Good riddance to 2015.

Well hello, blog. You’ve been sorely neglected. I would say that I’ll do better in 2015, but I’m not the New Year’s resolution sort. However, I’m just sitting around cat-sitting, so I figured I’d try to put the year into words.

What I’ve struggled to express to people in the past six months was how this summer overshadowed he rest of the year. Dislocating and breaking my shoulder (and arm, and possibly collarbone) was more than just painful physically, emotionally, and financially; it was isolating. Two of my favorite things in this world are attending concerts and writing, and I found myself unable to do much of either. Even holding up a book on the train to read on my commute was nearly impossible. I didn’t feel like going out much because I was exhausted and grumpy all the time. Even with insurance, my medical bills were in the quadruple digits. Besides, the subway was a gamble. Would I be able to sit down and hold my arm close, safe as long as the car didn’t jostle along the tracks? Or would I have to stand, my left arm going numb as I cut off circulation from reaching up to hold the pole while balancing my purse on the same shoulder? Would someone run into me and not even apologize? That happened frequently. Nearly daily. There was the woman who wedged herself on an already-crowded seat. There was the man who decided that playing solitaire with two hands was more important than holding on during a bumpy rush hour. A couple of times a week, someone (usually a woman) would offer me a seat. Usually, though, I was on the defense constantly.

The bills are still trickling in as my lovely insurance company takes its sweet time in paying up. I still get random aches in pains in my shoulder. I like to joke that I now have the Old Person superpower of predicting the weather. I’m now 30% more likely to dislocate my shoulder again, and as my doctor told me first thing when he met me without even bothering with a hello, I’m a likely to suffer osteoporosis later in life because of this. I know I’m lucky that my head didn’t hit the concrete too, that I didn’t need surgery or a cast or anything more drastic than a sling, but I don’t ever want to ever again feel the pain of trudging a mile with dislocated and fractured bones only to find out that the Urgent Care couldn’t treat me. Thinking of all the pain, the physical therapy, the loneliness, the hard work that I put in to regain my dexterity still fills me with sadness. I’m not going to pretend it’s a blessing in disguise like one of those Simple Reminders you see reposted all over Facebook and Instagram. It fucking sucked, end of.

Of course, I have to remind myself that not everything about the year was horrible. I got to spend some time with wonderful friends from across the country and make new friends at concerts. A member of my favorite band treated Cari, Lauren, and me like old friends and gave us a pleasant surprise. I got to see bands that I’ve been waiting 10+ years to witness live, including Blur, Ash, and Idlewild, and I was in the front row for all of them. I was also front row for THE original Hedwig, John Cameron Mitchell. I got to attend a day of Governor’s Ball for free as a friend’s guest. I got my own cat. I took my birthday into my own hands and shelled out for tasty cocktails and Sleep No More. I sat at Glen Hansard’s feet while he played new songs in a bookstore past midnight, and he even wished me a happy birthday (thanks again, Scott). I met one of my favorite authors, and he was cool as hell. (John Connolly. Go read all of his novels now. You’re welcome.) I went to New York Comic Con and got to see The X-Files’ premiere months early. I wrote a novel in November that I didn’t hate and actually feel compelled to fix up. I did a hell of a lot, even if sometimes it feels like I just survived these past months.

Still, I’m ready to see the back of 2015. 2016, do better or I will have serious complaints.

Blur, or on post-teenage fangirling.

When I was in school, social media did not exist as it does today. We had passive-aggressive AIM away messages, Angelfire midis, Geocities fansites, shameless fan fiction. It was a good time to get into a band because you could track down interviews from overseas, order rarities from eBay, find friends who had a tape copied from a tape so you could see a low quality concert video. I had favorite bands before Blur, but they were the first to really send me down the rabbit hole of self-discovery.

