Monday, December 29, 2008

Life is more dramatic with a fisheye

Having a job is such a bummer. I can't even enjoy my days off because I spend all afternoon thinking about how much I don't want to go to work tomorrow and I get nothing done. Whilst procrastinating on the couch this afternoon I commented to Chris that one of the drawbacks to getting tattooed frequently is that pictures become out of date very quickly. He offered to take some faux-candid shots of me lounging on the couch, accidentally displaying my recently completed sleeve from its most attractive angle, with his new fisheye lens that he got for Christmas. Unfortunately he couldn't figure out how to affix it to his camera, so instead we spent the next half hour following each other around the house, holding the lens up to one eye and keeping the other closed, because everything looks cooler and more exciting with a fisheye. The highlights included Lucy (the dog, not the sister) scaring the shit out of me when she jumped up at me, Chris' muscles (and presumably mine as well) looking great while he hit the punching bag, almost falling through the gap in our second floor, and running into assorted tables, chairs, and people. Sadly, once I returned to normal vision I was reminded that I've accomplished almost nothing today, that I have to go to work tomorrow, and that my life is actually not very interesting, plus the edges of my vision were kind of blurry.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On-The-Job Celebrity Sightings and The Future of My Acting Career

Before I get started, I have an announcement regarding my building:

A unit opened up in my building down the hall and the landlord offered us a chance to fill it with friends before they take it to a broker, so for everyone who has asked me if we have space, this is the time to move in! The total will probably be around $2400 and I don't know how many rooms are built into it right now but it's about he same size as mine and we have 10 people living in our place very comfortably. Let me know if you are interested.

Ok. Yesterday morning I finished typing, threw on pants - and then gore-tex socks, rain pants, gloves, my ear-warmers, and gloves, because it was cold and raining/snowing all day - and headed into the city. It was a pretty busy day and I pulled in about $150 between 10 and 6:25, when I was almost late to my last acting class. Yes, that's right, I took an acting class. After I booked a commercial at an open call a couple of years ago I went out on a handful of auditions and got one callback but no jobs, so I asked the agent that was freelancing me for suggestions and he told me about this class, and, given that if the class got me one day-long job it would pay for itself, I figured why not. Last night was the last class, so they had two agents from top agencies come in and watch us get interviewed and read copy; I think I did pretty well and one of them seemed at least marginally interested in me. I have no expectations, so if something happens, great, if not, whatever.

But back to my work day. We have this client, Scott Cooke, and I have no idea what they actually do. I know it is something involved in entertainment, because we often take out mailings to various media outlets, but we also sometimes do seemingly random jobs like, for example, the day before thanksgiving when I picked up two pies from a bakery, wrapped them in wrapping paper Scott provided, affixed a gift note to Katie Holmes from her manager (John something) and delivered them to the theater where Katie is doing a show. Unfortunately I only got as far as the stage door security guard. So why was Scott Cooke hand-writing a note on behalf of Katie Holmes' manager? Are they personal friends? Or was it business? The plot thickens! Yesterday I picked up a garmet bag from Scott Cooke and delivered it to Emmy Rossum, Golden-Globe nominated actress, and, more importantly to me, co-star (with Jake Gyllenhaal) of The Day After Tomorrow - my favorite natural disaster movie. She lives in a smallish building in UES with no doorman, so she buzzed me in and signed for it herself. As I handed her the cold garment bag, she smiled and made some comment about how it was cold outside. I said something to the effect of, "summer yesterday, winter today, it's crazy out there," thanked her, slid the slip into my clipboard, and headed back to the elevator. I don't really get starstruck, so I wasn't nervous or excited or anything, it was just kind of neat. I only wish I was more clever on the spot, because I would like to have stories not just about delivering things to celebrites, saying thanks, and walking away, but about chatting them up, if for no other reason than to prove how cool I am. And the real bastard of it is that I thought of a great response as soon as I got outside. See, when I mentioned the bizarre weather, I should have followed it up with, "let's hope tomorrow New York doesn't flood and freeze over," and maybe even run with it and say, "because my dad isn't an arctic researcher and climatologist plus I'm not as good-looking as Jake Gyllenhaal." Ok, maybe it would have been better to leave the last part out. Here's to fucking staircase wit.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I haven't been writing because I don't have much to say, but then again, has that ever stopped me before?

I would like to say that the computer fast was so effective at breaking my bad habits that I have spent the last two months reading literary classics and philosophy papers, writing papers, composing all of the music for the first 7" of my new hardcore band, and making Galcéau stock skyrocket. The reality, however, is that I haven't been too busy being productive to write in this thing but that I just haven't felt like it. The computer fast (which ended over a month and a half ago) wasn't a total loss; I figured out some interesting things about my work study habits and broke my addiction to Gilmore Girls. But the Searle paper is still not written (in fact, I kind of stalled on it when some complications arose in my argument), I still take forever to finish books because I read them a couple of pages at a time, and my imaginary new band hasn't yet gotten off the ground. My life is so hard, you have no idea.

Speaking of bands though, I do have some good news: I'm in one again! It's not the hardcore band I've been conceptually working on for a while, it's the indie-ish post-hardcore post-attrition band with Welch, Mikey, and Benny. This past weekend most of my close friends in DC visited so that Breathe In Breathe Out could prepare for our imminent reunion show and the new band (recently named Remainder) could prepare to be awesome. We were successful on both counts. I'm really excited about how Remainder is coming together, and I'm looking forward to our first show - the ever-controversial Positive Youth Fest V (we are listed as Breathless because that was the tentative working title at the time we submitted our demo). We've tried describing our sound using sub-genre names and band comparissons (Unwound, Stop It!!!, Cursive...) but I'm finding that the only thing that really gets the point across is the following: the dudes from Attrition playing music that doesn't involve [much] screaming. We do not have a myspace or anything recorded so you'll just have to take our word for it that we are awesome and come see us at PYF.

So finally, after a two-month hiatus during which I received a surprising amount of criticism for not updating my blog (and a ton of hits from dissappointed readers of I Could Die Tomorrow hoping for music reviews and download links but finding instead ramblings about my boring personal life), I feel inspired to write again, and about five minutes into this entry I got a call from work telling me that they need me in early. See, I've been working Tuesdays ever since I mentioned in the last entry that Brad asked me to, and I hate it. I'd gotten so used to three-day weeks that four days became too much to handle. I don't have enough time to get stuff done, and, more importantly, I don't like spending that much time riding around the city. A partial solution I came up with last week was to come in late - around 10:30 - Tuesdays and Wednesdays, since there are now three people per day and I was less needed. However, Willis, my accident-prone co-worker, crashed his bike again last night and Patty told me that she needs me to pick up cupcakes from LES and get them to 622 3rd ave by 10, so I guess I need to put on some pants. Maybe I'll still feel like writing when I get home...

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Rest of Week One and Week Two, or, Yes, Apparently He Is

After a nearly perfect Day one, the rest of the week was too busy to be a useful test of the effectiveness of my computer fast.

Though Tuesday is normally the last day of my four-day weekend, I agreed to work for Brad in the morning, and because I had scheduled a meeting for later that afternoon I stayed in the city in between. After work I sat and ate a lunch from Whole Foods salad bar while sitting on a ledge on the 200-block of W 27th, which is the de facto campus of Fasion Institute of Technology. I often eat there because it contains guaranteed ledge seating two blocks from Whole Foods and the people watching is excellent. Crihs joined me for a bit and we talked about, surprise surprise, bikes.

At 5pm I met with Matt Evans - my former professor - and discussed my potential future as a philosophy graduate student. I won't bore you with the details (because obviously avoiding boring details has been a high priority thus far), but I received some encouraging and some discouraging feedback, leaving me still in the position of not being sure what to do. I do know, however, that the next step is to read more Donald Davidson and Jaegwon Kim and to write the paper I've begun to mentally outline based on Searle's idea of biological naturalism as a means to collapse the intuitively dualist framework with which most people look at the mind.

Later that night I saw My Bloody Valentine with Adam, who managed to find tickets on the internet the day before the show after his dad lost the ones he bought months ago. It was very disappointing in a way that I probably should have expected: I couldn't see anything, they sounded just like the record only louder (and with the irritating addition of a high-in-the-mix kick drum that ruined the shoegaze vibe), they didn't move around at all (hence the name "shoegaze"), and I paid $65 for 50 minutes of music and 20 minutes of feedback. I do not, however, regret going, because they have been one of my favorite bands since high school and at least now I can say that I saw them.

The next night I went straight from work to a date, and since I'm not in the habit of writing about my personal life in this, it will suffice to say that it was really good.

Thursday, Sean and I saw Built To Spill play Perfect From Now On at Terminal 5, after riding a car service to Queens and back for a very expensive delivery, and it was way better than MBV. I could see them, they put on a very entertaining show, and they sounded amazing.

On Friday I took a Metro North train to Bronxville, home of Sarah Lawrence College, and spent the night, returning the next morning just in time to wait through several bands and then to finally see Write Back Soon - a band consisting of several old friends who, perhaps due to their anti-civilization political stance, do not have a myspace - and Swallowed Up - my roommates' new band who, despite a slightly more vague but still distinctly anti-civilization sentiment (if not actual stance), have a myspace. It was a good show. Look out for Swallowed Up playing with End of a Year and Defeater at my house, self-releasing an overly artisticly packaged 10" in the next few months, and going on tour in late January with me as band manager, merch manager, band financial adviser, and life coach. My duties will thankfully not include paying for stuff, booking the tour, or carrying anything heavy.

