Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Back in the Day

This past Thanksgiving weekend, my sister-in-law had her 10-year highschool reunion.

There are so many people who look back on highschool as the "best time" in their lives. Which makes me wonder: was highschool actually that good, or do most of us just not remember it correctly?

Highschool definitely had its highs. Who can forget graduation, getting your license, or meeting your first love. On the other hand, it was definitely not all roses and ice cream either. There were curfews, teenage angst, and zits. In many ways, it was a wash.

Perhaps the most charming thing about highschool though, was its sense of excitement. Everything seems possible when you're 18. You could be an astronaut, you could make a million bucks, and you could find Prince Charming. It's not that we all become cynics, it's just that reality starts to tarnish the hope a little. You decide you hate astrophysics, a million seems like an awful lot of work, and it turns out that Prince Charming is gay.

My sister-in-law ended up having a great time at the reunion. It's nice to take a trip down memory lane, to remember the days when your biggest problem was getting a date to prom. It's still nice to come back to the present though. To reflect on all the things you've learned since then, and to appreciate the fact that you no longer have that truly horrible spiral perm.

Ms. J

Monday, November 28, 2005

Visions of Sugar Plums


I'm presently glued to the t.v. watching "Visions of New York" on PBS.

"Visions of New York" is basically visual ecstasy. In a stroke of programming genius, someone at PBS decided what people really want is a glorified screen saver. Rhapsody in Blue lingers over idyllic images of the city, while a soothing baritone occassionally comments with such witty reparte as "Here we have historic Coney Island, better get a hot dog! Yum."

Needless to say, I'm hooked. This is the city as it was meant to be seen, from the calming cockpit of a helicopter. Gone are the ever present tourists looming near Times Square. Gone are the pushy corporate types getting in your way downtown. Gone are...well, pretty much everyone. "Visions of New York" doesn't appear to have any visions of people. It's what the city would look like if the Giuliani administration had finished removing all the homeless people, and said "Hey! Why stop there? Let's get everyone out!" The people have all been replaced by subtle narration that describes evening as "that magical time where the city goes into her nightly dance."

For a mere $79.95, one can own this world where "city lights flicker until dawn," where even the Staten Island Ferry is made to look like a wonderland cruise. Ahh. Who says reality programming is all a bust?

Ms. J

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Love Thy Neighbor

More than the denizens of any other city, New Yorkers fantasize about apartments. We read the Times' profiles on celebrity brownstones, and we have dreams where we miraculously "find" another room in our current studio. Yesterday, engaged in this New York occupation, I found myself leafing through online real estate ads. That's when I found this, http://www.elliman.com/Listing.aspx?ListingID=725119&SearchType=sale. What appears to be a relatively normal ad for a 3 bedroom on the Upper West Side, is actually evil cleverly masked as optimism.

The ad reads: "Looking for more? You have a prospective future opportunity to grow by purchasing the apartment next door. There is currently a RENT CONTROLLED TENANT occupying 14G, however, you can invest now and start planning for the future!"

I probably wouldn't even have noticed this, if it hadn't been for RENT CONTROLLED TENANT in all caps. The most obvious subliminal message here is, "buddy next door is gonna croak!"

Just when you thought New York neighbor relations couldn't get more strained, this ad is encouraging people to move next door to someone they literally WANT DEAD. Exactly what would that relationship even look like? "Hello Mrs. Stevens! Do you mind if I take a peek around? We're figuring out how big a T.V. the future rec room needs!" or "Merry Christmas, Mr. Jones! I made you some fudge for the holidays, extra butter for your hypertension!"

All in all, the whole thing is creepy. I've actually seen the Law & Order where the real estate agent murders the rent control tenant, and this ad just seems to set up the episode. Besides, everyone knows the real reason people are against rent control, we all wish we had it.

Ms. J

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Uncharted Territory

This afternoon I went to see Miranda. Miranda is a pretty special person in my life. Miranda is my waxer.

