Monday, December 24, 2007

In preparation for Christmas Eve mass, hungover

Favorite Holidays, ranked from most to least:

1. Halloween
2. Thanksgiving
3. St. Patrick's Day
4. 4th of July
5. Memorial Day/Labor Day
6. Summer Solstice (I don't actually celebrate this, but think I should start.)
7. My birthday/friends' birthdays
8. Christmas
9. Valentine's Day
10. New Year's Eve

The saving graces of Christmas:

1. Wrapping my brother's gift in an egg carton.
2. Our annual ugly sweater party
3. Cookies
4. White Christmas/Love Actually/It's a Wonderful Life/Linus
5. Nat King Cole
6. Festivus
7. Families who drink

Friday, December 14, 2007

In the vein of Allison's subterannean homesick blues

It is 9:15am on a Friday morning. My first quarter of grad school completed, I'm sitting on my parents' loveseat, enjoying the hour before I have to be at work. Really enjoying it. There's no one in my family's house, and I realize that this is the first time I've been alone in a few weeks. As I drink my tea and putter around on my computer, I realize how relaxing this is. The TV is off, no one is stomping around the house, and I can make all the loud sounds with my nose that I want.

I miss my place in Chicago. I don't know if the emotional tumult of moving created a dramatic shift in my brain, but something happened and my parents' house is not my place anymore. My apartment is my place. The sense of comfort I feel in my parents' house will never go away, but it has changed dramatically. There is no way for me to finish what I started while I'm in this house. I don't know what it is that I've started, but it has been abandoned these many days now.

I've had the "coming home" conversation with many people my age. For some, the home they grew up in stopped being their home once they started college. Some felt it shift after they got home from being abroad. (Side note: What enormous privilege we have.) I think for me, this is the first time the shift hasn't felt like a bad thing, like a betrayal. After I graduated from undergrad, I came back home and tried to make this my life. I tried for two years. And I was happy here, but I wasn't full. And maybe I won't be in Chicago, but for now the difference is so great that I'm at least distracted.

Side note: Check out this website Emmy led me to. It's a bunch of graphic designers who created a phony medication in an effort to display the manipulation of our nation's health. It is so funny. Be sure to take the quiz.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cooking for the Vice President

Last week, Kansas City had the great pleasure of hosting VP Dick Cheney for a day. Over the past three weeks, I've had the great pleasure of being in Kansas City. Thus, our paths have somewhat collided.

In these KC weeks, I began the work I came home to do: make money. The easiest (or so I thought) outlet for this cash flow would be working for my friend's mother, a caterer. I signed on to work parties and do prep work and dishes in the kitchen. Mostly, it turns out I am a slave to the kitchen. Imagine my shock at the foot and back pain gained by working a 9 or 10 hour day on one's feet. Life is full of new experiences. A borrowed pair of running shoes from my mother has improved my outlook tremendously, though.

Last Thursday, the kitchen was catering a luncheon for someone we were referring to as "The Republicans." This fundraiser featured a special, mystery guest, a VIP that had to remain unnamed due to security measures. Yes, you put those pieces together correctly - I cooked lunch for the Vice President. I, Helen E, chopped vegetables for Dick Cheney's crudite. I, Helen E, mixed roasted red pepper dip with twice the amount of required garlic (whoops) for Dick Cheney's enjoyment on the pita chips I created myself.

Actually, the truth is, Cheney wasn't allowed to eat any of the food our kitchen prepared. Security was too tight. My boss had to go meet with Secret Service the day before, and all the servers working the party had to report their dates of birth, full names, and social security numbers to these same Secret Service. Apparently, before the party began, they were all forced to wait in the garage while they were supposed to be setting up. Those SS guys aren't effing around. I was supposed to work that party, but I got cut at the last minute, due to poor turnout. I think some higher power never meant for me to meet that scary devil of a man. Our forces were never meant to collide.

Aside from the VP, cooking has been a trip. It's tiring, but I must say that I've had worse jobs. The other day, I was peeling carrots, and had no less than four smells assaulting me: carrots, thawing lobster, baking chocolate, and sauteeing onions. It's quite stimulating, plus I get to listen to NPR all day. I like to feel like I'm up to date again. Though each night when I come home, no matter how glorious the food smelled that day, I flipping stink. Apparently that vibrant mix doesn't travel well. There are worse things, I suppose.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Fun Stuff

Check this lady out. She's got it goin' on. I giggled while reading.

I found her on this, most excellent, Chicago art-dudes site. Many thanks to Abigail for sending me their way.

Today, my (temporary) work catered a party for some local Republicans. These dudes happened to be hosting VP Dick Cheney. Unfortunately, I had to stay back in the kitchen to wash dishes and make horseradish sauces. I guess the world wasn't ready for a Cheney/Maggard pairing just yet. Maybe someday??? More on the catering later. I have to ice down my thighs and drink four beers to recover first.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

And now... hockey

That’s right, the Chicago Blackhawks. We entered the United Center at the Michael Jordan entrance – easy to spot because of the giant bronze statue of Michael Jordan. Our party was a party indeed – us three lovely ladies and one loquacious five year old. After going through the labyrinth of hockey fans and special VIP entrances, we reached our box seats.

The first thing we saw was a woman putting the final touches on her free hotdog – sesame bun and all. We were living large. Aside from hotdogs, there was a sweet buffet of free food and beer. Budweiser products in cans. I felt the event merited Bud Heavy.

Though it never would’ve occurred to me, my roommate warned that it would be cold. Even in our fancy seats, it was pretty chilly in that iced United Center. In case it isn’t clear, this was my first hockey game. What better way to spend a Friday night than at my first hockey game?

The Blackhawks played the St. Louis Blues, and everyone got a free Blackhawks ballcap as they walked in. When you looked out at the crowd, you could see a series of bright red heads clapping and cheering as the players did their warm-ups. After warm-ups, the sea of red disappeared for the singing of our national anthem. I have never heard a national anthem cheered so loudly or emphatically before. The stadium used its many light-up signs to display waving red and white stripes, and stars of white on fields of blue. It was pretty amazing. I’m surprised I didn’t see anyone crying.

The game started soon after that – 3 periods of skating and scoring attempts. I took to asking my neighbors to the left, St. Louis fans, questions about the hockey. I was really curious about why the referees weren’t announcing their penalty calls over the loudspeaker. Also, unlike football or even baseball, there was little-to-no narration. Most of the other fans didn’t seem to mind, and I soon found myself as involved as the next person. Much like football, hockey is a full-contact sport, and it’s pretty exciting to see those guys smack up against the glass like a bird who didn’t see it coming.

I have never seen such perfect ice as this was after the zamboni machines cleaned it between periods. I bet that well-maintained ice wouldn’t look as good if it weren’t for the shovel girls. Instead of cheerleaders, it would appear that hockey teams have a set of scantily clad, able-bodied young women who skate out in their leg warmers and their bikini tops with shovels, to remove ice debris. Our five year old companion looked at these girls, then turned to me and said, “They must be freezing!” Freezing indeed. My friend’s nephew is wise beyond his years.

In fact, the attendance of this tiny wise man made the game much more exciting for me. His enthusiasm was contagious, and we had many a good laugh at his interchanges with Tommy, the Blackhawks mascot. I sometimes wish there were more funny five-year olds running around in my life. If he hadn’t been at the game that night, my friends and I would’ve drank a lot and made fun of everything. As it stood, we drank plenty, and made fun of more than a few things, but I also felt like I was more allowed to get excited about what was going on around me. We could cheer without being mocking, we could see the game through the eyes of a five-year old who played his slide whistle (think like a clown has) each time something got exciting.

In addition to the slide whistle, I was expecting to hear a lot of Journey and the like blaring over the loudspeakers, but I was surprised to find quite a mix. At one point, my friend pointed out that they were actually playing the Arcade Fire. I caught two snippets of Elvis Costello at various points throughout the night, too. It just goes to show, hockey is full of surprises.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Pigskin, anyone?

I sat down to write a post about football, and ended up writing a poem. Let's try this again:

This weekend, we drove 8 hours to KC all for the sake of football. My ever-generous friend had her dad's amazing Chiefs tickets, and we meant to capitalize on them. (I also meant to wash the three loads of laundry I brought home in the trunk, saving myself $6. Yes, I'm to that point.)

Gameday (Sunday) dawned sunny and bright, with an extra hour of sleep due to Daylight Savings Time. The high was 71 degrees, and I had my red t-shirt and red bandanna, ready for action.

It's funny, but ever since graduating from college, I've been more of a football fan. I limit myself to professional football, though this year it's been fun to keep up with MU's record, etc. When I moved up here in September, I found myself watching Chiefs game feeds on, cursing our lack of cable. Though those Chiefs are really struggling this year, I'm more determined than ever to be a fan.

Back to Arrowhead. We arrived in the parking lot at about 11am, with plenty of time to drink a beer and take in the spectacle. I watched the over-sized cars streaming across the lot, parking and unloading coolers and grills. You could hear music from people's stereos, and smell their grilling meats. The people next to us let us use their chairs, and people threw footballs between the cars. I looked around me at the astronomical spending power of America, and it didn't bother me one bit. I was too excited to get into the stadium and spend $7.25 on a lite beer.

The game started, and my friend and I screamed and cheered with the best of them. We befriended the toothless man who would yell, "Move the chains!!!!" each time the Chiefs got a first down, and scowled at the loudmouth Packers fan behind us. We ate nachos and drank beer and cheered for touchdowns. The weather was perfect, and the Chiefs almost won. On the whole, it was a great day. For some reason, I can't get enough of watching those giant men run into each other, sling passes down field, or run as fast as they can to jump on someone and stop them in their tracks. Go Chiefs!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

An Assignment

Tom has asked, and he shall receive. The assignment is below, and it's much more appealing than the homework I'm facing right now...

List 5 things that certain people (who are not deserving of being your friend anyway) may consider to be “totally lame,” but you are, despite the possible stigma, totally proud of. Own it:

1. I can sit down and eat Wavy Lays with Dean's french onion dip as a meal. I can sit and eat that until I am full. Many think this is gross; I think it is glorious.

