Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Here's a spooky little poem for today by Paisley Rekdal:


unveil themselves in dark.
They hang, each a jagged,

silken sleeve, from moonlit rafters bright
as polished knives. They swim

the muddled air and keen
like supersonic babies, the sound

we imagine empty wombs might make
in women who can’t fill them up.

A clasp, a scratch, a sigh.
They drink fruit dry.

And wheel, against feverish light flung hard
upon their faces,

in circles that nauseate.
Imagine one at breast or neck,

Patterning a name in driblets of iodine
that spatter your skin stars.

They flutter, shake like mystics.
They materialize. Revelatory

as a stranger’s underthings found tossed
upon the marital bed, you tremble

even at the thought. Asleep,
you tear your fingers

and search the sheets all night.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

John Cage: crazy bastard or crazy genius?

I'll let you be the judge.

Oh, and if you think this is bizarre, you should read up on his piece entitled "As Slow as Possible"
that's currently being performed in a church in Germany. It's slated to take 639 years to play. The performance began in 2001, so it will end in 2640. I wish I were kidding. Cage enthusiasts are some crazy motherfuckers.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The help

Yesterday, I went to my first bat mitzvah. Despite the numerous Jews I now count among my closest friends, I used to be a raging anti-Semite. Just kidding! The truth is that I switched schools in 7th grade and missed my window of opportunity. Also, St. Louis, MO is pretty WASP-dominated.

Yesterday was a milestone, in more ways than one. Sadly, I was not a relative or friend of the young lady celebrating her transition (in stylish black Minolos) into adulthood. I was the help.

It was my first gig with Event Temps, a company that provides food service staff for catered events (parties, weddings, mitzvahs et al). As many of you know, I returned to Boston in September hell-bent on getting a job at a certain Chicago-style pizza chain. In case I ever do get hired by this establishment, I'll refer to it here as "Dos."

It was my dream to work for "Dos": After getting groped by stuck-up Cantabs at the Hong Kong and slinging sushi at a place that never quite mastered its payroll procedures, I figured "Dos" would be a well-oiled machine. There's a location just 5 minutes from my house and it's always crowded. And yet, after applying online, following up in person and on the phone, nada. I even tried the Fenway location and interviewed, but was told they were fully staffed for the time being and to check back in a few months. So my dream to work at "Dos" is now, as Langston Hughes would say, a dream deferred.

So now I am an Event Temp. Saturday morning, I carpooled out to a synagogue in Wayland, MA to pass appetizers, fold napkins and man the soda table. In the car ride over, the other temps on my shift assured me that this sort of work was easier than waiting tables. But what I have concluded after working my first shift is that it's also less rewarding. Partly because you're supposed to be somewhat invisible -- no one is ordering off a menu and consulting you. You're just paid labor, keeping water glasses full and clearing plates. And hovering-- there was a great deal of hovering.

The event was a success; I didn't spill anything on anyone and the people seemed very nice. The kids were hyper, but partly because of my zealousness in refilling their sodas. But I did notice a few of the tweens watching us as we went about our work and I know what they were thinking. They were looking at their well-dressed parents sipping wine and looking at me, in my ill-fitting black polyester vest, pouring said wine and I'd bet they were thinking, That will never be me. Maybe not consciously, but let's face it, we were the life losers in the scenario. They were probably wondering what we had done, how we had screwed up to deserve the fate of refilling butter ramekins on a Saturday afternoon.

And I'm not gonna lie, this was a less-than-steller feeling. Waiting tables, I commanded more respect. I could talk and smile with people, do my best to make sure they had a good meal. Event Temps are supposed to be courteous but not engage much with the guests. Engaging with people is my favorite part of waitressing, so this was disappointing to discover.

I need a job, so for now, Event Temps will have to do. But "Dos," if you ever need me...I'm there. Call me!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Puerto Rico, you lovely island

This song was stuck in my head during my entire trip:

I have to disagree with Anita; I think I prefer San Juan to Manhattan in most respects. I hiked in the El Yunque rainforest, swam in a waterfall, went kayaking by moonlight, drank numerous cocktails garnished with umbrellas, ate mofongo at a street kiosk on the beach, listened to live music at La Placita, played exactly one hand of Blackjack in the hotel casino (and lost $5), and swam in jellyfish-infested waters, resulting in the red blisters described in my last post. I was not stung, but I have an allergy wherein if I swim in the vicinity of jellyfish, I break out in hives.

