Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chicken Dip

So, some of my friends are having this little shindig tonight, and we were told to bring some food along.  The food was suppose to be "outside of the bag."  (I believe the person who sent me that text message meant "outside the box," but I think I got the gist.) 
I'm going with chicken dip, probably because no one is expecting me to bring something like that.  (We're a veggie platter family.)  It's just about to come out of the oven.
Meanwhile, I find myself writing a little ditty about chicken dip.  I'm not really sure why, but it sounds like something you'd hear in a cute little commercial.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Have been editing a short story today.  I wrote it at the end of last week, and asked my friend Caryn to look at it.  She said she liked it, which I guess is better than her not liking it.  Most of her corrections were little things, like where words were placed within a sentence. 

Power Down pt. 3

The power went out again yesterday, which is why I didn't update yesterday.  (I was planning to, I swear.)
So much of what I do with my time requires the Internet or at least a computer.  Much of my keeping up with friends happens online, I search for job opportunities online, I do much of my writing on my Word processor, etc.  So I suddenly didn't have a lot to do. 
I went out for a walk.  I went through the park, and at one point, got accosted by a dog.  The owner was nice enough, but the law is they're suppose to be on a leash, but I swear at least half of the dogs I see around there aren't.  I didn't time it as well as I should have, and I came back really sweaty and gross.
I decided to take a quick shower to wash off with some soap.  Just as I was about to get in, my family came home.  I didn't really want them to know I had been out, so I jumped in a little faster than normal.
And when I came out, ten minutes later, they were gone again.
So I sat in one of the rooms with decent sunlight and read another three chapters of a book I am (slowly, agonizingly) working through.  So far, it was eight chapters total for the day, which is way more than I usually read, but, like I said, most of the stuff I needed or wanted to do was unavailable to me. 
Then I tried to lay down and sleep.  I feel in and out of sleep, at one point hearing my sister and Dad talk about my sister going to my Grandma's place.  My Mom was apparently there.  My sister had her final exam the next day and wanted somewhere to study.  She was complaining that she could never get things done with Mom around.  I think the real problem is the tv blasting, but I didn't get up to say anything.  And I feel back asleep. 
I woke up around 11:30, and now the house was completely dark.  No sunlight to use.  So I went downstairs and had a real shower.  I don't know where the hot water went (I didn't use it) but the shower was deathly cold.  I tried to do that thing where you shampoo your hair and then use the water, and it kind of worked, but I had goosebumps all over. 
I got a snack, which was tough to eat in the dark because I was having trouble seeing it, but I managed.  My Dad came down and mentioned to me that my sister was gone.  I actually wasn't sure, given the tenor of the conversation I overheard, what my sister had decided.  As I was eating, my Dad went up to bed. 
After I finished, I tried reading some more.  First I tried to make it work by moonlight, but that wasn't enough.  So then I tried flashlight.  I read another chapter.  Nine chapters is one day is a lot for me, at least right now.  I've got about two hundred more pages before I finish.  I was thinking I would read more, but I felt bad about using up valuable flashlight energy, so I decided to quit. 
As I was walking upstairs, my Dad thought I was a burglar or that one was downstairs, because he went to investigate.  Scared me a little. 
I couldn't sleep.  After my little trip back to school, I was pleasantly surprised by how I adjusted into a more normal sleep cycle.  I was so pleased at myself, because usually I can only keep it going for a day or two before it messes up.  But I managed this one for over a week.  And then all this strange no-power, screwed-up schedule ended it.  I guess I should have known it wasn't going to last. 
I did finally fall into an uneasy sleep before dawn.  I woke up to the sound of my Dad on the phone with someone, then him rustling around in the kitchen.  It meant the power wasn't on, and that he was probably trying to clean out the refrigerator before things went bad. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Getting What You Paid For

My Mom and I were out to eat.  We had frequented this restaurant four times in the last week, I realized. 
As we were about to leave, the waitress came up to me and told me that she had terrible acne like mine when she was little.  That's right, a waitress approached me and said something about it without anyone saying anything to her.  It was a little strange, but not the end of the world. 
She suggested something that she would buy at the dollar store and was so powerful that I would have to use it sparingly.  I was intrigued, and maybe I'll try it.
It was totally strange to get accosted by a waitress my Mom's age.  

The Next Place

We tried another place for my Grandma, just because it seemed silly not to consider several options.  We walked into a place where there was a little alcove and a bunch of small cafe tables.  We signed in.  As we walked past, I noticed they had a drink dispenser just like the one the had at the caf at school.  I suddenly felt oddly homesick.  I missed school.  It was an odd thing to remind me of school, I guess, but it did.
We walked down long hallways decorated with green and yellow carpets.  Again, there was a lot of fancy decorating that reminded me of old homes.  We went through a large room that had a cross on the wall.
We came to a receptionist and asked for a tour.  She asked us to fill out a form.  My Mom started, then she was getting a call of her cell phone. 
One of the things I find that I hate about hanging with my Mom is that she is always getting calls from people.  Sometimes they are work related, but their mostly just women who call every day just to talk.  Sometimes I'd like to remind people that my Mom is very busy, and doesn't really have time to just talk.  My Mom passed me the clipboard, and I began to write other things out. 
When it came to my Grandma's conditions, my mind went blank.  I knew what was wrong with her, I could explain it, and yet the names of the conditions were just at the tip of my brain.  I knew that was a sign that I was tired.  I tried to fill it out as best as I could.
When my Mom got off the phone, she looked at my work.  "I wouldn't draw attention to this," she said.  Then she softened.  "But otherwise good job."  I wasn't really interested in what she had to say about it, one way or another.
The Program Director came to see us.  She was young, looking not that much older than me (which made me wonder).  She had long dark brown hair and freckles.  She was wearing a purple blouse with a big chunky necklace.  She took us around.
She reminded us, almost immediately, that they were a Catholic community.  They had mass once a week, as well as rosary once a month and other activities.
She took us into a room to see.  She showed us the bed, that a tv already came with the room.  She asked if my Grandma was on oxygen.  Usually she wasn't, but then my Mom mentioned she might be.
My heart fell a little.  No one had mentioned she was going to go on oxygen, though it made sense.  She had trouble moving, was tired all the time, and was having respiratory problems.  Oxygen made a lot of sense, though I find myself more worried the less she can do for herself.  The director showed us how the room was set up to conceal her oxygen tank in a wall fixture.
Every room was private, and every room came with a full bathroom.  That scared me a little.  My Grandma shouldn't be showering on her own, and she's lazy enough that she doesn't try, but I could see a resident who lacked that to try and shower on their own and then slip and fall. 
The director explained that my Grandma's drugs would generally be in her room, because they didn't like pushing a cart around like in a hospital. 
"Is there anyone on call at night?" my Mom asked. 
"I don't know," she answered.
That didn't sound so good to me either. 


My Mom and I were running errands. 
First, I got to see a new dermatologist about my acne.  My Mother is very particular about what I look like.  I was having a really bad day, acne-wise.  The dermatologist looked me over, suggested I try one thing and told me to keep using something I already was and then left. 
After we got done there, we began our search for places for my Grandma's rehab.  She has to go, again, it turns out, after getting out of rehab less than three months ago.  Since the last place didn't really do her much good (as she's going back again), we decided to look around at other places. 
The first place looked a little like a dentist office from the outside.  Windows with curtains drawn, simple brick side.  We went inside and requested a tour.
A woman in her early thirties showed us around.  She walked us first through the long-term care, which was were my Grandma wasn't going to go since she would hopefully only be there for a few weeks.  The walls were decorated with fancy wallpaper that made me think of fancy old homes.  The long term ward was decorated in an off-white wallpaper, but the floor my Grandma would be on, one for short-term stays, would be green.
The woman showed us in a sample room.  One old woman was laying down in a bed.  She looked like she was just about to fall asleep.  The set up of the room was two people per room, with a curtain to draw if you wanted a little privacy.
"What about a tv?" my Mom asked.
"We provide that if you pay 3.50." 
"And internet?"
"Sorry, we don't have any access to that here." 
I could tell that my Mom was trying to piece together a way for her to be with my Grandma a lot without completely forgetting her work.  A lot of the paperwork my Mom does is online, which is what she does when she spend days and days over at my Grandma's place.  She's there to watch her in case something happens, but she has a job to do too.  Without internet access, it was going to be hard for her to stay as long.  It also meant I and my sister might have to pick up the slack, which is fine. 
The woman also showed us the rehab rooms.  There were all the usual things that I had come to expect there, like stairs to practice walking on, and a fake kitchen for occupational therapy, and those big bouncy balls, and bikes and fake beds to practice getting in and out of.  There were therapists and patients milling about.  The walls were all painted pale yellow and green, and there were words of encouragement on the walls.  There was a table on the side with lemonade on it, and I wanted to try some myself, just because I hadn't had anything to eat in so long. 
The woman showed us a conference room, and said that every patient had a weekly conference with the doctors, nurses, therapists and family members. 
"Sold," I thought.  This was one of the many things that had made my Mom so mad about the last time my Grandma was in therapy.  Inside, one of these conferences looked like it was going on right now.  The woman led us away, back to the front offices. 