First of all, there was the culture. Blur were a very specific sort of English band in the Britpop scene, and they wrote about English characters, English politics, English existence. Damon Albarn didn’t bother to use a generic American accent for his singing. They wore their influences on their sleeves, from The Kinks to J.D. Salinger, astronomy to computer animation. They were curious and cheeky, and they made me be the same. I had a copy of A Clockwork Orange that was passed around my high school so much that it became dogeared and battered from all the friends who read the novel. I don’t know if I would have picked up that book had it not been for the video for “The Universal.” The band inspired me to write and to draw. Through them, I connected to fans online who are still my friends to this day. We give girls a lot of grief for band obsessions these days, particularly on social media, but I don’t want to know what I would have done with Twitter back then. All I know is that because this band clicked with me, I took in so much culture and became a smarter person.

Of course, the years intervened. Graham left the band, and then they went their separate ways. I tried to keep up with the side projects, particularly Gorillaz and Graham’s solo albums, but sometimes other things just caught my attention more. And that was fine. I accepted the fact that I had gotten into Blur too late to ever have a chance to see them live, and I told myself that it wouldn’t be quite right with Simon Tong in Graham’s place anyway. It was the risk of falling for a band that was far more popular on the other side of the Atlantic anyway. (Of course that didn’t stop me from mostly favoring non-American bands to this day, but that’s another story.) I’ve been through a few computers and iPods since my teen years, but there have always been Blur songs there. Each revisit to their music reminded me that they weren’t just of an era. They were part of my history as much as old friends.

Last year I had a chance to see Damon Albarn play Irving Plaza in support of Everyday Robots. I love this record, and I managed to get myself in the front row. I told myself not to get my hopes up too high since I was used to seeing the high leaps of Starshaped, and this material was far more introspective and experimental. I must have set my expectations a bit too low, because I was blown away. Damon had even more charm than I remembered from old videos. He made eye contact and sang directly to you. He uncapped bottle after bottle of water to drench audience members. People were whipped into a frenzy, and he sometimes just stood back to admire his work. He wasn’t smug though; if anything, he was humbled by such a reaction from the American audiences that had been so elusive to Blur’s early days. I had the time of my life that night. He played a couple of Blur songs, and Damon grabbed my wrist to haul himself up on the barrier for an electrifying version of “Clint Eastwood.” YouTube can back me up around 3:36 in this video. Swoon.

That would have been a lovely end to it, but came The Magic Whip. It’s an extraordinarily layered album for coming out of jamming for a couple of weeks. Then Blur announced an intimate free show at Music Hall of Williamsburg. The original four. I was at once thrilled and horrified because I sensed I would not get a ticket. Sure enough, they were gone almost immediately. My friend Heather, who I met at Damon’s Irving show, got through but only nabbed one. I was happy she’d get to go, but it was hard to keep listening to the new album knowing I’d be missing out on the band in my own borough. I could accept missing a tour when I lived in West Virginia with no license to get myself to another city for a show. A few stops away on the L train? It was gutting. I even resorted to prowling Craigslist, where these free tickets were being scalped for $100+.

I got up for work and felt deflated since it had been a tough week. I didn’t put much effort into getting ready since I was exhausted and might’ve stayed up too late the night before drinking tequila and watching Deadpool clips on YouTube. Then I had two strokes of luck. Heather had managed to see someone offering a ticket on Blur’s Facebook page for free. She would let me know if it was legitimate. In the meantime, a friend Lindsey let me know that her friend had a spare. No matter what, I was covered. My body was bruised and scratched from a week of packing, unpacking, and even shredding boxes for an office move, and I was running on empty. But I was elated. I was listening to “The Universal” in the Union Square station and nearly burst into tears at the chorus. It felt cheesy even to me, but “it really, really, really could happen” just hit home in that moment.

