Category Archives: Rants

No One Really Loves Traveling

If you’ve ever online dated or read the interests section on a resume, it might seem like we are a nation of wanderers. You know: I love movies, sports, traveling.

I always felt alienated by this because I hate traveling. I love being new places, seeing cool stuff and learning how other people live, but the process of getting there–the actual TRAVEL part–fills me with dread. Planes are claustrophobia-inducing. I have severe packing anxiety. Hotels make me feel like I’m in the beginning of a slasher film, and I can never sleep thinking about how many other bodies have shed their skin cells on those mattresses (you’re welcome).

Which leads me to think everyone else is a liar.

No one likes flying, except maybe prop plane pilots. They seem like they’re having fun.

No one likes waiting in line for tickets, for bathrooms, for transport.

Sure, it’s nice when you get there. But I really think people ought to be more specific.

No one actually likes to travel. What we like is arriving.

Just sayin.

 

How to Yelp Like a Human with Empathy

 

The problem with Yelp is it’s so personal; reviewers only think about themselves: “I don’t think anyone should go to this restaurant. It’s the worst.” There’s just not enough empathy to think about how other people might experience it. It’s only from their lens. Also, Yelpers don’t have any professional protocol. They sit down and say, “If you don’t do this, we’re going to give you a bad Yelp score.” We’re like, what the fuck?

David Chang, Momofuku Chef/mastermind and lover of burritos.

Sure, there are some valid, non-hateful reasons to look at a restaurant’s Yelp page. Paraphrasing Chang: it is great for finding an address, but any chef worth his kosher salt wouldn’t give a Yelper’s dramatic recounting of his or her tragic date night a second thought. My professional opinion as a server is that Comments are the worst part of the Internet, and Yelp is all Comments, all the time. And I have almost-successfully trained myself not to read the comments, on YouTube, on the NYTimes site, and in life.

The problem is, however, that review sites are likely the first or second search result that appear when you search for a restaurant or type of food in your area. Which means restaurant owners and managers read these comments like it’s their job. ‘Cause it is.
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ISO podcasts

Seems like this is the year that everyone discovers downloadable audio programs. Which is great. Because in a world of quick-gratifying images, the idea that people still want to listen to someone tell them a story for fifteen minutes or an hour at a go soothes my little verbal-centric heart.

I have a distinct memory of being in a fantastically uncurated thrift store in Astoria, Queens, probably 2007 or 2008, swaddled in a virtual bubble of headphone solitude, listening for the first time to Dan Carlin talk about the Black Death as an apocalyptic event on par with the craziest zombie movie. If you know me, you understand how tailor made this moment was. Pawing through racks of dusty, faded tops in search of a $120 shirt that would cost me $4.50, listening to a lively, enthusiastic voice bring up history from angles I’d never thought of before. It kickstarted my morbid fascination with Plague (another post, y’all), for one, but got me hooked on audio for sure. There have been few times when I have felt more myself than that.  Continue reading

What I’ll be doing during the NYC Ice Cream Crawl

Hope Pouts

I won't tolerate it!

This happens every year.

They do add “…a note to our friends who don’t do dairy, we DO have Italian Ice locations on the crawl as well!”

Great. So I can sporadically eat some lame juicewater while you all gorge yourselves on delicious ice cream.  Thanks for the methadone, you cruel, lactase-producing jerks!

More on how us lazy techno-slaves are ruining everything

This post from the Mediabistro Media Jobs blog on how everyone now-a-days is misspelling things that are annoying to type, thereby and ruining our fine language with their g-darn slackitude, reminds me of two recent incidents:

1. That silly rant on The Awl from the lady who still doesn’t have a cell phone (I agree we’re all pretty much techno-slaves, but prefer to think of it as the nice, fetish-style slavery than the real kind, which is, of course, unacceptable), and

2. One uber-nerd’s* comment on my post on Suvudu, rebuking me for my love of Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf. Cause, according to him, you either go Olde English or you GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY LIBRARY.

It gives me a chuckle when people get blustery and adamant about the preservation of ostensibly trivial things, particularly language. English is a mutt dialect, a linguistic Euro-pudding mixed up through a few thousand years of genocides and hostile takeovers. I’ll skip an aigu here & there, no sweat. Same as how I now keep all my friends’ phone numbers safe on a spreadsheet instead of in my brain. Evolution, snitchez.

*Ha-ha, no umlaut here, either!  You can take your keyboard shortcuts and go right to hell!

Quick! Post the Anti-Paddies’ Day Guide!

