My feelings about the collapse of civilization may prove to be untrue; as long as humanity has existed, it has been excited about predicting its own end.
But if we all have to return to the Middle Ages, please promise me that at least once, you sat in the tub, let a hot shower or bath run over your legs and feet, and ate straight from a pint of ice cream.
Do not neglect this action. You may describe it to your grandchildren one day.
I went on a promising OKCupid date on Monday. The guy was cute, polite, and interesting. He’s into homebrewing and Achewood. He saw “Collapse” and is now afraid of peak oil. He drinks Racer 5 and has opinions on the novels of David Mitchell. We went to a bar and talked for four hours straight, until I had to go home and hit the sack to get up early for my commuter Tuesday. I was optimistic.
I didn’t hear anything from him on Tuesday, so on Wednesday afternoon I dropped him a quick OKC message that said, “Hi [redacted], I really enjoyed talking with you the other night. Would you want to go out again?”
It’s now late Thursday afternoon, and I haven’t gotten a response, even though the site shows he’s been logged on multiple times since I sent the note. :(((((
I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, or even most people’s. But the description and photos of me online are fairly accurate (I’ve had multiple friends take a look), and I can’t imagine why you’d write me, meet up with me, and spend four hours talking to me if you felt I wasn’t even worth sending a “Thanks, but no thanks” note to a few days after.
So, Guy Who Seemed Awesome But Is Not, here are five things you will be missing out on by not dating me.
1. Awesome made-up songs set to the tunes of other songs. I did a great riff on Guided by Voices’ “Game of Pricks” the other night, replacing the lyrics with jokes about “Game of Thrones,” totally impromptu. If Weird Al wasn’t already so good at this, I would get into the business. Actually, if he ever needs a successor, we wouldn’t even need to change the name! So you are missing out on not only my song-parody hilariousness, but the millions of dollars I will make once I assume the title of Weird Al.
2. Having a human reference guide. I know where all the happy hours are in San Francisco. It’s my job, for chrissakes. I also know which movies were well-reviewed, which restaurant will have the best food, and which of the beers on the list you should order if you want something medium-bodied with a lot of hop character. $30/month iPhone data plan, or free human data plan? No-brainer, dude.
3. Watching me play Tetris. I broke 130,000 points today. I am an artist.
4. Staying in a comfortable, well-appointed apartment. Would you like to sit on my big, inviting couch, or do you prefer the cushy armchair? Wanna watch a movie on my big-screen TV, with your choice of Blu-Ray or Netflix Instant? Maybe you would like to have sex on top of my dining room table, since I don’t have any roommates and no one would catch us? On second thought, it’s IKEA, so no. But we could have sex in my extremely soft and comfortable queen-sized bed.
What’s that? You sleep in a twin bed, in a tiny room of the unheated house you share with five other guys? Want to hear my impression of Nelson Muntz laughing?
5. Having someone teach you the basics of politesse. If you can’t even be polite enough to send someone a note letting them know you’re no longer interested, my guess is that you aren’t going to be eating in a nice restaurant or meeting heads of state anytime soon. OK, so I haven’t met any heads of state either, but I can at least try to fix this magnetic field that seems to be fucking with your moral compass.
Oh, and having manners also means that I accept apologies for bad behavior, if they’re truly heartfelt. It’s not too late to change your ways, GWSABIN. I’ll even change your title to Guy Who Is Awesome if you make it up to me enough.
“You’re way more likely to hear about the times a woman did something that turned out to be a bad idea, because Law & Order: It Worked Out doesn’t air 25 times a day, and the 10 o’clock news is never like, ‘Coming up after the break, another wanton slut gets her shit banged out vacation-style by a guy she met in the parking lot, describes the entire ordeal as “fucking incredible.”’ Doesn’t mean those things don’t happen too.”—Further evidence as to why The Hairpin is one of the best blogs ever.
In case you don’t work in journalism, “pitching” is the act of proposing a story to an editor or other higher-up. It involves finding something new and unique to write about, condensing the salient facts and why they matter into a few sentences, and then winding up and hoping that your boss will be waiting at the other end with the catcher’s mitt. The pitch is the very soul of the freelance journalist’s career; pros can sometimes run with editors’ suggestions or share ideas with their fellow staffers, but in the freelance world, you live and die by what you pitch.
As I mentioned above, I suck at it. And I’m starting to think it has something to do with being a woman.
Pitching requires a kind of false confidence, the ability to bullshit a bullshitter. Sure, many people pitch great ideas every day, but there are also so many bad ideas that get turned into articles. (See: Sunday Styles.) This is a confidence that dudes seem to more naturally develop, and as you get into higher and higher echelons in writing, you see more of them.
