the line outside of roxy’s, february 26, 2015

10:58 p.m.

A group of four friends lines up outside the club. It’s a long line, but they can still hear the beat of the music matching the rhythm of the lights—red, yellow, green—that flash from the windows of the second floor.

The young man has a diamond earring in each ear, and he wears a heavy black coat. His companions are girls, wearing leggings and light cardigans. One of these young ladies isn’t wearing a sweater at all. Instead she wears a crop top that shows off a sliver of her belly, right above the black and white striped leggings that she almost certainly stole from the set of Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice.

It’s nine degrees Fahrenheit. Snow sits partially banked on the grass across the street.

Beetlejuice and her buddies remain at the back of the line when another girl struts by, crown atop her curled hair and a sash that glitters “I’m 21!” across her teal tank top. She trips, but her two companions catch her before she eats the pavement. The trio bursts into giggles and then walks into the club.

“I don’t get it,” says Diamond Earrings. “They get to go in so quick, but we’re standing here. Why does it take so damn long to let people in?”

“Five dollar bottomless drinks,” Beetlejuice reminds him.

11:10 p.m.

The group has moved forward a few feet. They are standing beside the entrance to Jimmy John’s, but they are no longer holding up the end of the line. Now two girls stand behind them. One has a lollipop in her mouth, and her metallic miniskirt can’t cover the goose bumps on her otherwise bare legs. Her friend tries to avoid this fate by wearing socks that reach her knees. She, too, is wearing a miniskirt.

“My ears are freezing,” says Lollipop, covering her ears with her hands.

“My nose is freezing,” says Knee-High Socks.

In front of her, Beetlejuice sways back and forth.

“I can’t feel my toes.”

11:13 p.m.

A truck stops on the opposite side of Broadway, holding up traffic.

“Drew!” shout the four men who are stuffed in the front seat of the truck.

“Drew!” shout the three men who are sitting in the bed of the truck.

Drew, who is now at the back of the Roxy’s line, holds the door of Jimmy John’s halfway open.

“Ten seconds!” he shouts back.

“Drew, you have got to be fucking kidding!”

Drew leans back in frustration, and then bounds across the street. He jumps into the bed of the truck and joins his friends.

Beetlejuice and Cardigan Girls have barely moved, but now they’ve all assumed the same position: arms crossed, legs rocking back and forth. They watch as the truck speeds away, a sandwichless Drew along with it.

11:20 p.m.

A girl from the front of the line leaves, stomping down the sidewalk. She’s wearing a peplum tank top with nothing to cover her arms, and she’s angry.

“He said we should probably go to another bar,” she informs the rest of the line. “The bouncer did. They’re, like, full or something.”

Some follow her lead and give up on Roxy’s. Beetlejuice, Diamond Earrings and Cardigan Girls take advantage of the thinning line and move forward.

11:24 p.m.

Lollipop turns to Knee-High Socks.

“If I am not inside in ten minutes, we are leaving. Deal? Deal,” she says, having the courtesy to answer for her friend.

Approximately thirty seconds later, Lollipop and Knee-High Socks cross Broadway in the middle of the road, just missing a car that whizzes by. The girls are a whole twenty feet from the crosswalk, after all.

Beetlejuice and her girl friends are now hunched over in full Quasimodo form. Diamond Earrings doesn’t seem quite as bothered, although he’s now put his hands in the pockets of his heavy coat.

11:33 p.m.

Diamond Earrings, Beetlejuice and Cardigan Girls are at the front of the line. They’re shivering, and their teeth chatter. But finally, the Holy Grail: five dollar bottomless drinks.

d.c., baby

Today, I flew from Kansas City to Washington, D.C. First time here. What a year for firsts.

I walked up a mile-long hill with three heavy bags (while wearing heels!) to get from my metro stop to my hotel.

I met about a gazillion deadlines along the way (typing away in the airport, on the plane, at a coffeeshop, in my hotel room).

