It wasn't until I heard silence did I realize I'd been without it for two months. It took me an hour and three trains to find it.

On Saturday, I went to the Rockaways, aka the beach in Brooklyn. I packed my snobby Hawaiian attitude (the water will surely be polluted and cold, the sand too crowded and the culture more "street" than beachy - though I'm not sure what I meant by street - Low riders? Spandex and gold chains? Fictitious Brooklyn accents I have yet to hear? ) Anyways, I was completely wrong. If you are someone who is die hard enough to spend an hour on a train to be near the water and/or surf, then you are not pretentious or uber-urban. This is not the orange tan and zebra-striped bikini parade of Miami Beach or Malibu. At 10 in the morning, on the first bright day of the summer, the Rockaways looked like a spot for people who simply like the ocean.

Oddly, the beach culture here in this pocket of NY is one of the most similar to that of Hawaii's I've come across (mostly in terms of style). Bathing suit coverups are simple tee shirts and shorts. The scene isn't a re-creation of every spring break movie with a row of bars wrapped in hula skirts touting margarita specials. Okay, so there are newly-built vacant condos lining the beach (but at least these aren't the couture shops or behemoth villas and shopping centers of Waikiki).

But the rest of the architecture could be out of North Shore or at least near the Alawai Canal. One- and two-story storefronts look sand and sun weathered and taco and sandwich shops (not to mention a stand of the east coast equivalent of shave ice--Italian ices) are literal shacks manned by friendly stoner types and that serve fresh, honest food. There's even a guy who sells gear and rents out lockers so city folk don't have to trek their boards back and forth all summer.

Like with any beach, there's the local surf spot (i.e. the one farthest from the train and closed off by 10 to accommodate for the kiddies)...

...and the one everyone else goes to (where novices piss off locals, and locals usually steal most of their waves anyway.)

But that's as far as my surf observations go. I'm a sunbather, or at least, I use sunbathing as an excuse to act like a sloth. Whenever I get near the ocean, I just stare at it, mesmerized by the tide going in and out until I lay on my towel and pick up my book, which after a few sentences, usually leads to a nap, followed by more staring. I like to think of the ocean as Prozac for my city-obsessive disorder.



Yesterday, I was sitting at my computer, actually getting some work done on my thesis (no joke) when one of my best friends in LA sent me a text:

"Crazy!!! Did you hear Michael Jackson died!"

I screamed out to my roommate, "Holy shit Michael Jackson's dead!"

Gasps and utterances about Billie Jean and needing to get a drink ensued, while we texted friends like chain mail and scrambled back to our computers to Google for more details. Oddly, only one source said Jacko was a dead man: TMZ. It'd be another 45 minutes before LA Times would confirm his death.

Although the celeb gossip site is no CNN or the New York Times, I knew I could trust it, much like I knew I could trust my friend. Why? They are both based out of LA; they are both linked to Twitter. (Side note: I used to work for a newswire service in LA that got most of their best tips from TMZ.)

No longer do the paparazzi have to bribe paramedic insiders and ER nurses. Now, thanks to Twitter, hospital staff can be news-bearing glory hogs themselves! At first I thought it was weird that tens of thousands of obsessive Twittering phone junkies and faceless cubicle heads can know when tragedy strikes strangers (I can think of three plane crashes earlier this year) before these strangers' loved ones do. But then in the case of MJ I realized: Do his parents, or his plastic siblings, or his nephews named Jermajesty, count as loved ones? I think it was more fitting that fans were the first to find out.

Newspapers are caving, magazines are shrinking. No one wants to print words anymore and no one wants to pay anyone to report and relay them either. (Trust me. I know.) So I joined the town crier of the 21st century last night. (Okay, I joined Twitter months ago but didn't do a damn thing with it. I thought of it as another distractionary extension of Facebook but for the worst type of narcissist and compulsive status updater. But then I realized most of those over-updating moms still haven't caught on to tweeting yet. And even if they do, I don't have to feel bad about not following them.) I even added a link to the left of the blog. (Warning: I'm still standing on the outside of the playground waiting to jump in.)

Oh well, there goes all that thesis momentum I was building.



To be honest, if Michael Jackson lived another 20 or 30 years, he would've have only gotten creepier, more recluse and tragic. So I thank god that most of us will and can remember him as the best goddamn dancing machine that ever lived.

Here's one that MTV and all the network retrospectives haven't (yet) overplayed:



This is a photo I snapped over the weekend.

I like food. I admire food. I'll even go as far as to say I think food is art just to justify why I felt the need to document something I've eaten, oh, I don't know, about 4,000 times! (Really, when did I become this weird, or this obessessed with bacon, half-cooked bacon at that? Sure, it was Sunday, but I wasn't even that hungover.)

