Mon, Sep 4–Sat, Oct 28: Quandary

– It’s raining hard now, making the old pine trees in my backyard sway.

– I’ve been occupied by working and dating. Lots of first dates. Some second dates. A couple third dates. No fourth dates. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m trying hard not to pursue girls where I can’t picture it working out, or if I’m just not up to the task yet. Dating gets tiresome. Beyond the weekly time and energy required, it starts to take up too much space on my mental plate, keeping track of who is whom and who is from where and what we’ve talked about and what I’ve worn and all that. I’m not a details oriented person.

– I don’t feel disingenuous or morally compromised by dating a lot of people, but I don’t think I can function like this permanently.

– I think I have a hangup about things getting serious. It’s less to do with not being over the last girl I seriously dated, and more about not wanting to go through the seemingly inevitable relationship lifecycle once again. It’s like every relationship is a little life; in the end it dies tragically and I am born anew. Relationship reincarnation. Except I always come back as me.

– I haven’t done any creative writing in a long time. There’s a fear there, too.

– I haven’t lifted since I broke my pinky, but I’ve been playing a lot of basketball.

– Starting to hate my roommate.

– I turn 31 in a week or so. I sometimes wonder if I’m on any kind of forward trajectory, or if I’m just coasting along on the waves, parallel with the shore but not getting any closer. I’m seeing a lot of the coastline, I suppose.
+ Just to elaborate on this a bit more. There are a lot of considerations. For instance, is the world going to end in my lifetime? Even if it doesn’t end, will it look radically worse in 20 years, with global warming having destroyed major coastal cities and shit? Because if things are going to hell, I don’t care so much that I’m not moving towards like, home-ownership and continuing the bloodline. But if I really do feel like nothing I do much matters, maybe I should be living even more carelessly? Then there’s the counterargument, which is that the world is unlikely to end in my lifetime, even if shit gets worse for awhile, we’ll figure out a way to deal with it. In which case I could turn 40 and find out we’ve solved global warming and then have another 60 years of life to cope with. From what vantage point do I want to be looking at that scenario? Or are these hypotheticals I constantly consider all bullshit, because the only thing you can really do in life is make the best choices available to you at the time, hoping that they take you closer to evergreen goals of personal and spiritual fulfillment?

– I guess that’s it.


Sat, Sep 2–Sun, Sep 3: More of the Same

– Woke up early on Saturday before 8:00am with a mild hangover. I can never get back to sleep once I’m up, so I made a pot of coffee and resigned myself to being half-alive for the remainder of the day. It wasn’t a particular difficult road ahead of me.

I laid in bed reading The Golden Compass for several hours, stepping out only to buy groceries at Key Foods, where I thought I was going to vomit but didn’t.

I made eggs and got back in bed. So passed the time.

– Dan, Chan, and Sarah came over around six. We petted Spunky and sat on the deck, then took a cab to Roberta’s. We waited for our table on their expansive patio, taking cover when the rain started to fall. I was nearly mad with hunger, but it was worth it in the end. I think they have the best pizza in New York.

– The rain didn’t let up. We cabbed to Duck Duck to see if anybody was dancing. They weren’t, at least not yet. A DJ went on at 10, so we stuck it out, but the mood never quite turned, outside of a few sad efforts to start the party. Chan left, and later Sarah, and then Dan. I stayed a bit longer, hoping something might happen. I was wearing my forest green anorak, so when there was a break in the rain, I walked home. It wasn’t too far, and it wasn’t too late.

– It rained all night. The grey, dark skies and the sound of the water against my window, and because I hadn’t drank as much as the night before, I was able to sleep in til 10:00am. I felt better for it. I haven’t felt like exercising all weekend, outside of these pushups I’m doing all the time now. The rain kept up the whole morning anyway. I made a pot of coffee and finished The Golden Compass. I read 400 pages in two days, which almost never happens. It’s a kids book, though, and there’s no pause in it; one event leads immediately to the next, so that you never want to put the book down for fear of missing what comes next.

