Tag Archives: Local News

In which I finally leave the apartment

Like a sea cucumber leaving her burrow, today I ventured out of the New York City apartment I’ve been holed up in for a week. I walked to SoHo under the auspices of a lunch date, but I really wanted to check out Hollister, the Broadway shopping mecca staffed almost entirely by Chippendale dancers. My cousin Alice sent me the Hollister siren call this morning in the form of a glorious Times shopping article by Mike Albo, “A Long, Lusty Walk on a Short Pier.” I know that some journalists win the Pulitzer Prize for risking their lives in war zones or for investigating child welfare or for saving Amazon rainforests or whatever, but Albo deserves something for getting me out of the apartment and into a dimly lit maze of hoodies.  I was only in there for a minute, then I stood on the sidewalk furiously texting Alice about my experience, then I moved along when I realized I was bringing down Hollister stock by posing in front of the store in something other than a bikini.

Another cousin sent me this ESPN article about last week’s Mexico-USA soccer game at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Bill Simmons made me happy that I had secretly rooted for Mexico during the game even though the native fans chucked cups of urine at all our players for two hours.

Other links I have enjoyed lately include this one, featuring bathing suits for boners (NSFW), and this one about my imaginary friends on TV.

It feels good to be back in my apartment again where all of New York is at my fingertips. It’s a little known fact that the real New York resides in my laptop on sites like this, this, and this.  But don’t tell the tourists or they will start knocking on my door and I will be forced to throw pee on them.

The new, gregarious me

It has recently come to my attention that I am no longer shy. I say this because in the past week I have made friends with a cable guy from Algeria, a chocolate shop owner from Iran, a grad student in business at Vanderbilt, a couple chefs, a painter from Croatia, a West Side boy in suspenders, and two older Jewish men who deal in reliquaries. I am not saying that I am wildly popular with these people, but I have definitely accosted them on street corners or at bars and struck up conversations from which they had difficulty extracting themselves due to my infinite charm and vigor. Sometimes I think they’re hesitant to let me wander off alone again because I’m so obviously unfit for city life, like a unicorn that has only known wild mountain pastures, but other times I imagine they’re saying to themselves, “How refreshing this young lady is with her flawless manners and Southern amiability!” The point is lately I’ve had no problem flinging myself at people and asking for their life stories like I’m a vacuum saleswoman or Miss USA, so I must conclude that I’m no longer shy. Or maybe I never was! And this makes me question all the other beliefs I hold about myself. Maybe I don’t have a love/hate relationship with alcohol! Maybe no one’s listening to my thoughts and judging me for them! Maybe ethereal mountain unicorns can also be street savvy! Maybe I won’t fail out of school! Maybe models are all ugly on the inside! Maybe James Franco really will come to my birthday pary, even though his manager already RSVP’d no. Maybe I can only sustain my gregariousness for one week, and then I will go back to being shunned and humbled by humanity! Anyway I don’t want to lose sight of where I have my real interactions with people, here on this blog, where I never have to stop talking so I can listen to someone talk so I can start talking again.

Uphill NYC

She enters the city going the wrong way down a one-way street. Rush hour in the rain, driving past the Empire State Building in a 14-foot U-Haul, herds of black umbrellas bobbing across the road. Nature seems upside down. The real world is overhead where the buildings crest. She walks a trench at the bottom of a concrete ocean. In New York City human beings seem to navigate ditches. She feels the ground somewhere above her; she’ll have to take an elevator to find it. The scale of herself is completely off. When had she shrunk to the size of a bug? She’ll never look at bugs the same way again. She’ll stop grinding them into a paste and spreading them on toast. When had the range of skyscrapers replaced the Blue Ridge Mountains? What if Donald Trump got attacked by a bear?

Her feet hurt. She’s going to take a carriage ride around Central Park. The horse merges into the right lane and picks up speed. The city must seem even taller and weirder to horses because they all have to live on the ground floor. Their hooves are engraved with four-digit numbers. She recognizes the park from scenes in monster movies. Something’s going to eat her. The buggy driver points out the bridge from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. She feels a sudden kinship with Macaulay Culkin and regrets not reviewing his movie before moving to Manhattan. When Macaulay was lost in New York, did he also have BO? Her map says there’s a train station around the corner. Riding the subway elevator is a bad idea: It’s an airtight enclosure full of someone else’s pee. If it was her own pee it would be okay, but probably not for everybody else.

