I walked down the street in Clinton Hill, my hopes low. My stomach gurgled familiarly, demanding ice cream in penance for putting my psyche through such torture. The light was fading as the sun set, twilight silence engulfing the neighborhood where neither man nor beast seemed to be awake. I studied the buildings and the streets with attentive disinterest, the same way you might look at that thousand dollar dessert in Manhattan, knowing it was probably delicious but that you would never taste it unless you seduced a rich widow. And in the back of my mind, I remembered being in this same position one year ago.
I strolled across the south side of Prospect Park, enjoying the view of autumnal leaves cascading around me. I was on my way to Sunset Terrace to view a three bedroom. The meeting was in a half hour, so I might arrive a bit early, but I knew it’d offer me the perfect opportunity to surround what was, I hoped, to be my future neighborhood.
I casually took my phone from my pocket, completing another neurotic check to make sure I had the right address and time. As I searched for the email, a new one from the very man I was about to meet loaded. Confused, I opened it hastily.
The message was brief: “Hey Greg, we found someone to fill the room. Good luck!”
Well, crap. I turned around.
As I turned the corned I quickly saw the building I was heading towards. A young man in his 20′s was adjusting the blinds as I peered up, and our eyes met for a moment. He waved like he knew me as more than someone answering a Craigslist ad, and I waved gingerly back, knowing if I let myself feel any form of enthusiasm my hopes and dreams will be as crushed as when I discovered Santa was a farce.
Moving to the door, I pressed the buzzer. I bit my lower lip in nervousness like a teenage girl who had been asked to prom by the most popular boy in school but suspected it was just a ruse to get covered in pigs’ blood.
A few moments later, the door opened to the the same friendly man from before. “Hey, Greg? Nice to meet you.”
As I walked up the stairs to the house in Astoria, I began dialing the number I was given. As it rang a girl went to the window and looked at me briefly, before turning around. Through the glass I could hear a muffled, “Shit! He’s here already!” Then she fled from my view as I stood, baffled.
I waited five minutes in the dark, confused by what had happened, a constant inner monologue about whether I should leave or not. As I began walking down the stairs in bafflement, the door opened. The same girl I had seen earlier greeted me. “Oh, hi, Greg? I’m sorry, I just noticed your call, my phone was off…”
She showed me the room, her words slurred and her footing wobbly, as three of her friends stood awkwardly in the kitchen, their voices a whisper as if they were afraid I was keeping track of what they were saying. As she took me back down the stairs into the living room she turned to me briefly and sputtered, “Okay, I have a confession; I’m a little wasted.”
Well, no duh.
“That’s fine,” I simply said. She stammered a bit more and introduced me to her friends who were also sloshed, and I feigned interest while mostly questioning my ability to get into these situations.
She turns to me and starts talking about the other guy who would be living there, and I feign interest as I prefer to actually meet someone. In her drunken stupor she insists on showing me his room even though he’s gone, and I appease her, fearing the wrath of a drunken event planner scorned.
She knocks on her roommate’s door briefly before opening the door. “Oops,” she happily stutters, a hiccup almost escaping her lips. She quickly closes the door of the other man who lives there and turns to me once more. “They’re in there.” I can only imagine what she saw.
At that point, I politely flee. A day later she offered me the place, but I decide I’d rather not live with the woman who seems to regularly get drunk on Tuesday and the guy who I first encountered when I almost walked in on him and his girlfriend.
“This is Phoebe, the other roommate,” the man explains as we enter the apartment on the second door, gesturing to a woman in her late 20′s eating a huge sandwich. She waves to me, her mouth full of meat and cheese.
The man, Josh, shows me my room, the bathroom, the living room, before we sit down with Phoebe. Everything is gorgeous, and, with the exception of my room being a bit small and lacking windows, it’s perfect. So perfect that I knew that, in the shadows, there must be something sinister lurking. There always is.
I sat in the apartment in Carroll Gardens, my legs going numb. The man on the couch with me continued talking, changing subjects like a stereotypical teenage girl debating what to wear. Four others stood in the room, too, listening to him talk, barely saying a word as they couldn’t keep up with his word diarrhea. Half of what he said wasn’t about the apartment or himself at all, but rather things like the pros and cons of Trader Joe’s or the effects of Celiac Disease.
As we were leaving, he somberly said, “What I’m looking for in a roommate is someone who is clean, nice, and, mostly, someone who can put up with my shit.” I turned without saying a word, knowing that I had no desire to handle anyone else’s shit.
Phoebe, Josh and I talked for 20 minutes — which might be about as much bonding as I did with my previous roommate after 3 months. Despite my gloomy nature at this process and the impending sense of doom I generally felt, I was actually hopeful.