– I was shaved and showered and out of bed by 5:00pm. For supper I made couscous and stir fried some onions and peppers. I could see some girls and a guy with a guitar were setting up a little stage in the courtyard behind my apartment. I went out onto the deck and they called up to me and said they were putting on a concert to raise money for the hurricane down in Houston. Over the next hour about twenty people showed up to watch. The music went on at 7:00pm, singer-songwriter stuff, mostly original songs with a few covers. They had pretty voices and played beautifully. It made me want to pick up my guitar again, but that also seems like a big waste of time, which is a funny thing to think when you’ve done almost nothing at all for two straight days.

– Near 8:00pm I took the L to its conclusion at 8th Avenue, walked further west to the Standard Hotel at the mouth of the High Line, where the same friends from the night before were waiting on the 18th floor. The bar up there, The Top of the Standard, offers panoramic views of the city. The rain had stopped a few hours previous, so you could see everything clearly, all the buildings lit in New York and most of them in New Jersey across the river. We drank fancy cocktails with absinthe washes and eggwhites and meat wrapped around dates in them. People at nearby tables kept taking flash photos, which I knew would make terrible photographs. It was a little touristy. But what isn’t.

– From there we walked to 55 Bar, this divey jazz club in the Village that I love a lot. The band had just started their last set, and after a few minutes we got a table near the front. They were good, a five-piece with a sax and trumpet player. The synth player was the big standout for me.

– After they finished up we were all hungry, so the next and last stop was Waverly Restaurant, a diner with mediterranean flourishes. I asked the waiter what to get and he said spinach pie. It came with grape leaves and olives and it hit the spot. I don’t remember what we talked about during the meal, or if we talked at all. Some of us took the L home. A man sitting next to me was reading a pamphlet titled, “Angels—Can They Affect Your Life?” The train was slow through the tunnel, but after awhile we made it to Brooklyn, and one stop later I was back outside and nearly home.

Sat, Sep 1: Two Years in Amber

– The Taste of Autumn continues. I wore a new sweater to work. Nobody complimented me on it until I asked them to.

Ilili Box for lunch again, this time joined by coworkers. We dined al fresco in the thin shadow of the Flatiron Building. I got Brussels sprouts with grapes and walnuts. They really pack in the sprouts.

We compared our various ocular degenerations. One girl has a -12 prescription, which makes her legally blind. I feel blind with my -5 scrip. I think the scale should only go to 10.

– After work, I walked down to The Handy Liquor Bar in Soho, where I met Sarah for a drink. The bar is really lovely, unmarked from the street, tucked underneath another restaurant. There are big glass skylights in the ceiling that let in the light and big wooden booths below them, midcentury modern barstools that are all just a little bit broken. Sarah’s kept sliding down. I ordered a grapefruit cocktail that tasted like juice. She asked for the same blood-red drink that another customer had coming out. We never found out what was in it.

– Around 7:30, we walked a few blocks to meet more friends at Balthazar, an enormous brasserie and bakery that looks like Woody Allen’s fever dream of Paris in the 20’s. Everything inside the restaurant gets caught in this incredible golden light that never dulls, and for the small price of a hundred and twenty bucks you get to spend a few hours happily trapped in amber. It’s a special place, maybe my favorite in New York, so it was a clear choice ofr where I wanted to celebrate two years in the city.

I’m unusually proud of the milestone. I don’t even remember how I spent my one-year anniversary, but two years feels somehow important. Maybe because I think of myself as established here now. I have great friends, new and old, an apartment worth keeping, a job I like, and extra curriculars with momentum behind them.

We ordered a dozen oysters, a round of cocktails, a crab risotto, a bottle of red and white wine. I got linguini with little shrimpies. I sort of forced everyone to get a glass of calvados for dessert. We made a lot of toasts—almost everybody at the table had some good news to share.

– After dinner we cabbed to an apartment in Stuy Town where Danny made drinks and we played a rhythm-based drinking game that I can’t remember the name of, even though part of the game involves saying its name. I took the train home around 1:00am, feeling drunk and happy.


Thurs, Aug 31: Skin in the Game

– First sweater of the season, a favorite grey crewneck. L Train to work.

– Goodbye lunch at Laut, a Thai / Singaporean spot on 17th, for a coworker who’s moving to SF. I got basil fried rice because it wasn’t spicy. Didn’t want to risk jum-tum with basketball on the docket. Sad repast.

