Saturday, March 28, 2009

Soccer Ball and the City

It all started Thursday night when I uttered an embittered - "Oh, fuck me" - in the laundry room. I anticipated toasty clean clothes, but found only drenched ones. It dawned on me that after paying for the dryer an hour earlier, I had forgotten to hit the start button - hence the cursing.

I have absolutely no shame (reference my tattoo, that time I went to a singles event at Babeland in the name of journalism, etc.) and vented my pent up frustration in front of a fellow midnight laundry-doer. To my surprise, she asked me what was wrong. I told her. To my even greater surprise, she swiped her card and paid for my dryer. My astonishment left me to stutter out a thank you with a longer delay than a live TV appearance by Russell Brand.

I'm not the I've-always-relied-on-the-kindness-of-strangers type, but cynicism isn't necessarily preferable to naivety when it comes to an outlook on humanity. Downtown Manhattan certainly hammered that point home during a enchanted Friday afternoon. My new prescription for fighting big city blues in New York is to amble through supple West Village streets or loiter around divine parks with a soccer ball in hand or by foot. I promise, magical things will happen.

The afternoon started on a very isolated note. At East River Park, with my soccer ball, I took 17 penalties in a row - aiming for the right side netting of the goal every time. It was my way of disciplining myself for moments when nerves tend to get the better of me. A group of twenty-somethings borrowed my pump for their American football. I bantered with the man who made my lunch about the indifferent attitude Americans have towards the beautiful game. I played a pick-up game of soccer with some Mexican guys at the John Walker Park in the West Village, until a platoon of 9-year-old's ousted us with parents and permits. I watched on with delight as four middle school kids at Sugar Sweet Sunshine played cards and ate cupcakes. Bouncing the ball as I waited to cross Chrystie Street, a truck cruised by and the driver yelled out to me - "I'll play with you!" - I smiled and gave him a thumbs up. I played a passing game on the First Avenue sidewalk as I chatted to some eastern Europeans. Walking along the periphery of StuyTown, I saw a construction worker with an array of tools beside him and an open bottle of Yuengling.

All afternoon, as I roamed between 18th and Canal from the West Side Highway to the FDR Drive, people would shoot me a puzzled smile and ask, "Soccer ball?" as if I were holding a mystical creature previously thought to be extinct. I garnered many a longing gaze from the profusion of young children scampering out of schools.

I've always considered this city a playground, but in a strictly adult way. There is an anonymity about partying in New York that allows people to freely indulge in public intoxication, fornication and pupil dilation. But Friday afternoon's slice of spring showed me a softer side of New York that encouraged me to relax the guarded stance I've adopted as of late. How easily I found playmates made me feel like a small kid. No worries apart from the embarrassment of a miskick; no pain apart from sore legs; no fears apart from goal tending next. All this liberation because of a soccer ball.

That night, I stood on the deck of the Staten Island Ferry with two of my best friends as we drifted from the tip of Manhattan. The Statue of Liberty flanked us on the left, the Financial District illuminated our view ahead and ruffled water marked the path we'd taken. My mind shut out unpleasant thoughts and focused fully on the splendor in front of me. That's the way I hope it stays.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Blossom Fell

From Black Sand Journal
I felt nostalgic this morning. I put on some Nat King Cole to cheer myself up after three measly hours of sleep. Until the age of four, my Dad used to slow dance to Nat King Cole in the living room as I slipped into sleep on his shoulder. It is tragically appropriate that the song 'A Blossom Fell' conjures up the most vivid memories of those early childhood nights.
From Black Sand Journal
I don't have the right to reveal too many details about my family's checkered past, but when my insecurities get the best of me I wonder to what extent my relationships are doomed by the fact I grew up without role models who completed or complimented each other. I'm not quite sure I know any better than to be an ostensibly strong individual, who can do little more than paper over gaps in the relationships I have been involved with that too often have not been mine own.
From Black Sand Journal

Friday, March 20, 2009


From Black Sand Journal

I should have stolen this moped. I imagine a woman parked it at the steps of Gould Plaza after absconding from the 1950s. My guess is she took full advantage of modern day America by purchasing a metro card, throwing on a pair of jeans and letting herself loose at some sapphic bar in the West Village.

Or at least that's what I hope she did. My man-hate as of late has hardly been covert. Not that I actually hate men - off the top of my head I can name eight that I consider my closest friends, two of whom I've dated. Though they broke my heart last weekend, the men who pull on the red shirt of Manchester United will always command my love and respect.

But my entire life I've found myself frustrated with gender roles and what people label as 'ladylike'. Long before I could even conceptualize sexuality, I was a tomboy. I liked the ninja turtles and played soccer religiously. I never liked pink or wore anything remotely girly, and those habits stayed with me throughout adolescence. I like vintage Adidas trainers, not Nine West high heels (though I own a delightful 3.75" pair that I wear when I'm feeling masochistic). I love my button-downs, jeans and new blazer more than I ever could a dress. My androgynous style is what I am comfortable with, but it hasn't always garnered the most respect. As a soccer-playing and foul-mouthed 16 year-old, how to attract boys became a huge source of anxiety.