I wish I thought of this sooner, I could have gotten paid for it!  Or at least, paid in readership, as these things often are.Tardi-tardi-tar!  It’s Saint Paddies’ day in New York!  The largest confluence of voluntary ethnic stereotyping since Columbus Day! I.  Fecking. Hate this day. It’s just like New Year’s: suddenly, the world has converged on your home and is using it to throw a KEGGER.

I don’t know about y’all, but I can celebrate my genetic alcoholism any ol’ day of the week.  Sure, I’m “proud” of my 1/4 Irishness, but prefer to think of it as a deep personal pride I maintain by reading Beckett, listening to Primordial and never, ever talking about my feelings. So while I spend the celebration of one of Christianity’s few bloodless conversions doing that, here are some things you can do that won’t get you ambushed by pasty meatheads from Long Island on a break from humanity in the name of partial heritage.

Activity 1: Watch the dignified old Irish dudes in the parade. Wear rainbows, in solidarity. Go home early, make some colcannon and raise a glass or Murphy’s while watching Once. Or that movie with the adorable kids and Djaimon Honsu.  Screw all’a’y’all. I love that movie.

Activity 2: Go to work (if that’s your thing), and afterward treat yourself at one of these fine establishments likely to be ignored by the faux-Eire baffoonery.

Ethiopian Food followed by German Beer.
Currywurst followed by French Wine.
Australian hamburgers followed by Zyweic
Soul Food and Jazz
Bahn Mi and plum brandy.

This year, I personally have a party to go to.  A lovely couple, of German and French origin, are moving to Africa, and throwing themselves a farewell.  Tardi-tardi-tor to you all.

What not to put in the program bio for your first play

A little side-effect of working in theater education.  Most everything here is cribbed from or imitates actual bios.
Hope EE, New York, NY, was born and lovingly reared by her father and  spinster aunts in the tiny hamlet of Ashford in the unfashionable end of New York State. She discovered an irrepressible passion for acting at a very young age, when at the tender age of five she took on the role of Elizabeth Proctor in the St. Aloysius school production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. The nuns were positively blown away by her tears as the 7-year-old girl playing her husband was hanged for witchcraft. From there she was hooked like a big mouth bass on the Field and Stream network, and spent the next two decades pursuing any role she could get her hands on including performing at county fairs, dog and pony shows, 4H conventions, Nascar rallies and the American Globe Theatre in Manhattan. She currently co-stars as the voice of Ring Toe on the wildly popular webseries Emma’s Feet. Hope would like to thank her family, step-family, friends, coworkers, tattoo artist, Chihuahua, goldfish, stuffed bunny collective and Russian shoe-repairman for all their boundless true love and support. She also owes it all to Jesus. Love ya, Baby Jee.

The Great Sizzle

Our apartment’s one hour of direct sunlight creeps in, starting at 7 a.m. when my alarm goes off for the first time. Through successive snoozes,  the heat coming through the blinds prickles on my skin; heat building up where the sheet is tangled around my pajama’d torso. Miyagi rolls away from me, sits up, paws at my face. He needs to be let down from the too-high bed to drink from his water dish. He has stretched his legs out as far from his spindly little body as possible to create maximum surface area, and begins panting in my ear. The noise forces me up, I deposit him on the floor and re-sprawl at the foot of the bed in a last-ditch attempt to avoid the burning sunlight. But it has been advancing fast during my fits of sleep, and it is too late to escape. The heat has arrived.After June and July of relentless precipitation, summer has descended on the city. I’d almost forgotten about it. Sweltering walks on the pavement, punctuated by arctic blasts of air conditioning coming from store vestibules. The students at work, experiencing their first urban summer, are shocked and abashed. They cannot believe this is normal and not some apocalyptic heat wave. I feel them quietly praying under their breath. But how were they to know, when they signed on to move here? No episode of Friends ever featured Monica and Rachel dealing with the climatic extremes the city throws at you. Carrie, Samantha and the gang were never pictured as wilted and defeated as everyone in Manhattan looks today. When you replace all your green space with pavement, you got to be able to deal with the haze. And you thought you were living “up North.”

Just 6 months ago I was waking up in this same bed, same apartment, clothed for sleep in long johns, fleece pants, a thermal top and a hoodie, swaddled in 6 blankets and sleeping bag. Now we flee the house as soon as the sun comes up, cursing our building’s ancient wiring for not being able to support an AC unit without some creative and complicated extension cord work. And summer movies are all crap,* but you sit through them anyway because it’s cheaper than anything else you can do in this town for 2 and a half hours. Sunday afternoon we contemplate taking a book and riding the subway all day.

