Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Presto Change-O

My final day at my ex-job unearthed in me a lost artifact of sentimentality. I had a sincere heart-to-heart with my ex-boss over a delicious lunch, during which he thanked me for being a real asset to the company and wished me the best of luck in my future endeavors. His kindness made me feel a little nostalgic about my cube, my crazy scientist authors, my work on obscure and unreadable medical texts, and my imminent departure.

Hah. Gotcha. Fuck if that happened.

At around ten o'clock on Friday, when it became abundantly clear that my boss was not taking me out for the usual "Thanks for being my bitch!" meal, any vestige of tenderness was squashed like a roach. My goodbye went approximately follows:

Boss: So, I wanted to take you out for lunch, but I'm really busy.
Me: Uh...that's okay...
Boss: Why don't you give me your number so I can ask you any questions about your projects that come up after you leave? And maybe we can meet up for lunch on Monday.
Me: I'll be at work thirty blocks away on Monday, dickhead.
Boss: Yeah, like I said, I'm just really swamped.
Me: I hope you swallow your tongue.
Boss: Okay. Now what's the status of the permissions on this book?

I may have altered my half of the conversation a little bit, but the rest of it is pretty much verbatim. In truth, he was far too busy...

a)...for the entire two weeks that he knew I was quitting.

b)...to take me out for so much as a cup of coffee to, for the first time, show any kind of appreciation for getting several disastrous books published with no legal problems.

c)...doing things like talking on the phone to his family and leaving early.

Whatever, I think the way I felt leaving my old job is sort of like the way I feel about the Paris Hilton single. I hate it, and that's a relief. If I liked it I'd have to second guess the entire world. The things that made my last day of work infuriating were the very same things that made hundreds of preceding days unbearable, which is why I decided to leave in the first place, though none of that changes the fact that I expected to depart my cube with my gut full of gratitude pasta. Gnocchi wouldn't quite make up for the daily mountain of crap an assistant shovels, but at least I wouldn't have left hungry.

Brad and Ben, the other remaining assistant, made excellent beer-drinking buddies after I made my final exit. Kai and Andrea also showed up to drown the memories of that stupid job. I think this was a fitting end.

So now I'm at this new job, and I have trouble finding the bathroom and I don't have any Post-Its. I'm not sure how to transfer phone calls and I've got to get used to a Mac again. It sucks to start over in order to move up, but I'm thankful I've gotten a job pretty close to what I actually want to do.

Hating what you do becomes a part of you, like a bruise on an apple. Eight hours a day spent doing shit work for people you can't stand grows a big, bitter tumor in your brain that poisons the rest of your day and infects every conversation you have. Explaining what you do isn't a matter of giving a job title; it's this monologue of excuses and aspirations that sounds angry at best and pathetic when delivered poorly. I serve pitas but I play the harp. I edit surgery books but I love fiction. So many people I know have a Peter Parker/Spiderman life, except their Peter Parker days are extra shitty because the Spiderman jobs are mostly filled by kids with the right kind of connections.

The only thing worse than trying to sustain dual careers simultaneously is having to leave your superhero costume in the closet all the time.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

One Foer the Money, Two Foer the Show

According to the Observer (via Gawker), the youngest Foer just moved to New York. He's an expert memorizer writing a book on the topic. In his spare time he'll be freelancing for a couple of local rags. Some schlock outfit called the Times, and some other piece of trash called National Geographic. Isn't that one of the ones they give away free on the subway in the morning?

How old is this Foer? I believe Jonathan Safran and Franklin still qualify as wunderkind, don't they? This Josh Foer, a Foer I didn't even know existed, is, like, a fetalkind. Wunderfoetus? I don't know, I'm not some genius demon baby whose dad is obviously the dictionary.

I have two younger brothers, making me the Jonathan Safran Foer of the Cacace children. Except instead of having unusual literary talent in common and passing on connections with the most respected magazines in the country, we have a love for Chinese takeout in common, and connections with the most respected and only Starbucks in Yorktown. Which makes me want to bully the Foers like nothing else.

Which is proof that I am better than Jonathan Safran Foer.

