Sunday, October 27, 2013

May You Tube bring you joy

So what do you like? you might ask me.  Like if you were roaming around You Tube, looking at stuff, what would you look at? you might ask me.  Since you've asked so nicely, I will share.

You Tube has cats.  Lots and lots cats.  I like to look at some cats but not too many cats.  Maru is a Japanese cat who lives in or near Tokyo.  He loves boxes, his owners love him, they love putting his antics on You Tube, people love cats on You Tube, a star is born.  I used to subscribe to Maru's You Tube channel but it's someone else's cat and he is like cartoon-cat pretty but I will never be able to give him a sweet kitty hug.  There seem to be limitless boxes in Japan; still Maru is just a cute cat who does cute cat things.  I unsubscribed.

You Tube has Jenna Marbles.  Jenna Marbles is a cute, well educated young woman who has managed to make a career out of her You Tube videos about her life and her imperfections and her two sweet little dogs.  She's great, the dogs seem to always be smiling, her language is foul, and I find them amusing to watch when I choose to watch.  Subscribe?  Nah, but I wish her nothing but continued success because she is smart and clever and doesn't take all of this fame too seriously.

You Tube makes stars out of people like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.  They've worked hard for their fame and they are awesome.  I say it again:  They are awesome.  Awe-freaking-some.  "Thrift Shop" is insanely genius.  "Same Love" is touching and tender.  "Can't Hold Us" makes me want to do step aerobics, even if I'm driving in my car.  Seen all of that?  Listen to "Penis Song." 

My favorite by far and for quite a while is The Slow Mo Guys.  They blow up stuff.  They shoot arrows through things.  They put a drop of water onto the surface of more water.  They shoot a gun underwater.  They are Gavin Free and Daniel Gruchy.  Gavin's a cinematographer who specializes in slow motion photography.  Dan's in the British Army.  Just when I think I will be sick of their stuff, they do something like put paint on a speaker, crank it up to You Will Be Deaf, and make me realized I didn't know just how much a speaker throbs.  They blew up a car.  They had dozens and dozens of geeks throw water balloons at them and taped the attack in slow motion.  (Seriously, geeks with water balloons have surprisingly good aim and throw nothing like girls.)

For your viewing pleasure, here are three videos which you might've seen already, which might make you happy.

First, the French Ninja Cats:



Next, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and the uncensored "Thrift Shop":



Finally, the Slow Mo Guys, a pool in the fall, and a gun:



Sunday, October 20, 2013

In praise of my friend, a selfie pioneer

I was going through the photos on my computer, trying to find a photo I'd scanned to use as wallpaper.  I found a lot of photos of myself.  Over a period of two years, I took a picture of myself every day.  For the first year, I used my first digital camera -- an Olympus that was a mighty workhorse for years, never gave me a problem, and let me pass it along to someone to use.  For the second year, I used the Photo Booth feature on my computer.  I eventually just stopping the daily photos but it makes me think of my friend who passed away in 1988 from AIDS.

Eddis was a handsome man, tall and slender with medium brown hair, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, a first-generation American born of Latvian parents.  We met in college doing theatre.  It was a production of some Winnie-the-Pooh play or other.  I got to wear a great costume and be over the top.  I also became friends with Eddis, who played the narrator and was handsome offstage for the whole show.

In addition to being handsome, Eddis was also charming and quite brilliant.  With little effort, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and got into grad school.  Things went mildly awry at this point.  His professors insisted he read and work on his Masters program.  He wanted grad school to be as easy for him as his undergraduate days had been.  He had a great student job in the office of the school's performing arts manager.  He loved this job but it required his full attention both at and after work.  About his demanding graduate program he told me, "I don't have time for that!"  (I wanted to tell him it was graduate school and this was what happened in grad school but he was into a total full-of-himself mode and he wouldn't have listened to me.)  Six months of graduate school and he had to drop out, losing his job in the performing arts office.  He moved to Detroit (a pretty good place then) to try to find some work.  I moved to New York City, which he didn't know, and we lost touch.

