Maintenance delays…

Aloha,

(No playlist this week, I forgot to put one together and don’t want to do it now. You’ll live.)

fourth

From the beginning of summer, the plan was to update this thing once a week, but without fail, I already skipped a week. If you followed along over the last two summers, this shouldn’t surprise you — my updates tend to dwindle at times.

In my defense, I did get shingles last week. If you’ve had shingles — which is unlikely, because they usually only affect old people — or know someone who’s had them, you’re probably very familiar with how shitty and debilitating they can be. I went out with a few friends last Saturday, and on my way home, a small patch of skin on my ribs started itching. I took a look at it and gave myself a diagnosis: Mosquito bites (regardless of the fact that mosquitoes hardly even exist in NYC because the whole place is made of fucking concrete, but hey, we had been drinking).

Things looked a lot worse the next morning, especially because the initial itchy patch from the night before was now joined by six smaller patches that seemed to form a straight, dotted-line crossing my ribcage over to the center of my back. “This is some weird shit,” I thought, and immediately did what any concerned, itchy millennial would do when faced with this particular situation: I got on WebMD.

Sunday in the park

I hate WebMD because, nine times out of ten, it leaves me thinking I have some sort of cancer or HIV (everything is a symptom of HIV/AIDS according to WebMD). After a few minutes, I had ruled out the majority of potential skin disorders the fear-mongering online medical community suggested and had narrowed it down to two things: Shingles or bed bugs. I was almost positive it wasn’t bed bugs because I had just bought brand new bed sheets two weeks ago, and had washed them a few days before. Plus, why would the rash only be showing up on one side of my body in a straight — though sporadic — line? Apparently, linear rashes are characteristic of shingles infections, so I had a pretty good feeling I was fucked. Sure enough, the walk-in doctor at the pharmacy concurred. She prescribed me Valtrex, which is the same shit they give to people who have genital herpes. Granted, shingles is a type of herpes — just like cold sores or chicken pox — it still made for an awkward encounter at the pharmacist. I was wearing one of my fraternity formal t-shirts when I went to pick up my prescription. The pharmacy tech looked like he was about my age, and as he rang me up, he glanced at the letters on the breast pocket of my t-shirt.

“Oh, are you a Sigma Nu?” he asked.

“Yeah, I am, are you?” — because 99.5 percent of the time, if someone asks you if you’re in that fraternity, they’re in it, too.

“Oh, no, I’m not — they don’t have a chapter at my school,” he said. “I’m a (some smaller-school fraternity, I forgot). I’ve just heard that Sigma Nu is a really big party house,” and then he began muttering something about how different houses have different reputations at different schools or something. I couldn’t quite make it out, but he kind of started to draw it all back like he didn’t want to say something that’d offend me (though it’s not like I haven’t heard it all before).

“Well it depends on the school, but my house is pretty fun. Where do you go to school?” I asked.

He said he went to a smaller school in upstate New York. I signed the receipt for my prescription.

“Um,” he said quietly, “do you have any questions about the Valtrex?”

“No, I’m good.”

“Alright, well I’m sorry ’bout all that, man. Have a good one,” he said.

Wait…what are you sorry about?

It then occurred to me that his quiet mutterings about reputations and how Sigma Nu’s a really big party house — and how he started to hesitate and draw back everything he was saying — likely had to do with the fact that I was picking up herpes antibiotics at 6 p.m. on a fucking Monday. Basically, this guy probably thought I just got diagnosed with the clap and thus, since he apparently knows some hard-partying East Coast Sigma Nus, me contracting herpes would somehow make sense.

But I don’t have herpes, so none of it makes sense, and I felt awkward as fuck. What do you do in that situation? Do you clarify that you don’t have herpes? I didn’t, and maybe I should. Instead I just left, feeling all weird and bothered. It’s not like the guy meant harm, it’s just that it was a really weird conversation for a pharmacy tech to have with some poor kid who just got told he has the same weird shit that only his grandmas have had.

I feel sorry for any Sigma Nus he knows up here, though, because he now probably associates them with having herpes. My bad, bros.

