Saturday, December 29, 2007

Circuitous Routes of a Young Woman's Life

My scissors clipped at long strands of hair, falling slowly to the floor while my subject cringed in hopes I wouldn't take too much off. It was a few minutes before we were relaxed enough to allow the story-telling to begin. Haircuts—whether at a barber shop or in an apartment's kitchen—carry on a strange societal tradition of the cuttee talking as though he or she is on a shrink's couch. Floodgates open; thoughts fall out of a person's mouth in an uninterrupted stream of consciousness. I trimmed and combed while listening. Hair shorter and stories told, another wall breaks down. A foot takes one step forward. Breath comes just a bit easier: We're all going to make it.

A young man sitting next to me on the Greyhound stopped in the middle of our conversation years ago to look out the window. Turning back to face me, he asked, "Ya know what romp-a-rooms are? The little rooms for kids where they can like, defy gravity? You remind me of those."
"Why?" I asked him.
"Just cuz you remind me of a place I've been."

Sometimes you get hopelessly lost and end up at an impossible spot you never could have gotten to even with directions. The planets align and you're led, as if by a water-finding stick or dowser. You arrive somewhere maybe you didn't want to go; or you get to a place different from where you thought you were headed. Maybe you weren't thinking at all, and then there you were. Your metaphorical hitchhiking thumb is in the air already: You haven't got a choice but to take the ride, along some circuitous route leading you to the people and places you most want to call home.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

News & Culture

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News briefs and reviews of The Princess Bride, The Kubrick Collection, The Dark Crystal, and Em & Lo's Buh-Bye!

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[Originally published in Playgirl, December 2007]

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Where Else Were We?

Vaya sirena màs guapa que acaba de salir del mar
(look at the lovely mermaid that just came out of the sea)

We dipped our feet in the freezing ocean water a little before midnight. God, the moon was bright. I was the closest to prayer I'd been in years. Writing this all down the following day, I would try to record a sentiment of never having left—but would quickly discover there wasn't anything with which to build a case. Yes, everything is the same. But everything is also very different; changed within the span of an entrance into and exit out of the sea.

You can go from town to town in this country and have that same sense: each city different, but so many commonalities. Always a Main Street, always a library. Always a white-haired man handing out pamphlets about the fast-track to salvation (Jesus, doncha know). Part of the adventure is finding differences in the places you go so you can keep track of your movements. Like, the smell of a place: an open field, or an attic, pillow, or the inside of a book. "It smells the same," he told me of a small town in Texas. "Just like I remember it." Just like the smell of the space where a neck meets a shoulder blade; or a tree just after the first leaves have fallen in autumn.

The man standing behind a bodega check-out counter watched my approach, keeping his eyes on me as he rang up the purchase. "Did you just get out of work?" he asked. "No," I said, smiling. "I was at a friend's show." "So now what?" "I'm heading home," I told him, then laughed. "Now you know everything."

He handed me a small bag with my receipt. We locked eyes. "Next time," he said, "I will know more."

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Lift Me Up

Image and video hosting by TinyPicIsraeli plastic surgeon Eyal Gur awaits approval for his new breast-lift procedure currently in its testing phase on none other than pigs. The "internal bra" features a thin titanium bra-like frame implanted under the skin with silicone cups to hold the breasts up. Dr. Gur said the procedure will be quicker (40 minutes long), less invasive (local anesthesia only) and less expensive (no hospital stay) than today's breast lifts.

It never ceases to amaze me that it's men coming up with this shit.

[Originally posted at Playgirl.com/blog]

Man Boobs

Image and video hosting by TinyPicJust when you thought people couldn't stoop any lower on the Internet, some freaks over in the UK came up with the ever-brilliant Manboobs site, the tagline for which reads “The only site that says ‘We’re fat and we’re proud’ and then quickly puts its T-shirt back on.”

You can submit a shot of your manboobs, check out other guys' manboobs, get your manboobs into a women's magazine, and scope the top-10 manboobs of the week. Even better, you can now befriend the Manboobs masterminds on Facebook. We never thought we would live to see the day.

Someone needs to be taken out back and shot. Quickly. Ah, who're we kidding? We became Facebook friends with these weirdos as quickly as we could.

