Sunday, February 26, 2006

Happy birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. Today I am sitting in the library at school getting ready to go home and I am feeling the effects of last night: I am aware of the weight of my own head. My eyes feel beady and small. I am unshaven. I am wearing glasses. My stomach, occasionally, will roil.

But yesterday was awesome. L and I woke up at 6:40 and trudged up to Central Park, and I ran in a four-mile race and was pleasantly suprised by my time of 31:00 minutes (7:45 per mile for those of you keeping score at home -- I thought I would be in the mid-8:00's, so this was an unexpected gift). We came home and weren't quite sure what to do with ourselves, since we were showered and clean and breakfast-laden and informed by the newspaper, all by 10:30 in the morning. We walked around the village in the afternoon, made an obligatory pilgrimage to Chipotle, saw Philip Seymour Hoffman on the sidewalk with his girlfriend and kid, not seeming exceptionally paternal, and went to some bookstores and bought L new running shoes.

Later I went to strength conditioning and step class, and because I'm such a birthday glutton, when my smooth and attractive teacher asked me how I was doing and what was going on, I blurted out, "It's my birthday!" and she announced it to the larger group much to humiliation, especially in the step part when she said, "It's Michael's birthday and I think he deserves some bigger sashays! Let's give Michael some bigger sashays, people!" I actually prayed for sweet death at that moment, because of all the things I intended to do on my birthday, I am not sure if sashaying was or should have been on that list. But if a part of maturing is not caring about what other people think and a general willingness to be embarassed, I guess that was helpful.

We had an awesome dinner at Westville, where the lovely waitress and I were both grooving to "That's the way love goes," and then we went to Buddha, where I saw a lot of my friends and had a great time, exactly what I wanted. We rounded out the night at French Roast over some liquoured-up coffee and fancy pizza, and now here I am.

I am very happy to be 26. My life is going really well and I can't imagine having any more to be thankful for or excited about. I heard from a lot of people I love yesterday and that was the best part. I didn't hear from my grandparents, which was really disappointing, but it's not something to dwell on. I don't know - birthdays for me are double-edged, or at least they have a strong shadow underlying the substance. I mean, it's a celebration and a time for assessment and a chance to think about who you love and where you're going, but at the same time, it can also be a chance to be disappointed. But beyond the birthday, my life is going really well and I am certainly aware and grateful of the good fortune of it all. I am so, so lucky.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The plan


This Saturday is my 26th birthday, and to celebrate my lost youth and innocence, we're going out. We'll be heading to the Buddha Lounge, which is a lively, smooth spot on the Lower East Side, and I would love it if you could join. We'll probably get there around 10:30 or 11. (Address and directions are below.)

I would love to see you, as no birthday is complete without celebratory drinking and awkward, impaired dancing with the people you love. And believe me, we will have all of the above.

Hope to see you Saturday-


Buddha Lounge
29 E. 3rd St., between 2d Avenue and Bowery
Look for the sign with the red Buddha on it
(212) 505-7344
Subway: take the F or V to 2nd Ave (or walk from Astor Place)


Our oven hasn't been working ever since we moved into the apartment. Our landlord, Bill, has tried diligently to get the repair guys to come, but when they do, they mess around with all the dials and tubes and wires, but they don't actually fix it. Apparently this is due to union regulations, I don't know. So Bill has been trudging to our apartment sporadically to let the repair guy in and watch him fiddle with knobs, or, alternatively, wait for the repair guy to come and then get stood up by him. It's a system that works for everyone. (Although Bill did give us an awesome gift certificate to a great restaurant to make up for it, so I'm a happy camper. Plus, the only thing I need the oven for, really, is storage space.)

So last night I was in the bathroom, perusing the latest issue of Newsweek as ... you know. Right. So the intercom buzzes, and I assume it's just someone trying to get into the building, as I don't expect any visitors. (Do you see where this is going?) I continue reading an especially incisive column by Jonathan Alter when there is knock on the door. I decide to ignore it, considering I am indisposed. Then I hear Bill's voice outside and the rustle of keys. All the blood in my body hurtles to my face. Uh oh. "One minute!" I croak.

No response, and now I hear the telltale jingling of keys. The front door opens. I hastily throw the Newsweek aside. "One second!" I yell. "One second!" Shit! Shit! My body goes through a million different kinds of stress as I ... make myself presentable. Hands dripping from the sink, the magazine stuffed behind the toilet, I walk out and open the front door. There's Bill and the repair guy, Russell. "I'm sorry, you caught me in the restroom!" I say as jovially as possible. I shake hands with the men and give them a look that says: please believe that my hands aren't wet because I peed on them.

They come in and Russell goes to town twiddling with the oven. He ventured into it from the top down, dismantling the stove and then working his way in. Other neighbors pass by the open door, and Bill offers a few choice tidbits about them. The nice people who live across from me are Scientologists. So don't go to them for advil. And Bill himself has been playing piano in a jazz band for 40 years, and they play every Monday night at a bar around the corner.

