I spent today escorting a French publisher, fresh off the plane this morning from Paris, around Beijing. Apparently they want to make a french version of our magazine, which could be fun. Since the publisher is a she, we spent the entire day shopping my balls off.
In other news, below is by far the best Valentine's Day gift I have EVER received. And it's not even from my boyfriend. Although, Jameson is certainly a man friend, and my very best one at that. LOVE YOU J!
"Happy 6.08 years of friendship!
I must say that I am quite impressed
with my Photoshop skills. Thanks to YOU."
In honor of Jameson’s departure, I am holding a Winter Spring Cleaning. He was right (damn). I have SO much stuff. Not like I didn’t know that before, but now those boxes sitting in my living room are just starting to irritate me. Because they’re there, and because I have no idea where to put what’s in them. And even if I did, I wouldn’t want to because I would know that there would be purposeful pockets of space everywhere in my apartment that I forced stuff into. Personal things should fit intuitively into a living space; there is a given place for everything, and I just don’t have enough surface in my figurative, intuitive counters and drawers and shelves and closets and corners.
For a while there, I did rationale that throwing away stuff in China was too tragic since they don’t have Salvation Armies here. But, much to my dismay, garbage bins are veritable stop-and-go’s, because people have full-time jobs picking through that stuff here. They even make money on it. There is no Recycling-Bin God in China because any plastic bottles you toss get picked out right away. Any clothes or cardboard you trash becomes an old person’s treasure. Seriously. It does. Great sub-economy.
So, since my Salvation Army plea didn’t pan out, I’m getting rid of it, along with a shitload of my stuff – as much as I can, as quickly as I can. If I didn’t miss them while they were in boxes, I might as well just get rid of the whole shebang.
Since high school, a time spent frolicking within circles of rich Daddy’s brats, closeted lesbians (it was an all-girls’ boarding school a step, hop and skip away from Wellesley College; let’s honor the cliché) and minorities on student aid (me), the holiday season always meant that I would be away from someone or something. Counting down the days until Christmas, my roommates and I would try to salvage as much holiday togetherness as we could, before packing our bags and going separate ways for the coming of the New Year. I would fly 1.5 hours south to Maryland and make gingerbread houses with my mom while my step dad wrestled our giant, surprisingly resilient, fake Christmas tree. College was no different, except then I drove 13 hours north from Nashville, in my Ford Escape, speeding through ice patches and stealthily pausing in front of poorly hidden police cars.
Between the ages of 18-21, I spent holidays trying to justify to my mom why evenings out (with the few non-college friends I scrounged up at home) didn’t start until 11pm and that she should feel lucky I wasn’t a wild child (at home, anyway) who boozed and drugged in dark alleys with shady characters. It wasn’t that my mom was so strict; in fact she firmly believed in my independence. It was just that home behavior could never resemble school behavior, which was my normal life. At home I had to check my coat of youth at the door; holidays were just a restful and somewhat restricted break before I returned to school.
Reaching the end of college, my holiday habits gradually began to shift toward more mature partying. (Mature=getting effed up with friends and not having to be home by midnight) Since then, it’s been a mixed ride, but I’m still trying to figure out what Holidays=
Five New Year’s Eves ago was spent with my mom, stepdad, Jameson, a raw seafood bar, and plenty of Karaoke at my parents’ golf club while B (boyfriend) somehow didn’t get the invitation and wound up crossing into the New Year alone at some bar.
Three New Year’s Eves ago, I was in Ocean City with B, Jameson, Glitterati, Mr. Glitterati, Black Beavis, Ugly Betty, Jailbait and Girl-of-Amazonian-proportions. Before I delve into the actual story (a long one: brace yourself), I have included brief character sketches (of characters at time of three New Year’s Eves ago) for full effect.
Boyfriend for about a year at this point. Musician. Used to be in a band called Buck Naked Blues. Gentle, carefree, owner of a 24lbs cat named Leopold. Funny but has tendency to slightly overuse slapstick humor.
Instant friends since freshman year, after he borrowed my notes in Philosophy 101 because his were taken on single sheets of loose leaf paper that blew away in the wind; quickly rising to best friend status. Easy-going, upper-middle class, elitist from Pennsylvania.