I’m here til Friday, for a conference on government and financial data in journalism. Stay tuned for stories.

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good riddance 2014

We’ve been in 2015 for six days now. I don’t think I’ve truly registered that. Here’s a post to say goodbye to 2014. 

The night before I left for my parents’ home this Christmas, the few of us who were left over met up for some tacos.

We were all journalism students–most of them photographers, and a couple of us writers showed up too. The end of 2014 was a mere two weeks away, and this seemed like an appropriate time to reminisce.

“What happened this year?” someone asked.

“Well, a whole lot of police violence…” I said.

“Right. There was Michael Brown in Ferguson, obviously, but also Eric Garner and Tamir Rice,” said another.

“And there was Ebola,” another person offered.

“Russia annexed Crimea…”

“ISIS beheaded those journalists…”

“Eh, ISIS in general was pretty bad,” I said.

“There was that Rolling Stone article about campus rape…”

“Boko Haram has been reeking havoc in Nigeria…”

“Guys, this is bad,” said a friend. “Can’t we think of anything good happen this year? Did anything good happen this year?”

I paused. “Well, Germany won the World Cup…”

“Oh, come on!” protested everyone else in the room. I guess none of them had German family members. They probably weren’t Bayern Munich fans.

More silence. I could on my friends’ faces that they were legitimately digging through their recent memories. Finally, somebody spoke up.

“We’re all safe and happy. And I guess that’s what’s really important.”

Everyone nodded in agreement, but I still felt frustrated. The answer was true, of course, but it seemed like a cop out. Things might be going well for me, but for millions upon millions of people in the world, the world was becoming an increasingly dangerous place. How are you supposed to avoid being weighed down by the news when your job is to study and write about it?

I’m going to leave that question dangling, because I plan to find how to answer it in 2015. Here’s to the new year, a year of digging and learning and staying on top of the news.

On a lighter note, how about this for a Transformation Tuesday? A year ago, I had dark hair and bangs. Now they’re long gone. R.I.P. high maintenance hair.

pierogi in greenpoint

It’s Dec. 27, 2014, which is almost 2015, and I’m ready for it. 

I carved out a bit of time in my break for filling out internship applications, and instead I’m sitting next to a pile of Hershey’s Kisses wrappers with my dog at my feet and I’m blogging instead. Go figure. 

I don’t like to forget things, but I often do. That’s why I try to scribble my thoughts down whenever I can. Even if it’s not well-written, or if it’s one giant rambling mess, at least it’s been recorded. So I’ve decided to share a memory from 2014. Read if you want to, or not.

Let’s start with New York.

Two days after I arrived, I decided to skip out early on the mixer for the business journalism conference I was attending. I was ready for dinner, and after reading novels and stories and blog posts about New York, I knew exactly where to go: Greenpoint in Brooklyn.

Greenpoint is one of the few Polish neighborhoods in the States, and I was eager to eat authentic pierogi. Roll your eyes at me if you must, but America is full of sickening pierogi imitations. It had been two and a half years since I had last visited my grandmother in Poland, so two and a half years since I had tasted real-life, actual, laboriously hand-made, cheese-and-potato peasant pierogi.

Thank you, God, for smartphones, I thought as I found my way to the G-Train. I was still dressed in the outfit I had planned for my New York Stock Exchange visit earlier that day, complete with a pencil skirt, blazer and oversized black heels. When I got off at the subway at Nassau Avenue as dusk fell darker and darker into night, I felt completely out of place.

Just walk around like you used to in London. I thought. You’ll find a place to eat, easy peasy. 

Except for a few things. I knew London fairly well. This was the first time I had ever set foot in Brooklyn. I was surprised to see that the streets were almost completely deserted. I saw a few mothers with strollers head inside their brownstone homes. Gentrification had taken over the Greenpoint of my imagination. Silly.