Heather’s spare turned out to be the real deal. And free! After days of considering parting with a huge chunk of change, I got in free of charge, the way it was meant to be. The opener Honduras was definitely more Converse’s style, a kind of punk rock with surf influence. They did their style well, but it didn’t really fit with Blur’s aesthetic. That didn’t matter though. Heather and I could not stop laughing hysterically about being there. I’ve never had that kind of giddiness before. It didn’t matter then how bad my week had been, how much pain I was in, how I hadn’t even had time for a cup of coffee that day. As soon as the band stepped on the stage, it really sank in. I was seeing the band that had so inspired and challenged me as I transitioned from youth to adulthood. The tears came then, and they refused to stop through the first song, the wonderfully energetic “Lonesome Street.” I knew I probably looked crazy, but I was overwhelmed by emotion. Judging by the screams after every song, I could tell I wasn’t the only one.

This was the first show Blur had put on since releasing The Magic Whip, and they played the album in full minus “Ice Cream Man” (which Damon said they hadn’t arranged to their satisfaction yet, but they’d play it if they came back). Each time the crowd roared, Damon oscillated between feeding the frenzy and just looking on in delight. You would think they were playing only their greatest hits from how engaged people were with singing along, dancing, screaming. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more excited audience in New York, and I go to a hell of a lot of shows. The entire band seemed to be in great spirits. Damon was pogoing like he was half his age, throwing water on us yet again and soaking Heather’s glasses. Graham got in on the action later and threw Red Bull on my friend Ken, which might’ve been even more exciting. Alex made his aloof looks that were so amusing. Dave’s face was hidden from me, but I’m sure he was enjoying himself. At one point, Damon spontaneously hugged Graham, caught up in the energy of the show. After a moment’s pause, he hugged Alex as well. By the time he made it up the drum riser to hug Dave, the drummer laid a kiss on him. This was the sort of behavior you only get from a band genuinely in awe of the love around them.

As good as The Magic Whip is as an album, it works better live. I wasn’t fond of “There Are Too Many of Us” before, but it had a sinister build that delivered a punch at the end. There wasn’t a single boring point. “Ong Ong,” the delightful singalong toward the end of the record, even got some people moshing. The wait for the encore was deafening since we all knew they could only play old songs for us. The first was “Beetlebum,” a song I never thought I’d hear live. I teared up again and held it together, mostly because people were getting rough with their dancing again. The full  guitar outro came through with clattering energy, overwhelming the cheers that had started before the band was even done with the song. “Trouble in the Message Centre” was next, which I haven’t listened to in years. I know they played it in London, but I was shocked by the deep cut appearing on a US setlist. People ate it up, and that was how you knew that the room was filled with genuine Blur fans. The ending track was “Song 2,” and the push forward toward the stage was overwhelming. Nearly everyone was screaming and jumping. There was nothing to be done but to give in, to become part of this chaos. We stumbled out into the night on stiff legs and laughed again, wiping away the water and the tears. I read in a recent Rolling Stone article that the band was uncertain about touring America for this album. The demand needed to be there. If they don’t tour The Magic Whip on a full US tour, this gig was still worth waiting half my life.

M Is For Amazing.

The first thing I remember noticing about her was her eyes. Even behind rectangular frames, they had a way of standing out, the blacks of her pupils darker than expected, blue irises sharp, crisp. We were a long time coming, kindred spirits of the sort who meet and bond through common interest screen-to-screen. As much as people are able to conceal their true selves thanks to the anonymity of the Internet, you can just as easily be more yourself when you don’t have to look someone in the eye and be held accountable. In the latter sense, we connected through loving the same music and a bit of writing. Most of us are tethered to our electronics on a daily basis, so we can keep up with distant friends in a way that seems easier than staying in touch with those a few miles away. But it’s also easier to get into a new band, obsess over a new podcast, lose yourself to the new identity and leave that old digital life (or digital life in its entirety) behind. She came into my life at a time when I’d moved to a new city with no job, little money, and only two acquaintances. She was a bit of snarky sanity when my life felt closest to veering off the rails. I was desperate for work, lonely, and heartbroken after the death of my grandfather. I needed to lose myself, and there is no shortage of that on the World Wide Web.

