Friday, April 23, 2010

Frodo and His Many Rings

This is an account of my experiences in the trenches of online dating, the Not OKcupid Chronicles, and you can read part one HERE!

Sean, 28, was a web designer for a startup in Manhattan and his profile clearly reflected his nerdy nature and sense of humor, but his photos especially piqued me. He had ten (the maximum amount allowed), which red flagged him as a potential egomaniac, but they were all different or unique in some way, most photoshopped in an artsy manner, and universally rendering him ridiculously good looking. Even with a Tom Selleck mustache. His response to my message was cute and quick, as well as engaging. Right as I was about to write back, he IMed me, so we got to chatting and when my battery life started running low and he still hadn’t asked for my number, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

“Would it be terribly presumptuous of me to suggest we meet for a drink this week?” I tapped onto the keys tentatively. I hit enter and bit my lip in anticipation.

His response beeped as it popped up on the screen, “If we’re going to be presumptuous here, I’m going to have to presume that you are one of my friends pulling a prank on me, because I never get messaged by cool, witty, mega babes on this site, and if that’s the case then fuck you, Randal, this isn’t funny!” followed by, “But if you are a real girl, then I’d love to get a drink with you.”

Strategizing my angle for virtual bachelor number three was a little different. First off, I had messaged him, then I asked him out, and now that he had my number, I felt it might be wise to let him move the next pawn. Two or three days went by and I’d not heard from Sean and had figured perhaps he was not that into me, and after attending a dinner party at a friend’s house I found myself the last one standing and curled up on their couch in a snuggie with their 30 lb Persian cat named GusGus and my computer. Boredom and insomnia got the best of me, and when 3 AM rolled around I found myself signing into my slightly shameful secret social network of lonely hearts, and immediately had an IM from Sean wondering why he hadn’t heard from me. I felt mildly incensed. As a postmodernist woman, I don’t mind exploring gender role reversal spooning, but I wasn’t sure how I was feeling about having to woo this guy, who I couldn’t for the life of me understand why he was on a dating website if he could walk into Union Pool on any given weeknight and easily have his pick of the lady litter. We ended up on the phone well into the wee hours, and made plans to meet for drinks at Pete’s in Greenpoint the next evening.

I woke up to this message in my email: “Just in case you were wondering, I am actually not mentally disabled despite they way I just sounded on the phone. Sleep deprivation just seems to have that effect on me occasionally. You however are pretty goddamn charming. I almost feel a little intimidated... which is why I've devised a foolproof plan to get completely shit-house drunk right before we meet. I promise it will be one of the top three best OKcupid dates you’ve ever been on.”

I wrote back: “That email made me laugh harder than I did when I woke up on Jen's couch wearing a zebra print snuggie to GusGus dropping his slobbery fetch toy (a scrunchie, I shit you not) on my face. I swear, that cat looks like an Urban Outfitters ottoman. You sounded just fine, and I'm totally hip to the ways of the folk who live in nearly-perpetual sleep dep. I'm just glad I didn't sound like a stoned, rambling weirdo! (Or, if I did, at least an entertaining one.)
 I very much look forward to feeding you vitamin water through an eyedropper and carbs as you drool in my lap, tonight.”

The following evening I became terribly nervous after we exchanged texts throughout the day… I had developed a legitimate, sizeable crush on Sean without actually having met him. What if the tables turned and I ended up being his nightmare OKcupid story? I’d looked at the personality deciphering questions he’d filled out on his profile and one of them indicated he would never date someone who posted intimate details of their life online. When was a good time to drop the TMI blogger bomb on someone? And the Cancer bomb? He was sure to ask what kind of novel I’m writing—it’s not exactly a prudent situation to lie in, and to answer that question vaguely could be so much worse. What if he automatically assumed that I’m writing homoerotic fan fiction based on the Legend of Zelda? Or a young, hip guide to coping with living with herpes? Right as I was about to go cross eyed with irrational pre-date jitters, I beat him to Pete’s by about five minutes (even though I’d been strategically 5 minutes late) and sat fidgeting with the foam head on my pint of Magic Hat while I waited. When he arrived he revealed one of his most fetching traits of all, which was his gorgeous toothy grin, and followed that up with a big, warm hug. I could feel the butterflies moshing in my guts in a flurry of unbridled pheromones as I marveled at his pearly smile and disarming dimples. Maybe Cupid was OK, after all?

A couple of hours into our fun, effortless date, we discovered that we shared several friends in common… one of whom being a bartender I met 4 years ago on my first visit to Brooklyn who I’d gotten to know biblically a handful of times the summer before and then shifted gears back to the Friend Zone. This bartender was Sean’s best friend, and he and his brother had grown up with him since they were toddlers in Arizona. I felt a wave of panic welling up in me, not wanting to have poked holes in the bottom of my dreamboat by suffering a small world dating coincidence, and promptly changed the subject by complimenting him on a ring he was wearing, of the gumball variety. It was slightly chintzy looking and had a Celtic design grooved in the middle, and the edges’ copper stain was rubbing off to reveal the silver metal underneath. He reached out and grabbed my hand, manicured with chipping fuchsia nail polish as per usual, and slid the ring on my finger.

“I want you to have it.” He said. I leaned back, slightly incredulous and now on the verge of a potentially dangerous category five swoon.

“I couldn’t possibly.” My cheeks were getting hot. “Bad form to accept an heirloom on a first date.”

“It’s true, I’ve had it forever, and I wear it every day, but it’s yours now. You just have to promise not to lose it.”

“I won’t.”

“Promise.” He pulled me closer.

“I promise.” I said, and Sean leaned in and punctuated my vow with a sweet, long kiss that tasted faintly of whiskey and chapstick. I was completely done for.

“You wanna get outta here?”