Urban Legend

I was late. 
So, of course, this meant my ex-boyfriend Ben was there. 
My friends had texted earlier, asking if I was interested in going bowling.  I'm an okay bowler, but the only time I ever go is when this group of friends calls me.  So I said yes. 
I wasn't expecting to be late, but, among other things, it took me longer to get ready.  At the last minute, I decided to put some makeup on.  And now, standing in front of my ex-boyfriend, I was grateful I had. 
Ben and I dated what seems like a Millennium ago, but was really more like seven or eight years ago.  We had both gone on to separate schools and he had recently gotten married. Shannon, his new wife, was there too. 
Ben and I talked.  He was amicable, which was not always true in my memory.  He asked where I had gone to school.  He asked if I had dated a particular school mate.  I had, but it had ended three and a half years ago, and I told him so.  I was surprised that anyone had heard about it. 
"Well, everyone talked about it."
My stomach fell a little.  I didn't really want everyone to be talking about it.  Part of me wanted to forget about, and I certainly didn't like the idea of everyone else talking about it. 
Since I had seen Adam about a month ago, I knew that Ben was living in North Carolina, working as a teacher.  He said he was just up for a visit. 
"You're teaching history then?" I said.  He had always loved history. 
"Well, more like social studies.  I'm teaching fourth grade."
Oh.  I was surprised to hear that, as Ben had never really liked children.  He had once told me that he knew the two of us were going to be teachers, but that he would teach high school and I would be a professor.  Sometimes I think the predication is going to turn out right, other times I think it's going to be wrong.  I didn't voice my surprise. 
I congratulated him on getting married to Shannon, and was about to turn to greet her, but she went off to bowl.  She looked the same as she always had.  I was grateful that I looked passable. 
And then I ended the conversation.  I figured that Ben and Shannon wanted to get back to what they were doing, and they didn't want to interrupted by me.  
I sat down with my friends.  We got talking about a conversation we had the night before, about a man that was an urban legend, but that I was certain was very real.  One of Madison's college friends has an encounter with him, and I told her all about the stories I had heard over the years. 
"I want to find this guy," Madison said.
"I don't.  This guy apparently used a shotgun on himself and missed.  I don't want to know what kind of damage he could do if he was aiming it at someone else," I said.
Tori asked after my Grandma, which was very sweet.  I asked her about her cousin, who is coming all the way from Italy to visit her and her family.  (We are thinking of hanging out with him a little, just so he can hang with some people closer to his age.)  
We got talking about other things.  Eventually, Ben and Shannon and the rest of their party left. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Literary Gentlemen

While on my trip back to school earlier this week, I had the strangest thought: I felt like I could understand the lives of many of the male characters in Jane Austen novels and the other literary gentlemen. 
Allow me to explain: A lot of what I understand about how British gentry behaved in the 19th century comes from reading novels and seeing movies from the time period.  How accurate to the actual historical breed my imagination has conformed I couldn't tell you.
But as I was there, at Ben's place, having brunch, I found myself thinking that I was much like Colonel Brandon.  I was enjoying some time in the country with friends, but because of events at home (a sick relative and a dead friend's father) I was about to race back to the city to attend to business.  I very much wanted the riding hat and white horse that Alan Rickman has in the 1995 movie version of Sense and Sensibility so I could arrive home in the city in style.
Yet, when I'm home, sometimes I feel as if I live a double life, like Jack/Ernest from The Importance of Being Earnest.  I have potential admirers both in the city and in the country, and I even though I'm not lying about my name to either of them, sometimes I feel like I am very different depending on the place I am.  
Of course, this then means I'm not so much like Jack but Jane Eyre, who travels about England in her novel.  I'm doing the same, looking for employment whenever I can and even occasionally running away from troublesome men.  I guess as long as I don't find myself homeless and wandering the countryside only to exhaust myself in the wilderness like Eyre does at the end of the novel then I'm mostly alright with that.  
Over the years, I've found myself comparing my friends and family to various literary characters.  I have an uncle, for example, who reminds me of John Middleton.  I haven't seen him in almost a year, but he is always throwing parties for the family and I like spending time with him.  I had an English teacher who once reminded me of Henry Tilney, in that he was very kind and understanding.  I find that I too am severe as Mr. Darcy, and sometimes misunderstood for it. 
It's peculiar how I find myself thinking of literary characters in this way.  They're not just fictional people I enjoy spending time with when lying on the couch reading, but I think of them as if we exist in parallel universes, separate but not far apart.  This speaks to the universality of 19th century characters, and maybe to how little our lives have really changed from characters who were suppose to exist, in some cases, almost two hundred years ago.  I don't find myself doing this with many of the other characters I discover, and never for as long. 
At the same time, I feel very silly saying all of this, because I can imagine that most literary nerds such as myself feel this way about the characters they read.  They become part of their lives, and even though it often sounds silly to an outsider, those characters are like ghosts.  They live in our minds, but they exert this bizarre influence on how we view the world and how we choose to interact with it.  Perhaps this is a testament to why so many people are afraid of what their children consume culturally, because those ghosts might linger on into their adulthood, and might not be as charming as a bunch of people from two hundred years ago. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Aren't You Glad I Didn't Say Orange?

Now that I am of a certain age, I can legally drink.  When I say now, of course, I mean in the last couple of years.  Even though I come from various groups of people who have always had, ahem, healthy appetites for alcohol, I am moderate.  I drink infrequently, and usually only if it is at hand and cheap.  (Or, really, I should say, free.)
I took French for several years.  My second year I had French right before lunch, and I was always starving.  (And hating the class because that was my year of the worst French teacher I ever had.  Another story, another blog post.)  The poster you see to your left would hang in that classroom.  I would stare at it, wondering, what does Orangina taste like? 
Fast forward about four years: I have my first Orangina and fall completely in love. 
Fast forward to now: I'm writing a piece that mentions Orangina, and because I'm such a dismally bad speller, I have to Google it to figure out how to spell it.  I surf a little on their official site. 
And find an entire set of alcoholic recipes involving Orangina.  Isn't the Internet grand? 
So now I suppose I will have to buy some alcohol, if only to try some of these.  I'm eyeing the Parisian Sunset (because I've had such success with rum in Coke), Gina's Punch (for the same reason, plus my love of Grenadine), Le Sang Orange (which has a terrible name, making me think of orange-colored blood), and just for fun, a Twist and Shake.
Don't worry, I'll be responsible.  One drink at a time.  There's plenty of opportunities to try other delicious things.  And to encourage some of my friends, including my favorite teetotaler, Juicebox. 

