Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Bad Bang

Work has been beyond insane lately. I mean, what kind of bullshit week leaves me no time to read Gawker, or Go Fug Yourself, or even the frikkin’ Times?

Answer: this week.

And yet vanity still wins out. On Monday, I caught a glimpse of my pallid white face burning under the vicious glow of my office’s fluorescents, and realized the most unflattering part of this picture was my hair, blown into a stringy, straw-textured mass, with the ill-conceived highlights I had put in in the fall showing their march towards split-ended death.

I looked away from my monitor for the first time in 7 hours to call my local salon and see if there was any way I could pop in for a cut. I thought, if there was enough time, I’d get a quick color in to minimize my wilting highlights.

I got a 7:00 slot with a stylist I used to see years ago. She had left my salon, but had recently returned. I have gotten some good cuts with her, so I felt confident to let her shear me.

I flatter myself to say it, but I think I look a little bit like Tina Fey, especially when I used to rock cat’s-eye glasses. For some reason, I feel like my hair and Tina Fey’s hair are texturally similar, and I did a GIS to see if I couldn’t go to the salon with some examples.

I liked this:

And this:

Sleek, cute, modern. Looks like they require a little work, but not like an army of highly paid stylists must appear every morning to do battle with nature.

I especially like her swoopy bangs. My hair has been so lank and lackluster lately, I thought bangs might be a nice touch, especially since my Photoshopped appearance (thanks, JFED) in Judas Priest has gotten people telling me I look good with bangs.

It’s a little mullet-tastic for my taste, but it did get me thinking . . .

I went through the trouble of printing out the pictures, and then managed to leave them sitting on my desk as I sprinted out of work to get back to Brooklyn on time

So I went to the salon pictureless. We got the color out of the way, and then the cutting began. She did the back first, and I wasn’t thrilled to see the razor-comb come out. Wispy isn’t really what I was shooting for, but she’s the expert.

Then she went for the bangs. I haven’t had bangs since 5th grade, when I had hideous ones that started somewhere near the back of my head and were worn like a comb over. Snip, and they were dangling halfway down my face.

“Oh, no, no. Let’s make them shorter.” Ah, the fatal words. Snip. Snip. Snipsnipsnipsnipsnip.

It’s never a good feeling when you look at your hairdresser, and the expression on her face is clearly saying “Oh, shit.”

She kept cutting, and the bangs kept getting shorter and more uneven. They refused to swoop, but instead stuck out like the tendrils of a sick plant. The stylist pulled out the pomade and tried to lacquer them into place, which just made matters worse, as the ragged pieces clumped together over my forehead. She sighed, pulled out a bobby pin, and said, “You’ll probably want to leave that on overnight.”

I haven’t had such a sinking feeling in a salon for years, since the time I decided I wanted to cut my hair short, and came out looking like a militant lesbian.

I slept badly, and woke Tuesday dreading having to style this mess myself. As it turns out, the hair isn’t that bad, but it’s more of a Rachel, circa 1992, than what I was going for.

Next time, I bring the bloody pictures in with me.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Get the Led Out

I’ve spent the last few months at work coaxing a high-level project into fruition. It’s my brainchild, my baby, my precioussss. If all goes according to plan, it will improve my site’s performance on the search engines, and could potentially be used as one model for our digital environment moving forward.

It might not be the prettiest project out there, but it was perfect in its utilitarian functionality. There’s plenty of pretty Flash-driven, Java-laden content on the web, but as a user, and as someone who works in technology, at the end of the day, I could give a damn how pretty a page is if it doesn’t tell me what I want to know. If I’m looking for something, I want to find it, not spend 45 seconds waiting for your elaborate Flash animation to load and wow me with its blazing glory. Content is only useful to me if it’s clear, easy to navigate, and free from unnecessary bells and whistles.

My Project had nary a bell or a whistle. It’s what I think of as Good Internet: it fulfills a need, it’s optimized to come up in search, and its navigation could not be simpler.

But, because it’s being built for my Big Media Company, it had to be, in corporate-speak, monetized. We had to place ads on it, and allow the pages to be sponsored to generate revenue.

My baby is now shilling for The Man. What was once pure and unadulterated HTML, virginal hyperlinks, and optimized copy now has “This page brought to you by . . .” plopped on the top. There’s a massive sponsor ad right in the middle (above the fold, thank you!), and Yahoo! urges you to buy, buy, buy across the bottom.

