Sunday, December 12, 2010

More Christmas Music I Don't Hate

A blatant act of procrastination:

You should really play this, for the graphics, if nothing else.

To clarify here, it's Jack Black singing, but Sum 41 is playing.  And they want to party naked on a school bus full of nuns!

Twisted Sister actually has a whole Christmas album (called "A Twisted Christmas"), and it's pretty great for people who don't like all the traditional stuff.

These guys have a Christmas album, too, called "Let It Snow Baby... Let It Reindeer", and this by far my favorite song on it.  I listened to Relient K back in Jr. High, and now I'm starting to like them again, partially because they came to North Central and played right before I graduated.

All right, last one.  I really wish I could find a video with better sound quality, but it seems the only recording of this is a live one, so there's little to be done.  If you couldn't tell by the name, Bad Religion isn't the most reverent group around, and they've actually covered a couple Christmas songs, changing the words in not-so-Christian-friendly ways, but they didn't do that here.  They just sang it properly, and at one point Greg says "Do you get it yet?"

At some point today I will get some things done.  Just obviously not right now.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

This is About a Vacuum, but Not Really

I vacuumed my apartment today, which I found amusing, because this is my vacuum cleaner:

Majestic, isn't she?  I took it from my grandfather's house after he moved in with my parents.  It still works perfectly, and it was free, which more than makes up for what it lacks in style.  I have no idea how old this things is, I'm guessing it was my grandmothers.  That makes it at least 20-25 years old.

This blessedly old vacuum, I feel, is the only thing left in my apartment that's working at all.  Today my water got temporarily shut off for the third time since I moved here in August.  It's back on now, but seriously?  Three times?  The other two times it was off for several days, making me one angry, unwashed individual (actually the second time I just went home since it was so close to Thanksgiving and showered when I got there).  The 3M hooks I was using to hold up my curtains detached from the wall (which they are not supposed to do, ever) and the whole contraption fell down in a heap.  My computer is on its last legs, so it's running incredibly slow, and being generally disagreeable whenever I try to get anything done (once I get a program running we're good, it's just getting the program to run that's the trouble).  Worst of all, my bedroom door has the hardest time staying shut (parenthesis all over this paragraph, huh?).

This bothers me because it reminds of my bedroom growing up.  No matter how far you closed the door, unless you shut it completely and heard the click, it would swing open again of its own accord.  I didn't like to shut the door completely when I was sleeping back then because I was afraid of being trapped in there if something demonic came in, so I was always sure to leave it slightly cracked.  If it had been the sort of door that swung back open as soon as you let go of it, I'm sure I wouldn't have been so unsettled, but that's not what happened.  The door would stay right where you put it for a while, then slowly reopen in the most ominous way possible after an unpredictable about of time.  My fears of some ghost-demon-beast breaking in were, of course, reaffirmed.

Now, though, I want to sleep with the door closed to help trap the heat in my room since I don't turn the heater on unless I really need it.  It's already back off since the last entry, but I live on the third floor, so I'm getting all the heat that rises up from the rooms below mine.  Right now it's a comfortable 68 degrees in my apartment.  But I digress.

My current bedroom has one of those won't-stay-shut-unless-pushed-until-the-click doors, just like my childhood one.  However, due to some issue with the door framing, the carpet, or some other unfortunate anomaly, it takes more effort than it should to get the door completely closed.  Meaning that I will never completely close it.  This goes back to my fear of being trapped, and here's my reasoning: if it takes effort to close it must take effort to open, right?  What if some sinister character busts through my bedroom window and I'm stuck in there with him/her/it because of my dysfunctional door?

And maybe I know that the door is not, in fact, hard to open at all.  Maybe I've closed and opened the door several times on several occasions just to prove this to myself.  Maybe I know that, even if the door were hard to open, the fact that I live on the third floor and that there are trees right outside my window means that anyone breaking in would require a ladder or something along those lines, unless they could climb trees, but in any case would end up making enough noise for me to wake up and get out before they even made it to my window.  It doesn't matter.  My inner eight-year-old wants that door open.

My poor inner eight-year-old, because it's so scared of having the door shut, but leaving it cracked inevitably recreates the creepy self-opening.  This one's not as unpredictable as the one from my youth, it pretty much swings back as soon as you let go of it, but it still unnerves me a little each time I turn around and see it open again right after I shut it.  Part of me can't help but think, "Just great, who knows what's in here now?  Probably something godless and hungry."

