The Big Snapple

Some of you know my longstanding feeling about New York City.

It wasn’t kind.

That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed visiting there. In fact, I’ve probably enjoyed it too much. My last significant visit for vacation, I was in my mid-twenties. It was me, a financial aid check, and every bar in Manhattan. Not to mention the shopping. I bought shoes, bags, a cheap fake watch and sunglasses in Chinatown. Whatever I couldn’t wear, I drank. And whatever I didn’t drink, I ate. It was a five-day loop of that, of waking up around noon, fuzzy-headed and warmed by the July sun spilling in through the windows of my friend’s Brooklyn flat. It was strange men in bars. It was spontaneous trips to Pommes Frites, to walk by The Cock and hear scandalous stories of its backroom (but not going in).

In fact, the happiest thing this side of love happened to me in New York: I was name-checked–loudly–by Reb Livingston as I exited the Prada store on 5th Avenue. It was like a dream. Except in the dream I have a black AmEx and a poolboy named Brody Jenner.

Possibly I loved New York too much and knew if I lived there, I wouldn’t be living long.

But that’s not all of it. Tall cities are dark, depressing. Oppressive. I hate the streets like long corridors with oversized walls. The smells. Oh, the smells. If the air doesn’t smell like something edible, it smells like things that used to be edible, or were eaten and then, you know, returned to the earth, so to speak. Not to mention there’s a higher than normal incidence of body odor among people within Manhattan itself. I don’t know if there’s any correlation.

On previous trips to Manhattan, I felt like everyone around me was thin, smoking a cigarette I wasn’t able to smoke myself, and wearing black. It was like the entire city was populated by semioticians! Many of the people I met were either artists or bankers. I remember meeting a young woman–let’s call her Amanda–who mixed drinks at a bar that only had red lighting in it. It was like having a martini in a Soviet propaganda ad. She had a boyfriend, she said, but sometimes liked to make out with girls. I don’t know why that’s such a strong memory. She was blond; her hair was the color of blood in the light.

This time, here’s what I noticed:
> Manhattan men are having a fashion crisis
> It really does smell like I remembered
> It’s really fun

Beau and I hit the Guggenheim and I loved the exhibits. The permanent collection, with its Renoirs and Gauguins and Degas…es, was a treat, but my favorite exhibition was the Kazimir Malevich, a Russian Suprematist, whose cubist/abstract paintings were like Mondrian on psychotropic mushrooms. The current exhibition, Haunted, featured some really intriguing pieces too. Some were a miss for me. But it was such a great space in which to view art.

We bustled over to meet a friend of Beau’s for coffee. At her salon, while we waited, I had my first real honest-to-god non-literary real famous person sighting: Sigourney Weaver. I did a good job of not staring, although perhaps it was obvious I was trying desperately not to stare. Still–and not that you care or it matters–she is a normal looking person and she was very warm and kind with the staff at the salon. I like a nice famous person. I also like supermegapowerbitches too (Blair Waldorf), but only when they’ve earned it. I didn’t see one of those.

After a nice coffee break, we dove into The Strand, which was crawling with people. The only thing I wanted? A t-shirt to replace the one I spilled food on. They didn’t have my size. They DID have a big sign by one of the shirts with Dan Humphrey on it that said AS SEEN ON GOSSIP GIRL, which made it sting even more.

We walked about 800 blocks back to our hotel and then changed to go see American Idiot, the musical based on the Green Day album of the same name. We were really early. I won’t lie. We were wearing the same thing we wore to the Lammys. (Reduce, reuse, rewear!) Just about everyone else going to the show looked like Jesse James: jeans, West Coast Choppers t-shirts. Some people went fancy with a long-sleeved polo shirt and a pair of Wranglers. The show itself was great. I knew most of the music really well. The set is astounding–it goes up and up and up. At the top of a fire escape that goes almost the entire height of the stage, a lone violinist sat playing her music. I felt for her. Being up that high would have made me dizzy and nauseated.

The choreography was what I’d call “masculine,” meaning it was minimal and mostly punching and stomping. Some performances were great, some…seemed like they couldn’t sing very well. As you know, I’ve often said musical theatre is neither musical nor theatre, but I make exceptions when the source material is non-traditional (American Idiot, Mamma Mia! or transgressive in some way (Spring Awakening, Jesus Christ Superstar).

Afterwards, we sauntered back to the hotel, fell asleep, and then woke up early to get on our BoltBus back to DC. A quick trip! But, possibly the best kind.

Are You the Key Master?

Today as I gathered up my things to leave work, I glanced at my keychain and noticed suddenly:

my car key was not there.

This presented a problem as I had driven to work, needed to drive home to feed Arden and go to a meeting, and was facing either a 30 minute commute or a 65 minute Metro ride. I barely had time for the former.

I did what you’re supposed to do: I retraced steps, checked under things, felt up my pockets until they blushed. Then, I did the odd/unthinkable: went right to my car and tried to open the door.

It swung open. That morning when I took my key out of the ignition, I noticed my gym lock key sitting on the floor mat, but I just picked it up and put it back on, not noticing at the time my car key was also missing from the ring.