2. My dancing. When dancing, it may look to outsiders like I'm extremely white and extremely sans rhythm, but in my head, it looks AWESOME. I love the way I look (in my head) when I am dancing. It's an added bonus when friends are embarrassed about this dancing, really.

3. My dad will occasionally drunk dial me on Monday nights when he gets home from his weekly basketball night with friends. When I tell people about this, it gets mixed reactions. Some think it's awesome or hilarious; others think it's a little sad and give me a look like maybe my dad has a problem. He doesn't, and I love those drunk dials because they are funny and affectionate.

4. I make a huge scene when a song I really, really like comes on in a public place. These songs take me by surprise, I get really excited, and I either sing along, gasp, or both. People think this is annoying but I think it is awesome.

5. I like to walk around in my underwear. Pants are for work. The only one who thinks this isn't embarrassing is my roommate. She's part of the "pants are for work" foundation. I think it's glorious.

Note: This took me a really long time to come up with. I think that I'm a pretty open person, and also I think it's tough to associate things that others find embarrassing with pride. There's almost a contradiction there, because if others weren't around, nothing would be embarrassing. Right?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Do these jeans make me look fat?

There's a girl in my Monday night class. After the second meeting of this class, I went home and wrote about a remark she'd made, something I thought was a little silly. Here's that bit:

“It just doesn’t seem… academic enough.” Can we not enjoy a break? Can we not look for importance in the different? Obviously, being enrolled in graduate school makes me interested in being scholarly, more interested than the average bear even. But does scholarly have to mean source citation, cutting arguments, voices culled to all sound the same?

I think that must be it: she’s afraid of her own voice. I came to class completely behind what I’d written, even though I knew it was NOT my finest work. I felt sure that it was my voice there on the page, and for me that was enough. Perhaps Miss Skinny Jeans/Cute Bags doesn’t feel comfortable in her own voice. And I think for a student that far advanced in the program (she’s at least a year in), that’s a disservice.

And... scene. So then, I thought I was done with her. No. She continues to grow more and more ridiculous as class goes on, meriting rants on the bus ride home, rants with classmates, rants on the cell phone. Turns out, girl is NOT afraid of the sound of her own voice - as a matter of fact, she loves it. Loves it loves it loves it.

This girl + another rambler (it's called e-nun-ci-ation) + two missed buses = me buying a six pack and a bag of chips on my way home. I finally settle on my back porch with a pilsner and my laptop, ready for some writing release, when it starts to sprinkle. I spill half my chips as I scurry inside, ready to admit defeat (and drink some beer).

At least my roommate and I have some old school Nintendo in the works... her ebay-ordered Dr. Mario just came in the mail today. If I could just get her to stop reading her homework, we'd be in business.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Pet Sounds

Today, an amazing thing happened: my bed was delivered.

There I was, having some lunch in the kitchen when the buzzer rang. What luck! The men from Bedding Experts had arrived to deliver my mattress, box springs, and frame. One minute, I'm letting them in and showing them where I want the head of my bed to be and the next I'm looking at a whole bed, put together and so far off the ground.

The air mattress I'd been sleeping on for 29 nights sat very, very close to the ground. In fact, it was actually right ON the ground. Now, I'm sitting up so high I can hardly believe it. My room looks like a real place, not a storage room for boxes and plastic drawers.

There's a part of me that feels rather silly, being so enthralled with a new bed. I could wax poetic about how this is the first bed I've bought, the first that is truly mine, but here's the thing: a room doesn't look right without a bed. Now, things look right. This is my room, and I can show it to people, and they can think, "Wow, that Beth really has it together."

I think this sense of room accomplishment is simply building on the fact that I spent Thursday night painting this tiny place all by myself. Looking at this gray paint, you can tell I was a first-timer. You can also tell that I didn't have a stepladder, because there's an uneven inch or so at the top that still shows the white underneath. I decided, being cheap and lazy, that this inch is "spunky" and so it's staying. It's staying, and it's amazing.

I also patronized the cool local record store today, buying the Beach Boys's "Pet Sounds" and the New Pornographers's new "Challengers." The Beach Boys album is to get me ready for life, and the New Pornographers album is to get me ready for their concert in a few weeks. Though I think I was born ready. Then, I went to Best Buy and bought "Knocked Up." What's a successful day without "Knocked Up?" It's Saturday night, and I'm blogging in my new bed, listening to the Beach Boys. It doesn't get more successful than that.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Old Apartment

I'm sitting out on my back deck to avoid paint fumes, and I can still smell them wafting out the window behind me. A VW Jetta full of gay men just flew down my alley, BLASTING "It's Raining Men." Yes, it only took me about 8 beats to realize it was "It's Raining Men." I flipping love Boys Town. Seriously, I do.

This story - the paint fumes and such - really begins on Sept 1, the day my roommate and I moved in. When I arrived at the apartment, she had a look of fear on her face. "Well, the bedrooms are the same size, so I just took the one with the worse paint job." I poked my head into her room and saw the lavender walls with the frothy mint green trip. Whoa. "I know," she said, "I'm going to dream of unicorns and ponies tonight."

I walked the five steps to what would become my room: navy blue. Dark, gloomy, navy blue. I threw my crap in there and went down the three stories for another load. Upon really being moved in, one of our first tasks was landlord harassment.

Finally, this morning, a painter arrives at my door. "This is you?" He's pointing to his printout, a paper with my address on it. I peer through sleep-blurred eyes. "That's me," I manage, and let him in. I scurry around, trying to dress myself and tidy the crap in my room while he's making trips to his truck to get his equipment. He comes back up, I tell him not to let the cat out (my roommate would lose a part of her soul if I lost the cat) and set off for the coffee shop.

I returned home at midday. The man - about 40 or so - has been joined by another man, closer to my age. They have cued up the iPod (mine) on the dock in our living room and are rocking out to Mos Def. I think they are Polish, and I know they are not native English speakers. I eat a sandwich on this same back deck, switch my backpack for a purse, and set out for more walking about.

I saw a lot of my neighborhood today, and when I came back, the place was transformed. The walls were all a blessed, calm, bright, wonderful white The cat was high on paint fumes, and I was overjoyed. The older man was by himself again, and I think he was listening to Sade.

This city has given me 110 new reasons to love it today, but I'm far too tired to list them all. Someday I'll buy shoes that actually have, I dunno, arch support or something.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

On the Bus Mall

I scurried from my apartment to catch the #8 in time to head south and make it to my 545pm class. I hopped gaily on the bus and inserted my temp transit card, unsure of how much credit remained.

"INSERT .50" I read (aloud of course) as I began digging through my foot-long purse for change. I quickly and triumphantly came up with two quarters. Peering hesitantly at the money collector, I fumbled with my quarters. Finally,

"Where do I put these?" I had to.
"Right there," said the bus driver, gesturing vaguely. I saw the familiar dollar bill slot, saw the card slot, but no coin drop.
"There," said the guy behind me, irritated by this point. Aha! I caught sight of what had been in front of me the whole time and sheepishly dropped my quarters in. I made it to class on time, with very few dirty looks from my fellow passengers.

Fast forward to five minutes after 9pm, when I'm crossing the street to hit the slowest McDonald's in the city. I need to change out a $5 bill so I can ride the bus home. I wait in the longest line any McDonald's has seen at 9pm for $1.10 worth of french fries. I would've gotten ice cream, but the wind is starting to stick, so fries it must be.

I take my tiny bag of french fries and plot a packet's worth of ketchup in its bottom, just to make sure things are as messy as possible. I feel as gross as I used to feel walking down the streets in Sevilla while eating: people don't do that there. They walk down the streets and smoke, they don't eat.

I cross the street, licking salt and ketchup from my fingers as I approach the bus stop. A girl, about my age and about my same social background (read: middle class and white), is standing at the bus stop at the most bizarre angle. I pause to look up from my feed bag and realize that she is, in fact, kissing someone. So you've got me, eating fries from a McDonald's bag, and you've got this couple so in the throes of young love that they've got to kiss even while waiting for the mundane effing bus.

I proceed to finish the fries within probably two minutes, crumpling the paper bag in my hands, trying to hide its origins. The couple is looking antsy, wondering "Where's this bus? Where is it?" Eventually they leave, arms linked round one another, and I see him put her in a cab. Suckers. Five minutes later, I'm on the bus, and that girl is sighing her love in the backseat of a cab. I think about the bowl of cereal waiting for me at home, and sigh my love in the bench seat of a bus.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Campus Connection

With my friends pointing me in the right direction, I packed a bag this afternoon and headed for my first glimpse of DePaul’s campus. It seems strange (really strange) that I’ve paid tuition to a school which I haven’t even seen, but here I am.

I walked north on Sheffield street, making a quick stop in Bank of America to open an account. This will be my Chicago bank. David Facio was my customer service representative, eager to learn all about me. He recommended a s’more shake from an ice cream place which I’ve already forgotten the name of, though he said it twice and I repeated it after him.

After getting my temporary ATM card and setting up my internet banking, David let me loose on the city. I continued north on Sheffield, relying on my directions to walk until I hit campus. I walked along, passing kids just getting out of school, and signs that said “Single? Try” I stopped in a 7-11 to buy band-aids for my blistering heels.

I walked and I walked. I began to worry that I had gone too far, had somehow missed campus, when I saw a DePaul U bookstore. Relief.

I hit campus a block or two later, and walked by all the housing buildings until I reached the Student Center. I figured I’d wander through there and maybe get my student ID, if I had time before my orientation.

The Student Center was FULL of students, undergrad students who aren’t old enough to drink in bars. I walked in, a bit shell-shocked, and wandered through seas of “You are toooo sexy,” and “I just told her STOP and ohmygod, it was so funny.” I looked around at them, at how young they were and how they were all acting brave for their first college appearances. They had the air of owning the place and being totally lost at the same time.

