Saturday, August 28
saturday thru wednesday, laura, dave, rebecca, and i made a kind of dysfunctional family unit; the four, non-rent-paying, only occupants of sty 2s, which over the week became a trifle more livable (tx bex), even tho we were living, almost literally, in the past. amongst us, two cars and three cellphones (none mine); two minorly blockaded plans to get the hell out the country; two majorly undirected plans to find a room somewhere and maybe just maybe the means of support; a foursome for bridge; humor and apathy and helpfulness and annoyance and love in varying doses. we had plenty of common goals (leave swarthmore asap, find peace and happiness) and occasionally conflicting ways of going about accomplishing them.
apartment hunting is my own story, with much acknowledgement due to the other three. i've looked at or considered something like fourteen places to date, including that first warm-up round with liza and as of the moment it's not likely that i'll be living in anything. it's not really that i'm too picky; more like the opposite - at least until now i've felt like i haven't had enough criteria to even make a decision. but it's been a varied and often enjoyable process so far, mostly consisting of walking (or driving) around in my (new) city, meeting all kinds of people (students, actors, lawyers, artists, carpenters, mathematicians, homeowners, real estate agents) and getting to see all kinds of living places.
sunday afternoon i saw three lovely places for shares, all in queen village or thereabouts. immediately afterward saw rebecca for debriefing (and rita's) and got a bit destabilized. my gut first choice was the simply gorgeous qv rowhome of jenn [slightly unfortunate surname], public defender and homeowner : sunny! patio and deck and lots of plants : big open bedroom with windows, hardwood, exposed brick : character = sophisticatedy charm, tasteful but interesting : quiet, pretty, residential street close to south st. and the ital market : big basement with laundry, storage, and potential drum-set practice space : easy-going, immediately likable, experienced roomie (old enough to be four years out of law school, but not too old to be excited about getting her first "real bed" in 14 years.) downsides? becca thought maybe not the best roommate situation for me, could end up feeling like being a tenant in someone else's house, not enough fun times. that wasn't the sense i got from talking to her, but valid concerns. so i e-mailed with my thoughts and questions.
meantime keep searching: a full five places tuesday, including nice big woody apt in west philly tower with blah vet students and out-of-tune piano; cramped efficiency; appealingly red-lino floored "sun-drenched" 1-br literally around the block from alyssa; filmmaker/musician/scenemaker/talker jason's society hill 3-br pad; garrulous darrell's huge newly gutted and being-improved ucity house with rooms4rent and waybig olive green bathroom. and another one-bed on wednesday - all the way down to 7th and wharton to meet the amicable george - big but carpety and far and maybe kind of spenny and daunting to furnish.
and so it went; of course in between we ate meals and saw movies to pass the time. everybody seems to want to talk about garden state; i think way more people are seeing it than it deserves. having just read d&dp it smells strongly of the miramax cut-and-paste job, i'm wondering if braff is another of these impressionable "quirky" first-timers with whom harvey scissorhands has had his diabolical way. the book didn't really make it clear if he was doing that kind of thing anymore. and yeah, i loved the soundtrack and hated the way it was used in the movie.
while on the subject, here are some of my other soundbytes: corporation is long and worth it, though a little more structure might have been nice. the psychopathy diagnosis bit is classic, also the ceo of interface (how is that a name for a carpet company?) offering coffee to protesters. code 46 was pretty but confused; a cross between lost in trans., ESotSM, and blade runner, not in equal proportions. mick jones wonderfully, inexplicably does karaoke of "should i stay." i consider anne of green gables to be an erotic classic.
+ i started vineland and it is awesome.
when becca announced wednesday afternoon that she and dave were leaving that afternoon, i melted a bit at the family dissolving, not having anything to show for my days of hunting that would indicate i might be able to join them in new england shortly, still having to pack myself into as small a corner as possible before sunday, not wanting to have to take a bus to boston. but i came around - better to stay in phila, take time, go to ny, whatever.
so i hadn't heard back from jenn and started to get worried. belatedly i realized that i'd written her at qvroommate@[...], the addy she'd set up specifically for this search and maybe wasn't checking. so i wrote again and started calling - home phone, work phone, couldn't find the cell number, where is it? after a day and a half maybe i finally got her at work: someone else after me had wanted the place, she said, but she had really appreciated my e-mail and truthfully she felt better about having me as a roommate (she liked me more!) so could i wait until saturday and she'd let me know for sure. well, okay. plus she was always great friends with her roommates and they hung out and cooked together and listened to music all the time (except 10-11 on wednesdays.) and another e-mail from her with more questions (compost in the fridge? ok!) was encouraging - she'd let me know tomorrow (=friday.)
dutifully back on the trail por si acaso; after cc lunch-hour with aly (3 monks' garden burgers), two more pretty places that didn't beat jenn's but were appealing alternatives: a tinytiny apt in a funky building at 12th and spruce, and the oddly suburban-feeling soc-hill digs of three 4th-year med students. i did my best to keep a non-commital hold on those, but it just wasn't in me/us to stay in the city any longer.
so, tense but hopeful, with no better options than to wait and hear, kicked back thursday night, reunited with some spunkies - angela and downbeat rose, plus bobby. it was creative cooking night: savory french toast with sauteed veggies unconvincingly attached; watermelon + limeade + ginger + rum = oh, right on! and beyond balderdash - i never realized how subtle the strategy is in that game; by the time we'd thoroughly dissected it playing seemed like too much of a psych-out to handle. we ended the evening by attempting to bind angela without a rope, as per instructions in the american boys' handy book. to a sapling, or streetsign, but it didn't work. laura said there should be chuckberries.