I spent the rest of the weekend with my roommates and the nameless person from my date on Wednesday and didn't have a large enough chunk of free time to explore the efficacy of entertainment-asceticism again until Monday afternoon. And that's when things took a bit of a downturn.

In high school, I rarely read the assigned material and copied homework, did a rushed job on it in the last moments before class started (often during prior classes in between naps) or simply didn't bother to do it. I put more effort into learning how to avoid doing work than it sometimes might have taken to just do it, and I became an effective efficiency expert. These habits continued and even worsened (or improved, depending on how much you value efficiency) in college. However, had I not figured out a way to be so high-functioning in high school, I think, looking back, that I would have been diagnosed with ADD. Not that I put a whole lot of stock in such diagnosis; who hasn't been so described? We grew up around computers and video games and internet shopping and if I waste another sentence ranting about what technology has done to the attention spans of our generation (or, for that matter, our sense of community and connectedness), it will be at the risk of banality, so I'll allow what I've said thus far to suffice in introducing my recent self-discovery: I have no ability to focus whatsoever. If I'm engrossed in a book or am in an unusually clear-minded state of concentration (as I was last Monday when I developed the foolish belief that just by promising myself not to watch TV anymore I would revert back to my pre-high school interest in reading as a necessary and sufficient pastime), I have no problem sitting and reading for hours on end. However, if the reading material requires even the slightest amount of discipline to stay focused and I have anything else on my mind (which I nearly always do), I can't read for more than 2 minutes without my mind wandering in a million directions and before I realize that I've stopped paying attention to the book I find myself staring at the ceiling pondering the meaning of life, my financial situation, a city that I'd like to visit or revisit, and what I'm going to eat for my next meal. It never occurred to me in the past that my lack of focus was a problem because as soon as my attention drifted away from reading I would start watching TV instead, but on Monday and Tuesday of last week I was stressed out be the results of recalculating my budget and a whole host of introspective issues raised by being recently involved with someone new and I got almost no reading done. Black market Ritalin is too expensive and I don't have health care, but taking up meditation and yoga to improve focus and clear-mindedness seems like too much work, so my plan is to start drinking more Focus flavored Vitamin Water.

The rest of the week was the usual work, come home, try to read, hang out with roommates, go to bed routine (with a couple more visits from a certain Sarah Lawrence student), and the weekend was similarly unproductive. Last night, however, I decided to do something radical and leave the house. I took the subway to Bedford and met Andy at Blackbird for tea. The interior of Blackbird is nice but contrived and the tea is $3.50 for a small pot that contains about two small cups' worth, but it's as good a place as any to read, write, think, and discuss. We mostly talked about his thesis, including some discussion of what role political/social/existential philosophy might have in it, which lead us in a very interesting discussion concerning the synthesis of our respective disciplines. After an hour or so there we set out to find a coffee shop to which I'd delivered Vegan Treats in the past which turned out, after a several-mile-long walk up into Greenpoint, to either not really exist or to be somewhere else entirely. The evening ended up being intellectual stimulating nonetheless and left me feeling inspired to get back to work on my various academic projects.

If you haven't heard the new Slipknot record, get it. In the meantime, listen to the second track, Gematria, on imeem or whatever because it is way good and the lyrics are totally righteous. Some examples:

What if God doesn't care?

America is a killing name
it doesn't feel or discriminate
life is just a killing field
it's all that's left - nothing's real
throw away your disposable past
and fall apart like cigarette ash
we are the fatal and vital ones of the world
and we will burn your cities down

Feed the Hungry - Feed them shit
Feed them BONES and POLITICS


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Week One, or, Is Jack Really Going To Write In Excruciating Detail About His Mundane Daily Activities From Now On?

Monday was exactly the kind of day I was hoping to have when I decided to quit watching TV and movies. I woke up around 9:30 and picked up the book that was sitting next to my bed - Everything Is Illuminated. I bought it at Powell's last winter because they had a copy for $5 and I had heard good things, but I hadn't picked it up until recently. As of Monday morning I had read about 50 pages and not been particularly impressed, but I promised myself I'd read at least a third before I gave up. I read about ten pages and started to feel a little bit more involved in the plot, but took a break that turned into a nap. I woke up again at 10:30, and, angry with myself for having slept so late (for no good reason), quickly got out of bed and got dressed to go jogging.

A few weeks ago I had a fitness-related freak-out and decided to start jogging again when I was at home staying with my parents. I drove to Blair (my high school) and ran two miles around the track. It took me longer than it should have and I felt wrecked afterward, so I resolved to get back in the habit that I had discarded years ago when I started riding my bike. My route in New York takes me through industrial Bushwick, across Flushing into residential/commercial Bushwick, up to Cypress, which is the border between Brooklyn and Queens, and back home through Ridgewood. The first time I ran along that route I was shocked at how suburban - and, most conspicuously, how green - Ridgewood Queens is. There are trees along the street and yards in front of the old brick row houses.

On this particular morning, the run took a little over 20 minutes and I felt pretty good afterward; it's encouraging how easy it is to get back in shape when you have been in the past. When I got home I did the rest of my workout, which lately consists of three sets each of push-ups, verticle push-ups, and chin-ups, as well as a single set each of three different types of ab workouts. It took longer than it should have but less time than it often does. My goal is to reach the point of being able to do a certain amount of each exercise and then to stop increasing the number of reps and get really good at doing that amount quickly, efficiently, and with good form. Ultimately, I'd like to end up one of those crazy old dudes who is in too-good shape for his age because he has had simple but consistent fitness habits throughout the last three decades of his life, so I'm shooting for a two-mile run, one hundred reps per set of push-ups, twenty five for chin-ups, twenty for verticle push-ups, and an as yet undecided number for various ab workouts, and to be able to do the whole thing in less than 45 minutes without exerting myself so that it will become feasible to do it first thing in the morning every morning.

In between my first and second sets, I went out to breakfast with Tamara. We rode to Bogart street looking for a vegan cafe that I found on the internet, but which turns out to no longer exist. We opted for Life Cafe as a backup plan, and I had a decent tofu scramble over a bagel for $6, which is more than reasonable. We had a very nice conversation about, among other things, print-making. I really enjoy her company and I'm always very glad for the occasions when we talk one-on-one because I've always felt that we have certain perspectives in common that come out only when no one else is around.

I returned home, finished workout out, spent 20 minutes on my knees in the shower scrubbing the mildew, and then washed myself. And here is where it gets really good. I spent almost the entire rest of the day on the couch reading. Page 70 is about where Everything Is Illuminated starts to get good, so as soon as I sat down to continue reading I was hooked. I read the remaining 200 pages in practically one sitting, finishing just in time for Julia's birthday dinner down the hall in apartment 201.

What a fucking perfect day. To recap: running, working out, breakfast with good company, house cleaning, and reading a book nearly cover to cover in one long sitting. If I could spend every day of my life that way I probably would. I am actually that boring. Unfortunately, I agreed to work for Brad the next morning instead of enjoying my usual second day off of the normal work week, and the rest of the week was much busier.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Computer fast

While sitting on the toilet I came up with a great plan. I was going to sell my computer and use the money to buy a record player, a bunch of my favorite records (which until this point I'd only had in digital format), and a typewriter. I'd become too addicted to serial dramas and lowbrow flicks. Every time I sat down to read a book if I didn't find myself enthralled within minutes my mind would start to wander, resting, eventually, on the enticing path of least resistance: the episodes of Gilmore Girls I'd downloaded. I have perhaps the typical attention span of my generation. I lack intrinsic motivation and discipline. And I was sick of being unproductive.

Realistically, however, I needed to consider the practical pros of the computer. I'm in the middle of booking several shows, and myspace is the de facto medium of communication for all parties involved. I also couldn't possibly afford to buy all of my favorite records, even if I sell my laptop, and iTunes is damn convinient. And I don't want to never be able to watch movies - sometimes it can be a fun thing to do with company.

So here's the new plan: one whole month without using my computer for entertainment purposes. A detox. No TV, no Movies (unless I have company), no "surfing" the "internet", and no gchat. I will come home, respond to my email, choose a record or two, and close the lid. Maybe I'll read, maybe I'll write, maybe I'll write music or lyrics, maybe I'll go jogging or do some push-ups. Another approved use of the computer is writing in this blog. I need the mental exercise, I need an outlet, and I need the practice. I've been intended forever to start writing regularly - and not just when I'm traveling. My life has it's interesting moments, and it's bound to be more intellectually productive to document them than to mediate on them while eating Tings and watching Firefly.

I bought a record player anyway. It was only $30 on eBay, and it's something I've been meaning to do for a while. I'll spare you the spiel on why I used to hate record collecting and why I've started to see the merit in, if not collecting records per se, owning them. It's not a very interesting argument.

Tonight I watched Wonder Boys, partially because I was bored, partially for inspiration, and partially for one last hurrah with my old pal Windows Media Player. The book was better. So, here it goes.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Home (for real this time?)

By the time I realized there was no 2:00 Chinatown bus it was too late to make the 1:00. I had intended to be back in New York early enough to get settled in before the show, but because I had to take a 3:00 bus, and because it was the one that went through Philly, when I turned the corner into the second floor hallway of my building for the first time in 2 months and 3 days, I was greeted by a mob of people standing outside of my door. I made my way through the hey-how-are-you's, into my loft, and up the stairs. I had to lift my bike over the heads of 2 girls, one of which turned out to be a friend from Amsterdam, in order to stash it by the new A/C in the back. Within an hour of getting off the bus in New York I was watching Tides play to a living room full of my friends - and a handful of strangers. It was a bit overwhelming.

