Saturday, August 31, 2013

Down the Shore

Tonight I'm leaving New York City for the first time since I arrived. I'm taking a late-night bus to Toms River, NJ where I'll meet my family. We'll spend the next two days at the shore house I went to every summer growing up. It's been a couple years since I last was there, and I'm so happy to be able to go back.

As our bus made the loop out of the Lincoln Tunnel, I caught I brief and miraculous view of the Manhattan skyline lights, before it disappeared. I'm curious how I'll feel when I return.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Little Green Chair

I'm living in an area of Brooklyn where a walk down the sidewalk includes a weave through the local people. Sitting on a stoop or standing on the corner—the sidewalk is the community meeting ground.

To this point I'd kept my head down, not wanting to bother anybody, not wanting to be bothered. But today I was waiting for my laundry, and there was nowhere to sit. I tried a little bench, but the sun was beating down on my face. I noticed a girl looking a bit like me grab a green lawn chair and plop down under a tree in the middle of the sidewalk. And so I did the same.

Oh the sweet breeze, the passing cars, the taste of a snack and a cool water. I looked up and around as I sat in the midst of passerbys.

To let myself be and to embrace a shared space—what a happy relief.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Six Seats

There's a public bench on a subway platform with six empty seats; the type of bench with dividers that keep it from becoming a bed. With so many options, where do you sit?

A young woman—let's call her Rachael—comes by and picks one of the two middle seats. It's weird to sit on the end when no one else is there, right? She had a long day (who didn't?), and she's exhausted. But the bench is now hers.

Two men come by and sit on either side, leaving one space in between. No problem. A couple then walks up and leans against the seat to Rachael's right. They're in their own little world. Thinking they'd want to sit down together, Rachael moves a seat to her left, and they sit. But now, she has nowhere for her too-big bag, and she doesn't want to put it on the ground, which she can only imagine is soaked in urine. Or maybe vomit.

The man on the far right gets up to walk down the platform, so now there are two open seats on the right of the bench. Rachael cranes her neck to look down at them. Now's her time to move. She gathers up her things. As she does, a train pulls away from another platform and commuters come rushing onto this one. In the crowd, a man knocks her bag, and it falls to the ground. She drops down to pick it up.

In the short time it takes for Rachael to lift herself back up, the two seats on the end easily fill from this new batch of passengers. Rachael turns around. At least she can take the seat she just left. At least she'll have a place to sit.

The seat is empty. Great. But wait, a man is making a bee-line straight for it. Rachael freezes. Her heart sinks. It isn't good. Because this isn't just any man.

It's a senior citizen.

A public bench. Six seats. Where do you sit?

Nowhere, that's where.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Sweet Familiar Sound

For months I have waited for that familiar sound,
And people say I'm crazy,
"How, Joel, could you tie such comfort to something that's just a nuisance,"
"You're not remembering the way it is,"
But I'm nostalgic for the peace, the cleansing, the renewal,
And I miss the dark afternoons when the world shuts down,
And everyone is allowed to stay indoors,
Because they have too,
Nothing else would make sense,
But they want to,
A part of them wants to,
A part of me wants to,
Because spending every day on an unnatural high,
Is worse than riding the highs and lows,
Because at least this way,
You know the high is real.

Tonight I'll fall asleep to rain out my window, a sound I have missed.
Oh the sweet, sweet candy to my ears.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Review: The Spectacular Now

For a few weeks I have chased an opportunity to see The Spectacular Now, and this afternoon I finally got the chance at a small Landmark theater on Houston in NYC (pronounced by New Yorkers HOW-stun).

I skipped watching the trailer and instead judged my interest based on reviews and a movie poster. I am intrigued by any exploration of "now" in regards to living in the present, a theme that to my delight the film most certainly does address. And as someone who feels himself happy to hold onto the uncertainly and growth of an extended adolescence, I revel in an authentic display of youth and the discovery that comes with it.

Strangely enough, the sprinkling of a crowd in the small theater was almost entirely made up of middle-aged couples, who I like to think were there to bask in a special time in their own lives. Or maybe they feel like they never grew up.

Black faded into a computer screen and the voice over of high school senior Sutter (Miles Teller) as he typed a college application essay, a sentence which itself sounds like the action line at the beginning of a bad student film. But while an 18-year-old writing about high school would typically be overdramatic and void of perspective, seasoned writing partners Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber capture the real significance that that time can have.