“Like the wind,” I said breathily, trying not to reveal how hopelessly twitterpated I’d become. One short walk later that I’m sure felt more like a 6 block float, we’d gotten back to my place, and I threw Rufus off the bed who shot me a disgruntled look before slinking off to curl up on a pillow across the room.

The next morning, I woke up not wearing much more than my Cracker Jack prize of runaway romance. Sean hit the snooze button on his Blackberry alarm until he was an hour late for work, kissing me on the forehead while he exclaimed how amazing he’d slept, and that he hadn’t for days. For some reason, this didn’t alarm me in the slightest. He left for work saying he’d text me to make plans for the weekend and I laid there listening to Billie Holiday for about a half hour until my roommate plodded down the stairs into my room. Maren pulled a chair up to my bed and straddled it, with his twinkling hazel eyes hungry for gossip.

“How was it? Spill.” I flashed him a boob, and we both squealed. “I take it the date went well?”

“Indeed. You missed him by a bee’s ass.”

“Ha! I wasn’t sure, the fish was nowhere to be found.”

Maren was referring to the “Fuck Fish”, which was a large rubber koi that I’d permanently borrowed from Jay’s mantle in LA on a road trip I took years ago. When we first started sharing the apartment in February we devised a foolproof plan for his covert knowledge of when it was not safe to walk through my room to get to the shower. The fish was our BFF secret handshake of “do not disturb” signs. The Fuck Fish had actually not yet been utilized and in the heat of the moment it hadn’t occurred to me to get up, locate the fish, and attempt to stealthily place it on the stairwell. Stealthy was not a word that came to mind when the subject was a big rubber goldfish, and neither was sexy.

“It slipped my mind.”

Maren grunted a knowing harrumph, and I held up my hand, fanning out my spirit fingers like a blushing bride to be.

“Check this out. He put a ring on it.” I grinned like a jack o’lantern.

“Shut up.”

“I will not.”

“Jesus, this guy is good.” he said, leaning forward to inspect my new jewelry. “Look at you, you’re dickmatized!”

“You’ve got that right, my friend.” I said, collapsing back into a pile of pillows and pulling the covers over my head.

The following morning, Sean texted me, “Hey you. How’s things?” which sent me into a complete frenzy, bouncing up the stairs to Maren’s room in my pink Ikea slippers to report of the textual healing. I’d been terrified that perhaps I was a little too swift to relinquish the proverbial cookie to Sean, whose I’d nicknamed Frodo because of his bestowing me with the one ring with which to rule my spring fling. I hadn’t taken it off since he’d put it on, and it was starting to turn my finger green in addition to clashing with my outfits, but I didn’t care. I held up the cell phone to Maren, hopping from foot to foot.

“’Hey you, how’s things’? That’s so… bro-ish.”

“Right? What do I say?”

“Ask him if he has a box of gumball machine rings labeled “For Gullible Hoes” under his bed.”

“Maren! I’m serious.”

“Me too!”

“You’re useless. Dead to me.” I said, stretching out on his yoga mat in the sun, still clutching my clunky flip phone for dear life, which is how I would remain for good portions of the following three weeks. We’d made solid plans to hang out Saturday evening, and I spent half of Saturday afternoon in the shower shaving my entire body like an Olympic swimmer, exfoliating, and trying to make my winter-gnarled feet less frightening. I changed my outfit no less than ten times, accessorized with the ring, did my makeup perfectly, and curled my hair. I looked and felt amazing, filled with the burgeoning hope of the first blush of flirtation. And then, he stood me up.

Sunday morning came and I trudged to the bathroom to grudgingly wash the makeup off that I’d been too miserable to bother with the night before and the Fuck Fish sat atop the toilet tank, mocking my pain.

“What the fuck are you looking at?” I growled, fully realizing that I was talking to a rubber fish and not caring, as I knocked it onto the tile floor vengefully with the back of my hand, hearing Maren’s telltale gait down the stairs.

“What, no fish?” He called through the room.

“Yeah. No date, no fish.” I said, sitting back down on my bed.

“Wait, what happened?”

“A whole lotta nothing. He hadn’t called by ten, so I did, and there was no answer.”

“And still no word?”

“Nope.” I glanced woefully at my dormant phone.

“Baby, I’m sorry. Please tell me you’re not still wearing the ring.” I sat on my hand.

“God, no.” I lied.

Later that night Frodo surfaced and apologized profusely, promising to make it up to me, having excused his completely wack behavior by trying to convince me that he had accidentally slept for over 24 hours and hadn’t heard his phone. I thought it was a little weird, and potentially a total load of bullshit, but I really wanted to get to know him, and thought it’d be too hasty to kick him to the curb over one mistake, especially after the long lonely winter I’d just endured in a serious relationship with a heated blanket and Netflix streaming.

Joking graciously about the time released roofie I’d slipped him at Pete’s, I opted to give him another chance, and we met up later that night at our favorite bar and debuted our courtship where our mutual friend pours drinks. I finally triumphantly cast the fish out my front door for Maren. But a few days later, we’d made plans to meet up in Williamsburg in the early evening, and Frodo did not contact me to tell me the location until 4 in the morning. I was exceedingly nonplussed and considering sending him a bill for a can of Skintimate and a very fancy loofah. I decided (stupidly, I might add) to give him one more shot after our mutual friend assured me that I had hit the jackpot with Frodo, and he not only gave his blessing but insisted that I “couldn’t possibly find a better guy”. The third time he stood me up in a span of three weeks, I was distinctly hoping that said claim held no bearing. Another night was spent waiting for a phone call dressed for a black tie affair donning my finest tranny lashes, watching Glee with my roommate and his boyfriend. I was right back where I started. His excuse, which came some time around what would have been last call, was another epic nap, and Maren and I theorized he was either secretly married or a pill popper, and my last text to my own personal Van Winkle read, “Wow. Lame. Spare me the sorry this time, and lose my number.”

