Sunday, December 14, 2008

Strength in Numbers

Over the last several weeks I've found that my perspective on most of life has shifted fairly significantly. I'm happy with the new direction in which I find myself looking, but it's a big adjustment nevertheless. I keep having to stop and take my bearings, or stop myself from automatically responding to something the way I would have two or three months ago. It's amazing to me how drastically I've changed and simultaneously how much more myself I feel.

One thing I've finally come to terms with is the idea that life is often arbitrary and generally full of mistakes; that I might "ruin" good things in my life, but in some way that's okay because that's just how life goes. I guess I finally believe the old adage about doing your best being all you can ever do.

Even though it makes me very sad to think about the possibility of making terrible career choices or losing dear friends, there's something incredibly liberating about recognizing that it's inevitable that those things - or similar things - will happen. It makes me less anxious about doing something wrong. And it makes me value even more the positive outcomes, the good times with friends. It makes me realize just how valuable my closest friends are, and how grateful I am to have people with whom to share all the ordinary experiences of life. It reaffirms for me that my family - the one I was born into and the one I've chosen for myself, my friends - really are the most important part of my life: the rest of it is arbitrary and too often full of tragedy, but there truly is strength in numbers, in remembering that other people are experiencing the same difficulties, in having people to prop you up when you can't stand on your own and to party with you when you're finally back on your own two feet.

It's cheesy, but it's true.

Thanks, guys.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Elbow Room

I first realized it when I flew home for my cousin's wedding in October: I'd never before been so happy to find myself at Newark Airport. Then it happened again as my plane landed at Logan and I walked out into the terminal. For four days I've re-entered a world of car horns and obscenities, and I've never had such a distinct feeling of coming home.

As I stood on the T this morning simultaneously cursing the group of shouting teenagers in my car and feeling immensely grateful for their existence, I began to wonder about these stereotypes of Southerners as being nicer and Northeasterners as being not necessarily mean but unconcerned with the welfare of their fellow humans. Now that I live in the South I’m seeing how much truth there is to those supposed differences, but as a born and raised Northerner I always feel compelled to defend the detachment: that’s what feels right to me, and I’d like to think that doesn’t make me inherently less nice.

What occurred to me on the T is that there’s just a lot more physical space for people to spread out in the South, and in my favorite cities (New York and Boston) there are so many more people crammed into the available space. In Nashville my apartment isn’t flanked on all sides by neighbors, and it’s more than spitting distance from the building next door. When I go to the far side of town (which is much farther away than the far side of Boston), I get in my own car and have however many cubic feet of space (and sound and attempt at thermal regulation) all to myself. In Boston you’re constantly surrounded by people – roommates, upstairs and downstairs neighbors through thin ceilings and floors, next door apartments with windows so close you could reach in from your room, jam-packed subway cars and buses, sidewalks full of pedestrians – so in order to maintain any sense of personal space you have to manufacture it for yourself.

Northeasterners are “mean” simply out of self-preservation.

It’s not that someone from Boston necessarily cares any less about other humans, but if you let concern for others surface even half the time you’re in close proximity to other people you’ll be completely overwhelmed by caring for a vast sea of humanity. In Tennessee it’s much easier to attempt connection with a large percentage of the people you encounter because on any given day there are so many fewer people who will come close enough to your personal space for interaction.

Obviously not everyone responds to these situations according to the stereotypes, but I think that if you grow up in the Northeast then you are much more likely to develop the apparently prickly exterior necessary to preserve some semblance of personal space, just as if you grow up with a lot of siblings you tend to be aggressive about staking your claim on things you want (lest someone else get there first). Yes, some people find themselves better suited to the environment opposite that of their own childhood, and some people feel equally comfortable in both sorts of places.

I think I’m a true Northeasterner in this sense, which is why I feel so at home when I’m surrounded by people who will honk and swear and cut you off without thinking twice. To me that’s just how you stake out your space in the world. My subconscious definition of "home" seems to include dense population and the attendant survival techniques. But defining "home" is another story for another day.....

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day 2008

I just voted in what will probably end up being the single most important election of my lifetime. The economy is on the verge of collapsing, the government of the last eight years is hated by pretty much everyone both at home and abroad, the war that was supposed to last a few months has been going on for more than five years.... shall I go on?

Now we're faced with a massively polarizing election. Dems say that if McCain wins we'll have four more years of Bush's policies - but is that true? Might it even be worse? After all, if the 72-year-old with cancer kicks it while he's in office, we'll be stuck with a dangerously ignorant and inexperienced, extremely conservative woman running the country. DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!

Of course, the people on the other side seem just as afraid of Obama - they call him a socialist, terrorist and Muslim and say that if he wins we'll all be killed, or at best be forced into a socialist state. I think it's 'funny' that we've come so far that a black man might be about to win the presidency, but we still have such intense fear of the word Muslim that it's used to try to sink a campaign. Then again, maybe the people who are so afraid of a Muslim wouldn't vote for him anyway, just because he's black. Religion just adds another excuse. (P.S. All you prejudicial fear-mongers out there: how can be a devout Muslim AND be tied to the Reverend you all are so afraid of? Pick a slander and stick to it, will you?)

It's obvious which side I'm on.

But that doesn't mean I think our future is rosey if the "right" guy wins. Our country and our planet are a big hot mess, and it's going to take a long time, a lot of resources, and possibly more hope and courage and kindness and understanding and generosity than the world's population is willing to offer up.

I do hope that we start moving in the right direction. I hope that Obama wins, if for no other reason than McCain would definitely be a very bad choice and Obama has a chance of being a good choice. I hope he proves himself even a better choice than the marginally optimististic among us expect. I very much hope that this is indeed the most important election of my lifetime, because I hope it never gets worse, only better from here.

A friend said that we'll see change no matter who wins, it's just a question of what that change will be. It's undoubtedly true. I really, really hope that it's a change from fear - which is what's motivating so many people in this election (fear of a 'terrorist' president, fear of an unexperienced right-wing VP with a good chance of needing to step up....) - to hope. I would love nothing more than to see Americans stop acting out of fear and start acting out of the desire to improve ourselves, our country, and our world. Hopefully our present fear will push us toward a future with much less of it: even if people vote out of fear, the outcome could point us in the right direction.

I guess by tonight we'll start to see what's coming next, and then we just keep hoping for the best.

Monday, October 27, 2008

This Was Not Full Disclosure

Not long after I arrived in Nashville I added a second weather widget to my Mac dashboard: now I have one widget showing the Nashville weather and one showing the Cambridge, MA weather. It's made it just that much easier to crow about how much warmer it is here than there. More than a few times, now, I've pointed out to friends and family just how nice the weather was here than there. Since it stopped being 95 degrees and 100% humidity, I've been reveling in the glorious weather here. It's hardly rained at all, and generally been beautiful since about the middle of September.

That is, until now. When I checked at around noon it was 46 degrees out. A little later in the afternoon it went all the way up to about 50. A whole 50 degrees. In October. It was WARMER IN MASSACHUSETTS THAN TENNESSEE today.

Who thought that was a good idea? I know I definitely did not okay that. I had to wear a sweater and a coat when I went outside. And for my grocery run tonight I wore my down coat. MY DOWN COAT. IN TENNESSEE. IN OCTOBER.

I was under the impression that the South would be a land of warmth and glory where milk and honey flow freely through the land - or at least I wouldn't have to wear more than a sweater until December. I've even been told, in so many words, that it stays warm here until Thanksgiving. It is NOT Thanksgiving, folks, not for another four whole weeks. So what gives? What's the big bonus of living in a red state (I LIVE IN A RED STATE) if it's not going to allow me to wear absurdly little clothing in complete comfort until after Massachusetts has seen at least one snowfall? Do you mean to tell me that I get strip malls, no ocean, poisonous spiders (oh yes, folks, we have those here), and pickup trucks with gun racks and McCain/Palin stickers...and it's not even WARM?

Seriously. I want my money back.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fan Mail

I'm not so into writing fan mail. I wrote fewer than five letters of adulation in all my overeager childhood years (and only one really came back to embarrass me later). I generally figure that any overblown feelings of admiration I might for someone I never met are just as well kept to myself as sent off to a manager who might or might not open the envelope before dropping it in the trash. I understand the basic realities of the business of celebrity...and I'm honestly not that impressed by most famous people these days anyway.

That's not to say there aren't a few bigtime stars whose presence wouldn't reduce me to a stammering, inchoerent blob. I freely admit that those people do exist - and thank God they do, because what would life be if there weren't a single human on earth whom you admired so intensely that they could rob you of basic verbal functions simply by being in the room?

It's a fairly small group of people, though, who I really think would have such a strong effect on me. But there's a larger group of people who might not reduce me to a blubbering mass but nonetheless stand in my highest esteem for who they are and/or what they do.

One such person is Heather B. Armstrong (and this is her website). I believe I have referenced this site before - my favorite blog in all of blogdom. When I began reading it I simply found it entertaining in all its snarky glory. Now that I've gone through all seven years' archived posts, I have gained the utmost respect for this woman. I still get a kick out of her snarky sense of humor, but I also have been moved by what she has to say, and have honestly had my perspective changed on more than one occasion.

So today I broke down and I wrote a fan letter. (fan email.) I'd like to think that it was a nice balance of adulation and restraint, of intelligent commentary and gushing flattery. I basically just explained that I've now read every single post published on her blog and that I'm a huge fan of both what she has to say and how she says it.

I refrained from adding "P.S. Your daughter is beautiful, your husband sounds awesome, and I'd like to move into your basement and be your best friend."

That's good, don't you think?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Itsy Bitsy.... Not a Spider....

I was thinking, a few weeks ago, that eventually I'd probably have to write an entry on bugs. This is the South, after all. The South is serious about its bugs. I was actually concerned about moving here specifically because of the bugs. I do not do bugs. Not even a tiny bit. (There's a story that involves a broom and a telephone and some hysterical crying....I won't get into it.)

