|October 31, 2005||Can You Distinguish Substance from Fluff?|
Dear fans of math and logic puzzles, I have some questions for you to ponder. If Jess Barron was in New York City for 4 nights and slept no more than 3 hours-per-night (for a grand total of 12 hours of sleep in 3 days):
1. How many fellow journalists did she exchange business cards with during the ONA conference?
2. How many cocktails did she consume?
3. How many hours did she spend in the post-midnight pre-dawn hours running around the city with co-workers and friends?
4. How many seconds was her face in lights on the enormous Reuters billboard in Times Square?
I've been pondering these questions for several hours myself on the plane ride back to the West Coast, and the only answer I can determine is A LOT. If you can provide more specific or accurate answers, perhaps you should consider applying to Mensa. Or perhaps you should stop stalking me.
Contrary to the popular belief of my co-workers (Dave Carpenter, for example), I do usually like to get 6-8 hours of sleep per night under normal circumstances. My body wants that much sleep, and on some greedy nights my brain would probably be happiest with 9-10 hours of sleep. But the problem I run into again and again is that there is generally so much I want to do and sleep merely gets in the way of my ability to get it all done. There are so many people love spending time with, there is so much work I want to accomplish, and there are also numerous personal projects. As a certain boy famously told me back in February 2002 "You have -- as we say in the office -- 'a tendency to overcommit.'"
It's become ever-increasingly true, and it seems like I'll never stop trying to stretch the space-time continuum. My professional work-type duties while in New York included:
My dad's advice when I told him on the phone about the podcasting panel, "Just don't drink too much the night before."
In addition to these professional obligations, I had planned to see my longtime friends Jeff and Lee and also possibly meet Jeremy Abbate who wrote a song called "I Wanna Be as Cool as Jessica Barron" after reading my blog without having ever met me. Of course, there were other friends and people I wanted to meet (including Brooklynite Ted Gesing who created the infamous and much-loved Nutria documentary), but I figured it might be prudent if I focused only on these three. Even though neither one of them has yet to compose a single song in my honor, I gave my scheduling priority to Jeff and Lee since they've been my dear friends for 16 and 10 years, respectively. (I met Jeff when we ran against each other for a student government position in 1989. I met Lee while traveling in Turkey in 1995.) After they've put up with me for so long, it's the least I can do.
I arrived at JFK at 5p.m. on Wednesday, and called Jeff and Lee during my cabride to the hotel (the Hilton on 6th Ave). Jeff took the subway to my hotel and we hungout in my room and raided my mini bar, concocting what seemed to be some really strong gin and tonics. Though you will actually be charged on your bill for the snacks and liquor you take out of your hotel room mini fridge, breaking the plastic seal on the door still feels more like "raiding" to me. It brings me back to hotel stays during barely-chaperoned junior high and high school class trips when we would physically break the cheap locks on the mini bars and spend the evenings getting drunk on the little nip-bottles we didn't quite understand how to combine and mix.
Jeff suggested the idea of eating at The Odeon in the East Village which he (and Citysearch) described as a place that had "a decadent heyday during the hard-partying '80s." Since I can hardly resist anything that's decadent, hard-partying, or from the 1980s, I announced that I was game. Lee called to say that he and his girlfriend Brett would meet us there for dinner. The food was decent. I had an heirloom tomato and goat cheese salad (my two absolute favorites) followed by an entree of broiled scallops. Jeff had a steak. We debated and discussed San Francisco versus New York City versus Los Angeles.
After dinner Jeff and I went to the Stone Rose Lounge, a big airy bar inside the Time Warner Center with high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows. We drank $17 martinis until about 2 in the morning. When arrived back to my hotel room, I couldn't sleep. Throughout the evening I kept calling the West-Coast-to-East-Coast time difference the "West Coast Advantage" to my friends, because it enabled me to easily party until dawn, but as I sat propped up on pillows in bed checking email on my laptop until 4 in the morning, it was clear that it wasn't quite an advantage. Especially since I needed to be at the Associated Press office by 8:45 a.m. for an all-day Flash class to learn how to build automated slideshows with audio soundtracks.
Wednesday night (umm, that'd be Thursday morning) I slept from 4:30 a.m. - 7:30 a.m., and I was still 10 minutes late for the class.
Though I generally have a strong aptitude for picking up computer applications, it was quickly apparent that I was the worst student in the Flash class. I had to ask the teacher to explain everything and show me everything personally one more time. I was pathetic. And, sadly I can't honestly blame my remedial status on the lack of sleep and amount of drinking. Between timeliness, layers, keyframes and tweening, Flash is a complicated program, and it can easily explode your head. Or, at least it can easily explode my head. I wasn't familiar with being the slowest student in the class, and consequently it was a very difficult day.
When I got back to my hotel room a little after 6 p.m., Lee called and told me he made 8:30 reservations at Bread Tribeca. "I made reservations for 4 of us," he said, "So you can bring one of your friends."
I was starving, and I wanted to make the phone calls to see if Sam or Dave had arrived in New York yet and extend an invitation to dinner, but first I needed to close my eyes and attempt to extend myself an invitation to an hour-long nap. I set the alarm on my cell phone, took off my clothes, put on a t-shirt and curled up under the covers.
As exhausted and drained as I was from a day spent inserting keyframes and creating tweens in Flash class, I closed my eyes but could not sleep. Still, I was determined to keep my head on the pillow. At 6:45 p.m. my phone rang, and I jumped out of bed to answer the call. It was my friend Sam who works on content programming for yahoo.com. He had arrived at the hotel and asked if I wanted to go grab some food. I invited him to dinner and quickly got back into bed to try to catch that elusive nap before it was too late.
Twenty minutes later my phone rang again. It was Dave from the Toronto office. He had already arrived and headed out to dinner by himself, but suggested that we meet up later for drinks. I tried for a third time to nap, but quickly gave up and turned on the TV and started changing back into my clothes.
Sam, Lee, Brett, and I had dinner at Bread Tribeca. The food was decent. I had cauliflower puree soup as a starter followed by linguine with clams. We also shared a few bottles of red wine.
