Monthly Archives: October 2011

Queens & Sheroes

This is a post about my weekend, and I am going to attempt writing it in record time: seventeen minutes. Ready, go!

Oops, I just wasted three whole minutes contemplating Words With Friends.

Back on track!
Friday

On Friday, after my last day of work at my first job in New York, I had to wait an extra hour for my supervisor to sign off on my last timesheet. I guess she wanted the significance of the moment to really sink in.

Actually, she just forgot and went to do whatever it is people who work late on Fridays (by choice) do.

Regardless, the significance did sink in! I couldn’t wait to get home, rush to the laundromat, return home with clean clothes, meet Devin at Grand Central, and go out for A Night on the Town. ‘Maybe we can even get appetizers at a Fancy Restaurant during happy hour!,’ I thought to myself.

I left work and hustled to the train. I even ran down the stairs at the subway
stop—something I hardly ever do because in my head I hear my mami yelling, ‘No corras porque te caes!‘ Like Michelle Pfeiffer in One Fine Day, I made it onto the subway just in time.* I transferred to the J just as easily. And then I found myself in Queens for the very first time. Here are some observations about Queens.

1) People really like wearing logos in Queens.

2) Only two people sit while waiting for the train in Queens: a distinguished gentleman who wears spectacles on the end of his nose and a certified lazybones, me.

3) A strong matrifocal energy is surrounds you as soon as you enter the queendom!

I’d like to return to make aboveground observations, but for now, these will suffice. You probably know where this story is going. I ended up spending my Friday night doing laundry, and the closest I got to fancy appetizers was half a Kit Kat. Instead of meeting Devin at Grand Central, he met me at the wash-a-teria. It wasn’t all for naught, though. We met a little girl, let’s call her Kari, and her mami. Kari is 3 years old and super cool. We played with her baby doll, let’s call her Bebé because that is her name, and talked about the world. It was exciting! Maybe too exciting. Judging by her very wet green pants, Kari may or may not have had an accident. We are still not sure because when asked, Kari confidently said, ‘No. No me hice pipí.’ 

Saturday

On Saturday Devin and I ventured even farther outside Brooklyn. We went to Philadelphia to visit his grandmother, aunt, uncle, and super cool cousin. I was so happy to meet them all and could write a book about what lovely hosts they were and how much fun I had. There would have to be sequel about the food we were fed in Philadelphia (yum yum yum yum yum). No room in this blog post to do our trip justice, unfortunately, but I will say that Devin’s grandma has officially been inducted into my Sheroes Hall of Fame. It was inspiring to meet someone who is so loving and thoughtful. We had never met, but she has been sending me little presents for over two years! And now we play Words With Friends together. (I just started playing, and I need practice. Everybody, play with meeeee!)

Sunday

On Sunday I went to Occupy Wall Street to meet another shero, my college Admission Counselor. I hadn’t seen her since she interviewed me and told me about my now-alma mater. That was in 2006. She was so awesome and helpful. When my mom was scared for me to go to school so far way from home, my counselor offered to let my mom crash on her couch. That is how awesome she is and how much she puts into her job. Seeing her was almost surreal. I am really, really happy that she is still helping kids get to and make it through college. We were standing around catching up when we heard, ‘Mic check!’

A womyn directly in front of us announced that the legendary Judith Butler (feminist, post-structuralist philosopher) would be speaking…immediately. We sat down and got to hear her speak. Unbelievable! I took a picture, but my phone is being weird. I’ll try to post it later, but for now, watch her short speech.

To re-cap: seeing Judith Butler brings my shero count to 3 in 2 days. Talk about an inspiring weekend!

Somehow writing this ended up taking over twelve hours, and I really need to get ready because I’m going to the MoMA (!) for free (!!!). I hope you had a nice weekend, too.

P.S. SHOUTOUT TO MY NUMBER ONE READER: ISSY. NEXT TIME ON SENSITIVITYANDGRACE: SOME PICTURES I TOOK JUST FOR YOU. LOVE YOU, GRRRL!

*Disclaimer: I don’t remember if Pfeiffer’s character ever takes the subway, but she does a lot of running around. You get the idea.

On the radio

It is way, way too late for me to be writing this. I should be in bed; I have work in the morning (oh, I forgot to tell you? I got a job! I know! Thanks!); I complain every day that the city that never sleeps has turned me into the kristy that never sleeps (a full eight hours)—which is an abomination I’m steadfastly determined to correct—but guess what! Tomorrow is actually my last day (I know! I did just get the job, but short-term employment, you know how it goes. Mmhmmmmmmm). Plus, I like pretending that somewhere, someone is thinking, ‘Ugh, sensitivityandgrace hasn’t been updated in forever!’ Hypothetical reader, this one’s for you.