[Originally posted at Playgirl.com/blog]

Thursday, November 1, 2007

News & Culture

Reviews of Factory Girl, Meatballs, The Last Mimzy, and Muse's latest tour
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[Originally published in Playgirl, November 2007]

Monday, October 1, 2007

News & Culture

Reviews of Elvis Presley collection and Fracture
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[Originally published in Playgirl, October 2007]

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

From the Road

Nashville is awesomeness.; Nashville is America unaffected by glamour and fads. Nashville is unobstructed music made excellent by its people's earnestness. Nashville is guitars slung over girls' and boys' shoulders. Nashville is a G-sharp harmonica blown perfectly. Nashville is honky tonk and riff raff realized.

Put me in line at a stuffy bus station waiting for the next Greyhound to roll through; and in a matter of minutes I promise I'll get right down to who I am. I'll pack light (some T-shirts, books, a flask and some PB&J's); I'll bring plenty of pens and extra film; if you'll only put me in line at the bus station.

Give me Frito/Budweiser picnics on plastic chairs in gas station parking lots after dark; give me James Joyce served fresh upon waking. Give me a journal full of blank pages, and an old beat-up 35 mm camera. The world offers herself most earnestly to those who open their arms widest.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Gang Bang: Playgirl goes gonzo over Bang Camaro

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[Originally published in Playgirl, September 2007]

News & Culture

Reviews of Cult Camp Classics, Make Your Own Sex Toys, Tejas Singh, Brooktown High
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[Originally published in Playgirl, September 2007]

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Clockworks

A homeless man with no legs frequents the front of Citarella grocery store on Sixth Avenue near my apartment. I stare at his hands as I walk by, trying to make out the titles of thick books he reads; I have yet to decipher one. On a recent stroll, I found a little bird seated next to him on the sidewalk; instead of a book, his hands held bread that he ripped up and dropped in little pieces at the bird's feet. Man-hands and birdy couldn't have been more than 4 inches apart. It was beautiful to see, as the rest of Manhattan shuffled around the three of us unawares.

If I could travel through time, I wonder, would I go backward or forward? ("I miss Nicole so much," the message said. "I want to tell her, but I'm telling you instead.") If I go back, there's that pesky business about butterflies, hurricanes, and apocalyptic effects of changing what has been. But if today is tomorrow, that's the case no matter which way I go. I hate it when I catch myself saying one thing and meaning another.

I wonder if we can know anything for sure; even down to the tiniest, most base detail. Like these atoms between my fingertips and this keyboard; I can't even really say I'm making physical contact with the keys themselves. By that "logic," is it possible that all we do is gamble on the unknown and pray for the best? But if that's so, how does a girl judge what to do, or determine what's right? If I showed the boy-version of the homeless man at Citarella video footage of him legless, dirty, feeding a small bird on a warm Manhattan afternoon, would the young child believe this was his future self? Might he look down, see himself standing on two legs, and reject my intervention? Would he then decide to go forward or back in time; would he climb into the time machine at all?

"Don't let the stresses of the real world make you forget that all it takes is a bus ticket and Finnegan," the postcard said. The next morning I gave notice that I'll be skipping town for a little bit to let that background buzz in my brain take a nice, slow coffee break (black, no sugar). All this musing [Do we sometimes feel so strongly about things because part of us views said things as open outlets; safe for the improbability of them actually being tangible?], on time travel and what might be or have been, wobbles my knees.

I waver. I blink. Long breath in; hold it, then out. I wonder if there's another way; then see there is only through. "I'm happy for you," a friend told me. "It's been a long time coming." And, after all, I suppose it has. See you guys on the other side.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Members of the Karass

Kurt Vonnegut wrote in "Cat's Cradle" of the world's two greatest social organizations: the karass, 'a team that do[es] God's Will without ever discovering what they are doing;' and the granfalloon, a 'false karass,' a people who make associations based on states, countries of origins, sporting teams, etc. 'If you wish to study a granfalloon,' Vonnegut wrote, 'just remove the skin of a toy balloon.' "The Celestine Prophecy" says if you see a stranger three separate times, they have something to tell you; maybe a lesson.

I like the sound of all these things.

It was the winter of 2001 in St. Augustine, Fla. I wandered cobblestone streets barefooted with my bohemian boyfriend, taking in the warm air, wild armadillos, and street music. Frank and Mary Schaap, two hobos who could play a mean steel guitar and tenor sax, and whose voices made you feel like you were at some speakeasy in Harlem, enchanted. I spent hours by their music's side. Their $5 CD wormed its way into many mixed tapes I made for years to come. With no Web site or working e-mail, there was no way to follow up. And though it's the strangest thing to say, I thought about them a lot and missed them. When I heard St. Augustine made street performers subject to fines or arrest, I wondered about Frank and Mary.