Home is a fourth-floor walk-up next to Our Lady of Sorrows church on a Lower East Side block that one hundred years ago supported a busy brothel and saloon. Home is quiet, rejuvenating, full of vodka. It’s fun to spy on the senior citizens who live in the housing project across the street. Not fun, but sad.

Routines have been established. Dumplings have been found. Drug dealers have been identified. Life is getting good and comfortable again. They call it the Big Apple because you want to pick up everything from the ground and put it in your mouth, but real New Yorkers frown on that behavior. It’s better to just load the stuff in your shopping cart and take it home with you.

Three local YouTubes

The cutest:

The most unlike Eminem/the most related to me by blood:

The most full of friends and babies I know:

Alaska travelogue. Don’t read if you don’t like travelogues. I just have to get these feelings out.

It occurs to me that my last post was sort of doom and gloom and that you may be wondering if I made it to Alaska and back. I did! Thanks a lot for asking. I also fell in love with the place, much like my taxi driver to the Juneau “International” Airport (they have service to Canada) who cashed in the return portion of a round trip ticket 25 years ago and never looked back. It must have been June when he did it, because the Alaskan summer has both snow-covered vistas and 80-degree days. You’re hiking up a mountain in a t-shirt while a glacier holds firm in the rocks below you, thinking “My armpit alone could melt down that glacier.” It’s actually really weird. I can’t explain it in terms of weather, temperature, global warming, chemistry, pop culture, anything. Maybe the ice is so full of bald eagle shit that it’s preserved year-round.

And I can speak about bald eagle shit from experience now. I feel like a true American. I took my cousin’s two young kids on a tram to the top of a mountain overlooking Juneau (these awesome kids were my free ticket to Alaska, god bless them) where we stomped around in the snow and then visited one of the state’s majestic bald eagles where it lived in a cage the size of a utility closet. The keeper said the bird was captive because she had been shot blind years ago, which I think is what the keeper says to tourists to make them feel better about seeing an animal suffer in captivity. But as I watched the creature and the kids gripped my arm (bald eagles are actually really big – and also intimidating when they rip into frozen salmon – and also scary when the babysitter is saying stuff like “Look out! The bird is going to eat you!”), the thing turned around, hiked its butt in the air, and tried to squirt me with white hot poop. Which of course made me cackle, but only because the bird missed. I’m pretty sure its brain is smaller than mine.

Other animals we saw included humpback whales (wedding whale sighting booze cruise!), sea lions (the one bloated male keeps a rookerie of 50 females at the ready in case he wants to play Bingo), ravens (they’re everywhere. Locals have to retrieve their mail as soon as it’s delivered, otherwise the ravens will open their mailboxes and cash their checks. They’re that smart. My cousin’s husband also pointed out that you shouldn’t look up when you walk through downtown Juneau because if you do you’ll see a dozen ravens staring at you and get freaked out), deer, squirrels, and dogs. I just remembered a joke my grandfather told during this Alaska wedding weekend: “Someone should make a toupee for bald eagles.” He has better delivery than I do. He has some comedic competition in Alaska though. A Juneau playhouse was putting on a show called “Salmon Chanted Evening.”

I don’t know if all Alaskan coastal towns are like this, but every day in the summer about five 3,000-person capacity, 10-story cruise ships dock in the Juneau harbor so their occupants can roam around buying gold nuggets and fur bikinis. There are more people in one of these cruise ships than in all of Alaska (I’m making up demographics, but this one sounds accurate). So each summer the town caters to these tourists by transforming itself into a quaint outdoor shopping mall where one can buy Eskimo-themed knickknacks and temporary orca tattoos. Meanwhile you get the feeling that in the winter it’s every man for himself and people walk around with either shotguns or fly fishing rods, out for blood.  And this is why I was baffled that Alaska is home to Sarah Palin. Everything I’ve ever seen of that woman on TV suggests that she’s not fit for the Alaskan wilderness. Pantsuits? Blow-outs? Come on. The state is as laid-back as it gets. I wore long johns under my dress to the wedding and I still felt like royalty.