I’ve really been digging my local hip-hop radio station lately. And when I say ‘my local hip-hop radio station’, I really mean ‘Hot 97′, the United States’ premier hip-hop station. The home of hip-hop, if you will. (Sidenote: is ‘hip-hop’ hyphenated? I think it should be because it is a compound adjective, but with the hyphen, it kind of looks like a sound effect?)

I’ve been listening every day this week at 2 p.m. when they debut new tracks. They are so new that the DJ has to talk over each track periodically so that people don’t record them and post them on the internet. Woah. And while you, dear reader, probably hear things before Hot 97 plays them because you are that cool, I am not. Therefore, 2 p.m. is soooooo exciting! I get goosebumps. I also get goosebumps when the DJ talks about the parties goin’ down at different clubs every night. I think to myself, ‘I have an unlimited metro card. I could go to that club in Astoria, Queens, no problem.’ I proceed  have a little daydream about dancing in a New York night club and being invited to join the Young Money entourage (their gender balance is way off; naturally, they need me). This daydream is quickly overtaken by My Ultimate Daydream: sleeping in my bed. (Oh yeah, I also forgot to tell you that I got a bed! Well, technically, I just got a mattress, but like a wise man once said, ‘You need to crawl before you ball.’)

Since I’ve been working in an office, I stream Hot 97 and listen with my earbuds so as not to disturb my co-workers who much prefer Lite FM, a.k.a. the worst radio station ever. If you have never had the dis-pleasure of hearing Lite FM (they have stations all over the country, like NPR, except torture!), let me tell you about it. After three weeks of heavy listening, I am somewhat of a pro. Lite FM likes to portray itself as the ‘compromise pizza’ of the airwaves. It claims to play the songs you remember from the good ol’ days/TV commercials along with today’s hits. One would assume, ‘All right, that’s fair. No one’s gonna love everything, but there’s a little something for everyone. Cool.’ Except that claim is a bold-faced lie (ha). Never in my three weeks of listening have they played Lil Wayne, Drake, Kanye West, or Jay-Z, even though these musicians are releasing practically all of ‘today’s hits.’ Instead, they play this horrible mish-mash of simultaneously irritating and dreadfully boring songs. Like Earth, Wind, & Fire’s ‘September (Do You Remember?)’ or Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Behind These Hazel Eyes’ or The Black Eyed Peas’ ‘I Gotta Feeling,’ which is really just a contemporary version of ‘September (Do You Remember?).’ It hurts my soul. The worst part is, it has the shortest playlist of any radio station on Earth. That means it plays ‘Manic Monday’ Every Single Day. And, on the odd occasion when it does play something good, all it does is prompt me to question the quality of the song and the integrity of the artist. It’s like when you meet someone really cool, but her/his friends all suck and you find out s/he thinks Dane Cook is hilaaaaaarious. Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, and Rihanna will never be the same to me. I know I used to like Alanis Morrissette, but I don’t believe it. In conclusion, we should all write letters to the FCC to keep Lite FM from polluting our airwaves. Or something.

Okay okay, to be fair, I have to admit that Lite FM is okay for one month of the year: December. It plays Christmas carols non-stop! Not even that can make up for the suffering I’ve endured the past three weeks, though. In fact, it’s just made it worse because every time I hear the Lite FM jingle, I have this Pavlovian response of, ‘(Gasp) Christmas carols!’, when it’s actually just ‘With Arms Wiii-hiiiiiiiiiide Ope-yeeeeeeeeeeen’ by Creed. For the fifth time in one day.

And I saw my reflection

This summer, while walking to get a manicure, I passed this sign in a window.

NO SITTING OR SLEEPING IN FRONT OF THE WINDOWS

It struck me as an eight-word summary of our society’s prevailing attitude toward homelessness.

Banning homeless people from sitting or sleeping in front of windows is a succinct way of saying, ‘Hi, I know your life is hard, but could you please not force me to acknowledge it? Actually, I’d appreciate it if I could just ignore your existence altogether. Okay, bye!’

Sounds pretty heartless, doesn’t it?

It perfectly reflects what I do pretty much every single day.

I know there are homeless people, and I think that is Shameful and Abominable. I don’t think there is any reason for anyone to go hungry or lack shelter anywhere in the world, but especially in a country that calls itself The Land of Milk and Honey and has a sonnet on its most famous national monument welcoming  inviting the poor to have a better life. (‘ “Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” ‘) I mean, come ooon!

Still, when I move through the world, I am, for the most part, a hypocrite. If I see a homeless person, I avert my eyes. If I hear people begging for change, I tune them out. This summer I walked past at least one homeless person every day and not once did I give anyone a cent. Not. One. Penny. This past Tuesday, I heard a man saying, ‘This is what our society does to people–puts ’em out on the street. Spare change helps’  to passersby. It broke my heart. Man oh man, did I sympathize with him. In my head I was all, ‘It’s an outrage! No one should have to live on the street!,’ but in real life? In real life, I stood quietly in line for my falafel wrap staring straight ahead and keeping my change.

