Bryan Joiner

Why then I

Category: Random

Imaginary conversation on a plane

(I conjured up this conversation the day before I took a flight to Vegas for work, but didn’t finish it until I was actually on the plane, not having it, as far as I remember.)


After about an hour of reading my book, I squeeze my eyes shut and open them again, trying to clear them of the words I’ve just read so I can go for more. Failing, I slide in my bookmark and rest the book on my lap. The man sitting on my right takes a sideways look at the cover and leans toward me and obviously wants to talk but hesitates. Then:

Man: So, uh, good book?

Me: Yeah, it’s really good.

Man: Yeah I forgot to bring my book.

Me: I hate it when that happens.

Man: Because I’m on the plane with nothing to do!

Me: (first twang of uncertainty) Yeah.

Man: I mean except look at the stewardesses, right?

Me: (polite laughter) Yeah.

Man: Not on this flight though, man!

Me: Huh?

Man: They’re all dudes!

Me: What?

Man: All the flight attendants are dudes!

Me: Oh. Really?

Man: Yeah! That stinks, man!

Me: I suppose it… (flips quickly open to look longingly at page number) does.

Man: I can’t believe you can’t get beer with cash on these things no more! Gotta have a credit card. Say, what type of beer you like?

Me: Uh, most of them?

Man: Aw, man! Most of them! That’s right, man! Me too!

Me: So why are you going to Vegas?

Man: This plane is going to Vegas?

Me: (This is not a conversation I want to have) Um… yeah.

Man: I’m just kidding dude! I love Las Vegas! Check out my shirt!

(His shirt is a pair of dice smoking cigarettes, wearing sunglasses and standing around a craps table, one of them with its arm raised, preparing to throw its own set of smaller dice. In big cowboy-font letters underneath it says ROLLIN’.)

Me: So is craps your game?

Man: Hell yeah, man! I like blackjack too.

Me: Yeah, that’s pretty fun.

Man: You play?

Me: Not really. I don’t gamble much in casinos. I’m going for work.

(He seems almost hurt by this answer) Man: But you can’t, like, take some time for yourself? Put a dollar in a slot or something?

Me: (Trying to get change the subject) I like playing poker with friends at home.

Man: (Return of the enthusiasm) I love poker!

Me: It’s pretty fun.

Man: We should play!

Me: Right now?

Man: Hell yeah! (He reaches under his seat and produces a deck of playing cards as if he had conjured them from nothing, but that the logo on the box indicates they were obviously bought in the gift shop at Mohegan Sun in 2005.)

Me: I mean… sure.

Man: This is awesome! (His excitement level is rising precipitously, and disproportionately to the situation.) What should we play? What should we play for?

Me: I don’t know… quarters?

Man: Good idea!

(We simultaneously wiggle our hands into our pockets under our lapbelts, which remain buckled.)

Me: I don’t have any change.

Man: Me neither! (He loves the coincidence.)

Me: Oh well.

Man: How about peanuts!

Me: Do they give us any?

Man: Of course they did, essa! (Holds up deflated bag of peanuts, at which point I vaguely remember shooing away the drinks and snacks server who, come to think of it, was very much a woman.)

Me: I don’t have any.

Man: That’s because I got your bag! (Holds up empty bag.) Maybe we can get more!

(For the first time, I’m genuinely excited as I peer down the aisle, because I could go for some peanuts now. I don’t see any of the flight attendants anywhere in front or back, which seems like some sort of design flaw, or at least some breach of unspoken protocol in air travel. What if I’m having an emergency or something? I’m still looking when I feel something hit my inside shoulder. It’s his elbow.)

Man: Hey man, I got two peanuts left!

(I don’t understand exactly what this means, and it shows.)

Man: We can play one hand!

Me: Uh… five card draw?

Man: Nah man, that stuff’s boring! How about Texas Hold’em?

Me: Uh… okay. (He puts one peanut on my tray table, in the little drink holder cutout)

(As he shuffles, I decide not to mention that Texas Hold’em where both sides have one betting unit is a game with less skill than War, which I think would ruin his buzz. [I’m also not sure this doesn’t make it more, rather than less, like most games.] He flops two cards face-down in front of me, and I look at them: a pair of sevens. Pretty damn good, considering the circumstances. After he examines his cards, we decide to reveal them to each other before seeing the flop. He’s holding 10-2. We watch in awe as he deals the five up cards in a burst of three, one, and one—it goes 10, 2, 2, 6, 2. Four of a kind. He yelps.)

