THE FAB DISASTER

just your average hot mess trying to make it in the city


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SMH at these actual Craigslist job posts under “TV/Film/Video”

I’ve been unemployed (with a sprinkle of freelance jobs and under the table gigs here and there) for the past few months. I’ve been taking classes, working on my writing, enjoying my holidays, trying to figure out what the hell my next career move should be. Some weeks I use my free time to work out a lot. Some weeks I use it to watch tons of TV. As of last week, when I figured out I could get great Netflix quality using my iPhone’s LTE at the gym, I do both.

That’s not to say I don’t look for work. Since October, I’ve applied for countless jobs in my myriad areas of experience, sent my resume to at least fifteen New York temp agencies, and I’ve even been to several interviews. I guess I just haven’t hit one out of the park yet, which – given my current position on the couch, in my robe, wearing the UGG slippers James gave me for Christmas – doesn’t exactly bring me to tears. It may, however, bring a few to the eyes of my previous employer, whose pocket change goes into my government check every week.

Being that my degree is in Communications and much of my job experience is in TV, I usually look for gigs on Staffmeup or Mandy or Indeed or other corporate websites. I very rarely find good stuff on Craigslist, but I was browsing the TV/Film/Video section today just to be sure.

Here are some of the gems I found.

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First of all, what? I’m trying so hard right now to imagine a reality show based on tickling women with an electronic chair and watching them laugh. Wait, this company has been doing this for the last seven years? HOW HAVE I MISSED ALL THESE MINIEPISODES?? Oh right, because I never thought to Google “sexy girls laughing tickle chair” because I’m not a complete and total freak.

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Wait a minute…this DOES sound empowering. Never mind that a woman with a high-paying career is probably not looking for jobs on Craigslist and will never see this ad. I’m sure when this show finally airs it will be nothing but praise for successful, dominant career women and will in no way attempt to emasculate and humiliate the men for taking what is considered to be a more feminine and thus inferior role in the relationship! Reality TV is so advanced these days.

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This one actually seems okay, except that I haven’t hung out at a church for NO PAY since I was about 7. I may still do this for the free food.

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This is definitely an ad for Maury and I wish to god I had any of these problems because I love that show so much. If any of my family members are willing to have a PRETEND affair with my boyfriend please email me and I will call Melissa.

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Happy New years!! How much you wanna bet this wasn’t written by a model named Kelly? How much you wanna bet this doesn’t pay $1000 hourly? Who else is confused by the instructions to “listen carefully” to something that is written down? Some of these sentences aren’t even sentences! Also, what are “Stats?” Anyway, this seems like it could be a maybe lucrative call girl opportunity if you’re into that sort of thing.

In desperate times I was a lot less judicious about which trashy Craigslist ads were worth a reply. I actually “auditioned” for a modeling job like that last one back in 2012 and it didn’t exactly go well. But hey, if you’re down, all these ads were posted today. You should apply and then tell me all about it. I’ll just be up here on my high horse, aka the couch.


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#FLASHBACKFRIDAY: My Seventh Grade Dressing Room

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Wow. Happy Friday – this was probably the longest most stressful week of 2015 so far, being that it was the only one that didn’t include a major holiday.

Today, we flashback to the year 2002. In seventh grade I was obsessed with teen magazines. YM, Cosmogirl, Teen Beat, Teen Vogue, j14, Seventeen…sometimes even the real Cosmopolitan which I would thumb through, wide-eyed, not understanding a single word.

“What’s a cli-TOR-is? I want one!”

Americans had a much different view of celebrity culture in the pre-social media days. While little girls still worship the stars of Pretty Little Liars or whatever show teens are watching the same way we idolized Hilary Duff back then (yes there was a time she was VERY MUCH relevant and we all cared about her – don’t deny it), I can’t help but feel like celebs have been humanized by the vehicles they now have to communicate with fans. Instagram, Twitter…it used to be that the only way we could learn about our favs was through printed and bound magazine articles that made them seem so disconnected from our normal tween boring-ass lives.

One form of listicle I remembered seeing often was the WHAT “SO-AND-SO” HAS IN HER DRESSING ROOM! variety.  Looking back this was nothing more than a very effective way of slapping a celebrity name on some random products to endorse them to impressionable kids. I still run into these crocks of shit all the time as an adult. “REESE WITHERSPOON SWEARS BY KIEHL’S!!” I mean, I’m a smart, grown, educated girl but if a celebrity told me she dodged highway traffic as her preferred form of exercise I’d probably consider it for at least a second. We’re all pretty much brainwashed, and have been our whole lives.

Since I’ve always wanted to be a writer, I’ve always kept a journal. Since I’ve also always wanted to be a celebrity, some of the things I wrote in my journal looked like this entry from May 11, 2002, written in green gel pen.

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“~What I Would have~in My DRESSING~ROOm!~

-1 case of DASANI water bottles (filled)
-1 case of Lipsmaker sponge on sparkler all flavors
- 3 things of hunny
-flinstons vitamens
-computer w/ AIM
-zyrtec
-Acuvue color contacs
-Secret sheer dry
-Baby oil & powder
-tanning oil
-Dentine Ice gum
-Qutips
-oil absorbant pads
-clean & clear foam face wash
-fruit, hehe
-pringles”

And another consumer was born. At first reading this I couldn’t help but feel sorry for my little 12-year-old self. She’d been duped by magazine ads and bullshit articles. She thought the right skincare products are what make you a woman and she wanted to be famous so she could have as many Pringles and as much lip gloss as she could ever want. It all made me so sad.

But then I remembered how good Pringles are – so I put on some lip gloss, and I went out to buy some.


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10 Little Decisions That Changed My Life in 2014

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December: a time for self reflection

A wise person once said, “You should only take advice from someone who has made plenty of mistakes.” Actually, I just made that up. But it sounds right, doesn’t it?

One weekend in November my dad came to town and I got to spend some much needed time reconnecting with him and with my brother, who, interestingly in its own right, had just returned from touring with Macy Gray. We mostly did a lot of talking – about art, about music, comedy, parenthood, love, work, and following our dreams. My father, who turned 66 in July, has certainly led a life not lacking in transformations. I feel like every time we see one another he’s reinventing himself in some way. It’s a comforting reminder that we’re not bound, at any age, to our bad habits, or to things that are familiar.

Most of us spend this last month of 2014 contemplating our own change. Our dissatisfaction flirts with our ambition and the result is a list of “do-betters” that we may or may not keep in mind for more than a day. Most of the time our desired transformations are too grand to distill down to a simple resolution we can actually keep. I’ve found it helps to start with the details, the things we can actually change, and then work backwards.

Because the hardest things for me lately have been the little things, I wanted to share some small changes I made in my daily life this year that brought me just a few steps closer to sanity. Even if they can’t fix any of your real problems, maybe they’ll help you along the way.

1. Buying a Professional Hair Dryer
Beauty isn’t everything. I think we can all agree on that. But I decided if I’m going to care at all about the way I look then I’m going to invest in it. Since I’ve been cursed (just kidding!) with having a lot of hairdresser friends, I never hear the end of their hair-related advice. I don’t trust everyone, but I do trust my bestie-in-law Hannah who basically forced me to drop my secondhand blow dryer and pick up a legitimate one. I have the Rusk CTC 7500 which costs about $100. It’s cut down my styling time substantially, and thus the amount of time I spend sitting in front of the mirror every morning hating my hair and willing it to speed-grow. Note: Rusk is not paying me to endorse their products, I’m doing it out of the kindness of my heart. I’ve been trying to get Hannah to start a beauty blog so she can recommend all her favorite things. Everybody should post on her Facebook and convince her to do it. She’ll get more free products than she’ll know what to do with, and then maybe she’ll give some to me!

