Redneck Derby

11
Apr
2009

Time for another installment of “Stephen’s Dreams”.

As always, there is a lot missing, but here is what I could piece together after waking up. I was heading back to an old apartment that I hadn’t been to in years. It was in a very backwoods area, but not so much “rustic” as “redneck”, with dirt roads and screen doors and junk sitting out in front of people’s houses. My old “apartment” was actually a kind of freestanding two story building, and going inside it was like a hurricane had hit. Everything was a mess under piles of junk that hadn’t been looked at in years. I had headed back there with a group of people I had recently met. As they were rooting about in all the mess and asking questions about it, I found some old machine or something that allowed me to make two cars materialize in  the street in front of the house. It wasn’t actually a machine, per se, but more like some technique I had invented (that required me to be back in this apartment) to make these cars come into being out of thin air. I had done this before, in the past (and to be honest, I am not entirely sure I haven’t had this dream before) and I was telling my new friends about it as we went on a series of rides to various places, always somehow leaving the car in some faraway place when we made it back to the apartment. This would of course necessitate making a new car for another trip or errand we had to run. One of the odd features of this ability to make cars out of nothing is that I had no way to get rid of them, so they were littered all around town and the police were on to me (since somehow the cars were registered to me). There were all kinds of tickets issued, but they couldn’t catch me. Another odd feature is that there was only one key to the cars that I kept in the apartment, and at one point I lost it and had to find it under a mountain of crap in the apartment. It turned out the way I was able to keep this apartment for so many years without being there is that the owner had died while I was living there, and no one ever came by to check on the place. But the neighbors were getting suspicious, as they had several times seen these cars materialize in the road, and they wanted a stop put to it. They called a cop in to investigate, and as we were leaving on one of our errands, he followed in hot pursuit. And then I woke up.

My name as a website

9
Apr
2009

Sometime late last night, I got into that silly game of looking up possible websites for some fairly new subdomains (.me, .info, and some lesser country extensions like the Isle of Man with the extension of .im). After playing around with a bunch of clever combos which had of course all been taken, I started thinking about my own personal “domain”, my name.  I have long wondered whether it made sense to register my full name “Stephen Suess”, as a dot com, but for various reasons I never did. For one, I wasn’t sure I would really being doing business in my actual name, for another it would not exactly be something catchy and easily memorable for people, and for another it seemed vaguely vain. But since I am freelancing now, and in my own name, it somehow seems more appropriate. I am quite lucky that my name is rare enough that it wasn’t already registered (pity poor John Smith). Still, I beat a rocket scientist, a recycling expert, and someone who works at a surgical supply company to the punch!

So now, if you point your web browser to http://stephensuess.com, it will take you to my cv site.

Holding the door

8
Apr
2009

Recently my roommate said something to me that I found a little surprising. We were talking about being polite and respectful to people, and the golden rule (in both its positive and negative versions). My roommate then told me that he never holds the door for anyone anymore, even though he used to. When I asked why, he told me that people are rude, they never acknowledge or say thanks and so he doesn’t do it any more. This struck me as missing the point a bit. I don’t hold the door (or give my subway seat to a weary traveler, or do any other nice thing for people) because I am demanding something direct in return. Some people will appreciate it, some won’t or will be indifferent. The reason for holding the door is because it is a nice thing to do, and it helps other people. Maybe they will thank you, maybe by setting an example, you encourage others to do the same. But whether or not down the road people do nice things for me, it is still the kind of world I want to live in. That world is a world where people realize how interconnected we all are, and strive to help everyone around them, in small or large ways. And in so doing, realize that in being kind to others, we are being kind to ourselves. It certainly won’t be that kind of world if none of us participates in its formation.

(Minor) friends and lovers

7
Apr
2009

When I lived in Mexico, I dated a few people. Nothing terribly serious, just good fun. And I am still on good terms with each of them, and consider them friends. One such “friend” who I hadn’t heard from in a while (and who had gotten into in a relationship just before I left Mexico) sends me an IM last week out of the blue. We start chatting and he goes on about how he would really like to see me, and how he wanted to come to New York, and how he was on vacation at the moment…hint, hint. So observing the obvious, and sure that we would have fun as friends in New York, I invited him. He was thrilled and told me the dates he wanted to come and how he was really (!) looking forward to seeing me. He got a little overly squishy with some line about how he really had been missing me, which I thought a bit over the top really, given our relationship, but nice nonetheless. I wasn’t sure what he expected to happen between us while he was in New York, and it didn’t really matter to me. I tend not to project into the future about such things. He told me that he just had to finalize his flight and would call me later the same day with info on his arrival. So I went to clear his stay with my roommate (who was fine with it, fortunately) and make sure that the apartment would be presentable and that my schedule the coming week would permit me to spend time visiting the city with him as he requested. I didn’t hear back from him as planned and so later I sent him an email. Not getting a response, the following day I sent another, again without a response. This was odd I thought, as we had a specific plan for him to be here from Monday to Friday of this week. So I made plans and moved on.  Today I get a message telling me that he had made up with his boyfriend and so he would not be coming. WTF? He never told me in the first place that they were broken up (or still together for that matter), and I hadn’t really given it much thought. But apparently he was feeling sad and lonely after a recent break-up, and this led to his discovery of feelings of longing to see me, at least temporarily.

Now, what is the word I am looking for to describe this behavior….? Rude? Narcissistic or just self-absorbed?

