OK I’m having trouble figuring out how to structure this post but I did a lot of thinking today and decided to get back in the Tumblr game. Not thinking as in prevaricating about whether or not to start up the Tumblr but thinking as in stuff to put on the Tumblr (and then thinking about that decision).
It’s been two years since Alex B@lk nearly scared me off Tumblr, and though I still check in occasionally, my Dashboard is always filled with incomprehensible Summer of Megadeth posts (I just clicked that link and now I don’t know whether Alan Moore is dead or alive). But I guess I was just a really early adopter, because when I hung out with them (separately) over winter break, my best friends Kenneth and Anonymous told me about their new Tumblrs and encouraged my return. Then I texted Emily and she showed me her old Tumblr.
Anonymous urged me to post about my distastes for David Foster Wallace and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which I might get around to doing this week, and complained about people who only post pictures. Then we talked about how we both applied to intern for David, and how he didn’t get back to either of us. After I showed Kenneth this post, I had to explain to him that TR was one of the first Tumblrs I followed (not to mention one of the first to follow me), thanks to Evan, and how they were also responsible for the Balk fiasco. I guess this is where I should mention that I think I saw Alex Carnevale at the Strand on the first day of winter break but I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to have to cop to Facebook-stalking him. When I logged into Tumblr to try to recommend Kenneth people to follow, he clicked on my drafts folder, where I keep a post from the end of this summer about recognizing famous bloggers at Refresh Refresh Refresh.
Kenneth also showed me Special Factoids, from the guy who brought you Headfoot and Alt85, but in a more personal vein. I’ve always wondered about keeping a journal, mostly out of fear of forgetting. I was particularly scared by an Alt85 post (I can’t find it now) with a list of every book Alex hass read since age 20 (there’s also a scary Jane Dark post I can’t find where s/he estimates the number of books he’s ever read). If you haven’t figured it out from the Balk link, I just turned 21. Yesterday was my first day back from visiting Kenneth and Anonymous in Connecticut, and I spent it with a copy of Spy: The Funny Years that I had ordered as a birthday present for myself weeks ago. Even though Kurt Andersen and Graydon Carter have their names on the cover, the body of the book is written by this dude George Kalogerakis, who cites his journals fairly frequently, and they seemed like good things to have.
And then today I was walking back from the DMV and thinking about Chinese food. I’ve lived in Chinatown my whole life (although I used to say “Lower East Side”), and there are basically four Chinese restaurants I go to:
I’ve been going to the first two with my parents forever, and I discovered the second two from the critic Calvin Trillin calls “my man Sietsema.” When Kate moved to the East Village, I sent her this link about Xi’an’s newest location (where I took Sean on the first day of winter break between going to the Strand and seeing Black Swan). Later, Kate and I went to this, where, after getting us lost on the way to Prospect Park, I participated in a performance piece by putting on a blindfold and swinging at objects hanging from a tarp. It took me quite a while to hit the requisite three objects; more than once I nearly walked out of the tarp. After Kate asked the guy whether most participants took so long, he guided me to a couple of the hanging objects and told my fortune: I was impulsive, and didn’t need blogs to tell me “the best noodle shop.” Kate and I had a good laugh. Or at least she did: I felt pretty emasculated, by my navigational incompetence as well as by my web addiction and the fact that this groovy bearded hipster artist guy got to share a laugh with her at my expense.
Later that summer, Audrey came to visit, and we spent two evenings wandering around downtown as I tried to pick a restaurant she would like. The second night we went to Vegetarian Dim Sum House, and she loved it. Later I tried to take Zach and his friend Doug there but they wanted meat so we went to Great NY Noodle Town, which I have yet to really enjoy even though Sam Sifton and David Chang like it.
I place a
certain amount lot of my self-worth in my knowledge of New York, and particularly of its restaurants, and particularly of those in Chinatown, but whenever I try to demonstrate it to out-of-towners I either fall on my face or fall back on the same couple places I found out about online. So then I was walking back from the DMV and thinking about how I was gonna go eat at Xi’an Famous Foods, but then I started thinking about how I need to try more Chinese restaurants, and how the new version of the Sifty Fifty included a place called New Chao Chow on Mott Street, and I was examining the menu of every Chinese restaurant with an endorsement from Zagat or Michelin, and then I started thinking, as I often do, about my own tentativeness and indecisiveness and need for people I respect to endorse decisions/tastes before I make/adopt them.
Like before I made it to Chinatown I had stopped in at J&R Music World where some CDs were two-for-$10 and had picked out a bunch of CDs and wanted to look at allmusic on my iPhone to see if they were worth getting but I couldn’t get on 3G in the store so I chose
- Nilsson Schmilsson by Harry Nilsson
- E.V.O.L. by Sonic Youth
- Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space by Spiritualized
- Live from Deep in the Heart of Texas by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
and I was already thinking about my confusion with music formats, like how I’m still not really comfortable pirating all my music both because I feel guilty (my parents have a friend in the music business who claims to be making half as much as he did fifteen years ago) and also because I’m nervous about getting low quality stuff, either with typos in the track names or with low bit rates, even though I really can’t hear any difference or discriminate among levels of sound quality.
