Since being forced into unemployment a year ago, I've been incredibly thrifty. Even now that I'm working, I'm really careful. I *gasp*, KEEP A BUDGET! This means, for the most part, that I choose not to remember the things I used to do for myself. Haircuts? What are those? New clothes? Huh?
Honestly, I don't miss (much) these little luxuries. Manicures have got to be the silliest things ever. Ditto with waxing. I mean, c'mon, what ever possessed me to let ladies attack my cuticles and pour hot wax over me (a small aside- I went for a wax the other day for the first time in forever, and it was the worse experience ever. Lesson learned)?
Living hand to mouth is... well... demeaning. Truly, unless you're a kid, traveling around the midwest with a bunch of ravers (oh, did I do that?), it's not much fun trying to figure out whether food or the electric bill is more important.
So much for security. At this point, I'll take a positive balance in my bank account (I jest... it's not that bad... YET.).
I'm usually level-headed about all of it. After all, it doesn't pay to covet objects.
Yet this morning I made a grave error. No, I didn't order some ridiculously expensive Rinkel bag off of Vivre. It was worse. I went onto Zappos to look at winter for Anevay... somehow, I found myself looking at women's boots.
Go figure. Satan has it out for me.
I found a pair that lured me in. Frye boots- simple- pretty. Only the ones I like aren't $150 (which I'm still not spending right now), but $650. Damn it, I had to like the ones in soft black vintage leather.
Now, before you think of me as an idiot who spent my grocery money, please note that I did NOT deliver myself to temptation. I took a deep breath, and clicked back to where I was supposed to be- looking at boots for Anevay (she actually needs them, and not for $650).
So it would seem as though I'm a good-guy. Noble, even. I make sacrifices, damn it. Sigh. But you know what? Inside my black little heart, Ican't get those damn boots off my mind. If I were to pick one of the seven deadly sins for what I'm feeling, I wouldn't be able to narrow it down. It would be more of a combination: Pride; Lust; Envy...
I think all of this goes to show one thing... You can take the boots off of a girl, but you can't TRULY take the girl away from her boots...
Now, please restrain me before I go to the Vivre site to look at a pair of H. Williams boots... (kidding... Vivre has got to be the most ridiculous site on the Internet)
Oh, before all of you think of me as just some petty creature, know this: I have looked the other way from most things that are not priorities for over a year. I think the fact that I glanced and now covet a pair of boots (I am in need of some new flat boots:) is a crime I'm willing to forgive. After all- you saw the picture above... Don't you agree those Frye boots are devilishly attractive? Is it any wonder I was taken in by their flirtations?!
Update: These are even cooler, and are less expensive!
All those who know me understand my full spectrum of emotions. For better or for worse, a certain mania occasionally grips me, which leads me to spiral off into 10,000 projects, talk a mile a minute about all of the millions of random things that catch my attention, and have me running circles around my friends/family. Unfortunately, I also go the other way... As a kid, this was definitely depression- as an adult, however, it has tapered into a sort of quiet- a lull in my usual frantic life, when all I do is sleep, read, and temporarily shut down. One might say I'm kind of like the seasons in NY, meaning VARIED. I'm hot and I'm cold, baby, in the best of ways. When hanging out with me, one had better be prepared to wear a swimsuit beneath his/her snowsuit.
Terrible metaphors aside, I happened upon a fantastic quote by Frank Sinatra this morning that kind of sums me up:
"Being an 18-karat manic-depressive, and having lived a life of violent emotional contradictions, I have an over-acute capacity for sadness as well as emotion."
You know what, people? I wouldn't have it any other way (although I'm glad maturity/age have cast out most sad, ugly little thoughts!). I have an abundance of happiness with brief declines into the doldrums. Not a terrible life, if you ask me. Nope, not bad at all.
Funny, I watched this movie soon after it came out and raved about Melvil Poupaud to my friend, 'V' (a total Francophile). Tonight, I had the film running in the background as I did other things, and realized that, for better or for worse, I occasionally identify with Parker Posie's character (in the 'I hate my job' sort of way, not the 'I'm desperate for a boyfriend' kind of way). You won't see much of what I'm talking about in the trailer, but regardless, I'm including it. At least you can catch a few glimpses of Melvil:
Back in August, a day or two after my friend Carlos passed away, Ian Head from the Prison Mail Program reached out to me. Besides being a local dance legend, Carlos had volunteered for quite some time, devoting countless hours to making things run smoothly. Perhaps some of you remember me writing about this in the past? I'll link back later (although for now you may want to look at the posting I linked above, which includes amazing memories from many people- including Ian- in the comment section. Please don't be offended by the stories about Carlos back in the days before he was sober... Just part of the wonderful package, people.).