Two weeks passed and I was a little bummed that my spring fling hadn’t sprung very far, but I pressed on in my online dating field research. I met another OKcupid guy who was an independent filmmaker who made a very strong point of telling me he had a car, (an ’89 Hyundai) because his friend had told him girls would think it was sexy. Aside from mentioning his ex five times in the first five minutes, he ended up boring me to the brink of tears, as he detailed his current project, a musical short film that he described as “Requiem For a Dream meets The Little Mermaid”, and showed me several photos on his iPhone of the set design comprised of day-glo, blacklit paper mache forests of coral. I furtively eyeballed his bald spot, gleaming under the lamplight, which had been undetectable in any of his photos on his profile as I weighed my options for a swift escape. There was no second date, despite that he texted me after claiming to have had “so much fun”.

The night baseball season began was Easter Sunday, and I ended up at a sports bar with some friends after a day of lounging in the park and eating my weight in marshmallow peeps. Right as we walked in I ran into Frodo, sipping a PBR in a cozy with his knit cap pulled too far down his forehead, nearly causing his blonde curls to completely obstruct his vision. I braced myself for the crash dummy impact of awkwardness and eked out a forced smile and a greeting. There was no toothy grin or warm hug, this time, and he asked some obligatory socially graceful questions; how I’d been, if I was liking my new job, and whether or not I was rooting for the Yankees. As I looked down to grab my wallet from my purse to get a drink, a glimmer of metal caught my eye. Frodo was wearing a ring almost identical to the one that he had given me on our first date.

“Hey,” I said, gesturing to his pointer finger, “You got another ring…”

“Oh, yeah.” He said, shrugging nonchalantly. “They’re only a quarter.”

Friday, April 16, 2010

The NotOKcupid Chronicles

Of all of the things Cupid has been to me, “OK” is not one of them. From the humble beginnings of a love life that was predestined to be tumultuous, gut wrenching, awkward, and often hilarious, to where I sit now, a little weary and worse for the wear, I’ve far from given up. I still believe in fairy tale love, the poetic and deep entwining of two souls who want to share their lives with each other, or at the very least the city equivalent: semi-regular, great sex with someone who has a clean bill of health and won’t fuck your friends. The closest I’ve come was to throwing in the towel on the hunt for a mate was to join an online dating website. Nevermind the fact that I’ve had no trouble meeting philanderers, drug addicts, schizophrenics and compulsive liars by other means with much more tactile introductions, one way or another the somewhat web chic explosion of OKcupid amongst my peers intrigued me. I had friends who were on it, who I considered to be normal (within reason) and dateable… so why wouldn’t there be like-minded fellows on there? Maybe I was being a luddite, not utilizing a whole new medium with which to entice someone into buying my proverbial cow.

The night in February that I joined OKcupid, there were 2 feet of snow on the ground, (the news had called it “the snowpocalypse”), and I’d been sitting on a couch with a gay man for seven hours, watching Bravo network television. Half a season of Shear Genius, three episodes into Millionaire Matchmaker, and one extra large meat combo pizza later, I had a revelation. Dying alone in the dead of winter was not at all an attractive prospect. I tentatively broached the subject to Brandon who flicked his wrist at me while still looking at the screen explaining that he loved this part, and then recited the following scene word for word. When the commercial came on and he turned back to me, my mouth was agape in an admittedly judgmental “o” shape, and he replied, “What?! I have DVR.”

“What do you think about OKcupid?” I asked.

“What’s there to think? That’s like, online dating, right?” Brandon closed the pizza box that was littered with abandoned crusts and chili pepper flakes with his big toe.


“What kind of lame retard has to join a site to meet people?”

“What kind of super cool retard knows the entire 3rd season of Shear Genius by heart?”

“TouchĂ©, bitch.”

“I think we’re past the point of being apologetic for real talk.” I replied ruefully.

Minutes later, I had pulled up the main page of the site, tentatively clicking around as if an alarm would sound and a mass email would be sent to everyone I’d ever met informing them of my inherent desperation. Though I initially clicked through the website as if it were a virtual minefield, it seemed not to be of sinister nature. The user interface was easy to navigate. I liked the cobalt blue background and the testimonials of its hipness and success rates in the sidebar… it didn’t seem so bad. Besides, there was an option in the search feature that allowed me to set a height requirement, and I was excited at the prospect of meeting someone who wouldn’t get emasculated when I felt like wearing heels. So, I bit the bullet, and began filling out my profile. The basics were easy: female, 5’10”, Caucasian, owns cats, some college, drinks often, smokes sometimes, speaks fluent English and some pig latin.

The details took me a little longer—what were you supposed to reveal in these fields with the expectantly blinking cursor to sell yourself to a prospective mate? This is obviously not the place I’d mention that I’d just been laid off (again) and that my snore sounds akin to the death rattle of the Rock Biter from Neverending Story. The music/movie/food interest section is a tricky one, too, because everyone knows how much it matters to at least share some similar predilections to recreational activities with a mate. Yet, if I rattle off 20 indie bands who are so far below the radar they don’t even register on it, I sounds like a pretentious record store brat. If I dare tell the truth and list Bright Eyes as one of my all time favorite bands, I sound like a suicidal teenager who is 7 years late to the pity party, and will probably cry about it. I almost closed the window and gave up right there, before I realized that I was taking my social experiment entirely too seriously.