So now, 5 days and 3 shows later, I'm back in my own bed, listening to music through my own speakers, writing this by the light of my very own bedside lamp, and attempting to steel myself to my first day back at work. I don't remember feeling this defeated in a long time. I've gotten so used to not working that I've forgotten how much I hate knowing that I'm at the mercy of someone else's schedule. I can't stomach the idea of waking up at 7:30 tomorrow morning and spending the better part of a day doing the same thing over and over, punctuated, if I'm lucky, by almost getting killed, which is the only exciting thing that ever happens at work. And the best part? Business has slowed in my absence and they can no longer afford to pay me a guarantee. Being back on commission means fighting for jobs and still ending up with a little over half as much money at the end of the day. I've spent most of today trying to think of a way out of this. Ben gave me a well-meaning philosophical diatribe about doing what you need to do in order to facilitate being able to do what you want (which was largely invalidated by his admission that he really likes work), Sean tried to convince me that I should just learn to live with less money (which, given how much less I'll be making now that I'm off the guarantee, I'll be doing anyway, but I'll still have to work full-time). If I continue in this direction, this post will devolve into a whiny appeal to the universe to just give me a break from the slow death of privileged, middle-class expectations (if it hasn't already), so I'll leave cut it short here.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Home (sort of)

At about 7:30 on Tuesday evening (eastern standard time), my plane touched down at Reagan National Airport in VA. I turned my cell phone back on, texted my dad to let him know I had arrived (he was, naturally, stuck in traffic and not quite there yet), and bid farewell to my new friend, an electrical engineer from Phoenix with 3 kids (one about my age from a previous marriage and two youngsters), whose name I forgot as soon as I stepped off the plane. I've never traveled first class before, and for those readers that have not either, let me tell you, it's not really that different. But the seats are comfy. I spent most of the flight watching Definitely, Maybe, starring, among others, Ryan Reynolds (in his first serious role of which I'm aware) and Rachel Weisz. It was surprisingly good, and not just in the sense that makes movies appeal to me (ie. cheap laughs, sappy romance, and nothing too heavy). As my iPod is now in the hands of either a teenaged mugger from Oakland or a lucky ebayer, when my neighbor initiated conversation I was glad for the distraction from Hannah Arendt's The Human Condition and the limited selection of music played through airplane armrests. It's always strange to hear yourself describe your own life to a polite, interested, clueless stranger. If you've ever tried to explain why you get tattoos to someone who has none and isn't into punk rock, you know what I'm talking about. It's hard not to sound kind of foolish, to be honest.

So I've been home for almost a week now, and I have a handful of thoughts. Firstly, as much as I enjoy west coast weather, it's too perfect, and I didn't even realize it until I was back on the east coast. 80 degrees, sunny, dry, bug-free... BORING! Hanging out outside on the east coast is an activity in and of itself; it has CHARACTER for shit's sake. I hate mosquitoes as much as the next guy - probably even more so, as they seem to have a particular affinity for my blood - but just sitting on the back porch, sweating, listening to the cicadas... that's real hanging out.

Actually, that's really my only observation. I've been hanging out with old friends, staying up late talking about girls with my mom, and cuddling with Scout, my baby girl (see this post about Attrition's tour dog, now renamed after the protagonist of one of my favorite novels because it takes place in the very same state in which she was discovered). I've been having band practice with Welch and Mikey for our new indie band, which is coming along nicely despite having a part or two which sound a little more like mid-era Hopesfall than we were shooting for (as much as I've always liked No Wings to Speak of and The Satellite Years). And I've watched a lot of movies. I mean a lot. Why as I write this, I'm in fact watching the second one of the day. The first was a delightful Zach Braff movie co-staring Amanda Peet as his not-so-believable wife and Jason Bateman as his fake-cripple arch-nemesis. Whatever, I can feel your judging stars from here; I thought it was fucking funny, OK?

So that's DC so far. Actually, I may have skipped over some details, like the evening we spent eating at Sticky Fingers, driving around looking for an out-door movie screening on Georgia Ave put on by the SDS (which turned out to be canceled), and visiting a birthday party DJed by a meticulously assembled playlist of songs containing the word "boom" (over 50% of which, apparently, contain it in the chorus) which hadn't really gotten underway until at least an hour after we arrived. It sounds like more fun that it was, but a fun evening of mediocre activities improved solely by the quality of the company sounds like more fun if you summarize it briefly. Anyway, I head back to New York on Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on Adam's availability to tattoo me, and I go back to work. I ran out of money around when I worried that I might, so the last few weeks I've been traveling on credit, and it's time to start paying down the debt. I don't really know what to expect; I hear there's been a bit of drama back home. And I'm not exactly enthusiastic about going back to work. I'm not making any long-term commitments, because this trip has opened by eyes to the fact that I've been living in New York for no particular reason and I need to find a reason or get the fuck out. I'm not sure what happens next, but I'm more excited to find out than I have been in a while.

As for the last 2 weeks of my trip, the computer where I was staying in San Francisco was really slow and had a busted "v" key, and in Santa Barbara I had no internet at all. Perhaps I'll find the time to update my loyal readership once I've settled back into routine life in New York. It will probably lack some of the punch, as I will have already told many of you about in person by the time I get to writing about it, but for the sake of posterity, I hope that I manage to get it done anyway.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Last night

I've been living in Bushwick for almost two years now and the first time I ended up with a knife at my ribs was in Berkeley, CA. Figures. The only time I was sort of mugged in Brooklyn it was by a hysterical middle-aged man who told me that if I didn't give him $5 for toilet paper, diapers, and milk he would stab me with a knife I doubt he really had. I offered to buy them for him on my credit card because I didn't have any cash, but my bus arrived while we were walking to the store so I apologized, handed him whatever change was in my pocket, and got on the bus.

I guess in a wealthy, progressive, mostly white college town that shares borders with a historically poor, violent ghetto it comes with the territory (not that the Oakland of 2008 quite compares with the Oakland of yesteryear). Still, I never thought I'd say I feel safer walking home from the Jefferson stop on the L, but I guess I kinda do. Walking home from the Ashby BART station I look for all the world like a rich college kid who won't put up much of a fight, and if you thought so you'd be at least a third right. Why wouldn't you hold me up for my iPod and the $25 in cash I'm carrying; my rich parents will probably feel sorry for me and buy me a new one. Unfortunately, I actually do work for a living, but it's an honest mistake.

I thought they were following me but there wasn't much I could do about it. All of a sudden there was an arm around my neck and the business end of a cheap switchblade poking me right above the kidney. He didn't look a day older than 15. Guy #2 came around in front of me and folded his arms in a poor attempt at appearing menacing. He looked a little older but no less nervous. I couldn't tell what either one said because I still had my headphones on (although I got the gist of it), so I took them off just as he told me to give him the iPod. Like I said, I'm not the type to put up much of a fight, although every time something like this happens I walk away wondering how much pain and risk my self-respect should be worth. This time, apparently, my middle-class instincts took over and I did as I was told without thinking about it first. Next he asked for my wallet. I told him he could have the whole $25 I was carrying but I didn't want to give him my ID or credit cards, since I would just be canceling them anyway. While I started pulling cards out, preparing to hand him a wallet with nothing in it but a Starbucks card with $8.67 on it, an expired rubber, and a few phone numbers, he asked what was in my bag. I told him, truthfully, that all I had was a couple of books and a half-eaten falafel sandwhich. Guy #2 opened it up as guy #1, seemingly losing his nerve, started to skip away, having forgotten about the useless wallet (he already had the cash), and then they both took off, yelling something about how I needed my books for class on Monday. I'm not sure if that was intended as sarcasm or nicety, but for some reason I felt compelled to correct them lest they go home thinking that they had judged me correctly, and with my one remaining shred of pride I yelled after them, "I'm not in school, I read those for fun!" Within moments I was running over scenarios in my head that involved fighting back, running, staring him in they eyes and telling him to fuck off, and telling him that if he was interested in continental philosophy or feminist theory he was welcome to my books but that otherwise he should forget about the bag. In retrospect, I wish he had stolen my copy of MacKinnon's Toward a Feminist Theory of the State and given it a read, since I only paid $6 for it at Myopic Books in Chicago anyway.

I could give a fuck about the iPod, and the fact that all I need to do is go on ebay, authorize the use of my credit card, and a brand new one arrives within days speaks to the complicated nature of inner-city politics and race relations. This wasn't a random act of violence, if anything it was probably (whether directly or indirectly) a response to social and institutional violence, for which I have inherited some of the responsibility.

This represents another event in a series of reminders that I am not, as my upbringing may have suggested, at the top of the food chain by virtue of intelligence and education. Despite the fact that I was mugged once when I was in high school (it's a long story, but suffice it to say that, relative to your average mugging, it wasn't particularly threatening) and that a certain amount of violent crime managed to spill over the borders that Takoma Park shares with PG county and NE DC, I feel that I was raised in the delusion state of belief that the "real" world is the world of bourgeois concerns, career goals, and enjoyable pastimes, and that the Hobbseian state of nature that exists beneath it all is a distant memory. It is a jarring experience to be confronted with the fact that all of that can be taken away, all of the Liberal Arts education, material goods, the hobbies, the emotional struggles, by someone who lives outside of that paradigm, but it is even more deeply unsettling to be reminded of the fact that most of the people on the earth live with the threat of immediate physical violence looming over their every action. But I'm not in the mood for polemics.