2. Making a Bedroom Embargo
You can always tell how I’m doing psychologically by what’s on top of or next to my bed. On any given day in 2012, for example, it was empty wine bottles, dirty plates, multiple kinds of hot sauce, and Lawry’s seasoning salt. I slept on unmade sheets and curved my body around my laptop, which almost never left my side. This was just how I lived, all throughout college and up until about six months ago, and I was low-key miserable the whole time. I loathed having crumbs in my bed, and staring at a computer screen until I couldn’t keep my eyes open made it harder to fall asleep – that is, if I even chose to try. More often than not I would slip into a social media k-hole until the wee hours of the night, and my sleepiness would be mistaken for depression and madness. I’d entertain my most insecure thoughts until 3 in the morning, and the next day I’d wake up in a pile of magazines and empty Dorito bags, just as tired as the night before. When I moved to my Ridgewood apartment in April of this year, I made a rule: no food and no computer in the bedroom, ever. It works because my bedroom is so far away from my Internet router that I barely even get wifi in there. And it’s made a huge difference. My mind has a chance to rest, and my eyes have a chance to adjust to darkness before I go to sleep so I’m not lying there for hours with the afterimage of my Twitter feed projected on my eyelids. And no food means no crumbs, no garbage, and no extreme self loathing after the fact. I also always wear slippers around the house now. If you have pets, it’s the only way to keep their nastiness out of your sheets. Bless their disgusting little hearts.

3. Forming a Cleaning Obsession

mesy roomMy bedroom in 2013

Unless yours is a neighborhood I could only afford in my wildest fever dreams,living in New York is pretty much disgusting. Gross strangers are everywhere and some of them will even touch you unprovoked. Every so often, rats will crawl over your feet to scurry towards their next meal, aka the lovely bags of garbage so adorably piled five feet high against the tree outside your building. Urine is on literally every surface. Any human that can operate in this world on a daily basis and then come home and be perfectly content with, I don’t know, a kitchen sink full of scraps of food and trash, has a tolerance for nastiness rivaling that of  the opossum itself. In the past, very regular drinking followed by depression had created a cycle of lethargy that had allowed me to live with messes. I would use my unmade bedsheets, sprinkles of kitty litter, and piles of clothes and books and dishes as the abstract expression of my psyche. I never felt comfort in this disarray, I just didn’t have the wherewithal to control it. I remember, even before I was  a hungover 20-something, I would stand in my teenage bedroom staring at my mess and end up feeling so overwhelmed by the wreckage that I’d just waste time whining uncontrollably. As a Virgo, I require organization in order to function. Perhaps it was my Pisces moon that would make me feel so sorry for myself that I couldn’t even address the problem at all. Well, such is no longer the case. It’s not perfect, but my house is set up so that everything has its own place. I bought all the necessary tools and devised a system. Dishes are done right after dinner, counters are cleaned once a day, sweeping is done as necessary in addition to a weekly full clean of the floors (sweep, swiffer, dust-bust, spot wipe). The bathroom gets a full wipe down once a week. I make my bed every single day. I Lysol wipe my trash can.Most importantly, I clean as I go. This is not a joke – this is what it takes for me to feel like a human being. And it works. If you value yourself, you should value the space you live in and treat it accordingly, don’t you think? It doesn’t have to look like Apartment Therapy is coming to take your picture any minute now, but like, don’t leave a banana peel in your bedroom trashcan for two weeks. Trust me, it makes a difference.

4. Giving Things Away
One of the things I had to learn in order to keep a clean house is how to part with the unnecessary items cluttering up my space. I live in an old apartment with exactly one closet. It’s in the kitchen. I keep my trash bins in there. I have quite a bit of space in comparison to many other New York apartments, it’s just that everything is out in the open. Add a live-in boo to the mix and I really had no excuse to hang on to those dresses I hadn’t worn in two summers, those purses I hadn’t carried since the second I got my hands on a vintage Coach, and that puffy vest from the 80s with the broken zipper that had a lot of sentimental value from the Winter of  ’07-’08 but is certainly well memorialized in pictures by now. Luckily, my friends over at North York Creative held a perfectly timed vintage bazaar of sorts last month, to which I donated a mountain of gently used items. Still, I barely even scratched the surface of my hoarding problem. I still have a long way to go, but I don’t want to throw away too much just yet. I recently figured out how to use Etsy so it’s really only a matter of time before I become the next Sophia Amoruso. Right?

5. One Word: Roku
Two words: Gilmore Girls. Three words: Man vs. Food. I could go on and on about this one. I’ve always been an avid Netflix and Hulu user, but take my dad’s old TV and a couch from my mom and the Roku Austin brought with him when he moved in and now I have a full-on common area and entertainment center where I can bask in the joys of early 2000s WB shows. Those of you who used to read this blog for the hilarious drug-fueled antics and are wondering what happened to my Crazy Clubbin’ Lifestyle, well, this is it. Also I had a full time job for a while and a boyfriend and…you know what, I don’t have to explain myself to you! This is just what I’m into now, okay? Grow up.

6. Getting a Desk
If you think you can lie completely horizontal on the couch with the TV on and a pillow behind your head and your laptop on your thighs and actually get shit done, you can’t. You are lying to yourself. Well, that’s not entirely true, but it does take a whooole lot longer. Case in point: I tried to address and personalize 75 Christmas cards last week while sitting at my coffee table watching Rory stumble through her first few weeks at Yale and it took me EIGHT HOURS to complete them. That doesn’t even make any sense! Except when you consider that I was paying probably 3/4 of my attention the show and 1/4 to the cards, and had I actually been focusing and sitting upright in a well lighted area I could have gotten them done in two hours, tops. This is what the desk is for. I can’t say I use it all the time (right now it’s covered in piles of wrapping paper and dollar store bags) but I will say, when I need to bang out a little something on the laptop it is absolutely essential to my workflow (and I just said “workflow,” so you know I mean business). This new desk was actually another hand-me-down from my brother Winston. I guess the moral of the story here, really, is stay in good with your family and eventually they will probably give you free stuff.

7. Cooking My Own Food
Let me start by saying that this is not a weight loss tip. It certainly can be – if I went to Trader Joe’s and only bought fruits and veggies and nuts and quinoa, never ordered takeout and brought my lunch to work every day I would be a skinny lady, although probably pissy and extremely bored. I envy anyone who can shove a handful of raisins in their mouth and be like “DAMN I am so full and satisfied! I’ll wait 4 hours until dinner, go home, steam some cauliflower and call it a day!” But nah. This is about being in control of what’s going in your body. I love comfort food of all types. Does it make me feel good to spend $20 and have some fried chicken with three sides delivered to my house sometimes? Yes. But it makes me (and my bank account) feel even better to figure out how fried chicken is made and to do it myself. Not every day, of course. That shit is time consuming! But there are plenty of simple ways to prepare hearty, dank-ass foods for yourself in a reasonable time frame. I haven’t had a microwave in three years, but once I learned how to use my oven, I didn’t even need or want one. Buy a couple decent pans at Deals for cheap. Go to the store and get $30 of basic groceries to last you about two weeks (veggies, a grain, some meat, garlic, olive oil, seasoning). It beats the hell out of spending $100 a week ordering food, and the act of preparing it can even help ease the stress of your day. Plus, cooking a delicious meal does incredible things for your ego. After some practice, you’ll be able to make from-scratch cookies that impress your boyfriend’s parents (“I’m domestic and creative! Approve of me!”) and maybe even come up with your own next-level recipes that put a takeout box to shame.