57th

***

I’ve since finished the antibiotics and my shingles have cleared up, for the most part. However, my laptop decided to shit out on me a few nights ago, further adding to the reasons why I didn’t write anything here last week. My first paycheck was only for one week of work, so I didn’t have too much money to begin with, not to mention the fact that I had to pay for a bunch of bandages, antibiotics, Advil, etc. all week. My mom agreed to reimburse me for all those costs, but she couldn’t get to the bank until Monday, so my cash flow started to really dwindle on Sunday. I had enough to eat, but that was it.

sunset broadway

After eating dinner, I fired up my laptop for the first time all day and it wouldn’t start. I used my phone to search for ways to troubleshoot the problem, but after an hour of trying anything and everything, I still couldn’t get it to start. The Apple store in Soho is about a 15 minute walk from my building, so I packed it up and headed down there. They couldn’t fit me in to their “Genius bar” to get it looked at that evening, but they told me that the Apple store on 57th street and Fifth Avenue is open 24 hours a day and that they would be able to check it out. Normally, travel wouldn’t be an issue because I can almost always afford a subway pass, but since I had $0.78 in the bank until Monday, I couldn’t even afford to ride public transportation. I knew that I’d be too tired to deal with all this if I waited to do it during the week, so if I was going to get this thing fixed, it would pretty much have to be on Sunday. That Apple store on 57th and Fifth Avenue is on the Upper West Side — a good 47 blocks away from my building. I’d already committed to getting this done before the week started, so I went home, changed to some more comfortable shoes, and walked in the muggy NYC heat for an hour before an Apple “genius” calmly told me my laptop was F.U.B.A.R., and that I’d need to take all my files and back them up before they completely wiped everything from the laptop. Thank god I brought an external hard drive with me to back up all my music and photos or else I’d have been really, really fucked. It only took them two days to fix it, so I guess all is good now.

Sunset outside Grand Central

Work has been good, as usual. On Friday, we’ll release a double issue that will count for this week and the next, which works out because we won’t have to put out an issue the day after Fourth of July, which would be particularly brutal because that’d mean we’d only have three workdays to put it together. My boss told me that we get both Thursday (the Fourth) and Friday off next week, so festive times will be had by all. This city’s a blast on the Fourth.

On Thursday, TJ and I will be at the NBA Draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Ben McLemore is expected to go second overall, but there’s a chance he could be the first pick. I guess we’ll all see on Thursday, only TJ and I will see it live, which will be awesome. I’ll be writing a piece about the whole experience that’ll run in the Kansan — both online and in the print edition in Lawrence — next week, so keep your eyes out for that.

That’s about it, though. June’s been a good month thus far despite the occasional bumps in the road, and I’m sure July will be the same. I’ll talk to you then.

All the best
AJ

Laugh hard, it’s a long way to the bank…

Sounds I’m listening to this week:

Howdy,

sunday sunset

I’ve been in the city for nine days, now, and I’m pretty sure it’s rained for eight of them — at least for a few hours. It’s not just up here, either; apparently we did a good job of kicking this whole climate change thing into gear and Mother Nature’s been shitting on us accordingly. Rain’s not so bad, though, but what’s concerning is the idea that all this shifty weather could bring about a brutal heat wave as the summer wears on. It got really hot here last summer, but things were a little more bearable because I lived in a building with air-conditioning. I don’t now, so I’d rather not die of heat exhaustion.

We caught the dying breaths of Tropical Storm Andrea at the end of last week, which brought about a day and a half of sustained rainfall and a 50 mph wind gust every now and then. It turned out to be a lot less debilitating than I expected, but then again, I’m a Midwesterner and I’ve never been anywhere near a hurricane or tropical storm or whatever. You know how all the out-of-state people start shitting themselves at the prospect of tornadoes back home? Well, I’m like that, except with Hurricanes because, frankly, I haven’t the slightest clue what’s severe and what isn’t.  The closest I’d ever come to that kind of weather before last week was whenever I’d watch the telethons and benefit concerts that followed Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy — destruction footage and all. So, as you can imagine, I was a little on-edge. As the storm came closer, the weather forecasts began to look a bit more tame and, to my knowledge, there wasn’t any notable damage within in the five boroughs. I’m sure that came as a relief to people who had to live out that hurricane nightmare last year. I still can’t imagine.

The storm did destroy my nice umbrella, thus forcing me — involuntarily — to begin the tedious process of finding a new umbrella in New York City. For those of you who’ve never been in NYC without an umbrella when a rainstorm hits, the majority of stores and vendors here are notorious for selling shoddy, lanky umbrellas at staggeringly high prices. Sure, you can bypass this by going into a department store and paying $60 for a big, multi-layered, high-end parasol; but, when a tropical storm is unleashing a torrential volley of raindrops upon you while you stand helplessly on the sidewalk, you’ve got to bite the bullet. So, just like my first summer, I had to blow $20 on an umbrella that will likely break the next time I open it, thus beginning what will likely become a never-ending cycle of me getting methodically boned by the NYC umbrella racket for the rest of the summer (and no, I can’t bring myself to spend $60 on an umbrella). So hopefully it stops raining.