Priority Number One

My Mom is out of town.  This of course means that my Grandma got so sick we had to put her in the hospital. 
I got a call from my Mom asking that my sister and I go to see her.  My sister decided that she didn't want to go because she wanted to go see her boyfriend.  She took the car.  On the phone, I snapped at my Mom, yelling "I already told you!  I can't go!"  I was about to yell more things when she hung up on me.  Then I was even more angry because my Mom hung up on me. 
It made me so angry to see my sister, in her usual scrubs, watching tv.  That's all she does when she's at home, other than the occasional homework.  She's taking what she calls an easy summer class, and she can't be bothered to see her Grandma in the hospital because she needs to see her boyfriend.  Not work on her homework.  Her boyfriend.  Priority number one. 
There are a lot of reasons this upsets me.  First off, my sister has not been to see my Grandma the entire five days or so she's been in the hospital, but I've been in several times.  Secondly, she decided the boyfriend was more important.  And lastly, she'll probably get away with it.
Sometimes I suspect my sister is given more leeway because of this boyfriend.  When we're on trips, she always gets to talk on the phone for him to hours.  I don't.  I don't have a long term boyfriend, and I don't usually tell my Mom about my trysts because I don't consider them her business (also, because they immediately become the gossip of everyone who comes into our house for the next six months).  My sister is allowed to bring him to family events, is allowed to hang out with him instead of doing stuff like helping with my Grandma.  My family holds this hetero-centric, monogamy-centric ideal so high that it allows my sister to take advantage of it.  It gets me angry sometimes.  Like now, when it's my Grandma's birthday, and I can't see her because my sister has the car to visit her boyfriend and I'm stranded alone at home.
After my sister left, I went outside for a little, trying to work off my anger.  It didn't really work.  All I could think of is how selfish she is and how nobody seems to notice and how she takes advantage of this.
When she got home, my Mom made another upset call, this time to my Dad (who had finally come home) about moving my Grandma out of the hospital.  At that point, it looked like my Grandma was going to be released the next day.  She was apparently going to need some help getting home and then someone was going to have to stay with her for the night.  I volunteered to help with both, though a second person would be needed to help with the moving her back to her apartment.  When my Dad asked her about it, she said, sitting there, in front of the tv, again, that she was going to the park the next day and wouldn't help. 
"Well, I can't do it," my Dad said.  "I'm working." 
My sister just repeated that she wouldn't do it.
Watching her, again, in terrible clothes, watching tv after coming home from seeing her boyfriend for five hours, too lazy to take harder classes, too lazy to do something with her life other than an occupation that she doesn't really care for and that is easier than others, too lazy to contribute all week when she's been asked to do so, made my blood boil.  I wanted to punch her. 
"Well, than we'll take care of it," I said, meaning my Father and I.  Because apparently she wouldn't.  I started walking out of the room.  This conversation wasn't going anywhere. 
My sister said something nasty in reply, but I was so angry, I can't remember what it was.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Brunch at Ben's

Ben was gracious enough to invite us over for biscuits and gravy at his place for brunch.  I was hoping for the opportunity to see Daniel and Danny, two of the only people I hadn't seen yet on this trip. 
I made the mistake of telling Ben the day before about how I had met my first boyfriend online (in the dark days of the Internet, before Facebook or Myspace) at fourteen.
"Fourteen?" he had repeated.
"I was very sophisticated," I had said, which was a total lie.  I doubt I qualify as that now.  But my comment made Ben decide to play some old jazz music, which I enjoyed. 
I complained to them about the mosquito bites I got the day before.  Every time I'm out even at little at night in the Summertime, I get eaten up.  I had seven of them, mostly on my ankles.  
Ben's food, like Jimmy's, was delicious.  Again, those two boys can cook for me any time they want.  (Ben for breakfast, Jimmy for dinner.  Hell, I bet I could get Paul to handle lunch.  Then I would be the happiest and most well-fed girl in all the world.)  I was a little wary of the gravy, since I usually despise it.  But it was good, and it went well with the biscuits that Paul and Jimmy got for us.  And there was lemonade, so I was happy. 
Sadly, I couldn't hang around long because of all the drama going on at home, so I had to leave.  I missed seeing Danny and Daniel.  What a pity, right?  I haven't spoken to either of them that much since graduation. 
I went back to Nate's place, packed up my stuff.  I left a thank you note for Nate.  My Dad came, we loaded the car.  I got the weirdest feeling that I was missing something, so I kept checking my stuff.  I checked for my ID, money, jewelry, dresses, everything there.
So we went home.  It was uneventful back, but I was so tired by the time we got home.  All I wanted to do was to lay down.  We were suppose to go to a party for Alicia, who is going to MSU this coming year herself.  But I didn't want to move anywhere, plus it was raining. 
As I was looking to lay down, I noticed my pillow was gone.  And then it occurred to me.  I hadn't packed my pillow.  I had forgotten something at MSU.
Maybe this was a sign that I was, indeed, incapable of leaving MSU, because every time I was there, I kept forgetting to bring something home.  And not, say, my heart or anything like that but real stuff, like hoodies and locks and now my pillow.  Maybe this is a sign that I'm always going to need a reason to go back.  I felt like a moron.  I texted Nate, and he said he would guard my stuff. 
Then I finally laid down and got myself some decent sleep.  Couch surfing at Nate's was fine for a few days, but I wouldn't want to do it long term.  Not good for my back. 

Dinner at Jimmy's

I stood in Jimmy's room, trying to ignore all the signs of life that I would normally find interesting.  I was on the phone with my Dad.
"Can I come home a little later?" I asked.  I figured the answer would be no, because my Grandma was in the hospital, again.  And to some degree, rightly so.
"I got invited to a brunch with some friends."
I was relieved.  I wanted to squeeze out every last drop of goodness from this trip, especially since it looked like I wouldn't be coming home to anything good.  I had a bunch of business to attend to immediately coming home. 
This trip ended up being far more stressful than I thought it would be, mostly because the problems that I had last semester (my Grandma being sick, friends needing support, my various boy problems) all flared up again.  Mostly, it made me think that for all my trying to move on, nothing has really changed yet.  It's been a disappointment, to be honest.  I steeled myself to go back out to everyone.
Luckily, no one asked what the phone call was about.  Maybe, given what they know about me, they could have already guessed. 
Paul was working on shredding cheese for our meal.  Jimmy was cutting up onions.  There was nothing for me to do (though I offered to pay for my bit of the meal), so I watched.
"That's some great cutting," I told Jimmy.  It looked like the moves you see on one of those cooking programs. 
Jimmy didn't say anything, as usual.
"Jimmy won't take a compliment," I explained to Ben, who was sitting at Jimmy's computer in the living room area.  Ben laughed.  "I'm working on him."
Ben, meanwhile, was watching YouTube videos, everyone's favorite way to blow off time.  He told us he really liked Old Spice commercials, which sort of baffles me, because there's something gross and sleazy about so many of them.  We found one featuring everyone's favorite child star, Neil Patrick Harris.

Then Paul got on my political hero, Robert Byrd.  After looking awhile, we found what I consider his best speech, where he tells people he's older.  Ben watched it and said it was a really good speech.

Once Jimmy finished the dinner, we ate.  It was delicious.  Everyone fell silent as we ate.  Jimmy said that was a huge compliment in itself.  I'd be happy to have Jimmy cook for me all the time. 
Ben, it turns out, is a fan of Doctor Who.  Perhaps someone tipped him off to my love about it, because we got talking about it.  He was telling me he had just watched "The Lodger."
"That's the episode right before the two episode season finale."  Don't be surprised by this recall of mine.  I often am the one correcting people's knowledge of the show.
They were apparently showing that first episode of the finale, which I told him was good.  He was all baffled by my geekiness.  Get used to it, I thought.
We then started on the dishes.

