Free-Floating Hostility

Sunday, December 31, 2006


Auld Lang Syne, Yeah, Yeah, Blah, Blah

Call me a Grinch, but if you're already getting laid, what exactly is the point of New Year's Eve?

I am told that the point is partying. Partying on New Year's, as I dimly recall, means braving the cold and dodging drunk drivers and terrorist attacks, in order to turn up at a party stocked with schnapps and poison sausage and make small talk with optimistic meeskeits, or worse, married people. So far, Mike and I have bid adieu to 2006 with a day full of debauchery designed to clean out our fridge in anticipation of the clean living of January. Tonight, we will attend our first New Year's Eve party in many years. Our last party was in 2003-4, when Ryan took us to a Louvre-style mansion in Orange County, where we played Spot the Implants most of the evening. In trying to pin down this datum, we wound up having a New Year's Eve retrospective. It turns out the preponderance of our New Year's Eve celebrations have been festivals of crapulence and ill feeling.

New 2003 was spent in New York, on our first visit back since moving from Hobbs. The first part of that evening was spent quite happily in Scott's old apartment on 110th St, and the second part more drunkenly at a large party in Carroll Gardens. New 2002 was at Sarah's ex-boyfriend's dorm in Watt Hall; the party was staffed by prostitutes from Delta Gamma. We remember mostly that Mike had diarrhea, that certain parties accused me of flirting with their boyfriends which I never do, and that one guest spent the whole night on the phone to his girlfriend who's name was, I swear, Fea. New 2001 was the time we brought Mike's sister (then 17 years old) to a party downtown and she hooked up with our host, for which Mike has absolutely not forgiven said host. New 2000 marked the end of what we have come to call Punishment December. My parents' apartment was covered in canned goods Just in Case, and we had somehow cajoled my mother's friend David into loaning us his apartment so everyone could be together when the world ended. On this particular evening, Mike's sister (who was then 16) wound up on the roof making out with one of our classmates, for which Mike has still not forgiven said classmate. It's also the night on which I introduced myself to Mike's then girlfriend, and got Mike in a lot of trouble. I finished off the evening snogging with someone I had personally helped to vomit earlier that evening, while a third party watched with a bag of Doritos.

Mike observes that we have spent every New Year since 2000 together. He was in Detroit in 1999, probably hanging out with the aforementioned girlfriend and staying away from the windows to avoid celebratory gunfire. He doesn't remember 1998, and almost every New Year prior to that was spent in New York. Usually his parents would go to the same party, and he and Lola would go to a midnight movie with Cool Aunt Ellen. There were a few in Detroit, but Proust he isn't.

I had a stomach virus on New Years of both 1999 and 1998, which was just as well, as it covered up my not having plans. Isaac had left for college by then, and I had come to count on him for New Years plans. He continued to call and leave me countdown voice mails for a few years to make it up to me. He was there in 1997 when we went down to stay with Jess in D.C., and watch The Silence of the Lambs and The Evil Dead II. In 1996 he and I walked down to Times Square from his parents' apartment on 90th and Riverside (the only year I ever did it), though we never made it farther than 53rd, I think, and wound up having milkshakes while waiting for the crowds to disperse. In 1995 I was in Helsinki, and having a tremendous time with Clíona's friends--she was two years older than I and they were two years older than she, so I spent a lot of time pretending to be more 18 than I really was. Possibly due to their proximity to the Arctic Circle, everyone in that town was shitfaced by 10:00 in the morning besides Clíona and me, thus enhancing my air of maturity.

All New Year's Eves before that have disappeared into a haze of no-plans-having-ness, except for 1990 and 1984. In 1990 I was freaking out about the approach of a new decade, and for some reason wanted to make sure I was touching everyone in my family, including the dog, at midnight. In 1984, we were spending the night in Brooklyn, and we went out into the streets to bang on metal pots with wooden spoons. Mike would like to add that he was probably in Brooklyn that night, too. Jeff, obviously, was not.