It didn’t rain Saturday, though, which was perfect because that was the day of the Belmont Stakes. Since I got in the day before I started work last week, I hadn’t yet had the chance to meet up and go out with any of my friends who are in the city this summer as well. T.J., one of my closest fraternity brothers who is working 45 minutes away in Stamford, Conn., took a train down in the morning. Usually you’re allowed to bring a cooler full of whatever into the ‘backyard’ area of Belmont Park, so long as you don’t take it with you into the main grandstand. However, this year they decided to step up their security measures and banned coolers and outside booze. Luckily, since we’re college students, we’ve accrued a good amount of experience and wisdom when it comes to sneaking beers into public places. Once Kate, one of our friends from KU who’s working in Midtown, and her roommate came over, we transferred a few beers into some empty bottles of ginger ale and made our way to Belmont Park in Queens.

belmont 1

We got there a bit late — an hour before the main race — but we were able to find my friend Greg’s parents, who live on Long Island. Greg, T.J. and I are all in the same fraternity at KU, and over the last two summers, Greg would have me out to his hometown on Long Island to hit the beach and relax for a few days. His parents are extraordinarily welcoming and are a blast to to hang out with, so even though Greg is working on an internship in Kansas City this summer, we made a point to meet up with them. After drinking for a bit, Greg’s dad and I took to the betting window to start putting some money on horses. I had a goal that day: Kanye West was playing the next day at Governor’s Ball Music Festival and tickets were listed around $150, so I was hoping to make as much as possible so I could afford a ticket and see Kanye play. However, unlike last year when I miraculously won a ton of money after following my dad’s horse racing expertise, I had shit-awful luck and only won a total of maybe $12 from about $30-$40 worth of bets. I probably would have lost more had I not decided to cut my losses and start making smaller bets on the last few races. Regardless of my shit luck, it was a solid time and I was very happy to hear that the others had a blast as well.

final stretch

I got into Aziz Ansari‘s secret show last week, too. He just finished up his last tour and wanted to try out some new jokes he’d been working on, so he tweeted out that he’d be playing a few blocks from my building and the first 150 to the door would get in. I made it in time and got to see the show. The man’s hilarious; if you ever get a chance to see him live, take it.

Aziz

I’m not sure what I’ll be doing this weekend, but I’m sure there’ll be something solid going on. Work’s going very well, too, so I couldn’t be happier.

We’ll talk again next week.

All the best
AJ

Escape from… to New York

This week:

Around 7 p.m. last night, I stood by the baggage claim in the dank, musty basement of (world-renowned shithole) LaGuardia International Airport. I had checked two bags that morning in Kansas City; the first was one of the first to appear on the track but, as these things tend to go, I was among the last few people standing around waiting for the last few bags to pop out. So, I waited.

I’d already been waiting for a long time by that point; I’d procrastinated my packing until Saturday night and only managed to squeeze in 45 minutes of sleep before waking up and heading out to KCI before the sun came up. I couldn’t sleep on the plane to Milwaukee — which the pilot blazed through in just an hour — and I would have to wait another two hours before boarding a connecting flight to New York. Milwaukee’s airport had Wi-Fi, but charged $10 an hour for it like fascists, so I sat around for about an hour when a small crowd began to form around the departures board outside my gate. Sure enough, as these things tend to go, the flight got delayed to 4 p.m. The combination of sleep-deprivation and anger left me with a pretty solid headache to deal with, so I popped an Advil and tried to sleep in one of those stiff, black leather chairs you see all over every airport in every city.

Now that I think about it, I’d been waiting for a long time by that point, too. I basically whiffed my junior year of college; I spent a lot of time studying and a lot of time trying to focus on school, but my shoes were just on the wrong feet. I’d do the work, but I wasn’t retaining anything and I didn’t feel like I was really moving forward. I spent the end of each semester digging myself out of holes that I hadn’t realized I’d dug in the first place, and believe me, that completely drains you, both mentally and physically. I wasn’t having any problems with anything else, but when you’re a full-time college student, school becomes a pretty large part of your life, and I was in desperate need of a break from that.