People can outgrow each other so quickly, especially without face time. Even writing this now, it’s hard to believe that that  meeting was five years ago this autumn. She brought me Earl Grey cupcakes, and we wandered around Union Square looking for tea and buying gel insoles when the soggy weather made our feet hurt too much. We ate falafel on the street and split Belgian fries. I don’t think I’ve laughed as hard with someone or said so many tastefully (or tastelessly) offensive things in conversation. She has a way of throwing looks that speak as much as words. There’s always that worry in the back of your mind (or, well, maybe at the back of my mind) that someone will be different in person, more awkward or less authentic or something. She was unapologetic, boldly herself, realer than most of the people I’ve met in my years here in New York.

In most cases, that would be a fond memory, a chapter of place and time isolated in the past. We’ve gotten into a bit of mischief since (*smooths eyebrows*), but the important thing is keeping in touch constantly. If I need to vent about my day, I know she has my back. If I need a hard truth, usually she’s not shy about putting me in my place. She’s gotten me to sit through Love, Actually more than once, and I probably never would have given Pitch Perfect a shot without her. Her name appears as “Bad Bitch” on my contact list for reasons that I’ve long since forgotten, but the monicker is too amusing for me to change.

Why am I going on about all this? Because my friend is one of the smartest, most lively people I’ve ever known. Even though she’s a year younger than me, she’s been to more countries than broke, playing-it-safe me will probably see in my lifetime. The stories she’s told me from college have more adventure than I’ve had ten years removed from my freshman year. She’s done paddle board yoga, so she’s also a little bit crazy. But this year, she confronted the very real possibility that she could carry a BRCA gene mutation and an almost inevitable risk of breast and/or ovarian cancer. When the test came back positive, she didn’t decide to retreat from life and ignore it until she was out of her twenties or settled down into a more “secure” life. She faced surgery, she started a blog, and she pushed forward. That should have been the end of the beginning of her journey, but life’s not as smooth as a TV movie montage. Recovery has been difficult, infections are an unfortunate reality, and the healing process is not as empowering and flattering as motivational speakers would have you believe. Of course when you’re beset by pain and faced with wounds and sunken features, it’s not going to be easy. Your body not cooperating with the reconstruction process? I can’t even imagine going through it, having to make those choices and push forward and go back to work and plot basically a year of life around this nebulous but all too real threat of Cancer, capital C.

So, even though things hurt and may never look the way you wanted them to, know that your friends will always be there to look you in the eye and take you to ridiculous concerts where you ruin onstage moments because you can’t stop laughing.  The future isn’t something we can know for certain, but what you’re doing right now is buying yourself more of it, more time to write and travel and take photos and chase passions and befriend more people who will love you for being the firebrand you are. Just like your blog says, M Is For Amazing.

Albums, Books, and Films of 2014.

Hi, blog. Sorry I’ve neglected you. I’d blame NaNoWriMo, but that only covers November. Anyway, another year is coming to a close, and end of the year lists are being published every day. Why not add to the chatter? 2014 has been a strange year in that there have been a few albums/books/films that I have adored and obsessed over, but then I struggle to think of other entries to round out the top ten. I don’t know if that’s a sign of being incredibly passionate about my choices or just apathetic about most things this year, but if you’re reading this, you probably trust my taste anyway. Or you’re just really nosy.