IMG_0522I really did make my own fried chicken

8. Drinking More Water
I was doing really well with this earlier in the year and it made a huge difference in my energy level, my mood, my skin,and my health in general. I’m currently recovering from a holiday week that consisted of mostly vodka, which is no doubt at least partly to blame for the cold/flu/bronchitis/sinus infection something-or-other I’ve been battling for the last five days. I’m feeling pretty fatigued and disgusting right now, and my vocal cords are in the morgue. So, I’m gonna drink about six glasses of water and see if it helps. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go back to sleep. Ok, let’s make this a two parter. Number 8. Water and Sleep.

9. Staying in Touch

IMG_2730A little holiday card goes a long way

This one is so, so important. In every facet of life – work, family or friends – just checking in from time to time will take you a long way. Parents deserve it because they raised you and you are an ungrateful little shit. Also, they give pretty good advice. The people you’ve worked with in the past have met new people who could give you a jumpstart on your career, but not if you never email them. And, sad to say it, but from the moment you graduate college, making friends only gets harder. Lives get more complicated, hanging out gets a little more difficult to arrange. But if someone is important to you, shouldn’t they know it? Even if it’s just a little text from time to time, or jesus, even a snapchat. If  you wanna feel really good about yourself, send a handwritten letter. When I was a little kid, my dad would point at my toothbrush every night and say “brush the ones you wanna keep!” I’ve decided to apply this logic to people in my life. “Call the ones you wanna keep.” Seems like a foolproof plan.

10. Following Those Dreams, One Step at a Time
Figuring out who you want to be is hard. When I started college, I knew I wanted to write. Having gotten some subpar grades my freshman year, I didn’t have a GPA quite high enough to be accepted into the Journalism school. I didn’t know I was interested in film or TV until my then-new friend Alex encouraged me to pursue the Media Studies major. Even after three years of study, I still didn’t know I was interested in comedy until after graduation, when I was lying depressed on the couch for the tenth day in a row and it dawned on me that I’d really enjoy making one of those shows I’d been binge watching. It took me more than six months after that to move to New York, almost a whole year after that to get my first paying job in TV, and another year after that to start taking improv and sketch writing classes in my spare time. It’s definitely been a push and pull. I hear the same thing from everyone I know who is an aspiring entertainment creative. Sometimes it feels like for every two steps forward you have to take three steps back. Trying to make a buck and follow your dreams at the same time can seem like an impossible feat. I know it feels that way for me right now. But I just have to keep going. If that means writing scripts on the weekend, blogging on the subway, taking improv classes at night and reading, watching and going to see new material and acts whenever I get a free moment, then that’s what I gotta do. 2014 wasn’t the best year ever, but it wasn’t a waste, either. Clearing the cobwebs from a lifestyle cluttered with irresponsible decisions and, well, physical mess, has helped me identify the bigger steps I need to take towards my goals and create a plan to do it. And in the process I learned some important lessons.

Believe in yourself. Respect your space. Invest in your happiness. And don’t underestimate the value of taking time to get your shit together.


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A Comprehensive List of Everything I Ate Thanksgiving Week

IMG_2287Celebrating Thanksgiving like a true American, in a Ralph Lauren blouse and someone’s neon hunting hat

This Thanksgiving was the first I was able to return home to Raleigh in the near three years I’ve lived in New York. I’d cleared my not so busy schedule to go down a few days early to help my dad recover from a routine surgery he was supposed to have, and when that surgery  was canceled, I had even more time to do what Thanksgiving is all about – appreciate loved ones (sure yeah whatever) AND expand my culinary and dietary horizons by eating no less than 5,000 calories a day not including alcohol.

The following is a comprehensive list of everything I consumed from Monday November 23 to Saturday November 29, 2014.

Monday: 
Airport Five Guys bacon burger with lettuce tomato and mayo and a Coke
Cobb salad from Chick Fil A with honey mustard dressing, fries with mayonnaise, ranch dipping sauce and lemonade
Cold pepperoni from the package
Two miniature red velvet cupcakes
Turkey deli meat from the package
One large vodka tonic with lime
One glass of red wine
4? 5? vodka cranberries
2 bunless Nathan’s hotdogs dipped in ranch and ketchup
1 bowl of leftover pot roast
Water

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One of the three grocery carts filled with food for my family’s 20-odd Thanksgiving guests

Tuesday:
Water
A leg and thigh of Bojangles chicken
1 Bojangles biscuit
2 glasses of sweet tea
1 glass iced coffee
1 Bojangles chicken breast
1 glass sweet tea
1 queen olive
1 pickled okra
2 grapes
1 Angry Orchard Cider
8 Cajun shrimps
1 bowl of penne vodka with three mozzarella stuffed meatballs
Spinach artichoke dip and sourdough bread
Water

IMG_2289Feast your eyes on the creamiest, tastiest spinach artichoke dip ever to grace the earth, made by me

Wednesday:
Coffee
Spinach artichoke dip and tortilla chips
Water
Massive sports bar nachos from Ruckus topped with chili, chicken, salsa, onions, olives, tomatoes, lettuce, cheddar, guacamole and sour cream.
2 Red Oak beers
Original style chicken sandwich from Cook Out
Water
4 piece nugget from Chick Fil A
More artichoke dip
Homemade cajun dirty rice
2 glasses of white wine
4 vodka cranberry sprites with raspberries

Thursday: 
Two pieces of bacon
Mimosas
One deviled egg
Brussel sprouts with mushrooms and garlic cloves
Baked mac n cheese
Green bean casserole
Squash casserole
Broccoli casserole
Turkey leg meat
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Acorn squash
Meat loaf
3 glasses of white wine
Water
1 bottle of San Pellegrino
More green bean casserole
Sarah’s Mom’s Filipino beef and noodle dish (name unknown)
Corn
Mashed potatoes
Ham
Water
1 Dr. Thunder
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Friday:
Green bean casserole
Mashed potatoes with gravy
Meatloaf
Stuffing
Squash casserole
Brussel Sprouts
Coffee
A dozen fresh Oysters on the half shell from 42nd Street Oyster Bar
Peel and eat shrimp
Raw clams
New England clam chowder
Seafood bisque
Oyster sampler: one topped with hot pimento cheese, one topped with breadcrumbs and garlic, one topped with spinach and cheese.
Scallops
Mashed potatoes
Penne pasta with poblano cream
2 martinis
1 margarita
leftover bacon
2 Tito’s Vodka grapefruits
Sapphire gin and grapefruit mixed drinks (exact number unknown)
Sapphire gin and diet cranberry ginger ale mixed drinks (exact number unknown)

IMG_2260We ordered many plates of these. I consumed a whole one on my own. 

