Friday, September 29, 2006
About three years ago, I worked at a day camp corralling kindergardners. Now, through the wonders of Facebook, I have discovered that one of my former co-workers from that job is living in the same city as I am right now--nearly eight hundred miles away from that job and home.
Also, today is!!!!!
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
I just feel like there is a certain dignity that needs to come with the forties or even the thirties that involves putting on more clothes than this.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Today brings good news for me (and Ms. Minelli.) A judge threw out the $10 million civil assault case brought by her former husband David Gest. Mr. Gest said he had had headaches from alleged beatings allegedly by Ms. Minelli in alleged alcoholic rages. Ms. Minelli, in turn, alleged herpes.
Apparently, Minelli brought evidence that Gest's headache's were caused by the herpes virus that causes shingles, and Gest failed to rebut that evidence.
Although I feel like alleging herpes should perhaps be one of the last lines of defense in a messy divorce, I also feel that it should always be that one card in the back of your pocket that you could always throw down and say, "BAM! Herpes! I win!"
M likes her apartment to be immaculate. You see, her mother was always very neat, but M also gets sick very easily. She absolutely eradicates any source of germs that may be in the area. M has also within the last year or so bought her first furniture which includes a gorgeous khaki-colored, suede, overstuffed chair and sleeper sofa.
In last night's adventures in housebreaking, the nice doggy peed on both of them. Not just a little pee either. The chair had a puddle, and later the sofa sported one long slash of pee running the length of it and pooling down the back of it and onto the back cushions.
This dog may not be with M much longer.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Today has been no different. The best way to do it is to grab a beer before you go outside, so that you have something to do while you natter, "Go potty," at, well, yourself.
I count today as my greatest victory so far. She was sniffing and sniffing, so I took her out. This trip out was going just as the others had. I sat. She sniffed. I drank. She played. Then, the biggest distraction of all came by: a person. Having just one person come by usually destroys the whole trip. M and I typically go in directly afterward. This nice lady was the UPS lady. She patted the nice doggy on the head, and the little dear relieved herself copiously on UPS lady's shoes in her excitement. We both praised the dog, and I thanked the lady for her assistance.
Hey, I'll take what I can get.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Recently, with the the threat of scholastic burn-out more serious than ever, we've come up with an incentive to get us through the year. If we manage to take care of all of our business this academic year, we will go on a road trip in June. Actually, this won't be just any road trip. We have started referring to it as "The Great American Roadtrip" and it will encompass every roadside stand we pass, every local burger joint we come across, and, most importantly, every little "World's Largest Ball of String" type attraction in a 100 mile radius of every place we stop. We're going to ferret these places out, and take plenty of pictures, and buy refrigerator magnets and coffee mugs and T-shirts at every stop.
Initially, this idea sounded really fun. It was going to be perfectly spontaneous, a time to be without a plan and just do whatever we feel like doing. But, there's one in every group. A Planner. Someone who takes an idea and then organizes the life out of it. Mere days after the idea originated, we began getting emails from our Planner. The first one said that we needed a soundtrack with one song for every state. She had included a list of all of the state songs she could think of, and invited us to fill in the blanks. OK, that's not so bad, right? It could be fun. The next one proposed that each of us keep both a journal and a scrapbook for the trip. We would need to keep up with them every day so as not to get behind, and then at the end of the trip we'll have a party and pass them around. Now, this is beginning to sound suspiciously like work to me. The next email said that we'd have to make plans for Sunday. Since we won't be in church, we could have a sermon-giving contest while we drove. Are you kidding me? A sermon giving contest? Not only is that work, that's boring work. Why would we do this to ourselves after we've already made it through such a long year?
Tonight, we were informed of the plans that she's made over the past week for this trip that's still NINE MONTHS AWAY. This week, she concentrated on games. Mad libs, of course. Desert Island and Would You Rather. An alphabet game tournament with a scoreboard and prizes for the winner. A magnetized version of Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit. As she talked, I came up with a theory. This is where all of the anti-fun in the world comes from. Planners. It goes like this. Someone has an idea. It's a good idea. Then a Planner gets ahold of it. The Planner is excited by the idea, so she Plans, and the more she Plans, the more excited she gets, and the more excited she gets, the more Plans she comes up with. So at the end of the process, all that's left of this beautiful, exciting idea is a check list and a goal chart. The idea has become work.
I'm pretty sure that this is the process that turned all of us into the wannabe dropouts we are today. Someone had an idea. We'll have school for people who have already graduated and they want to learn more. It'll be great. We'll meet with other people who study what we study and talk about ideas! Then we'll try the ideas out and see if they work! But then, a Planner came along. And the Planner said, "OK, this has potential, but here's what we'll have to do. We'll have to meet every week for three hours at a time, because we want to make sure we'll have plenty of time to talk about everything. And we'll all want to make sure that we can talk about the same thing, so we'll read a lot during the rest of the week and then we'll all talk about that. And we should have a set number of pages we should have to read every week so that we're maximizing our learning. And we'll want to supplement our learning, so everyone should have extra topics to research every week and they can do little mini-presentations. With powerpoints! And handouts! AND we'll want to measure our progress at the end of the course, so we'll all write 25 page seminar papers at the end, and then read them to each other!" And before you know it, we're all dying for a vacation.