Like I spent two days last week trying to figure out how to download Prince bootlegs from ?uestlove’s list and then one of them was in FLAC which seemed like higher quality than I would want and the other was in 128 kbps which seemed like lower quality than I would want. And I bought Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space even though I had already pirated it, but didn’t buy Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane because I had already pirated it, and I didn’t buy any of the Prince CDs because I had ordered from eBay most of the Prince LPs my dad didn’t already have, but I had bought Marquee Moon by Television on CD even though my dad already had it on vinyl. Yesterday I thought I’d try to torrent a bunch of music before I got back to school (so I wouldn’t get caught torrenting there again) so I downloaded a client and a bunch of torrents (including the Nilsson one) but they’re all taking forever.
After J&R I walked through Chinatown but none of the restaurants looked appealing, like they were all sit-down and didn’t have lots of vegetarian options. The problem with most of these Chinese restaurants is that they have huge menus but you know only certain things are gonna be good and they tend not to be the vegetarian things. Like most people are into the ginger-scallion noodles at Great NY Noodle Town but they’re kind of boring to me, and like Kenneth and I went to Grand Sichuan a few weeks ago before going to Film Forum and ordered vegetable mei fun and vegetable chow fun (respectively) and they weren’t that great either. And so I realized that my favorite restaurants are cheap (like under $7) take-out places with solid vegetarian options. In addition to Xi’an Famous Foods (where I usually get the stir-fried liang pi), Sheng Wang (where I always get the fried peel noodle), and Vanessa’s (where I usually get the vegetable dumplings and the sesame pancake with tuna fish), which are all in my neighborhood, there are two places I like in midtown by where I “worked” (for free) the last two summers:
- Woo Ri Jip: Most things here are under $5, but I usually end up spending a little more than that at the salad bar, where I like to get zucchini pancakes, inari sushi, mackerel, and chinese broccoli.
- No. 7 Sub: Every sub is $9, and they charge tax, so it ends up more like $9.79 if you don’t order a drink, which I suggest you don’t because they put too much ice in them.
I also like Mahmoun’s on St. Mark’s and Saltie in Williamsburg (even though I’ve only been there once, it was that good) and the bagel with lox at Zabar’s (even better with fresh-squeezed o.j.). A couple weeks ago I would’ve recommended Artichoke, but I got really sick to my stomach after eating there last week and I’m pretty sure it has something to do with the facts that a) they got a “B” in their health inspection and b) they’ve started serving re-heated slices, something they used to never do.
So anyway I gave up on trying a new Chinese place and went to Sheng Wang and ordered the fried peel noodle, only when the woman brought it out it was covered with beef! And she saw that I was dismayed but I nodded because I was pretty sure she didn’t speak English and I didn’t know how to explain that I didn’t want beef in my noodles. Also I had been thinking about how my dietary restrictions were interfering with my love/knowledge of food, Chinese and other.
Basically I keep some form of “kosher” but I do it more out of habit than ideology. I wrote a paper about it freshman year that I’ll try to summarize right now. I don’t eat pork, shellfish, or meat that hasn’t been certified kosher, but I do eat milk, eggs, and fish, often prepared in kitchens that also prepare the things I don’t eat. And though I identify as Jewish and even “religious”, I still think keeping kosher isn’t really consistent with my identity. Like I have plenty of friends from more “religious” backgrounds who eat at McDonald’s, and there are plenty of Jewish laws I either don’t observe or don’t agree with (e.g., not using computers on the Sabbath, not letting people be gay with each other). I often think about going vegan or omnivore, but it never works out.
Like last night another family invited my family over to dinner, and my dad explained to them our eating habits, and instead of preparing something vegetarian they wrote back saying that they were preparing branzino fish and kosher chicken. And so I ate them both even though I think you’re not supposed to eat fish and meat together (this also happened on Thanksgiving when I put fish sauce vinaigrette on my brussel sprouts and told my mom that it didn’t have fish in it) and then my mom asked them how they did the chicken and the husband said “onion and rosemary” and the wife said, “Ooh and lots of butter!” and we all looked at our laps because you also can’t mix meat and dairy. But it was cool that I knew I had broken the rules because then I could have brownies (I’d already eaten dairy!) and pumpkin bread with cream cheese except my dad stopped me from eating the cream cheese because I guess he hadn’t heard about the butter. It’s funny too because he used to complain about how my (long-gone) refusal to eat cheese interfered with my gustatory pleasure, but so does his kashrut! (Actually the chicken last night was much worse than the kosher fowl cooked by my mom or the folks at Hillel.) Anyway that’s about as transgressive as I get.
So though I felt emboldened about getting noodles with (non-kosher) beef in them, I ended up just eating around the beef (which a lot of kosher people wouldn’t do) and got kind of pissed off that Sheng Wang had added meat to the one vegetarian item on the menu. And then I went to pay and the guy charged me $6 instead of $4, which I though was weird, and then I looked at the menu again and under “Fried Peel Noodle…$4” was “Beef Fried Peel Noodle…$6.” (I just noticed that Sifton, who has mocked pescetarians in the past, is pretty sympathetic to kosher diners in his latest column.)