Sushi soulmate. Met as counselors to rowdy, genius art kids at Maryland Summer Center for the Arts; fell in love during a joint performance project involving her words and my photographs; vivacious spitfire with sparkly sapphire eyes.
Boyfriend of Glitterati. Stand-up comedian trapped in the body of a Marriot slave. Currently Ex-Glitterati, floating around somewhere in Maryland.
Friend of B (and mine). Talented painter, drinker and Vice President of the whitest-black-boy-I’ve-ever-met clan (B is the President). Strange taste in women.
Uninvited, unexpected date of Black Beavis. Small, rotund, socially challenged Latina plus glasses sans personality. Nice enough. Strange taste in men.
College friend. Rich white boy from Georgia. Thin upper lip, doe-like eyes. In love with Girl-of-Amazonian-proportions since freshman year; followed her around like a puppy all through college. Smart but unmotivated.
College friend. Extremely book-smart, ex-Mormon from Salt Lake City. Daughter of ex-Congressman. Uses obvious flirtation to manipulate men into falling in love with her.
Responsible for the evening’s guest list. Spending first New Year’s Eve away from parents. Feel guilty for leaving mom home with party-pooper step dad.
End character sketch.
We rented a hotel suite where the evening’s catalyst was a hearty game of Cranium, Smirnoff-style. After a few sophisticated rounds of plastic cup booze and test-tube Jello shots, the ladies flitted into the bedroom to deck themselves out, at which point the gentlemen decided that Cranium would be much more fun if a shot was taken every time the board game timer went off. And in this new version, the timer happened to go off just about every 30 seconds. Sigh. Boys and their suspicious ideas.
Somewhere between copious amounts of alcohol and rowdy testosterone bonding, insert:
Debacle #1: Jail Bait Feels Lonely
By the time we ladies were finally ready to reveal our painted faces and New Year’s Eve cleavage, drunken Jail Bait had already worked himself into a tizzy, melodramatically complaining that the only people he knew (me and Girl-of-Amazonian-proportions) had left him alone with strangers and why wasn’t Girl-of-Amazonian-proportions paying attention to him. Complaints led to intense conversations between the latter and a quick kiss and make-up.
Five minutes later, Girl-of-Amazonian-proportions and I were snapping pictures and chatting on the balcony when all of a sudden, a pair of jeans wooshed by us, tumbling into the dark depths of the parking lot below. I turned to look back through the balcony doors when a makeup bag attacked my left eye before jumping to its death with flying pants. My attacked eye started spouting tears, and I ran to B, blubbering, who then reacted with a “I’m going to punch that asshole” only to be held back by sobbing-for-no-reason-it-didn’t-even-hurt-that-much-me. At which point, Jail Bait and Girl-of-Amazo . . . let’s call her GOAP from now on, shall we? Much easier. At which point, Jail Bait and GOAP started yelling at each other, followed by Jail Bait throwing and breaking lamps and denting the door of the bedroom B and I paid for. By now, we sane group members were fighting to get in the bedroom, which had since been locked by Jail Bait, to of course, how courteous of him, protect us from flying furniture. Eventually, someone got in (I think it was Glitterati), ripped the lovebirds a new one, said-latter kissed and made up again, and we frolicked down to the lobby to catch our bus. After all, haste makes wasted on New Year’s Eve.
We took a short but pleasant bus ride to Seacrets, in hopes of getting in line before the inevitable stampede of other drunken patrons. In the summer,Seacrets is a night club notorious for clients floating in a gated ocean, surrounded by scantily-clad waitresses wading out to pamper with cocktails and shallow conversation. As we lazily hopped off the bus and the ladies sauntered our sexy stiletto-selves in front of the men, we heard a loud thump and a metal klang!
“Hey! What do you think you’re doing?” yelled the bus driver, a James Earl Jones look-alike, with the exception of his Jheri curl and too-tight, too short uniform that seems to frequent all bus drivers.
“Wgblkjasdf,” mumbled a drunken, bi-polar Jail Bait. From the look on GOAP’s face, somewhere between stepping off the bus and stepping onto the sidewalk, the couple du jour had managed another fight. Another Krumpf! and we were horrified to find Jail Bait wildly punting our transportation. Potato-sized dents and black shoe marks splashed the lower half of the Oyster Bay Tackle ad that was plastered on the side of the bus, featuring a giant collection of rods, reels and worms. Haha. Fish bait. Jail Bait. Haha. I’m too easily amused.
