“F” stands for …

25 March, 2009

Brooklyn’s beloved old F Train means a lot of things to a lot of people.   For several years, while I was living at the 15th Street/Prospect Park stop, near Bartel Pritchard Square (which is really a circle), “F” stood for “FUCKING F TRAIN!!!” commonly overheard – and grumbled – as I would walk home 6 blocks and 2 avenues whenever the train felt like running local, which was fairly often.

My subsequent move to Carroll Gardens and, I believe, a ramped up effort on the part of the Metropoloitan Transit Authority, led me to have a kinder opinion of the dear old F train, which, like a friend you’ve known too long to fight with, holds a sentimental and almost-warm place in my heart.

Imagine the overwhelming mess of feelings, then, when, last night, a brand-spankin’ shiny new F train came rolling in to the Carroll Street station, it’s red LCD “F” shining like a beacon into the age of modernity.  The yellow fluorescent lights of yesterday’s F train was replaced by the white/blue glow of technology, complimented by a multicolored LCD map of where we are going and how long it will take us to get there.  Our derrières took in the smooth gray plastic seats.  The lack of screeching wheels was nearly deafening. Sensory overload.  New F train, I thought.  I feel like I do not know you at all.

Today, though, I can’t shake the old adage of If it ain’t broke… out of my head, despite all of my angry head-shaking.  The timing of the MTA this morning to vote for an absolutely obscene fare-hike, arriving as early as June 1, couldn’t be more insulting.

Like a pusher to a new junkie, a bully to a weakling, a boss to an underling:

“You liked that new train, didn’t you,” the MTA barks to F train riders.  “It made you feel comfortable, informed, safe and secure, didn’t it?”

“Well…” we hesitantly mutter, huddled masses in nervous unison.

“You were riding the train of the future; who wouldn’t like that?”

“I didn’t really mind the old -“

“HUSH!” the MTA growls.  “The future comes at a PRICE.  You must PAY for the LUXURY of an LCD display.  Those doors don’t close by themselves, you know.”

“BUT THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE OLD F TRAIN!” we courageously shout.  “Sure the colors were outmoded and the ride was noisy.  But what of scratched, graffitied windows?  The yellow and orange seats held our tushes securely in place everytime the train pitched forward or back, the yellowed, dirtied lights brought a strange comfort once you got used to them.  The garbled conductor’s announcements provided challenges and required keen observation skills.  AND WE LOVED IT FOR WHAT IT WAS!  Your new trains and your fare-hike won’t get rid of the raspy-voiced electric guitarist who only appears on the days you have a headache, nor will it make the journey up from the center of the earth at 63rd & Lexington any more bearable.”

“I DEMAND $2.50 JUST FOR THE MENTION OF MY BEAUTIFUL LEXINGTON AVENUE STATION!” is all the MTA can reply.

“IF WE HAD ENOUGH MONEY TO STOMACH YOUR FARE-HIKES, MTA, WE WOULD TAKE AN F’ING CAB!!!” the angry horde hurls back.

‘F’ may now stand for new-Fangled and Fancy, but MTA means only one thing:

Making Transportation an Abomination*.

Spring is coming; I got a bicycle and two good legs.  Boycotts don’t get sweeter than the feel of wind through your helmet and a strong body ready to kick ass.

* = other “one things” that MTA could stand for include  Making Transit unAffordable.  Messing up Trains At any cost.  Any other acronym ideas?  Please comment!

What was so wrong with the old F trains?
What was so wrong with the old F trains?

vs.

The New F Train Glides Into the Station - my camera phone tries to keep up.
The New F Train Glides Into the Station – my camera phone tries to keep up.

Advertisements

Shades of Gray

24 March, 2009

They all start the same way; hesitantly, almost sheepishly:

“I know you didn’t like the movie, but…”

Invariably, I know immediately where this is headed.  My girlfriends are speaking of the Supreme-o Sack of Shit Sorry Excuse For A Motion Picture Waste of Money and Celluloid “He’s Just Not That Into You.” (Which is true only wherein “he” is actually “me” and “you” is actually “the movie.”  And for the record, I chose to go only to a free screening, for the purpose of better knowing thine enemy.)

“But,” my friends continue, their voices undulating with caring trepidation.  “I do think it is true that if a guy really wants to be with you, he’ll make sure that you know it; he’ll find a way to be with you; he’ll pursue you until he’s with you…”

For every girlfriend that has quoted me this admittedly well-intentioned piece of advice (the count is now nearing 5), that sentence trails off with slight variations.  No matter how you slice it, though, what they’re telling me is clear: Why bother fretting about if he’ll call, when he’ll call, when we might see each other next, what will happen when we do – when the fact that these questions exist in the first place indicate that he {gasp!} may… just …not… be… in …to …me.

First of all, I think that’s all bullshit.  But that’s another rant for another blog.