So basically, I would usually prefer to stay home and watch Sam Raimi movies with my husband, who's cute. But sometimes, I accidentally wind up making friends, or worse, Mike does. And then, there's nothing for it but to go out and party. Ugh.

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  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at January 09, 2007 9:29 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
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  •   Posted by Blogger Anna at January 10, 2007 3:04 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Keep your Yale chauvinism to yourself, why don't you.

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at January 12, 2007 12:14 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I forgot all about counting down -- all about. Naturally I remember that New Year's, though, since it was my only memorable one. And now I don't celebrate New Year's, a characteristic example of rejecting on principle something that never worked out that great for me in practice.

    The last week of December I was in the city. I took the Port Imperial ferry to Hoboken and back. (It was to see Marion Ada -- she just moved to Inwood, actually, but she'd lived in Jersey City before that, and she showed me around North Jersey. I've still never been to Weekhawken, and that was right outside my window every day of my childhood.) From the 38th St. terminal I walked to 9th Avenue to catch an uptown bus, an M11. The busdriver was chatty; it was very "only in New York." He talked with a Hispanic guy and his two sons, then with a lady who was sitting in front of me, who made it clear she resented the transit workers' good pension plan; and finally when she got off he ordered me to come sit up next to him, which I did. I happened to have a black-and-white cookie in a plastic bag, which I'd bought in Hoboken because Marion and I had sat for coffee in a cafe in Hoboken and eaten a bagel that I'd purchased earlier, and I didn't want the owner (who was Turkish) to resent us for not buying his food. I was holding this cookie in a plastic shopping bag in my hands while the bus driver justified his pension plan to me (he only sleeps five hours a night, an exaggeration I think). Suddenly he said, "What you got there, a cookie?" "Yes, a black-and-white cookie." "It's big. Can I have some?" I was so surprised, all I could say was, "Black half or white half?" Just as I'd broken my cookie in two and handed half to him, it was my stop and I got off feeling generous and wished him, with a lot of sincerity, "Happy New Year's!" I tell this story because I usually forget to say "Happy New Year's" or don't say it with much enthusiasm. But this time I got into the spirit (anyway, he said thank you, and I do prefer the white half).

    In the passage above, the narrator:
    (a) Resents the bus driver.
    (b) Resembles the bus driver.
    (c) Feels slightly uneasy below 72nd Street.
    (d) Is problematic. Possibly there is no narrator. Print is dead. Paul de Man is alive and living with Angela Bassett under the Triboro Bridge.

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at January 12, 2007 12:15 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Anna's first comment should go where this comment is.

  •   Posted by Anonymous xiaonanok at March 09, 2007 11:56 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
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Saturday, December 30, 2006


Love Letter to a German Shepherd

It's been an emotional few days for me, what with putting our families on a plane, the unignorability of current events, and now, our last few hours with Nisa the Dog. Some people find it difficult to write about, say, executions. They find it easier to write about, say, dogs. I am one of those people.

I think what we'll miss most about Nisa is her moo. Mike identified the noise she makes when she lies down as mooing, and once you think of it that way it's virtually impossible to resist sayin vmkcmmmmm

now see? As I was in the middle of typing the forgoing paragraph, Nisa leaned over from her nap spot between me and Mike on the couch, stretched her head out over the keyboard, and mooed. And my first impulse was not to grunt "No" or "get off my keyboard," but to coo "Aww, cow puppy" as she turned on the caps lock and typed nonsense letters into my blog post.

Nisa is a little like a first-year medical student. Her curiosity about the human body is insatiable (especially if it's stinky), and she is ever eager to examine. If one stretches out on ones back, Nisa is sure to appear seconds later with a reassuring if concerned expression on her face, and begin sniffing around your assorted body parts with Hippocratic empiricism, not to mention auscultating you with an exceptionally large paw.