Eating above 100

5
Apr
2009

Friends of mine and I who live in the upper reaches of Manhattan have been lamenting the (seeming) paucity of information about good places to eat up here. Is it because there just aren’t any good places to eat north of 100th? Is it because no one has been documenting them? Sites like Yelp are meant to address these things, but sadly, the denizens of Yelp in northern Manhattan seem to have a different set of criteria for judging restaurants than I do. They are overly nit picky about minor things (“not enough space between tables”) and seem to honestly not be able, on the whole, to judge tasty food. They seem overly concerned with value in the form of “quantity” over “quality”, which is fine if larger portions are more important to you than actual taste. They also seem more concerned with presentation (decor) than with the taste of food. Because of this outlook, I have found that I agreed with them only about half the time. At dinner last night with Gabe and Jason, Gabe suggested someone create a map of good food in the area, which I thought was a great idea, having created just such a map while I was in Mexico City. With that in mind, I present the following Google map, “Eating above 100”. Over the coming months, as I (and friends) explore the food scene above 100th street in Manhattan, we will share with you only good places to eat. Anything in the mediocre category will not make the map. (That said, this is a part of the city that in general has lower quality food than downtown, so there is bound to be a bit of relativism involved. Still, no crap gets on this map.) I of course welcome any suggestions from those in the know…

Golden Goodbye

3
Apr
2009

Last night I came back to my apartment to find that one of my roommates, Shayna, had decided to move out at the drop of a hat. She spent all night moving her stuff out, and now everything is gone. She didn’t bother to notify our landlord until she was completely moved out, and yet had the chutzpah to ask for her deposit money back from him. I wish I could say that I was upset at her leaving, as she was (for the most part) a nice young woman. But she was also the messiest person I have ever lived with, and I am more than a little pleased at the prospect of getting someone cleaner in here, and someone who respects others. Marc, our landlord, came by today to change the locks, and asked why she had left without saying anything. And it made me remember being in my early twenties, and learning how to negotiate as an adult in the world. A lot of it comes in fits and starts, and it can take many years for people to get over their fear of conflict and to develop a respect for one’s neighbors. There is no perfect guidebook, we all learn these things by trial and error. Lord knows I have made many mistakes with regard to interpersonal relationships, especially at that age. Hopefully over time, through trial and error, we learn how to cope with ourselves and others in an honest way that respects both. Obviously there are some people that never learn how to deal with conflict or how to be aware of other people. And the vast differences in cultures and the ways that people are raised result in many misunderstandings. But a little good will and Golden Rule goes a long way.

An $80,000 sneeze

1
Apr
2009

When I was traveling about, in order to get the most out of the experience, I set a couple of rules for myself. One of which was to never say no to anything I hadn’t already done before if someone should suggest it. I found myself in all kinds of interesting situations thanks to this simple rule, and have never regretted any of them, even if they were difficult or upsetting. So a couple of weeks ago when my friend Olaf asked me if (being that I live in New York) I would mind going to an auction house here and bidding on a couple of items on his behalf. Dramatic Hollywood visions of Christie’s and Sotheby’s danced in my head, nasty bidding wars breaking out between otherwise upper crust and overly polite people. I immediately pictured myself in drag as a cross between Joan Collins in Dynasty, Bette Davis from Now, Voyager and Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Woman (after the shopping). There would be raised voices and wine glasses. Five thousand. Ten Thousand! TWENTY THOUSAND!! And…sold!…to the elegant heiress in the large hat.

The reality wasn’t all that far removed, although with quite a bit less drama and a bit more casually attired. At least, the crowd (about 50 of us, such as it was) was fairly casual. The many people that worked there were more smartly dressed, a line of about 30 of them taking phone bids during the auction. The room was contemporary and well appointed, coffee rather than wine was being served. Many of the bidders were hanging out at the back of the room, leaving very many of the chairs (especially at the front of the room) empty. I arrived about a third of the way through the bidding (at about lot 30; my lots to bid on were 75 and 76), and strolled to the front dramatically taking my seat in one of the almost empty rows at the front of the room.  I was given a catalog of the lots, which was quite a nice book on its own really. I was stunned to discover that many of the photos on auction were ones I recognized and greatly admired. In and among them was the work of Diane Arbus, Herb Ritts, Cindy ShermanRobert Mapplethorpe, Bruce Weber and many other well knowns. The fact that I would be bidding on pieces in such company made my palms slightly sweaty, especially as we approached my lot numbers. The bidding was all going more rapidly than I had imagined such things would take, and I was getting nervous, not wanting to miss my lots. I loosely grasped my blue bidding paddle with the number “110” in white upon it. The pieces I was to bid on were, relatively speaking small potatoes at a couple of thousand dollars each. There was a Cindy Sherman print a few lots before mine that went for $95,000, and the bidding was most furious for this lot. During it, I sneezed and the auctioneer looked over at me, as if to say “Sir, do I hear $80,000?”. Breaking out in a cold sweat, I shook my head and firmly removed my hand from my paddle as if it were toxic. They fortunately moved on to the other bidders, and no one seemed to notice. I don’t know why I felt a little nervous, this wasn’t MY money I was bidding with after all. I could just picture the conversation with my freind Olaf later:

“Sweetie, I just got you the most wonderful Cindy Sherman…and such a bargain! Worth at least $100K! And I got it for you for a mere $80K!…what?…well.. I know that wasn’t the one you wanted…yes, I understand that is about 76K over your total budget…no no, no need to thank me. Ciao!”

When my lots finally came up, I have to say I was a total natural. I waited just long enough at the first bid to not appear too eager. i refused to be bullied into a higher bid by the auctioneer. I held my ground and counter bid when necessary, but didn’t go higher than what I was authorized to do. In short, I was a pro. (Hm…maybe I should add this to my CV as a service I offer?) I ended up losing the first lot, but winning the second. I had to bid up to the high amount authorized me, but I got it.

I stayed to watch a few more lots go and some minor skirmishes. The totality of the event, now that I was coming down off my bidding high, washed over me. This turned out to be a fascinating look at a world I had never really encountered before.  I got up, turned in my paddle and walked out feeling very posh indeed.