If you grew up in the ‘burbs, this Tumblr will speak to your soul

mcmansion 3
Pic: McMansion Hell

People, I am beside myself.

As y’all know, I work in operations at a design studio. Usually the things my coworkers share on our #random Slack channel are technology related (and thus completely over my head) or super played out memes I’ve already seen during the 90% of my life that I spend on social media.

But when the glory that is McMansionHell.com hit the thread I was truly floored and given no choice but to share it with literally everyone I know. McMansions (n.) can best be described as the gaudy, humongous, oft cheaply¬†constructed and illogically designed homes built around the turn of the millennium for the now defunct “Upper Middle Class” to feign opulence to their surrounding suburban neighbors. As the blog beautifully puts it, they are the ‚Äúknockoff bags of architecture.‚ÄĚ

When the bubble burst, many of these homes were either repossessed or put up for sale by their recession-hit owners. McMansion Hell is a blog that takes photos of the worst of these monstrosities from real estate websites like Zillow, and explains in perfect comedic tone the blatant architectural failures of each room in the home. The writer, Kate, is originally from North Carolina (right?) and really knows what she’s talking about, presumably in part because these thangs are ALL OVER THE FREAKIN’ PLACE in our home state.

As someone who lived in a McMansion for the whole of my teenage years‚Äďand returned for the holidays up until¬†a few¬†months ago when my combined family finally split up and flipped that thing to the highest bidder‚Äďthis blog speaks to my deepest embarrassments and confusion about the world in which I came of age, and about the people who conceived of it.

mcmansionhell2
Pic: McMansion Hell

My mother and father divorced when I was 4, and if you count each of their respective residences, I lived in a total of 8 homes before graduating high school. Since each¬†household was supported by a single-parent breadwinner, it’s safe to say that the first 7 of them were…comfortable. Even nice, in the way middle class subdivisions were in the 90s, before everything started dropping into foreclosure like flies. Not really boastful or flashy, but a nice, safe¬†place for kids to grow up.

From ‚Äė94 to ‚Äė99, my mother, two of my brothers and I lived in a nice little neighborhood called Lake Moor in Garner, North Carolina. Garner wasn’t exactly a town known for its wealth per capita, but Lake Moor was one of the nicer spots in the area. It was the kind of place where, at least it seemed, you could let your kids roam around on bikes unsupervised, down the paved trails in the woods to throw rocks in Lake Benson, never giving it a second thought that they‚Äôd be kidnapped or hit by a truck. There was even a community¬†pool with a vending machine that sold BRISK Iced Tea for $0.60 a can and playground that only left you with splinters 90% of the time. Luxury, indeed. ¬†

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-10-34-24-pm

^See, fairly normal suburban whatever-house. There used to be a third tree in that patch¬†but it fell during hurricane Fran. I remember because the next day when I was¬†climbing on it a yellow jacket stung the back of my leg. But this isn’t about Fran¬†this is about a house that I remember being much bigger than this! Turns out I was just smaller than I am now! Science is crazy.

My favorite thing as a child¬†was to play pretend, specifically as a princess. ¬†As many of you know, I still do this today and it can be very annoying. But as a kid, it was quite cute. I had a canopy bed and all white furniture with brass plated¬†detailing typical of a 90s girl‚Äôs room. I’d tap around¬†the foyer of our house¬†in my shiny black Sunday shoes and polyester slips believing I was Cinderella or whomever I wanted to embody that day. My mother’s taste in furniture was grand and traditional, dark cherry woods that, when I slid the fingers of my white gloves across them, made me feel like Anastasia. Outside, I‚Äôd play with my dog in the overgrown cattails by the pond and talk to myself, like the tomboy alter ego of any fairy tale protagonist. But inside, I would put on a toy tiara and sneak into my mom‚Äôs china cabinet to play with her silver. We didn‚Äôt live in a McMansion just yet, but the details were there. The aspiration was there. To me, it always felt like pretend. And I guess it was supposed to.¬†

It’s normal for kids to¬†idolize those who have more than they do. Adults, too. And to the untrained eye, bigger + crazier + vague references to lavishness of yore¬†= wealth. On summer days, my brother Winston and I used to rollerblade down to the neighborhood‚Äôs one local McMansion, which at the time we just referred to as ‚ÄúThe Mansion,‚ÄĚ and we‚Äôd gawk at how official it looked. To us, it was basically the White House. Who lived there, we wondered? They must be famous! Remember, this house was in Garner, North Carolina. Probably not a half mile from our own. No…looking back, I don‚Äôt think anyone ‚Äúfamous‚ÄĚ lived there. We were young.