Music

1. Hozier – Hozier. No church puns here. I downloaded the “Take Me to Church” EP back when it was free (hipster), and when I saw that he was coming to New York in March, I snagged a ticket. I hadn’t been to a gig in a while, and I was curious. For $10, worth the investment. I was blown away and immediately started to bother everyone to check him out before he blew up. Proof you should always listen to me.
2. Damien Rice – My Favourite Faded Fantasy. Rice has been a soundtrack to my frustration and a source of inspiration for years. Was this album worth the wait? Absolutely.
3. The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave. I have been listening to this obsessively the past few weeks. I can’t really put into words what it is about it. Each time I listen, it gives me a certain twist in my stomach like reading a great Iain Banks novel. It’s a lovely sort of nostalgia, looking back to move forward.
4. Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots. When I was a teenager, one of the first bands I got really obsessed with was Blur. Like tracking down Japan-only releases, in the fan club obsessed. There’s not much Albarn has touched that I dislike. Not only is this a great record, but I finally got to see him live. He touched me. It’s on YouTube.
5. Elbow – The Take Off and Landing of Everything. Beautiful, romantic, heartbreaking, sad. Guy Garvey is like the occasionally drunk uncle we all wish we had.
6. Ed Sheeran – x. Sheeran could have settled for doing some samey acoustic business for his second record, but instead he stretched out, collaborated, and did a bit of everything. There are a few songs that I always skip, but the good songs are really, really good. And most of this record is good songs.
7. David Ford – The Arrangement. Ford could have sold out and made a bigger name for himself ages ago, but he makes the music he wants on his own terms. Thank God there are still guys like him. It’s acoustic, it’s orchestral, it’s lovely. This may be more EP length, but it’s my list and I do what I want.
8. Little Matador – Little Matador. Sometimes you just want big, dirty riffs and musical venting. Here’s the soundtrack for shaking your hair out and getting your rock boots on.
9. James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical. I almost forgot this came out this year because it came out so early in the year. Here’s the case of another artist starting out on the acoustic path and then experimenting. The electronic elements only serve to augment how lush McMorrow’s arrangements are. Plus that voice? That falsetto? Damn.
10. Taylor Swift – 1989. Stop rolling your eyes. I am far too old to deal with people getting pissed off because music is popular or “overexposed,” particularly since 99% of those people will spend their next breath praising Beyonce or Katy Perry. We like what we like, and I like Taylor Swift. I don’t care what you think about that. 1989 is fun, ’80s throwback goodness, and let’s face it: Swift could work with anyone, and she chose Imogen Heap. That in itself is cool as fuck.

Books

I didn’t love love love many books this year, particularly books published this year. I’ve read 85 books so far this year, so that’s a bummer. Here I’ve tried to scrape together ten from 2014 worth reading (based on Goodreads publication dates, so if their listings mislead me, sorry). Insert “you tried” gold star here.

1. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
2. The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce (An author lost far too soon. His novel The Silent Land is probably my favorite read of the year.)
3. The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins by Irvine Welsh
4. The Wolf in Winter by John Connolly
5. The Final Silence by Stuart Neville
6. The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
7. Revival by Stephen King
8. Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart by Christopher Fowler
9. Outside by Barry Lopez
10. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Yep, repetition because I’m flailing.)

Film

I feel like I went to the movies a lot this year. Books and music obviously have genres, but I don’t have a problem picking out my favorites. Film I find much more difficult to weigh. Can I really justify three comic book adaptations? Apparently I can. Caveats: these are by US releases, so I know there are a few that came out ages ago overseas, and I know there are a lot of great films I just haven’t seen yet (like Boyhood).

1. Filth
2. Good Vibrations
3. Frank
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
5. Guardians of the Galaxy
6. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
7. The Grand Budapest Hotel
8. Birdman
9. X-Men: Days of Future Past
10. Under the Skin

The only television show you needed to watch this year was “True Detective.” Rust Cohle thanks you for your time.

perfect ending

How to Be a Woman in Twelve Easy Steps!

Women, amirite? This past year has been a banner year for feminism. From encroachments upon women’s health (abortion rights, birth control access, etc.) to privacy issues (nude photo hacking, street harassment, etc.), the Internet has spilled much proverbial ink about these topics, and I’ve obviously shown myself to be something of a lazy blogger. However, lately I’ve felt outraged every single day about something having to do with being a woman. Men, I’m not discounting your experiences or pressures (and I can gladly say that I’m not acquainted with any men who behave like sexist animals), but being a woman is exhausting. There are issues that affect us every single day that do not apply to you. Fortunately for everyone, I’ve come up with a handy, foolproof list on how to be a woman.