We parted ways, both sides making it clear that we were interested in — to use as sterile of terms possible — interested in proceeding with this venture. I walked out the door, my heart uplifted at the prospect of living with sane people in a neighborhood I liked and an apartment that wasn’t haunted. I would hear back from them that night, they had said.
I waited for an email from the man in Prospect Heights, and when I opened it I was a little despondent; he said everyone he had shown had loved the apartment and a bidding war had erupted. But then, the silver lining; he had liked me more than any of them and would be happy to have me be his roommate if I would simply pay him $300 more per month than he had originally said I would.
I tensed, my reptilian brain slithering about, debating what to do. “$300 is a lot of money! … But it’s in Prospect Heights. But $300 is a lot of money! But he seemed cool. But $300 is a lot and this is probably me being a sucker. BUT I LIKE THE APARTMENT!”
In the end, I took the apartment, and my hunch that I had been a sucker was consistently reaffirmed. But that was coming to an end.
The email arrived 3 hours and 20 minutes after I had left. As it loaded my brain was in turmoil, a mix of fear, hope, hunger, anger, happiness, and zestiness clouding my thoughts.
The email started nicely enough, saying the pair had enjoyed meeting me and would like to have me as their new roommate but — at that word my stomach always lurches — their current roommate had decided to stay.
My head did a free fall onto the desk, my brain turning into a puddle of mush and seeping out of my ears, pooling into a formless mass in front of my face. After so many terrible run-ins I thought I had finally found freedom, only to be gunned down all the same.
And that’s why looking for an apartment makes me want ice cream.
This is a story of my experience working in the sponsor area of the Komen Greater NYC’s Race for the Cure. 110%. No embellishment. NOPE!
The participants came in hordes, ravenous after their run. They flocked about each table, gobbling up Tropicana from the north all the way to Skim Plus in the south, leaving not one cluster of Honey Bunches of Oats in their wake. Sometimes, they made the trek through multiple times, sating their appetites and filling their bags with epic loot.
I stood in the middle of the chaos. Not even my zipties — useless and unfamiliar to most of these people — were safe from the out pour of runners gaining their second wind.
During one brief respite of calm, I went to the privy, leaving my beautiful, blonde, Bond-girl of a coworker in charge of our tent, the Sponsor Concierge Table. When I returned, my bombastic companion greeted me, flustered, her bosoms heaving in a way I thoroughly noted but ignored.
“Greg,” she hissed, “This woman asked me to watch her bags!” Her voice was sultry and smooth, a slight drawl left from her southern roots that could lilt any man into a stupor unless he liked dudes like I do.
I looked at where she motioned and, indeed, saw three bags: a purse flanked by two Duane Reade bags that had been supplied for sponsor items. I knew enough to never look through a woman’s purse, lest I come across a hidden sand-snake or tampon, but I peered inside the two bags she had gotten from us and discovered a mess of food, including at least twenty bananas.
I pivoted to face my lustrous cohort once more, taking off my glasses in a dramatic way Laura Roslin would’ve been proud of. “I think she took this all from us.”
Before more needless exposition occurred, the woman in question waddled towards her bags. She was a mango shaped Asian woman in her 40′s. As she passed me and my partner, doing her best to ignore our presence, I questioned her, my voice strong and powerful like a Tahitian monsoon; “Ma’am, did you actually participate in the race.”
She looked at me furtively. Then she began priming her hoard for quick transport.
So that’s your game, wench? “Ma’am, did you actually participate in the race?” I repeated, my voice steely and cool, like the Terminator’s without that indiscernible accent. Again, she looked at me, a veneer of sweat forming on her bushy eyebrows.
I tried once more, putting on my friendliest intimidation face. “Ma’am, are you involved in the race at all?”
She knew she couldn’t ignore me any longer, so she finally responded. She looked at me, eyes glazed in fake confusion, and waved behind her. With a thick Chinese accent she uttered one word: “Husband.” I looked at her, my brow raising in a face that clearly illustrated What the frack she talkin’ about? Again, she gestured behind herself in a vague way and said, slightly more confidently, “Husband,” before meandering off as if in a stupor.
I regarded my companion. “Well, I guess she didn’t speak English very well.”
My sexy, voluptuous comrade looked at me gravely. “When she asked me to watch her bag she spoke English fine.”
I had been conned. That day I was had, grifted by the classic, “Take two or three bags worth of free stuff and then pretend I can’t speak English,” and had been powerless to stop it.
But I promise you this, Three Bag Lady: next year it’ll be different.
