Thinking About New York and Other Thursday Throwbacks

Happy Throwback Thursday! Though a late post, you’ll be happy to read about some things that have been rambling around in my mind lately. For starters, in approximately one month I’ll be on a plane headed East to the Big Apple. I’ve always been rather apprehensive towards NYC, admittedly because it’s too overrated, it’s not San Francisco. Yes, I am shamelessly biased against my own City by the Bay, flaws and all. But still, THIS IS NYC! The Mecca for writers and journalists and diversity and all writer-centric hullabaloo. Something is waiting to happen with each and every person who comes to New York. I admit that because it’s just a Big City for Big things to happen in anyone’s mindset, I just have to go and see if anything will be done for me. I can’t hate New York, I’m quite nostalgic about it. All the stories I’ve ever really liked began or were set in Manhattan or Brooklyn, one of those books being my soul mate, my life long bff if a book could ever be such a thing, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. There’s just such a range of human emotion and reality in that book that really stabs at my heart. The first book I was ever compelled to read not once, not twice, but countless times that I finally bought it for myself two years later so I wouldn’t have to steal it from the school library. I grew up over weeks alongside the struggles that the impoverished heroine Francie Nolan had to face. In a time where coming of age novels were everything to me (I didn’t forget you Anne Shirley), this was the definitive bible. And now, I have a chance to go out and see this “world that was hers for the reading,” the world that Tree writer Betty Smith lived and wrote about.

BROOKLYN COVER

To prep for this trip I’ve been reading F. Scott Fitzgerald and rereading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Pinteresting places I want to visit. I won’t list what I plan on going to visit since I’m saving that for after I’ve been. I shouldn’t even be looking places up, only just to know where I should start. But I won’t really define my own trip itinerary because in that way there’s just something exciting no matter what I do, where I end up. I’m just going to be there, in New York. And more importantly, somewhere much farther away from the West Coast than I ever have been.

I even think about the music I’ll be listening to when in New York. I’m reaching back into bands from my old playlist of the late 2000s, à la The Strokes, The Walkmen and The Bravery, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs bring me to my next throwback treasure. I fucking LOVE Karen O’s weirdness; she set standards for how accepting of myself I should be. Especially in style. She was undoubtedly an outrageous trendsetter before Lady Gaga. And there’s just so much isolated power within the songs of Yeah Yeah Yeahs that seem likes echoes. Great stuff for walking around the city any time of the day.

Also, a nod to back in the day when flowers spoke for you. I was thumbing through a little pocket book of mine detailing everyday life of Victorian society, and this was a prominent practice. Writers strategically picked flowers in scenes based on the meaning that each bloom signified in the Victorian to Edwardian era. Then it might have gone into the fruits. Godfather oranges, anyone?
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It would be a cool writing metaphor to carry through stories, actually. Especially now, when no one really thinks about flowers.

Lastly, Ending Scene of Sixteen Candles, (1984)

A few months ago I wrote a post on my favorite scenes from both film and music videos. This is another little beauty of nostalgia, and it’s perfectly cheesy 80s feels right here. Seriously! The girl got the guy, the girl who might have had one of the shittiest birthdays ever, and in the end she got him in the sweetest campy finale possible. Gosh that scene is art, the timing and the Thompson Twins playing right at we all see Jake Ryan appear.

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And in place of all the ceremonial ideals Molly Ringwald’s Sam Baker had about a Sweet Sixteen, all she ended up with was a birthday cake in a dimly-lit room sitting across from the one wish that came true. You rock, John Hughes.

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THE BOYS IN AMERICA: “NEIGHBOURS”

Summer, 2014

Cameron was a writer, and no one could really tell him if he was a good one. Anyone he knew at university studied finance or sports science, like he planned to as well. But he liked difficult, trying new paths, pushing buttons and scratching heads. No one seemed to notice that, too. In being too caught up in their own concerns Cameron got away with actually doing things he liked without commotion– up until now, obviously.

As much as he wished to be instant Wilde or Dickens after h e graduated the only thing that was certain was debt and paying them off as fast as it grew. So Cameron became a soccer coach, one in many for a league of wild, bright-eyed Scots and English boys scattered across America to teach their sacred sport to ignorant fat brats. Cameron was rather surprised on two things when he got hired by European Youth Soccer International: playing football all up until his last year at Nottingham he still passed their physical; and his parents gave no objection with the uncertainty they showed like when he expressed pursuing writing. Well, they always justified in his actions by their standards; an English degree would be practical for insurance content writing, and coaching abroad would make fine accreditation.

For those reasons he was glad to have left EYSI, to be shacked up now in the back room of the house he shared with Nick. Nick was Cameron’s savior, or the cold, weeded sidewalks would have been home. Or perhaps Craigslist was to credit; Cameron applied to all potential ads and Nick happened to reply straight away.