Saturday:
Water
Coffee
1 bowl of penne and meatballs
1 bowl of green bean casserole
Half a pressed green juice
Steamed pork dumplings
Egg roll with duck sauce
General tso’s chicken (all white meat)
Pork fried rice
Water

Now, with that in mind, we must remember that there are people all over the world who are starving, who will never even see a fraction of this amount of food in a single week of their lives. Around the holidays it’s as important to share as much as you can with people in need, as it is not to take for granted the infinite holiday smorgasbord you might have access to. Appreciate the food. Make love to the food. Become one with the food. And in a small way, you will have begun to do your part. Just, if you can, try not to puke.

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Scare tactics

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Did you know that excessive stress can make your hormones to go off the rails, causing you to PMS for a whole month at a time , complete with aggression and bleeding and the obligatory teary-eyed question, “WHY AM I ACTING LIKE THIS?” According to my doctor, that’s what happened to me last month. At first I was relieved at the news. I was, after all, sitting half naked on a gynecologist’s table having just opened my legs for an emergency check up after spending the whole day in the fetal position from cramp pain. “Stress” was probably the tamest in the long list of horrifying answers I could have received as to why this was happening smack in the middle of a menstrual cycle. But then I was confused.

“I don’t feel particularly stressed,” I said to her. “or rather, any more stressed than usual.” Even though I’d been circling the drain in an identity crisis I figured that crisis had been going on long enough to not necessarily warrant a body apocalypse.

“Have you had any major changes in your life recently?”

“Well, I did lose my job.”

“That’s so stressful!”

Not really, I thought. I mean, I’ve been spending most of my days sleeping until ten, working out, writing, running errands and watching reality shows. I go to sketch class on Mondays and a few days a week maybe I’ll do some freelance work. Technically I should feel pretty relaxed. But she was a little bit right. There was this underlying fear in me that I wasn’t going to figure things out and I was at the beginning of a lifelong disappointment to myself and my family and everyone I know. I had even started taking some of those insecurities out on James.

“Hey babe! What did you do today?”

“What did I do today? Why? Because I’m unemployed? Are you calling me lazy?

I’ll just blame that on the hormones. That’s what they’re there for, right? Is that anti-feminist? Shh…

So maybe I was stressed. Maybe somehow pounding the treadmill and doing kickboxing workouts every day after months of using my Planet Fitness keychain as nothing more than an accessory was making my body do crazy shit. Maybe watching all those seasons of Flipping Out in succession on Hulu was giving me vicarious anger problems and OCD. And if  TV can cause you stress, then certainly all the horror movies and murder shows weren’t helping either.

I’m not just a sucker for a theme. It goes far beyond that. I live for a theme.I base my life around themes. So when Fall rolled around this year James and I decided to spend the entire month of October terrifying ourselves without any breaks. Like many people our age group, we are limited to what’s streaming and what we can get away with buying On Demand at our parent’s houses. In three weeks we watched You’re NextHouse of the Devil, The Blair Witch Project, The Pact, Insidious 2, V/H/S, Eraserhead, Silent HouseMama, American Psycho, and Single White Female (which is more of a thriller but spoiler alert: she kills the dog so we were horrified). Even though some of those totally sucked, it didn’t make all the murder/torture/abuse imagery any less disturbing. We also watched the documentaries Cropsey (about a child murder who lives in the woods on Staten Island), Crazy Love (a man throws acid in his girlfriend’s face so no one else will ever love her and it works), I Escaped a Cult (religious fervor is scarier than the devil) and of course, the classic Forensic Files, 40 episodes of which are streaming on Netflix. We’re still watching it almost every night and every night I have a nightmare that I’m being chased down by a stalker with a knife. But I’m not stressed.

Mama was the one we watched at James’ parents’ place in Long Island. We spent the night there one Friday because we had plans to borrow the car the next morning to drive to Six Flags. I’d always wanted to go, especially for Fright Fest. I guess I fancied myself a thrill seeker, even knowing full well I hadn’t been on a roller coaster in over 10 years and my fear of heights was growing with age. After the movie at about 1 AM I burst into tears – I was overcome with all these different types of terror. To my credit, I’d had two beers and I’d finished a movie that was just as much about love and motherhood as it was about ghosts, so I was feeling very sensitive. We were also home alone, and if I’d learned a single thing from any of these movies, it’s that “home alone in the suburbs” equals certain death. So I was anxious. I had left my cats at the apartment in Queens (with my good friend and roommate Austin, but still) – what if something happened to them? What’s more, I was suddenly feeling very nervous about this whole roller coaster thing. The craziest theme park I’d ever been to was Busch Gardens. They have lederhosen at Busch Gardens. I was going to die, and it was going to be in New Jersey.

The next day, I didn’t die. But I was pretty  much right about everything – Busch Gardens is to Six Flags as The Muppet Show is to Jurassic Park. I nutted up before my first coaster and was entirely unprepared for just how much of my life was about to flash before my eyes. I later found out that Nitro, the first roller coaster I went on that day, is about 60 feet higher than the tallest roller coaster I’d ever been on which, by the way, was in 2003. I quickly realized by the second ride that the people in charge of operating these machines were my age or younger, and that everyone in line with me must have some sort of invincibility complex (which I assume is a function of being a teenager, or being from New Jersey, or both). Suffering from a hyper-perception of my own mortality, I was very unsettled almost the entire time, made worse by the fact that it was one of the most popular days in Six Flags history and the lines were excruciatingly long. I think we went on almost every ride once, and by about 5 pm I was ready to go. We just had one more thing to cross off our list – Kingda Ka.

The roller coaster Kingda Ka is problematic for multiple reasons. The first is that is plays on an ambiguous jungle theme that I’m sure is offensive to people of certain ethnicities. The decor of that section of the park is described by Wikipedia as being Nepalese, but one of the rides, a free fall directly under Kingda Ka is called Zumanjaro which I guess is supposed to be African inspired. It’s basically a mishmash of cultural appropriation, but like I said, I’ve been to Busch Gardens. I expected this sort of thing. They even have wild animals on zoo-like display, which I abhorred with my entire being. No animal should have to deal with that many screaming Americans hopped up on sugar and, well, animal fat.

But the worst part of Kingda Ka, of course, is Kingda Ka itself. At 456 feet tall and with hydraulics that shoot you from zero to 128 MPH in 3.5 seconds, it’s the tallest and the second fastest roller coaster in the world. It looks like this.
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That doesn’t even look real. It looks like a photoshop prank. The guy who designed Kingda Ka probably did it as a joke and then passed it around the office and got so many laughs they eventually decided, fuck it, why shouldn’t we do this? Why not give people the option to torture themselves in such a way? The best part is, sometimes it doesn’t go fast enough to get over the crest, so it ROLLS ALL THE WAY BACK DOWN to the starting point. I was overcome with a feeling of  “Nah.”