If it is given that I am a nerd and I am the the JSF of my family, and I want to give a serious nuclear wedgie to JSF and his little brothers because they're just such precious nerds, it follows that the Foers suck because even another nerd wants to make them cry on the playground.

Meet me at three by the monkeybars, losers.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Holiday. Celebrate.

On the subway this morning, half asleep and so angry at the woman leaning her whole body against the pole I was trying to hold, I wished like nothing else that I would get to work and find the building leveled by a freak earthquake. Nobody hurt, none of the surrounding buildings toppled, nothing disastrous. I just wanted so badly come up out of the subway to see the (unscathed) doorman standing on the curb, shaking his head at the pile of rubble that used to be my office. "Well," someone important from my company would say, "Guess we can't go to work. Of course we'll still pay you. Double, for all this emotional stress. And for the priceless and irreplaceable cubicle artwork that was, sadly, destroyed. Here is a gargantuan check with so many zeros on the end it'll make you crave a bowl of Cheerios."

It's about 76,000 degrees outside (Fahrenheit), and my skin is melting off at the thought of going out to pick up lunch later this afternoon. I hate summer, I really do. People who voluntarily move to tropical climates mystify me. I would never want to live in a place where the weather report actually tells you not to go outside during the hours between ten o'clock in the morning and four o'clock in the afternoon. I would pass out the moment I left climate control, and a herd of retirees would trample my body to pulp on the way to a buffet.

I could never survive in Florida. I do, however, sort of understand the appeal of living a permavacation. I'd love a day off, or several in a row, or two hot months with nothing else to do besides collect a paycheck and sit on my (expanding, sedentary) ass. Since I'm starting a new job at the beginning of next week it's possible that I won't have any vacation days at all this year. I'm excited about the new place I'm going to work, but when I realize that I may work every day between now and January it's very easy to envy people with the kind of job or wealth that lets them take off whole months at a time.

Of course, there are plenty of people in the world who work every day, not just every business day, doing jobs that are much more difficult than photocopying several pages in a row. But still, still, I want a break. It shocks me every summer that this is how life goes, that past the event horizon of Graduating College there isn't a whole season of reprieve from responsibilities waiting at the end of every June.

When I was in high school, it seemed like the stress of trigonometry and the PSATs was unbearable. Through tenth and eleventh grade I had this sort of weird group of friends who would, whenever school got hectic or we got bored, declare the next day Prada Day. Looking back on it now I'm not sure where we got this absurdist, basically Dada idea from, but Prada Day could happen on any day of the week, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the designer. Things various Prada Days did include:

-Taping flyers up on every tape-able surface.
-Possibly also confetti. I seem to remember something about confetti.
-A donkey pinata filled with condoms and office supplies.
-The Vice Principal confiscating said pinata, as well as my scarf, which was what it was hanging from.
-Cupcakes.
-I think balloons, one time.
-For some reason, enemas. Just the product, not the use of.
-Cartoon renderings of enema bottles.

Anything you could produce from your locker that wasn't normally produce-from-a-locker-able was part of the celebration, as was fielding questions from the rest of the student body (and a good portion of the faculty) about what, exactly, was going on. I'm still not entirely positive myself, but at the time invoking the Prada Day cause was enough to convince my mother to drive me to the grocery store to buy cake mix and frosting enough for fifty cupcakes, each decorated with "PRADA" across the top.

I'm not saying it was sane.

The point wasn't the actual celebrations, though. I think the whole crazy mess was about having a holiday in the middle of some week in March, when the only thing to look forward to was getting back your English essay.

The middle of June in an office is no better. And the looks you get from your cubicle neighbors when you try to hang a donkey from the ceiling are much more severe.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Jesus MySpaced Me, This I Know

It's a horrible thing to have large portions of your life exist on, or revolve around the internet. Okay, maybe not horrible, but didn't your fifth grade teacher ever tell you you have to grab your readers right at the beginning? For the sake of making this first paragraph here tolerable, we're gonna go with horrible.

