It's Just A Shot Away
The Arabic word for the dish translated into “rice and sauce:” so easy. Whatever type of sauce you want to create, served over rice. Typically tomato based, typically
seasoned with curry and cumin, typically consisting of some sort of green veggie. You don’t even need a variety of vegetables. Just one hearty vegetables that isn’t always in season tossed in with some variation of semi-thickened sauce, simmered
for 20 minutes, before being spooned atop Basmati. Despite the simplicity, it’s satisfying in a way that feels like home.
Halfway through the second serving, I swap it out for the oversized glass of Moonspell cabernet sauvignon teasing me on the
table. This time last week we were making the trek out to Rutherford, New Jersey. Certainly every L train passenger could smell the gin from my 16 oz. bottle of Sprite, would understand why if they were also going to MetLife Stadium to see The Rolling Stones:
a roadie pregame is a must.
It was the summer of seeing the original rock & roll stars before they die.
Tonight, though, we had a Mick Jagger 50 years younger on the television screen in front of us, exuberant showmanship, as security bounced
young women crawling on the stage to get to him.
“I wonder who is Mick Jagger now? If I were a parent who would I think was no good for my kids to be listening to? Is it Justin Bieber?”
My patience for his first suggestion nonexistent,
highly based in bias. Neither of us could accept living in a future (or present, for that matter) where J Biebz became immortalized akin to Mick Jagger.
So we thought about it some more: what musician could change the world in the same way that The
Stones did? Or The Beatles? Or The Dead? We contemplated the question, adamant to find the answer for the sake of our generation.
My eyes remained on Gimme Shelter, part concert film/part time capsule of an end of an era, widely regarded as the greatest
rock film of all time. Distracted, I let the words slip out of my mouth.
“Nothing like this will ever happen again. Nobody is authentic anymore because of the internet.”
As I said it, I heard the words I think about so often aloud
for the first time. Maybe watching footage of hundreds of thousands of poser hippies flocking to a makeshift stage in the middle of nowhere, out of their minds on LSD that was at least three times stronger than you can get it today, finally allowed an easy
venue for vocalization. Maybe witnessing the recording of something that will never happen again made it impossible not to finally (read: reluctantly) accept it.
I thought about Invisible Monsters and Barbary Coast (Later). I thought about Vonnegut
and Gertrude Stein. I thought about Jerry Garcia, about “Touch of Grey," about how it all became too much after spending decades as a sage to those waiting to find direction around some corner where it’s been waiting to meet them.
about how one of the Bronte sisters allegedly walked barefoot on one of her sisters’ grave after she died, because she wanted to catch tuberculosis like her sister and die alongside her. I thought about how I couldn’t actually remember if it was
Emily who walked barefoot on Charlotte’s grave or the other way around. I highly doubt Anne was involved. I thought about how I could Google it if I really wanted to; I thought about how nobody feels the need to actually remember anything anymore.
Whoogles: A Neologism
Sometimes a sentence comes out of my mouth that is fully coherent, yet in respect to the previous centuries of the English language, makes absolutely no
sense. Sometimes I try to explain to the person who just heard me speak grammatically accurate nonsense out loud the extent of how wild it sounds. Oftentimes, they fail to understand the humor behind it.
One notable example that never seems to fully
escape my mind comes from my time working in hotels, for a brand that used to allow “preferred guests” to purchase things like tickets to concerts and sports games with the points they accumulated from staying at any of the thousands of global
properties under the umbrella brand. The brand called these points “Starpoints” and branded the option for buying event tickets as “experiences.” “You can buy experiences with Starpoints," I would occasionally say during the six-minute
brand standard check-in process.
You can buy experiences with Starpoints.
What SuperMario-twilight zone-brand new world am I existing in? Could you imagine saying that sentence to someone 80 years ago? You’d certainly be socially exiled
or, at the very least, pressured into seeing an analyst. These sentences that everybody understands, but go against the integrity of the Oxford Dictionary, are multiplying faster than the privately funded start-ups, more rapidly than a viral Tweet. Viral Tweet,
that’s another one for you.
My current job is running a luxury coworking space in Brooklyn. A little over a year ago, I got a phone call from a LinkedIn recruiter (...a what? I know). I had just gotten home from work with one hour of downtime
before heading to Brooklyn Steel to see Phoenix live and revel in the nostalgic high school litzomania it would bring me. The recruiter was gauging my interest being Community Manager at a coworking space (...a what? I know).
“Um, what exactly
is a coworking space?” I ask, although after she started her answer, the concept was far more evident (based on the phrase itself) than most of the technology-era slang. “Oh, like a WeWork?” (...a what? You get it). In that moment, it was
unknown to me how often I would be mirroring her patiently annoyed response of "exactly" on an almost daily basis.
