Friday, October 31, 2008



When the Rag and Bone Store was reviewed in the style section of the New York Times last month, writer Mike Albo spent a serious chunk of his word count on an unnamed employee who rubbed him the wrong way: 'a guy clerk wearing a bowler hat, mustache and one of the Rag & Bone waistcoats [sitting] behind the desk staring at the computer and his forearm tattoos...

Approaching the register, the dude-clerk wouldn't look at me. Next to him was a pleasant smelling Diptyque candle. Like a gushing tourist, I tried to make conversation: "Hey, what flavor is that candle?" I asked.

"Doesn't it just say on it?" he snipped, still refusing to look at me. Oh. I see how it is, Mr. Cool Guy.

As my gorgeous, imperious friend Rebecca says: "Noted." Maybe he was busy, or tired, or just broke up with his girlfriend, but I flared with loathing.

Most people who read it probably forgot about it. But not the ‘Snotty Tattooed Dude’ - who happens to be my coworker. His Name is Jason Levine. He was born in Teaneck, New Jersey in 1976. I caught up with him in the Rag and Bone store in the West Village, where he works. Still works.

Describe the initial feeling of being dissed out in the New York Times.

Completely embarrassed. I fucking went white. It was - anxious. I was anxious at not knowing that someone wrote something about me and you know, I felt really vulnerable. I felt exposed. Wrongfully. No not really. Oh that sounds gay dude, don't write that.

How did you take the criticism? Did you think: That writer is an asshole? Or did you think: I am an asshole. Did it change the way you do your job?

I definitely didn't think I was an asshole. Actually, I don't know. If someone calls me an asshole than maybe I just am. I'm not really sure about that. It was really embarrassing.
Yes, it made me more conscious of how I come across with every customer. Maybe that was a good thing. But that's pretty much worn off by now. Customer service is tricky. People say that the customer is always right, but I've worked in bars for far too long to really believe that. At what point do you stop blaming yourself? I always try to help as many people out as I can. Basically, you can't please everybody. That's what it comes down to. The bastard just happened to write for the New York Times. That's what it comes down to.

How did your bosses react?

They thought it was hilarious. Thank God. I have known the owners, Marcus and David, for a long time. I like to think that they know who I am and wouldn't be effected by someone elses' assessment of me.

Do you have a message you want to give Mike Albo?

(Thinks about it). See now - if you would have asked me clean after I would have told him to go fuck himself. But now, a month later, it's neither here nor there.


I have two friends that hate each other for no apparent reason, and it makes me think about human chemistry. I don't think we can always choose who we like and who we don't like. I think that sometimes we just have animal emotions towards those we don't know. Some we will love, and some we will abhor. Do you agree? And did you find Jason repulsive in this way? Would you be truthful if you did, or would you want to seem compassionate?

Is that his name? Jason? I think actually, that he represented something to me: Clerk Who Has No Time For Anybody Who Isnt A Hot Girl or iTunes Music Programmer. And I probably represented to him: Annoying Gay Accented Aged Hipster Asking Stupid Question. Once we talked or hung out, I am sure we would find common ground. I am very Obama Era about people.

Refinery 29's Gabriel Bell said that the critical shopper has become 'required reading.' She also said that, 'While we love Albo, we have to wonder if there's not a soon-to-be unemployed mustachioed clerk who will be hunting him down in weeks to come.' (article.) Did this make you feel anxious, proud, or both? And what was that like?

I was actually so worried that I would get that dude fired. It was just the way I felt at the moment...and I am such an obsequious “please like me” person, that when someone is rude in a store I am stultified. But truly, if I see him I would want to hug him. Maybe one day we can process our feelings in a naked drum circle at a polyamorous eco-religious commune, where I secretly wish I lived.

Your book has been optioned by Warner Brothers. That must have been pretty exciting news. I have heard that they option a lot of stuff, the studios - and that not all of it gets made. What is going on with that now? Are you going to have anything to do with the script? And if not, and you had to choose one or the other, would you rather The Underminer become a shitty movie or not a movie at all?

this is such a good question. It ended up not panning was my first big edumacation about Hwood and all its lures and trappings. Although I did meet some fantastic people through the experience. A secret truth I didn’t know about people in LA is that a lot of execs there are huge readers and very intelligent and love to talk about books.

You are also a performance artist with a funny, mystical website. Do you see your fashion criticism as an extension of these other things? Or is it more of a thing you do for money/ recognition?

I seriously fell into fashion writing in a strange way — when I started I knew nothing. I love, love, love writing the Crit Shopper column. It is, ironically, one of the only places in my freelance writing experience where I feel I can let loose and express myself. I credit my editors with that...they are pretty magical over there. The column does fit in with my other pursuits and interests as a performer and writer...because I am fascinated with our strange consumer bubble mentality. The big plastic pig that is America. I am fascinated by all of us are manipulated, guided, and inhibited by our raging, weird, addictive consumer culture.

Jason is going to be one of the guys from 'the other gang' from a Clockwork Orange (above) for Halloween. What are you going to be?

I am actually afraid of ‘Ween. First of all I feel like its the New New Years Eve in terms of amateur night antics and I am always afraid someone is going to thrust a firecracker in my eye or something. My friends and I are going to have a séance instead!

Do you have anything to say to Jason?

Jason: see above — you, me, naked, drumming.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Tropical Storm Hannah

The sky (verb)ed with Tropical Storm Hannah
Rain, I said, I told it to rain rain rain
The water helped me to grow

I need swollen creek beds and damp earth
For my roots.
And when it stops I need mist over mountainsides
Sticks crunching underfoot, and dark green overhang
To maneuver in.

I went for a run in the East River Park
To be healthy
But also to see what it would be like in a tropical storm -
It came down harder than I’ve ever seen.

I splashed through knee deep puddles
Wearing no socks, water soaking into my eardrums,
I could hear it. It felt like being in a plane.
When you start descending and your ears won’t pop.
Awful feeling, - my hands were pruned up.

After fifteen minutes, I wished I had not come
But I was far away from my apartment. I cowered
Under an overpass, alone, and cold.
For a while. But it wouldn’t let up.

Then another jogger jogged by me and back out
Into the rain, and I knew he was right
so I followed
pretending that I was training for
an important athletic event.