When I had that thought, though, I brushed it aside with the very reasonable rationalization that as soon as I blogged about bugs I'd find them swarming into my life, when at that point I'd had basically no encounter with the crazy Southern insects. I figured I'd wait until they'd already made their appearance and then I'd tell the story.

So here's my bug story.

I like opening the windows, as you may recall from my allergenic lament earlier this fall. I really, really like opening the windows and enjoying the fresh not-quite-fall air, particularly when I'm bumming around my apartment in the late afternoon and there's just a little bit of a breeze. So over the weekend I went to open my windows, and as I did I noticed a whole bunch of teeny tiny winged bugs on the screen....on both sides. They were so small - and the screen so coarse - that they could walk right through the mesh.

I closed the window.

I went to the other living room window, and before I opened it I looked through. That screen was populated by the same little bugs, inside and out. I went to the bedroom window - all the way across the house, and lo and behold there were those same tiny buggers. Damn and blast!

They were too small to see any characteristics, but I nevertheless checked a National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders out of the public library and attempted to locate my pests in it. No dice. Turns out "tiny, with wings, on window screen in Tennessee" doesn't show up in any of the descriptions.

Well, not-very-long story shorter: I have bugs on my screens. For five days now I've been unable to open my windows for fear they'll all come rushing in and the apartment will fill up with little winged nuisances. I think they might be fruitflies, but it's really impossible to say.

Okay, so that's not much of a bug story, I know, but I'm hoping that by writing it up as my big insect encounter in the South I'll save myself from having any worse episodes for at least a while. And if you really want bug stories, sometime I'll tell you about the one I had to beat to death with a shoe.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

This Is NOT a Pyramid Scheme

So lately I've been contemplating the topic of monetary income, specifically what various ways there are to generate it besides the standard show up at work, do what you're told, get paycheck from employer model. A few ideas:

  • Write a book. (....Publish the book. Convince people to buy the book. Pay back publishing costs. See what's left.)
  • Sell Ivy League eggs for genetically engineered children, at top dollar. (...after taking weeks of hormone shots. Have genetic children wandering the world somewhere.)
  • Invent something, patent it, and sell it. (....... any ideas?)
  • Become a rock star. (Dude, I'm working on it.)
  • Start a box company. (I can't take credit for this one. It also needs capital.)

...and a few old standbys:
  • Prostitution.
  • Deal drugs.
  • Marry rich.

(I've recently heard a few other ideas but I don't want to give them away in case the generator of those ideas decides to follow through on any of them. I'll let you know if any of them come to fruition.)

As you can see, each of these options has a small downside. I guess I'll just have to choose the least onerous....

What's that website?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

This Is Me Doing a Small Victory Dance around My Oven

I have made a great discovery: stove tops and I are arch nemeses, while ovens and I are totally BFF.

I've always enjoyed baking, and been relatively good at it. I attribute this in part to my love of eating baked goods, in part to my mother's and grandmother's skill in baking (and letting me watch or help), and in part to the use of strict recipes in baking (because that's how baking works).

I've never considered myself a cook. In fact, I've had some rather heated conversations involving me proclaiming vehemently that I am NOT A COOK and the other party swearing that I COULD BE A COOK if I tried.

For a long time I had very little motivation to learn to cook, as my family full of awesome cooks and they're usually willing to share (as most good cooks seem to be). Then I started living places other than home and I had somewhat more motivation to learn to cook, as I was suddenly responsible for feeding myself and cold Pop Tarts are really only appealing for so long. I never got very far, though, because most of my culinary experiments were disasters and of course I couldn't afford to throw that much food away, so I'd spend ten days eating something that really might have been better off in the trough for the livestock. I managed to conquer a few basic things, namely scrambled eggs, grilled cheese, and pasta with sauce out of a jar. Aside from that I assembled (sandwiches, salads) and defrosted (they make amazing frozen meals these days).

But as my cooking ability persisted in sucking, my baking flourished. I spent hours and hours baking endless varieties of cookies for anyone willing to eat them. I made quick breads, and eventually triumphed over yeast breads as well. (Turns out trying to raise dough in a 60 degree apartment - because no one wants to pay for heat - doesn't work very well.)

I kept vowing to learn to cook, "someday." It kept not happening. Then I moved to Nashville and had no friends and nothing to do, so I figured I'd have another go at the whole cooking thing. The lack of income might be a slight damper on the lavishness of the recipes, but I'm not looking for filet mignon here, just a nice stir fry.

And stir fry is exactly what I attempted, my second go - but first I should mention the vegetable lasagna, which was my first experiment and a wild success. Oh yes, ladies and gentlemen, I apparently make a mean veggie lasagna. Yes, I intend to tweak it a little the next time I make it, and I do want to graduate from jarred tomato sauce to homemade, but I actually made an entire dish that tasted really quite good, and which I enjoyed eating. This is monumental, people.

Confidence high, I decided to get really crazy and try a stir fry. I've been gradually learning how to cook tofu so it tastes like something other than library paste, and I have a no-fail recipe for brown rice, so it shouldn't be all that hard, right? Wrong. (Obviously.) It became two hours of low-level disaster, with too-small pans overflowing and general unhappiness. The end result was edible, but not what you might call inspiring. Meaning I ate it because it was too expensive to throw away and because it wasn't actively gross.

In my frustration, I began to consider what could possibly be the common thread between my culinary failures as opposed to my successes, and I realized that all the "cooking" I do that comes out well comes out of the oven. Cookies: oven. Lasagna: oven. Brown rice: I bake it. The stove top hates me, clearly. I don't know if we'll ever get along. But! This means that I can assure myself a greater degree of success if I just stick to the oven!

So tonight was Nashville Culinary Experiment Number Three: pizza. I have never made a pizza before (unless you count helping put the toppings on, back when I was under the age of twelve). I attempted a whole-wheat crust pie with cheddar cheese, broccoli, and fake Italian sausage... and homemade tomato sauce! The result? Well, I need to use more spices next time, because it's a little bland. But it's really not bad at all. I'm excited to try again. By halfway through the stir fry I was vowing "never again."

Thesis proved: me + stove = 'where's the trash can?' me + oven = yum.

And luckily, for those days when it's just too hot to turn the oven on, I can pour a mean bowl of cereal.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Girls Will Be Girls

I have very definite opinions about the upcoming election, and I do believe there's a "right" answer to "who are you voting for?" But right now I don't want to talk about the right answer, I want to talk for a moment about what I see as one very, very wrong answer: Sarah Palin.

I've never met Sarah Palin. All I know about her has come, in some way or another, through mass media (interviews, articles, the debate). It's possible that she's a very nice woman on a personal level, and perhaps in another context I'd find her unobjectionable. However, as a candidate for the Vice Presidency of the United State, I find her personally offensive and insulting to women as a group.

Sarah Palin is completely unqualified to be Vice President. The state she's governed has the third smallest population of any state in the union; she didn't know what the Bush Doctrine is (which would be fine....if she wasn't running for executive office); she apparently legitimately believes that she has foreign policy experience based on Alaska's geographically proximity to Russia. This woman has no business being second in command in this country, and I hate to even consider the (very real) possibility that McCain won't make it through four years, and she'll be in charge.


Sobering though, isn't it?

Again, maybe she's very good at field dressing those moose - I really don't know. But she's completely unqualified to be VP.

The fact that the Republican's are trying to sell her as a champion for women is, quite frankly, insulting. First, to insinuate that we'd be happy with any female candidate - that Hillary and Sarah are essentially interchangeable, simply because both are women - is heinous. Second, are we not being set up with a clearly incompetent woman who will fail in the job and thus "prove" that women aren't capable of holding executive office? Choose someone who will be a disaster, and display her demise as publically as possible - making her a lesson for future generations?

Sarah Palin in the role of America's VP epitomizes people's claims about women's unfitness to hold high level jobs, and I find it absolutely heinous that the Republicans are trying to shoehorn her into this role. What can they hope to accomplish by this, other than 1. to establish a puppet in the position to allow for easy manipulation, 2. demonstrate that women, in fact, are not capable of holding executive office.

Am I being outrageous? Am I spewing apocalyptic bullshit? Making unfounded claims?

Even if I am, after the VP debate I can say this for sure:

I cannot handle another four (or - God forbid, and I really mean that - eight) years of hearing "nucular" on national television....said without irony.... by one of the top two leaders of the free world.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I have finally discovered when music videos are aired: 3am Central, which probably means 4am everywhere else. Thank you, VH1.

A few of the other gems I've uncovered in my exploration of the DISH Network:

- The NASA channel. DID YOU KNOW THERE'S A NASA CHANNEL? And am I too old to go to space camp?
- Latina women selling something that I first thought might be prosthetic breasts, but eventually concluded was a posture-enhancing device. (It would've helped if they had actually shown the product and not just a lot of closeups of breasts.)
- A priest getting very animated about the heresies of Arias. (Arms flying everywhere.)
- A documentary on Ronald Reagan.
- Jesus-music videos.
- The 2005 US Poker Championship.
- A James Woods movie.
- A Lawrence Olivier movie.
- A Robert Redford movie.
- A half-hour program on the internal cleansing craze sweeping America, titled "Is Colon Detox Hype?"

Watching television at 3am is one of the most depressing activities I can think of, right up there with getting paid $12 an hour to make photocopies for seven straight months.

One of my primary goals in life is (now) to have better things to do at 3am than watch television. Isn't it good to have goals?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

a/s/l ?

Living in a city where I know no one, and facing the task (rather daunting for the shy kids of the world) of meeting new people, I've been thinking about the phenomenon of meeting people and how it's changed over time, especially recently. (And since I don't know anyone I have oodles of time to sit around and think about these things - doesn't that work out well?)

This also coincides with someone I know trying out the eHarmony thing - the first person I know to give this particular site a shot. (I have, in the past, known people who've done the J-Date thing, and people who've done the Craigslist personals thing. No, not casual encounters, the regular personals. And people who've met significant others in chat rooms/on message boards.) I happen to think it's fantastic that this person is finding out who's online - it's just helped fuel my musings on the subject, hearing about the firsthand experience.

