pleather!) chairs in light grey matching the carpets. These chairs must have a recliner option with the push button, not the handle. 
  • One (1) matching soft leather couch, with attached chaise lounger.
  • One (1) coffee table placed exactly 30" from the end of the couch. The Artist carries her own yard stick and will make sure this is an exact measurement. Coffee table must have a glass top and wooden legs, not metal. A stack of six (6) coasters should also be available for use on the coffee table.
  • Room should have one dozen (12) fluffy throw pillows (synthetic stuffing, no feathers) in shades of pink and grey.
  • Room should have one dozen (12) fluffy kittens. (Tabbies and Ragdolls preferred. declawed)
  •  Two (2) tall floor lamps in the shape of flamingos. (where in that the head of the flamingo is what is holding the light bulb.) If these lamps cannot be found, please contact a local electrician and welder who can possibly construct these pieces for you. These lamps should not have pull chains, but three way dimmer switches (installed in a panel under each wing) and should be on at mid-dim when Artist arrives in room.
  • One (1) wall length mirror, a la dance studio style. Aka - one wall of the dressing room should be entirely mirrored. 
  • One (1) six (6) foot (ft or ') banquet table, which should obviously not be set against the same wall that is the mirrored wall. 
  • One (1) large trash bin with foot pedal operated lid for main dressing room and one (1) small wastebasket for vanity room.
  • One (1) refrigerator (brushed chrome) with dual doors that open outward and have freezer pull out shelf on the bottom. Freezer should contain a series of fun shaped ice trays (tiny bottles, teeth, animals, letters, etc), pre-filled with bottled water only and available for Artist's use on arrival.
  •  One (1) Edible Arrangement featuring Pineapple and chocolate dipped (milk-chocolate only) Strawberries. Absolutely no melon or honeydew!
  • Twelve (12) average sized, ripened organic bananas without bruising; still bunched.
  • One (1) pound of McIntosh apples only, pre-washed with peeler and corer available. Four of these apples must be pre sliced on a plate with one (1) jar of Skippy brand reduced fat peanut butter available for dipping.
  • One (1) loaf of soft whole wheat, whole grain bread
  • Plate of fresh vegetables: both cherry and grape tomatoes, baby carrots, baby broccoli, cucumber slices with minimal peel on edges and a bowl of ranch dip.
  • One (1) tray of assorted fresh sushi: Tuna, Salmon, Yellowtail, as well as assorted sushi rolls containing Avocado. This should arrive chilled and have been prepared by a trained Japanese Sushi Chef. Small container of soy sauce for dipping, as well as fresh wasabi and ginger should also be provided.
  • One (1) water dispenser cooler with 5 gallon water tank filled with spring water. (Poland Spring preferred.) Absolutely NO PURIFIED WATER! (Everyone knows they just run that shit through a Brita, bottle it, and sell it with 150% markup.)
  • Two (2) bags of Trader Joe's brand Baked Blue Corn Tortilla chips and two (2) containers of Trader Joe's brand roasted corn and black bean salsa, pre-opened and poured into matching clear bowls. (If a Trader Joe's is not located in your region, try your best to substitute - and by substitute I mean, call a Trader Joe's in a neighboring state and have it Fed-Ex'd overnight.)
  • Two (2) bottles of Woodbridge Pinot Grigio, chilled and uncorked immediately before Artist arrives. (Artist has trouble operating corkscrews.) There should also be four (4) stemless white wine glasses available, cooled. 
  • One (1) six-pack of Coke Zero, cans, chilled and one (1) bottle of Coke Zero, warm. Artist likes to pour the warm, bottled soda over a heaping glass of ice for extra refreshment. 
  • Cooler with cubed, not crushed, ice and clean scoop. 
  • One (1) DeLonghi Espresso machine (industrial quality) and three (3) bags of Starbucks Espresso roast (ground). 
  • One (1) gallon of organic, free range non-fat milk. (should be in fridge upon arrival)
  • One (1) Starbucks Barista (female and attractive, preferably an adorable and funny lesbian) should be on hand at all times to freshly prepare any hand crafted coffee beverages the Artist may desire at all times. 
    • Other:  
      • Chinaware (black; both entree and snack size) and silverware (brushed chrome), Two (2) dozen wooden chopsticks, One (1) pair of plastic chopsticks, ceramic mugs (also black) and drinking glasses (clear, preferably with a pink/grey design on the outside), plastic drinking straws, Chinet napkins.
      • Box of Kleenex tissues with Aloe (2 ply)
      • Sandwich cutters in the shapes of dinosaurs and hearts so Artist may cut off her crusts and eat sandwiches in a delightfully adorable fashion.
Got all that??