I breezed through the milling crowds to the Student ID Services. Crowded. I peeked in at the line to pick up your UPass. Way crowded. I gave up, needing to check my email and confirm the start time of orientation. I decided to look for the place where all the big kids were hanging out.

In my search for the library, I first walked past Schmitt Academic Center. This name sounded familiar to me, as perhaps the site of my mysterious orientation. I popped in there to see if maybe there was a schedule, to bypass the internet and go straight to the source.

I peered in auditorium rooms, no schedule to be found, and watched more milling crowds of undergrad students. I went out the way I came in and continued to wander amongst the big buildings, feeling certain I was getting close to the library.

There it was, right next door. The girl at the Reference desk helped me connect to the library’s wireless, and told me “Welcome to DePaul.” We laughed, and I walked my computer over to a corner desk by the window.

The familiarity of the library is incredibly comforting in the face of so many changes. Everything in my life right now is unfamiliar: my new bedroom, new bathroom, new kitchen. Coming to campus, seeing the faces of the undergrads feeling more un-anchored than I do, is comforting. At least here I know what is going on. I know that the library will have corner desks by the windows. I know that the Reference section is the place to get help, because those desk workers never have anything else to do. I know that no matter how silly I look wandering around lost, no one else will notice because they are doing the same thing.

I’m back.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wet Hot American Summer

I'd say this summer has certainly been something to write home about, but it's not yet over. A week from Saturday, I and many of my things will be slugging up to Chicago to take residence in a new apartment in that new city. I'm starting to get nervous. Real nervous. I'm forcibly reminded by these moving anxieties of two similar summers' ends.

Aug 2001, a sad and lowly freshman in a new school. I remember my parents driving me up to Kirksville in our sweet minivan, me sleeping on the back seat. I fell asleep and hoped the drive would never end. I started crying in a Staples store, and my mom hugged me, saying "I was going to be mad if you didn't cry." I couldn't eat dorm food until I was truly hungover for the first time. Things went uphill from there.

I remember the night before that trip in the minivan, the muggy KC August and the interior of Stef's ancient Green Machine. Why did we think we were different, that no one else had ever undergone such an uprooting? But we did. I did. Thinking back now, I know that I wouldn't relive high school for the world.

Aug/Sept 2003, left behind in my parents' home, in my summer job, while all my friends returned to school. I was working and preparing for my first trans-Atlantic flight, for a stay in the apartment of Spanish strangers. I had forgotten the terror of those last weeks until recently. It still surprises me - how can such a happy person, so excited to live, be so frightened of a thing she's waited for?

Two nights before I left, I watched "Wet Hot American Summer" after my parents and brothers had gone to sleep. Engrossed, I found myself shocked on the couch after the movie ended. I watched special features, little shorts on the making of "Wet Hot American Summer," anything to postpone the fact that soon I'd have to accept such a monumental task.

Now here I am, sitting in a room as messy as it's ever been, with scanty packed boxes lining the periphery. I'm leaving this afternoon to visit friends, and I won't return until 3 days before my scheduled move-in date. What was I thinking? Did I think that if I didn't pack, I wouldn't have to deal with my fear of the unknown? Did I think I could lie on the couch watching special features forever?

Things will get done; they always do. I will move a week from Saturday. I will start school again after a gap of two years, and I will work hard to impress my peers and professors alike. I'll somehow have enough money to eat, to go to concerts, to buy beers after long weeks. But for now, all I want to do is go rent "Wet Hot American Summer."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Step by Step by Step

Though I hate to be another brand snob, I made a new purchase this month which has given me hours upon hours of pleasure. Yes, it's a macbook. I'm a first-timer, but so far the transition has been smooth.

I've been so busy playing with my new toy that I'd forgotten about the ancient (6 year old) pc still sitting on the top of my $5 desk. After the rush of grad school apps earlier this year, I'd forgotten that this giant monument was a real, live, working computer. Today somehow became tech day (I still can't figure why the drivers on my computer can't get connected to the printer, but I gave up after two hours of error pages).

Tech day led to the amateur cleaning of my old college pc. I plugged my flash drive in and began to navigate all the old folders. I copied all school work, and thought I'd finished when I remembered Kazaa. That's right, in the days of the dorms, I had used Kazaa for all my free downloading needs.

I paged through those downloads today, and laughed at the mix-up of rap popular in my freshman/sophomore years (NORE, etc) and male singer/songwriters (Jason Mraz, Howie Day, and of course, John Mayer). There were some songs I couldn't bear the thought of deleting forever, so before I knew it, I was making... a mix CD.

Aug 07 - Final Mix from College Dell

1. Ani Difranco - covering Bob Dylan's "Most of the Time" Fab.
2. Eddie Vedder - "Throw Your Arms Around Me" Sadly, the sound quality is abhorrent.
3. Ben Lee - "Cigarettes Will Kill You" Catchy as hell.
4. Cody Chesnutt - "Look Good in Leather" Sample lyric: "mothafucka I'm coooool, with attitude and ego to spare." Yes.
5. Counting Crows - covering Van Morrison's "Caravan" One of Van's best.
6. Counting Crows - covering Psychedelic Furs' "Ghost in You" Forgive a girl for nostalgia.
7. Indigo Girls - "Galileo" An essential from most mixes created in college.
8. Jackson 5 - "ABC" Who can refuse?
9. Jamiroquai - "Virtual Insanity" Still great, from the ATO basement to today.
10. Les Miserables - "On My Own" It's gotten into my head a few times this past summer, I figured why not?
11. Live - "All Over You" I had room.
12. Lucinda Williams - "Passionate Kisses" Old-school and wonderful.
13. Goldfinger - covering The Cure's "Just Like Heaven" This song stays great in all incarnations.
14. Willie Nelson - "Maria (Shut Up and Kiss Me)" In spite of the quiet, backup presence of Rob Thomas, Willie Nelson makes musical magic.
15. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles - "Tracks of My Tears" An American classic.
16. King Floyd (?) - "Groove Me" Irresistible link to the "Swingers" soundtrack.
17. The Band - "The Weight" Always good. Always.
18. Tom Waits - "Martha" Who didn't discover Tom Waits in college??
19. And to close, Wyclef Jean - "Perfect Gentleman" How many pre-drinks in dorm room 158 were consumed to this song? Still makes me want a Natty Lite.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

More stories per hour

I'm watching my dear darling Jon Stewart, and he just presented a sound bite: "CNN now has more stories per hour." This clip from CNN, sadly misrepresented by that quote, was referring to their morning show, and highlighting the ability of said morning show to present more stories each hour. Jon Stewart, of course, said it best when he made a joke about Americans only having time for one noun, a few modifiers, tsunami wet, Iraq bad, etc etc.

Isn't this what's wrong? If not the cause, certainly a symptom? Sigh.

Unemployment is good to me. I sleep ten hours a night, I clean all my dishes, I organize my CDs. I want to live in my little private cocoon forever. The most beautiful, most appreciated part of all this languor is that nothing is hurried. I do things in the time it takes me to do them, and then I move on to the next thing and give it equal attention. Any pressure from anywhere is gone. I breathe deeply. I spend time with my friends and family. Is this what we're supposed to do? I'll ask myself the same question in two weeks, after nearly three weeks of joblessness. I'll try to keep it to one story per hour.

Friday, July 27, 2007

"What I Know About Men"

Thanks to my brilliant friend Allison, who is also so very culturally hip, I came across this article from the Guardian. Read it. Seriously, read it. It's called "What I Know About Men," and it's taken from an interview with superstar 19 year-old Hilary Duff.

I didn't know whether to cry or punch a wall as I read this article, though on the second reading I mostly just laughed. I knew Ms. Duff was on my "Naughty List" as soon as I read her statement: "I'm not, like, a crazy feminist." Pardon me?

The misuse of the word feminist is something that bothers me to distraction. I consider myself a feminist. I'm sure there are many of peers who wouldn't identify themselves as such. I think they wouldn't because the label has taken on a life of its own, a stereotype that is unfair and rarely true. Hilary, feminism does not mean man-hating. Feminists aren't all wiccans who neglect to shave their armpits and ride bicycles made of hemp. Being a feminist simply means that you believe that women and men are equal. No sex is better; no sex is worse.

A second moment (directly after the first doozy) came where I took issue with Hilary's uneducated politics: "I think women definitely need men. Like, I couldn't imagine having a girlfriend!" She then goes on to list all the things that "guys" make her feel, which assumably couldn't be attained in a female-female relationship: security, comfort, affection, fun, drama. (These are directly quoted, I'm not making the "drama" one up, I promise.) It's funny, because many of the lesbians I know have relationships where ALL of these essential elements are present. The one thing Hilary doesn't mention (a penis) must be too R-rated for a teen scene queen.

All of this tripe is in with other, terrible stereotypes about women that Hilary admits to perpetuating. Women are definitely home-makers, girls purposely act dumb in front of guys they like, etc etc. The part that makes me want to cry is that Hilary Duff's primary audience is preteen girls. A 12 year-old will read this, admiring Hilary Duff for her super-clever "Lizzie Macguire"-esque abilities, and for years she'll want to avoid being "a crazy feminist." Why do we allow that as the stuff of role models? It's gross. It shocks me that, in 2007, a 19 year-old can be quoted as saying "women are definitely homemakers," and no one bats an eye.

I'm not saying Hilary Duff is this huge water-mark for culture, but she's still fairly well-known. People will still see this article; albeit mostly British people. I hope that most girls are raised in homes that know better than to look up to stuff like this.

So what do I, Helen E, know about men? They listen to you much better when they're attracted to you. Some of them like books. Most of them like music. That's about all I've got.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A sad state of neglect

My life right now has been reduced to bullet points. I'm no longer afforded the luxurious time of paragraphs, of sentences that link to one another - only harsh, ugly bullets.

I am moving in one month and 10 days.

I am starting school, and borrowing a lot of money to do so.

I haven't been to school in 2 full years. In fact, I am unsure whether I've engaged my brain in 2 full years.

I am leaving this job in 6 days. I fear my desk will never be clean.

