Notes From a Birthday Girl

Unabashed in her birthday zealotry

Unabashed in her birthday zealotry

Today is my 26th birthday. I am the birthday girl.

I got to thinking about what that means today, with near tragic results. As I was walking to work (20 mins late cause f*ck it, I’m the birthday girl), I almost got run over by a rogue cyclist. I could see the crime scene play out in front of me: I’m laying there in my bright red dress and lipstick, x’s over my eyes. The trenchcoated Detective 1 takes a deep drag from his cigarette and, exhaling, murmurs to Detective 2, “Goddamnit. She was the birthday girl.” “Hate to see that, Roy,” says Detective 2.

So it’s a special thing. But not only do you get the presents and the fanfare, you get excused from pretty much all liability.

Things You Can Get Away With When You’re the Birthday Girl:

– Breaking plans (“Sorry, I have other plans now, being that I’m the birthday girl.”)

– Breaking your BF’s Phillies 1980 World Series commemorative mug ([sobbing] “I’m so sorry, what have I done, I broke your favorite thing on my birthday.”)

– Stealing fries off your friend’s plate ([mumbled] “Wha? I’m the birfday girl.”)

– Listening to “Almost Paradise” from the Footloose soundtrack. (“Almost paradise, we’re knocking on Heaven’s door, cause I’m the birthday girl.”)

– Wearing an outrageous outfit to work. (“Oh is that your birthday sweater?” “Yes, I’m the birthday girl.” [special thanks to J.E.M.])

– Throwing tantrums and generally making an ass of yourself to your family. Who’s going to yell at you? (Mom to sister: “Leave her be, it’s her special day, cause she’s the birthday girl.”)

It goes on and on! I’m looking forward to 14 more hours of this.


Cribs: Mary’s Place

I was wining and dining some friends this week when the question came up: What would you do if you struck it rich?

“Well,” I said, “I’d buy a house with a huge writing room. Lots of books and a dope sound system. Plus a wet bar.”

My suggestion was met with “ooh”s and “yes, you’d love that”s — until my friend Kyle (ever the devil’s advocate) argued, “Why don’t you just write in your apartment?”

“My apartment sucks. There’s a goddamn hole in the ceiling.”

“Mary! It’s a great apartment. Just sit down and write something and stop complaining.”

This got me to thinking about my Center City abode, generally lauded by me and, apparently, my landlord, who refuses to do anything about the hole in said ceiling. But for all its shortcomings — size, pitifully small refrigerator and terrifying basement — it’s a tiny spot in the world that often enough feels like home.

Let’s have a look.


Open the door and you’re immediately overpowered by chartreuse, thanks to the painterly efforts of Rawle and (to a lesser extent) me!


One of the apartment’s main selling points was its large window. The ledge is perfect for perching oneself with a cocktail and a good book.


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Let’s Not Fight!

Early on Sunday evening, Rawle could hear a man and a woman bellowing at each other with thick South Philly accents outside his window. So we peeked outside and there they were, hootin’ and hollerin’ and even hitting each other.

So of course we taped it. (Audio seriously NSFW!)

Rawle’s saying “That’s not safe” at the end. Even less safe, I think, would have been for us to interfere. That girl is scary!

Oh I do hope they work it out.

D.C. Trip: Free to Be You and Me

When our anniversary rolled around (conveniently close to Valentine’s Day), we had some ideas about how to celebrate.

“Let’s so skiing!” I said, excited by the prospects of hot chocolate, hot tubs and the inevitability of my black diamond skills looking very impressive to Rawle.

“No skiing,” he said. Apparently it isn’t fun for a 6’7″ man to fall on his butt. “Howabout New York?”

“Too expensive!” Much as I love The City, the exorbitant cab, hotel, restaurant and cover charges didn’t sound like my idea of vacation. I thought about the other cities in our midst: Boston, too far; Baltimore, too frequently visited already; Pittsburgh, too cold. Then I thought about D.C., where I’d recently attended my cousin Martin’s wedding in its newly effervescent Chinatown. I proposed our Nation’s Capital and we shook on it.

img_2218During the trip’s planning stage, we discovered that D.C. trips are practically recession-proof!