It's the era of the internet: chat online, bank online, buy clothes/books/furniture online, rent videos online, find apartments online, so why not browse for potential friends and mates online? Shopping for people, without all that messy interpersonal interaction. The fiberoptics and satellites keep everything nice and distant. Doesn't it sound perfect?

What I've started to realize is that so many of us are so lost when it comes to meeting people that these 'shopping' sites are the only ways we can figure out how to do it. I won't make claims about what caused this phenomenon, but I think a lot of you will agree that this is the reality. Perhaps there are still small towns somewhere in America where people grow up with their neighbors, marry their high school sweethearts, and spend every Fourth of July at block parties with the same people they've known for many years. In most places - at least in the densely populated places I've lived - the art of meeting people seems to be nearing endangerment.

People do still pick people up in bars (apparently), but how many people do you know who've had a relationship longer than 24 hours with people they met that way?

Perhaps I'm completely off the mark. Perhaps I'm simply demonstrating how out of touch I am with the social interactions happening all around me. But I can't count how many times I've had the same conversation with friends: "How are we supposed to meet people?!"

What I've begun to wonder is if this move to virtual, often carefully constructed meetingplaces is unavoidable. If half the people in this town are shopping on eHarmony and, does that mean they're not out meeting people face to face? Are they too busy 'reviewing their matches'? Does that mean that if I go out to meet people in 'real life' the pool will be reduced to half the local population? That sounds like more incentive to look online, and so the cycle is perpetuated.

In the end, though, is it really any better to look to meet people online than at the local coffee shop? The bottom line is still the same - you risk rejection either way. Is it enough of an improvement to be rejected in the privacy of your own home, in front of the computer, instead of in a public place, that it's worth losing the opportunity to to meet a whole person instead of some disembodied words? Is the face to face rejection really so bad that we'd rather stay in our houses and miss the chemistry that can happen when two people are in the same room? (Can there possibly be chemistry through the computer?)

This doesn't solve the problem, of course. We still don't seem to know how to meet people - where to go, what to say, how to not feel totally awkward or to be brave enough to take the risk. I don't know if there's a solution, but if we've reached a point where we're collectively becoming more and more okay with saying "yes, I want to meet someone badly enough to pay $30 a month for the chance that I'll find someone whom I like who likes me too, and who also happened to sign up for the same website" then maybe - just maybe - we can take one more leap and say "I want to meet someone badly enough that I'm willing to go out into a public place and be awkward and say the wrong thing and hope that someone else is willing to be awkward and possibly foolish too, and if nothing else we can share our awkwardness (because the odds of encountering someone totally smooth and not awkward at all seem incredibly small)."

Could we say that? If we're brave enough to have adopted the once totally stigmatized world of online dating into the mainstream, can we be brave enough to turn to a stranger and say hello?

Have I just talked myself into something?

A Gift from the Gods

Yes, that's right, I'm talking about Zyrtec. There must be some kind of benevolent god out there somewhere, because how else could we be so lucky as to have been graced with the gift of Zyrtec?

I used to be "Claritin clear," except that that was a total lie. Claritin may have reduced my misery somewhat, but it was no match for Southern levels of ragweed pollen. I was beginning to resign myself - with much sorrow - to spending all of hay fever season in my apartment with the windows closed, for as long as I live in Tennessee. Then - oh happy day! I tried Zyrtec.

Life is infinitely better now. My windows are open as we speak, and tomorrow I plan to check out some easy trails around a nearby lake. (They don't have oceans here, but at least there are some lakes. I'll take what I can get.)

I'm not generally a big fan of pharmeceuticals or the monster corporations that produce and sell them, but I would kiss the inventor of this stuff if I could. Thanks also to Kate for pointing out that continuing to use ineffective medication was perhaps not so productive and that this particular product might be worth investigation. THANK YOU!

Now if only someone made a truly effective remedy for the endless itching due to the twenty-four - yes, that's two dozen - bug bites currently gracing my legs. Apparently they weren't kidding about the bugs in the South.

Friday, September 19, 2008

If You Try, Sometimes, You Just Might Find....

I got in the car approximately seven minutes ago and, when I changed the station away from the DJ telling a fascinating story of that time he was late for an airplane, I happened upon the last third of this lovely little number. Thank you, Rolling Stones. I'm trying to think of this as the theme song for my adjustment period here in Nashville. Because I clearly can't get what I want. (All my friends to move here? A private jet for spur-of-the-moment trips north? Enough income to buy a plane ticket without suffering a massive panic attack?) But I have been finding that - sometimes - I get what I need. (Like when my friends manage to call or IM just when I'm most wishing I was with them. It's a good trick. They're talented like that.)

I'm trying to help this along. No, really. Just because I've been alone in my apartment anytime I wasn't actually in class or buying groceries for the last two weeks doesn't mean I'm not making an effort! I mean, there was that math test I thought I might fail. (I didn't.) And the cold I thought I was getting, and the allergies that turned out to be the cause of the cold symptoms, and which necessitate sitting in a sterile, enclosed environment. And there were the aliens attacking my stomach. And that episode of Project Runway that I hadn't seen, and the Netflix DVDs that arrived. So my seclusion has been totally justifiable. But I have (once again) resolved to begin leaving the house for destinations other than the engineering building or Whole Foods. Or Target. I'm actually going to go out into public places. Occasionally. Indoor, air conditioned public places, obviously. (Allergies.) But, like, ones with OTHER PEOPLE. People to whom I will probably not speak unless a monetary transaction needs to take place....or if they approach me first and don't seem totally lecherous or insane. And that's TOTALLY PROGRESS.

So as week five of the Experiment in Southern Living draws to a close, I conclude that I am, in fact, making progress. And I would pat myself on the back, but I'm not sure I'm ready yet to look quite that crazy in public. So I'll settle for blogging about it and fantasizing about going to - get this - other coffee shops. Ones that I haven't been to before. Shocking, I know. But hey - I've done crazier things. Like moving to a time zone where I don't know anyone. In the whole time zone. (Because "9, 8 Central"? that's me. I'm "8 Central". WHAT HAVE I DONE?!)

The good news? Only four more weeks until I fly home for my cousin's wedding. Not that I'm counting.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Allergic to Tennessee

Who knew it was possible to be allergic to a state? or maybe a region - maybe I'm allergic to the entire South.

I don't mean to imply that I've never suffered seasonal allergies before. Last summer in Boston I spent many lovely days Claritin Clear...except not really, because Claritin doesn't actually fix my allergies. But something about this fall's allergy season has knocked me on my ass. Perhaps there are other explanations for it, but I suspect it might have something to do with the fact that the pollen count here is approximately twice what it is in Boston. Awesome.

This means that even though the weather became totally gorgeous over the weekend - the temperature and humidity both dropped, so it's been cool in the mornings and evenings and gloriously warm and sunny in the afternoons - I cannot open my windows. I tried opening my windows, and it made me amazingly happy as far as the soft autumn breeze blowing through my apartment but fairly miserable in terms of the itchy, sneezy, phlegmy, awfulness.

So I have given up and become one of Those People who, despite the beauteousness outdoors, sits in the house with the windows shut and the air conditioning on. I really, really hope that this is effective. At about 3:00 this morning a handful of aliens decided to try to rip my stomach out of my body, and I can't help but think it is somehow related to the allergies. This is the only reason I'm willing to shut out the beautiful weather. I REALLY hope the pollen goes away soon. I mean, how badly do we need the trees to reproduce, anyway?

I'm now going to finish my recovery day by watching a DVD that's come highly recommended from a few sources: Once, and I'll let you know if it's any good. I can definitely say with confidence that Netflix is the best thing ever.

Apparently I Think I'm a Writer

I'm not sure how this came about - if it's from reading so much and being inspired, or from such a large percentage of my communication the last four weeks being in written form (thank you, instant messenger), or if this is at long last the manifestation of my childhood dream of writing novels - but apparently I fancy myself a writer. The funny thing is, I don't do much writing.

That's unfair, actually. I have quite a few songs that would argue that I do write, just in a particular (short) form. But I have nevertheless concluded that if I can't even manage to update a blog more than twice a month than I'm really not much of a writer. And since I'm toying with the idea of tackling my first book, I should probably prove (to myself, at least) that I am, in fact, *actually* a writer.

Of course, I realized some time ago that a label such as 'writer' is not something one must earn by getting published or publicly recognized in some way, one must simply write and then one is a writer. I discovered this when I caught myself thinking and saying that I was "an aspiring songwriter," and then thought "wait a minute - what's aspiring about it? I write songs, don't I? What does a songwriter do besides writing songs? I AM A SONGWRITER." I might not be a famous songwriter, or a published songwriter, or even what some would consider a professional songwriter, but I am, in point of fact, a songwriter. By that same token, I am a writer, just as much as I am a student or a Mac user or a Toyota owner. I am not rabid about my Toyota ownership, but I own a Toyota and so it is a valid self-classification.

So I hereby publicly declare that I am, indeed, a writer. I write. Words. With punctuation. And sometimes even proper spelling and grammar.

Now that I've made this declaration I am free to begin my book. (BookS? Give me time.) All I need is a subject, and I've got tons of ideas. The trick is choosing one I can.... scratch that. The trick is beginning to write. I am beginning here, now, with this blog. I don't know that anything I've written here - or will write here - will ever turn into a full fledged publishable kind of ouevre, but as Kate so kindly pointed out, by publishing myself here on the internet I am inviting book publishers to discover me and offer me lots of money to fill many pages which they can put on shelves and market to unsuspecting Barnes & Noble customers. And as I pointed out, there are perhaps three people that read my blog. But maybe if I start writing here instead of just keeping this glorified placeholder on the domain......

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Great Tennessee Experiment

I arrived in Nashville three weeks ago today.

