By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd.
6:07 AM I wake up in a cocoon on my new eggplant-colored couch, purchased from Craigslist, where I’d wrapped myself the night before in a no-duvet comforter and chenille blanket when the heat in my apartment was out. It is like four degrees outside, and fuck that. Sometime during my slumber, the heat turned back on, so my little bedroll was festooned with disgusting sweat and body scent, which is stale and pungent. I don’t smell like a locker room. Maybe horse stables? I drag the comforter into my bedroom, there’s much more room on the bed and my neck is no longer cricketing to an immutable 90 degree jut.
9-something I wake up again, from a dream in which I’m packing all sorts of junk from a family shed (?), with the intent of carrying it on a return flight to New York. I’m shoving notebooks and loose photographs into canvas totes and suitcases, but my main dilemma is how to transport all of my footwear. I almost leave behind a clear Forfex/Opening Ceremony flatform sneaker, something I own in reality; I can’t fit an open-toed, bead-embellished ankle boot, which I do not own, but remember thinking I should wear it soon because it is a shade of peach that will only work for this Spring, and never again. Dreams are great because they’re where I allow myself to be the shallow bitch that I am, especially during New York Fashion Week. But also, I would never, ever buy a boot in peach, so my subconscious is totally imperfect.
There’s another dream where I’m having sex with my friend under a blanket on the floor of a BP gas station (classy), and still another where I’m trying to return home from moderating a Q&A at a music festival in Sheridan, Wyoming. But as I drive (in a blue 1960s Mustang, hi), the roads become so steep that the car topples backwards, upside down, and the car lands in a river. I survive by unrolling the window and letting the water in so the pressure is equal on either sides of the car door, which is an actual thing (everyone should know what to do in case their car plummets into a body of water!). There is a dream dictionary that we found on the street sitting on our kitchen counter right now, but it is hippie trash so I go back to sleep.
1:55 PM Oh god, what a piece of garbaggio I am, and I smell even more fetid than I did eight hours ago. I wake up to banshee-devil sunshine screaming in my face and my boyfriend gently but disapprovingly telling me it’s almost two in the afternoon. Once I patter to the kitchen I realize he is not disapproving so much as just really wants to talk to someone. My boyfriend loves to talk. I am not a person anyone should attempt to talk to upon waking, as I become mildly homicidal, and I feel like I am being assaulted with his stories and jokes. But because it is 2 PM and I smell, I suppress my impulse to beg him to stop and try to be nice as I heat water for coffee.
I appreciate great coffee but have never been a coffee snob—I do it for the high—and for the past several months I’ve been exclusively drinking instant coffee at home just like the way my abuelita taught me. Mix processed caffeine crystals in hot water and house the buzz to your face. Café Bustelo Instantáneo is my current jam, mainly because that’s what they sell at my bodega.
The first time I had instant coffee I was four years old—grandma gave me café con leche on the regs for about a week and a half until my Tía Terry, a nurse, caught her and told her if I kept drinking it I’d end up shorter than I was already destined by genes to be. I’m 5’4 3/4″, my mom is like 5’1 3/4″ on a good day, so it all worked out for the best.
2:13 Boyfriend Seamlesses tofu and broccoli from the cheap Chinese spot around the way as I start grading papers for the class I teach at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recording Music. The class is called Writing about Popular Music. It’s the first assignment of the semester and it’s easy because it’s a pass/fail—I’m just trying to gauge the writing voices of each student. I am a music critic before anything else, and so I read tons of music writing all the time. But it’s a special kind of pleasure to just sink into these first reviews and absorb my students’ honesty and uninhibition. The students are mostly musicians who have no particular interest in becoming music critics—some of them find music criticism to be a useless endeavor, in general, which makes for interesting class discussions—so they’re not trying to write like anyone else, not trying to impress anyone else. They’re not trying to adhere to any sort of institutional music critic “style,” the kind that makes everyone sound the same. To me, that shit is death. I try to teach my students to develop their own voices and styles, especially because we’re in a time when a writer can essentially define her own platform on the internet (economics notwithstanding). There is no reason to use New York Times or New Yorker style unless you are writing for the New York Times or the New Yorker. And if you have designs on doing so, well, good for you—who doesn’t? But people can see through all that, and reading aspirational mimicry gets to be a slog.
Soon I am having Sasha Frere-Jones come in as a guest speaker to talk about his controversial, internet-exploding decision to leave the New Yorker for Genius. This is one of my favorite things Sasha Frere-Jones has ever written. It is not written in New Yorker style and is, for all intents and purposes, a list piece, also death. But come on: “Fucking Crunk Hat”!