About the program, Ian wrote:
I began the prison mail program in late 2005 / 2006, as a volunteer run program through the national lawyers guild distributing the jailhouse lawyers handbook (http://jailhouselaw.org) which is a self-help legal guide to defending your constitutional rights in prison (that's the simple definition). I would stay after work every thursday and answer the 80-120 letters we got a week from prisoners, most requesting the book, with volunteers I found both on idealist.org and through local law school chapters of the Guild. FYI, the book is published by both the NLG and the center for constitutional rights (CCR) who up until recently, had run their own volunteer programs and distributed the handbook in different ways.
Back then, I told Ian I'd love to be involved with the program. Yet the last couple of months have been hectic- both with working and having Anevay back in school. I think now, however, our schedules are somewhat defined, and I'm ready to throw myself in to the mix.
I wrote Alissa, saying that in addition to wanting to carry on a bit of the good work Carlos was doing, I've been a close family member who used to be incarcerated, and feel very strongly about the rights of prisoners. "We are all condemned to freedom," wrote Sartre. This is just about my favorite quote ever- you've probably read other things I've written including it. They are important words to keep in mind when regarding the rights and lives- both interior and exterior- of the incarcerated.
Omitting some of the things that Alissa wrote about Carlos (as I haven't asked for her permission), I don't think she'll mind me include some of the general information she wrote in regards to volunteering for the Prison Law Project at the National Lawyers Guild:
I can give you some of the details of the program: The Jailhouse Lawyer's Handbook helps inmates file claims against their prison where they're incarcerated for violations of their constitutional rights (things like medical care, abuse from staff, living conditions, religious practice).
We start at 6:45pm on Thursdays. We don't require a minimum volunteer commitment so as many or as few times you can help is great. Depending on the number of people who show up on Thursdays, the session can last anywhere between 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. I give a full set of instructions on the night of the mailing, but the basics are that we have funding to send about 100 handbooks per month but receive 90-110 letters per week. We read through the letters and send handbooks to those that we
can and an informational letter to the those that do not receive the handbook. Also, on the first Thursday of every month, we team up with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and have a joint mailing session with them, but I send out emails to remind everyone about that meeting when it's approaching.
Our weekly mailings are at the NLG National Office is located at 132 Nassau Street on the 9th Floor. The closest subway station is on Fulton Street or Broadway/Lafayette; the A/C/2/3/4/5/J/M/Z all run through those stations.
Perhaps some of you might also be interested in volunteering? It's a good way, I think, to keep Carlos' spirit with us.
(Just a little aside... Ian made a great 'Mixtape' in Carlos' memory, and wrote some great liner-notes. Check it out, if you like, here.)
Bedford, between N. 6 and N. 7. Below- just in case people have forgotten:
11th and 1st. Is that an alien on the side of the truck? I'm scratching my head over this one. Am I trying to make the message more complicated than what it is? Help me out, people.
Hard to tell what this is from the pic... A dinosaur, on the top of a firetruck. It had friends... Other dinos and what looked like a couple of gargoyles. What is the fire department trying to tell us? Not sure, but I like it. Saw it at 13th and 1st.
With economists such as Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff coming up with a forecast that won't have unemployment easing until well into 2012, and Richard Trumka, President of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. saying essentially the same thing, it would seem that for the 16 million unemployed of this country, a rocky road is still ahead.
This is why, on the last leg of my final federal unemployment extension (having exhausted state benefits some time ago), I was heartened to hear that Congress passed bill HR 3548, which allows unemployed folks like me 14-20 more weeks of unemployment. Good news, right?
I'm currently working a temp position, ending the end of this month. Therefore, I deemed it important to speak with someone at the NY unemployment office to make sure I had my ducks in a row. I first called about two weeks ago, and spoke with a very nice (but relatively uninformed ) woman who told me to call back once Congress passed HR 3548, and that due to reasons she couldn't properly explain, I might not be able to resume claiming unemployment benefits.
A couple weeks later, once the bill passed, I spoke with another kind state employee- this time a chap- who told me that once my job was over, just to resume making my weekly claim, and that all was good.
Yet I've always been highly suspicious of good fortune. Because I had been told two different things: 1) I might not be able to comtinue claiming; 2) I would have no problem continuing to claim- I called yet again.
