Meb Byrne

Archive for 2011|Yearly archive page

23

In personal, storytelling on August 29, 2011 at 3:39 pm

i’m losing weight.

the fabric of my stomach is loose,

ribs and hip bones straining against my skin

as the flesh falls away.

.

i drink too much coffee now,

cheap and black and bitter.

i like the way it makes me feel,

all jittery and parisian,

like a model.

.

my hair is past my shoulder blades,

knotted and braided,

unmanageable.

it falls in my face.

i don’t think i’ll cut it.

.

strange,

to come from new york city,

all tight clothes and tight smiles,

stilettos and concrete,

where i was happiest;

.

to come west,

where i feel so lost

(but the good kind of lost)

.

where all i want is open space,

old books and big sweaters and vegan food,

yoga and mountains and my record player

and the feeling of your skin on mine in the morning.

Any Man In America

In album, music on August 19, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Justin Furstenfeld never claimed to write generic rock songs. The founding member, lead singer and guitarist of Blue October has penned six albums of autobiographical material, focusing on his stay in a mental institution in the mid-90s and subsequent recovery. His early albums (The Answers, Consent To Treatment, History For Sale, Foiled) are poignant, painful and intensely personal, resulting in some of the most sumptuous rock music recorded today. Justin’s new role as a proud father created a fresh, ebullient direction for the band’s last production, Approaching Normal, and opened doors for new musical possibilities.

Unfortunately, much has changed since we last heard from Blue October. The group’s newest album, Any Man In America, released on August 16th, centers on Justin’s bitter divorce and custody battle over his beloved daughter, Blue. There isn’t bone-breaking anger on this album; the pain is deeper, more confused and unresolved. Only two of the tracks edge toward the explosive rage that punctures previous albums. Justin’s vocal performance remains as intimate as ever, and you get the sense that he’s still working through the issues he sings about.

The musical composition of the album is gorgeous, and harnesses the tools that have made Blue October great since the beginning: inventive drums and a heavy reliance on strings, blended with Justin’s soulful, echoing vocals. The finished product is layered, complex and infinitely listenable. “The Feel Again (Stay)” and “The Chills,” both singles, sport a classic Blue October sound, and it’s brilliant. If anything, the band is too comfortable in its own sound, and, for the first time, willing to bend for commercial viability. Tropes that defined Blue October’s early success, like the use of voice mail recordings to open “Hate Me,” the band’s most famous single, feel tired when they’re used on half the album’s tracks. As well, the melodies take the easy way out on too many of the tracks, wending through deliciously experimental verses to hit choruses of obvious chord progressions.

The shift of subject material from psych wards to divorce courtrooms plays havoc with Justin’s lyrics. Arguably Blue October’s greatest strength till now, his lyrics have always bordered on the poetic, tackling weighty subjects with a descriptive, poignant script. Any Man In America is comprised of scenario-specific libretto, vacillating between strings of stream of consciousness, shrink-wrapped to fit Justin’s personal experiences, and overblown generalities, scrambling to encompass all human emotions. As a listener, I can’t empathize or identify with much of anything on this album. Several songs, including the title track and “The Flight (Lincoln to Minneapolis),” even experiment with rap solos and a weird, disjointed vulgarity that doesn’t let Justin’s poetry shine through.

In the end, Any Man In America has a sound that soars, but doesn’t make sense as a coherent whole. It’s a muddle of simultaneously potent and pedestrian emotions that never go far enough and end up vanilla. Justin may undergo a whole spectrum of passions, but he doesn’t own them; instead, he equivocates, and he leaves his audience out in the cold. The album doesn’t climax. It just feels unresolved.

Glitter Sleuth Goes West

In american, inspiration, storytelling on August 9, 2011 at 9:27 pm

We can live anywhere.

Thirty-eight days ago, I quit the East Coast. I shoved a suitcase full of shoes and a lunchbox full of muffins into the back seat of my boyfriend’s car one grey July morning, hugged my parents goodbye, and pointed the car toward California.  Tom and I were San Francisco-bound: him for work, me for… well, I wasn’t quite sure. I had never seen San Francisco. We had been dating for two months.