In the face of all this, at least I have a working vacuum cleaner.  I'm actually trying to tidy up my apartment here and there so it's clean by the time I head home for Christmas.  Although, not much got done today since I didn't have water until about 5:00.  Sure, I could have done something once it was turned back on, but I have all week.  No need to be hasty.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

About Winter, and Music

It finally got cold enough in my apartment for me to turn on the heater, which led to my wondering if I really have a heater, or just an air conditioner capable of generating cold or slightly less cold air.  However, I let it run a while and it seems to have gotten the hang of its job finally.  It's awfully loud, though, so I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

Side note: I always have trouble not writing my name when I write the word "heater".  This is because, the one time I went to summer camp, I misspelled my own name while decorating a hat.  Everyone made fun of me and called me "heater" for a week.  It was traumatic, and I vowed to never forget that second H in my name ever again, but an unforeseen side effect of this vow was that I would forever associate the word "heater" with my name.  End side note.

I have a love-hate relationship with winter.  In theory it's wonderful, snow makes everything look beautiful, you get to snuggle yourself into big sweaters and blankets, and there's several holidays devoted to eating heavy foods and getting presents.  On the other hand, snow inevitably gets dirty and makes everything look like it's been soaked in dingy bath water, sickness abounds, and you end up dealing with drama from relatives you don't even like.  You pay for all the pleasantries of winter, and sometimes I'm not sure if it's all worth it.

The biggest issue I have with winter is Christmas music, and I think just about anyone who has spent a holiday season working retail would be inclined to agree.  They start blasting those god-awful tunes right after Thanksgiving, and there's literally no reprieve until New Years, which can (and does) drive a lowly sales associate crazy.  Imagine folding dozens of identical cable-knit sweaters while endless onslaughts of chimes and sleigh bells taunt you with their merriment.  Picture being yelled at by a cantankerous customer for running out of gift boxes and, in in the brief pause provided as she catches her breath, you catch the all too sweetly harmonized end to "God Rest Ye merry Gentlemen".  Tidings of comfort and joy?  Really?

You will be driven to the edge of madness.  Your ability to believe in the goodness of humanity will plummet.  Your smile muscles will fracture, and you will develop a barely perceptible eye twitch.  You will begin to cast furtive glances towards the craft scissors by your register and contemplate various evils.

If I am exaggerating, it is only slightly.

Those days are far behind me now, but I was reminded of them today because the bell tower on campus was chiming out Christmas songs.  I had mixed feelings about it.  I'm sure some people thought it was cute, but I've been jaded, so for me Christmas music is more about endurance than enjoyment.

But fear not, there is still some hope for me, in the form of The Boy Least Likely To.  This group is new to me, and I love them very much.  They made a Christmas album this year, and I was skeptical of it, but they made a couple tracks available for free, and thus convinced me to make the purchase.  Here's a song from it, to close out this post:

This is "The First Snowflake".  It's simple, melancholic, and somewhat child-like, but by no means sing-songy or overbearing.  It's the perfect antidote to everything I dislike about Christmas music, really.

Monday, December 6, 2010

This is About Dreams

I've been having some intensely odd dreams lately.  Maybe it's because the end of the term is nigh, and there's so much work that needs to be done, but most likely won't be until next weekend because I'm terrible at sitting down and doing anything.  Whatever the issue, it's been a long time since I've had and remembered my dreams.

When I was little (years 6-12, let's say) I had detailed and horrific dreams about monsters, demons, and all sorts of unsavory characters bringing about my demise in any number of outlandish ways.  I was constantly terrified of going to sleep.  My poor parents never completely understood what was going on, they thought I was afraid of the dark or something, and tried their best to placate me with reassurances and nightlights.  More often than not, however, I would tear my whole bed apart in order to build a protective fort for myself, guarded by my impressive stuffed animal collection.  The problem is that I could not be completely conviced that the things I dreamed about weren't real.  I genuinely though that what I dreamed about could come and kill me in my sleep, like some Nightmare on Elm Street business, only I wasn't allowed to watch any scary movies because they fueled my crazy dream fire.