Great! Now I'm ready to lip-synch my way around the world in completely unnecessary comfort!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tadaima. (ただいま)

Tadaima is a Japanese phrase meaning "I'm back", "I've returned" or "I'm home". One year ago today, I found myself stepping off a plane once again at Narita Airport, ready to embark on a whirlwind, three week adventure in which I saw incredible things, met amazing people and made some of the best memories of my entire life.

I wish that reflecting on this day could be a little more upbeat. With great sadness, almost three weeks ago, the world witnessed the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of northern Japan. I had been reluctant to talk about it until now because there were just so many emotions running through me: Fear that worse disasters could occur as the instability at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant held the attention of the international media outlets, keeping watchers on edge that another Chernobyl might be occurring in the wake of two natural disasters. Sadness for the Japanese people, who I had come to know the warmth and kindness of, as they watched their homes and lives become destroyed in minutes, their families and friends lost in the wreckage,  the outcome of their futures suddenly uncertain.Worry for my friends within reach of the earthquake zone and the potential field of radiation that could spread in the event of a nuclear meltdown, who still are dealing with daily aftershocks, food shortages, rolling blackouts and minimal panic. (I still am finding it hard to truly put all my thoughts and feelings on everything into words, so please forgive me.)

Many of my relatives who know how strong my love for Japan is sent me messages of concern: asking if any of my friends in Japan are ok, telling me that they are glad that I was not there this year and wondering, do I still want to go to Japan? The answer to that question is yes. In fact, I want to go to Japan more than ever before. (And furthermore, on my first visit to Japan, there was both an earthquake which I could feel small aftershocks from in Tokyo - a completely foreign experience for someone raised on the east coast - and a typhoon.) Watching the events play out and seeing the scenes of both despair and hope, tales of heroism and sadness; I just wanted to grow myself to giant size, walk across the globe, and scoop the entire island of Japan up into my arms and keep everyone safe from further harm.I wanted to instantly be there helping the victims, giving them food and water and warmth and shelter and hope, helping them rebuild their homes and villages, buildings, roads and highways, helping restore the beauty of the Japan that I have come to know and love.

The disaster in Japan was just as emotional for me as September 11th had been almost 10 years before. And both events have strengthened my love for both places (Japan and NYC) which I hold intimately dear in my heart. I remember on September 11th refusing to go to bed, refusing to turn the TV off until they showed footage of the first plane hitting the Twin Towers. In the same way, post-earthquake & tsunami, I clung to Twitter alerts, Huffington Post updates, CNN news (and not just because Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta are so damn handsome). It's interesting to think how much technology had changed since then. Can you imagine if September 11th had occurred in the time of Facebook and Twitter and the 24 hour news medium? If someone had tweeted that a plane had struck the WTC? If people had posted status updates that they were ok and safely out of the buildings? YouTube'd videos of the buildings collapsing within minutes? Luckily with these technological advancements, when I woke up at 5 AM on the morning of Friday, March 11th and saw a Huffington Post alert on my iPhone that a 8.9 magnitude Earthquake had struck Japan, I was able to go on Facebook and see that all my friends had updated their statuses to say that they were safe & check my Twitter feed to see that there had also been a massive tsunami following the quake - with retweets from friends relaying news from various other bloggers and media.

So, today I will take this time to reflect on those great times that I had only 365 days ago and know that soon enough, I will be able to say Tadaima once again to a newly rebuilt Japan, a Japan that will only grow stronger and more beautiful from this tragedy, and make many, many more memories.And Japan will reach out to me with open arms, hold me close and say Okaeri! (お帰りなさい)

Monday, March 28, 2011

100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know

I never claim to be the greatest cook in the world. Most nights, my dinner consists of frozen burritos, bowls of cereal, scrambled eggs, peanut butter sandwiches, etc. Simple, easy stuff because I'm just too damn lazy to cook anything. I am all about finding the easiest, fastest ways to get myself fed because when you're hungry, you don't want to worry about prep time and all that nonsense. One of my best investments was a slow cooker because you can just leave that thing on while you go to work and BOOM! come home and you're ready to go! (I have successfully mastered BBQ ribs and pulled pork thanks to that thing, as well as some delicious & juicy chicken thighs.)