Other than some lingering questions about privilege and politics, the thing I've been left thinking about the most is how this sort of thing effects my sense of self-respect. The rational thing to do was certainly to hand over the money and electronics, and had I the presence of mind to carefully consider my options and do so, I probably would feel fine about it. But just like the time a schizophrenic threatened over and over to kill me - from a distance of no more than a a few inches - in retaliation for something he'd imagined that I'd done, and just like the time a truck-driver got out of his truck and grabbed me in the middle of traffic, I panicked and allowed someone to walk all over me, to own me. Maybe I could have taken them, maybe not. In this case, I'd say that the likelihood that if I managed not to get stabbed I still probably would have lost the fight and ended up losing my journal and cell phone as well as the iPod made compliance the smart move, but I didn't make it as a well-reasoned judgment, it was my gut reaction. To completely prostrate myself before anyone willing to make credible physical threats to my person. Cowardice. It's completely emasculating, and every time something like this happens my sense of self-respect dissolves. After the aforementioned incident with a trucker I was left thinking that with all those people around the worst that could have possibly happened would have been that I got hit a couple of times in the face, and I know my self-respect is worth at least that much to me. No matter how many fights I do get into or at least commit to (not that this happens all that often), or how many mirrors or windows I smash, something inside of me will always make me feel like less of a man because when push comes to shove my instinct is not to stand up for myself. How fucked up is that? I can read and debate all the feminist theory I want, but apparently I will always be controlled by the hegemonic concept of masculinity, and a part of me isn't so sure that's wrong. I believe that the state exists primarily to protect the property of the rich from the poor, and I'd be a lousy anarchist if I didn't have some faith that in a free society people would have more of an interest in helping than hurting each other, but unless you cede it to the relative monopoly of the use of force enjoyed by the police and military, self-defense is as much a natural right as anything else can be said to be (assuming that unlike me you believe in the concept of natural rights). Why shouldn't I value strength, so long as it's not at the expense of valuing compassion, why shouldn't I value the ability to assert oneself so long as it's not at the expense of considering the needs of others? I don't necesarily think that feminism asks of men (or women, or transpeople, for that matter) that we relinquish these values. Whatever, I guess I'm running out of steam.

Scared to death and scared to look
They shook...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Leaving Portland

Ok, first order of business: whoever left an anonymous comment on my last entry without signing it, I don't know who you are. If you have stuff you want to talk to me about, you should let me know who you are. Or if you prefer to maintain an air of mystery, by all means change nothing.

With that out of the way...

I'm leaving Portland in less than 24-hours. Through craigslist, I found a ride with a man named Gary, who is concerned with environmental issues, has an unidentified accent that sounds sort of French and sort of Middle Eastern (not that I'm an expert my any stretch of the imagination), and told me on the phone that though he wasn't vegan he could imagine himself spiritually converting to veganism. Ooookay. Should be an interesting ride.

I've been here now for just over two weeks. In the post before my last I talked about some of the things I had done up to that point; sadly, I've done almost nothing worth mentioning since. Well, maybe it isn't all that sad, because I tend to enjoy sitting around a living room reading, watching movies, and talking with my friends. But the lull in activity has reinforced the feeling that it's about time to get moving again. Not that I'm getting sick of my very good friends here in Portland, nor of the city itself, but 2 weeks is a pretty good amount of time to spend in a city in which one has no projects, goals, jobs, or activities. I could just keep renting moves and reading books, but I can do that (and I often do) in New York, where I can also work and pay down my credit card debt rather than amassing even more whilst sitting on my ass.

But I haven't done nothing, just less than in my first week. So, here are a few things I've done in the last week:

-Played a lot more pool.

-Spent a few hours tanning with my feet in a public fountain, the likes of which I've never seen. There is a very fountain downtown with several levels and artificial waterfalls, and in which swimming is not only allowed but encouraged. The water in each area is only a couple of feet deep, so there are no lifeguards. Just a sign that advises the citizen to exercise caution. On a day as hot as that one, it is pretty crowded, but there is still plenty of space to sit in the sun with one's friends in naught but sunglasses and boxer-briefs. The real miracle is that no one has yet fallen and been seriously injured or killed. The upper-level pools are separated from the 15-foot drop to the lower ones by a ledge that stands about as high as the water level and is about half a foot wide. No railing, no pathway, nothing. Sitting on the bottom I watched 4-year-old after 4-year-old stand on a slippery ledge, back facing a potentially fatal drop, and jump into the pool. Perhaps Portlanders are more coordinated than the rest of us.

-Sitting in the cafe at Powell's, reading. Powell's, which I've probably mentioned in previous posts, is the largest used-book store I've ever seen. It occupies an entire city block and has 3 or 4 floors. I am somewhat of a bibliophile, and I could wander around the stacks all day thinking about books I'd like to have read, things I'd like to know more about, and how impressive my bookshelf could look. This time, however, after an hour or two of browsing, I made an uncharacteristically financially sound decision and decided to sit in the cafe with my friends reading the book I already owned - Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow - instead of buying several more. My reading queue is already miles long and getting longer. Some day I'll know everything.

-Wikipedia-ing rappers, housing projects, gangs, philosophers, and writers, for a total of 4 or 5 hours in 2 days. It all started with being curious as to the educational background of Lil' Wayne, but once you get started clicking links, you can go for days. Did you know that Lil' Wayne and Tupac were both drama geeks in middle school?

-Driving in Matt's car, running other peoples' errands, for 3 or 4 hours one day. I've always really enjoyed driving, and now that I do it so rarely it's even more fun.

-Celebrating my birthday. We bought Pizza dough from Hot Lips, Temptation Cheese from Food Fight, and Stewart's root beer from New Seasons. Jake made pizza sauce and Sean, drawing upon his previous experience at a pizza shop, spun the dough in the air. Justine topped everyone else by making s'mores cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. Excellent birthday.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Happy birthday to me (tomorrow)

On the day I turned 22, I took the last ever final exam of my undergraduate career and said goodbye to a lot of people that I [correctly] expected never to talk to again (despite nearly universal insistence that we tooootally needed to hang out). When everyone found out that it was my birthday, they promised that we would all go to dinner or a bar or whatever to celebrate, but I knew that they would all forget because it was the last night in Madrid for most of them and they had more fun things to do. The only person that remembered was my friend Stephanie - incidentally the only person to whom I ever spoke again - and we went out for dinner, her treat. I didn't hold it against anyone; I didn't make a big deal out of my birthday and told people that they didn't need to either. I ended up being very thankful, however, that Stephanie was concerned, because it turned out to be a really nice way to spend a birthday. After we ate, we wandered around old Madrid, stopping occasionally to sit on a bench or ledge for a bit and running into odd packs of drunk NYU kids, until 7am. The next day I left for Barcelona.

This has been an interesting year. Discounting the semester I took off between Vassar and NYU (during which I claimed not to be sure whether or not I would go back to college but knew all along that I would), this year has been my first without any externally imposed structure. No more parents paying rent, no more excuses for putting off making decisions (not that that stopped me), no more health insurance, no more assigned reading or homework. In the immortal words of rock god Tom Petty: into the great wide open; a rebel without a clue. And I choked big time. As soon as I returned to the gleaming alabaster city of all gleaming alabaster cities, I plunged headfirst into what I'm starting to now realize was a serious rut.

To clarify, I did do a lot of awesome stuff this year. I built my own bedroom in a new intentional living space, got overpaid to work full-time as a courier for a company that is hemorrhaging clients like a beeper service center, got a bunch of bitchin tats, embarked on a cross-country bike/greyhound trip, made a lot of new friends and strengthened relationships with others, and, in all of the confusion, managed to misplace my v-card, shortly before what would have otherwise been yet another in a long string of depressing New Years, insofar as I tend to view most chronological milestones as opportunities to reflect on my failures (I've been accused of being a pessimist).

But this trip has helped me to realize how fully in a rut I was. I think I was dimly aware already, but a fresh perspective and a handful of reminders of things I used to care about have elucidated it further. If I had spent the last year hanging out, having fun, working, and being creatively unproductive with the intention of it merely being a break before I got started on The Next Big Thing, there would have been no problem, but I've been stalling just to stall and that has facillitated the development of my nihilism. When I'm not distracted by projects and short-term goals I spend too much time stewing about my lack of long-term goals, which inevitably leads to the conviction that such things are illogical and that meaningfulness is an illusion. I'm not saying I'm wrong about this, but I hate to have been in a position to dwell on it so much. I haven't been writing music or devoted to an active band; I haven't been pursuing my academic or even intellectual careers (other than reading a lot more fiction than I have in years); I haven't been involved in political or social activism (even using the term loosely). The only venture into which I've been putting any effort is dating, and that's gotten me just a hair beyond nowhere. I guess I lost motivation when I lost momentum. I've forgotten what it felt like to really care about accomplishing something. I've convinced myself that nothing matters to me.

Tomorrow I turn 23. Hopefully this year I can find some of that motivation again - find a reason. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Other than the show that Attrition played on our tour 2 years ago, I'd only visited Portland during the rainy season prior to this trip, and my opinion of the city has done a 180 in the last 9 days. In the past I've always gotten the impression that Portland is pretty dead. I've never seen a lot of people out and about, nor did I feel the kind of energy that I look for in an urban setting. Granted, New York is a pretty unreasonable standard against which to hold anywhere else except maybe Tokyo, but Boston, Philly, and DC all feel more alive than Portland in the winter. However, in the summer Portland is a totally different story. People are everywhere: walking around, shopping, looking hip, riding bikes, discussing sustainable home gardening and green capitalism, and being white. Sardonicism aside, I like the vibe, I like the vegan food, I like the people I've met, and there are a lot of attractive young people just waiting for me to move here and sit inside reading instead of being social and meeting them. I've been taking considerably less thorough notes here than I did while on the road, and I have neither the memory nor the desire to attempt a meticulous play-by-play of my time in Portland. My noteworthy activities have included the following (in no particular order):

-Seeing Ruiner at a house show. I haven't been to a house show in a long time, and despite the fact that Portland has a reputation for having a lame hardcore scene, it was actually pretty fun. It's also nice to see people you know in different contexts, because when you are out of your comfort zone people that you only sort of know become really good friends. Also we got to hear the saga of Rob Sullivan and Justice's falling out, which took at least 15 minutes but was nonetheless engaging. We were expecting a shorter answer but it turned out to be quite an interesting tale. I love Baltimore drama... at a distance.

