Archive for the 'New York Update' Category

For all those who doubt my ability to integrate into american society

American Colleague – “Why do you have a burgundy passport?”
Me – “It’s irish, only american ones are blue”
AC – “Yeah but, why do you have it?”
Me – “….. seriously? You think I’m american?”
AC – “You like, totally found it under a chair didn’t you.”

I shit you not

The end of the world as we know it?

As everyone in the entire world is probably aware by now (and if you are not aware, then you are on the wrong side of the internet – google “unpronouncable icelandic volcano” immediately please), western europe is grounded.  Eyjafjallajokul – the smaller of two rather large volcanoes – has erupted, spewing tons of volcanic ash into the atmosphere and basically creating a massive cloud of thick volcanic ash in the air over the west of europe.

This has prompted the blanket shut down of all flights within the affected areas, basically eliminating air travel throughout Europe. Definitely a setback, definitely inconvenient for many people, what an unfortunate incident. That was my first reaction. My second reaction was slightly more paranoid, and was prompted by the realization that the damn volcano is still fucking erupting, and that no-one has any idea when it will stop. Right now everything seems to be pretty speculative, previous eruptions have lasted over a year, and weather conditions make the dust cloud unpredictable.

I cannot help but notice a tiny part of me that is squeaking “wow, thats actually a little bit fucking cool in a very medieval way, huh?” Practically I think this is a disaster, for Europe in general, for the world as a whole, and for me specifically. I can’t go home, my camp can’t come to Burning Man, airlines will choke to a fiscally horrendous death, the economy of europe will leap into the nearest toilet. I am perfectly aware of these things. Yet still some bit of my brain (presumably the bit that imagines post-apocalyptic earth scenarios and occasionally prods me to go backpacking in the wilderness) thinks this is an essentially romantic notion – no more planes means travel by trains, buses, boats. Real adventures, on which you might actually have to talk to people to stay sane, on which you might actually see the places you are passing through.

If getting places were a real effort, how much more worthwhile would it seem to make it around the world? One of the most fascinating evenings I had last year was when friends of friends showed us footage of their amazing travels all over the world – which they did almost entirely by bicycle or kayak. They’d been moving for 6 whole years, spending minuscule amounts, and having the adventure of a lifetime.

I think about that with some sort of extreme reverence and awe. I don’t know if I could handle that sort of total freedom despite it being the ultimate goal of my whole existence. There are drawbacks to a 6 year adventure – the most obvious being that we have to live after the adventure has ended, and that will be harder in a million ways. But do any of those really matter? Is there any real excuse for not launching yourself into the ether and seeing what happens? Or is aimless travel as bad as no travel at all? Maybe my excitement is prompted by the idea that there will be no other way to get home again, that it could be need and not frivolity that would send me on that adventure the long way round the world.

As I finish this, I realize that since I began writing it air travel restrictions have started to lift, Europe is mobile again. I am relieved and happy, but I have to admit I am also a tiny, minuscule, fractional bit well, disappointed.

For someone who values choice so highly, I amaze myself with how I react when it is restored to me.

Price tags are just another type of opinion.

Never buy anything because it is cheap, never buy anything because it is expensive. Obvious? In theory yes, in practice, we use these as subconscious metrics far too often.

Everyone has heard “A man will pay $2 for a $1 item he needs, a woman will pay $1 for a $2 item she doesn’t need” – A neat little phrase which nonetheless fails to include my roommate’s mother, who will spend $30 on 100 x $1 items that we will eventually use up at some point, because they were on sale at Costco. Too often imagined value is a real problem, the hunt for a bargain is sufficiently compelling to encourage us to buy things we wouldn’t bother owning otherwise, and we end up with a three foot stack of paper cups. No really, we do. There is one beside my fridge. I have bought items of clothing I have thrown out a year later having never worn, simply because I could get three of them for a fiver. But as I become a grown-up and continue doing my real job in the big bad world I have slowly kicked this habit, and discovered a whole new way of being fiscally stupid.

