Tuesday, July 26, 2011

one more New York story

I'm trying to decide the best way to tell this story. It needs to accurately convey my emotional states through every point: exposition, rising action, climax, denoument, the whole enchilada*. So here goes.

(*side note: don't ever use the phrase "the whole enchilada" in an essay on an exam about Skinner's learning principles, or your professor will leave the comment "...no" next to it and [along with the receipt of a crappy grade in the first place] reduce you to a shapeless mess of low self-esteem noodles in tepid weak sauce)

The last advice Mallory gave to me before heading to New York for the first time ever was
"Make sure you get a window seat on the left side. You'll get to see Manhattan from the plane as you fly in!"
So when I checked into the airport and picked my seat at the ticket printer, of course I got the last left-side window seat. 30A. Success.  Boy, I thought, what a super lucky day for me.

As I boarded the plane, I realized I was not so lucky after all.  For some reason, this was the stupidest plane ever and there was a big ole jet engine obscuring my view.

I took my window seat and began to read my book.  The man in the seat next to me (the aisle seat - this plane had a [][]  [][][] set up) sat down as he was chatting to his friend. They were play-arguing about how many apps he had on his iPhone.
"I've got everything I need. Why would I put anything else on here? ...yeah I know, that does sound cool. But I don't need anything fancy! I've got what I need, I'm happy, leave me alone!  hahaha"   
Hmmm, I thought, that is the most sensible iPhone user I've ever eavesdropped on. A few minutes later, he broke the silence between us, the pointed silence created between two people on public transportation (and that's all a plane is, really. Public transit. Just like taking the bus!), to say
Plane guy: Don't let me hog the arm rest. I'm always hogging this thing.  (friendly smile)
Me: Oh, no, I'm fine. Thanks though.
      (inner monologue): Shit. Now when he does hog the arm rest I'm not allowed to get upset about it. ...Wow, I am pretty crammed up against this window. I look like I'm trying as hard as I can to be as far away from him as possible. And he's just trying to be nice. (I try to loosen up my body and unroll from the ball I have hunched myself into.)
 Then, a few minutes later:
Plane guy: So, whatcha readin'?
Me: (tilts book to show cover) It's one of the Game of Thrones books. It's the second one. It's pretty good. But I don't usually read fantasy so... I dunno. I like it, I guess. (inner monologue): Why am I talking so much?? I'm one of those annoying plane people. No. Wait a minute. Why is this middle-aged man interrupting my precious book reading time by asking stupid questions?  ...He must be one of those nervous fliers who talks to people to pass the time and distract him from worrying about his impending fiery death.
So, in an act of kindness from the "hey, this guy could be Jesus" school of thought that I learned from my mother, I indulged his chatting.  We talked about what I was studying in school (a lot to say) and the city of Atlanta (less to say) and local sports teams (even less to say).  He asked my advice about schools and SAT scores because it turns out his "friend" sitting in the aisle next to us was actually his sixteen year old son.

Eventually, I realized our conversation was none too interesting, and I began to check the time more and more frequently. But I kept smiling, because I had no way of escaping the conversation (I couldn't think of a cleverer way to say "Can you please stop talking now, I'd like to read at least two pages of my book before we land, thanks.") But as I've learned before, my please-let-this-conversation-be-over-soon smile is virtually indistinguishable from my you're-my-favorite-person-ever smile, at least to people who don't know me.

As the plane began to lose altitude, I finally got my first view of the city.
taken by snaking my camera-arm around the sleeping woman in front of me
Then the man next to me turns to me to shake my hand.
Plane Guy: I just realized this whole time we've been talking and I don't even know your name.
Me: Sorry! I'm Claire.  (no last names. my momma didn't raise no fool)
Plane Guy: Claire? Claire. nice name. I'm *****.   ...hey listen, Claire. I was wondering, I'd like to have your number. 
UM WHAT. wait, wait, wait. Maybe this man is just trying to be nice. He knows I have never been to New York before, and he probably wants to exchange numbers in case I get lost or need help. Or maybe to give to his son? Claire, you never should have told him you've never been to New York before. He'll probably murder you. Don't give him your number. WAIT, unless if you don't give it to him you make him angry, leading him to murder you. Walking on a razor's edge... 
Me: Um...O...K.... it's ***-***-**** (give him a fake area code. genius. that way, there's no hesitation when I roll off the numbers, so he won't get wise and murder me on the plane.)
Plane Guy: "yeah, I was thinking we could grab lunch sometime at Atlantic Station...
...maybe grab a glass of wine...
...you are old enough to drink, right?"
CREEPY DUDE, you KNOW I am in college. Also, your 16 year old son is watching you try to make lunch plans with a 20 year old girl from the plane. I WILL NOT BE HIS NEW MOM.

