Exploring the city, I attended an event during fashion week called 29 Rooms. Billed as an art exhibit, 29 Rooms showcased 29 artists, each with a small room to create an instillation in. At least that is the impression I got from my source. I was mislead.
The line outside of the “abandoned warehouse” curved around the block, creating the perfect visual of exclusivity. We moved quickly, though, and models in paint-splattered jumpsuits hardly glanced at me or my ticket as I headed through the doors and past the free Kind Bar table. The entire event was defined by long, slow lines, though I hadn’t realized that yet when I parted the hanging wall of plastic flowers that housed a perfume advertisement “installation.” The paint-splattered models weren’t effective bouncers, so I was allowed to cut that line without protest. Inside, 20-year-olds in the inevitable wide brimmed hat posed adorably in front of humongous fake peonies. I was to find this in each of the 29 rooms: an Instagram paradise of picture-perfect backdrops. Without a hat or a companion, I was ill-prepared.
I soon became tired of the farce. It was clear that 29 Rooms was all about getting cute “influencers”-types to post free endorsements for 29 different products on their social media accounts. Casper, Juicy Couture, and Dunkin’ Donuts are among the advertisers. Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March were some of the activist partners that were featured. It was more than comical to me that these kids were willing to 1) pay to create free corporate advertising and to 2) wait for the privilege to do so. In fact, it was depressing. I left after half an hour, overwhelmed by the grime of having been used
I walked past blocks of littered Refinary 29 Haägen Dazs sample cups before I felt free of the cloying grasp of the event. On the Williamsberg waterfront, where a few Brown nannies tended to their white wards, I noticed a cookie crumbling on top of a broken traffic light. A smear of ketchup decorated a nearby lamppost. I wrote in my journal,
“Nothing in that refinery 29 exhibit was as beautiful or impressive as the foam popping effervescence in the greenish brown water. An oblong shadow of a ferry boat and the sun-rays sucked sucked underneath.”
I’m all for social media. But I hate to see people giving themselves away to corporate advertising. Some good things really are free: Don’t let yourself be tricked into being one of them!
In New York City yesterday, many were engaged in setting up their Super Bowl party. But a small percentage of people were otherwise occupied: going to the polls to cast their ballots. Yesterday, Costa Ricans at home and abroad attempted to elect a new president.
My favorite tico, knowing I am a sucker for the excitement of democracy in action, permited me to join him on his epic journey for civic engagement abroad. We had to go to Newark. Not particularly epic, but it was a journey.
My memory of the last presidential election in the USA is still attached to a physical response. I suppose I did it to myself: for months, I obsessed over the political coverage, letting the analysts and reporters stoke my latent anxiety every morning. I went to bars with my friends to watch the debates, and let their hope and anger seep into me. And I was at home alone when the votes were being counted. The only person I wanted to talk to was my favorite tico. So I was eager to return the favor of soothing political mania if need be.
The pool of candidates in Costa Rica this year was large: 13 men, each representing a different party, made it onto the ballot yesterday. With so many choices, the potential of any one candidate to receive a majority is small: In yesterday’s election, the candidate who won the highest percentage of votes did so with just 25%. Imagine having a president selected by only a quarter of the votes? (one could argue that our own president of the USA was elected by a similar percentage of eligible voters but I digress). Luckily, Costa Rican politicians must receive at least 40% of votes cast to become president. Otherwise, the election will move into a second round between the two top candidates. This is what happened yesterday.
After weeks of political discussion on Facebook and Whatsapp, after listening to debates and watching political memes, the anxiety of the election won’t be released into celebration or disappointment. Instead, ticos worldwide will continue that pre-election question until April: “Who are you voting for?” The choice should be easy. Now there are only two candidates, and they share one name. Alvarado.
Last night, after A’s show, we went looking for food in Soho. The dark streets were clustered with smokers in their holiday frocks: sequins and gold. Soon, we found the Slainte Bar and Tavern, an Irish joint with plenty of seats at the bar and a table of musicians playing reels and jigs in the back. We ordered Guinness stew and stout, our stomachs twisting with the anticipation of dinner, finally.
The music coming from the back of the bar seemed especially melodic because I didn’t expect it. The musicians were uninterested in any audience: they came together out of pure and unencumbered love of the music, and they played for each other and for themselves. By the time our stew arrived, I was feeling quite relaxed on my bar stool, and very cheerful.
Suddenly, a man siting next to us at the bar jumped up and did what could only be described as a victory dance.
“Sorry,” he apologized to the tourists sitting next to him. “I just saw the results in Alabama.” Though I knew that the results of the special election in Alabama were coming in, in fact I was keeping an eye on the news myself, I somehow tricked myself into thinking he was talking about a football game. Football (American) was playing on the televisions overhead, maybe that is why I suffered from this cognitive dissonance.
The man sat back down and looked around sheepishly. I think he had expected more people to jump around with him. Or maybe he was surprised by his own reaction. Half an hour later the bartender enlightened me: “The democrat won.” I felt like performing my own victory dance, which involves pumping my arms in the air while making little hops. Is this a victory for me? I am just a woman in New York, accustomed to the anxiety of living in a predative world. A slight percentage of the voters Alabama chose a political representative that does not stand for racism, sexual violence and deception. It’s a start, but I hope that there are better things that we can say about Doug Jones.