Also like a first-year medical student, Nisa has an encyclopaedic list of neuroses. Besides abondonment issues (which are actually quite rational in a dog who was abandoned earlier this year) her phobias include cars, bicycles, blenders, smoke alarms, moving furniture, drawers, smaller dogs, larger dogs, dogs on TV, men on TV imitating dogs, neighbors opening their mailboxes, old ladies walking cats on leashes, my father, brooms, swiffers, bridges, sneezes, laughter and the wind.

We, in the meantime, in payment as it were for the riches Nisa has brought into our lives, have yielded up our privacy, sanity, and decorum, and we like it. I am currently at work on two songs, titled "Don't Bite your Harness" and "Nose out of the Fridge." Mike is preoccupied with deciding what country Nisa would play for in the World Cup, if she made the national team. As an American dog, should she play for the U.S.? As a German Shepherd, should she play for Germany? As an Alsatian, should she play for France? Or does the Shepherd's having been bred in England make her belong to England? Or would her father's Cambodian ancestry entitle her to an easy spot on the Cambodian team?

This last question arose when Mike discovered her natural abilities as a goalie. Nisa came to us with a bag full of toys, including a huge ball suitable for playing roll and stop. But Nisa's favorite game is tug of war, to the point that Mike once asked if we could try to teach her Sudoku so she'd know a second game. I have adapted tug of war by putting it to music. I play a good song, and Nisa picks up her toy (so that she can't bite my hands) and then jumps. Depending on whether she lands in my arms or on my legs or back, she then either dances with me or tries to pin me to the floor. The game usually ends when she drops her toy and gives into her urge to give me an affectionate chomp. This last Shepherd trait is why we're proudly sporting tiny red tooth marks all over our anatomies.

Nisa's favorite activities are tug of war, pretending to have to pee, the sniffing of genitals, and hunger strikes. "She is," Mike observed to me one night, "The non-eatin'-est dog I've ever seen." We have to make sure she eats, because otherwise she can't have her anti-inflammatory paw medication, or it gives her what Dara delicately referred to as "intestinal pyrotechnics." So when it's time for Nisa's dinner, we transform into deranged cheerleaders. First, I go through a pantomime designed to convince Nisa I'm putting delicious human food into her dish. Then we put it on the floor and she stares at us as though to say "You want me to eat that shit when you've got Manchego in your cheese drawer?" We usually give into her demands at this point and mix some wet food in, then stand around the bowl, pointing encouragingly and praising every bite as though it might reveal the cure for malaria.

At the end of the day, we drag her dog bed into our bedroom and the three of us lie down for the night. The final chapter of the day is called Nisa Trying to Get into Our Bed. This morning, knowing as I did that it would be her last day with us, I yielded. It was delightful. There is nothing in the world quite like the company of a meaty dog. We know, although Nisa does not, that her Daddy will come to fetch her in a few hours. She is going to be overjoyed, and will probably shoot around the apartment in circles, jumping on furniture and trying to lick David's face down to its tootsie roll center. It will all be worth it to see her so happy. But when she goes, we will be the non-Nisa-havin'-est couple in California. We're going to miss her like hell.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006


A Holiday Feast

Our holiday recaps will come in waves. First, and perhaps most importantly, we'll start with the food. Here are the meals we served:

Christmas Eve
White Bean and Olive Soup
Potato Latkes
Roast Beef
Pumpkin (actually squash) Pie

Christmas Night
Baked Brie with currants and almonds
Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms
Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms
Penne Arrabbiata
Caesar Salad
Homemade Chocolate Mousse with Ellen's Blackberry Sauce

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006


A Book this Is?