After changing my self-summary from the tongue-in-cheek, “I’m spontaneous!!!!! I hate DRAMA!!!!! I love funnnnn!!!!!!!!11” to something a little more accurate (but still quirky), I set to surfing around for potential matches. Within moments of completing my profile, I had received several instant messages, some from underage broheims in New Jersey (actual quote: “dam ur sexy bitch gimme your #”), and one from a Bulgarian bodybuilder in Queens who requested “nudie pix” from me. So far, I wasn’t impressed. Though to be fair, the situation was that I was on a dating website at four in the morning on a Tuesday. The next IM came in from a certain “ColonelMustard”, a 25 year old Brooklynite who had a simple, basic icebreaker by saying “Hi! You seem very nice. I’m Alex.”

I stole Brendan away from Bravo to inspect his pictures and profile together. Alex’s photos were cute; he was bespectacled and scruffy, appeared adventurous, maybe a little outdoorsy (not my thing, but I don’t begrudge people their treehuggy moments). His profile claimed he was good at dancing, cooking, massages and sex. Getting dipped, fed, rubbed and loved down didn’t sound so bad… so I messaged him back. Our repartee was witty and we shared similar interests, and he even hearteningly addressed first that he was aware it probably seemed a little off color that he was on OKcupid at dawn. We agreed to meet for happy hour tacos the next day in Greenpoint and then go thrifting at my favorite spot on Manhattan Ave., The Thing.

The next day I primped a little in preparation and headed out to meet my very first online date, and Brendan sent me off with a pat on the back and reassured me that if I was found dead, bludgeoned to death with a candelabra in a thrift store, he’d avenge me. Trudging through the snow up to the taqueria, I recognized him on the sidewalk from his photos, though the proclaimed 6’2” on his profile was more like 5’8”. I’d worn flats, just in case. I wasn’t sure whether to hug or formally introduce myself, so I extended my hand to give a handshake that was a little more limp than I’d have liked due to my buzzing nerves and low blood sugar.

Once seated, we ordered the bargain tacos and engaged in a getting to know you chat where I realized several things. For one, he lived in a “renegade co-op” in Bushwick with [literally] starving artists and musicians who were “Freegans”. (For those unfamiliar, Freegans dumpster dive for trashed produce in the city, in a sort of Robin Hood-y lifestyle that better befits inhabitants of a 3rd world country than trust fund kids squatting in a unzoned commune in Brooklyn.) The questionable stains of unknown origin on his ill fitting Carhardts utility jacket seemed more appropriate, given the new information. Next, I discovered that his only employment was with himself, as he was a weed dealer. Moments later, when the bill was dropped that came to a whopping $5.45, he put down three dollars and excused himself to the restroom.

He could at least have put a nug down for a tip,” I thought to myself.

Portrait of me as portrayed by my baby brother Jack, circa 2006

The conclusion of my first OKC to IRL meeting analysis was that my taco imbroglio wasn’t a scarring disaster, but it wasn’t exactly impressive or dazzling, either. I was discouraged, but I couldn’t cry over spilt Grey Poupon. I chose to approach bachelor number two a little differently. I searched through my “matches” for a while one afternoon and found two I thought were intriguing, and then formulated two thoughtful and and pithy personalized messages to each. Within 24 hours I had a reply from the Joel, the musician from Kensington, which sparked an email correspondence that lasted a week and eased my fear that I may meet him in person and have absolutely nothing in common, as was the case with bachelor number one. He was a lanky young lad in a band that played in a sort of circus folk style and dressed like Oliver Twist, so I opted to take him to my favorite eccentric spot for free music in Williamsburg. What I hadn’t anticipated was that I was about to meet up with the alter ego of the charming gent I’d been writing to: The Blacked Out Drunk Guy.

I beat him to the bar, which was more crowded than usual, so I was trying not to crane my neck around too conspicuously with eyes akimbo in search of my date. This time I didn’t have to worry about how to go about the introduction because as soon as we recognized each other, he had launched himself/fallen into my arms in an embrace that smelled equally of Old Spice and Jameson.

“Pleased to meetchew!” he exclaimed, slurring. “Sorry I got a head start on you… been drinking since 5 when I got off work.”

Less than charmed, I glanced at the coo-coo clock on the wall, which indicated 5 minutes to eleven. The only thing I’d had to drink that evening was Tropicana No Pulp, and my date was lurching side to side like a peg legged zombie adrift on a stormy sea of booze. For the first few seconds I’d been pleased that he turned out to be more attractive in person than his photos (which were already pretty handsome), but it was canceled out by the prospect of having to give him a piggyback ride to the subway later. Conversation proved impossible due to his uncontrollable nervous giggling and intermittent hiccupping, so I took the liberty of relocating us to the music venue in the back of the bar to take the pressure off, and hopefully deter his garbled chatter. My disaster aversion tactic only worked to a certain degree, as he had become significantly less interested in making conversation but not necessarily noise. There I was, on a date with an attractive, gainfully employed, talented musician with a suspender collection… who to everyone else in the cramped venue space was just the obnoxious drunk guy in the back making hooting noises and whistling at inappropriate intervals during an emotional singer-songwriter’s set.

When I returned home that night after an equally awkward goodbye, I was irritated, sober, and wielding my pepper spray willy nilly all down Richardson St. thinking to myself how pissed off I’d be if I was jumped again walking home from a date I wish I’d stayed home from. I’m fairly sure an assailant would have come out of a scrape with me that night one nutsack poorer. Back inside my studio, I changed into my flannel cat pajamas and grabbed my Macbook, heading for the stairway of my apartment building, which is the only place where the stolen internet connection comes in. I found myself back on OKcupid, where I had a few new messages; two were from random goober-y dudes wanting to know if Dr. Pepper chapstick really existed and if my carpet matched the drapes, and one from “dotcommiebastard”, who I had written a week before, forgotten about, and never heard back from.

... to be continued! Part Two: Frodo and His Many Rings.