I've spent the last three weeks setting up a new apartment, starting a new school, getting to know a new town, and generally trying to settle into a place a thousand miles away from my friends and family. It's adventure.

My apartment is pretty awesome. My landladies are entirely awesome. Lila and Priscilla live downstairs, and are SO cool. From the minute I moved in, they totally adopted me. They're hilarious, and have been taking good care of me.

School is school, complete with classes and homework.

Nashville seems like a cool town, though I haven't done much exploring yet. I did take a long drive today down the Natchez Trace Parkway, and Tennessee is quite pretty. I'm looking forward to getting out into those rolling hills to do some hiking and keep trying to capture it photographically. (Wish me luck with that one.)

I won't promise regular updates, but I am going to try to keep some sort of log of this whole experiment in Southern living. If nothing else it'll someday be a kind of online scrapbook of that time I thought it would be a good idea to move to Nashville. We'll see....

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Going to the Fair

Today I went to the Tennessee State Fair. Having grown up in one of the most densely populated parts of the country, I though the prospect of a Real Live State Fair - complete with livestock! - was like something out of a young adult novel about some faraway place like Kansas or Idaho. (My mother claims she took us to some sort of state fair when we were children, but I have no actual memories of that happening.)

So today I went to the Fairgrounds and paid my $4 to park on the grass, and $8 to get in. $4 bought me an enormous slice of terrible pizza, and another $4 procured a bag of kettle corn (totally worth it) nearly as big as my torso. A few minutes later it turned out to be a good thing I was busy with the kettle corn, or I probably would've eaten my body weight in fudge.

I figured that was enough outlay, though, so I didn't spend any more money to see the world's smallest horse, or have my age or weight guessed with astonishing accuracy. I did walk through rows and rows of goats, pigs, mules, birds, and rabbits. I saw a troupe of small girls in matching pink and blue outfits preparing to perform their competitive jump-roping routine. I got called Little Red Riding Hood twice, and Miss Hollywood once, by people manning the various booths I was passing. I saw a box truck marked as belonging to a group of Christian weightlifters. I saw the fattest baby I've ever seen, but she was just in a stroller, not on display in a booth. (To be fair, it was really just her face that was so fat. I mean, seriously, she looked like she'd had the baby fat from her chubby little thighs and ass injected into her cheeks...and on top of that was perhaps storing a winter's worth of acorns in there.)

I wandered around for about an hour before the noise and people and lack of edible vegetable matter started to get to me, and I decided to head home via Whole Foods. But I feel as though I've had an authentic Tennessee experience. It is a relatively foreign place, after all, for a girl who's lived all her life in the Northeast.

Check out my photos of the fair here, and stay tuned for more complete updates on life in Nashville.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Move

The following episodes chronicle my move from Boston to Nashville in the middle of August, 2008. They were written at various stages, not in chronological order, so please forgive the tenses.

Episode 1 - Packing and Preparing

I've known for about four months that I'd be moving to Nashville this August. Early in the summer I started packing up clothes to take to Goodwill and posting crap on Craigslist that I knew I wouldn't want to take with me. I actually managed to do a really good job of starting early and planning ahead, for most things, and by the time I went out of town a week before moving day I had things pretty well under control.

I did, in fact, take a three day vacation less than a week before I was slated to move halfway across the country.... and I recommend it to anyone who's thinking of moving. Before I left I had gotten most of my stuff packed, and then I was able to walk away and not think about any of it for three glorious days in the Adirondacks. (The lake was beautiful, the mountains were beautiful, the company was perfect, the cupcakes were delicious. What more could you ask for?)

So I returned from my vacation with four full days to prepare, and on Friday I was to drive away with everything I still owned (i.e. that I hadn't sold over the internet) in the tiniest trailer rentable from U-Haul and the back of my glorious 1996 station wagon. Good plan, right?

The week was, of course, jam-packed with pre-leaving friend time. Perhaps I should've slept a little more, or spent a little longer on the moving part of things and less on the "OMG I won't see you for, like, three whole months!!" part of things, but "should" is a funny word, when you think about it. And if things had gone according to plan it all would've worked out just fine.

The plan began to run off its rails on Tuesday, I think it was, when my aforementioned glorious 1996 station wagon began acting funny. And by "acting funny" I mean "accelerating by itself, without me stepping on the gas." It felt sort of like a jet getting ready for takeoff. And then it stopped, so by the time I took it to my trusty (read "amazingly awesome and wonderful") mechanic there was no problem for him to diagnose. Right.

I retrieved the car from the mechanic and decided I'd just really really hope that nothing would go wrong again until I was in Tennessee. Alas, the jet engine started preparing for liftoff again as I was on my way to U-Haul to collect my little trailer. By the time I got home with the trailer it had gotten bad enough to incite rather a lot of screaming and swearing, and a phone call to my parents to say "HELP!! WHAT DO I DO?!?!??"

Long story short (there was a lot of unhappiness and NOT PANICKING and frantic phoning) - I ended up calling a lovely moving company who were able to schedule me on only 24 hours' notice. They picked up my stuff Friday morning, and I was left with just myself and a handful of things to truck home in my death-mobile, I mean station wagon.

And, of course, through those last three days were the goodbyes. Not really goodbyes, I guess: more like "talk to you online"s and "see you at Thanksgiving"s. They still weren't fun, not even a little bit. But since I couldn't pack all of my friends into the car and take them with me...beers were drunk, dinners were eaten, and leave was taken. I was, it seemed, on my way.

Episode 2 - Seven Hours from Boston

The drive from Boston to northern New Jersey normally takes about four and a half hours. Now that I was sans trailer, that was about the time I expected to take for phase one of the actual moving part of this whole escapade. I should, however, have anticipated Friday-afternoon-in-August traffic. I couldn't really anticipate the monsoons.

The good news is that having the entire contents of Lake Champlain dumped over my car seemed to keep it from acting up for most of the trip. It got a bit cranky about taking three hours to get to I84 at the Connecticut border (which normally takes an hour), and was threatening to take out the sedans in front of me in the last bit of that interminable crawling - leaping ahead every time I took my foot off the brake. But as I crossed into state two of my nine state (total) trip, the rain apparently cooled off the grumpy bits enough that they were willing to behave. (The rain also chased me off the road and into a rest area until it slowed down enough that I no longer felt that I really ought to have been in an ark.)

The Camry and I did successfully make it to NJ, and I even managed to not fall over upon exiting the house. My parents seemed slightly concerned about my well being, but after feeding me they decided I had revived sufficiently and could be put to bed. After sleeping, well, almost not at all and then taking 75% longer than normal for the trip, being put to bed was like a gift. It was a brief respite before the next episode was to begin.

Episode 3 - Maybe This Drive is Longer Than I Though

According to Google Maps, the drive from NJ to TN is approximately 12 hours. Of course, Google Maps doesn't have to stop and pee. Or get a sandwich from Subway and clean the windshield. And so, eleven hours in, my father and I are stopped at a Super 8 just outside Knoxville.

We thought that stopping before Knoxville would be good because 1. it's already been a long day, and 2. starting about 90 miles back there have been all sorts of signs about I40 being closed downtown. We figured this way we could plan our alternate route and not have to default to the detour that may or may not be terrible and/or backed up with horrible traffic.

So here we are with Ladysmith Black Mambazo on the television.... and I think I'd like to go home now, please.

Episode 4 - Welcome to the Central Time Zone

There's a sign along I-40 between Knoxville and Nashville informing travelers that they've crossed into the next time zone. I'm not sure exactly what it says because I was too busy telling my mother, over the phone, that my father and I were crossing the time zone line. I was pretty excited.

The whole last day of driving was a bit of a roller coaster both literally and figuratively. We were past the proper mountains, but it turns out that Tennessee is all rolling hills, and of course as we approached our destination there came ever more frequent interjections from my side of the car, along the lines of "OMG I live in Tennessee now" and "what have I done??"

The scenery was quite pretty, and if I managed to adequately capture any of it with my random shots through the car windows I'll post them here.

Eventually we started to see signs of greater population density, and then we got a glimpse of the buildings of downtown Nashville before the beltway swept us off around the city to our final destination. My new home. In Tennessee. Where I live now.

Exactly where I live now happens to be an awesome one bedroom apartment in the upstairs of an adorable house. (My two new friends even, upon pulling into the driveway, began exclaiming how totally cute it is. They happen to be very male friends who wouldn't normally go on about the cuteness of something such as a house.) I am slowly collecting furniture and trying to make it feel like home, but mostly I'm waiting for the movers to arrive with my stuff. (I'm also waiting for the coolest company in Nashville to bring me things from far-off Ikea.)

Downstairs from my awesome apartment are two even awesomer ladies, Priscilla and Lila. I love Priscilla and Lila. From the first time I talked to Priscilla I knew I liked her, and she's even cooler in person. Lila is Priscilla's mother, and you know what they say about the apple and the tree. I totally lucked out with this apartment and these landladies/neighbors/friends. I think once my stuff gets here I'll have to bake them some cookies as a small token of my gratitude for the welcome they've given me. (Though I bet they can bake circles around me.)

I will definitely post a few photos of The Apartment once I get them uploaded to the computer and figure out which ones I want to show the world. I'm hoping to post lots of photos in the coming weeks and months so y'all can see for yourselves what this Nashville business is all about.

Of course, the best way to see it is in person, and by the time you get here my air mattress might finally be inflated......

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

So Much Moving

Lately it seems that I spend all my waking moments moving - going from room to room with boxes full of crap and bags full of trash, driving from place to place canceling gym memberships and buying trailer hitches, or just wandering around the house trying to get some sense of what's left to be done. Occasionally (like just now) I stop moving long enough to realize what it is I'm doing.

As sentient adult (and not a nomadic one), I am willingly choosing to stuff everything I own into small cardboard boxes, fit all of those cardboard boxes into a 4'x8' trailer, drive 1000+ miles (with gas now slightly under $4/gallon), carry all those little boxes up a bunch of stairs into a completely empty apartment, and start over. 1000+ miles from everyone and everything I know.