Man: Yippee! (Grabs my peanut and his in one motion and, puts both in his shirt pocket.)

Me: That’s pretty amazing.

Man: Four of a kind!

Me: Wow.

Man: You didn’t do too bad yourself, man! Full House! (He says it to imply skill on my part, in case I felt bad.)

Me: Thanks.

Man: (Reaches under the seat to again magically produce something; this time, it’s a book.)

Me: I thought you didn’t have anything to read.

Man: Nah man, I just wanted to talk!

Me: Oh. Thanks?

Man: No problem! Thanks for the peanut! (He slips on reading glasses from his breast pocket and starts reading like nothing happened. An hour later, he will more or less reproduce this conversation with the woman on his right, but he doesn’t say another word to me all trip.)


We’ve changed our name to SeaStreak Martha’s Vineyard

I just read a fascinating piece of literature at the website for the boat service I’m taking today to Martha’s Vineyard, which leaves from East 35th Street. The trip is neither cheap ($210 r/t) nor terribly convenient and promises to be, uh, “unsettling” at times, according to a friend who’s taken it. I haven’t bought Dramamine in 15 years, but the friend strongly suggested I end that streak.

Speaking of streaks, did you know that NE Fast Ferry had changed its name to SeaStreak Martha’s Vineyard? OMG, right? Fascinating. Fascinating enough, naturally, to warrant an entire web page “About our new name:”

Dear Guest,

Yes – we’ve changed our name.

Oh sh!t, did I not tell you? I changed mine too. It’s now Longman Harkoo.

We’ve decided to shift our company’s name from New England Fast Ferry to SeaStreak Martha’s Vineyard.

Why, you ask?

Eh… not really?

Two years ago we grew our organization by acquiring a ferry operation in New York called SeaStreak. We purchased it from the international vessel parent operation known as SeaContainers.

Yeah, when you were all, “Going to Martha’s Vineyard is such a rip-off!” you were right. We didn’t need all that money. But when your wife sees you brought something home from SeaContainers…

What we’ve learned since that time is that the name SeaStreak is not only well recognized in the U.S., particularly in the NY/CT/NJ area, but, it’s well known internationally as well.

The lawsuit with the Honolulu County Nudist Association, LLC, was settled out of court. (Surprisingly good lawyers over there.)

With the intention of engaging in smart marketing, we’ve decided to operate under a name that garners the most amount of recognition.

Somebody went to business school! (It was my friend Ravi!)

Like any business, we succeed when more people recognize us and choose to become our customers. The name SeaStreak will aid in that goal.

Being literally the only provider of a service doesn’t hurt, either, though I’m not sure I would take Dogpoop Ferry to enjoy those spectacular 42 hours at home. (Dogs are not allowed on the boat, by the way, “due to the length of the trip.” Not much mystery there.)

Moreover, we’ve long regretted not having the name of our travel destination within our name. New England Fast Ferry was pretty good at describing what we do, but, not so good at saying precisely where we travel to.

“And SeaStreak Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority Slip was already trademarked.”

By taking on the name SeaStreak, we now have the opportunity to add “Martha’s Vineyard” to our brand.

Look what it did for Teddy K.

Changing names is always a tricky undertaking for companies. Confusion inevitably follows.

“I swear, my office was here just yesterday.”

However, rest assured that it’s just the name that’s changed. Ownership hasn’t changed one bit, and our focus on great customer service and high quality marine transportation hasn’t changed.

Rest assured the guys who are making money hand over fist on you haven’t changed. You’ll probably need Dramamine.

Thanks for your business. We appreciate it very much.

Sadly, not as much as me, pal.

“Your girl”

I recently wrote my second email in a week with the subject line of “Your girl.” The construction of these emails is pretty straightforward: I send a link with no text attached, with information contained therein that refers to someone whom the recipient has noted some attraction or non-email-style attachment. The idea is that they don’t necessarily know who I’m talking about until they open the link, and then they think, “Yes, that is my girl!” Or more: “Yes, that is my girl. More than it is anyone else’s. Except in like real life.”