The solution? We get rid of the Planners. We institutionalize them like the true crazy people they are. We put them all in a building and give them plenty of stuff to plan, far away from others, so that our ideas can't be turned into work. And then we have our ideas, and we carry them out, but without the use of mission statements and organizational diagrams and evaluative rubrics, and maybe some of the fun is left in them, and maybe then there will be no more burn out, and no more need for an escape plan like Australia.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
I first saw signs of the Litter late one night when I was coming home from work. As I passed through the parking lot toward my apartment, I felt that I was being followed. I turned to look, and a large, striped tabby with a scar down his face was staring at me brazenly. I took several more steps, stopped, and turned again, only to find that the cat had closed the distance between us. I quickened my pace and made it the door of the apartment and entered. The cat passed my door, but lingered in the complex for sometime.
A few days later, I saw the same cat again, this time followed by several other cats. They stopped outside an apartment on the first floor and waited for the man inside to pay his dues, in the form of food. I watched as the poor man, afraid to even step outside his apartment, flung the food out the door. The cats ate and left, probably to collect dues from other tenants.
That night I learned what happened to those who crossed the Litter. At about three in the morning, I was awakened by unearthly screaming and howling coming from the pool. I ran to the window, and witnessed the following scene. There had been a fight, and a cat who had been so unwise as to displease the Litter cowered underneath a pool chair a large ugly stripey cat swiped at him. The large cat was getting closer with every swipe, and the weaker cat decided to run for it. He took off through the pool fence, howling all the way, with the large cat close on his tail. I'm not sure what became of this poor, foolish cat, but I never saw him again.
The most terrifying experience I had with the Litter was in the December, about six months after I moved in. I had managed to avoid paying off the Litter thus far and was determined not to submit to their rules. I was walking out the door of my apartment and turned around to grab my umbrella, which I keep just inside the door. Though I was only turned around for seconds, when I started back out the door, an orange cat stood in the door frame looking at me. I froze, and, aware that my life was in danger, screamed, hoping to attract attention and scare off the Litter's hitman. It worked; the cat slunk off into the shadows, and I hurried to class. That very day I began making plans to move to a safer neighborhood. I now live in an apartment that is not in the shadow of the Feline Mafia. It is a feeling of freedom and security that I thought I might never have again.
But don't get me started on that gang of teenage squirrels that vandalizes the neighborhood with reckless abandon. I overlook them for now, but I know a group of cats that might be grateful for some new targets.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Princess Lucy continued her reign of terror for several months, but because of her actions, misfortune befell the peaceful kingdom. Lucy's attitude began to envelope the land, and the order of the kindgom was destroyed. At harvest time, the fields did not yield their usual bounty, and the people were suffering. The Queen ordained that she and Princess Lucy would travel to a neighboring kingdom to discover the cause of their misfortune and to seek help.
Princess Lucy was horrified at the thought of travel. She had believed her entire life that the world ended just beyond the door in the mountain range that marked the boundaries of the kingdom and that monsters lived on the other side, waiting to feast on kittens who might stray beyond the door. She told the Queen she would not go; the peasants would have to work harder and make the fields produce crops. This saddened the Queen, who realized that her daughter did not care about bringing good to the kingdom. Distraught by her daughter's failure as a cat, but determined to help the princess understand her royal responsibilities, the Queen insisted that the Princess would travel to the neighboring kingdom, and she had the Princess shut in a crate and placed in the carriage. Then they began their journey.
The journey was long and difficult for the princess, but she finally arrived in the castle of the neighboring kingdom. There she was greeted by as strange creature, the likes of which she had never seen before. The creature was shaped roughly like her, but had longer ears and a large, smiling mouth. It spoke a different language, but Lucy found that she was able to understand it. "It is your fault," said the creature. "The misfortune that has befallen your kingdom is punishment for your wicked ways. You must repent and be a good cat, and all will be well." Lucy immediately recognized these words as truth, but she hardened her heart against them. Lucy did not want to be a good cat. She had learned to enjoy the power that she felt as a Bad Cat. She wanted servants and crickets alike to run in terror when they saw her. She decided that if she killed the creature who had spoken to her thusly, she would be able to end her exile and return to rule her kingdom. So she plotted to kill the creature with the knife that she had hidden in her coat.
But the Queen, who had heard the creature's prophecy and had seen Lucy draw a knife from her coat, decided to prevent her kitten from bringing future harm upon the kingdom. That night while Lucy slept, the Queen snuch into Lucy's chamber and tied the princess's fingers together. In the morning, the princess awoke to find her hands bound, and, prevented from carrying out the evil deed, she began to howl and scream. But the Queen did not listen to her, because she had discovered that the princess, who had plotted to harm another creature, was beyond redemption. Having discovered that Lucy had been the problem all along, the Queen returned to the kingdom to begin the work of healing the kingdom.
The moral of the story is, just because a cat has pretty green eyes does not mean that she is not filled with pure, unadulterated evil.
So, I have now moved in and am installed in my friend M's apartment. M and I have been friends since elementary school, and she is über cool. Her mother is also here, and she is very sweet. Also with us are the animals--M's cat and new puppy and my one year old kitty.
Now, my kitty has always been high maintenance. She is not really even good at being a cat. She is highstrung, anxious, and somewhat unfriendly at times. She's not so much a fan of being held and cuddled and touched. She is also not used to other animals.