I walked into the first restaurant that I saw. It was a narrow place decorated with Polish memorabilia  with a bar up front and booths in the back. The bartenders and waiters were dressed in traditional Polish costumes, and although I’ve never been crazy about cheesy tourist vibes, I was too comfortable in the heated restaurant to consider walking back out in the cold. So, I sat down at the bar, ordered a bottle of Tyskie–my uncle’s favorite beer, which has an okay taste, not great, but I didn’t know of any other Polish beer–and opened the day’s Wall Street Journal so that I wouldn’t be bothered.

Wishful thinking.

Not ten minutes later, I received a glass of red wine.

“From the man sitting behind you,” the bartender told me in Polish.

A few things you should know about me before we move forward: I’m 23 years old, and I’m small. Five feet tall on a good day. I’m the sort of person that grandmothers look at and ask, “Well aren’t you terrified to be out in the city on your own?” And the truth is, maybe I should be, and sometimes I am, but I often feel at my most comfortable when I’m on my own and exploring. That is, until I get unwanted attention from men. Like, for instance, the 60-something year old man who was eyeing me and who had apparently sent me that glass of wine. Oh God. 

This was the first time I had been to a bar on my own, and it also happened to be my first time in New York. I had no idea what proper protocol was for this situation, so I smiled at the old man politely and took a sip of the wine. He then came over to sit next to me. I felt terribly awkward and was totally sober. I was going to have to sip on the wine a lot faster.

“Cześć,” he said.

“Dobry wieczór,” I replied with a formal “Good evening.”

Then he got real personal, real fast. He told me his name, and the fact that he hadn’t been to Poland for thirty years, but he was going to go back in a couple of weeks because he had cancer and that’s why he couldn’t drink alcohol, you see, and it was a terminal illness and that’s why he wanted to die in the country where he was born and grew up.

I felt bad for him for a moment. And then he said, “That’s why you must live in the moment, you know, and live without regrets.”

I’ve been hit on by enough slimy men to know exactly what that meant. So I breathed a sigh of relief when my pierogi–my gorgeous, delicious, authentic piegori!–were placed in front of me.

“Ah, I’ll leave you to your food,” the man said. “It was lovely meeting you.”

Saved by pierogi!

Except not.

I was just about to pay the check when he came back over. He had a beer in his hand.  The wine and beer had gone to my head a little bit, but for not being able to drink alcohol, this man now appeared flat-out drunk.

“You look so young, you know? Like no older than 19,” he said.

Whoomp, there it is. I assured him that I was 23 and spit out that memorized joke about how lucky I would feel in ten years. But he didn’t laugh politely as everyone else did. Instead, he asked where I was staying.

“I’m all the way in New Jersey,” I said. I got out my phone and began to draft a text to my friend Kouichi. Hey, we need to meet up.

“New Jersey? Cholera. That’s not New York. Come with me, I’ll show you around in my car,” he said.

“Oh, no, I–”

“Why not? Live in the moment, Kasia! This is New York City!”

He was leaning in closer to me, reeking of beer. I implored Kouichi to text me back, hoping that he would connect with me on some trans-city brainwave.

My phone buzzed. Yeah, let’s meet up! I’m in Times Square. Where are you?

“Actually, my friend–he knows New York well–he was going to show me around. He’s in Times Square, so I better leave–” I was thankful for Kouichi, but scrambling for words.

“I can take you there!” the man insisted.

“No, that’s all right. I’d rather just take the subway…”

“Well at least take my number.”

Now, that I could deal with. And that’s how I ended up with “Tomek Brooklyn” in my contacts.

The pierogi, by the way, were totally worth it.

sadder than fiction

This is tough. Really tough. My brain is struggling to structure the information, much less to process and analyze it. Let’s do it this way.

Here’s what we know:

Rolling Stone journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely reported that Sept. 28, 2012, a young woman named Jackie attended a party at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house on the University of Virginia campus. Erdely wrote about how Jackie was brutally gang raped by several frat brothers.