At this point, I was getting pissed and start walking as fast as my stilettos would take me. I could see the crowd building at Seacrets and there was no way this drunken bastard was going to ruin my first grown-up New Year’s Eve. As the rest of the gang began following me, insert:
Debacle #2: Jail Bait Does Not Pass Go
By the time we made it to the front of Seacrets, GOAP didn’t want to stand in line but wouldn’t stay with Jail Bait either. I lost it and started yelling at her to make up her mind because she and her stupid boyfriend were making us all miserable. But my yells were muffled by distant screams. Not shrieking murderous screams. More like belting, Broadway singer smashed his thumb with a hammer screams. We ran toward the noise to find Jail Bait strewn across the side of the highway loudly lamenting lost love and dignity. The next 10 minutes went something like this:
Black Beavis and Mr. Glitterati try to control Jail Bait, who is melodramatically sobbing and flailing like a very drunk, very angry Gumby. GOAP is now an even bigger, useless mess. Glitterati and I just want to get in the Seacrets line for fear of being stuck out in the cold with no party and no buzz. B is running around claiming that this wouldn’t have happened if I had just let him punch Gumby to begin with. Jameson is consoling GOAP. Black Beavis loses a hundred dollar bill (?). No one even knows where Ugly Betty is. The police arrive. The police calmly talk to Jail Bait and try to persuade him to move away from the street. Jail Bait refuses. The police move toward him. Jail Bait begins whimpering about his dignity again. The police tell Jail Bait that he is being disruptive; they then pull out a piece of paper and pen and try to get Jail Bait to sign. Jail Bait swipes the pen out of one of the policeman’s hands and starts sneering at him. The other policeman is getting tired of this charade and has a “Now listen here, sonny” moment, at which point Jail Bait begins grabbing at the air near the policeman’s face. Policeman #1 pulls out a bottle and maces Jail Bait. Jail Bait wails. Policeman #2 handcuffs Jail Bait. Jail Bait does not pass go. Jail Bait goes straight to jail. Black Beavis is cursing about his lost hundred dollar bill. Ugly Betty is still nowhere to be found.
I don’t know if we were more relieved or stunned to see our dear friend (sarcasm) go, but the shock of it all catapulted us back to the Seacrets line (what else were we supposed to do? Mourn the loss?). At this point, GOAP was still a hot mess and refused to do anything but stand and pout. Glitterati and I weren’t about to console her, and B and Mr. Glitterati certainly weren’t allowed to. Black Beavis disappeared as mysteriously as Ugly Betty had, so Jameson offered to take GOAP back to the hotel. We eagerly accepted the gesture. And then there were four.
Somehow, despite the fact that we were almost at the end of the line, a little flirting and explanation of our crazy night to the bouncer, and we were literally the last two couples to make it into the club. Midnight came and went swimmingly. A few drinks later, my feet were killing me and my eyes could barely stay open. Drama never gets enough credit for inducing exhaustion. B and I left Glitterati and Mr. G to party for us.
Debacle #3: Black Beavis and Ugly Betty make a Porno.
When we reached the hotel, B and I were pumped and happy from the midnight confetti shower and well-deserved buzz. We had almost forgotten the previous five hours. That is until we walked in on Black Beavis and Ugly Betty, freaking ass-naked, in one of the only two beds in the suite, mid-hump. Startled by our entrance (though not quite as startled as one might expect normal people with any ounce of dignity might be; then again, dignity seemed to have a loose definition that night) Ugly Betty scrambled to hide herself under the unfortunately thin white sheets, and I got an eyeful of really Ugly Betty boob. I ran out of the bedroom in silent screams, wondering just what else this night would bring. When I got into the living room, GOAP was pouting in the corner somewhere and Jameson was already asleep on the couch. That night, B and I slept on the hard hotel floor, cold and pissed because we were the ones who had booked the hotel room to begin with. I swear I had nightmares where I was chased by flailing Latina body parts and hundred dollar bills.
