Thursday, October 28, 2010


Lately I've wanted to hide from the news since everything I read is depressing, maddening, or both. Even through my very selective lenses (most of my news comes from blogs about books, infrastructure, and local happenings) a lot comes in that makes me angry. I could detail some of the topics and make this more of a full-fledged post, but fear I would just stoke my own rage. Let's just say: trains, gay rights, Amazonisacorporatemonster, and leave it at that.

And I usually hate to admit this, but I will tell you, elect of the internet (read: everyone ever): I am woefully uninformed about politics. And an election is coming up. What do you read when you want to be an informed voter? Presumably, in most if not all cases, you know what party lines I will vote along, but I do want to know something about the candidates before I do that. Any advice much appreciated.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Left my washing in the launderette

My laundromat is full of wonders for the young and old. It's got video games, a thumping jukebox, vending machines for soda, candy, and ice cream. Yesterday there was even a slightly wary cat weaving in and out of bags of clean laundry, playing with an enthralled brother and sister. And of course it's full of washers and dryers aplenty, full of all sorts of people's laundry including, every week or so, my own.

Well, a little less full than I wish it was. How often do you lose socks? Me, it seems like every single time I go to the laundromat, one goes missing. Sometimes more. I look through the washers and the dryers and on the floor and in my backpack and back at my house to no avail. I wind up partnering the missing socks with each other--I have a nice purple-and-green set now, one striped, one argyle. Does this happen to you, or am I particularly laundry lucky?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A supposedly fun thing I'll watch again

I never thought I'd like baseball but as of last year I do. Being a New York partisan I do support my home team Yankees even though it involves bolstering Goliath and heckling David. But the players are good (ehh, most of the time) and some of them have been on the team for an impossible age (I remember a friend of mine was an avid Jeter fan in...middle school?). I did not tune in much during the regular season, except for a blessed spate of midday games when I was sick earlier this summer, but now that it's the playoffs I'm paying closer attention.

This is bad timing I suppose because the Yankees have been coming apart at the seams. I watched a game with my parents on agitating Monday night, where the team didn't score a single run and I couldn't even hate the opposing pitcher who, no doubt among other good reasons for admiration, is extremely talented and has a son who battled with leukemia. Still, you can't help wincing and glowering a bit as the stadium rises in a standing ovation when someone (my favorite Teixeira of t-shirt "fame", in fact) finally gets to walk to first. Baby steps, I suppose.

Sports can absorb you; my mother had a puzzling Monday night as she tried to figure out just why the Yankees' losing got to her so personally. It's not as bad for me (not as many years watching, perhaps) but I do find myself screaming at the television and trading disparaging and hopeful assessments with sundry coworkers, roommates, and elevator men. (My condolences to R.--, biggest Yankees fan, if you're reading.)

In any event, my three favorite cities have teams in these playoffs. (And by three favorite, I mean Philly last week was gorgeous and the aerial shot of SF's stadium made me want to pack my bags yesterday. And that's coming from me.) C'mon, dudes. It'd be a shame if Texas beat you all.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Two tales of a city

I recently read two very different takes on dear Brooklyn. The first, Sima's Undergarments for Women, is the story of Sima, a middle-aged woman who runs a bra shop. A young woman, Timna, comes to work for her and she grows to treat Timna like a daughter, while also coming to terms with her own childlessness and the complications of her marriage. Normally this is not the sort of book that I would read, but the fact that it's set in Orthodox Jewish Borough Park (not too far from my own neighborhood) sparked my interest. Sima is not Orthodox but many of her customers and much of her neighborhood are, and it was enlightening to read about an intimately involved outsider. Walking through Borough Park myself, I find it almost a foreign country, full of its own architecture, clothing stores, and candy shops. It fascinates me how it exists so close to my own much more New-York-integrated world, but is largely self-contained. Indeed, in the novel Sima hardly ever ventures outside the neighborhood; her few visits to (my other home) Union Square are disorienting to her; it was interesting to read that perspective as well.

In a completely different tone, style, and Brooklyn is Julia Wertz's Drinking at the Movies. I'd heard about Wertz's comics before; I initially wasn't sure whether they'd be too sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll for me but I found myself loving her descriptions of life in the city (again from the perspective of an outsider--Wertz moved here from San Francisco several years ago). I highly recommend you check out her website, Fart Party, so you too can laugh out loud as she describes her crappy bike messenger jobs, awkward encounters with bums (will they ever stop calling her "kid"?), and explorations of the city (watch out for that Upper East Side).

