Child of the U.S.A.

Why the f#*k does The Boss make me weepy?!
Why the f#*k does The Boss make me weepy?!

Sometimes a moment just hits you. Out of nowhere, something happens, your mood changes and you can’t deny it. You are humbled by the moment, and left shaken.

And sometimes these moments crystallize your identity and make you realize things about yourself that you didn’t fully understand or previously see evidence of.

During a semester abroad, I was walking down the street in London on my way to the theatre. I loved living in London and could not have been happier about the situation and my life at that point.

It was autumn and the sun set early, so even though it wasn’t very late, the street were dark and I was navigating a new part of town. As I was walking past shops and grocers I heard Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” come playing out of bar and I started to cry, as I kept walking along.

“I was born in the U.S.A!” I wailed internally, while my mouth wobbled downward and I tried to hold back the tears welling up in my eyes.

These emotions caught me completely off guard. I didn’t like Bruce Springsteen. I didn’t care about this song. I knew I loved America, but so what? That’s nothing to cry about. What was it that provoked this reaction? I have no idea. Maybe I was in denial about my homesickness, or maybe hearing those words “Born in the U.S.A.,” so clearly when I was in a different country just highlighted my American-ness in a very powerful way. I don’t know.

I can wave the flag and sing the national anthem at football games, but it’s these unexpected moments that hit you in the gut that really make you think about your country and what it means to be one of its citizens.

In contrast, there are other times when you see the negative side of America and you wish you weren’t a part of it. I know America does a lot of bad things, but I usually don’t think too long about the specifics of it. Sometimes the injustices of America flicker through my mind, like when I was living in Cleveland and I knew no matter how fast I drove through East Cleveland or how many traffic laws I broke, the cops would never pull a white girl over in that neighborhood.

It’s wrong. It’s bad. It’s a fact. We move on.

But sometimes those things get to you.

In Johannesburg, South Africa in 2011, I was waiting for a plane to fly back to New York City. One of the girls I’d been traveling with was there, too, waiting for her flight home to London. We ate dinner and when it got closer to our flights we walked downstairs to our gates. Every other gate in the airport looked as it always did, looked the same way it did about a week ago when I few into the same airport. But it was a few days before the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and the security around the flight to New York was visible.

Continue reading “Child of the U.S.A.”

You call this gentrification?

The chain stores crowding Manhattan make the city folks shutter. New York’s supposed to be unlike any other city in America. Yet lower Broadway is pretty much an open air mall oozing Sephora, Victoria’s Secret and H&M onto the pigeons and hot dog carts. Midtown, too.

But don’t worry, because if you look close enough inside those chain stores, you’ll see New York. You’ll smell it, too. Aside from the charming deli’s, vibrant street life and whatever else people like about this place, one undeniable characteristic of this city is inappropriate urination. Leaked by humans, animals, whomever, New York always smells like piss.

Which is why when I was in Kmart, and a woman peed in the dressing room I thought, “Fucking New York.” It’s not like I was blaming the city, but I don’t really come across that stuff in other towns.

Anyway, I like to go to Kmart sometimes because it reminds me of growing up in the suburbs. It’s comforting. So I’m waiting in line for the dressing room and listening to the conversation between a few young girls working there and an older cleaning man who they called in. Eventually the story emerges that a woman went into the dressing room, peed on the floor then ran out of the store before anyone could catch her. Oh, and she left her underwear behind in the puddle of pee, because, why not?

At this point I’m still waiting in line because the girls aren’t letting anyone in until the janitor is done. I guess I start making a face because one of the girls says to me, “You look surprised.”

First of all, it is totally acceptable to look surprised when you are standing in line at the Kmart listening to stories about customers peeing in the dressing room. I’m sorry that I’m not a jaded, minimum wage employee so used to scrubbing down the dressing room that this is just another day, another golden afternoon.

Secondly, if this type of incident is so common, maybe they should train employees on the proper way to handle it. These are some of the things the current employees were doing that I would suggest future employees not do: laugh so loudly when telling this story that you draw attention to yourself, pointing out other areas in the store where people have defecated, and (especially) saying it’s not that bad considering how often they find guys shitting in the men’s dressing room.

Up until this point, the main action was out of site. I could see the janitor go in and out of the offending dressing room, but I couldn’t see the mess he was cleaning up. Then he comes out gently holding a clear plastic bag containing the left behind underwear. (Another training tip: when something looks gross, don’t cover it in a see-through material.) There’s a quick banter between one of the girls and the janitor.