We know that since then, the pieces of the article presented as fact are now being questioned by other news organizations such as the Washington Post. The fraternity claims never to have had a party on the day of the alleged rape. Evidently, no Phi Psi man fits the description of “Drew,” Jackie’s rapist. And further, Erdely is being criticized because she did attempt to speak to “Drew.” One of the friends who ran into Jackie the night of Sept. 28 said that she was found a mile away from the frat houses, and that she was shaken but not physically injured. There are other apparent discrepancies, which you can read in the Rolling Stone apology letter.

So much credibility is being given to the agents who are pushing back on Jackie’s story–the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity especially. Critics are blaming Jackie for fudging details or making up the ordeal entirely. They are also blaming Rolling Stone for mistakes in fact-checking.

Here’s what Rolling Stone investigative reporter Matt Taibbi has to say about fact-checking at the magazine:

But in Rolling Stone‘s apology, Editor Will Dana changed the assertion that the magazine “misplaced” its trust in Jackie to: “These mistakes are on Rolling Stone, not on Jackie.”

Where does this leave us? Concerning the facts of the story, I’m not sure. I’m not sure. I’m not sure. But here’s what I do know. The backlash I’ve seen against this story is the most vicious I’ve seen in journalism. Why? I assume it has everything to do with the topic.

An estimated 1,929,000 women are raped per year in the States, according to the National Intimate Partner and Violence Survey. And yet every time a woman (or man) who has been raped is brave enough to come forward, society’s first instinct is to call her a liar. The percentage of rape allegations that are false is difficult to pin down, but it’s still very small.

We see the consequences with Jackie. Everybody’s favorite Twitter psychopath Chuck C. Johnson published her last name and is calling her a flat-out liar. Now, he’s opened her up to a world of harassment.

Here’s a Twitter vignette from Ta-Nehisi Coates that makes an insightful comparison with the notion of “crying rape”:

And what’s most infuriating is that since Jackie has been so ferociously hassled and ridiculed online, other rape victims are going to stay locked in silence. They look at what happened to Jackie, and they don’t want to live through the same consequences. So instead, they’ll stay under their blankets to try and find respite from painful memories. They’ll wonder what they could have done differently to avoid being raped. They’ll blame themselves, hate themselves and sink further and further into depression.

The system is rigged. No matter what, the loser will always be the victim of rape. 

lately

Things that are difficult:

Keeping your mouth shut when your political views on a topic are just begging to be shared with the whole world. You’re a journalist, Kasia. People can dismiss your credibility if you have an opinion, even if it’s backed by evidence. People don’t listen, not really. They divide the world into dichotomies and place you on whatever side makes the easiest sense.

Realizing that the dark bags under your eyes are slowly taking over your entire splotchy face. “Whoa, look at those circles under your eyes!” I was told yesterday. Three times. Who cares, who cares, who cares. I’ll get sleep tonight and I won’t look like a monster tomorrow.

Watching horrible things happen in the world and knowing that right now, at least, I feel utterly powerless.

Things that make the difficult stuff not-too-terrible:

Being assigned a story that excites you. Not feeling entirely powerless any more. (Stay tuned.)

Being able to have a conversation and ask insightful questions.

Getting good grades for hard work.

Doing cartwheels with friends in public spaces because it’s midnight and you’ve still got hours of work to go, so why not, really?

Playing with my dog.

ferguson/tempest/riots/racism

PROSPERO:

Abhorred slave,
Which any print of goodness wilt not take,
Being capable of all ill! I pitied thee,
Took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour
One thing or other: when thou didst not, savage,
Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble like
A thing most brutish, I endow’d thy purposes
With words that made them known. But thy vile race,
Though thou didst learn, had that in’t which
good natures
Could not abide to be with; therefore wast thou
Deservedly confined into this rock,
Who hadst deserved more than a prison.

CALIBAN

You taught me language; and my profit on’t
Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
For learning me your language!

(Shakespeare, The Tempest, I.ii.353-368)