After dinner Dave called and said, "I'm at a really fun karaoke bar in the East Village called Second on Second, you should come over here." It was approaching midnight, and as much as I love karaoke -- I wanted to head back closer to the hotel. I honestly every intention of getting to bed at a sober and decent hour. With that in mind, I asked Dave to meet Sam and me at the W hotel bar because it was the only thing I could think of.
During our cab ride to the W, Bill and Chris called. Bill was out with colleagues and asked me if I had talked to JB yet. I told him I hadn't but that I had left a message. I also told him that Sam and I were heading over to the W. Chris and the Yahoo! News team had just finished dinner and were wandering around Times Square near our hotel. I told them we were in a cab headed for the W. They said they might meet us there. Dave found Sam and I at the W, but by y 1:30 or 2, we hadn't seen Bill nor the Yahoo! News folks. We were wondering what to do when Bill phoned to say that he and JB were at a bar called Faces and Names near the Rihga hotel. We left the W to walk over to Faces and Names and phoned Chris and Ron on Yahoo! News to let them know. By 2:30 we were all hanging out together at Faces and Names.
By 3a.m. there was talk of heading back to the hotel. JB, Chris, Sam, Dave and I started the walk back, but were immediately seduced by the bright white lights of a neighborhood pizza place. JB ordered us a pie to go, then he and Dave went into the bodega nextdoor to pick up some beer while we waited for the pizza to be ready. We carried brown bags of pizza and beer back to the hotel and decided to continue the party in JB's room. I headed to my room to get Bocce since she had been cooped up in the hotel all day.
We ate pizza and drank beer until around 4 a.m. when we were kidnapped and gagged by guerilla marketers for Yahoo! News' Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone. Bocce liked the pizza, but didn't necessarily enjoy her time as a walking Hot Zone advertisement. At 4:30a.m. Sam and Dave headed to bed.
JB, Chris, and I took the dog outside for a walk, and Chris snapped action photos of me picking up Bocce's poop. Can you say poop-arazzi? I thought you could.
After all that excitement, Bocce and I decided it was time for bed.
The next day I attended some panels and prepared for my own. It went fairly well (you can listen to a portion of my talk), though afterward I wished I had talked more about content for podcasts than mostly just focusing on the how-tos.
After the ONA-sponsored cocktail hour where I met Mark Fiore, some folks from CBS News, Anj from Yahoo!s Toronto office and many others, we all headed back to our rooms to freshen up and then bundle up and agreed to meet up at 8:30 at South's in Tribeca where we would have some more drinks before our 9:45 dinner reservation at 66. While back in my hotel room, I decided to don my Jackie Kennedy outfit which I had packed in case an inkling of Halloween spirit hit me. Post-cocktail-hour I felt it was a great idea to wear a bright pink suit and pillbox hat even though none of my other compatriots were dressed in costume. This is how I roll.
Lee and Brett met Sam, Dave, Anj and I at South's. Then Bill showed up carrying an unopened container of marshmallow Fluff that he said he had brought for me. "I hope you're not implying that our Yahoo! Broadband Portal content is fluff!" I said giggling and grabbing the container of Fluff.
After a while, the Yahoo! News crew (Neil, Ron, Oren, Chris, Sarah, and Peter) arrived at South's, and we all walked down the block to 66. Jeff and his boyfriend Daniel were sitting in the lounge drinking cocktails when we arrived.
Sam -- who was just meeting Jeff for the first time -- commented: "It was obvious that Jeff had known you for years because when you walked into this chichi restaurant dressed as Jackie Kennedy and carrying a giant container of Fluff, he wasn't the slightest bit surprised."
At 10p.m., we found out the hard way that NYC reservations for big groups rarely start on time. At 10:30 p.m. we were drinking ginger margaritas in the lounge area and noshing on appetizers as we waited for our back room to be ready. By 11 p.m. (I think) we were seated for dinner at three tables in our own room. I was seated at the end of a table surrounded by my NYC friends. Daniel and Jeff were on my left, Lee and Brett on my right.
Before any of the food started arriving on the tables, Bill instigated the idea that he and I would open the container of Fluff and offer it around to the other tables. "Would you care for some fluff?" I said as I did my best 1960s stewardess impression. Our hard work and dedication paid off. We were triumphant. We managed to get nearly every person to try a spoonful of Fluff -- and several brave souls plunged their fingers right into the container. Others used chopsticks.
The barbarous and uncouth "Fluff course" of the meal mortified my black-clad NYC friends. Living in San Francisco for five years (and going to Burning Man five times) definitely enhanced my already overactive capacity for absurdity. If a group of twenty of my co-workers are giggling and sticking their fingers into their mouths -- in my mind it was a great ice-breaker. It was the least I could do.
Dinner ended sometime after midnight. Lee, Brett, and Daniel headed home and many of my co-workers decided to call it a night, but Jeff, Anj, Dave, Oren, Sarah, Ron, Chris, Mic, Peter and I ventured to Second on Second. We arrived, got ourselves some drinks and put our name in for karaoke to do Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me." Unfortunately the stack of song requests on the KJ's podium was enormous and we left to head back to the hotel before our name was called.
This time the late night after-party was in Ron and Chris' rooms. We drank beers from the mini bars and chatted as music played from Chris' laptop. He played Echo and the Bunnymen and The Smiths at my request. The TV was on playing an endless loop of Larry King interviewing commentators about the Libby indictment with the volume turned all the way down. It seemed certain that Chris and I will become fast friends. And Anj and me too. Even though we just met -- she and I were having a great time hanging out together. Sam, Dave and I are already pretty tight after working together for over 2 years. (Dave and I have even partied in London together on a work trip...)
On Saturday I attended a bunch more panels. My favorite was Digital Visual Storytelling, though the Saturday afternoon panel "Journalism 2010: Who's leading the way?" (which our own Neil Budde sat as a panelist on) was also quite interesting with its now-seemingly-obligatory and impassioned blogger versus "dinosaur" bashing. Afterward we went to the Reuters-sponsored cocktail party.
Then we headed to a bar in the East Village, where we smoked flavoured tobacco out of a giant hookah.
For dinner we went to Il Bagatto (on Jeff's excellent suggestion). I ate with Daniel and Jeff while unfortunately my starving co-workers (Sam, Ron, Anj and Chris) and their entourage of young journalism students were kept waiting at the bar for almost an hour (unacceptable!). Luckily, they made lemonaide from lemons and befriended the perky bartender (she gave Jeff and Daniel three olives each in their martinis!)
