Holy Wednesday!

The days that I have Spanish class are spent with tiny tips of Spanish words on the end of my tongue. Often they come out when I'm frustrated or irritated- and specifically, in the Spanish equivalent of the French word for merde. The Spanish word for shit is something like "mierd," but I never actually know the ending and I always end up thinking of the word miercoles (see: Wednesday) instead.

I almost drop a whiteboard marker down my beige skirt. Miercoles. I realize my homemade delicious wrap was made with spoiled lunch meat. Miercoles. I forget to drop a prescription off at Duane Reade yet again. Miercolesssssss.

Tonight I walked past the little park near my house and saw that they were filming again, this time a night scene. Some crew has been filming a movie off and on for the past few months, something with a lot of funeral scenes in the rain. For three mornings I walked through the park and passed through a large group of people dressed in black and holding black umbrellas under a non-rainy sky. I started to wonder if some kind of tragic Greek chorus was following me, but the presence of video cameras convinced me that I was not the only one seeing them.

This evening they were at it again and (cuidado: vanity alert!) I daydreamed a bit as I walked by about being chosen off the street to star in the movie. "What a perfect haircut!" someone would say, "she has the perfect look!" and then I would be swept away into a life of red carpets and premieres, having been discovered in Polish Brooklyn. Sadly it seems they have already cast all the parts, as my $11 haircut failed to drag anyone away from their important task of manipulating gigantic lights. "I suppose fame and fortune will come another day," I thought and hit up Met Food instead to buy cat food and milk. Miercoles!

I've made a big enough deal of this haircut now that people are inevitably asking for pictures and I will admit that posing for a self-portrait of my new haircut alone in my apartment and posting it on my blog tops the list of things that make me feel like a first-class idiot. Nevertheless, I've decided to be a good sport about it. Here is a very ridiculous photo, in which I am basically standing in my coat closet, mostly because I wanted to bounce the pic off a mirror. Behold what $11 gets you in Bmore!

P.S. Oscar just barfed up a hairball! Miercoles!


Simultaneously feeling 13 and 30 with the new 'do.

I seem to have gotten lucky with my cab drivers today (read: SARCASM). The woman who drove me from Kate's place in Baltimore to the train station went on a 20-minute rant about the foreigners stealing American jobs in this country. Then the guy who brought me home to Greenpoint launched into the politics behind Bloomberg and his bus lanes. Can't a girl enjoy the scenery?

Perhaps I seem more approachable (read: GULLIBLE?) with my new haircut. This morning I went to a little salon around the corner from Kate's apartment and chopped my hair off. Not all of it, but enough to make it feel like a significant change. The charge for said change was $11, a fact that convinced me to designate Baltimore my new go-to location for all hair-related activities.

More to say about Baltimore, falling down 7 steps into a bar on a Saturday night, and the wonder that is Amtrak later. For now there is Oscar and Spanish homework and endless new hairstyles to consider.


To my President

We are all so hopeful, but we are also so ready to be helpful.

Lead us. We're behind you.

xo J


Radio head.

Tonight I had some work to do for this blog (currently at the beginning stages of a total overhaul, including new design, new content manager, considering advertising, etc.) and I didn't want the noise of the TV in the background. This is mostly because I will either end up irritated (some babysitting Vin Diesel movie is on every channel of my cable-less television) or absorbed in my new 30Rock DVDs and work will not get done.

"If only there was a way to have something that wasn't iTunes and wasn't a TV on in the background," I thought to myself. And then out of the depths of technological history, The Radio smacked me across the face.

I don't actually own a radio, but I really, really want to get a funky one this year. I have visions of one of those huge awesome radios that FDR used for his fireside chats (and imagine the romantic possibilities of snuggling up to listen to President Obama lull me into the future), but I'll probably settle for something a bit more... portable. And cost-efficient. Does anyone have recommendations?

A few minutes ago I went in search of some good online radio possibilities and stumbled across this Indie Rock Mix station, which is MAKING MY NIGHT. Would love to hear what you guys listen to a la radio when you're craving live streaming goodness.


Brooklyn Newsletter: Month Thirteen

Dear Brooklyn,

I had a massage on Sunday in honor of the old birthday. Diligent readers will remember the first time I wandered into the hands of Ana the masseuse; this time I requested her again. Everything went fine and I was feeling decently Zen-ed out and moisturized by the end, but the next day I realized that my forearm and back were slightly bruised. I showed Matt at work (who, among hundreds of other jobs, was once a masseuse) and he said "Jen, it's supposed to hurt a little. Not WOUND you!"

This is perhaps the balance I've been most working towards over the past month.

How much struggle is good for you and when does struggle slip into the territory of bruising? This notion of thresholds is particularly interesting when you start to think about who's defining them. How much is too much to spend on an education? How much of your heart can you safely let go of before it falls? Is it ever too much to share the truth of a situation with people who might not be ready to hear it?

I don't know what you're all thinking about as you walk to work, but this is the shit that's on my mind.