My boss sent me this link to Yiddish with Dick and Jane. My boss is cooler than your boss.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006


Habits of Highly Effective People

My aunt Maureen has hired a clutter therapist to help her make better use of her work space. The therapist promotes a method known as O.H.I.O., which stands for Only Handle it Once. As Maureen explained it to my mother, it means that you never put a piece of paper down to sort later. As soon as the letter's open it's filed, etc. Mom listened to all this attentively, and then proposed her own method of organization, which she abbreviated as K.E.N.T.U.C.K.Y.--Keep Everything Neat, Then U Can Kill Yourself.

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Viva la Burocracia

Today I began Traffic School, which is part of my punishment for having missed the end of the yellow light in Berkeley by 0.00034 seconds once last June. My $390 penance is apparently not enough, and if I want my name cleared, I have to graduate an online course. I was a reckless driver before--I ran that light cause I thought I was invincible--but once I've finished my reeducation, I'll have a totally different attitude. I'll have respect for the law.

The course starts off on a cheery note:
Imagine California without traffic laws. Road speeds would accelerate dangerously as unskilled and reckless drivers set their own rules, dodging and weaving through traffic like a personal pinball game. Unmarked and uncontrolled intersections would become killing fields.

I don't disagree. However, it would be a little easier to contemplate my automotive mortality if the course didn't also include animated tits:


Hmm...what will happen if I do not take WebTrafficSchool.com course? I don't know, but I sure want to find out.

I'm starting to think that if I dig hard enough I will turn up published research on police officer's sex organs as a deterrent to unsafe driving. The public service ad below is usually shown before movies at the Varsity.


I have to wonder...who exactly is the target demographic for this campaign? The effect doesn't quite come through online, but in the theater this cop's crotch is blown up larger than life for all the world to gaze upon. If it hadn't had the city logo on it I'd have had no trouble placing this as a still from an ad on The Robin Byrd Show. Want to meet cops? Well, that depends. If I get caught speeding will traffic school be taught by that 19-year-old model?

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One More Tradition Sabotaged by Mixed Marriages

Andy M sent us this link to Christmas Time for the Jews.

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Friday, December 22, 2006


Holiday Classics

This holiday season, I hope everyone's remembering to focus on the important things, like steering clear of dodgy roast goose (Laura has food poisoning, poor thing) not macing any relatives who might put you in their wills, and not getting pregnant atop piles of coats unless it's on purpose. Having once again attended the Holiday Party from Hell, I was reminded of this immortal passage from Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. Helen Fielding has her detractors, but they are wankers.
Usually, week before Christmas, am hung over and hysterical, furious with self for not escaping to tiny woodman's cottage deep in forest to sit quietly by fire; instead of waking up in huge, throbbing, mountingly hysterical city with population gnawing off entire fists at thought of work/cards/present deadlines, getting trussed up like chickens in order to sit in gridlocked streets, bellowing like bears at newly employed minicab drivers for trying to locate Soho Square using map of central Addis Ababa, then arrive at parties to be greeted by same group of people have seen for last three nights only three times more drunk and hungover, and want to shout "WILL YOU ALL JUST SOD OFF!" and go home....This attitude is both negative and wrong.

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Pre-Nuptial Excitement

Now that 34 is through sitting on its very big piece of news, we can also go public about the engagement of Jeff and Sheryl. I started researching engagement ring designs a few weeks ago just in case this situation came up, but then I made an uncharacteristic decision to butt out and decided not to present Jeff with my findings. FFH is so happy it could cry. Though actually, when the affianced called to tell us the news, we settled for dancing around the apartment for ten minutes in celebration.

This means that rather a lot of our circle are to be wed soon, what with Dara and David, Josh and Maureen, and, implausibly, Scott Rosenberg (to Amanda). Is anyone else engaged? I forget. This suits me very well, not because I actually think so highly of the institution of marriage, but more because, in the words of Cy Coleman, I love to cry at weddings, anybody's weddings, just not mine.

