The whole place gives me the heebies. Starts with the Wes Anderson monogram-as-sign covertly placed in the upper-right-hand-corner, hoping you don’t even notice. Oh god, it’s you? Fine…come in.
Enter and be judged by a lit-er-al-ly blonde botoxed bitch who rolls her eyes cause you walked over to the wrong couch area duhhhhh. This ain’t a Denny’s, and I ain’t stealing a carafe, girlfriend. And fine, I’ll type my name into the goddamn iPad mini.
Makes the Ace seem downright quaint and friendly.
Seriously it’s a “CANTEEN?” Are you kidding me?
He was wearing white-rimmed glasses. Perhaps mother-of-pearl.
Have you ever met someone who waltzed through life getting everything they wanted because they’re so good looking? I have. It was 1998, and I launched a strange, semi-successful attempt to befriend a very good looking man/boy/man because I thought goddamnit probably no one takes you seriously, but I WILL.
Did white rims know? Did he not know? It was hard to tell. In an attempt not to break the spell, he committed to natty dress. Hanging out at the work collective. With the goddamn CANTEEN. Keep gritting your teeth and being cool and wearing Thom Browne and whatever you do don’t stop walking, just keep walking, everything will be fine if you just keep humming, getting older, older, beauty fades, Thom Browne and CANTEENS last forever.
Cibeles VIP lounge, MAD, T1. Future meets the past. An un-renovated New Orleans Riverwalk with 80s Michael Graves velour couches in red, blue, and tan, sitting on top of white tiles, quiet, eerie, jutting out onto the runway. The hum of machines. A rattly custodian cart. Crustless ham and butter sandwiches in a refrigerator for the taking. Silver ice bucket. Coca Light. Men, laptops, quiet desperation.
The big thing I need to write is of course about my identity, and how it feels to be Penelope Cruz on the inside and “posh Glaswegian” on the outside.
Threads would include my father outing himself as Spanish in his heart and not, gasp, Sicilian; being told by a bunch of Brazilian men I look like Kate Middleton; getting caught up in some #banbossy moments at work; cultural stereotypes; ethno-tourism; almost being born in Bogota (but not quite); Shakira; studying French, not Spanish, in school; “that which you displace only comes back to haunt you” as said by my Austrian undergraduate thesis advisor; the “Mexichicks” from high school and college and that short story I wrote when I was 19 where I described their attire, in a way that still fascinates me; selecting the shade with which to dye one’s hair; sunscreen; the embarrassment of spelling my anglo name aloud to the nice guy at Starbucks on Gran Via; “Eat Pray Love” as a concept; and pretty much all of this.
There is a man you see out of your left eye’s peripheral vision as you exit the Q train at 14th Street from adjacent doors. The height, the hair. You clock them. The tote bag. Ugh. Not another tote bag.
The man works on your building. On your floor, to be precise. You know his name. You met in the elevator. You relate to his Brooklynness.
Ugh. You relate to his Brooklynness.
There is a man, except he is a boy. He is serious. He is a Pisces? He must be another goddamn Pisces.
You find him. Another man with a truly un-googleable name. You find a bio. A college. A “several bands,” “enjoys playing in.”
You find a band. The band’s name is a reference to technology gone awry.
Because, of course.
But before you google this man, who isn’t that much younger, not really, you are standing on the platform between the recently departed Q train and the not-yet-arrived N train. You know he’s there, you know he knows who you are, and sees you, and you stand there and play dumb and just drink it all in.
You know he sees you because there has been a lot of seeing, and noticing, and looking, but not off campus.
You put on Wild Tchopitoulas. You apply Rosebud Salve, Mint, to your lips, with your right ring finger. You think, ugh, tote bag. And the N train arrives, and the doors open between you, and you wonder when eye contact will be exchanged.
Not another Pisces. Not another tote bag.
Still. You play along. You’re just So Wrapped Up in Listening To Your Music. The station arrives. You exit. You, the two of you, walk up the staircase feet away from one another.
He makes a run for it on Broadway in front of a taxi. You do too.
Then you cross the street. Where’s he going? You’re (actively) not paying attention. You hop up onto the curb. You don’t sense the shadow again until you turn to smile at a passing Shiba Inu on the office block. He’s there.
You reach the building first. You chat with the doorman. Someone enters. Another person enters. Another person enters. You’re chatting with the doorman. The elevator line is long. But there he is. Here comes the stubble. The tote bag. The hair.
You are standing in the elevator, side-by-side. There is still no eye contact. There is a chat with someone else. The electrons stand on end. And yet. The air slowly leaks from the balloon. The person you know better, with whom you are talking, demands your attention. There is no, “Did I see you on the Q train?” There is no, “Romance is likewise strange but potentially emancipating if you care not for convention.” There is sadtrombone.wav, putting your bag down, reloading, walking to the kitchen, Maybe The Kitchen!, except, no, no kitchen.