Of course, I blame myself for this aversion to other fuzzy things. Last spring break I went out to visit Fiancé's extended family with him and his father and I left the kitty with his mother. Fiancé's mother has two older cats who are dignified and aloof but also two dogs who are jumpy, noisy, and forcefully involved. The evening I dropped her off I got the call that she had been nicknamed Tea Kettle because she would do nothing but hiss at anyone. It took her days to recover.
These new animals have been no different for her. The older cat is somewhat interested, but in a friendly way, and the little puppy is playful and wants to get up into the kitty's face. And I have forgotten to mention that the kitty is not declawed.
As a consequence, to avoid the damage that would be inflicted by the swiping that accompanies the hissing, I went to PetCo to purchase the humane plastic claw caps. The ordeal was an ordeal even at this point since I had to take her into the store to figure out which size to get her. She dug her claws into my back and growled at everyone and tried to run away while small children kept coming up to her trying to touch her and talking about the pretty kitty, ignoring their mothers' warnings not to touch the mean kitty. I was lucky to get out without a lawsuit.
The fun continued when I had to clip the claws. Yowling, growling, swiping, biting, struggling, hissing...the fun just wouldn't stop. At the end of a half hour I decided to cut my losses and just did the front claws.
The very last thing was the caps themselves. The glue tube was roughly the size of a pencil nub...maybe 2.5 inches long and no bigger around than a No. 2 pencil. I had to wrap the beast into a giant, extra thick fleece blanket with only the paw in question sticking out. Forty-five minutes of screaming, growling cat and finally I now have a cat that can't kill the other animals in the apartment.
She can't use the scratching pad, but she forgets that and tries anyway. She's been trying to lick the things off for days.
It's official: She hates me.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
We enter into heaven and stand before the panel, which consists of God the Father (who knows everything and whose idea we assume all of this is anyway), God the Son (the Personality of the group who is often referred to in the captioning as "religious icon") and God the Holy Spirit (we're not sure exactly what he/she/it looks like, but whatever he/she/it is, it helps us walk the walk). Then the panel shows us our best and our worst moments on the Heavenly jumbotron, and some people have this really great best moment, but maybe God says something like "Girl, this moment is breathtaking, but when I was looking through your film, they were not all like this. You did not always show an awareness that I was watching you" and then some people might have this really bad worst moment, but then God says something like "You need to learn to be softer and more Christian, but when I see you standing in front of me, you have a presence. I see Child of God." Then we know we're about to hit the judgment, and God has really had some bad things to say about everyone and some good things to say about everyone, so it's really hard to guess who's getting in and who's not. And then, after a dramatic pause, God the Father comes to stand before us, and He says, "There are twelve billion beautiful people standing before me, but not all of them will get into the Kingdom of Heaven. In my hand is the Book of Life, and I'm going to call out the names written in it. Those people whose names I do not call will have to leave immediately."
And He starts calling names. And some people get in who you think didn't deserve to get in, but there they are, so God must have seen something in them that you didn't. Either that or He's crazy. But He's been in this business a long time and He's pretty famous, so He probably knows what He's talking about. And then all the names have been called, and you were fortunate enough to get in, but you look over at the people left, and you think that some of them deserved to get in, because they have really pretty lives, but for some reason the judges didn't pick them. And you kind of wonder what's going on that some people got in who shouldn't have and some people didn't get in who should have.
I'll tell you what's going on (and I have it on good authority from a friend of a friend who's brother's best friend's roomate knew one of the producers). Favors. Those people who got picked, it's not because they were any better than the other models...I mean people. They were in good with one of the judges. Now I won't tell you which one, but he was one of the more VISIBLE members of the panel.
Never saw that coming. Here I was always told to be really careful because God is always watching, like a big referee in the sky, but it turns out, in the last fifteen minutes, your best and worst photos...I mean moments, are just there for dramatic effect.
Monday, September 18, 2006
As a side note, if you are staying in a hotel in a town on the state line of State A and State B, make sure you know which state you are staying in because there may be another location of the same hotel chain right across the interstate. It was all very confusing.
Friday, September 15, 2006
I like infomericals as a whole, but there is one infomercial that I am particularly intrigued by: the Magic Bullet infomercial. Even though I've already seen it dozens of times, I will watch the Magic Bullet infomercial, sometimes to the exclusion of other, more entertaining television programming. You have to admit that the Magic Bullet seems like an incredible piece of gadgetry. By just pressing on the top of the Magic Bullet, you can chop, dice, grate, blend, whip, crush and puree. And it takes up so little counterspace!
My favorite part of the Magic Bullet infomercial is when our cheerful hosts turn the Magic Bullet into the ultimate party machine. In under two minutes, they make salsa, nachos, quesadillas, and a different mixed drink for each of the "real people" on their kitchen set. It seems so easy. It seems like something I can do. It convinces me that if I buy the Magic Bullet, I will have an endless supply of salsa and mixed drinks and fun. My most pressing problem will be making drinks in the Magic Bullet personalized party mugs fast enough for my many guests.
I guess what it comes down to is that there are problems in my life that I can't fix, but as I watch the Magic Bullet infomercial I see problems identified in a matter of seconds and quickly solved with a zzzt-zzzt-zzzt of the patented Magic Bullet cross-blade. The Magic Bullet infomercial tells me that there ARE problems that can be solved quickly and easily. It makes me believe that some things in life really are a breeze.
