Monday, November 1, 2010
Scary thing is, I actually meant it. No sooner had the question left that little boy's mouth than that affirmative answer popped out of my own. And now I'm looking up masters programs so I can be a teacher for longer than my two year Teach For America commitment...for, ever, maybe. After years and years of going to school to become a doctor, a writer, an artist maybe even- never ever had becoming a teacher entered my mind. In fact I pretentiously looked down upon education majors. Last year at this time I HATED teaching. However, somehow in the past twelve months I have evolved to my current state of being: loving my job, loving my students, and unable to think about NOT being a teacher. Idleness and ease bore me. Even if I had a million dollars I couldn't possibly just sit around and relax, and I think that indulging my romantic fantasies like slumming around Europe would just make me feel guilty and wasteful. Therefore, yes. If I had a million dollars I would still be a teacher. I might buy myself a nicer car though...
Monday, October 11, 2010
One of the last essays I wrote before receiving my Bachelor's degree in English from St. Louis University, was one in which I tried to mimic Joan Didion's tone and writing style in her essay Slouching Towards Bethlehem, which was written in the style of New Journalism in the 60s. While writing, Didion was living under cover in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, mingling with the hippie, and pretending to be one of them, all the while writing an all together damned account of their lifestyle, and consequently painting a bleak picture of the country's future. My essay, Slouching Towards the Billiken, written in May of 2009, is obviously an homage to Didion's 1968 piece.
Slouching Towards the Billiken
The center is still not holding. The country is in a state of crisis. Though we came together for a few brief weeks over the election of the first African American president and his promise of change, the sad fact remains that America is still a very divided country. We are divided politically, economically, and still, unfortunately, racially. In these times, I find it difficult to imagine a better future. The question on everyone’s mind is “where are we headed?” What’s next for America, once the greatest nation in the world? In an effort to answer this question I turned to America’s youth. In the spring of 2009, I spent a few weeks in St. Louis, Missouri, living amongst the students of Saint Louis University, affectionately dubbed “SLU.”
Remember those walls I built
Well, baby they're tumbling down
And they didn't even put up a fight
They didn't even make up a sound (Beyonce).
I wait with about ten others outside of Sean’s apartment, as someone comes down to let us all in. It is a warm, April night. The mood of the group is excited- exited for the party, but also in anticipation of summer and months away from SLU. Sean lives in a building called The Coronado, an imposing, elegant brick building, which looks more like a fancy hotel than a building that houses many students. There is a café in the basement of the building- Nadoz, a self-proclaimed “Euro Café & Bakery.”
As we wait, boys chat about sports, and girls compliment each other on their clothing and hair. After a few more minutes, John, Sean’s roommate, comes to let us in. “Dude,” a boy in jeans and a green polo says to John, “that took forever,” and they slap hands in a high five. “Sorry man, it’s crazy up there,” John replies.
The entryway of the building leads into a grand foyer, with marble flooring, high ceilings, and dangling chandeliers. The Coronado doubles as a banquet hall and ballroom for big events, and though the actual apartments are not that fancy, tenants pay dearly for the elegance of the first floor and the convenience of its being right across the street from campus. Singles range from $725-1000, doubles start around $1200, and triples range from about $1475- 2000, depending on layout. For a typical SLU student, $600 a month is “not that bad” for rent.
We all pile into an elevator and take it up to the sixth floor. “Last door on the right!” John calls out, unnecessarily, as the blaring music makes it quite obvious which apartment is throwing a party. The bass on the stereo is so high we are practically thumped down the hallway. The door of 602 opens to a swarming mass of twenty somethings and a blast of Jay-Z:
If you're havin' girl problems I feel bad for you son
I got 99 problems but a bitch ain't one
Once inside, John calls out “five dollars for a cup!” and motions to another boy standing in the kitchen next to a beer keg, holding a stack of red Silo cups. I reach my hand into my pocket and pulled out some crumpled bills. I walked over to cup boy and handed him a five. “What’s in the keg?” I ask.
“Natty Light,” he shouts, “or there’s jungle juice in the cooler if you’d prefer.” He motions to a blue Igloo cooler on the floor next to the fridge. Natural Light is the beer of choice for SLU keggers. Anheuser Busch, which is based in St. Louis, pretty much monopolizes the drinking scene. Not only is Natty Light one of the only beers you can get by the keg, but it’s also the cheapest. Best of all, due to its watery, “light” taste and texture, it can be easily consumed in large quantities- ten to twenty glasses, or more, in a night.
The other drink offered, Jungle Juice, is somewhat of a phenomenon in itself. Wikipedia defines it as “huge quantities of hard alcohol mixed with arbitrary juices” and says that “generally, it is believed that the name originates from the drink's potency, causing an extreme state of inebriation and thus causing the drinker to exhibit animal like behavior” (Jungle Juice). Though part of the fun of jungle juice is not knowing what is in it, it isn’t hard to figure out the recipe of this blend; the counter is littered with emptied Kool-Aid Fruit Punch packets and a bottles of alcohol; Absolut Vodka, Malibu Rum, and of course, the main ingredient, Everclear. A girl in a very short “shirt-dress” and stilettos stomps into the kitchen and throws herself worshipfully down next to the cooler. She lifts the lid and dips her cup into the free-standing, red liquid, trying to avoid the solid lumps that are floating around, and which I can only hope are pieces of fruit.
I decide to go with the Natty Light, and hand my Silo back to cup boy, who is also the keg boy, as guests are not allowed to pour their own beer in an effort to keep it in cups and off the floor. He pours me a cup that is more foam than beer and I realize with not too much disappointment that it will be a good five minutes before I can take a sip.
The song changes, and the girl in the shirt dress jumps up, dripping jungle juice all over the floor, and runs to the living room to join several other shrieking young ladies who are all obviously very excited with the song that just came on.