Debacle #4: GOAP has no soul
The morning flashed a solemn sun across my face and my mind’s eye was still blinded by flashbacks of Ugly Betty Boob. GOAP was on the phone with Glitterati’s lawyer dad, trying to figure out how to free Jail Bait. Mr. and Mrs. Porno were still naked in bed and Jameson was groaning in pain in the living room. Apparently he and GOAP had downed quite a few bottles of champagne when they returned to the hotel room, and then–get this, they MADE OUT. Now, Jameson is my best friend. Kudos to him and whatever he does. But GOAP. What in the hell was she thinking? Oh wait, she wasn’t thinking, because SHE HAS NO SOUL. Who leads their boyfriend on for four years, makes him convert to the Church of Latter Day Saints (yep, that’s right), brings him all the way to Maryland, watches him as he is dragged to jail and then makes out with my best friend whom she’s known for less than a day? Elaborate planning, I’d say.
New Year’s Day breakfast was spent in a booth at Denny’s, a great place to forget your troubles while nurturing hangovers with a Lumberjack Slam: two buttermilk pancakes, a slice of grilled honey ham, two bacon strips, two sausage links and two eggs, plus hash browns or grits and choice of bread. Gotta love America.
In order to completely evade any memory of the previous night, we dropped GOAP off at the 65th street police station so she could deal with the remains of Jail Bait. We weren’t touching that shit with an eight-foot pole. Unfortunately, Jameson had had a little too much champagne and spent his morning in the restaurant bathroom being punished by his liver.
With the exception of my flaring nostrils, the 30-minute drive home was silent. When Jail Bait limped into the back of my Ford Escape, he said absolutely nothing, and GOAP sat there like a wet flower. When we reached my place, Thing 1 and Thing 2 went straight up to the guest room and stayed there for three hours. When they finally came downstairs, they graced us with a barely audible thanks, lugged their bags out the door and left, tails between legs and all.
Story motto #1: play Cranium sober.
Story motto #2: do a background check on your friends before inviting them to play.
Congratulate yourself for getting to the end of that story.
Two New Year’s Eves ago, I somehow managed to lock myself in a VIP room at Coco’s techno club in Tianjin, playing naughty with a bouncer, who was later shipped to another province and called me at weird hours to ask me why we were talking on the phone.
Last year, I spent Christmas Eve baking the shit out of my toaster oven, while Jameson ate his worth in pink, white and blue sugar snowflakes, Santas and snowmen (am I alone in being tickled by the previous alliteration?) that filled my living room. Christmas was a regular Tianjin banquet of cold dirty weather, dusty floors, Monkey in a bee suit, and my assistant stuffing marshmallows in her mouth in attempt to win our first annual Chubby Bunny contest. For the record, I can fit four large marshmallows in my mouth. It may seem like an easy task, but you try and breathe while puffy sugar is slowly expanding in the concaves of your throat.
Hmm. Jameson seems to have witnessed a lot of my holidays. Maybe Holidays = Jameson.
Speaking of Jameson, I was about to write: “if he doesn’t up and leave for Nmibia without telling me, hopefully he will be in Beijing for Christmas this year, along with B (flying in from Brooklyn on Xmas Eve!), Monkey (sans bee suit) and the city.” However, this sentence has just very recently changed to “this Christmas, Jameson will be at home in the States, skiing and kissing the American snow he’ll be gliding on.” I’m happy for him, but in less than a week, my best friend will be leaving China, after a year and a half of both loving and hating the country. It’s been a long journey since we graduated from Vandy, and even though we are already designing our future, billion-dollar joint-penthouse in Manhattan, a new era is beginning–for both of us. Time for him to find his true calling. Time for me to skyrocket this magazine opportunity so I can get the hell out of here.
In line with this whole holidays being inconsistent thing, Jameson’s departure is reminder of how lonely China, and the current life I have chosen, can sometimes be. I am content because I am walking the path I want, but getting what you want never seems to be free. My sacrifice is that I’m constantly away from loved ones, which I’ve already mentioned. I am happy, but reality kicks in every once in a while–best friends leave, boyfriends come for Christmas and then will inevitably leave, parents will visit in the spring and then leave–and it wrings my heart out like a used, wet face towel. The pain can be stifling; sometimes I actually cannot breathe. I start to feel sorry for myself and compensate by holding lone movie marathons, drowning in sleep, or ordering burgers at midnight. And the worst thing is, I can’t even let myself wallow in the misery.