Second of all, I do happen to agree that if a guy has fallen head-over-heels for a gal, of course he’s going to go out of his way to make sure she is keenly aware of that; in that case, there will be no second guessing on what the next move may be.

But I pose that that makes the issue awfully black-and-white: either he loves you or he couldn’t care less about you.  What about the middle, all the shades of gray that exist betwixt those two?  I’m at a point in my life where I’m certainly not, in any way, opposed to the John-Cusack-In-Say-Anything type of out-and-out adoration (sing it with me: In Your Eyes…), but I’ve also found a way to be happy with relationships that (often times thankfully) fall short of that lurve.  With these less-intense relation-flings, I don’t expect a guy to shower me with the fairy tale, or go to any great lengths to secure my attention and affection.  With some of the men I’ve seen lately, there is absolutely no expectation to fall in love.  And that is fine by me.

I am a Libra, and a middle-child to boot.  I see both extremes at all times, and I can embrace them if I so choose.  But I tend to exist most often in the rather hazy and tormented middle ground, straddling the two sides of every issue.  If I’m having fun with someone, and we care enough to see each other again but are cautious about where any more-involved future may lie, then why can’t the relationship remain in the ill-defined gray area?  If whatever we’re engaging in is more than random but less than serious, isn’t all that matters whether or not we’re enjoying ourselves (and, of course, the consensus that we both agree on that)?

Naturally, this then opens the door – or leaves it open – for the above line of ineffective interrogation (although less frantically than the lame-ass characters in the Load-of-Crap  aforementioned movie): When will he call?  When will I see him again?  Why haven’t I heard from him?

It’s a process and a half, and I curse it more often than I accept it, but I am trying to teach myself to enjoy the ride without forcing questions that have no answer.  Would it be nice if someone took the guesswork out of it for me?  Of course.  Do I sometimes impatiently wait for the day when the man that I wan to be knocking down my door is actually knocking down my door?  You betcha.  Will all those nagging questions ever truly disappear?  Without a doubt, no.  Am I willing to give up on all the fun I’m having bouncing around the wide spectrum of ambiguous grays, from the darkest charcoal to the faintest silver?  Not a chance.

It sounds dramatic, I know.  Bear with me.

Most of the time, life follows the following equation:

ATTEMPT + NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES = DON’T TRY AGAIN.

You only need to stick your hand into a fire once to realize that you shouldn’t really do that anymore.  Lessons that I have taken to heart via this “learning the hard way” method include:

  • Don’t forget your wallet when you are driving to your very first job interview ever and have to pay a toll, and your parents haven’t gotten EZPass yet.  You will not be able to pay the toll, and you will sit on the side of the road crying, and then you will find out that they just give you  form to fill out so you can mail in the $2.85, and apparently, it’s not the hugest deal.  I’ve never again forgotten my wallet en route to a job interview.
  • Don’t forget your wallet when you are traveling to Paris for the weekend.  Especially if you’re with a few friends that you haven’t known for more than a month.  Take a good look around your flat in London – including underneath your bag – before you pick it up and walk out of the room without a second glance.  I’ve never again forgotten my wallet before an international trip.
  • Don’t ask someone out if you’re so nervous that your hand shakes as you try to write down their phone number, then try to pass off the shaking as the side effect of a new medication you’re taking.  Bad news all around.
  • Don’t get drunk and tell the guy that you’ve been hooking up with that, while you were on vacation, you let another dude kiss you, and it was awful, and then demonstrate to this guy just how bad a kisser the other dude was.  Whatever you do, do not let it slip that Bad Kisser Boy tried to kiss your ear and it almost made you vomit.

Seriously, it only takes one godforsaken slip to learn to never do that – any of that – again.

How is all of this relevant?  I believe that I have discovered perhaps the only instance where intelligent and socially adept women (I’m putting myself this category now, even if the previous examples should exempt me from it) continually try try try without learning learning learning.  It is the Trifecta of Seduction… and it will be attempted, and it will fail, every time.

1)  Shaving Your Legs (and Everything Else) In Anticipation of Someone Being Close Enough To Appreciate It

Perhaps the most common insurer of Failure of Seduction for any woman who is not a compulsive, daily, full-leg-and-then-some shaver.  I swear, that teensy bit of stubble behind your knee is the easiest way to tip the scales in favor of getting your pants off.  And most guys that I know, glad to be getting the pants off in the first place, are wise enough to not give a shit – or at least not mention it – in the event that they even notice.  And let’s call a spade a spade, it’s not like he waxed his backhair for you.