I've had a little bit too much, much
All of the people start to rush, start to rush by
A dizzy twisted dance, can't find my drink, or man
Where are my keys? I lost my phone, phone
“Oh my god, this is like, my theme song!” One of the girls calls out.
What's going on on the floor?
I love this record baby but I can't see straight anymore
Keep it cool, what's the name of this club?
I can't remember but it's alright, a-alright
Just dance, gonna be okay, da da doo-doo-mmm
Just dance, spin that record babe, da da doo-doo-mmm
Just dance, gonna be okay, d-d-d-dance
Dance, dance, just, j-j-just dance
The song, “Just Dance,” by Lady GaGa, has been on the billboard top ten for weeks now. I’ve heard it at least twice a day around campus and at least once at every party. All the girls are dancing around the living room, arms flailing, with moves that are attempts to look sexy but tend more towards awkward. Despite this fact I can’t help but feel a little bit envious of their lack of inhibition, even though I’d attribute it more to the Jungle Juice than any sort of personal conviction.
The party consists of clusters: the dancers; the “dudes,” standing in the kitchen trading sports stats; the non-drinkers, who sit on the living room couch pretending to like what’s in their cups; the girls who are too cool to dance, and the game-players. There are two games going on at this party, Beer Pong in the living room and Circle of Death in the dining room. Beer Pong is THE game at SLU parties. It has a simple premise; there are two people on a team and each team stands at one end of a long table. Each team lines up ten cups of beer arranged in a triangle at their end of the table, and they take turns throwing ping pong balls at eachothers’ cups. If one team sinks a ball in a cup, the other team has to “chug” that cup. The first team to knock out all of the other’s cups wins. Beer Pong games are usually run tournament style- the winner keeps playing till they lose. Currently, two girls are playing against two boys. Both teams are equally terrible and the game has been going on for over twenty minutes. Ten or so partiers flank each side of the table, enthralled by the game, and waiting for their chance to play.
Around the dining room table, six people are playing Circle of Death. This is a card game which is well liked because it usually gets all the players pretty “wasted.” One game just wrapped up and another is beginning so I walk over to see if I can join them. A tall, thin blonde boy is arranging the cards face down in a circle around a cup of beer in the middle of the table. He looks up at me and says “Hey, you wanna play?”
“Sure, I say,” and take a seat. A few more people sit down at the table, and we start the game. No one introduces themselves, but some people already know eachother, and it doesn’t really matter- we’ll all be best friends by the end of the game. The girl to my left pulls the first card, a red five, and the blonde boy calls out “Ohh! Red to the head, Katie!” Katie says “damn it!” and takes a five second swig of her beer. Cards with numerical values 2 through eight represent seconds one must drink for. If you pull a red card you drink for that amount of time, hence, “red to the head,” but if you pull a black card you choose someone to else drink for that amount of time.
The next card pulled, a Black Ace, prompts a disagreement. A dark haired boy named Jim pulls the card and calls out “waterfall!” and stands up. Across the table a brunette says “I thought aces were for categories.”.
“Kings are categories,” Jim says.
The brunette shrugs and says “whatever.”
“Ok, everyone up,” Jim says, “and we’re going counterclockwise.” In a waterfall, everyone stands in a circle and starts drinking their beer at the same time, and each person cannot stop until the person before them does. Luckily, Jim called for counterclockwise, which means only he and Katie to my left have to stop before I can. This is the part of the game which allows each player to show off their drinking prowess, and stopping before you should is very looked down upon. Some people however cheat and only pretend to drink for their allotted time.
I want yo body. I need yo body.
As long as you got me you won't need nobody
You want it, i got it. Go get it, i'll buy it
Tell them other broke niggas be quiet
Stacks on deck. Patron on ice.
We can pop bottles all night
Baby you can have whatever you like
I said you can have whatever you like (T.I.).
The game continues for another half hour or so. As each card is pulled, the player has to place it on the rim of the cup in the center of the table. The game continues until either every card is pulled or until someone knocks all the cards off of the cup. If this happens, that person has to drink the whole cup of beer. The tall blonde boy, whose name is Alex, had this honor. He drinks the whole beer in one impressive gulp, and the game is done.
I head to the bathroom, which is locked, and while waiting outside I take a peak into an open bedroom. I’m not sure if it’s John or Sean’s room. I notice the Phi Delta Theta plaque on the wall, but this is not very helpful- they are both Phi Delts. There are a few posters on the walls; a Jack Daniel’s ad hovers over a neat desk and a Sports Illustrated cover featuring a bikini clad Marissa Millers faces a bed covered with hunter green flannel sheets- the kind Moms pick out from Bed Bath and Beyond when they take their sons to college.
Just then the bathroom opens and two girls stumble out, giggling. One grabs for the other’s iphone saying “Oh my god, do not text him right now- that is a horrible idea!”
“But I want to see him!” her friend responds.
“Maybe he’ll be at Humps later,” the other one says referring to Humphrey’s, an on-campus bar, “and anyways he can’t come, he’s a Beta.” Since John and Sean are Phi Delts, the party is open to all girls but only to boys who are also members of their fraternity.
In the bathroom I am forced to crouch uncomfortably over the toilet seat, as someone has recently vomited all over it and the surrounding floor. I wash my hands thoroughly and I wonder if anyone else at this party is worried about getting the Swine Flu. Exiting the bathroom, I hear a loud cheer coming up from the kitchen and a chorus of “chug chug chug!” I walk in to find five guys hoisting John upside-down over the keg for a keg-stand. John drinks for an impressive eighteen seconds before spewing Natty Light all over his refrigerator. His friends lower him down lightly, and Sean pats him on the back, saying “nice, dude.”