Cartographer once asked me why people buy designer handbags. The cause of the question was a particular designer handbag which aside from its maker being Chanel entirely failed to be in any way noteworthy, and was being sold secondhand by someone in her place of employ. The only answer I could give her as to why anyone would want this unremarkable piece of leather was that it was – to anyone who cares to know about these things – Chanel couture. Theoretically meaning it is a classic and timeless accessory, suitable for use at all occasions and times of life, actually meaning it cannot have cost less than a thousand dollars as couture items never go on sale. Grasping this with her usual intelligence, candour and utter disregard for things that make no sense, she posed the question of whether this was then only a slightly more subtle way of pinning hundred dollar bills to your hat, and I had to admit she was irrefutably correct.

I have no objection to paying large quantities of money for beautiful things. I myself have something of a weakness for designer shoes*. I can see the value in a rare or difficult design, or in a perfectly cut suit, or a distinctive dress. As I gradually earn more I find my objection to paying a lot for something I want dissipating somewhat, but thats not a reason to assume something that costs less is inferior.

There is an innate tendency in the human mind to conform to an accepted concept of value. The aphorism that something is worth what people are willing to pay for it is not entirely accurate when thus phrased, what we should be saying is that something is worth to you what you would be willing to pay for it. To me, some things are just not worth it no matter what the rest of the world thinks. Which is why I will never own a Dior handbag, an antique desk, or a house in Dublin city, though I certainly wouldn’t mind owning all 3. Unless of course I become a millionaire, at which point I imagine my interpretation of value will change.

The real problem arises when you let other people’s judgments of value become your own. That handbag is worth two thousand dollars, this house is worth six hundred thousand, or the most ludicrous of all – that diamond is worth five grand (I could rant about the stupidity of diamonds for days). Know what you really want, and never let anyone else tell you the value of anything.

*It has been my considered decision that spending $500 on something because I really like it is perfectly justifiable as long as it is my $500. In fact I can imagine few better reasons.

Rules for Happiness: Never buy anything you cannot lift.

I used to have a rule about never owning anything I couldn’t carry. Ostensibly this was to do with my immense portability, love of freedom, ability to pick up and move on short notice as the whim takes me, etc. In reality it was a little more to do with the fact that not only do I want to be able to do these things, I want to be able to do them by myself. However moving to NY necessitated the purchase of furniture, which I justify by assuming if I really needed to I could just take it apart and lift it myself, because you know, flatpacks can be carried. Hah.

Which goes part of the way to explaining why I ended up stuck at the bottom of the approximately 7 steps up to my apartment, completely incapable of transporting the large flat-packed bookcase I had in my possession as far as the apartment door. You could get the rest of the way toward said explanation by taking into account the fact that I have quite probably never in my life looked at anything that fits indoors and thought “nah, I can’t lift that”.

Now, I know I am not Batman, but I have always been able to figure out a way of moving heavy things. Whether by shuffling them along the ground, dragging them,  rolling them, lifting them a few inches at a time, or whatever else presents itself as a potential solution. I have flown with 3 suitcases and a bag despite having only 2 hands, I have re-arranged large items of furniture like beds and wardrobes many times. So I assumed, despite barely being able to maneuver this thing onto the trolley at IKEA, that I would figure it out somehow.

Em, no.

First off, the damn thing was 7’ long and fucking heavy. I tried lifting and dragging, no dice. So I managed to get it upright, and then laid it horizontally on the stairs, where the top came about one and a half  steps short of the highest point. So with a mighty effort and looking ridiculous, I crouched down and pushed from the bottom and it gradually crawled upwards. Theoretically, this would have been a perfectly rational if rather foolish looking method of getting it up the stairs. Except that just as I thought I had it, everything stuck. There was a lip on the top of the stairs over which it would not go. Letting go to run up and pull it that fateful inch over was unthinkable because it would slide back down, pushing it from below was impossible. I collapsed in a mildly amused but desperately frustrated heap, and wondered what the fuck I was going to do if I could not get the damn thing out of the hall.

