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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Tokyo Story

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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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A Queen and Her Asshole

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(Via Google Images)

A lot of you (and when I say I lot I mean, literally, tens of people) have been outraged by how busy I’ve been lately. Well, sorry readers. Sorry that my schedule is jam packed with glamorous daily activities like going to work, learning improv, shopping for pillows online, waiting for my cats to use their new litter box, and various luxuries of the sort. I haven’t been neglecting my fans, I’ve just been caught up in that infamous New York hustle! Distracted by the grandeur of scraping by! Basking in the opulence of barely achieving homeostasis! “The internet misses you!” they all say. “Write a new post!” Well, assholes, the hate mail has grown tiresome. So tonight, I’ve decided to take a break from these instant grits I’m eating for dinner to give you an inside look at some of the perks of my VIP lifestyle. Then maybe you all will shut up.

I guess the best week of my life all started when I got drunk after work on a Friday night, causing me to oversleep for a very coveted and very necessary gynecologist appointment the next morning. I gasped out of a deep slumber at 10:53 AM, mere minutes from the time I was expected to check in, and immediately called Bushwick car service for one of their signature wild goose chases into Manhattan. By the time we arrived in the financial district about 80 wrong turns later, I had paid 30 dollars for a cab just to avoid a 50 dollar cancellation fee, and was frazzled to boot. Luckily, the doctor was still able to inspect my lady parts, by “squeezing me in,” so to speak. I left without a prescription or a solution to my problem, but I did have a list of directions on how to create my own boric acid capsules with supplies I could buy on Amazon. Oh, and I had a purple vagina. Don’t ask. I mean, whatever, I guess you can ask….She dyed it.

Massively hungover and overcome with irritation, I wandered up Wall Street drinking coffee and glaring at tourists. How could I be depressed on a Saturday?  “Such a waste,” I thought. I pooped in a Korean restaurant.

After giving myself cornrows in the window of the Fulton Street subway station, I decided to go to brunch alone. I had a few hours to kill before improv, so I took the A up to Canal Street and got a table for one at Lupe’s. I ordered a taco salad. I watched my phone die, then left for class. I got caught in the rain. I bought a $5 umbrella identical to a $5 umbrella I had left at home that day. It immediately stopped raining. In class, my emotional slump, coupled with the digestive turmoil from the shrimp taco salad, left me powerless against my performance anxiety. That day at the UCB training center, I felt my soul leaving my body, I felt it watching my scenes, and I felt it heckling me. “Shut up!” my soul yelled at me during a game of Park Bench. “Sure, you’re being honest, ‘truth in comedy’ or whatever…but you might /honestly/ just be an asshole!” My soul is longwinded, and kind of a jerk.

I was in desperate need of some R&R, one of the R’s being Reid who, conveniently, was celebrating his birthday that very night. I walked home from the train with my new shitty umbrella and changed into a Very High Fashion halter top I’d bought the previous weekend at Forever 21. When we all convened at the Taco Factory, I poured my $12 champagne into little plastic cups, made a toast to my longtime friend, and finally unveiled the plans I’d been sitting on for a few weeks: For Reid’s birthday, that next day, I would take the two of us to Spa Castle, a 4 story spa in College Point, Queens with pools and saunas and hella other amenities, so I’d heard. We’d been talking it up for weeks as everyone around us raved about this mysterious palace. Coworkers’ relatives, friends of friends of friends who I’d heard had gone, they all said it was fantastic. I thought it the perfect gift for my friend and for myself, especially since the weather that day was going to be so nice. Sometimes being fabulous with a full-time job can feel like a square peg in a round hole, and I felt we were both due for some good old fashioned pampering.

The next morning, totally disregarding that it was Mother’s Day, I summoned Reid out of his hangover crypt (now available at Ikea!) to meet me at the intersection between our houses and call a cab to College Point. We met at Myrtle Wyckoff circa noon, when the sun was at its peak. I was wearing an American Apparel bargain bin skirt and my mother’s vintage Ralph Lauren one-piece bathing suit, because I’d never been to a spa before, and I felt like I should probably wear something Ralph Lauren. I also wasn’t feeling quite bikini-ready, physically or emotionally. (In fact, I’m still not. I’ve eaten so much junk since the last warm season that if you took a bite out of me I’m pretty sure I’d be filled with Boston Cream.) So there I was, in my Ralph Lauren, eating my usual cajun turkey, beef bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and colby jack cheese sandwich on a roll from the deli. The sun was singing my shoulders as I watched Reid “I Just Puked” Kutrow frown in a patch of shade, waiting for our cab to arrive. It had been 20 minutes since we called Bushwick Car Service. And then 10 more. And then 10 more since I’d called them again and they’d said “two minutes!” And then fifteen more since I’d called them and been like “UMM, hello??” and then ten more since I’d been on hold. There were people everywhere, scooting along with bouquets of carnations to take to their mother’s kitchens, and there we were, two sunburning dopes pacing and moaning in front of Duane Read for an hour now. I think I yelled “FUUUUCK” in front of at least 30 babies. I hate when I do that.