First, while booking our stay at Hotel Rouge (a boutique hotel in Dupont Circle), we were offered 30% off our total stay if we booked an extra (3rd) night. So we basically got a night free.

Then, once we found out a one-way train ticket from Philly to D.C. cost $150, we went the way of the Chinatown bus. Total cost: $29 round-trip.


So on Friday the 13th (!) of February, we hopped on the bus and made the three-hour trip from Chinatown to Chinatown.



We checked into the Hotel Rouge, and rouge it was indeed. Redness everywhere, down to the free Bloody Marys (and cold pizza!) offered every weekend morning.

Lo and behold, Room 909 was made for us. I shrieked to discover my man Bruce gracing the wall next to our door.


Being young and fun, we saddled up to Bar Rouge, a Sex and the City-esque lounge just off the lobby. The clientele included: screaming, just-barely-21-yr-old (presumably Georgetown) students dressed to go clubbing in Berlin; middle-aged couples necking and drinking appletinis; and Rawle and me. It was totally weird. And the prices! At $6 for a Yuengling, even Stephen Starr would be impressed by Bar Rouge’s audacity.

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Adventures in Artistry

Hey guys. I didn’t forget you! Big things are coming.

In the meantime, please enjoy today’s foray into Photoshop/time theft (where I would be considered a novice and an expert, respectively).

Short-haired Mary and big-horned iguana in A-R-U-B-A

Short-haired Mary and big-horned iguana in A-R-U-B-A

Here’s another look:

He's a big'n!

He's a big'n!

Sorry for that complete waste of time! More to come!

Metric – Help, I’m A Fan

Twitter usually leads me astray. Typically, when I scroll through it — which, as habit would have it, I do throughout the day — I’m watching my friends battle over friend-ly things, or I’m reading headlines of articles I’ve already read, or I’m alerted to emotional crises plaguing people I don’t know that well.


Metric plays Philly. Thanks to Twitter, we were in on the surprise.

But today, I got some genuine news when scrolling through those 140-character accounts of boredom: According to Philly’s CityPaper, Metric (lead by the incomparable [and Canadian!] Emily Haines) was playing at World Café Live at 8.

“Rawle!” I typed to the guy who’s been raving about Ms. Haines’ live show at the First Unitarian Church for as long as I’ve known him, “Metric’s playing tonight! At 8! We have to go!”

So, we went.

A few words first. This was a super-secret show. Wasn’t mentioned on Metric’s Web site, wasn’t leaked on bulletin boards (that I know of). Just popped up on CityPaper today.

Secondly: I’m kind of jealous of Emily Haines. First of all, she’s super hot. Nobody doesn’t want to bone her. And she’s crazy great at writing pop songs, not to mention an ivory-tickler of Nina Simone caliber. So. Piano-playing- and leather pants-wearing-wise, I want to be her.

Canadians in our midst: Emily Haines and James Shaw.

Canadians in our midst: Emily Haines and James Shaw.

Disclaimers disclaimed, here’s the show:

Emily Haines and Jimmy Shaw (Metric’s two Canadian members) strode onto the stage. They played the majority of their upcoming album, Fantasies, on electric piano and acoustic guitar — that is to say, not with the crash-bam-boom rock soundsystem that is Metric’s trademark. These were very stripped-down, “campfire” songs, as they called them; and the audience, seated at tables and lining the walls, was in awed silence throughout. Here in Philly, I’d never seen anything like it.

They started with “Gold Guns Girls,” presumably the first track off Fantasies:

Then they played “Help, I’m Alive,” which laid the groundwork for this awesome vignette about the album’s creation.

I especially loved the fourth and fifth tunes. Guess I’ll have to wait for the album to drop in April to catch their names.

