By Amy Rose Spiegel.
9:26 AM, my bed: Woke up feeling walloped and funneled some water down my neck. Scrolled through my phone—there’s Jess, who is traversing Canada, at three fifty-something in the morning, sending me pictures of regional candy bars. Am suddenly desperate for an ice cream sandwich, and I’m halfway to the freezer when I remember I’m supposed to be doing this project. Hello, Enormous Eye. The mrat meows her assent and I take some vitamins, including aforementioned sandwich.
This is quickly going to turn into a live-action adaptation of the Dorothy Parker short story “Diary of a New York Lady,” if I’m not careful, huh?
9:34 AM: Here is my best Frederick Seidel impression re: the styrofoam clamshell I just spied in the trash: In the kitchen, the evidence presents itself to me / Last night, I went to the fried chicken spot where I am “Miss Spicy” / I groan and eat a strawberry. THANKS, FOLKS, I’LL BE HERE ALL DAY! Why is no one clapping?
9:40 AM, back in the sheets: An email from Libby, whom even in my private journals, I specify each time is my !!!BOOK EDITOR!!! like an excited child. The subject line: “You’re a Don.” Peregrinate between rooms for a while, housing another quart or so of seltzer; a handful of granola; truffled brie. Text my bandmates, Hello, humannés, even though John has to be feeling even more throwed than I do—the party was at his house last night. Basically all I recall is that Sarah looked nice, the thing you can count on. I flash back to the curves of her face in the stairwell. God, I am ADRIFT in this hangover—I want to go back to sleep, which means I’m going to Manhattan. The best corrective for your own irresponsibility, as Jess says, is to “dump yourself into a moving planet.” Chinatown definitely is one: I plan errands.
9:53: Am placing a call to see about doing some yard work on the mrat’s feet when, lo and behold, WE GOT JMG ON THE LINE! He tells me, “I’m swanning about on this bed in my long johns,” making firm eye contact with a painting of a stag, which I misunderstand, at first, to just be the animal itself, because he’s in Canada and I am And Literal Dunce. There is equal urgency in me to kid with and be suggestive with him, so I take the worst possible tack and do a little of both, deflating each’s potency. We get off the phone and I send him a picture of my bureau barfing clothes and reflecting me in its mirror. He sends me a picture of his hot Neanderthal face next to a cookie shaped like a butt with chomp marks in it. Feeling lewd. TO CHINATOWN!
10:46, my doll sink: Well, not quite. First, I encase my zones in a lacquer of Badescu tonics. As I floss, I think of telling you about this banality—that I flossed—and of my decision to record the manufacturer of my toner’s name: (1) What does it mean that I’ve asked people to file these not tomorrow morning, but on Sunday night? To give them time to transcribe, sure, but also time to decorate and falsify, which brings me to (2) I HOPE THEY DO! Our notebooks are where we erect the scaffolding of our personalities, and everyone has the right to be his own architect…if only by telling you what brand of dermal products he favors? On that Barthes S/Z thing of, “Balzac didn’t have to hold your toddler hand through the understanding that Perè Goriot was of a certain social class—just read about the shape of these here buildings in his neighborhood, and 10-4.”
I’M not going to embellish, though. This because I am both very honest—it’s, lyke, a thing of being morally blameless, you know? Plus, I don’t NEED to. (Please, God, I hope you know I’m kitten. Here, smell this dental floss.)
A passel of chorusing texts…
JOHN: OOf sory I was so drunk Amy rose
JOSS: OMGoddess (you are) – – – happiest v deh (shoe shoe lipstick lipstick)
JESS: I miss you so and yea you should
10:55: I put on Wal-Mart leggings from middle school under my jeans; it’s frigid. Add to this stunning mental picture the men’s XL Broadway Video zip-up hoodie Sandrew gave me. It’s softer than the hand of God, but thinking that as I write it, so is everything (OOF, I know). I also think, I MISS SANDY! Underneath her cast-off sweatshirt: A needlessly slutty long-line lace bra; AA bralette top; the sweater PositivelyJeffrey gave me that used to be his dude’s and fits me perfection-style. I can’t leave the house until I top-edit Saturday Links, so I post up reading the news. The stories are all cramp-inducing in different ways: ISIS; Time Warner Center; Angie Martinez’s defection from Hot 97; Ukraine. A Facebook message from James, who seems to be doing well, extracts an email back in which I describe my book ham-fistedly. “Maybe like Helen Gurley Brown without all the dieting and self-negation.”