Eventually we ended up just hopping in an empty car that said Fenix on it. We were greeted with a laugh from the driver. “Ooh,” he chuckled, “you guys are lucky to find a cab today.” I love my mom, I mean really, really love her to the point that I wanna be her, and yet had no idea Mother’s Day was such a big deal.

Driving to College Point from Ridgewood was a much needed scenic adventure. The weather was perfect, and the prevalence of trees in Northern Queens made it easier and more enjoyable to breathe. I saw Citi Field. I saw the place where they print and ship out the New York Times (until then I had been operating under the assumption that the paper just somehow manifested out of the ether). The highways and gorgeous tree tops felt like I was fully leaving New York, and it only cost a $30 cab ride. Maybe it’s cliche, or maybe it isn’t, but my favorite thing about living in New York is leaving New York. And then, of course, coming back. Because nothing else is ever all that.

Pulling into College Point was a sight for the sorest of eyes. There were audible ooh’s and ah’s coming from the windows of our vehicle as we drove past a tricked out strip mall. They had a Target, a TJ Maxx, and an Offbrand Outback steakhouse in the parking lot called the something-something “Saloon.” If there’s one thing you know about me, readers, it’s that I am powerless to only two things: discount goods and bloomin’ onions. But those would have to wait.

We turned past my Middle American Mecca and ended up in College Point’s Korea Town. We pulled into a dead end driveway behind a large brick building, seemingly under some sort of construction. It didn’t look much like a castle, more of a Spa Best Western. But the sign hanging above us said we were in the right place, so we threw some money at the cab and walked around to the “front entrance.” The front entrance to spa castle is not unlike the bus loop at your local suburban high school, ie, it’s a driveway lined with townhouses and unfinished landscaping. Older overweight women exploded out of the entrance, many of them wearing identical yellow shirts, presumably signifying they were in some sort of church group. This was already looking amazingly unglamorous, but we didn’t really care. We were just happy to be out of Bushwick. To us, it looked like Versailles, if Versailles had signage written in Korean and a mandatory barefoot policy. After paying the $50 Weekend and Holiday entrance fee we were given wristbands that looked like watches in unimaginative colors indicating our gender (Reid’s was blue and mine was magenta) but instead of faces they had circular magnetic (or computery) sensors with 4 digit numbers on them. These were our locker numbers. The magnetic sensors would be used to open the lockers, and could also be scanned at service desks throughout the Castle in lieu of a credit card and our tabs would be settled at check out (purses, wallets and other such folly we’re not allowed past the locker rooms).

We passed through the rickety turnstile to the threshold of our respective locker rooms. “Bye!” We yelled to one another, not unafraid of what was to come. As soon as I entered I was hit in the face–BLAM–with the same old lady bodies as before, but this time completely nude. Naked women were everywhere, zipping in and out of rows of lockers like they owned the place. I just stood there, bamboozled and partly ashamed of my bashfulness and the naive concept of the female form I had once held in my mind. As per instruction of a sign in both English and Korean, and to my complete and utter chagrin, I took off my sandals immediately upon entering. I was barefoot on the same tile floor as hundreds of other ladies, who, pardon the assumption, did not seem to be hailing from the hygienic upper crust of society. Not that I’m a classist, I just think my mind would have been a little more at ease had I been in the presence of more pedicured toes and fewer ingrown toenails. I tried not to look at the feet. Or the fupas. And in the process didn’t figure out how to open my locker for about 15 minutes.