I would like at this point to say that desperation is the mother of invention, and that I devised an ingenious and McGuyver-worthy way of getting the damn thing into my flat. But that would be a giant lie, because what actually happened was that I realized my neighbor was at home, and feeling rather silly I enlisted his assistance in the moving of said heavy thing.

I may have set back the feminist movement by 20 years.

Please enjoy my unique blend of cynicism and good-natured offensiveness

Someone described me like that today and I found it physically impossible to go a whole day without repeating it somehow, because its brilliant.

The theme of today’s post is essentially “bugger this for a game of soldiers”. Today I found out how long a green card takes to get. No wait, sorry, I should clarify that. Today I found how long a green card takes to get if you are not married to an american, related to an american or winning the green card lottery. In other words today I found out how long it takes to get permission to work long-term in america based solely on what you would actually be working at in america. Just so you know, it takes considerably longer this way than any of the above, which appears to me to fly in the face of all logic and good sense.

I asked for this from my employer about 8 months ago. I wanted them to start the green card process, because I wanted to have some sort of fallback should the arse fall out of the job market again and I find myself not only without employment but without a right to reside at my address anymore. It is one thing to abruptly lose your job and another to abruptly lose residence of a country 3000 miles from your native one. It would be not only disgustingly inconvenient but frightfully expensive to rectify. So the request seemed like a sensible one.

At the time the process was described to me it seemed a tad lengthy but potentially very worthwhile. 6 months of PERM (aka: the can-we-replace-you-with-a-citizen test), a year of waiting for PERM certification, another year to process the application for a green card along with an adjustment of status in order to extend my visa. So at best, this process takes 2-3 years. What escaped me at the time is that this is merely the timescale involved in _applying_. The backlog of people waiting for the aforementioned verdant immigration card is a minimum of FIVE FUCKING YEARS. So that means, as of right now, it will take a good 7 years for me to actually get one of these. If during that time I am let go or change jobs, the whole process crashes and burns and has to start all over again.

My current state of mind can be summarised in 3 words. Fuck. That . Shit.

Happy 19th January everyone. Yes, I know its not January 19th. But it was when I wrote this.

I have a few personal rules about New Years Eve. Some of them are obvious, and based on logistics, like “never go somewhere you can’t get back from on foot unless you are in a country with real public transport”, “never go to a niteclub”, “make sure you have bought enough to drink and give away” and so on and so forth. I find it requires more careful planning than your average night out, mostly due to the fact that everyone is an exuberantly drunk moron. Not that this is necessarily a problem until one throws up on your shoes.

But my most rigidly adhered to rule in recent years is to never make a New Year’s resolution. Firstly, it’s a completely arbitrary day, and so I refuse to conform to such a ludicrous convention, mostly out of sheer contrariness. Secondly, any resolution not important enough to be made as soon as you thought of it is clearly not going to be adhered to and is a damn waste of time and effort by definition.

So I hereby declare some January 19th resolutions which I have just thought of and decided were important. Ahem.

  • I will save some fucking money. I have a habit of spending everything I earn in a great big happy flow of joy and whatever-I-feel-like-ness. This is not a long term plan.
  • I will fly less than I did last year. This would be really easy for most people. But I think even I can keep it under  50,000 miles in 12 months

Not exactly lofty aspirations, and admittedly rather vague, but the more specific versions that contain actual numbers are in my head. Of course these are just the new ones, there are perpetually ongoing resolutions like “try to drink a little less”, “go to the gym more” and the ever popular “stop being so chubby”. But essentially, these are the plan.

I will be interested to see how this progresses. Oh, and happy fucking new year everyone. Ain’t life just grand?

A series of unfortunate events

Thats a lie, it’s one unfortunate event really. Namely that there is piss in my kitchen.