“Who’s next?” A boy in a polo (they’re almost all in polos), jeans, and a backwards Cubs hat says calls out “Bridget!” Bridget, a petite, shy looking brunette in a shimmery tank top, jeans, and flip-flops says, laughingly, “Oh my god, no way!”
“Come on Bridget! Do it!” Cubs hat boy says, and before she can even reject, the boys have grabbed her, lifted her in the air and upside down. Poor Bridget puts the tap in her mouth and drinks for only about 8 seconds before she starts hitting one of the boys on the shoulder and screaming “put me down, put me down!” They oblige and she runs to the bathroom, covering her mouth. More vomit.
Shawty had them Apple Bottom Jeans [Jeans]
Boots with the fur [With the fur]
The whole club was lookin at her
She hit the flo [She hit the flo]
Next thing you know
Shawty got low low low low low low low low (Flo Rida).
The music is louder now, and a few more boys have joined the girls dancing in the living room. Couples “grind” with (on?) one another, relishing the physical contact. The non-drinkers have mostly left by now, and it’s ten past one in the morning. I notice Bridget wobble out of the bathroom leaning on a blonde’s arm. I start to consider leaving, when suddenly the music stops, and a boy calls out “The cops are here! Everybody out!”
Panic strikes. Everyone sobers up, even if just for the moment, and we run around grabbing purses, jackets, cell phones and bottles. People run out the door and down the hall to the emergency exit. I follow, trotting behind two boys, one of whom says “Man, I’m so sick of this shit, it happens every weekend.”
“I know,” his friend replies, “I mean, everyone in this building is in college. What kind of loser reports party? It’s like one a.m., it’s not even late.”
We manage to get outside without seeing the cops. Some kids are not that lucky however, and I wonder how strict cops are with underage drinking around this campus. I’ve heard that mostly they just let people off with a warning.
A small group forms down on the corner of Lindell and Spring, about fifteen of us, and the question on everyone’s mind is, “where next?” Katie checks her phone and says “there’s a party in the Village that I heard is pretty good.”
“Let’s go to Laclede’s,” Alex proposes.
Laclede’s is another on-campus bar. On the weekends, starting around midnight, there is a line out the door to get in, and every other student on campus is already inside. Drinks are cheap, and the music is loud. The dance floor is like a sweaty, clothed orgy, moving in step with whatever rap song is most popular that week. Laclede’s is where people go to “hook up.”
“I can’t go,” one of the dancing girls says, “I don’t have a fake.”
“I know a guy in De-Mat (referring to DeMattias Hall, a dorm) who makes them for fifty bucks,” Jim offers, “you really should look into it.”
“I heard those kind of suck though,” the dancer replies.
“Yeah, but it’s Laclede’s,” Alex says, “they barely even look at your I.D.”
Laclede’s is very popular with the underage crowd as they are notoriously lax about showing proper identification.
After a few more minutes of discussion, the group splits; those of age or with a fake go to Laclede’s, and the other half decides to go to the party in The Village. I decide I’ve had enough for the night and head home. I say goodbye to the few familiar faces in the group and walk toward the clock tower. A flock of girls- a flurry of skinny jeans, short dresses, straightened hair and perfume- stomps past me purposefully. One lags behind, having trouble walking in her four inch heels and talking, rather slurring, into her cell phone. “Guys, wait up!” She calls, but her friends are chattering too loud to hear. She turns her attention back to her phone call.
There’s something happening here
what it is ain’t exactly clear
During my time at SLU, I met a lot of kids with ambitious goals and big dreams; the stuff leaders are made out of- leaders who unify their country and set things straight. I did see glimmers of hope, here and their, flickering about campus. But what I did see wasn’t nearly enough. What I saw mostly was indifference. I heard more rap music than conversation. “Are they not concerned?” I often wondered, and I couldn’t help but think not. There is a fine line between ignorance and apathy, but at SLU, I’m not sure one even exists at all.
It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down (Buffalo Springfield).
I turn left and head towards Grand. Lots of students are out still, and the campus is alive under the moonlight. I pass a couple cuddling on a bench. Ahead of me I see a group of boys - jeans, polos, baseball hats; they are standing outside of the Bauman Eberhardt Center, huddled close, murmuring and laughing. They quiet down as I pass by, and eye me rather suspiciously. I pretend I’m not at all interested and carry on my way. A moment later I look back over my shoulder just in time to catch one of the boys walk up to the statue of the Billiken, his school’s mascot, which sits proudly outside of the gym. Without hesitation, he unzips his pants and pees all over it. Tomorrow, one of his friends, a SLU “Ambassador,” will guide families on a tour of campus. He will stop in front of the statue and tell his group “don’t forget to rub the Billiken’s belly! It’s good luck!”
Beyonce. “Halo.” I am…Sasha Fierce. Columbia, 2008.
Flo Rida. “Low.” Low. Atlantic, 2007.
Jay-Z. “99 Problems.” The Black Album. Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam, 2003.
"Jungle juice." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 6 Apr 2009, 03:05 UTC. 5 May 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jungle_juice&oldid=282023834>.
Lady Gaga,. “Just Dance.” The Fame. Interscope, 2008.
T.I. “Whatever you Like.” Paper Trail. Grand Hustle/ Atlantic, 2008.
The Buffalo Springfield. “For What It’s Worth.” Buffalo Springfield. Atco, 1966.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
I started playing piano at the age of four- no lie. My parents began training my brother and I with the Suzuki method, whoch focuses more on learning the fundamentals of playing music- rhythm, melody, fluidity, etc., rather than note-reading. As one advances, they must of course learn to read notes, but the key is a gradual building up to note reading, so that once you get there all you have to do is recognize which key to hit, and you're all set because you have all the other essential basics down.
