Poetry Slam

Last night I scuttled on down to the Brooklyn Brainery for a Blackout Poetry class. What’s Blackout Poetry? Unfortunately, it’s not writing haiku’s after nine shots of vodka. To do Blackout Poetry you simply need to know how to molest a newspaper article with a Sharpie until you’re left with your favorite words that theoretically work together as a poem.

A class that cynic in me predicted would be overwhelmingly lame turned out to be wonderfully inspiring. Despite the influx of inspiration most of my poems were shit with the exception of my inaugural one (blame it on beginner’s luck and the fact that everyone else sucked the first time).

Listening was a rare, brightly feathered bird on my Brooklyn fire escape.

New York is loopy,

Fragmented, kaleidoscopic, sublime, funny and chaotic.

A state of mind.

Particular and peculiar, accessible, niche, avant-garde.

Maybe it’s because growing up in an almost pop-music backward glance keeps stories nostalgic,

Unnerving, overly revealing, emotionally raw,

Sorrowful, hysterical, engaging, relentlessly weird, alienating.

Take down the wall of achy violins, tumbling percussion, virtuosity

Spacious and intimate traditions.


To read significantly better Blackout Poetry please refer to the master, Austin Kleon.

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Tales of Subway Confrontations

Since moving to New York I’ve had an impressive amount of defeating experiences on the subway. Like that time an affectionate homeless fellow gazed up at me from his stolen shopping cart and started pantomiming a jack off to ejaculation in my direction. Or that time the heroine addict sneezed in my ear. Or that time the couple in love decided to dry hump on the bench across from me.

These types of events are certainly unsettling, but are in no way traumatizing or damaging to my tender soul simply because they are disturbingly expected to happen on public transportation. But today something happened that gave me the overwhelming urge to throw myself in front of an approaching F train.

The subway was crowded in an early morning sort of way, but I was lucky enough to wedge myself onto a free area of bench. My delicate early morning concentration was fully focused on what had quickly become an intense game of Temple Run. Then I felt someone staring at me.

I looked up slowly and indirectly (any person who has been in New York more than fifteen minutes understands this sort of eye contact protocol) and met eyes with an impressively angry lady who was projecting ocular beams of hate directly toward me.

I was a bit thrown. What had I done wrong? Did I unknowingly yell “Fuck You” after losing a round of Temple Run? I’d definitely had outbursts like that before, so I couldn’t in good faith say it wouldn’t happen again. Did she hate my new jacket?

My spiral into a never-ending hypothetical dwindled to a low twirl when the announcer on the subway informed me that my stop was next.

But the lady continued to stare at me. It was seriously starting to freak me out, so I decided that I’d get a head start on my escape by getting up and moving toward the exit before the train came to a complete stop. The angry lady foiled by plan by blocking the only path to the exit with her arm.

I nervously muttered “excuse me” because for some sick reason I needed this complete stranger to back the fuck off and just approve of me. That didn’t happen. She responded to my politeness with a, “Listen, bitch, you can just wait until we get to a complete stop,” and blocked me in the corner.

So I did what any mature adult would do. When the train stopped and new riders started to file in I ducked under her arm swiftly. As soon as I was a safe enough distance away I turned back and yelled, “Have a nice day, ASSHOLE. And I hate your ice cream face.”

FYI, I have no idea what an ice cream face looks like. And clearly I’m immature.

Five Minute Observation: Heels and Cab Driver Hatred

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to work as a taxi cab driver.

OK, I lied. I’ve thought about what it would be like to work as a taxi cab driver once. It was a moment of introspection born out of a harrowing and impressively athletic cab chase down the streets of New York’s Third Avenue.

On this particular occasion I was in the city for an interview, or so I thought. The interview ended up being more of a humiliating rejection session and impersonal cattle call that was made only slightly bearable by an arsenal of free tacos and strange beer. Before I embarked on my blind journey to hell I had already decided that I would take a cab there. The expense of the trip outweighed the likelihood that I would end up sweating, lost and covered in a film of gross feelings after taking a subway or bus. I was certain this would be easier.

I quickly found out that it was in fact not easier.

Everything started off great in terms of getting a cab to notice me. I reached out my gloriously large hands with marvelous technical proficiency and beckoned a yellow transportation vehicle. My calls were heard and one came barreling toward me.  Much to my surprise, the driver didn’t stop. He slowed down, took a hard look at me and then sped off. I was slightly offended, but chalked that cab request up to a misfire and threw my hand up for round two.