Friday night in. Nick was sprawled on a dingy blue couch oddly angled in front of the dark fireplace where a large TV and X Box console was set. Cameron was drinking tea in the kitchen, not too close to intrude on his roommate’s space and not too close to ask about having a go on his video games. The only thing that kept Cameron here really was being broke.

But Nick was right, too. “You know, it’s not like they’re gonna cuff you on the spot once you step out on the street,” he told Cameron, not looking up from the East Asian history textbook he was reading.

“I’m not afraid,” was Cameron’s reply. But even he was afraid of Nick. Who knows, if they didn’t get along Nick could be a nob and report him.

” Didn’t say you were, man. Unless you are, I was gonna see if you’d go out and buy me more hazelnut creamer. But seriously, I’ve gotta outline this chapter by eleven tonight.”

“Aren’t you on summer holiday?” Cameron’s phone, an old Blackberry, said it was nearing nine.

“No, told you I don’t and I’ve been in two extra classes this summer to catch up.”

“You really behind on your units, eh?”

“Just what, twelve credits? But want to pace myself, you know?” In the little that Nick and Cameron did share in common, it was fairly easy to dismiss their past, especially for Nick, whose dull years at Duke caused a drop out of college– but it was the Bay Area that brought him back in.

“Well, I don’t have money,” Cameron replied, laying his head in his arms that were folded onto the table.

“I’ll pay you, of course, for my creamer. And anything else we might need in the fridge.”

“Nah, fine I’ll just go get that. Get out for a little bit.”

“That’s the spirit. I feel like a dick honestly to send you out but hey, it’s better than being here on a weekend.”

It wasn’t a bad place to be actually, Cameron decided as he looked behind him at the house. Like the others, the house he lived at was craftsman, quaint little Americana captured on a quiet street in a cool evening. Cameron liked its imperfection though: the line four shingles missing on the gray roof, the wood panel on the walls and how they contrasted the pop peacock blues that bordered the windows and colored the shutters of the windows. The best thing that was a great bonus was the Dutch door– it actually was divided into two!

As he looked back Cameron did have a pang at just stepping out beyond its white Pickett fence, but he was ready for the new world right there. He’d have to get used to it, anyhow, should he really be here forever.

It still sounded like an amazing scheme. Berkeley was a college town, so there was plenty of bars and random things to do, yet not rural into deep America where he’d be dealing with more of the same and go mad. He’d been working out in LA earlier this summer and last year, but Cameron felt like he had enough of that. Somewhere quiet enough was good to get started, and no pressure around to write as soon as possible. That’s truly what meant to Cameron.

Amber Avenue was tucked away amidst trees and bungalows accented well by flowers in the front lawn, and it was only blocks away from the busy intersection where Ashby met College Avenue, where a little liquor store set up shop and Cameron could only walk so far, since neither he or Nick had a car.

The air was cold, no one was out except for stars finally shining through the breaking clouds that gave the sky a slate look. And their bright light looked filtered to Cameron, coming through the branches that lined the sidewalk
. The small and bunched businesses along college came to view, most closed except for the corner Cafe Roma with their grand brick clock reading half past nine now. He was almost at the little market when his cheap go-phone broke the silence of the night, and Cameron hated it. He pressed the red rejection button to silence the ring, to hang up Nick. If he was stepping out into this new place, he just wanted to be alone at the moment.

Creamer. It wasn’t even true milk or dairy-based, but then to flavor it? Ungodly business, these Americans. Cameron was slowly getting used to coffee with his stay, but milk in place of cream for every beverage remained standard. He quietly grabbed a quarter pint from the back fridge and waited in line. A girl, a tiny one, was in front and tapping her foot on the green laminate. From the back of her head Cameron liked the way her hair was cropped above her shoulders and sort of wavy. He wouldn’t mind the wait. When the girl finished buying her things– a big bag of pita chips and a bag of Seattle’s Best Coffee– she stayed behind to slowly put them into a burlap grocery bag. This little detail stopped Cameron from realizing he was short $1.45 for the creamer.

“What?” He said to the clerk, an old Asian man with furrowed brows, probably because of Cameron’s lack of attention.

“You gave me two dolla.”

Oh shit. Cameron had left the house without Nick giving him the money.

“I–I got it here somewhere, Sir,” Cameron tried to delay, patting his back pockets. No luck. He only came across a nickel when the girl– who was still there– reached out and gave two dollars to the clerk. “Keep the change, she demanded, smiling to the clerk, then to Cameron.

“He smiled back, but he wanted to get out of there. Grabbing the carton of creamer he quickly walked out and passed her. He forgot to thank her.

He was about to turn back around when there she was, just leaving the market.

“Thanks!” He blurted out. And laughed. How stupid, he thought.

“Some gratitude,” she replied, laughing. Casually onward, she asked, ” You must be visiting?”

“The accent.”

“English?”

“Right you are.”