Lunch with Paul

Nate and I had a long talk, mostly about relationships, and then we retired to our separate rooms.  Nate and I, I suspect, could really live together.  I think we get along swimmingly.
The next morning, we were waiting for a call from Jimmy, who was going to be able to tell us what was the what when it came to Paul visiting.  Paul was really the reason for this entire visit.  At the beginning of the month, Paul texted me, saying that he was going to visiting, and that maybe I should consider coming too.  Twenty minutes later, Nate texted me, also saying that I should come visit.  It took a bit of work, but I managed it.  And now I was finally going to see the person I wanted to see: Paul.
As I was waiting, I began setting out my stuff to retouch my toenails.  As I was just about to start, Nate got the call.  Paul was indeed here.  So we should all meet over at Jimmy's place.
When we got there, Jimmy cracked open the door.  There he was, his beard recently trimmed.  I hugged him and it felt so good and familiar.  And then I hugged Paul, and again, good and familiar.  Then next thing I thought was "Damn, Paul's lost some weight."  Like, at least ten pounds.
Ben was going to hang out with us too, so we walked to a Chinese food place via Jimmy's suggestion.  Paul joked about how Jimmy had taken Kristina to this same place for their dinner before the Honor's College Ball.  I hadn't heard this but I was sort of horrified.  I mean, I don't know if going out before hand is necessary, but seriously, not some hole in the wall with suspicious looking furniture.
It was broiling hot outside.  I was grateful that I had worn a light shirt and capris.  We sat inside, but I could feel sweet build on my forehead and above my lips.
We ordered food.  We ate.  We watched this scary television program they were playing in the restaurant.
I haven't seen Ben in a while, and he announced he's going to graduate school in Sweden.  Ben has Swedish ancestry, so this isn't totally strange, but he doesn't speak Swedish.
I have personally considered going to England or Canada for graduate school, but the idea of going to Sweden (or any other non-English speaking country) has never occurred to me.  Apparently you don't need good grades either, as Ben assured me.  I would like to go somewhere far away for graduate school, but this has problems too.  One one hand, I like traveling and having adventures and being far away means my parents are more likely to keep their distance.  On the other hand, I'll be far from my friends, and I want to be around them.
After we ate, we headed over to this record store that I frequent.  Again, I found myself thinking about how I hadn't gotten to do so much in college.  I had a whole fantasy involving going to this store with a young man, going back to his place and putting on some spacey records, laying on our backs and having one of those long conversations that you have with someone you love.  And then being totally junior high and making out.
As you can see, in addition to having a real life, I have a pretty active fantasy life.
We mostly talked while in the store, though Ben got excited when he saw some stereo equipment on sale for a good price.
"If you don't buy it, it's like you're losing money," I said.
"Yeah, that's exactly how I feel!"
I don't really know Ben as well as the other boys, and maybe that's another failing on my part.  I seem to have managed not to do anything right in college.

Spending the Day Doing What I Didn't

Erin, Nori and I were outside, dancing and fooling around.  Erin and Nori were taking pictures of the night.  I had my camera with me, but I didn't feel like getting it out. 
I was too busy dancing.  I dropped my shoulders low, looking down at the ground.  I put my arms out, slightly above my head, making it look like I was pushing walls away that were closing in on me.  Then I moved my legs so that one foot was in front of the other.  When one leg would move, I'd wobble just a little bit.  I did this for a while. 
I turned around.  Both Nori and Erin were staring at me.  "What was that?" Nori asked. 
I really couldn't tell her. 
They both kept taking pictures, including some of me.  "You always make your pictures look nice," Erin scoffed.  So sue me. 
"Post them immediately!" Erin commanded.  Nori told her that she had to go down to Ann Arbor the next day to see Frontier Ruckus, this band I saw a few years back.  I would like to go myself, but more because I took a class with their drummer and admired how smart he was.  Mark later tipped me off that he was in the same band I had liked.  I suspect Ryan, the drummer, wouldn't even remember me, because why would you remember some girl from a class a year ago, even if she was one of the smartest and talkative kids in the class?
While we were dancing and taking pictures, a janitor came out and looked at us weirdly.
"We're not doing anything wrong," Erin said to her as way of explanation.  And we weren't, though she skittered around us oddly. 
"You would think she was used to drunks," I mentioned to Nori, even though we weren't.  Usually when I've had a lot I feel like I'm swimming, but here I just felt like I did when I wake up from an unrestful sleep: tired and wishing for something better. 
"We should try to break into Morrill Hall!" Erin exclaimed.
There's a long story here.  Morrill is where the English department is located, and it has become a tradition for English students to "break in."  By break in, I mean go through the often-unlocked front door or climb up the fire ladder.  Almost ever creative writing kid I know has written a creative nonfiction piece about it.
I always had this weird fantasy of camping out in an office I had the key into.  In this fantasy, there was a particular young man with me.  We'd share a sleeping bag, and get up right before the sun, and watch it rise from the roof, admiring campus at dawn.  This never happened, for a wide variety of reasons. 
In the meantime, I had spent the day doing what I didn't get done when I was actually in school.  I went for a swim with friends.  I went to a co-op party.  I have a long lunch without regarding the time.  I had an evening of being silly with friends, regardless of the rules or time.  Breaking into Morrill Hall, another thing I never got around to doing, seemed right somehow. 
We drove over there, we parked in the nearby ramp.  Several cars passed us.  We stood outside the front door.  A cop car drove by.  Something about it dampened by mood. 
Erin couldn't get the door open. 
"If that door's not open, the rest of them aren't either," she said.  "Let's go home." 

Text Bombing

I spent the evening with Erin and Nori.  Erin recently moved into this new place, so I was unfamiliar with everything.  Earlier in the evening John and Liz had stopped by.  Liz wanted to go to Pinball Pete's, which I had never been to.
One of the few regrets I have about college is that I didn't do as many social things as I wish I had.  I spent a lot of my Saturday's working on homework, which is really sad.  It panned out, I guess, in that I had excellent marks, but now that I have nothing better to do, I find myself wanting to make up for lost time.
Liz said they'd be back soon, so the three of us waited around for her to call us back.  I find myself wanting to go out to the bar and try new drinks and have some nice conversation.
Erin decided she was going to start text bombing people.  What this apparently involves several people texting someone else a nonsense phrase.  Erin first decided to try Matt (which I wished she wouldn't, because I still have to talk to him and have tentative plans to hang out with him in a few days), and then focused her energy on Jonathan, her roommate.
"Where is John?" I asked.
"Luda," Nori said.
What?  "Luda?"
Oh, man, I really must be getting old.  I had no idea that Ludacris went by Luda now.
Matt texted back, asking what this was all about.  Then Jonathan, who doesn't even know my number, texted me back some choice phrases.
Then Erin and Nori started telling me stories about their hometown.  I've heard so much about it at this point that I suspect I could talk about it like I lived there.  (Though I think of this as a good thing.)  They started on Hannah Bethel, who I though was a fictional person until they showed me this:

It's not a bad song, per se, but it's not really impressive either.  It just seems to be a rehashing of a bunch of tropes common in country music.  Also, the backroads thing just makes me thing of inappropriate things.
"She's not that good," Nori said.  I agree, but mostly because my favorite music is the stuff that is different from other things I've already seen.
Erin and Nori and I played mop baseball, which is this game we made up where you take a mop and try to hit a bouncy ball.
Then we went up the stairs to Erin and John's room.  It was a mess in a way that reminds me of every picture I've ever seen of Kurt Cobain's homes.  The only nice thing was this beautiful mural on the wall and ceiling of a tree.  Whoever did that did a really nice job.  It looked great.
As we were talking, I was spouting off hilarious zingers after another.  I don't know why but sometimes I get into this mood where everything that comes out of my mouth is funny and strange.  "You don't have to act like you're in a sitcom," Erin commented.  Okay, I guess that's my cue to tone it down a little.
Nori was playing all this cool music.  Nori herself is a musician, and a very talented one.  I love listening to her stuff.  "I wish I was twenty-one," she said.  "So that I could go out dancing."
I feel the exact same way.  I always want to go out and dance. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Cleaning Lady