Like teen pop, body hair is generally considered an inevitable yet undesirable occurrence. Salons all over the city exist for the sole purpose of helping New Yorkers deal with unavoidable fuzz. Perusing the list of services that Miranda provides, I've realized that people apparently need to eliminate hair in places I had no idea you could even grow hair. From the backs of your knees to the space above your ass, for a small fee, Miranda and her colleagues will happily yank away.

I'm not a particularly hairy person, so my wax experiences are normally limited to shaping my eyebrows. The one notable exception occurred prior to my honeymoon in Costa Rica. It was then that Miranda waxed my bikini line. Up until that point, my bikini line was pretty much uncharted territory. I had a live and let live attitude towards it. I left it alone, and it basically kept to itself. Like most New York neighbors, we had a peaceful co-existence of ignoring one another.

Upon realizing that I was about to spend a week in a bathing suit, however, I decided that perhaps it was time to have a bit of an intervention. That's how I found myself one afternoon lying bottomless on the waxing table in Miranda's clinical cubicle. Feeling a bit like a character from X-rated anime, I tried to ignore the awkwardness that typically results when you find yourself naked from the waist down. In spite of my timidity, Miranda did not seem phased. With the dexterity of a neurosurgeon, Miranda got up close and personal with my bikini line. She went where no woman had gone before. Had she wanted to plant a tiny flag to commemorate the occasion, it would have been appropriate.

After a few minutes that felt like an uncomfortable eternity, Miranda's work was done. She gave me a mirror and motioned for me to examine her work. "What do you think?" she asked. Given that I had never really looked at my own bikini line, let alone anyone else's, I had no idea what to say. What adjective can you possibly use to describe a bikini line? Cute, pretty, svelte? I ended up just muttering, "Um, yeah, it looks...very clean." This appeared to satisfy Miranda, and she nodded her head briskly in agreement. She then gave me my pants and told me to pay on my way out. I felt like I needed a cigarette afterwards.

Since then, Miranda and I have reverted back to an eyebrow relationship. She doesn't seem to mind, and I think my bikini line is much happier for it. The three of us have slipped back into happily ignoring eachother's existence, and let's face it, that's really where you want to be most of the time anyway.

Ms. J

Friday, November 18, 2005

Excuse Me


I generally make it a rule to not horribly embarass myself in public. Although this has overall been a solid policy to follow, there are still occasionaly moments when I blow the rule out of the water. Tonight, I had one of those moments.

Harkening back to the days when we tried to impress eachother, my husband and I decided to spend the evening going out on a traditional date. We had dinner followed by a movie. Along with other consumers of mass culture, we decided to see the new Harry Potter flick. Three quarters into the movie, there's a critically dramatic scene. For a movie that's filled with explosions and cheering, it's an eerily quiet scene. This, of course, is when I uncontrollably had to fart.

It was the kind of loud fart that cannot be ignored. At that pivotal moment in the movie, the stars of the movie were Harry Potter and me. The movie goers in our section looked around, people nudged their dates, there was some snickering, my husband quietly died with embarassment in the seat next to me. I did what farting people have been doing since the dawn of time, I looked around and pretended it was someone else. The moment then passed. Harry continued on his adventures, and I thankfully did not make a reappearance for the remainder of the movie.

I pride myself on not usually being a gassy person. If there's a smelly kid in every class, I have never been that kid. Which is why it was even more mortifying. All I could think of was that everyone in my section now thought of me as being a gassy person. I was worse than the smelly kid in class, I was the smelly adult in the theater. Before the lights fully came up, I scrambled out with my husband in tow. I wanted to vindicate myself. To say, "No! I know what you're thinking, but this is not me! Maybe I ate something funny!" Instead, I bowed my head in shame. I was an outlaw.

The experience has led me to believe that, as a generally non-gassy person, I can no longer stand idly by when others are publicly ridiculed. They can't help it! Sometimes, these things (literally) slip out. We've all been there, why make a big deal of it? It's a new era of understanding for me. The flatulence-challenged and I, we will all stand as one. Brothers and sisters are we. United against oppression. Those people who don't wash their hands after using the bathroom though, they're still lepers in my book.