As I spend my days explaining the somewhat novel concept of coworking and of what exactly being a community manager entails, I often find
myself completely missing the boat on new uses of words. Words I am supposed to understand as a relatively young person. At the age of 27 in 2019, I’m expected to always be plugged in, keeping up, scrolling, following, and posting; therefore, I should
understand every new cultural phenomenon so specific to our times and so irrelevant in the greater scope of things. It is often the case, however, that I am not and I do not.
It was over Facebook messenger in 2013 that I asked a friend living in Olympia
what exactly the new definition of “basic” meant. I understand that they’re people who wear yoga pants and like pumpkin spice lattes, I typed out in an attempted defense of my intelligence, but I just don’t get it.
the case, doesn’t basic just mean basic?"
He explained that I don’t get it because I was overthinking it, my question was already an answer. People just remembered it was a word that existed then hashtagged it enough in context. In doing
so, our minds were conditioned into registering the word “basic” synonymous with the tropes the internet wanted us to.
It was in 2018 when I asked aloud, “But what does being canceled mean?”
It’s obvious, too obvious,
I know. Think television, the cult classic Freaks and Geeks, for instance, canceled after just one nearly perfect season. The network saw the low numbers of viewers and let the majority opinion make the call. The quality was clearly there, they never would
have picked it up to begin with if it wasn’t. The network executives chose to forget or ignore that, though: the numbers played totalitarian dictator for the decision.
Fast forward back into the present, 20 years later, to the time we are currently
living in. A time of “cancel culture.” The answer, again, was already what I’d presumed it to be.
"It's when people get mad about something someone does so they decide to cancel them. Like, they’re over. If they want to come
back, they have to fall off the grid and usually come back with an apology on social media so they’re forgiven by the social justice warriors or whatever” (...the what? I know).
Think about if you read the previous eight paragraphs, like,
thirty years ago. How much of it would actually make sense? Does it even make sense that it makes sense to us now? It’s hard not to sound like somebody who is against progress when posing these questions. It’s hard not to sound like someone who
is pretentious or new agey or living in the past.
The thing is, I’m not any of those things (except maybe a bit pretentious), but a lot of people can interpret it that way for the same reason you call someone who shows you their Pinterest boards
(...their what? I know) basic. Society at large has spent too much time sipping the “Drink Me’ bottle the internet disguised itself as, attempting to tiptoe but immediately getting lost in the digital rabbit hole.
For me, it all started
with the playing Harry Potter trivia on a website, dressing Lizzie McGuire in cool different outfits on a screen, the indescribable thrill of being able to use AIM as a preteen. I fell in love with the phenomenon of being able to torrent (...what?) every song
I ever wanted for free, with burning (...what?) that music onto blank compact discs (...what?).
Hours were spent learning how to code (...what?) my own MySpace (...what?) page to create the exact pattern I wanted in the background, carefully choosing
my Top 8 (...what?), and presenting to the online community that I was ahead of my time based on the song they’d hear when going onto my page.
I remember my friend urging me to create a Facebook account, and when I refused, he asked if he could
create one for me. That’s when the internet transformed from a sometimes useful and a mostly fun commodity to...something else. Whatever that "something else" was never seemed urgent enough to make sense of. I liked being able to “share”
my thoughts in “status” form on my “wall” so my “friends” could “like” it (if they so pleased). I could confirm the right words of any song lyrics through typing the title into a search bar. I could go to one
website that would let me stumble upon an endless world of websites.
There was a moment though, some point of non-linear time I'll never be able to target or fathom the exactness of, things were suddenly different. It happened with a subtly quick graduality,
it was easy to miss.
Sometime in 2010, I knew what a meme was before most people knew what memes were. You found them on Reddit in the form of a repeated phrase or image that was modified for context, or something.
Calendar pages flipped and
I was in my late 20’s, listening to someone tell me they saw a meme of…, or being shown a meme of…
The funny thing was that, in my mind, they were using the word “meme’ wrong. It doesn’t apply to literally anything
you see copied, slightly modified, and pasted all over the internet. No, no. It’s a very specific set of things you see on the internet in a particular place (mostly Reddit).
Leaves fell upon the sidewalk, the sun started sinking midday, my birthday
passed, April teased the city with jacket-free weather, fireworks were momentarily confused for gunshots in the haziness of the summer heat, I realized that I was actually wrong about the definition of a meme.
“A humorous image, video, piece of
text, etc, that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.”
How did I forget the definition of a meme? Or did I just miss the evolution of the phenomenon altogether?