Around Jr. High, I want to say, I stopped having, or at least remembering, any of my dreams.  At the time I thought this was some kind of blessing, but now I realize that it was probably the onset of sleep apnea, meaning that I was no longer getting very much sleep at all and should have been taken to the doctor.  Oh well.  I enjoyed my dream-free years, though in reality I was extremely stressed out.  Seriously, imagine not getting any more than two to three hours of sleep a night (guesstimation based on later sleep tests) for years on end and guess how you'd cope emotionally.  But I didn't understand any of that at the time, I just thought I was a little screwed up, but at least my night times were safe and sound.  Oops.

I had a brief stint of dreams again in early college, oddly enough triggered by a conversation I had about dreams.  A friend of mine had a bad one, the sort that effect you for the whole day, and I was trying to relate but having difficulty because I hadn't gone through something like that in so long.  That very night I had a dream.  It wasn't scary, either.  It was very mundane, so much so that I wondered upon waking up if it had been a dream at all or just some stuff I'd done earlier the day before.  I had dreams about filing paperwork and calling my parents, about having conversations or walking to the library.  They were delightfully tame, but so realistic that I sometimes forgot to do things because I dreamed I'd already done them.

However, this was short-lived, and it wasn't long before I went back to nights of nothingness.  It was only very recently that I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, and that breathing machine you're supposed to use is just plain awful, so I tend to avoid it unless I'm seriously not getting enough sleep to function.  The past two weeks or so, though, I've started having dreams, so I figured, yay!  I'm sleeping again, long enough and well enough to produce dreams!  Again, I don't know why this has started up so suddenly.  I'm also not sure if it's all that good or not, now that it's been going on a while.

See, it appears that I've come full circle, back to the haunting dreams I had as a kid.  The most recent ones include having a miscarriage, attempting to escape from some man who wanted to kill me and preserve my body as a doll and, perhaps most disturbing, cleaning out a refrigerator with Bob Saget (it was a nasty ass fridge, too, and it was the real Bob Saget, not the cutesy nice one from Full House).  I have no idea what to make of this stuff.  The days of fort-making are far behind me, and this is the first time I've really dealt with bad dreams as an adult, so I'm not sure what to do.  I'm not sure if I want them to go away, either, since that will most likely mean that I'm not getting enough sleep and I'll have to rev up that wretched CPAP.

Again, I don't have any real way to end this, so I'm closing out with some music.  This song, "Trouble With Dreams" by Eels, is of course somewhat related to the topic at hand, but also has a sort of creepy, lulling sound to it that I just love.

Friday, November 19, 2010

This is About My Hometown

When I first saw this on TV I didn't realize where he was from, but I recognized that special mix of bitterness and apathy towards the severity of the situation and thought, "Now, that's a man from Northeast Ohio."  Lo and behold, from my very own Akron!

I used to hate my hometown.  Especially in high school, I came to realize that Akron was essentially just a hollow inner city center surrounded by trashy suburbs full of former hillbillies.  Seriously, if you look at a map tracing the moving trends of the Industrial Revolution, you'll see that a ton of people from the Virginia/West Virginia area moved up to Northeast Ohio.  They live in Akron now, and they're crazy.

A member of the Rust Belt, Akron was at one point a booming industry town centered around, among other things, tire and rubber manufacturing.  Now those industries have all moved on in one way or another, so there's not a whole lot going on around there anymore.  Lots of empty buildings and jaded people.

Like I said before, I used to hate Akron for it's general lack of activity, but what really drove my from the place was the new understanding I gained of who lived in this cripples town I gained while working at JC Penny.  Now, I don't live in Akron proper, I live in one of the suburbs, and my god what a suburb it is.  To maybe help explain things a bit, here's a visual of the plaza where I worked:

Courtesy of Google Satellite Imaging.  And ignore that vast expanse of nothingness in the middle of the parking lot, it's used to house the occasional carnival.  That was one of the few things I enjoyed about working there, because once in a while I could buy some funnel cake before or after my shift.

Anyway, I recreated the stores present to the best of my ability.  There's a couple empty spots, and a whole lot of turnover from businesses failing, so it may not be completely up to date.  The Penny's has been there for decades, though.  I don't know how many times people came to my register chuckling to themselves and said something along the lines of , "This place is still open?"  I often found myself wondering the same thing when I took a look around the place.