In the center of the show, each took a stab at a solo at piano. Shaw played a lovely tune in the unrequited love realm (something about his own redeeming qualities getting nullified by an unanswered phone call); Haines played a Buffalo Springfield cover (“Expecting to Fly,” to be specific, which has slayed me many a time…Neil Young’s seen me through my own unrequited loves).

The pair’s penultimate (what! that’s the word!) offering was called “Give Me Sympathy” (which asks, “Who would you rather be: The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?” Depends on the hour of night, for me. And if whiskey’s in the cards.). Couldn’t quite get it on camera, but here’s a great video. I’ve been listening to it the whole time I’ve been writing this thing.

They finished with “Live It Out,” harmonizing til the end:

The encore was “Monster Hospital.” Everybody freaked out! And then the house lights went up, and it was The End of the Show.

We hung out for a while, breaking down the show, guzzling down our beers, sucking out the last bits of freedom before a new work day began.

But what do you know. We emerged onto Walnut Street and there’s the band. And then there’s Rawle doing his “You see, kids…” bit and making friends. And then there’s this picture:


Between this and having Bruce Springsteen point at me in October, I’m well on my way to being the next Band-Aid. Tryin’.

Fantasies will be released on April 14, 2009.

In Which Mary Takes a Trip

I try to make a habit of trusting the people I love. So when Rawle said, “Let’s go to Cincinnati for New Year’s,” I said, “Great, where do I sign.”

So to Cincy, we went! Confetti in tow.

Plus, I should say, some wariness on my part. In all of my years, my few glimpses into the Midwest have mostly come from the “Get Me a Whopper” commercial and evangelical Christian videos where they play with snakes. And Hoosiers of course.

But it seems my sources were wrong! Cincinnati is long on charm and short on Bible-thumpers.

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.

This is a story about a guy:



And a girl:

Pish with her turkey dinner

Pish with her turkey dinner

…who went to Cincinnati to visit some friends of the guy’s. He used to live there when he managed a band called Homunculus, whose live shows I’m told were off the hizzy.

First thing about Cincinnati: Spend-thriftiness-wise, it’s almost impossible to fly there from Philly, so we flew to Columbus Airport and rented a car. Not just any car!


Yeaaaah, booooy!

As we were driving from the Columbus Airport to Cincinnati, Rawle woke me up (I’m a selfish passenger) and pointed out a sign on the side of the road. “Welcome to the Midwest,” he said.

"If you died today, how would you spend eternity?"

"If you died today where would you spend eternity?"

Good question! Followed in short order by this guy:


So, some invisible Bible-thumpers exist. And they always will!

Another thing about Cincy: You can buy booze in the grocery store.

Booze in the grocery store

Booze in the grocery store

The grocer (called Kroger’s which, aside from the East Coast, monopolizes all of America) also specializes in cologne bearing the name of middle-American celebrities:


Tim McGraw and Tom Brady in smell-form

So we got to our temporary residence, the house owned by Rawle’s friends Ben and Sarah, who were away for the holidays. No sooner had we arrived and each downed a Chipotle burrito than Rawle said, “Oh shit. I gotta…uh…”

And with that, he bolted to the bathroom. And then to bed, and then to the bathroom, and then to bed. Where he stayed for the next two days.

Over that period, I watched the following: Seinfeld (2x), The Office (2x), Jeopardy (2x), The Da Vinci Code, The Cosby Show (4x), Sex and the City (2x), The Making of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours (2x) and 15 and Pregnant (1/2x). I also got drunk by myself and generally kicked it.

Finally, Rawle rid himself of his bug. I was so happy, I played him a song!


I hope you’re still following along. Cause this is when it gets great!

We packed it up and said, Shit, time for a beer. We sought said beer at a little joint called Habits Café:


We got a couple Bell’s on draft, much to Rawle’s delight. Here’s Mr. Blue Eyes himself:


Then we took a minute to get a photo opp with Kentucky in the background (there it is to the left of my dome!):



And drive by Rawle’s old house:


All of this throwing up and day-tripping left us with about 6 hours until 2009. So we drove to the Schoen residence, quickly got dolled up and a little shit-canned, and 3-2-1, Happy New Year!