This isn’t awkward. This isn’t awkward. It isn’t awkward! I kept repeating the phrase to myself, the thoughts becoming louder and louder until my ears almost hurt, as my parents and my friends sat in our living room, eating sausages and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol (NOTE: for my family, one drink is excessive). I tried my hardest to will the not-awkwardness into reality, but — just like when I tried to will being Tina Fey’s long lost son to be true — nothing happened.
Outside, snow fell, blanketing our home, and making the scenery perfect for the day: it was Christmas Eve.
As we sat, chatting and imbibing, the lack of someone’s presence was easily noted. We pretended it wasn’t an issue, that there was nothing amiss, but we all knew the terrible truth; my brother should’ve been there. But he wasn’t.
I can’t believe this happened. That jerk. If only I had said something else. Oh, this terrible!… Oh well, I thought, mentally going through all five stages of grief in under 3 seconds.
My dad began to joke about something with my friend’s mother. What did he say? I don’t know, I was too distracted, but, knowing them, it probably involved feces, The Bachelorette, or blowing up fruit, because we are classy people.
A few minutes more passed, and then I heard footsteps coming upstairs. I looked expectantly, and it was him: the prodigal brother. He had returned, after 30 horrible minutes of uncertainty.
The last fateful time I had seen my brother was, as said, half an hour before. Upon seeing him I made an inquiry about the one request I had given him for the evening, and it set him fuming.
“What? You were serious!?” His arms came up like a comic book character, showing his frustration and disbelief.
“Um…. Yes.” I looked at him simply, perplexed at his confusion and shocked at such a dire reaction.
“I thought you were joking!”
“Um… No.” Again, I looked him up and down, one eyebrow raised in skepticism at this reaction. I saw the steam building up inside his body with nowhere for it to escape except through his mouth in loud bursts of frustration.
“You can’t do this! You can’t be serious! Greg, this is Christmas Eve, you can’t take over!” He bellowed all this at me, his indignation matched only by his incredible rate of speech.
My dad, hearing this (not unusual) level of volume and passion from my brother’s voice hurried over to resolve the conflict. Ah, my father, always the mediator; I knew I could rely on him. “What’s going on?” he asked, his voice serene as two sleeping kittens.
“Greg was serious earlier!”
My dad simply laughed. “Hah, no he wasn’t! Greg, you were joking, right?”
I looked at them both plainly, aghast at this turn of events. “Um… Nooo?”
Then my dad’s face, generally calm and kind, changed, as he too was filled with anger. “Greg, you can’t tell me what to do in my own house! I dress like this for meetings and I won’t let you tell me what to wear in my own house!”
My brother pointed one finger at me and poked me squarely in my chest, basically bowling me over because he was in good physical condition and I have the physique of a pudding cup. “Greg, you’re a Christmas dictator.” He decided he could no longer look at someone as atrocious as Kim Jong Un and went downstairs in a huff, never to be seen again (for 30 awkward minutes). My father called to him to come back, but his words fell on deaf ears. He looked at me once more, angry that I would make a request that so thoroughly destroyed our family, before returning to his work getting dinner ready.
All I could think about was the previous day’s phone call that sent this whole thing into motion.
“Hey Greg, can I bring anything tomorrow?”
“No, I’ve got the food covered. I was just wondering if you could wear something other than jeans so it’s a bit nicer.”
“Hah, right, okay. See you then.”
People who have read my blog for awhile know that I love bad TV. Love it. To the extent that when I see a bad show on Netflix or Hulu, I will call people up or post on their Facebook saying “WE MUST WATCH THIS!” And then look even more awkward than normal.
But the secret I don’t talk about that often, except with the people I watch bad TV with, is that there’s an art to making bad TV good. For instance, in Christmas I started at least twelve terrible Christmas/holiday movies, and only completed three of them. The other ones just weren’t badly good enough to be enjoyable. It turns out there is quite the science to making something that is as amazingly terrible as, say, Sharknado.
In this vein, I want to share my newest obsession: Breaking Amish. Breaking Amish is a TLC show — the same network that brought you My Big, Fat Gypsy Wedding, so you know it must be quality entertainment — about five young Amish adults (technically, four Amish and a Mennonite, which is slightly more progressive) who decide they want to experience the real world by moving to New York for various reasons.
At this point when I was explaining the show to my boyfriend, he said, “so it’s about their Rumspringa?” And I say, “What’s that?” He responded, “Well, the Amish are often encouraged to go experience American culture in their teenage years.” I looked at him blankly.