So basically that’s the type of stupid, mundane, awkward stuff I’m gonna try post on this Tumblr from now on, only less tedious, because the stuff in this post has been building up for a while. I figure if I blog about my awkward, tentative, indecisive life, maybe I’ll be able to improve it, or cope with it, or at least entertain you with it.
Like I had gone to the DMV because I wanted a government ID to go to bars now that I’m 21. My folks don’t have a car and I was too lazy to sign up for Driver’s Ed so I never got a driver’s license and my college ID doesn’t have my D.O.B. so I got used to carrying my high school ID, even though it couldn’t get me into an 18+ show at Webster Hall and Anonymous told me it was illegal to not have government ID on you at all times. And then I got a fake ID and it only got rejected three or four times but I still get nervous whenever I use it. And now I can use my passport but I feel dumb bringing it to bars. And then a couple weeks ago someone told me I could get a state ID that wasn’t a driver’s license and I googled it and lo and behold and yada yada yada.
I put off going because the DMV’s hours are 8:30-4 and I usually sleep til noon and I’d heard clichés about it taking forever so I figured I wouldn’t get there in time but yesterday I told my parents I’d go today even though a few days ago I’d told my mom I’d go out to lunch with her today. So she woke me up this morning and told me we could go to lunch after I went to the DMV, and I told her to let me sleep for ten more minutes, but then I checked my iPhone and I had two e-mails, including the Indy masthead for next semester, which I was excited about, so I stayed awake.
I got a little nervous because the masthead was like almost all sophomore girls, but I’m excited because I’m doing the Metro section with Malcolm and Alice, and so I can try to apply some of the stuff I’m picking up from Spy: The Funny Years about making a magazine city-specific. (I’m thinking lots of maps, and maybe a gossip column.)
And then I got everything together for the DMV and changed out of my Brown t-shirt because I didn’t want to have a Brown t-shirt in my ID photo for 8-9 years, and then I realized I also didn’t want to have a jewfro in my ID photo for 8-9 years, so I called up Frank’s Chop Shop but no one was there (this was 12:01 and their website says they open at noon). So then I listened to this record and called again and they had an opening at 1:00 so I made a quesadilla and got dressed and went.
It’s always strange when I go to the Chop Shop because Mr. B is usually having a really cool conversation with whoever’s hair he’s cutting and I feel obligated to have a similar conversation with my own barber but end up just eavesdropping instead. So today he was cutting a British dude’s hair and asking dumb questions about England, like “What exactly is a Cockney?” because he was in the middle of Life and even though he didn’t like the Stones that much he respected them for being kinda punk and authentic and listening to the blues and not dressing like the Beatles, and then they both agreed that the Stones were better than the Beatles because they were immersed in the blues and I wanted to object that the Stones all came from middle-class backgrounds while the Beatles were all dirt-poor and that the Beatles immersed themselves not only in the blues but in rockabilly and Brill Building and swamp pop but I was too shy. Then the British guy said that a friend of his used to strip out by LAX and had once gone home with Mick Jagger, who only wanted to urinate on her. “He must get so much ass, you know,” said Mr. B. It made me think of the post where David goes to the strip club.
So then I went to the DMV and waited on line for my picture. Even though I had gotten dressed for the picture in my blue Uniqlo cardigan and my dad’s white v-neck, I noticed that no one else was taking off their coats for their picture, so I kept my huge parka on. I signed a form and Ms. Hernandez gave me a slip of paper with the code “B339” and told me to wait for it. There were several boards, each of which had one column listing similar codes and one column listing numbers. I thought that the numbers indicated your spot on line, so that when “B339” showed up next to “11” I figured I had to wait for ten more people.
I was happy to wait because I was engrossed in the last chapter of The Possessed, another birthday gift from myself. People know that The Possessed is about grad school, but I don’t think anyone has noted how ripe it is for literary study. Throughout the book Batuman mentions her failed novel, setting up The Possessed as a sort of consolation prize. In fact, the book marries my favorite literary forms: the essay collection and the meta-textual novel. Not just a simple travelogue, The Possessed explores the relationship between real life and literature, developing its own literary theory. My favorite Spy magazine article so far (and less dated than most) is Bruce Handy’s deconstruction (j/k) of the term “postmodern.” Despite this, I find The Possessed postmodern in the best way.
Then I realized that the numbers next to the coes indicated the counter you were supposed to go to, but by that time they had gone on to “B341.” I went to the information desk and they gave me another slip with the code “B346.” When this was called I brought my forms up to a middle-aged Chinese guy who, after spending five minutes typing with one finger, asked me for $10 and gave me a temporary ID without my picture on it, useless for getting into bars. He told me my ID would come in 20 days. My parents will have to mail it to me. I’ll see how I look in my parka.
After Sheng Wang, I came home and wrote this post for four hours. Then I went to see my friends play music. When I showed the bouncer my passport, he skeptically asked me my birthday. Later he nearly beat up a kid for dancing.