Photos from ho-ho-home…

January 8, 2010

Snow falls and is gone by morning. The cuckoo’s chirp sounds at the hour, then at the half, then every minute. The morning commute merges with the afternoon rush. And I realize that my days are numbered at home in Stuyvesant, heralding my return to York. Back to a just-too-cold apartment, unreliable (and sometimes unavailable) funds and a noticeable loss of effective, real communication. I am happy at home, and that is not home. And the distance grows between York and I. Yes, York is a dream the morning after: it exists, I try and recall, but the details dissemble the harder I try.

In so many ways I regret the departure from here. Yes, I really do. The holidays do me like that. I appeased my eyelids and sated my deprivation, sleeping in my balmy bed ten hours at a time. Brewing cups of coffee for Ida while pouring over the Register Star’s crossword on Tuesdays and Thursdays retained the summertime’s sublimity. Sitting on the back porch and watching the snow fall with stars still visible, cigarette or tea in hand, sedated the disquiet of my mind or otherwise. I adore home (despite rumor of the opposite). I claim this quotidian registry, this traipsing through time, as my own. [What a sexy phrase!]

The sense of a coming home feels so strong to me. The universe placates me when I am here and enacts a masterful performance in which it corrects itself. I am calm at home. I am rational at home. I am carefree at home. Peter Pan never went back when he ran away: that home was not Neverland. But mine is. And I do not know when I will next return.

I failed to do all I could with these twenty odd days. But I am glad I had a chance.

One of my Christmas presents from Santa was a digital camera. It’s maroon and cute. I haven’t used it enough, but what I have I would like to share with you now. See what Neverland has to offer:

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Resolutions for 2010…

December 28, 2009

With 2009 ending and that year’s resolutions successfully achieved, I am to offer some fresh ideas on how to approach 2010. But, by god, 2010.

Who would have believed the new millenium was ten years ago? We are led to believe that the world both ended and began then. A kind of overarching cosmic rebirth occurred, some say: Nut swallowed the setting age only to produce the next, whose similarities to the last were welcome and loathsome at once. At this moment Earth and I ceased to be six billion and eleven years old, respectively, and stood frozen on a monumental cleft’s edge. Like Janus, our communal heads regarded the past and (not without fear) stared into an unclear future, certain only that it would come. An end and a beginning.

No, not really. I just rediscovered the No Doubt performance I watched on MTV at midnight ten year’s ago. Gwen and the band performed (with cue cards) R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”. Watch it here. It was as every other year with a few more fireworks and anticipation. But nothing more. The New Year retained what it always had, meaningless ceremony along with plenty of booze, thoughts of aging, regrets and resolutions.

As with any year, I am altogether weary of New Year ambition, success rates being what they are. However, with last year’s moderate aims proving easy enough to accomplish overall, I submit (and commit) myself once again to fulfilling this modest goal I now establish. I, Robert, this year will strive to get my shit together. It is fantastically obscure and perfect for my serious lack of commitment to any new year’s regime. And it is so very holistic. I can incorporate the resolution into all aspects of my life with ease. Wash the dishes, check. Write out my notes onto flashcards, check. Get a haircut and massage, check.

As previously, I will utilize markers to facilitate and indicate what success I have. These take more precise forms, sort of like my day-to-day game plan for getting said shit together. So, I repeat last year: for all the people who ask, “What are your resolutions for 2010?”, I present these listed items as my defense and the keys to a wonderful year.

1. Say what I mean (to say). Even this goal is avoiding what I really mean to say here. If I was honest (and blunt) it would say something closer to “Grow a pair.” But, alas, they go hand in hand. For the past year I have felt so inhibited, as though I made the conscious choice to castrate my voice and thoughts. I regularly self-edited and harshly, leaving nothing but silenced regrets screaming in my mind. And it is tiring. If I cannot say what I feel, how will anyone ever know? I am forcing myself into the emotional void that I had loved and perfected four years ago in high school. But I am no longer that person. I feel (occasionally). And, like Kelly in the famed “Shoes” video on YouTube, “I’m gonna get what I want.”

