and us remains impossible

One of my favourite hobbies is Moping About Vancouver.  This is partially an Early Twenties Nostalgia thing, because who doesn’t look back on their early twenties and see it in candy coloured light and want to soundtrack it and idealize it and frame that time up in Lucite as The Best Time Ever?  (High school, for the record, is somehow always the worst, even for people who didn’t seem to hate it at the time).

My moping over Vancouver is not entirely nostalgia though.  Vancouver really is a fairy tale city.  It’s unbelievably beautiful, set in a break in the mountains on the edge of the ocean.  I mean, look at the photos on the tourism website! It’s a city of glass that looks like a science fiction city on the edge of the natural world.  Yet it still has miles and miles of old neighbourhoods with only Craftsman houses to be seen.  The sky is laced with fir trees in winter and cherry blossoms in spring, so many of the latter that the blossoms pile up in drifts in the gutters in March.  I don’t know how so many movies have managed to disguise the city (hint: USAToday boxes).  And in the time I lived in southwest British Columbia, Vancouver still had the counterculture allure of the West Coast cities, all of the hippie culture my mother’s generation brought with them – now a parody of itself from Lululemon on down, but still very much in earnest in 2003.

Now, I’m realizing, Vancouver was a fairy tale city.  Article after article shows up in my feed about how people my age are leaving the city.  And over and over I hear the same line: that people are breaking up with Vancouver.  That they’re leaving it the same way they would a lover.  That it’s the end of a relationship.   I hear this as a Matt Good track off, well, “Vancouver”.  I know you, so you know me…but us remains impossible.

(I especially appreciate how nostalgic people are for early aughts Vancouver as a time before the housing crisis got ridiculous.  It was certainly trending towards ridiculous in my West Side world, although I could likely have slipped over the border of Main Street and had a very different experience)

A few weeks ago, I was comparing travel notes with another mom from Ben’s class. I’d taken Ben to Switzerland to visit a friend from Vancouver; she’d taken her family to Vancouver to visit a friend she knew from Brooklyn.  She was raving about the city, how beautiful it was, how great the food was, how much she had enjoyed it, without realizing that I was from British Columbia.  When I mentioned that I had been in Basel for the wedding of a friend from Vancouver, she said, “I didn’t know you were from there!  Why would you ever leave?”

“Well, it’s like New York housing,” I explained.  “Only with about 60% of the wages to pay for it.”  That’s usually the point where people look actually shocked.  And by “people”, I mean “people from New York”, which is about as expensive as you can get in North America.  No one here will blink at paying $1,000 a square foot to buy a chunk of Brooklyn, but only if they make money proportional to it.  The idea of not making that money and still having to pay that rate for housing is terrifying.  I shudder even thinking of it.

I still stalk Vancouver more than I ever have any old relationship.  I read Doug Coupland books  (and, briefly, jPod the TV series) and listen to Matt Good Band albums and mope.  I watched the entire run of Continuum for no reason other than the fact that it was the Vancouver-iest thing on TV, nevermind that it literally made no sense by the third season.  I’ll occasionally even check out the twenty year old tech of the KatKam (“Hello freighters nestled in the bay!”).  I read Ben Good Night Vancouver until he knew it by heart.

And like most relationships, I regret deeply the missed opportunities.  I regret that I didn’t take the time or opportunity to know the city better, that I never lived anywhere in Old Vancouver, on the East Side, that I always stayed in Kitsilano where it was familiar, where it was close to my friends and the university and looked a lot like my actual home of Victoria.  I regret that I didn’t learn Vancouver the way I learned Los Angeles when I moved there, that I didn’t study the city and its development and change, the waves of immigration and extremes of society that built the city on that chunk of flattish land between the Fraser River and the Narrows.  My sister bought me Vancouver Was Awesome for Chrismukkah a couple years ago and I’m fascinated seeing the old city, one so like Victoria, one I only ever saw ghost outlines of under all that futuristic glass.

And yet, I have no intent of going back to make up that time with the city.  I’m not looking at job listings or apartment listings: even in the days after November 9th, 2016, I looked at Toronto, because I only wax nostalgic and I’m actually extremely practical and pragmatic.  Still, going back isn’t out of the question, either: the exchange and the equity in my Brooklyn apartment would allow us to purchase something at 20% down.  If Paul and I both had jobs, we would probably be OK.  Not great, but OK.  Our quality of life wouldn’t be much different – we’d save less for retirement and Ben’s college, we’d pay more into taxes instead.