-Seeing On, Have Heart, and Verse at Satyricon. All the bands were raving about how much better that show was than any previous Portland show, so apparently the Ruiner show was no fluke. One of the opening bands, Life and Limb, had a really great set; their local fan base was enthusiastically participatory, their singer prefaced each song with a (verbose and unfocused but well-intentioned) rant about a political subject, and, unlike many of their colleagues in the world of political hardcore, they were technically solid and played a tight set. They sounded sort of like The Suicide File + Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent-era Refused, with a new-school melodic vibe. I don't actually like The Suicide File that much, and less so bands that try to sound like them, but Life and Limb was at least good at what they did, if not exactly my bag.
On's set was overall pretty solid, and punctuated by two songs which I thought were really good and a cover that I believe was Quicksand. I hope their next record is more along the lines of the two exceptional songs. Have Heart and Verse were pretty typical, with the addition of a lot of kids spin-kicking in a fashion I haven't seen at a non-metalcore show on the East Coast since around 2004. I wish Have Heart still played songs from What Counts; I think they were at their best when they were shamelessly ripping off Chain of Strength, because, as is indicated by the name of this blog, they are easily my favorite youth crew band.
After the show I had a nice time catching up with some more tour friends and then wandered around downtown Portland with On looking for vegan food, ultimately settling for VooDoo Doughnuts.

-Seeing Wanted. It sucked.

-Playing video games at a bar called Ground Control which, for those of you who have been to Brooklyn, is what Barcade wishes it could be, and then playing more video games a different day at 5 cent arcade called The Avalon. With his ski-ball tickets Ian landed a sweet inflatable baseball bat with which he promised to hit random passers-by on our ride home. He reneged on this promise, as he did on his promise to approach a stranger walking into the video store and recite the scene from Titanic in which Leo insists, while removing his boots and jacket, that if Kate "goes in" (referring to jumping off the back of the boat), he'll have to go in after her. YOU ARE ALL TALK IAN SHIVER!

Real talk: jklolz I love u bro!

-Going to Sassy's, which is a strip club, and the first one I've ever been to. One of my friends with whom I'm staying here works there, so Ian and I went to meet her after work last Wednesday and popped in for 15 minutes before she got off; I've been back to meet her after work a couple more times since. This has sparked a series of discussions concerning the patriarchal implications of strip clubs, none of which have been particularly conclusive. As far as I understand, feminist responses to strip clubs range from vehement condemnation to enthusiastic support, and even among the feminist women whom I know personally and whose opinions I generally respect there seems to be no agreement. I tend to think that if I were to reach a conclusion it would be fairly neutral if not slightly positive, but the bottom line is that I don't feel uncomfortable being there, so though I have no intention of becoming a regular, going by myself, spending lots of money, or EVER getting lap dance from anyone (because the very idea of it makes me feel awkward), I have no problem with going with a couple of friends 30 minutes before my friend gets off work, shooting a couple of games of pool, drinking a Shirley Temple, and watching girls dance naked to Dashboard Confessional, Pat Benetar, and Journey. If you have any thoughts on this matter, please feel free to make them known.

-Picking raspberries, losing the initial volley of a raspberry war, and then taking the fight to the ground, which resulted in a successful rear naked choke/raspberry smash on the bare stomach.

-Learning how to make Jam.

-Playing pool on a free table at a bar called The Mash Tun for almost 4 hours and ending up dead even. Phil, who insisted that he has only played pool a handful of times in his life, convinced me to give him 4:1 odds on $5 games, but the odds evolved as we played, ending up at 1:1 on $10 with me spotting him 2 balls (odds which I think he gave me because he knew it had started off in his favor and he wanted to give me a chance to win back my money). The final score was 11 games to 7, and we may have agreed on 2:3 with me spotting him 1 ball for any future games. I'm NOT a gambling addict, shut up.

-Discussing, at length, a reconciliation of a radical interpretation of the Christian faith, held by my friend Benny, with anarcho-primitivism, a political conviction which he holds and defends more admirably than most. He contends that a lot of the writings in the New Testaments are attempts to repair the patriarchal and homophobic tendencies in the Old Testament and the seemingly inconsistent ones which appear to support and uphold patriarchy and hetero-normativity are in place simply to pay lip service to the laws of the Roman Empire in an attempt to avoid religious persecution. He had a lot of other very interesting points in defense of his personal faith, which is Christian only in the loosest sense.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The [sort of] end

After several hours on the computer trying to find a good bike route to Olympia, we determined that we were probably not going to do any better than the google maps directions which included 30 or more directions and took us entirely through suburban sprawl, mostly on roads which looked like multiple-lane roads with no shoulders. Ok, fine, we could have ridden that way anyway, but it just looked like it wasn't going to be any fun. So, when we found out that we could take a train and bus for around $5 each, we took the easy road again. Having reconceptualized this trip as a general traveling adventure rather than a bike-specific trip, it didn't really bum me out.

When we got to Olympia, we rode to my friend Ashley's house to meet up with Amina - a very close high school friend with whom I haven't been very close in the last several years - where we witnessed a cake-related crisis and its resolution. It was inspiring. After assorted hang-outs we ended up at an acoustic show which was described to us as "very Olympia". The music ranged from decent to really good, and the vibe reminded me of when I visited Oberlin College as a high school senior. Sean and I shared Amina's very small bed that night and his knees kept forcing me closer and closer to the wall.

The next morning we went with Amina, Ashley, and their friend Elenore to a Korean place to get tofu sandwiches and then walked around downtown Olympia, such as it is. While sitting around discussing our trip earlier, Sean and I had come to the conclusion that, as much as we felt ready to get back on the bikes, we were getting anxious to get to Portland, as we both had people there we really wanted to see. We talked about changing our route and biking as quickly and directly as we could to Portland, and then it occurred to me that my friend Matt, to whom I'd spoken on the phone earlier, just might be into driving up from Portland to pick us up. As it turned out, he was looking for an excuse to get out of the city for the day. He drove up to Olympia and we had Thai and went on a nature walk through some forest or something. It was actually pretty cool. He had recently been on a similar nature walk which included learning about edible plant life, so he dropped a bit of that sort of knowledge on us along the way. We spent a long time sitting on a beach of rocks and mud and trying to skip poorly-shaped rocks along the Puget Sound. When the sun started to go down we jumped in the car and headed to Portland.

Sean and I promised each other that we'd ride out to the coast and go camping, and I'm considering riding from SF to Sound and Fury Fest in Santa Barbara at the end of July, but I guess the trip is pretty much over, insofar as it has been defined by getting to Portland. I'll be here for the next couple of weeks, then the Bay area, then Sound and Fury, and then, unless something comes up giving me a reason to stay out west, Back to the east coast. Perhaps some reflections on it all later.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


For those considering a 2-day Greyhound bus trip, allow me to advise against it. The boredom didn't bother me; I read, I listened to a lecture series released by the Teaching Company about Nietzsche, I napped, and I contemplated. The physical discomfort, on the other hand, is a severe bummer. My legs cramped, my knees became sore, and sleeping for any length of time required Nyquil, which I hated. I rarely take medicine designed to treat symptoms (other than for allergies), partially because I don't like the idea of it but mostly because I prefer to try to listen to what my body is telling me and address the underlying cause. I rarely get headaches, but if I do, it probably means I haven't been eating right, sleeping enough, or doing enough to relieve stress; if I can't sleep, I get up and do something else for a while until I feel tired, and, for the week or so each year that I have insomnia, I try to really deal with whatever emotional issue is getting in the way; if I'm tired, that means I need to sleep more or get more exercise while I'm awake, so I don't use caffeine to artificially wake me up. But on the bus if I didn't use Nyquil, I would have slept in shallow 20-minute intervals and been a total wreck. But perhaps the most bummerific consequence of the long ride was that after spending 2 days sitting down, our ankles and feet were disgustingly swollen. After the first few weeks of the trip, Sean and I were pretty psyched about our legs. Sean, particularly, takes his lower-body physique pretty seriously, and my personal theory is that vanity is more often the reason for leg-shaving among cyclists than performance. So I was upset and Sean was crushed to see our fat ankles, the tops of our feet spilling out of our shoes. Luckily, after several nights of prone slumber, our pedial shapeliness has returned.

The next Greyhound-associated snag was  the fact that our bikes did not make it to Seattle as quickly as we did. In the middle of the night in Billings, MT, there were too many people waiting to get on the bus so they split up the group and added a second bus. We stayed on the same bus but our bikes didn't. We were told that our bikes would arrive on the next bus, so, per the suggestion of my buddy Vibe (Jennette, if you are reading this, I'm sorry), we wandered in the direction of Capitol Hill in search of vegan food. We had some pretty decent pizza and met up with Vibe, who generously walked us back to his swanky, kitten-filled apartment where we showered, did laundry, and watched TiVo  with him and his girlfriend, both of whom were very gracious hosts when it turned out that our bikes were not on the next bus and we decided to stay there for the night instead of heading up to the U district, since they live closer to the Greyhound terminal. 