“Right you are,” she slightly mocked. She still smiled. It just registered to Cameron that she wore thin metal-rimmed glasses, shaping almond hazel eyes that hinted to Cameron her background was half-Asian. Her laughs didn’t sound funny in a way that pissed him off either. What a pleasant soul to have encountered for being criminal.

“I’m just staying at a mate’s for a bit,” he continued, cautious not to reveal his master plan. “It’s nice here, right pretty.”

“Haha it’s crazy here– but yes, a beautiful little city. I think I’ve seen you around already. On Amber?”

“Oh? Yes.”

She nodded. “I live on Amber Avenue.” He felt more alive all of a sudden.

“Imagine that! What is your house number?”

“787 Amber. I’ve seen you near 790.”

“Stalker.”

Now she was laughing. “You were the one watching me pack my shit away in there.”

Feeling alive became clammy and flustered in the cheeks. “Uh, let me please walk you back, if you’re alright with that.”

“It’s perfectly fine. We’ve already been sort of walking–”

“Oh we have!” They’d probably gone a block from the market. “Yeah,” she began again, “but it’s a nice summer evening finally. Good things happen.” The trust she had in Cameron was reassuring, a nice breath of air for being so tense about everyone around him. If he was going to live amongst them, he had to trust them, and trust himself to feel like there was nothing to distrust. Crazy, but simple.

And as he figured, this neighbor of his was a student at UC Berkeley, in her second year and living with her aunt whose house was on Amber. The rest of her family lived south near LA. The thing that didn’t really sit well with Cameron was the superficial misfortune to her name: Veronica. Certainly didn’t look like a Veronica.

Despite that, the night walk turned out perfect, and too fast. They had actually come up to 790 first, where she bid Cameron farewell.

“See you around, Cameron.”

“And definitely shall hope to see you around. And meet your aunt as well?”

Her smile grew and she shrugged. “She does love hosting. And new faces.”

Cameron would surely come to appreciate the minor incident of any new face now.

Fictionery, a New Writing Sentiment

The world is obsessed with collecting images now. Thanks to social media sites as Tumblr and Pinterest, pretty and aesthetically-provocative-turned stock photos of subjects from sunsets to sparkler spelling and (of course) your best looking food have gone viral, and now it’s become one of the most basic ways to getting to know someone via their favorite trends and reblogs of such things. Especially for writing, I love using images to inspire me; it’s not just a concept born from the web, but it’s grown alongside it. The first time I ever really started writing was through exercises in my high school English class, sophomore year. It was a daily exercise of renowned paintings that started basic Q and A of what the various subjects were doing, then why. And then why again, and so forth. Not only did I enjoy this critical thinking exercise, but it definitely helped me realize that taking the English Degree path was more than obvious for me.

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So now I’ll begin this whole fixation again with passing little images, soft-toned ephemera or brilliantly bright celebratory cards to announce a graduation or your pride in the card recipient being your Mom or looking good for turning 30. Greeting cards are a strange phenomenon, disposable yet so meaningful and heartfelt in those few seconds they’re being read. For the majority of people I can only guess these cards get recycled, and to some whatever you’ve written, or perhaps the card’s image, was so moving or beautiful that it remains tacked to your wall or kept in a drawer for feeling bad about thinking of throwing it away in the first place. Then there’s me, who just likes collecting these items for a whole new potential.

Each card I now collect is a whole opportunity to keep the writing flow active. With each image I let it motivate me to write a brief story or work or prose that relates to that card, message or picture. I highly recommend such an activity because 1. You surround yourself with lovely images that keep you feeling wonderful, 2. The only two constraints, the image itself AND the amount of space allotted inside the card or postcard, really give a challenge, and 3. You’ll be surprised, and satisfied, with what you end up with giving the constraints. It can be any card that moves you, everyone is different. You can practically guess what sort of pictures I am drawn to by the photo above!

And here is my first “fictionery” I’ll start with this series:

“Two Angels” by Giovanni Battista Cipriani postcard. It was found for 75 cents at Bibliohead Bookstore in Hayes Valley, San Francisco.

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Their friendship had sparked from the First Day wonder and created for the infinite.

These two loving protectors protect in each other, shared admiration of the sky’s light and the silk palor of their youthful faces. Together they blush at the sublime creations of their Father, scathing mountains and treading across emerald waters as they use “Hide and Seek”  to familiarize with the New World. In a tired few hours he s exalted, cheeks like peaches as their redness follow his panting. She’s won this round, but here! At the foot of the glowing garden she bends over and watches something past the palms and ivory roses.

“Something new!” She exclaims. He flies to her feet and hovers low to witness for himself.

“What creatures!”

Excitedly they gaze into the grey lakes of their soft eyes and laugh a little. The curious couple linger, look, and muse at the prospects of these wingless, lanky playmates they had never seen before.

“What a thoughtful Father,” She whispers.