Yesterday, I spoke with a dismissive woman who told me that I would definitely be able to resume claiming. I asked how much longer I had to claim in my last extension (the one before HR 3548), and also made sure to ask again if I am eligible to claim the new extension. A week, she answered, to the first question. And a firm yes, she replied, to the second.
Another bill presented before Congress has not passed... HR 3404, would extend unemployment benefits from 2009 into 2010. Without being passed, the 14+6 extended weeks (which one can't start claiming before November 15th), can no longer be claimed after December 27th. Yes, you're reading this correctly: If HR 3404 doesn't happen, neither does HR 3548.
This is one time I wish my intuition hadn't been correct.
Certain members of congress have vowed to fight to get HR 3404 passed. I will certainly write my Congress Person- this much power I do have- to appeal for passing this simple fix. However, with all of the health bills that have/are being presented, and with recess only weeks away, this bill must be a priority in order to even be revisited.
I could bitch about Republican obstructionism and all manner of other things, but that won't really help. Believe me, I'm pleased as punch that HR 3548 will give me at least a couple weeks of unemployment benefits before the end of the year. But without the reauthorization of federal extensions into 2010, I'm pretty much screwed.
Happy New Year!!
With 16 million unemployed, I'm clearly not alone in banging my head against bricks. We currently have the highest unemployment, it would seem, since 1982, although many are saying it is the worst since the Great Depression.
I don't know about the rest of the country, but here in NY, things are at a real low-point for us unemployed folk. Although the official jobless rate is a little over 10%, if you count ALL of the unemployed (i.e. those not collecting checks and those who can only find part-time employment), the number is above 17.5%.
Here in Williamsburg, I dare you to conduct a little experiment: Ask people on the streets whether or not they're working. If about one out of six is sans employment, then it would seem as though 17.5% would be correct.
Williamsburg and Greenpoint are broken up into a couple different congressional districts. The Congree Person for my zipcode (11211-5174, if you feel so inclined to stalk me) is Nydia Velazquez, the Representative of the 12th Congressional Destrict of NY. Please click here for all of her contact info. There's a special 'Write Your Rep' system. Use it- it's the fastest way, apparently, to reach her.
Unsure of who your rep is? Or, *gasp*, you don't live in my 'hood (shame!), click here to find out.
Friends, if HR 3404 doesn't get reviewd/passed, will you please help me find a job, donate money into my depleted/empty bank account, or hook me up with someone wanting to buy a kidney. I'm THIS close to considering selling one on the black market.
My brother called me at work today with some weird news. No need to go into it in depth on such a public venue- suffice to say that the old adage, 'wherever you go, there you are', seemed appropriate. I spent the afternoon feeling a little off, and realized toward the end of the day that my brother and I spent much of our lives burying childhood issues, or, worse, running self-destructively from them.
Thanks to the support of our parents, as well as various friends, family and mentors, my brother and I grew up and stopped acting like idiots. Part of this is on account of our incredible determination to be good people. I think I speak for both of us when I say we want to live happy lives in which we are able to 'give back'.
I spoke with my brother only briefly tonight, and got off the phone feeling truly thankful- not only do we have a loving, supoortive, responsible family, but we grew into caring, sensitive souls, worthy of the various graces we've been given. We are great parents to our children (the bro has two sweet boys), and have strong friendships. I always say that I work harder than most of the people I know, but this isn't entirely true. My brother works his fingers to their bones, provides for his family, and is, alongside my step-dad and my grandfather, the best man I know.
I'm really, really proud of my brother, for all of the amazing things he has accomplished. Tonight, as I end my long day, this is where my thoughts keep drifting. I'm lucky my mama gave me such a strong, sweet brother.
Sun Kil Moon's cover of Modest Mouse's 'Dramamine' is pretty. Granted, I still don't think you can beat the original- but something about the Will Oldham meets Tracy Chapman voice and quiet guitar calms me and pulls at my heartstrings:
And here's Chapman's 'Fast Car' (this morning I wish, wish, WISH I were in a fast car going the opposite direction from Midtown):
Yep, W'burg's getting a sex shop. Read my totally, uh, tongue-in-cheek write-up about the up-coming opening party, here. (the gentirification thing in my write-up was definitely on the sarcastic side. Any of you who know me at all know my thoughts on this issue...)
Love the flyer- bartender and fellow 'burger Lola looks like a cutie, huh?
Loving Kyp's new project, Rain Machine. Anevay and I have been listening to the album like crazy. I caught him at the Bell House a month-ish (?) ago- so great.
It's been a rough summer/autumn for many of us- losing Carlos, and then, in the case of some of you west-coasters, Don. I'm glad to see Kyp has this outlet- and I love that it has me responding in such an emotionally positive way. Anevay and I are lucky to have so many people in our lives who contribute so dynamically.