As of today, I am the proud owner of a Magic Bullet blender. I haven't used it yet, but I plan on grating some cheese tomorrow, thus finding a quick and easy solution to my crippling lack of grated cheese. And later I will make a healthy, nutritious smoothie using one of the recipes in the complimentary Magic Bullet recipe guide, addressing the problem I have getting five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. And if I can manage the fast and simple chicken salad, I'll have solved my what-to-eat-for-dinner problem, making me three for three!
Before addressing the Bubble, I must first address stress. There are many sources of stress, but the kind with which we will be dealing is produced by the stress organ, or the conscience. The function of the consience is to monitor and stimulate the behavior of an individual, so that the individual will behave in a way that is socially (having to do with society), personally (having to do with the individual), and morally (having to do with principles of right and wrong)responsible. The conscience attempts to control this behavior by issuing statements regarding certain choices. For example, if an individual decides to have ice cream for dinner, this decision alerts the part of the conscience that monitors behavior affecting the individual. The conscience will then issue a statement saying, "No. Ice cream is not a responsible choice. I should have broiled chicken and broccoli." This is known as a Should-Response. Should-Responses can be very beneficial to an individual, but when a conscience is allowed to become overactive, it can issues too many Should-Responses, cluttering the mind and creating stress.
Another source of stress generated by the conscience is the Nagging Worry. The Nagging Worry is produced when the conscience attempts to deal with environmental disturbances by issuing frequent statements in an attempt to address the cause of the disturbance. For example, when an individual is looking for a job, the conscience responds to the situation by issuing the following statement several times per day: "I have to get a job soon." Depending on the severity of the disturbance and the activity of the conscience, it might also issue supplementary statements such as "Rent is due in two weeks" or "Mom will be so disappointed if I end up homeless." These statements accumulate, building stress.
The Bubble of Irresponsibility acts as a shield against such Statements of Conscience. The Bubble is generated when stress, having been built up over a period of time, reaches abnormally high levels and then suddenly vanishes, creating a stress vacuum. This might occur, for example, after the end of a school term, when the final exams and seminar papers that have consumed so much thought and energy and happiness over the past several weeks are finished, being replaced other, more pleasuable activities, like watching television.
When an individual is generating a Bubble of Irresponsibility, most, if not all Statements of Conscience vanish immediately into the stress vacuum, leaving the mind clear and more capable of enjoying periods of relaxation. The Bubble of Irresponsibility covers all areas governed by the conscience, so that even if the vacuum was generated by a reduction of stress in one area of life, such as school, it extends to other areas of life, such as financial stability. Thus, the Bubble of Irresponsibility generated from the end of a school term often leads to inadvisable and impractical clothing or entertainment purchases.
One of the most fascinating characteristics of Bubbles of Irresponsibility is the way the effect others. Though an individual's Bubble is not visible to friends and neighbors, when in close proximity with the Bubble, people often experience a vicarious stresslessness and a heightened ability to enjoy life. These effects can be very beneficial to an individual who is in a high-stress period in their lives, as it allows them a sort of mini-vacation.
This is where Oso's departure becomes a problem for me. Oso is not in school at the moment, although she recently found out that she received surprisingly high grades during the summer term. Furthermore, she recently obtained a pretty well-paying job that offers the promise of reduced financial strain. These factors combined have generated a powerful Bubble of Irresponsibility. My classes, on the other hand, are beginning to kick into high gear, and Oso, in moving out of state has removed her Bubble of Irresponsibility and all of the relief it has lately provided from my extremely annoying overactive conscience.
Lest I sound parasitic, let me assure you that Oso and I have established a mutally beneficial arrangement. Since we are in different programs at school, our stress times are conveniently staggered, so that when one of us hits a stress time, the other hits a down time. Furthermore, since our school responsibilities are different, our Statements of Conscience often do not apply to the other person, and we minimize scholastic stress by not spreading it to each other. (This is why no matter what field you are in, as a graduate student it is essential to have friend outside of your department.) Thus we have managed to establish a joint Bubble of Irresponsibility that is very nearly permanent. Each of us, in term, acts as a beacon of sanity to others within our respective programs, spreading a little bit of Irresponsibility to our hyper-focused classmates. We do not use our Bubbles selfishly, hoarding our enjoyment of reality television and celebrity gossip. Rather, we share our pleasure with others. We make our tiny little academic communities better, happier places. I think we should be applauded, and given the GPA points we may have lost when we chose to watch Project Runway instead of working on our presentations.
So, thank you for your comments and keep them coming, and we are very sorry that we can't publish everything. Keep reading and commenting though!
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Just now I was watching Million Dollar Listings, on Bravo. I don't know if you have seen this, but the woman pictured above is one of the main characters on the new reality show. I recommend that you Google around a bit and find some clearer pictures of her to fully appreciate what I am about to tell you. After selling a house, this woman Dia and her husband Ray went shopping at Urban Outfitters. She started trying on shoes and clothes. Some of these clothes were even glittery. And she bought things. Ray paid for them. She will wear them in public.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
I blame myself, a little. I taught the scale how to lie. When I don't like what I see on the scale, I fiddle with it, trying to adjust the number in order to lie to myself. The best method that I have found is to place the scale on the edge of the bathroom rug so that the front of the scale hangs over the edge and the scale rests at an angle. This results in the loss of at least a pound. However, in doing this, I am demanding that the scale lie to me regarding my actual weight, and it appears that the scale has grown accustomed to it and has started lying of its own free will. I have unwittingly created a sentient being!