I have to pack all my things. I have to part with clothes that I don't wear, but that my brain still thinks I need. I have to weed out my books, my most comforting possessions.

And finally, I am going to be poor forever. Chicago looms, with open arms of fun, and I will have to pass up on All Fun because I have no money. Literally, all fun. I'm sure I won't have one bit of fun.

Now, a story: last night, I went to the 3&2 Baseball Park to watch my youngest brother (12) play in the championship game for his league. The weather, despite the humidity, turned out to be beautiful as I sat with my dad and my aunt and ate peanuts. We watched my brother play only one inning - the first - as his team struggled to keep up with a far better one. The rest of the time, he sat on the bench. Dad and I would look over and see him, in the corner of the dugout closest to the fans, talking to a group of the girls in his class who came to cheer the team. Did he miss the baseball? We couldn't tell.

I learned a few things last night:
1. Never pass up an opportunity for free baseball on a beautiful night with family to accompany you.
2. There is nothing I miss less than being a junior high girl.
3. Sometimes, warming the bench is enough for someone, if they get to be part of the team.
4. Maybe, if you know you're going to be sitting on a bench for 2-3 hours, you should bring a cushion. Who cares if it's an old lady thing - benches hurt butts.

Monday, July 2, 2007

I think she said "feck"

Saturday night, I came home about an hour before bar close to relieve my stomach of the Kelly's/Joe's pizza that I'd just eaten. I crawled into bed feeling vaguely unsettled, with a beer/pizza/taco/thai curry combo that was rather unpleasant.

I turned on the TV (my nighttime boyfriend) only to hear... Alvin and the Chipmunks! "Christmas Time is Here" is one of my favorite carols, and I knew that it could only mean one thing: Almost Famous was on TV.

Being tired, I tuned in for about the first twenty minutes. I realized how fantastic that set-up was, despite any flaws in the rest of the film (and by flaws, I mean Kate Hudson. Kate Hudson is not good on an unsettled stomach). Crowe took Frances McDormand (always amazing) and paired her with Zooey Deschanel (spelling?) - what a duo. Then, he pairs Philip Seymour Hoffman (maybe my favorite working actor) with the fictional Lester Bangs character. Delicious. And he manages to play nearly all of Simon and Garfunkel's "America," as well as "Sparks" by the Who, some Iggy Pop, and, of course, Alvin and the Chipmunks.

"The only true currency we have in this bankrupt world are the things we say to each other when we're being uncool." Not bad for 3am on a Saturday.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I Feel it All

Well, I knew when my friend ercwttmn had lapped me that it had been too long since I'd posted a blog. The last couple of weeks, being high stress and high activity, have left me a bit cranky. And you know, if you don't have anything nice to say...

So let's talk about Leslie Feist and Laura Veirs, as a little warm-up. Thanks to a dear friend of mine, an envelope from STL arrived with burned copies of these two lovely ladies' latest discs. I'd been chomping at the bit for Veirs' "Saltbreakers" after sampling a few tracks on my internet radio station, and it was as good as I expected. Pair it with the Shins' "Wincing the Night Away," and you've got yourself a nice little nautical adventure. Enchantment under the sea.

Feist, whom I love to see live, didn't disappoint either. I think her latest disc is much, much better than "Let it Die," which I bought excitedly after seeing her at Lollapalooza last year and abandoned after a few months. I read a review in the NYTimes of her latest NY show, and the writer said something about how Feist is the word "chanteuse" embodied. I couldn't agree more; what IS it about her voice? "I Feel it All" is my favorite track so far.

I turned 24 last Friday, and celebrated with many of my dear friends. I spent a lot of the old "birthday week" discussing how 24 seems much, much older than 23. Maybe I'm really letting myself settle into 24, knowing that the year ahead is more on track with the me that I think I am. On the other hand, there's this, summed up beautifully in an email sent by my fellow future student: do you ever worry that the heads will figure us out? like, we'll show up and they'll take one look and say, "wait, we thought you were someone else!"

Wait, we thought you were someone else! On days like yesterday, where I ping-pong between feeling like I'm running a 70 person training and feeling like I'm running a 70 person training into the ground, I wonder what the university will make of me upon my return to academia. Either way, I can't imagine a Beth not going back to school, so I must be doing something right.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Stories from a Sober Weekend

Indulge me in a scene: It's a sunny Saturday afternoon at the lake. 5 beautiful ladies in kids' sunglasses (all the extras they had at the lakehouse) take off for a boat ride with two young gentlemen. Jeanie's cousin, antsy for some outside stimulus, steers the boat in the direction of what he's heard is "a good dive bar." "This should be interesting," thinks the girl who can't drink.

Their boat pulls into a cove. A crowded, crowded cove. There are two oversized yacht-boats parked at the edge of a cram-full dock. A girl, caucasian in descent but brown in color, waves a skinny arm to signal an open spot behind one of the yacht-boats. Her cash tips are tucked into the waistband of her rolled up cotton shorts, because her bikini top doesn't afford any pockets. Billy, aforementioned cousin, steers the boat into a small spot next to a loooong, long fast boat. A glorified cigarette boat, if you will. The heroines mill about their own boat, applying sunscreen and taking in the sights.

In the long boat next to these lovely ladies, there are young men. Skeezy, skeezy young men. In the boat across from the ladies? More skeeze balls. Our protagonist has the distinct feeling of being ogled. She ignores the feeling to look out on the general chaos around her.

Inland from the crowded dock is a small swimming beach, with its own, bused-in sand. The beach is littered with children, and sits in front of the establishment. The protagonist, expecting a dive bar, was surprised to find the lake's version of an outdoor (privately owned) Applebee's. This wonder was called Louie and Dave's or something equally lake-y.

After everyone finishes their road sodas, our heroes leave the boat and walk down the long (ogling) dock to approach the restaurant. They find a table and plop into the plastic deck chairs, inspecting menus of fried goodness and pizzas. Frozen drink machines swirl sweet daiquiris behind the free-standing bar. These confectionery drinks are over-priced, but adequately liquored, or so they tell our protagonist. She orders a glass of water and pizza.

As the food is served, they notice the true ambiance of the place. A trip to the women's bathroom displays two toilets, separated not by stalls but by a single partition. A friend asks the protagonist if this is, in fact, a converted men's room with toilets where urinals should be. They wind their way back from the bathroom through crowds of bleach-blonde hair and fake Coach purses.

A one-man band is playing Jimmy Buffet covers and bad country music. There are three, maybe four women dancing and hooting on the large dance floor in front of this troubadour. Occasionally, the young children of these women join them for a dance. They wear the kind of two-pieces where the bottom piece is a ruffled skirt, and dance with drinks in hand. At a table near the dance floor, a man is holding a tiny dog. The dog is wearing a life jacket.

After eating, the group of our interest orders a drink for the road and retreats to their boat. So much for stimulus: our heroine is inundated with bad cover music, dancing ladies, dogs in life jackets, and sunshine. They motor the boat over to a deserted cove, and spend the rest of the afternoon floating on fun noodles, boat anchored safely in quiet waters.

And in other news: I stole the following link from my friend Tom Drew. Read it and you'll understand why this "gay bomb" was too good to pass up.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Space Arranger

Debbie Debee entered our Foundation on Aging lives last month. A board member dragged her in to find ways to freshen up our office. Our office (four rooms and a "kitchen"), would need... well, it would need a lot to become fresh again. It lives in building that, ironically enough, smells like old people. The walls are covered in a scratchy-textured wallpaper that is cream? dirty white? thatched with the exhaled dreams of tired accountants? I don't know, but it's ugly.

Debbie Debee's main objective, her killer idea to make the office more inhabitable, is "softening" the light with sheers, "just a sheer, to soften that up." For example, a sheer on the glass that sits next to the door, and affords me a beautiful view of the wood-panel wallpaper in the hall. She wants to put sheer curtains up on a window that looks out into a hallway.

Here are some phrases overheard when this space arranger was in our office yesterday: "As much as I'd love to be able to put some throw rugs down..." or "That was obviously NOT designed by a woman" followed by knowing laugh. "We need what I call a 'mama drama piece,' something to draw the eye up here." What?!?

My reaction to this woman and her behavior is strong: I think she's a fool, and I resent her for wasting the time of my boss and myself. This may not be fair - she's here to help, she's working as a volunteer - but it's hard to accommodate oneself to unrequested help. We know our office is a dump; what's to be done about it? She refers to the office as stark, but I want to let her know that this is a not-for-profit that we're running, not a brothel. We're allowed to be stark.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Like and The Dislike/The Sound of Settling

Let's be clear: I do hate the Eagles. I have always hated the Eagles. Unlike my (more musically savvy) friend Tom, I didn't realize that it was trendy to hate the Eagles. On the contrary, I hated the Eagles for a pretty basic reason at first.

My mother hates the Eagles. Hates them. My mother is a vocal woman (anyone surprised?), and soon I realized, hey, she's right, it's a bunch of whiny crap without the balls to go full-out country. Thus, I hate the Eagles. For much the same reason, the following bands are lumped into a "why do they still play them on the radio" category - Foreigner, ELO, BTO, Boston, etc etc ad nasuem. Many people love these bands. "More Than a Feeling" stirs the souls of men, and I must admit that I can sing along with it. But thanks to my mother, I derive no pleasure in these sing-a-longs. To tell the truth, it really is thanks that are due to my mother. These are throwaway bands, and I'm well occupied spending my musical time elsewhere.

But what about the delicate balance between letting someone else's likes and dislikes dictate your own? Generally, when kids are at the formative age where they really notice what's on the radio (junior high for myself), aren't they also at the age where their parents are the very last place they'd look for cool music tips? One would think that I'd have learned to love the Eagles, just because my mom hated them. I've always wondered about this; the only thing I can come up with is that their music is so obnoxious, I had no choice but to agree with my mom.