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I pretty much only went on the thing for street cred. I figured there was no point in spending all that money on a Six Flags ticket (they cost more than I care to admit) if I was going to let fear get the best of me. So we waited in line…and we waited…and after an hour and half we figured we might as well keep waiting. I must have watched the ride at least 50 times while waiting in that line, all the while sweating bullets and contemplating the best funeral arrangements for my soon to be mangled remains. By the time we got up to the loading area it had been three hours and it was pitch dark out. My heart was beating in my throat. James, who’d been on it before, was laughing at me. This was a metaphor, I told myself, for being brave in life and going for things that you want (even though I didn’t even want this). We rolled out to the launching area and I tried not to puke. Before I knew it my back was pushed against the seat and we were shooting up into the stars, and then shooting back down again, face first into the fucking parking lot. By the time it was over, in not more than fifteen seconds, I was completely in tears. I had cried the whole time, yet somehow I was smiling in the photo they took. Maybe it’s one of those phenomenons, like why people laugh when they’re being tickled, or maybe I was just so relieved to be alive by the time I got to the photo portion of the ride.

Afterwards, we pushed our way through the crowd of bored 20-year-old part-time zombies and drove home. That was the only thrill I needed for a while.

By the time actual Halloween came around, we decided to do something unrelated to horror entirely and go the cosplay route instead, dressing up as Sterling Archer and Lana Kane.IMG_1343When I was little, I used to love when the power would cut out or the fire alarm would ring or a hurricane would ravage the neighborhood. I considered the flu a luxury. At that age I would take anything that got me out of going to school. I guess that’s sort of the appeal of thrill seeking, that a momentary fear for your actual life is a welcome change from dealing with the mundanity of the every day. I get that. I had an invincibility complex once. I did drugs. I dated a guy with a motorcycle. But things are a little bit different now. I wear my seatbelt, I read the ingredients on the back of the box, and I don’t think I’ll be going skydiving any time soon. I’m too busy trying to make a safe, comfortable life for myself while kind of, maybe trying to be successful someday. Isn’t that scary enough?


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On Posting Less

9021053-abused-woman-cryingDon’t look at me. But please, don’t stop looking at me.

I’m taking sketch writing classes at Upright Citizens Brigade, and we recently wrote character sketches. The rules when writing a character sketch is you have to identify three big things: What is this character’s pure characteristic? What are they doing? And what is their point of view? As a writer, or even just as a person, it can be very distressing to not know these answers when the character in question is you.

With social media, and especially as a creative person, there’s all this pressure to be constantly presenting yourself, to keep people interested in you or some facet of what you do. A lot of the times when I’m on a sort of hiatus with certain forms of social media, or just not as present, it’s because I’m reexamining what’s important to me. I think this is happening to me now. Every few years I experience a transformation from who I was to who I will be, where I feel very detached from whatever “brand” or persona I’ve cultivated, like I’ve exhausted those ideas and I’m unimpressed with them. I figured out they didn’t work.

Part of what I struggle with during these times is that I feel like my identity is more of a mystery, that my plan is unclear and what makes me uniquely me, or rather how I would “sell myself,” is something that’s in the process of being discovered. This feeling of being unknown to yourself is very frustrating for obvious reasons. There’s a logical side in all – or most – of us that says “these things don’t matter! How you’re perceived in not who you are! If a tree falls in a forest and no one instagrams it, it still makes a sound!” but the fact is, no matter how much we scoff and roll our eyes at it, this is our world. These things do matter because everyone agrees they matter. A social construction, no matter how shallow, is still a construction within which we live. It seems like so much of the stress of dealing with things like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., is being ashamed of the fact that we care at all.

When it comes to social media, or life in general, I try not to put too much pressure on myself to participate constantly or curate a specific type of content, and just do what feels right and fun. What could be more “me” than my own unique set of thoughts and aesthetic impulses? This seems in its own way like cultivating a brand or identity, but in a way that is maybe healthier and more organic. The pressure of being well received or meeting some arbitrary standard is eliminated with this approach. If only temporarily.

That’s the other half of the struggle, that this feeling of freedom typically doesn’t last, and one way or another I end up feeling the pressure to contribute, to promote myself as a being. Not necessarily to promote my work, just to create this awareness of my existence and what my life is like. Even though sometimes not participating, not having anything to contribute or desiring to be a part of the conversation may be this perfectly healthy thing I need to experience, I end up feeling like I’m being left out. As though people will forget about me, or there’s some big world I’m not a part of, or the trajectory of my life success is somehow dependent on the traffic I generate from random updates on my daily life. But inevitably, when I am participating, the attention falls into this bottomless pit, and I ultimately feel unsatisfied yet crave more of the same.

I don’t mean to discredit the value of promoting oneself and skills, but for me its important to recognize it as a means to an end. It’s all fine and good if you want to be famous for being famous, get attention for attention’s sake. That concept is such an interesting phenomenon that’s really taken off in our lifetime, and it’s somehow so attractive, even in its lack of depth. But that’s not what I’m interested in attaining. The real work I’m interested in doing is done privately, for the most part, with the intent of creating a finished product. And if that product is not getting created, should it really matter if anyone’s paying attention? The same logic could be applied to finding out who you are, to living your life. Shouldn’t the experience of it all matter more than its presentation? Can the two ever really be simultaneous if every time we’re facing straight ahead we’re looking into our selfie camera?

I’m not nostalgic for the way things used to be. I can barely even remember things being different, and I assume every generation has had their own struggle with image consciousness, remaining in the moment, making choices in how to perform their identity. Who can blame any of us? I guess it comes down to a few things: self-esteem, mortality, the feeling that relevance is somehow correlational to worth, and the idea that “someone saw me, someone heard me, so I was here.” I’d like to learn to appreciate the value of being the only one to experience a moment when it happens. And anyhow, I could always tell a story about it later.

(Copied from my journal. Because I really can’t keep anything to myself, can I?)


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Tokyo Story

tokyo318Sarah at the top of Takeshita Street in Harajuku, Tokyo

By my 25th birthday on September 15, 2014, I had been working hard at a job that wasn’t right–right for my career trajectory or right for me emotionally–for about seven months. But on that day it didn’t bother me, because I was 7,000 miles away.

For what was, I believe, a much deserved paid vacation, I decided to visit the city that I had always considered most exciting. Similar to the way nearly every American white girl puts Paris on a pedestal, I have always adored Tokyo and thought of it as a place where I might “find myself.” I had a little money saved, just enough to buy the tickets and still maybe have some spending money at the bottom of the barrel. So one day in late summer, via iMessage of course, I proposed to my long time friend Sarah aka Cousler aka Cousler8 that we visit together over my birthday week. I hadn’t really spent much quality time with Sarah in the last five years, but I knew that she loved the city and when I say I always wanted to visit, I mean I always wanted to visit with her. She was thrilled at the idea, as I’d hoped.

So we put in our requests for days off. I bought a the Lonely Planet guide to Tokyo and highlighted the shit out of it. Even though we could barely get in touch with one another to buy the tickets with our completely opposite work schedules (and Sarah’s signature unreachability) we somehow managed to snag two round trip seats to Tokyo Narita Airport on Delta airlines, for $1,000 each. It was the exact amount we could afford, and the lowest price we’d seen in about a month of lurking Kayak.

Although no stranger to air travel, I had only been out of the country once before. Having failed to locate my passport (did I lose it in the fire that burnt down my college residence in 2010? Is it buried somewhere beneath a heap of Lifetouch photos in the back of my childhood closet? I’ve resigned myself to ignorance) I rushed around town on my days off, procuring the necessary forms of identification, while astonishing and dismaying myself with my inability to master the basic functions of a photocopier. I didn’t believe this was all really happening until I received my passport in the mail. I take that back – to this day I am not 100% certain any of this really happened. It’s now been a month since I returned from the trip, and some details are hazy, like trying to recall a dream, so to make it easier for me and for you I will tell the story of my journey one day at a time. For more photos (many, many more) peep the links to my Flickr and Instagram in the sidebar.