So at the age of four I had my first suzuki lesson, which consisted of sitting cross-legged on the ground, hitting a stick on the floor, trying to keep pace with a metronome. Primitive, yes, pointless, NO. The suzuki method also incorporates lots of concerts in front of other students, so that children at very early ages become comfortable playing in front of others. Throughout the rest of my life- quiet though I can be- I can honestly say I never experienced stage fright during school plays, or singing in front of people, and of course, while playing music. I remember many Christmases where my parents would make my brother and I each sit in front of family and guests and play for them. I might have rolled my eyes like a true adolescent, but never did I experience any sort of fear.
Eventually, I moved on from the Suzuki method to a very strict, Classical teacher, one Ms. Uhlig, who used to grab my hands and slam my fingers down on the correct notes if I misplayed. I remember being so terrified of her and her house, how the smell of it made me queasy, and how she never really complimented my playing, but rather would say I'd simply "completed" a piece when I was able to play it to her satisfaction- completely memorized, of course.
After Ms. Uhlig there was a string of others. I even experimented with a jazz teacher for a while, but he unfortunately did not last long. Firstly, after playing strictly classical for most of my training, the concept of syncopation was very hard for me to grasp. I could not convince my fingers that this odd, untimely plunkering of keys was in fact the way the music was supposed to be played. But perhaps the main reason my jazz teacher did not stick around long was because he had the worst case of halitosis I've ever encountered. The man's breath smelled like feces- end of story. And, unfortunately, end of my jazz career.
I bounced around to a few different teachers after that but none seemed to fit. By age 13 I decided that I was just no longer interested in playing the piano. Nevermind the fact that by this point, I'd been playing for 9 years and was pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. Nonetheless, I was much more concerned about the fact that practicing for the necessary hour each day was interfering with my growing, teenage social life. I wish I could travel 10 years into the past and slap that Julia and say "you are throwing away the greatest gift you were ever given." Though I doubt she'd listen.
By the age of 16, I actually did begin to miss playing again. I started up with a little old woman who lived within walking distance of my house. The process of beginning to play again was painful. I remember being insulted when she started me off with very easy pieces, thinking I was way too good for Bach's early Sonatina's. However I was quickly humbled when the very same peices I had mastered at the age of 8 took me weeks to re-learn. In just three years I had lost so much of my talent. To say this was frustrating doesn't even begin to cut it. But I persevered, worked hard, and for maybe the first time ever I did not see practicing as an unwanted obligation. I looked forward to my time at the piano each day and would sit for sometimes two, three hours trying to perfect a piece.
Unfortunately, as my piano life was progressing, so was the rest of my life- quite rapidly at that- and I became part of a highly competitive crew team that practiced at 5 am each morning before school. When I got home each day I could barely keep my eyes open long enough to finish my homework and eat dinner, let along practice. My skills began to slip, my fingers began to slow, and eventually I had to quit my lessons to make Crew my number one priority.
Since then I have graduated from high school, moved to a different state, traveled and lived abroad in Europe, graduated from college, finished my first year as an 8th grade science teacher for Teach For America and never, ever, has the thought left my mind that giving up music was the worst decision I've ever made. Beautifully played piano pieces bring tears to my eyes, and anyone who plays them I see as practically holy. To make music is an incredible thing. To make your hands become vessels that bring black specks on a page to life to make a sounds- sweet, harmonious sounds that can silence and touch a listener- that, I believe, is one of the closest links between man and divinity. As human beings, I believe we have a responsibility to create; we should strive to make something tangible in our lifetime, something beautiful that we leave behind, to make our lives mean something, and to be sure that we don't take all the beauty around us for granted.
Recently, I acquired a not-so-old, but not-so-new Yamaha keyboard. It has a pedal, which is essential, but unfortunately it also has a pretty crappy sound. I stole some sheet music from my parents when I was at home this summer, and I have been trying to get back into playing over the last few weeks. I may never become the piano player I could have become, should I have not quit as a young teen, and this a fact that I will always regret. Nevertheless, I can try.
Current endeavors: Eric Satie's Gymnopedie #1
Friday, June 25, 2010
I’ve spent most summers of my life at my family’s little cottage in Door County, Wisconsin. When I was fourteen, my mother put our turtle, Yoldla, outside for some fresh air on a hot day, and she died from heat stroke. My mother was terribly upset, blaming herself for Yoldla’s death, and she spent the greater portion of days on end weeping. In an effort to cheer her up, I decided to paint a memorial rock for Yoldla, to be put over her gravesite in our backyard. I had just finished reading “The Grapes of Wrath” that summer, and a quote from the beginning of the book seemed to me to be an extremely appropriate tombstone epitaph; it read “Nobody can’t keep a turtle though. They work at it and work at it, and at last one day they get out and away they go.”
I painted this on a large, flat rock, along with a stunning portrait of Yoldla and presented it to my mother proudly. Like most moms, mine gives me a lot more credit than I deserve, especially when it comes to my artistic abilities. As such, she thought this rock was the most beautiful thing ever, and instead of putting it over Yoldla’s grave as I intended, she put it on the mantle of our fireplace and there it has sat for nine years now.
As a semi-adult with a full time job and an apartment of my own in St. Louis, MO, I no longer can spend long, lazy summers in Door County. However, I try to visit whenever possible, and I am currently three days into a five day vacation there with my Mom, my cat Henry, my mother’s two dogs, and her new turtle, which she found on the side of the road and never gave a name to. This turtle without a name (she calls him “The Turtle”) is also without a real home, because my father told my mom she is not allowed to have any more animals. She hides The Turtle in a garbage can when my dad’s around, and sets up make-shift, easily disposable habitats for The Turtle in his absence. My mother paints animals on rocks and sells them on ebay. Her specialty is turtles. When I asked her why she needed to have this secret, stray turtle, she told me “Julia, how can I be a legitimate turtle painter and not have real-life inspiration?” Well, you can't argue with that... so The Turtle spends most of his life in a bathroom size, blue plastic garbage can, where he’s been this whole trip.