Oh how I wish I was joking. And before anyone asks, no I did not have a late-night accident while sleep-walking. As people may or may not be aware, about 3 months ago I moved to Brooklyn to live with a friend of mine (E/the Cuban). The cuban owns a nice 2-bed in Park Slopes, and is a raving loony, so you can see how this was an ideal situation. My recent affection for the US and NY in particular are, I must admit, largely due to a combination of Brooklyn and my roommate.

The apartment is about half a storey above street level, and has the awesome feature of an outside deck at the back overlooking a garden. I have a big room, the living area is spacious, and the whole apartment is filled with natural light. In other words, its great. With one minor issue, namely that due to the way the building was originally designed its not the same layout as the other apartments. So our kitchen, instead of being below a kitchen, is in fact below a bathroom.

This should, in theory, not really pose a problem. However it transpires that the apartment above us has some bathroom plumbing issues. A year ago E was nearly deluged with a pile of bath water when the kitchen light fixture basically burst from the soggy plaster revealing some rather substantial leak problems from above, and the aforementioned light was only replaced a few weeks ago when we had a handyman round to do a variety of small jobs.

The new kitchen light fixture basically resembles a large glass bowl which is stuck to the ceiling. On monday night we were sitting in the living room when we suddenly heard the sound of water gurgling loudly. With a soon to be justified sense of foreboding we inspected the kitchen and saw the steady stream of liquid falling from above and gradually both filling the ceiling bowl that is our fucking light and trickling happily onto the floor. E sprinted up the stairs to yell at our rather slow upstairs neighbours and I started damage control using a trash can and some paper towels.

When E reappeared we inspected the situation and at about the time I was noticing the rather odd hue of the “water” that had almost completely filled the bubble that is our kitchen light he remarked that the idiots upstairs were trying to reduce the overflow from their toilet using a saucepan.

Yes, a fucking saucepan. More to the point yes, the overflow from their bloody toilet. So yes, our kitchen was, as we stood there, gradually filling with urine. When we got up the next morning, we had a trash can full of piss, a floor spattered with piss and a kitchen light fixture still half filled with piss. If anyone doubts the veracity of this I have photographic evidence, which I may edit this post to add later.

Even better than this, for our threat to sue the landlord of the upstairs flat to be at all potent, E has decided that he has to see the fucking piss. And he comes round either today or tomorrow. So right at this moment I can say with a reasonably high degree of certainty that at the very least our kitchen light fixture is still filled with fucking piss.

I have always been against living with a landlord. Not that I think of E as a landlord, more like an eccentric older brother with a life like something out of a soap opera and the attention span of an epileptic goldfish. But one of the most crucial benefits to living with the owner of your dwelling is one that had not previously occurred to me:

It’s his job to empty the bin full of wee.

“We’ve all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.”

My favourite quote of this week goes to my roommate the cuban for the following email, the subject line of which was “Ok…”:

“All morning my vision is blurry, and it’s brothering me. I can’t read my cpu, etc. Go to CVS, buy drops, etc. Looking online about the impact of alcohol consumption on vision long term, etc.

Then it occurs to me that maybe I have put the wrong lens in the wrong eye…”

We are now having an argument about whether he can call looking at his screen reading his cpu.  He posits that “cpu” means computer to 95% of human beings and that therefore I am being overly anal. It is my conjecture that 95% of the world being inaccurate is nothing to do with me.

New York – it really grows on you. Like a fungus. Seriously though, I am really starting to like it here. New York will never be London, but its character is starting to appeal to me the same way London’s does, though for entirely different reasons.  I also have to admit that now that I actually have one, life is pretty amazing here. Downtown Brooklyn still feels like you are living in one of the greatest cities in the world, but it also has the space and the community that just doesn’t exist on the island.

Within one block of my house there is a gym, a wine shop, a supermarket, a subway station, a pub, a tattoo parlour, and a rather odd local theatre type building that occasionally has markets and juggling classes and whatnot. Not to mention that living with E is like having your own soap opera, or (as one of his friends put it) sharing a flat with a cartoon character.

