Archive for May, 2010

New Mexico

May 29, 2010

And then I went to Las Cruces, where I walked in the desert.  And then I went to Albuquerque, where I partook in a couchsurfing grillfest.  And then I drove north and realized I was not the only one having an existential crisis:

And then I went to Santa Fe, where I met my family.  Where I sat on this log with my brother:

And where I sanctioned my mother:

And where I finally changed my clothes.

White Sands

May 29, 2010

Here I am at White Sands National Park:

The existential crisis had not quite worn off.

Also at White Sands, children sled on dunes:

And I joined the Sun God:

Still hadn’t changed my clothes.  Gross.

El Paso

May 29, 2010

Got to El Paso.  A week ago.  Have not had the courage to blog since then.  I hadn’t changed my clothes.  Hadn’t showered in days.  My couchsurfing host fell through.  I saw Juarez, the most dangerous place in the world (excluding war zones), across the river.  Had an existential crisis.  Considered driving straight back to NYC.  Ate Mexican food.  Slept in my car.

The next day I found a couch.  Thank you, Hector.  The bars in El Paso pump club music whether or not their patrons want to dance.

Big Bend

May 21, 2010

You guys have got to go to Big Bend.  It’s so nice that nobody wants to live within 100 miles of it.

My Campsite:

I’m trying to sell this photo to Campmor so they can run it as an ad in Outside magazine.  Try to ignore the power line.  Pretend it’s a cross I erected out of religious fervor inspired by the sight of mountain.  Pretend I had a conversion moment.

That campsite is in Big Bend National Park.  I spent the whole night stomping on my sneakers and shaking out my sleeping bag for fear a scorpion may have sneaked in.  None did.  Too bad.  I didn’t see any rattlesnakes either.  Not even a tarantula!  We don’t have poisonous things in the northeast.  I wanted one.  Like I wanted a confederate flag when I first got to Alabama.

Here’s the other side of my campsite:

No poison there either.  Just another religious-awe-inspiring mountain.  Damn.

The next morning I hiked up the Lost Mine Trail.  Legend has it that Spaniards found a silver mine in this mountain and then enslaved the locals to work it.  The locals killed the Spaniards and sealed their corpses in the mine, so that no one else would enslave them again.  Of course, that didn’t work, they most certainly were wiped out by later European conquerors.  Geologists deny that the rock here could have ever hosted silver.  Major buzzkill.

Here I am sanctioning the mountain.

That’ll show it to inspire acts of extreme religiosity.  Wearing the clothes I always wear when sanctioning things.  Embarrassing.

Look at me looking at this other mountain:

This is where they filmed the lunar landing:

Later, on the road to El Paso (is that a Cash song?), I found the Prada store.  Here I am sanctioning it:

New York

May 20, 2010

No, I’m not in New York.  I’m still in mighty Texas.  But as I bop about the country, I spend a lot of time comparing places to NYC.  So I’ve rather enjoyed reading the recent chatter on the internet about the place.

This particular meme has focused largely on whether or not NYC is oppressive.  Leading the anti-NY charge, we have Connor Friedersdorf, who kicked off the discussion with his post “The Tyranny of New York”.  He’s backed by Andrew Sullivan and Ezra Klein. And himself again.  On the other side, Amy Davidson mounts a lone defense.  Amy, I’ve got your back.

The haters claim that New York culture is so dominant that it leaves no room for other cities to develop their own local scenes.  They also claim that New Yorkers are smug assholes.

On the first point, Friedersdorf explains:

In Houston, Phoenix, Dallas, San Diego, and San Antonio, all among the top ten most populous cities in the United States, the smallest with well over a million residents, the average person has watched countless hours of television set in various New York City apartments, and perhaps never seen their own city portrayed in a sitcom.

Tyrannical.  This criticism may have been more salient in the SeinfeldFriends era of television.  Or the Sex and the City-Sopranos era.  But what about now? Well, according to the Nielsen ratings for last week, the top two shows on television are both American Idol.  Number three is Dancing with the Stars, followed by NCIS (set in DC), NCIS: Los Angeles, The Mentalist (set in Sacramento), Two and a Half Men (Malibu), The Big Bang Theory (Pasadena), Survivor: Heroes, CSI (Vegas), Survivor: Heroes again, Criminal Minds (Quantico, VA), The Good Wife (Chicago), Desperate Housewives (the fictional town of Fairview), Dancing with the Stars Results, Glee (Lima, OH), and finally, tied with 60 Minutes at 17th, CSI: NY.  May as well round off the top 20: Grey’s Anatomy is set in Seattle and CSI: Miami is set in, well, Miami.  So the claim that New York City somehow dominates television is frankly wrong.  At least it was wrong last week.  Oh yeah, in other TV news from last week, long-running NYC series Law and Order was cancelled.  Friedersdorf continues:

The executives read The Wall Street Journal far more carefully than the local newspaper, the aspiring writers dream of getting a short story published in The New Yorker, the local Starbucks sells The New York Times, the romantics watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s on AMC at six month intervals, and every New Years Eve people gather around to watch a tape-delayed broadcast of a ball that dropped on Times Square hours earlier.