Being the secret masochist I am, I kinda love it.

*Except  District 9.

So You’ve Decided to Join AmeriCorps…

At a family function last month, I discovered that 3 of my newly college-graduated cousins are going into the AmeriCorps program this fall, as these seem to be the only jobs available to them. I’ve been noticing lately that things I’ve been doing for years — e.g., being a huge cheapskate — are cropping up as novel and chic tips in fashion magazines and morning shows like crazy this year. I knew, knew, knew, deep down, that I was a trend-setter; living in poverty loooong before living in poverty was cool!

So it comes as no surprise that something I did 5 years ago – accept a $10K per year stipend to be a glorified admin-assistant at a Manhattan non-profit in exchange for flexible work requirements and government health insurance – is suddenly becoming fashionable.I’ve gotten flack in the past for perhaps being a touch jaded about all this National Community Service stuff. But I’m not necessarily alone in my criticism here, check out what the Chronicle of Philanthropy** has to say:

“While some AmeriCorps programs, like Teach for America, can demonstrate real results, others are less effective because they operate through thousands of different nonprofit groups that each set their own requirements and do little evaluation.”

Heck. Effing. Yes. The reporting I did for my AmeriCorps job was generally based in fact, sort of. But not really. And not enough to bring any of us volunteers any sense that we were accomplishing our “program goals.” Boo.

BUT, not to be a total wet blanket, I will support my underemployed kin in their impending vocations. I’ve even compiled a short list of tips and tricks to help you through your year of “service.”*

1. Don’t move out.
I know the whole reason you went to college and subsequently looked for employment was so that you could fly from your parents’ house at top speed. I know nothing would have enticed me to move back in with them when I was 21. But honestly, I’ve never been all that smart about these practical things.

The most happy/successful VISTAs I knew were the ones that lived with their parents or spouses. Unless your program is offering you housing, or you live in a place where rent is cheaper than food, you really, really need to think about sticking the year out at Mom & Dad’s place. For example: a 2-3 bedroom apartment share in a public-transport-accessible area of NYC goes for a monthly rent of typically no less than $600 per person. Probably more like $700 or $800 if you want a closet or full-sized bed. I’ve been told the “living allowance” is now up to $900 a month. If this doesn’t give you pause to renting, read on.

2. Remember hidden costs
As of this month, an unlimited monthly metrocard will cost $89. Your cell phone, I’m betting, will be between $40 and $80, if you’re not using a Smartphone, which I hear lots of the kids are doing nowadays. Also, unless you are really eager to take full advantage of of their unlimited mental health coverage, I would suggest you get Internet access. Asking a Millennial to live without Internet is like asking a pot-head to live without Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robins. It ain’t pretty. Let’s be generous and think that this could be around $30 a month. What’s the tally up to? 200 bucks. If your apartment is 700 that’s your entire paycheck, and you haven’t bought any food yet.

3. I’ve said it before: Never take your credit card to a bar. Try this instead.

4. Food Stamps. Even though your shouldn’t need to, for gods’ sake.
I know they tell you at orientation that you can apply for them, but REALLY? Isn’t that kind of taking funds from the populations you are attempting to serve? But yeah, off-setting your food costs will help a lot.***

5. Clothing Swaps, thrift stores, duh. It’s still New York. You still want to look good. Luckily that ain’t hard to do if you put a little thought into it.

6. Use that AmeriCorps ID as a student ID wherever you go and don’t let anyone tell you it ain’t valid! One of the hardest things about “serving” in a city like this is that you are surrounded by people with money, taunted by the amazing things you could be doing if you could afford it. So go see art films, go to shows, look at paintings in museums. Milk that sort-of-student identity as much as you can, because having mind-blowing cultural experiences will take your mind off how hungry you are.

7. Use those medical benefits, use ’em like you are going to contract something horrible tomorrow. The pace Congress is going, you may not have any for a while after you finish your year.

There is so much more, and so many other diatribes about how to live on the cheap. But I guess my best advice (besides not moving out, seriously) is to remember it is only temporary. And don’t be afraid to ask your cousins to feed you from time to time. We know how it is.

*And by service, I mean “hopefully not disillusionment and angst, but probably both of these things.”
**Yeah I read the trades. I’m a professional, bitches!
***I, unfortunately, used up my “I’m was at the foodstamps office” excuse one day to be 3 hours late to work after a night of furious, depression-fueled drinking (for free, mind you). So I guess don’t do that.