I don't know who owned the plaza, but they were bat at it.  The roof leaked.  As in, if it rained all us employees had to take the trash cans from the storeroom and put them around the main floor to catch water.  There was a mold problem upstairs, too, so I often got the sniffles when I went on my lunch break.  The Penny's itself was not a complete store, either.  It was one floor (the upstairs was offices and such) and only had the main clothing departments, shoes, jewelry, and catalogue.  People often though it was an outlet store, and maybe it should have been.

People stole things a lot.  We didn't even have very good stuff, but people were always trying to take it.  Once I saw a man walk by me bow-legged from all the t-shirts he had rolled up and stuffed in his pants.  Another guy walked in on New Year's Eve, picked out a whole new outfit for himself, changed into it in the dressing room, left his old clothes in there, and tried to just walk back out.  Women were constantly dumping things into their purses (I guess since men don't usually have purses they have to be more creative).

Even stranger than that was what some of the paying customers did.  A man who wanted an item we had run out of  pulled a knife, offered it to me, and suggested I start opening boxes in the store room just to make sure we didn't have any (I did not respond well).   I sold a pair of shoes to a woman who, when I told her I couldn't find my pair of scissors, used her lighter to set the tags on fire so she could wear them out.  Some real problem solvers.

There's a bunch more, but the point is that I wasn't dealing with the classiest clientele on earth.  People regularly had weapons or animals on them.  We also had the cops overrun the whole plaza once because someone was selling fireworks illegally out of their trunk in the parking lot.  Everything was exacerbated perhaps by the fact that we shared our plaza with a liquor store (see picture above), and the trailer park next door.

Yes, a trailer park, and a very stereotypical one at that.  I really don't know what else to say.

So, I wanted out of Akron.  Badly.  I decided that college was my way to do that, and got myself into North Central, located close enough to a major city (Chicago) to provide me the life and culture I was after, but far enough away from it to keep my claustrophobia from kicking in.  The thing I didn't know before moving there was that Naperville, the town my new school was in, was that it was consistently in the top five rankings for cities to raise a family.  It was beautiful.  It was perfect.  It scared the living hell out of me.

Now, when you've spent your past eighteen years in a dying town full of bull-headed and apathetic folk, the last thing you should do is transport yourself to Pleasantville.  You will get culture shock.  In the event that you suffer from General Anxiety Disorder, your paranoia will kick in and you will begin to suspect you are living out the opening credits of a Stephen King film, and that your time is very quickly running out.  Finally, you will be confused by how much you find yourself missing the beat down and trashy place you left behind.

When constantly greeted by shiny smiling faces, you will begin to realize that you are not equipped to deal with positive people, that you are not a positive person.  You are sluggish and mistrustful and harsh, you laugh at every sort of problem, no matter how serious, and you solve those problems however you want to, so long as it works.  You realize that, to the people you live with now, you seem how that lady with the lighter seemed to you back home a year ago.

So, in leaving Akron, I gained a new love for the place.  Thanks to the university, things are starting to perk up a bit, too, which makes me happy.  I don't want my dying town to die completely.  I'm not sure if I'll ever live there again, as the job situation had always been pretty sad, even more so now due to the nation's economy, but I'm pretty excited about going back to visit this Thanksgiving.

That's all, really.  I guess I'm just on a nostalgia streak since I'm going home soon.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Know Your Quotee

One of my Facebook friends, one of the Christ-y ones from high school, just posted a status admonishing the "Church" for failing to represent its lord properly, but used the infamous "be the change you want to see in the world" quote from Gandhi.  I wonder what she thought she would accomplish from her little blurb, barely a hundred characters.  Did she really think someone would read it and be changed somehow?  Also, why on earth is she mixing religious traditions when her goal is to strengthen one against outside influence?  Did she even realize what she was doing?  Does she even know who Gandhi is?

High school, for me, as I'm sure it is for most people, was a love-hate experience.  As much as I resented the assumptions about religious and political ideas (by everyone, ironically, except the campus pastor), I genuinely loved just about everyone I went to school with.  We were a small group, most of whom had known each other since early elementary school, and pretty tight-knit.  Sometimes I miss that.  Other times I look back at those years with surprise and relief that I escaped with my sanity intact.