Thanks to my mom and countless episodes of Saved by the Bell, I was aware that a lie is "a dangerous thing" and that it can get "out of control" and take on "a life of its own". I just wasn't aware that these cautions were literal. I always thought they were a figurative interpretation of the truth. I didn't know that in making my scale tell lies I was actually giving it a life of its own.
I had always considered statements like "a lie is a dangerous thing" implicit permission to stretch the truth, in that these statements themselves were not literally true. (Is is really dangerous? Will it poke someone's eye out? Will I cut myself on its edges? Should I always be careful to point the lie away from people?) I have found lying to be a very useful thing over the years. A lie gives you the power to do something that you know you should do, but can't manage to do with truth alone. For example, I over-schedule myself, and I know I should say no, when people ask me to do things, but only a lie gives me the power to do this. They never ask "do you want to come into work Friday morning and finish this project for A.B." The truth would work for me on that one. No, I don't want to come in Friday morning. Instead, they ask "can you come in Friday morning and finish the project." The truth is that yes, I can physically come in Friday morning and finish the project. It doesn't matter that I've worked more hours this week than you're planning to pay me for or that I have a major presentation to give on Monday and I was counting on Friday morning to go to the library and do my research. If I limit myself to the truth, I have to say yes. A lie, however, lets me say, "No, I'm booked solid all day Friday" (Translation: I'm going to sit in my bed in my pajamas and work on my presentation.)
I've also found lies to be a source of motivation. About a week ago, my brother asked if I can be ready for a forty-five mile bike ride with him in a couple of weeks. The truth is that no, I won't be ready. I haven't ridden my bike in ages. In fact, I've been doing the opposite of riding my bike; I've been sitting on my butt reading. But that's not what I told him. In fact, that's the opposite of what I told him. I told him, sure, of course, why wouldn't I be ready to ride forty-five miles. This was a lie, but in two weeks, I will be at a starting line at 8:00 in the morning, ready to go. My lie committed me to doing something that will probably be a painful shock to my body, but it will be good for me and it will allow me to share an experience with my brother that I will be thankful for later. Had I told him the truth, I would have missed out.
Finally, lies can be a great and unending source of entertainment. I have constructed elaborated lies about all of my friends. I have invented incredible "how we met" stories involving cactus farms, fictional middle eastern countries, and photographic expiditions to the south pole. I have exaggerated and embellished stories about them that I can tell when we're all together and remembering old times. Did MO really throw RC all the way through the window of our apartment? No. Did A.W. really almost burn the apartment to the ground when we were burning her ex-boyfriend's letters? No. Did J.H. really frighten all of Applebee's with the noises he made eating he chocolate dessert? Probably not. But it's more fun that way. A lie can capture the spirit of a moment that the truth can't.
If any of you are wondering why I have time to post so often, and I know you are, I am taking one term off from school. My school is on the quarter system, and I attended four quarters straight of law school. Considering that the first three of those comprised my first year, that's quite a load. Anyway, I'm taking a quarter off and moving to a completely different part of the country for a month and a half to just hang out and work. I'll be moving in with my best friend from high school.
All this to say that what I should be doing is packing because I leave Friday. However, I am procrastinating. I do this rather well, you see, as I am well-practiced. I do this every time I go into finals week. I have a very specific strategy, and that is this: I watch The Newlyweds DVDs back-to-back-to-back. To-back-to-back. To-back. You get the idea. They just sit and run while I sit and watch instead of doing what I'm supposed to be doing which is in this case packing.
It's rather sad, you know. As utterly irrational as it is, I had a hard time not taking their split personally. I might have cried while no one was looking, but no one can prove it. The worst part though, is that the final season of the show is part of my procrastinathon, and that is the one where you can see things falling apart.
Every once in a while, I'll check in and write a post so that I can convince myself that I'm being productive. At some point though, the last season finishes, and I know how it ends, so I just have to accept the demise and freakin' pack. Sigh.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Having qualified for food stamps, however, I don't know that I'm going to use them. There are two reasons for this. First, I'm not sure if I can buy the foods that I am accustomed to. The food stamp literature says that food stamps are for nutritious foods such as breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry and dairy. I did not see Oreos anywhere on that list. The food stamp people would probably try to tell me that Oreos are not nutritious and therefore are not vital to life, but I would disagree. I find that Oreos are an inspiration. When it's midnight and I'm writing the last line of the second page of a twenty-five page seminar paper, it's not fruits or vegetables that keep me going. It's Oreos. That and Vanilla Pepsi. Which is getting increasingly hard to find. The benefits that these foods give me cannot be measured in mere nutrients. In a time of crisis, these foods speak directly to my soul, and they tell me that life is still good and that everything will be OK. Fruits and vegetables don't do that. Where Oreos and Pepsi are like a nuturing aunt, fruits and vegetables are like a middle school gym coach. They tell me to try harder, to be a better person, to do more than I think I can. And while I appreciate this message, sometimes you really just need an Oreo.