“You’re gonna drop it.”

“No, I’m not.”

“It’s gonna fall.”

“I’ve got it right here.”

Then right on cue, the soggy underwear falls out of the bag and in front of the line of waiting customers.

The people in line groan, the girls giggle and say “Eww” and the janitor says, “I thought I had it.” But we all still stay there. In a different universe maybe the janitor would have been working alone, efficiently blocking off the chaining rooms, emptying the stalls of customers and alerting the young staff when the clean up was done.

But this is New York. If we can handle the gentrification, we can handle this, too.

Bacon, you are more than played out

Bacon lovers, you have gone bat-shit crazy and it’s time someone called you out on it. I myself love bacon and the first time I saw band-aids printed with bacon strips I thought it was a great idea. Then bacon started appearing on the dessert menu and it was also a welcome addition. Ditto for the first bacon food festival I read about. But somewhere down the rising disposable income line things took a turn for the worse. Bacon mania isn’t attractive anymore. It’s like an athlete on steroids: the magic is lost by the too much of it all. Bacon taco shells? Please stop before you turn me vegetarian out of spite. Let’s return to the simpler days of sizzling bacon for breakfast, hold the bacon cupcakes, which, frankly, suck.

Bacon mania has gone too far.
Bacon mania has gone too far.

Good things come to those who scalp

View from my box suite @ MSG for the Pink concert
View from my box suite @ MSG for the Pink concert

I consider myself a low risk individual. The company I work for runs a lot of programs for entrepreneurs. The bigger the risk the bigger the return. Think big. Act bold. Risk a lot, gain a lot. All foreign concepts to me.

If I was forced to follow that advice, it would be as strange as if I was told I was about to become the captain of a whaling ship. What, now? You want me to exchange my MetroCard for a large wooden ship, which isn’t even as long as the G train, and do what to the largest mammal on earth? I mean, I like the way I look in a woolen pea coat, but no thank you.

However, when I talk to some of my friends about buying tickets from scalpers on the street, I get the impression that they find the whole thing too risky to do themselves.

Which I think is stupid. I’m not talking about selling scalped tickets. I’m talking about buying tickets on the street outside the venue for a show you really want to go to but couldn’t get tickets for in advance. True, the person I’m buying them from isn’t Monsieur Ticketmaster, but I usually end up paying face value for them. And the situation feels as convenient as when I buy them online where the company has the audacity to change me a convenience fee for that transaction. (Who invented the convenience fee? I think I speak for everyone when I say I want to punch that person in the face.)

But if you do consider it risky behavior, then think about this reward: sometimes I get tickets for free. Really, really good tickets, like a box suite at Madison Square Garden.

A few weeks ago I decided at the last minute to go to the Pink concert at Madison Square Garden. The only tickets still for sale online were over $100, all the cheap seats were sold out. So I decided to try my luck with the scalpers.

The first guy I went up to had tickets for $150 each. If I’d wanted to pay that much, I would have done it the legit way. So I walked around a bit, going up to normal looking people (as in, non-burley scalper-looking guys) who were standing alone, possibly waiting for their plus one to show up, possibly wanting to sell their extra ticket to me rather than eating the cost of the ticket for their no-show friend.

After hearing “no,” a few times I eventually made my way over to someone who didn’t look like a Pink fan at all. I doubted she was here for the show at all, but you don’t know unless you ask. And to be totally stereotypical, she looked like someone’s frumpy, middle-aged Latino housekeeper-slash-nanny.

I started my speech.

“Do you have an extra ticket?”


Really?! I’m thinking. But I keep my game face on. “How much?”

“Free. It’s a box suite”

I just raise my eyebrows and tuck in my chin, offering my look of I-may-be-a-tunnel-and-bridge-girl-but-I’m-not-that-stupid.

She hands me the ticket and it doesn’t look like any ticket I’ve seen before. It’s my first show at Madison Square Garden, so it’s true I don’t know what their tickets look like for sure, but I’ve seen most of the other fans carrying typical looking computer print outs and I’m surprised to see this small purple ticket in my hand.

“It’s real,” she says. Then she winks at me, tells me to enjoy myself and that she’ll see me up there.

I take the ticket and walk away figuring that if it’s a fake, at least I didn’t pay for it and I can always go back to the $150 guy and buy a ticket to see the show. For that price, they’re probably good seats. Maybe even floor access.