“There’s a certain assumption that when a man tells the truth, it’s the truth. But when I go before the jury to tell the truth, I have to negotiate how I’m going to be perceived. There’s a suspicion around a woman’s truth. My story, it’s so big, it sounded like too big a can of worms, and I was like, who would believe me? But then I realized: other women would believe me.”—Kathleen Hanna, The Punk Singer (via christinefriar)
“Watch out for power-trippers and dipsomaniacs in work/biz realms. They’re deluded and angry.”
"This is a “gloves off” moment. Situations demand that you express your power and personal Awesome. Nothing is served by you playing small or dimming your aura so as not to freak others or even yourself out. Don’t let old demons keep you dull or broke.”
“I am not simply talking about commercialism. I am talking about a sense that soccer has been translated out of its natural language, that it is meant to speak precisely to the people FIFA has turned it against.”—Train in Vain «
June in NYC is like literature, language disposed toward cases of humanity and want, towering stories of love and attitude. The days are donuts. Evening lowers a slow dry hand to a bare humid back. Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, where the angel from Angels In America lives, bestows peace on the naval dead of the Civil War and the sun stands tall and gorgeous. Then at night it rained and turned the hotel windows to LCD screens; when raised, a deep demented nightsmell came up from the street like sensations of a well. Moldy, moody, migratory. Speaking forever.
I’m listening to The Bends, which transports me to 1997. Yes, I know it wasn’t the year The Bends came out. It was the year OK Computer did. The latter reminds me of being in a dorm room at Trinity College. Elise, the New Orleanian sometime stripper, and her sometime Irish boyfriend, bought it the day it came out and made us all listen to it. I don’t remember if this was before, or after, the party that Jody and Nora threw, in which I spilled red wine down my Festival d’Avignon shirt and changed into someone’s pajama pants, and watched people snort phenobarbital through rolled-up Euros (was it Euros then??? I can’t remember), and heard Todd tell everyone he packed a karaoke machine with only the song “Ben” by Michael Jackson and planned to hitch his way through Ireland only singing this song, which made me laugh, and laugh.
I remember buying The Bends in the post-Ireland portion of that trip, maybe at Gatwick?, and playing it in my Discman, as I stared out the window of a plane somewhere between France and Ireland, on my way back to Dublin, after a thoroughly screwed up post-summer-school jaunt across the continent, retreating to Botany Bay, the computer lab, the cricket pitch.
I didn’t even mean to talk about Ireland. I wanted to unpack another trip. Yes, Brazil, More Brazil.
So you heard about how I landed in Sao Paulo. But that was just the first part of the trip. I didn’t tell you about the three-and-a-half days I spent there. And I sure didn’t tell you about Rio.
On the taxi ride from Perdizes to Congonhas, I talked on the phone. This phone call to the office, I’m guessing, cost me about 1/3 of the $600 I owe AT&T.
Congonhas feels like it’s in the middle of the city. In NYC terms, imagine rocking up to Washington Heights and suddenly your cab pulls in to a departure gate. I check in, I wander through a mall, pass through the silliest airport security line in the world, and find myself awash in Brazilian business travelers.
Where to? Florianopolis. Porto Alegre. Brasilia.
And yes, they’re all wearing wedding rings.
I take another call. At this point I’m glamour-pussing it up. Who is this woman on a Wednesday afternoon speaking English on a mobile phone? The flight is canceled. The gate changes. I board the 45-minute TAM flight to Rio. The previous flight’s ticket holders can sit anywhere beyond Row 15.
I take an aisle seat. Someone who looks like a Jesuit priest takes the window. Later, he’ll get up to use the bathroom and wink at me. Between us comes a giant Michelangelo figure, Mr. Brazil, all tight curls and tan and, I discover, Tourette’s. His muscles jerk uncontrollably through the whole flight. The woman across the aisle from me attempts to tell me something in Portuguese — it seems like an insult? Like she can’t believe I didn’t offer the giant man my aisle seat? — but I can’t tell and go all Nova Iorque on her. Silent and indignant.
And anyway, I’m pissed at Michelangelo, who prevents me from chatting up the Jesuit in the window seat.
This is also not what I meant to talk about, but I suppose I’ll get there eventually.
Do you think, “What a great idea! I’ll fall in love with a married man!”
There is nothing quite so spinster-y as the moment where you realize the person you met is coupled. I say “coupled” because if you’re not wearing a wedding ring, how the hell else am I supposed to know?