Ms. J

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Mood Music

Why is it, that wherever you go, they’re playing the same terrible music?

I had my teeth cleaned yesterday. I’ve never been a huge fan of the dentist. It’s an odd social construction, that we’ll pay tons of money to allow a stranger to take what is basically an ice pick to our gums. If someone came up to you on the street, and started to clean your teeth, you would call it an assault. The fact that it takes place in an office, with a bright light shining in your eyes, and terrible music playing in the background; somehow moves it from the realm of violence to hygiene.

As Donna reclined me back and started to busy herself with my molars, Celine Dion wafted over me. Like most people not addicted to crack, I can only take Celine in small doses. The last thing I wanted to listen to, lying flat on my back with Donna diving into the nether regions of my mouth, was “my heart will go onnnnnnnnnn.” It turned what was already an unpleasant experience, into one of Dante’s lesser known circles of hell. The worst part was that the dentist’s office, perhaps filled with crack addicts, had decided to play Celine’s ENTIRE ALBUM. For those unfamiliar with Ms. Dion’s “Let’s Talk About Love” album, a simple search on i-tunes will reveal such hits as “Where is the Love,” “Just a Little Bit of Love,” “To Love You More,” and of course “I Hate You then I Love You.” It’s so much love that you want to strangle the ever-loving shit out of Celine before she tries to love anyone else. Needless to say, in spite of Donna’s very kind attempts to chat with me (why do they do that?), the dentist’s visit was torturous.

Which is why, upon leaving the dentist’s office, I was stunned to find that the melodious “my heart will go onnnnnn” had in fact gone on to follow me out of the dentist and into Whole Foods. My theory is that Celine Dion is putting crack in the water. It’s the only explanation.

Ms. J

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Home Improvement

Yesterday, needing some screws to hang up a curtain rod, I went to the mecca of home improvements- none other than Home Depot. Whenever I go to Home Depot, I find myself closer to understanding the feminine psyche than at any other place. I’ll go with a specific purchase in mind, and yet inevitably end up spending hours just roaming the store looking at all the new stuff they’re selling. Back in high school, my mom would send me off to pick up a fresh propane tank so she could grill steaks for dinner. When I still hadn’t returned home later in the night, she would frantically call my cell figuring I must’ve gotten in a car accident.

Anyways, I was wandering around the store when I decided to ask one of the sales people for help (if you’ve never been, there’s not a greater resource than Home Depot workers, trust me). He was a nice enough fellow, but you could tell he definitely got way too much pleasure from working in the power tools section of the store. In his enthusiasm, he ended up trying to sell me a $100 hammer drill (keep in mind this occurred right after another employee had already told me all I needed was a $30 one). When I pointed out the $30 option, he replied, “Well you could get that one . . .” and then gave me a look that said, “but I would never have any respect for you for the rest of your life.” Logic like that is what makes it so hard for a guy to make prudent purchasing decisions (as evidenced by the fact I routinely buy electronics roughly 3 times more expensive than I need or that every time I go to Hooters with my friends we get 50 wings when 30 would do just fine).

Seeing that I was still wavering in my decision, the employee pulled out his trump card, “If you buy this drill, you’ll never need another one for the rest of your life. Heck, you’ll teach your kids how to use this drill in your home.” All of this seemed like a fairly convincing argument until it dawned on me that I’m single, in my early 20’s, and living in a rented apartment in the city. Suffice to say, the white picket fence surrounding my house in the ‘burbs is still a quite a ways off. I politely declined his offer only to watch him use the same line on a couple in their late 20’s standing right behind me. Apparently those extra years were the difference, for they gladly picked up said drill and left with wide smiles on their faces, clearly thinking about little Billy happily drilling away before he could walk.