No, it’s not about their Rumspringa, Joseph! That’s not dramatic enough! It’s just them being rebellious and angsty because — well, just because! Anyways, it’s not about their Rumspringa. End of story! They’re just… They just decide to all go to New York at the same time! When there happen to be a film crew there! Duh. Stop being silly!
The first episode of Breaking Amish explores the five characters and why they decide to leave their community. I didn’t actually see the first episode, but you really don’t need to because most of these people will explain their motivations over, and over, and over every episode. The characters are as follows:
Rebecca: Rebecca is a young, insecure girl who hates pretty much everyone and wanted to see New York because her father was English (what they call non-Amish people). Or her mom was. I don’t know. She’s pretty boring, but she makes up for any hobbies or interesting quirks by being extremely judgemental and easily offended. Also, she has dentures.
Kate: Kate is a very pretty girl who seems sort of fun and completely insane. She likes to drink a lot and also likes to break into tears. She especially loves to do both of these things simultaneously. Her goal for leaving is to be a model, even though she seems to despise English people — though she had to leave the Amish community because they think that trying to be beautiful is bad and prideful, to the extent they have super creepy faceless dolls.
Abe: Abe is boring. I don’t know why he left the Amish community, but I’m assuming it was to stalk Rebecca, because, despite being awkward and quiet, he is also kind of a pervert. We’re talking if he lived in Japan he’d be buying panties out of a vending machine.
Sabrina: Sabrina is Puerto Rican. She left to find out more of her culture, which she does by working at a restaurant in Astoria, an area in Queens mostly known for having a lot of Greek people, so that makes sense. She is the Mennonite, so the journey is a little less daunting to her. Does she have a personality? Well, she’s funnier and kinder than the rest — which is not saying much. I suppose the best way to describe her is she is the most human of all of them.
Jeremiah: Jeremiah is the other male, and he is also a pervert. He likes boobs, and I’m sure he’d like monster trucks.
They all have plot arcs that develop throughout the season, too. Sabrina hires a PI to track her parents, which is full of lots of juicy tidbits that conveniently pop up every week or two; luckily, she only has drama at her job when she doesn’t have drama concerning her parents. Rebecca and Abe start dating each other; they are perfect for each other because their most defining characteristic is their mutual contempt for everyone besides themselves. Jeremiah quickly turns into The Situation from Jersey Shore. Kate does something with modeling, but mostly she cries a lot because she needs mood stabilizers.
As you can probably guess, this is all terribly, terribly convenient. Too convenient. So convenient that if it wasn’t scripted I’d say God has a plan, and his plan is to make people’s lives into hilariously bad television shows. But with so many reality shows being overtly scripted — I had a friend who knew someone on the Real Housewives of Some Place who said they made them redo scenes liking flipping over a table — the fact that Breaking Amish can embrace the fact it’s all being thought up by someone being paid in spare change and Oreos at the TLC headquarters actually makes it better than all the terrible scripted “reality” shows that have come before it. When Abe’s mom comes in the second episode to ask him back, we don’t roll our eyes; we cheer, because that same plot very well could’ve happened in last week’s Grey’s Anatomy.
As it stands, Breaking Amish has perfected the scripted-reality show formula because it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is. There are no boring plots that demonstrate these are real humans because — admit it — at the time of this filming they are not; they are Amish dolls (with faces, thankfully) who are being paraded around for our entertainment. As long as we remember that, I am all too happy to eat a
gallon spoonful of ice cream in front of the boob tube.
Yesterday I watched Pretty in Pink for the first time. I felt like I had to make a post about it — specifically, how I don’t get Hollywood depictions of high school. Or maybe I just don’t get anyone’s portrayal of high school because, deep down, I am an old person.
In Pretty in Pink, as with so many movies, there seem to be two categories everyone falls into: the popular, rich kids/jocks and everyone else. While the popular kids thrive in high school, the other groups — whether they be the nerds, the outcasts, the goths, the stoners, or the spastic creepy stalker guys (I’m looking at you, Jon Cryer) — lament high school and view it’s end as the beginning of their real lives. In fact, the de facto law in these movies is that the more a character likes high school the less you should care about them, and the more you should assume they will become unsuccessful, unfulfilled, and alcoholic after.
Because that’s how real life works, you know!
Whether it be in Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Easy A, or any other teenage movie, everyone is amazingly polarized in high school; they either despise it or despise the fact that one day it will end. But, and maybe I am the only person in the world who felt this way, I was incredibly apathetic about high school.
In fact, my high school experience is most accurately described as boring as hell.
I didn’t really have any love interests in high school, to start. No guy or girl holding a boombox outside my window — which is probably okay, because that might’ve made me roll my eyes so hard they got stuck. While love was indeed on my mind in high school, I had a perpetual haze of awkwardness that prevented anyone from actually realizing I was indeed capable of romantic feelings.