After dinner we wandered around the East Village spotting (and accosting) folks in Halloween costumes. There were even more Ali G's this year than last year (this Yahoo! one was my favorite). Then we went to KGB for some drinks amid Soviet paraphernalia. We got back to the hotel around 2:30 and I took Bocce for a walk and then went to bed. I seriously needed some sleep.
On Sunday morning I packed and checked out of the hotel, and took a cab to Park Slope Brooklyn to visit Jeff and Daniel at their apartment and meet their Great Dane puppy Ace. Ace is beautiful. He's sleek and gray. He's also HUGE! He weighs 125-pounds and is still growing. Jeff and Daniel say he will soon be 50 pounds larger. Unfortunately it was difficult-if-not-impossible for 12-pound middle-aged Bocce to play with a teenage dog who was ten times(!) her size. Jeff and Daniel made us brunch of pumpkin pancakes, eggs, bacon, and Daniel's homemade (from scratch!) pumpkin pie. It was awesome. And then I got in a car to head back to JFK to fly home.
I'm sorry I didn't meet my personal songwriter Jeremy Abbate, but I'm psyched that I ended up getting my photo displayed in lights on the huge Reuters screen in Times Square (thanks Sarah!)
P.S. Almost all photos I'm linking to in this post were taken by Chris Sarah, Ron, and Jeff as I left my camera behind this time...
posted by Jess Barron @ 11:20 AM
|September 27, 2005||Toasted (and Slightly Roasted)|
I'm back from Vail. Ellen's wedding was fabulous. Also, I'm here to report that despite its harsh reputation, being a bridesmaid isn't actually that bad. I think the key was that rather than forcing us to don seafoam green dupioni silk, Ellen told us we could wear any black dresses that we wanted to. It's crazy that brides used to force their friends to all squeeze into the same backless mint green taffeta monstrosity. Not one of the brides at the weddings I have been to this season have committed this terrible sin on their friends' bodies (not Jen, not Selena, and not Ellen). This is because my friends have style and common sense, and also they are not sadists.
Wearing various Little Black Dresses (mine was a vintage 1960s sheath which I accessorized with gold shoes and Monica Lewinsky hair), Ellen's bridesmaids partied like rock stars all night long, especially Cat.
It was great to hangout with Jeff and Daniel. And even though Brandon, August and Daniel wouldn't dance, Jeff and I went crazy on the dancefloor to many, many songs including "It Takes Two" by Rob Bass, "Groove is in the Heart" by Dee-Lite, "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell, and "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers. After a few drinks, I successfully (I think) encouraged Jeff to touch the bride's lower back which was seductively exposed by her gorgeous gown. Ooh la la.
On the evening of the rehearsal dinner -- I wanted to give a toast to Ellen and Jarrod, since I was one of Ellen's oldest friends (I've known her since second grade), but I was worried that I wouldn't be able to come up with any Ellen-related anecdotes that were clean/innocent enough for Ellen and Jarrod's parents to hear during the rehearsal dinner. After an hour spent drinking vodka and sodas in the hotel bar and scribbling on cocktail napkins and Vail Cascade Resort & Spa-branded stationary here's what I came up with:
I met Ellen when we were in second grade in Mrs. Marson's class in Southboro, Massachusetts. Out of the whole second grade class, Ellen had the best stuffed animal collection. Not only did she have the most stuffed animals, but they had the most interesting names -- from her giant Zebra named Monaco to her giant pillow-sized fluffy red Main Lobster named Bisque. Ellen also had the best sticker collection.
On Sunday morning, after our late night of crazy partying at her wedding, I asked Ellen what it felt like to be married.
"Well, I have a helluva headache," she said, without missing a beat.
I love this gal.
posted by Jess Barron @ 8:30 PM
|September 22, 2005||This Altitude is Making Me Drunk|
I drove up from Denver to Vail this afternoon. The drive through the mountains was beautiful; some of the leaves were changing to yellow as I drove 120 miles up and up. The only problem was that zero FM radio stations came in after I left Denver, and my rental car (a Toyota Solara convertible) was not equipped with Sirius satellite radio. But even though I didn't have good music, I saw bighorn sheep grazing right near the side of the highway. It was insane!
Vail is 8,150 feet above sea level, and this evening out in a few bars with Brooke, Cat, Ellen, and Jarrod I only had two margaritas and two beers and now I'm totally loaded. The altitude is messing with me. San Francisco is pretty much at sea level, and every time I stay somewhere at a high altitude it seems to take me 48 hours to acclimate. Same thing happens to me at Burning Man. So I've had only four drinks, and I'm drunk. And I'm on the internet in my room. This could really be a problem.
According to the internets, there is half the amount of oxygen in Vail (8,150 feet) as there is in San Francisco (sea level). According to the internets, I need to drink lots of water to avoid altitude sickness.
Jeff and Daniel arrive from New York tomorrow. I'm totally challenging them to a shot contest. By then, I should be almost acclimated.
Have you ever had altitude sickness? Or, do you have any drinking tips for me? Please share.
posted by Jess Barron @ 11:16 PM
|May 20, 2005||"You're hired!" as an "Apprentice" Stalker...|
So, we were in New York and my Yahoo! peeps invited me to attend "The Apprentice" finale and the after-party at Planet Hollywood. (Yahoo! hosts and programs the official "Apprentice" web destination where you can go to find all of the extra behind-the-scenes video clips from the show).