But you know what I mean. There's nothing worse in the world than having to say "Someone totally left this random comment on my blog," out loud and in front of people who probably assume, like I do, that when a stranger says "blog" what they really mean is "Livejournal where they confess crushes and talk about cutting themselves strictly for the street cred." It's terrible to have to say your screenname out loud. Or the worst, the very worst, is trying to tell someone about something funny that happened to you on Myspace.

(Add me.)

But sometimes something funny did happen to you on (whisper it with me: Myspace) and you really need to tell someone at lunch, in public, in a nice restaurant, or worse, in the middle of your office which is filled with grown people, that the latest in a string of strange people to send you a message was a guy whose only picture makes it look like he's peed his pants. And then about the Christian youth group who tried to get you to be their friend, except you're not Christian, or a student, or living in rural Pennsylvania as the youth group name specifies you should be. And that when you call out the Youth Director for involving you in lame and misguided marketing, you end up in a fight with him about how Christians are persecuted in America today, even though the person you are arguing with is a young, white, male member of the dominant religion of the entire country, so maybe he should probably shut up about being persecuted, and then you have to block the youth group from contacting you anymore, which is really funny, because it's a YOUTH GROUP.

Anyway.

Happy birthday to internet royal Brad Walsh, who turns twenty-four years young today. He says also hates it when people talk about the internet, but if you you say "roflmao" or "lol" or "whatevs" or "IMHO" to his face like it's a real word he will laugh like a sonofabitch. Which is why everyone should go leave him a LOLLY WHATEVSDAY on his MYSPACE where his has LIKE A MILLION FRIENDS and you can send him a WINK or a POKE or a SMILEY or whatever else you can do electronically these days that would get you arrested or at least smacked in person.

IMHO.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I Love a Parade

Sunday was Puerto Rico Day, and since I'm not Puerto Rican I wasn't at the parade. Well, actually, the biggest reason I wasn't at the parade was that Marc Anthony was the grand marshal, and I have my suspicions that a zombie apocalypse is nigh and that dude is ground fucking zero.

Instead I was burning to a crisp at Coney Island, where there were still enough people walking around with Puerto Rican flag bandanas and Puerto Rican flag capes to remind me what day it was. There was also a tiny girl, maybe five or six years old, walking around in an impossibly short jersey dress. She could've been wearing it over her bathing suit, so it's not a given that she was a little toddler hooker, but doesn't that make any story better?

Anyway, so, short little jersey dress on a five-year-old, and printed on the dress was Betty Boop, also wearing a jersey dress. And then underneath the whole thing it says "Boricua."

That's just wrong. I mean, factually. I think Betty's German.

I kind of wish I had a cultural reason to tie flags to the antenna of my car and shut down important traffic arteries in midtown Manhattan. The powers that decide such things have yet to declare a Half-Italian Half-Polish Non-Vegetarian-Even-Though-Everyone-Thinks-So Myopic Chubby Sunburned with Visible Roots Day. My fully Polish mom once got to be a little Polish schoolgirl on a float in some big New York parade for some Polish holiday I know nothing about because I'm only half-Polish and the extent of my cultural affiliation is a weird inherited pronunciation of the word "pierogi."

My parade would be so much better than that. Who wouldn't drag a lawn chair to the curb to watch me roll by on a float, inhaling cannoli, telling jokes about how many Polish guys it takes to screw in a lightbulb, and gingerly applying aloe to my back? What's Puerto Rico got on that? Besides an entire culture and history and music and food and celebrities including very famous Jennifer Lopez?

And thus the curtain falls on Act One of this blog, because I cannot for the life of me think of a way to get from Jennifer Lopez to the thing I'm going to talk about next. The curtain rises on me, still sitting here, still typing, except this time about something else equally unimportant.

So on Saturday I was walking around St. Marks with Brad while Kai was getting a big tattoo inked onto her forearm, and I really, really had to go to the bathroom. In a neighborhood that still considers itself counter-cultural the Starbucks are few and far between, so did that gotta-go shuffle back a few blocks to where I knew I'd seen one. Of course, there was a line for the single occupancy toilet. Of course there was. Of course there would be one lone toilet in an establishment that serves almost exclusively liquids.

I didn't even stop to buy my guilt coffee. That is how urgent the situation was.