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-10-39-22-pm

^McMansion AF,¬†you guys! For some reason I remember there being a gate at the beginning of this driveway but that would be¬†literally nuts, wouldn’t it? Also, please look at the¬†mailbox. And that gigantic dormer. And the spacing of the windows. And the chimney! And the fact that there are TWO FUCKING FRONT DOORS! This is the house that I wanted to live in at age 7. As you can probably guess, there is nothing on either side of my family that qualifies as “old money.”

Not long after that, my mom remarried.¬†Winston and I were sitting in the den of our between-houses rental home when our mom and stepfather-to-be showed us a mockup of the house they were having built. A house big enough for two of my mom’s kids and four of his and the two of them and the dog to all live together in the middle of Cary, North Carolina. It was…a certified McMansh. Or as I yelped excitedly upon seeing the drawings: “A MANSION???!” My mom shushed me, smirking. I mean it would be wrong to brag, of course. But clearly I was about the become the rich-bitch princess I had always deserved to be. I was ten years old.

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-10-54-36-pm
The house I lived in from age 10 to age 17

I can’t really sum up what it was like to live here because all my memories are biased due to a) the fact that the ages¬†10-17 are some of the most complicated and traumatizing years of your life EVEN when you have a traditional nuclear family and no mental illness and b) I most certainly did not have a traditional nuclear family or a sound emotional state. But we did¬†have 6 bedrooms, a¬†three-car garage, a¬†trampoline in the back, a big deck, and a¬†massive interior which was either full of strangers or completely empty, cold and echoing. My room was enormous by any¬†standard, which was great for retreating from the world to journal and make collages and, in the later years, to do drugs. I¬†didn’t drive until I was almost out of high school, and I spent up to¬†that time¬†annoyed I didn’t live downtown with the other cool kids in their smaller, historic bungalows that better fit my ~super indie hipster aesthetic~. Things were uneven here and there, and after a while, started falling apart.

But I do think it was beautiful, and my mom loved it. She adored it, honestly, at times as though it were¬†one of her children. I think it was a symbol for her steadfast belief that we¬†really could have the perfect life. That our family, even though it was a weirdo wonky mess most of the time, did all belong together under this big-ass roof. “If you build it, happiness will come,” you know? Or maybe it was a “the bigger the house, the closer to God,” sort of thing. I’m kidding.

FullSizeRender (2)
Some McMansion Hell-inspired art I made based on my own experience. Do u get it?

I do have some good memories of this place.¬†The pantry, for one, which was roughly the size of my entire current apartment and always stocked with snacks; the way you could be on one end of the house hooking up with your teenage boyfriend and your parents couldn’t hear on account of being a half a mile away in their bedroom; the fact that my mom was queen of the castle, so when I was there, she was taking care of me.¬†It was something comforting to return to when I was in college and living in houses that were quite¬†literally falling to the ground. I hated the suburbs, sure, but I loved how¬†you could see the stars in the sky, walk around in the middle of the night safely, jump a fence to a¬†pool and the worst that would happen is a soccer¬†mom would furrow her¬†eyebrows at you through a glass-brick window.

And of course,¬†once I moved to New York,¬†our¬†McMansion¬†became my post-ironic luxury. Every time I would visit I’d take photos of myself in my mom‚Äôs spa-like bathroom, walk around in her terry cloth robe sipping champagne, bask in the sun in an adirondack¬†chair and worry about absolutely¬†nothing. That‚Äôs what the suburbs are good for – while they may not be an entirely accurate representation of your reality, if in fact you are in the market for a comfortable delusion, they are always there for you. At 23, living in a rat infested building and making $300 a week, I loved going home again to play pretend.