Now unfolds as a series of simple and understated situations riddled with teen hormones and awkward dialogue—not in that it is written poorly, but in that it is very appropriately crafted to capture the awkward beginnings of high school romance. From Sutter's misguided confidence to Aimee's clean-slate naivety, the characters have the fundamental and true troubles that come from a lack of development. Unlike the pseudo-teenagers depicted in shows like Glee or anything on the CW, Now's characters are a bit more familiar to us; a bit normal, a bit lost, yet guided by the hope of innocence.

I write this as a 21-year-old, myself perhaps lacking the perspective to see what high school really means. But I'll go out on a limb and say that it's not often that a film grasps what it's like to be that young; where life is eating cereal, bickering with parents, and going to French club, with a few spectacular moments sprinkled in.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What It Could Bring

I am seeing what this semester could bring. I do not know what it will bring. I do not know what I want it to bring. I do not know if I even have a choice. But I am seeing some possibilities of how I'll reconstruct this memory.

That's it. I am seeing a glimpse at what I could remember from this semester. But what it could bring, that I am living right now.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Great People

The best things in life are either those that come from great people or those that lead to meeting them.

This is never so evident as when in a new place.

Veins of That City

With the right perspective, New York feels like an incredibly small city.

Not small in the way that Douglassville, Pennsylvania or Pobunk, (insert Midwestern state here) is small. Not small in the way that everyone gets their hair cut at the same place or you know the gossip of every neighbor you pass. But small in the this-is-the-modern-capital-of-the-world-but-I-can-see-it-all-from-this-balcony sort of way.

Now, by any common and reasonable standards, New York is a huge city. No one will argue that. Compared to any other city in America, there is no question of it's superior size and influence.

But what happens when you compare the city not to another city, but to its near-mythical reputation? Our collective conversation has built New York up to be at the epitome of culture and influence. It has told us that if you can make it here, than you can anywhere. It has given us an idea of its scale that is incomprehensible from afar. And there is truth to all of this.

So then why, as I sit on this balcony with its scale in view, does the city look so small?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

What Is Our Catalyst

I glance into the fragmented souls of those all around me. We are forever on the edge of a collective leveling, a truce and companionship. Yet helpless without a uniting catalyst. Destined to live in parallel.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sweet Song

Alongside the rumble of the wheels and the faces of routine comes the subway performer—as much a part of the commuter's life as scheduled maintenance or dodged glances.
The concept itself is hopeful. A series of hopefuls with a powerless audience, calling for judgement, though typically ending in indifference.
But then, the sweet song of a violin brings the car to life. Every person aboard cannot but let their attention flock to a boy seemingly unaware of the cabin's transformation in his presence.
The applause is a cry for more, the bills in deference. But the boy's attention never seems to stray from his tool, packing it up, then disappearing out of our collective moment.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Settling into NYC

I laid my very temporary roots into a small two-story apartment in Astoria, Queens late this afternoon. Because of the kindness of a man I have still never met, I will stay here until I begin my slightly less temporary sublet.

With my dad now gone, I find welcoming glances in the passing eyes of subway strangers. I wonder if they can tell I'm on my first day.

Tomorrow I start to make this place feel like home.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Anticipating NYC

It's always a bit difficult to sleep the night before I make a big move. It might also be that I'm still on California time. Or that I took a two hour nap at 7pm. Or that it's only midnight. But the point still stands.

Tomorrow afternoon I will get on a $7 Megabus that will drop me at 7th and 28th in Manhattan, leaving me to fend for myself in one of the world's biggest cities. I've been to New York City a number of times, but this time is different. This time I will be meeting a neighbor of a friend of a friend to pick up a key to an apartment I've never seen before. This time I'll be buying a 30-day metro pass and scoping out bodegas and laundry mats. This time I'll be thinking about how to carve out a life that can keep me fulfilled and connected and happy and growing through the end of the year.

My life in New York will doubtlessly be rich with the varying experiences of a new city, and it will all exist because of one opportunity, which I am remarkably fortunate to have. That is my internship at the irreverent and legendary chat show Late Show with David Letterman.

I can't lie that it is very cool to be entering a position at a show I grew up watching and a show that is familiar to my friends and family. The prospect is fun and exciting, and the experience most likely will be too.

But what is even cooler to me is that I get to continue learning how to turn a medium I love from a hobby and an extracurricular into a profession. There is a dynamic process and a dedicated staff behind this show, as there is with any sophisticated form of entertainment. And as this process becomes demystified for me, I'll become more and more capable of giving myself back into the system.

I will be kind. I will be conscientious. I will be open. I will be optimistic. And I will do my best to make the most out of every day that I've been presented at this job and in this city.