The second reason that I don't know if I'll follow through on this whole food stamps thing is that I don't want to be hitting the emergency button this early in my life. I have no problem admitting that I have no money, that every dollar of every paycheck is accounted for to cover daily life, even before I get the money. Ask my friends. "I can't afford it" is a common refrain, and any money spent on a magazine or a fun new hair product is prefaced with, "I should NOT be doing this." None of this is a problem, because I work hard for what I have, and I like what I do, at least on some days. The problem is that I feel that foodstamps is something you turn to when all efforts to do it on your own have failed, and in a life where everything is so delicately balanced that it wouldn't take much for things to take a sharp and sudden turn for the worst, I want to be able to think that there's still one thing that I haven't done, one last resort ready for when things get really bad. It's like when you're sick, and it would probably make you feel better to take a big dose of Nyquil and go lay on your couch and watch trashy daytime TV that you never get to watch until you fall asleep, but you put off doing this for as long as you can, because you know that if Nyquil and a nap on the couch DON'T make you feel better, then there's nothing that will make you feel better. If there's still some measure you haven't resorted to, you can put up with a lot more, because you know two things: you're not as bad off as you could be, and you know that if things become unbearable, you have the power to change your situation. As soon as you turn to that emergency life-line, however, you know that if things get worse, there may not be anything that can make them better. I like to think that things will only get better from here on out, that I will travel off over the horizon, sun shining off my Daewoo as we drive to meet a destiny full of Oreos and Premium Unleaded, but I also want to know that if the Daewoo loses the will to sputter and unforseen expenses start popping up, I still have a last resort.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
“This month, Ford will roll out his second fix-it plan this year, which analysts expect to cute deeper and move faster than his earlier effort to shed 30,000 workers and 14 factories. He’s also busy selling off pieces of Ford (he announced a possible deal last week to unload Aston Martin). And he’s working the phones, calling Nissan-Renault’s superstar CEO, Carlos Ghosn, this summer to express interest in joining forces—that is, if Ghosn’s alliance talks with GM don’t work out.”
Naughton, Keith. "'We Understand We're in Trouble': Q&A: CEO Bill Ford Jr. on how he's dealing with the carmaker's current struggles." Newsweek. 11 Sept. 2006: pp. 30-32.
Not too long ago I went on a three-week long road trip with my fiancé and my future mother-in-law. Somewhere along the trip, Fiancé bought a copy of monopoly. I was game for it the first time we played. That first time ended in his beating both of us soundly. He kept wanting to play at various points in the trip, and he kept beating us too. Every time we started to lose though, his mother and I would start selling off hotels, then houses, then mortgaging properties, and finally combining forces before selling properties to him or just flat out losing.
I think that’s every losing game of Monopoly ever played.Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
I’ve found it! The sangréal of my all-too-recently forgotten childhood!
The miracle of which I speak is, of course, a packet of Runts candy that has no limes or oranges in it. Not only are there none of the horrid citrus candies (alright, orange isn’t so bad, but the lime’s just terrible,) but a majority of the little pink heart-shaped ones. Mmmmm! They’re the best ones by far. I just pulled it out of a bag of assorted Wonka candy that UrsaMinor brought over to my apartment and conveniently left there.
Runts and I go back a long way. I remember that as a child my grandmother would try to use them with my brother and me to convince us that the real fruits were more palatable. We even had tiny, Runt-sized baskets that you could do a tiny confectionary fruit arrangement with. Looking back, I’m not sure why she thought this would work. She was probably just at her wit’s end.
I think the best candy memory I have though, is of my very first baseball game. I was born in the Houston area, but we had moved several states away close to my fourth birthday. The summer I was ten, we started to go back to visit for a week each summer. We were still close to two families in the town I’d been born in, and they each had two kids apiece—a boy and a girl—all of whom were older than my little brother and me. One summer when I was still fairly young, we all went to an Astros game together at the Astrodome. The group was of all the adults, my brother and I, and one of the other girls, who was in at least middle school. I thought it was so way cool that we’d be hanging out together at the game. I’d brought my sweet new backpack which was yellow, fuchsia, teal, and bubble gum pink. The older girl had the best idea that I’ve ever heard to this day: FILL IT WITH CANDY. I don’t know whether it was because her family just had a lot of candy to get rid of, that you could get away with more if you had guest friends to blame it on, or if it was because her dad was a dentist, but that backpack was absolutely stuffed full of candy. I mean, we had trouble zipping it up kind of full. I think we even had overflow that we put into my pink, personalized child-sized duffel bag with the bunny head on the front, complete with big floppy ears. It was easily more candy than I’d ever seen even from a Trick-or-Treat haul.
We took our candy to the game, and we got in with it too. There were Runts, of course, and Gobstoppers—none of the candies you don’t want to have like leftover Christmas candies or the butterscotch or cinnamon affairs. It was all pure sugar Wonka candy. The candy, however, turned out not to be the best part of the evening. I am not even sure that we ate that much of it. I assume that we didn’t because I didn’t collapse into a diabetic coma at any point in the evening. The game was the best by far. We played the Mets and we lost, but I screamed myself hoarse and discovered that those terribly boring games my dad watched on TV were really quite a lot of fun if you were actually there.
To this day, I still can't watch a baseball game on TV, but I still cheer for the Astros whether the season is good or bad and eat my tiny fruit-shaped candies. Now, my sugar high and I are going to go find a tiny basket for the perfect bag of runts. Next: The perfect bag of Starbursts!
Monday, September 11, 2006
I started out today to write a post about financial aid and how much I hate it, because that is what I have been doing today. That post is, perhaps, for another day.