The house sold back in April when the Bradys came un-bunched.¬†But I don‚Äôt miss it. It was too much, like a lot of things that were going on¬†at the time. And now a new young family lives there and my mom lives in a lovely house not too far away. But looking at the photos of it,¬†I have to say I am overwhelmed with nostalgia. On Google street view you can see our old cars in the driveway, and for a second it really got to me.¬†I don’t miss the house really, or the neighborhood, or most of the family. I guess part of me just misses the safety of having a home base at all. Misses not knowing the truth: that you can’t go back to the past, that everything disappears eventually, that some things weren‚Äôt made to last in the first place.

ANYWAY, the blog is funny as shit, and I am basically in love with Kate and her taste level/depth of knowledge/dry-as-heck wit. Apparently we’re from the same place and all, so unless she‚Äôs like 75, we MUST have some mutual friends. If you know her, introduce me, so we can get married ironically on the steps¬†of a McMansion.

McMansion Hell1
McMansionHell.com

 

 

 

Shout Out To Resilience ‚ÄĒJust Some Thoughts From a Whiny New Yorker

It was a typical September night in New York, chilly-ish and humid as hell, and I was returning home around 11:30. I’d spent my evening making notes on a pilot, practicing improv and eating a large pile of greasy onion rings my body hardly even craved, let alone needed in the slightest. I was tired, and I had to get up in just a few hours for an early meeting at work.

I was already in NO MOOD to take bullshit from anyone. And then, not five feet from my doorway, a figure scurried quickly across my shoes and brushed against my bare ankles. That’s right. A rat. A rat touched my skin. Before I could realize what I was doing, I jumped in the air and yelped like a Looney Tune who’d be stuck with a hot poker. A parody of a Woman In New York.

Perhaps it was my exhaustion or the onion rings flaring up, but as I was washing the possible (likely) plague off my skin, all the drawbacks of the city started getting to me. For most of my time here, though it’s been stressful, I’ve shrugged off things like insane rents, rodent corpses and #commuterproblems as merely a price to pay for living in such an exciting place. I figured soon enough the stress would pay off and it would all be worth it. Typical transplant delusion.

Now I’m in year five, working a day job and several unpaid side hustles, sometimes wondering if the other shoe is ever going to drop. I know it will, I tell myself, if I just keep working hard and don’t quit. Eventually I’ll succeed, and get to be one of those happy New Yorkers (they exist, right?) who don’t have to run into a random man on their block holding a giant pet snake, or worry about getting crickets thrown on them on the D train. Maybe things like this and this will stop happening, and I won’t be so angry at this place and everyone in it. Maybe, in the meantime, I should stop reading Gothamist (but I can’t. I can’t stop.)

I know, I know. I complain about my life as a ~creative in NY~…but I’m aware I don’t have it that bad. I’m a white girl with a job, her own apartment, two cats and a few friends. I eat, like, 4 meals a day. And I have cable, for Christ’s sake! It’s not convenient, but no one is making me live here. I made a choice. Maybe it’ll pay off, maybe it won’t. The grass is always greener, ain’t it?

But I sure do love this place. I love the diversity, the skyline, the opportunity. The feeling that your life could change with the turn of a street corner. The people. Our spirit and resilience when we are targeted by terror and face that risk every day. The people.

I also love North Carolina, where I’m from. I love it in spite of Pat McCrory’s hateful ass and HB2 and the oh-so-many laws against queer rights and black rights and reproductive rights. In spite of the ignorance and anger and violence towards protestors in the wake of the murder of Keith Scott.

I have family there. I have friends there. I grew up there.

But injustice, well, that’s everywhere in this country. Even your so-called “blue state” is full of “blue lives” who will murder someone for being black. It’s really happening. And it’s happening over and over and over again. I count my privileges every day.

I stand in solidarity with black people in my home state and everywhere fighting for their right to live. I stand in solidarity with New York as we continue grinding in the face of the threat of violence toward our city.

I left North Carolina, and I may even leave New York someday. But both places are forever dear to my heart. I even think I love America, as hard as it is to do. It just has so much potential, you know? Like an absent father who keeps promising to show up. And I’ll keep coming out to the doorstep, hoping for things to turn around. It’s why I’m not writing in “Beyonc√©” on the presidential ballot. That, and I’m not a fucking idiot.