On to the spark for the blog - This morning, here at work, I connected to the radio station out of Seattle that I listen to on the internet, KEXP. They played a great new song by Softlights, a band I hadn't heard of but will now look for, and followed it up with "The Sound of Settling" by Death Cab. I think, in most musically avante garde circles, that "The Sound of Settling" is that song that made it big on the radio that true fans aren't supposed to really like anymore. (Actually, I think many of those avante garde circles would have me leave Death Cab behind altogether, buried with the textbooks of my college days. Oh well.) But I love "The Sound of Settling." I like the catchy beat, and I think the lyrics are terribly clever. I mean, the man is talking about what settling sounds like. Give him some credit.

It's funny, though, because were I still DJing, "The Sound of Settling" isn't the song I'd pick from Transatlanticism to play. I wouldn't want people to think I wasn't a true fan, etc etc. I'd certainly let the dislikes of the minority (automatically the likes of the majority) decide what I played (probably "Tiny Vessels" or "Title and Registration"). Reverse snobbery has always driven me crazy, but I perpetuate it often. I think my mom (and the Eagles) would disapprove. Maybe settling actually sounds like obscure Scottish groups when all you really want to hear is "The Pretender" by Jackson Browne.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Existence Validated - Yessss

Because it had the word story in it, I read it. Because I was at work, I read it in pieces. I love to read the NYTimes each day at my desk: I feel like it's healthy for my vocabulary (yet to see that payout) and good to stay connected, even if it is a slanted connection. Today, "This is Your Life (and How You Tell It)" was the fourth-most emailed article on the online version of their paper. Obviously, the title intrigued me as a nonfiction writer.

When I read the following, I rushed to the blog, eager to show my 6 readers the importance of memoir:
When we first started studying life stories, people thought it was just idle curiosity — stories, isn’t that cool?” said Dan P. McAdams, a professor of psychology at Northwestern and author of the 2006 book, “The Redemptive Self.” “Well, we find that these narratives guide behavior in every moment, and frame not only how we see the past but how we see ourselves in the future."

Maybe it isn't so strange that I find myself waking up and narrating the details of my surroundings in my head, generally in third person (meta-writing, eat your heart out). However, the article turned out to be mostly about the use of stories in psychoanalysis. Interesting enough. Everyone loves to tell their life stories, but it turns out that the manners in which we tell these stories are patterned enough to show similarities between healing habits of subjects. Your stories and your health: on the next 20/20.

In music news, my opinion that the Eagles are the most over-rated band ever is validated by Wilco. Check it out on Spinner.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Where everybody knows your name...

Thanks to my friend Tom Drew, I spent an hour of this otherwise tedious day reading and rehashing the Debbie Masten debacle. For those unlucky few readers who didn't attend Truman, a few details:

Debbie Masten was the Mayor of Kirksville, but more importantly the owner of Too Talls, Two. Too Talls was, to me, an afterthought of a bar - two whole blocks from the Woody's/Dukum corner of magic. As a freshman, I had a dear friend whose boyfriend (a senior) was always at Too Talls - thus, we hated it. I made my first appearance at the place for a hallowed trivia night in my junior year - or was it senior? Trivia night was born at Too Talls, and it grew to be a fine young tradition over those months. Highlight of my first trivia night? Being the only person in my group to know the name of Wilco's lead singer.

Then, on New Year's Eve 2004, a fire broke out at the bar. The remainder of my senior year, rumors flew that Debbie, owner of Too Talls, had set the fire herself for insurance purposes. These were actually less rumors than certainties held by the old, wise, bar-going circles of Truman students. Trivia night moved to Woody's - the place where everyone knew my name - and so I was happier with the state of things. Debbie Masten became an even-more ridiculous figure than anyone thought possible.

As a matter of fact, after I left Truman, someone else bought Too Talls, Two. This person renamed it - Too Talls: The Inferno. I heard from a friend who still lived in town that the servers all halted what they were doing at midnight to perform dances in firemen's hats. This, I had to see. I next found myself in Kirksville for New Year's Eve, 2005. My friends and I hastened to the scene of the crime. Reports of the dancing? True. A giant projection screen, showing artful music videos like "My Humps?" True. We left after an hour and a ridiculously bad tasting shot special - juice and sucrose, it would seem - to seek haven at Woody's. That was the end of the affair for the Inferno and I.

Then today, I read an article from the Truman State Index (thanks, Tom). Memories came flooding back: the red bowties, the upper-level table for trivia, the time we won the cash bonus because the questions were about John Irving books, the dance contests. Some days, the small town of Kirksville seems laughable, but I know this much: no way could I go to any bar in the world but Woody's, and get charged $5 for a night of gin and tonics strong enough to kill my alcoholic grandfather. I miss that familiarity and rockstar treatment. I definitely miss trivia night - Kansas City has got NOTHING on the boys' trivia. You'd think KC could get the small town flavor down, but no, trivia is all a pretentious exercise in who knows the most obscure BS possible. I miss geography questions, and Simpsons questions, and the challenges between rounds. Sometimes, I miss everybody knowing my name.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pouring Water on a Drowning Man

While I am fairly tall for a woman (some might say average, I might say tall), I am highly disproportionate. I have long legs (score!) and a somewhat stunted torso (freakish). This is never more apparent than when I sit at my desk here at the Foundation on Aging offices.

My desk is a lovely piece donated by a lovely woman who volunteers on our Communications Committee. Because it was donated, my desk and I have quite the close relationship. I went to pick it up one misty March day last year, after about a month on the job. For help, I had the 17 year-old nephew of my boss. I think I weighed more than this guy, but he and I liked the same kind of music so I was immediately impressed with him.

He helped me carry the desk in pieces to the back of my family’s Aerostar van, which I had on loan for the day. I am not strong. This kid was not strong. It took a lot of out me. In the meantime, I was being peppered with phone calls from my drunk friends, for this was no ordinary misty March day – it was St. Patrick’s Day. Everyone, it seemed, was at the parade or crammed into a crowded bar. I, for sure, was moving furniture with a high school junior.

So the desk. We got all the pieces back to my office, and sprawled them on the floor of our office reception area (hence the term receptionist). I put them together with a screwdriver my young friend found on the floor of his car. It was shaky at best for many months, until I asked our building’s maintenance man (a story in himself, let me tell you) to borrow an electric drill.

Now, my desk stands solid under the weight of much crap – papers, files, flat screen, keyboard pens, phone, printer, papers, mail, etc etc and office infinity. Its L-shape accommodates a lot of crap. The crap sits on a surface seemingly normal-distanced from the floor.

This distance between the floor and the top of my desk is not good for me. The stunted torso is a great disadvantage while sitting at the donated desk. Most days, I cross my ankles underneath myself and sit “Indian style,” giving myself a few extra inches of false torso. It’s pretty hard for strangers walking into the reception area, expecting to be received by an adult, and being confronted with a spindly girl sitting “Indian style.”

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

On Water

Kansas City has been experiencing a great deal of rain lately. Fortunately for six lucky 20-somethings, the sun broke loose over the Ozarks last Saturday.

Friday afternoon, a car was packed and I headed out with a couple of friends and a 30 pack of beer. Lake weekend had begun. After the obligatory twisty roads and Grateful Dead album – the Grateful Dead exudes sun, in my consciousness – we hit lake town. We broke out a celebratory beer and wound our way to Charles’ grandparents’ cabin. We unloaded the car in time to walk down to the dock and watch the sun set.

The weekend was rife with descriptions (in my head): the shocking cold of the water contrasting with the heavy warmth of the sun; the way beer tastes better when you drink it on a boat; bare feet on warm, old wood; the fluff blowing from the dock’s innards onto the water – a secret duck’s nest with seven eggs revealed. People fished; I dangled my toes in the water. I got up earlier than I would’ve liked, and slept sprawled on a couch in front of an open sliding door. I didn’t talk on the phone; I almost went the whole weekend without showering. Phones and showers aren’t necessary at the lake.

But the best part about this lake weekend, this cinco de lake celebration, was that nothing happened. Yes, we had fun. Yes, we drank too much and got sunburns. Yes, we laughed and talked and grilled. But no one fought, no one yelled, no one planned things or went anywhere. Nothing happened. The sun rose and set, people ate, drank and slept, and the lake welcomed everything. It was perfect.

Now I'm back home, back at work. I wake up at the same time, drive the same car the same direction, and sit at the same desk for the same amount of time. I go back home, watch TV, read books, and do it all again. This can all be labeled: this can all be called something. "Nothing happened" is unforgivable here, in the scope of this life. Structure rules and fills the time. All the water - the rain, the humidity - is a burden here.

So, to copy NPR, I believe in the lake. I think we're pretty lucky to spend a sunny weekend in May commandeering a lakehouse, riding a boat, sitting in the sun, and doing nothing. I believe in doing nothing.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Guns, God, and Guts

This morning, on my rainy drive to work, I stopped at the stoplight that always gets me, the one at Shawnee Mission Parkway and Nall. I ran the wipers once and gazed at the other cars around me. Jackpot~ an old-school, white Suburban held the front spot in the left turn lane. On its back window, proudly lined up in the center, was a bumper sticker: Guns, God, and Guts are What Made America Free. Next to this glamorous slogan was a crude drawing of fingers, curled around the base of a handgun, with the barrel pointed straight at the unsuspecting Kia behind it.

I see things like this and I think about recent events in our country, about recent events in my hometown. I wonder if the person driving that Suburban has ever felt empathy in their life. I drive my car to work in the rain, desperately repeating "GunsGodandGuts, GunsGodandGuts" so I can quickly snap an email off to my friend. She and I like to compare absurd vanity plates, and I think this bumper sticker will be quite the feather in my cap. Like that, I erased empathy and replaced it with sneering mockery. The driver of that Suburban is no longer a person, but a symbol of everything that I think is wrong with our country right now. There's not a single cell in my brain that can fathom why someone would form a belief system that could support such a slogan.