Instead of trying rebuke the unnecessary expectations heaped on me to look and act 'ladylike' (really, wtf does that mean? Cooking? Cleaning? Nodding enthusiastically in silent agreement with whatever my boyfriend just said?), I conformed - kinda. I think I was still myself on the inside - outspoken and unrelenting - but I just looked more like what people wanted on the outside. Ears pierced, hair straight, short skirts, make-up done. This new expression of my femininity was for the sole purpose of attracting men.

These insecurities about my perceived sexuality held me back from embracing something that should have come naturally to me - feminism. In fact, I think my short-lived burst of femininity was innately anti-feminist. Why was I aspiring to be something that made me feel uneasy and awkward? Why did I believe confining myself to mainstream femininity was a prerequisite for male affection? Of course, being feminine is perfectly fine... when it is what you want to be.

Honestly, the misandry is misdirected hate. I got more criticism from girls while growing up than I did from boys, but boys were what I was after. Oddly enough, now that I'm in college and the years of high school restlessness and fake-femininity are behind me, I am the most narcissistic son-of-a-bitch you are ever likely to meet. I wear what I want and choose the way I behave regardless of whatever gender-rules people of either sex may think I'm violating. That is feminism. This all comes back to the reasons I got my tattoo; I fucking wanted it - end of story.

One small but significant caveat to an otherwise liberating story. All this misplaced misandry is inspired by probably the only man I've been involved with who relished the real and raw me. Gotta love the irony.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Missing Words

From Black Sand Journal

Midterms week put this blog into a near fatal coma, so I better start the resuscitation now that spring break has finally arrived.

One morning (well, technically afternoon) this week, I woke up and glanced at my arm, saw that my tattoo was not there - yelped! - then realized once consciousness settled in that I was looking at the wrong arm. I've probably spent too much time gazing adoringly at my tattoo (you know, after figuring out left from right). My eyes are repeatedly seduced by the embossed lettering - an affect that will wear off once my skin fully heals. I think I've outdone myself with this subcultural narcissism.

I'm fairly certain not everyone who sees my tattoo will be as smitten with it. I just emailed my mother and I am nervously awaiting her reply. A few friends have expressed their reservations about the particularly exposed location. My tattoo is hard to hide, but that is kind of the point. This wasn't an act of rebellion; I got these 14 letters tattooed on the inside of my left forearm with only the intention of staying faithful to myself. My response to people who have a problem with who I choose to be will never involve conforming to their image of what is acceptable. To anyone who feels the urge to chastise me for my tattoo, my only reaction will be a slight shrug of my shoulders, a quick flash of my smile, and perhaps a subtle roll of my eyes.

Walking through Alphabet City yesterday afternoon, I felt compelled to lower my gaze to the ground and delightfully discovered the words "Obedience Is Not Patriotism" stenciled in black on the pavement. How resonantly true - obedience shouldn't be an element of identity in which anyone takes pride.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Then he said, "Welcome to the club."

Long time, I know. Lets recap an eventful week.

Starting with the bad - what the fuck is wrong with South Asia? Seriously - terrorists hijacking Mumbai hotels, air striking downtown Colombo, and now shooting up the cricketers in Lahore. The news has not sunk in. For the love of God - they are sportsmen. Not soldiers or politicians or anybody who carries clout beyond the boundary ropes. Targeting them was cowardly - like all terrorist acts - but the fact the attack was so naively unexpected makes it all the more embittering. David Hopps wrote an immensely moving article that was published in the Guardian today.

From Black Sand Journal
Now, the good - actually, the dazzling. My sister got married over the weekend. Coincidentally, all the bottles in the picture above mysteriously disappeared. I may have been responsible, but honestly I did not commit much to memory that night.

As always, my flight back to New York was delayed. When I eventually made it to the city I came home to this wonderful view. Strangely enough, I haven't found the freezing temperatures or snow all that inconvenient, though that may be because I used both as an excuse to skip all my classes that don't take attendance.
From Black Sand Journal
All the snow-allotted free time gave me the opportunity to finally go through with something I've wanted for the past two years. The first two months of 2009, amidst all the unexpected and at times disturbing occurrences, have instilled in me the common sense not to deny any aspect of myself - which is why I got a tattoo.

I sat calmly in the waiting area of an Alphabet City tattoo parlor, with a man who no superlative could ever live up to. He was jittery. In anticipation of getting inked, I didn't think about the pain or the needles or the possibility of future regret. The tattoo became a part of me in the moment that I decided what, where and why I wanted it. While we lingered, inhaling that oddly satisfying sterile scent, I knew the tattoo was already done - I was merely going through the motions and time to arrive at a place I had reached long before. The real surprise lay in my sudden hankering for an avocado as I looked at the ink seeped into my skin for the very first time.
From Black Sand Journal
FYI: Week from hell coming up, so sadly bye-for-a-while again.