"Here we go again," says Rawle.

"Here we go again," says Rawle.

"Gimme somebody to kiss!" says Mary.

"Somebody gimme a kiss!" says Mary.

As is tradition, we felt like the dickens the next day. Luckily, 3 things immediately made us feel better:


Pop'ems for Marky

Phoenix the Dog

Phoenix the Dog



No amount of nausea was keeping Rawle and me from everyone’s favorite resolution: lose the gut. So off we went on a nice, light run.


That’s before. This is after:


Another notable thing about Cincinnati: There’s a ton of ethnic food, reportedly because of the nearby Proctor & Gamble international headquarters.

But I don’t need to know why! Just get me to an Indian buffet!

Bliss-ful and and food-full at Baba

Bliss-ful and and food-full at Baba

I tell you what — I’m glad we went to Baba and not the s***-house next door:


Next up: To Cincinnati’s Northside neighborhood, popular amongst homosexuals, washed-up hipsters and… me! I love the Northside!

Mostly because of this place:


Shake It Records

I love Shake It Records! They’ve got no shortage of great albums (Springsteen, whu whu!) and McSweeney’s anthologies (yes! books!) plus just the sort of architectural/editorial enthusiasm to make you want to buy everything you see.


Every time Rawle came down my aisle, I ran away because I didn’t want to leave (I love stores in which I resort to my 4 year-old self). Finally I agreed to purchase some stuff and leave the rest for a wish list (I almost bought an album by a French actress, but finding that too impulsive, instead bought a book called Animals of the Ocean, In Particular the Giant Squid).

Here’s a nice parting shot of the Northside:


Later on, we went to see Slumdog Millionaire at the Esquire Theater. Great theater, even better movie. Even if Adam hated the Bollywood ending.


We then met up with Ben (from the first house!) at a little coffee shop called Sitwell’s. If I’d gone to college in Cincinnati, I’d’ve been here all the time.


Much like the grocery store, Sitwell’s has a liquor license. So I got some boozed-up coffee concoction that made me seriously freak out. Nevertheless, a wonderful place.

The next day, let’s see. If memory serves, we went running again, kicked it, ate a steak dinner (during which the Homunculus boys were celebrity-spotted by the waiter), got ice cream at UDF (featuring a real, live Adam Schoen Freak-Out when they ran out of Peanut Butter Chip), and my very first comedy club experience ever, at the ill-titled Go Bananas.

And suddenly, it was Rawle and Mary’s Last Day in Cincinnati. We commemorated the occasion by getting tofu pad thai from Rawle’s Favorite Restaurant Ever, Thai Express.

Rawle enjoys his Thai Express

Rawle enjoys his Thai Express

We blissfully devoured the pad thai in Ault Park, a Gatsby-esque public space overlooking the Ohio River.

Ault Park

Ault Park

Here I am at Ault Park (if you can find me!):


By then, it was time to head on back to Columbus for our flight home. But wait! Look at this ridiculous mushroom house!


Okay, then it was time to go home. (But not before I realized I’d lost an earring while going through security and, while a brattily tearful Mary stood there in her Uggs, Rawle spotted the rogue earring by the ticketing desk from 50 yards away. Ferris Bueller, you’re my hero!)

Poncho takes over the airport

Poncho takes over the airport

Well, that’s the tale of Rawle and Mary in Cincinnati. We shared some laughs, endured some vomiting and bought some useless stuff. The way I see it, Cincinnati is a lot like Philly — random, full of food and largely misunderstood. Difference is: In Cincy, you can booze pretty much everywhere. Good on ’em.

Next up: Our nation’s capital! We’ll be taking on Señor Obama’s new digs for Valentine’s Day Weekend. Stay tuned.