I admire those who continue to show up, who aren’t just waiting but speaking out, sharing their influence, shouting in the streets and refusing to take shit from this broken system. I admire those who thrive on ambition, who will stop at nothing to achieve their dreams, even when it seems like the world is set up to make them fail. I also admire those who have failed, those who are tired, those who don’t know where they’re going or can’t take anymore. We are only human.

I respect you and I am here for you if you ever need.

To all my friends, everywhere, look out for one another and take care of yourselves.

Rambling about Rambling

mariah overthinking

You know what I kinda miss, just a little? I miss 2010 when I first started this blog as a Tumblr, posting for my 3 consistent readers about the dumb shit I did that past weekend. I don’t think I even promoted the posts. It was mostly a cathartic experience for me, where, after having a run-in with the cops, or hooking up with some now has-been/possibly never-was DJ on a tour bus, I’d work through the anxiety of my hangover by turning all the stupid things I did into jokes. If I had embarrassed myself, I figured people would talk about it. So I wanted to be the first one to get the story out, in my own words.

Looking back, I must have known that no one was really going to talk shit about the time I drank so much I peed on Alex’s borrowed couch, or the time I got yelled at by my boss at the diner for showing up to work with whiskey breath. We were all garbage in college. Every person worth a damn, at least at my university, was deeply tormented during those years, making mistakes like it was their job and underachieving their potential. Probably had something to do with the cocktail of post-adolescent malaise plus a newfound freedom mixed with the giant QUESTION MARK a good liberal arts education will cause you to place on society. It was hard to believe in anything except how fabulous we’d be in the future, and how fun the next party would be.

So if I was making fun of myself to silence any critics, the only critic I can think of is me. Forget the collective critic of the Normal Majority‚Äďthey didn’t know who I was to begin with. It was all in my head. “You fucked up again. You slept too late again. You’re hungover again. You acted a fool. You’re not taking care of your mental or physical health. But if you’re going to have fun, you might as well back yourself up.” So I did, and it always made me feel better. Plus, it was fun. And then a few people, just a few, started paying attention. So I kept doing it because I like entertaining people. But over time I started to think more about who was reading, which made me overthink what I would put out there. I wanted my stuff to be a little more polished, shareable, all the annoying things they tell you your content should be if you want to get people to notice you.

That mindset, of course, got me just the opposite. Now I’m overthinking it. I’m not just opening my computer and letting it flow like I did back then. Okay, part of that might have to do with the fact that I don’t really party anymore, that my laptop is as old as this blog, or that I have a full-time job and “several other projects.” But the biggest factor that keeps me from writing is pressure. Pressure to have 3,000 words every time I sit down. Or shit, even know what the fuck I’m going to say when I sit down. I have posts that I outlined and worked on over the course of weeks, only to end up publishing them well after the event they were referring to. Not a total waste of time, no, but if I’d chilled out a little bit I could have so much more fun.

I always say I don’t have enough time, and yeah, I work hard. I’m doing a lot of things. But I want to get back in that mindset of freely telling stories, not thinking about the outcome, just messing around. That’s what the writing was supposed to be for in the first place. I just need to get out of my own way.

I don’t miss being a hot-ass mess, but I do miss not giving a fuck.

“I Can’t Move My Arm!” and other things you say when having a nice adult time!

IMG_6949

A few Wednesdays ago, while sputtering through an afternoon at work like a car outta gas, I received one of my weekly invitation forwards from my friend Moe. Since we met six years ago, and maybe even a few months prior, my social life has been at least in part guided by the compass that is Moe’s infinite RSVP list. That is, when I’m trying to have a social life. With my just too typical full time job/full time relationship/full time couch potato combination, I’m pretty easily dissuaded from going out to bars and clubs, and have instead been drawn to daytime events that involve more of an activity, where I can (maybe) burn some calories, and give myself a new story to tell beyond “you wouldn’t believe the dumb thing I did when I was drunk!” (which, like me, is getting old). I often still end up drunk, but it’s usually now obscured by the exciting new Experience-With-A-Capital-E I’m having!