So it follows, naturally, that I walked through Central Park Saturday afternoon very much as I did in St. Augustine six years ago; albeit with shoes and without a heavy hiking pack or boyfriend. The second I heard his guitar, hair stood up on my arms. I lurched forward. New teeth. More wrinkles. But that voice—I crept close to his open guitar case to inspect the name on his CD: Frank Schaap.

He finished his song and looked up at me. "Nice boots," he said. It would be 15 more minutes before I could relate to him how I'd tripped through a wormhole only to find him there, in the Big Apple. This very obvious member of my karass seemed mostly unimpressed. "Yeah, Mary and I are playing a gig down in DUMBO tonight," he offered matter-of-factly. What an outlaw. I bought Frank's new CD, $15, with shakey hands. We still have one more meeting to go.

Run-ins like this make me believe anything is possible. Is this naivety?

"Not naive," Conch Shell had corrected him, "[S]he simply has not been taught to fear the things you fear." (Tom Robbins, "Skinny Legs and All")

Thanks, Conch. Sometimes I wish it were so simple.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

News & Culture

Reviews of Little Children, Stranger than Fiction, Arctic Monkeys
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[Originally published in Playgirl, August 2007]

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Backwoods Barbie: Dolly Parton

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[Originally published in Playgirl, July 2007]

News & Culture

Reviews of John Wayne Film Collection and The Vengeance Trap
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[Originally published in Playgirl, July 2007]

Everyone Wants a Piece of Naked Cowboy

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[Originally published in Playgirl, July 2007]

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Life Events

Wakefulness.

What constitutes a "fucked-up life event?" Not something good or bad; just something that mixes who you were with who you’re going to be, and for an instant you sort of catch yourself moving from one state to the next. What is that? Maybe it’s when you’re old and feel yourself slipping via some portal running one-way out of your brain; the first moment you can’t remember what you just said, or if you told this person that story already. Maybe some thing (one) came along and changed everything. You could sense it the moment it happened. Or you dropped something. You looked everywhere for it. Then you found it. No, no, it was when you caught your breath in your throat and thought you hadn’t ever felt this way before. Or you woke up before knowing where you were. But it might have been the pain (or the insatiable peace, or joy); so immense you could hold it in your hand but not put it down. Could it be knowing exactly what to do but being paralyzed to actually do it? I think someone told me that—the paralysis of an arresting moment— is the root of every fucked-up life event. But they may have been wrong.

Series and series of these life events, averted adventures, stumblings of feet. Growls and snarls. Birthday parties, summertime, more dead Iraqis, clown school, prison sentences for white-collar criminals, backyard soccer games on dewy grass, political debates, manicures, and bridal veils. The scent of that person on your clothes. Baby starlings. Intuition. Somehow it all fits in. And somehow, the hardest things are also the most obvious.

We sat there and smiled and laughed and admitted we haven’t a clue what we’re doing or what solution makes sense (more maraschino cherry paste). Maybe I can find a way to be flattered by that. Or moved. I curled my toes. The wallpaper faded; my eyelashes were already sore from blinking. Then I sipped at my beer, concealed in a coozie fashioned out of a dirty sock.

The trick, she told herself, wasn’t to forget all at once.
It’s simply a matter of finding something every few minutes
That’s more distracting.
Remember, she said:
Falling in love doesn’t require long-term goals, either.

But sometimes it’s just a matter of walking through a carnival after dark with some friends, eating zeppolis and gambling. Or running through a house of mirrors, then riding unsafe carny rides; arms in the air; tears from laughter sticking hard against my cheeks. Maybe it’s then, in those moments, I’m the most like who I want to be—some girl spinning around with the wind in her face, laughing hard with the blurry world going by.

But still; it was out of the bus station that I walked—not toward it. Can this possibly be real life?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

About a Boy: A New York family struggles to give their son a 'normal life'

[Originally published in the New York Press]
Writer Joe Pompeo
Photography Nicole Caldwell
[Photo caption: Despite suffering from rare genetic disorder, Hunter Cavanaugh, 6, smiles and plays like most boys his age. More photos here.]

The tracheostomy tube is one of the things that really makes Hunter different from the other kids. Inserted through a small hole in his neck, it creates an airway amid the tumors that clog his throat. He can’t breathe without it.

Then there is the gastric feeding tube that attaches to a hole in Hunter’s stomach, providing him with the nutrients he is unable to swallow. Though he’s recently been able to start drinking small bits of water, at age six, Hunter has never eaten a piece of food.