The next day we walked back to the dirty dog where our bikes had finally arrived, re-assembled them, and rode to Hillside Quickie's where we enjoyed sandwiches and the company of Danny and his badass car from the late 1950s. Danny has seen better days, and it's always a bummer to run into a friend who is not at his best, but it was still nice to catch up. Not being able to immediately cure my friends' emotional ailments has always made me feel like a terrible friend. If you've ever gotten unsolicited advice from me, now you know why.

After a few hours of killing time in the U district, we rode to the screen printing shop where the merch magic happens for every hardcore band in the northwest and folded shirts late into the night with Ace and assorted cameos by legitimate bros allstars, all of whom have nicknames that are similarly idiosyncratic to NW hardcore. Ace claims that he is not in the habit of waiting until the night before tour to print several hundred shirts, but being no stranger to the concept of punk time, I suspect that this was not the first time things have been pushed to the last minute, nor will it be the last.

We slept that night at the Bro Dangler - an historic punk house known (by me, at least) for the prolificness (prolificity?) of its hardcore-playing inhabitants - and spent the next day getting in the way of On's tour preparations. I ran into a handful of tour-friends, which is always a good time, made a few new ones, and ate too much food. After On left and Roger and RJ returned to their respective homes we found ourselves alone at the Dangler with an evening to kill and a sizable collection of VHS tapes. I'm not generally the type to speak celebratorily about the wonders of punk rock and hardcore, but I must say that you don't tend to get this kind of treatment in many other circles that I've experienced. This was, in fact, exactly what Chicago was missing (although it turns out that we had a contact of this sort in Chicago, we just didn't get in contact with her until it was too late). I'm used to showing up in nearly any major city and having a friend of a friend who is not only willing to let me crash on the couch but actually treats me like an old friend upon first acquaintance, and as thankful as I am for the hospitality of Bill and Ben in Chicago, there is a unique character to the welcome you tend to receive at a punk house. Though I've known Ace for several years, we don't know each other especially well, as our friendship, if it can be called that, has consisted mostly of running into each other at a handful of his band's shows, and I had never met any of his roommates  before yesterday. Nonetheless, when 3/4 of the house left for tour (including Ace, the only person who actually knew who I was), Beej showed us where a key was hidden and we were welcomed to stay as long as we wanted. This is pretty much the usual treatment in my experience, and it's pretty easy to take it for granted.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Leaving Chicago

Another round of french toast at Pick Me Up this morning (which may have been the non-vegan one; it started to taste weird after we were more than halfway through but we weren't sure and we figured that if it was the non-vegan one they would probably just end up throwing it out), Whole Foods to pick up some snacks for the next 2 days, and a bike shop to get boxes for our bikes. After a series of conversations about our plans and goals, at which I've hinted a couple of times, we decided to ride to Milwaukee, which is about a day from here, and fly to Seattle. However, the day after we decided not to buy $150 tickets because we wanted to think about it more, the prices went up by more than $100, so I ended up buying $180 Greyhound tickets and we are now poised to spend almost 48 house on a bus, starting at 10:30 tonight. After I leave here we are going to eat one last meal at Chicago Diner (of course), pack up our bikes, and take the train (what do they call it here? the "L"?) to the bus station. Once we make it to Seattle, we'll hang out there for a couple of days and then ride, at a much more liesurely pace, to Olympia, then out to the coast, and, finally, to Portland. I sent an email to a friend yesterday explaining why we decided to take this route, so rather than retyping more or less the same thing, I'll just paste it below. If you live in Seattle, get at me. If you live in Portland, I'll see you in a week or so.

For my non-cyclist readers, the following is borrowed from Wikipedia:
Drafting or slipstreaming is a technique in sports racing where competitors align in a close group in order to reduce the overall effect of drag or fluid resistance of the group in a slipstream. Especially when high speeds are involved, drafting can significantly reduce the average energy expenditure required to maintain a certain speed.

To Dan:
So Sean and I managed about 90-100 miles for the first leg of the trip (not counting the day we took off in Scranton, PA), pus a 130 mile day at the end. We stayed in Cleveland for 3 days, and then did about 100-110 for a couple of days, two 60-70 mile days, and got to Chicago. We realized a couple of days in that if we kept the pace high, drafted, and didn't stop too much, we could keep up 100-150 a day for the next 3 or 4 weeks (with a day off once a week or so and varying with the headwinds and terrain), sleeping wherever we ended the day and eating whatever we could find along the way, and make it to Portland in a litle over a month. We also realized that this would be no fun at all. That kind of pace leaves no time for the things about traveling that I really enjoy: exploring new towns, checking out local vegan food, meeting people, and generally having adventures. Those were the reasons I wanted to do this, not just to prove that I am a really hardcore cyclist (because let's face it, I'm not), and they were being totally eclipsed by the pressure to keep going. Additionally, for me, at least, riding 15-20 mph on a loaded up touring bike requires a lot of mental energy as well as physical; I found myself spending most of my riding time just thinking about riding. If I'm leading, all I can think about is push push push keep up the pace don't slow down, and if I'm drafting I'm just staring at Sean's rear wheel desperately trying not to let it get any further from me. In New York I've gotten so accustomed to traffic that if I just ride 12-15mph and find good lines, I can zone out and think about other stuff, and I was hoping that this trip would give me a lot of time to get some good thinking done. It hasn't. I don't like riding enough to enjoy riding for most of my waking hours, thinking about nothing but riding, and having no time for anything else, and Sean likes it only a little more than me. So the revised plan became: take it slow, stop often, explore, have adventures, and enjoy ourselves. We made it to Chicago in about 4 or 5 more days than it would have taken if we hadn't spent 3 days in Cleveland and taken a few slow days, and we've been hanging out here for 4 days already. If we had all summer, we would just keep this up and make it to Portland eventually, but since Sean needs to be back at work on july 21st and wants at least 2 weeks in Portland, we are going to probably fly from Milwaukee, which is a days ride from here, to Seattle, hang out there for a few days, ride to Olympia and then out to the coast, and finally down the coast to Portland, for a total distance of around 1300-1500 miles.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Chicago so far

If I ever bother to sit down and make a list of my top 10 regrets in life, not seeing Fugazi will be on it for sure. They were still playing for the first 6 or 7 years that I was going to shows; in fact, my friends often went to see them and I didn't bother because I didn't like them. I guess it was just a matter of timing. Sometimes you need to hear a band at a certain point in your life for the music and the ideas behind it to resonate with you, or maybe I just wasn't a sophisticated enough music listener until more recently (when I was 14 or 15, I think I remember believing that everything except skate punk and youth crew hardcore was "gay") to appreciate it, but for whatever reason it wasn't until just after they stopped playing shows that something clicked and I started to realize why everyone liked them so much. In the several years since, my appreciation has grown with every listening, and I think the only thing that could really deepen my relationship to the music would be seeing them play it live. Their songwriting relied so heavily on dynamics, and the production on their recordings downplays the dynamic effect for me. I've seen the Instrument dvd, which corroborates my suspicion that the live show is way better than the record.

Anyway, all of that is by way of introducing my activity for last night: seeing Mike Kinsella and some of his friends play a set of all Fugazi covers at a bar. It was awesome. Though their stage presence was poor (Mike looked like he was just hanging out, having a good time playing his favorite tunes, and his backing band looked like they had never played for an audience before in their lives), their musicianship was exactly where it needed to be. The guitar tone was straight off the record, the drummer played everything fill for fill (at least, to the best of my memory), and Mike even did a pretty decent impression of Ian's voice, though not so much with Guy's. They played all of my favorite songs except Blueprint, including Sieve-
Fisted Find and Smallpox Champion, although the latter was probably the sloppiest song of the set. Other noteworthy aspects of the show:
-Mike is way better looking than I had ever suspected and has fantastic hair.
-The show was a benefit for CAASE - the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, an organization that seeks to eliminate the demand for sex work. They cage it in almost pseudo-feminist language, but it sounds suspiciously puritanical to me.
-The opening band, The Beauty Shop, was a pretty decent trio that had songs ranging from mediocre alt country to pretty solid indie rock, with a singer that sounded like a cross between Johnny Cash and Mike Ness and a really solid drummer.

A play-by-play of my activities in Chicago would be pretty boring to read, because it would consist mostly of eating. We've eaten at the Chicago Diner 3 times now, which is by far my favorite, as well as twice at The Pick Me Up (also in Boystown), which has amazing french toast and a great jukebox, once at Earwax Cafe in Wicker Park, which makes an extremely flavorful jerk seitan sandwich, once at some Mexican place that made the best burritos I've had outside of southern California, and once at the Handlebar where the biscuits and gravy are phenomenal but the breakfast burrito unimpressive. We've also done a lot of wandering around, sitting at Starbucks reading the Reader (the local equivalent of the Village Voice), and sitting at the "beach" by Lake Michigan. We stayed at a hostel the first night, which reminded me of living in dorms, at a friend of a friend's very spacious apartment the second night (Sean was convinced that he was actually Thurston Moore), and at a courier's apartment last night, where I watched Hollow Man on On Demand. We went to a meeting of the Chicago Couriers Union, which was impressively well-organized if poorly attended, and spent an evening playing free pool at a bar called Ronny's while watching World Extreme Cagefighting on tv. That pretty much sums up the last few days. I really like this city.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Article about us in the Northwest Indiana Times.

Day 2

Having fallen asleep much earlier at the end of our first day of riding than we had on the night before we left, we woke up around 7:30 on the morning of day 2. In the middle of the night a light rain had forced us to wake up and put the (not actually waterproof) cover over the tent, so we were not only sore from having ridden almost 100 miles the day before but a little damp as well. At that point my pollen allergies were starting to remind me that I was no longer in the city. Nonetheless we were in pretty good spirits as we ate the remainder of the box of pop tarts and broke camp for the first time.