Monday, April 12, 2010


“two more hours should tell the story, one way or the other. either I’m right and a catastrophe will occur, or it won’t and I’m crazy. in either case the outlook is not so good.”

-walker percy

the past few months have been challenging, to put things lightly.

as much as I would like to pretend that my life has no semblance to a cathy comic, the unforgiving facts have other plans. It’s 3am on a saturday night and I’m stoned in my studio apartment, listening to rubber soul, trying to reason with myself so that the other half of the brick of extra sharp cheddar in the fridge will make it through the night. my ambitious goal to go from dark red to blonde turned out giving me a mop of hair that is several different colors (including but certainly not limited to) a hue I can only accurately describe as "cheeto dust". I took out the trash wearing a button down blouse, pink slippers, and a pair of spanx earlier-- in broad daylight. christ, I belong to an online dating website and carry around pictures of my cat. (cameraphone, but still.)

despite these discouraging admissions, I’m willing to cut myself some slack. cathy probably wouldn’t have spent the afternoon at an antique book expo in the upper east side, then to stroll alongside the horsedrawn carriages to watch the sunset in central park, scribbling in a moleskin to kill time between art shows. on the other hand, I did end up going to the plaza hotel just to pee, and was later humped by a flagrant hobo on a crowded f train.

luck has never been my strong suit, but I excel in steely resilience and hope, though I’m conditioned to be perpetually braced for impact from my crash course thus far. since I moved to brooklyn, I would describe my financial situation as “vaguely impoverished” or “fashionably starved”, but lately I’ve just been pathetically, depressingly, horrifyingly penniless. we’re talking mayonnaise sandwich broke. jumping turnstiles in heels busted. as bukowski would say, “without a pot to puke in”. being fond of the finer things in life, I’ve always had a propensity to hanker for a higher grade of material goods, but I don’t need them in order to be happy. further still, I have learned, is that it always helps to be able to buy a new york post and a coffee every day in order not to be miserable.

if the first two of my so-called quarter life crises were fakeouts, this one has been relentlessly difficult and feels quite official for two reasons; I’m legitimately confused and panicked about what the hell to do with my life, and I’m actually about to turn 25. my mom’s favorite new thing to remind me of is that I’m “not nineteen anymore”, right behind “don’t fuck on the first date”. she’s getting married to her longtime boyfriend/fiancĂ©e in about a week in maui and when she pondered aloud the peculiarity surrounding the whole name change phenomenon, also took the opportunity to confess that she never really liked the spelling of my name and that I should seriously consider losing my “h” to seem more european.

“wait, would that mean I could stop shaving my pits?” I asked.

“just think about it. woody allen’s cristina didn’t have an ‘h’.” she replied with a judicious tone, slightly perturbed at my lack of seriousness.

“this is true,” I countered, “but she wasn’t european either, she just balled a spaniard in the movie.”

I actually entertained the thought for a moment after we’d gotten off the phone. was it possible that my mother had just offered me the holy grail of ridiculous parental advice? would I be more responsible, without an h? would my life miraculously change? would I get a book deal easier without wasting precious ink on my silent consonant? is my inevitable destined metamorphosis riding on semantic aesthetics and alternate spellings?

probably not. I still suspect that "h" is not the problem. the problem remains frustratingly at large. what I do know for sure is that my slate is wiped clean for me to change my identity in a manner that doesn’t require the drawing up of legal documents, all over again.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

the jack of hearts

the night that I met owen felt distinctly like autumn though it was the first blush of spring, as the leaves had inexplicably begun to fall in late february of 2004. I was packed like a pubescent sardine into a jetta full of girls stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on a friday on telegraph avenue in berkeley, listening to a liz phair mixtape, when an audible gasp of a mentionable decibel erupted from the front seat. taylor, resident loudmouthed redhead of the crew who supplied everyone else with a hoard of endless adderall pills as well as pretentious anecdotes, had spotted a prime specimen.

"oh... my god," she said, "ohmygod."

the god she was referring to was about 6'2", lanky and lean, with tousled dark brown locks protruding in a curly mop from underneath the brim of a trucker cap, wearing an amoeba records bag slung haphazardly across his shoulder. he walked with his moon colored eyes to the ground in a shuffling gait, and the brooding affect he embodied made my heart skip several beats. he had the essence of a young bob dylan incarnate, save for the stupid hipster hat.

taylor continued, "would you look at that."

rose answered without skipping a beat, shifting the gears of the car while it idled, "homo."

"no way," I said, "he can't be..."

"totally gay." rose said.

taylor protested, "but why! he looks like he could be into chicks."

"it would be such a waste." I observed wistfully, noticing the curvature of his perfect behind in tight blue jeans.

"he's too pretty, and he knows it." rose said, and as if on cue, the boy turned his head to meet our lascivious stares. it was true.

"fuck." taylor muttered, as we all awkwardly turned our heads to look ahead to abruptly curtail our collective gawking. I couldn't resist to immediately look back, which he graciously met with a lopsided smile, and I turned beet red right as the light turned green.