Looking back on a year of iPhotos, I came across more than 20 pictures of food items. I know as I've gotten older I'm less apt to take woo-hoo drunk, buddy-buddy pictures (Put up your peace signs! Act street tough and laugh, ladies!), or pictures of me or loved ones standing like statues in front of semi-important arhitecture (like the house from Goonies or my favorite bar in LA), but this isn't because I'm too sophisticated for such endeavors, this is more about vanity (going through iPhotos, it also occurs to me I'm not in my prime anymore, and need to be in significantly less pictures.) Regardless, some of these food photos are outright ridiculous.

But to make a weak argument that there was some sort of point to all this food obsession, I've decided to make a gallery of sorts and let the art the speak for itself (aside from the accompanying titles and mini artist statements). So track my progression, if you will, and see how far I've come as an artist. (Note this is less about the photography, and more about the subject matter.)

"Dainty, delectable, sweet" - How three young women interpret themselves on holiday. (Montreal, QC, May 2009)

"Transgression" - A metaphor for one last horrah, a phase where a young lady says goodbye to junk food consumerism and beer pong keggers, and much like the vehicle her goods were on, has to move forward, feel the air roll through her cabin and take flight, past all the Chinese buffets, tire shops and Wendy's drive-thrus along the I-87, to become the poised artist of the work noted above. (Bumfuck, NY, May 2009)

"Fate" - Moment of awe captured on film. Greeted by three menus and thirty ways to make a peanut butter sandwich at the JFK airport. Also referenced as "Girl Arrives Home." (New York, NY, March 2009)

"Sugar Bomb" - Materials: Zippy's Apple Napple, broken plastic fork. Documentation on how hard it is to eat through 20 layers of flaky pastry with a plastic fork, especially when drunk. (Kahala, HI, December 2008)

"Grassy Knoll" - Inspiration: tequila, the humor of a 13-year-old boy. Process: Spontaneous, collaborative piece that came about after professionally-made artwork was left in a fridge many miles away, and four road-tripping drunks got a hold of confectionary squirt tubes and battery-operated candles. (Newport Beach, OR, August 2008)



The other night I went to a reading by two of my favorite writers.  Although I didn't recognize Nick Flynn at first, I should've. Not just because I study bios on the back of book jackets (and then Google authors to find out juicy personal information like said author dating Lili Taylor), but because of the obvious self-deprecating swagger of a lit star. This is not to be confused with the bravado of a rock star or the good looking cockiness of a movie star, but instead, the insecurity worn on the sleeve of every writer, that coupled with some sort of acclaim or success, can be used as a means to get laid.  

Nick Flynn and Chuck Klosterman (the other aforementioned writer/reader of the night) are talented writers; they have a way with words. The self they write about in their poem/essay/memoirs--the Flynn/Klosterman character--is often a fuckup. He's bumbling through life like the rest of us and he isn't too sure of himself. But the man who is telling this story--the writer--delivers his flaws with an honest, complicated self-awareness. Striking a delicate balance between the character's struggle to arrive at some sort of insight and the smooth writing that gets the reader to arrive there with them. 

Again, this is talent, and therefore to a writer like myself, this is hot. But I think most women over the age of thirty would find self discovery in general attractive. (He's in touch with himself but he isn't a sap! He's a mess but I don't have to fix him!) Flynn is more this type of writer. Although Klosterman isn't as skilled with language (Flynn is a poet first; Klosterman a journalist), he is better with persuasion. You'll follow Klosterman's arguments and exploratories because he appeals to your common sense and common generational experience. (Is Bono for real of full of shit? People like bad television because it's reassuring; no one cares if it's interesting.) 

The subtle discrepancies between these two lit stars were exemplified in how they entered and where they sat at the bar Wednesday night. Klosterman looked like the caricature on his book jacket (a blond male version of Velma from Scooby Doo). He was parked on the first bar stool closest to the entrance--the place where you had to order your drinks. By the time I did a double take, a petite brunette was in his face praising all of his books. A steady stream of above average looking, modestly-built brunettes continued to come up to him until the reading started. (A friend who once went to a Tin House writers conference said all the established writers there had brunette girlfriends who were in their late twenties/early thirties. I suppose smart girls, or lit groupies,  have dark hair and a few years on them, and why I was here instead of say, backstage at a Bret Michaels concert.)