I had so much fun running around Planet Hollywood with Chris and meeting/stalking Apprentices. I met Kendra and Tana and Raj and Bill
and George and Carolyn. See all of our photos. It was surprising how easily Chris convinced me to kiss Bren. Omarosa sure can dance... but this photo of Danny may be the funniest. I even met Sugar Ray Leonard. You can tell that we're all BFF. Of course, the best part of the evening is that I got to have dinner with Jeff, Lee, Brett, and Lance beforehand at 5 Ninth in the Meatpacking District. Sure, I enjoy the presence of people from TV, but I enjoy the presence of my friends way more.
posted by Jess Barron @ 5:34 PM
|May 16, 2005||Jess and The City|
I'm in New York City for the week to meet with ABC News for work. Bocce and August and I flew in on Saturday and stayed at Mindy and Erik's place on the way Upper West Side near Columbia. (I think it's called Morning Side Heights?) We saw a teeny tiny baby squirrel in the park. We went to Erik's architecture school year-end party and then went to the East Village to meet Lee, Brett, Will, Daniel, and Jeff. On Sunday we packed up Mindy's car, so that she could leave for Carnegie-Mellon, and then we went to Lee's place in the Lower East Side (which is confusingly layed-out and furnished exactly like his old apartment in SOMA), and we drank a jug of red wine. Then we travelled to Park Slope, Brooklyn to Jeff and Daniel and Lance's compound where we sat at the silver table in their backyard garden and grilled steaks and drank Rasberry Lambic and more wine. Bocce humped Odie (Lance and Mark's dog) who is male and part Collie and much larger and was completely indifferent to her advances.
This morning, August and Bocce and I took the F train to Coney Island where we saw Astroland and The Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone, and a clam bar. Bocce didn't want to go on any of the rides. August ate two hot dogs from Nathan's with sourkraut and onions, and I had cheese fries with ketchup.
Now we're about to head to the Paramount Hotel on 46th Street, which I stayed at in 2001 when I was travelling for Microsoft to meet with Viacom to discuss interactive music television projects we were working on for UltimateTV. They have a pretty interestingly-designed lobby, and they allow small dogs.
On Wednesday I'm going with my work peeps -- Dave, Jen, Heather, and Arleen to the Good Morning America show, but we don't know what the topic is yet.
posted by Jess Barron @ 3:38 PM
|November 24, 2004||As C(r)ool as Jessica Barron|
"Before we take this ride and let it slide
Into the cracks where fall and winter collide.
I surrender all my gall in a song of modern love.
Remember you're the one who summoned me above any other kind."
--The Shins, "Girl on the Wing"
"Your blog is pretty much becoming a commercial for your radio show," Jeff teased me on Saturday night.
"Well, my radio show doesn't make my wrists ache and my fingers go numb," I said, although Jeff knew that Friday night I had been talking on-air even I was getting over a cold and my sore throat felt raw. *whine*
The radio show is just a sparkly new medium for me, so for a little while it will consume more attention. Filling two hours each week is not easy, so I think about the show a lot. And it also seems like it's working out that the 2 hours during the show is one of the only time-slots I have available (i.e. non-working) to talk on the phone to my friends and family.
On the October 29 show, I was dressed-up like Jackie Kennedy and I interviewed my dad on-air about what early voting was like in Florida for the U.S. Presidential Election. And then I spoke with Lana and Mary from Houston, Texas where they (well mostly Lana) voiced the opinion that Theresa Heinz-Kerry would be a sexier first lady than Jackie was. I wasn't buying it. I talked about Laura's bush, and wondered aloud if she gets it waxed. And -- more importantly -- does she get it Brazilian-style? In 2004, America wants a well-waxed, well-behaved Stepford First-Wife more than ever.
The election was difficult to swallow, and for me it was work -- covering the news for Yahoo's broadband portals. The 4a.m.-midnight shift killed me this time, and Allyson steered the ship until we put it to rest at 2a.m. Then I woke up in the Sunnyvale Sheraton (across the street from Yahoo! HQ) to hear that Kerry was conceding. I went online to find that Allyson was already setting up our live video coverage of the concession speech.
Speaking of Allyson -- she is having a very, very rough month. First, Noah, one of her beloved cats fell suddenly very ill and she needed to make the decision to put him to sleep on Election Day morning, as if pulling an almost-all-nighter covering the news wasn't stressful and horrific enough. When we were travelling in London a few days after the election to hold an Editorial Conference with our British and Canadian co-editors, Allyson found out that her grandmother is dying. This week she has flown home to help her mom keep a vigil at the bedside.
And on top of those two awful events, when we were in London we went out to see Jerry Springer: The Opera which was not a win with Allyson, driving her to the point of exclaiming (in a sing-song musical voice in a restaurant) "What the fuck, what the fuck, what the fucky, fucky, fuck?"
And that is exactly the question I'm asking to myself (in sing-song musical voice in my head) right now. It's like 4a.m. and I'm on my laptop in my bed at The Standard in Hollywood. I have the door to my balcony open, and I'm watching the cars zoom by below on Sunset Blvd.
But completely foreign thing is happening to me -- I can't sleep. And this is happening to a girl who famously fell asleep during an Anthrax and Ozzy Osbourne show at the Worcester Centrum in 1988. The same girl who has fallen asleep at meetings in front of CEOs. Yes, *ahem* that would be me. This sleepless thing started in London two weeks ago when we flew across 8 hours' worth of time zones. In London, I realized that that foggy "Lost in Translation" feeling doesn't require a language barrier -- just a mood of complete displacement, detachment. And I've got that, if you're looking for it. It felt like I was falling into the cracks where fall and winter collide. Or maybe it was the time warp of travelling across so many hours of international fate lines. Whatever caused it, I had trouble getting to sleep, even with Ambien and the Ativan. And when I finally fell asleep I couldn't wake up. Ask Allyson. She was sweet enough to give me additional wake up calls, which was the only way I managed to get up because I would hang-up on the automated calls sent to me from the front desk. This is what I felt like. And I was too busy thinking and looking at things and taking pictures to sleep.
Now it feels that way too. It's overwhelming. There's just too much going on in the world. All these people saying all this stuff and doing so many things. And so so so much to look at. I drove down here yesterday from SF to tend to a crop of my friends. There's Jeff, who flew into SF on Saturday (to see me) from NYC and then down to LA on Sunday (to see Hillary, Chris, Paul). There's Selena who's newly-engaged and looking to buy a house in La-la land. And there's Kim who has left Hawaii to open a hipster nail salon on Melrose that already had a write-up in Daily Candy. And August is flying down tomorrow. I mean today. And Andy has invited us to his parents' house in San Marino. And I'm only here for 3 more days, I think.