It was a very religious school.  I honestly don't think there was any subject where some religious aspect didn't come up at some point, which could be either humorous, poignant, or ridiculous, depending on the situation.  My math teacher once did a proof to demonstrate how God=math and, though I don't remember how it went now, I remember it being pretty great at the time.  On the other hand, my Spanish teacher once went on a rant about how sheltered we were in the Midwest and how we had no idea about the dangers of the gay culture running rampant in California; a rant inspired by a male student wearing a pink t-shirt.  I am dead serious.

My point is that, when religion is discussed so carelessly by your authority figures, it's easy to get lost.  Sure, my friends and I didn't take our Spanish teach seriously, but she had access to much younger students, and who knows what all she said to them or how they took it.  It's all very sketchy business, and it fills me with a moltov cocktail sense of dread, nostalgia, and amusement to check up on the place occasionally and see what's going on.


It's just occured to me that I started this over someone's Facebook status, then proceeded down quite the little rabbit trail.  Oh well.  What I really didn't like about that status is that she used an avid Hindu to make her Christian point, since I'm guessing that church revival isn't quite what he had in mind when he said those words.  That line in particular gets quoted around so much that it's pretty much lost all meaning, which is unfortunate.

Also, Gandhi was involved with some interesting business involving naked ladies during his later years, which I'm not sure the quoter in question would approve of.

Quotes are all too often heavily abused.  If you read or hear something and it resonates with you, that's fine, but if you're just in the mood to say something quippy about love so you type "love" in your Google search to find a whole website full of love quotes from which you select one knowing nothing about the person who said it or the context in which it was said, you do a diservice to both yourself and the quotee.  Plus, why do you need to use someone else's words all the time?  Your own words are valuable.  You should use them, though you should be carefull of how and when, lest you end up like my old Spanish teacher.

I didn't think I was going to be able to connect all this stuff together, but behold!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

This is a Long Entry About How I Have Mixed Feelings Towards the Magnetic Fields

Recently I discovered that Amazon's MP3 store has one hundred albums every month for five dollars.  This is dangerous for my bank account, but it's really interesting to see what they pick to lower the price on.  Usually there's some lesser-known or formerly popular artists they're attempting to drum up business for.  For November, one of the albums for five dollars is by the Magnetic Fields.

I like the Magnetic Fields, I really do.  However, the circumstances under which I was introduced to them were honestly horrible, so they are forever tainted in my mind, regardless of how much I've ended up liking their music.  Here's what happened:

I was introduced to a seemingly nice young man during winter term of my freshman year.  We hit it off pretty well, and after a few weeks he asked me out to dinner.  Now, I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about this young man since I'd only known him about a month or so, but it was the first time anyone had taken an interest in me, and it wasn't as if I had a reason to oppose, so I agreed.  Said dinner went just fine, though I still have next to zero dating experience to this day, so maybe I'm not the best judge.  Anyway, we ate, walked/talked around outside, hung out in my dorm a while, and then he left.  All of which I assume are normal freshman dating activities.

Side note: In case you haven't gathered from reading my past entries, I'm not the most relaxed or trusting person you're going to come across.  I'm certainly not the type who can just jump right into a relationship.  I need to be convinced, or coaxed, if you will, like some kind of overly excitable forest creature (picture a deer or squirrel).  End side note.

Second side note: Before this young man asked me out, we had begun something of a music trade.  I had given him something of a trail mix CD containing all my favorite stuff, and he had promised me one of his favorite albums in return, the Magnetic Fields' "69 Love Songs", since I had never heard of them before.  At this point in the storyline, he had yet to give it to me.  End second side note.

The day following our date, I did not see or hear from this certain young man at all, which really didn't worry me much.  I've never been the type that needs to talk to people every day.  Plus, I was fresh from thirteen years of Mennonite school where hardly anyone did any dating, so I had no idea what was supposed to happen.  Two days after our date, this young man called me and asked if I wanted to grab lunch.  I did.

Lunch also went perfectly fine, or seemed to in the moment.  After lunch he walked me back to my dorm, delivered the long-promised "69 Love Songs", and proceeded to explain to me how he no longer wished to date me.  He went on to imply that he was not only going to stop dating me, but that he had someone else specific in mind that he wanted to date instead of me.

Having been somewhat blindsided, and not quite catching the meaning of everything he said, I just sort of nodded along until he asked is I was alright.  I said I was, and we parted amicably.  Once he was gone, my internal dialogue went something like this: "So he doesn't want to date me, that's fine.  We'll probably be better off as friends anyway, so... wait a minute.  Did he just mention some other girl?  What the hell just happened!"  From there I went on a rather exasperated rant, but the young man was long gone, and there wasn't anyone else in my hallway yet, so most of it was expressed internally.