Unfortunately, you’d be sadly mistaken if you were thinking my purchasing restraint lasted the entire trip. When it turned out there were different two methods to attach the curtain rod to my concrete ceiling, I debated as to which I wanted to use. I ended up just buying enough materials to do both, with the rationale that whatever I didn’t use I could always return. And this no-questions-asked return policy is single handedly turning young Americans into a generation of impulse buyers. Of course, that’s another story for another time; right now I need to go return a drill set.

Mr. J

Friday, November 11, 2005

You Look...


It’s inevitable. You can go through your whole life well coiffed, sharply attired, and wearing an acceptable amount of make up. You’ll waltz through the city, the most presentable version of yourself, and you won’t see anyone. You won’t see family. You won’t see friends. You won’t even see the homeless guy who usually pan handles on your street.

The minute you decide to emerge from a full day of working from home, you’ll see someone. You’ll be scruffed out in sweats and a ratty t-shirt. Your eyes will have dark circles under them. Your hair will look as if you’ve traded your conditioner for lard, and you’ll smell vaguely like gym socks. You will emerge from your apartment, walk to the bodega around the corner, and you’ll see someone. More specifically, you will see an old crush from college, who you have not seen in over five years. He will look even hotter than he did in college.

You will smoothly blurt out, “You look great!” You will apologize for what a wreck you must seem. He will politely not say anything. He will laughingly comment on what a blast from the past this is, how he almost didn’t recognize you. You will privately curse yourself for not at least putting on some lip gloss before leaving the apartment.

He will be friendly and charming, mentioning that he bumped into your husband recently. Your husband who is the world to you, your husband who you adore, your husband to whom you are blissfully married to. You will deftly mumble that said husband mentioned that. You will privately think said husband forgot to mention how good Mr. X looked. He will gracefully give you an exit with a comment to your grocery bag. You will nod in acknowledgment and smilingly part ways.

You will schlep home to prepare dinner. You will wonder if Mr. X still found you attractive. It will perturb you a bit that he might not. You will call your husband to retell the story. He will laugh. You will laugh. You will decide together that dinner is at 8. He will tell you he loves you before hanging up. You will say it too.

You will start dinner, and you will put on lip gloss.

Ms. J

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The first rule of . . .

This past weekend I went to visit the lovely Puritan city of Boston, Massachusetts. Doing what many Boston visitors do, I then proceeded to get into a street fight in the middle of Chinatown. Now before you start saying to yourself, “That Mr. J is nothing but a hooligan, that’s the last time I ever visit this blog!” hear me out.

On Saturday I went with some friends to a club and after the club shut down we decided to get something to eat. Being Boston, everything was closed by this point except for Chinatown, so off we went to get some dumplings and scallion pancakes. Shortly after arriving, I decided to call it an early night and grab a cab home by myself. I literally took about 20 steps away and was standing in front of a nice shabu-shabu restaurant when 5 guys walked by me. The last one threw his shoulder at me and then started cussing me out. This is the point that Ms. J feels I should’ve swallowed my pride and just walked on, but for whatever reason I turned around. As I turned to face him, he shoved me hard and continued his curse filled tirade.

As I stood there trying to figure out exactly what was going on (said events not being a usual evening activity) he approached me again, but this time swung at me. Not knowing what plan of action to take, I was inspired by a brief flashback to my high school wrestling days and proceeded to tackle him. We then both started punching wildly at each other in the middle of the street. His friends, being the ever alert group, finally realized something was amiss and swarmed back at us. It was at this point that things really took a bizarre turn.

While one second I was alone thinking I’m going to get the crap kicked out of me, the very next second a whole makeshift posse comprised of random passersby appeared behind me. Hoping that cooler heads would now prevail and I could avoid the embarrassment of having to call Ms. J at 3 in the morning to bail me out of jail, I was shocked when someone yelled, “One on one! Let the two of them work it out!” I briefly thought of pointing out the fact that I had only just met this guy and had absolutely zero issues to work out with him, but his friends apparently had watched West Side Story one too many times and pushed their buddy back into the fray (keep in mind that the guy by this point had a bloody nose and his face was pretty messed up, but I guess such details can’t be bothered with when there’s things to be worked out).