The first one I sent was to an graduate student in creative writing and was a video of Flannery O’Connor at age five featuring a “backward” walking chicken. I was being ironic. My friend loves to hate Flannery because he loves her writing and hates the not-always-undertones of racism radiating therefrom (and in her public statements) that ruin the whole thing for him.

The second one I sent was to a friend who recently met an, I guess, media personality with whom he’s had some digital contact and whom Frank Rich mentioned in his most recent column.

If I had any interesting Keira Knightley news, one of my brothers would get it with that subject heading. If I had intel on Amy Adams, it would go to the other one. (I’m with the second one.)

If Alicia Keys sent me an email by accident, I’d forward it to a college friend who would deny that he loves her half of the time and be really proud of it the other half. You’d never know what you’re going to get.

Likewise, if I got Kristen Stewart’s phone number, I’d probably tuck it into a message to my friend on the west coast, though I’m not sure if she’d really want to hear him drone on about how handsome Eli Manning is.

If I saw Drew Barrymore falling down drunk on the Lower East Side, I’d write up the story with the subject line and send it to another friend who’s had a reliable thing for her for a decade. I would also prepare to argue the appropriateness of the heading, because it could always be coming.

If I “accidentally” watched one of the masterpieces of the multitalented Maria Ozawa and wanted to compare notes, I’d connect with my old roommate, an expert film critic. If you’re tempted to Google that name, I strongly, strongly suggest you don’t do it at work.

If something something Kirsten Dunst, I’d send something to Moacir just to see if he responded angrily just so I could ask him why he was so angry.

If Kyle Farnsworth spontaneously learned how not to give up home runs and was the feature of an photo gallery, I have a guy friend who I’m pretty sure would toss down some clickthroughs.

If Mariska Hargitay was on my block for a Law & Order shoot—not inconceivable, by the way, they were filming Bored to Death across the street last week—I’d tell a friend a day after it happened just to have him swear at me. Not that I’d need to see Mariska for that to happen.

If I saw Scarlett J. near the Apple Store in SoHo—and I’m pretty sure I did a couple years ago—I’d tell both a far-flung Frownie-faced friend and my trusty local Diceman. For the record, I don’t get it.

If I saw some Romanian or Korean or Togolese movie that starred an actress of obvious talent and sublime and/or understated beauty, I’d mention to a friend that I’d seen his girl while being about 40 percent sure he’d have no idea of whom I was speaking (and in the other 60 percent lies the joke).

If it was Audrey Tautou, though, it would go to the schoolteacher who I’ve known for damn near 20 years, and who we bafflingly realized were each other’s oldest continuously-held close (/proximity) friend over beers on a Sunday afternoon. And then we’d argue for hours over the ideal size and role of government.

If Chris Onstad drew an Achewood comic where Téodor passed out drunk while searching for naked pictures of Meg White, I’d send it to an ex-coworker. Oh wait: he did and I did.

After all this, who’s “my” girl, you might ask?

I suppose that would be up to you.

An Incredible Fatigue

I’ve suffered from an incredible fatigue recently, one that leads me to start sentences like this with “I’ve suffered from an incredible fatigue” instead of saying “I’ve been really tired.” But I have. Work has taken on a sine-curve like tolerability, and non-work has become cumbersome. I’m typing this from a coffee shop around the corner from my house; I’m desperate for some, any sort of escape. My boss and I had a somewhat contentious but well-spirited discussion today about the process of getting my magazine to print, and it was one of those things where we both found a way to do things better. But the one “hidden cost” of our way of doing business of which she was unaware, or simply not paying attention to, was that in our chasing-the-tail ways (in which stories are assigned by the publishers at the perpetually extended deadline), the Editor in Chief (that’s me) has to plan for the previous deadline and watch it get dragged out like a piece of yarn. I.e., I have to actually be at work, where I’ve been without a vacation or a trip of my choosing for an obscenely long time. I can feel it in my bones, and the methods I use to stop the walls from closing in (exercise, writing, buying shit, drinking) have proven dwindingly effective. Even this coffee shop looks a little smaller than it did last week.