yesterday we packed. and tried to cram as much of my cd collection as possible into laura's new iPod, which is a demanding task indeed. to date there are 5.2 days of music on there, maybe 150 albums, and it's not even halfway full yet. kind of incredible. i slipped out of househunting mindset just enough to lose a spot or two, and almost all my eggs were back in jenn's basket, and whatever. i knew i'd either end up elated or dejected, and i could deal with either. speaking of eggs, we made some kick-ass egg salad.
the call didn't come until late evening, as we were finally on the road to south orange, still feeding the isatiablePod. actually, i had to call her - she called back a half hour later after returning from the store. the other guy "was pretty set on the place" and she didn't feel like she could in good conscience ask him to change his mind and she really thought i would have made a great roommate and she hoped she hadn't ruined anything. click. (well, no, just my LIFE.)
okay, my evening then. it felt scarily familiar (i was imagining things.) like the last time i got my heart broken. the trouble with nice people. i was already weak and achy from too little sleep and probably food. it's not like i could be mad at anybody; not myself - i would have called sooner, and maybe that would have changed things, but e-mail just seemed like a better medium for the sort-of thought-requiring things i wanted to ask - not rebecca - i've regretted listening to her advice before (in one particular instance, but not in general) but the only problem here was that she knows me and thinks of me as a best-friend-cum-roommate, and hadn't registered that i maybe didn't have to be that way (she wanted me to live with coby the loosey-goosey giggling perhaps potentially obnoxious hippie actor guy) which is makes sense - not even jenn although i don't really know what she thought would have happened differently, or why it took so long for her to confirm. so instead i went limp and fell in with thom yorke and the globules of glasses-off headlights and the moon.
waiting. we went to visit emily. waiting for the tea to become drinkable, half-listening to emily and laura talk about apartments and garden state, making the fairy ballerina bear into a little princess of a mango planet with a ring for a crown and a hand-drawn flower by alissa as the pilot. i punched numbers and operations into a calculator with a powerful spring for minutes and minutes until it was time to go. but really all this time, all week, all i've wanted to do is write a close reading of this lyric
turn up the eagles
the neighbors are listening
so much captured in eight words. setting: a house, or apartment, but it somehow seems distinctly suburban. maybe it's that the Eagles are playing, the sound of the decadent, post-hippie, money-blind california lifestyle. in the city nobody would care about what was happening with their neighbors, or certainly about whether their neighbors would care about what was happening with them. not that anybody in this scenario actually "cares" in the real sense of the word. it's all about keeping up appearances, no matter that they're as empty as the soft-rock blanketing, as empty as the reality of this relationship. would the neighbors really be interested in what was going on? if so their curiousity is just as insipid as any of it, the catty leechlike gossiping nosey parkers. we can't have that going on in our neighborhood, well i never. are the Eagles really powerful enough to drown out this shouting match? hey, listen, it's a keg party, not a domestic drama! doesn't seem any less pleasant, and it for sure means more noise pollution, not less.
imperative. first person voice and the listener is forced into the uncomfortable role of second person. this sadistic asshole - righteously jealous, maybe, but hardly the model citizen he likes to pretend - has been barking questions and commands at you all song. only now, in the last line of the reflective (by comparison, only) bridge, does it occur to him to think beyond the immediacy of him, you, the bastard; beyond his wounded private pride to his jeopardized public image; beyond these walls to what lies immediately outside, as superficial as even that is. he senses a weakness, a potential breach in the bastion of his machismo - and you better tend to it now, missy. not that you're any better. oh sure, maybe it's all beyond your control, but you're just as implicated as him, and the neighbors, and the Eagles. you probably put the record on in the first place - or maybe the bastard did, the cuckholder. now there's a sick thought, no? the still-spinning evidence of his all-too-recent presence in the household - less than an LP-side ago (unless it's the radio) - used in a desperate attempt to forestall public awareness of the situation. of the sorry state of the marriage, and its present violent manifestation, more than of the dalliance itself. but really it's all the same thing.
or maybe it was your husband who put it on. always good to set the mood with some naff AM faux-folk before you start tongue-lashing your wife. was it meant to serve as background music for an interrogation, or for extramarital fucking, or is it just part of the ever-present fabric of life, unnoticed until seized upon for some sordid purpose its creators never intended? the song leaves some questions unanswered: was there even an affair at all, or is the narrator just drunk and delusional? should our sympathies lie with the silent, probably unfaithful wife, or her irate, vindictive husband? neither option is at all appealing.
rightly, our position is with the nosey neighbors. we can't really identify with the wife, who is just as markedly absent from our perspective as she is from his (which indicates not just her utter lack of power in the situation, but her utter insignificance as well, either for him or us.) these questions and commands are not being directed at us (thank goodness!), but to an even more powerless nonagent. we're merely eavesdroppers - at liberty to judge as we please, but unmistakably unwelcome, even as an implied presence. at this point in the song, the narrator recognizes our presence - he states it as a fact, not just a possibility. but by now it's too late to try to drown out the sound. we've already heard more than we would have liked, and even the Eagles wouldn't have been less pleasant.