Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Federal Offense

One of the letters I pulled out of my mailbox yesterday had already been opened. It’s possible that it was a cheap envelope with weak glue. It’s also possible that the envelope and its contents had been tampered with by a prying, preying postal worker.

At least I was allowed to see this letter. The USPS selectively delivers my mail. I get the bills, greeting cards, wedding invitations, and junk. But forget about any reliable receipt of even slightly oversized regular-mail packages. And, more than once, I’ve gone for weeks without getting my Newsweek magazines. My senders, the Newsweek subscription office, and I blame the federal postal system. The federal postal system blames my neighbors. “Maybe someone in your building took them,” a postal employee proposed over the phone. I know the people in my building and none of them are the stealing kind. Nor can I envision any of them reading Newsweek.

When I first realized I wasn’t always getting all my mail, I launched a two-week, one-woman investigation. Most of those two weeks were spent trying to get a relevant person on the phone. When I finally got ahold of someone at my local station office, after getting hung up on a few times, there was a series of heated, early-morning phone conversations with multiple mail carriers, who all turned things around and accused me of improperly accusing them of mail theft (I never accused, I implied). They mocked me - I heard them in the background. And I still never got those packages.

The USPS is an above-ground, federally-mollycoddled, less charismatic version of the underworld. The Gambinos without the guns and gusto.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Blitz and Glitz

On the way into a reception at an art gallery a few nights ago, I tripped up the stairs. As I grabbed onto a railing to keep from falling down, something about the railing, this set of stairs, and the front lobby area felt familiar. It quickly all came back to me - I’ve probably hit this place up before.

When we were younger and didn’t have much disposable income, an ally and I occasionally went on art-gallery-opening crawls in Chelsea. After (easily) tracking down the locations of that week’s opening-exhibit receptions, we would appear at one gallery on a Friday night and have a few plastic cups of wine while taking in some art for about 10 minutes. Then it would be off to the next opening in the neighborhood to run the same game.

Almost everyone at the other night’s quasi-gala was around the same age I had been during those heady high-culture hustling nights. But they’re having markedly different twentysomething experiences. When I was in my early to mid twenties, I didn’t theatrically click-clack into informal after-work cocktail parties in Christian Louboutin heels looking as if I were about to present the “Best Original Song in a Motion Picture” award at the Golden Globes. If you’re an entry-level-job-holding 24-year-old who lives alone in the West Village and/or talks about going on a weeklong “theater blitz” before leaving for a 2-month trip abroad, I’m onto you. Stop calling that Soho loft yours when it really belongs to your parents or whoever else is funding your blitzing.

This might have been my first Chelsea gallery reception where the wine was served in glass instead of plastic. It didn’t taste any better.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Archives

This week’s down time has been spent going through and pulling tidbits out of the very personal and detailed journal I’ve kept since 2001/2002. So far, the entries from 2006 and 2007 have become my little darlings. Below, I’m pasting the most recent one I’ve read, only slightly edited for length, clarity, and particularly inappropriate language/tangents.

March 5, 2007
This morning, I walked to the Chinese consulate to pick up a document before work. As I walked past Fairway, a gust of wind blew a mass of plastic sheeting straight into my head at dozens of miles/hour, nearly knocking me over. The left side of my face was a little sore, but I wasn’t incapacitated so I kept going (and came within centimeters of getting hit by a sedan that was speeding down the street I crossed in a daze).

I stood in line at the consulate office for at least 30 minutes, and then walked 12 avenues to work. As soon as I walked into the building, I ran into sexual-tension boy in the kitchen as we were getting coffee. He was at the next machine, but nobody spoke. He looked at me while I was looking away, and I looked at him while he was looking away. He might have wondered why I was wearing what amounted to a sweatshirt on a day when everyone else was bundled up in parkas and face masks. He walked off before I did, glancing at my profile before leaving. We ended up in the same elevator. Another woman was in there with us and it was she who held the closing door open for me as I ambled in. He slurped and smacked at his coffee the whole ride up. The woman and I walked out together, leaving his obnoxious ass behind.