3:30 Watching the latest episode of Syfy Network’s Face Off, a reality show in which special effects make-up artists compete for a chance to win, like, $100k and a Kia Soul. I was recently clowned—by a colleague and friend who writes about science fiction for a living—for always watching Face Off but never watching Project Runway, particularly as a person who loves fashion. But Face Off embodies what I find most interesting about fashion, far more than the few episodes of Project Runway I’ve seen—it’s a flashpoint for the unexpected, macabre, beautifully weird, basically anything with an unmistakable point of view and a strong opinion. (I suppose that’s what I like about the best music criticism, too.) This week’s winning make-up was a robot/1940s housewife that invoked Prada and McQueen and Marc Jacobs doing Richard Prince and my friend Arabelle Sicardi. It is more interesting than most of what I’ve seen at NYFW this week. And It’s one of the first characters on “Face Off” that made me physically yearn for a movie around it. I wanted to hear that clockwork robot lady’s story, from my belly.
4:45 A Famous Actress, in her 40s and only recently getting the mass of shine she deserves, is calling me for a Rookie interview at 5 PM, so I make two more cups of Café Bustelo Instantáneo in preparation. She is one of my favorites and I am interviewing her about her friend. It will be cake.
5 Famous Actress does not call, so I start playing Candy Crush: Soda Saga on my iPad to distract myself from tweaking anxiety.
5:20 No Famous Actress. Waiting to be called for interviews is the darkest pit of time-based stress. The minutiae of each second with no call pratters on. A watched pot never boils, goddamn goddamn. We made this appointment via my boss, Tavi Gevinson, one week ago, though, and Famous Actress has been extremely chillaxed about it, so I’m assuming Famous Actress spaced it. She lives in Los Angeles; maybe, hopefully, she got caught up at a dispensary, knowhatimean. (Ugh, the NYC version of a dad joke, or my dad joke.) I play Candy Crush even harder, which is definitely amplifying my stress factor. I’m on level 46 and I’m trying to save these cute fucking gummi bears from literally drowning in purple drank, which they will do if I do not pop the cupcakes and elevate them above the string. It’s not a game, people.
5:40 No Famous Actress. I text Tavi and tell her it’s chill, I’m so so chill, maybe we can do this interview tomorrow or whatever. Tavi apologizes and I text, “Dude I’m literally on my couch playing iPad games,” proverbially leaning against a locker in a denim moto jacket. Clearly, I’m wracked with anxiety and Café Bustelo.
6:20 Famous Actress calls! She apologizes profusely for her tardiness, explaining that she was at the hair salon, and that how typical and embarrassing it was for an “airhead” Hollywood actress to forget to call because she is at the hair salon (paraphrased). Because she says this, I know that she knows she is not a “typical” Hollywood actress, which is one reason I wanted to talk to her in the first place. I tell her I have been “so chill” this entire time, which is a lie to make myself sound cooler than I actually am—but I also tell her I have been playing Candy Crush: Soda Saga on the iPad for an hour, so it’s one-for-one. She is, in fact, extremely easy to talk to, and not in the way some actors and musicians and anyone with a publicist is “easy to talk to.” She compares her friend’s thin wrists to the leg of a poodle, as a compliment. Famous Actress, if you’re reading this, I will high-five you if I ever see you in the club. Sremm Life, to the script.
7:30 We eat leftovers from Chinese lunch. Mei Wei in Williamsburg is primo quality cheap Chinese food (do not confuse it with Wei Williamsburg). I have somehow misplaced a total of five personal metal chopsticks somewhere in my house.
7:45 Two of America’s best DJs are playing tonight—Rizzla at the Flat, Total Freedom at China Chalet—but it is brick as yo mama’s tiddie outside. Executive decision: haha. Hello, new eggplant couch, I will rub the entire left side of my body pon you for one more night, gimme just one more night. New eggplant couch: Let me be your manager.
11:15: We watched A Most Violent Year, a well-regarded film about New York City in 1981, and yet barely anything happened. I wanted actually violent crime shit, but it’s about the good guy, attempting to stay afloat in a quagmire of morally corrupt assholes. It looks gritty, but the underlying themes are a little obvious. The most thought-provoking aspect was the part where the 1981 B train to the Bronx stops at 62nd street, above ground. Were they on the B train in Bensonhurst? Is there a long-lost line, now demolished 30 years later? The film makes more sense after Wiki drops the knowledge jewel that the director’s last movie was about Robert Redford surviving a sinking boat for two hours. “That seems like a Man movie I would possibly watch,” says my boyfriend. “Haha! Yeah I’m never, ever seeing that shit,” I say.
11:45: I’m in bed like an adult human on a Saturday. I feel vaguely old, but I am a woman with important things to do in the morning.
Julianne Escobedo Shepherd is the Culture Editor at Jezebel, a staff writer at Rookie, and a professor of music writing at NYU. She tweets at @jawnita and has blogged since 2004 at urbanhonking.com/cowboyz