At this point,  I am refusing to move my head at all. I am staring straight ahead, towards the front of the plane where the stewardesses are ushering people off the plane. Away from other creepy passengers. To safety.

Me: Um, no, my birthday is in a month.
Plane Guy: (playfully) Well you do eat, don't you?
Me: Um... (the blood has drained from my face) yeah (I am petrified by uncomfortableness and fear of upsetting a potential murderer)

Plane Guy stands up and begins to get his belongings from the overhead bins. (Thank you, Jesus)  He has stopped talking to me and I am using the silence as an opportunity to plan my escape route. Then he looks over at me, and adds as an afterthought:
Plane Guy: Hey Claire, ...you tall?
How the hell am I supposed to answer that? I believe I replied something to the effect of

Me: uh, kinda, but not as tall as my DAD or my THREE BROTHERS. They're tall. And pretty muscly. Quick to anger too. And as protective as mother geese. So, I dunno. Does that answer your question?
I then waited for everyone else to exit the plane, hoping that this man would get far far ahead of me.  Then, just for good measure, I hid in the women's bathroom for about 20 minutes.

Welcome to New York City, Claire!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

married to the Eiffel Tower

So I've just finished watching a documentary called Married to the Eiffel Tower.  It's about three women who are objectum sexuals.
"Objectum sexuality" or object sexuality is defined by Wikipedia as
"a pronounced emotional and often romantic desire towards developing significant relationships with particular inanimate objects. Those individuals with this expressed preference may feel strong feelings of attraction, love, and commitment to certain items or structures of their fixation."
One woman married the Eiffel Tower a few years before the production of this documentary.  She is also a world champion archer, and developed a particularly strong relationship with her bow, Lance.  She also has significant relationships with the Golden Gate Bridge, a samurai sword, various wooden gates and the Berlin Wall. Throughout the movie, we get to see several moments of this woman and her fellows caressing buildings, sharing a bed with miniature models, and visiting their significant others (some of which are in different continents).

Mrs. Eiffel Tower visited Berlin to see her lover:
To the Berlin Wall: "I tried to hate you. I tried. ...I curse myself for being human. I wish I were an object like you!"

This movie is just as interesting as I had hoped it would be and is filled with leagues of psycho-data to analyze and think about.  The only part that made me marginally upset was that these women (all objectum sexuals are women, according to the documentary) claimed to love these objects soooo deeply.  With more passion and depth than most human relationships.  But they also loved so many at the same time.
Does Mrs. Eiffel Tower have no respect for the sanctity of marriage? She spends a great deal of her married life fawning over the  Berlin Wall (who is married to another woman in Sweden, the scoundrel) and falling in love with every red fence she sees with just the right angles. 

The documentarian fails to reveal that objectum sexuals believe in polygamy until the last ten minutes of the film. 

Anyway, I learned something today! Someone else watch this so we can have a chat!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

things I think about in the airport...

I'd like to share a few examples of how my mind occupies itself when its plane is delayed for two hours. I scribbled down a few starts for things to eventually blog and apparently today is "eventually." Here they are.

I have a habit of, every once in a while, looking around and thinking "these are the people."

These are the people I will be trapped in this elevator with.
These are the people who will be left alive with me if everything in the world is destroyed except for this room. Everything  except for this specific bank of seats in the B gates at the LaGuardia airport.
These are the people who might (in a survival situation) look at me and think to themselves "could I eat a human being?" Or, you know, vice versa.
These are the people I will be stranded on a deserted island with (if somehow this plane from New York to Atlanta flies over a deserted island. Or an ocean for that matter).

These are the people.
please don't let me spend my last hours on a MARTA train
I will scan the faces of the people around me, trying to judge their character by the way that they talk or laugh or whether they move their stuff and offer the seat next to them. He's a good guy, I think. But will his kindness make him weak? These are the kind of things you need to know. 
(Additionally, which one of these people is most likely to stab me? The small Asian boy. Watching Power Rangers on his iTouch. Just trying to be a hero.)