Our week-long, cross-continental trek passed in snapshots, like a montage sequence in a chick flick. Here we are in Chicago, catching fireflies in Millennium Park. Here we are in Kearney, Nebraska, setting off Fourth of July fireworks in an abandoned trailer park lot. Here we are in Albuquerque, arguing and crying into our dinner plates in a tacky late-night bar. Here we are in the Grand Canyon, outrunning a torrential downpour to save my beloved Canon. Here we are in Vegas, broke and sober, people watching at the Bellagio Fountains. There’s the food poisoning Tom contracted. There’s the rattlesnake that nearly bit my ankle. There’s the $42 breakfast bill. There’s the wrecked car bumper. I scribbled notes in my Moleskine the whole way, trying to soak it all up, take it all in, not miss a thing.

In San Francisco, I took a job with a political campaign for the next mayoral election. I spent several weeks as a signature gatherer, canvassing bus stops and brunch lines, approaching every person I passed and asking for their support. I met dozens of crazy characters in the City by the Bay: the pro bono balloon animal artist at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market; the tough-looking Latino youth with a staggering amount of political savvy; the cross-country biker from an “intentional community” in Portland; the leather-skinned philosopher writing at a tiny Italian coffee shop. I talked to fashionistas, homeless men, sunbathing hipsters, couples with their dogs, nannies with their charges. Invariably, the best conversations were the ones where I walked away with an earful but no signature. The stories these strangers told filled, and fulfilled, me to a completeness I’ve never known.

The tales Tom and I accumulated on our westward migration, and the people I still meet every day in the Bay Area, normally would not merit a Glitter Sleuth review. I have purposely kept my personal life out of my writings on this website, striving for objectivity and an authoritative air in my posts. If I’ve learned anything in these thirty eight days, though, it’s that heart-pounding, breathless, messy emotions make the best stories, and that everyone has a story to tell, if you let them.

And so, with a more narrative style in mind, and a broader focus than ever before, Glitter Sleuth is going west, too. In the spirit of Studs Terkel, Ira Glass, and Harry Chapin, I want to find not simply the places, but also the people that make this world weird, wild and wonderful. The mission statement is intentionally vague, to see where this California odyssey takes me, but the vision of the blog remains the same: to challenge you, the reader, to step outside your comfort zone, whether through new hobbies, new destinations, or new friends. Try that new vegetable. Play that new sport. Talk to that stranger on the subway.

Join me.

Niko’s Breakfast Club

In american, breakfast, chicago, diner, treasure trove on July 7, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Niko’s Breakfast Club isn’t a place you only visit once. Lodged in a strip mall off the main drag in Oak Lawn, Illinois, just outside Chicago, Niko’s draws biker gangs and big families alike with its extensive menu and breezy atmosphere.

Niko’s décor is downright fowl. A motley crew of chicken statuettes festoons the entire restaurant. Multicolored wooden chickens with spindly legs and iron weathervane roosters perch high on the cheery walls of yellow and green, while plump ceramic hens squat sunnily along banks of booths, upholstered in a kitschy floral. A neon Marilyn Monroe hangs over the dinette bar, where waitresses refill coffee quickly and with a smile.

Just as the furnishings at Niko’s extol the virtues of the chicken, its menu waxes poetic about the egg. Four pages devote themselves to cleverly branded categories, including Egg’straordinary Omelettes, Egg’citing Scramblers, and Egg’stremely Satisfying, a decadent litany featuring hollandaise in every dish. Even the children’s menu pays homage to our feathered friends, with the Little Rooster entrée of eggs, toast and hash browns.

Niko’s globetrots its way toward the toothsome, pleasing all palettes while tweaking traditional dishes and having a little fun in the process. The Irish Benny plays along nicely with the German Breakfast, and southwestern frittatas settle easily beside Eurocentric crepes and blintzes. A dozen unique combinations of hearty meats and eggs gratify the hungryman, while the health-conscious can pore over an equal number of oatmeal concoctions and mammoth egg-white omelets bursting with veggies. The playful category Toast Egg’strod’naire even forks over an array of desserts in breakfast’s clothing, including the saccharine Pecan Roll French Toast and the even more immoderate Banana Split French Toast.