Because it was sitting there on the center console, all bare and stealable. And me with unlocked doors. Oh, how the gods smiled upon me today and saved my little xAnder (my Scion’s Buffy-inspired name).

It reminded me of the only other time I’ve lost my car key. (There is another time an ex-boyfriend dropped my car key in the Salt River, but that’s a story for another time when there are margaritas handy.) I woke up in Phoenix one morning and decided I wanted to go to the Circle K across the street from my complex.

But since it was Phoenix, I had to drive there.

You should know I’m the kind of person who never leaves the house without:
> Showering
> Deodorizing
> Doing the hair
> Putting on clean clothes

That day was a notable exception. I hadn’t even brushed my teeth! I threw on a scuzzy hat, a tank top, and yes, even a pair of gym shorts (unspeakable!) and tooted on over to the Circle K. I was already so wrapped up in what kind of Frappuccino I’d get that I didn’t notice myself lock the car, get out, and start to close the door. What snapped me from my reverie was the anomaly of hearing my radio play as the door closed. The air conditioning on full blast. The shy hum of the engine as it idled. And the sharp click of the door locking.

I spun out. Internally. But then I went in and bought my coffee, got change for the payphone, and called a locksmith.

Four hours, they said. Probably someone would be there by then. I died a little. Four hours, in public, in gym shorts! And flip flops. And a tank top. I might as well pole dance on the corner while I was at it.

The thought did cross my mind, followed quickly by another: Beau had spare keys to my place. Beau was working. So, I did what any sane person would do.

I willed myself to remember Beau’s cell phone number, which I don’t even know how I did since I don’t know any phone numbers that don’t belong to me.

And then I called him. Again and again and again and again and again and again and again, hanging up each time before his voice mail kicked in.

After approximately 300 calls he answered. “WHAT DO YOU WANT????”

I calmly explained that I was in an emergency situation involving gym shorts and a locked and running car and needed him to come home, get my spare car key from my apartment, and then unlock my car.

All of which he did in under 15 minutes. Because he is amazing. And he wasn’t even annoyed with me after. He has the memory of a goldfish, I think sometimes. But God bless him for it.

Dear Starbucks, We Need to Talk

I think I might have to break up with you, Starbucks.

It’s been a difficult decision, but we’ve been having problems for a while. I know you’ve noticed. My coffees are made incorrectly, and your staff are indifferent and stressed out. Nobody’s happy the way they used to be. And it seems like there are fewer baristas behind the counter than when we first got together. Starbucks, are you downsizing? Are you turning out good workers and replacing them with ineffectual lame-os who don’t care if my coffee’s right?

Starbucks, your coffee is delicious—I grant you that. Your drip coffee’s quality is unparalleled, and you give me so many options to personalize my drink that no matter my mood, you promise to give me something I want. Lately, I’ve wanted a grande seven-pump sugar free vanilla soy iced coffee, and you give that to me—or at least, you try. But I’m tired of going home unsatisfied, Starbucks. I have my youth. I can’t waste my best days waiting for you to wake up and—it hurts me to even say it—smell yourself.

My last five visits—FIVE—have been substandard. I thought at first it was just a bad day, a busy morning, someone called in sick. At first, you fixed my coffee before I even knew it was wrong, and I only had to wait a minute more. I’m a patient person. I can do that. But then, when I was back East for a few days, your staff messed up my coffee twice in a row. The second time, I had to shout at someone to get him to do it right, and even then he argued that it already had soy in it when it was clearly still black!

Unfortunately, this wasn’t a right-coast issue. I’m afraid it’s national. When I got back home, I kept having problems with you, Starbucks. It seemed like you weren’t listening anymore. Yesterday, I asked for sugar-free vanilla and you wrote classic—and then didn’t put either in the drink. Your barista was sullen, depressed. And today, my barista tried to swap out my order for a “iced latte nonfat soy,” which, dear Starbucks, does not exist! Of everyone I know, I thought you would understand.

I know you’re going through a difficult time, experiencing a rebranding and a global repositioning of your corporate strategy. But I’m here now, Starbucks, and I have needs. I need you to hear me. I need things to be the way they used to be, before, when we were happy, when my coffee was always made right and was delicious.

I’m sorry, Starbucks. I think we both knew this was coming.

Size Matters

One of my little joys in life is a Starbucks coffee with soymilk (I’m sensitive about dairy) and vanilla syrup. Since this is Arizona, I spend most of the year drinking it iced. I usually go grande on it because it’s only a smidge over 2 bucks and it’s enough caffeine for starting the day. But lately, I’ve been noticing an interesting trend.

This isn’t scientific by any means, but I’d estimate that on 75% of my visits, when I order a grande iced coffee, I’m served a venti. I’m never charged for the larger size unless I say it out loud, but I can’t help wondering what’s contributing to the upsizing. Do I look especially thirsty, or perhaps tired? (Probably.) Are tall people assumed to have deeper stomachs?

It happened twice this past weekend on two consecutive visits. I’d noticed and pondered the phenomena before, but it’s not until today that I’ve felt comfortable going public with the trend.

What about you? Does Starbucks upsize you, or is this personal?