Another text from John: we just hid and bonded in my bed.
11:30: Derica gchats, letting me know it’s TOP-EDITING TIME. I love this job, but my mood thuds even more distinctly, reading this particular post: Chapel Hill; dead teenagers; anti-trans violence.
I gchat D. back on various professional fronts, but also type, “I want to gas the police,” which is melodramatic and not. I read the post four times, making tiny adjustments, because I’m an obsessive lunatic in romantic love with a website for teenage girls. OKAY REALLY GOING TO CHINATOWN NOW. IstheLtrainrunning.com says, “BITCSHWWW, GET THEE IN A NORTHSIDE,” basically, and so I call a car, grimace, think about my taxes. I pack the last New Yorker as I listen to Calvin Johnson’s “Ode to St. Valentine.” I was going to text this to Meredith yesterday: I feel like a consummate shithead for knowing that many women have called this cat a predator…and still scarfing his music anyway! His voice does that exceptionally rare stoking-of-my-insides, though—“What Was Me” is next up, and I cry a little, but am not unhappy.
It reminds me to text her back now: “Tattoos today?” Why is my bag so heavy? OH, BECAUSE THERE’S A FULL BOTTLE OF VODKA IN IT. I nestle it in the freezer and depart.
12:38 PM: Northside always goes to 15[X] instead of 16[X], no matter how clearly and slowly I intone the number of the beast when I call: “Six. Six. Six. One SIX [X]. Six.” I am grateful for the diet Red Bull I snatched from the bodega, as I am for the traffic, too: I only get to read in cabs and in bed, so I’m stoked when the congestion of cars is thick and lovely. Also thick ’n’ lovely (this is the name of a grocery-store coffee additive, or something X-rated, or a leggings line): “Lottery Tickets” by Elizabeth Alexander, on Derica’s Saturday Lynx recommendo. It’s an account of her husband’s death—which, of course, requires an account of the life they shared. My face loosens with tears almost immediately. (ARS’s Cool-Boy Tell-All Journal Tears Count, so far today: 2. Boy howdy, am I a vacuous twee nightmare—cf. K Records, above.)
Perhaps the story begins with the fistful of lottery tickets he bought two days before he died, which I discovered weeks later, when they fluttered out of the pages of one of the many books he was reading.
Or it begins when I meet him, sixteen years before. That was always a good story: an actual coup de foudre, a bolt of lightning, love at first sight. I felt a visceral torque, I would tell people, a literal churn of my organs: not butterflies, not arousal; rather, a not unpleasant rotation of my innards, as never before. Lightning struck and did not curdle the cream but instead turned it to sweet, silken butter. Lightning turned sand into glass.
Osmosing this piece into my squalid brain also reminds me that I love the word “oracular.” I gently nag my driver to please turn up Stacy Q’s “Two of Hearts,” which has tap-danced onto the radio. I hate being an annoyance, but, as part of my ethical edifice, must honor the impeccability of this jam of all jamzzzzzzqqq! I’m writhing in the backseat with a colossal grin stitched on my face.
Back to the muscular essay, which displaces that goon behavior with transliterated grief. It has also worried me on a selfish level: I have been a smoker since I was 11. I eat lots of coffee. I am thunderstruck: I am going to die of heart disease, the number-one killer of Americans, and of the writer’s husband, who never was able to quit. I know this is self-involved—I am reading an essay about someone’s REAL loss and making it about my own anxieties. Then I think writing this will feel pat, on the nose—WHAT DAY IS IT, AGAIN? WHATTA METAPHOR!!—but it isn’t one. I’m just angry with myself for not being healthier, plus a probable narcissist. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” the driver and I commit in unison, and I stride into the bank.
1:10, on the sidewalk at Broadway and Grand: Jess was right: My hangover deliquesces as people whir by. Adolescents in cat-eared hats talking shit on a peer, but in an ultimately nice way: “Did she know it was, like, mean? What a waste of her money,” and tourists disagreeing over a guidebook in Portuguese, and EVERYONE ELSE. Sometimes I feel like Manhattan is a diorama I’m walking through—like it’s contained within somewhere else, and that somewhere is indoors. Like when you had to stay inside for P.E. on rainy days, and how the gym felt like a counterfeit uncanny-valley yard. Someone has autographed the facade of Duane Reade with orange and blue hearts. I go into Muji for stamp-ink for my Valentine’s gift—Jess got me an ARS stamp with one of the Craphound eyes on it—and two more of these notebooks. This store reminds me, always, of Arabelle. Most profane curse: “We don’t sell ink,” says a nametagged girl. Just the notebooks, then, and off to Pearl. (Why, as I live and breathe: Is that Fred Seidel, but with half the IQ? So nice to fuck up your cadence again, in that last sentence!) $12.52.