No matter your proclivity, Niko’s dishes up solid, inventive ways to start your day. Bring a group and an appetite, and get ready to pass your plates around.

Niko’s Breakfast Club is located at 4002 West 111th Street in Oak Lawn, Illinois. Phone: (708) 422-3344. Open daily, 6 am – 3 pm.

Peking Duck Nachos

In chinese, dinner, fusion food, lunch, nyc, om nom nom on May 13, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Midtown Manhattan is not the first place I’d go for adventurous cuisine, unless the adventure is titled Things I Could Eat Back Home For Half The Price. Similarly, a Chinese restaurant is not my go-to for nachos. (If I had a go-to for nachos. Which I don’t.) Ruby Foo’s in Times Square, that palatial fortress of vermillion drapes and betassled chandeliers, has set out to disprove both preconceptions heartily.

Introducing Peking Duck nachos. Four oversized wonton wrappers are fried to a bubble-pocked golden crisp and piled high with pico de gallo, pulled duck breast and zigzags of wasabi creme fraiche. At first bite, the delicate, flaky wonton shatters in your mouth, causing a mini-avalanche of toppings everywhere. An impressive array of textures, from the impossibly brittle wrapper to the firm crunch of cubed tomato and the oily mouthfeel of the duck sauce, keep your palate guessing. The taste is intriguing yet inoffensive: the fatty, savory sweet duck meat is more mild than the spicy beef of traditional nachos, and jalapenos and wasabi add a subtle zing without burning your mouth.

You’ll want several napkins and several good friends to attack this ungainly appetizer. Forgo your dignity and dig in.

Ruby Foo’s is located at 1626 Broadway at 49th Street, just north of Times Square.

Carving Initials Into Desks

In album, inspiration, music, romance, smile-inducing, women on April 7, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Something’s happened. Your day-dreaming quota is through the roof. You’re Facebook stalking like a pro. You find yourself compulsively hugging your knees and grinning like a Cheshire, or pogoing around your apartment and shrieking. Face it- you’ve got a crush on someone.

OH GOD.

What to do, you implore? Not much. Don’t overthink; don’t do anything too stupid; remember to eat once in a while. Your euphoria might not last forever, and it might not last the summer, and it might not last the week, but dammit, right now, it’s new and exciting and all your single friends are jealous. Now is awesome. Focus on now.

To add some extra height to that hop in your step, here’s a playlist for all you twitterpated punks out there (to be played in sequential order).

1. I’ve Just Seen A Face, The Beatles

2. Suddenly Everything Has Changed, The Postal Service

3. First Day Of My Life, Bright Eyes

4. Balance Beam, Blue October

5. Hands Down, Dashboard Confessional

6. Come Down With Love, Allstar Weekend

7. She’s Got You High, Mumm Ra

8. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, The Smiths

9. As Lovers Go, Dashboard Confessional

10. Die Alone, Ingrid Michaelson

11. Tiger Lily, Matchbook Romance

12. All My Loving, The Beatles

13. I Will Hold On, Moxy Fruvous

14. Giving Up, Ingrid Michaelson

15. Her Beautiful Ideas, The Guggenheim Grotto

16. Never Gonna Leave This Bed, Maroon 5

17. Parachute, Ingrid Michaelson

18. Blue Skies, Blue October

19. 18th Floor Balcony, Blue October

20. Take Over The World, Juliana Daily

Web Zen

In blog, healthy, inspiration, list, website, website wednesday on March 22, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Spring has sprung! Pastel color schemes invade every SoHo storefront. The food trucks burst from hibernation, trailing cupcakes and gay ice cream in their wake. Children fete tortuous tales of chocolate bunnies laying eggs and raising a zombie Jesus from the grave. Now is the season of new beginnings and spring cleaning, both physical and mental. Here are three sites that will help you realign and rejuvenate your fabulous self.