I don't know the town I'm moving to - I spent 2.5 days there a few months ago. That doesn't count. I also don't know any people there - I've met a few in passing, and have had virtual conversations with a couple, but that also doesn't really count. I can't afford the trailer I'm renting or the new appliances I'll need to buy when I get there. I won't even have a bed to sleep on when I first arrive (unless you consider a waxed canvas air mattress, aged approximately 50 years, a 'bed'). And yet, somehow, pretty much everyone who knows me really well seems to agree that this is exactly the right thing for me to be doing.

I happen to think that I have no idea what I'm doing, but apparently I'm doing it anyway. Too bad all those people who think this is a good idea aren't doing it with me. My message to all those people: now might be a good time to upgrade your phone plan. The unlimited one might be a good idea.

Now to get everything packed, finish all the errands, stave off panic, say some (probably tearful and definitely difficult) goodbyes, and .... move.

Monday, August 4, 2008

...from Somewhere Behind that Pile of Boxes.....

A few observations on moving:

- Trying to pack everything you own into little boxes that you'll have to carry up and down multiple flights of stairs and fit into a small vehicular-type container gives you a whole new perspective on the value of the things you own.

- Everything costs twice as much as you thought it would.

- Every moment you spend with the people you care about (who aren't coming with you) passes four times as fast as it would otherwise.

- Nobody wants to help you carry everything you own up or down any flights of stairs...but someone will, and for that you will be willing to offer eternal gratitude, sexual favors, and your firstborn child.

- Are you familiar with the concept of 'limbo'? (not the thing people do at parties with a broomstick)

- ...but really, how can one person possibly own so much completely useless crap?

- Sitting in total silence, doing absolutely nothing but sharing someone's company, can be the best thing in the world.

- If you change your mind and come back, all you've really lost is a little time and a lot of money.....

Friday, August 1, 2008

An Open Letter (4)

To My Newly Ex- Coworkers,

Thank you for the lunch, and the cake, and the card - they were nice - and for the cash. The cash was really nice.

Thank you for understanding that I'm generally ravenous and need to eat lunch by 11am.

Thank you for not turning me in when you pop up over the cube wall and see that I'm blatantly reading the entire archives of

Thank you for foreseeing the happiness that would accompany my departure from this place, and not holding it against me. (I know you're jealous, and I think you should probably quit too.)

I know you all meant well.
I won't miss you.
But know - you'll totally be in The Movie.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Moving Right Along....Or Trying To

I will take just a moment to ponder the issue of why it is so entirely difficult to move farther than across town, and just how anyone is supposed to do it without spending half a million dollars and asking favors of everyone they've ever met...and all their uncles.

Moving really only seems to work if you are 1. an upper middle class or wealthy family with both the familial manpower to deal with the necessary labor and the funds to hire people to do most of it for you anyway, or 2. in possession of nothing more than a car, a couple of suitcases worth of clothes that fit easily into said car, and ample funds for gas, tolls, and caffeinated beverages and death sandwiches, I mean, fast food. And maybe maps. or a GPS. Anyone whose situation is somewhere in between seems doomed to some level of purgatory or hell when embarking upon a long-distance move. How is one person supposed to carry furniture? or drive the car (which needs to go) -and- the truck (which is needed to fit the stuffs)? How can one be expected to pay at least $1000 in moving costs on top of the first+last+security for the new apartment (or the down payment for the new house!) as well as all the little things that a new abode requires, like trash cans and cookie ingredients (for attracting new neighbors, whose friendship and/or pity will be needed for getting the furniture up the stairs)?

It makes me think that those crazy people 150 years ago who never left their hometowns and died at the age of 45 may have been onto something after all. Maybe not the dying at 45 part. (Ask me in twenty or thirty years about that one.)

Maybe moving companies could just donate their services to poor, unfortunate 20-somethings who are ill prepared to fend for themselves. (Anyone? Anyone? Just leave a comment with your number.....)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Job Skills for the Modern Day Workplace

Having come to this position as a temp – and stayed here as a temp, technically, for nearly seven months now – I was never given an actual job description, per se. I was told to dress appropriately and to show up. Now I’ve been here for a while and have taken on a definite role within the department. A lot of that role seems to be about dressing appropriately and showing up, walking around the office with my iPod on, and solving simple computer problems for people who can’t figure them out themselves. But there’s more to it than just that, and since I’ll be leaving soon I thought perhaps I should begin drafting my own job description such as might appear in a future edition of my resumé:

  • mauling envelopes
  • transferring to voicemail
  • making small, circular confetti
  • manually re-entering the same information
  • humoring/ignoring crazy, demanding, incompetent, or just plain irritating people
  • attempting to refuse cheap birthday cake
  • destroying many small forests, or maybe one large one
  • stapling
  • avoiding filing
  • looking busy

Considering all the skills I’ve been developing, I can’t imagine I’ll ever have difficulty finding a job in the future. (Maybe next time I’ll show you my best cover letter, if you haven’t seen it already…..)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Day of Independence

I have long had mixed feelings about the fourth of July. As a little kid I just thought it was fun, except when I came down with a nasty case of the chicken pox on the fourth, and was only allowed to go see the fireworks because under cover of dark no one could see the spots covering every inch of my skin. (Or me scratching them, despite all admonitions to the contrary.) But as soon as I was old enough to 1. think for myself and 2. arrange my own social engagements, I started to question this most American of holidays.

I don't remember when I first thought about the meaning of fireworks. I had loved them growing up, and I still think they can be quite pretty. Now when I see them, though, I can't help but think about what it is they represent - the bombs of warfare. "The rockets' red glare" and "the bombs bursting in air" are all about people trying to blow each other up, folks, and fireworks are exactly the same thing. I try to forget this and just enjoy the show whenever I can, but this year - with a war that still hasn't ended and is closely tied to an ever growing fuel crisis (and economic downturn) - it seemed hard to set that aside. So it was with maybe equal parts pleasure and discomfort that I watched the fireworks over the trees in several directions from the front porch of my friend's house. I'd like to be able to just ooh and ahh with everyone else, but just couldn't avoid the nagging thought that "if we were on 'the other side' we'd still be sitting around listening to things exploding...but we wouldn't be blasé about it, we'd be afraid." Overly dramatic? Perhaps. True? If not in letter, then in spirit, I think.

I do remember one moment when I really began to think about what the fourth of July is all about. I lived in Ireland the summer I was 18, and we used to hang out at what we called 'the IRA pub.' (I have no way of judging whether that cognomen was remotely accurate, but we were convinced at the time.) We went there on the fourth of July and, like the bunch of American kids we were, had our own party despite being 3000 miles from home. As we drank Guinness and had a grand old time, we got to talking with one of the bartenders who launched into a very earnest rant about how someday Ireland would be celebrating an Independence Day of its own. We were a bit taken aback by the vehemence of this speech, and eventually wandered off to a distant table where we could be loud and obnoxious in peace. That bartender has stuck with me, though (obviously). Fourths of July since then usually find me recalling that scene at some point in the day, and thinking about how far removed we are from the days when our independence really meant something; when it was freshly won, hard-earned, and extremely valuable in a very immediate way. Today it's hard to not take it for granted if you've grown up in this country and not spent time in certain parts of the world. July fourth really meant something, once upon a time, and not just barbecues and beer. I don't know how much it matters whether we ignore all the history and meaning on the day itself and just party, but I think it's important to not forget what the party is all about, especially in light of the direction our country seems to be headed these days. (But more on that in another blog - this one's plenty long as it is.)

My other beef with the fourth of July is far less noble, and really is just that it's supposed to be one big party but usually I find myself hanging around with nothing to do. And, as with New Year's Eve, our society likes to make people with nothing to do on the fourth of July feel inadequate. Thank you, society. I actually find plenty of other opportunities to feel inadequate without your help, so let's leave this one alone, shall we? And so I usually protest by staying home and watching fireworks on TV, even when friends have invited me to join them at picnics and barbecues where I probably wouldn't know anyone else, and when I could've made some plans of my own if I'd really wanted to. I guess I'd rather stay home and have my own private protest against societal expectations. (And be cranky and eat a lot of ice cream.) This year, however, I did not stay home. I did not allow myself to be dragged along to a backyard party where I wouldn't know anyone, including the owner of the backyard. This year I actually spent the day with friends, and friends' friends, and - shocking, I know - I had a really good time. It was an excellent blend of people I knew and people I didn't, not too many people but not too few, oodles of tasty food, just enough beer to keep everyone happy, and hours of general merriment. Turns out the fourth of July can be a lot of fun after all. Who knew?

So one of my gripes might have fizzled this year, since apparently
I've finally learned how to have fun. But at the same time, the whole premise for the partying just seems ... not flawed, exactly, but not widely appreciated or understood, and the most popular means of celebrating (fireworks) just seems misguided. (Don't get me wrong, I love blowing things up. But context and historical reference are important.)

I don't know what this means, practically speaking. I'm not advocating boycotting the fourth or fireworks, or suggesting that historical reenactment and heavy philosophical debate on freedom are the only appropriate ways to spend the day. I do think that a little more thought could be given to what the whole thing is about, even if it's just in the back of your head as you sit on the porch with your friends watching the fireworks over the trees.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Show on Tremont

Remember that time I decided to wear a dress, because I had to look nice for work and it was hot out? Remember how I had a half day and then went to meet a friend? And then, as I was walking down Tremont Street in the early afternoon heat, I thought nothing of walking over a grate in the sidewalk? Remember how that grate turned out to have a lot of air blowing out of it? Did you notice just how fast - instantaneously, even - my entire dress found its way up to my armpits?

I guess I'm just not as smooth as Marilyn.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"My Letter to the World"

This is my letter to the World
That never wrote to Me -
The simple News that Nature told -
With tender Majesty

Her Message is committed
To Hands I cannot see -
For love of Her - Sweet - countrymen -
Judge tenderly - of Me

- Emily Dickinson

I've come to view the blog as my opportunity to say to the world what I feel compelled to say, whether the world is listening or not. Tonight I have much to say but not the right words, so I'll let Emily speak for me a little.