I'd been living in New York about 18 months and went to a movie with one of my roommates.  It was a Katherine Hepburn retrospective because this one roommate was so into the film works of Ms. Hepburn that I can't even begin to describe her fervor, "Philadelphia Story" being her favorite.  [She would get up at 2 a.m. to watch a rerun of it.  Three of us shared a large studio, so you know this meant we watched (or heard) the movie when she did.]  As we waited for the movie to start, a tall, handsome man came in and sat about five rows ahead of us.

"Eddis!" I exclaimed.

He didn't even look.  He got up out of his seat, came over and sat next to me, and said, "How are you?" like he'd seen me the week before.

And we were again friends.

Eddis had an amazing ability to meet people and because he was so handsome, he met them way more easily than the rest of us.  Other gay men wanted this gorgeous creature around as arm candy, wallpaper, window dressing, coach covering.  Women wanted him to be their best friend, their boyfriend, their husband, their passionate misstep.  Because he was smart, he could hold up his end of a conversation.  He went to spectacular parties in fabulous residences.

Once he was over at our puny apartment and picked up my roommate's copy of Vogue, leafing through the pages.  He stopped at an article about two male designers who shared a fantastic apartment.

"I was here," said Eddis.  "I went to a cocktail party here."

"Really?  Was it fun?" we asked.

"They had steak tartare.  I'd never seen steak tartare before and I sort of shouted out 'There's raw hamburger in this bowl!'  They quietly said to me, 'That's steak tartare.'"

I knew what steak tartare was because my family members were well read and somewhat sophisticated.  He'd managed to never hear about steak tartare.  He wasn't invited back but it didn't bother him because he was 25 years old and they were decades his senior which didn't appeal to him at all.  There were plenty of other parties being held by impossibly rich people.  He could have had a swanky, ridiculously wonderful life but rich, old, gay men did nothing for him and that was that.

One day, Eddis happened upon a photo booth.  He whipped out 25¢ (yes, a quarter, decent money in those days) and took a strip of photos of himself.  The next day he did the same.  He roamed around the city looking for photo booths and every day he took a strip of photos and put it in his journal.  He took pictures when he lost a contact lense and had to wear an eyepatch so he could see with his one still encontacted eye -- he never wore glasses -- and if anything looked even more handsome and interesting.  He had favorite photo booths -- the Woolworth's near his home and another in some sort of Times Square arcade were preferred -- but if he wasn't near those, any booth would do.

Eddis might have ruled the world but he was an alcoholic.  His stepmother was an alcoholic and he followed that path.  When it came to things that could alter one's state, he couldn't help himself.  If he came to someone's home and they had marijuana, he had to smoke as much as there was.  If he went to a bar, he had to drink to the point of being totally drunk.  When he got home he would drink a quart of vodka before bed.  He lost job after job because he was either sleeping it off or too hungover to function.  He worked in a bookstore where customers wrote letters about him saying because of his recommendations, their Christmas was better.  He worked for record companies where he might have succeeded except he overslept or was drunk when he was there.  In a period of about eight years, he lost more jobs because of alcholism than I will ever have in my whole life.

He was lamenting to my oldest friend who'd been one of my New York roommates that he was having trouble finding challenging work.  She told him she thought she could get him in where she was but he would have to straighten up his act; he'd have to get sober and stay sober.  If she was going to do this for him, he had to behave and not make things bad for her.  She liked the company and they liked her.

And so he got sober and never drank again in his life.  Things went well at the company for them both but for him especially.  He made friends with someone who lived up in his part of Manhattan and they shared a gypsy cab into work every day.  He was promoted and then promoted and started travelling for the company.  Everywhere he went, he found a photo booth to take a picture of himself that day.

I was collecting postcards at the time and he would send me cards.  Because of his addictive personality, he would buy every sort of that particular card and write it out like it was one letter.  They would arrive in order sometimes but mostly they'd arrive whenever and I'd have to wait to figure out the point.  There were cards that featured anthropomorphic cats doing human things like going to work, shopping, or getting married.  He later told me these pictures scared him, that cats scared him, but he knew I liked cats and I would enjoy them.  They were my favorites of all the sets he'd ever sent me.  I love that even though he was frightened and they bothered him, he knew they would make me happy and he unselfishly persevered.