I kept my swimsuit on and left my iphone in the locker. All the women who weren’t stark raving naked were adorned in pink scrubs, the spa castle “uniform.” I tried to enter the bath section to sample the heated indoor pools and showers, but I was abruptly stopped. Apparently the low cut Ralph Lauren one-piece was far too much clothing for the bath area, as was any clothing at all. I was expected to share a jacuzzi tub with 5 other naked women, and not to shame any body of any form, but I just couldn’t stomach inhabiting the same body of water with a variety of strangers’ flappy unkempt pubic areas sans some physical barrier. I returned to my locker and put on my Uniform.

I walked up the stairs, barefoot and wide eyed, ready to see what the rest of the Castle had in store. I met Reid on the second level. His uniform, naturally, was baby blue. 

The second level of Spa Castle is mostly chairs and tables, small dining tables and large coffee tables surrounded by benches, and a huge buffet piled with food I wouldn’t dare touch with a ten-foot pole. Heaps of cold noodles, iodine soaked shrimp from god knows where, and mounds of vegetables gleamed under the neon heat lamp. We vowed not to partake…despite the uniformed castle-goers circling the buffet in a hungry mob, we were pretty sure it was a 12-dollar trap. The second floor also had massage chairs, which we attempted to use but learned we had to purchase a ticket in the Spa Castle Starbucks first. We decided to get some water. What could be weird or confusing about that?

The water coolers in the Spa Castle “food court,” for lack of a better term, are just like your water coolers at work. Except instead of cups, the Castle provides paper envelopes for your drinking pleasure. Yes, envelopes. Like the paper bags your happy meal french fries come in, but only about half as wide. They had Korean writing on them, so the only way we were able to discern at first if we were actually expected to drink out of these was by watching the other patrons. Ok…wait for it…yep these are to be used as cups. They are rendered ineffective after about one use, so we just stood there refilling tiny paper bag after paper bag, taking shots of water. Custodians swept dirt and discarded vegetables into piles and took their time dust-panning them up. After about the forth envelope and narrowly missing a green bean and dust pile with our feet, we decided to check out the saunas.

The saunas were by far my favorite part of the experience. I’m not usually a fan of hot things, but we were extremely hungover so I thought this the perfect detox. Each sauna had it’s own little theme. There was the Infrared Sauna, the Salt Sauna, the Jade Sauna, Some Other Type of Sauna, and even a cold sauna for when you get sick of choking to death on your own perspiration. 

After sufficiently sweating our asses off we were ready to move on to the pools. The rooftop pool situation was really what had attracted us to spa castle to begin with.

 

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Of course, it was completely crowded to the brim. The main hot tub couldn’t handle a single additional person, and the pools were just like every other pool in the summer–overrun with children. The best part was the array of different water massage sitting areas dotted around the edge of the pool. There was one area in particular where two extremely powerful jets would crisscross behind you and hit each of your shoulder blades, nearly knocking you the fuck out. It was the least relaxing sensation on the planet, and hilarious to observe, as each person winced while having their back muscles torn to shreds and over-chlorinated water shot into their nasal passage ways. So far, Spa Castle was hilarious, disgusting, and …kind of great?

In accordance with this theme, the indoor pool and jacuzzi area boasted a swim-up bar and tables where you could enjoy your beverages while sitting in waist-deep water. Of course, this too had its downside. We waited at the waterbar for 20 minutes for virgin piña coladas while aggressive, drunk women berated the bartenders with an assortment of inane comments. The rest of the waterbar customers, groups of ladies who at first glance might be mistaken (or correctly identified) as the cast of Bad Girl’s Club, guzzled their daiquiris and littered the pool with corn syrup drizzle and empty cups. It was around this point I began to refer to our surroundings as Spa Toilet. After finishing our mocktails, fitting in an ample amount of girl talk, and catching a glimpse of the mop water they were using to clean the tile around us, it was time to get the hell out.

But not, of course, before taking a shower. I decided to brave the “bare butts only” section, based on the theory that a little shame was worth returning without a fungus. I shared a shower stall with a Korean woman who was hunched over a bucket and elbow deep scrubbing up her own ass with borax from a gallon jug. I stood there, completely visible to the naked bachelorette parties and clap-exchanges in the Naked Lady Jacuzzis. I left Spa Castle feeling dirtier and less refreshed than when I came in. But at least I’d had some LOLs.