1:28: When I see that Pearl Paint has gone out of business as I approach the store, my heart does, too. At the little stalls all along Canal, selfie sticks are $15, and I think of the President, and my dad texting me about that BuzzFeed video, and 15 as a numerical, as in the current year. I follow the directions taped in Pearl’s window up the street to Wooster Art Supply, where I find no ink. Back down the avenue whence I trickled.
Toto’s “Africa” plays at a balaclava table, whose proprietor calls, “Can’t-go-wrong-for-three-dollars.” He’s not wearing gloves, and nor am I, my hands cold and alive at work on this note. A young guy in Burberry or falsified Burberry collides with me; his phone call is unpaused: He slurs, “I jusht meant…” into the phone. I’m gone before the end of the sentence. You have to stop to smoke a cigarette in Chinatown for this reason: To do otherwise is an act of violent aggression. You WILL commit interpersonal arson, or at least pockmark someone’s tan plaid scarf. I step out of the surge at Centre and Canal, underneath a billboard that reads only, “ANNOTATE.” Yeah man way ahead of you though. On to Little Italy, tiny facsimile of my ancestral homeland. I dip into Most Precious Blood Church and “light” this candle for my Catholic grandmother in New Jersey, who lost my grandfather in November, just after their 50-somethingth anniversary. Outside and past my family legacy, Il Cortile, where I was fed meatballs in the kitchen as a baby as my parents sat at the “garden” table, conducting business. An old head outside greets me, “Bella!” When I turn, his eyes are locked to my boots.
2:19: Boiled pork and chive dumplings at Beijing Pop Kebab are granular, which isn’t a bad thing at first. I read “The Animal I Cannot Help But Be” and wonder how to measure success when I don’t believe in free will, which I do not, an agreement I seem to be making with the poet, Stephen Dunn. I peer at the Christmas wreath in the door. Happy wrong holiday. Avalanche of texts from Prime Meridian, who is not having a good Valentine’s Day. I feel like a bad boyfriend! I think of honey jars in Pompeii—I re-learned this thanks to “Lottery Tickets”—and it’s taking me a similar forever to leave this restaurant; the bill is being withheld for WHY, I gotta go! I am constantly pulling at the reins of myself, like, Please be patient, b/w May I please please have the bill. It’s finally set on my makeshift paper tablecloth—magazine, this notebook—and my relief is gargantuan and instant.
3:06, Mulberry St.: And fleeting as fuhhhhh. WHERE IS THE TAILOR? I stop and nearly buy a shirt depicting a scowling Calvin with NEW YORK ATTITUDE scrawled above, in the wrong size, for $10, before being like, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, ARS? and shredding forth. No wonder nothing ever gets done around here. A boy skids a gray figurine along the hallway wall at Lai’s, singing, “Jump! Jump! Galaxy three!” She appraises my silk bowling costume: “The pockets control it.” Still, we figure it out, and she takes my measurements, which I have never in my life been apprised of before this. I always just guessed. $35.
Before I go, Lai asks, “Are you okay?” with genuine concern in her voice. This is a common question from strangers, which makes me feel like I have a manufacturer’s defect, even though the answer is usually YEAH STOKED GREAT WHAT? WHAT INVISIBLE-TO-ME FRISSION AM I PROJECTING INTO THE WORLD? I’m pretty gullible in this way. Tell me how I feel! It could have just been that I didn’t haggle. The driver home is a maniac blaring AC/DCish testosterock, and I’m totally down.
4:27: Glide back into the Terrordome and email Tavi and Teek and Derica. Read an interview with Jess, in which he’s pretty cryptic, and find it irritating in a lovable way. I read yet another profile of David Carr and update the master ARS Aspirational Dictionary, First Edition on my computron. The Aspo Dicto: chockablock with words I often know, and always like, unlike “chockablock,” which sounds facile (“chocolate bar”) and has too many voiceless velar stops (unlike “pick,” one of my favorites—it applies the brakes neatly after just one syllable; a stop should be a stop).