1. Be skinny.
2. Don’t be too skinny. So basically don’t be tall or flat-chested or anything like that. And muscles? So bad.
3. Don’t diet, and even if you’re not on a diet, don’t eat salad.
4. Be alluring and sexually available. Show off your body and bask in the attention you receive!
5. Don’t have sex. Ever. Except with that one guy. Otherwise you’re a slut.
6. Don’t take nude photos. Only self-absorbed whores take explicit photos of themselves.
7. But hey, show him your tits. Just one. For the road. Because he misses you.
8. Be flawless and ageless. There is no reason why you can’t look as good at sixty as you did at twenty.
9. Don’t wear too much makeup. At worst you look like a clown, and at best you’re just being deceptive.
10. Don’t use fillers or have plastic surgery. Why would you give in to societal pressure like that?
11. Never complain about your experience as a woman, because if something bad happens, you probably asked for it.
12. Smile! But if you forget this one, don’t worry, at some point a man will remind you that you’re much prettier when you smile.

In reality, there’s only one step to being a woman: identify as one. That’s it. Now if only we can remind ourselves daily to shrug off all the pressure, we can worry less about ourselves and hope that others mind their own business as well.

Common Sense (Or “How to Be a Music Fan on Social Media”).

As a professionally amateur music blogger, I would say that most of the people I follow on Twitter have something to do with music, be that as a performer, a label, or a fan. Most of the time, this allows for a lot of interesting discussion, debate, excitement, and enticement. The Internet is very liberating when it comes to expressing yourself and following your interests. But oh. Oh, the pitfalls.

I was inspired to write this today when someone I follow (a manager, not a celebrity) asked for movie recommendations out of three possible choices. He settled upon viewing one. Someone didn’t like that, so rather than, I don’t know, taking a breath or doing something else productive, replied to him, “whatever kill yourself you retarded lard.” I’m not naming names or including links because I don’t want to give her more attention. When people started to respond to that aggression, she took two paths: being proud that she’d been noticed and being indignant that her “joke” was misunderstood. Maybe since I’m on the downward slope to 28, I no longer understand “the kids” and how they communicate with aggression even regarding people they’ve never met and whom they supposedly admire. Maybe the more popular celebrities are, the more likely these really weird messages. Have no fear, I have suggestions that will help you look like a saner fan in five easy steps.

1. Don’t use hate language. Why does this even have to be said? It’s the online equivalent of throwing rocks at your dad’s motorcycle or chopping off all your sister’s hair while she sleeps to get attention. Being noticed is a reward in itself, right? Um, no. Bullying is ugly and disgusting, and when you make “jokes” like telling, say, Groot to kill himself, Groot isn’t going to like that very much. Chances are Groot won’t reply to you over it (since his vocabulary is limited to “I am Groot” and all), but you might catch the eye of someone on a smaller scale or incite other fans to get upset. It’s just stupid. If a teacher assigned you homework you didn’t like, would you tell him or her to go die? No, because there are consequences. You don’t think about consequences online, but you should. Spoiler alert: You’re not going to be One Direction’s new best friend by being a dick to them online. Also, white people? STOP USING ANY VARIANT OF THE “N” WORD. You know what I’m talking about. I see teenagers banter with it on social media all the time. It’s not cute or ironic or reclaiming a word. Just shut the fuck up.

2. Don’t “COME TO (INSERT COUNTRY HERE).” You know what’s incredible about tours? The fact that they are scheduled months in advance because venues, equipment, crew, and more must be arranged in order for everything to work. When you shriek about being denied tour dates, what you’re saying is basically, “I have no interest in what you’re doing right now. Mememememe. You don’t matter to me unless you’re in front of me so I can try to steal the shirt off your back.” Try to imagine having a conversation with someone like yourself. (All examples are chosen at random, and I have nothing against people in said regions.)