Some examples of this that you missed this summer include the following:
1. Visiting the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens
Remember flowers? I didn’t – not after this past New York winter. Cue the first warm weekend in NYC, and very crowded yet romantic outing was had for thousands.
   IMG_5261

 Real person (not staged). Welcome to Fancy Brooklyn.

2. Showing my Mom Around New York
One great way to realize you’re not as old and lazy as you think you are is to try to take your out-of-town parents around the city. Very quickly, you realize other people don’t actually think it’s a “normal commute” to walk 6 miles every day, and before you know it you’re dragging your poor mother behind you because it would be “a shame” for her to not walk over the Williamsburg Bridge to your Greenpoint apartment, all the way from the West Village. She still knows how to have fun better than I do though. Can’t deny that.
IMG_5410
3. Roof Chilling
This is the point of summer in New York. Thankfully, I live in the cheapest (too expensive) apartment of a very tricked out building with rooftop views for days. In my world, this counts as doing something.

IMG_5765

4. A Very Martha’s Vineyard Memorial Day
My older brother has a cottage on Martha’s Vineyard where I like to go pretend to be fabulous sometimes. It’s fun to guzzle vodka cranberries all day, ride twenty miles on a bike down a busy narrow road, spend hundreds of dollars on lobster, and embarrass yourself in front of strangers you’ll never see again, all while getting to say words like “Aquinnah.” Plus there’s just something about not having money and pretending to have money that lets me feel like I’ve truly “made it.” If there were a school that taught twenty-something white kids how to be adults, they would have a class on this. Also, MV is just beautiful. One thing I don’t recommend, though, is driving up from NYC on a holiday weekend and returning 3 days later (like we did). But if you do, you simply must stop at The Lobster Pot in Wareham, MA on your way back.
IMG_5671
5. Attending My First Shabbat Dinner
Can you really call yourself a New Yorker until you go to one of these? I’m not a religious person, nor do I have any Jewish lineage, so the concept was pretty unfamiliar to me. James’ friend and coworker was kind enough to invite us to his weekly ritual, which involved some praying, some dank food, a lot of Kosher wine, and a lot of jokes about Billy Joel and Seinfeld. Oh, and really beautiful views of the Upper West Side. If it sounds like clich√©, that’s because you’re jealous.
IMG_5739
6. Attempting to Adopt a Dog
This was a really sad week after Memorial Day when James and I attempted to adopt this one-eyed beagle from a shelter in Staten Island but didn’t get approved because our apartment was too small. Probably for the best – it wasn’t well thought out. But it was still a very sad experience so I’m not going to post a photo of him. I’m not ready.
7. Turnt-ing up in Wrightsville Beach, NC
The classic thing I do every year with my family. Again, just more chilling, lots and lots of food, and lots of Tito’s vodka. I easily gained 10 pounds in the week we were on vacation, and only got a little sunburned. The most memorable event of the evening was when (relatively sober, mind you) I had a margarita at Tower 7 Baja Mexican Grill that immediately caused all the color to drain from my face, sending me running through the restaurant to yarf uncontrollably in the bathroom. I didn’t even make it to the toilet. I spent about 15 minutes with my arm in a stopped-up sink scooping up the puke and throwing it in the garbage can. Then I washed my hands and went and ate a plate of enchiladas. If any of the employees from Tower 7 are reading this now, I’m sorry for hogging the bathroom and leaving such a nasty mess. The margaritas were really strong, so it’s kind of both our faults. Also thanks for reading my blog, I hope you like it.
IMG_6059