Hope is a strange invention -
A Patent of the Heart -
In unremitting action
Yet never wearing out -

Of this electric Adjunct
Not anything is known
But its unique momentum
Embellish all we own -

We grow accustomed to the Dark -
When Light is put away -
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To Witness her Goodbye -

A Moment - We uncertain step
For newness of the night -
Then - fit our Vision to the Dark -
And meet the Road - erect -

And so of larger - Darknesses -
Those Evenings of the Brain -
When not a Moon disclose a sign -
Or Star - come out - within -

The Bravest - grope a little -
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead -
But as they learn to see -

Either the Darkness alters -
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight -
And Life steps almost straight

Friday, June 27, 2008

...but I'm Not Tired Yet...

Who, as a kid, didn't try anything and everything to avoid getting put to bed? Is there a child who (on a regular basis) willing marches out of the room, away from all the fun, and up to brush her teeth and turn out the light? There may be...but I was not one. I was the kid who'd swear up and down that she wasn't tired, while she was actually managing to fall asleep mid-sentence. I have many memories of drifting in and out of consciousness while the grownups all around me carried on the party and let me pretend I was part of it. I did NOT want to go to bed.

I guess some things never change.

I'm not sure why it is that I hate going to bed. I do love late nights, both the part when everyone is out and living it and the part after that, when it gets impossibly quiet and you can hear yourself think for once. I often get a bit restless on nights when I'm home with nothing to do, because there's so much possibility. And nighttime just begs to be shared - what's better than sitting on the beach after dark, under the stars, with a good friend? Sitting there alone just isn't the same. Nice, yes, but not the same. So putting the kabosh on that and heading off to Never Never Land is not to be desired.

There's also just something I can't put my finger on.... something that makes giving up and going to bed seem like, well, like just that - like giving up. Giving up on another day. Letting it be over, with no more possibility for great things to happen in it. Try again tomorrow, today is done. I guess I like the idea that there's still a little more to come. Anything could happen. I guess anything will have to happen tomorrow....

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Choosing an Adventure

My father advocates a very complex system for making decisions, involving a kind of matrix and a bunch of math. It is a good system, and has helped me make many a decision - all of which seem to have worked out okay so far.

My mother, on the other hand, is a big fan of the flip-a-coin method. Her reasoning goes like this: when the coin lands, if you feel relieved or happy, you know that that's the outcome you really wanted. If you're disappointed with what the coin chooses, you know you really want the other option. (And I guess if you genuinely are happy with either outcome then a flip of a coin is as good as any other way to decide.)

So, by my mother's logic, if you get what should be good news and it makes you cry, does that mean you're making the wrong decision?

I know the blogs lately have been, um... "thematic," we'll say. But can you blame me? I'm moving a thousand miles, people, to a city where I barely know a soul. And I'm going back to school to do something I basically haven't done in ten years.

Maybe getting upset isn't a bad sign, maybe it's a good sign. As in, I really ought to be a little freaked out, and if I wasn't that would be bad. Maybe?

I suppose I can refer here to another aphorism my mother favors: "it's all part of the adventure." And, in theory at least, I can choose my own just like I could back in my early reader days. Too bad this time if I don't like the ending I get I can't flip back a few pages and try another one.....

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

An Open Letter (3)

Dear Likely Future Landlady,

You are entirely cool. You remind me a little bit of my mother, but with a serious drawl. You are (most likely) rescuing me from potential homelessness in my new city - or, more realistically, from paying $700 a month (not including utilities) to live in a (barely) glorified closet. You will let me park my car in your garage and wash my clothes in your washing machine. Your son is going to install Dish Network in my (hopefully) future apartment. The only way this could be any better is if your son turns out to be my future perfect husband. (Maybe that's asking too much.)

Thank you for being so nice. Thank you for sounding so Southern. Thank you for saying you couldn't "put the photos up on the craigs list." I very much hope I can spend three years living upstairs from your overtired self and your deaf mother.

p.s. The forty-year-old avocado green stove is beautiful. Please don't get rid of it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Free Stuff

The following is a list of stuff I currently own and have no intention of carrying 1000 miles when I move. If you have any interest in any of it, make yourself known! Otherwise, you can just chuckle (or shake your head) at the odd collection:

- various pairs of shoes, at or around women's size nine, including one pair of platform flip flops
- one men's XL timberland jacket that once belonged to someone on the touring crew of the rockstar-no-one-has-heard-of i used to work for, possibly even him himself
- three cans of playdough, never opened
- a thigh master (I don't want to talk about it)
- two small bookshelves that are totally serviceable as long as you don't really plan on looking at them
- a wheely desk chair with slightly ripped fabric (but it's relatively comfortable)
- a very small, very thin, very aquamarine 'throw rug' from Ikea
- one sheet of poster board and one of foam core (both white)
- a shopping bag full of yarn (this has actually been promised to some friends of the knitting persuasion, but if they change their minds it's up for grabs)


I'm making non-jokes that aren't funny.... that means it's time to stop.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Better Things To Do

I find myself, at this moment, most of the way through a weekend that has been....well, awesome. It's been the kind of weekend where I forget about all the trivial crap that I get so cranky about day-to-day, and just get to enjoy the really good stuff. Even the stressful parts of the weekend have been things that really matter - which seems so much more worthwhile than getting stressed out about a stupid part time job or the logistics of moving 1000 miles. It's been the kind of weekend that hasn't been "perfect" but has been exactly right. I wish more of life could be like this weekend.

And it's all going by so fast. How can it be the middle of June already?! It's now only two months until the Big Move, which I still can't believe. I guess that just means I need to make the next two months more like this weekend, and less like last week. (Last week was pretty well summed up by "urgh.")

But I shouldn't be spending this afternoon in front of the computer. Blogging is fun, but I'm pretty sure I have better things to do....

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

That's, Like, Sooooo Meta

I have two excuses for not writing very recently.

1. I can barely find time to sleep, much less post here. (Why am I still up now? Good question.)
2. After writing that last blog about all y'all who are reading it - or not reading it, as the case may be - every time I've thought about posting I've found myself wondering what on earth to write about...and gotten stymied and given up.

I think I was better off not thinking about my audience, but simply blathering on about whatever was in my head at the time. Now I find myself censoring every idea as (mostly) completely uninteresting to whomever might be reading, or else some degree of pompous and obnoxious.

This leaves me at a bit of a loss. I mean, I guess I could write about the weather, and sports teams, and that sort of thing. I could start writing nothing but movie reviews (though that would require seeing a lot more movies than I currently do). I could let this become a completely 'meta', self-reflective blog about blogging, but I think we've seen from Jason Mraz's songwriting that writing about nothing but your own writing gets really boring (and irritating) really fast.

So.... I don't have a solution. I suppose I'll just get over it and go back to blathering like before. In the meantime....I'm going to get some sleep.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Blogs are, for the most part, fairly ridiculous. Sometimes they serve very clear purposes, like when you go on a trip and want to keep everyone at home updated on the kooky hijinks that led up to your incarceration in a Burmese prison, or when a company decides that the "hip" way to "be down" with the young people is to paste all their marketing copy into a corporate blog on a biweekly basis. Sometimes blogs are just so damn good that they fully deserve every bit of their bandwidth. (see But for mere mortals like myself, blogging just seems rather self indulgent. It's an uninvited opportunity to go on and on about anything you damn well please (with whatever version of spelling and grammar you like), with some assumption that someone - many someones, even - will want to read it. But fear not. I have no delusions that people want to read my blog. Google Analytics keeps me very much in the realm of reality, so all twelve of you can rest assured that I have no crazy ideas about being e-famous. I can talk a blue streak, is all, and this way I can pretend that someone's listening.

I am, however, curious about who's actually reading this thing. I assume you're all people who know me, and recognize any thinly veiled references I make. But perhaps I am mistaken. Google Analytics gives only certain information, so I'm left to wonder who it is, exactly, that has read my blog from Springfield, IL, or from the Bronx, or from Middleton, MA. I don't even know where Middleton is.

So perhaps some strangers have, in fact, stumbled across this blog. If any of you come back to read it ever again - Hi. I hope you enjoy my eternal rant.

To the rest of you, who know me in real life, I'm sure none of this is news but hopefully it's entertaining. (Otherwise why are you reading it?)

I guess for now I'll continue blabbing into the void, and maybe someday someone (else - thank you, Abby) will leave me a comment and I'll feel heard....

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Happiness Is.... *

- ...a warm blanket.
- ...a long drive.
- ...a bright moon on a clear night.
- ...a problem well solved.
- ...a good, long belly laugh.
- ...the perfect song coming up on iPod shuffle.
- ...getting into my very comfortable bed at 2:30am.
- ...having such a great night that I completely forget the morning ever even happened.
- ...knowing tomorrow will be just as good.
- ...being continually reminded of the good stuff even in the midst of the bad stuff.
- ...having caring, compassionate, totally awesome friends.
- ...knowing that some things will never really change, just get better and better.
- ...finally seeing the forest and not just the trees.
- ... ...

* with thanks/apologies to Charles Schultz

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Like Riding One of Those Damned Two-Wheeled Things

This morning I did something I haven't done in a long time, and didn't (until very recently) think I'd ever do again, certainly not anytime soon. It made me nervous, going into that room. I wasn't sure I'd remember what to do, how things worked. I was less afraid of making a fool of myself than of discovering 1. that I'd completely lost any skill I once supposedly had and 2. that the whole plan I've laid out for the future, which is predicated on me liking and being reasonably good at this, would crumble into tiny pieces around my ankles.

It turns out I didn't need to worry. Sure, I'm a little rusty. I have a bit of homework to do, reviewing. But I kept up. I didn't get lost. I didn't drown. I even did a little extra, voluntary participation. Now when I go back tomorrow I'm pretty sure I'll be OK. Then again, things are bound to get harder sooner or later, so I should probably keep my life vest handy just in case.