I still recognize that “if we had jobs” is a big fat IF though.  I left to find a career in the first place, and Paul’s work is specialized enough that it is challenging to find a fit for him in the Tri-State area, much less on the edge of the world in a country he’s not a citizen of.  Nothing’s impossible, I’m told, and yet I feel like for us to have the same sort of ease of life we do in NYC, the same sort of careers, the same sort of income to housing ratio, I have to tell my former city, I’m sorry, but us remains impossible, Vancouver.

I also remind myself when I’m moping that I love living in New York City.  I grew up in BC, but this is my actual ancestral homeland, as proven by the fact that overall pushiness makes me a perfect fit for NYC.  I have a career type job in marketing, in the epicenter for my industry.  I experience and learn so much here every day that I would never have learned in my safe corner of Canada.  Right now, much of that is about how completely fucked up America is, but at least I am learning something and spurred into action by it, which is a lot better than complacency, idleness and stagnation.

I remind myself that I left British Columbia to See the World, which, at the time, consisted of Living in Los Angeles.  Now it consists of Living in New York With The Occasional Trip to Europe.  I look at Manhattan when I come back across the GW Bridge each day, at the towers bathed in golden light, and I think, this is my home now, and I know the two boroughs I spend the most time in as well as I ever knew Vancouver – and I still have barely scratched the surface of New York City and of America and of all the things I can be curious about and learn and experience here.

(Oh, and I also left on a sort of quest to find my True Love, which actually took less than two years of the thirteen since I left.  I assume if I had wanted to go back, I would have taken my husband and retreated by now.)

Over the last few years, my moping has been taking on a different sort of nostalgia than it did when I was a homesick twenty six year old in West L.A.  Now, as I read article after article about people leaving Vancouver, I realize I am moping over a Vancouver that is gone, that in reality, what remains is a city my friends are abandoning for the suburbs, for Vancouver Island, or for Canada’s other cities where they can afford housing for their own growing families.  My family have moved to Toronto; my friends from UBC have scattered across Canada.  Vancouver has become too needy, too high maintenance, too much for any of us.

This isn’t a Vancouver phenomenon, obviously.  It’s the same thing that’s happened here in New York, to TriBeCa, to the East Village, to downtown Brooklyn, to even the north edges of my neighborhood in Prospect Heights.  But even though I live in New York, and have had to watch Brooklyn’s neighborhoods bleed out their neighborhood culture from a thousand luxury condo cuts, I grieve for Vancouver more.  Now it’s changed so much, I suspect I wouldn’t be able to love the city the same way even if I had a magic opportunity to go back with the same sort of quality of life I have here.

There are dozens of posts about the Vancouver housing crisis from people who didn’t leave in 2004.  This is my love letter, my own sadness, my own loss at the city I called home, a slightly idealized, candy coloured look at a place I lived in when I was twenty-six, that I left because I was going to outgrow it, even if I hadn’t already.  The reasons I left will always be good, and the decision to leave when I did will always be the right one (it’s given me a career and a husband and a son and a ridiculous adventure of just being American) but that isn’t going to stop me from moping at an expert level for the version of the city I left in 2004, and over empathizing with every breakup article.  Oh Vancouver, us remains impossible.

 

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oh hey, it’s the 90s

My husband and I share a bond around our taste in music.  It amused me to no end that after getting my number at Bar Sinister, he STILL had to check my MySpace profile to be sure that I had what he calls “decent taste” in music before he asked me on a date.  I hear that there are couples out there who do not share the same taste in music, but we are not one of them.  Instead, sharing our love of the genre loosely referred to as “alternative” is a huge part of our relationship.  I copy his playlists, laced as they are with Cut Copy and Grimes.  He listens to the same goth podcasts I do.  My taste goes a little further into synthpop (Depeche Mode), his goes further into indie rock (the Pixies) but it’s a wide range of overlap.

So when I read that the 1992 VMAs were up on YouTube, I wanted to watch them with Paul.  He initially questioned why I would want to spend two hours watching a twenty-four year old award ceremony, until he remembered that was the performance where Kris Novoselic from Nirvana clocked himself on the head with his own bass.  Then he was in.  Not only do Paul and I share a love of Nirvana, but we also share a love of mocking things!