 An Adult Beach Party

8. Trying to Grow My Own Vegetables

This is the story of how for two months, I had two beautiful baby plants named Kale and Cilantro. The cilantro died quickly because it doesn’t like rain, but the kale grew huge and beautiful like elephant ears and produced delicious salads until the evil Building Managers made us move it so they could do “landscaping” (a nicer way of saying they mowed down all the trees and greenery in the courtyard to put in a concrete patio that serves no purpose whatsoever). I put the kale in the backyard of the church next door and haven’t gone to check on it since. I have to climb a fence to get there and I’m afraid the catholics will look at me weird. Clearly, being a cool hipster grown up is super fun and I’m great at it.
9. A Very Martha’s Vineyard Fourth of July
IMG_6324IMG_6325 (1)
The Vineyard again, you say? But of course! Except this time we took a 5 hour Megabus to Boston after work, “slept” over at my brother Nate’s insanely clean apartment, and left the house at 6 the next morning to meet a group of Boston’s drunkest medical professionals and take a BOAT to the vineyard. It was beautiful ride, for the part of it that I wasn’t entirely seasick and exhausted. But we were livin’ large, so I can’t complain. Of course, on the way back, we took the $200-a-ticket Seastreak Ferry, which takes you directly from the island of Martha’s Vineyard to the island of Manhattan. What they don’t tell you is that it bounces almost the entire 4 hour ride, leaving all the noob passengers panicked and buckled over with nausea. That is, unless they were smart enough to take dramamine and fall asleep. I was not. I spent the majority of the ride escorting barfing strangers to the bathroom and listening to the Pirate’s of the Caribbean soundtrack in my headphones, laughing at what I’d gotten myself into.
10. Hitting Up Broadway
IMG_6478
Another thing adults do together is attend “Broadway Shows.” You see, Broadway is a long avenue in Manhattan, the middle section of which is home to giant screens with advertisements on them, every chain restaurant you could ever imagine, and lots and lots of tourists. There are also these big rooms called “theaters” where people wear costumes and dance and sing at you. Sometimes the dancing and singing is rather funny, and in rare cases the dancing and singing is funny and super offensive. One of these rare cases was Book of Mormon, the Tony Award-sweeping musical my boyfriend took me to see. A “Tony” Award is when legendary Broadway actor Tony Danza decides that your play is super good and he gives you a sticker.
11. Taking a Sober Month
Sometimes you gotta take a month to remember who you are – the less ridiculous, more real you  – so you can put your best self forward and figure out how to find strength from within. And that’s what I did, for most of July and the beginning of August, by taking a break from my summer booze binge. I guess I partly succeeded? I remembered who I was, I think, but I didn’t exactly find the strength so much as find out where I needed it. Ever tried going to a work party where everyone’s tipsy except you? To call it “unbearably awkward” would be an understatement, at least for me. More about this another time.
12. Buying a Bike
One thing I did learn from my sober month was that I, like many people, use alcohol as a way to face certain fears…and then other fears I mostly just try and avoid. Who wants be like that? One of the biggest categories of fear in my life – an umbrella of fears, if you will – is the fear that I’ll be bad at something, which has stopped me from boldly pursuing a lot of shit I’ve wanted to do. Like ride a bike in the city, for example. Hannah has an awesome bike and no one to ride it with, and I was determined by the end of the summer to accompany her out to Jacob Riis Park – on two wheels. Luckily, I happened to find the perfect bike right when I had the guts to buy one, and I rode out there with her the next day. As you can see, it was a little overwhelming for us in the heat. We took the train home, but we felt totally great about ourselves anyway.
13. Going to Cat Camp
IMG_6519
Remember in Clueless when Cher and Ty wore shortatards, did Buns of Steal together in Cher’s living room, and talked about the self-help books they wanted to read? And then Cher was like “we should probably do something good for mankind or the planet for a couple of hours.” Well, I think we can all agree the best stuff to do is stuff that’s fun, but that also benefits society. Which is why I felt like it was a perfect idea to go to Purina’s Cat Camp by myself during my lunch hour. I got to play with kittens while standing around and encouraging people to adopt them! It was a really beautiful experience. I never did understand why Cher didn’t care about Marky Mark planting that celebrity tree. It totally aligns with her values.
14. Making an Attempt at Climbing
IMG_7256