Day 1: #TokyoForever #ByeUSA
In an effort to not spend the nearly 24 hours door to door by our lonesome, Sarah flew to meet me in NY the day before departure. She arrived while I was still at work, and still unpacked for that matter, so we only had time for a few hugs that evening before she fell asleep on my couch watching The Killing and I piled my life into a TJ Maxx suitcase (it’s amazing) in a full-on state of panic. I packed every colorful item I owned, every bold patterned anything. I was prepared to serve a NYC meets Harajuku look every day I was to be there. I packed my big ass camera that I never use into my Victoria’s Secret backpack, put my pink Sharper Image luggage tags on my two bags and slept for five hours. The next morning I said goodbye to James, who’d be staying in Ridgewood that week to take care of the cats for me. Sarah and I ate sandwiches in the $80 cab ride to Newark Airport.

As soon as we got there, I spent $40 more on a memory foam neck pillow. I’m telling you this because it ended up being the best $40 I ever spent. I suggest you all buy one, even if you’re not traveling. My greatest aspiration is that one day everything I own will be memory foam. My clothing, my TV, my refrigerator. My car. Cutlery. Ah, that’s when I’ll know I’ve made it. Anyway-

Our first flight was no big deal. We had a short layover in the very sexy (no sarcasm) Minneapolis/St.Paul airport, then boarded a for the 10 hour haul to Tokyo. I was mentally prepared because I had flown Delta recently, and I knew there would be S-I-C-K entertainment options in the back of the seat in front of me. The main problem was I already had a post-nasal drip that would not quit, and it was soon to be exacerbated. On that flight, I probably watched 5 movies and slept for a total of 20 minutes. Sarah was out for a good bit and I would have been very jealous were it not for the KUSH-ASS memory foam supporting my lower back, and the unlimited beverage service that kept me pretty much wasted the entire time.

Day 2 – Tita Chu and Her Generous Boo
After walking through the bizarrely deserted customs area, and waiting by the wrong baggage claim for about a half hour, we met Sarah’s Aunt, Tita Chu and her husband, whose name I do not remember, so I will call him Tito. He and I didn’t communicate much other than nods and smiles, since the only language he speaks is Japanese. Did I mention I don’t know any Japanese? Doesn’t matter. I should still know his name.

How do I describe Tita Chu? Tita Chu is a hilarious Filipino woman, about 5’2″ and gorgeous with a shoulder length haircut. Tita Chu has the cackle of a witch, if that witch was also your favorite friend to take to the mall. She has the greatest and most effective side-eye I have ever seen. Tita Chu tells it like it is. She wears 4 inch heels 24/7, except in the apartment, when we all wear slippers. God I love slippers. I never realized how gross bare feet were until I was exposed to slipper culture.

What I also didn’t realize until I actually arrived in Japan is that I am far too big for everything in the country. Immediately upon entering Tita Chu’s minimalist apartment in Ryogoku, my arms were hitting Sarah’s family members in the face and knocking over Charmmy Kitty figurines. My suitcase was the size of Tita Chu herself. It took an unreasonable amount of generosity from her, then, to let us stay at her apartment for our first night in the city. It worked out pretty well since we immediately collapsed into Sarah’s cousin’s bed of stuffed animals and slept for 11 hours. It was 7 PM.

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Day 3 – Culture Shock or Cold Medicine?
The next morning I awoke at the crack of dawn with a terrible sinus headache. Luckily Tita Chu wakes up as early as we do when we’re 13 hours ahead of schedule, and she gave me a packet of Japanese cold medicine. I have no idea what was in it, but I do know that it worked. That plus a humongous Filipino breakfast and I was feeling high as hell. I don’t think it was even 8 AM by the time we decided to go explore the neighborhood, and being that it was a Sunday morning, we were told nothing would be open. But it was a beautiful day, and we were antsy, so we set out on our first adventure.

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The view from Tita Chu’s apartment

One of the first things I noticed about Tokyo was, despite crowded streets and sidewalks, how quiet everything is. I’m used to being one of the loudest people everywhere I go, but this was different. No horns were honking, no sirens blaring. And there was no litter anywhere. This was especially confusing since there didn’t seem to be any public trash receptacles anywhere either. We quickly realized that in Japan, you own your garbage. People just abide by the social contract there. You also very seldom see homeless people. It makes NYC look like a war zone.

Down the street from Tita Chu’s, we found a mall that was set to open at 10 AM. In the hour before, teens crowded around the entrance and waited for the doors to open. Waiting in line for things to open is another thing I saw a lot in Tokyo that I don’t really see here that often. I guess people just wake up on the weekends with a plan to hit the arcade, and they are so serious about it that they will literally sit on the sidewalk for an hour to be one of the first inside. I personally hate to wait for anything. This is one of my most American qualities.

We waited at the Starbucks next to the mall. If you’re wondering, Starbucks in Japan is exactly like Starbucks in America, except the menu is in both Japanese and English, the “small” size is really, really small, and there is no free wifi. I know because I figured out very quickly how to ask for a “wifi password” using my own fucked up version of sign language. When the mall opened, I was surprised at how much it looked exactly like an American mall. A lot of the clothes, though Japanese labels, were imitations of distinctly American and British styles. Burgundy plaid skirts and creeper-style loafers were in about half the stores we saw. I would quickly come to learn that the most common looks for girls in Tokyo under 30 are: Punk, Ivy League, Barbie Doll, and American Early 90s. What I’m trying to say is that everyone and everything looked great. But if I wanted to buy a pair of shoes, I was shit out of luck. When I tried on a pair of sky-high wedges and I could barely squeeze my feet in them, I motioned to the sales girl for a bigger size. She covered her mouth and giggled. I’d just tried on their biggest size.

Then it was time for our first Japanese bite. It was a little hard to choose where to go because everything looked so delicious and we had no idea what any of it was. We settled for a little ramen spot where you order from a touch screen vending machine, which then prints you a ticket to hand to your server. It was kind of brilliant, since we knew the only way we could order anything was by pointing at pictures anyway.

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Later that day, while still cracked out on cold medicine and feeling like I was in an alternate universe, Tita Chu and Tito took us to the Edo-Tokyo museum. The Edo period in Japanese history is between 1603 and 1868, which I already knew a little bit about from Ninja Turtles III. The museum tells the history of the Geisha and the tradition of Kabuki, and had original paintings by iconic Japanese artists like Hokusai.

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Afterwards, we traveled to our apartment in Roppongi, which we’d conveniently reserved on Airbnb a week prior for 65 dollars a night. On the way, we watched music videos on an iPhone propped to the dashboard of Tito’s car. Sarah and I had been talking about how much we love that catchy song “Rather Be” by Clean Bandit.  It wasn’t until the music video came on during our drive through the city that we realized it’s actually about Japan. I pretty much get goosebumps and cry every time I hear it now, officially making me the cheesiest person that’s ever lived.

That night, we bought bottles of sake and Japanese whiskey and tried to turn up. So far we’d been too weak to do it, and I really wanted that to change. But jet lag is no joke – I fell asleep in a plate of overpriced dumplings that night while ringing in my birthday at a restaurant in Roppongi Hills.