2. Plan more than 3 days in advance. This term’s final two weeks backed me into a nearly impossible corner. Seven hour Beowulf rehearsals, a weeks old virus eating away at my body, a (presumably misplaced) emotional attachment, and one monster essay looming Cerberus-style over noon on December 18th. Add a few Christmas lists and a flight booking, and you have a stressed out Robert. Not only was I lacking the time for these tasks, but I had absolutely no energy for them. The result, as they say, of poor planning. Had I managed to stay on top of my own schedule, thinking in advance about essay topics and flight management, I would likely have produced better results on all fronts. Save, perhaps, Beowulf: I needed that overwrought motivation! I propose to be more logical with my schedule. If it is not something I have planned or cannot accommodate, it is a no-go.

3. Revival of ’09: Go for fresh veggies and fruit. The benefits of this are hard to ignore. I am not overweight nor even close to being so. I have been concerned of late, though, with the future state of my skin, heart, and metabolism. Spending time with my parents the past few weeks has reminded me of the silly way nature works. My mom, for example, eats terrifically healthy and is in peak athletic condition at 53, and yet she is taking a medication for high cholesterol and watching her blood pressure. My dad is already on cholesterol and blood pressure medications, while also being watched as a pre-diabetic candidate. Needless to say, I am slightly worried that, while I may be healthy now, nature may have its own providence. Eating bad foods may exacerbate a genetic predisposition, though no physical manifestations of their harm show on me currently. So, I propose taking the salad option more frequently and asking for fresh vegetables and fruits.”

4. Finish something creative. I have far too many projects on the backburners. Not only does this leave you creatively pent up, but you continue to lose ideas. The mind is an 80GB hard drive, fitting this new HD GaGa song from iTunes demands that I delete two shitty Muse rips from Limewire. The new pushes out the old. But no more. I have three (maybe four) major projects that deserve my attention and have been sorely neglected for more than 2 months at least. Art is cathartic in any form, and I owe myself the outlet that comes free of charge and without a morning-after hangover.

5. Read up and be educated. There is a reason I am still attending University. While my motivation for doing so remains a mystery, the reason is clear: I like to learn. Too often, though, I feel like I am taking advantage of the situation in which I find myself. No, I do not spend my mornings in the library, researching the optional background material from the syllabus. No, I do not spend my free afternoons in a coffee shop with my newest W.H. Smith purchase in my hands. There is an investment of time required that I am not prepared to sacrifice. Instead, I find that I dance around my apartment, sing just loud enough to get the high notes without the neighbors hearing, and watch episodes of “Murder, She Wrote” while munching on a sandwich. But this must change. I need to read more, read everything. I am meant to be somewhat specialized in the Medieval period; I should know something about it.

Happy 2010.

Coming out of 2008 with a lovely hangover cocktail of depression, alcohol, and extreme self-loathing, I had but the best of hopes for 2009. A new beginning, I remember telling myself: once the ball dropped and the bells sounded, I could return to happiness and start fresh. Changes were inevitable, and I was ready to greet them each with a sly smile and a slap on the ass.

So, one year on…

As with so many things (cocaine, alcohol, cigarettes), I am forever addiction-less. [I think this may be a more complex issue I need to address with my therapist, but the acceptance of it is suitable for the time being.] After beginning this blog with days of furious writing of entry after entry, I abruptly stopped. I regressed to my pre-new year sadness, thinking about Matt and love’s loss. More significantly, the whole affair dismantled the what-do-I-want-in-my-life scaffolding in my brain. What was once concrete and steel turned overnight into lego blocks and crazy glue. I began seeing my therapist at that time, something I thought I would never believe in/need to do. Then with a conversation to Matt, just one 2 minute phone call outside of Java City, the artisan’s were back at work rebuilding my emotional framework and forgetting the one who’d fucked it over.