I accepted the invite (from Moe, of course) to go to Brooklyn Boulders as another attempt at fear-facing. I’ve never been a huge fan of heights, as pretty well explained in this post from last year. But I keep hearing from EVERYONE how much fun this climbing thing is, and what a great workout it is and how great it makes you feel in your body and mind. Even though I walked into BB a little nervous, I can still say that I was far too confident in my climbing ability. It’s waay harder than it looks, and there are rules that really force you to be strategic (like, each time you climb you can only use holds of the same color). I think I made it to the top…twice. And we were there for about two hours. But it was only my first time, and I did feel how gratifying the achievement was. I also got to witness my self-fulfilling anxiety in full action: the more nervous I was, the sweatier my hands became, making it even more difficult to hold on, which, of course, made me even more nervous. But it all worked out in the end. If I wasn’t on the ground watching Moe “Six-Workouts-A-Week” Dabbagh completely school me, who would have taken a picture for his Instagram?
15. Catching up With Old Friends Over Home-Cooked Meals
IMG_6734
I had my three-year anniversary of living in New York back in May, but no matter how used to the city life I become, I still feel my happiest when I’m in an intimate setting with a few of my closest friends. Bonus happy points if they’re from out of town. I happened to be having a tough and stressful week when I heard that my long time BFF Sarah Cousler was visiting Brooklyn from Asheville, NC. So we spent 3 days eating the delicious food she cooked, chilling out and catching up. Whatever the question in life, food and friends are the answer. Someone cross-stitch that on a pillow for me.
16. Taking My First Trip Upstate
I think the only way I can deal with living in the city is if I can get out on a semi-regular basis. On Labor Day weekend, James and I were due for a romantic outing, so we rented an upstate cottage on airbnb. Every time I reserve an airbnb I’m blown away, almost unsettled, by how easy it all is and how trusting and generous the hosts are. This effect was doubled by the fact that we had traveled to Woodstock, which is all about ~Organic/Sharing/Group/Love/Handmade/Peace/Giving~ vibes. I hiked a mountain and ate local meat and swam in a swimming hole and watched scary movies and went to bed early and slept late and was sad when I returned. I think that’s why the real Fabulous New York Adults who have houses in the Catskills drive 100 miles an hour up the interstate in order to maximize their vacay time, but we’re not quite that intense yet. Someday.
IMG_7150
So, I had no shortage of adult misadventures this summer, but easily the best (and dumbest) of them happened on August 22nd, at Prospect Park’s Lefrak Center. The event I was drawn to was Wolf + Lamb’s Roller Disco party, which was the invite I received from Moe that week. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to continue my pattern of accidentally exercising while having fun. I didn’t realize when I bought the ticket, however, that Moe had been merely suggesting the event and not confirming his attendance. That is to say, he was going to be in Mexico that weekend, and I had just bought a ticket to go roller skating for the first time in 15 years, by myself.
Luckily, I was able to convince Bradford to come along for what ended up being a very exciting and hilarious attempt at remembering how to skate – well, really, learning for the first time since I was more of a blades kid. I slalomed through tiny children while bopping to 80s music and at a certain point I started really feeling myself. I was fierce, like one of those roller derby girls. I could totally do this.
At that exact moment I was cut off by an adorable five-year-old, and when I leaned back to dodge out of the way, my legs swung up in front of me into the air, Tiny Toon Adventures style, and I caught myself with my arm outstretched. I could feel tears welling up, but I wasn’t going to actually cry. What was I, a baby? I had to keep grooving and get over myself. So I did, for another couple of hours.
It wasn’t until later that night that I realized I couldn’t bend my arm (or unbend it, for that matter) past 90 degrees. Still, I figured I was just being a weenie about it. But on the advice of my brother Nate who fear-mongers me into seeking medical attention on a regular basis, I went out and got some x-rays the following Monday.
I was examined by a young-ish orthopedist on the Upper East Side.
“Where were you roller skating?” he asked.
“Prospect Park.”
“Oh, was it the Wolf + Lamb party?”
“Uh, yeah.” I responded, somewhat surprised.
“Nice. I almost went to that party. Those guys are my friends.”
I don’t know what it was about it, but there was something that felt very off about all this. I was an adult, getting examined by another adult, because of an incident at a roller skating party he also wanted to attend. I had felt pretty ashamed for getting injured in the first place. A kid would have just dusted herself off and gotten back up, and I’d somehow landed myself in the radiography room. But could I have been too old for this behavior if a guy well out of med school was cosigning it?
I was told to wear a sling for a week, which led to some hilarious T-rex-like attempts at completing tasks around the office and some elaborate lies about how I got the injury (you didn’t know I’m into ultimate fighting?!) But it didn’t stop me from going out into the world to find the next rooftop, enjoy the rest of my summer, and continue my pattern of laughing in the face of dumb decisions.
IMG_6952
Could it be, then, that this is what adulthood looks like?