Day 4 – Kawaii Overload
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The next morning it was officially my birthday in Japan, so I set out to do all the things I’d always dreamed of, like going to a sushi bar, a cat cafe and shopping in Shibuya. Unfortunately I woke up at 6 AM again, this time with screaming back pain, and felt compelled to do two hours of yoga in the middle of our tiny apartment, next to a kitchenette sink that smelled a little (a lot) like poo. I had time to contemplate age and what it meant to be another year older and where I wanted to go in life. September 15 in Japan is actually Respect for the Aged Day, funny enough. So I tried to show myself some of that respect.

That afternoon, after dressing myself up like an adult child, we walked from a sushi bar in Roppongi Hills through Ebisu to Nyafe Melange, a cat cafe. I will let the following photos speak for themselves.

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When you arrive at the cat cafe, the girls at the front desk ask you to wash your hands and then you pay the entry fee. Admission comes with a drink, and is charged by the half hour with the option to purchase a “snack” for the cats. The snack is a small tupperware filled with katsuobushi, or bonito flakes, which are dried fermented fish flakes used in Japanese cuisine. The cats go NUTS over these, and it’s good that we bought them because they pretty much just sleep and ignore you unless you have food (same). I also noticed that most of the patrons were petting the cats in a way I had never seen before. Instead of dragging the palm of their hand across the back or rubbing the butt, they were patting the butt at the base of the tail over and over. I came home and tried the butt-pat with Kosmo and it was a major hit. Try it on your cat!

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From there we walked up Meiji-Dori to Shibuya crossing. Again, the sheer number of people that manage to coexist in one space blows my mind. Maybe it was because I was a tourist, but this equivalent of Times Square in Tokyo was nowhere near as repulsive and unwelcoming as its New York counterpart. I think it’s just because foot traffic in Japan is so cooperative. In NYC people just stand around clogging up sidewalks and waiting to get hit by cabs. Oh, America.

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That’s when we entered Shibuya 109. It’s basically a friggin skyscraper full of fashion stores for Japanese babes, and we were in shock. I wanted to buy everything and take pictures of everyone. I’m kicking myself now because I was so distracted I barely took any photos while I was inside. While the target market for many of the stores was a slightly younger girl, I did find a pretty awesome store with over the top hip hop gear called Baby Shoop. The mascot of Baby Shoop is the silhouette of a woman with an afro, and their slogan is “Black for Life.” A little cultural appropriation is tolerated in Tokyo, from what I could tell. I found a huge fuzzy sweater and the woman who checked me out had a deep tan, a grill and door-knocker earrings, not unlike a Japanese Kreayshawn. When I told her I was from New York she broke into a grin of familiarity. Fashion girls in Tokyo fucking love Brooklyn. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I technically live in Queens.

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That evening we ate at a three story hot dog stand in the middle of Shibuya, essentially a Japanese Crif Dogs, while watching a video performance by the Black Eyed Peas from 2005. Somehow Tokyo manages to be simultaneously futuristic, traditional, and just barely irrelevant.

When we got home, Sarah went out for snacks and came back with bags full of goodies, including a potato cake that she put a candle in, and sang me happy birthday.

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Day 5 – Adventures in Harajuku
The next day we had a breakfast of Curry Cup o’ Noodles before taking the train to Harajuku, because we hadn’t shopped enough already. There we found more eye-popping street cuties and a store called Spinns, which pretty much had everything we could ever want – including an adorable sales girl Yuming, who we wanted as a best friend. There is an obsession in Harajuku with American vintage clothes and toys from the 80s and 90s, and Spinns is very much on this tip. Almost every item was pastel and covered in faux fur or feathers. The walls were lined in unpackaged Malibu Barbies I recognized from my childhood. Another store called Wego decorated with spray painted old TVs and troll dolls. I was right at home…more than I even realized. This store, like many others, had racks upon racks of vintage clothing imported from the United States. I even found old UNC and NC State sweatshirts in the men’s section. It was too weird.

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After spending half our money and wearing our feet to the bone, we hit up a place called Kiddyland. It’s a four-story toy store with a Star Wars section, a Studio Ghibli section, a Nintendo section, and entire floors dedicated to Snoopy and Hello Kitty. I was in heaven, although I’d already learned by now that toys are EXPENSIVE in Tokyo (and everywhere. Being a mom must be so annoying) All I wanted was a reasonably priced Pikachu, and for some reason that was very hard to find. But I had already found some adorable socks, so I was pretty happy.

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We comforted ourselves with some Thai curry, then stopped by the weird beauty garage on our way out of Harajuku to pick up some hair dye. Sarah had been talking about going purple, and because I was an expert (i.e – a receptionist at a hair salon) I offered to do it for her. We used Quis Quis Devil’s Trick hair color in lavender, because that’s all we could find. When we got back to the apartment, flavored Asahis in hand, we put the color on the blonde ends of Sarah’s hair and left it on for 30 minutes. Because Devil’s Trick is essentially just a temporary gloss, all it did was cancel out the yellow tones and make her hair look normal. She was not particularly fond of that.
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Day 6 – Temples, Towers and Being Tourists

Being on foot in one of the biggest cities in the world can take a lot out of you, so we took it slow on Wednesday and decided to keep it local for the day. Luckily there are plenty of things to do and see in Roppongi and the surrounding areas. It was a cloudy day, and we appreciated this. The weather in mid-September Tokyo is much like the weather in mid-September New York: beautiful by night, and just a little hotter than you might prefer by day.

After guzzling our carton of iced coffee that we bought at the corner store and washing our clothes in the tiny, microwave sized washing machine (why aren’t these popular in the US? I could fit it in my bedroom and do my laundry every day instead of once a stinky month), we marched up the hill to Chinese Cafe 8 for some greasy cashew chicken. Upon arrival we were more than a little bit confused by the decor, but we took it with a grain of salt (and lots of MSG…mmm)

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Zojo-ji is a Buddhist temple located in Shiba, which is just a short walk from Roppongi. The grounds are lush and mystical, even if they do partially overlap with a hotel and golf course. On the steps of the temple we could hear people chanting inside. The most amazing moment, though, was when the only stray cat I’d seen in Tokyo emerged from the bushes and sat next to me on the temple steps. I felt like I was in a Murakami novel.
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Just across the street from Zojo-ji is the Tokyo Tower, the iconic Eiffel Tower-inspired observation tower that’s nearly 1,100 feet high. I have a pretty serious fear of heights so I got a little freaked out in the elevator (I’m a loser, I know) but I will say it was the smoothest ride up I’d ever felt. The view from the top is breathtaking and doesn’t even feel real.
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On our way back to Roppongi we walked through Roppongi Hills, a gigantic skyscraping complex with luxury retail, condos, offices, restaurants, BMW dealerships…basically everything rich people need to survive without leaving their neighborhood. We’d walked through it almost every day so far, but this time we stumbled into a record release concert for a boy band called 2 PM, complete with thousands of screaming teenagers. I thought Directioners were serious, but the teens are not kidding about their boybands in Tokyo.
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The inside of Gonpachi

“Legend” has it that Quentin Tarantino got his inspiration for the set of the Crazy 88 fight scene in Kill Bill Vol.1 from the layout of a Roppongi restaurant called Gonpachi, so naturally it is a major tourist attraction, and naturally we succumbed. The inside of the restaurant was similar to the movie, although not nearly as grand or badass. And the food could be described as “aight.” Still, it was fun to overhear dumb conversations between other tourists and get to peep the open kitchen, complete with a yakitori grill. The best thing about traveling with Sarah is that she’s a cook, and it seems like she knows everything there is to know about food. After all, the dining in Tokyo is, like, 60% of its appeal. If the experience at Gonpachi taught me anything, it’s that the quality of a Japanese restaurant is usually inversely proportional to the percentage of white people inside. Roppongi is known as the “foreigner’s neighborhood,” so most of the spots are A) really expensive and B) crawling with rich people, jet-setters, and Japanese-American teens attending English speaking schools. That night at Muse nightclub, we drank cocktails while eavesdropping on two American college girls cry about their roommates. It was glamorous.

