Thursday, March 25, 2010

36 Hours in New York: A Subway Grope and Some Flaming Cheese

Hello from the Boltbus! I was up in New York on some freelance writing business for the past day and a half and managed to fit in after-hours visits with Mancini and Caitlin.

I got groped on the subway while I was there. It was gross. I thought someone's purse was wedged against me, and then as the #2 stopped at 72nd street I realized it was a hand--a cupped, stroking hand. I jumped and turned around just in time to see the doors open and the groper--a relatively professional-looking guy in a Burberry coat and premium denim--stop on the edge of the platform and turn around and watch me neutrally as the doors closed.

Subway gropes are a relatively common problem in NYC--I would say 80% of my female friends have endured one--but that was the first time it'd happened to me. When I lived up there, I always wondered what I'd do if it did. When I read a magazine article about a woman who grabbed a groper's hand, thrust it up, and said "who does this belong to??", I thought yeah. That's me.

But it wasn't. I froze. I barely even mustered a dirty look while he stared at me from the platform. Then I got off at the next stop and furiously went through all the great reactions I could have had. Scenarios ranged from the obvious (SMACK!) to the esoteric ("Excuse me? Are we in the Bauhaus Village? Because I think I just felt Walter GROPE-i-us!"). Then I began to feel like George Costanza, thinking all day about the line he should have shouted in that movie theater, and then I felt even dirtier for thinking that because George actually wants to go back into the theater so he can shout "that's gotta hurt" and what did that make me if I was fantasizing about going back and...

Oh, I'll get over it. Some creep touched my butt. It happens. It was just one more eye-opening experience in 36 hours of them. Caitlin told me that I've been mispronouncing "Bon Iver" this whole time. Was I literally the last person on Earth saying "bahn EYEver" instead of "bone eeVER"? I also discovered that in two years of dating a Greek American in my late teens, I managed to miss a delicious dish called Saganaki, which is flambeed cheese that they light on fire in front of you, terrifying fellow diners to your limitless glee. (Get it at Uncle Nick's Ouzaria if you can.) I ate a lot of cheese. I went to Dylan's candy bar and ate jelly beans. And I found out that Barnes and Noble now has free WiFi in all its stores, and I ended up spending about 10 hours there.

Net positive.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

You Missed Out! Joanna Newsom

I'm one of those people who has to consume Joanna Newsom's albums in small doses, like Cowgirl Creamery cheeses, because they're so strong and tangy that I quickly get overwhelmed by the taste. With that in mind, I wasn't sure whether to go to her concert. Thank G. I did. It was awesome--even better than Leslie and the Lys.

There's nothing about Joanna that doesn't get ten times better live. She tours with two singing violinists, a trombonist, a drummer, and a guy who plays the guitar and recorder. She and her music giggle and sparkle in a way they just don't do in a studio.

She's also a lot hotter than she looks in pictures:

(Picture via)

I mean, she's not hideola there, but something about her is transfixing when you're in the same room. Maybe I felt that way because my whole idea of what a beautiful woman should look like comes from a sixth-grade Madeleine L'Engle binge. There's a passage in A Swiftly Tilting Planet (or is it Many Waters?) when L'Engle talks about how her nerdy girl hero, Meg Murry, has grown up and ditched her glasses for contacts and grown a long mane of chestnut hair. Joanna Newsom has that hair. She's also mind-bogglingly talented.

She's a very precise musician: last night, she was so freaked out that one of the F strings on her harp was going flat that she paused the concert several times to tune it. After a rendition of "Inflammatory Writ" that transformed the song from simple Newsom caterwaul to a melancholy Appalachian waltz--here's an approximation of the sound, although the real thing was so much better that it brought tears to my eyes--she threw up her hands and said "I messed up my favorite note!"

Nobody could tell. Her perfectionism was just a charming part of her monologue last night, but I think it accounts for why her albums aren't as lush as her live performance. She seems like the sort of artist in danger of tinkering the vitality out of things.

