Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mission Statement

Recursion has an innately haunting nature. In Sri Lanka, rumors of back-alley kidnappings and muffled massacres resonate like white noise - hard to ignore, but at the same time completely incomprehensible. Two weeks ago assailants on motorcycles killed the editor of the Sunday Leader. In an almost identical attack on Friday, Upali Tennakoon, the editor of another independent newspaper, and his wife were stabbed multiple times. Higher powers asphyxiate the truth with little tact, but they have no need to be discreet.

From Black Sand Journal
The overdose of corruption and unbridled tyranny that causes Sri Lanka to froth at the mouth is what first inspired me to pursue journalism. But New York is proving to be quite the distraction. The city has the unique capacity to feel like home to an abundantly diverse group of individuals. Lion Beer readily available at a store a few blocks away, I've fallen in love with cheap Greek food in Astoria, I find the 24 hour subway system unbelievably convenient (granted, sometimes the late night 6 is a grimy bitch), jazz clubs and secluded bars are not in short supply, and my eyes still widen at the sight of an illuminated Empire State Building.

The philosophy of "I want to dedicate my life to people, but I don't have the strength to devote myself to a single person," doesn't fall at all in line with my strong affection for New York or my tendency to develop deeply personal (often emotionally dependent, and sometimes inappropriate) friendships. These inclinations aren't ideal for someone who wants to be an objective reporter in the lawless, war-torn regions of the world. News from Sri Lanka still upsets me - it is why I am writing this post - but the fuss is so far away from my Manhattan apartment. The poverty and exploitation that led me to study journalism in New York starkly juxtapose the happiness I've experienced while doing so. I don't think it is possible to reconcile the two, which leaves me with an unpleasant ultimatum.

I would like to end this haphazard post with a question to current or former non-resident Sri Lankans. How do you feel about what is going on back home when you aren't at the heart of it? By choosing not to live on the island do you feel as though you've given up on our country? Please comment and let me know what you think. It doesn't matter if I know you or not, or whether this is the first time you've stumbled upon my blog. I would really value some insight.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I play plenty of poker. My style of betting is considered very unconventional - I am not at all risk-averse. I play for pride, not money. If the player across from me is tossing black and green chips like salad, I'll match till one of us is forced to bite the.... carrot (sorry, wanted to avoid mixed metaphors). I play to seed self-doubt in the minds of my opponents. The cards I'm dealt don't matter - if I'm feeling particularly adventurous, I won't even look at them. I love to bluff, because it falls in line with my belief that confidence is everything. There is nothing more entertaining than winning on an Ace high, knowing my opponent gave up the pot on three Queens.
From Black Sand Journal

But I believe I have met my match. Someone who doesn't even try to mimic my style - a person who understands you can't fight fire with fire. Someone who knows my tell and can play out my bluffs to the point of my humiliation. Even when I've got all the cards, this particular individual knows the moment to walk away from the table, and I'm left with no pride to cash in. It vexes me. Now I'm not sure how to approach the game. Should I compromise my style, or not bother playing at all?

A common aphorism in poker is "you play the player, not the cards." I have always held that to be true, but I'm beginning to reconsider the extent to which it is. Ultimately my goal should be to take home the most money, not fuck with everyone's head. But winning on a phenomenal hand doesn't satisfy me because I'm not interested in luck. I rather be what is phenomenal, not the cards. I rather be good than lucky any day of the week.

But those are not the laws that govern poker, I am just able to manipulate people into playing my variation of the game instead. Now I've met someone who isn't fooled, who sees the real prize and realizes that the path I coax people into following only leads them further away from it. It doesn't make a difference if I go all in on this bluff or not, I've already lost.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Note: I apologize for the way this entry is going to sway between description and meandering thought.

My birthday has always been a highly convoluted affair, and yesterday was no exception.

The anticipation starts mounting from New Years day. I plan an elaborate celebration with a band of my best friends. I make reservations. I bake brownies. I stock every shelf of my fridge with beer. An adult formula for fun.