Day 7 – Delicious Mistakes
The next day started off pretty damn slowly. We knew we wanted to go to the Tsukiji fish market at some point, and this seemed like the best day, even though we woke up long after the infamous auction ended. Still, we figured the market would be operational all day, so we headed over there in the early afternoon. When we arrived it was a ghost town, and we could tell it would have been really amazing had we just gotten there a few hours earlier. Luckily we found a sushi restaurant right in the middle of the market that was just barely still open. Even though I could tell we were annoying them a little bit with our American straggler vibe, they still gave us the best sushi of our lives. Everyone was a happy camper.
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From there we headed back to Shibuya for more shopping. Most of the day was sucked away by a 7-story gift store called Loft, which has everything you ever wanted, a gift for everyone you know, and things you never even knew existed. Once we’d finally eased our guilt by finally buying gifts for all our loved ones, it was time for karaoke.

I honestly can’t even talk about karaoke night without getting a little sick, although the experience itself was amazing. We went to Karaoke-Kan, a tall building with floors upon floors of private rooms you can rent for your party that have microphones and little TVs with lyrics on them (and terrible accompanying video footage of American cities). You order your drinks when you rent your room. We started with 1 hour of singing and 2 whiskey highballs, which is like a whiskey ginger in a beer stein, I guess. Ten minutes before the end of your hour, they call up to your room and let you know its almost up. Of course, an hour of drunk karaoke with your best friend goes by pretty fast, so by that time we were just amped for more singing. We extended our stay by another hour and asked for more highballs and shots…and did this FOUR MORE TIMES before leaving Shibuya for the night, bringing our tab to $80 each. By now the subways were no longer running, and cabs didn’t want to pick us up. But I had us covered! I was drunk and I had a map on my data-less iPhone…I could definitely lead us home by foot! We walked for over an hour, in a direction that remains unclear, at 3 in the morning along Japan Rail tracks that were under construction. It wasn’t safe or remotely advisable, and my stubbornness was pissing Sarah off. We finally dove into a cab, and it took him more than 15 minutes to drive us home. To this day I have no idea what random part of Tokyo I so confidently led us into.
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Day 8 – Respite in Roppongi
The next morning is where the story gets dark. I awoke early with a splitting headache and what I can honestly claim as one of the worst hangovers of my entire life. My first thought – okay, third, behind barfing and crying – was to take a long shower to relieve some of the pain, so that I’d hopefully not have to run into traffic and kill myself. I’d been Whatsapp-ing James about how miserable I was, so I set my phone down by the toilet, stripped and stepped into the tiny tub. Like most Japanese shower heads, this one was detachable, so for about an hour I lay back with my knees bent aiming the hot water at the center of my forehead. By the end of it I didn’t feel much better, but I figured it was probably time to get the fuck out of the bathtub since I was as wrinkled as my vintage coach bag after a rainy Spring. When I pulled back the curtain, I lost my breath. I had flooded the entire bathroom in no less than two inches of water and completely submerged my iPhone for what had to have been at least thirty minutes. I tried my best to save it while my brain felt like it was bleeding out of my ears. The flashlight had turned off and for some reason I couldn’t shut off the phone, so it just sat there buzzing at its insides fried beyond repair. What was going to happen to all my photos? Would I even survive this hangover for long enough to figure this out? Was this the worst day of my life?

I strapped on my boots and forced myself out the door zombie-style to walk to every convenience store in Roppongi to look for rice. I finally found some (it came in a convenient 3 kilo bag!) and made my way back to the apartment, bent almost fully over at the waist, moaning and nearly puking on every tiny car and polite person I encountered. But first – I stopped in a Family Mart and spent $35 on prosciutto, croissants and assorted cheeses. I needed western food to get me through these times. To top it off, we also ordered a pepperoni pizza from a fucking Domino’s. Thank you based cheese god.

After that I slept until about 6 PM, and the only thing we did for the rest of the day was see Guardians of the Galaxy at the Roppongi Hills Movie Theater, which itself looks like a space station. I pretty much wanted to live there. Something about how miserable I felt made me homesick as fuck, and all I wanted to do was eat cheeseburgers in a strip mall and watch cable until I passed out in a California king. No such luck, but I was in fucking Japan, and I was kind of being a pussy.

Day 9 – Death by Shopping
Suddenly it was Saturday, and it was time to check out of our apartment. This meant packing our bags, putting the keys back in the mailbox and taking the train back to Tita Chu’s. We dropped off our stuff and hopped back on the subway to check out Akihabara, the neighborhood in Tokyo dedicated to all things Nerd – electronics, anime and video games. And hentai. Lots and lots of hentai. In fact, there was so much hentai that we were actually really uncomfortable, and had to leave the neighborhood for fear of seeing anymore cartoon semen. I did see some cool ass dolls though, and I finally found that stuffed Pikachu for James. We spent the rest of the day in Harajuku again, shopping until we couldn’t take it anymore. It got to a point where if I saw one more furry purse I was going to flip the fuck out. I really needed a nap.

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That night, Tita Chu made us two dinners. Beef curry and Filipino spaghetti. We ate so much that we couldn’t move, then somehow Facetimed everyone in Sarah’s family at once across in three separate countries (don’t ask me how), and watched youtube videos until we fell asleep.

Day 10 – Arigatou Gozaimasu
When it was time to leave neither of us could accept it, but we had reached tourism overload by that point and I think we really needed a return to our reality. It was tough, because back home the two of us weren’t exactly living perfect lives and had a lot of things to sort out when we got back. And, even though we’d been close friends for eight years, we’d hit that point where we just needed some time alone. As we packed our suitcases into the car, a minor spat drove us both into tears, and we rode the whole way to Narita airport without speaking. That is, until the lyrics to Tito’s new Chris Brown album had us laughing so hard that we had to make up.

Five in-flight movies later, one being the now underwhelming Lost in Translation, we arrived at the Atlanta airport. Sarah and I parted ways and I flew back to Newark, took NJ transit into the city and met James at Penn Station. I don’t think I’ve ever missed someone, or someplace, so much.

A week later, when I’d just settled back into my routine, I was laid off from my job. It came as a shock, but sometimes the universe does for you what you’re too afraid to do yourself. I have no idea where I’m headed next, but I have some idea of who I am and what I want. For now, I’m in New York, with 25 years behind me and 75 more to go. And really, there’s no place I’d rather be. (Wink)
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