I behave like this (shamefully and abominably!) not because I ‘don’t believe in handouts’ or because I think most people begging are ‘just posing as hobos to scam us working folks out of our hard-earned dollars.’ I don’t think it boils down to, ‘Stop complaining, and get a job!’ In fact, I can’t begin to imagine how a homeless person could even find a job.

Think about it. Most people won’t even look you in the eye, let alone talk to you. And you’re supposed to land an interview and get hired?! No matter how firm your handshake and how winning your smile, you’re probably not going to get a job without some serious help.

I understand that, yet it doesn’t lead to action on my part. Why? Because I don’t know what to do. It seems like a huge, overwhelming problem that requires large-scale systemic change, and I have no idea what I should do to help (if you’ve got ideas, send them my way). In short, I feel powerless.

That’s not the best state of mind/state of being, but it is infinitely better than being jaded. There’s a big difference between the two, even if both mindsets lead to the same inaction.

Feeling powerless means you don’t know what can be done to change something.

Feeling jaded means you don’t think anything can be done to change something.

To avoid feeling jaded, one must have hope. In fact, it just dawned on me that jadedness and cynicism are tantamount to hopelessness.

Sometimes having hope isn’t hard. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s really, really, really, crawl-under-the-covers-and-cry hard.

When that jadedness starts creeping in, I remind myself that our world is filled with senseless problems.

In our world, there are lots of starving people, but there is also plenty of food!

There are lots of homeless people, but even more unoccupied buildings (not to mention guest rooms)!

There is tons of pollution and there are lots of environmentally-friendly solutions to the problem of pollution!

There are many marginalized groups, but there is absolutely no reason for anyone to be oppressed (I mean, one can argue that capitalism requires exploitation, but let’s save that for another blog post, shall we?).

I tell myself these truths, endeavor to figure out solutions to the problems I’ve identified but don’t know how to fix, and work for change in the ways I know how.

That last part is crucial to retaining hope. I am writing this from the edge of Zuccotti Park (renamed Liberty Square by the members of the  Occupy Wall Street movement) where I have seen so many signs that, unlike that sign at the top, fill me with pride to be a citizen of this country and reflect what I believe to be just.

If you are in New York City, I encourage you to come to Zuccotti Park/Liberty Square and express your hope for our society–protesting is an incredibly effective cure for feeling powerless, I tell you what! There are similar protest sites all over the country, so maybe you can find one close to home. If you can’t make it to any such gathering, but you still want to help out, call a pizzeria near Wall Street and ask for a pizza to be delivered to Zuccotti Park. You can pay for it with a card by phone, and you’ll be helping feed lots of hungry protesters, some of whom are homeless people here primarily because it’s a place where they can sleep and eat safely. You can probably do the same for other cities. I’m sure that there are other ways to help, but I heard about the send-a-pizza tactic this morning at church and think it’s very clever!

With hope (for the 99%!),

kristy

Hello, I live here.

This week it dawned on me that I live in New York.

It happened on Wednesday when I had the opportunity to see my darling friend from high school, Jess, play an excellent show with her band mere blocks away from my Park Slope sublet. After their set was over, Jess gave me a big hug and asked me about my life. Nonchalantly, I explained that my friends Anda, Marika, and I had rented a one-month sublet in Park Slope and had just signed a lease for an apartment in Williamsburg. Her eyes got really big as she said, ‘Wait, like a lease lease? Like you live here now?!’

I nodded.

And then, it hit me. I live in Brooklyn! I ride the subway! I signed a lease and will soon live in a little apartment across from a playground with three of the funniest people who have ever walked the face of the earth! I’m not really sure if I can compost anymore! New York!

Jess and I hugged again!

Incidentally, The Dearloves happened to be opening for two Portland bands. So, I got to watch some rad musicians from Portland, Oregon with one of my favorite people from Arlington, Texas in Brooklyn, New York. (You guys, would Oprah deem this a full-circle moment? I think YES.) And the whole time I just kept thinking to myself, ‘I wonder where these Portlanders go for brunch.’

Fast-forward two days: Anda, Marika, and I are on the couch watching Mad Men. Penelope (the raw foodist pitbull, who only eats raw chicken, that we have to take care of because New York real estate is crazy, and it was the only way to sublet an apartment) is at our feet. Onscreen, Roger Sterling says, ‘I have to stay away from Midtown.’ A little bell goes off in my brain because we had just had sushi there (long story). Anda turns to me and whispers, ‘We’re there.’ And then I got all giddy because I live in New York now!

The end.

Oh wait, here are some pictures.

'Pan Am' was filming in my (temporary) neighborhood. I gave them my résumé. No big.

Free parking at the block party.

This is Park Slope.

This is (a mural in) Williamsburg.

This is my favorite building in Midtown.

The end, for real.