I saw more of my family in the past month than I had all year. This fact is both wonderful and stressful; never are there more comparisons drawn in my head than between my siblings and myself. When the three of us are together, it's impossible to avoid the conversations that can both illuminate and cut. Deeply. We stopped to get ice cream one evening after a gluttonous birthday dinner for my Dad with his family and conversation rolled around to defining the types of parents we'll be one day. I was immediately pegged the controller, Katie was the pushover, and Steve fell somewhere in-between.

Cue all types of social and philosophical angst for all parties.

Yesterday was my birthday and a ton of love came pouring in via Facebook messages and blog messages and emails and pastries left secretly on my desk from co-workers. It made me remember something I'd written to my friend Moriah back at Muhlenberg when she was having a particularly down moment and wanted only for the semester to be over. Don't worry! I typed to her via IM. Soon, this will be you:

love you love

That's how I felt yesterday. And I know that this blog has gotten rather soppy and sappy lately about how great things are going for me in Brooklyn and how great my job is and how great my friends are. If I were reading this blog, maybe I'd get a little tired of hearing about the millions of ways life is striking the right chords with the writer right now too.

Rest assured that I absolutely have my moments of self-doubt, of self-deprecation, of self-consciousness. But I think there's value in seeing the pain as a massage, in viewing the echoes of hurt as an exorcism of stress. At least that's what I'm telling myself for now.

xo Jen



A fine tradition started here and here.


The Eve

On the eve of her 28th birthday, she spoke Spanish with some sandwich makers near the subway stop. She had two glasses of Chardonnay with a friend on Bleeker Street. Her cat, glad to see her, lay next to her on the couch and farted in his sleep.

It was all comfortable and yet new, as if 27 had culminated in a season finale to which only she was privy.

"Next year will be even better," she thought to herself, although she couldn't yet quite imagine how.

Things were certainly looking up.


Alright, I did get to the laundry.

It passes in a snap. The whole Saturday that promised to be the deep breath of time to pay bills and wash clothes and bring the recycling down one measly flight of stairs. It's over. Already.

In some ways, this is a victory. Spending the day napping and watching DVD after DVD of Seinfeld, vaguely hungover from a week of concerts and birthday happy hours and surprise parties. I never used to be able to do that. The German Upbringing (however far back one must reach to find it) used to block the afternoon-still-in-pajamas possibility. Today I didn't make it to the shower until well after dinner and even then it was a bath. Pruney fingers and singing along to Ingrid Michaelson from the Macbook on the kitchen counter, Oscar snuggled into the bathroom sink observing, puzzled about why his owner was submerged in bubbles down below.

It feels so good to rest.

Even though it means that the empty cat food cans are piling up and the skirts still need to be hung and the bitter end of the Christmas cards remain unwritten. Mostly I just want to write:

Dear adored friend,

I clearly miss you. My life is so good. Please see The Blog for further details.

Happy '09,

And now, with no anxiety about it whatsoever, clean and warm and tired: to bed with a book at 10:30 pm.


Posts about dreams are always more interesting to you than to others.

I had another dream about leaving someone at the alter last night. Have I ever mentioned this? It happens every so often and it's always completely tangled up with emotionally hurting people and disappointing my parents. Although I must say that it was my parents were the ones who got me out of last night's wedding nightmare.

I arrived late to the wedding because I missed the train. I missed the train because I was counting out exact train fare ($1.59- clearly there is some major economic deflation happening in my dreamland). This detail is hilarious to me because it's totally something I would do; I have a secret obsession with giving exact change when I can.

When I got to the wedding I checked out the dress. It was knee-length, really pretty neckline, and there were images of monkey faces all over it. I didn't think that was odd in the dream. Now, however... reconsidering.

Details about the man I was supposed to marry were sketchy. I knew it was a cousin of a girl I'd gone to elementary school with. Turns out I went to school with him too. In the dream we'd seen each other once since high school, at a train station a year before the wedding. I must really make a good impression.

My parents realized that it was insane to marry someone you'd last seen a year ago. They decided, along with his parents, that the wedding was off. By the time I got to the edge of the aisle to walk down it in my monkey-laden dress, people were starting to get up and leave. I still felt incredibly guilty. (Truth: as I was typing this, this Postal Service song came on my iTunes shuffle. Oh Mac universe, you and your ironic sense of humor!)

The second half of the night was spent dreaming in French. I was in Clermont visiting old students that I used to teach at the local middle school. They were thrilled to see me and they spent a long time telling stories about their adventures since the 7th grade. Oddly, all the girls had nose rings. The boys had tattoos. Hilarious that my brain translates French adolescence as acquiring piercings and body art.

In reality, I've lost touch with all of them (they were only about 14 when I taught them and being young and living in rural France in '04, none of them had emails yet). The strangest thing happened when I woke up: the dream made me remember this insanely cool drawing that one of the kids had done for me. A skater boy, Basil, used to goof off with his buddies in my class; then on the last day, he shyly handed me a drawing and left the class. I must have that drawing somewhere in my parents' house. I can't remember the details, but I do remember being incredibly touched by the fact that I'd clearly meant something to him, even though he never showed it in class.