Read below a little info on Rain Machine (or click here to read the very short review I wrote for Lost at E Minor):
Kyp Malone's acclaimed new solo project Rain Machine is currently on tour getting rave reviews. Known for his work fronting celebrated Brooklyn art-dance ensemble TV on Radio, Malone's new endeavor is a boundary pushing yet soulful amalgamation of musical styles crystallized by his distinctive and provocative lyrical imagery and voice.
British publication NME said of a recent Rain Machine performance: "Kyp Malone's new project surpasses even his day job band for sheer inventiveness... It's undoubtedly one of the most wildly inventive and entertaining things anyone will hear all year." The Wall Street Journal remarked of the same show: "... despite the smaller band, the music musters the same swells and rising action that characterizes his better-known band. When they played a complicated song called "Give Blood," the crowd responded with noise and dance, expecting a subdued solo performance. Instead, the audience found itself a few feet away from a sound that would otherwise belong on a stage set for thousands."
Rain Machine will begin a North American tour opening for seminal indie rock band The Pixies beginning this November.
How great is that- opening for the Pixies?! Kurt Cobain is, I'm sure, rolling over with glee in his grave.
Watch the video. It's great (additionally, it was made by Petro, who is just a swell guy!):
This past Thursday at Columbia University, Warren Buffett told a large crowd that "the worst investment you can have is cash." Good news for me, seeing as the only cash I have is in my pocket... Come to think of it, I do believe it's already spent once my rent check goes through... Mr. Buffett also told the members of the audience that the best investment they could make for themselves would be to "marry the right person."
Is it just me, or does that sound like a very un-Buffett-like thing to say?! Whomever it was speaking in Buffett's stead, he managed to endear me to the kabillionaire just an inch...
I'll soon be looking to the bookshelves for Buffett's 'For Love or Money: One Billionaire's Travel to the Top Only to Find That Love Really is What Makes the World Go Around'.
Clare, Anevay and I took a walk to the green market in our 'hood. I'm feeling a bit under the weather- backache and headache due to the rain, and my damn wrist is giving me grief- the walk helped- I love seeing all the colors at the market...
I picked up a ton of apples- some big green heirlooms and a bag of galas for drying.
The peppers arranged in pretty bunches gave me an idea of what to do with my dying pepper plant at home...
Seeing the above makes me want to get out of the city to search out bittersweet, which reminds me of when I was a little girl. Whenever we took a family drive and saw it by the roadside in Rhode Island, we'd stop for my mom to take a cutting. So pretty.
Now, instead of bitching about my various aches and pains, I'm going to dry fruit, clean Anevay's room, and spend the night writing. I'm in great need of a day like this.
Yay to all my pals and fave bands that made it onto this NY Magazine list for the Top 40 Soungs That Define the Sound! Shannon's latest project, Light Asylum (pic of Shannon, above), comes in at number 40, and it just builds momentum... Oakley Hall, Japanther, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson (he's playing at the Bell House soon... wanna go?), The National, and TV on the Radio, are just a few of the bands that were recognized.
Sleepy is not the word for what I feel this evening...
I've been waking up at 5 to write a bit before then waking my sweet girl, getting her ready for school, and trekking first to the Lower East Side then up to Midtown.
I hope you won't find me unappreciative, but working again in Midtown- such a strange, soul-less place- makes me a little sad. Oh, it's not all terrible- today I took a walk outside to search out smiling faces, and found a few in an Indian vendor-truck. These three gentlemen were so smiley, in fact, that I felt obliged to order lunch from them. Lesson of the day: Do NOT ask for extra spice over your Indian food unless you have a death-wish. In addition to the typical red hot sauce, I was offered, by the eldest of the three men, if I would like to try something *really* spicy?" Um, sounded like a dare to me. Feathers slightly ruffled, I responded with a resounded, "YES, PLEASE!" Wow. That was some fierce sauce... Great thing is, the stuff seemed to completely rid me of a little cold I've had.
Anyway- I'm now on week two of a month-long temp job. This past year, although stressful on many fronts (job search, finances), was wonderful. I loved my freelance jobs and spending time with Anevay. I only wish I could have spent more time on the book and less time on the job hunt. Soon, I'll be back in the same boat I was for the past year.
After having been laid off last year, I had at first the terrible thought that it was in some way my doing. But now, I've resigned myself to the fact that I am just in the same boat as so many other deserving people. It's not my fault. Besides, should any of you remember correctly, I was by no means in love with the sort of work I was doing.