So there are three or so guys in front of me on a line that is not moving nearly fast enough to avert a big, wet disaster when another dude joins the line behind me. And he's a talker. At first this is sort of cool, because on his approach from the door he looks sort of cute.

My standards are not hard to meet (male, alive, young enough not to have sired me). Even so, this guy managed to take a headlong leap from the high dive of my heart pretty much as soon as he opened his mouth, progressing downward toward his big splash of lameness, which was: "And 'Scarface' too."

How did we get there? Follow me, my friends.

There were pleasantries, which were. Then: "It's so lame that this city doesn't have, like, human nature under control. There should be bathrooms everywhere! It's human nature."

Then: "I'm soooo wasted."

Then: "I'm in a band. I'm touring. I'm not even from New York, but you guys are all so chill. Seriously, you guys are all so chill. L.A. is a cesspool of shit, man. I'm sorry, I'm wasted."

Then, after I asked what band he was in: "Well, do you know like hardcore stuff? We're pretty hardcore. We're best friends with, like, Dillinger. We're really tight. I gotta get more tattoos, though."

Then, to a guy sitting in the corner reading: "DUDE YOUR INK IS AWESOME."

Then, the grand finale: "Yeah, I've got this whole sleeve planned out, with quotes from 'Fight Club.'"

And everyone all together now: "And 'Scarface' too."

If there is ever a Dissapointing Lame Guy parade, I think I found the grand marshal.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Shedding My Skin

When you were a kid, did you ever make some horrible face at your mother only to have her retort, "Yeah, keep it up. You want it to freeze like that?" It was just the kind of threat that got me to stop crossing my eyes and sticking out my tongue, because even though I knew she was probably bluffing (when was the last time you saw some girl on the street with flared nostrils and her pinkies glued to the corners of her stretched mouth?), it would make for a shitty future (do you want to be that girl? No.).

Anyway, this whole idea that if you keep doing something, it's going to be stuck with you forever, uninvited. There may be some truth to that. Why? I think I've used so many outlandish extended metaphors in my life that I have become one.

I got a new job. And soon I will be literally shedding my skin.

On Friday I got a phone call from a company I interviewed with a few weeks ago, and they offered me a really exciting job doing exactly the kind of work I've been wishing for these past nineteen months. Then, on Sunday, I spent a few hours on the beach at Coney Island and got a horrible sunburn on my back which will, in about a day, be peeling off.

I will never use an exaggerated metaphor again. This hurts like a motherfucker.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Vocabulary Lesson for Senator Brownback

"It is not bigotry to define marriage as a union of a man and a woman," said Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas.
--NYT, 6/6/06

I've had a long and complicated relationship with Senator Brownback. Last year he proposed the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, legislation based on dubious science and written specifically to manipulate women considering abortion. The fight we're in today doesn't have anything to do with his "culture of life" views, but I thought it couldn't hurt to frame his statement within a larger context.

In this case, the context is a set of rigid, intolerant, and hateful views.

When I read Senator Brownback's statement above, I went over to trusty Dictionary.com to check the definition of the word "bigotry." Turns out that, actually, it is bigotry to define marriage as a union as strictly between a man and a woman. The definition of bigotry is "the intolerance and prejudice of a bigot."

Denying same sex couples the rights and recognition that come with legal marriage based on personal distaste is about as textbook a case of intolerance as I can think of.

So, you know, rather than let a senator embarrass himself over a little thing like vocabulary, I printed it out the definition. Then I stuck on a little Post-it that said, "Actually, it IS." Then I mailed it to him.

You can do the same! Just print this, add your own flair (highlighting "intolerance" is always fun..I used blue! It's in the flag!) and then send it off. Man, I love the Internet:

Senator Sam Brownback
303 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: (202) 224-6521
Fax: (202) 228-1265

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Catatonic

When I got off the train in Brooklyn last night at roughly a million o'clock, the only other person on the street was this skittish old woman dragging one of those wheely grocery carts behind her. When I came out of the station she was halfway down the next block, frozen, staring at a cat that was also frozen, staring at her. I felt like I'd walked into some pathetic, lonely rewrite of the showdown at the OK Corral.