After they had all left, and the oven seemed to be working, I returned to the bathroom so that my intestinal tract could try to make some sense out of the extreme psychological trauma it had been through. But as I reflected in my favorite room of the apartment, I thought: you know, this is why you love where you live - a landlord who is a regularly performing musician and scientologists across the hall. Unbelievable.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Women we love: Beyonce

I am up to my neck in the horrible process of writing an appellate brief, so what better way to prime my mental powers for some razor-sharp legal reasoning than blogging about why I like Beyonce:

Beyonce's new movie, "The Pink Panther," looks incredibly bad, the kind of bad that only Steve Martin in his latter-day "family" "friendly" mode could spit out. But her new song, "Check on it," featuring some disposable Southern rapper, is kind of awesome. It's the kind of song I didn't like at first, when I actually heard it, but when I saw the video I really starting digging it. It's got that trademark Beyonce quick delivery, and I think she even rhymes "patient" with "abrasive." The video features like eight different versions of the woman: ghetto B, switching her hips and smacking her gum; upper east side B, wearing a big ol' sweater and looking cute; B in a wig; B dancing in a dress; B dancing in jeans; etc. Plus there's this one point where she does this bizarre Matrix move where she dips back and reaches the ground with her hands. Was that an animatronic move? Or did she have some vertebrae removed?

But the best part of the song is the penultimate line in the chorus, when she says: "Dip it pop it twerk it stop it check on me tonight." You know, I once twerked it for L during an intimate moment and it didn't go well - she felt uncomfortable and I was mortified for weeks. But if it works for Beyonce, more power to her.

So, the woman had a great voice, she's got some amazing curves, she's easy on the eyes, she writes songs with quick lyrics, she is unreasonably flexible, and she offers music that makes you want to move your hips. If that isn't enough reason to love a woman, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Drama review: "Doubt"

Tonight L and I saw the Tony- and Pulitzer-award winning play, "Doubt." It's about the clash between a priest and a nun in the Bronx in 1964, when the church is in the middle of the upheaval of Vatican II and this particular nun is convinced that the priest is molesting a student at their school. Suspicions and conjectures start to reflect the changing times, the clash of sexes within the church hierarchy, and the fears and horrors that no one can really bring themselves to articulate. It was an amazing play, with the crackling dialogue and a lot to consider. (Not to mention a spectacularly obnoxious audience - intermittently beeping cellphones, crumpling candy wrappers, and the woman next to L who felt the need to complete the actors' lines for them. After she loudly announced the actual very last word of the play, I leaned over and brisky asked her to be quiet. A good moment.)

I was thinking, though - between this play, an article in the current New Yorker about the church's depiction of Mary Magdalene as a whore through the ages, and a book I read by Karen Armstrong about her experiences as a disenchanted ex-nun - I am feeling a little cynical about religion. The common theme that emerges is that the men in power make doctrines that will keep them in power and ensure the status quo. A question I keep returning to is why we expect leaders of the church to make such drastic and bizarre sacrifices - to abandon elements of their innate humanity like sexuality and the need for companionship - to somehow better prepare them for spiritual leadership.

I want to refresh myself and feel good about religion as this wedding of mine rolls around, but so far I still feel pretty disenchanted with the whole thing. So much of the doctrine has been manipulated through the ages, so many horrible things are done in the spirit of people's misplaced certainties. But maybe I need to let go of some of the irony and cynicism to see beyond it. I don't know.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Put your back into it

So it's almost halfway through the month and I have yet to update this beloved blog of mine with February's exploits. I have been working hard at law school, incrementally preparing for the wedding, trying to improve the subtle aspects of cohabitation, looking for something to keep me busy over the summer, enjoying a new season of "Survivor," and considering the implications of my bday in two weeks, but the whole month maybe just boils down to:

Hurting my back at the gym.

This happened last saturday. I went for a two-hour block of manly exercise, namely, total body conditioning followed by step. (My relationship to step class is a Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name. It's like going out dancing, it's like learning how to enjoy house music, it's like line dancing, it's like making a fool of yourself and not caring. I sort of like it.) Anyways, the teacher is this black chick who could easily beat me in arm wrestling and is very nice and charming. She is somewhat dreamy, and she has a crazy name that isn't even a name - I will call her "Mwa," which is close enough. Anyways, by the end of the first hour I was feeling a little burn along my shoulder blades -- during step class it became an insistent little dart of unpleasantness with each step on the board -- later that night, I couldn't lean back - or raise my arms - or slouch...

Every time I moved my arms it killed. Walking home from watching SNL with James, I actually had to stop in the street three times - it hurt so much and I could barely breathe. I felt all constricted. To get into bed I had to make these elaborate spins and loops around my room before I could bring myself to endure the vertical-to-horizontal transition. I couldn't sleep - couldn't roll over, could only lay on my back with my arms over my head. After calling my parents the next morning, I popped a fistful of advil and took a hot, hot, hot shower for 25 minutes - and miraculously, my back felt about 70% better. I couldn't believe it.

I took it easy this week, liberally supplementing my diet with over the counter pain medication and taking it easy at the gym. But I'm back to 100% now, and I'm returning to that damnable class this afternoon. I will say to Mwa, "Hey, I wanted to tell you that after last week, my middle and upper back went ballistic, and I can't help but hold you responsible. So.... yeah. Let's march it out." Nothing like an athletic injury that happen in stupid ways! This is almost as good as the time I sprained my wrist in junior high during a particularly ferocious game of pin dodge.