–  At 5:30, our motley collection of engineers, data lords, and me made our way to Penn South Park in Chelsea. We’ve been playing basketball once a week for a couple months now. I would describe the caliber of play as: underwhelming. But it’s nice to run around and get shots up, feel alive for a couple hours. We played til 7:30, then I walked the 12 blocks down to the L and went home, my fellow straphangers giving me ample space on the train.

– Showered, ate Advil, foam-rolled the gams. Realized an enormous tract of skin had come halfway undone from the bottom of my big toe, the new skin below it deeply pink and raw, the skin of an infant. I took a few pictures and a Boomerang (ask if you’d like to see), clipped the trophy free with nail-cutters. It was grisly. I will not look good dead.

– Dinner at Dar525, my favorite spot in the neighborhood. I go at least once a week, taking what’s now my customary table on their covered, street-facing patio. The $9 falafel platter, served with a huge pita, baba ganoush, hummus, salad, and tahini is an easy contender for best under $10 meal in New York. It was too dark to read, so I scrolled through social media and dating apps. The previous day I’d changed my Tinder profile to Dr. Evil’s monologue from the first Austin Powers movie (when he’s in group therapy):

My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low-grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen-year-old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink, he would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy, the sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament.

It was not having the intended effect, which is “girls loving it”. So I switched it again to something more heartfelt. They don’t tell you when you’re younger than finding love is really just a matter of exhaustive a/b testing.

– Today technically marks my two-year anniversary in New York. I’ll be celebrating in earnest tomorrow. Here’s my blog post from that fateful night. Good reminder that they have meat pies at Northern Territory.   

Weds, Aug 30: Geoengineering

– Woke up late, hopped on a CitiBike. It’s a 30-minute ride to work that starts with a taxing climb over the Williamsburg Bridge, followed by a long, pleasant descent into Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The morning air was cool, windy between the trusses, and it made my ears burn a little. The bridge leaks out onto a protected bike lane that runs along First Ave. I took it up to 21st, cut across a few avenues, and drop the bike at a valet station around the corner from my office in Flatiron. Changed into jeans and a t-shirt in the private bathroom, drank two enormous cups of cold brew from the tap, ate Raisin Bran over Siggi’s coconut skyr, and get to work.

– It warmed up by lunch. I got a spiced chicken wrap from Ilili Box, waited for it in the sunshine, tried not to look at my phone.

– After work I took the F to DUMBO to attend a release party for Jacobin, a leftist mag whose latest issue is all about climate change. The party was really a roundtable discussion by authors who contributed to the issue. Before it started, I bought a beer and talked for awhile with the guy sitting next to me, Jonas, a Swedish kid who just moved to New York from Stockholm three weeks ago. Jonas was cool. He’s here to study economics at the New School, said New Yorkers have treated him well so far, that they’re easier to talk to than his fellow countrymen, who are stuck up. He’s a devout leftist and I hope to see him around.

– The panel itself was really compelling. I learned a lot about geoengineering, which amounts to using technology to dampen or even reverse the effects and progress of climate change. People in Iceland have apparently found an efficient way to turn carbon dioxide into limestone, which you can bury in the ground. The problem is that the limestone can’t be commodified, and therefore nobody wants to do this at any kind of scale.

Geoengineering is a hotly contested issue among leftists for a lot of reasons. One is that doing so basically allows tech overlords like Bill Gates and Elon Musk, who are staunchly pro geoengineering, to continue to shape the direction of humanity, and also that a purely tech fix downplays this important opportunity to shift away from capitalism that climate change otherwise insists upon.

My take is in line with most of the panel’s, which is that if we don’t fix this shit we are all going to die incredibly soon, so let’s do what we have to while continuing to fight for a more just society. Hurricane Harvey — any really any natural disaster — creates entry points for some really interesting socialist conversations, i.e. we agree that people who are displaced by the storm deserve a free place to stay, free healthcare, and free food. When should that agreement end? Why should it end?