I had planned to be up the Empire State Building at midnight on my birthday, but the fates conspired to close the observatory deck because it was freezing (where is global warming when you need it?). Plan B brought me to the Brooklyn Promenade after midnight. I crossed the threshold out of my teens and into my twenties not admiring the view of my city from the top of its most stunning creation. Instead, I found myself on a subway platform waiting for the C and counting rats. Glorious.

I woke up later that day, but it was still early. Overnight I had morphed into that ungrateful, snarky anti-socialite I usually am on my birthday. I decided to take a long walk to prepare myself for all the people I'd have to greet with an artificial smile plastered across my face. Those damn bastards who want to commemorate my day of birth, how dare they!

I didn't carry my phone or wear my watch. The snow bludgeoned down and coated the parts of my hair that my overwhelmed hoodie could not cover. I walked west on 23rd to the Flatiron building, where I got a clear view of the beautiful building that had rejected me 7 hours ago. I'm living in a tourist's snow globe - of course he picked today to give it a shake and fuck everything up.

My legs led me to the unlit shop window of children's bookstore I had stumbled upon a couple of weeks ago on a cupcake-run.
From Black Sand Journal

On that day, I sat on a bench in the back and reread the book above. It is my favorite kids story because it deals with anger. Max is pissed off and envisions himself king of an island inhabited by monstrous figments of his raging imagination. I cope with my flurries of fury in a similar fashion. I will obliterate whoever I am annoyed at with my vitriolic rhetoric in a make-believe argument. I save all my malice and caustic remarks for these unreal arenas; I imagine my opponent sniveling in shame and wincing with indignation. I always feel better, and I rarely let any of that venom seep into the real-world counterparts.

I walked downtown on Broadway. For all the unhappy events that punctuated my childhood, I cannot deny the delight with which I read books, played football, and watched cartoons. I've spent my entire life wanting to be older, but now that I'm there I suddenly want to be younger. I associated age with the ability to abscond and be independent of everything - not true. All that changes is who you want to escape. Still a caged bird, the keys have just passed hands to new owners.

Self-doubt accompanied me as I headed east on 18th. I want to dedicate my life to people, but I don't have the strength to devote myself to a person. Did I mean that? Why am I planning a night of alcohol-induced merriment to celebrate my birthday if I previously decided that I'm more concerned with the aggregate amount of human happiness because my personal supply is so unsatisfying? As that disturbing notion occurred to me, I began to rue the fact I left my notebook and pen at home. If I can't remember these thoughts by the time I get home, how important are they really?

I sauntered down Irving Place. I keep telling a friend that I would do unspeakable things to live in particular neighborhoods of New York, and the area surrounding Gramercy Park is certainly one them. Her advice to me was to start sleeping with residents of the areas of town I admire (no elaborations on that point on this blog).

I dusted the snow off That Black Jacket before heading inside. In an unexpected twist, the rest of my day ended up being amazing. I think it's because I made hummus from scratch - the tahini that I add always does something kooky to me. I was bouncing off the walls at dinner, there was no need to indulge in the bottle (oh, but I did). I had not felt such sheer elation in a very, very, long time. To see some of the people I care for the most all together with me on my birthday engraved a real smile across my face. It must have been the hummus.

The night (kind of) ended at the front desk with my head spinning as I watched YouTube videos of the security guard a.k.a Mamba King. While I patiently stared at this man dancing Salsa on the offending computer screen, my body shivered and convulsed uncontrollably because about five minutes earlier I decided to bask in the brisk winter night wearing slippers and That Black Jacket, unzipped. The (appropriately dressed) person with whom I stood in the cold had made some complimentary remark regarding my intellect earlier in the night. She should reconsider.