And, if that's not enough -- there's a guy who's written and recorded a song called "I Wanna Be as Cool as Jessica Barron." I am not even kidding. Someone emailed me the mp3. The song is actually not too bad, and the lyrics are pretty smart, semi-disdainful but not as scathing as they probably could be. You know that I'm totally gonna play it on my radio show... How could I resist? According to the info attached to the mp3 it was written/performed by
Jeremy Abbate (who may be the same guy who wrote this piece for McSweeney's). I love how Googling makes anyone an amateur detective.
Kinda like how the internet and computers and digital tools enable all of us to be publishers, editors, writers, DJs, photographers, videographers, and musicians distributing our songs around the world.
Seriously, check it out for yourself.
posted by Jess Barron @ 4:45 AM
|January 14, 2004||Not a Day Older Than Dorothy Parker|
"Alright Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close up."
-Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in 'Sunset Boulevard' (1950)
I have the best friends in the world. Jeff flew from New York to spend Saturday night partying in San Francisco with me and my crew. With feathers, champagne, and karaoke -- my celebration was most decidedly the opposite of his low-key style. "It's weird having our 30th birthdays so close together," Jeff said, as I marched through the Piedmont Boutique on Haight Street snatching up ostrich boas, flower hair clips, and sparkly tiaras. "It's so interesting to see how differently we celebrate."
Picture us like Norma Desmond and Joe Gillis. I'm wildly gesticulating and prancing around the store, and Jeff is calmly appraising my choices in tiaras. "You do have a tendency to be theatrical," a new friend told me recently. I, of course, was like, "Whatever, do you mean, darling?!"
Birthday party pictures will be available shortly if anyone's interested in gawking at someone who is no longer in her twenties. (Luckily I've been drinking plenty of anti-aging beer, so I've retained my youthful visage.) In the meantime, you can just accept that the evening began something like this.
Daniel has completely kicked my ass at the novel writing contest. Today, on deadline, he sent me his completed 189-page manuscript, as a birthday gift along with the message: "Very best on your thirtieth...you don't look a day older than Dorothy Parker." (And I immediately thought, wait a second -- are you talking about the early 30-something Dorothy Parker who presided over the Algonguin round Table in the 1920s OR the 50-year-old Dorothy Parker who George Platt Lynes photographed in 1943 when she lived in Hollywood? Of course, the woman did marry a man 11 years her junior...)
And before you ask -- no, I'm not finished with my novel; I'm barely on page 60. I find it impossible to wean myself from my Outer Mission socialite lifestyle. I vow to find more time in the days (and nights) ahead. I will finish -- I have a decent track record for accomplishing everything I set out to do. Seriously.
posted by Jess Barron @ 9:58 AM
|December 22, 2003||Jeff's 30th Birthday in LA|
"I wanna be your Thurston Moore
wrestle on the bedroom floor."
-- Sleater-Kinney "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone"
I just got back to SF from Los Angeles around 1a.m. this morning, completely drained. Earlier that afternoon I had dropped Jeff off on his flight from LAX back to JFK, and then hopped back onto the 405 heading north. If you subtract the total 14 hours spent driving up and down California -- I spent 19 hours this weekend in Los Angeles, and somehow 15 of those were spent awake. I think Jeff enjoyed the celebration. He kept trying to keep it low-key, and then I would announce loudly, "It's Jeff's 30th birthday -- aren't we gonna kick it 'till dawn? Who's in on this?!?" Doesn't he understand that "low-key" isn't even a remote possibility when I'm around?
After dinner with Paul, Anne, and Raj at The Galley in Santa Monica, I kidnapped Jeff and Andy and fed them Sparks and other stimulants and drove them up on Mulholland Drive at 4a.m in my rented convertible with the top down and heat on full-blast. Sleater Kinney's "Call the Doctor" was blaring from the speakers as Jeff and I screamed along with the lyrics. As we drove down Beverly Glen, we came down the hill to Belle & Sebastian. Then I drove east on Sunset Blvd through Beverly Hills and into Hollywood so that Andy could take a photo of the neon Yahoo sign.
Jeff, Andy and me (and Bocce!) slept on one inflatable mattress on Hillary's living room floor. We slept across the mattress the wrong way so we could all fit, but our heads and feet were hanging off. They're both over 6 feet tall, so I don't think it was very comfortable for them. I went into the fetal position in the middle, so I was perfectly fine. I had a dream that night that we were sleeping in a rowboat out in the middle of a lake.
posted by Jess Barron @ 5:52 PM
|December 17, 2003||Sunrises over Sunnyvale and the Painted Desert|
It's still in the forties here in the Bay Area. Maybe the low fifties, and I'm using a space heater to try to warm my room. (Like most old Victorian houses in San Francisco, ours doesn't really have central heating.) And to all the people who are telling me I'm such a wussy complaining about the cold weather -- I'm sorry, but I just think it's my god-given right to wear open-toed shoes year-round OK? That's why I live in California. I have delicate kitten heel shoes and pretty pedicures I'd like to show-off, thank you very much.
Yesterday evening Allyson and Jacqueline and I were watching an incredible sunset out the window of their shared cube over the drab gray windowless Lockheed Martin compound next door. It started dark pink and and red as if the Santa Cruz mountains were leaking blood into the sky. It was completely post-apocalyptic. (For visual assistance, here is a photo I took of the sunset over the Lockheed Martin building last year one night after it rained. I took the photo out the same window, and you can see the florescent lights and our office's paneled ceiling reflected in the glass.)
"The poor Lockheed Martin workers don't have any windows so they can't even look outside at all," I said, before quickly following up with, "I suppose that's what they get for building bombs." Yeah, I guess we can feel smugly satisfied because we're building virtually harmless internet products.
"Do they have sunsets like this anywhere else in the country?" Jacqueline (a Bay Area native) asked.
Before Allyson could respond, I said, "No, definitely not. I can't remember sunsets like this in Massachusetts or New York."
Jeff called on my cell this morning as I was driving into the office. He flew from New York to Los Angeles yesterday to spend his 30th birthday in the promised land. He's staying at Chris and Hillary's new place, which I was overjoyed to learn is in our old neighborhood near the big-ass Mormon temple on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles.
"It's beautiful, Jess!" Jeff practically gushed. Jeff can be a rather stoic guy (we were raised in New England, after all), so I love it whenever he gets excitement in his voice. "It's 75 degrees, and I was watching the sunset from their deck last night. It was really amazing!"
