Sunday, December 18, 2011

Breaking into Etsy.

Last week I lamented to a few friends about how I wasn't invited to any holiday parties. No real job means no company holiday parties to dress up for, and I guess I'm still settling in to a whole new city and making new friends. I know, cry me a river, it's not exactly a big problem to complain about.

But then there was Thursday. I started the evening at the 42nd Street library, with Wells Tower and John Jeremiah Sullivan, to talk about Pulphead, Sullivan's new collection of essays. The room was packed with hipsters in heavy plastic framed eyeglasses, beards and cardigans. As Sullivan sipped on a small glass of whiskey the two authors, who had never met, even though they live in the same city, quickly dispensed with small talk. Wells started by saying something very funny like, when I read the galleys to your book I wanted to throw up with jealousy. I loved hearing such an admission from an author I admire, even more satisfying to know that writers of all levels feel the same type of envy slash insecurity. In an answer about how he puts together his profiles, Sullivan replied that when he gets home from a long reporting trip he tries to re-inhabit the experience, saying that he can't just look at his notes, "my notebook is full, but I'm distanced from it." I was grateful to Wells for digging into questions about the nuts and bolts of Sullivans craft. You'd think a well-respected writer wouldn't ask such touristy questions. They even talked about John McPhee, a long time favorite of mine, turns out he's also a favorite of Sullivans. He mentioned an interview he read of McPhee's, about how the writer organizes the immense amount of research he pulls together to write his stories. I can't find it online, but looks like you can order it here.

As the interview came to a close, I turned to Blyth to ask what we should do for dinner, slightly daunted by the thought of another restaurant quest in Midtown. "Well, we can go to the Etsy holiday party." Did she just say holiday party? And off we went, taking the F train from Bryant Park to York Street in Dumbo. Seeya Midtown.

Taking the elevator up to the 5th floor we were silent. I wondered if the party would be fun. If there would be food. If there would be any single guys. Walking into the unlocked office we saw a smattering of folks dressed up in cocktail attire. In the kitchen there were a few empty bags of pretzels and plastic tubs of red vines. No music, just some talking. "This can't be it," I said to Blyth. "Yeah, no way this is it," she replied. Making our way back out the doors we walked towards two people entering a freight elevator. "Hey, where's the party?" we said. "Follow us," they said. I felt a little Alice in Wonderlandish following them into the big rectangular box.

The elevator doors opened onto a cavernous, bare, cement room. No furniture, just candy-colored dresses, boys in argyle, a photo booth and a tall tree with wrapped presents piled underneath. We threw our coats onto chairs in a darkened corner and made a straight line for the food. The Brooklyn meets Etsy menu did not disappoint: fancy hot dogs, wasabi potato salad (tangy with a nice crunch of celery), purple cabbage cole slaw, mini cupcakes and cheap wine. Thankfully after "dinner" we ran into the friends that had invited Blyth and we no longer looked like party crashers.

The music was so loud we almost couldn't talk, but it was good. The DJ was spinning perfect shake your booty hits: the kind of music that seduces you onto the dance floor. Poison came on, by Bel Biv DeVo, and we took one look at each other, "Should we go dance?" Blyth asked. "Yes." Dropping our purses we moved to the edge of the dance floor and began to bend, shake and move. The holiday party photographer took our picture and I wondered if I could get a copy.

As the night progressed, faces becoming more familiar, sweat covered brows becoming more normal and a dance circle formed (the sign of all good parties). Blyth turned and handed me a paperback she had picked up off a table. It was a biography of Dennis Quaid published in 1988. (You can find it on Amazon, there's one new copy for $256 or several used for .42 cents.) The cover claims that it's "the first inside look at America's Newest Hearthrob." Smiling at the find I stuffed it into my back pocket and kept dancing.

When the DJ threw on the song Shout I knew it was time to go and, saying our sweaty goodbyes, we wandered out of the circle. It was definitely one of the best holiday parties I've been to (thank you Etsy), and it was a perfect way to get rid of my holiday blues. Blyth walked with me over to the York Street station, we hugged goodbye and me and my new book about Dennis Quaid took the F train home.

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