The intervening hours between the consumption of hummus and the gyrating security guard were fun for reasons I do not quite understand yet. I stopped thinking for an evening. Many of my emotional preoccupations vanished last night, as did some other self-imposed limits. I have made mountains of thought today to make up for it, much of which I'm not ready to publish yet. Till then, please listen to Elliott Smith's "Say Yes," and revel in (or reflect fondly on) your twenties.
From Black Sand Journal

Monday, January 12, 2009

Peace Land?

Developments in Sri Lanka in the new year (nevermind the last 25) make the photo below painfully ironic. While the Sri Lankan President asks the public to celebrate the capture of two significant strategic territories from the Tamil Tigers, the Prime Minister still won't reveal to parliament even a vague estimate of the price being paid in soldiers for this bloody, supposedly final, offensive in the North. Added to that, on Thursday morning the editor of the Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge, was shot in traffic on his way to work.

I took this pleasant photo on the southern tip of Sri Lanka a mere two weeks ago. You would never guess that 300 miles away, roughly the distance between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, people were ruthlessly butchering each other in a sanguinary conflict - conspiring behind the palm tress to stain the bleached-beaches blood red.
From Unawatuna

Free press on the island is in a sorry state - in the absence of truth, there are only lies. Journalists aren't allowed to report from the war zone, so the government can feed whatever fanatical fiction and figures it desires to the fearful public. Though it has now mutated beyond recognition and reason, does anyone remember that this war initially broke out as a struggle for civil liberties? Denying them to a growing portion of the population may snuff out the Tamil Tigers, but it fuels the frustrations that ignited this fight in the first place.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

NYC-Style Generosity...

From Black Sand Journal
... soothing music....
From Black Sand Journal
... sound advice...
From Black Sand Journal
... and serviceable trash.

Monday, January 5, 2009


"I dream of rejecting all the apologies I know will never come."
- Submitted to Post Secret (and read by me before I knew what it truly meant)
From Black Sand Journal

I'm rewriting the post I published yesterday because I didn't think it clearly conveyed what New York City means to me or what New York City gives me that nothing else has.

If I've called anywhere "home" in the past it was predominantly for a select group of individuals who lived there at the time rather than the place itself. I stopped referring to Sri Lanka as home as soon as I started living there, and I have to admit with most of my friends now at English universities Vienna feels much less like home than it did when I first moved away.

Intimacy is awkwardly entangled with disappointment - people and places lose their shine with the wear and tear of daily interaction. The epigraph to this post has applied all too often to me in in the past. I've struggled with people who haven't met my expectations. Either they have to start trying harder or I have to set the bar lower - I obviously only have the power to influence the latter option.

I've been guilty of trying to extend beautiful moments beyond their expiration date. I've tried to recreate memories that I reminisce about by simply putting the same people in the same place, but the whole situation only ends up feeling artificial - an imitation that is an insult to the original.

So, how does New York City defy my previous experience with places I've lived? Yes, much of my love for the City is inspired by people, but not necessarily just the ones I know. I think New York feels like home for all the people I have the potential to love as much as it does for all the people I do already. The streets are flooded with hope and opportunity. An argument with one friend, one relation, one lover just doesn't pack the same punch it did before. If 2008 taught me anything it is that I want to dedicate my life to people, but I don't have the strength to devote myself to a person (yet). Now when things go up in flames, I feel more phoenix than forlorn.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Toast to a New Year

In more ways than one, 2009 is the first year I've begun not hung over from the last. The sun that crept between my blinds did not burn my eyes, my head did not feel magnetically attached to my pillow. I got out of bed without stumbling, looked myself in the mirror without grimacing. My clothes are neither stained, nor torn, nor lost. I can remember last night without the aid of my digital camera. The kitchen table is cluttered with corks and six empty champagne bottles - but my Advil one still rattles.

Yes, 2009 already seems very different from 2008.

From Black Sand Journal

By the way, I traded my 'Happy New Year' tiara for this hat with a woman in a fur coat on East 4th Street. Around 2.30am, the hat flew across 6th Avenue and was run over by two cabs. Rob heroically retrieved it, and then we all got hot dogs.