So this is who I'm stuck with, I think. I already hate the way that woman cackles at her cell phone. That guy over there didn't even bring a book to an airport. He's clearly not the survival type. That muscly guy on his laptop could be useful... Maybe he's a g-man or an ex-cop. 
So as people around me stress about having to deplane and where Gretchen put her boarding pass ("is it in your bag? It's GOTTA be in your bag cuz it sure as HELL ain't in mine!") I am assembling my team. And deciding who to leave behind if we find an abandoned working vehicle in our now post-apocalyptic landscape. 
...I'm looking at you, cackling cell phone lady.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

mmmm light pollution

As my plane was flying over New York on the way back home, I looked down on the sparkling city below.  I had already been delayed 3 hours and thought I might sleep on the plane until I got distracted by the view outside my cabin window.

Then my sense of geography started to fail me.
If that's New York, and we're on the East Coast...it looks like we're going further East right into the ocean! Or maybe North to Canada??  

This worry (that the pilot had no idea where he was going and I was going to be stranded in Canada for the night) began to creep into my thoughts and disrupt my reading.

"Tobacco,  introduced to London the year after Shakespeare's birth,...  
Oh no what if the flight is actually going to Canada?
...was a luxury at first but soon gained such widespread popularity... 
I got in the right gate. Right? B8. Yeah. I got in the right gate. My ticket was scanned. It made that satisfying "ping" noise that means I am supposed to be on this plane.
...that by the end of the century there were no fewer than seven thousand tobacconists in the City....  
Dad would be so upset if he drove all the way to the airport at midnight and I'm actually in Canada.
...It was employed not only for pleasure but as a treatment for a broad range of complaints... 
no. they won't be upset. They'll be worried, won't they? I'll probably end up crying if I have to call home and say I accidentally ended up in Canada.
...including venereal disease,... 
but NO. I won't cry. I'm an adult. I'm a grown-ass woman. I just went to New York all by myself!
I'll take care of everything. I can get myself a hotel or something, and email work to explain my absence and book a new flight and - yeah. I'll be fine. 
...and even bad breath." 
Shit, I have to read that whole passage again. Didn't take in a word of it.

(excerpts from Bill Bryson's Shakespeare: The World as Stage)

how do you know?

When does one discover that he or she is immortal?

Surely it's not all as cut and dry as vampires make it seem. Sure, you get sired, you die, you rise again, you live forever. Never aging past that point.

But then there are stories like Tuck Everlasting. All the poor Tuck family did was drink from a spring! And there was no warty old witch or enchanted crow or strongly-worded sign to warn them against it. They were just thirsty.
don't drink the Kool-aid, Rory
In the book, the family discovers they are immortal because some mortal peril befalls their cat (or horse? it's been a while)  but the cat doesn't die. Like magic or something. And then the horse gets injured, and one of the family gets mortally wounded or something - anyway! No one dies. Musta been that darn spring water!

BUT what if it's not that easy? What if some new magic made you immortal and you had no way of tracing it back?  It could have been as simple as eating an avocado between 12:36 and 12:37 AM on a Friday the 13th.  It could have been winning six games of Monopoly in a row (maybe over several years).  It could have been letting an old lady have your seat on the bus (because, let's face it, most old ladies on the bus are probably gypsies). 
but then again, gypsies come in all shapes and sizes. Don't drink the Kool-aid, Meryl Streep!
My point is, when do you start to notice you're not aging? In our society, it's possible to avoid mortal injury for several years at a time! How are you supposed to know you're immortal if it was an accident?
Eventually the comments have to stop being "Jen, you look amazing!" and start sounding more like "That bitch Jen is back. How is her- what is her... face... doing- how does she...? ...Bitch."  And even then, when would you start to notice?

I sure hope I'm not accidentally immortal.
Everyone would hate or fear me, I'd outlive everyone I love, and I'd have to see 6 more Transformers movies squeeze their way into theaters.

and to think some people would kill to live forever...

I'm lookin at you, Voldemort.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


30 Rock is filmed in Brooklyn. Sad face.
I just got back from New York!  For the first time in my whole life. Until this weekend, all I knew about New York came from movies and TV.  And in the case of a few of those (like How I Met Your Mother, Friends, Will & Grace, and Seinfeld) they aren't even filmed in New York. Or even on the East Coast.
So all I knew came from
  • Jungle 2 Jungle
  • Home Alone 2
  • Big
  • Kate and Leopold
  • Someone Like You
  • You've Got Mail
  • Hitch
  • ...I don't need to list these. Just think of pretty much every movie ever made. Except the ones by John Hughes.
Overall, this did not give me a very good idea of what the city is actually like and gave me a weird set of expectations going into this trip.  Mostly that the city of New York exists to be filmed: with wet streets to reflect lights at night and the streets perpetually bustling around a single person as he or she walks slowly, obliviously through them with a look that betrays the fact that their thoughts are far, far away.  Thinking about him. Or her. Or how to keep their superhero costume from bunching under their day clothes.