She wheeled off when she saw me coming, but stopped a little further down the street when she spotted another stray cat. She produced a container of food from her little cart--not a tin of catfood, either, like, a prepared take-out container of home cookin'--put it down on the ground, wheeled a short distance away and froze, waiting to see if the cat would eat.

This kept all the way down the street until she hung a right and I kept walking toward home, and it was too sad to be funny, too funny to be sad, and too strange to forget. This seventy year old woman takes it upon herself to cook up dinner for the ten thousand stray cats in my neighborhood and hand deliver it at three-thirty in the morning. On the one hand, this is very nice of her. On the other hand, I have this tiny suspicion she's the kind of martyr who rolls her eyes and pushes "door close" in the elevator after every person gets off on their floor, because someone has to press the button and move this goddamn elevator along, and if she doesn't do it, who will? WHO WILL? (Full disclosure: I have been this person when I am really hungry or really have to pee.)

But then, on the third hand (foot?), it's so depressing it causes me physical pain.

It seems like the times of year I feel most lonely are the times when I can walk outside at night, and I wonder if it's just the tropes of romantic comedy that make me feel that way. Jon Cusack never stood outside anyone's window in snowpants and a ski cap.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Postcards from the Couch

There is cataclysmic thunder and lightning outside, lightning that looks like it's going to come right in through the window and fry my brains. I love thunder, but I'd be lying if I said lightning doesn't scare me. It's electricity! Coming from the sky! If you say that doesn't freak you out, you're a fibber. Just because you have it under control in your house doesn't mean that it's benign if it rains from the heavens. What if it started pouring knives? Scalding hot Chicken and Stars?

The last week or so of my life has basically been eating, watching "Little Britain," and eating with people I'm telling about "Little Britain." Especially when it gets hot out, I want to recede into my house like a bear to a cave, and finding shows as unbelievably funny as this one are life rafts on a sea of bottomless boredom. "Little Britain," the extras on "Little Britain," and Good Friend delivery -- the greatest burrito and Chinese express in the five boroughs. This is everything you need to know about me.

The National Spelling Bee is on tonight, and these children probably shouldn't be on television. I was them. I had their poor fashion sense and not even the benefit of their IQ. Yes, I agree that they are incredibly talented, and intelligent, and probably will go on to win Pulitzers and Nobel Prizes, but they are not cute. They are awkward. N-E-R-D-Y, awkward. They have decided to televise--prime time and to millions!--the worst phase of human development through children whose most social skill so far is phonics. Can this not be on the radio? Or postponed until they, like me, realize in their sophomore year of college that using hair products or plucking your eyebrows isn't selling out? I can't even bear the thought that people have copies of the Mildred E. Strang Middle School sixth grade year book in which I appear like Our Lady of Orthodontia. I am terrified one of them will suddenly realize that millions upon millions of households have their pimples all zoomed in on their screens and die right in the middle of "lophophytosis," which I just learned is a contagious skin disease of fowls caused by a fungus.

"Little Britain," Good Friend, and watching televised dorkery. This is everything you need to know about me.

A few days ago, on the way to work, I noticed this three or four year old boy sitting on his grandmother's lap who was wearing a baseball cap that said "Princess." I felt sort of bad, but when wondered if maybe he had really gender progressive parents, and realized he will probably be the type of kid to grow up and enter his college creative writing workshops with an arsenal of stories of the most exquisitely poignant and painful type.

"Little Britain," Good Friend, televised dorkery, envying the future careers of unfortunately dressed kids. This is everything you need to know about me.

The other night, I had this really involved dream after Brad and I almost went to see an advanced screening of The Prairie Home Companion movie. I was dating Robert Altman, geriatric, present day Robert Altman, and living in his house, which was really nice and well decorated because in my dream he was also an accomplished painter. My whole family and a few friends came to visit me at the Altman pad, and they kept questioning my decision to date someone so much older than I am. I remember kissing his wrinkly cheek and assuring everyone that I was very deeply in love, but thinking in my head "this is kind of gross, but at least he's rich."

I do not have a crush on Robert Altman. This is everything you need to know about me.
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