Secondly, I didn’t really belong to a clique: I was far from popular, but I was also not entirely unpopular. There were many people that didn’t like me, but they never harangued me for it, probably because they could sense that I would only have flatly stared at them for saying anything of that nature. As far as being noticed goes, I actually had a lot of people know my name and approach me after high school, which is generally pretty awkward because the conversation goes a little something like:
Some Person: Oh! Greg, it’s you!!
Me: (flailing about, looking for Some Person) Huh? Yes?
Some Person: (making to shake my hand or hug me) It’s so great to see you! You look so good, you’ve lost weight!
Me: Oh, yes, hi… You!
And then I pretend I know who they are.
Really, it just comes down to the fact that my high school was not nearly as interesting as the high schools in this movie. Unlike in Ferris Bueller, we didn’t have a Dean of Students who obsessively tracked kids he suspected of playing hooky. There were no students being picked up and put in dumpsters or being taped to walls. And am I alone in that, unlike multiple times in Pretty in Pink, no student was able to just start smoking a cigarette in the middle of school without any teacher noticing or caring?
My experience with students was just as different as my experience in general. In movies, the popular kids all fit into two categories: rich or jocks. If they’re rich they’re morally reprehensible, and if they’re jocks they’re morally reprehensible AND they have no brains. In my high school there were people with money or who played sports and they happened to have morals AND brains, sometimes. Gasp! Shock! My high school was so iconoclastic! That, or high school movies are bullshit.
And on the subject of the people who aren’t popular — well, first off, my school never had a popular clique. Not really. We just had cliques of all sorts, and people were fine with interacting with each other regardless, though of course there was still some teenage drama — but on the subject of the “unpopular” kids, I think I need to point out that unpopular kids sometimes were jerks. In fact, often they were. And the ones that weren’t jerks weren’t always amazingly smart or kind, they were just kind of unpopular because, like me, they didn’t really care about stuff at that point. Most importantly when discussing these kids, I have to say; no one is really as witty as the witty, unpopular kids in these movies. Or that inventive. Even genius teenagers don’t have the emotional and mental maturity of, say, Ferris Bueller, because being a teenager is kind of like being insane, what with the hormonal bombardment your body is undergoing.
Watching movies like Pretty in Pink are always a confusing ordeal for me because the biggest message that comes across in them is that you should either love or hate high school (with, of course, some moments of the opposite feeling mixed in there regardless). If you love high school, you’re supposed to be worried — at least, in the minds of the writers — that after high school you’ll have already lived the best days of your life, and if you hated it you should be happy because the moment you go to college or get a real job, your life will dramatically improve and you will finally be able to figure out who you are as a person. Not only does that not sound at all like my experience, as someone who thought high school was generally “meh”, but it begs the question; isn’t that really depressing? Either way, high school is depicted as this defining period, where you either succeed but begin your downfall, or you struggle but can look forward to things vastly improving the moment it ends.
Am I the only one who didn’t really care about high school one way or another?
Awhile back, I went to Boston. Ah, Boston, one of our nation’s most important and historical cities; it’s hard to resist the urge to don some pantaloons, put on ye olde powdered wig, and challenge the nearest Alexander Hamilton look alike to a duel.
Touring this grande city and its famous Freedom Trail, where you can see sites both patriotic and educational, is an extraordinary experience. The town beckons you to do so, with different lines throughout that lead to the next riveting location. Just follow the red line and you’ll come to the Boston Massacre! Follow the blue and — well, I don’t really know history, but I’m sure you’ll find something quite marvelous.
But there’s a problem with all this; while much of the Freedom Trail is open to whoever happens to meander on by — be they peasant or Boston lager-leaden knave — there is a dirty secret: Freedom Trail isn’t free.
That’s right, my friends! Comrades, brothers, and fellow non-Englanders! Boston and the foul government of these United States are denying us access to our most sacred of historic sites! Sort of. I mean, okay, some would say Paul Revere’s house is not actually that important in our nation’s history, but to them I say “GET OUT OF MY COUNTRY! ROAR!” I refuse to spend $3.50 to see a national landmark!
No taxation without representation! I pay my taxes (I think), and I demand that someone represent my interests on the Freedom Trail! We must revolt, my brothers, and throw a Boston Boston Tea Party “Tea Party,” so that we might see the Boston Tea Party for free. Which I guess we already do, but you understand!
There will be justice! Who’s with me? And who wants to pay for my ticket to Boston, because we all know I wouldn’t be doing this if I could spare $3.50.