#FLASHBACKFRIDAY: My Seventh Grade Dressing Room

IMG_3380
Wow. Happy Friday ‚Äď 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.

IMG_3381

“~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 Рso I put on some lip gloss, and I went out to buy some.

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 ‚Äď 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

IMG_2141

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
IMG_2214

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.

IMG_2284

Unhappiness: The Movie

alexkat08

The first script I ever completed¬†(not counting¬†the handwritten¬†childhood plays I put on in my living room wearing my mother’s sequin dresses for an audience of exactly zero) was as short film I co-wrote with Alex in 2007 for our group project in¬†the Carolina Production Guild.¬†The film was called “Unhappiness,” and starred the two of us as an¬†even more¬†bitter¬†and disaffected version of our¬†post-teen selves. Actually, I had only just turned 18 at the time. The premise, I guess, is that the two of us are¬†best friends who hate everyone and everything and can’t seem to get anything right. I slip¬†in the shower getting ready for school. We sit in the quad complaining about how sunny it is. We force-feed ourselves at¬†the local sludge buffet while complaining about the food. We make fun of a homeless guy. Then, at the end, we both call our parents and cry about how hard college is and how¬†depressed we are because we have no friends.

When it came time to actually shoot the film, the production was¬†a huge mess. Alex and I couldn’t focus on anything and¬†fucked around the entire time. The rest of our crew were actually interested in producing a movie, so they effectively wasted¬†a weekend standing around disgruntled watching two totally vain underclassmen obnoxiously act out a movie they wrote¬†about how obnoxious they are. By the time the sun was setting on the last day, we’d only shot about 3/4 of our scenes, and Alex and I waged a french fry fight in the courtyard across from the Franklin Street McDonald’s while our three-person crew sat around, equipment in hand, bored and annoyed. It was amazing.

When we got to the editing lab, we¬†realized that in addition to not even shooting our entire script,¬†there had also been a major audio fuck up for the scenes we¬†actually filmed. As in, none of it had been recorded. No audio whatsoever, out of two whole days of not working really really hard. We¬†had to re-record every scene¬†in voiceover and dub¬†over each individual shot. By that I mean, Alex and I provided the voices in between singing songs from Britney’s “Blackout” while Brandon, our director, did most of the actual, technical work.¬† Looking back, the two of us must have had major undiagnosed cases of ADD, because at points we were just blurting out lines that weren’t in the script and INSISTING they were funny enough to make it¬†into the final cut.

We presented the movie at the CPG screening by standing up in the auditorium, giggling.

“This is a movie by assholes, for assholes” we said to the crowd.

Embarrassed by the fact that it wasn’t really a movie at all, we watched the final product while slumped down in our seats, laughing hysterically, hiding our blushing faces.

When it was the next group’s turn to present, they made their own announcement:

“Well we’re not assholes, so we decided to make something beautiful.”

The group then unveiled their film, a dramatic period piece set in the Depression, sepia toned and everything, about a man whose wife dies from Typhus or something.

It was the hardest I laughed in 2007.

Now, seven years later, and I¬†often wonder what became of¬†our¬†movie. There is no record of it having ever existed – Alex and I don’t¬†even have a copy of our original script. We never did¬†another year of CPG, because at that point we were pretty sure they all hated us. I hope if we are ever a success someone from the Guild will dig it out of whatever old hard drive it may be in and put it on youtube for us and the world to¬†laugh at.

In any case, we had attempted to make something funny based on real experiences. It didn’t turn out so beautiful, because we were just disorganized kids¬†making fun of ourselves. But it was honest. And I guess if the only thing I ever achieve in life is a volume of bad but honest work, well, that’ll suck. But it wouldn’t be the worst thing.