The first 45 minutes of the morning was 90% climbing, at an average speed of probably 7 mph or so, and I remember thinking to myself as I bent my head down into a steep climb, "fuck, I could be at home watching Gossip Girl." By 8:30 we were ready for our first break. Just as it started to rain again, we stopped inside a"safety booth", which was sort of like an old wooden bus stop but in the middle of nowhere, and Sean promptly fell asleep.

Around 9:30 we started again, this time with a bit more enthusiasm, and spent most of the rest of the morning climbing Moosic Mountain (elevation about 2000 feet). 20 Miles into the morning we took a second break by the side of a lake in the woods. The rain had stopped but the lake was covered in a thick mist which added a mysterious quality to its in-the-woods-in-the-middle-of-nowhere charm. I sat next to Sean on some rocks and we shared a bag of potato chips. After a few minutes I noticed that there were ants crawling all over me, and no sooner had I surmised that I must have sat on their home than they began biting. I jumped up and began swatting at every little spot where I felt a pinch, on my arms, legs and back, and even a few down my pants. For the next half hour or so every little inch and pinch felt like another ant. What a stupid evolutionary defense mechanism. If they hadn't started biting me I would have brushed them off and moved to a spot that wasn't their home, leaving them in peace, but as soon as they started biting I freaked out and killed as many of them as I could. Nice going, guys. At that moment, I really hated nature. Living in the city it's so easy to forget how close we are to predators, parasites, allergens, and mysterious rashes that we never even think about. In Brooklyn the most we have to fear from nature is mouse poop and roaches, but you don't have to go very far to be reminded of what's out there. For the second time that day, I missed television.

We rolled into Carbondale - a small coal-mining town - around lunchtime, and sat down at a diner called Pinkey's that appeared to be the only option in the vicinity. As we expected from the typical diner menu, the only vegan food available was french fries and salad, but we were hungry enough that we didn't complain. Our waitress was very pretty and had a midwestern-sounding accent, which surprised me since we weren't that far from the east coast. I correctly guessed her age to be 21, but despite having lived about 2 hours from it for her entire life, she had never even seen the ocean. She told us that she had been to New York once to go shopping with her sister, but other than that had done very little travelling. I insisted that she visit the ocean as soon as possible; who knows if she'll keep her promise.

After some confusion about where US 6 picked up again, we continued onward, passing over the top of Scranton, and around 70-miles, just outside of a small town called Tunkhannock, I got another flat. As I began replacing my 3rd inner tube, Sean wandered across the street to an auto shop to see if they had any tools that would be useful in diagnosing the friction coming from his bottom bracket, which he had begun to notice a dozen miles back. Not only were they no help, but they insisted that there was no bike shop anywhere in the area except Milford, the town in which we had slept the night before. We decided to soldier on to the next town, despite the growing resistance in Sean's drive train, with the intention of stopping there to evaluate our options. At 5:30 and 86 miles, we stopped and sat at a bench in downtown Tunkhannock (such as it was), and had what turned out to be the first of many conversations about what we were doing on this trip. Afraid that if we kept going without addressing Sean's mechanical problem it could worsen, seize up entirely, or, worst of all, strip his bottom bracket shell, we considered taking a bus from Scranton to Cleveland (where there was sure to be a decent bike mechanic) and just forget about the rest of Pennsylvania. We agreed that neither of us cared that much about the bragging rights associated with having biked the entire way across the country and that taking a bus for part of the way once or twice would most likely not get in the way of having the adventure we were hoping to have.

We went into a nearby hotel to ask about local ground transportation, where the friendly, lazy-eyed front-desk clerk let us use the computer. Finding that the nearest bike shop was 50 miles ahead of us, and not wanting to risk an even more dire mechanical failure on the way, we settled on the greyhound option and asked at the bar about nearby campsites. After explaining our situation to the bartender, she asked the crowd if any one had a truck and wanted to drive us to Scranton for a few bucks, but apparently no one did, so we started riding in the direction of a free campsite a few miles outside of town on the way back to Scranton.

Having spent the last few hours off our bikes, my already sore left knee had stiffened to the point that riding again was extremely painful, so we stopped after less than a mile at a gas station across the street from a high school baseball stadium, waited until the families drove away and night began to fall, and spread out our sleeping bags on the grass next to home plate, thinking that if it began to rain (which it did) we could relocate into the dugout to stay dry (which we did).


I don't know what it is about certain cities, but I just dig the vibe or something. I really want to fall in love with Chicago, and I feel like almost all of the ingredients are here. Maybe it's just the fact that I've been in rural Pennsylvania and the midwest for weeks, and maybe it's just because this is the first place I've been since New York where I can get good vegan food, but just wandering around I've found that there is something really appealing about the way this city is laid out and the way the neighborhoods feel. So what's missing? Friends. Every other major city I've been to I've been able to find people to hang out with through friends of friends, but for some reason no one seems to know anyone here. We've found just enough contacts to have places to stay (and by the way, thanks to everyone that went digging through their metaphorical rolodexes), but I haven't really found people here to hang out with during the day. I guess this isn't terribly surprising, but I feel like if I met one or two really cool people here with whom I really clicked, that would seal the deal. We've got a few more days here, so I suppose anything could happen.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

McDonald's apple pies

Right before I left I had a conversation with someone about McDonald's apple pies. Whoever it was (and I've now forgotten) seemed surprised that I wasn't aware that they are vegan, and the other person present spoke up in agreement. Was this you? I looked it up, and they have L-cysteine, which I thought was made from animal or human hair; does anyone know anything about this? There is nothing I can do about the dozen or so apple pies I've already eaten on this trip (out of desperation, believe me), but I'd like to know whether or not I should continue doing so.


Chicago is one of the few major US cities in which I had not set foot, and now I can cross it off the list. So far, my impression has been largely positive; I like the landscape, the people seem interesting, and the Chicago Diner serves vegan American food that is better than any I've ever paid that little for. For you New Yorkers, it's nearly Counter-quality food for Foodswings prices, I kid you not. And to top if off, all of their cheese stuff is made with Temptation cheese (which stands to reason given that Temptation is made here in Chicago), and if you've never had it, trust me when I saw that it is a bona fide vegan miracle that this stuff exists. It melts. It tastes like cheese. It will knock your socks off and you'll never want Follow Your Heart nor Toffutti as long as you live. The disadvantage is that Temptation only sells it to restaurants so you can't buy it for your home cooking. If you live in New York, Vinnie's Pizza will sell it to you (and if you don't already know Vinnie's you are no friend of mine).

We woke up in Portage, IN this morning, in the grass behind the local newspaper building. As we were leaving, a woman noticed us and, after finding out that we had slept the night there and were on a bike trip from New York, asked if we had had a story written about us yet. We replied that we hadn't, so she went inside, grabbed a reporter, and we're told that we will be up on in the next day or so.

After being interviewed, we rode 50-something miles straight to the Chicago Diner - up through the entire south side and into Boystown - ate until we thought we were going to explode, and then sat in the diner booth staring into space while we developed diabetes from the two desserts each that we had just eaten. The shock of being back in a real, vegan friendly city is a little much for me, I must admit. After we recovered from our respective food comas, we took a walk around the neighborhood to get a feel for the town, which included stopping at American Apparel to pick up a couple of shirts (neither of mine have been washed since Cleveland) and wandering around for a bit in search of this very internet cafe. It's pretty cheap, so if I don't end up finding a place to stay with someone that has a computer I'll probably be back here for the next few days filling in the large gap starting in Milford Pennsylvania on the 4th and ending in north western Indiana yesterday.

Speaking of finding a place to stay... it turns out that no one knows anyone in this city. We have found 3 different friends of friends who are willing to let us stay with them, but in all 3 cases it will be inconvenient for the host, and I hate being a burden, so if anyone reading this knows anyone in Chicago that would be happier about having guests, please pass that contact information along to me via text message or phone call. 301.602.1706.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Last update from Cleveland

Tomorrow morning we are leaving for Chicago, and I didn't end up having as much time as I would have liked over the last 3 days to write about the first part of my trip, largely due to m y preoccupation with television watching and loafing. Rest assurred, however, that I have taken good notes and will eventually do so.

I would like to take a moment to update the cyber world on the restructuring of our plans. We realized on day 3 that, though we found ourselves to by physically capable of maintaining the necessary level of speed for the necessary amount of time to make it across the country in our 4-5 week time frame, it wouldn't be any fun to do it that way. We've managed about 600 miles in 6 days of riding during week one, with no training or preparation, including 127 miles on the last day, and most of it through the mountains of northern Pennsylvania. We survived camping every night for a week except one day, when we stayed in a $40 motel room so that we could shower. And at the end of it, we felt more fit than ever. I feel satisfied that if I was determined I would make it in the time frame that we originally set, but I also discovered that biking 100 miles a day kind of sucks and doesn't leave a whole lot of time for anything else.

After Sean's bike sufferred a bottom bracket cup unthreading problem which forced us to backtrack 30 miles from Tunkhannock to Scranton and spend the better part of a morning at a bike shop, we sat and reevaluated our intentions, realizing that we had been trying to combine two endeavors into an impossibly short period, and that we could either commit a feat of athleticism and commitment by biking across the country in a little over a month, or have an adventure on the road that involved stopping along the way, hanging out in random small towns, and enjoying ourselves, but that the pace required by the first precluded spending sufficient time on the second. As a result, we opted for fun (perhaps slightly out of character), figuring that if we only biked a couple of thousand miles, had some new experiences and a lot of fun, without putting pressure on ourselves to go go go, we would ultimately feel better about how we spent our vacation.