Should I feel sorry for this driver the same way I feel sorry for victims of gun violence? The first thing that flashed through my mind when I saw that car was "I wish that driver would have someone he or she loved killed by gun violence. Then they'd think twice about guns and god and guts." But is that fair? It's not. Are handguns and their ubiquity fair? No, I don't think that's fair either. What a mess. What freedom.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Various notes on the body - Monday afternoon

This morning I woke up with a crick in my neck. To be more exact, it’s a soreness. The kind of soreness that makes you think you have meningitis, even though you know you got a vaccine for that before you went to college. The kind of soreness that absolutely prohibits your body from supporting the weight of your head. I strain to move the great, massive, all-powering weight of my head to a place where my spine is straight, where I sit like a dancer instead of an office assistant. This is a great strain.

Yesterday, I went to my brother’s little league baseball game, and the wind was so strong that the game had to pause while dust clouds blew through each inning. When I went to bed last night, I realized I still had brown grit underneath my fingernails. I rinsed my face after the game to remove invisible sheens of dirt, and wished for one of those crocodile nail-brushes made famous in kindergarten classrooms.

Saturday, I spent the hours of 4am to 6am throwing up in my dear friends’ bathroom. My stomach is a strange thing. Though I had spent a good portion of Friday evening drinking beer, such a violent reaction is unusual for the free-wheeling pace of my drinking that night. I blame this bout of illness on some strange turkey given to me by my roommate for my lunch on Friday. Vomiting makes my brain feel as though it is useless, falling a distant second to the whims of my body and its chemistry.

Also, I’ve come to the conclusion that I may not be able to afford myself. A new insurance plan has driven the cost of a monthly medication from $30 to $50, and I’m currently itching my way through my last pair of contact lenses. In a recent visit to the dentist (my first in over a year), I was informed that my wisdom teeth are impacted and have to go. While my insurance covers the cleaning I had, the waiting period on major procedures like that is about 4 months longer than I’m going to be at my current job. Maybe my wisdom teeth are to blame for this exponential growth in my head’s weight. But for now, they stay, due to insufficient funds.

It’s been nearly a month since the Neko Case concert, and I still can’t stop listening to her. I think I’ve been bewitched. My body reacts physically to the song “I wish I was the moon.” When she says that so and so will recognize her because “I’ll be the one with my heart in my lap,” I know exactly what she’s talking about. Exactly.

It is nice enough outside today that I’m tempted to quit my job and try to get the band back together.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Is it symbolic? Dear Reader, you decide.

Last night, I attended a date auction with my roommates. Why o why did we do this? Because my roommate's sister was an item in the auction (definitely the most eligible item, at that). Arriving at Old Chicago (way out in Burbia KS) just in the nick of time, the three of us slid into a booth with my roommate's mother and two sisters. To get my stats right, I should share that, auctionee aside, I was the only hip happenin young single at the table.

I realized I'd made a huge mistake (Gob Bluth-style) in my attendance when, not two minutes into the auction, my roommate's well-meaning older sister bid on the first bachelor on my behalf. This met with hilarity at my table, as I contemplated taking my heavy beer mug and clubbing everyone in the bar with it.

Did my presence at this auction mean I was desperate for a date? I didn't realize this when I signed up to come. I had thought I attended to support my roommate's sister, a girl with more balls than I. After my roommate's mother actually purchased this first bachelor, more out of pity for him than out of pity for me in my datelessness, we engaged in a healthy discussion of why I didn't want to take the date. My roommate raised a good point: the guy was cute, and advertised himself as a guitar player. I raised a better one: I despair at forced intimate situations, especially when they involve me purchasing someone else's time. Why on earth would that be fun?

As things settled down, my table began to watch the auction as spectators only. When the server delivered our dinners, we ate and talked and laughed. My roommates, on the other side of the booth, were sliced in half by falling sunlight (gotta love those longer days). Each time they picked up a fork, it sent a beam of reflected light to my side of the table. I turned to my left to talk to the bid-happy older sister. As I turned back to my plate, I noticed that my roommate had her hand raised at an odd angle.

Suddenly, my eyes were blinded with light, like the flash after taking a picture. She had angled her wedding ring/engagement ring diamond duo just right. We all laughed at her crazy trick - next she'd be burning ants on the sidewalk with her giant diamond - but now, I'm thinking about this gesture. If this were a real piece of writing, and not a blog, I'd turn that gesture into a symbol for the whole night, a burning presence of the pressure on women to be in relationships.

Invariably, the men in the date auction sold for much more than the women. A few of the bachelors ignited a bidding war, and the highest price of the night was paid for one young man (a bartender by trade) at $290. (Not a cute guy, by the way, wayyy too much hair gel and too many strategically placed rips in his jeans.)

The money earned at the auction all went to a charity supporting kids with lymphoma or leukemia, so the night wasn't a wash. But what a strange event. I told a friend before I left on this adventure that I'd give her a full report, and that hell, maybe I'd even write about it. I love to hide behind writing as the rationale for doing ridiculous things. Maybe I should've taken that guitar-playing date...

Friday, April 6, 2007


Lately, I've been thinking a lot about drafts (money too, but that's another story). A friend of mine is working on a personal statement, and this friend is not a student of writing. She asked me for help, as a student of writing, and so I edited her very capable personal statement. I know that she is smart and what's more, I know she deserves a place in any grad school she applies to. With that in mind, I gave her a very serious edit.

When she got my comments, she was upset. She felt that she'd finished the statement, that she had sent it to me for last-minute comma clean-up. I explained to her what it means to draft a piece of work, how I had written around 11 versions of my own personal statement last fall. (Note: maybe this is the reason blogging is inherently crap - a blog is the "shitty first draft" of any piece of writing, as Anne Lamott would say.) I took what I thought was a decently advanced draft, after 5 or 6 incarnations, to a fellow writer, who looked at it, underlined one sentence, and said, "Try freewriting from this to get where you need to." Disappointed, I started over, and over, and over. Finally, I found the one that worked, and I went to town on it, dissecting every sentence. I sent it off, and I felt good about it.

On days like today, when the sun is shining and I am not, I feel like drafting is a great gift and a great challenge. If I am my best piece of work, and my friends/loved ones are my editors, how lucky to have people to underline the good, to encourage me to get where I need to. They don't know where I need to get, I don't know where I need to get, but between us we'll figure it out. All these different incarnations of self: sister, daughter, friend, writer, secretary, supreme blues dancer, chef, driver, lover, courier - all of these are drafts. Some we'll keep, and work on, and some we'll throw out entirely. Others, we'll hide at the bottom of a drawer until we find them, years later, forgotten but full of promise.

Here's something I wrote last Halloween as part of the drafting process: (PS, tonight, I'm really holding out for that teenage feeling. Neko Case is gracing Lawrence, and I have an early-purchased ticket to a sold-out show...)

Why go to grad school? Why spend the money and the formative years?
I write because I want people to know that the streets of Spain smell like garlic at mealtimes. I want them to know how I felt when I climbed a church tower in the small town of Friedburg, Germany, and rang a bell that was the oldest thing I have ever touched with my hands. I want them to know that the weight of the bell frightened me, a shocking two tons. I inhaled dust there and I sneezed, because that’s what happens when people inhale dust. Everyone sneezes. Everyone sneezes, but no one makes the same noise when they sneeze as I do. It’s high pitched and sharp.
What happens when you don’t write? I already know this. I know that you wake up every day, and you take a shower, and you go to work. Work can be anything – a smoky restaurant, a doctor’s office, a messy desk in someone’s reception area. Work is sitting at a computer, staring at a computer, navigating a computer and sometimes – answering the phone. Every moment at the desk is a moment lost, because you aren’t writing or creating. Also, every moment at the desk is a medal, something you’ve won by doing it for yourself. You’ve done it, you’ve survived the life of a nonwriter. You’ve done it, you’ve given your time and your best efforts to a tiny not-for-profit who wants to make your city a better place to grow old in. You’ve done it, you’ve worked out a patient’s problem with an insurance company and saved them money. These things are all victories. Yet every night, you go home and avoid the dull fact that you are not where you should be. You are not writing. You are not documenting or synthesizing things that really matter. Correction: things that really matter to you.
I am a writer. I make drafts. My next draft will be a continuation of academia.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

My mother was a Chinese trapeze artist.

What is wrong with our country's parents?

Today, I was reading the NYTimes, and the following headline caught my eye: Child Wants Cellphone; Reception is Mixed. Unable to help myself, I started reading the article. It begins with the testimonial of a woman who bought her 8 year-old daughter a cellphone, after the kid begged for two years. When the article got to statistics stating that, out of 20 million American kids in the 8-12 age group, 6.6 million of those kids have cell phones, I stopped reading and started ranting.

I cannot believe that anyone finds it appropriate to buy such an expensive, maintenance-oriented toy for their children. What is wrong with people? What possible need does an 8 year-old child have for their own personal phone? It makes me sick. When I was younger, and even through my teen years, the ease of my parents at saying "no" infuriated me constantly. Now, I read things like this, and I am so grateful that when I was 8, there were no cell phones in my stocking.

Yes, technology has changed, and this affects expectations on all counts. But I still can't see the rationale in the way parents give their children everything. What kind of adults do these kids grow up to be? They grow up to senselessly burn fossil fuel, to isolate themselves from others with (unnecessarily) big houses in cookie-cutter suburbs, to contribute to a culture of waste that is massive by global standards. These people think nothing of their impact in the world, environmentally or ethically, because they were taught that things would be given, that everything is an entitlement.

Here's a great story my roommate overheard at a coffee shop in Prairie Village:

A woman (Erin calls them Country Club Moms, or CCMs) was telling her fellow CCMs about dropping her son off at day care. Apparently, the son threw a massive temper tantrum upon being dropped off. One of his teachers suggested to his mother that she try bringing a favorite stuffed animal next time, to make the kid feel more at ease. The mother looks at the teacher and says,

"Do you have any kids?"
"No, I don't. I'm a nun," replies the teacher.
"That's what I thought, so you don't know what you're talking about." And scene.

I wonder why the kid was having a temper tantrum in the first place.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Another week, another letter

Friday afternoon, I was on my way home when I suddenly realized something important: as of this time next year, my car will be paid off. The extra $200 a month could be put to good use.