This has kicked off a two night mini-marathon of mocking the 90s by watching the 1992 and 1993 VMAs.  Do not get me wrong: Paul and I love the 90s.  Despite it being a decade that gave us Stone Temple Pilots, it also produced a lot of earnestly emotional artists like Tori Amos.  Paul and I both came of age in the 90s and can happily yap about music from that era for hours.  It’s just so strange watching a pop culture event from that era, a perfect time capsule, a moment captured forever.

Media from the 90s also has a weird quality of being from a parallel dimension.  There was no Internet and no texting.  People still had to dial a 1-900 to vote for a video!  The culture and mores are so close to our own, but the underlying access to instant information and communication is missing.  It’s like an alternate reality with no Internet or cell phones.  It’s so strange to see that and realize that the access to instant written messages would take place so quickly that culture wouldn’t even have a chance to dramatically change before it became ubiquitous.

And somewhat ironically, the Internet’s inexhaustible trove of information is what makes these things fun.  As each celebrity showed up on stage, we immediately started discussing why they were there.  How would we know why Christian Slater was hosting the 1993 VMAs unless we could use IMDB to verify that True Romance had just come out?  (OK, also, he said it about a minute after we looked it up)

PAUL: Why was Lyle Lovett a thing?
ME: Didn’t he marry somebody famous?
PAUL: Cindy Crawford?
ME: No.  Someone else leggy.
PAUL: (wikipedia entry)  Julia Roberts!

Now, we have to Wikipedia everything about the MTV VMAs because we genuinely do not care about any of the music being “honored”.  But 1993 had REM!  We know all the facts we need to know about REM by heart:

PAUL: What REM album came out that year? Monster?
ME: No, Automatic.  Monster was 1994.  It was the soundtrack to my senior year of high school (Ironically, Out of Time is the soundtrack to my college senior year in 2003)

Also, we have both agreed that Soul Asylum, in hindsight, were an OK rock band, but wow, was their big hit whiny:

ME: Look how earnest Dave Pirner is with his white boy dreads!
PAUL: Wow, impressive you still remember the name of the lead singer of Soul Asylum
ME: I also know that the lead singer of Counting Crows is Adam Duritz
PAUL: Nope.  Not as impressive.

Other things we agree on:

  • Vs was Pearl Jam’s best work because they were still angst ridden.  Whereas now they are just a bunch of hippies.
  • Similarly, In Utero is astonishingly better listening to it in our 30s than it was when we were teenagers who didn’t quite fully appreciate it
  • Paul knows more Tori Amos than I gave him credit for, but I still know all the lyrics to Under the Pink  (He listened to more Liz Phair instead)

Things we do not agree on:

  • Sunny Day Real Estate.  I loved their first album.  Paul seems to think they are the source of all things emo and makes a face every time I point out that I had this album cover poster:rs-229558-4.-Sunny-Day-Real-Estate-Diary-1994[1]
  •  I admitted to knowing all the words to Counting Crows’  August & Everything After and got a look of WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY GOTH WIFE
  • Hair rock bands.  I suspect Paul still has a soft spot for the Def Leppards of the world; I literally cannot name one of their songs.

It still makes for an entertaining discussion, being able to converse with my husband about this kind of shared pop culture background.  The last few years before the Internet gave us a less diverse view of the world, one that was clunkier, but less splintered, than the access to popular culture we have now.  In 1992, if you wanted to hear alt-rock, you picked up the college radio ‘zines and SPIN magazine and learned the bands names’ without hearing them.  Post-internet, post-iTunes, everything is singles, everything is one song only, and it’s easy to find single after single in one sub-sub-genre of music.

We will be the last generation to remember a world without the Internet.  We may as well get the chance to mock the culture as it was on the cusp of that change.