I think that is an indication of my year overall. I live crisis to crisis. Moments of security found themselves outside my seconds of fear. And each time I forget what came before. Like last year I’m being vague, so let me just say it: I have emotional ADHD. Each month seems to bring something new to feel that drastically changes from the month before. Luckily, I pick a song for each new feeling to (pretty much) live through, helping me remembering where I once was and what state of mind I was in. If I was an actor, it would be so useful for the Method and emotional recall. Sad face = things that will never be.

Alas, I made a list of things to achieve in 2009. Damn my enthusiasm to make a readable blog. Did I succeed?

For my largest goal of having more fun: ABSOLUTELY, I DID! This year has been filled with so many great memories. And half of them I cannot even remember properly because they are soured with tequila, euphoria and sentimentality, a sexy little combo. And I do think that the smaller components of this goal helped push me into the winner’s circle. Check it out:

1. Drink more. Done and done. Even if the move to England did not facilitate this goal, I would have achieved it. Experiences like my moving away party (where waking up on the bathroom floor with a towel under my head meant the party was a success and that my friend’s care so much) and creating a make-shift wine bottle opener in San Francisco stick with me. Tesco runs at 2AM-5AM to pick up 30+ beers that would be consumed by 10AM…those are key.

2. Fresh fruit and vegetables. Also a success. The triathlon gave me a taste for the healthy items, which (though I’ve stopped running due to the cold) are still my main fuel. And they’re super cheap in Britain.

3. Take the stairs. Add it to #2’s triathlon training as a winner. And it improves the bone structure that is ever-vital.

4. New TV series. Glee. The Sopranos. Nurse Jackie. Prime Suspect. Etc. Too easy.

5. Travel more often. Yes and no. While I did go to London in February to visit the girls and travel to San Francisco with Katie, I did not make it to as many places as I would ideally like. I should also mention that enlightening weekend in (cough cough) South Jersey, which was lovely. I am not counting the move to England as part of this travel goal….that’s a freebie. An expensive freebie.

6. Making time for friends. Until recently, I doubt anyone would disagree that I did quite well in this. Desperately trying to maintain contact with dear ones before I left the country slowly eroded (without the internet) into a sad exercise into how pitiful facebook conversations can be. So, I do make amends.

7. Staying positive. Taking away late January to early February, as well as short periods about the rest of the year, I would argue that I have done remarkably well. I like to imagine that I am a happy-go-lucky kind of guy. Unfortunately, I have heard told that I get into mood swings and entirely reject friends’ company. I have no defense for this except: watch out when I am angry- hell hath no fury (or such a short and sweet recovery time after) as Robert’s scorn.

My goals for next year are forthcoming. But I suspect that many changes will come. I am in a much different place from 2008 and feel compelled to go to an even more enjoyable and comfortable one. Nothing like that American ambition for bigger and better.

Today, I remembered an entry I wrote many months ago (back when I was updating more regularly). While in a somewhat depressed mood, feeling blue because my friends were studying abroad for the semester, I vowed to travel more. The thought was, “Hmm. I’ve got this money. I don’t really need to save it. Why not spend it on something frivilous that I will actually not regret a few days after?”.  That seems a reasonable explanation, if not entirely true. More accurately, “Damn. My closest friends are moving away in my last semester, I am moving to another country soon after they return, and I am already feeling out of the loop. Emotions. Double Damn.” So, I made this semi-public assurance to myself that I would see them in one of my travels this semester, while attempting to acclimate to a life of travel and friend destabilization.

As I mentioned soon after making that promise, I had bought a ticket to London on Student Universe, which was incredibly cheap at the time (something like $450+/- round trip). Thank god, I am a student: real life is too expensive! Anyway, I put off life (Italian lectures, 4 jobs, and free meals at the dining halls) for 10 days and traveled across the pond to see Jess and Meredith, who seemed to be in their touristic element while in London, seeing every site possible and making 3+ facebook albums for each. As such, I was excited to see them (who will deny the appeal of being tagged in a bundle of facebook photos? Not Narcissist, not me!).