As I was staying at Nate and Megan's, I tried to be a good houseguest, which meant being as out of the way as possible.  Megan and two of the other roommates went out for the weekend, so it was just Nate and I hanging out.  I was thinking about blogging here to you, but then I decided that I should do something nice for Nate and co.
I had just taken a shower, and, perhaps feeling like there needed to be some cleaning, I started working on the kitchen.  In my pink bathrobe.  I started on the dishes, but then realized there were just too many, and many of the things were caked on.
So I went looking through their stuff for one of those brillo pads that scraps stuff off really good.  That was my first clue that people didn't clean too often, because there weren't any.  There were just one sponge.
Then I noticed that someone had tried to bake stuff.  There was a small cake in a pan.
"Should I put this in the fridge?" I called to Nate, holding the pan up.  Nate was on the other side of the room, on his computer, working on his online class.
"Yeah...that's a good idea."
There was a cupcake pan with chocolate cake still stuck, glued really, to it.  I would need to soak this.  Soaking something requires that I temporarily plug their sink.  So I went looking for the rubber stopper that every house has.  Nothing.
This of course led to the next best thing: filling the two bathroom sinks with water and then plugging both of those up.  And then putting in the pan, silverware, plates, a water bottle, Tupperware.
On the way to the first bathroom sink, I found a spoon sitting next to a sock.  If I had seen it in any other context, I would assume it was a piece of modern art.  I showed Nate and he was grossed out by it.
Putting things in a different part of the house would mean I would need to carry it.  They had a plastic dish holder/rack thing that was meant to hold dishes as they dried.  I was about to use it when I noticed that too was stained a orange color.  I imagined it was meat sauce from something.  But I could be wrong.  So I started scrubbing it.
In the meantime, Nate saw me and decided I needed some music to help, so he put it in some Lady Gaga, a favorite of mine.  He put on one of my favorite songs, "Bad Romance."
As I was cleaning, I bounced around and sang the song, as Nate almost certainly knew I would.  Nate, for some odd reason or another, really likes me singing.  He sang along too.
There was something nicely and bizzarely domestic about the too of us.  I could totally see us living together, doing this sort of thing.  Nate would make food, I would wash dishes, we would pretend to be in a musical about the woes of college life.  We'd be bigger than Rent.  
After "Bad Romance," Nate put on "Telephone," which I am embarrassed to say is a song I'm actually working at perfecting.

I scrubbed at the rack thing.  The tough thing was it's odd shapes and little crevices that I couldn't get to with the sponge.  If I had a toothbrush on me, I could have used that, but I wasn't willing to sacrifice my own, and I was afraid going to look for one wouldn't work, since I had already tried to find a vacuum cleaner, to no success. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Rest of the Night

As we were walking into the apartment complex Nate lived in, we saw a little frog hoping around.  It's been raining on and off around here, so it made sense that there would be frogs out, though can honestly not even remember the last time I saw a frog there.
I spent a little time writing out my thoughts for the day.  And then I showered. 
Using someone else's private space is strange, even when there's not tons of reason to be.  It's hard not to guess what someone does to their body based on what's in their bathroom, especially with certain things sticking out.  There wasn't a lot, just things like shampoo.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  And yet I felt a little odd. 
Showering itself went fine, though it took me a while to figure out their hot and cold water situation.  I even put a little lotion on.
Like I said earlier, I've been painting my toenails.  I brought my stuff up to do so again, if need be.  Maybe if I get a little time later.
I slept okay.  I have a lot of trouble sleeping, as I've mentioned before on the blog, and sadly, this night was no different.  I thought, given how much excitement I had I would be tired, but even that wasn't enough.
I fell into a light sleep that was interrupted by Megan getting up for work.  She was relatively quiet, but there's no way to make coffee pots on stove's so. 
I fell back asleep.  When I woke up Dorian was in the kitchen, playing a game on his computer. 
Dean texted me asking if we wanted to get lunch, and, I assuming, go swimming after that, since that's what he asked for.  Nate and I are going to get ready and go soon. 
I'm also a little miffed because, right before school ending, I forgot a hoodie at church.  I called the church today, and they told me they had sent it to a shelter.  I'm a little annoyed, because it wasn't there that long, and because it's the summer, and it's a parish for students.  (Did they really expect me to come back here for it, especially if I was an out of state student?)
This is just the clearest example of me feeling that the church, for all it's carrying on, wasn't a community place, because they seemed deeply disinterested in the actual students and just interested in doing whatever.  I'm sure if I complain to Josie about this I'll get an earful. 
My plans for the rest of the weekend are this: dinner party at Erin and Nori's, hanging out with Nate, Juicebox and Paul Saturday night, then going home Sunday. 


I walked with Dan to the ice cream store.  We were going there to meet Justin.  I hadn't seen either of them in so long, but just walking with Dan made me feel like it was old times. 
We got there before Justin, so we waited outside for him.  When he appeared, he looked kind of the same, but all grown up.  He had on his lightweight frames and his black shirt and pinstripe pants.  He looked very fancy, but also very adult.  We exchanged hugs. 
We went inside.  I didn't really need ice cream, since I had already far too many sweets, but I agreed to get something.  I went with some peach ice cream.  I honestly hadn't been in this shop since I went with friends and my then-boyfriend freshman year, so I'm not familiar with what they had. Both of the boys got smoothies, which is what I should have had. 
Justin and Dan and I talked.  Justin talked about work.  He seems to really love his job and be really enthusiastic about it, which makes me happy for him.  He deserves those good things because he's worked so hard.
As we were sitting there, Johnson came in and went in the back.  I wanted to have a nice conversation with Dan and Justin, and sometimes Johnson can be a little much, so I was praying that he wouldn't notice us. 
No such luck.  Johnson called me from inside the store.  And he came down and sat with us. 
Dan's going to be moving into an apartment with an old friend.  Dan's a little worried, since the friend's only tie to the area is his girlfriend, that the friend's not going to stay long.  I told Dan, since I knew this friend, that he shouldn't worry because the friend wasn't the kind to stiff him.  This particular person strikes me as the kind to not always have long relationships, but the kind that would probably find another girl, and another connection, to make it work. 
Justin also mentioned his family a little, since his parents are celebrating their anniversary.  Justin sadly won't be around this weekend because he's hanging out with them. 
They also discussed another mutual friend, Nick.  They were saying what a jerk he might actually be, but that everyone liked him.  I really like him to.  He is kind of bitchy, but he also has this deeply honest thing going on that makes me like him more.  
Nate then texted me, asking me how I expected to get back to his place.  Okay then, guess that's my cue to leave, I thought.  I said goodbye to people, had more hugs, then I got in the car and we went back over to Nate's place. 
Back at Nate's place, we began to wind down for the night.  Nate worked on an online quiz for a class.  Megan got ready to go to bed.  I wrote in my journal. 
After Nate finished his quiz, we went out for a late night walk together.  It was really beautiful.  There was a crescent moon hanging low in the sky.  We wandered through mostly darkness, Nate leading me since he was familiar with the area.  We trampled through some rough parts, making me regret (just a little) wearing flip flops.  There was even one small spot that felt like a swamp.  But as we walked I thought about what an exciting day it had been and how glad I was to have come for a visit.  Spending time with friends like this always makes me so happy and both nostalgic and enthusiastic for the future at the same time.  As we walked, we spotted a small kitty darting by an apartment complex. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Coupling Us Of

Jennifer and I had a nice drive over here to East Lansing.  Jennifer complained to me about her job.  I don't mind because I know everyone needs a little space to complain about their job.  Sometimes, even if you love your job, you need some room to say what you don't like.  You need to feel listened to.  I love listening to Jennifer.
Finding Nate and Megan's place was not tough.  I was afraid it might be, but it was this really nice section of apartments.  Jennifer was kind enough to take my bags up one set of stairs and then a second set, since we went up the wrong one.
And then we found their apartment.  The door opened, and there Nate was.  He looked exactly the same.  I almost felt like the Grinch, like my heart was expanding three sizes in my chest.  I felt I was going to burst.  We hugged, we talked.  I said hi to the other two roommates, Valerian and Dorian.  We chatted a little.  (Megan was at work and would return soon.)
We sat around and talked.  I called and texted various people, telling them I was in town.  Now that I was forced to consider it, there were a ton of people here this summer who I wanted to see.
Justin called asking me for ice cream.  Sure, I thought.  I'd love ice cream.  Sadly, Justin's work schedule was a little screwed up, so I would have to wait for his call.  But I was already happy to see even some people.
I laid down for a little in Nate's bed while he worked on his homework (he's taking an online class.)  We had earlier teased people who weren't doing so well with what were pretty easy questions.
I had another bout of not sleeping last night (I think from so much of the excitement surrounding this trip) that I was really tired.  I felt terrible.  Even though I don't think I slept, just giving my body a little downtime was good.
Dorian offered me some cheesecake, which I had.  It occurred to me that maybe I would spend this entire trip eating junk food.  This is a vacation, so I'm okay with that.
Megan came home, and it was so good to hug and see her.  She changed into this really cute outfit and we sat around and talked and took care of some business.  It felt like no time had passed at all, like I just graduated from school yesterday, and the next day I was seeing my friends.
We decided to go out for dinner, since Nate and I got invited to a dinner party tomorrow and Nate is going to be working Saturday night.    
Megan, Nate, Dorian, Valerian and I piled into Dorian's car.  I texted Dan to tell him that he was welcome to join us.
Driving through the town was weird.  I have all these memories here, but I've already been able to put so many of them in the past.  Feels strange to deal with them now.
We went past my old church.  I had accidentally left one of my favorite blue hoodies there right before graduation.  We went in to try to find it.  No such luck.
The church was eerily quiet.  No one appeared to be around.  All I could think of is how people at home are afraid to leave a church like that because people come in and vandalize so often.
We walked over to the restaurant and ordered our food.  The guy at the counter did that thing were he couples people off.  He assumed that Nate and I were a couple, which was awkward.  Nate had already walked away when he mentioned that we were a couple.
I laughed.  "We're not," I said.
"I don't believe you," he said.
People in this town are both crazy and fascinating.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Serial Caller