I stayed up late last night reading, so I was not ready to be awake when my mom burst into my room screaming “Julia! You have to wake up! I need your help NOW. Your fucking cat knocked over The Turtle’s cage (garbage can) and I’ve looked everywhere and I can’t find him and I have to be at the bike store at 10, and I haven’t even showered, and…” my mother has a tendency to ramble, so I’ve developed a tendency to turn off my hearing (it’s self defense, really). I got up, put my glasses on and crawled downstairs.
Everything was in uproar; chairs were turned over, couch cushions on the floor, cabinets moved… she had clearly been at this a while and still, no turtle. I walked into the living room and noticed Yoldla’s tombstone glaring at me from the mantle. If I believed in things like that, I might have thought that I cursed our house- “Nobody ever could keep a turtle though-" but I don’t believe in that kind of stuff. Even still, realizing that my mom would assume responsibility for this turtle’s demise as she did Yoldla’s, and not wanting to see her so upset again, I got myself a flashlight and crawled all over the house on my hands and knees, looking under every piece of furniture and in every crevice. I scoured our damp, moldy, dungeon of a basement, while my nose and throat screamed with allergic rage.
Two hours later I took a break. “Maybe we should just stop looking for a minute, Mom,” I said. “Maybe if everything is quiet for a bit, The Turtle will come out, or at least move around and we could hear him.”
My mom was still on all fours at this time, a bright red nervous wreck, and almost in tears. “Julia,” she spat out, “I know this turtle. He’s a frantic turtle. I’ve found him standing on his back legs. He’s not gonna come out.” This stream of logic didn’t quite make sense to me, but I understood it to mean that my mother was not going to stop looking for The Turtle until she found him. I was desperate for a cup of coffee or some breakfast, but I also knew that there would be no relaxing until he was found, so I got up again, picked up my flashlight, and resumed my crawling.
Minutes later, my cat went flying down the hallway towards the bathroom and we heard a mad shuffling of feet -- turtle feet! The suddenly, from behind the open bathroom door (the most obvious hiding place in the whole world) came The Turtle, running for his little life from Henry. My mom started screaming unnecessarily, and running after the turtle too, whose heart was probably very close to bursting with fear. Luckily she reached The Turtle before Henry could and she scooped him up exclaiming “I’m so happy to see you!!! I thought you were gone!” You can’t really hug a turtle, but my mother did her best to do so, and then walked over to me and said “you’ve never really even looked at him, have you? Isn’t he beautiful?” As she raised The Turtle to my eyes I looked into his wrinkly face. He is pretty, I guess, for a turtle. He has green skin with yellow stripes, orange, surprisingly expressive eyes and a multi-colored shell. He squirmed in my mother’s hand, and she held him tightly to her chest saying “praise be to God.”
Eccentricity often comes with a negative connotation, but what does it really mean to be an "eccentric?" To me, it just means that you care a lot about things that the majority of people find strange, or just could not care less about. And why is that a bad thing? I spent many childhood days rolling my eyes because of something crazy my mother said or did. Now, however, I take a look at my closest friends and realize that they themselves are a bunch of eccentrics; I have selectively chosen to spend all my free time with, and desperately enjoy the company of people who are about eccentric as the come- for our age group at least.
Unfortunately, it is rare to find people my age who really care about anything, be it something strange or something totally normal like a pet. Strong opinions do not flow freely from the lips of most 20 somethings- and if they do, then another 20 something usually gets offended by said opinion, which brings good and interesting conversation to a screeching halt.
To make a long story short, I'll take eccentricity over "normal" any day.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
I heard it performed by a very old couple with just a guitar and a ukulele at Fred's Six Feet Under tonight (behind Iron Barley in South City- every Thurs. there's an open mic night there, FYI ) and as usual, it shook me to my core, because I believe in fate.
Oh Bob, how you crawl into my soul.
"People tell me its a sin, to know and feel too much within."
Prior to showing up at Fred's, my friend and I drove past a place called The Wedge, which had a sign out front that read "Ukelele Fight 9pm," and we both thought for a moment that maybe we should go to the Wedge instead- I mean, Ukelele fight? Too good, right?- but he had never been to open mic night and really wanted to check it out, so we passed it up. Much to our delight, however, Ukelele Fight Club (their official name) made a surprise appearance at Fred's. No fighting, unfortunately, just 10+ ukelele players having a good time drunkenly strumming some classic tunes. Fate, indeed.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
So imagine my delight when, a few years after the show ended, the first movie came out. It wasn't great, but I still loved it. I felt like I was checking in on my girls after a few years without seeing them. The movie was like a mature version of the show, and rightfully so, as years had passed before its premier. Some people didn't like it because it was "depressing," but I thought the depressing parts were what gave it it's strength and made it more down to earth. The wedding blowup aside, there was nothing over-the-top about the first movie besides the girls' clothing, which is what made the show so great in the first place.
About 2 weeks ago, Sex and the City 2 came out. I'd first read about the sequel in some magazine about a year ago, then the previews proved the rumors true, and I could not have been more excited. About a week after it came out, I, with wings on my feet, flew to the theater to see it and...
IT. WAS. TERRIBLE.
I almost left the theater halfway through. I checked my watch and my phone countless times (which my friends tell me is a sure sign that I'm bored/ edgy), and didn't even care that the theater I was in served alcohol. No wine goggles could make that movie good. It was tacky, cliche, and just tired.
The trailer teases you with Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind," but only about a fifth of the movie actually takes place in New York. The rest of it is spent in Abu Dhabi, a setting which, like the entire movie, is just ridiculous.