Read the rest of this article here.

Friday, June 1, 2007

News & Culture

Reviews of Walking Tall, The Pick of Destiny, Ral Partha Volgel-Bacher, and Pretty Little Mistakes
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[Originally Published in Playgirl, June 2007]

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Scenic Route, via Candied-Apple Springs

Round and round we go.

"I have some of my best conversations with strangers, she said, because they have no idea who they're dealing with."—Brian Andreas

Spring in New York City is so good with her parks, wine and olives, live music, and unpredictable evening adventures.

A great moment: Getting one bottle of red wine deep with your buddy before realizing the two of you are sitting in a gay bar, and that somehow you've become involved in an argument with the barkeep over who the female vocalist is on Meatloaf's "I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That);" and even while arguing you realize you're singing along (the track is blasting) because you used to love this song, ever since you had your first kiss to it so many years ago.

It (as in life, as in reality) staggers me so my brain swims laps of the butterfly stroke. As the seasons, so goes the world: Things change, people come and go, all hell breaks loose, love turns, floors get pulled out from under you, and time passes, stops, speeds up and slows down. It's all some of us can do to just breathe and put one foot in front of the other. Or sigh, say "fuck" a few times, and try remembering how different everything seemed so recently. (And, maybe, asking, "How did I ever get by before all of this?")

"You have a good sense of humor," a stranger told me. "Don't lose that." But I was kind of buzzed and the bar was loud, so the conversation didn't last.

Maybe it's enough to have moments that catch you and hold you, showing you something you hadn't known before. Is that so bad? What else is there?

Maybe dusk, when the world is the color of sunflowers. Baby powder sprinkled on dance-hall (movie theater) floors. People with whom I share so much laughter, we don't know what to do with it all. Being so wild over someone that the backs of my kneecaps sweat. But maybe I'm talking about the same thing, or about something I thought of a long time ago.

So it goes?

Later on in the afternoon, we gathered on a big rock and looked out over the water.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Get Lei'd

Adventures for the single girl on Hawaii's Big Island
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News & Culture

Reviews of The Marine, The Bunny Book, The Art of War for Women, and Interpretations: Celebrating the Music of Earth, Wind and Fire
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[Originally published in Playgirl, May 2007]

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Jumping Jack Flash

A Q&A with the Godfather of Fitness, Jack LaLanne
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[Originally published in Playgirl, April 2007]

News & Culture

Reviews of Straight Talk with Gay Guys and The Alternate Routes
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[Originally published in Playgirl, April 2007]

Thursday, March 1, 2007

News & Culture

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[Originally published in Playgirl, March 2007]

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Belly Rolls

"AH, THE WORLD! OH, THE WORLD!"—Herman Melville, "Moby Dick"

Thank goodness for laughter.

Combine giggling with one temporary tattoo of a praying mantis and a bottle of wine, and I think you'll find a young woman can be ready for anything: Fung Wah buses to Beantown; dark beers or classy wines (okay, also Carlo Rossi) with old friends; suicide bombings aimed at a darling V.P.; a controversy surrounding the discovery of a dude named Jesus' tomb; phone calls from people I've never met; kisses as light and airy as white wine; and standing around as if waiting for some giant to breathe.

I still can't finish this stupid Sunday crossword puzzle I've been carrying around since New Year's. And every time I write on it now, the paper just gives way so you can't even etch in the boxes anymore. Time to throw it out and move on. Some things just can't be done: No use forcing it.

Have been told I'm open with people in a limited way; as if I'm a declassified document with all the good parts blacked out. It would have been advantageous to make a discussion of this, but my "ssshhh" irritated him; my silence fanned.

She reassured me. While she spoke, I made eye contact with a beautiful branch on a gnarly-ass tree on my block and answered, "That's exactly what I needed to hear."

There was so much laughter and I don't know where to begin explaining it all. Then we shook hands, like superheroes might after averting disaster. I couldn't get enough of anything that was going on. I kind of just stood there, knowing it would be sad to forget any detail.

I am intellectually tickled. May the shenanigans shenan and igan indefinitely. I can't help wondering about things as I grin while riding underground. One musing: Supposedly you can't articulate thoughts from the collective unconscious. It's too deep. So we have to deal symbolically. Is that what glossy gossip mags, E-cards, and text messages are for?

"I need to say something," she said, wet snow falling fast around us as we stood at the entrance to the subway. But we never got that far.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

News & Culture

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[Originally published in Playgirl, February 2007]