What a concert! It was a lot better than the last thing I saw at Sixth and I Synagogue: a big fat guy in a blue suit singing songs about Grover Cleveland's erotic relationship with his goddaughter.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sorry I haven't posted in a while! I have been working a lot and also lazy about documenting my adventures, which have included another Britpop Night at the Black Cat with Caitlin and a lot of beer in Charlottesville with my sister. I'm going Joanna Newsom at Sixth and I tonight. That should be a great place to start fresh...maybe Andy Samberg will be there!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Adventures In My Middle School Diaries

I'm in my childhood bedroom right now. Sometimes when I'm here I'll pull out one or two of my old diaries to remember what it felt like to fall in love for the first time, take my first couple of big solo trips, first meet the people who mean the most to me now, etc. As I've said before, people with FOMO tend to write about themselves a lot (look at all the cool things I did! Look at how I am drinking life to the lees!).

The first diary I pulled out tonight was from creative writing camp, age 14. Turns out I was kind of a bitch.

One or two people told me I was a bitch back then. I never believed them. I thought I was maligned. I thought people just didn't understand me because I was awkward. *I* could never be mean. Oops.

God, 14 was such a hard age. So much rage and drama over such stupid things. Now I'm looking at another notebook from December of that year--I never could get through a whole blank book before wanting to start a fresh new one. There are a lot of rants against my parents. "She and Dad nearly grounded me for not picking up laundry a few days ago! They've never grounded me before, and they want to ground me now for shitty reasons like that???....I think they want to stop me from going out with [thoroughly disinterested 9th grade boyfriend]. ...Though I would never ever consider it myself (I can't stress that enough--I love life way too much), I now understand why some teenage couples commit suicide together after encountering friction from their parents."


Then there's the Christmas entry a few pages after that. Christmas was tough for me that year and probably baffling for my parents. It's really embarrassing to think about now: how I opened my presents with a mounting sense of dismay, looking at earrings and sweaters I judged unsuitable for a cool ninth grader like me and toys that I knew would end up with all the stuffed animals I'd just hidden in the attic. How I tore into one present in particular--a long rectangular box from the afore-mentioned boyfriend--thinking it was the first piece of jewelry I'd ever received from a guy, and found a pen. How after everything was out of the wrapping paper, I went up to my room, put on my new Billy Joel CD, hissed along to a few lines from "Piano Man" (And the piano sounds like a carnival! And the microphone smells like a beer!)...and sobbed. My parents saw the tear stains in my eyes shortly after that. I think we all shed more tears before the day was over.

Here's what I wrote in my diary two days later: "Got lots of new stuff...I loved a lot of it." I had spent the whole day with a heart that felt broken for no reason I could figure out, and then I went to my diary and smiled for posterity because I didn't want God or my mom or me in 10 years to see.

I'm almost crying again now. I am so glad to be grown up. I want to hug my parents. I want to hug 14-year-old me.

P.S. Have you heard about this play, Mortified? There's a DC chapter.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Two Things I Love Most in Life: Alcohol and Peeps

Peeps Week Happy Hour! Peeps Week Happy Hour! Peeps Week Happy Hour!

(March 23, 7pm, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St NW, $20)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mad Men Drinks at Mad Men Prices

NEWS FLASH: I just learned via CityShopGirl that until March 31, Occidental Grill on Pennsylvania Avenue is serving happy hour drinks at 1967 prices. There are conditions: it's "with the purchase of any bar menu item," and you can only get one cocktail at that price. But hey, if you were planning on eating out anyway?

Another recent CityShopGirl deal: you can get a free $60 haircut with new stylist David Maier at XYZ Salon in Adams Morgan if you call them and book an appointment for some time before March 30. You have to mention the "CityShopGirl Deal." All their free appointments could be full at this point, but it's worth a shot. Fellow nomofomist Janet had her free appointment last week, and her hair looks AMAZING.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

In Honor of the People Who Nudge Into Me Repeatedly on the Subway When I Already Feel Gross Because I Overslept and Didn't Have Time to Shower

My name is William Tell:
When little oppressions touch me
Arrows hidden in my cloak
whisper, "Ready, ready."