And yet there I was, for 10+ years, never wearing a wedding ring, and never questioning my ability to do whatever the f—— I wanted. (Not that I did. It was the principle of the thing. The principle of not being judged as a human being by a signifier I wore on my body broadcasting my relationship status.)
But now, I look for the ring. It’s immediate, instinctual. And if you are not wearing one, I have a feeling of safety.
And yet that’s not the case.
But if you aren’t — for those of you who aren’t, who didn’t — how can you blame me for projecting my own relationship drama on to you? The woman who failed to wear a ring, and sought an escape, believes you may feel the same way.
That is, once she is made aware.
Is it wrong to assume that people not wearing rings are open to exits?
Am I putting to much faith in a system I myself don’t even believe in?
This is why people retreat from The Real World, to The Online World, where all of the boxes are checked, and there is no subtlety. We are who we say we are, and that’s that.
Except I don’t think you are. The truth feels different from the facts.
Emerging from the chilled rosé fridge at the local organic wine shop, I come face-to-face with my ex-yoga teacher.
We tell each other hello, I remember the time that he helped me deepen my stretch a little too hard, think of asking him of how his baby son is, remember there’s still one song on his yoga class iPhone playlist I have never been able to discover (the one I was able to find was “The Fall” by Rhye), briefly note his resemblance to Hipster Buddha who has gone silent, and am mostly amazed at how he waves me off and gets the fuck out of there as fast as he can.
It happened slowly, then all of a sudden. The dog leads a double life in adjacent boroughs. I immediately unfollowed him on every social media platform. I do not know if he did the same. I enjoy having the apartment to myself. I enjoy not rushing home from work, from business trips, from dinner out with friends whom I am only just getting to know again. It’s hard to know what he is thinking, because he does not talk to me. But, I forced the issue, it was me. I don’t get to decide how he reacts or whether it makes sense. But still. One day he picked up the dog wearing two oxford shirts. One on top of the other. Two collars. None of it made any sense. He got the car. (The deal was, I paid for parking.) There isn’t another man. Just the promise that there might be. At the wedding, my aunt said, “WHERE’S X?” I said, “WE BROKE UP!” She turned to her husband. “You know how she is. She’s just joking.” I went to the bathroom and came back. “We don’t have to talk about it,” she said. “It’s ok, we’re not going to press.” I was like…? I wasn’t sad at the wedding. I was fine. I’m not into weddings, anyway. (Ask around, never have been.) The dog is here tonight. He tolerates me so long as rawhides are dispensed. I’ve always had an intuition that this year would be my lucky year. A big year of some kind. I’m still waiting. But you never know. But, you never know.
The best thing I ever wrote in grad school was a short story about a squatter living in the old Blue Plate mayonnaise factory in New Orleans. For the five people who might remember, yes, he was electrocuted by the sign.
I’ve traveled enough so that certain cities become reference points for each other. Sao Paulo, you might already know, has a touch of the Johannesburgs. When I landed at 5pm, at the start of winter, we descended through grayness into grayness and hot, damp drizzle. (A touch of the Miamis.)
So I didn’t get a Domingo in Sao Paulo to walk down Avenida Paulista. Instead I got a brutalist, concrete terminal at weekend’s end and some comforting, Herb Alpert-type music coming across the loudspeakers. At the baggage pick-up, I was the only woman smushed into the crush of people waiting at the carousel. The others waited in a second ring, circling us with carts, letting the men do the heavy lifting.
Pedro explained the difference between Paulistas and Paulistanos to me, though I forget which is which. One refers to the residents of the city itself; the other to the state of the same name. I found the city dwellers to be not unlike New Yorkers: Polite, slightly jaded, giving each other a lot of space.
Pedro mentioned it would be easy to get a “blue and white” taxi into the city, and that it would cost about 120 Reais. My ATM card failed hard. The guy at the airport information desk said I could use a credit card, which was a relief. Though I wondered how he would manage, without much inglês, when all of the soccer fans arrived. Not that you’d know anything was about to happen. I couldn’t find a single sign, or piece of World Cup merchandise, anywhere.
It was a long taxi ride. The sun set but the dreariness kept on. Some combination of the never-ending highways, and the gray, and the graffiti — menacing graffiti, everywhere, on everything, with strange fonts and tags as if sprung from some adult Dr. Seuss book — and the utter inability to spot a single human on the street…this is what made me think of J-burg.
I recalled a drive up to Pretoria, our final night in South Africa, with burning fields and old women pushing wheelbarrows filled with sticks and scrap metal to points unknown. And all we white people driving fast in our cars with the doors locked.
There was no one on the sidewalks of Sao Paulo. Not until the taxi arrived in Jardins and pulled up to the hotel.