NYC is about being Younger

I have always been a fan of Darren Star’s work. I watched 90210 in high school, Melrose Place in what should have been college years, the entire run of Sex and the City. It sometimes surprises people when I can quote entire swaths of the latter, complete with episode numbers and titles (Side note: My favorite season is Season 2, although I appreciated Seasons 5 and 6 more as I grew up. and I am Team Aidan, since he isn’t creepily old like Mr. Big.  I realize that is supposed to be sophistication but yeesh. )

It should therefore come as no surprise that I am a huge fan of Younger, the TV Land series produced by Star and costumed by Pat Field, the SatC wardrobe mistress. It is the story of a forty year old divorcee, Liza Miller (Sutton Foster), who, after being a SAHM her whole adult life, finds herself not only on her own, but with no assets due to her husband’s gambling debts. Liza doesn’t even have a roof over her head after losing her New Jersey suburban home. She goes to stay with her dear friend, artist Maggie (Debi Mazar) who owns a loft in Williamsburg she bought in the 90s (SLIGHTLY PLAUSIBLE). Liza attempts to go back into the workforce in her old career as a book editor, but soon learns she is unhireable after being out of the industry for sixteen years. It is only when she starts lying about her age and says she is 26 that she secures employment as an assistant to the marketing lead of the fictional Empirical Books, Diana Trout (Miriam Shor).  (Note that this addresses every mother’s worst fears: that staying home will kill our careers.)

The clever premise of the show is the way that this lie, while created for work, extends to personal. Through the inadvertent friendships and relationships she forges along the way, Liza must keep up the facade of being 26.  The show is therefore ultimately about relationships and trust, and the stress it places on the former when you lack the latter.

Trust – or lack thereof – is not the part I find relatable though. What I do find relatable is the need to be young in New York City. Los Angeles thrived on youthful appearance as a commodity; New York seems to thrive on the cultural aspects of being young, or rather, it is a city that emphasizes the culture that one cares about most while young. Fashion is the most obvious: the street style here is amazing no matter the age of the person wearing it. There’s an expectation though to know the best restaurants, bars, neighborhoods, music, art, plays – all these cultural touchpoints that most people stop paying attention to when they reach a certain age, that in New York are still as relevant to a 26 year old as a 40 year old.

Perhaps I am biased in that regard, since I work in an industry that is extremely heavy in millenials. Still, I feel like there’s more opportunity here to keep the most culturally dialed in parts of one’s 26 year old self. When I was 26, I cared about all of the things 26 year olds care about:seeing indie bands at Spaceland, shopping in Venice Beach boutiques, going to parties at MOCA. In New York, I still care about those sort of things.  I may not actually do those things, but I know they are there in a way that I might not if it wasn’t always a possibility to engage with culture. Perhaps it says something about American culture in that, when one gets older, one is supposed to stop caring about fashion and music and art, but in New York, those things are so perennially important that they can’t be abandoned as one ages.

It’s also the access and option to participate in so much youth culture that conflicts with my responsibilities as an almost 40 year old. There are always going to be club nights I want to go to, new restaurants to try, trendy fitness classes to do – things I might have had time and energy to do at 26 but not at almost 40. More than Los Angeles, I feel younger here myself: having access to this much ageless culture makes me feel like I am caught.  I’m torn between having the same enthusiasm I had for being in the Big City in 2004, and being the responsible adult I am in 2017.

So that’s why I empathize so much with Younger. It isn’t the emotional premise, as it was with SaTC, but rather, the cultural premise. Liza’s character dresses like a millenial for work, a pronounced difference between her image and her boss’. She lives in Brooklyn(!)  Her friends go to House of Yes. She goes out to parties and rooftop bars in Manhattan. She does all these things that are age appropriate for 26 – but are still so available to those of us who are almost 40.

terribly when

I wasn’t going to post this originally – and then I got into a discussion about high school elsewhere on Facebook, and decided to do so anyways.

I had a nightmare about high school last week. Or rather, about the high school reunion, the one I didn’t attend two years ago (I had walking pneumonia and it was the weekend of the 2nd Annual BPSA Moot. Even i had been well, I had grownup obligations.)

In this dream, I was at the reunion, with a lot of the same people I am now Facebook and Instagram friends with. We were all as we are now, adults. And I started making a speech about how I forgave everyone for their cruelty, about how glad I was that we could all be friends as adults, that we could now be grownups with so much in common.

Image result for oak bay high

This is the “old” wing of Oak Bay High’s “East” building, 1929 – 2015.  The school was demolished and rebuilt in 2015, the year of our twenty year reunion.