The series itself is like Seinfeld for materialists; it follows the lives of four "fabulous" women who live in New York. Sure their lives have ups and downs, but for the most part (shoe fetishes and sexual encounters aside), the show is not very dramatic, and fairly laid-back. Nothing extraordinary happens, usually. There are no zany antics, no slapstick humor.
Sex and the City 2 however, is za-a-a-ny, full of shenanigan after shenanigan. The ladies drive around in Maybachs, ride camels, get arrested, and worst of all, sing karaoke. And I'm not talking drunk, Cameron Diaz in My Best Friend's Wedding karaoke- theres' was supposed to be "spontaneous" but in reality was quite choreographed, they all sang in harmony, and, worst of all, the song of choice was "I am Woman." Oh, wait- I take that back- the worst part of all was that of course, every woman in the night club where they sang joined in, stood up, and made gestures of feminine strength. Ew.
The show itself was watched and loved by thousands of people for all seven years of its existance. I understand that movies are fundamentally different than tv shows, but why dramatically alter the style of a show that was so good to make a movie that is so bad? The entire thing could have taken place in New York. The trip to Abu Dhabi was distracting and unnecessary. Carrie's eye makeup was over the top and the joke about Charlotte having a camel toe while riding an actual camel, well, let's not even go there.
It feels blasphemous to be so negative about this film after years of total adoration of the tv show. But there's just no way around it. Ebert was generous to give it even one star.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," and please, don't break it.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I find it hard to imagine saying goodbye to a lot of my students. Frustrating as they can be, I've learned just as much from them as (I hope) they've learned from me this year. That being said, I've come closer than ever before to ripping their darling little heads off in the last week. I think it's because as the end rushes near, I've been realizing that some of the leaps and bounds I thought I made with them- in terms of both behavior and academics- were just a pipe dream. I watch them do the same stupid things that they did at the beginning of the year (throw classroom materials at one another and then lie about it to avoid- gasp- picking it up), and I hear them speaking more vulgarly than ever, when I'm standing right next to them. It's not me they're swearing at or about, but I take it as a personal jab that they don't have enough respect for me to speak politely IN MY PRESENCE. Ironically, here I sit complaining about what my students have not yet learned, when clearly, I have not yet learned the most important teacher lesson of all: don't take it personally. Maybe one day I'll get there.
When I see or hear these things I find myself lashing out more angrily and loudly than ever before this year. Why do I think I can change them with 5 days left? What can yelling them into submission really teach them? The answer of course is nothing. Be that as it may, I am getting angry just writing this, and thinking about the things they do and say.
Bottom line is, if there were any more than 5 instructional days left (1.5 weeks after that, but each day has a scheduled graduation activity), I would probably kill one of them.
Thank God being a teacher comes with a summer vacation.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
For the last few weekends I have had one single aspiration: to find myself in the middle of a pulsating throng of people and to lose my mind and body to any kind of music, really- terrible (or fantastic?) pop music, rap, hipster electronica- I don't care. Like the inspiration for Keb Mo's greatest hit, "She Just Wants to Dance," I've got a one track mind. And I must say I've done a pretty good job of satisfying that desire at least once a weekend for the past couple of weeks, despite the lack of good dance clubs that afflicts the good ole' Lou (needless to say, I've done some significant standard lowering in order to meet my goal). This past Friday I even managed to have a lot of fun at the "Lodge," behind Morgan Street Brewery, though it boasted, by far, the dampest dance floor, the ugliest crowd, and the worst music of any club I've been to for a while. Nonetheless I enthusiactically put my hands "uuup" for both Beyonce and Miley, without a second's delay.
Perhaps it is the increased amount of pheromones in the air, or the inverse relationship between temperature and the amount of clothing necessary to be comfortable. Or maybe my body is trying to declare independence from my mind as the end of a grueling, no fun possible work schedule is drawing very near. Whatever it is, I'll just have to soldier forth, like a woman possessed... if you know any good dance spots in St. Louis, please let me know.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Sunday Brunch is definitely a top five on the list of things St. Louis does right. Today I sat outside of Scape in the Central West End and enjoyed a perfect Spinach and Feta omelet.
The ability to make a "perfect" omelet is one reason I love Scape, but another is their coffee; no matter how good the food is, one cannot be a good Brunch place without good coffee. Scape's Illy brand coffee is delicious, and perhaps what adds to its appeal is the fine white China it is served in. As my mother once told me, "coffee just tastes better out of china," and it does.
I also fell in love with / must find for myself Scape's creamer holders. If you come across one somewhere, let me know.
Prize: Brunch at my place.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
[God], grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
- Reinhold Niebuhr
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
“Don’t waste your words, they’re just lies,”
I cried she was deaf.
And she worked on my face until breaking my eyes,
Then said, “What else you got left?”
It was then that I got up to leave
But she said, “Don’t forget,
Everybody must give something back
For something they get.”
Monday, April 5, 2010
This man was trying (and failing) to fly a kite in the alley behind Cecil P. Whitaker's at 6pm last night. Though the image of a kite failing to take flight is often associated with gloom and doom, this time it was strangely uplifting [pun INTENDED] despite the Whitaker's fume blasts that were the only source of wind the poor thing had.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Take last weekend for example; I'm waiting for a drink at Maryland House, and the guy next to me strikes up a conversation, I don't remember about what, but we managed to go back and forth successfully, the conversation expanded, found out we had some things in common, etc., etc. So 10 minutes later I'm still talking to this person, and he says "So where were you before coming here?"
I say, "I was at the Chuck Berry concert."
He says "Oh really? I just saw him play at Blueberry Hill last night."
I say "Oh cool, I heard that show was great."
He says "Oh...you don't get my sense of humor." (Chuck Berry really had played at Blueberry Hill the night before- where was the joke?)
I say "Um...sorry, I didn't know you were kidding."
He says "Yeah...you ever been to the Duck Room?" (the name of the place where people play at Blueberry Hill)
I say "No, I've never been."