And I had something else to feel good about as well. Spa weirdness or not, I had a steak dinner from the Something Something Saloon and a trip to TJ Maxx with my name on it. We ordered a bloomin onion to share and a Saloon Special for each of us. In a Saloon Special you get two meat choices plus a side for 17 bucks. So naturally, we got a rib eye and a rack of ribs each, with sides of mashed potatoes, and thoroughly cleaned our plates. We sampled the wears at TJ Maxx and called our mothers while browsing bargain cutlery. I bought a massively discounted Ralph Lauren down feather pillow and peeped the inexplicable abundance of Carolina Panthers memorabilia in the College Point Target. For a minute we were sure we’d entered a wormhole and had actually been transported to NC, but I also don’t really know what a wormhole does and we were clearly just delirious from our active day. At 8PM a taxi picked us up from the Starbucks next door.

I spent the following day battling a stubborn gas bubble, that towards the end of the night got so painful I was hunched over in the fetal position trying to get myself to poop. If this were Sex and the City, we’d transition scenes here with a V.O.: and from fetal position, to fecal position…. Cut to: me buckled over on a toilet with a thermometer in my mouth. I called out of work and guzzled ginger ale and club soda until I passed out. The next day, while burning through old episodes of Mad Men on Netflix, it happened. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I, Kat St. Kat, pooped the hell out of my pants. Laugh it up. I certainly did.

After 24 hours of hell had passed, I forced myself to suck it up (literally) and brave a day at work. That night, in my sleep, it happened again. If you’re wondering what it’s like to shit yourself twice in one week, just know the second time is not nearly as amusing.

This all happened a month ago, and I’m still not sure whether to blame the bloomin’ onion or my dip in the probably virus-ridden Spa Toilet. Since then I’ve really been working to get my dignity back. I hit the club a couple times to show off my post-stomach flu body (pretty sure I lost 3 pounds and gained back 10), and I had my first improv show this past Saturday. It wasn’t the best show ever, but it wasn’t the worst. And if I’ve learned anything from improv, it’s that worrying about your dignity is a waste of time. Even if everything goes to shit, it can still be pretty fuckin’ funny.

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Fake Housewife in New Jersey (and, ultimately, Queens)

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Last we spoke I was near-homeless and knee-deep in the bullshit of finding a new apartment. In the past six weeks, while lying to you about possible blog updates (I prefer to think of it as “teasing”) I managed to snag a place, find a roommate, and embark upon the treacherous journey that is Moving and Decorating in New York. But first, I partied.

After dying my hair black and appropriately deciding to fill in my eyebrows the same color every day, it was only natural that I release my inner Italian Housewife (I’m 0% Italian, but who’s counting) and give in to that overwhelming urge to visit New Jersey that I’ve been suppressing all my life. That’s right–I’d been living in Brooklyn for almost two years and had not yet set foot in the state too good to pump its own gas. By now, it was eating away at my soul. If I didn’t get to Jersey soon I was sure I’d be consumed by a FOMO so strong it would make even the toughest steroid-free Guido shed a tear.

Truthfully I had never considered going to Jersey because I never had a good reason, until my good friend Steph invited me to her old stomping grounds, Morristown, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Even though I should have been looking for apartments and preparing to move out in 14 days it felt like I didn’t have that good of a reason to say no, so I agreed to venture west (east? south? Where TF is Jersey anyway?) on the NJ transit with a backpack full of bronzer, body glitter and a green feather boa that kept getting stuck in the zipper.

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New Jersey! It’s just like us! I went to college in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a small town with cute little main streets sprinkled with bars that on holidays become infested with hoards of inebriated youths. To really make it feel like an authentic college experience, the first bouncer I encountered declared my out of state ID a fake and threatened to take it and call the cops. At first I thought he was flattering me–didn’t he notice that faint wrinkle between my 24-year-old eyebrows that I’ve been hallucinating lately? But alas, we were forced to cut our losses and walk 12 whole feet to enter an identical establishment across the street.

Three beers, two jello shots, a series of Fireball shots and a lethal amount of EDM later, I found myself wandering the streets of Morristown alone. At one point I climbed a fire escape and was escorted down by the cops (luckily they were everywhere that night to protect me from myself). Steph found me in a Blimpie, some blocks away from our original location, shamelessly eating a footlong around 2 AM. The next morning we had burgers and disco fries for breakfast and Cold Stone for lunch. I decided New Jersey agrees with me, as does any place that encourages mass consumption of junk food and alcohol. America: I like it.