ESB

My second bag — one of those folding bags designed to keep your dress shirts from wrinkling (yet they do a horrible job of it) — rolled out onto the baggage track and, as I grabbed it and climbed into the back of a taxi, I finally got that break; my third consecutive summer in the city had finally begun. I told the cab driver to take the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway — which gives you a fantastic view of the entire skyline — into the city, and that’s when the relief started to set in. Some of the stories you’ll hear aren’t incorrect; this city is very loud, dirty and quick, but there’s something very romantic about it, especially when you’ve grown up somewhere like the Midwest.

It’s not like the Midwest is a bad place; it’s just hard to feel like you’re moving in any direction after you’ve become an adult. It’s a fantastic place to raise a family and it’s a fantastic place to grow up, but, unless you have a family or unless you’re still growing up, it can be a bummer. I’ll always love Kansas City and I’ll always be proud of where I’ve come from, but I’ve been badly itching for years to get the hell out of there. These summers, though fast-paced and taxing, are therapeutic to me. A lot of people consider country roads or beaches with bright, white sand to be serene, but for me, serenity is the sometimes skunky smell of street cart food and the chorus of passing trains and taxi horns. If that makes me nuts, then fuck it: I’m nuts.

***

I started work again today at the Huffington Post. The first few hours of the first day are always a bit of a pain in the ass; you have to go through orientation and fill out the same paperwork you filled out last year (and the year before) and learn how to use the company’s website like you did last year (and the year before). Orientation’s only an hour though, and AOL/HuffPo isn’t really one of those companies like you’ve seen in Office Space — they have ping-pong tables and free vending machines on each floor — so our orientations are probably riveting compared to everyone else’s. I got to know several people who are interning for different sections of the website as well, and were all pretty cool. Again, just like last year (and the year before), I’m virtually the only person out of the group who isn’t from the East Coast, so almost all the questions I got asked had to do with either KU Basketball or tornadoes — which, really, are the only two things worth knowing about Kansas.

As far as actual work is concerned, I’m essentially doing the same thing I did last year with Huffington Magazine, with a few tweaks here and there. Last year, the magazine used to run stories before they hit the website, but that’s changed and since they’ll run first on the website, I won’t have to do as much copy editing. I’ll still be writing a lot of cutlines and captions throughout each issue, and possibly a small piece or two if they’d like me to do it. I’m going to be doing a lot with the magazine’s social media accounts, this time; Last year, the main site’s social media editor handled all the social media for the magazine, but she left during the year for another company, so I’ll be behind most of the things you’ll see on Huffington’s Twitter and Facebook posts. It’s a bit trickier than it sounds — our main publishing program also has a feature where you can schedule a bunch of tweets to run at strategic times, so at the beginning of each morning, I’ll have to come up with six or seven new ones and queue them up in the system to publish throughout the rest of the day.

Things were a little strange because a lot of the people who were around last year either left or are working on different parts of the site. I’d worked with the majority of the current magazine team for at least a little bit last year, though, so I’ll probably be able to hit the ground running a bit faster than last year. I’ll still need a few days to fully get back in rhythm from last summer, but even though I’m aware of how much work it is, I’m excited for it.

WTC

As far as places of living are concerned, I’m staying in NYU’s summer housing system again. I’m still up in the air as to whether my current situation is better than the years before, but as of now, it feels like a big step up. Like my first year, this building doesn’t have air-conditioning, but I don’t have a roommate (I do share a bathroom with the guy on the other side of the “suite,” but he hasn’t moved in yet) so any and all fans will be directed towards me at all times. Even though it’s just me in here, they left two beds so I’m going to buy some bigger sheets and put them together so I don’t have to sleep on a twin-sized bed. Also, since a lot of friends from home are living in NYC area this summer, I can just pull the beds apart and put a different set of sheets on the other bed so they’ll have somewhere to sleep if they crash here. The location isn’t quite as marvelous as last year — when Washington Square Park was essentially my front yard — but it’s on Fifth Avenue, which is both close to work and badass to say out loud. The pictures you saw above were taken from my window (though you have to crane your neck out to see both buildings). I’m pretty happy about it; if you’re in the area on vacation or whatever from now until the August, stop by.

That’s it for now. I’ll finally get to meet up and go out with all my friends who are up here this weekend. Plus, we’ll be drinking and gambling at the Belmont Stakes, which, if last year was any indication, will be a blast.

All the best
AJ