Some choice cuts from the ARSADFE (arr-sahhh-ffffd, air-soft, are soft?): sacral, ministration, antinomian (many are religious); golden, confetti, tuxedo (still more are party as fuck). Most populous are words of the genus I find most exotic: perilune; pulsar; astrigation—the vocabulary of the intergalactic.
I wish writing was as effortless as just listing words, but no matter how hard I try, it isn’t. I love this brand of vacant stylishness: Paging Dr. Seidel. I buy another pack across the street. $14. Heart disease is expensive. Now: TO THE BOOK.
7:30, desk: I wind down—good efforts for a day off—and think of the word “ventricle,” imagining my own as a sewer system. I read more of David Carr, this time, written by him, eating his words, plus less/more figurative ones: handfuls of baby cookies filigreed with the alphabet form anagrams in my digestive tract. Time to get ready for the Verso party. I have preselected a dress. The neckline is an obtuse triangle, sure, but it will earn me discounts at the bar for disparate reasons than usual: It’s red, the color of love and Communism, both of which are the themes of this jam. I put on Dead Moon’s Unknown Passage and mascara, trying not to be late for Hermione and Michael, but…
7:51: My absent Valentine is on the line!
8:13: “It’s princess time,” he concludes our conversation, and sets off to play a show. I tell him I love him and mean it fervidly. A moment later, Lito calls, too. My dad adores holidays, and people. “It’s in our nature to fall in love instantaneously,” he laughs on the phone, discussing my sister: “OH, HELLO, YOU LIKE ME? I LOVE YOU!” We switch topics—a proclivity for infomercials is also hereditary, and he tells me how much he loves a new one, for supplements. “The guy has a dyed-brown mustache!” We spend 40 minutes talking about Ronco knives…oh, fuck, I’m so late.
9:19, Ramona: Michael, Hermione, and I meet, talking bad jobs. As a teenager, Michael grew up all over, on military bases. On one of them, he worked for a seamstress whom, he said, was renowned. Also: “She had had sex only once.”
“How do you know?”
“She told me! She said they got together, he just popped it in,”—he gestures pattycakeishly—“finished, and that was it!” Hermione looks nice in her red dress, which, she says, “is a bit short!” Not short ENOUGH, my dude: Michael told her, when she put it on earlier, that he wouldn’t have talked to her if he didn’t know her, in that outfit. “I’d be too intimidated.” I stop checking my phone for the evening.
10:30, Verso: I admire Mychal’s red Jordans. Stoya asks, “Are those your real lashes?” Of course not! People start to dance. I tell Shuja to pick a book. He opts for Through the Kaleidoscope. I file $20 in its place. He fishes the bill back out and we use it at the bar—two beers apiece at two dollars each—and leave the rest in the tip jar to cover the book (we like this bookstore). Joe watches me lick the rims of the Budweisers, claiming ’em. Shuja starts talking about country music in relation to Lacan. I am appropriately self-conscious about wearing a red beret to this, given the specific direction of how fatuous I sound in this conversation. An old co-worker happens to overhear it right at that moment and I feel like a profligate nightmare-person. Max tells me about speaking baby-German in Berlin. When she leaves, I accidentally look her square in the face and say, “I love you,” but it’s sincere. On my way out, someone has had Domino’s delivered to the hallway, and I’ve missed it by a hair—the night’s flaw. I share a cab with David, whom I barely know, and his girl, who is totally foreign to me. I like her, and the cab is miraculous. I text Jess: I had two drinks over four hours and the cab driver is blaring Avril Lavigne, with the video projected into the cab, because “this is the music I love.” He’s 53.
Our captain plays TWO Backstreet Boys songs. It’s a canny marketing strategy—what would drunk under-30s be most enthused by? This guy makes his weight in tips, I hope and bet.
2:30: Gideon happens upon me in the kitchen, where I’m glamorously open-fridging it, and we summarize the directions our days took. The moral of his story: “I’m going to bed.” Then, withdrawing mine: “What are you eating, by the way?”
“Full-on truffled cheese, my dude.” So the day ends as it began, and I’m on Cloud Nine or maybe Galaxy Three, having dumped myself into a moving planet that I’m very much in love with today, even if I missed the pizza, even if the pizza was heart-shaped, which I will never know. Such are the ceaseless mysteries of rrrrrrromance, my friends!