Friend: Have you seen Guardians of the Galaxy yet?
You: COME OT ARGENTINA!
Friend: What does that have to do with anything?
You: WE LUV YUO IN MILAAAAAN!
Friend: That’s not even spelled right.
You: IF YOU DON’T PLAY IN LONDON AND MAKE IT ALL AGES ILL KILL YOUR GF’S DOG.

And so on. Going directly to the source isn’t going to get you jack shit unless they specifically ask you where they should do something like busk or if they decide to have a social media Q&A session. I understand your pain, I do. I grew up in West Virginia. Do you know who toured in my town when I was a kid? 98 Degrees. That is it. Did I see any concerts as a teen? Not until college. Now I sometimes get to go to shows for free! You can live the dream one day. Be patient and stop using your location as a greeting.

3. Don’t spam. I don’t know how this started to get popular. Is it because of trending topics? Maybe I should blame hashtags. Mostly, I blame people. If you set up a separate Twitter account simply to bombard someone else, you are a Grade A asshole. There’s really not wiggle room here. Celebrities do not have the time to read every single tweet/message/smoke signal. They might not ever answer, or they might just answer a select few. Resist the urge to just send out a constant stream of the same fucking thing in order to be seen. Your idol will not think Wow, I simply admire this person’s tenacity and adoration! They will think something more along the lines of Haven’t I seen this before? This is annoying or I’m getting way too many messages. Fuck this. I’m going to go be famous now with other famous people. You screw over others and yourself, and you’re the one left looking stupid.

4. Don’t ask them to follow you. This is such a weird, modern bragging right of sorts. As far as I can understand, the more famous a person is, the more elite it is to be followed by them. Beeeecause why? They might see your embarrassing, hysterical tweets of ‘hOGM TAY LOR IS TWET ING IRHT NOW!” (You should really not act like that either, for what it’s worth, but I know that I don’t have enough brain bleach to go around.) Despite infinitesimal chances of mere plebs being followed by the stars, people still ask for this. People who are followed offer to spam the inboxes of the mighty with lists of more people they ought to follow. (Does that ever even work?) Twitter or Facebook will never make them leapfrog into your actual, personal social circle. It translates to nothing of substance outside the screen. Let it happen if you are a magnet of awesome, but don’t ask for it. You are not distinguishing yourself as worthy if you have to beg.

5. Don’t be fucking creepy. I thought I’d end on a note as obvious as my first. Sometimes people have good intentions. Misguided ones, good ultimately good. They find inspiration in a person’s writing. It changed/saved/brought meaning to their life. In return, they just want to share a bit of this changed/saved/meaningful life with the person who made all this possible. And so every tweet tags a musician and is directed to them like a protracted poem of longing. Here I am in Florida, and I am without you, Fabio. Look at this bacon, Lou Bega, for it reminds me of your smile (yes it does!). Tapping into who I really am. Corsets rox. Thx 4 the confidence B*witched! On the one hand, it’s a little oblivious and sad, but on the other, we really should know better. Responding to posts in a topical manner is great and encouraged! Interact to your heart’s delight. The occasional quip thrown their way or even a heartfelt message can be fantastic. Just don’t make your online life all about one person/group and one person/group only. It’s like standing outside someone’s window and drawing pictures in the condensation left behind by your breath. Friends, no one likes a mouth breather. Just think, okay?

Now, friends, you are a bit more socially aware! Go forth and tweet smarter, or stay brilliant if you already are. Just don’t direct any hate at me, particularly if you aren’t able to embrace your backspace or shift keys.

Embrace Quitting. Alternative Title: Fuck It.