A second cab quickly followed, but also did not stop. Instead the driver slowly rolled passed me. As he did a soul-crushing realization that I was incompetent when it came to wooing cab drivers invaded my head. However, when he was about ten feet in front of me he rolled his passenger side window down and angrily hollered, “Where you going, girl?”

I was the only person around who had a vagina, so I took the liberty of assuming that his unnecessarily angry question was directed toward me. I’m not one to reciprocate rudeness, so I hustled to catch up with him. This proved to be difficult as he had continued to roll, which meant that I had to shuffle ahead alongside his car in a pair of remarkably uncomfortable heels.

In between breaths I choked out that I needed this fellow to take me to SoHo. He stopped abruptly. I tried to open the back door, but found that it was locked and that this cab driver was more of an asshole than I could have ever comprehended. I was unable to relay this thought to him due to the fatigue brought on by chasing a cab down the street in heels, so I poked my head around to the open window and gave him a moody look that said, “Let me in, bitch.” His response: “That’s out of my way.” He then sped off, leaving me standing on the streets of New York in a sweaty, irrationally angry mess.

At that point I thought about what it would be like to be a cab driver, but all I could think was that he better hope he doesn’t see me if I ever have tennis shoes on, especially if I’ve had a couple gin and tonics.

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Why I Can’t Play Sports for Fun: Part II

My previous post began with an expression of doubt about my own ability to play sports for fun. I talked about how my experiences as a college athlete birthed a competitive side of me that simply doesn’t play nice with other kids (unless you count ripping other kids’ heads off and carrying them around on sticks like little head trophies as playing nice). In the end of the post I voiced my relief that a scheduled game of flag football was canceled due to rain. This meant that my inner ogre never had a chance to rear its ugly head.

I was then presented with another opportunity to play some good old two-hand touch football a week later. This time Mother Nature didn’t hand me any game-canceling gifts, which is a shame because what happened during the game was a sight for sore eyes. I’ve been told that one person can’t lose a game for the team, but I suspect this time was an exception as I was most certainly the reason why our team lost by 50 points to a bunch of no-talent ass clowns.

I know what you’re thinking. I’m just being hard on myself, I’m exaggerating, but I tell you I am not. You see, the girl I was marking was half of my height, double my weight and definitely looked like her running speed topped out at 5 m.p.h. I’m willing to bet a kidney and one of my dachshunds that she hasn’t played a competitive sport since her middle school gym days and that even then she probably took herself out five minutes into the game and shamefully ate all of the halftime oranges at end of the bench. These are all reasons why I chose to mark her. She was everything that I wasn’t and was absolutely going to make me look like a rockstar.

Turns out judging a book by its cover means that the book will make you look like an idiot by scoring 100 touchdowns without moving more than ten feet at a time. She exposed all of my flaws as a flag football player and made it clear to everyone that years of competitive lacrosse experience don’t mean shit if you have a body like a barrel and the ability to be in the right place at the right time.

My uselessness didn’t stop at the defensive end. I proved to be completely inept as an offensive threat before I even had a chance to step on the field. While warming up on the sidelines I invited a team member to toss me the pigskin as I ran some practice routes. I overcompensated in my attempt to make the catch and instead fell flat on my face in front of the rest of the other team’s sideline. And I didn’t catch the ball.

I will say though that the worst part of the game wasn’t the fact that we lost because I didn’t have the agility to mark the most un-athletic person on the field. It wasn’t the fact that I fell down during warm ups, thereby securing my place as “the useless girl on the team.” It was the look of disappointment from my teammates. It was the realization that my extreme competitiveness isn’t what prevents me from playing sports for fun. I can’t play sports for fun because I’m just plain awful at them.

Why I Can’t Play Sports For Fun

This past weekend a good friend of mine, we’ll call her Ethel, asked me if I wanted to be a stand-in on a flag football team that plays in Baltimore. I didn’t know anyone on the team but enthusiastically accepted the invite, as I had absolutely nothing better to do. Plus, Ethel brings the laughs like no one else, which I desperately need during my dark, unemployed times.