Zen Habits

Blogger Leo Babauta can be infuriating at first. He’s so calm and happy! Keep calm and carry on reading, though; Leo has some great insights to share. Will you rise at 4:30 am like him to experience the calm of the morning, or spiritually connect with centuries of tea drinkers as you sip your morning cup of oolong? Maybe not, but his simplicity and minimalism are great reminders to slow down and rethink how you go about your day.

The Daily Love

Mastin Kipp wants you to love yourself! Really, really love yourself! His Twitter feeds, @TheDailyLove and @MastinKipp, are chock full of positive energy and incorrigible enthusiasm. Have them delivered to your phone only if you accept that your cheek muscles will ache by day’s end from smiling so much. His site often features guest bloggers who carry the same joyous message.

holistic fitness for the real girl

Leanne Shear, a personal trainer in New York, focuses her writing on physical fitness, but her message extends to mental well-being as well. She uses her personal slip-ups (we’re on vacation! margaritas all round!) as teachable moments, in a voice that’s equal parts girlfriend and guru. With her self-challenging, can-do attitude, her blog is a gym bunny’s inspiration.

Vegan Blueberry Banana Oat Cakes

In breakfast, dessert, food, recipe, vegan on March 11, 2011 at 8:37 pm

I need to clear something up. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a vegan. Everything you’ve been told is a lie. That said, I do have an inordinate fascination with, and love of, vegan food. To that end, I’ve been trolling for vegan recipes, and man, have I found a doozy for you. Behold!

Vegan Blueberry Banana Oat Cakes

Serves one to two people.

1 large banana, very ripe

1/2 c rolled oats

1/4 c brown sugar

A lot of cinnamon

1/2 c fresh blueberries

~*~*~*~

1. Mash the banana.

2. Add the oats, brown sugar and cinnamon; stir to combine.

3. Gently fold in the blueberries.

4.Pour the batter into a ramekin or small, flat dish. Tupperware works fine here.

5. Microwave for 4 minutes.  It should be juicy but crispy, like a fruit crisp.

6. Let the dish rest for a few minutes. It will be extremely hot, and the oats need to set.

7. Transfer to a plate and serve, or eat right out of the container! I top mine with well-placed dashes of salt, to contrast with the sugary sweetness.

Many thanks to Averie of Love Veggies and Yoga for her delicious recipe and her inspirational abs!

The Box

In nightlife, nyc, performance, soho, theater, treasure trove on February 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm

The Box, a post-Cabaret Moulin Rouge in the eastern fringes of lower Manhattan, draws on NYC performance art of the 1970s and 80s, circus performances, Victorian chic and classic burlesque. Rocky Horror wishes it was this cool.

Originally a sign factory and then a speakeasy, the club retains its dark, turn-of-the-century glamor, with carefully restored vintage wallpaper and wood paneling everywhere in its tiny, packed interior. The bouncers wear tuxedos beneath their overcoats. Inside, all the artwork on the walls is either original or borrowed from Europe at great expense. The bar sports dual jeweled chandeliers, a disco ball and a Swarovskied young woman swinging above the bartenders’ heads in a hoop.

Regular audience members lurk in front of the stage every Friday night. Dolled up in black lipstick, feather fanned headpieces and hourglass corsets, the boys and girls crowd around their low table, mixing vodka cranberries from iced decanters and swilling champagne. Fat businessmen in suits lounge at flanking tables, flirting with the skeletal go-go dancers in nipple clips and lacy garters who sit in their laps. Upstairs, VIP guests slosh themselves into oblivion in velvet balcony booths, overlooking the main floor and the stage. Bottle service for a table is $1,000 and up. Sparklers are set off whenever a big liquor purchase is made.

The show starts at 1:30 am. Where to begin? Naked ballerinas. Naked aerialists. A shirtless young man balances on wooden chairs stacked to the stage lights. Another man, dripping with jewels, does splits while balancing lit candles on a sword, balanced point to point on another knife in his teeth. A big-breasted, tattooed woman cuts her forearms and masturbates with a chef’s knife. A transvestite bleeds from the mouth and then pees on the audience. Later, she sodomizes herself with several dildos strapped to a man’s skull. The audience goes wild.