"We were watching the sunset in Sunnyvale last night at work too, and one of my co-workers asked me if the sunset is as pretty in other parts of the country. I told her I was pretty sure it wasn't, but is that true, and if so, why?"
"I do remember some decent sunsets in Brooklyn, but I think the sky is just always clearer here, so you can see it more," Jeff said.
I'm driving down to Los Angeles on Saturday morning so I can help Jeff celebrate his 30th birthday properly. We've been friends since we were 15-years-old, and now we're both about to turn 30. Crazy, huh? Weirder still is the fact that we've both felt like we were 30, as far back ago as when we were 25. (Budding blog archeologist Esther dug up this 1999 blog-post and forwarded it in an email to Jeff and me a few weeks ago, asking, "Do you both *still* feel like you're 30 every day when you get up?" My answer: "No, now I feel like I'm about 22."
Jeff and I actually hated each other when we first met first semester of our freshman year in high school. We ran against each other in a student council election. Jeff won (he's a much better politician than I am), and I'm a bad loser. But sophomore year we were two of the only brave students who signed up to take Latin class, so we bonded while translating Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic Wars.
Here is a photo I took of Jeff in front of one of the parabolic dishes at the Very Large Array in Socorro, New Mexico during our incredible "South by South by Southwest" road-trip in March 2002. During that trip we saw one of the most incredible sunsets over the painted desert driving West from New Mexico into Arizona.
posted by Jess Barron @ 7:00 PM
|November 9, 2001||California -- It's the Cheese|
"Happy cows make great cheese, and happy cows live in California."
--a cheesy quote from California dairy farmers’ ubiquitous "It's the Cheese" tv ad campaign.
"California is the only state that touches both Mexico and Canada."
--Mindy, my (actually quite) intelligent friend who received her B.A. from Vassar.
1. It's November 9, and it's 75 degrees, and I'm wearing sandals.
2. As of next week, I will have lived in my loft for one calendar year. I'm actually planning to stay here one more year. This fact may not sound exciting to you, but this will be the first time since I was 17-years-old (ten years ago) that I've lived in the same dwelling for longer than 12 months.
3. I really do love California. Well, mostly I love Los Angeles and San Francisco (I can say with some certainty that I do not love Bakersfield, Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego, or Davis. But I will admit that there is still something interesting about places like Pasadena, pre-fab Palo Alto, and Sausalito.)
Though I do not unconditionally love all the other California cities, there is something I do love about driving the 5 from bottom to top, my eyes lingering along the vast bountiful fields filled with fruit year-round, intersected by elaborate aqueducts, and lined with neat rows of plants and trees. As I reach northern California, I can't help but ogle the gorgeous soft rolling grassy green hills. Unlike the jutting mountain-like hills of New Hampshire or Vermont, northern California's hills seem take special care not to block out the sun.
Sometimes I think I'm one of the only people who loves both San Francisco and Los Angeles. I am, quite possibly, the only person foolish enough to admit in writing that I love Los Angeles a bit more. A few days after moving to SF last fall, I was invited to a loft party in SOMA. While being introduced to a woman around my age, I accidentally mentioned that I had just moved to the city from Los Angeles. Her immediate self-satisfied response was, "Well, at least you're in a better city now!" I tried to explain to her that not everyone is completely brainwashed that the Bay Area is the best place to live, but it wasn't worth getting in a bitch fight and/or shattering her idea of reality.
When I lived on the East Coast in Boston in 1996, I always assumed I would move to San Francisco. SF was so cool -- it was the dot.com epicenter -- (and I was already working at Monster.com and completely bought in on "The Revolution," as stupid as that now sounds.) Los Angeles seemed sort of tacky in comparison. When I was trying to get my employers at Wildweb to pay for my transfer to Los Angeles in 1999 (from Boston) my friend and manager, Eliot, a former Angeleno, had warned me, "People in the Bay-Area treat Los Angeles as if it's this big, dumb dog. And Los Angeles maybe kind of just accepts that stereotype, because I don't think LA really cares about the image as much as people might think. But anyone who lives there knows that LA actually has a lot of things, particularly in Los Feliz and Silverlake, that are just as cool, if not cooler than anything they have up there. Plus there are more artists."
With Eliot's assistance and a bit of luck, I did end up being transferred from Boston to Los Angeles, and when I arrived there, I found a place that was so strange and filled with people who all had huge dreams and bizarre quirks. I was convinced, and still am, that it had to have been created by someone's imagination like some kind of trippy cartoon. The way the sunlight hits the buildings at 3 in the afternoon, the shadows and colors are so dramatic, you constantly feel like those scenes in a movie where they close-up on the lover beaming down over the beloved's face. (I swear I wasn't much of a romantic until I moved to Los California.)
I know, no one's supposed to love Hell-ay, but I did. I fell in love with the city no one was supposed to love, just as easily as I fell in love with the goofy messed-up boy in my life who was daring me to love him.
When my friend Jeff and I decided to go west just over two years ago, he was living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which he loved, except for the sweltering summer heat waves that kept everyone inside hovering around an air conditioner. Jeff and I had been friends since we were fifteen. We grew up in a Massachusetts suburb and met in a public school Latin class. Three years after my graduation from Vassar, I was living in Cambridge, MA and hating everything about the uptight Bostonian East Coast attitude. I had already been bitten by the Burning Man bug, and realized that the majority of Black Rock City's inhabitants hailed from the West Coast.
"When a lot of people get together in the best places things go glimmering. The thing is to have a lot of people in the center of the world, wherever that happens to be. Then things go glimmering." I beckoned Jeff to move west with me, peppering my speech with lines from "Absolution," one of my favorite F. Scott Fitzgerald short stories.
Two of our other friends Paul and Hillary already lived in the City of Quartz. Paul lived in Santa Monica studying architecture at Sci Arc and Hillary lived in Hollywood and worked in acquisitions at Fox. Jeff became convinced. The only decision was whether to find an apartment in cool-kid Los Feliz or out by the sparkly ocean in Santa Monica. Our jobs on the Westside dictated our choice, and I found that I could be happy living anywhere in Los Angeles, even in West LA where we were surrounded by UCLA kids and families with Spanish-style bungalows with immaculate lawns.