I called Stef with this information, and announced that if I saved this extra money, she and I could plan a trip to Europe. She treated these plans with the utmost of seriousness ("Uh, ok"), and we hung up.

I flurried in the door, shouting to Erin as I knew by the radio and the fumes that she was painting the kitchen. I dropped my bags ( how do I accumulate bags during the work day?) and stopped to chat for a minute, debating whether or not to take a Friday night disco nap.

I went to check the mail for my insurance billing, and found two envelopes of regular size. I flipped past the bank statement to reveal a DePaul envelope. So soon?! I frowned at its size and yelled at Erin to announce its arrival.

I carried it to my room, realizing that although it was only a standard-measuring envelope, it held more than one piece of paper: very positive. I opened it and read, shocked, that the English department had recommended me for DePaul's Master of Arts in Writing. I screamed. Erin screamed.

I rushed into the kitchen to stare at her, standing on a step ladder, grey paint on her leg. "Erin! I got in!" "I know, I'm so excited for you!" "But Erin, I had plans! Plans..." I thought about the call to Stef, the comfortable money and living situation I found myself in and pursuing, the ideas I'd been forming about teaching. I thought about living in Chicago, about uprooting and buying things like dishes and beds, about massive debts and eating Ramen noodles.

Then, I thought again about living in Chicago, about seeing concerts and seeing art. I thought about public transit and outdoor festivals. I thought about being in school again, about living for the sole purpose of learning and writing. Plans change.

I went on to a night full of NCAA basketball and Pale Ale. On my way home, I realized something. "Hey, my writing got in." I smiled, alone in my car. Not me, my writing. I'd be fine.

Entirely unrelated:
Read more from the NYTimes about pop music. This article? Discusses what they hail as "the end of the album." To my mind, the album will never die. Nothing can replicate the feeling of listening to one artist's idea of the way an hour should unfold. Listen to OK Computer, then tell me the album is dead.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The events of yesterday

I finally made it home last night after seven. As I opened my front door, I was relieved to find it unlocked. I dragged my good-sized purse, my over-sized yoga tote, and my two plastic shopping bags into the house along with the hooded sweatshirt I no longer needed. Warm air pervaded and my feet marveled at the feeling of cheap Old Navy flip-flops worrying the space between my first and second toes. I used the two fingers of the hand holding my Chipotle take-out to pick up the letter with my formal name on it as I breathed “Oh shit.”

I dropped the shopping bags and purses on the floor in front of my bed, and made a break for the kitchen with my food and the envelope I knew was too thin to hold anything of comfort. You want packets, you never want letters. I put it all on the counter top, and opened the envelope the way I always open envelopes, lifting only a corner of the flap and using my thumb to rip one of the short sides, the side next to the return address: University of Minnesota.

Dear Helen, we regret to inform you…Nearly 250 applicants…Rigorous competition…only 13 accepted.

I simultaneously started shoving Chipotle in my face and dialing Emmy’s number. As I listened to it ring, I realized how gentle the jolt had been. Had I really stayed true to what I’d been telling everyone – I honestly didn’t believe I would get it? What’s worse, the rejection itself, or my numb acceptance?

After I told her, Emmy sounded more destroyed than I did. I continued to pile steak, rice, green peppers and salsa into my mouth. Emmy offered to come over; I told her to stay home and rest. I replaced phone with TV, flip flip flipping through the channels. I watched chefs – all male – compete in the World Pastry Championship. They constructed beautiful, delicate sculpture out of sugar and fake sugar, sugar substitute, all melted and poured, bubbly, into six-foot molds. The translucent colors and stark shapes impressed me. They brought chocolate to the correct temperature and kept it there, at that precise temperature perfect for molding and sheen. I hardly realized that chocolate could have a sheen.

Allison called, having received a similar letter that day. I listened to her, listened to her true feelings of rejection and disappointment. Her helpless fury did nothing to awaken my quiet. I continued to feel dull, dull, dull.

France won the pastry competition. The US took third. I sat, eating Chipotle, craving honey cake from Prague. The US cake was made of beautiful, rich layers of golden brown. It looked like honey cake, and I wanted more than anything to be sitting with my friends in their borrowed life, drinking champagne and eating cake in the middle of a Sunday. What a tactile memory – the creamy middle, the light airiness of cake that I’d never had before. I went to Prague to eat cake that I’d never had before, and last night I sat in my basement to eat, and watch TV, and feel completely cut off from anything I’d ever thought to be my essence.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Glorious Patti Smith

I found this article in the NYTimes today. If memory serves me, Patti Smith used to write music reviews before she started her delicious career of making music. Read this outstanding reflection on rock and laurels:

What an interesting reflection on one's induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This is why Smith is an artist, and I for one am excited that she's being honored. I could bemoan the lack of true artists on today's rock and roll scene (see my senior seminar paper), but I'm too busy discovering the world of Elvis Costello, and celebrating the fact that I heard The Thermals on KC radio today (96.5, who knew??).

ps - I think the link should work, but if not, it's in the Opinion section.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing

One of the duties that I've accrued in my time at the Foundation on Aging is the Payroll Conversion Specialist. I guess, when our payroll converts this Thursday, you can consider my far-reaching talents to have danced into the arena of HR. It's amazing the ambitions that keep popping up which I had never even dreamed of.

I've been working personally with a representative of our new payroll server, Erik. Erik with a K and I have communicated primarily via email, though I've had to phone him a couple of times to clear up some basic problems. After the past couple of weeks, I've realized something: he's a moron. I emailed him today, after he requested a reminder for our training time. I wrote him back to remind him that, though I had asked for one last Monday, we had not yet scheduled a training time. I told him that I was available all week. He wrote back and said "Please just let me know when is a good time? I am available all week." Is there an e-echo? No, he had just repeated what I told him.

I wrote back and requested a meeting at 11am. I clarified this to say 11am Central time, because Erik works on the East Coast. Minutes later, he sent me the official link for our web training, occurring at 10am Eastern time. Now, my degree may be in English, but last time I checked, you had to be able to tell time to be employed as a professional in any field.

I wrote back to Erik with the following: 10am Eastern time is 9am Central. If this is the only time you have available, that’s OK, but I’d prefer to do it at 11am Central time (12pm Eastern) so that my coworker, Jane Wilson, can join me.

Nice? I hope so, because in copying that text from the email, I realized that I spelled his name "Eric." Whoops. Who's the moron now?

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Just cause you feel it...doesn't mean it's there

The other night, I talked to both of my fake boyfriends right before I went to sleep. First one, then the next, so similar and yet so different. As I fell asleep, it suddenly struck me that it might be weird to have fake boyfriends. Whether we be planning fake future lives together (FB#2) or cautiously avoiding all mention of the subject (FB#1), it still might qualify as a big mess. In spite of all my bluster, I'm an easily persuaded young lady. Is it really such a good idea for me to inhabit these elaborate fantasy relationships (whether they be a conscious fantasy or an inability to let go)?

On the flip side, FB#2 argues that fake relationships function much better for him than any real relationships he's been in recently. And I must admit that each of these fake relationships make me pretty happy, in their own way. If I need to feel attractive, or witty, or even just amused, both are readily available. I don't owe either one of them anything that it's not in my power to give. At the end of the day, both are my dear friends. I guess this all comes back to the old "can women and men Really be friends" question. I'd argue passionately for yes, but most guys I know think that's a fantasy. And the fact that I need to call these friends of mine fake boyfriends, instead of just friends, might prove me false. So, dear Reader, what do you think? Can women and men truly be just friends?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Things that I love

A) On facebook, when you are viewing your own profile, it says at the top, "Beth M's Profile (This is you)." Every time I read that, I have to crack up. Thanks, Mark Zuckerwhatever, because we couldn't all go to Stanford. (This is you) Are you sure that's me? Oh wait, yes it is. Whew. It's like the parentheses make it a subtle reminder to the ever-forgetful viewer. Gentle, sweet facebook. Ever so tactful as you allow for quiet reminders of the fact that all of our friends have more glamorous and fun lives than we do (according to their profile pics).

B) It is 58*F in Kansas City at the moment. At this time last week, I was fighting a cold and 5 inches of snow. I love the Midwest, in spite of myself. I cannot wait to get into the car, put on my sunglasses and some music, and roll down my windows. (Really, just getting out from behind the desk will be nice.)

C) I have two pen pals, one in Asia and one in Europe. Writing back to them makes me almost as happy as I am when I see I have an email from a far-away place. Soon, the ranks will spread to India. I admire these friends, and I love to live a life of privilege that allows me the same opportunities allowed them. A pen pal is a perfect relationship, it its own right. The person, far far away, has all kinds of exotic wisdom to share. You, in their home country, provide a tie to prove that home is still there, and still misses you. Plus, you get to write really long emails about yourself.

D) This morning, I went to Ash Wednesday mass with my dad. We went to the somber, song-free 7:00am service. I had forgotten until he arrived (later than me) that he had busted open the bridge of his nose while playing basketball this week, forcing him to St. Luke's for stitches. He showed up in a big white bandage (to protect the wound from the ashes), and looked like a total thug. The population of the 7:00am mass is usually a majority of solemn older people, and he really shook things up today. Though we did spot Big Joe Neenan in the front row. I'm sure he'll have something to say to Dad about his street injuries.

Thursday, February 8, 2007


There's an article in today's NYTimes that discusses an uproar in the National Book Critics Circle about the nomination of author Bruce Bawer's nomination for an award. People are outraged that Bawer is nominated (for "While Europe Slept"), due to the outspoken "racism" of his material. Bawer criticizes Islam, and examines the possibility for conflict in Europe between those of traditional "Western" culture and those of Islamic.

Bawer's response to the uproar: “Some people think it’s terrific for writers to expose the offenses and perils of religious fundamentalism — just as long as it’s Christian fundamentalism.”

I agree with Bawer in saying that criticism of Christian fundamentalism is welcome to many people in our country. Most people I know won't hesitate to offer the opinion that Christian fundamentalism is an extreme that is both scary and possibly threatening. I could talk for days about the 2004 election, the Christian Right's role in said election, and the disaster that our country has become in the name of "Christian values." Bawer wants to know why it's not OK to do the same for Islam.