Ethel and I are natural competitors and as such began brainstorming game strategies that would play to our strengths and subsequently make us look awesome in front of people we hoped would become our new friends (Ethel only knew a couple of team members also). A few options were thrown out, but one stuck. We were going to use the speed and agility that we had loosely (read: barely) maintained since our college lacrosse days to blast past everyone and score a shit ton of touchdowns. Anyone foolish enough to try and stop us would get his or her obtrusive skull busted.

I couldn’t help but see myself carrying out the game plan. What I saw was an abundantly sweaty, asthmatic ogre who was violently stiff-arming opponents down the field as everyone watched in uncomfortable horror. It then dawned on me that this might not be the best way to meet a group of strangers for the first time.

Like I said, Ethel and I are former lacrosse players who played at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We spent four years alongside 40 other girls doing hang cleans and tire flips so that we could prepare ourselves in the event that we had to crush any and all similarly thick-legged opponents. We didn’t play for fun. We were trained to win at any cost, so much so in fact that if the opportunity presented itself we would not think twice about stuffing our unruly opponents into a trash compactor. It was our own slightly psychotic dog-eat-dog world, a bubble where we could fearlessly talk trash and sweat like 400-pound men.

The problem is that death threats, mental intimidation and excessive perspiration can come off as unattractive and borderline frightening to the casual athlete. I wanted to make a good impression on my temporary teammates, but I knew they weren’t going to understand when I ferociously kicked inanimate objects after a bad play or threw my hands up and aggressively screamed in their faces after a good one.

Luckily, it never came to that. The game was cancelled due to rain from the day before, an overreaction that worked in my favor. I did, however, decide that I am far too competitive to play sports for fun. In fact, all women who are former college athletes should follow my lead. People already think we are beastly and the last thing we need to do is perpetuate negative stereotypes or alarm people looking for some friendly competition.

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My Shoulder Is Not a Window

The Society for the Strange and Obnoxious must congregate at Starbucks. I know for certain that their meetings are scheduled around one thing and one thing only: my physical presence in the store. Normally, I tend to deal with the minor offenders. You know, the ones who stand too close in line or who take a millennium to figure out their order. Last week, however, I had the pleasure of meeting the head honcho of the club.

I was sitting in the corner, quietly guzzling my coffee and writing away in one of those briefly wonderful caffeine-fueled rages when I sensed someone sit down in the chair behind me. I paid no attention to the new presence and continued to write in a self-absorbed haze. I only took notice once I felt uneven breaths firing on the back of my neck.

I quickly jumped around to find a middle-aged, finely tanned man in a clean-pressed, white shirt looking at me with a smile that would also make sense on either a serial killer or Beavis. He spoke first. I felt he owed me this much as he was the one who initiated the heavy breathing. “Oh, hello, dear, I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to sit here and spy on you,” he stated, rather presumptuously if I do say so myself.

I did mind. I really, really did.

“Well, OK, but I’m not writing anything very interesting.” It was true. But, if I were writing something interesting I’d rather share it over tea with Mitt Romney’s butt cheeks than with that jabrone.

I smiled and turned around so as to passive aggressively kill the conversation. He didn’t get the hint and unleashed a merciless verbal assault on me, asking all sorts of inane, prodding questions. I don’t get that. Can’t you tell when someone doesn’t want to engage in a conversation with you? Like, should I install a mini alarm system on top of my head that goes off when I reach the breaking point in an unsolicited conversation?

As I began bleeding out I looked around at the untouched Starbucks patrons with desperate eyes. I was going to die, damnit, why weren’t they helping me? They thought I was a willing participant, they thought I was also a lonely fool who sought comfort from strangers in Starbucks.

I must have forced myself into a blackout because I forgot the rest of the conversation. I only remember the first sign of dead air, which I used as an opportunity to get up and scram. Before I could escape fully the man called out to me, “Thanks for letting me use your shoulder as a window.” To which I replied, “Good sir, it was never meant to be a window.” I hate Starbucks.

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A Short Story: Billy’s Bad Breath

The noise Billy heard at 7:00 a.m. was both terrifying and strangely familiar, like the sound of a severe weather alert that interrupts your favorite song on the radio. He instinctively rolled onto his alarm clock and put an end to the auditory assault.

He smacked his lips together thickly, as though he has just eaten a cotton ball topped with a dollop of peanut butter. All he could taste was the sticky smell that came barreling forth during his morning expiration like a locomotive from the darkest caverns of his anatomy. It was a smell he could taste, a taste he could smell. A nasty duality of the senses that was all at once uncomfortable, jarring and strangely delicious, not only for himself but potentially for those who found themselves themselves within a six-foot radius of his bulb.