After hours, the audience dances on stage with the coked-out go-go dancers. Champagne flows a little more slowly than before, as coats are gathered and end-of-evening plans are made. Management shepherds everyone out by 4:30 or 5 am, into the frigid streets of SoHo.

Thanks to Ryan Shinji Murray, a great friend and a gifted performer, for making this review possible.

Take Me Home. Things Are Normal There.

In ghana, storytelling on February 2, 2011 at 8:45 am

Sunday, January 16

Five of us went to the movies last night. I wanted to see the Accra mall, but I was too exhausted. Of course I stayed up till midnight tweeting with friends anyway,  they on their phones & me on the free computer.

Breakfast, glorious breakfast, was a sandwich of buttered white toast and a veggie omelet, sort of a compiled version of everything we’ve been eating till now, only toastier and butterier. The instant Nescafe was particularly delicious. Like at Jangels, all plates were served under stretchy plastic; unlike Jangels, every room received a full breakfast tray with a plate of two sandwiches- assuming we’re all couples or conserving flatware or something, I guess.

My razor gave in to rust the last night in Abura, so we’re going au naturale for the last few days. (TMI?)

Monday, January 17

Yesterday’s tour of Accra was whirlwind:

  • Lunch: We ate banku with vegetable relish and chicken; and fufu, goat and pepper soup. If banku has the consistency of Play Doh, fufu has the consistency of Silly Putty. The goat skin was black, bumpy and freaked me out. Meat stringy. Our mouths burned off from the banku sauce. We waited an hour for four plates of fries. Alvaro, Fanta, always.
  • National Arts Center: An open-air warehouse of wooden stalls, mostly vacant for Sunday. Ava and three of us haggled a not-great deal for hours- watching a master bargainer at work was fascinating. Cheap prices from Mohammad, way in the back. 5 cedi for masks we’ve bargained down to 15 c in Cape Coast. Drew got the largest mask there, easily two or three times the size of his head, for $4 US! I bought artwork & bracelets.
  • Woodcarving Village: We got out of the van and guys from every shop along the road came out and started shouting to us. We all have our own styles: Courtney’s a shopaholic, Ava bargains and always gets her way, Liv is too nice, Drew gets price-raped. He was close to tears in the Arts Center (in a comical way), so we didn’t let him buy anything here. (He was flat broke finally, which helped.)
  • Botanical Gardens: Trees of allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaves. The oldest tree in the garden is a silk cotton from the late 19th century, when the space was used for colonial Brits. 250 feet tall palms line the entry road. The crowd pleaser was a parasitic tree that had eaten away the tree it originally sapped of life, and now stands alone with a hollow, holey center. The Swiss cheese of the botanical world, if you will. PHOTO OP. Another favorite was the mimosa plant, a low grass that curls up when you touch it. More fun that bubble wrap, more accessible than sea anemones.
  • Dinner: at a hotel, in a fancy Westernized dining room. The complimentary ten minute massage was pretty tame, and we didn’t get around to the post-meal nail cleaning and polishing. Nice of the staff to offer, though. The buffet meal had all the usual trappings- no farewell plantains for me- but quickly devolved into a spaghetti and meat sauce noshfest. I gorged. It hurt.

We patronized the uber-Western gelato shop down the road (seriously, it was like we’d dropped into the West Village). Lemon and nutella gelato for me. The temporary joy of sweets couldn’t make up for the self-loathing masochism my intestines incurred several hours later.

Yvonne had $80 stolen by the maid who’s been accused for room theft three times before. (And this woman still has a job why?) My bed slats broke but I still slept on it.

Wake-up call at 4:15 am to load the bus at 5 am for the hour-long drive to the airport that actually took 15 minutes because there’s no traffic at 5 am on a Monday. There is, however, morning worship at 5 am on a Monday. The church down the street blasted music. The hotel stiffed us on breakfast. We ate pineapple and Fiber One bars instead.