This study, which got a lot of press when it came out a few months ago, is solid proof that men outnumber women 3-to-1 in terms of bylines in most of the nation’s “intellectual” publications. None of these publications are intending to promote gender inequality. In fact, as far as I can tell, most of them were extremely ashamed to see themselves appear in this light. And the justification they offer, time and time again, is that they receive many, many more submissions from men; the publication reflects the slush pile. I’m pretty sure this is true. If you get five times as many submissions from men as from women, statistically, more of the publishable-quality content is going to be written by men.
The magazine I regularly freelance for is another facet of this theory. Its entire editorial staff is female, as well as about 90% of its freelancer base. This is interesting because it’s not a women’s magazine: it’s about food, culture, and things to do in SF, and usually focuses on an equal balance of the genders, if not slightly more on men. All of the women who work there, as far as I can tell, are capable writers with a strong command of language and decent research skills. And I can guarantee you that I will never see work by any of them in a major magazine. One of our very few male freelancers, however, had a piece in Wired last month, and a piece in Oprah Magazine a few months before that. Oprah Magazine!
The magazine I write for is small stakes. It’s regional, it primarily deals with non-pressing topics, it emphasizes short, punchy writing (I’ve never written anything for them over 800 words). If you write a bad article for them, no one will notice, or care. It’s a nice, quiet place to eke out a living and never be afraid you’ll fail.
I am, of course, very afraid of failing. I’m scared of pitching to even the safest, most comfortable environments. Jay more or less offered to publish anything I wanted in The Tangential, multiple times— but it took me over two months to pitch a piece that I finally felt was “right” for them. The Hairpin was nice enough to publish something I wrote a few months back, and I have been completely incapacitated when it comes to pitching another piece for them. If you really want to laugh at my reticence, keep in mind that neither of these publications pay a dime. And those two pieces I did pitch and get published? I wrote both of them after indulging in California’s finest export (after avocados, of course). Guess what I did before I had the notion to write up this post?
Meanwhile, my male contemporaries at school are regularly appearing in fancy magazines and major American newspapers. These guys are super-duper talented, so maybe this is all nonsense. They could simply be more successful because they are much better writers than I am. But we had the same education, same friends, worked on the same publications. How did only half of us learn to pitch? Do they go to some magical idea factory while the rest of us are sleeping?
There are bad-ass women writing, but I notice that they seem to do it in their own spaces. The three coolest, most eloquent young female writers I can think of are Sady Doyle, Molly Lambert, and Coke Talk. All of them now have a toe in the pool of major media, but they got attention with, and primarily still write in, their own blogs. Two of the three don’t even use their real names!
Even though I know my limitations, and the answer to this problem (“Don’t be afraid! Pitch more!”), that doesn’t mean I’ve really internalized it. Like most people, I still like to listen to the little radar detector inside my chest that tells me if a thing is a good or a bad idea, and follow its wisdom. If the depths of my soul are telling me that an idea is dumb, and I decide to pitch it anyway and end up damaging my fragile reputation, I will be crushed.
So I keep playing for small stakes: building, brick by brick, a more emotionally credible path to a version of me that isn’t as scared. At this rate, though, I may never get there.
I just got back from a week in New York, which is exactly the right amount of time to start thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of the two cities. This is a long, hard-fought, and probably boring debate, but I was surprised how many things caught my attention as being markedly different.
New York wins:
Public transportation. Every single train I took, for a whole week, was on time (at least according to Maps on my phone.) Mussolini could take lessons from the MTA. Granted, I didn’t experience too much inclement weather during my visit, but considering that Muni gets even more off-schedule every time five raindrops fall, I still think New York has the advantage. Oh, and a primarily subway-based system is much faster than a primarily bus-based one; no shocker there.
Friendliness of people. Here is San Francisco’s dark secret: people here are total assholes. I don’t know why, but it is so. They will not talk to you if you are next to them at a bar. They will sniff at you when they serve your dinner. They are constantly on the edge of becoming unglued. Contrast this with NYC, where people were always chatting with me and I had multiple instances of absolutely outstanding service at restaurants. This morning on Caltrain, this guy death-stared me about five times before screaming at me to stop talking on my cell phone. On a public train. If he tried that in New York, he would be taken out back and shot.
Even the neighbors in my building who are nice and not crazy barely say two words to me, and I don’t know any of their names. When I had to wait for Chris to get home and was stuck outside his apartment, his neighbor offered to give me food (I politely turned her down, of course.) Insane contrast!
Not always on phones. When I got on BART to head home from the airport, I noticed that every single person but me, on a train with about 40 people, was tapping away on a smartphone or iPad. I saw many more people in New York do things like have conversations or read books on their commute. People weren’t pulling out phones at meals, either.
Homeless people. Does Bloomberg keep all the homeless people in a citadel or something? I saw almost none of them, even though I traversed a good cross-section of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. By contrast, I was vocally harassed by three different homeless people within five minutes of getting off my BART train. Not only do we have more of them, but they are way louder and more demanding.