One day, the kitchen angels from above heard my prayers and frustrations. (Ok, actually, it was the wonderful people at GLAMOUR magazine.) They wanted me to eat something better than chocolate covered pretzels and call it a meal. They sent me this great cookbook "100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know" and ever since, my outlook on dinner time has completely changed! No longer am I afraid of my stove or of doing dishes.I am only afraid of being able to decide on which great recipe to try next!

This wonderful cookbook was spawned on a time-treasured, epic recipe that was handed down the ranks of the GLAMOUR staff simply known as "Engagement Chicken". Rumor had it that if you made this delicious, roasted chicken for your boyfriend, he would propose not long after. There's even a list in the book of at least 60 success stories in which the engagement chicken recipe led to a proposal and marriage!

But even if you're single or not interested in marriage (or dating a vegetarian - don't worry, there's a section for meat free meals too, ladies), "100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know" has plenty of other delicious recipes in this book to help your feel fabulous and boost your chef-esteem! From simple snacks like the Get Skinny Dip and hearty homemade treats like Prove to Mom You're Not Going to Starve Meat Loaf, to the full-on Easy and Elegant Dinner Party extravaganza, you'll be starring on your own Food Network show in no time! There's even a section on Cheap & Easy Meals so you don't have to break the bank or live on ramen noodles any longer. (Which means more money for shoes!)

..........


100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know: Engagement Chicken and 99 Other Fabulous Dishes to Get You Everything You Want in Life, by Cindi Leive and the Editors of GLAMOUR is available in stores April 5th. You can pre-order on Amazon.com through the links above.

Follow GLAMOUR on Twitter:
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Twitter.com/glamourdotcom 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Guest Post: I Love Fukushima

Hey all, I know I haven't updated in a while, but I wanted to share something special and really important from a friend of mine, Doug, whose life has been deeply impacted by the disaster that is going on in Japan right now. Please take a moment to read his message and pass it along to anyone else that you know. If you haven't already donated to the Red Cross or another generous organization dedicated to helping those suffering from the Earthquake & Tsunami in Japan, please consider making a donation to the New Orleans Japan Quake Fund. 


Thanks xoxo

...................

Japan's Impact on My Life and New Orleans and a Plea for Your Help by Doug Tassin 



I'm sure everyone is aware of the current situation in Japan regarding the earthquakes, tsunamis, and the horrifying events taking place at the Fukushima Nuclear Plants. Last night, the radiation radius around Fukushima Daini Plant was expanded another 10km, moving it into Iwaki City. Hopefully, the cores can be cooled and contained, and any meltdown at any plant in Japan is prevented.  All the events that have decimated the Tohoku region of Japan since Thursday have really taken their toll on me, but the fact that this radiation "bubble" has expanded into Iwaki has me really sad.

Iwaki, like all of Fukushima, is a wonderful place.  It is home to beautiful beaches, fantastic hiking trails, wonderful and caring people, and some of the best food I've ever eaten. It's a place that I hold near and dear to my heart. Iwaki houses 3 years worth of memories that I will never forget.  It is my second home and a place where many people who I consider family still live.  Every night and day I pray for their safety and hope that some kind of relief can come to them (and all of those affected by this disaster). 

In fact, this is very similar to how I felt after Hurricane Katrina. About 2 weeks after Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, I moved to Tokyo, Japan to study at Sophia University, at that point fulfilling my lifelong dream of going to and studying in Japan. However, it was a bittersweet fulfillment. I had left all of my family and friends behind to battle the destruction that Katrina had left in her wake. I felt horrible about leaving and even told my dad I didn't even know if I could go.  But he told me, "Go. This is your dream. It could be your only chance. We'll be okay." But not a day passed while I was in Japan where I didn't think about the troubles and struggles my friends and family were going through.