We owe Dara's mother Mrs. Hicks a big thank you not only for supplying us with the following engagement story, but because we invented a truly shameless lie about her having a health crisis when we introduced Nisa to our building manager. I secured Dara's permission to blog the story several weeks ago, but as you may have noticed, I have had a hard time recently finding a chance to blog, and when I did I devoted that time to researching other people's jewelry. Anyway, Dara's David had planned an elaborate setup for his marriage proposal, but then the night before, he simply couldn't contain his excitement and blurted out the question. The ring is quite lovely, and meets the criteria for being described as "a rock." So when the couple called Dara's family in Albuquerque to announce it, Mrs. Hicks was a bit surprised. "You really didn't need to get a big ring for Dara," she told her future son-in-law after congratulating him or some such, "She would have been perfectly happy with a gum wrapper. She's not into a lot of bling."

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006


The Puppy Chronicles

There is certainly something quite nice about receiving a warm welcome home from a tail-wagging dog. That's true even if she's looking at you as though you've betrayed her by leaving her alone. I'm projecting on the second part of course, but I don't really have any experience in hanging around all day with a dog.

The big news here is that we picked up permission to have her here. The building manager, whom I will call Not-at-all-Nasty Cat, said it was fine that we watch her. That has made me more at ease, in that I'm not concerned that every paw step will bring an eviction notice. In fact, immediately after securing the NAANC's approval, I took a three-hour nap with Nisa sitting on her cushion beside me. And that was nice. It was like napping with an audience, a boon to my ego. The early part of yesterday was a bit difficult. I woke up at 6 a.m., after getting very little sleep, and found Nisa's perferred toilet spots. Then I took her into the office, where she was quite popular. Lots of people came over and petted her, which negated the sleeping-dog-at-my-feet-as-I-work effect I was going for. She would sleep for an hour, then pop up looking to play. I'd take her out then. So that was fun. She barked twice, once at the UPS guys and again at Anna upon her return. But, by that point, my fear-driven stuff had receded.

Today, after a long walk, I left her alone in her kennel for the first time. She seemed to have come through that OK, although she seems to be staying a little bit aloof from me right now. She'll have another stretch by herself tonight, when I leave for work around 6 p.m. But she'll have been on the end of a long walk, so hopefully she'll just sleep her way through it.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Thoughts on the Brawl

I thougt we had a lot to say two years ago, when the Indiana Pacers took on the drunken dregs of a crowd in suburban Detroit. But mostly I just talked about T.O. That was back when he was just hugging naked white women rather than spitting in people's faces. I liked him better before. I still think those topics go together. I didn't think the fight was a big deal. Sure, it sort of spilled into the stands a little bit, but it wasn't like the players were actually attacking paying customers. Sometimes teams have to fight each other. That's just the way it works.

On a side note, Fritz and Clafoutis attended the game. Clafoutis actually wanted to leave with six minutes to go and the Knicks down by a wide margin. Fritz' response: "If we cared about who won than we wouldn't have come in the first place." Let's go Knicks. As a Pistons fan, I'm of mixed feelings watching Zeke flail away at Madison Square Garden.

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  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at December 20, 2006 6:11 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Regarding the game, Fritz said if we cared about the Knicks winning. Fritz is confident that a Knicks blowout would have held the fans and Erez to the end.

    >>>>>>>>>>>
    Maybe some professional athletes have arrested at the middle school playground stage of development.

    If I'm an NBA owner, especially the Denver owner, the idea of my star and the league leading scorer punching with his shooting hand is a pause for thought.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    There was a stupid column in the WaPo about over reacting to NBA fights because of race. For one thing, there are nearly no fights in NFL [because of body armor] which the column misstated. For another, in the NHL and to a degree in MLB (balls, bats and cleats), the players carry weapons and have ineffective PPE for those weapons.

    Not sure where this goes.

    Fritz

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Monday, December 18, 2006


And Puppy Makes Three

Apologies for that last couple of weeks of silence. It all probably makes a really good story, complete with couch surfing (me), term paper writing (Anna), and some total code warrior shit (Anna again). And maybe we'll get around to telling you about it, although I doubt it. Anyway, who really cares about the past. I say, let bygones be bygones. So whatever.