He then turns to his friend and goes "Dude, this girl just does not think I'm funny." His friend laughs...
I say "Sorry...was that a joke?"
He says "You just don't get my sense of humor..."
I say "I guess not..." and walk away puzzled. Then I noticed he had a sweater tied around his waist.
Last night's experience was particularly lovely: I'm at the Dubliner on Washington Ave., and this guy comes up to me and says "I like your feather thing," (I was wearing a headband with peacock feathers on it- not as ridiculous as it sounds, I promise) "are those real feathers?"
I say "no, I don't think so."
He says "Oh. You're really pretty."
I laugh, of course, because who actually says that?
And say "thanks."
He says "I'm Chris, by the way." We shake hands, and he notices my hands are empty, and says "You need a drink. Can I buy you a beer?"
I say, "No thanks, my friend and I were just about to leave, actually." Which was the truth.
He says "Come on, just one beer. What's your favorite beer?"
I say, "Really, thank you, but we're leaving and I don't even want a beer, I've had more than enough tonight."
He says "Oh come on, don't be gay!"
Yes he did.
I say "Did you just call me gay?!"
He says "Well, I don't mean like into chicks or anything, I just meant gay like dumb."
Uh huh. It was probably pretty "dumb" of me to walk away, laughing, at that point. Chris could have been the one.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
That being said, I will still continue to spend hundreds of dollars on running shoes, and carb-load the night before a race, and follow training guides to a meticulous T. Why? Because following the “rules” of running correctly makes me feel better. It makes us runners more confident before those long runs. It helps us believe that even if it’s more miles than we’ve ever tread before, we can do it.
And in running, believing is key. I hate when I hear people say things like “I can’t run.” I want to respond “h¬¬¬ow do you know this? Because one time you tried and it didn’t feel so great because you’re out of shape?” I am currently 16 weeks into an 18 week marathon training program. Last week I ran 18 miles and afterwards my right foot was seriously hurting. A doctor/friend looked at it and said that though he did not believe it to be a stress fracture, I should probably lay off it for at least a week. “But I have to run 20 this weekend,” I said, almost frantic at the thought of skipping the longest run of the training program- the thought here being that longest = most important. My friend replied “meh, it’s not that important-“ (“NOT THAT IMPORTANT?!” my mind screamed) “- you really shouldn’t run more than 15 to 18 miles before a marathon. That’s all the training your body really needs. The rest is just mental.”
Even though I went ahead with the run despite my achy foot (which really didn’t hurt that bad during the run- if it did I would have stopped), my doctor / friend is absolutely right. Running is way more mental than most people think. And just as adding miles increases your physical stamina, it also increases your mental stamina. For all runners- beginners or pros, marathoners or 3 mile joggers- there comes a point during your run when you think you cannot possibly take another step… but then you do. Perhaps the most beautiful thing about running is that it teaches you that limits are mostly self-imposed; while running you may think you’ve reached your “breaking point,” and then moments later you realize it doesn’t exist. There is no “breaking point.”
Sure you might feel like garbage (at mile 19 last night I started to get “statue syndrome,” where every muscle in your body- face included- begins to lock up), and I am not trying to discredit the severe pain that can come with running. The aches and pains are not imaginary, they are very real, but it is the acknowledgment that you can work through them that allows you to keep on going. Without this type of mental training, one is apt to make the wrong call in many aspects of their life. Outside of athletics, people encounter many uncomfortable, painful situations. And too often, those people throw in the towel and say “I can’t handle this,” or, “I can’t do it,” and give up before they even try. I guess my point is strong body = strong mind, and a strong mind is the ultimate goal here.
With the 20 mile run behind me, my marathon training is literally all downhill from here (until race day, that is). Next week begins the magic taper, and my weekly mileage gracefully decreases day by day. It’s been a fun journey, and one that I couldn’t have gotten through without my running buddies, Ellyse and Eric. Without them waiting outside my door, there have been days where even I (despite all this preaching I’ve just done about mental strength) would have probably skipped a run or two. But thanks to accountability, a-runnin I go, and underneath a shroud of darkness (we all work 9 – 5s so our runs are always at night), I’ve learned a lot about myself. Last night I saw my hunched shadow on the ground and told myself to stand up straight. I know how to fix my stride so that my knees don’t hurt. I know that when I can actually begin to feel the ball of my hip grinding in the socket I need to pick up my feet more by engaging my glutes, and take shorter strides. I know that after two hours of running I will always get a hunger cramp and there’s just nothing I can do about it except take deeper breaths. Most importantly, even though 20 miles is the farthest I’ve run while training, I know that in two weeks I will run and finish the St. Louis Marathon.
Now I just gotta figure out what to eat for dinner the night before; I invited the same doctor/friend to a pasta party the night before the race and he said he’d heard that its best to carb-load two nights prior, and to eat lots of protein the night before…
However, in light of everything I’ve just said, I must ask: in the long run, does it really matter?
Monday, March 1, 2010
Lyrics to "Beach Comber:"
What you want is just outside your reach
You keep on searchin’
You’re walking down that Pensacola beach
You keep repeatin’
While you’re waiting for that sound
Apparatus to the ground
You’re stealing from the lost and found
But what you find
Ain’t what you had in mind
Until you find your Rolex in the sand
You won’t be stopping
Until that solid gold is in your hand
You won’t be happy
On your office on the phone
You can’t say you won’t be coming home
You’re dancing vacations on
(Not lyrics anymore, just drunken musing)
Have you ever lost something on a beach?
Have you ever tried finding it with a metal detector?
Have you ever found it?