I was bitching to Jenny about the Frankenstein-esque transformation my project has undergone, from noble link list to monster of capitalism. Jenny thought for a moment, then said, “It’s like the first time you see the commercial for Cadillac with the Led Zeppelin music.”

It is exactly like that, to me. The almighty dollar has to be the bottom line for any successful business, but that doesn’t make it any less depressing.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007


There’s a little falafel/schawarma joint on 38th called Pick-a-Pita which Josh introduced me to. Jenny had a run-in with some questionable chicken there, but I’ve had some seriously tasty lunches in pita format.

The caveat for dining at Pick-a-Pita is the fact that, to get to it, you have to walk through a creepy, nondescript, industrial hallway. It’s the kind of hallway where they shoot the gritty rape scene in the tough crime drama - all poor lighting and concrete floors and windowless swinging doors. For this reason, we call Pick-a-Pita, Rapey Pita.

At the end of today, I was talking with Preeta, Madlena, and George, discussing my gimpy track record and the perils of going for drinks with an unknown guy on Thursday. I was joking, in the way that’s probably asking for trouble, that he’s probably a serial killer and I’ll end up with my obituary on Page 6.

Me: Yeah, It’ll be like Rapey Pita.

Madlena: Without the pita . . .

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Sonic Youth

In high school, I had a progressive Honors and AP English teacher, who taught us how to write, and think, like adults, and also the proper way to eat salad. Mrs. Condon was not universally beloved, but those who did love her loved her with the passion of religious converts; her words were doctrine, and to this day I find myself quoting her or self-editing my work with her hawk-eyed, zero-bullshit-tolerance approach.

As she was a progressive teacher, we never had to suffer the indignity of by-the-numbers, question-response regurgitative assignments. Oh, no. Mrs. Condon wanted our malleable little minds to think for ourselves, to take in information and synthesize it in such a way as we’d be served by it long after our standardized testing days were in the murky past.

To this end, our assignments were always unique. She had a very strict system for writing papers; there were several formats which needed to be followed. Deviation from the correct format resulted in a failing grade, regardless of the quality of the writing. I deviated once, I got a D, and I learned my lesson. The lesson was discipline, and it stuck. I loathed her for the first semester I had her, in my sophomore year. Finally what she was trying to do sunk in, and by my senior year, we’d often have lunch together, where I’d sit by her desk and try and absorb her fierce sense of reason, logic, and authority.

Our untraditional assignments frequently included analyses of art and music in conjunction with whatever text we were working on at the time. On in-class writing days, we’d bring in our walkmans, pop in our choice of music, and start writing. The classroom was silent, save for the scurry of pen on paper.

On one such day, a classmate leaned over to me, headphones in, and yelped, “Liz! Do you have an extra pen?” in what she clearly thought was a normal volume, but was actually incredibly loud. Everyone jumped, then started laughing. I learned that day that what sounds normal to you, when you’re wearing headphones, is probably closer to a shriek.

Cut to my subway ride home on Friday. The past week had been outrageously stressful, and I just wanted a seat, some peace and quiet, and a filthy dirty Stoli martini (not necessarily in that order.) I snagged a seat at 34th, by the sweet grace of Jebus, even though it was next to a leaning sleeper and a man of larger than average girth. Beggars can’t be choosers, so I inserted myself into the middle, opened up my New Yorker, and settled in for the ride home.

The leaning sleeper leaned and slept, and the man of larger than average girth rustled around in his bag for his iPod headphones. I tucked my elbows in and picked up the opening brass strains of “Can’t Take That Away From Me” leaking from the big guy’s headphones.

All right, whatever – it’s a little loud, but I’m really into the fiction piece. Then it starts up: Dude, oblivious to where he is, starts yowling along to his music. Pitch? Not so much. Volume? Check! He is loud, he is proud, he’s not so solid on all the lyrics. But, bless him, that big band is blasting in his ears, and he’s probably sure he’s humming just under his breath, not belting it out louder that Old Blue Eyes. People’s heads are swiveling to take him in, and his eyes are closed, so he’s clueless that not everyone is thrilled about this spontaneous concert.

We went through most of the damn album – “Luck Be a Lady,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “A Very Good Year,” and homeslice howled through them all.

The learning and takeaway: your headphones do not give you sonic immunity. Tone it down, and save it for the shower, not my Friday subway ride home.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

When in Charleston . . .

Do not actually do the Charleston. I was tempted to on several occasions, but realized it’d just be gay.