--William Stafford

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ani D vs. St. V

9:30 Club and I are like an old married couple now. I’ve been there three times in the past week: St. Vincent on Feb. 24, Ani DiFranco last night, and the argument with the manager over those State Radio tickets in between. Along the way there’s been boredom, joy, rage, a little bit of dancing, a lot of Abita Purple Haze, and at least one affair with the Verizon Center (oh baby, I’ll never leave you for the NBA again!).

I think we’re in a good place now. Last night, I discovered that there’s a bar in the basement. I’ve been going there for 8 years and had no clue. How did I miss that?? The beer’s a little expensive—I drunkenly asked for “the cheapest thing you have” and was handed a $6 bottle of Miller Lite—but it’s a lot of fun to hang out after the show with the hardcore fans who’ve stuck around, hoping the artist will wander down from the dressing rooms.

As for the concerts: Ani won. Hands down. I wasn’t expecting to say that: I didn’t go into her show a devoted fan, even though I’d really liked the handful of songs friends had sent me over the years (“32 Flavors,” “Loom,” "Untouchable Face," etc.). But one too many teenage experiences with unhygienic weirdos in “Here Comes Little Naked Me” t-shirts shunted her into the area of my brain reserved for tie-dye and Manic Panic.

Indeed, there was a lot of tie-dye and Manic Panic in the audience last night. But then Ani got up on stage with a tiny tight little muscular body and big eyes and a brown bouffant and four tall, reedy male bandmates towering all around her, and with one strum of her guitar she created an electric energy that didn’t go away for an hour and a half.

Aesthetically, St. Vincent’s concert shared a lot with Ani’s. St. V came onstage with a blunt haircut and a band of dudes; she stopped to monologue every couple of songs. But as my fellow 9:30-wives Liz and Christine pointed out, she just completely didn’t know how to own the crowd. Ani did.

I had heard from friends in NYC and Edinburgh that St. V was basically the Second Coming live. But as she stood on the stage in an affectedly knock-kneed way and talked? In questions? About the fact that she had to cancel a gig in Ohio? Because it turned out to be at an S&M club?, she just looked very, very young. She’s got a lot of talent, but her songs are all bright and cool and hard, like strange little baubles from another planet, and they crumble to bits when delivered nervously.

I got the impression that she had the power to jolt an audience totally primed and ready to go, but she had no clue what to do when it wasn’t. And she was SOL this time thanks to Wildbirds and Peacedrums, the angrily hip steel-drum banging opening act from Sweden.

Plus, her new haircut kind of looked like this:

Finally, she didn’t play her most popular song, and in case you couldn’t tell from before, musicians who don’t play their sing-alongs are a pet peeve of mine. GRRR. I spent the entire evening leaning forward, thinking, oh, is this the beginning of ‘Now Now’? I bet this is going to be ‘Now Now.’

Nope. There was a five-minute one-note electric “jam session” at the end (think Sigur Ros at its worst), but no ‘Now Now.’

I am an easy concertgoer to please: give me a toy with my Happy Meal, a prize with my cereal, and whatever other crap you put in there, I’ll be happy. Most people are the same way. Why do so many bands pretend otherwise?

…Ani played two or three of her greatest hits, but that wasn’t the only reason she knocked it out of the park. Her choice to do that was just part of a goodwill-covenant she threw down on the audience the instant she got onstage. She was totally there in the moment: not whining about a cancelled gig, not dreamily strumming improvisations, just focused and white-hot.

She’s got 12 years of age and 16 of solo-act experience on St. V., though. We’ll see about that Annie Clark. In the mean time:

"Untouchable Face" - Ani DiFranco

HA! BusinessWeek published an article on FOMO last month. Check out my sly self-promotion in the comments section.