One fabulous thing about Alaska is its daylight hours. It seems like an excellent place for an alcoholic to pay taxes (oh wait – we pay taxes to Alaskans) because it’s sunny until like 10pm and you not only get a second wind but a third and a fourth when you’re drinking. Is it time to stop? Slow down? No, the sun is shining. There’s a reason the bride and groom both did ice luge vodka shots at the wedding: The climate builds liver stamina.

Was the plane ride awful? Yes, but I had modern medication on my side. I feel sorry for the people of the 17th century who had to fly in commuter jets without these helpful chemicals. Their helicopter pilots must have been nervous enough to wet their pantaloons.

Oh shit, Jeopardy’s on.

What the new Urban Outfitters store can do for Charlottesville

It can say a big “fuck you” to the big-city Urban Outfitters franchises with their condescending employees. It can prove that salespeople can be both nice and have dyed hair/tattoos/neon leggings. It can say, “Despite our hip national status, we are still going to integrate into Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall culture by being hospitable and unpretentious. Also, we are going to maintain our positive reputation in the community by giving a certain local blogger free clothes and/or scarves whenever she asks for them.”

Many sociological questions arise when I contemplate the new Urban Outfitters on the Downtown Mall:

1) By month’s end will all the teenagers in Charlottesville be wearing different versions of the same outfit?

2) Is the new Urban Outfitters a harbinger of the homogenized, corporate culture that will eventually take over downtown?

3) Can I get that in a large?

4) Can I get that in an extra-large? What about an XXL? Do you have that?

5) Is this new store good for the local economy? Specifically, my economy?

6) Does this color look good on me?

7) Can you buy me this?

In which my husband solves the newspaper publishing crisis

There’s been a lot of chatter lately about the future of journalism residing in “hyperlocal” news. Hyperlocal news steps in where the doomsday scenario leaves off: Newspapers fire experienced writers, writers have no place to go, newspapers die out, the end is nigh. Yet we still crave news that is streamlined and directly relevant to our lives. So instead of scavenging a national paper on its deathbed, we might read a blog written by an out-of-work reporter who lives down the street, a meaningful voice that in turn aggregates other meaningful voices.

This is where Darren Hoyt comes in. He and Ben Gillbanks, an English colleague, just launched Dispatch, a WordPress blog theme for writers and journalists. An add-on to the Mimbo Pro WP theme, Dispatch gives any journalist with $20* an online platform that looks and feels like a professional newspaper or magazine website. So with minimal effort and financial commitment, you can launch a respectable blog for posting pictures and stories of your tour in Afghanistan or your cat or whatever. God, my husband is on the cutting edge.

Tech Dirt tells us why hyperlocal news makes sense, and, by extension, why you should be interested in Dispatch:

The technological and economic constraints of newsprint meant that the whole process had to be done by full-time employees and carefully coordinated by a single, monolithic organization. But the Internet makes possible a much more decentralized model, in which lots of different people, most of them volunteers, participate in the process of gathering and filtering the news. Rather than a handful of professional reporters writing stories and an even smaller number of professional editors deciding which ones get printed, we’re moving toward a world that Clay Shirky calls publish, then filter: anyone can write any story they want, and the stories that get the most attention are determined after publication by decentralized, community-driven processes like Digg, del.icio.us, and the blogosphere.

Other tech people weigh in on hyperlocal news here and here and here.

In my own hyperlocal news, I want to punch that word “blogosphere” in the gut. And then make sweet love to it.

Here’s a “for instance”: Your wife needs a new website ASAP so she can compete with the New York literati! You just created an awesome website! What’s your next move?

Screenshot of Dispatch WordPress theme

Screenshot of Dispatch WordPress theme

*Keep in mind that Dispatch is an add-on to Mimbo Pro, which costs $79. Still, that totals $100 for a website with amazing functionality and versatility that you might otherwise pay a designer thousands of dollars to develop for you. I feel like I am one step away from an infomercial right now.

Charlottesville blind items

1) Baby rabbits

2) Dates set up by mutual friends

3) Rear view mirrors

4) Bats

I was going to write a list of local blind items in the manner of Gatecrasher/Page Six, but everything I came up with just seemed too mean-spirited. How am I going to make it as a writer in New York City if I can’t stand to hurt anybody’s feelings? Gawker is going to laugh at me.

