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.

Some Hawaii Pix


Whale watching

Near the lava fields

Public art: “Cherish the reef”

Body surfing (look for our heads)

Jeep style

Where the lava came out of Haleakala

The trail we hiked at the lava fields

The mountain slips into its wig of clouds and steps into the moon’s blue spotlight. She knows the words to this song, the static of the ocean fuzzing softly against her lips. She wears the glittery gown of night. The whales roll over in their water beds, clap softly their fins against the water. Their calves want to grow up to be this beautiful, to sing this song, the feel wig shimmer with rain and sweat and city lights. The song goes on until there are no more words to say. The mountain, triumphant, bows until the wig slips from her head like fog.


Beau and I are about to be stranded in Phoenix.

Our overnight flight from Honolulu to Phoenix is still a go, but our second leg, from PHX to BWI, has been shut down by U.S. Airways. (Yes, I said I’d never fly them again, but I’m a cheapskate and they had the best fare to HI.)

I spent 1 hour 7 minutes on hold with Orbitz (listening to Pachelbel’s Canon on repeat the whole time).

Orbitz said, For us to call the airline, the wait is 60 minutes. You can call the airline yourself and it might be faster.

I called the airline myself. U.S. Airways said, We’re experiencing higher than usual call volume and then hung up on me.

Now we don’t know what’s going to happen…

9 phone calls (8 of them to U.S. Airways) and 3 hours later, we have a new itinerary from hell but are grateful for it:

Maui to Honolulu tonight
Honolulu to Phoenix overnight (arr. 9 am)
Stay all day in Phoenix
Phoenix to Charlotte overnight (depart midnight)
Charlotte to DC (arr. 9 am)

Then we get to drive from the airport through the snow!

Postcard from Maui

It’s a common misconception that humpback whales leap from the water as attempted acts of suicide. In fact, these leaps are purely bravado. From the boat, we listened to their simple songs that, in another context, might be runaway pop hits. To the aft, the moving cloud, the flocked water seemed to make the island wring itself up like a rag. If a fin breached the water, the woman in the homemade hat would shriek Show us your body! It was like the Superbowl of Whale Watching. The rest of us on the boat silently decided to vote her off, Survivor-style. Shocked, I said, I haven’t seen this much tail since the 70s. In the water, dozens of whales made like they were waving hello. But any whale will tell you, when you’ve only got one finger, that’s what they’re giving you. They swam 3,000 miles to give you that finger, and you paid $30 to see it.

Postcard from Maui

The writing has never been so clearly on the wall. So to speak. With all the rights they’ve taken from us, this one was just an eventuality. Despite our flaws, we hit the beach early on, and the sun held us in its mouth haphazardly, like a dog. It seared our flesh. The waves crashed in like a series of drunken uncles nobody wanted to see again and threw their foam around like slurred profanity. It was embarrassing for everyone. I followed you through the beachside while the sun berated us, interrogating us with its naked bulb. Although I was scarred, I felt invincible. Nothing could ruin me now. I could hear the waves lapping at the shore in desperation. That’s when I knew I had won.