Every time the tears well up in pools, or I’m up to my ears in midnight snacks, a spark of energy snaps into place, and I am jerked into a weird state of okay-ness. The one thing that keeps me chugging along is this inevitable, innate resilience that makes me throw away those damned French fries and used Kleenex, shut off the pirated movies and turn on the lights. That voice in my head pokes my brain and tells me to wake up and stop wasting time. There is too much to do for my future. The loneliness becomes a strange but effective catalyst for action. The pain motivates me to continue working, until I can make my way back to the States. And I listen and it works. I’m not sure if it is a physical survival tool, or a really insightful little person running around in my sub-conscience, but the pain dulls and the wheels start turning. I find myself deep into life again, pushing for that next step, when I get to go home. Home is where I don’t have to take a 13-hour plane ride to be with the people I love. Home is relationships that don’t involve Skype. Home is where I want to spend my holidays.
But for now, Holidays=finding different ways to celebrate, still missing loved ones, and knowing that growing up and living my life takes a backbone, a lot of ingenuity and buckets full of self-inflicted cheer.
What's on the right side of your equation?
My weekend ended late because Jameson stayed and played with me at work on Monday, which we officially deemed to be “Take your (Jame)son to work day.” He even sat quietly next to me, at my desk, designing my company’s new website and waiting hopefully for me to give him the lunch cue. I’m glad he decided to stay an extra day, especially after the notorious Jameson-Jenny quibble we had the evening before:
“My tongue scraper is so awesome. Have you ever scraped your tongue?”
“Ew. No. I brush my tongue, though. Ew. Let’s not talk about that.”
“No, seriously. It is soo cool. I never knew how dirty my tongue was!”
“Ew. No, really. Stop.” I shudder. Body residue is just not my thing.
“You wanna see?”
“Oh, come on! Let me show you. It’s so cool!”
“Ahhhhh! No! I’m serious. Leave me alone.” I run into the bedroom. Jameson is chasing after me, tongue-scraper in hand. “Get away from me!”
“JAMESON. Stop it. I’m serious. That’s SO gross.” I lock the bedroom door.
“I only locked the door because I don’t want to see your dirty tongue goo! I don’t do things that YOU don’t like!"
Jameson scoffs again. “It’s not fair! You’re not a good friend! You NEVER do anything I hate!” I hear the bathroom door slam. End Scene.
One minute, we’re laughing two-decibels above appropriate laughter volume while wildly gesturing in the middle of Beijing’s crazy streets, and the next minute, we’ve each banned ourselves to separate rooms in my apartment, one pouting that that she is being forced into thinking about unwelcome tongue goo, and the other pouting because he never gets to be forced into thinking about other people’s tongue goo.
I was looking into my wallet today, and as those little colorful “Mao’s” peered back at me, I thought (maybe for the hundredth time) What is the point of money? All it is is fancy slivers of nonsense stamped with fancy art, and supposedly backed up by vaults and vaults of gold coins I always imagined you could dive into (like Uncle Scrooge did on Ducktails). How did we let The Man convince us into cheating, lying and killing for this stuff? If I sold one of my photographs for $1,000 USD, that seems like a lot of money. But when you turn around and convert it into material worth, it doesn’t even get me a plane ticket back to America. I would be 700 little pieces of fancy art poo or 7/10 of a second photograph short. Money only has worth because you can convert it into something, right?
That’s why I think we should bring back ye ol’ practice of bartering.
Bartering would force us to prioritize our material wealth. Spring Cleaning would be a default action since we would always be trading old things for new things. And granted, that’s one of the reasons why people like money so much – you’re essentially trading paper for purses and you don’t have to give up that old chair if you don’t want to. But really folks, what’s more important here – exponentially extra stuff or a society that doesn’t desperately cling to inanimate objects? A full closet or freedom?
In other news.
Jameson (aka best friend since college) is here for the weekend, from Tianjin. He’s the one who suggested we have our own TV show because we’re oddly hilarious (think The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Juno), which we have yet to figure out, since the buying and maneuvering of cameras is somewhat off-putting, especially in China, where we already receive a massive number of stares. Regardless – show or not, we are still always laughing.