My little sister has a little girl that she likes to babysit.  My sister decided that we should take her out to see a movie. 
As we were driving there, my sister complained about how the parents had been bugging her about when they were going.  "I'm doing them a favor," she said.  "Don't give me a hard time about it." 
I'm surprised to hear this from her, since she usually says that she likes these people.
At the theater we ran into problems.  The parents informed us that this little girl should have lemonade, which meant that the theater didn't have any.  So we were forced to go with fruit punch.  The first thing that I thought was that she was going to spill on herself. 
It took her one sip. 
The little girl was mostly well-behaved.  She sat up a lot during the movie, she squirmed in her seat, but mostly was fine.
We took her home.  Her parents weren't there yet.  "Somehow, I knew that was going to happen," my sister said.  I had been thinking the same thing.  I often feel like these people are taking advantage of us.  We're always doing them favors and they're always treating us in shaky ways in return.
The other thing that surprised me was that they had gone to a shooting range.  For people who apparently can't afford to pay a babysitter, they have tons of money for impractical cars, a guitar and bullets.  I don't mind guns, but I don't trust these people so I don't want them to have a gun.
As we drove home, my sister told me about her friend Anna.  Anna's car broke down, so they sent it to the patriarch, and she made cookies and took the little girl to the zoo for the day. 
My sister complained about how often the matriarch calls my Mom.  It's excessive.  She's also what I would call a serial caller, which is someone who calls and calls and calls, all without stopping much inbetween individual calls.  It's a really irritating habit, especially if it's not an emergency.  (If it's an emergency, than it's acceptable.  Otherwise, stop.  If someone's not picking up, they probably have a legitimate reason or they aren't near the phone to know you're calling anyway.) 

"You Kids and Your Social Life"

Tori and Ashley and I spent the afternoon out together.  We ran into Erik, one of the boys we went to school with.  Erik and I had been in a gym class together my senior year.  I knew him because, at the time, he was dating one of my friends.  We had bonded over a mutual love of metal music.  Erik is now at MSU with so many of my other friends, though I don't know what he's studying.  We run into each other sometimes at MSU, but today we ran into each other at my hometown.  It was nice.  He is lucky enough to have a job this summer. 
I came home.  As I was taking off my shoes, my Dad came in.  "You want to get dinner?"
"Can't.  I have to shower and then I am going to see a show with Madison and some other people."
"You kids and your social life."
I've been thinking a lot about my Dad and his social life, or his lack of it.  Everyone else in our house has got stuff to do.  My Mom is running a business, taking care of my Grandma, and getting ready for a convention.  My sister is taking a class and has a job.  I'm working on and off, writing, applying for jobs and internships and catching up with old friends.  My Dad isn't doing any of that.  He mostly just gets up early and watches tv and go out for drives.  I think it's why he balks so much at everyone else being gone.  He has nothing else to really think about, which is why I get such frantic calls from him about what I'm doing.
Because of the time, I had to hurry to get ready.  I showered, ate some dinner (Lemon Rice soup, a favorite of mine), and got dressed.  I had texted Madison to ask what I should wear.  She said just a t-shirt and some jeans.  I was going to go for slightly fancier, since it is always better to be more dressed up than not.  For the first time since my steampunk convention, I used makeup.  I almost never wear makeup, and I'm proud of myself for only using it occasionally. 
Tori came and got me and we went over to Madison's.  When we got there, we found Lisa and Michael sitting in Michael's car outside Madison's house.  We chatted a bit.  Tori felt my arm and was like "Oh!  So soft."  She took my arm and stuck it into the car.  "Feel."  Both Lisa and Michael felt my arm and agreed.  With other people, this might have been a weird thing, but we've been around each other for so long that it didn't really faze me.  It was like when I spent time with Paul.  Paul and I lay all over each other, and neither the two of us or anyone else gets worked up about it.  And, to be fair, Tori, Lisa and Michael are not the first people to comment on my soft arms. 
We went inside and found Madison and her boyfriend Ted hanging out.  I haven't seen Ted since New Years' Eve.  He seems like a pretty cool dude.  Michael wanted to play some piano pieces he's learning, and he did.  He's an amazing piano player.
As we sat around waiting for Ashley, Tori told us that we should have told Ashley a half an hour before we meant her to show.  Ashley is notoriously late, and we almost always run late when we get together because of her.  I once showed up to something a half an hour late myself, and Tori was like "No worries.  You still beat Ashley here."
We sat around and chatted about things.  We talked about Michael's Dad, who drives Michael a little crazy.  I mentioned to everyone that I had met Michael's Dad, but that his Dad didn't acknowledge me, so maybe he doesn't remember me.  Michael laughed and said it was true.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Update on Grandma

Went to see my Grandma.  She seems to be doing alright.  She's more confused than she's been in the past.  I left her for about an hour while she was eating lunch and when I came back, she forgot that I had been there. 
For a while she also had this scary mark on her arm.  It looked like someone had tried to give her a shot and did such a bad job that it was a major black bruise.  It seems to have mostly healed up.
But now she has some new open wound.  My Mom put a huge bandage over it.  When one problem stops, another appears.  
Her leg is also bothering her, making her even more reluctant to walk for us.  We had a physical therapist working with her for six weeks, and she didn't once mention anything wrong with it.  Some physical therapist. 

Friday, July 9, 2010

This Chaos Could or Couldn't Work

Paul and I were walking out of this restaurant.  We had spent the entire evening drinking. 
As we drove home, we talked about him.  Things are really rough with him.  He failed a class last year and now he's gotten kicked out of the Honors College.  He hasn't told him parents yet.  There's no way that's not going to be bad.  His mother will probably be angry.  His Dad will go nuts on him. 
"If you need to, I can probably arrange it so that you can come sleep at my house," I said. 
We talked about music.  I told him that I liked this new indie thing, but that I still loved some good rock and roll.
Admitting this is a big deal for me, because for years I've been trying not to get sucked in.  I think part of my reservation was that it came in and swept great rock aside, and I missed that.  I think the other thing was Dan.  Dan loves it so much, and despite loving Dan, I was suspicious of it.
But the more I think about it, the more I realize I should love it.  The aesthetic encourages the annihilation of gender.  It allows guys to be more gentle and show when they're sad.  It allows both some aspects of hard rock and more mellow music.  I logically, given my own musical history, love it.
I'm still a little reluctant about some things, like the hardcore who bash everything else in comparison to it.  But that's a small group, and well, I would ignore them for other reasons.
When I got home, I said goodbye to Paul.  I was sorry we had to end the night early, but it turned out to be a good thing, because when I got in, my Mom asked me if I could go babysit my Grandma in the morning and early afternoon.  I said sure, but that I wanted to spend the afternoon in the library.  Deal.
Then I went to check my email.  There's a ton of stuff going on.  Jennifer is going back to Lansing, would I like to come along?
I've been invited back up next week, and I want to go, but right before that I have a party in Ann Arbor that I a maybe attending.  If I go to the party in Ann Arbor (which I really want to go to), then I won't be able to hop that ride with Jenn.  On the other hand, it looks like my family is going to be in chaos next week because my Mom is going to a business conference, and whenever that happens, it's craziness.  This chaos could work for or against me.  If my sister takes the car and disappears, then I'll be out of luck.  If my Dad is looking for any excuse to get out of town, he'll be more than happy for me to give it to him.  So, maybe. 
When it rains it pours, etc. 
I also got an email from Ashley.  That lucky girl is in China and writing me emails from her trip.  (She's out there to learn Chinese.)  She told me all about her latest adventures, including going to a mosque.  I've sent back a bunch of questions asking about it, because I was under the impression that China was not into religion. 
And then I did the whole lay down and try to sleep thing.  Again, no luck.  I was hoping the alcohol I had would make me more sleepy, since I've been told that's one of the things it does, but no.  I laid in bed for hours without much luck.  Bah. 
I fell asleep sometime around five.  My alarm rang at eight.  I was suppose to get up for Grandma, but I totally didn't get up.  Maybe I would be lucky and my Mom wouldn't wake me? 