Nido Student Residence

Nido Student Residence

It was certainly a welcome change to see them again and live an entirely ridiculous life in London together. When, but in these years of your life, can you pick up and leave your home one day, and live together with your friends in the (slightly off) center of London the very next? It is a fantastic feeling of power. To be honest, the reality of a temporary life abroad wasn’t as glamorous. Both Jess and Meredith lived together in NYU’s London housing unit, called Nido, in which each suite is roughly the size of a large walk-in closet with a bathroom (the size of a very small closet) and two beds. Situated in Islington, very nearby St. Pancras and King’s Cross Stations, Nido looks like an improved version of the monstrosity on 3rd & 13th in Manhattan: colorful, but what the hell were they thinking? After rearranging the room a bit, we had a large king size bed to share among the three of us and little standing room to move about in. Not a penthouse at the Ritz, but snazzy enough for the likes of me (Did I mention that it was a free place to stay?).

It was one of those very perfect vacations, where relaxation can somehow coexist with business and checking things off the to-do list. We never planned in advance. We went with the flow and did things that interested us all. And I loved it so very much. Here is an account of the trip (of what I remember of it, that is):

  • Two West End shows: Sunset Boulevard & La Cage aux Folles.

J & M outside "Sunset Boulevard"

J & M outside "Sunset Boulevard"

Sunset Boulevard: A well-reviewed revival Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical interpretation of the classic 1950’s film. With minimal sets, a small cast (playing their own instruments, as is currently favored), and an intimate theatre, this production makes an overwhelming score and story seem more gritty. Rather than a tableau of replicated scenes from the film, the small size of this incarnation gives the feeling of a psychological study, which works well in a show with two main leads. I am sure the size also accounts for the length of this show’s run, which (without a star) would not be very long if they maintained the high costs associated with the original Patti LuPone and Glenn Close productions. Overall, enjoyable (though still over-the-top). I am told it is closing soon.

Graham Norton as Zaza

Graham Norton as Zaza

La Cage aux Folles: After struggling to convince Jess and Meredith to see this production, which features Graham Norton, we saw this outstanding show on the last night of my trip. I am so thrilled we did (and even more so that it is now being transplanted to New York). Though Mr. Norton seemed to be quite ill at our showing- or else just a bad singer-, he was still absolutely hilarious in a show that is absolute heaven! Jerry Herman’s fantastic score is so moving and powerful (in spite of the melodrama of it all) that you can hardly resist singing with them by the end. Much better than the movie, I say! And I have since discovered the Royal Variety performance with the would-be Albin/Zaza in New York, Douglas Hodge. Favorite song at 4:50 min.

  • Running in London. Apparently, the weather was warm enough in February to run about the town. Or maybe I had consumed a few too many fish & chips meals with Guinness and could pretend it was warmer than it actually was out of necessity. Regents Park with Meredith was probably the best place to run, where there was little to disturb us but thousands of ducks and geese. And it was very nearby Nido, which helped. Other random runs were an excellent way to explore, as well.

    Regents Park

    Regents Park

  • Breakfast at the Tate Modern’s Ground Level Cafe. The girls had class one morning, and I had to throw together the final script for Julius Caesar. So, I walked myself down to the Thames, crossed, and went into the Tate Modern for a little breakfast. No art, just tasty treats. Far too many cups of tea later, I had finished editing and had successfully people watched for over two hours. Success.

    Tate Modern Cafe

    Tate Modern Cafe

  • Shopping on Oxford Street. One of the many benefits of a worldwide recession is a decreased Pound-to-Dollar exchange rate. While there, it was 1 Pound to 1.46 Dollars…much better than the 1 to 2 of my trip six months earlier. Jeans from Zara were roughly $10. Trench coat from Uniqlo was about $45. Spending excessive amounts in a faltering economy…priceless.