It was 2015 when it was obvious
I hadn’t stayed tuned to the way the world was swearing by the internet. When I first moved to New York, I had a shitty television from the early 2000's, left behind by the previous tenant, hooked up to basic cable. With my morning routine trademarked
by the local news on for background company, I realized the news often cited Twitter, displayed Tweets. When did this start happening? I discovered there was an app where I could listen to the local Tampa NPR station in real time.
I easily navigated
the complicated MTA train system by touching a screen that opened an interactive map to tell me exactly where I needed to go and how to get there, so long as I didn’t let my phone die. I could use this map without cell service or phone data before they
sprinkled Wi-Fi hotstops throughout the underground tunnels.
I could get a taxi to pick me up from exactly where I was and to take me exactly where I was going (so long as I didn’t let my phone die, either)--a transaction I could pay for without
touching money or plastic.
I could take a picture of the check and it would immediately become money available to me.
Donald Trump was running for president and I spent months arguing with my mom on the phone; there was no way he would even win
as the Republican candidate.
I witnessed a narcissist start making a video of themselves at Central Park and proceed to post it online, while I was on a date with said narcissist. A Vlog (...a what? I know). [Noteworthy aside: don't think I ever laughed
harder at someone in front of them than during this experience. Retrospectively rude on my behalf, but c'mon].
People were getting paid real money for their YouTube videos.
That country chick who sang that song “Love Story’ was one
of the biggest pop stars in the world.
Bitcoin found its way off the dark web and into the tech industry.
Media outlets were relying on unreliable sources for content in the form of social media posts, would run with the story, for the sake of
content and clicks. A story that often times turned out not to be accurate. Nobody would keep up with it beyond the first headline, would never read more about it, would never see the retraction.
The online war was igniting and every outraged person
Googled the Bill of Rights to remember which amendment free speech is listed as. Two cents on the quarter hour, the founding fathers would be proud to see the public availability of endless unthought-through-thoughts.
And here we are now: far too angry,
far too sensitive, far too much a replica of everyone else.
America split into two distinct groups of people, a singular dividing factor. A dividing factor that didn’t always create such an impenetrable barrier.
[Honestly, honestly, if
you asked me to take a wild guess over what would split America up so drastically in the 2010’s, I probably would have said “Either they like pizza or they don’t like pizza. People who like pizza really like pizza and people who don’t
like pizza, well, what’s wrong with them?”]
Here we are, a matrix precursor existence, defined by being able to get an answer to a question within seconds. Oh, you didn’t want that answer? Spend another few seconds and find an answer
that best fits the criteria you are looking for.
Self-proclaimed all-knowingness by all, because she read a headline, he regurgitates an opinion he read somewhere, they forgot their point so quickly searched one that seems fitting.
The rise of
the internet marked the fall of authenticity.
Let Me Drink On This
I pour what’s left of the wine into our respective glasses, achieving a sommelier level of even distribution, before leaning
back and maneuvering back into my couch cuddles coziness. We’re still trying to figure out what present-day musician could be comparable to 60’s era Stones. Once we’ve exhausted the obviously incorrect possibilities, our focus turns to how
a band now could ever be so groundbreaking, so world-changing.
We find comfort in knowing there are theoretically ways someone could come along and change everything all over again. Maybe one day we’ll see a band that is more iconic than The Beatles,
more mesmerizing than the Dead, more captivating than The Stones. Maybe we’ll get to see them in a tiny venue in Greenpoint before anyone has a clue who they are. Maybe we’ll get the setlist.
I find solace in knowing that I am not alone
in spending my adult life subconsciously waiting for the next big thing in music to happen. Maybe our instant connection the night he & I met found its spark in this very specific hope for our lifetimes. My mind is racing, but my body effortlessly is at
ease the moment his arm wraps around my shoulder. I feel an overwhelming sense of gratefulness that we found our way to one another.
The funny thing, the plot twist that may not actually be all that surprising, I suppose, is that our “meet cute”
(...our what? I know) wasn’t so much that. We met on Tinder (...what? I know). The person who just unpacked why we have ruined humanity by preferring a virtual reality to face to face interactions, our online persona to who we aren’t brave enough
to be when not behind a screen. She met her boyfriend on a dating app. This was, of course (or; at the very least), after spending years convincing everyone they’ll never find real love on a dating app.
But when I’m near him, I can actually
feel the love between us. Even when I feel like everything around me is crashing down, there’s a tingling electricity that washes over me in his presence that reminds me I’ll never have the answers, but I do someone to remind me not to fall when
he thinks I’m about to trip. I put his head on my chest and sip my wine, laughing at how obviously fucked up Mick Jagger is when talking to the press at this point of the documentary.
I feel a comfortable stillness.
It’s simple, it’s
wholesome, it’s seeing the first blossoming lilacs in April.
It’s rice and sauce.