2)  Cleaning Your Place In Anticipation Of Someone Being Over (and Sober Enough To Appreciate It)

With every stitch of clothing put away, with every desktop paper tidied, you are taking that guy you want one step further away from ever seeing those clothes or that desktop paper.  I’m not encouraging living in a pig-pen here, and I think its always wise to at least make sure that dirty socks and underwear go in the hamper faster than other dirty laundry.  Even for those perpetually-neat people (who probably shave their legs-and-then-some every day), hiding that picture of your ex-boyfriend will probably keep the newer one further at bay.  Whereas, say, that book you have called “How to Have Spectacular Sex” being left on the floor after some solo bedtime reading the night before will almost ensure that someone ends up there to help test it out.

3)  Wearing Sexy/Cute/Your Favorite/No Underwear In Anticipation Of Someone Seeing Them (or Decidedly Not Seeing Them)

Do you see where this is going yet?  I hearken back to “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” and the rather clever (if only slightly exaggerated) bit about the granny-panties being discovered in the most awkward of ways.  But for all the awkwardness, we cannot forget that, indeed, the granny-panties were discovered.  Which meant dear old Bridget got luckier than the rest of the chicas out there who oh-so-carefully selected the lacy thongy thing so she could look sex-x-xy for the 3.2 seconds in between layer-removal where they might be seen at all.  Another reason to keep this lesson in mind is that, if you are wearing your favorite undies, or ones that are impossibly sexy, and you still wind up getting some, and your beau fails to notice just how amazing they are, you may be inclined to point them out to him.  And nothing, no, nothing is worse than saying “No, wait!  Look!  They glow-in-the-dark!”  You will get laughed at.  Really, the transition of pants, on → pants, off, should be a fairly seamless and relatively silent one.  And if you’ve chosen to do away with the panties all together, you’re likely just going to enjoy the nice breeze on your solitary walk home.  Nothing makes the universe laugh more than being a little presumptuous, honey.

Ladies, take note: if you have chosen to defy the Laws of the Universe that I have just laid out, and you have schemed and shaved and straightened and seduced, and he is touching the smooth legs, seeing the neat apartment, noticing the fancy undies (as they get tossed to the floor), bear this in mind:

There’s a good chance you’ll realize in the morning that you didn’t want him there in the first place.  Plus, he’s probably married.

Disclaimer: These rules, of course, do not apply to those of you in happy relationships or contented, regular hook-ups, or even those able to boast the certainty of a real date.  But they are indeed for those of us existing somewhere in that relationship-nether-region of “What exactly is going on here? When will I see you again?,” those of us who don’t have the balls to  just say “I like you!”, those of us who instead just continue to haunt the places that we know/hope/feel/think we may see the man who we’d like to appreciate the legs/apartment/undies, prepared for any eventuality – except for the one in which we go home alone.  We’ve all been there at least once.  And if you haven’t , you probably won’t be too enthralled by the rest of this blog.

Visual tools are necessary for learning:

Trifecta of Seduction

Trifecta of Seduction


Define “Have-Not”

6 March, 2009

This morning, I was the lucky “+1” of a dear friend who had a VIP invitation to the viewing of a private collection of artwork in a stately townhouse in the residential no-mans-land between Gramercy and Murray Hill.  The artwork overwhelmed the walls; no surface was left unadorned.  The house felt like a miniature MOMA.  I envisioned the couple who owned the collection musing over their afternoon cappuccino: “Darling, do you want to go that new modern-artist’s name here exhibit at the Whitney/MOMA/fancy gallery?”  “No, I am le tired.  Let’s  go upstairs and have a look at the modern-artist’s name here we just had hung in the cats’ room.”

My friend and I oohed and ahhed at the massive collection of “Works on Paper,” tried to sound knowledgeable and artsy when other people were near by (although we mostly just nodded and agreed with their banal comments to the room: “I’m so used to seeing his work in color,” “The composition is so powerful, yet humble,”) and giggled at the exaggerated genitalia prominently displayed in a handful of pieces.

We took in four levels of artwork, including the 4th floor  conservatory, where a friendly German? Dutch? Danish? woman told us about the procedure for conserving paper artwork.  She seemed so humble, so down-to-earth, so kindly troll-like: I presumed she must be locked up in that old 4th-floor attic space, alone with her erasers and paintbrushes and magnifying goggles, a grandmotherly Rapunzel, who upon donning a conservative bob, resigned herself to never being rescued.

Completing the exhaustive tour, we retrieved our coats and munched on some mini-muffins homemade by the cook who was creepily reminiscent of Hattie McDaniel’s Mammy.  The blueberry-walnut treat stuck in my throat as I thought about the fact that the price of one measly piece of artwork in this house was probably the equivalent of 6 to 12 months worth of my rent.  I was hard pressed to  imagine the way a family like this could affected by the recession.  I considered asking them to sponsor me the way they might a child in Africa.

Just when I was starting to get down about the extreme wealth that I willingly allowed to be shoved in my face, I realized something that made me pity the  couple who lived in such opulence on East 30th Street:

They had probably never been to IKEA.

Weålth, schmeålth. The pøør saps.