Now I'm all nostalgic about teaching and missing being around adolescent kids. There's a sentence you don't type everyday. Plus, I'm pretty convinced that, when the time comes, elopement is for me. (Incidentally, why isn't "eloption" a word? Elopement sounds awful. Come on, English- you're better than that!)


The Green Notebook, 2008.

I keep a tiny green notebook in my bag to write things down. Sometimes I note sentences I overhear, sometimes it's thoughts, sometimes it's shopping lists. I used to commute by train to work and often I would transcribe the lyrics to a song as I listened to it on my iPod. It's getting pretty full after two years; there are notes in French, phone numbers and emails of people I met in trains and on planes and in parks, short poems that I copied from park benches in Paris. There's a list of the top 97 qualities I'd want in a mate (holy embarrassing!), ideas for books, and diagrams attempting to depict what happens when you fall in love. (Actually, this whole list is getting more embarrassing as I type...)

Last week I thought I'd lost the notebook, but turns out I'd only left it on my parents' dining room table while I was home for Christmas. The thought of losing it kind of freaked me out because it's such an interesting record of random sources of inspiration over the past two years.

Steve returned it to me yesterday. "Hey, Harriet-the-Spy, here's your notebook," he said. Today I flipped through it and thought some of you might appreciate some random thoughts, etc. that were recorded in the little green notebook in 2008. Plus, it comforts me a little that there will be (even partial) electronic records of my notes from last year.

12/31/07 (train to Newton-Abbot from Paddington Station)
"Most things aren't as difficult as people make them out to be."
-said by a British guy to random British girl sitting next to him in the train. He was talking about learning Russian.

1/25/08 The List
(*Note: I'm only including excerpts that are particularly ridiculous. Things like "kind" and "smart" and "witty" are too obvious to even mention.)
#22. Likes to go to dinner parties.
#27. Believes things can get better.
#43. Knows how to fix a car, toilet.
#53. Wears a tie, sometimes.
#54. Likes thai food.
#55. Chills me out.
#60. Likes brunch.
#74. My best friend.
#79. Wasn't too popular in high school.
#80. Recycles.
#87. Likes Shakespeare.
#88. Likes baseball.
#93. Has a dog.

4/10/08 On the F-train
There's a guy reading a book about programming quietly into his girlfriend's ear. Isn't it amazing that, after everything, people still fall in love every day?

A man next to me on the subway read the obituaries all the way to Brooklyn.

A Paris, tout est a l'instant, tout est dans le moment... Comment faire pour soulager un coeur brise? Comment oublier cette ville? Serait-il jamais possible de ne pas se croire dechire en deux?

7/4/08 Thoughts from Frankfurt/German expressions that came to me during my layover
Bier trinken!
Keine probleme!

7/6/08 Impressions of Hungary
I realize that I really want to live in a city that's walkable- small enough to walk around and avoid cars and the metro if you want to.

7/6/08 Rome Airport, 4:20 p.m.
Even the airport pizza blows NY pizza out of the water.

7/11/08 Paris
The most vital thing about surviving endings is that you feel the potential for foreseeable beginnings.

10/3/08-10/4/08 The New Yorker Festival
Jeffrey Eugenides says:
"In America, you don't have to start where you began. The American Dream means that you can change your life. Europe is living in houses built for other people."

"Themes take care of themselves. Focus on characters and place."

Jhumpa Lahiri says:
"An immigrant wants to be legitimate and respected."

"I decided to face another foreign land- art."

"A novel is written in pieces; you're always in one piece. Ultimately, you gather them together and shake them up."

Junot Diaz says:
"Immigration is like time travel."

"I really love to fuckin' read."

"As a writer, you're always looking for the large silence. That's where you want to be. There was a story that we were afraid to tell about ourselves [Dominican men]. Oscar comes from all these silences."

"I wrote it because no one else was."

Sherman Alexie says:
"Indian health care is really basic. I mean, all they give you is dental floss and condoms."

Shalom Auslander says:
"I didn't want to be where I was, but where we were going wasn't so great either."

Seamus Heaney says:
"Ireland is a saucer- there are mountains around the edges and the center is wet bogland."

"Hope means that you believe something is worth working for."

"If a poem comes quickly, you feel that you have what poetry has always meant."

Liev Schreiber says:
"The reality is that the literacy level in England is higher. And as those standards decrease in this country, we'll do less and less Shakespeare."

10/4/08 The Secret to life?
1. Getting started.
2. Keeping at it.
3. Getting started again.

I'm unable to let go of small objects like She-Ra combs and Six-flags keychains for years and years until one day, all of a sudden, I can. Like past lovers. Holding on until you don't need to anymore seems to be the most human act there is.

11/16/08 Train in Morocco
We're all trying to negate preconceived reputations.

11/23/08 Madrid Airport
We're reaping the benefits of the fact that our ancestors somewhat had their shit together.