Anyways, we scuffled around for a bit until it finally occurred to his friends that since we were fighting in the middle of Chinatown, we could easily get arrested (as I said, they were an alert bunch). They proceeded to pull their buddy away with the consoling words of, “C’mon, you lost. Let’s just go.” They then faced me and told me that, “It’s cool, it’s cool.” While I stood there thinking that the last time I thought I was cool I didn’t have a random guy’s blood on my shirt, my posse congratulated me on my win, handed me a cigarette, and then left. And thus the night concluded with me once again walking alone in Chinatown looking for a cab, one ripped shirt down, one cigarette up, but overall none the worse for wear and tear.

Many friends have since given me their take on the night. I’ve had lots of people tell me how lucky I was things ended ok and lots of girls tell me, “While I don’t approve of violence, I’m glad you won.” I’ve also discussed with everyone the importance of always going out with a posse (“Leave the cards at home, ‘Posse- the new Mastercard!’”) While opinions have varied on how unusual the night was, the one thing that still surprises me is how eager most guys are to turn a random street fight into entertainment. Perhaps Brad Pitt was onto something . . .

Mr. J

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Yuppies for Hire (Payment Optional)


Mr. J recently went to his first "guest bartender" event. Having also attended this genre of New York party, I agreed with him that it's an absurd concept. Only in New York will people invite all their friends to watch them work for free.

Where we grew up, bartending was kind of a craptastic job. This was largely because, where we grew up, there were no real bars. The nearby large city had somewhat of a nightlife, but suburbia is not exactly a drinker's paradise. Whether it was the local Chili's or the dingy "pub" where the alcoholics hung out, the establishments had a hard time getting patrons to spend their birthdays serving up Bud Lights.

This is not the case here. In this city, we have a world of not-quite-chic bars ready to embrace the Cocktail fantasies of investment bankers and consultants alike. For shockingly no money down, these watering holes will open their doors to yuppie dreams. One need only look at the "real" bartenders glaring at their "guest" counterparts though, to realize that the whole thing is but a mirage.

To you, our dear friends who aspire to pour, we bring this reality check. For the ladies with the spaghetti tops and glittery eye shadow, you are in fact being looked at like a prime rib. For the guys with the button downs opened up, no one actually thinks this makes you blue collar. And to all those who lead us down this wayward path of the pseudo-party, we don't think we should have to tip. Our presence at this shit hole should be gift enough.

And, before you even ask, we don't want to go to your "guest stripper" party either...or at least, I don't. Mr. J might be willing to support you on that one.

Ms. J

Friday, November 04, 2005

I Hear Ugly People


One of the things you get used to in this city is noise. You can't help but be inundated with all types of noise. Which is why it's especially unsettling when you find yourself put off by a noise.

This afternoon, I had the misfortune of sitting next to someone emitting this type of noise. He seemed like a perfectly normal person, which somehow made it even more uncomfortable. During the extended period which I sat next to him, he would periodically grunt. Initially, I didn't even realize it was him. Once I did realize it though, it became impossible to focus on anything else.

Comparing the grunts to other noises, I first thought of pigs. This wasn't particularly unpleasant. I rather like pigs. Upon discovering that the noise was my very un-pig-like seat mate though, this image flew out the window. I then focused on the grunt frequency, which made me think of people moving pianos. Although a definitive drop from the pig imagery, this was also not horribly unpleasant...and that's when it happened. It occurred to me what the grunts really sounded like. Sex.

From that point forward, I couldn't stand it, nor could I remotely concentrate on anything else. Everytime I heard one of these low short grunts, all I could think about was the 30-something unattractive dude sitting next to me engaged in various sexual acts. This is not to say that I visualized myself in any of these images. If I had been even remotely attracted to him, that would've arguably been an improvement. No, I had the sort of nightmarish flashes that one associates with mentions of your parents doing the deed. Accountanty-looking guy jerking off. Accountanty-looking guy with Paris Hilton. Accountanty-looking guy in leather, with Tom Cruise.