I knew in sort of a peripheral way that today was September 11th, but I had not stopped to think about it much. Guiltily, I must admit that I didn’t stop and let it hit me until I was watching Bowling for Columbine on Bravo this afternoon. I’d been alternately running around and yelling at the financial aid office and sitting around feeling sorry for my sinuses. I was doing the latter when the documentary came on.
Now, I’m not going to come down on one side or the other with Michael Moore and the quality of his work, but I will say that what he does effectively is to get your attention and remind you to ask questions and to think about the things you hear and not take them for granted. At least, that is what he accomplishes with me, and that is where he got me today.
I, like everyone else, remember where I was and what I was doing when it happened.
It was probably my second or third week as a freshman at the university. I was living on my own for the first time (albeit in a dorm full of other young people) and was at school over seven hundred miles from home. Our campus is and was a “suitcase campus” where many of the students, and most of the freshman especially, went home on the weekends to visit their families and friends which added to my homesickness. I had my first boyfriend, and he was yet another thousand miles away.
I’d just gotten up for my 9:30 class. I routinely woke up to the clock radio, and that morning they were saying that an airplane had flown into the World Trade Center. Somehow, I thought they were joking—joking poorly, but joking nonetheless. I think it was that this momentous news was given in the disc jockeys’ well-trained, singsong on air cadences that made me think so. It nagged at me, and I checked the news on CNN.com. I was thinking that if this were a joke, I was going to be writing an angry letter. How tasteless of them.
Then, I saw the picture right there on CNN’s homepage. Two tall buildings like perfect mirror images of each other except for the fiery explosion in the side of one and the thick clouds of black smoke billowing out of the other. If you clicked past the headline to look at the story itself, you saw more pictures of people in their business suits running panicked through the street sobbing and covered in a thick layer of grey dust from the tops of their well-coifed heads down to their leather briefcases and Ferragamo shoes. The images were terrifying.
It’s funny that I never thought of not going to class. It’s funny not just of the gravity of what was going on but also because I’m a chronic class-skipper. Usually, I work myself up to skipping class, skillfully talking myself out of it with my inner silken tongue. I guess I was too shocked to say much to myself that day. I walked to class, surrounded by my peers doing the exact same thing. It was the same thing that we did every day. I think that many people did not quite know yet, because everything seemed so normal. The day wasn’t even quieter yet, since the mornings always started out quiet with bleary eyes, yawns, and personalized plastic mugs of Starbucks coffee. We were our own little picture of New York then, I suppose—a private university full of well-groomed young people with lots of promise walking to work just like we did every other day of the week.
Every class was held that day and the days after that. The feeling was that if classes were cancelled the terrorists had won. Between classes people crowded into the common areas to watch the news and to see what had happened next. I just remember that no one sat to watch; everyone stood.
The whole day passed that way until that night when classes were over and several hours had passed without another incident, after the stillness of shock gave way to the busy activity of fear. I called my family to make sure that none had been flying and that my cousin who lived in New York City was alright. I called the then-boyfriend to check in with him and desperately talk him out of joining the armed forces. Fortunately for him, there was a week to lapse between 9/11 and his eighteenth birthday, and his mother had intervened and talked him out of signing up. I spent a lot of time calling home and calling those of my friends in other towns and talking things over. However, my friends at the university and I did not discuss it much at all. I think that would have made the possibility that such a thing could have happened in our town less remote than we would have liked it.
The figure of speech, “The world stood still,” never seemed to be a very visual one to me until I saw all of those people stopped dead still staring at the news and at each other not knowing what to say. I think that is what we all did that day. Stand still in shock. And I think that is what we should do today: stand still in reverence for what has happened and the age of certainty that has passed. Then, when we have stopped, go on again with day-to-day life and have our own small victory against fear, those who feel it, and those who wield it like a weapon.
Now, I’ve stopped, and I can move on.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
More recently, evidence has come to light suggesting that her soul might be even older than we first though. RC has demonstrated some unusual behavior that leads me to believe her soul dates back to the Irish Potato Famine. I first began to form my suspicions when she bought a 5 pound bag of quicksale (translation: nearly rotten) potatoes at the grocery store for something like 32 cents. Now, RC doesn't really like potatoes, but to pass up the opportunity to buy 5 pounds of food for 32 cents goes against everything in her nature. So she carted the potatoes home and relegated them to a corner, where they sat for a while. They sat in the corner for so long that they began to sprout, at which point RC grew very alarmed, and pulled out the bag of potatoes for what became The Week of Endless Potatoes. Determine not to let the cheap, rotting potatoes go to waste, she put potatoes in everything. Potato salad, potato pancakes, homemade potato chips. What really got me was when she started making things like potato pasta and potato sandwiches. Not terribly appealing. She ate so many potatoes that she made herself sick and swore that she would never buy another 5 pound bag of potatoes again.
A few months ago RC got married. While talking to her new husband, I mentioned the Week of Endless Potatoes, and he commented that she had just bought a 5 pound bag of potatoes the previous week. He also mentioned something about potato and mushroom stew. I truly believe that only a soul that had once hungered specifically for potatoes could accomplish such feats.