Actually, Charleston is an awesome old town, and best seen in the company of some of your closest friends from college. Last weekend, Adam and I flew down to visit Alyson and check out her new digs. We were saddened only by the fact that Kelda, the fourth corner of our troublesome foursome, had told us she would not be coming.

Adam and I had a hellish airport experience thanks to the fine bastard people at Delta, where our first flight was delayed, our second flight was canceled (but the cancellation was not announced) and the third flight finally limped into South Carolina (by way of unmotivated Atlanta) 6 hours late. Grrrrr.

But Alyson came swinging around to collect us in her elderly Mercedes, and then, who comes rising up like a phoenix from the passenger seat but Kelda, having hatched a diabolical plan to surprise us!

So began our semi-regular reunion.

When not selling real estate, Alyson flies C-17s for a living. These are, by any standard, some big-ass mofo planes. Like ‘holy crap that bitch is not getting off the ground’ big ass. Really. Look –

See my weeny friends? See the plane? That’s a big ass mofo!

I got to pretend to be a love pilot.

There’s something truly empowering sitting behind the controls of a $300,000,000 aircraft and then looking out the window and seeing a whole bunch more of them. Like, “America, fuck yeah!”

Alyson is totally blasé about the whole flight line experience, but Adam, Kelda and I were goggling around wide-eyed, while Alyson barked at us to stay with her. We were, after all, in a place where deadly-force is A-OK.

In Charleston, the food is awesome, and cheap! I had some of the best carrot cake ever at a sweet little French cafeteria-like joint that also had sick Croques Monsieurs.


We had a fancy dining night, where I was the designated driver (yeah, I know, I couldn’t believe it either). I totally ran out of steam early, but the gang wanted to keep going, so I trailed along. The last stop of the night was the Pantheon, an ‘alternative establishment.’ ‘Alternative establishment’ = gay club = hilarious. In New York, all you need is a rainbow flag and people pretty much know what’s going on in there. In Charleston, apparently, you need a sign on the door explaining this club is not like all other clubs. Kelda worked her wiles to try to get us in, but despite her radiant hotness, the doorman wouldn’t let us in for free, so that was the end of that.

We spent a lot of time strolling along Charleston’s main drag, King Street, and were spiritually cleansed when Adam and I joined Kelda for a Unitarian church service on Sunday morning.

My favorite day was when we went to the beach. We had a kite that attacked Kevin, Alyson's fiance, but would not fly,

and there was lots of jumping involved.

Love my lovely friends, love Charleston, and look forward to our next grand adventure together. Madison ’08, bitches?

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I Just Memed a Little in My Mouth

Adam just tagged me for a meme-off, with the meme being 5 things about yourself your readership doesn’t know about you.

Here goes:

  1. I am pathologically, screamingly, irrationally afraid of anything with an exoskeleton. I especially can not handle roaches, not even to kill them. If it crunches when I squish it, I can’t squish it. If it’s already dead, I am still unable to deal with it. If there is no one else available to deal with it, I can’t just pick its crunchy corpse up with a tissue; I have to use a long-handled broom and dustpan so I come nowhere near to touching it. Once it’s in the garbage, I have to double bag and double knot it and avert my face in case it somehow magically comes back to life and tries to attack me. Despite this, I am very fond of rodents and snakes, and just happen to be really girly about bugs.
  2. Every time I get a bad sunburn, I’m secretly delighted, as I love it when my skin peels and I can pull off little sheets of it and pretend it’s papyrus.
  3. I am ambidextrous. The only things I do consistently with my left hand are writing, using chopsticks, and throwing a Frisbee. Almost everything else is right handed. I always hold the phone to my left ear and chew on the left side, but kick with my right foot. When riding my bike, I always push down on the pedal with my left foot. I used to write equally well with both hands, but I was forced to pick one in third grade. I used to cry when I had to use right-handed scissors, but my brain has since compensated and rewired itself.
  4. If I don’t have my morning coffee and my subsequent morning poop, I am very cranky.
  5. Every time I get on a plane, I have to touch the outside of it as I walk through the door, or else the plane will crash. I try to be subtle about it and kind of lean on/grab the metal as I’m going in like I momentarily lost my balance, but really I’m ensuring that the plane stays airborne like it’s supposed to.

I will tag Amanda and Cristi to keep this meme rocking.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Mrs. Butterworth's Conspiracy

This morning, when I got off the train at 34th Street, the subway station was reeking of natural gas.