When I returned to the city it was back to my search for a hidden paradise in a sea of shitass craigslist posts. I was sifting through ads during down time at work when my old roommate, Natalia, sent me a link to a 2BR apartment in Ridgewood, newly renovated, with a backyard and everything. The price was right, the location was right, the size was right…all I had to do was sign a lease and find a roommate. That night I visited two apartments: one, for the same price, was in Bushwick proper and about the size of a shoebox. The other is the one I now call home. I signed an application in the rain outside of a Chase bank at 10 PM, and went home to “celebrate,” that is, eat a burrito in bed.

With the move-in date looming and one empty room to fill, I continued to pour my desperate heart out on facebook and craigslist, imploring people to give me their money, live with my cats and stay out of my face. At the last possible second, the time it seems everything tends to happen in New York whether it be finding a job, a place or a will to live, I received a craigslist email from the perfect candidate: a wine retailer from, of all places, Chapel fucking Hill.

Then came the challenge of decorating. Since my friends Beth and Megan’s housewarming party in their adorable, gigantic, affordable Bushwick 2BR where I overheard every guest whispering plans to murder them both and steal their digs, it has become my mission to adorn my dwelling in such a way that not only pleases me aesthetically but also fills my loved ones with such jealousy that they must fight the urge to end my life then methodically dispose of my body and take my place.

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April has come and gone, spring is technically here, and so far I have done my best to settle in. Between an endless series of nightmare-inducing phone calls to various utility companies (seriously, endless. I have to call Verizon again tomorrow), my improv classes at Upright Citizens Brigade (I started again!), and my actual job, I’ve managed to paint two rooms, get furniture, electricity and wifi in all of them, gas on my stove, hot water in my shower, holes filled in my floors, a freakin television with actual surround sound (!!!), and a few shreds of my sanity back one day at a time. And I could never have done it alone. From Winston and Reid helping me load and unload a Uhaul in the rain and record time, to Hannah teaching me in the middle of the night how to paint a room, to my dad driving a trailer full of furniture all the way up the east coast with his brand new puppy in tow, not to mention Natalia finding this apartment online in the first place…this was not a feat I recommend for those with shallow pockets who walk alone.

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To find out who your real fans are, see how many of them still read your blog after you don’t post for six weeks. To find out who your real friends are, move.

 

Cheap Thrills

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This coming Saturday is my half birthday. Six months from that day I will turn 25, and though I see the flaws in weighing the value of my life in relationship to my age (“nothin but a number” and whatnot), I still allow my choices to be influenced by a timeline, however vague. Like, such as, my decision to not be poor anymore, leave thankless production grunt work behind, and take a full time job in the Hair and Beauty Industry. Along with that new job comes a higher budget, and higher standards for standards of living. On March 1 I put in my 30 days notice at The Chokey (my current place) and IF ALL GOES WELL I will find a studio in my area (that is, MY VERY OWN APARTMENT to share with Kos & Gon, of course) for the low low price of a lot of my money per month. A risk, I know, but one I am willing to take because I’m tired and I need my space, and in the words of Soo-Jin on Girls a couple episodes ago, “We’re old ladies. It’s gross.”

So far the search has been something of an emotional roller coaster. Starting last weekend I spent every minute of my free time (with the exception of some events you’ll hear about in a minute) scouring craigslist and various realty websites for the perfect property. And then…I found it. A studio in Ridgewood smack on the nose of my budget, totally renovated with a swaggy kitchen and brand new appliances, not too far from the trains or my current neighborhood on a quiet residential street. I was beyond excited. I could already see it: cute little dinner parties with my friends sitting on bar stools eating corn on the cob or some shit, Kos n Gonny basking in the sunlight from my gigantic bay windows, having enough space to put the litterbox more than 6 inches from where I sleep at night…It honestly seemed too good to be true. I spent the week frantically trying to get in touch with listing agents and brokers from the realty company so I could set an appointment to view the place, and even walked to the realty offices in Bed-Stuy in 25 degree weather one night after work to preemptively fill out an application, put down a (thankfully refundable) deposit, and take the studio off the market. On the Friday before my viewing I was on the verge of snapping Office Space style on the printer/scanner at work as I tried to copy and email the closing agent all my past rent check receipts, pay stubs, letters of employment and guarantor information. I wasn’t about to let this apartment slip between my fingers. If you’ve ever looked for a place to live in the New York area, you know how stressful the process can be. I’m not flat out admitting that I’ve even considered going all FoFiles Arsenic Style on lease holders in my area and then fully exercising my squatters rights…but I’m not denying it either.