"flamer." affirmed rose. and with that, we were off on our adventure seeking. we arrived at le chateau co-op shortly after, which was much more of a shanty motel than a dormitory, and was rumored to house the most elaborate meth lab in the greater bay area in its basement. every corridor was dark and lined with nubbly, cheap nylon carpet that is commonly found in dentists offices or mobile homes and littered with cigarette butts and empty beer cans. each sheetrock wall was covered from floor to ceiling in profane graffiti, obscure poetry, or splatters of paint. there was a vague yet omnipresent tincture of pee, and one of the squatters had brought home a runt pig named bella that ran amok, squealing and snorting amidst the constant melee.

the layout of this artfuck bomb shelter was comprised of 5 floors and resembled what might have been an ideal labyrinth for a mental institution if it hadn't been taken over by hippie stoner college students. the rooftop displayed a twinkling view of san francisco and the east bay, and at any given hour was giving airy respite to a tortured musician, be it a bongo soloist or an indie folk prodigy. the pool in the backyard was oft filled with random, floating pieces of furniture and gorgeous naked people who effortlessly embodied carefree, irreverent youth. everything about the co-ops was weird, gross, surreal, and made me feel drunk on puerility and freedom. it was a representation of what I thought might have happened if the babysitter gave up and left after the parents never returned home. these kids were wild and well versed in the alchemy of chaos and hedonism, but also maintained 4.0s. where had they been all my life? I wondered to myself, as I took another gravity bong hit.

le chateau

velkjo, me, mysterious hand on abe, abe

hanging out at the co-ops was my most "hands on" social experiment. each night there had the potential to end in a gory, savage lord of the flies showdown with some random RA's head on a stick carried by a pack of sociology majors donning togas. I learned how to shotgun beer, dumpster dive for produce, and accurately quote emmanuel kant. I did whipits in a bunk bed with a drug dealer named fliz who wore ski goggles and parachute pants and I meticulously managed a list of people who participated in my "makeout revolution" with a key in the margin to decode what kind of kisser they were and who I did "more" with. I got all of the animal house experience without any of the college, and it was some kind of incredible. on one bizarrely autumnal february night in the beginning of my epic berkeley ballad, I met owen, and his best friend rob.

cloyne was twice the size of chateau, home to over 200 cal students and the odd squatter, which was essentially what I became for a period of about 6 months. it wasn't quite as ghetto as chateau, and had a much more congenially aesthetic layout in addition to an outdoor hot tub that was really quite pleasant once you were drunk or high enough not to care what you might be swimming in. (real talk.) it was a sophisticated sort of squalor that made me feel grown up and edgy, existing in a glamorous indigence that I'd only dreamt of in my childhood bedroom as a sickly teenager.

rose had caught wind of a princess bride party across town at cloyne that promised free two buck chuck and choco tacos while supplies lasted, and her, taylor, myself, and several other usual suspects all piled on top of each other in the tiny car to jettison ourselves between co-ops. immediately upon walking in the front door, I peered into the darkened room where the movie was projected on the wall and the scene where wesley is rolling down the hill in the countryside yelling "aaaasss yoooou wiiiiiiiiiishhhhh" played out, and I saw a familiar face flickering in the light of the movie reel. it was the telegraph heartthrob from hours before... still wearing that abominable hat. I gasped and dug my pink glittery talons into rose's skinny thigh and hissed, "trucker cap. TRUCKER CAP! he can't be gay! do gay guys like the princess bride?" I thought better of it. "don't answer that."

rose observed the miracle that had occurred... we had manifested a face to face meeting with the mysterious street walking indie god of berkeley. we watched the rest of the movie and I bolstered my confidence with a choco taco, a drink, and a line of adderall, and as the credits rolled, the crowd dispersed and re-convened in the common area by the courtyard. someone had recently experienced an epic paper mache disaster, because in the middle of the floor there was a ruptured bag of plaster of paris that shot crusty white streams of powder ten feet in each direction, giving the ambience a coke-party-gone-awry feel. across from rose and I, on a different couch that was a veritable petri dish for scabies and other unsavory, itchy things, sat the boy in the trucker cap, and his friend who resembled a young robert smith with an unfortunate bleach job north of his ears. they were nursing PBRs and engaged in a conversation I desperately wanted to interrupt, but was at a loss for how to go about it. there was a moment where they both stopped talking and looked up at me at the very same time, so I did the only thing I could think of, in my split second of coquettish boldness and terror that I'd end up ridiculed. I looked at the object of my affection in the questionable hat, and stuck up my pointer finger to beckon him over to me. rose and I both stopped breathing, as we waited for a response. this playful mating dance was becoming more stressful than disarming an atom bomb.

the two boys continued to stare at me, now both wearing a bemused smirk, and then they looked at each other. trucker cap looked back first, and pointed to himself mouthing the word, "me?", and I finally exhaled as I nodded affirmatively. he shrugged to his friend, who was getting up to wander elsewhere, and rose took her leave back into the fray of the party.

now as he had come over to my side, I could see that he was blushing, and I felt sanguinely confident.

"hi, I'm owen." he said, sitting down next to me.

"christina. nice to meet you."

"that was impressive, what you just did right there. you're pretty ballsy, aren't you?" he asked, leaning back a little as if sizing me up.

"eh." I shrugged. "shy people are creepy. I had to meet you after serendipity set us up twice in one night."

"oh, that was you! in the car full of girls..."

"that were eyeballing you as if you were a fine christmas ham, yes. sorry about that." I laughed nervously.

"no, it made my night. until now."

"I'd have thought the princess bride to be a high point."

"but, you can see Rodents of Unusual Size on any given night here at cloyne."

"inconceivable!" I shrieked, and as we leaned back into the cushions, heard something in the frame crack underneath us making the couch sag in the middle, sliding our hips together. I fought the urge to faint.

"hey," he adjusted himself a little so as not to be sitting directly on me, "you remind me of a much more attractive helen hunt."

I stared at him and then furrowed my brow. he was lucky that his eyes were huge and grey blue enough to sail dreamboats.

"like, way more attractive." he continued.

"wrong answer." I pat his knee. he got up, grabbed my hand and helped me out of the busted la-z-boy, and we walked out into the moonlit garden. I was delirious from the endorphin rush, and I could hardly believe what was happening was real. suddenly, across the courtyard there was a great crash of broken glass and an anguished scream, and one of the palm trees shook and dropped cracked branches onto the pavement. owen dropped my hand and muttered, "oh, jesus, rob."