I have not.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Anyways, despite the cynical opening of this blog post, I actually like Valentine's Day. Not because my doorstep is always littered with flowers from love-lorn boys, mind you, but rather just the opposite. The only person to send me a Valentine's Day card for as long as I can remember has been my mom. The only Valentine's day I have ever celebrated as part of a couple was four years ago, when a boyfriend cooked me dinner (the one and ONLY time he ever cooked during our entire relationship), and I hope to God he does not read this, but it was a meal that only made me sure that our relationship was doomed. If he knew me at all (we had been dating for almost a year at this point), he would have realized that, health conscious as I am, anything wrapped in bacon and covered in cream sauce would not be my dream meal...to make matters worse he got a bottle of white wine to go with it and at that point in my life I only drank red. We were also in an awkward breaking up / getting back together phase, so, needles to say, the whole thing was just awkward. I look back on it and cringe.
The following year, however, I started a holiday with some single friends which we not-creatively dubbed "Anti-Valentine's Day." This day simply included going out to eat and drinking copiously, but more importantly, it included enjoying being single. Sitting in the restaurant, looking around at all the couples struggling to make conversation over dinner (to be fair not all couples looked that bored), while we laughed, said inappropriate but true things, and had a wonderful time.
Now, several years later, I'm still celebrating Anti-Valentines Day with the same friends. We're all still single, except for my brother and his girlfriend who prefer to not celebrate the holiday traditionally so they spend it with us instead.
Apparently though, I'm supposed to be sad over the fact that I didn't have a date(again) for the big day. My mom told me on Valentine's Day morning that "it's time to find a companion." Yikes; "companion?" Sounds more like a death sentence. The idea of finding someone who you want to be with all the time, who fulfills your every desire, who completes you, in a way, sounds great. Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-relationship, I just don't see why we NEED to be in one. Why is that the be-all-end-all for human life? Isn't it enough to be happy and surrounded by people who love you and who you love back? There is a time and a place for soul-mating, but in my opinion that should happen much later in life. At this point in time I think that we (we meaning people in my age group) should be meeting and getting to know ourselves- wholly and completely- before we even try and do the same with another person. If you don't really know yourself, know what you want out of life, and have a sense of where you are going then you're just asking for disaster by bringing someone else into your open ended life. Ultimately you'll start making choices based on them, and keeping them in your life, instead of what is best for you. Maybe this makes me sound selfish, and maybe I'm just jaded and lonely, but this is always what has made more sense to me. Especially when I see all these so-called relationships between my peers that are just shrouded in fighting and crying and somewhat pointless drama. It's the result of immaturity and indecision.
I'll get down from my single soapbox now, especially as this was meant to be a short post dedicated to a different thought. What I really meant to say was that I actually like Valentine's Day, because for the past few years I have felt surrounded by love, just not the romantic kind. I'll take cards from my mother and dinner with good friends over awkward meals with boyfriends any day.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
But then there also days when I can't stop smiling; when one of my students does something so precious that I am overwhelmed with love for him or her. Overwhelmed to the point where I could almost cry- overwhelmed by how beautiful and wonderful they can be. And sometimes they are just sooo funny. Here's an example of one of those wonderful things:
(Background: I had four Wash U med students come into my classroom and bring real human hearts to show my students when we were studying the circulatory system. Their homework that night was to write a paragraph about the experience in general / what they learned. The following is what I received from one of my students.)
"I learned that the heart has like a door that open and close for something. Also I learned that the left lung is bigger because the side that the heart is on (Right side), the left side moves the blood better into the side. Your heart beats like 90 times a minutes. It makes the sound Luv-Dub. It was kinda nasty to see that heart. It smell nasty."
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Just in general- my last post was about wordless music, but this one is to give credit to what I feel must be a very difficult task- writing songs that not only have meaningful lyrics, but also lyrics that perfectly match the tune/ tone/ rhythm of the song they accompany; lyrics that make a listener think "how does that singer know exactly how I'm feeling right now, and how were they able to put it into words?" because often times our own words fail us miserably.
Anyways, this topic of this post was prompted by a song I was listening to the other day, "New Romantic," by Laura Marling. It's a beautiful song, with lyrics that are just the sort that I'm talking about (note that this is my opinion- others might not agree, whatever).
While listening to "New Romantic," there are many lines that make me stop and wonder how Marling crawled into my soul and summed it all up in one simple, folksy little tune. But as I just spent a week at home over Christmas and am currently training for a marathon, the most potent line for me is "maybe I should give up giving, give up trying to be thin, give up and turn into my mother- God knows I love her."
Saturday, January 2, 2010
...and Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Oscar Peterson, etc., etc.
I cannot do work in silence, but conversely I am distracted by background noise. Also, when I listen to music with lyrics I cannot block out the words and therefore divert at least 30% of my attention to whatever is being sung. As such, I frequently plug in my headphones, and turn on instrumental music- specifically jazz and classical- to help me focus.
Today I am working on the next few Units for my class. While shuffling through my wordless jazz collection on iTunes, I had a delightful reunion with Mr. Dave Brubeck. It's been a while since I last took five, and I was actually drawn out of my focus by enrapture. As I am still hungover from nostalgia after being home for the holidays, my mind was brought back to my 12th year of life, when I took a break from classical piano studies to try and learn a little jazz. My father is a prodigious musician (who's gift I unfortunately did not inherit), and I remember sharing the piano bench with him at our baby grand Kawaii, as he explained and demonstrated syncopation (coincidentally one of my favorite words), and played "Take Five" (originally written by Paul Desmond)for me, explaining that its tricky 5/4 meter was unusual even for jazz, and difficult to play, to say the least. Nonetheless, I remember thinking as I sat and watched him play, that his hands made it look so easy.
Even then, that song affected me on a level that I didn't really comprehend. Now, years later, after hearing it time and time again, I still cannot shake the feeling it gives me, and I am still unsure how to put it into words. In an attempt to do so however, I think that "Take Five" might be the sexiest song ever written.