I suppose my own Brooklyn existence falls somewhere between these two poles. I'm not quite a boozy Californian turned edgy Greenpointer (I won't say hipster, since Wertz avoids a lot of hipstery things on purpose), but I'm not a middle-aged lady who doesn't leave her own neighborhood much, either. Wertz's panels about exploring the city to find its strangest parts really resonate with me; on the other hand, I understand what it's like to have lived in the same city my whole life, the comfort and claustrophobia that entails. Not too much claustrophobia, though--these two books remind me just how many different stories exist all around me, only a G train ride away.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I take tea, my dear

Yesterday I met the lovely S.-- at 6 for tea and scones at Alice's Teacup. We met at the old-lady hour of 6, though I had originally asked to meet up even earlier because of additional evening plans (when laundry calls, you gotta answer). So I decided I had time to nip over to Desert Island in Williamsburg to look for a comic book first (more about that in the next post) and proceeded to take the Q to Union Square then the L to Metropolitan. After visiting the store, I went back into the Metropolitan Avenue station but I couldn't bear the thought of the crush and rush of the L, so hopped a G instead. G to Court Square (4 stops); E to 53rd Street (1 stop); and 6 to 68th (2 stops) and I arrived at Alice's at a trim 6:02.

If you know anything about me, you will suspect correctly that this commute made my day. Why take 2 trains when you could take 5? Why go back through your twenty-four-years-old Union Square when you can embark upon a new adventure? And new adventures I surely had, pretty much immediately. Waiting on the G platform and reading the last couple pages of Elizabeth Bishop, I turned to the voice of my friend M.--, asking why I was taking his train. (This is not the first time this has happened; in fact, I can think of at least 2 other times where I have encountered him when I took an unexpected train, and each in very different parts of the city.) So we talked about comic books and numbers and children and all that good stuff, until he bid me farewell in Greenpoint. Then, disembarking at Court Square, instead of facing an arduous trek over to the E and M, I discovered...TRAVELATORS. I'd never seen one in a train station before. Why can't we have them every time there's a long stretch of underground walk?(West 14th, I'm looking at you.) One stop later, back in Manhattan, a busker played what I eventually realized was "Englishman in New York" and then it was time for tea.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mini muffin?

Busyness afoot, but wanted to tell you to watch Muffin Films if you have somehow managed not to already.

This post inspired and powered by my delicious cranberry, cream cheese, and pumpkin muffin from Blue Sky (not to be confused with Bluebird Sky which is also good). If you can wake up and get yourself to Park Slope before they close at 2 or so, I recommend it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wanna have a diner where the coffee tastes like diesel fuel

I love the taste of the air as the seasons change. (So much, in fact, that I believe it was a facebook interest of mine, back when facebook let you have interests without marketing to them.) In the past week, it's returned: when I left for Boston, all was still summer-hot, in the muggy rainthreat air of the Belle and Sebastian show; on my Saturday walk from Roxbury to Back Bay it was glorious leaf-changing fall; on Sunday, the taste and lowering sky had turned again, worryingly, to winter.

Lucky for me, it seems to be fall again down in comparatively southern New York. I do look forward to winter when it arrives, but fall is my favorite and I wish it lasted more than just this week or two. Fall, like every season, is not only a taste but also a whole web of associations--not least, the sounds. I have written about my difficulty finding music to listen to; lately I've had a bit more success. Listening to Sharon Van Etten's Epic particularly strikes a fall chord in me--there is something very open sky, walking into the darkening evening, fallen leaves about "Don't Do It." (I noted yesterday that she is playing here this weekend--tempting!)

And last night I stayed over at my parents' house--ostensibly to watch baseball but in reality to crash into a ten-hour sleep coma full of strange tobogganing dreams--so today I walked to work from that angle, which takes about as long as my bridge walk. I stopped in at a new cafe I'd been meaning to try--the I-think-cheesily-named-but-beautifully-decorated Bluebird Sky, where I found a delicious latte. The sound system was playing Dar Williams's "Southern California Wants to Be Western New York" and damned if it wasn't the most season-changing song. It conjures up memories of walking autumn campuses, long train rides, mentally preparing to curl up in flannel pajamas with a cup of hot chocolate (if only I actually had flannel pajamas). My wallet is leaky--someone (I will name no names, but this means you, M.--) gave me about three dollars in change the other day, which ripped out the already struggling lining of my change purse--in the cafe assorted coins fell to the ground, and I scooped up every one and deposited them in the early-morning-empty tip jar. Happy fall, everyone.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Please come flying

This morning I listened to Harmonielehre. (Thanks to C.-- for reminding me.) I sometimes think walking the bridge is the best thing I do all day.

Instead of giving you my words today, I will give you better ones and say only that I feel a bit like Marianne Moore.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Walk to the station, won't you follow me

Amtraked north for the first time this weekend and learned the path the train takes out of the city--neatly topping the elevated tracks at Ditmars, sailing past a battallion of NY Post trucks, coasting next to more Connecticut and more waterfront than I had ever imagined.

When I finally arrived at South Station, I found it more impressive than my own Penn (where I waited a grumpy hour for my late departure). Though (or probably because) it has fewer tracks, it's more spacious, more aboveground, and is equipped with more internet--MBTA commuter trains each get their own--than my home station.

Amtrak itself has no internet, other than in the station, and it costs more than a Bolt Bus. On the flip side, trains don't make me bus-sick and are somewhat less prone to delays. But wouldn't it be great if they took no time at all? When the conductor read out the list of stops in Connecticut, I laughed in despair. If only this plan seemed more realistic...