It wasn’t until I went into the bathroom that I saw the blood. It was like Nicole Brown Simpson after an evening alone with O.J. Swelling, a black-and-blue mark, dried bloody scrapes.

Other people in the office didn’t seem to care or even really notice. Nobody’s asked about or mentioned it, and I’ve only volunteered the details to a couple of chosen ones, who all seemed more amused than anything else.

Can I sue Fairway? I love that fucking store and don’t want to be on bad terms with it. If they would just give me 3-5 complimentary quarts of vanilla yogurt, a few pounds of chocolate covered pretzels, and a variety of hearty cheeses, I’d be willing to put the past behind us.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The List That Keeps on Living

My zaniest neighbor won’t stop talking up the freebies he’s recently scored via Craigslist ads. I was the one who got to hold our building’s front door open for him one night last week, as he bounded up the stairs and into our elevator, wheeling around a huge used TV with a vivacity I don’t think I’ve ever had. When I ran into him earlier tonight, he was still chattering about the TV and encouraging me to drop by Craigslist to enhance my own life.

Craigslist was a staple of my drifting days. It’s responsible for a couple of my bizarre freelance gigs, a horrific roommate situation, and a subletter who evidently transformed one of my apartments into a den of iniquity while I was away. According to rumor, it’s also a favorite Internet breeding ground for perverts.

When I finally reached a certain income bracket, I swore the site off. But there’s a part of me that looks up to this particular neighbor and his similarly eccentric boyfriend. Any endorsement from either of them intrigues me. And I need new bookcases.

I just Craigslisted for the first time in years, very quickly forgetting about the bookcases to occupy myself with other sections of the board. It’s all so entertaining now that I don’t have to rely on it anymore. The apartment listings are still as embellished as ever. And these days there’s a “barter” option. As in: “Hi, I would like either free dirt or yard work in exchange for my hardly used electric maytag dryer.” Or “Handyman for a good massage by a sexy female.”

Stuff I found on Craigslist kept me afloat when I was sinking. It’s probably the most hassle-free way for people without much money or many connections to find housing or temp jobs or furniture or S&M partners. The most valuable thing it’s given me is material. It’s led to some unforgettable people and experiences that have become treasured aspects of my biography, and its reign is cause for applause.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Commoners Represent

I just booked some travel arrangements for another wedding – with the muted flicker of ongoing TV commentary about the other day’s royal wedding in the background. I’ve never been able to get impressed with monarchies – in early elementary school, even King Friday and Queen Sara on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood seemed nuts. Could there be a group of more pretentiously purposeless people?

The only thing I find interesting about any of this week’s festivities is the family that’s marrying into the mayhem. William’s wife and in-laws are the non-traditional types who have the potential to serve up some seriously stirring scenes – there’ll be no run-of-the-mill marital infidelities or DUIs with this middle-class consortium. Kate the Great (who refused to utter the word “obey” during her vows) has what it takes to go out and get a job during her reign, or publicly call out the queen during a state dinner after a few too many glasses of sherry. From what I’ve heard and read so far, she’s the best thing to ever happen to that heinous palace (which once canceled its “Changing of the Guard” ceremony the morning I showed up ready for it). In addition to the crazy cokehead uncle, Pippa - the provocative, party-planning younger sister - wore a white dress to a wedding that was not her own, which is something even I’ve never had the nerve to do. With so public of a move like that, she might now be responsible for single-handedly bringing down an out-of-date taboo that should never have been established.

A couple of months ago, Newsweek ran an article about young American women who have all but put their lives on hold to cross the pond and borderline stalk Prince Harry in the hopes of becoming the next princess bride. At first, I thought it was a joke (Newsweek has gone downhill recently) – but it was for real. Fascination with the ways of the leisure class - and the fantasy of breaking into it - is a timeless diversion that’s clung to like a flotation device.