Here's what I think: I can't critique Islam in the same way that I can critique Christianity because of where I grew up. I encountered Christianity in every day of my life, whether that be in a school setting, or on TV, or in reading books or newspapers. I grew up in the Catholic Church, and I went to Catholic schools. I feel comfortable in my knowledge of this faith, and so I can expose its weak points. But with Islam, I'm not as well educated. I don't know any Muslims, and my somewhat perfunctory studies of the faith in high school hardly provide a basis for understanding. In my experience, privileged white people (like myself, like my friends) have no room to criticize anyone but themselves. It's an established societal norm that I'm not allowed to critique, say, black people, or Asian people. I can critique women, because I'm a woman, and I can critique dead white men, because everyone can, but with an experiential knowledge so limited, I don't like to voice judgement on people or groups I am naive about.

Is that right? I don't know. But that's how I operate.

(sorry for the rant. work is boring, and i have to keep my mind occupied somehow.)

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

They were always getting, there's just a wedding

I'm developing a love/hate relationship with telling people about My Living Situation.

"Yes, that's right, they're engaged."
"Really soon, actually."
"No, I'm not moving out after they're married."

This is where conversation starts to sour. People, mostly adult people (sorry kids, we don't count as adults yet in my head), look at me as though I just started to drool blood. I hear a lot of, "That first year, wow, that's a tough one." Like I'm in for major Strife.

It usually starts out pretty fun: the look of shock, the raising of eyebrows. I like making jokes about mooching, being adopted, etc etc. However, I'm getting a little tired of the "you wouldn't know, you aren't married face." In fact, I'm getting a little tired of talking about marriage in general. I suppose I can't have my cake and eat it too. Oh wait, yes I can, at the wedding on Saturday! Because then it will all be over, I'll still be unmarried, and my taxes won't be at all complicated to do, because I don't own a home. Life is sweet for the simple single.

Almost as sweet as my new, faux-fur, hunter green coat. For a picture, click here. It promises to be a choatic and well-insulated weekend.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Over the last couple of months, I've been rediscovering my love for the Old 97s. Our slightly tortured history begins with my freshman year of college. A beautiful young ingenue, gracing the dorms of Truman, I am introduced to the Old 97s via the internet, by my friend Allison. This is my first experience with my very own computer and its very own high-speed connection, so I'm downloading like crazy. I ask Allison for some recommendations. Among others, she recommends two songs: "California Stars" by Billy Bragg and Wilco, and "Question" by the Old 97s.

These are two gorgeous songs. "California Stars" is still on every playlist I have in that computer, and it leads me to Wilco. The path to Wilco is strewn with happiness, great discs stolen from the radio station, and amazing live shows. What bliss. I think I'm finally ready to start uncovering Billy Bragg, but that's another story altogether.

Back to freshman year. "Question" is played over, and over, and over. I love it so much that I buy the album it comes from, "Satellite Rides" by the Old 97s. I listen to "Satellite Rides," and I enjoy it. However, it slowly falls out of my favor. (I'm sure I replaced it with the likes of Howie Day, or John Mayer, or some other acoustic marvel I found on the internet and in frat parties. ) I end up giving the disc to my wise friend Bridget, who takes it as a gift on the condition that I may someday want it back.

Then, last January, I decide to renew my interest. I don't remember exactly why, but I ask Bridget to give me a copy of my original, and she so kindly obliges. She gives to me in turn an album called "The Instigator," by none other than Rhett Miller (frontman of the Old 97s). Just one short year ago, I wore that CD out. I again neglected "Satellite Rides" in favor of the here and now.

I still have that Old 97s album. I've been listening to it a lot of late. It's been resonating. I think I finally found my way into something I've known for over five years that I would really like. What a great thing if this were a piece of fiction, and the album experience stood as a mirror for my self-discovery, a way into a life I've known for years that I would really like. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this is the year I'll really get hooked.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Look down

In my office, we occasionally get walk-in solicitors, trying to sell office supplies or machinery. These solicitors usually have on suits that don't fit, and a clueless look about them. Today, I looked up from my desk to find that a fellow Truman grad had wandered into the Foundation's humble reception area. "Hi, I'm..." he introduced himself and I cut him off.

"I know who you are. I went to Truman with you. I'm Stefanie Walters' friend."
"Oh, right! How are you? How long have you been at this job?"
"Nearly a year now."
"Do you like it?"
"It's pretty boring. How bout you?"
"Well, boring, but at least I get to move around."

I looked at my fellow Bulldog and tried not to smile condescendingly. I laughingly informed him that the Epson photo printer on my desk serves as copier for our humble office, and we both wished the other well. What a funny run-in - busted in our not so elegant post-graduate jobs.

Side note: I am starting to become dependent on John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. What a comforting duo of boyfriends to fall asleep with. If you aren't watching these gentlemen as part of your daily routine, I'd recommend it. They make TV worthwhile. I love them, dearly. Every night, at 10pm, I hum along to (the Yo La Tengo cover of) "Here Comes My Baby" and wait with a smile on my face.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Stanford and Son's Comedy Club

Last night, my dear friend Molly took me on a romantic date to Stanford and Son's Comedy Club. She picked me up at 7pm and off we headed to good old Overland Park.

I had no idea what to expect from the comedy club, never having been before. In my head, I pictured a lovely intimate theater, with a plush bar. Molly warned me that her friends would be nerdy, but I still imagined scads of cute boys, all dying to talk to me.

We arrived promptly at 7:30, a half an hour before showtime. Molly's work friend Candace had asked that we arrive early in order to get her large group of guests (20) together. The entrance leads into the bar area. Not plush. As Molly put it, it looked like a somewhat cleaner (read: not rat-thriving filthy) version of the Peanut. And for future reference, go to the Peanut because they won't charge you 4.75 for a bottle of beer.

We walked in and Candace's group was gathered at a round table by the entrance. Molly made a valiant attempt to introduce me, but as she didn't know but two of the people, we headed straight for the bar. A quick survey of my surroundings and fellow attendees made me abandon my no-drinking policy for the evening and order a beer. The bartender (hooterific) offered up the night's special on rock lobster shots, but Molly and I took a pass.

I felt a little calmer with beer in hand as Molly and I walked back toward Candace's table. Almost there, we were waylaid by a particularly dapper young man. At first I was confused: is he part of our group? He began talking to Molly about work, so that answered my question. I surveyed this gentleman. He had the eighth-grade style horseshoe part going on with his hair. (Pat J circa 1996, anyone?) He began the standard 20 questions of bar small talk with questions about employment. Long story short, MB (short for Molly's Boyfriend) works for a financial company on commission and lives with his parents. In fact, he plans to live with his parents for 2-3 more years. Hopefully it's so he can afford more sweet striped button-ups.

Other highlights of our pre-show convo: Where do you live? What's your favorite band? How long do you brush your teeth at night? MB also introduced us to his friend John, whom I immediately started observing because he had to blink his eyes in a jerky way each time he said hello to Molly and I. In addition to the eye blinking, he had some funny twitching going on in his hands, and extremely excitable eyebrows. Any time either of these two fellows or Molly made a joke, I laughed. Not because the joke was funny, but because of the amazing situation we found ourselves in.

I took advantage of our spot on the back wall to scope out the rest of the crowd. Were we in Overland Park, or were we in Kirksville? Who's to say? Next to me were two very wannabe emo'd out boys, not possibly of drinking age, with the obligatory straightened hair girls. There was a man playing pool in a shirt that said "Fucking Slayer" or something along those lines. I saw a man the age of my father in the company of an Asian girl who looked like she was about my age. From her haircut and clothing, I gaged that she wasn't a native: mail order bride?

Finally, the awkward conversation ended and we filed into the "theater." Apparently, this place usually draws a pretty good crowd, but I felt bad for the comedians because the place felt empty. Not empty enough for them to put some space between the chairs they herded us to, but empty enough for the ceiling fan blowing furiously above me to freeze me out.

Molly and I checked out a guy on the back wall who looked like Billy Crudup from Almost Famous (in a bad way). We decided that he must be "the talent," from the sheer existence of his mustache. He was, in fact, the second comedian. The comedians, all male, emerged from a "backstage" which looked shabby and coke-ridden. The first two comedians were local guys. Molly and I agreed that the first fellow, who was ill and kept talking about tripping on "Tussin," sucked pretty bad. The second guy, Billy Crudup, was kind of funny but Molly took issue with his timing.

The third and fourth were the out of towners. The third guy, a skinny Catholic who grew up in Baltimore, was unanimously the best comedian of the night. He was funny without being too crude, but he wasn't tame either. Well played, Baltimore guy. The final comic, the headliner, was god awful. His name is Sean and he likes to talk about all the drugs and drinking that fill his life. Sometimes, he was funny, but for the most part he was slow and negative and terrible. He blamed his poor performance on a ravaging hangover from the night before. Highlight of his set: when he started up a dialogue with the Iraqi vet (in our group, coincidentally) after completely insulting the war and getting called on it by the vet. Nice.

Candance got a little restless toward the end (sitting next to me, of course). She didn't care for the fourth comedian either, and made that known by talking to every single person on the row individually in a fairly loud voice about her plans to head to Mickey's (? never hear of it) after the show. I wanted to strangle her: no matter how bad the guy was, there's no need to be so rude. Except maybe to the scary bar waitress, who basically punched people when they didn't get the "two drink per person minimum." Hott.

Molly and I waited politely outside the show to thank Candace. Alas, we lingered a little too long because MB whipped his phone out and took Molly's number. Fortunately for me, twitchy OCD guy was from out of town and didn't even try. Though MB did suggest that OCD massage my neck. "Just let him rub your neck, he's an amazing masseuse." "I'm not a toucher."

The night ended when I finally said, rather rudely, "So let's get in the car, I'm freezing." Molly and I spent the ride home coming up with ways to screen MB. A winning night, on the whole.