Maybe I loved Los Angeles most because I hit it at an interesting time in my life. I was really ready to begin everything. I wanted to dance all night to glam rock in Hollywood clubs with strippers and guys in bands. I wanted to dress even more flamboyantly. I wanted to learn to rollerblade while watching the sun set over the ocean and licking the salt from my lips.
Maybe I loved Los Angeles because I hit it at an interesting time in its life. I saw the entertainment dot.com bubble from the inside. My P-2-P MP3 start-up company was headquartered in Beverly Hills and majority-owned by mogul Michael Ovitz. The people I met were writers, photographers, painters, musicians, and actors (some whose names you’d recognize, and some who you would not), and they didn’t all hail from New England or go to college in the Northeast. They had their own unique dreams and they weren't doing these things just because their families expected them to.
A few weekends ago while walking barefoot on San Francisco's Ocean Beach, Mindy and I were speculating about which, if any, states could successfully succeed from the Union. "California is probably the only one that could do it, right?" I ventured.
"Well, California is the only state that touches both Mexico and Canada," Mindy said.
"California doesn't touch Canada!" I exclaimed, and both of us immediately started laughing.
"I can’t believe I said that," Mindy said, while still giggling. "It's stuff like that that makes people in Washington and Oregon hate Californians."
I admitted that I sometimes pictured the map that way too. I suppose that confirms it -- we're officially Californians now.
posted by Jess Barron @ 8:39 PM
|June 11, 2000||Dying to Disco|
Barry's Boot camp is killing me. My entire body was in pain all weekend from Barry's "Disco Friday." Eighty push-ups, hundreds of squats, and almost a thousand crunches -- and let's not even talk about the running. Barry can tell if you're doing less than the required speed during the sprints. I know what it is like to die to disco music. There are muscles in my hands and wrists that are crying out as I type this.
On Saturday Jeff and I got to Santa Monica by 9:30 a.m. and then we rollerbladed north of the pier to the end of the bike path. Then we went back south through Venice. Afterwards Jeff incited me to jump in the ocean, so we changed into our bathing suits on the middle of the beach (by holding up towels around each other while we were changing). We went up to our chests in the water and played in the waves, which were huge and kept knocking me down. We were giggling the whole time. Jeff got a bit of a sunburn. He's been away in New York for the past three months, and in comparison to me and Paul he looks very pale. (Jeff and I have both always been extremely pale with our freckle-y Irish skin, but now when I look at myself I am shocked to see that I am tan. I am no longer officially a goth girl. Sorry folks.)
Last Wednesday night, Jeff and Hillary and I went to the El Rey to see Sleater-Kinney and Bratmobile. Selena and Steve were there too. The show kicked ass. Bratmobile opened, and they started with "Love Thing" off of their 1993 album 'Pottymouth.' It begins with the singer Allison Wolfe screaming in a Valley girl accent, "Admit it, innocent little girls turn you on, don't they?" JP put that song on a mix tape he made me back in our Vassar days. That song rocks.
Sleater-Kinney were incredible. The crowd was bouncing around completely ecstatic. They played "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone," and "You're No Rock'n'Roll Fun" and they did an inspired cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's song "Fortunate Son" (you know, the song that goes:
"It ain't me. It ain't me. I ain't no Senator's son./
It ain't me. It ain't me. I ain't no fortunate one.")
The one song I really wanted them to play was "Good Things" off of 'Call the Doctor.' I didn't think they would play it, and they didn't give it to us in the first encore, but I was thrilled when they came back for a second encore and started it with "Good Things."
I was pretty close to the stage, so I took some photos of Corin and Carrie.
posted by Jess Barron @ 6:47 PM
|February 23, 2000||The "C" Word|
Yesterday evening when I returned home from my start-up job (I'm a Product Manager for Scour) at (the not unusual time of) 10pm, Jeff began lamenting the changes he has seen in the web over the past few years. He ranted and raved against consumerism and e-commerce and talked about how the Web has moved away from what it was initially all about -- a community of diverse personal expression, with all of its clumsiness, wackiness and arcane beauty.
Strangely, despite the fact that I have had a personal website since 1995, when I was a senior at Vassar and built a \personal site called "The Dungeon" with my close friend Mindy who shared and encouraged my technological obsessions, I played devil's advocate with Jeff and argued for at least an hour with him -- asking why e-commerce was *so* bad. After all, e-commerce (and the future promise of e-commerce) is what allowed and continues to allow me and him to fall into lucrative and somewhat creative web jobs.
We argued passionately for at least an hour about whether content and commerce can mix without corrupting the content. And both of our arguments contained numerous contradictions. He raged against consumerism ("Fight Club" style), but admitted that he loves IKEA. I allowed that there are some huge media conglomerates controlling what gets said/written about movies, books, and politics, but then added my purposely inflammatory closing remark, "We were born to sell out."
Sure, I get pissed that I never have time to update my personal website because I'm burnt out on the web after enduring 50-plus hours of eyestrain per week at my day job. There are only so many hours per day a person can spend in front of a computer monitor with hands and fingers making tiny movements on mouses and keyboards without suffering from eyestrain or repetitive stress injury as longtime web diarist Justin Hall does.
And I have bills to pay. A whole lotta bills. Ever since my first job working as a copywriter at Monster.com I have always heard managers and higher-ups proclaiming that "Content is king" while asking their creative teams to come up with some infotainment and advertorials.
So, as my annoyance with my own laziness (or exhaustion?) and apathy (or web burn-out?) was reaching a melt-down point --(would I ever give my personal website a much-needed overhaul -- fix links, change outdated information, etc?), I noticed an article this morning on Wired, called "The Web The Way It Was" which talked about something which I had noticed for the first time last summer when I noticed that someone with a blog had linked to my website. Perhaps Blogger or one of these easily-updated sprawling blogging tools was just the solution I needed to get myself writing in my web journal on a regular basis.
posted by Jess Barron @ 2:18 PM
|October 20, 1999||Living in the Wild, Wild West|
If you've wondered why I haven't updated my online journal in a few weeks, it's because I've been in the process of moving myself and all of my material possessions (including my computer) from Boston to Los Angeles. WildWeb transferred me out to the west coast to help open their new office. I've been wanting to move to California for at least a year, so I was glad to get the opportunity to finally do it.