One of the trip's highlights was walking around historic Old San Juan, which is populated by tons of stray cats. Noah and I created a game called "Spot the Gato" to amuse ourselves while wandering the streets. Behold:

And my favorite, Maude's Puerto Rican doppelganger, Maudefongo (or TeleMaudo):

Sadly, we did not spot any chupacabras. Unless you count this:

So to sum it up, I would highly recommend PR as a vacation spot. The locals are incredibly nice, renting a car is comically cheap ($22.80 for an entire day), and there is a lot to see and do on the island and plenty of beautiful beaches to relax on, if that's more your style. And thanks to the economy being in the shitter, we got a great deal on Cheap Caribbean . Gracias, financial collapse!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sorry for the unannounced 2-week hiatus


I have not forsaken you, despite the evidence to the contrary. I've been traveling....and there's a big post coming soon about my trip to Puerto Rico, a.k.a The Enchanted Isle (or "Echanted Isle" as one poorly edited website called it).

For a little teaser, I will say that it was a great trip, with just the right balance of physical activity (hiking, kayaking, salsa dancing) and lounging around by the pool and on the beach. And of course, it wouldn't be a Vagnino vacation without a Mysterious Medical Ailment! In addition to my tan, I have come home with approximately 117 itchy red bumps, mostly on my forearms. Can you guess which of the following is to blame? (Answer to be revealed in the next post)

A. Mosquito
B. Jellyfish
C. Poison Ivy
D. Chupacabra
Tune in soon for photos and more details....

Monday, October 5, 2009

So You Think You Don't Like Poetry: Emily Dickinson edition

I'm not gonna lie: Emily D. can be a real downer. Check out these choice first lines of her poems:

I am alive I guess
I am ashamed - I hide

I can wade grief

I cannot live with you
I cautious scanned my little life
I do not care - why should I care

I held it so tight that I lost it

I like a look of agony

I lived on dread

You get the idea.
Cheer up, Em! Granted, it is a gross simplification to say all her poems are depressing. But a lot of them, tonally at least, are melancholy. According to most accounts, she was a lonely odd lady. Yet she was undeniably prolific: She wrote just under 1,800 poems, only ten of which were published in her lifetime. And her influence on contemporary women poets like Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Adrienne Rich (just to name a few) is immeasurable. She broke a lot of new ground in terms of syntax and imagery, and as a Romantic, she infiltrated what was previously an all-boys club (Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth et al.).

The poem I'm including here has to do with autumn, which is in full swing here in New England. Like many of Dickinson's poems, reading it aloud will enhance your appreciation and understanding of it.

The name - of it - is "Autumn"-
The hue - of it - is Blood -

An Artery - upon the Hill -

A Vein - along the Road -

Great Globules - in the Alleys -

And Oh, the Shower of Stain -

When Winds - upset the Basin -

And spill the Scarlet Rain -

It sprinkles Bonnets - far below -

It gathers ruddy Pools -

Then - eddies like a Rose - away -
Upon Vermillion Wheels -

Friday, October 2, 2009

Vote for the People's Design Award!

Before I embarked on what's sure to be a wildly lucrative career in creative writing, I worked a 9-5 desk job in the PR/marketing department at
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. I justified this with my artistic soul by reminding myself that I was working for a cool museum alongside other artistically-minded, highly cultured individuals, and that in order to write, I needed to stay alive and in order to do that, I needed to be able to afford food and rent. Full-time job = steady paycheck, which was basically essential for me to afford to live in The City That Never Sleeps.

During my two years at CHNDM, we added a category to our annual National Design Awards: The People's Design Award.

Basically, you can vote or nominate anything that you think is well-designed (whatever that may mean to you). It can be something pretty or something functional or both. Past winners have included the
Katrina Cottage and Tom's Shoes.

To vote, nominate, or just learn more about it,
click here. Also, admission to the museum is FREE during National Design Week (Oct. 18-24).

Below are some of this year's nominees, but feel free to add more! Anyone can nominate. One year, I anonymously nominated the thong. Seriously.

aluminum coke bottles


Envirofit Stove


Happy voting! The winning design will be announced on Oct. 22 at the National Design Awards gala in NYC.