Noise. Admittedly, I’m biased, since escaping from the insane din of my asshole upstairs neighbors is a treat in and of itself. But considering that my hosts had their apartment windows cracked open for my whole stay, there was almost no noise. In fact, the only ambient sound I heard besides a general hum of cars was the nearby church, where people were singing gospel on Sunday morning. Which was the opposite of noise, really; it was beautiful.
By contrast, even when the upstairs neighbors are silent, my apartment is just a giant echo chamber of honking horns, screaming street people, rumbling buses, and beeping garbage trucks.
Real spring and summer weather. I had forgotten it could exist. Of course, the flip side is that there is winter (see below).
San Francisco wins:
Tourists. New Yorkers, I have no idea how you don’t murder tourists. If I were running the joint, I would make every foreign visitor to the city watch a video before entering, about how it is insanely rude to walk four abreast at a snail’s pace and/or stop dead in the middle of a busy sidewalk. Also, our tourists are way more attractive and well-dressed than yours, probably because everyone in the hinterlands is afraid to drag their kids into America’s purported answer to Sodom and Gomorrah. You guys should do more crazy shit to keep them away. I feel badly for you.
Booze. I really enjoyed my drinks at Death & Co. and PDT, but at $15 a pop, getting blitzed on nice cocktails is expensive as hell! SF’s going rate of $8-10 for a fancy libation still isn’t cheap, but I can have three drinks here for the price of two in NYC, which is nice. I’ve never seen an SF bar that didn’t have at least one craft beer on tap; can’t say the same for New York.
Food. I had some interesting, inventively prepared food, but I am so spoiled on ingredient quality out here that I couldn’t seem to reach a transcendent state from any of it. Sure, we just serve a fig on a plate or whatever— but it’s a really fucking good fig.
Rent. No contest here: I get more house for my money, and I’m closer to everything, too. But I need to be, since Muni never runs.
Snow. We don’t have that. Hell, we create websites to let us know if we even get a tiny little flurry.
I’ll write more about New York later, but I have to say that this trip radically altered my prior thinking about whether I’d enjoy living there. If I made about 25% more money, I’d consider moving— though I have to say, winter is a pretty serious deterrent.
It seems like whenever the weather gets warm, the fruit flies (those little brown specks of bugs) come out in droves. The last time I had a bad infestation, I picked up this trick on the Internet. It works like a charm, so I thought I’d share.
First, get a drinking glass (as you can see below, my fruit flies enjoy Guinness). Fill it with maybe three tablespoons of vinegar. I usually use red wine vinegar, but I think you could use balsamic or any other vinegar you’d put in salad dressing. My flies don’t care for plain white vinegar, but they are San Francisco natives, so they may just be picky about what they eat.
Squirt a bit of dishwashing liquid into the glass and fill gently with water until it’s about 3/4 full and has a foamy layer. Cover the glass tightly with a piece of plastic wrap and poke a bunch of small holes in the top (I use the tip of my meat thermometer; a safety pin or paper clip would also do the job). Be careful not to tear the wrap; you want holes that are big enough for a little fly to get into but not so big that it can easily get back out.
Your fly-murdering device will look like this:
Leave it overnight, and in the morning, you’ll find the foam is speckled with tiny corpses. They get attracted to the vinegar, go in through the holes, at which point they get trapped in the foam, or can’t figure out how to get out of the holes, or both. For best results, change out the vinegar-water-soap solution daily.
“While the 87 freshmen Republicans in the House ran on a platform of containing federal spending, and while some Republicans, like Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, have suggested de-emphasizing social issues until the nation’s fiscal problems can be addressed, the desire among social conservatives to curb abortion rights has never gone away.”—Budget, or controlling my womb? Budget, womb, budget…nope, womb.
“My first day of work at Microsoft, 15 years ago, I wore a DOJ baseball cap that a friend had given me when she heard I was going to work in Redmond, Wash. ‘DOJ’ stood for Department of Justice, which is where my friend worked. I wore the cap into the office on my first day, intending this to be a little joke. The Clinton Justice Department had recently filed an antitrust suit against Microsoft, threatening huge fines and even a breakup of the company. But I learned a lesson: Nobody thought the hat was very funny. Outside Washington, D.C., they take politics and their consequences seriously — more seriously than in the nation’s capital, where it’s all ‘just business,’ as they say in ‘The Godfather.’ My new colleagues were appalled and hurt by the lawsuit. They felt they were helping their country (as well as themselves) by developing great software. They didn’t think their company was the monster portrayed by Justice Department lawyers.”—Is this the real root of why Congress seems totally disconnected from the impact of its decisions on real humans (the case on both ends, albeit amplified on the right)? Do they think of themselves as just playing a really big, really involved game of “Mafia Wars?” (source)