I am enjoying L.A. so far. Bocce and I are currently staying at Hillary's apartment in Hollywood. She and I just signed a lease on a new place in West Los Angeles with Jeff, who resigned from his job at The Nation earlier this month. He's leaving New York to come out here and live with Hillary, Bocce, and me.
During the week I've been in L.A., I already witnessed an incredible car crash (a Range Rover flipped over outside our window on Hollywood Boulevard while Hillary, Chris, and I were eating dinner. The driver emerged from his overturned vehicle completely unscathed. The weird thing is that just minutes before we saw the accident, we had been talking about all the crazy car crashes they were able to cram into each episode on CHiPs) and ordered beer from Pink Dot.
Our new apartment is OK, I suppose, though the style is this terrible faux colonial. There were borders around the top of the walls (I insisted that they rip them down when they repaint the place for us next week) and a fake brick floor in the entry way. I hate that I'm so tied to aesthetics, but it just isn't the kind of place I imagined I'd be living in. I guess I'm afraid we're going to be living in condo hell with all of the trappings, including gated parking and central air conditioning. I'm most worried about the negative effects such a place could have on Bocce. She is a delicate creature with refined sensibilities about taste and style. Being forced to live in an unattractive environment could cause permanent scars on her already issue-ridden psyche.
Lee had told me again and again that I would probably want to live in Los Feliz or Fairfax or Hancock Park. And J.P. had been insisting that I get a place in Los Feliz/Silverlake which is where he lives. But Hillary said that that area is too long of a commute to Century City where she works. Also, Jeff and I figure that we will be working somewhere near the Westside. WildWeb is currently looking for office space in Santa Monica.
Since we were looking for a three bedroom that allowed dogs, there weren't many listings available that suited our needs. So, we signed the lease on this apartment in West LA, sort of near Westwood. And I really shouldn't complain about our new place that we haven't even moved into yet, but when we visited Paul's apartment in Santa Monica this weekend I found that his place was exactly what I had imagined and hoped that my apartment in Los Angeles would be like. His place has hardwood floors (as opposed to our wall to wall carpeting) and funky tiles in the kitchen and bathroom (as opposed to our linoleum). What's more -- he has a view of the Santa Monica mountains, while our view is comprised of the stucco apartment building across the street. I told Paul that he won't be allowed to come over to our apartment. I'm sure his classes at SCI-Arc have only enhanced his natural disdain for unpleasant architecture. Once we move into this place, Jeff, Hillary, and Bocce and I will need to completely embrace our new home. I won't have anyone copping pretentious attitude about our place. At Jeff's behest, we will keep a sense of humor about it and possibly invest in a few naugohyde recliners to tie in the whole "look."
Our new place has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two balconies, central air, a fireplace, parking, and a dishwasher -- so I really have no right to complain. I especially shouldn't be complaining since I will be inhabiting the master bedroom which has two closets -- all the better to contain my copious clothing collection (and my omnipresent alliterations -- which I assure you, I will keep inside my closet from now on. Your eyes and ears should not be senselessly bombarded by my letter repetition addiction).
Jeff arrives in L.A. next week and it'll be interesting to see how the three of us get along living together. We've known each other since our high school days in suburban Northboro, Massachusetts. I hope this experiment in cooperative living doesn't end in disaster. As far as I'm concerned, as long as we procure a TV so that we can watch "Dawson's Creek" and "Buffy" each week, everything will go swimmingly. We may also want to build a confessional booth a la MTV's Real World so that we can spill all of our angst and dirty secrets to a video camera on a weekly basis.
posted by Jess Barron @ 10:03 PM
|July 25, 1999||Weekends With Jeff|
I have heard more than a few strongly-worded complaints (from Paul, Hillary, Jeff, Sarah, Sooz, etc.) about my scarcity of e-mail communication and also my utter disregard for regularly updating this here web journal.
Without further ado, I plead guilty. In my defense, I never promised that I would update this journal thing regularly. (And yes, I do keep all of my promises; I just don't usually make them unless I'm held at gunpoint.)
What has my life been filled with in the past three weeks?
Two weekend visits from Jeff. This weekend and the weekend of July 9-11 I was privileged to have Monsieur Dunlap stay over at my little chalet in Cambridge. During his first visit, we went out with Raj and Julie to the Hong Kong in Harvard Square where we drank some gross Polynesian drinks and Jeff announced, "Every day when I wake up, I feel like I'm 30."
Julie and I immediately concurred that we feel the same way despite the fact that we all still have about 5 more years until that dreaded birthday. I guess we're just all high-anxiety freaks.
We drove around Boston in Raj's SUV listening to the "Rushmore" soundtrack which is completely quirky and eclectic and fabulous. (The soundtrack was put together by former Devo member Mark Mothersbaugh, if this explains anything.)
Jeff and I spent an entire Saturday afternoon wandering around Harvard Square, shopping, smoking, and drinking icey beverages at Au Bon Pain. Jeff encouraged me to buy a gray outfit with fascist military styling that he describes as "very Prada-esque." I pointed out that we could have had the exact same afternoon ten years earlier when we were in high school and came to Harvard Square together, except we wouldn't have been smoking or making Prada references. And of course, Harvard Square was better ten years ago before its unfortunate mallification. (I cannot believe they're putting up an Abercrombie and Fitch in the space where The Wursthaus and The Tasty used to be!)
That night we rented the documentary "Kurt and Courtney." We both seemed to find this flick laden with too much propaganda and way too much focus on the filmmaker/interviewer (Nick Broomfield). It was more like a mockumentary than a serious documentary.
On Sunday we went out to Ken's house in Northboro, and Ken and Jeff cooked a delicious Sunday brunch of pancakes and omelettes for Raj and me.
During Jeff's second visit this past weekend, we watched my Aeon Flux tapes, we saw "Run Lola Run" which I enjoyed thoroughly, and we went with Julia to a party of Geoff's in Marblehead. At Geoff's party we watched a documentary of Burning Man '97 which renewed both my excitement and trepidation about the fact that Mindy and I will be attending the event next month. I like the idea of radical self-expression (in theory, at least I think I do), but I'm not so sure how well I will handle the radical self-reliance part.
posted by Jess Barron @ 8:31 PM