And to everyone who told me so - OK. You were right. Happy?

Monday, May 19, 2008

An Open Letter (2)

To the drivers on I287 approaching the Tappan Zee Bridge this evening around 7:00 (and really to all drivers in the Northeast, and possibly everywhere),

Perhaps no one ever explained to you one of the general concepts behind driving a car, so let me try: You are intended to progress in a forward direction. Occasionally you go backwards, or even stay still, but when you are on I287 approaching the Tappan Zee Bridge you should, indeed, be moving forwards.

I do understand that sometimes you need to change the radio station, or eat a sandwich, or put on mascara, but these things should be handled in such a way as to not impede your forward progress. Because, you see, when you stop moving forward, I stop moving forward.

When I'm on I287 at around 7pm on a Sunday night, I really would rather continue moving forward, and I'm pretty sure the other drivers around would too. So please, even if you're going up a hill, even if there's a car carefully merging onto the road, even if you suddenly realize that you forgot to turn off the oven before you left town for two weeks - please continue to move in a forward direction. We will all appreciate it, including you when I don't decide to drive my beat up old car directly into the back of your cute, brand new car, with as much force as I can muster from a standstill with one car's length run-up.

Thank you, and happy driving.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Time Warp

For a truly surreal experience: return to your hometown, see a bunch of people you haven't seen for a lot of years, and then sort through all the crap you left in your parents' house and forgot existed.

Even better, do this just at the moment when you're preparing to ship yourself far from home to have a second try at something you swore, after the first time, you'd never do again. Just as you're beginning (again) that Last Summer Before Everything Changes.

Even just the beginning of summer is always, for me, the trigger of flashbacks to summers past. There's something about the feel of the air, the quality of the light, that makes me feel a little bit lost in my own historical timeline. Maybe it's that magical summer sense that anything could happen - even waking up ten years ago. Maybe it's the extra hours of daylight that give the illusion of free time like you haven't known since high school vacation. Maybe this year it does seem more that way than ever before, and I'm just letting it all jumble in my brain.

Maybe it's the smells in my parents' house. Maybe it's the lack of obligations for three whole days (which feels like an enormous stretch of time).

Maybe it's an overwhelming desire to twist time into an endless loop, so what's so good right now never gets lost, that makes it so easy to forget what day it is, what year it is.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Now and Then

I am watching "Becoming Jane" (quite enjoyable though inarguably a chick flick), and I'm wondering what it would be like if my friends and acquaintances and I were subject to the social rules of Jane Austen's era.

I can sort of imagine it with some of my girlfriends: our email exchanges would all be handwritten letters, of course, but I doubt we'd be any less cheeky in composing their content. Of course, it would be strange and rather terrible if our lives consisted of nothing more than writing those letters.... and reading, and doing needlepoint. No trips around the country by ourselves, no jobs, no crazy adventures.

It would also be a mighty shame if an unmarried girl weren't allowed to spend time alone with a boy to whom she wasn't related... though perhaps it would be less of a tragedy in a world without all-night IHOPs and good beer.

But it would be funny to watch the same relationships play out under a wildly different set of rules. Would they still be the same, I wonder? Or are even those parts of our lives dependent on our times and circumstances? Would my friends not be my friends if we couldn't have the same conversations, or the same experiences? Then again, would we ourselves even be the same people if we'd lived at a different time?

Idle speculation, I suppose. "What if?" with no answer.

I hope that our circumstances let our stories develop happily. We shall see.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Blueberry Beer

I am attempting to take life less seriously. This is very new for me, and I'm not sure how it's gonna work out. However, it's a Tuesday night (with work in the morning) and I'm sitting around the house drinking blueberry beer, so I think I'm off to an okay start.

In honor of this new leaf I'm turning, I'm going to eschew a structured blog format this evening (my posts have structure? um.) and instead simply share some thoughts with you:

The whole concept of having a job - being employed by another person - is pretty shitty. I mean, you beg someone to hire you, show up when and where you're told to, do exactly what you're told to do, and then someone gives you a cookie. By which I mean a paycheck, except odds are good that the cookie would have more monetary value than the check. What are we, four year olds? circus animals?

Painkillers would be awesome if they worked.

Painkillers would be even more awesome if they actually removed or fixed the source of the pain instead of just tricking you into thinking the pain is gone so you'll continue doing things you shouldn't and just make it worse. (This is theoretical, of coure, since they don't actually work in the first place.)

Craigslist is magical. Thanks to it, I now have one less large craptastic item in my house, I have that much more space, and I have $75. Thank you, Craig, for making your list.

I also have a blueberry beer to drink and a couple of very large textbooks with which I should be making friends. And so I bid you all a fond farewell, until next time....

Sunday, May 4, 2008

At Least Something Good Came Out of Harvard

My mother is not a "where are my grandkids?" mom. She's not a "why aren't you married yet?" mom. However, when Good Will Hunting first came out, she did inform me that I ought to go find Matt Damon and marry him. Or wander the halls of MIT in hopes of finding a handsome, brilliant mathematician working as a janitor, and marry him.

She had a point.

I currently have a borrowed copy of Good Will Hunting sitting on top of my television, acting as the subject of an internal debate: should I watch it now, like I really want to, or should I go to bed, like I really, really ought to? (Borrowed because I couldn't find a copy to buy fast enough to fulfill my need for instant gratification. Yes, I really am that impatient - if I know what I want, why should I wait for it? But I digress.)

I had forgotten how good a movie Good Will Hunting is until someone linked me to a couple of clips (complete with Chinese subtitles) on YouTube. It's brilliant. Even if you find no value in anything else Matt Damon or Ben Affleck has ever done, you have to admit there's some good writing here. (That's if you're being stingy. I'd venture to say that a lot of the script is pretty freaking awesome.) Maybe it's because they were writing what they knew (Boston, Harvard, friendship).... whatever the secret formula is, I am excited enough about watching it RIGHT NOW that I really might opt to start what promises to be a difficult week (leading into a whole set of excruciating weeks) on far too little sleep in favor of firing up the DVD player. I mean.... "I'm gonna fucking sit a room and do long division the rest of my life." Maybe that has particular appeal for me, but come on. And the "why shouldn't I work for the N.S.A." speech? Seriously. Go rent this movie. Or buy it. Or borrow it and forget to give it back.

There really is no point to this post other than to sing the praises of this movie. It is so good (and so timely, for me). And to say that if Matt Damon wants to make my mother really happy, well.....

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Look, Ma, One Hand!

Have you ever tried to live for any period of time without proper use of one of your limbs? In my experience this is hardest when you're short a leg, but having only one functional hand is also a giant pain in the ass.

Picture this: you go to the gym with your busted hand. First you must dress yourself. Shirts aren't too hard, but pulling on a pair of snug gym pants with one hand is awkward at best. And just think of when you try to hook - AND snap - your sports bra. Behind your back. With one hand. Yeah.

So you manage to get your clothes on, slowly and awkwardly. Next you must tie your shoes. Apparently it is possible to tie shoelaces one-handed, but I certainly don't know how. I, instead, am simply grateful I still have my second hand and can wiggle my fingers enough to hold a lace in place while I flail considerably with my good hand and eventually make my footwear relatively unlikely to fall off.

Once you make it to the exercise floor, you have the added fun of an audience for all your awkward one-handed attempts at lifting, carrying, and otherwise manipulating various things. The best might be when you try to drink out of your 50 ounce water bottle, which you can't lift with one hand when it's full.

My parents used to know a woman who could peel an orange with one hand...because she had only one. I have nothing but admiration for this woman. I can't make it through one afternoon without getting whiny about how slow my typing is and how sore my other hand is getting from doing all the work.

I am reminded how very lucky I am to have the full use of my limbs most of the time, though some people would question whether I truly have control over them, considering how frequently I manage to get myself into this position of being short one or another of them....

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Not Such a Bad Day After All

The highlights reel:

- alarm at 9:30 feels like vacation
- rolling down the windows
- being pleasantly surprised
- wearing blue jeans and a sweatshirt
- kids and books
- more kids, yelling barely intelligible but hilarious insults at professional athletes
- asking dumb questions and being made fun of...but getting answers
- winning 2-1 in the 9th
- enough warm clothes to be just the right amount of cozy
- "He sounds cute."
- a walk in the night air (without getting mugged)
- ridiculous, awesome friends

**(People might think blogs are written for the readers, but that is perhaps a lie.)

Wishful Thinking

I wish I could make the mail arrive faster.
I wish I could rearrange geography.
I wish I could fix the things that upset my friends. I wish I could do more to help.
I wish I could see the future, just for a second.
I wish I would get a check in the mail for a million dollars, tax free.
I wish I could park my car for more than fifteen minutes, anywhere, without worrying about getting ticketed or towed.
I wish I didn't hate how I spend half my waking hours.
I wish I could worry less about everything and everyone.
I wish people could and would just say things, without all the complications.
I wish the weather could be perfect more than three days a year.
I wish my phone wasn't starting to suck just a little.
I wish I could spend more time with the people that matter to me.
I wish the places where I feel truly safe were places I could stay and not just pass through.
I wish there was less waiting.
I wish I was too busy with all the good stuff....

Sunday, April 27, 2008

They Say Good Things Come in Threes

...though I don't know who "they" are, and I'm pretty sure They weren't talking about jobs. This is unfortunate since, as of this week, I will be working three jobs.

It's likely (for various reasons - other than the obvious, actually) that this situation will not last terribly long, or at least not in its current incarnation. But for the moment, I am once again in the land of three jobs. I've been here before. I remember the lack of sleep. I remember being in a constant late of late-for-something-ness. I remember thinking that cold pop tarts out of a vending machine constituted a satisfactory meal, when I didn't have the time or energy for anything else.