Summer in New York City has been mercifully mild as far as the heat goes, but a dense humidity has kept most of us scrambling from air-conditioned building to air-conditioned building, forever packing a cardigan just in case. My apartment can feel like you’ve been wrapped in plastic and left to sweat no matter how closely you sit in front of a fan. The pressure of hazy days gives me a headache that makes me prone to distraction, and no matter how I want to start writing, I can’t seem to get my brain in order for the job. It’s been a laborious summer of tiny setbacks and frustrations, but I’m powering my way through a gloomy day headache here and now. 

I can be a stubborn individual as well as someone wedded to routine because there’s comfort in familiarity. I’ve been struggling with writer’s block on a project because I’m not sure if I should stay close to the characters or make a Grand Political Statement with a dystopian setting. I’m a huge lover of dystopian literature, and now seems like a great time to take a stand with the way women’s reproductive rights have been routinely attacked in America as of late. But I’ve also never written anything while deliberately thinking, “Here, THIS is my theme!” As an English major, I always felt like a bit of a fraud when writing essays picking out those strands because I could hardly envision the greats wanting to say something deliberate more than simply tell a story. Now I have the urge, and I now I have to approach the writing with more care than my usual, haphazard “write it and never look again in shame” style. If I go that path. I’ll get past this fork in the road, but it’s okay to fail at it for a while.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately: the act of quitting, the ending of things. A friend of mine recently gave me a book called Fuck It. It’s “spiritual” in the sense that it borrows much from Eastern religious practices, but the main idea is to say “fuck it” to the stresses and unimportant hangups of our lives. Some things aren’t quite as simple as the book makes it out to be, and you can tell that the author isn’t America since nowhere does he address the lethal consequences of abandoning your student loan debt and pretending it will just go away. Still, even if I think some of his ideas are a bit too pie in the sky (most of us can’t just quit a job or move to another country just because we feel like it, because money), it’s a smart practice to apply every day. The MTA has messed up yet again? Fuck it. People in New York are rude? Fuck it. Work was stressful? Fuck it. I can’t remember the last time I went to the gym and feel guilty? Fuck it. I’m a sadder, more anxious person than I let on, but it does help to at least try to remember the power of perspective.

Right around when I was finishing that book, I received news that a dear friend of mine is facing a health scare of sorts. I won’t go into detail to respect her privacy, but we talk on a nearly daily basis, so I care very much. It’s awe-inspiring to see someone take this news and, yes, struggle, but also come to the best choice for her body and her quality of life while planning other things in her life, things meant to bring joy. She keeps coming up with these ridiculous things to do soon and while on the mend: paddle board yoga, a party, a tattoo, an ’80s movie marathon. Nothing really brings life into perspective like those big issues. When life itself is on the line, it really doesn’t matter if you wear the same pair of pants two days in a row.

This week, a friend lost her grandfather, and then I arrived home to the news that Robin Williams had taken his own life. There is no shortage of grim, depressing, overwhelming news every day, but Robin Williams really hit home for me. Aladdin was the first movie I ever saw in theaters, and so many of his films were important to me as a kid: FernGully, Hook, Jumanji, Jack, Flubber, Popeye. He struggled with demons, as the saying goes, for so many years, and even bringing such joy to so many people through his warmth and humor wasn’t enough to balance out the effects of his illness.

Before I heard the news, I was struggling with the idea of dropping a book I was reading. I was over three hundred pages in, but I just wasn’t enjoying myself. I am a fan of the snarky read and the hate read, but this was neither. I appreciated nothing but knew that some friends enjoyed the book. Every page made me avoid reading rather than face it. I went to The Strand after work to pick up some new novels I promised myself I could have once I was through with my chore. Then there was that stark reminder that life is a short, unpredictable journey. Why make it harder? I gave up. It happens. I’m reading a new book now (The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce, who is a wonder if you’ve never encountered him), and my day started out with so much more energy and joy because of it.

I guess what I’m getting to, sorely neglected blog, is that we have no guarantees in life. Sometimes we just have to indulge ourselves, even if that means walking away from stories until we’re sure we can get them right. We’re really the only ones in charge. Take your time, if it means you aren’t going to waste it.