Last night, for the first time in over a year, I passed on two jobs- both were embroidery gigs. One was just another event in Greenwich (too much on my plate right now to try to hustle to be there); the other was for a birthday party.
I'm feeling the need to simplify- job search, Anevay, and finishing the book. Easier said than done- there are always 10,000 other things holding my attention.
This past Sat night/early Sunday morning, Williamsburg drummer Jerry Fuchs fell to his death in an elevator shaft a bloack from my place. He was 34. Although Jerry was a friend to many of my pals, I didn't know him outside of listening to his music. Yet I feel sad all the same- for someone my age dying so unexpectedly, and the thoughts of what his parents must be going through. It also stirs up thoughts of Carlos' death, still so fresh, as well as the loss of Don to so many of my west coast friends.
I hope Jerry's friends and family are able to find comfort as they come together these next many difficult days.
I'm so happy, friends, to be on this wonderful planet with you all. I cherish each of you. I count my blessings every day. My bank account might be ailing, but my experiences, friendships and love make me rich.
God, to be young, half-way intelligent, and full of energy. What a gift we're all given, for each day we have it!
What a fantastic weekend. Friday evening I met Kiki and Dan for dinner at Dokebi (Korean- so tasty), then shared a beer before heading over to Cheyenne's birthday party. I danced non-stop from 10-3:30, at which point I went home. Yesterday I was a bit sleepy, but like the trooper I am, went to breakfast before spending the afternoon being somewhat lazy with Anevay and catching up on some housework.
Today I woke at 6 from a strange dream about Carlos- it was sweet and nice, and I didn't feel sad, just thankful to be alive and happy to have such a wonderful day ahead of me. Anevay and I threw on some clothes and ran around for a bit outside, and then came home to prepared for brunch. Some of the gang came over- each of them had something tasty to contribute, and after an incredibly long spell eating and talking around the dining room table, we caught the sunset on a walk over the Williamsburg Bridge. It was a relaxing, reflective day- exactly what I needed.
Started making plans for Santacon (look at the website and you'll get an idea of the sort of fun this will be), as well as a somewhat debaucherous party mid-December that may or may not be at my place. Autumn is a strange time of year, and so I want to spend it with a healthy mix of social fun and quiet-time working on the book at home. Oh, what I wouldn't give for a fireplace... Perhaps someday? Until then, I can dream, and will be perfectly happy finding the restaurants/bars in NY that have comfortable chairs and roaring fires (I'm not talking gas fires, either- I want sparks, burning logs, the smell of wood).
All this talk of fires makes me think of my parents' place- it's so nice to be there during the cold months to enjoy Irish coffees whilst sitting around their fireplace. Sigh...
This Thanksgiving I plan on being with my family outside of NY, but *think* I might stick around here for Christmas. Anyone else going to be around? Wondering if I should plan something festive?
Now, off to put my girl to bed, and then I plan on writing for a couple of hours before I fall asleep. Wonder what strange dreams I'll have tonight?
Last night was Halloween. Contrary to every other year of my life, I decided to stay in. No, this wasn't because I hadn't secured a babysitter (I had), but rather, from a strong desire to be with the person I love best: Anevay.
Two nights ago, Anevay and I went with friends to the City Reliquary for a Halloween party put on by our friends Stephen and Christina. Besides having games for the kids/beers for the grown-ups, they put on a small production of Poe's 'Cask of Amantillado', which Anevay and her friend Alameda declared was "creepy but not scary." Apparently, on the day before a Halloween that falls on a Saturday, most people don't get dressed up. Oh well. I had on full cat make-up, and Anevay was Laura Ingalls.
Yesterday we went trick-or-treating with friends (Laura Ingalls was still around, but the cat decided to stay home), then came back home, cooked a nice dinner, curled up in front of a scary movie, then went to sleep. It was the most perfect Halloween I've ever had.
This morning I took a look at Facebook and saw all of the drunken posts from 3 and 4 and even 7 in the morning, and thanked myself for staying in last night. And now, showered, dressed and ready to go, I'll walk a block away to cheer on the runners in the NY Marathon. This year I know a handful of friends who will be running, as well as an awfully dreamy man who might give me a wave as he runs by. Maybe I should have saved the cat costume for today... Meow!
I am Melissa Banigan. I've been many things under the sun, but am currently a single mom raising an amazing kid in Brooklyn, writing novels and short stories, and working on some art (canvases and paper). I also, under the moniker melifera, produce off-the-cusp embroidered clothing and bags.