When Eddis got sick, his partner took a picture of him every day of his hospital stay so he'd have a record of it.  When he was finally released from the hospital, he worked when he could but he wasn't as good as he'd been before.  Someone not as deserving got the big promotion but he didn't think badly of the company.  Every day he slowly walked to get his picture taken at the booth nearest home.  He could finally not live on his own and his partner moved him to his home out on Long Island.  The pictures stopped because he was just too ill.

So here's a picture of me from my days of Photo Booth on my computer, when I was still using the mirror image instead of a true one.  Let's celebrate photo booths everywhere and selfies on Instagram and elsewhere.  Pictures of himself made Eddis happy, selfies make me happy, and maybe sometime they will make you happy, too.
If you see me on street, say hello.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The value of laziness

I've been wracking my brain trying to come up with something and today, I got nothing.

Therefore, I will be lazy.  I will vacuum my brain and perhaps an idea will be there in the dust and mini-debris chunks.  I have a week to examine the findings.

There will be an offering next week.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

So long, summer, you heartless son of a bitch

And so fall arrives.  We've enjoyed some great very warm weather interspersed with the storms one gets with warm weather and I have enjoyed it.  High humidity?  Great!  I love it because it makes my hair all large.  No jackets, cute little shoes, windows open at night -- all the lovely benefit of a surprising longer summer.

Then summer admits it's stayed too long, tooooo long, waaaaaay too long and bye.  Summer flees without a goodbye and we get the glorious cooler weather of autumn.  Fall in the midwest with the painted trees and the dazzling puffy clouds that make their way to somewhere that's not here, a cumulus nimbus march of the seasons.

Winter hovers, friends, with its need for a warm coat, a hat, gloves/mittens, a scarf, thick socks, boots with a lot of tread, long-sleeved garments, thicker-weight pants, and, for the truly frozen among us, long underwear.  Crack out the walking sticks if you have 'em!  (Yes, I have 'em and I use 'em.  Mostly they seem to be useful for getting seats on the bus at rush hour but I'm down with that.)  We all must tread carefully because people are a little shy about tossing down salt and/or shoveling their walks.

There was a period of a few years when I worked second shift and didn't mind winter.  I had friends who liked winter and we'd go for interesting walks on quiet streets at our 9 p.m. meal break, the nights sharp with cold and the skies clear.  Even in the city we could make out the Belt of Orion and the Big Dipper.  It felt peaceful and life-affirming and almost serene.  There was not much traffic on my way there and none on the way back.  It was easier to get around, even if there were major storms or the temperatures dipped well below 0ยบ Farenheit.  Winter offered less crime when I went home from work and gave me the chance to look for Orion's feet.

My second shift job went away to the distant suburbs and as I am not a long-distance commuter, I got a day job downtown.  There are always others to deal with on public transportation, there is always traffic if you drive, there are daily challenges just going from one's house and coming back there.  Winter adds to the aggravation in the form of idiot drivers, angry motormen, delayed trains, and soggy commuters jammed into a small spot, all smelling like soggy animals.  There were never constellations waiting to be seen and there still aren't.  On occasion, there's a sliver of the moon or maybe Venus with a soft blaze.  Or is it a plane?

I am now firm in the I-hate-winter mindset.  Once late October comes, a hair dryer comes out and we twirl into the Months of Skank, when my hair looks ghastly and straight and lifeless.  Jam a hat onto it and there's almost no chance of looking like anything other than another middle-aged lady trying to get through the week without smacking the crap out of someone.  Winter hangs on for months and boots with tread never leave my feet during the day.  Snow falls and sticks to every surface and it takes longer to walk to the bus and home from it.  I think of the next step, and the next, and getting home without landing on the ground.  I don't mind when it's supercold and there's no snow.  It might be cold -- nose-hair freezing, frostbitingly cold -- yet there's less of a chance of slam-dancing the earth.

Don't think I like summer because I really don't.  I am not a fan of small shirts and shorts and heat (although the humidity makes my hair all sorts of awesome).  Fall is a beautiful relief from the throes of great heat but I love neither coat nor hat nor gloves nor scarf nor boots nor thick socks.  I am a great fan of me and my handbag alone together, walking to the bus stop, walking home from the bus stop, and if summer is the price to pay for it, then oh well, I guess I'll crack my emotional wallet, even if summer is a heartless son of a bitch.