But surprise(to me)! New York is a real place. That exists. It exists when the cameras aren't there. It exists when the Glee kids aren't dancing around all over the place and the Gossip Girls aren't...gossiping.  So if I learned anything from this trip it's that New York is real and real people really live there.
There are lots of opportunities to take pictures of people taking pictures.
I also learned all those apartments in shows like Friends don't exist. Unless you have a trust fund. Or you're in Brooklyn.

My goals for this trip:

Eat real New York Pizza.

Eat a real New York bagel. 
- Russ and Daughters - check.

Find Bret and Jemaine's apartment.

See a famous person.
- BAM! Saw Brian Williams walking around NBC Studios wearing hipster glasses. - check.

Overall, a COMPLETELY successful trip that surpassed all my expectations and thoroughly exhausted me.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

litter bug

Today I walked to my dad's office (from my office 6 blocks away) to pick up his car to drive home since he went out of town on business.

That is too much information.

The important part is that I walked 6 blocks, strolling over a bridge and past a few homeless men sleeping under some trees.  In doing so, I encountered the usual debris that you find on the side of the road: empty bottles and cans, plastic grocery bags, spoons, towels and articles of clothing that have been soaked by the rain and dried into misshapen slabs of shirt-brick.

I don't know or understand the mindset behind littering.  Is it really "Oh, I am done using this piece of garbage/spork/Haynes t-shirt, so I may as well drop it where I stand instead of finding an appropriate trash or recycling receptacle in which to deposit it."
Maybe it's "I bet I can make it into that trashcan from here! [pause] Oh well."
Or "AHHHH I am being chased by a vagrant/thug/angry mother bear! I must empty my arms of all this trash so that I can run away to safety unencumbered!"

One of my fears is littering that happens by accident.

Say you are in the middle of a six hour road trip.  You recently stopped for lunch, but haven't stopped at a gas station since, so Happy Meal bags litter the floor with their junk food brethren: empty pretzel bag and Ziploc baggies once filled with cereal.
Suddenly the mood strikes you, and you realize what a beautiful day it is and decide to roll down the window when ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE and your bags whip around in a junk food tornado, and just as you are cursing your bad food decisions and promising yourself that on your next trip you will bring PB&Js from home and maybe some carrot sticks or grapes if you have them and they're not too sour or some hummus if you can find those pita chips from the party two weeks ago, the tornado of trash finds it's exit out a tiny gap in the window you are rushing to close and zips out of site to fly haphazardly between several lanes of traffic.
The next thing you know you are getting pulled over by highway patrol and assigned a $5,000 fine in a state you would never even want to live in, let alone pay 5K to.

This is my night mare.

Top 5 Most Disconcerting Pieces of Highway Trash:
  1. Scrubs - you know, doctor pajamas.  Why these would end up on the side of the road baffles me.  Best Case Scenario: a new father wears them in the Delivery Room and tears them off in a fit of joy at the birth of his son, opens the window, and tosses them out to drift to the street below.  Worst Case Scenario: sloppy murderer.
  2. Gloves - not gardening gloves, which belong outside, but medical latex gloves. BCS: a volunteer doctor uses them while testing a homeless man for AIDS or the flu or something, and snaps them off and drops them to the ground, accustomed to the OR where dropping latex gloves is common practice.  WCS: sloppy murderer. (clearly clean enough to use gloves/scrubs, but not enough to think to burn them instead of flinging evidence around. Unless he/she wants to get caught...like it's a game. oh damn)
  3. Trash bags - opaque black trash bags, in particular.  My mother implanted the horrifying thought that there might be a baby in that bag on the side of the highway.  A poor defenseless baby its parents didn't want. BCS: the trash bag tumbles out of the back of a pick-up truck as it gains speed. WCS: Abandoned baby.
  4. Needles - maybe you've never encountered a syringe outside the doctor's office, but I have, and let me tell you it is not pleasant. BCS: drugs. WCS: drugs.
  5. Underwear - somehow I always see t-shirts or underwear on the side of the road. This happens too often to be allowed.  BCS: a seven year old rushes to keep up with his mom as they walk to Centennial Olympic Park to play in the fountains. In his dash to catch up to her, his underwear falls out of the pile of dry clothes he is holding and lands, dejected, on the sidewalk. WCS: rape.

So, you just learned a lot about how my brain works! Yay!

...I'm sorry.