Something Blue

I painted my toenails.  It's something far girlier than I would usually do, but I like them.  They're a really dark blue, and given that most girls my age paint their toenails something bright (especially in the summer), there's something very striking about them.
Usually, when I change something about my appearance, my mother disapproves.  When she saw them, I was pleasantly surprised, since she liked them too.  They're not perfect, which means I'm going to have to do another layer over it. 
My Dad noticed them too, as we were coming out of a shop.  He asked me if it was something to do with a character I was into.
As much as I am loathe to admit it, it does seem like something I would do.  I have been inspired by various characters to do things.  Scully from the X-Files inspired my current haircut.  Ten years ago, Hermione from Harry Potter inspired me to be as crazy about school as possible (with what seems like mostly positive consequences.)  In this case though, it was mostly me thinking that maybe I should try something new. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Freud and Race

I've been spending the evening trying doing some reading.  One of things I was working on was an article called Freud's Negro, which takes Freud to task on the issue of race. 
One of the first things the author, Claudia Tate, mentions is that since psychoanalysis always seems to boil down to is sex regardless of race.  As I have only read some of Freud, I would have to take Tate's word on it, but I suspect this has been an advantage, since Franz Fanon applied Freud's sexual theories to race and race relations in his book Black Skin, White Masks.  (He has two chapters dedicated, for instance, on inter-racial relationships.  He stipulates that Black men favor White women as partners because they perceive it as a way to have something the White man usually has, thus themselves becoming white.  He also asserts that White men favor Black women as partners as a roundabout way of dominating Black men.  This theory is also, I believe, based on Foucault.  But I digress.) 
There is lots of troubling (but also enlightening) information about Freud.  Apparently Freud told racist jokes.  I can't help but roll my eyes here.  Tate goes on to break this joke down, depicting it as a remaking of the master/slave relationship. 
I am hoping that psychologists who do work with Freud's theories are aware of this, because psychologists don't exist to be masters in a master/slave dichotomy.  They exist to as a guide, like Virgil was to Dante, so that the patient, regardless of race, can have mastery over their life again. 
That said, I like this article a lot.  It gives a good backbone to an argument that I'm assuming as been expanded elsewhere.  Her work on Freud and race (White, Black and Jewish) and gender are interesting.  There's a scene early on in the novel The Book Thief where a young white German boy, Rudy, puts on blackface in an attempt to costume himself as his hero, Jessie Owens.  (The book, set in Nazi Germany, would be at around the same time Jessie Owens won at the Olympics, which were held in Nazi Germany.)  Rudy then runs to the nearest track and runs around, pretending to be Owens, having just won another race.  His father find him and immediately removes him, dragging him home and instructing him not to wear blackface again.  I think this part of the novel, and the actual events surrounding Owens's win, would be an interesting situation to analyze in the context of this theory, which juggles three races. 

On the Jezebel Outrage

I've been really disappointed by the response people have had to the Jezebel article on the Daily Show's woman problem. 
I should probably start off by saying that I love the Daily Show.  I started watching it when I was about thirteen or fourteen, around 2002.  And I've regularly watched the show ever since, sometimes going years without missing an episode.  At the same time, I've only recently discovered Jezebel.  Even though I don't believe in everything the blog says, I like it.  I like that it's one of the few spaces on the Internet where women are unafraid to say something particular hurts women, and that the commentators are generally funny or interested in positive solutions to these problems.
First, I was really disappointed by the letter the Daily Show's women employees penned on the subject.  The letter did several things.  First, it dismissed Jezebel completely, which was unwise, since it defends the idea that the Daily Show is dismissive of women by being dismissive of a woman's article on a woman-centric blog mostly read by women.  Then it also discussed how there were lots of women who worked for the show, then went on to list them.  This would be fine if the article was about all the people on the show.  The article specifically focused on the writers and on-air talent, and, unfortunately, nothing Jezebel said appears to be a lie, since the numbers (or lack, in this case) are public knowledge.  The letter instead looks like a fearful, rash reaction, since it didn't correctly identify the point of the article.  In not correctly speaking to the problem that Jezebel pointed out, it looks like no one at the Daily Show actually read the article, just heard someone was unhappy and carried on from there. 
It would be easy, at this point, for the Daily Show to correct this problem, though the letter really hurts things.  They could offer to do the interviews which the Jezebel author specifically asked for before the article went to print.  Or, and this would be the smart move here, invite her to spend a week or so at the show's office.  Seriously.  She could blog about her time at the Daily Show office on the Jezebel blog, and then issue a final report after she's spent her time there and had time to consider it.  If it turns out that she still stands by what she said, then the Daily Show can say they wanted to get an outsider's point of view and that they're going to make some changes (which the Jezebel author already pointed to some easy ones.)  If she comes back and says things were fine, then presto! controversy over. 
Even if the Daily Show does handle this better in the future (which, given the sorry state of that letter, I'm afraid they won't), that won't cut down on the rest of the Internet obfuscating this whole thing.  Slate published an article on it that also misses the point and then decides to castrate the blog for asking questions.  The Slate article makes it about Olivia Munn, who is discussed in the Jezebel article because she is the first woman to be hired in seven years.  Seven years.  Jezebel complained that they hired Munn because she is pretty.  She is pretty, and there would be nothing wrong with this if writers on the show hadn't commented that they thought prettier woman did better because they were pretty or if Samantha Bee, the only regular woman correspondent over the recent years hadn't mentioned they were looking for older women, which Munn doesn't qualify as.  Slate took this part of the argument and made it sound in their article like it was the only thing the Jezebel article discussed, which it didn't.  Then it discussed how Jezebel was just trying to stir up controversy, again, dismissing a woman for asking questions about women's representation in media.  Jezebel should just rest its case at this point, because, once again, they're being willfully misunderstood and then dismissed for it.  And for an article that complains about Jezebel's ads, it doesn't mention how Slate has ads as well and in no way above this.  Nor does it mention how the author of the Slate piece left Gawker media, which owns Jezebel, though it does mention she formally was employed by them.
The reactions from some groups has really disappointed me.  There are positive, easy, non-reactionary responses to these issues.  The reactions so far have failed to reach that very high mark.    

Art Nerds and Cocoa Puffs

If you've been reading, than you've probably guessed by now that I am an art nerd.  I'm not very good at making art, but I do go out sometimes looking for things that are pleasing to the eye.  Sometimes those things find me.  Black Warrior Review has posted its entire archive, and I love the covers.   I'm torn between the neon-glo robot cover and the cover of the medicine cabinet, which makes me think of the cover for Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, a book I first saw in high school when my friend Alex was reading it.  You'll notice this cover clear references the drugs and the cocoa puffs, but not the sex, unless you want to get all Freudian about it and interpret the spoon as a penis.  (Which is totally what Freud would do.) 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Space Trashers

I found this article in National Geographic talking about space trash.  No kidding.  As if things weren't bad enough on Earth in terms of trash, it turns out we've now created the same problem in space.  Good job guys. 
And if you're thinking "Well, really, how big of deal can it possibly be?" than let me tell you this: last year, two satellites crashed into one another over Siberia, scattering about two thousand large pieces of debris over the atmosphere.  So, um, yeah, bad stuff happens when you treat Earth's orbit like a hoarder's living room. 
Here's the good news:
NASA and the Department of Defense held a conference to figure out what to do.  The UN has passed some ideas, including draining fuel out of satellites to prevent explosions.  There's been some ideas knocked around to fix the problem.  Most of them sound like they came from sci-fi novels, including one where they want to put a massive foam ball in orbit that would sweep up debris.  Honestly, the idea wasn't well explained in the article.  I'm still confused about what the heck they meant by it. 
The bad news:
Earlier this year, China used their old satellites for target practice, sending lots more little bits about.  Scientists estimate that for the next fifty years, we'll see a collision every five years.  For those of you not into math, that's ten collisions. 