But then one day on the news in Japan, I heard that Japan had sent military assistance and relief to Katrina-affected areas.  In a recent editorial in the Times Picayune (http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2011/03/time_to_repay_japan.html), a writer commented on what the Japanese provided New Orleans:

After Katrina, the Japanese government offered material and monetary assistance that surpassed $1 million and that included tents, blankets, power generators and portable water tanks. Japan also provided $200,000 to the American Red Cross to aid hurricane victims. In addition, Takashi Endo, a private businessman in Japan, donated $1 million from his personal funds to Katrina relief efforts.  I don't know if you have already donated to a cause but if you haven't, please consider this one.
At the end of the article, they also note ways to give relief and pay Japan back for its past generosity.  However, there is one more way.

The New Orleans Japan Quake Fund is currently in the process of being established.  It is being formed by a coalition of New Orleans-based, Japan-related groups: Japan Club of New Orleans, Japan Society of New Orleans, jetaaNOLA (JET Program Alumni Association, New Orleans Chapter), and Japanese Garden Society.  With the full support of Honorary Consul General of Japan Donna Fraiche and hopefully the endorsement of the govenor of Louisiana and mayor of New Orleans, we are creating this fund as a means for all of New Orleans to repay the generosity and care that Japan showed us in our time of need.  This donor administered fund will be created through the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF), and we plan to raise money in the fund and give it directly to an organization in Japan. GNOF has a long history of successfully administering funds, and we will still be able to direct where the money goes.  As mentioned, it is still being set up and should be available VERY soon, but in the meantime, feel free to sign up for the New Orleans Japan Quake Fund mailing list at http://www.japanclubofneworleans.org/donations. You will receive updates, news, and information about the fund and future fundraising activities.  Also feel free to contact me if you are interested in making donations: doug.tassin@gmail.com.

My total four years in Japan were the greatest time in my life, and I will never ever forget that. I am forever indebted to Japan, and my love for the country runs deeper than I had ever realized.  Especially now, after Japan has experienced the worst natural disaster it has ever experience in its documented history and one similar to (but much worse than) one experienced in New Orleans, I want to give back to the country that has given me so much.  New Orleans, Louisiana, America, World. Are you ready to help Japan recover? I sure as hell am. 

One last request: Could you please share this note with your other Facebook friends and pass along the link for the New Orleans Japan Quake Fund? I would greatly appreciate it... Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Simple Kind of Life

I've been doing a lot of analyzing of my life recently as far as what I want for myself and what I want for the future. There are just so many options, so many alternatives, that sometimes, I wish I was just a simple girl.

"I think your either born simple or you're not. I want to be the person who gets happy over finding the perfect dress. I want to be simple because no one holds a gun to the head of a simple girl." - Dr. Christina Yang, Grey's Anatomy

I know it's kind of immature or un-PC to think of people as being "simple", but there really is a difference when it comes to the way people choose to live their lives. There are the over achievers, the perfectionists, the want to get ahead-ers, the need to control situations, be the best, be the most successful - and then, there are simple people; people perfectly content with where they are in life. With never climbing any higher up the ladder, never leaving the towns they grew up in, no interest in furthering their careers or wanting more for themselves than what they already have, no desire to see the world. People who see the world through rose colored glasses, with blinders on, who live a pre-prescribed life that has been set before them. Who live a blissful life in a world of naivety.

I saw Blue Valentine last weekend. There was a pivotal scene in which Ryan Gosling & Michelle Williams, while trying to have a weekend getaway to save their marriage, have a conversation over dinner. Michelle Williams' character asks Ryan's why, since he has such potential - he can sing, dance, play the ukelele, draw, etc. - he doesn't try to do more, to live up to that potential. His response to her is that all he wants to be is her husband and their daughter's father and why isn't that good enough? And I sat there with tears in my eyes thinking, why is she pushing him? She was right, but he was right too. Her character was in college when they met, on track to one day go to medical school until she got pregnant. Ryan's character didn't graduate high school and was working as a mover in Queens and came from a broken home. To him, to be a husband and a father, something he had never envisioned for himself - to him, that wasn't simple - that was him overachieving.