Of course, I do see the light at the end of the tunnel, and involves doing things to get me slightly out of my comfort zone, like getting my ass to the gym for a class instead of just pretending that running three times per week is going to solve everything. It’s odd, though. The weekend has completely inverted itself for me. All I want to do on the weekend now is relax, whereas before I wanted to do stuff. I mean I still want to do stuff, but the most important thing I pay attention to is recovering from the week. I’m not sure I’ve stumbled on a novel concept, but seven years of doing my own version of chasing-the-tail, filling in my own map of NYC and life with shit I’ve wanted to do, constantly pushing back the deadline for calming down, it’s been harder than I’d imagined to do once I got there. It involves a whole set of new routines that I’m constructing out of the ash of the last decade. Yeah, like this. And that stupid link tells me that the Chicago people actually knew what they were talking about, which steams me more than you can imagine. I want to go punch something. I wish there was a boxing class.

Mo’ Problems, Fewer Problems

About two hours ago I set off toward Target to buy a digital camera. It was really nice out and I was pissed that I wore long sleeves but didn’t want to go back in to change because I live on the fifth floor and it would have taken a couple minutes. That and I don’t really like the tee shirt I’m wearing and didn’t want to call attention to it. So I was moving quickly and got within a free kick of Target when I saw people going into the Williamsburg Savings Bank building for the Brooklyn Flea. I’ve heard about the Flea but never been and I was pulled to this intersection because I was caffeinated and on a mission to go somewhere else. Do I abandon the mission and dive headlong into a room where I’ve been told there are antique maps, which is a particular sort of kryptonite to me, or do I shuffle up the escalator? I did a shimmy-shammy in both directions before I muttered “dammit” to myself and headed into the bank. It didn’t take long to find the maps, at the end of the first floor. They were a little more expensive than I expected but only because they were authentic and on first pass I didn’t think I needed to have anything until I saw a 1864 map of Illinois that just killed me. I put it down and went straight outside to walk around the block. I’m an impulse buyer of art/”art” etc. and I’m fine with that but not without taking a walk around the block first. I started back toward Fort Greene and a crazy dude was talking to himself or me, I’m not sure, about four feet from my butt until I hung a left and got my wits about me. Could I let this one go? I had about 100 feet to decide and pretty much decided I couldn’t. When I went back in I decided to take a long, long look at all the maps there to make sure that the Illinois one was really the one, and after about 10 minutes I took one look at it and knew it was so. I brought it to the dude and just said, “You win.” Now all that’s ringing in my ears are his talk of preservation and UV glass and acid-free tape and sunlight exposure and temperature control and custom framing and all sorts of shit I didn’t consider and was trying to deflect like a slapshot until I could get away from the blast zone of the not-insubstantial (but not, like, corrosively large) credit card receipt laying on his table. Of course, when I got home the buyer’s remorse finally crashed and I took to Google to look up custom framing and how much it costs and oh jeez. Then I ate some pasta (cheap) to settle down and I’m not quite there, as you can see, but it’s not the money that’s a big deal — it’s adding something to my to-do list instead of subtracting one, and accepting that these things are going to happen. This is where it would be nice if I had some sort of life partner to reassure me after things like this, but more likely they’d talk me out of the impulse purchase in the first place, so I might as well take this for what it’s worth. Golden times to buy shit I don’t need just because I like it. More problems, yeah, but not really.

Happy Town

I know that a lot of you hit the walls of text that appear on this blog face-first; that’s my fault. I suppose if my stuff was consistently interesting — like if you knew every one of these train rides was going to end up in Happy Town — it wouldn’t be a problem. In Happy Town, the sun always shines and the coffee tastes just right without adding anything. Sometimes we do end up in Happy Town, but just as often as we do we have to ride through Sad Valley to get there, where it’s always raining and the landscape is ash-colored, and constricting. You can feel it around your neck.

The problem is that there’s no map you can study to see if the train does, in fact, end up in Happy Town. The conductor doesn’t have one and it isn’t plastered on the walls. How much better would if there was! You could be like, “Is this blog post going to be good?” and you could just check the map and it would be like: Yep, you’re going to LOVE it. And you could sit back down and enjoy the ride, confident that the seconds you spent winding your eyes over the words weren’t in vain, and wouldn’t be better off staring at the TV, or inside your refrigerator.