“Christ,” Billy said out loud. It was to no one in particular, although perhaps he was subconsciously preparing to ask the fellow why his breath smelled like dead people. He got up to brush his teeth, although he knew it wouldn’t help. Being an onion sure came with its fair share of misfortunes and he was feeling particularly ornery this morning.

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Five-Minute Observation: Late-Night Coffee Drinkers

There’s something disheartening about being in a Starbucks when it’s dark outside. I’m not talking about the early morning dark, I’m referring to the 10 p.m. kind of dark. The time when there are only six or seven strange-ish people in the place. I’ve coined this time as the Starbucks witching hour, a time when the odd ones of the world convene for late-night caffeine.

I like coming at this time and making up reasons about why they are drinking coffee so late. Why do they need to stay up? I overwork scenarios in my head. Maybe they are about to rob a bank and need that crack-infused coffee to give them an extra surge of adrenaline. Or perhaps they have insomnia and have been sitting at the Starbucks for three days straight. Did something bad just happen to them? Something good? Probably not. After intense brooding the stories about these late-night coffee drinkers have the potential to become elaborately depressing.

I had conjured up one particularly distressing story about a gaunt older fellow sitting at a big table by himself (I swear not all of my stories are about Starbucks and old people). The man had bloodshot, unblinking eyes that stared blankly through everything in front of him. Looking at him made me hurt. Occasionally he would glance at me, or maybe through me, too, and I’d feign attention to my notebook. I’ll save you the outlandish details of my extensive story because it’s really too strange to repeat for the Internet. Just know that if I wasn’t afraid of being charged with senior citizen molestation I would have gotten up and given him a hug. It was that bad.

Then I heard the door open behind me. A man in his twenties shuffled past me and excitedly dropped a brown package in front of the old man. The young man wasn’t his son, but you could tell the old fellow thought of him as such. The old man’s red eyes softened with excitement and a wide smile overtook his blank expression. He eagerly opened the package and the two drifted away into their own world, a world that revolved around a different axis than the world everyone else was in. It revolved around the coffee they were drinking and the papers they were examining.

Something struck me. The witching hour isn’t a disheartening wrinkle in time. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Maybe late-night coffee drinkers aren’t staying awake because they are real-life versions of Christian Bale in “The Machinist.” Maybe they are staying away because they’ll miss out on moments like the one between the old man and the young man if they are sleeping.

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This Fourth of July I Am Thankful For…

Happy Fourth of July, all six people who read this! Before I show America my appreciation via PBR and hamburgers, I’d like to list off Independence Day delights I am thankful for:

1. Imperfectly sculpted mullets and fat arms stamped with eagle tattoos (real ones only). The Fourth of July proudly and successfully brings all mullett-wearing, far arm-bearing Americans together in one small and inevitably foul smelling location. Thankfully, this makes people watching and judging shamelessly convenient. I should note that I’m also thankful for eagle shirts, they are like cotton warning signs.

2. Amateur fireworks. It’s a disturbing sight when an imbecile attempts to insert himself into the center of Fourth of July attention by putting on his own backyard fireworks show. More often than not these folks tend to underestimate the unpredictable nature of the fireworks they secured from an obscure firework warehouse on the side of the interstate. I am thankful that one of these idiots has yet to blow off my head with an explosive device. I am unthankful that no one has tried to piggyback something like a hot dog to a firework, just to see what will happen. I feel like that would be fun. Hot dogs make everything more fun.

3. PBR. It’s red, white and blue and I’m thankful that it costs less than a sandwich.

4. Coleslaw. It’s not even American but the Fourth of July is the perfect opportunity to cover an assortment of meats with loads of coleslaw.

5. Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty on the radio all day long. I don’t care what anyone says, a Fourth of July celebration is not complete without The Boss and some collective “Free Falling” renditions.

On that note, I’m going to go shove my face with coleslaw and beer. I’ll surely be updating this post when I inevitably come across some other Independence Day wonders at the fireworks tonight on River Street.

*UPDATE: I did not come across more things I was thankful for yesterday. Probably because I missed the fireworks and I realized people watching isn’t nearly as enjoyable in the dark without night vision goggles, which I don’t have. I’ll put it on the Christmas list.

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