Flynn on the other hand, showed up five minutes before the show started, which was technically ten minutes late, and headed for the corner of the stage, actually my bar stool while I was in the bathroom. (I felt like a douchebag when I realized this after he took the stage, but not before shooting him a contemptuous smirk when he made some comment about my friend letting him keep my seat warm or whatnot.) Flynn had a more stereotypical I'm-of-the-new-generation-of-irreverent-but-acclaimed-literati look about him. Mid forties, casual buttoned-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Wavy hair, a little too long and greasy. A loner, who'd probably really would prefer to talk to absolutely no one, but has learned how to turn snark into wit over years.

I could go on to describe the reading itself. But it was what it was: self conscious disclaimers, followed by verbalized prose and a plug for their work that'll be coming out in the fall. 

Instead, I'll skip to the part after the show, when girls continued to come up and ask them to sign their books. The writers stayed and chitchatted for a bit but then they disappeared before a band closed out the evening. Which was surprising to me because I thought a seasoned writer didn't know when to leave a bar. Hmph



With summer prolonging its official debut here in New York, I embraced a fleeting a moment of sunshine this weekend and headed over to McCarren Park in Williamsburg to read in the grass. Except I spent more time doing what I do best, people watching, (which is actually best done hungover with friends since the only physical exertion involved is staring and letting immediate judgments dribble out your mouth without a hint of tact or remorse).

Therefore, I present to you, a day in the park condensed in quick judgmental equations:

Guy with two yappy dogs = not single

Middle-aged woman slowly walking her bike on a designated bike path = mother reluctant to return home

Couple laughing while staring at guy in neon sunglasses and purple ball cap = hungover too

Guy with ponytail in black and white bowling shirt and faded black denim shorts, lying in grass with handheld device = misses early Metallica/Legend of Zelda

Girl in gingham plaid, carrying a wicker picnic basket and white fluffy dog = not Dorothy

Gay couple suspiciously carrying a Gap bag when there isn't a Gap for miles = eco-conscious lushes without any other plastic bags around the house to transport the bottle of wine they opened for dinner last night and planned to finish for lunch today

Girl putting down her notebook and glancing at the unopened novel beside her = ready for a nap



New York's inflation apparently extends to vaguely-named animals and their byproducts.


Carrie Bradshaw would never be caught dead digging... with a khaki canvas tote. 



In Atlanta, there is no soda. There's only Coke. A Sprite's a Coke. A Dr. Pepper's a Coke. A Pepsi, however, is not a Coke; it's the devil.

This is because Atlanta is Coca Cola's headquarters. In the South, Coke has the monopoly on everything.

These days, I don't drink much soda (sorry, out west this is what we call it), but I was kind of excited to try 66 Cokes on my World of Coke tour this past weekend. (Did I mention my brother works for Coke? However, he has just as much beer in his garage as he does cans of Coke.) But first, I had to endure a lot of propaganda.

At first I was skeptical of the cheerleader tour guide who made us shout our favorite Coke flavors. I even raised an eyebrow at the new slogan "Open happiness." But then, while watching their new seven-minute promotional video, I became mildly distracted from my cynicism. The commercial didn't have much of a plot, nor did it have much product placement other than Coke Classic (btw, my brother tells me they're doing away with the "Classic" part). It was surely a showcase for new, hip CGI animation. But all I saw was one sexual innuendo after another--in every movement of every round, curvy character with giant lips crossing and recrossing her legs and in every swing on the trapeze where some slimy glob with multiple nipple piercings moved back and forth, back and forth. Who knows...I could've just been horny. Still, I'm no dummy; getting me all worked up was surely part of the plan.

As I tried to shake the video, we went through a museum of memorabilia, followed by a 3D film where two researchers try to figure what makes a Coke a Coke. By this point, every time I'd hear the pop of the tab opening and the sound of fizz being poured from the can, I was ready to jump out of my seat. I needed a Coke NOW! I was horny, hot and thirsty dammit! (And awkwardly with my niece and brother.)

The tasting room ended up being 10 or so soda fountains, separated by continents. Only a few were atrocious (the Europeans suck, especially stogy old "Beverly"), while most were pretty good (the Latin Americans know what kind of sweet, fruity goodness can quench a thirst). I walked away with a slight buzz and surprisingly, not sugared out.

About an hour after we left, I felt an itch in the back of my throat. I was, again, craving some fizz. Next thing I knew, I had ordered a giant Diet Coke to go with my sushi over lunch.

Sure, I have an addictive personality (give me one shortbread cookie at Christmas, and I'll be needing one every hour by New Years.) But it's no mystery why one person can't name a single bad memory associated with Coke and why the Coca Cola logo practically sings off of signs and the back of delivery trucks. Marketing genius, I say. All they needed was to start piping in "It's a Small World," maybe give me a cigarette once I satisfied my Coke fix, and I'd almost buy into this "open happiness" crap.