The thing is, readers have options, and it’s my job to keep you reaching for the string and keep pulling it away… and you’re tempted to go away now, aren’t you? I’ll admit to you: this blog post has no point. It’s about writing blog posts. I’m not sure that it’s a great subject, but it’s one I’ve been feeling as I’ve tried to up the word count around these parts. I just want my shit to be inviting. I want it to be like that person in the warm bathtub, leaning their hand over and giving the “cmere” finger, and you know that water’s all warm and stuff and it’s really about that moment of YES I AM GOING TO DO THIS. When I write a post, I want you to drop everything you’re doing, literally so, and click on the headline and be f*cking entranced, at or least interested. I want you to know this: We are going to Happy Town.

Of course I don’t really have a subject at the moment. It is not the age of the generalist, but curiously, once people accept specialists — think the Sports Guy, or Roger Ebert — they become accepted as generalists, for good or ill. In Ebert’s case, great! In Sports Guy’s case, meh. My only specialty, I think, is my penchant for having one-liners at the end of my posts, which is something I’m trying to cure. Not that they’re bad, but a sammich ain’t just about the bread. I think I stole it from Rick Reilly because he won awards. It would be better to keep things flowing in the middle — and this is my 500th word — and not use that particular crutch. It makes me cringe.

At the same time, I want there to be a promise of something “more” with every word… I want the words to snap together in your head like magnetized little pieces. I want to build a castle, and I want you to live in that castle and have a gala there, and maybe it’ll actually be the set of an action movie… the gala itself will just be a cover for an arch-villain’s master theft and your team, nattily dressed as partgoers, will be there to stop it. You’ll use really cool, virtually invisible gadgets to communicate and there will be a flowering sexual tension with everyone on your team finally bringing their “goods,” so speak. Only later will you find out that the whole thing was a setup, and there was another team there, watching your every move, thinking you were the bad guys… I want to constantly trigger mechanisms that start Mission: Impossible in your head.

But not the sequels because they stink.

The era of things going away

An actually good column by Thomas Friedman today.

They took our jobs!

Something unexpected, wonderful and terrifying happened last week: My job actually became interesting and not, like temporarily. I basically figured out the new media angle for my magazine. All of a sudden, there’s a lot of work to do and it’s even kind of… exhilirating.


Not much else today. I haven’t had a haircut in quite some time. It’s getting funny.

Party in the USDA

For reasons I can’t properly explain, the Miley Cyrus song “Party in the USA” is stuck in my head, only that’s not what I’m hearing. I’m hearing “Party in the USDA,” and I’m imagining smocked, hair-capped, and plastic-gloved meat inspectors jamming to the song. I often rewrite songs in my head, but usually I just insert the word “chickens,” in honor of the nickname of my childhood dog, into the lyrics. I think this is a sign of perhaps not having grown up as much as I like to think I have done, which is fine. Or maybe in this specific instance it’s just a defense mechanism so that I won’t have to admit I *actually* have a Miley Cyrus song in my head, one that I’m fairly sure I’ve never heard from beginning to end.

I also thought about going with USTA, but thinking of the US Open crowd listening to the song seemed a little too on-the-mark.

Early Monday Morning Thoughts

Don’t have much to say right now. Drank green tea at 10:30 so God knows when I’ll get to sleep.

• If you didn’t see Barack Obama’s Q&A on Friday, watch it or just read about it. It won’t change how awesome it is.

Kobe. There’s not much more to say anymore. Look, I hate the guy. Have hated the guy. But he’s done too much at this point, and I’ve read too much (specifically here and here) to ignore it. Let’s just move on.

• Football. As I said, I’m on a flag football team. We won yesterday. That was not expected. Been thinking philosophically about football and other sports tonight, as I am wont to do. Specifically thinking about how the contents of the ball (or puck) represent the games themselves, the jumping-off point being the inflated football and the tightly-wound baseball, but the real gem being my association of all the materials of hockey with the output of places in which it is traditionally popular and which, like the game itself, have fallen on tough times. I’ll spare you any further details. Actually got to thinking about this when my friend Sam came over with his six-month-old son, Henry, who was squirmy until we handed him the football, where he got really happy and started to eat the end of it. Sam joked that maybe he’d grow up to be 6’4″ and a star quarterback until he realized Henry probably liked the end of the ball because it looked like a nipple.