I’m glad I didn’t leave when I first wanted to. I needed to give this place a chance, and now that I can do whatever I want without worrying about how much it would cost me to get  out of my contract or when I could move or whether the economy is a total disaster anywhere I want to move to, I find myself considering a longer sojourn here than I originally planned.  It’s not as easy and perfect as London was. But its not as hard as I thought it was.

“I myself am often surprised at life’s little quirks”

Things I have learned this week:

  • I can drink a truly amazing amount of horrible white wine
  • I am a very inconsiderate host, particularly after said white wine.
  • It is possible to get bitten on the fucking cheek by a mosquito. The cheek. Twice.
  • Not all trains to New Jersey stop in Hoboken.
  • Jerkboy (aka the yank, aka my dreadful ex-boyfriend) is getting married in a few months.
  • My roommate the Cuban is even more awesome than I had previously noticed.
  • My roommate the Cuban is also batshit crazy. But claiming not to have noticed this previously may be slightly stretching it.
  • Barbecues are fantastic, and happen approximately every 15 minutes in this country.
  • The walk from Chelsea to Park Slopes is motherfucking long.
  • Never take a taxi from Jersey to Manhattan.
  • I am going to a pagan handfasting, in CT, as the date of a female friend. Time to dig out the tux and top hat.

First, we take Manhattan…

On Sunday night I went to see Leonard Cohen in Radio City Music Hall. There are two very awesome aspects to this, one of which is Leonard Cohen, and the other of which is Radio City Music Hall itself, which is pretty goddamn impressive. I have mentioned my tendency to judge establishments on the calibre of their toilet facilities. Well, RCMH doesn’t just have a bathroom, it has a ladies lounge, complete with couches, mirrors and a lot of open space to just hang out in before you even get to the actual toilet stalls. In fact to find the toilets I had to walk through three rather large rooms, and was starting to wonder if I was supposed to piss on a suede-upholstered sofa.

However, RCMH milk their awesomeness to the absolute max, at a stunning cost of $250 to get a ticket in the stalls. Now it was a great seat, and an amazing venue, but in the normal course of things I would never ever pay this amount of money for anything short of a concert headlined by Led Zeppelin and opened by the Beatles, complete with all original band members (including those who would need to rise from the grave for the occasion) which took place on the fucking moon.

The obvious contradiction here is that I did have a ticket and did go. I can explain this with the following short tangent: my parents are awesome. Really. Obviously I did not think this as a 15 year old psycho held together by un-directed rage and death metal, but since reaching an age where I enjoyed discernable lyrics and obtained a modicum of self-control I realized I quite possibly have the best parents ever. In a complete surprise move then, when my father noticed that Leonard Cohen was playing Radio City, he decided to buy me a ticket as a belated 26th birthday present (even though my father believes any birthday after you are legally allowed to drive and buy beer is not an event).

Naturally I gratefully accepted said ticket, particularly since Leonard Cohen is certainly getting on in years, and chances to see him might have been running out. Now, I have never been a massive fan, though I’ve always liked his music. But the man is fucking amazing. He is 75, and he dances onto the stage. He has a voice like honey drizzling over dark chocolate, it somehow sounds even better live than it does recorded, despite the fact that today we could make a screaming child sound like Tina Turner with the vast powers of studio sound manipulation. Though I suppose that particular example is not all that much of a stretch. I guess just because you can make shit smell kind of like roses it doesn’t mean you can improve what roses themselves smell like.

In any case, it was an exceptional show. The talent of just the female back-up vocalists would have put professional choirs to shame. Leonard himself is an incredible performer, and better than that he clearly enjoys every minute of the performance. He is one of those artists that puts everything into what they are doing, watching him sing live he makes you feel as if he’s singing better for your show than for any other one he’s played, like what he’s doing just that night is special to him. The fact that he has sung these songs a thousand times does not make him one iota less expressive or emotional.  It was a beautiful experience to be lost in that.

Resolution: go to more concerts. Even if they are not held on the moon.

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