New Yorkers, as a rule, ignore everything, whether everything is a pan-handling woman wearing a potato sack, Crocs, and flaming-red dyed hair, or the smell of a gas leak in the morning. Even if they aren’t actively ignoring it, they’re not really commenting on it either; twitching a shoulder to let the pan-handler pass, and maybe sniffing the air curiously, but not sniffing deeply and then turning to fellow passers-by with widened eyes to confirm something smells ‘not quite right.’

So when I got off the train and caught my first whiff, I did what any New Yorker would; put my head down, my umbrella up, and trudged my way into the office, where I promptly forgot about it, assuming I was just smelling things, and no one else had noticed.

My co-workers started trickling in about 10, and Josh and Preeta started talking about it as they waited for their computers to fire up. This helpfully confirmed I’m not crazy and that my stress-addled brain is not manufacturing phantom trouble smells.

Josh checked the news wires, and yes, Con-Ed has indeed been fielding calls about a mysterious natural gas smell which has blanketed the entire city, but is particularly strong in mid town. No explanation as to what it is, at least not as of 10:30 this morning.

This unexplained smelly event reminded me of last year’s Maple Syrup Incident, wherein the city, its boroughs, and Jersey smelled exactly like someone had poured Mrs. Butterworth’s all over everything. The syruping of the city happened twice, and a Google search for ‘syrup smell NYC’ brings up plenty of articles about the incident itself, but nothing by way of explanation.

Josh has postulated it’s The Man, doing a clandestine test to see how chemical weapons might spread across the city. In the absence of any explanation, I’m a bit apt to agree with him. I don’t abide by most conspiracy theories, but I couldn’t find anything online to explain it. (As we all know, if you read it online, it’s true.)

This natural gas odor is far less pleasant than the maple syrup smell, but the syrup was far more creepy. What the hell makes an entire city smell like a diner, then goes away, and is never explained?

And today, is it possible that one gas leak could stink up the entire city? Or will this, too, fade into the annals of city lore?

“Remember that day when midtown smelled like gas?”

“Oh, yeah!”

“Whatever happened with that?”



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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Last Gasp

Since I was a little kid, I’ve been plagued with two minor, but annoying, medical problems. One is migraines and the other is a terrible allergy to mold.

The migraines are unpleasant, to say the least. I’m lucky, according to my doctor, because I get a distinct aura before a headache sets in, during which I lose my peripheral vision and see flashes of light across my remaining field of vision, pretty much rendering me blind. The good news here is that I can pop some kind of pill before the skull-crushing misery of a full-blown headache sets in.

The pills I used to take as a kid were something called Cafergot. They were composed of caffeine and ergotamine, and they were supposed to re-dilate the constricting blood vessels in my head that hindered my vision and brought on the headache.

The one catch with Cafergot was that every time I took it, it made me violently ill, and no one really wants to deal with the spectacularly-projectile-vomiting little kid, no matter how charming she might be.

In time, I learned that a handful of Advil is much more user-friendly than the encapsulated evil of Cafergot, and that taking vitamin B-12 (AKA riboflavin) daily brings my migraines down to maybe 1 a month.

I have yet to find the Achilles’ heel of my allergies, however, and they’ve been a bitch bastard for as long as I can remember. They pop up at all the usual times; spring and fall are consistent repeat offenders. But last night, as I was hanging out with Reba and Johnny, something in their house did not agree with something in my face, and the next thing I know my eyes were itching and burning, my nose was dripping like a cheap faucet, and I started getting all gaspy.

It’s always the gaspy part that gets me. Sure it sucks that my eyes itch and my nose drips and whatever, but I’m become very fond of breathing over the years, and when that’s restricted, I get a little panicky. Every time I have a bad allergy attack, my breathing goes to shit. It’s like I’m underwater and breathing through a swizzle stick. It really sucks, and when I was younger it’d scare me so much I’d start to hyperventilate, making the whole situation worse.

Thankfully, Rebs had some benadryl, which took a while to kick in, but left me feeling much better for a while.

Then, about 3 this morning, I woke up from a dream in which I was caught in mud on my back and drowning in murky water. Whatever is floating about in the air in this filthy city has most definitely infiltrated my system, because I’ve been gasping like a beached fish since I woke from my dream, and the kicker is there’s no magic bullet for these things. I can only take my allergy stuff at night since it renders me idiotic so fast I can’t work when I’m all hopped up.

Today, in my Very Important Meeting, I know I must have looked beyond bored with my ceaseless yawning. But I'm not tired, dammit; i just can't breathe!

So I heave and gasp like a fool and occasionally shake off the recurrent terror of my drowning dream. I’d sigh if I had the available air.
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