I looked up into the peculiarly animated tree and a hand shot out of the palm fronds clutching a half full bottle of charles shaw, followed by that brassy blonde afro that I recognized from my battle flirting just earlier.

"I'm okay!" he yelled, though no one had asked. "... but, I may have broken my ankle."

a herd of girls in dresses made from black glad bags tittered as they walked by, the last of which was pirouetting and singing "strawberry fields forever".

"that's my best friend." said owen, gesturing to the palm tree.

"well," I sighed, "this doesn't seem like the sort of place where anyone can survive without someone to help them undermine the spectacle."

to be continued...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

play it again, sam

when I was 18, I had my first love triangle in berkeley, california at a co-op called the cloyne court hotel. this is a piece of the puzzle from someone else's point of view.

"... and so it was that five years after our first encounter, i was best friends with someone who could be described as being the bay area's most infamous smooth drunk talking indie god. and so it was that I came to sit on a couch on a typical drunken cloyne night with my best friend. had I been anyone else, I wouldn't have been sitting on the couch when you gave the "come-hither finger". had I not lived in cloyne, owen would most likely have been drunk at anywhere-but-cloyne on that night. but, of course we were there. and i have to admit that it is a little more than odd knowing that we both saw you at the same time. with that, if pressed to relate our first introduction to christina, our stories would no doubt sound similar. there we were. talking about music, booze, and women. I don't actually know if that's what we were discussing, but then, knowing us, that's exactly what we were talking about.

when suddenly, this blonde creature from across the room; sitting on her own couch with her own friend in her own through the looking glass version of mine and owen's little world, pleasantly shattered our goings-on by coolly rolling her finger to beckon the attention of two boys that were so lost in their perfectly normal tipsy banter that someone yelling "fire" couldn't have had more of an effect. there was no crazy man yelling "fire", though. that would've been too easy, too expected, and all together too dull to catch them off guard. but a woman. that's an entirely different situation, isn't it? both owen and I were looking up at someone whose motionings were, up until then, wholly unheard of. she was like a fiery draught filled to the brim of its glass with equal parts self-confidence and self-mockery. holding our drinks, we looked on, trying to understand the method behind what must obviously be madness; for we had only seen such cartoonish gestures in the movies or on television. holding our drinks, we both wonder who it is she's looking and motioning at. "is it me, rob?" "is it me, owen?" "is it both of us? or is it some drunk retard behind us with an aerosmith t-shirt on?" it's a brief wondering. so brief that only owen and I will ever know it happened. because owen and I are friends, you understand. and with such a friendship comes a mutual understanding of some kind of perfect equality that exists beyond the outside perceptions of those around us. the moment for confusion quickly evaporates like cigarette smoke on a windy day as the precedence of our past experiences re-colors our questions. of course we both know who she is drawing her gaze upon. of course we boths know it's owen, because tall blonde creatures with legs that never learned how to stop, and who live mostly on opposite sides of the room, are never the kind to single rob seretti out of a crowded environment. it is a dance that me and owen know all too well as I quickly take my leave and disappear to a place I don't remember.

it is a random enough moment. it is an odd way to have been introduced to you and it is an odd thing that our friendship (mine and yours) has lasted as long as it has. like my friendship with owen, this is one of those things that I do not wish to ever question or fully understand. I am sure that there is, between us, an entire bucket of seething worms that is better left alone. heaven forbid that those seething worms get loose of their bucket because no more good or ill than there already is could come of their release. under more common circumstances, I would relish the idea of bringing the unseen, unthought of, and unanalyzed to glorious light, but, this is not a common circumstance. uncommon individuals, such as ourselves, rarely create common situations. and the only real thing staying my foot from tipping over the bucket of worms is that I know that if I did, I wouldn't get very far in doing so because you'd be kicking the opposite side of it at exactly the same time. unlike most of the people I've met, I can't tell you about the unseen and unthought of and unanalyzed. there is not much I can tell you about the curious nature of our friendship that you don't already know and think about.

I assume that I will see you much earlier than I expected to, yet much later that I had hoped to.



Monday, February 15, 2010

truly madly deeply

following is a short story I started writing tonight during a fit of insomnia... partially inspired from autobiographical tidbits, partially wishful thinking, and mostly because I bonded with ian earlier over pasta through a mutual love of "premo" music. title taken from the magnificent band, Savage Garden. hope this doesn't suuu-uuuuck!

TMD on youtube

lucy watched the fat, cartoonish snowflakes flittering past the window with a detached fascination as they made their descent to continuously coat all of brooklyn in a blanket of freezing white. it'd been weeks since she'd not worn long underwear, and if pressed for a guess, a month since she'd eked out a smile that wasn't vaguely pained. real winter has a way of complicating things beyond the reaches of what born and bred californians can grasp, especially those who are prone to chemical imbalances. 3500 miles away, in the middle of february, her mother was opening the windows of her home to combat the greenhouse effect, and dolores park was no doubt bustling with countless joyous champagne picnics underneath the unapologetically majestic palm trees. felix, on the other hand, was raised just a short LIRR ride away in ronkonkoma, a town that was delightfully kitschy in that fashions were a decade behind, the television sets were all ludicrously huge, and the accents were thick enough to make fran drescher sound like a recent alum from charm school. this was not his first hypothermic new york rodeo. he seemed genuinely unaffected and completely free of seasonal affective disorder's relentless and brutal clutches, which lucy couldn't bear to admit to anyone, much less herself, that she found heartening but equally irritating. felix bustled in the kitchen as he unwrapped a rump roast from emily's pork store and flung open the cabinet that contained the spice rack and snatched a vial with zeal that would better befit a mad scientist as he twisted off the cap and began sprinkling the meat. then he brought his hand down to spank it, and then gleefully started singing "I am cumin and I need to be ruuu-uubbed..." to the tune of the smiths as he caressed it on the counter.

lucy cocked an eyebrow and walked over to his side with her hand on her hip and pressed her nose to his neck as if on autopilot for a nuzzle. he smelled comforting and manly, sort of like waffles with syrup made from old spice aftershave.