One of the reasons Jameson came to Beijing was so that I could take a model-like picture for his new passport. His current picture makes him look like a sun burnt Mexican with a mariachi mustache. There is nothing wrong with Mexicans or little black mustaches, but Jameson is a blue-eyed-white-boy from Pennsylvania with a tendency to burn in the sun and avoid burritos. And there is something you have to understand about my friend; when it comes to image and design, I might just have found the male version of myself. We are complete perfectionists when creating, viewing or constructively critiquing (insert “judging”) anything that is, could or should be aesthetically pleasing. We are both image elitists and cannot for the life of us understand things like why hotel carpeting is so tacky. Whose job is it to choose that stuff and why are they so terrible at it? We get the fact that hotels need to choose flooring that can camouflauge messy patrons and their wine spills, but there must be a practical and chic way to do it. We also obsess about hair and clothing, though not always our own. For example, if China’s fashion issues could be narrowed down to two categories, they would be Pomeranian Hair and Pretty+Pretty=Pretty.
Pomeranian hair is gorgeous black silky Chinese hair, bleached one-inch from barnyard hay, poofed for volume, spiked on the top, and rat-tailed on the bottom. The look resembles a dry Chia Pet with a permed mullet. Pretty+Pretty = Pretty is what I have observed to be the general direction of young Chinese fashion philosophy.
“This orange suede jacket is pretty! These pink and white-striped Adidas sweat pants are pretty. I should wear them together – they must be pretty together.”
And it’s not even high-fashion mismatch. It’s just plain wrong. Anyway, we don’t get it. Jameson and I – we are stuck in an aesthetically-mediocre-majority-rules world. Every time we spot a Pomeranian poof bobbing along the sidewalk, it kills us inside a little bit. We should seriously open a door-to-door consulting business, where we tackle every less than stunning victim, breathing or inert, and work our magic.
Okay, serious parenthesis. The real story is this. Perfect model-like picture was taken but when we brought it to the Kodak store, it didn’t fit the right dimensions. Jameson’s head was too big and in passport photos, there are strict requirements for head to shoulder proportion (these are the things we international travelers have to worry about, instead of deciding which high-priced gas station to go to). So, we made them let me take his picture in their little Kodiak studio because only I know that the secret to taking the perfect portrait is doing it from a higher angle, so as to cut out any lingering neck fat. Piece o’ cake.
Picture taken by Jenny. Check.
Perfectly proportioned head and shoulders. Check.
Even-toned white skin. Check.
Removal of Mexican mustache. Wait. NOT checked.
“Everything looks okay, but I still have a five o’clock shadow.”
His voice sounds carefree but when I look up, Jameson' entire face is masked in a resistant frown, eyes completely gray with disappointment. His Eeyore expression reminds me of a little kid on the verge of tears because the ice cream just fell of his cone. However, I stifle my giggle, because traumatic mustache-face, for a second time, is no laughing matter. “Well, what do you want to do?”
“We can’t take anymore pictures because I still have un-shavey face.” Sigh. Double sigh.
“We can go back home and shave it. I have a leg razor. Want to use that? It’s pink though.”
“Noo. Then I’ll look like cut-up, un-shavey face.”
“Oh, sorry. I know nothing about shaving faces. But my razor is new. Will that help?”
“It’s just that this picture is going to be in my passport for like, the next 10 years.”
“And it’s the whole reason I’m doing this in the first place.” Triple sigh. More lost-ice-cream face. Meanwhile, the Kodak girl is staring at us like we’re crazy, and Jameson’s frown is starting to droop.
“Okay, let me try this.” I bop Kodak girl off the chair and slide into designer-mode. A few clicks of Photoshop “Clone-Stamp-Tool” later, and . . . Presto Chango! Mustachio is off! A clean, white, perfectly proportioned Jameson smiles up from the computer screen, the real one standing in relief next to me.
Oh the wonders of the digital world.
So, that’s what I did today.
Long story short, I de-mustached my best friend. Fun times.
A brief return to monetary contemplation.
Below is a fun way to lighten your mood, should you also find yourself burdened with the heavy deliberation of why our lives are run by little men inked on flimsy, flammable slices of custom-blend cotton and linen. (Did you know that??)
Try it on Washington or Lincoln.