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Then Saturday happened. It was the day I’d been waiting for. I had an appointment to visit the apartment at 1 that afternoon, so Hannah and Winston met me at my place at 12:40 to make the 20 minute walk up to Ridgewood and seal the deal. It was a beautiful day, 50 degrees and sunny, the first of its kind this season. And I had a spring in my step. As we walked up Bleecker Street and crossed from Brooklyn to Queens, the Bushwick noise just fell away. Suddenly I was in a quaint tree-lined neighborhood and my head was in the clouds. I could swear I heard birds chirping, “Welcome Kathryn! Welcome to your home!”

When the landlords, a nice couple and their two adorable youngsters, opened the front door to the building, I was like “This couldn’t possibly be more charming.” Then I saw the room. It was just like the pictures. Better, even. Everything was brand spanken new and clean. I’m pretty sure the tub was audibly beckoning me to sit in it, or maybe I was having auditory hallucinations brought on by overwhelming idealism. The nice man even said, “We’ll be painting before you move in so choose any color you like.” Say whaaat? Why do I have so many choices? Why doesn’t this feel seedy and dirty and rip-offy like every other time I’ve ever looked at an apartment in my life? Is this a trick?

That’s when I remembered I had one question left to ask.

“Oh yeah, I meant to mention, I have a cat.” (I didn’t say two cats because they are basically the same and I didn’t want to make this more difficult for myself).

Suddenly my ears were brought back to reality. The couple spoke my fate in unison.

“Oh no. No pets allowed. No exceptions.”

W-wha? My heart sank like the Tower of Terror ride at Disney World. No exceptions? What if I pay extra? What if I give you my first born?

Apparently the woman is deathly allergic, and though I had a hard time understanding her broken English, I could make out the word “hospital” in her explanation of dander-related symptoms. I was actually holding back tears. And then I got sassy.

“Well it didn’t say that on the website orrr I wouldn’t have come all the way out here [anxious laughter] [eye-roll].” I pursed my lips as my broker apologized, and hung my head all the way down Wyckoff to the taco factory to eat my feelings and guzzle a Mexican Coke or two. It helped.
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The worst part was breaking the news to all my friends to whom I’d prematurely bragged about my future digs. I should have known better.
IMG_6448So I’m back on the prowl. I have a showing of my second choice today at 6:30, which would still be pretty great. But I’m not getting my hopes up. We Virgos tend to lose our shit when things don’t go as planned (but my dreamy Pisces moon gets me in trouble every time…sigh).

The last few weeks haven’t been all work and no play. For instance, I found out how good the show Scandal is and promptly watched the whole first season on Netflix. I think subconsciously, or maybe consciously, I was looking for something to pick up where House of Cards left off, so I chose another drama about wack-ass politicians and the mistresses and journalists they victimize (and vice versa). If you’re late like me, the basic premise is Olivia Pope (played by the hypnotizing Kerry Washington) leads a group of renegade attorneys in solving/handling/covering up the District’s most salacious political scandals, blah blah blah, drama ensues. I wouldn’t go in expecting the sophisticated dialogue and plot intricacies of the Kevin Spacey vehicle, but if you’re looking for the compelling melodrama of Shonda Rhimes’ other hit Grey’s Anatomy with a dash of legal jargon spelled out for you in layperson’s terms, well hey! That’s what this is! (In the pilot one of the characters in the ensemble boldly declares to the team’s skittish newcomer  “Olivia Pope does not cry!” Olivia Pope then proceeds to cry in every following episode. That sort of thing.)

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Belting “Torn” with bestie Moe Dabbagh has been a major highlight of Pisces Season

As far as weekends go, I’ve been making a concerted effort to get out more despite the weather being mostly unfriendly these last few weeks and how sore my legs have been after 10 hour workdays. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my real life hang sesh and subsequent overdose of Twitterfriend young @J_Face. A few weekends ago I was bombarded by iMessages from J in a group chat imploring–nay–commanding us to hang out with them. Because I’d been waiting for this day since birth and I also hadn’t done anything fun outside the confines of my bedsheets in a week or so, I agreed to meet them for some day drinking and a some fun touristy activities. After we met up in south BedStuy, we hit up a Dunkin Donuts for some stealth mixers (“We’ll take a coke. No, not a bottle a fountain coke. Okay well can you give us a cup? No, a plastic cup. Fine, we’ll take a styrofoam coffee cup whatever thanks have a good day! Jesus.”) we managed to find our way to the Brooklyn Bridge right at sunset, something I think every New York resident is supposed to have done at some point. I hadn’t yet, as the BK Bridge is located between one neighborhood I never go to and another I’m only ever in to see my gynecologist.