I knew this would happen: Living a year and half without television has made me dumber. I felt like a complete imbecile last weekend when my brother, a 43-year-old executive with an MBA from Stanford, schooled me on the premise of Gossip Girl. Sure, I read US Weekly every now and then, but I practically have no context for Katy Perry and I'm not sure whether the Jonas Brothers are part of the High School Musical squad or if they're Menudo 2.9. 

So I enlisted the help of my aforementioned 13-year-old niece and my 10-year-old nephew to help me uncover the answer to every pop culture question I've been too lazy to Wikipedia.

This is what I learned:

Lil Wayne is the shit. Even when he raps with a white guy.

T.I. is not.

I see through Lady Gaga’s "poker face," i.e. her Cher mask, complete with a gay dance anthem, Vegas showgirl weave and leather bodysling (ala "If I Could Turn Back Time"). Underneath, she is a less interesting fame whore than Lily Allen in disco drag.

Mad TV can be funny, thanks to a lanky, blushing manchild named Stuart and a hood rat named Bon Qui Qui.

No one is actually watching TV anymore. Instead, they're on YouTube watching millionaire teenage web superstars like this guy:

Which brings me to my final lesson, or revelation, the one my niece and nephew were too kind to say aloud, but instead let me figure out on my own: I'm old. My pop culture ignorance has nothing to do with my cable TV disadvantage. I'm just out of touch. Which reminds me of something else I learned from my young gurus: Those damn annoying Facebook quizzes (What kind of moron are you? Which city should you be castrated in?) are indeed made for a middle school kids. Yup, the same people who dictate which country you should live in also tell you which Pokeman you should be. So may I be so bold as to ask my fellow old folks to pass on this knowledge to their own friends and high school acquaintances who need a misspelled quiz to tell them their aura color? Embarrass them and spare us all from the non-interesting updates, please. Thanks. Class dismissed. Now back to my antiquated playlist on iTunes and my admitted Facebook compulsion.  



Meet my 13-year-old niece Ali.

She is why I believe in the youth of America.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Last year for English class, she wrote a research paper on the history of metal. (Her bibliography included a VH1 documentary.) In this paper, she referenced the term "sleaze metal." Having written numerous pieces about glam metal, hair metal, butt rock and the like, I was giddy to add sleaze metal to my vernacular (even ignoring my reflex to debate its authenticity) and was compelled to use it immediately, and in any and all pieces of future writing, whether appropriate or not. The cherry: According to VH1, my beloved Guns N' Roses falls into this genre. Sleazetastic!

May I present further evidence that Obama isn't the only bright light shining the way for our future generations...

Ali has a poster of Motorhead's Lemmy--in all his gnarly-mole glory--ripped out from Metal Edge and tacked to her wall.

She thinks "90s bands" like Pearl Jam and the Chili Peppers are overrated.

At an age when I was too chicken to dance to crap like "I Wanna Sex You Up" at a school dance (see here), she and her friends will perform a body rockin' routine to a Miley Cyrus song for the school talent show (she likes the beat and doesn't care if everyone thinks Hanna Montana is lame). Then, she'll pick up her guitar for an encore of "Paint It Black."  

She has a pair of everyday-wear Chuck Taylors and a dressy pair that she hasn't doodled on.

Her favorite guitarist is sleaze metalist Slash.

While all my girlfriends over the age of 30 are pining after Robert Pattinson in Twlight, citing that his character's intense devotion to his girlfriend is the stuff of teenage romantic fantasies, Ali tells me that he's a terrible actor.

We played Rock Band for two hours and she humored me when I belted "Hungry Like the Wolf."

Okay, sure, her biggest crush is Pete Wentz, but when I was 11, I made my mom take me to see George Michael when he came through town on his Faith tour. (I thought his five o'clock shadow was rugged. I also though Kip Winger's eight o'clock shadow was rugged. Hell, I still think Prince is the sexiest man alive.) I'm not one to judge androgynous elfkins.



I moved from one sublet to another yesterday. When I arrived at my new place, it seemed Rainbow Brite had thrown up all over my room. 

Yes indeed, that is a hand-bejewled dresser. I would show you what the room looked like in its full regalia but I immediately started stripping things from the walls. 

The artifacts (once on the walls, now in the closet):

(Yup, that's a trampoline underneath that stitched heart, which I must say, is pretty effin cool.) 

In context to the rest of the house: 

The living room. (The pinata was apparently leftover from a birthday party and now serves as candy dish and sculpture.)

The tutu light fixture in the bathroom.

Okay, so you ask why or how I managed to overlook all of this when I agreed to sublet here for the next few months. Let me try to explain. 