After all, my high school classmates are, like me, products of the Canadian middle class in the late twentieth century. We all share the same cheerful view of our homeland (similar to our fellow GenXer Prime Minister’s) instilled in us by years of CBC and the Ministry of Heritage, tempered with our years of trying to grow up during a provincial recession. We are all from Victoria, a city between Vancouver and Seattle, a weirdly schizophrenic city poised between the nineteenth and twenty first century. We should have tons in common by now. And, as we all have entered the Grown Up phases of our lives, with partners and children and/or other dependents, those commonalities have increased, and I’m actually now engaging more with People I Knew At Oak Bay High than I was when we all actually went there.

Having much in common and even renewing friendships (in a range from genuine to superficial) does not make up for years of cruelty and exclusion in my subconscious though. When I looked up, in my dream, from this heartfelt statement of forgiveness and subsequent emotional investment, everyone was gone, off to hang out at a classmate’ s business. They had all left to go socialize and had not even told me they were leaving the reunion, much less invited me along.

In reality, when awake, I would disregard that behavior as ridiculous.  Real adults address their problems with other adults.  It is children who exclude and abandon out of a heartless combination of thoughtlessness and malice, a combination that is unacceptable. Still, if an actual grown-ass adult behaved that way, ghosting my company without a goodbye or explanation, I would, to this day, pause to consider my behavior, to try and figure out if I had done something to justify exclusion before realizing that it wasn’t my fault.  Other adults’ childish behavior is not deserving of my introspection or self-blame.

In dreams though, that kind of learned, logical, corrective behavior doesn’t kick in. In dreams, we’re poking around in corners of our brains that our waking selves have long since papered over.  So instead, I just felt the deep humiliation and shame I would have as a teenager.  I just felt like I had done something wrong, and that people didn’t like me, and it was somehow my own fault for being too emotionally needy and clumsy, too messy, too loud – and too ugly and fat to be able to make up for those shortcomings.

And that’s when I woke up.

It’s twenty years since high school, and I’ve had to accept that I am never going to be able to gloss over the decade between grades two and twelve. I believed in my teen years that I was undeserving of human contact because of my failure to modulate my behavior and my physical shape in a socially acceptable way.  I was too loud and too emotionally sloppy, a bad combination to start with, a lethal one when combined with a status as “the fat girl”. It was ten year period that started with elementary school cruelty, ran into the middle school meanness, and ended with senior high loneliness, as the childhood mockery dwindled into mere exclusion.

I have reduced both the loudness and my size, placing my behavior and my body well within the acceptable lines of North American society.  Still, as an adult, I now live with a low-level paranoid anxiety that people do not like me, that I am unlikeable as a person – no matter what my body size, unless I carefully maintain behavior that is considered “likeable”. It’s a fallacy that I often have to logically remind myself isn’t true.  Not everyone is going to like me as an adult, but sometimes, that’s just the way things go.  Not everyone has to be my friend.

And yet, here is this old hurt, these ancient humiliations, cluttering up my brain and my dreams.  It’s only within the last few years that I’ve really managed to shake the shame, that sense of deserving all that loneliness.  I’d love to be able to clean this narrative up, reduce it down to just undeserved bullying, but I’m unable to do so.  I think that’s the worst part for the victims of bullying, is the sense that we deserved it based on behavior or actions or looks we failed to change.

Bullying teaches its victims that we should feel ashamed to be who we are, that we are unacceptable as people.

Why does all this matter now?  Or rather, why is this coming up?  I’m not quite sure.  It isn’t as if this hasn’t been dealt with.  I did paper over all this for years, re-inventing myself over and over and over again.  I didn’t want to be the sort of person who had a horrible time in elementary and high school.  I wanted to be the sort of person who was totally normal: well dressed, socially active, attractive.  The sort of adult I wanted to be in my twenties wouldn’t have had been such a freak as a child.

And yet the woman I am in my thirties has had to take all that history out, air it a bit, and accept that yes – this is who I am and this is what made me who I am.  And who I am is enough.  High school is behind us all, and we have all made out of our experiences there whatever we can, taken whatever we can and moved on.  Nightmares or reliving old humiliations doesn’t change who I am today, nor will it change the person I will continue evolving into tomorrow.  The impact that time has on my life is forever, but finite. Perhaps by writing all this down & writing all this out, I can remind myself of that perspective and ensure that random throwback dreams remain irrelevant.