– I had to pee and I was hungry, so I left before the Q&A session started, waving a quick goodbye to Jonas. They never have food at these things. It was a beautiful night. I found a CitiBike rack nearby, rode home over dark cobblestone streets, through Fort Greene, past the Navy Yard, dimly lit housing developments, trailers that look like the kind you see on movie sets with long lines of poor people waiting for something unclear to me, past restaurants and bars that look inviting that I’ll probably never see again.

– When I got home I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to eat, so I didn’t eat anything. I read a few of the pieces in Jacobin, did a bunch of pushups, gave myself a haircut, took a shower, and went to bed. It took me a long time to fall asleep.

Tues, Aug 29: Self-Care, Self-Sabotage

– I woke up kinda late and immediately thought, “I’m getting sick.” That’s how I know summer is ending.

– It started raining around 10:00am and didn’t let up until late. I was supposed to see Vanessa again but bailed because I thought I was getting sick and it was raining and I didn’t think I felt like it. Plus, my roommates were both out of town, the first time that’s happened since I moved into my new apartment. It’s so rare to have time to myself like that.

– After work, I came home, smoked a little weed, and played videogames for like three hours. There’s this really difficult game I’m playing called XCOM 2 — it’s a turn-based strategy game where you try to kill aliens — and I couldn’t beat this one mission so I kept replaying it over and over again, absentmindedly swiping on Tinder and checking Twitter between turns, noticing the time pass but not really caring, until suddenly it was 8:30pm and I needed to eat. I paused the game and went to the kitchen to make eggs but there were no eggs.

– Opening the refrigerator door and seeing no eggs was something of a low-point in the day. If you had been inside the fridge, you would have seen my face in the ugly fridge light, confused and a little disbelieving, turn to outrage, brows furrowed, as I shouted, “God fucking damnit, Jon,” across the empty apartment. Why am I unable to feed myself? Why can’t I beat XCOM 2? Why, if I’m not actually sick, which I’m not, it’s just allergies, did I cancel on Vanessa? Questions were sort of hitting me in that moment.

– I put my outdoor clothes back on (I change into a pair of lime green corduroy shorts and a faded blue New Orleans tanktop as soon as I get home), picked up my umbrella and The Long Sleep, and huffed it to Mcondo Tacos on Grand, two blocks away. I sat at the bar and ordered a shrimp and carnitas taco, read a few pages in the green glow of Mexican league soccer highlights on their wall-mounted flatscreen. The place was pretty empty, probably because it was still shitty out. Some guy at the other end of the bar was loudly and obviously hitting on the bartender. He said she would be the prettiest girl in Ft. Lauderdale if she ever went there. She said she might go this weekend. Who knows. The tacos were good. They serve them half-swaddled in tinfoil, so they keep their shape, and they always give you radish slices, which I appreciate.

– Back home in better light I finished The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler’s famous LA noir detective novel. I’d picked it up because I read in a listicle of facts I wasn’t supposed to know about the Big Lebowski that it had partially inspired the film. It’s full of hardboiled one-liners, i.e. How do you like your brandy, sir? I like it any way at all. Better ones than that, though that’s the one I remember now. It was worth a read — the rare book that’s actually more enjoyable to read stoned — but it’s alarmingly homophobic and unkind to women. Glad Book Club did not take it on.

– Because this is an honest blog, I will admit to playing more XCOM 2 and going to bed late, knowing full well I had important meetings in the morning. Sometimes self-care and self-sabotage go hand in hand.

Sun, Nov 6: All Blogs Must Die

– Tomorrow’s my 30th birthday. Last night I saw Jenny Slate do standup from 10 feet away and got drunk with a dozen of my closest friends. Life is weird and incomprehensible, but mine’s pretty alright most of the time. This blog was meant to help me figure out if moving to New York was a good thing to do, and a year later, I have an answer. So just as our great American experiment is set to conclude on Tuesday, so, too, is this blog. Except I’m gonna leave it up, because rereading it will be fun someday.

That said, I’m excited to announce a new writing project — YETI Magazine. It’s an idea some Chicago writer friends and I dreamt up once, a way of staying in touch as we were all drifting to new cities and jobs. It never happened, but I like the idea of publishing people I know. I’m gonna put up one new story a month and hopefully you will want to write for it, too. The first piece is called Androids in the Train Station.

Thanks to all the loyal judges out there. Case closed!!