I love the phrase “the local Starbucks sells The New York Times.” The tyranny of Seattle?  People don’t read the Times for local news.  They read it for national and international news.  Same reasons they watch CNN.  The tyranny of Atlanta?  It’s not like Times articles are framed through the lens of New York City. Imagine that: “Rand Paul won the Republican Senate nomination in Kentucky Tuesday, something that could never happen in New York State because he supports whack-job positions like eliminating the Department of Education.  Despite coming from a state one-fifth our size, if he wins the seat in November, he will have the same power as Sen. Schumer and Sen. Gillibrand.”  The tyranny of non-proportional representation in the Senate?

Oh, and those aspiring writers should set their sights a bit higher.  The New Yorker has the 89th largest circulation in the country.  American Hunter, published by the NRA, is 88th.  Maybe that’s a better target.

If New York is tyrannical, the tyranny reigns over its own people more than the denizens of other cities.  Rent in New York is expensive, which makes it hard to open, say, a casual venue with cheap drinks, lots of space, no cover, and live music every night.  Such places, I believe, are the bases of local scenes.  I saw this in Little Rock and in Tulsa.  Sure, New York has “The Talk of the Town,” but just because Bostonians who read literary magazines don’t read 800-word blips about New Orleans’ characters (and sometimes they do), doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

On New Yorkers being smug assholes, I like Ta-Nehisi Coates’ position: there are smug assholes everywhere; New York has more because New York has more of everything.  There is, however, one kind of smug asshole that we don’t have.  That’s the kind that likes to claim that places like New York are not part of the real America.  Screw that.  Since I’ve ended several recent blog posts railing against that position, I’ll tag-in my ally Amy to close this one out.  She claims that contrary to popular opinion, New York is actually quite welcoming:

One hears about places where one can live for twenty years and still be seen as a newcomer. New York is more generous—you don’t have to be here for very long before those of us born here consider you a New Yorker, and before writers for the Atlantic think nothing of holding you up as an archetype for our city. For a city of supposed snobs, we are quite good at making people feel right at home.

Is West Texas A Real Place?

May 18, 2010

No.

I left Austin and drove west.  Uncharted territory.   As I drove, I saw many mysterious things.  Things I hardly dare repeat here.  Goat farms, oil wells.  An emu.  In Llano, a Texas-themed town outside of Austin, I passed through a time warp.  Here, keeping with this site’s new focus, is the library:

I saw a flattened armadillo.  I saw 2 dead deer.  I saw 4 dead buzzards.  I saw a dead skunk.  I stopped counting roadkill.  I neared the mythical city of El Dorado.  I neared the mythical nation of Iran.  Evidence:

Here I am sanctioning Iran:

No security council resolutions needed here.  Just my tummy.  Take that Hillary.

Finally, I made it to Marfa, TX, which is actually an arted-up Brooklyn neighborhood, chock full of galleries and Manhattan ex-pats.  Good to be home.

The long and lonesome road:

Austin: Still Weird

May 18, 2010

Visited Abby and Kurt in Austin this weekend.  We watched Clarissa Explains It All and Daria.  It was a total throwback to 2003, when nostalgia for nineties television was the in-thing.  You know that age-old question of whether Clarissa or Sangria is better?  Well, we settled it: sangria.  Though Melissa Joan Hart’s twitter might be better than either.  Nothing like a good pedicure to make a mom feel sexy again!  Not my words.

Some Austin sights:

Dog in robe:

Sperm on cake:

In Which This Blog Fully Transforms into a Library Log

May 12, 2010

Another day, another Texas library.  This one in the noble town of Victoria, home of the oldest delicatessen in Texas.  As libraries go, this is a creepy one.  Not creepy like the Stone Ridge Library, where I used to work,  is creepy.  That place has a ghost, and on Saturday evenings, after flipping off the lights in the children’s room, I had to scamper quickly to the front door or she’d get me.  No, this Victoria library is creepy more like Port Authority bus station is creepy.  Or maybe just like the state of Texas is creepy.  One clearly-homeless fellow (not me!) has sat in the same chair, pack at his side but no books, since 9:00 AM this morning (it’s now 4:00 PM).  Another mumbles about the navy in the corner (at least he’s reading).  ‘Round noon, a group of seniors surrounded me at my table.  One told me that a satellite was falling, he’d read it in the paper.  He then proceeded to tell me that the only solution was Jesus, protector of truth, savior of youth.  And then there is the very-overweight man in a McCafe hat.  Creepy.  Before him, my biggest exposure to obesity on this trip was this article (a good one).  I’ve finally managed to escape (at least for a few hours) the post-internet-utopian-progressivism of the CouchSurfing-liberal-activism establishment (well, not completely, I’m still in a library like a socialist).  Is this what they call the real America?

The foreboding entrance to this creepy library (complete with horrifying, 1960s-era architecture!):

And speaking of libraries…

May 11, 2010

Texas libraries are from the future.  Look at these chairs:

Me:

On The Road Again

May 11, 2010

Left New Orleans.  Drove down to the southern tip of Louisiana.  Wanted to see if I could see the oil spill.  Couldn’t.  I did however see Fort Jackson.  And this rather remarkable library:

Night fell.  So did rain.  Or so I thought.  I was wrong.  I was driving through a storm of insects, splattering on my windshield with raindrop-like regularity.  Gross.  My mirror, bug-spattered:

So that’s what it was like leaving New Orleans.  Now, I’m in Houston.  Plotting the coming weeks.  Deciding what direction to take this blog.  You’ll likely be hearing more from me in the coming days.