 

the subway is the great equalizer in NYC

I love the New York City subway.  This may come as a surprise.  Our system is falling apart – literally in some cases at the switches.  Hellish delays happen due to garbage spills.  No one will take responsibility for funding and doing real work to fix the actual problems.  And of course, it is full of rats.

Yet for all that, I love the subway.  It is the most efficient way to get around most of the city.  It’s faster than driving most days.  It doesn’t cover the entire city, but I can use a $10 car or taxi to get from a subway stop to a final destination in a hurry if I don’t have time to walk.  And it has stunning views from some of the trains

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Good morning, East River (Manhattan bound Q, looking north)

Most of all though, the subway is the great class equalizer of New York.  It eliminates the class-based pretension and consumption of cars in most New Yorkers daily commutes.  Everyone takes the subway.  Even for those who can afford car service, taking a car would waste more time than it’s worth.  In a society where time is money, the subway is not only a financial bargain, but a time bargain for those who would otherwise have automobile based transportation.

The subway also provides the same service to everyone, regardless of class and social status.  There’s something very socialist about it, a service where you cannot buy your way out of it, or pay for better quality experiences than anyone else.  A New York resident may own a $5MM townhome in Brooklyn, or be renting an illegal divided apartment in Queens, and they will still have the same experience on the train that day.  That may be a quiet ride across boroughs, or it may be a crowded train car that has been overloaded after being delayed by twenty minutes due to a sick passenger in Times Square.  Whatever.  No one can buy their way out of it because no other transportation form is more efficient and effective in New York.

And while I may complain about the homeless literally peeing inside the train cars, the subway must literally save lives in cold weather.  The stations are underground, the cars are climate controlled – it isn’t where people should have to go, but it is a roof over their heads and a way to not freeze to death. (It would be nice if the Mayor opened more shelters though so the subway could be used for transportation and not as an inclement homeless shelter though)

The subway is what works for this city – and what makes this city work.  It keeps New York running.  Millions of people ride it every day.  It sucks a lot of the time, and complaining about the MTA is practically a mandate.  Yet the subway equalizes the experience of living here in a way that makes the middle class and the wealthy care about a transportation system that also serves the poor.  My socialist heart beats a little faster for that.

there must be social commentary in this workout

I went to ConBody this morning.  It’s a bootcamp workout on the Lower East Side, with a well documented story and theme around…convicts. Or ex-cons, to be exact.  The space isn’t a workout room, but a jail cell, complete with a cell door.  The wall features a mural of chain link and figures in hoodies.  The logo is a clock with barbed wire on it. The hashtag is #dothetime.  The branding is genius, and has landed a ton of press.

What’s more genius is that this is a business that actually does help to get convicted felons back in the employment market.  It makes their prison time an asset, not a detriment, in their career as physical fitness instructors. It won’t get them back all their rights, but at least it gets them jobs.  The founder, Coss Marte, from everything I have read, seems a genuinely nice guy, from a family committed to social good: his brother Christopher is running for district councilman in New York on a strong community service platform (Their mom was handing out his election pamphlets after she did the class with us.  AWWWW)

Incarceration is a serious problem in this country: the US locks up more people per capita than any other country.  Two million people are estimated jailed in this country, or just under 1% of all the adults in America.

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Incarceration has been called “the new Jim Crow“: a race-biased system that perpetuates the caste system in America.  In her book on this topic, Michelle Alexander argues that incarceration is a method to keep black Americans “in their place”, a seemingly fair, equal and just system that instead is skewed towards POCs.  Not only does prison take away the freedom of a felon temporarily, but it is a permanent black mark that prevents that individual from fully exercising his rights in the future.  He may not be able to vote.  He may not be readily hired to work, resulting in economic disadvantage.

The prison system in America is known to be profitable and corrupt.  Not only do we have the for-profit corporation in a popular Netflix series, but even Margaret Atwood has written  satire about prison economics Now we may be recognizing the justice system as the new vehicle for racial sublimation.

So it is with no small amount of social irony that I, a middle class white woman, went off to do a bootcamp workout, in a room full of other middle class white people.  And it was a fine workout.  It was a bootcamp workout.  It was a hard bodyweight bootcamp workout.  And I appreciate and respect that.  I especially appreciate and respect that Coss Marte has managed to wrap up an equipment-free bodyweight bootcamp workout into a brand package that manages to be tough love and inspirational, threatening in a safe way.  He’s managed to make prison into a weight loss and transformation narrative that sells his service product for him.  He doesn’t need to buy thousand dollar bikes when he has that story to tell.