Patriotic Poets

Today I'm reading up on some poet biographies.  Given that it is the 4th of July holiday still, I thought I would concentrate on a couple of American poets.  Things I've learned so far:
-Phillis Wheatley was from what is approximately modern Senegal in West Africa.  
-Even though Wheatley was "discovered" as smart early on in her life, they still made her work.  She wrote poems about how she wished she could stop being a servant and live the life of an academic.
-Wheatley published broadsides, which, for those of you not totally obsessed with the literary world, is a poster version of a poem, usually printed so that the words are indented into the page, so you can "feel" the word.  Broadsides are sort of a lost art in our culture, but I can assure you they're really cool.  
-Wheatley had asthma.  I honestly wasn't even sure people back then knew what it was. 
-When most Americans wouldn't publish Wheatley's work, she turned to a publisher in London. 
-Wheatley got to meet other famous people, including Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. 
-A lot of Wheatley's poems were written in couplets, including iambic pentameter (that's what much of Shakespeare is in) and heroic (which is the form favored by epics.)  This indicates to me that she must have been educated in the classics.  She also wrote about death, which everyone knows is a favored topic of poets. 
-Many British readers were uncomfortable with Wheatley's slave status.  They often criticized her "family" and owners for keeping her in slavery.  However, as a house slave, she got to avoid many of the worst aspects of slavery or the tough life of being a free slave in an overtly racist country. 
-Her husband was John Peters, who was a free black.  He may have been a lawyer.  Since he was ambitious, a lot of white Americans hated him. 
-"Refugee" slaves were slaves that were considered too sickly to work on things like sugar plantations in the Caribbean, so they were sold off as house servants in other parts of the world, including New England. 
-Walt Whitman's father was a admirer and friend of Thomas Paine.   
-Whitman was part of the first generation of American children. 
-Whitman's brothers and sisters were given patriotic names, including Andrew Jackson, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. 
-As a child, Whitman was apparently picked out of a crowd by the Marquis de Lafayette (who was instrumental in providing French support during the Revolution.) and carried young Whitman on his back. 
-Whitman's relationship with his father was imperfect; he respected him but they were never close.  There is some indication that his father may have been an alcoholic.  Whitman had a close relationship with his mother. 
-Like Shakespeare, Whitman didn't have a lot of formal schooling.  He spent six years in a public school in Brooklyn, and at around twelve began working. Whitman continued his education by spending time renting books from a library. 
-Whitman liked Sir Walter Scott and James Fenimore Cooper.  He liked Shakespeare's Richard III, which I also love. 
-Whitman was not just a writer but a publisher, beginning with become an apprentice printer as a young man, at around twelve or thirteen. 

Sunday, July 4, 2010

An Indulgence

I've been indulging in a little creative writing today.  It's always indulging to me, because most people would probably argue that I should be doing more constructive things.  What kinds of constructive things? I always wonder.  So few things have grabbed me so fiercely and have refused to let go since. 
I'm actually editing, which is not as fun for me as writing a first draft.  When I first write something, I'm exhilarated, I want to get the words out now, now, now.  There's something close to relief once I finish a rough draft.  Honestly, it often feels like I'll never have to revisit those thoughts or ideas again, because, thank God, they're out.  They're over.  They're in the near past, and I'm continuing on with life, sans a toxic lover that I care for but know I'm better without. 
I'm editing a set of poems right now.
One of the poems I'm editing right now is a strange set of surreal prose poems.  I sat in on a rehearsal for plays which escape my memory over a year ago, and I just started writing down all the nouns people were using.  It was an impressive cornucopia.  I decided I'd write some poems with it.  And I did.  Now I'm editing them, and it's tough because so much of the poem isn't about the words themselves but what they do together.  It's like a machine.  If you throw one cog off, the machine can't run; it'll just make puffy sounds.
Another poem is a rewriting of the myth of Arachne.  When I was fifteen, I was so sick of Greek mythology, because that was the sixth year in a row we had studied it in school, and I desperately wanted something different.  But it's stayed with me, all these years later, because I find that I write poems based on it and find references in pop culture to it.
One of the things that's really annoying is that my word processor started doing that thing where every time you add something it erases the space right after it.  I can work around it, but I wish I could figure out why that happened first.  Might be helpful.  

Another Way of Looking at Wallace Stevens

One of the things I've been doing today is reading poetry.  I'm working on some Wallace Stevens for a larger project of mine. 
"Continual Conversation with A Silent Man" is a strange but interesting poem.  I like that the blue sky is "old" instead of whatever we usually think it is (beautiful, usually.)  This poem also makes me think of "The Red Wheelbarrow," which is one of those poems I detest.  There's also something mysterious here, like the poetry of  Margaret Atwood. 
"Farewell to Florida" is also kind of strange.  I love the lines "the past is dead./Her mind will never speak to me again./I am free."

Going Postal

I really like postcards.  I'm not totally sure why, but there's something nice about a well-designed one, like it's a little poster. 
I'm really into some vintage-inspired ones that I found online, like this one which I think it suppose to be for Switzerland.  I like the bright colors and the simple shapes.  I usually don't like writing on my postcard's front image, but I really like the writing on postcards that are clearly inspired by old school advertisements.  They remind me of those stickers people used to put on their luggage to indicate where they had been before. 
Also in vintage postcard world is this French postcard.  Again, it reminds me of those old advertisements, but this one also reminds me Alphonse Mucha's style of art.
And this great one of Michigan reminds me a little of the cover art for Greeting from Michigan by Sufjan Stevens.  I suspected that the cover of that album was not just meant to look like a vintage advertisement but was probably inspired by a specific one, and this looks kind of close.
(As a sidenote, I'm so sad to hear that Stevens won't be doing more state albums.  I was personally pulling for one of Oregon myself.  I suspect that someone down the line will start making state albums themselves, and I'm hoping it'll either be Kimya Dawson or Double Saginaw Familiarity.  Because, really, someone needs to.) 
Other vintage postcards that I like include ones of Milan, Australia, Cuba, this one castle I can't place, Mexico, a fleur de lis, St. Tropaz, Bulgaria, Flanders and Brazil.  Possibly this one from Egypt is vintage too, though maybe it's just me. 
I guess I am a geography nerd, because I even liked some of the flag ones out there, like this one from Senegal.  I'm always trying to quiz myself when I see flags, trying to get good at remembering every country's flag.  I'm embarrassed to say I didn't remember Senegal when I saw this one.  I really should, considering how much I love African history and really want to go to Senegal someday.  It's not quite as bad as not knowing the flag to Cambodia, but I'm still not pleased with myself. 
The only one I found that I really don't like is this one for New Zealand.  I suspect that woman is suppose to be a "Native."  I get the feeling they were like "Hey, we need something exotic and sexy, let's put a woman in a bear blanket and nothing else."  Er.  Racism is never hot, sorry. 
Of course, there's nothing quite like an intriguing picture to make a good postcard, like this one, which is from some place I've never heard of.  When it's a good picture, I kind of hate it when someone sticks words over it.  I feel like that's part of the point of the back; you can just turn it around if you want to know where the picture is taken from.
Most of the humorous postcards out there strike me as tacky and/or lame, but some of them genuinely make me smile.  See this postcard from Earth.  It's times like these I wish I had a friend who actually thought he was the Doctor, because then I could send him this, writing a message that sounded like I was a companion.  I suspect that would be the sort of thing a lot of my friends would think was funny.  (Maybe I could do that to Matt?  He made himself one of those gigantic scarves like the fourth Doctor has.)  
The biggest problem with looking at these is that they make me wish I was out traveling and actually seeing some of these things.  Then I would have the excuse to buy some postcards and send them home to my friends.