"you know, the most charming part of watching you cook, is knowing that you'd be lampooning morrissey to a rump roast even if no one were around."

he went on, "just like everybody else dooooes...", and reached to turn on the broiler as he went for the whistle solo.

"I'm going to grab a coffee at cho's and some kibble for chewbacca. you want anything?" she asked. chewbacca meowed expectantly while flicking his tail by the empty bowl, though his fat roll extended well past his hindquarters when sitting in such a manner.

"no, thank you, darlin'. dinner's on in forty-five. don't be late!" he said, puckering his lips out sideways to steal a smooch. lucy obliged. then she suited up in her parka and marveled to herself how perfect he was, and how much she was undoubtedly going to sabotage it somehow.

domesticity was not something she thought she would soon attempt again after the both ill-conceived and ill-fated first venture into cohabitation on the opposite coast. at 22, she'd broken a cardinal rule that must be adhered to if one desires a functional and fulfilling life, and started dating one of her roommates that lived upstairs at a beautiful and drafty pepto bismol pink victorian on fell street in san francisco. as per usual, the beginning was enchanting and fit for a sitcom, as hormones came to a head one week when the other roommates were out of town for the holidays, and they were the only ones home because he was a jew, and she was a grinch. the start of it was full of heady, warm, fuzzy feelings, slumber parties, cooking eggs in robes, and hand holding in crosswalks. it progressed to birth control, peeing with the door open, sharing a cell phone plan, and renting zipcars to go to costco where he would buy her a bag of 500 low fat string cheeses because he knew exactly what she liked and needed. then, on valentine's day, she brought home an expensive bottle of sake from work at the sushi restaurant and found him watching dirty jobs on the discovery channel in his boxer briefs, which he defiantly refused to turn off. then after she'd drunk the bottle of sake to herself while watching a program graphically depict artificial bovine insemination, his ex-girlfriend showed up at midnight, drunk off of her skinny hindquarters, screaming into the mail slot of their front door that he had gotten her pregnant. that romantic holiday was the beginning of the end, and the end was mostly comprised of screaming matches, slaughtered trust, and panic attacks, and the relationship's death rattle lasted for a year. she felt personally attacked every time she came across bulk dairy products of all kinds or any woody allen movies.

this new union was unexpected and entirely uncomplicated, which likely would have made lucy nervous if she hadn't been gripped by the deliriously thrilling throes of new york's indian summer. she met felix at the coffee shop one utopian afternoon in late august, on a perfectly warm day with light humidity that made her short flaxen hair settle into soft ringlets that framed her heart shaped face. she wore a threadbare vintage jackson 5 baseball shirt she'd permanently borrowed from her brother with a cheetah print bra underneath, and was covered in bruises from kickball matches in mccarren and the general revelry that endless sunshine inspires. when she arrived at the coffee shop, amanda was playing her favorite neutral milk hotel album, kyle handed her a pink daisy on his way out while tipping his fedora winsomely, and catherine was opening a bag of salt and vinegar kettle chips by the espresso machine. lucy looked towards the front door to check for a publisher's clearing house crew with a camera to come crashing through, but instead, she saw an unfamiliar and intriguing young gentleman. he was deeply engrossed in a doodling session with a blue needle point marker on a cocktail napkin, and as though on cue when she noticed him, reached up to nudge his glasses up the bridge of his nose with his middle finger and then immediately nibbled the end of his thumb as he leaned back and inspected his handiwork as if entertaining a few last finishing touches. amanda noticed lucy's fixed gaze and leaned over the counter to mutter, "get it, girl." and she was halfway across the room while she replied, "watch me."

she sidled up to his table and put her hand on the empty chair across from him, gesturing to with the other to point to the drawing.

"der fuchs." she said.

"excuse me?" he replied, meeting her gaze inquisitively.

"'the fox', in german. he's cute. does he have a name?"


"he needs one."

"no way."

"you're rather contradictory, aren't you?"

"get out of town." he jutted his chin out, which was dappled with a blonde 5 o'clock shadow.

lucy sat down. "then I'll help myself to the seat rather than risk an inquiry. hope you don't mind." she melted into the chair while sipping on the dregs of her iced coffee until the straw started to slurp and the sweat from the cup dribbled onto her knuckles. he signed the bottom of the napkin and slid it over to her.

"felix, huh?" lucy leaned forward and batted her lashes. "charmed, I'm sure. where are you from?"

"long island."

"I didn't think they had foxes there." she said, and felix overturned another napkin to reveal another picture of a whale with 17 eyeballs.

"you thought wrong!" he smiled, revealing a row of teeth so gleaming white that they resembled a row of porcelain chiclets, with a tiny chip in one of his two front teeth. "you should see our mutant sea mammals."

later that night when they were falling asleep in her bed for the first time together, he started singing savage garden lyrics into her ear and she playfully elbowed him while telling him to shut up.

he crooned, "... I wanna lay like this forever, until the sky falls down on meee."

"lies!" lucy cried.

"nuh uh." he insisted.

"what if you get hungry?"

"order pizza."

"what if you have to pee?"

"colostomy bag."

"I guess since you've thought of everything, I'll defer to your questionable judgement."

felix squeezed her tighter and sighed, "cuddling with you is like bathing in a jacuzzi tub of warm tapioca pudding.", and all of the sudden it was glaringly clear that she'd finally met someone that she could eat a few pounds of cheese with. it was just an added bonus that he loved her cat.