The (tentative) plan we came up with is to bike to Chicago, hang out, bike to Minneappolis, hang out, take a bus/train/plane to Seattle, hang out, bike to Olympia, hang out, and finally, bike to portland. The total trip will probably end up being around 2000 miles of riding, which I still feel pretty good about since this is the first time I've attempted a ride longer than the 2006 Halloween Alleycat in New York which included checkpoints at 150th and Amsterdam, Greenwood Cemetary, and Bushwick, finishing in Bed-Stuy. Perhaps some day I'll attempt a cross-country bike trip on an expensive carbon road bike with no gear (ideally with a support van, but short of that, simply by staying in motels every night instead of camping), and make it in a month. Or some day I might try a cross-country bike trip at a more leasurely pace, getting a chance to check out small towns and do some soul-searching, and take 3 or 4 months to do it. This time, however, we've chosen option C: the old-fashioned American road trip but on bikes. Adventure, here I come.

I'll write again from Chicago in (hopefully) 3 or 4 days. Until then, enjoy this ridiculous fucking heat wave and trust that we will, too.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Day 1

On Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008, at approximately 10 AM I woke up on an uncovered mattress on the floor of my loft, sweating and wearing only a pair of boxer-briefs and a few thousand mosquito bites. I fucking hate mosquitoes. I hate them more than I hate... pop country music. That's how much I hate them. I am a very light sleeper and being bitten by one is usually enough to wake me up, so the fact that I was covered in bites is an indicator of how well I slept. If our loft wasn't 90 degrees at night, I might have been able to protect myself with a cover of some kind, but then I would have been too hot to sleep at all anyway; you can see the predicament I was in. Of course, the last week or so has forced me to redefine my concept of discomfort.

The original plan was to get up before sunrise, ride to the southernmost point of Manhattan, and take a moment to contemplate the Upper Bay (which was the closest we could come to the Atlantic ocean without riding an hour in the wrong direction) as the sun came up. Instead, we left the house around noon after some hasty repacking and decided to skip the ceremonial crap and just start heading west.

We made it over the Williamsburg bridge and felt pretty good about our level of fitness (of course the Appalachian and Allegheny mountains proved to present some slightly more challenging climbs than the bridge). We stopped on sixth ave in the Village so Sean, having recently lost his fancy cycling glasses, could pick up a pair of knockoff designer sunglasses with white frames and ironically large lenses. Oh how I'll miss you, NYC. In a touching valedictory moment a not-so-unusually rude motorist in an SUV honked at me for several seconds while I was heading west on 14th, riding on the right side of the road, leaving, of course, ample space for passing. I yelled something to the effect of, "what the fuck are you honking at?", to which he replied, "you, asshole," or something similarly tender. Thankfully, we made it out of Manhattan without any incidents of fisticuffs or u-lock justice, and were not honked at again until we reached the outskirts of Cleveland 7 days later.

Our first serious challenge was finding the George Washington Bridge. The west side bike path ends around 120th, which is further north than I've ever taken it. We walked our bikes up a very long set of steps and then took Riverside Dr the rest of the way to 181st and then looped back around to 178th and Fort Washington, finally finding the stairs to the bike path tucked away on the side of a highway exit ramp.

Confusion becoming something of a theme of our tripe already, we found ourselves in Jersey with no idea how to navigate the clusterfuck of interstates and state routes spilling out of the bridge exit like the frayed edges of my extremely short cutoff jean shorts. The guy at the hotel desk nearby insisted that 46, the route we were planning to take, was an interstate with no shoulder and therefore not bikeable. I'll spare you the boring details, mostly because I've forgotten them, but trust that we eventually did make it to route 46 west and finally began to put some distance between ourselves and familiar territory.

After about 25 miles we stopped for the first in a long succession of gas-station breaks to refill our water bottles and cram as many carbs down our gullets as possible, mostly in the form of potato chips, the new, apparently vegan flavor of doritos, and nature valley granola bars. My diet has experienced better days.

While we were sitting outside of the BP on the curb, filling ourselves with heavily processed and almost nutritionally worthless foods, a strange man piloting a slow-moving motorized scooter (the wheelchair kind, not one of those hip, European thingies you see around New York these days) pulled up, executed a tight 3-point turn, and backed carefully into the handicapped parking spot. He was wearing sweatpants, a tank top, and a baseball cap, and did not appear to be severely injured or obese enough to necessitate the scooter, although some kind of chronic pain or joint injury may very well have justified it; he did seem to walk with a slight limp, after all. He came out of the store a few minutes later with naught but a pack of Newports and a Strawberry Yoohoo, fired up his whip, and scooted away at a brisk 5 or so miles per hour, whirring for all the world like an upset but slightly drowsy bumble bee. As he vanished into the distant sunset, he uncorked the strawberry milk and pounded the entire thing in a bottoms-up maneuver that would have made John Belushi proud. Sean and I were in stitches, and the thought of that image still makes me chuckle. I suppose you really had to be there.

Yikes, I'm even more long-winded than I thought. I've been writing for close to an hour now and I'm not even halfway done with the first day. I've been thinking all along that I might like to some day write a more substantial account of this entire trip, but since this blog exists mostly for the purpose of keeping my mom and grandmother updated, I'll try to keep things short from now on. Basically, we rode, rode, and rode some more. I got tired, but we kept riding. We rode up hills, and then rode down the other sides. As it turns out, riding close to a hundred miles per day can get pretty monotonous. The highlights of the first day of riding included me getting two flat tires within 15 minutes, the second of which left my brand new rear tire with an inch-long slash in it (which I patched with a folded up dollar bill), eating lots more junk food, listening to several chapters of a lecture series released by The Teaching Company which featured philosopher John Searle talking about the mind, and finally settling down for the night in a patch of woods next to the Milford Learning Center in Milford, PA. We did 96.4 miles at an average speed of 14mph, which is not bad for day 1. Then we ate pop tarts and peanut butter for dinner and fell asleep around 11.


After our longest riding day yet (127 miles), scortching heat, torrential thunderstorms, sore knees, and my first ever energy drink, we made it to Cleveland around 10:30. I'll write about the first week in more detail tomorrow, but I just wanted to quickly update my reading public (yes mom, that's you), that I am alive and, well, not exactly well, but I will be after a good night's sleep.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The morning of

I barely slept last night due to the flock of mosquitoes that spent the night bidding me a fond farewell, so we are getting a later start than we hoped. Now I need to repack my stuff and hop in the shower, and then I'm outta here.

Monday, June 2, 2008


Cleaning my room took hours. I packed everything I own other than my bikes, books, furniture, and what I'm taking with me into 4 small crates and stuffed them into the corner of the room. Coleman, Ben's friend and my subletter, moved his stuff in yesterday afternoon. Sean and I packed up all of our stuff, loaded up our bikes, and went on a test ride. There are a few kinks that need ironing out; I need a better way to pack my ukulele and I need to make sure that the bungee cords won't be rubbing the wheel, but overall I felt really good about it. Right after I packed everything I started to feel apprehensive about the load. A change of clothes, rain gear and a warm layer, a few essential tools, toiletries, and a sleeping bag don't seem like they'd weigh that much, but once it's all packed up on the back of a bike, it feels like a lot. Luckily, once I got riding - and got over the initial difficulty of steering a bike that top-heavy - it felt fine. So that's it. I have to buy some batteries, attend Trackstar's courier appreciation party at 151 bar (free drinks! yay!!!!), and have a goodbye dinner (courtesy of Tamara's fine cooking). Tomorrow, at the crack of dawn (or whenever we wake up anyway), I'm out.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


I'm lying on my back on the lower roof of my building, my eyes fixed upon an imaginary point some distance from the ground. I can hear 2 different car alarms in different directions and the slow steady murmur of hundreds of industrial fans within a several-block radius, all of this punctuated by the occasional pop that could as easily be a bottle rocket as a gunshot. I can see very few stars, and almost as many airplanes; they fly by at a rate of about 3 per minute, some so low that I can hear the jet engines. This is the closest my life ever gets to silent. I'm typing on a laptop I bought with Christmas money, sitting on a couch I inherited from a college friend - practically the only one I made - who moved to California, inside of a room that I built with my own hands and my friends'. Said friends are in the next room, loudly watching Muppet Treasure Island, below me, typing on their respective keyboards, or sitting in the kitchen sewing patches that say "In Grind We Crust" into the seats of their shorts where the constant friction of bicycle seats has worn the fabric down to nothing. This is the city where characters in movies rush headlong into romantic destinies on the crowded grid of streets and sidewalks, the bourough where Paul Auster's smugly liberal figments read great works of literature and occasionally produce them and where Jay Z and GZA were born. It has a romance to it if you let yourself be duped, but really it's just a bunch of people in one place living, buying, fucking, and doing whatever it is that people do. New York will not change your life, make it more glamorous; destiny is not waiting for you around the next street corner. Sometimes it feels like home and sometimes the farthest thing from it. Right now, I know that I need a break. I need a break from car horns, billboards, models and fashionistas (that make me feel insecure). I need a break from bars (that I rarely go into), rooftop dance parties (that I never attend), and hip clubs (that I avoid at all costs). I need a break from commercialism, consumerism and Americanism. I need some time away from confusing people and confusing situations. I need some space. I need some time to think, to get my shit together and figure out what I'm doing. I need to figure out who I am and what I want.

I guess it's pretty foolish to assume that a bike trip will give me all of that, but if it just gives me some of that, if it just gives me a break, it will be worth it.