    Oxford Street

    Oxford Street

  • Random & exceptionally long walks! I love walking cities, and I truly believe that walking is the only way you can really get to know a city. Therefore, I forced Jess and Meredith to walk everywhere (except on Jess’ birthday when everyone was in heels and we took the tube). We discovered the lovely canal bank leading to Camden town. Small boutique shops with gorgeous clothes at cheap prices lined streets we discovered. By the end of my trip, Jess and Meredith always asked me where we were and if we were near something. Even if I had no idea, at least I could give the appearance of knowing the city from all my walking.

    The canal to Camden

    The canal to Camden

  • Fish & Chips. So very many take out boxes of fish & chips. I nearly positive that my blood has been replaced by cooking oil entirely.

    My meal of choice, Fish & Chips

    My meal of choice, Fish & Chips

Enjoy some of the other (odd & random) photos from the trip, taken from Jess.

Being home for a greater part of the last month has been a necessary change from the paradoxical loneliness of city life. Despite seeing far fewer people each day and having limited regular communication with friends, I find that I am more content socially when I am home. I think less about people. And it is very refreshing to not have school work and friendships to worry about when I am home, allowing me to relax and be content with doing nothing other than reading a book all day.

Sitting in front of the television set provides a similar relaxation. And I have found the television particularly helpful this winter recess. Being upstate for more than 3 days has allowed me to really explore the range of channels that the new digital cable system provides. For instance, I have found BBC America and have since been glued to it at all hours, watching everything from Dr. Who to Gordon Ramsay. In its own way, it is as though I am preparing for life in the U.K., doing cultural studies homework for the place I will be living shortly. And I am getting straight A’s in this education.

Here is what my daily routine seems to be (it is usually on hour increments thanks to the television schedule):

1. Get up at 9AM, if possible. Normally, it is usually 10AM by the time I take off the covers and roll out of bed.

2. Watch Regis & Kelly if I am up by 9AM. If not, switch over to NBC’s “Today” show at 10AM and watch Hoda and Kathy Lee dish on anything that comes to their minds. I usually check my email, make myself breakfast, a heat some water for tea during this period.

3. At 11AM, change to ABC to watch the ladies of “The View”. Whoopi, Joy, Elisabeth, and Sherri (with the occasional appearance by Barbara) and their hot topics precede and guide my later reading of the top stories on BBC News online. Going online to read news stories normally occurs during the interview portion of the show, which I am less concerned about.

You Are What You Eat

You Are What You Eat

4. At 12PM, go to BBC America and watch “You Are What You Eat”, a hilarious show about changing the eating habits of overweight brits. I think it is the reason I want to start eating fresh fruits and veggies, so no short british women will come to my house, throw out my food, and inspect my…digestive habits.

How Clean Is Your House?

How Clean Is Your House?

5. At 1PM, stay on BBC America to watch “How Clean Is Your House?”, which is self-explanatory, I trust. But, damn: these people are so dirty. How do they live like this? That is why I love the blonde one: she is sassy and tells them off in a love-ing way.

6. At 2PM, a series of episodes of “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares” begins. Basically, (in)famous chef Gordon Ramsay goes to a struggling restaurant and attempts to resolve their problems by coaching them and screaming explitives in their faces. It appears to be successful, though perhaps not lasting. Who knows what happens to these places once the cameras are turned off? Nonetheless, it sure makes for good drama.

Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares

Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares

This schedule brings me up to dinner time, after which all plans are thrown out the window. There is always a Law and Order marathon on one station or another, but sometimes my interests move to the History channel or HGTV. Each night is different. Until around 11PM when I watch movies, eat massive amounts of food, and blog until 4AM before going to sleep and repeating the whole cycle again…except on weekends.

Such is life upstate.