It was one of those truly disturbing moments where, you desperately don't WANT to be thinking about something, and suddenly you can think of nothing else. The absolute worst part was, I soon realized that Accountanty-looking guy had absolutely zero control over the grunting. Although I couldn't exactly ask him, it appeared to be either an anxiety or respiratory tick. All of this combined to make me both horrified by my own imagination, and incredibly shamed at the apparent perviness of my subconscious.

The moral of this story is that I have since purchased some ear plugs. I plan on wearing them whenever I leave the sanctity of my apartment. There is the very real possiblity I may be hit by an errant taxi, but if it will keep the bad people out of my head, it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

Ms. J

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I Heart Moldova

And now, for a completely random post...

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine sent me this link. http://www.big-boys.com/articles/numanuma.html. Mr. J tells me it was all the rage a year ago. I'm a little behind the times. Like most people, I found the singing fat guy hilarious. Who says there's no real artistic content on the web?

Unlike most people though, I have since decided that this song "Dragostea Din Tei" is the BEST SONG EVER. (Or, it is this week, for my feeble attention span.) I am such a huge fan, that I managed to find a link to this: http://www.yatv.com/video/yatv2_video_n_249134_1.html.

There are a number of things that make this video a musical triumph in my mind. Firstly, there's the fact that they appear to be dancing on the wing of a plane. Second, there's the beefy anime men who last appeared as backup for the Village People. Third, and perhaps most importantly, they're singing in Romanian. My working knowledge of Romanian is currently limited to the lyrics of this song, but thus far, I like it lots.

I also find it fascinating that this group emerged from Moldova, which is apparently one of the poorest countries in Europe. Which thus leads us to the obvious question of, who discovered these people? Is there Moldovan Idol? Were these guys minding their own business in their absurdly tight clothes, speaking Romanian, when someone was like "Hey! What the world needs is Moldovan Pop!" Or, is it simply like Mark has suggested, "The music industry has a long history of taking advantage of poor countries." All very real possibilities.

In the meantime, I am starting an O-zone fan club. Knowledge of Moldova is optional, although obviously preferred.

Ms. J

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Hey Baby


As I walked home from buying groceries last night, a couple asked me out. The man initially reached out to me with a "Hello there!" I ignored him. The woman then said "Excuse me.." Since couples don't usually try to pick you up, I stopped thinking that they were tourists in need of directions. She then said "Are you free this evening for a date?" Bewildered, I shook my head in the negative and quickly shuffled off. This particular event had never happened to me before. Which is not to say that it's a totally absurd occurence in this city.

Growing up in the burbs somewhere in the middle of America, you don't generally get hit on in daily life. Bumbling along within the safety of an armored SUV, everyone pretty much minds their own business. I'm not even sure how to hit on a random-passerby in the burbs. I suppose you could roll down your window and gesticulate at them from your car? Most likely though, they would be too preoccupied with their cd changer/cell phone/GSM tracking device to notice. Either that, or they would think you were pointing out a flat.

In the city, on the other hand, getting hit on is an every day occurrence. When I first moved here, I thought myself quite the hottie. Now, I realize that it's definitely not me. I've emerged from my apartment, with eye crust and drool remnants flaking my face, and some dude will still say "hey beautiful." There are two responses to this. The first is the obvious that it's incredibly demeaning. New York men should not feel it their duty to haggle anyone without a Y chromosome. The second is that, though annoying, it's somewhat validating. Like most people, I've never been hugely confident about my looks. In some ways, it's nice to get a thumbs up, even it if is by a passing food delivery person.

All of that said, if there ever comes a day when I don't get harassed, part of me will likely welcome the triumph of not being viewed as a piece of meat. The other part of me will probably just bawl my eyes out.