I know plenty of people in my own life who have the potential to be better, do better/be more, do more and yet, don't bother to live up to that potential. My father is an excellent example of this. I saw so much of him in Ryan Gosling's character - from the pack of Marlboro Reds to his aviator sunglasses to his dashing, full mustache to the way Ryan interacted with their daughter, Frankie; it was completely reminiscent of the interactions me and my father had when I was that age. (Especially the way Frankie favors her father over the cold, distance mother character that is Michelle Williams.) My father grew up poor in the Bronx, was the only male in his family to graduate from high school, he went into the Navy and sailed all over the world yet didn't get a passport until he was 45 and doesn't really want to travel overseas now; he became a husband and a father at 23 - and that's always been 100% completely satisfying for him. He has his little projects that he does around the house, his own hobbies and interests, but he has no real desire to do more than be completely content with where he is in his life right now. That works for him and I can't blame him for that. And if that makes him simple, at least he's happy doing it.

Sometimes, I think it might be easier. To not have to worry about getting a good job or paying my bills on time or finding a nice apartment in a good area that I can afford and still live comfortably. To be happy just being someone's wife and having kids and taking care of the house, doing the laundry, driving the car pool. To raise my family in the same town I grew up in and go to all the same stores, eat at all the comfortable, familiar chain restaurants and the occasional local Italian place. To take our vacations in tourist trap places while toting strollers and diaper bags and screaming toddlers who we neglect to yell at when they're clearly irritating everyone within a 5 foot radius. To not watch my weight constantly and wear sweatpants everywhere and let my roots show.  To just be a simple girl and smile.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dear Jon...

It's been a long time, huh? Glad to see you're happy and doing well.

It's funny - I found myself thinking about you lately. Just this past Saturday night, I recalled the time you set a blanket on your lawn on a sunny Sunday afternoon and you read my fortune with tarot cards, looking up to see what each one meant from this book you had. Your spirituality was always one of your biggest passions and one of your most endearing qualities.

Remember our first date? Where we got bad Chinese food at that place on Mass Ave with the orange tables. Then picked out 2 movies at Blockbuster - Friday & Minority Report. We never did make it to Minority Report. We went to sleep in my dorm and in the dark, under the covers, I tickled you. You squirmed and then we kissed under my navy blue blanket. Our first kiss.

I think most of the reason I've thought of you lately is because I've met someone who reminds me so much of you. I see so many of your traits in him. You both are gentle and kind and well read. Sensitive. Smart. Caring. Comedic. Lovers of obscure bands/DJs and clove cigarettes. You both love animals and make funny faces and are skinny and fun to hug. You both have dimples with amazing smiles. You are both free spirited, yearning to travel, to see what the world has yet to hold. You march to the beat of your own drums and, in doing so, make the most beautiful kinds of music.

We were young and foolish at a time when it was great to be young and foolish and in love. Alas, distance always gets in the way. The physical distance between us, as well as the distance between us physically.  It makes me sad the way things ended between us, but deep down, I think we know it was the right thing. Our paths had crossed and then one day, my path shifted, but we shared some great times along the way.

I remember the last time I saw you. October, 2005. Club Shampoo in Philadelphia. You came up to me and gave me a hug, stepped back, holding me at arms length and said, "You look great."

"Thank you.", I replied, smiling.

Those were the best kind of words we could have parted ways with.

xoxo

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Plan of Study

I wish you could make your own major in college. If so, I would have wanted to graduate with my Bachelor of Arts in Fabulousity. Here's what the program track would have looked like:

Freshman Year:
Glambition 101
How to Work it in a Sweats and a Hoodie
Makeup Dos and Don'ts
How to avoid The Walk of Shame
Breaking out of that awkward phase
Dancing on tabletops: pros and cons
The Wristlet: Your BFF

Sophomore Year:
Glambition 201 (Honors)
Low rise pants: dos and don'ts
Push-up bras: Your BFF
What did I do last night?/How did I get here? (Lab section)
VPL prevention 201
Cocktails 201
Heels: How high is too high?

Junior Year:
Fierce, Ferosh, Ferocity 301
How to get free drinks all night
Bisexuality 302
Independent Study: NYC Fashion Week (Spring)
Penis size: how big is TOO big?
No Panties: Slutty or Comfy?
Your Vibrator: Your BFF

Senior Year:
Independent Study: Labels and Love
Thesis: Tits or Ass - Which really matters?
Independent Study: Turning heads, Breaking Necks
Workshop: Threesomes - who's turn is it?
Thesis: Missionary or Doggy Style?
Workshop: Blowjobs - how to perfect your technique

What would YOUR dream degree consist of?