Friday, September 08, 2006
The universe likes my brother a lot. It always has. Last week, in a continuation of a shower of beneficence, the universe handed my brother first a job and then a girlfriend. I don't think he even had to ask for them. The universe just looked at him and said, "he looks like he could use some cash," and gave him a job. Then the universe gave him a girlfriend, knowing that if it didn't give him some reason to spend the cash, he would just hoard it, probably in the little, yellow safe that used to be mine until it broke and I couldn't get the money out, so I gave it to him, since he didn't plan on ever getting the money out, and I think he uses it to this day. And then, as if the universe hadn't already done enough, my grandmother gave him money to take the new girlfriend out to dinner. This way he can put the universe's money in the bank, spend my grandmother's money on the girl, and get everything he wants. All without even trying.
I'm not exactly sure why the universe seems to prefer my brother to me, but I have a theory. The universe is very big, and I think it must move very slowly, as many big things do. My brother, too, moves very slowly. He kind of dawdles his way through life, taking his time, enjoying the scenery, stopping frequently to play. He must move at the universe's pace. I, on the other hand, am smaller than both my brother and the universe, and prefer to get things done, get them done right, and get them done now. I try to help the universe along, but I think I make it feel rushed. It goes along with me for a while, and then, when it can't take anymore, it pushes me out of the way so it can go sit down.
It seems that my brother has an easier time of it, he and the universe being such good buddies and all, and a smart person would probably learn from this and start doing less, start leaving the universe alone. I don't think I can do this. My body and mind don't take well to doing nothing. They get twitchy. And there's something to be said for doing things the hard way. The hard way is not always pleasant, but it's never boring. I guess I'm getting what I want from the universe. Entertainment. The universe is an unending source of both comedy and drama, and in pushing my way through it, I get to experience both. And I think I have something to offer the universe, too. Momentum. If people like me didn't poke and prod the universe into action, there would be no jobs for the universe to give to its favorites.
I remember when I was in high school all I wanted to do was to graduate and move the heck out of my house. Not that I realized it, but I really didn't have it so bad there. I hated living at home because I hated having that extra level of approval to deal with before I did something. I hated going to school because I had to ride the bus and the students around me weren't exactly the most enlightened group of people I could hope to meet in my lifetime. They weren't bad, they just upset mighty easily, that's all. The bus itself was an extra thirty minutes I could spend sleeping while someone else got me where I was supposed to be going. I thought that surely in college it would be better--that I would have no one to answer to but myself and that my academic life would be absolutely bursting with brilliant, interesting people and compelling classes that actually had something to do with whichever magical major I chose.
Uh, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
First, I was wrong about the whole parent-thing. My dad called me three times a day, easily, for all four years. He could never quite decide if I was an equal to confide in or lean on or someone who had quite possibly lost every scrap of responsibility and maturity he had believed me to have in my younger years. Some of this was earned, like those times NSF slips showed up at the house, but the phone calls to me when I was at the library to demand if I were drunk were certainly not. In fact, I didn't touch a drop of alcohol until I was twenty-one, a little tidbit of information that I am fairly certain he will never believe.
Of course, now I am twenty-three, almost twenty-four, and living mostly on student loans though some still on his dime. I actually had the dean of my graduate/professional school offer to call him when she heard that he still called every day. This very day, in fact, he called and yelled at me for ten minutes about something that did not directly affect him and could not be fixed with screaming. It was just that he needed to scream. We never screamed in high school. Ever.
Then, there were my fellow students. I still keep up with a good number of my robust high school class of thirty-three students, and they are some of the most insightful, kind, and steady people that I know. I have met perhaps five such people in college and graduate/professional school combined. I never met such un-self-reliant people. I can probably count on one hand the number of peers I have met at my university that I have known to have moved out of a dorm or an apartment without their parents' help. Of course, at my university, this help really consists of a girl and her mother sitting on boxes in the air-conditioned room while the fathers, brothers, and boyfriends move all the stuff out to the S.U.V., or, in the case of a male student, his mother packing all of his stuff for him (including bringing the boxes up from whatever hometown,) and then everyone helps move out. I have had people sleep through private tutoring sessions for evaluations as important as the G.R.E., and then want to know what the big deal was and why I could not do it three hours later--on a Friday night.
Oh, and the classes, let us not forget those. Pertinent? I don't think so. I had to take more junk classes in order to get a B.A., than I thought would be possible to do a major with. For instance, along with my major, I had to have four phys. ed. type classes, some chapel, some Bible classes, three lab sciences, two histories, four English literatutre/writing classes, three social sciences, two arts, and goodness only knows what else, all in the name of making me a well-rounded human being. Some of this stuff, I actually liked before it became a required class, but in the hands of an old man tired of dealing with students, or a middle aged woman who wanted nothing to do with people who didn't drool at the thought of Willa Cather's latest post mortem development, it became sledge crowding out the information I needed for my chosen field. In the end, it almost felt like throwing a major in there was something of an afterthought.
The point of all that griping is to say this: I still don't consider myself what I like to call a bona fide adult, but from what I've experienced of it so far as a pseudo-adult, I've got nothing much to get all excited about. I could get excited at the prospect of getting a full-time job with an actual degree someday because it would mean my father and I would no longer have tension over how I lived on his dime, but I don't think the little prize of freedom will be at the bottom of that particular cereal box. Nor do I think that grown-up life will ever bring me more people worth being close to than I know what to do with or as much intellectual stimulation as I want. Because the older I get, the more I feel like I'm moving into my home for the first time, rather than out of it.
I think that the best that I could possibly hope to get out of all of it is a little decoder ring at the bottom of the box that'll help me figure out the puzzles on the back.
Thursday, September 07, 2006