Then I have another thought – this is how people get abducted into sex slavery. I’m totally going to be a part of the white slave trade just because I wanted to see some pop music on a Friday night. Damn my good looks!

Continue reading “Good things come to those who scalp”

Dear Mississippi, I like you.

Mississippi roadYou’re broke, you’re fat, you couldn’t even give me an abortion if I wanted one and you still let people smoke indoors, like some carcinogenic relic of my early bar days. (You do your own thing and don’t give a fuck.) But you won me over with a first impression. The other states we bounced by didn’t give as much. Alabama – missed the good stuff. Arkansas was a bit of a ghost town and Tennessee rained on me, not its fault, but I need the sun. Mississippi, I like the way your people talk to me, feed me doughnuts and orange juice for breakfast and make me feel at home even if I never want to live there. Plowed cotton fields to drive by and a breading ground for music that makes my butt wiggle. You just feel good to me and I want to say thank you.

Casting my vote in the 2012 American presidential election

As I’ve said before, I love voting. But that doesn’t mean I love our grater political institutions. The act of voting is separate from deciding who to vote for, and this year’s election cycle has been especially off-putting.

So, I’m planning on casting a write-in vote, probably for Hillary Rodham.

Why am I going the write-in route rather than voting for the same person I did the last go round?

Mainly because I live in a liberal town where my vote doesn’t really count, so I can play around with the ballot box like this. (Can you imagine if we told soldiers they were giving their lives so we could “play around with the ballot box” instead of telling them they were preserving the freedoms of democracy? That’s a discussion for another day…)

But there are a few things Obama has been up to which don’t make me especially happy.

1) Detaining Americans without charging them isn’t cool. Even if this law was subsequently struck down by a judge. (See this badly bootlegged Daily Show clip for information about the law. And this article about the judge’s ruling.)

2) I’m also not that pleased about the increased drone strikes under Obama. (Here’s a handy map o’death.)

3) Is it just me, or does he always seem to be caving to Republicans on tax cuts? (It’s not just me.)

That’s not to say the administration hasn’t been without high points. Good job passing healthcare reform. Not the best law ever, but a very good start at scaling back the profits and bureaucracy surrounding our basic rights. Also, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act has a nice ring to it; let’s hope its aim is true.

A big part of me isn’t voting for Obama because I’m just fed up with the phoniness of the election campaign. You give me fake candidates, I’ll give you a fake vote. Maybe I’ll put London mayor Boris Johnson down as my pick. I think he handled himself pretty well when he got stuck on that zip wire this summer.

There’s too much money and spin and sound bites and flag lapel pins for me to take it seriously. Which is a problem because it is serious. One of the liars on the ballot is going to the White House. God bless the United States of America. We need it.

How PBS has brainwashed me

Election season and projectile stupidity are in full swing in America. One of the asinine notions making the rounds with the right-wingers is that PBS brainwashes kids into becoming socialists through programs like Sesame Street, which teaches anti-American values like sharing and respect.

As a victim of PBS brainwashing, I feel the need to speak out. Not because they’ve brainwashed me into becoming a socialist (that’s the job of my French boyfriend) but because their documentaries have indoctrinated me with the notion that my life will achieve levels of greatness on par with Willa Cather, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alistair Cooke.

Specifically, I live my life as though it’s being narrated as an episode of American Masters. (What? Not modest enough? Should I have just stuck with American Experience?).

I have watched so many documentary and biography programs over the years, on PBS and in other formats, that it has seriously tailored my view of life. Possibly warped it. Definitely brainwashed it.

It’s not just that I imagine I will eventually because famous or well-respected (in life or death, you never can tell with intellectual celebrity) but that each phase of my life is meaningful in ways that professors backlit by Ken Burns will clearly explain to viewers years from now.

I would try to explain to you here how the choices I’ve made thus far have developed my genius, but I neither have the right perspective nor the right tweed jacket to make those statements.

What I’m trying to say is that when I reflect on my life in my own head, I picture people on TV, cropped from the waist up and sitting in their libraries, justifying my choices. While other people might use Sex and the City dialogue or a horoscope’s advice to gloss over their mistakes and regrets, I hear the PBS narration.

I’m not worried about it and you shouldn’t be either. Judging from the swelling music rising up behind the latest revelation about my life, things will have a happy ending, brainwashed or not.

As for the America election, I’ll leave that to Frontline to sort out.