Not-so-blind-item: Which milquetoast local blogger took a secret nap this afternoon and dreamed that a Mexican racehorse almost stepped on her face and also that she crashed her car into a snowdrift after drinking too much wine on the road, but was grateful that no one was hurt in the accident, even though she was upside down? She/he also enjoys eating chocolate cake frosting out of the jar on Wednesday nights. Your guesses after the jump!

Destined for greater things: a listicle

1. The apple that rolled off the passenger seat of my car and disappeared forever into the  interior.

2. The novels in my head, the whale in my dream, the dreams in my heart. The throw-up in my mouth.

3. The bottle of vodka, the carton of eggs, the ovaries of eggs, the pocket of money.

4. The gas underground, the diamonds underground, the music underground, these dance moves.

The library is never open long enough – see you in 2010

Today we say goodbye to this year’s Virginia Festival of the Book. If someone had told me way back in the last century that I would be guest blogging for a major festival in 2008 and 2009, I would have said, “Blogging. That must be something you do from a flying car.” Turns out that this year’s festival coincided with the maiden flight of the world’s first car/airplane hybrid, which I don’t think was chance.

So we are living firmly in the future. And yet still reading books, a medium older than peanut butter, even while people all around us are predicting that these are end times for books. But to my surprise and delight, yesterday’s “What About My Book? Navigating the Industry Now” panel was optimistic. Although Ron Hogan of GalleyCat and Beatrice (and the author of The Stewardess Is Flying the Plane! American Films of the 1970s, which must have won some kind of title award) described the New York publishing industry as being “in freefall,” the panelists all agreed that a good book always has a future in the business. Authors might not receive the $5 million advances they’ve come to expect, but a commercially successful book will award them royalties above and beyond a small advance. According to the panelists, the recession has forced big publishing houses to stop overpaying for projects, or issuing “bad bank loans” to authors, which is a positive change to their business models, even if it might cost jobs in the short-term.

The big publishing houses are still going to rely too heavily on books like the latest celebrity memoir or fad diet book that don’t require massive promotional budgets (these things sell themselves), so mid-size houses like Algonquin that don’t need to answer to stockholders might be a better fit for new authors, even if they can’t provide the coveted six-figure advance. Does that make sense? Did I get that right? Is anyone else falling asleep? Ha – that’s actually a fun game. Let’s keep playing. Is anyone else eating her first ever box of Cracker Jacks, wondering what the big deal is? Is anyone else biting her nails to shreds? Is anyone else kind of liking Keith Gessen’s novel All the Sad Young Literary Men even though their friends gave it bad reviews? Is anyone else easily distracted?

Returning to this idea of the celebrity memoir being a surefire, no-brainer hit, I went to my last Festival of the Book panel this afternoon, entitled Francois Coty: The Perfume Magnate. Skipping over the variegated history of this French billionaire turned fascist who founded the Coty fragrance company, it interests me that the Coty company, although now out of the Coty family’s hands, is still hugely profitable because it sells celebrity perfumes almost exclusively. J.Lo, Sarah Jessica Parker, the Beckhams, and Celine Dion all have their own smells in the Coty catalogue. Even Tim McGraw and the Olsen twins are in on the action. Do people even buy perfume anymore if it’s not affiliated with some superstar? Mary-Kate and Ashley are the new rose and lilac. And are certain celebrities perceived to be better smelling to the general public? I bet Obama smells good. Can someone put that in a bottle? And then pour the bottle all over the back of my neck three times a day? What?

I sense that I’m losing you again. Let me conclude by bragging about the other fabulous thing I did as part of the Festival of the Book: scored a free ticket to the Authors’ Reception. Because I came by myself, I subjected numerous people to my mingling skills. Fortunately novelist Sarah Collins Honenberger was lovely as usual (you can find her blog here) and I met Robert Stilling, an English Ph.D candidate who co-authored What Should I Read Next?, a book of recommended reading from UVA professors. Then I decided the party was too grown-uppy so I sat down with a first-grade girl and got to talking about frogs until I lost track of time and security ushered us out of the Special Collections Library. I don’t know what it is with me and hanging out with little girls at literary soirees, but I seriously need to find some writer friends my own age.