At the time, I was living in a loft without a window in my room, and even the drapes in the living room were constantly drawn because my roommate, who exclusively wears black, usually laid on the couch watching cable from the moment she got off of work on Friday evening to when she went to bed Sunday night.  And my other roommate usually slept past noon or whenever she had to get up for work or felt the need to discuss her chemical dependency problems with the goth roommate. These were nice girls but they were in a dark place. Literally. 

However, as of yesterday, the Portland doom-and-gloom in me suddenly made a case for the solace of gray. (Should I buy black tarps to throw down on everything? Like an idiot, I did buy brown sheets, which next to the pink night stand, now makes the room look like Neapolitan ice cream, which I guess isn't so bad really.) 

After stepping away for a few hours, I came back to find my new roommate home. She was quick to mention her plan to de-colorize the place now that her former roommate took off. I was happy I didn't have to hide my sunny aversions; she's from San Francisco. 


I seem to instigate or attend more dance parties now that I'm over 30 than I did at whatever age it was appropriate to stand around in a circle and have your friends, one by one, jump in the middle and essentially forget they're white. Gyrating and body rocking is much more fun when you're older and have a sense of humor. Or you're broke and all you have is free downloaded music, a gut full of High Life and a spacious living room.

Whatever the case, these are the songs I've noted make the best (and sometimes most surprising) dance hits:

5. Crazy in Love - Beyonce - Okay, I think chicks dig this one more than guys do. It starts off so sassy, like you could sashay down a runway to it, or enter a room full of men in uniform, yank one by the collar, and bring him to his knees with a series of "oh, oh, oh, oh, oh-uh huh oh"s. And the sassiness does not stop. Well, until Jay-Z starts rapping. Still, this is a much less threatening dance hit for men to bob along to than say Justin Timberlake's "Sexy Back," which, honestly, if embraced, could be the male answer to "Why your love's got me lookin' so crazy right now?"

4. Buffalo Stance - Neneh Cherry - At some point in the party, dancing is not enough. We all have to prove that we know every word to a particular (preferably rap) song that'd be difficult to follow even if the words were written out on a karaoke screen. It becomes a competition of who can get to the chorus without taking a breath and who actually knows the second verse. See also "Bust A Move" or Eminem's "Lose Yourself."

3. I Wanna Sex You Up - Color Me Badd - Every dance party has to have a dose of seventh, eighth or ninth grade nostalgia, just to make us feel better about why we've essentially recreated one of the most humiliating moments of adolescence (a school dance) now that we're better adept to partake in one (we're drunk and don't mind making asses of ourselves). Hell, if we're lucky, other drunken asses in the room may find us charming and we may even get laid by acting like unencumbered idiots. Which is why this song is sort of joke, but not.

* This is another one of these songs that can be easily substituted with Digital Underground's "Humpty Dance," Bel Biv Devoe's "Poison," or Tony Toni Tone's "It Feels Good," etc.

2. The Way You Make Me Feel - Michael Jackson - I once worked with girls who were too young to remember when Michael Jackson wasn't covered in surgical masks and pasty clay. This is tragic. I'd like to think these young ladies are an anamoly because when the rest of the female population hears "Hey pretty baby, with high (g)heels on," they want to get up and strut for even the noseless, glove-wearing asexuals in the room.

* I realize many will disagree on my MJ song choice here. And while I'm willing to agree that "P.Y.T.," "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" and "Smooth Criminal" are also classics, I've noticed that those don't illicit the same response as "The Way You Make Me Feel" does in someone's home. People are too used to hearing the other songs at clubs, and the point of a dance party is rattle someone off the couch with a "holy shit" or "hell yeah," not make them feel they've entered 80s night.

1. All Night Long - Lionel Richie - Well, my friends the time has come. To raise the roof and have some fun. Imagine, we're on an island off of Jamaica, swirling maitais under the stars, doing some sort of fake mambo, or whatever people do to fake calypso music. With one quick jerk of the wrist, you pour the rest of your drink down your throat and throw your head back in laughter because you're going to party, karambu (?), fiesta, forever. Come on and sing along...ALL! NIGHT! LONG! (All Night!) Oh yeah! Whereas Beyonce is unrelenting from the get-go, Lionel builds you up to a climax....one that's ALL NIGHT LONG for chrissakes! It's the kind of chorus that makes even the non-dancers crawl out from the corners of the party to meet in the middle of the dance floor, stack hands and release in a "Go Team Lionel!" (All Night!) Sure, the man's got a creepy dad vibe (or maybe he just kinda looks like my dad) but his pop attack is oh-so-smooth.