Now, perhaps you remember Nisa the German Shepherd, who belongs to Anna's friend, Dara. For the next 13 days (oh, but who's counting)(well, for now, me), Nisa has taken up residence in our apartment. She's currently passed out asleep in middle of our living room, like a tacky rug. This is not to say that Nisa is tacky, but all rugs that have heads are tacky. Sorry, focus.

So there are a couple of side issues related to this visit. That main one is that dogs are not, strictly speaking, allowed in our complex. There was one once, who was a very sweet mutt named Bear. But that was about seven building managers ago, and the dog lived off in the corner where he didn't get in anyone's way. Everyone was in on everything and no one got hurt. We don't really know our current building manager, who just arrived in November (which is sort of a long time ago, now that I think about it.), or really very many of our neighbors. So we'll see how this goes.

Also, I am actually afraid of dogs. I used to be deathly afraid of dogs, so really I've gotten a lot better. We met Nisa in Berkeley on Friday and walked her and everything went really well. She even seemed to respond to me. Also we ran into Ariel Meyestein, but that's another story. Today, just before we brought her into the apartment, she barked at me. This has set us back. It's been about 50 minutes and I've only now forgiven her. I'm going to be spending most of the next four days with her while Anna's at work. I'm afraid I won't be able to control her and that will get us evicted. So there's that.

Thirdly, both sets of family are coming to visit at the end of the week. Anna's family loves dogs. My parents, not so much.

It does it make it all worth it to see Anna so happy. She's been dog deprived since we left New York. Recently, she's taken to cruising the area outside of the journalism building at Berkeley to hang out with the dogs that wait there. Most journalists have dogs because, as a species, we're disagreeable and the only people that like us are those that rely on us for food. We'll keep you posted on how things go with Nisa.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006


Journey to the Heart of Darkness

The Varsity, our local art house, completed its Midnight Movie series Saturday with a showing of The Big Lebowski. I had been looking forward to this for months, and although I am now an old man that struggles to stay up past 12:30 a.m., I really enjoyed seeing the film again. It was Anna's first time seeing it on the big screen, and she reported catching details she has missed watching on DVD (like how the landlord's dance routine includes a blue gym mat). So that was something.

The thing I had not anticipated was the relatively new phenomenon of Lebowski people. We went to Eternal Sunshine a few weeks ago and basically had the theater to ourselves. But I should have expected this would be different. I had seen stories about how pretentious white people have picked up this movie as a self indentifying marker. There are now conventions where people dress as characters from the movie, and similar. What I hadn't realized is just how awful it is to watch a movie with these people. They rival Rocky Horror fans for sheer annoyance.

The preamble to the movie was sort of fun. People were in costume and occaisionally yelling out lines. "This is what you sound like," Anna told me. And I apologized. But the thing about them is that they didn't stop. Not even after the movie began. Then there's the mythology that has grown up around the film. In the opening scene, when The Dude is buying his half-gallon of half-and-half with a check (dated September 11) a guy who attended the movie dressed as The Jesus behind us screamed out, "Look at the date."

Seriously, shut the fuck up.

Obviously, the Coen Brothers were fortelling the World Trade Center attacks. That's exactly what was happening there. But the situation was compounded because The Jesus had a retarded echo in the theater. So The Jesus would yell out a line and the other guy, who happened to be sitting in our row, would call out another one. And it wasn't like he was calling out the next line in the script. He would just call out something random, just to prove he could. As the movie wore on, the rest of the people turned on them and started shushing. Not surprisingly, the Retarded Echo left early. I don't think the people who dress up and tell you how big a Lebowski fan they are really appreciate the film. The movie is multi-layered work of genius. These fans are just bangwagon folks that thinking they're part of the zeitgeist. They just like being in a club. And fuck them, really.

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