Now, ConBody has been extended into its own space at the ridiculously named Saks Fifth Avenue Wellery.  That is an even more glaring social irony.  From everything I have ever read about that neighborhood and that store, the women at the Saks location must make the girls down at the LES space I went to look like street punks.  I would bet that if they saw a ConBody instructor outside the space in a hoodie, the same UES women would clutch their pearls and eye him warily, perpetuating the same criminal stereotype bias.  Yet there’s the workout, and the same ex-cons leading it, in a space that also houses a fucking salt cave.  Is that a bright spot in the dark horrors of prejudice in America?  Or is it just a ridiculous juxtaposition?

Either way.  My quads are tired.  A 7am workout followed by a stressful day of chasing clients around their own offices is exhausting.  I’ve taken my magnesium and now I’m going to go handwrite in my private journal until I fall asleep.

And I would like to add that I did the time and then thought about rewarding myself for my “incarceration workout” with a cup of butter coffee with maca in it.  Then I realized how ridiculous I was being even thinking that sentence and got the hell out of the Lower East Side before I could spend the $7.50.  There’s being a spoiled white girl doing a jail themed workout, and then there’s going out after it to blow the same amount of money that some of my fellow New Yorkers probably have for food for the entire day on a specialty drink, and that was just one upper middle class wellness luxury item too far.

 

this taylor swift song is terrible

This is the second time in a week I’ve posted about Taylor Swift’s new video.  The first time was when VICE decided to fact-check her goth cred:

Typically, I don’t watch pop music videos (because seriously, why bother, NOTHING WILL EVER BE AS GOOD AS IT WAS IN THE 90s) but due to the “Taylor Swift goes goth” allegation, I felt it was something I needed to sit through:

Typically, I have nothing against Taylor Swift.  In fact, usually I find her songs well-written and catchy.  I certainly have to hear them enough times around the house given that I have a pop-music obsessed nine year old who insists on listening to Sirius Hits 1 in the car (Paul and I listen to FirstWave or Lithium or AltNation or CBC3 when we get to choose, usually when Ben is napping)

This song, however, is just awful.  It manages to repeat key changes while being totally devoid of melody.  It’s speak-sung with repetitive lyrics.  It’s like the video was conceived first and then some background noise was developed for it.  The best description for it is “lemonade Crystal Light”.  Only I think that’s actually an insult to citric acid.

By commenting on any pop culture, I hear the same sarcastic voice & comment that one would expect: well could you do any better?  And the answer to that is probably no, no I could not.  The thing is, it isn’t my job to write pop songs.  I haven’t spent my life training and perfecting the craft of writing pop songs.  Taylor Swift has, and arguably, she is very good at it.  Therefore, I expect her to use that craft to produce a song with a melody, not a novelty piece.

One could also argue that Ms. Swift is trying to do something different, that this is part of a reinvention of herself, “the old Taylor is dead”, etc.  The problem is that it just isn’t a well crafted song.  Taken without the video, it’s slow and repetitive.  Without visuals, it’s downright boring.  It isn’t something that can be danced to easily because the beat is awkward.  It’s different from the past singles that this pop ingenue has released, but lacks the familiarity with non-pop genres of music that could have provided more interest and engagement.

Or, to put it another way, if Taylor is going to go dark, listen to some goddamn Front Line Assembly and sample an industrial beat rather than just pulling together a weak song about revenge with a drum machine backbeat.  Or if she is going to go cinematically dark, I am fairly certain that there are plenty of examples of how to do that

Why am I complaining about this pop music piece in particular?  Partially because I’m up early thanks to some insomnia (it is hard falling asleep and staying asleep these days) but also because this music video just beat out “Gangnam Style” as the most viewed video on YouTube…and we are all going to have to hear it on a multiple times daily basis for the next few months.  It’s all over my RSS reader like it’s a video and re-invention for the ages, like it’s a great, groundbreaking single.  I’m not typically up on this sort of thing, but hasn’t this also been done?  Like by Madonna?  Or Lady Gaga?  Or Beyonce?

I suppose my point is that I have to go yell at some kids to get off my lawn and rant about how all modern music is terrible.  I just wanted to complain about this video in particular first before I do so.