I remember knowing that the insanity was worthwhile because of what it was allowing me to do that I so desperately wanted (at the time) to do. I remember carrying ridiculous amounts of stuff and clothing with me everywhere I went, so I'd be prepared for everything from early morning through mid-afternoon into late at night with a vast array of people to see and tasks to accomplish. I remember vowing I'd never again have more than one job at any given time. (Okay, maaayyybe two.)

So here I find myself again: the pages of my pocket calendar look like little war zones. I already spend much of my time wondering how soon I get to go back to sleep, the answer to which is always "not soon enough." And this time none of the three jobs is The One I Really Like. No, this time all three are just to support something else that might, hopefully, eventually, make this all seem worthwhile.

"Then why," you might say, "if you're SO busy, are you spending time writing this blog about it when you could instead be sleeping (or possibly doing something else remotely important)?" Well.... what fun is being overworked, underpaid, and overtired if you can't at least get on the internet and complain about it? I mean, isn't that what blogs are for?

Now that I think about it, maybe it's actually sneezes that They say come in threes....

Friday, April 25, 2008


Sometimes you go out on a Wednesday night and don't get to sleep until 3am, even though you have to be somewhere at 9:30am on Thursday. Sometimes that leaves you tired enough to actually fall asleep facedown on the awful shag carpet in your living room in the middle of the afternoon. Sometimes you still go out that night, but vow that you'll go home early and get to bed since you have work at 8:30 Friday morning. But sometimes someone buys you just one drink, and you stay up until 2am doing nothing - laughing - anyway. And sometimes it's really worth it. Sometimes it's exactly what you need.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Missing Pieces

Lately I seem to see a lot of young men missing limbs, all around town. Is it just me?

I wonder if they'd say we're winning...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pickup Truck of Death

The last time I was on a bicycle was several years ago (much to my roommate's chagrin). My friend was last on a bicycle at least ten years ago. That is, until yesterday, when we decided to ride twenty miles - ten out, ten back - on bikes we dug out of the basement, one of which ostensibly fit her and one that was blatantly too small for me. We crammed the bikes in the back of the car, drove to the parking lot, donned our dusty helmets, and congratulated ourselves heartily on making it from the car all the way to the beginning of the path.

We considered riding the whole trail - 22 miles each direction - but once we found ourselves stopping every mile or two we changed our minds. It turns out that resting all of your bodyweight on, essentially, the top of a narrow pole is extremely uncomfortable. As in, I'm very much still sore in very inconvenient places, and probably will be for several days.

Fortunately we managed to avoid meeting motorized death at any of the road crossings, and were mostly able to ride side by side so as to hear each other's snarky comments and jokes along the way.

The weather was beautiful, the picnic lunch by the hard-to-find lake was chilly but nice... and I won't be getting back on a bike for at least another five years.

But a weekend out of town, with sunshine and fresh air and really good (completely uncomplicated) company is the best cure for almost any ill...or for many ills at once. It doesn't actually solve the problems, it just makes them seem a lot less problematic. Or, at the very least, it gives you a respite from thinking about them, worrying about them, being sad about them, trying to solve them.

Find a friend to visit or put a tent in your trunk and go. Now. Go.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities

I want to go down to 3rd and Lindsley and run into all the people I used to see at the Lounge. I want a spicy chocolate chocolate chip cookie from Fido after dinner at Diva. I want two homes and a private plane.

I want to tell my friends that I’m not really leaving, I’ll just have a slightly longer drive to meet up with them. I want to believe that there will be no sense of loss, just a geographical redistribution. I want to say that I know it won’t be easy, but what’s (and who’s) important won’t change. I don’t know how it’ll work, I just know that it will.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

That's Just Like a Vacation, Right?

Apologies for being MIA for more than a whole week! A dreadful sin in the blogosphere, I know. My excuse is that I was out of town, and too busy taking in a new city to sit back and reflect on much of anything. Now that I'm home I can share a few thoughts about (or inspired by) the trip:

  • Southwest Airlines is lovely, but the way to "like where you sit" is NOT to "sit where you like." Give your sloganeers a pat on the back, and then find some other way of boarding people quickly without screwing us over. Thanks.
  • Any city that has a coffee shop that serves a spicy vegan chocolate chocolate chip cookie (and a really good cup of coffee) is okay by me.
  • Trees are nice. Grass is nice, too.
  • A lake can be almost like an ocean, if you don't swallow any of it, and if you ignore the fact that you can see the other side.
  • Long Island is REALLY big.
  • I like nice people.
  • I want a tiny house with its very own vegetation, within walking distance of civilization.
  • Major corporations are the devil, but small-ish chains that make a strange city feel more like home might not be quite so bad.
  • Motels are the most miserable places on earth. The free wireless access is necessary so the guests don't all drown themselves in the indefinably sketchy swimming pool.
    Time should be allowed, in life, for both varieties of vacations: the kind where you go somewhere new and run around like crazy trying to Maximize Your Time, and the kind where you go somewhere - probably somewhere familiar - and just become as much like a piece of furniture as possible for some amount of time. People call the first a vacation, but after trying to See And Do an entire city in 2.5 days, I'm really not sure it should count.

* photo(s) to be posted very soon *

Friday, April 4, 2008

Ways to spend a quiet Friday in the office

  • Watch videos of people you know doing stupid things. (Hot sauce, anyone?)
  • Read online articles that are actually interesting but would probably get you in trouble for looking at inappropriate web pages. (
  • Read John Mayer's blog. (He is both intelligent and self-deprecating. <3)
  • Play Scrabulous until the internet breaks and you have to restart your computer.
  • Check the weather reports in all the cities you'd rather be in than the one where you are.
  • Browse Craigslist for apartments you won't rent, jobs you won't apply for, and stuff you won't buy .... and think about how great it would be if you had those jobs with the attendant salaries, which would let you buy that stuff and live in one of those apartments.
  • Change your AIM/gchat status message at least once an hour.
  • Take off your boot and fix your sock that's scrunched up, then take off your other boot and adjust your other sock just for the sake of symmetry.
  • Eat a delicious PBJ on rye at 10am and think bitterly of your friend who is probably just waking up and thinking about maybe going to work... or maybe not....
  • Write blog entries.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

On the Spot

Over dinner, recently, one of my friends turned to another and said "not to put you on the spot, but...." and proceeded to suggest that the second friend do his impression of me.

Friend 2 clearly did feel put on the spot. I was quite surprised that I'm worthy of being impersonated at all; I was nervous about what this impression might reveal about how these friends perceive me, on the one hand, but on the other hand was silently daring Friend 2 to do go ahead and do it and risk offending me. He decided to go ahead because, as he later explained, that was the only way to show me it 'wasn't bad.'

Well, I have yet to decide whether or not it was 'bad'. It was an impression of me leaving a voicemail - I'm well aware that I leave ridiculous voicemails, because I hate phones and hate leaving messages, but I didn't realize I sounded quite that ridiculous. The (brief) performance seemed up to par as far as the rest of the table was concerned. I was also amused, partly by the impersonation but perhaps even more so by Friend 2's concern that he'd insulted me. When I decide, I'll let him know.

He should rest assured, though, that it will always be (at most) secondary to the infamous "oh my god! You look like a GIRL!!" Isn't it funny when you start to find out what your friends really think of you?

29 Horses

Why is competence too much to ask? And why are we expected to be polite to people who can't manage it?

Imagine the following: you arrive at a club to see a band play, and discover that no music will be heard any time soon because the sound guy has thrown up his hands in despair at the "broken" sound system. Apparently no one can figure out how to fix it, and no one thought to tell the bands about it beforehand. But no one is yelling, or even speaking firmly-but-kindly to the sound guy or any other staff member at the club about what appears to be a fiasco in the making. Finally one of the band members steps up and gets things working, and ends up running sound the whole night - all the while being perfectly nice to the people whose jobs he's doing.

Imagine further: one of the musicians that gets on stage before the band you came to see would be more plausible as a character on SNL than as a real person. The songs are bad, the complete lack of charisma or presence of any kind is almost hard to believe. The only things that make it bearable are your friends making snarky comments on either side of you and the guy across the room miming hanging himself. And yet, when this poor girl asks the room "should I play one more, or should I be done?" the meager crowd pauses, understandably, but then assures her that she should indeed play one more.

I'm all for being nice - I think being a genuinely nice person is a great thing. But is this being nice, or is this politeness-out-of-obligation actually the opposite? Is it nice to tell this girl to go on making a fool of herself so we can spend another three and a half minutes making fun of her? Are we doing her any favors by prolonging and reinforcing her delusion that she should, in fact, continue to get up on stages and make these noises for anyone too polite to leave the room? Wouldn't we all be better off - her not least - if we just came out and said that no one liked it?
Think about it. By being polite, we are 1. lying, 2. giving ourselves further opportunity to mock her, 3. setting her up for untold future mockery from future audiences.

And the sound guy: our being polite to him pretty well screws over all future bands who'll be stuck with his incompetence potentially ruining their performances. It might not be as detrimental to him as our similar behavior is to the poor girl who thinks she's a songwriter, but we're really not doing him any favors by letting him continue to be terrible at his job.
Since being polite rather than nice is clearly a bad choice, what does the alternative look like? If we're genuine and straightforward, what sorts of crazy things will happen? Well, maybe the incompetent sound guy will get fired. And maybe the bad songwriter will give up and find another profession. And maybe some guy (or girl) who's been busting his (or her) ass reading books and taking classes and learning from friends how to run sound will get hired instead. And maybe some kid who's been playing the amazing songs he's written on streetcorners and in subway stations will get a chance to take the stage.

"What happens to the incompetents?" you ask. Shouldn't we give them a break? Well, maybe the guy who couldn't run sound will decide that he really wants to learn, and he'll go take a class somewhere and figure it out before he gets himself hired at another sketchy club. And maybe the terrible songwriter will discover that she's actually excellent at writing pretentious greeting cards, and will have a very successful career. And maybe, just maybe, we'll all end up better off.

Because really, who knows how many horses until the end of the world?