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I find I appreciate my city more and have the most fun when visitors are in town. The daily grind can be pretty exhausting, and the romance of the city can be dampened by how stressful and loud it is to live here. Commutes, especially in the winter, are dealt with rather than enjoyed. If you’re pinching pennies like me, going out to eat can hardly be justified (unless you’re also delusional like me, and think to yourself  “I deserve a burrito today” about five times a week, just for getting out of bed). But when a guest is in town, I get an excuse to hit up a famous Chinatown restaurant while drunk at 7pm, so that’s what we did. But not before stumbling into a Joe’s Shanghai-adjacent cocktail bar and spending our weight in gold doubloons on two Pacificos and two shots of tequila. That night we went Bushwick barhopping, where we met up with Winston and Hannah who were drunk off their asses but displaying it in opposite ways: Winston fell asleep at Bizarre Bar. Hannah stayed out with us, heckling a shitty DJ at the afterhours spot until 6 am. We spent the next day eating Popeye’s, watching FoFiles, and sleeping on the couch.

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The following Tuesday, after wearing platforms to work like an idiot, I was somehow convinced to further destroy my feet by attending a Shaggy concert with Reid and Jesse at the Brooklyn Bowl. Reid and I waited in the frigid winds to buy door tickets while talking amongst ourselves about how much we hate the cold and waiting in lines and we didn’t even like Shaggy that much. But I was doing it for the story, and because I said I would, so we paid for our tickets and one single beer each that we nursed over the period of an hour and half. Then this moment happened, and we left. We were out by 11 pm. It felt like a success.

Later that week, having not yet gotten my first paycheck, I was relishing the freer things in life. Like getting my hair dyed black at work and drinking coworker-funded margaritas. Then Friday arrived, and I knew I had to go out even though I was scraping the bottom of my piggy bank. I knew it would be worth it, though. Tall Pat was having his birthday party in one of those rented karaoke rooms in Korea Town. I’d never been to one before and it turns out they are MEGA-KUSH. I guzzled a 7 dollar bottle of champagne, lost my earmuffs, found my earmuffs, lost my mind, then lost my phone…and didn’t notice until I made it home.

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Luckily Austin, a sweet new friend, found my phone and returned it to Reid who returned it to me a couple days later. In the meantime I sat in my room watching Scandal and talking to no one except my boyfriend on Facebook chat. It was kind of a luxury to be semi-disconnected. That is, until Oscar time rolled around and I was like, if I can’t livetweet this I will kill myself 100%. Part of growing up is getting your priorities straight, am I right?

Another week went by and I dragged myself out to the clurb to make an appearance out of what felt like necessity at the time. The event last Friday was *Shallow,* at Baby’s All Right, hosted by Ariel Max, Kelp Sea, Sarah Glenn and Bunny Von Lau. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to say hey to some babes I hadn’t seen in a while, and to see the homie Brian Whateverer aka Whatever 21 DJ, which was everything I anticipated. I even got to see Ms Fitz who greeted me with side-eye and a hug, saying “Are you wearing ugg boots in the club?” (I was, and shamelessly. Normcore may be dying but I’m just doing me. To be fair I was also wearing a Baby Phat bikini top, a mesh sweater, and a paisley scarf du-rag situation. I need to go shopping?). What I hadn’t anticipated was bumping into longtime homies Be Words and Megan McDearman, two lovely people I really don’t see enough. I had the unexpected pleasure of talking to Yung Be about my struggle to become more outgoing while she bought me beers and called me out for being a closet shy person. It was motivating. Of course, I still couldn’t manage to stay out all night, and I shared a cab with Reid back to Bushwick with heavy eyes around 2 am.

So maybe I’m contradicting myself. Trying to make more friends while also attempting to shut the world out and live alone in a studio apartment? Is that what I really want? Will that even work? There’s some Christian saying that goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” I don’t believe in God, but as I sit here before my next apartment showing, nervously sweating into my uggs, I realize, timeline or not, I’m basically just winging it. And yeah, I guess it is kinda funny.