By the time my roommate came back, who was the one who introduced me to this young man in the first place, I was pretty much done feeling upset.  I wasn't particularly attached to the young man, what upset me was what I allowed him to get away with saying to me.  However, my roommate was friends with this young man and, perhaps more importantly, had a crush on one of his friends, so she wasn't interested in hearing bad things about him.  When I told her we weren't going to be dating anymore, she expressed token sympathy, but quickly moved on to her plans to capture the so-and-so she had her eye on before I had much chance to explain what all happened.

It was only two dates, after all, so I don't completely blame her.  Who gets upset over two dates?  The fact that he was so tactless was something I never got to fully detail to anyone, and since a dorm full of freshman girls has more than enough drama swirling around, I just classified it as some unfortunate sideshow in my life and moved on.

I completely forgot about the Magnetic Fields CD until spring term, when I finally took the CDs I had accumulated over the year and began putting them in my iTunes.  When I came across it I glared a little, but figured "Hey, I still have it, and it's still music," so it ended up on my iPod.  From then on it came up on the shuffle occasionally, but I never went out of my way to listen to the whole album.

Until, actually, the eight hour drive back from Atlanta last week.  That was the first time I played a whole disk (it's sixty-nine songs, so there's three disks) and really listened to their music.  I realized two things: one, I really like the Magnetic Fields.  Two, "69 Love Songs" is really a terrible thing to give someone right as you're telling them they aren't worth your time to date.  Seriously.

But now I have cheap access to another Magnetic Fields album, so maybe I can disassociate them from my bad experience?  We'll see.  But it's crazy how someone who was only a big part of my life for about a month has had such an impact on me.

Moral of the story: don't be a douche bag, because people will remember it forever.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

This is About How I Am an Idiot

I would like to start with some good news, though.  Last night I slept beautifully.  I even had a dream, though I don't remember much about it.  There's just the lingering feeling that it was weird, you know?  But I woke up rested, and then discovered that my favorite cereal, Reese's Puffs, contains twenty-five percent of the daily recommended iron intake.  Win!

However, it seems I used up all my luck for the day during that hour or so in the morning before I headed off to class.  The classes themselves weren't that bad, but I'm clearly still a little out of sorts, and it was very hard to stay focused the whole time.  After my last class, the plan was to get my car and get to the grocery store to pick up some orange juice and get some cash back in order to settle my AAR bill.  None of that ended up happening, though, and here's why:

I got lost.  Please do not ask me how this happened, because I can't explain it.  Since I don't have a campus parking pass I walk to and from class, which usually works out just fine.  This time, though, I managed to get myself turned around somehow and ended up in a place I've never seen before and will probably never find ever again.  I'd like to blame it on the fact that I was trying to use a different route to get home, and that the campus is currently being ravaged by construction equipment, which tends to block off many of the main entrances to buildings I use, which makes me flustered because I can't find ways in or out of my classes very easily.  The problem is that I know, even without these circumstances, it's not difficult for me to get hopelessly lost.

The truth is, I lose my way on an alarmingly regular basis.  Even if I'm in a place I know well, even if I have a map and directions in my hands, I will probably get turned around at some point.  I don't just get a little bit lost, either.  I manage to get so far away from my destinations that it's laughable, and sometimes I end up in places no one seems to recognize when I describe them later and which I am completely unable to ever locate again.

I used to get very scared when I got lost.  Images of never finding my way home again would flash through my mind, followed by makeshift plans about how to find food and shelter for myself in the unfamiliar terrain in case I was somehow stuck there for the foreseeable future.  However, I get lost all the time, and I always make my way back to safety somehow.  Over time, I grew confident in my ability to get myself unlost.  Now, the prospect of losing my way is just a given, so I just wander about and see where I end up.

So, when I got lost this afternoon, I really wasn't all that worried about it.  Then I started to notice some black clouds coming in.  I thought to myself, "You better get this figured out soon because it's going to rain".  Then, lo and behold, right I finally figured out how to get back to my apartment, the rain started falling.  It wasn't a short walk back, either.  My already somewhat disoriented self was getting progressively colder and colder the whole time, and guess what?  Right when I got to my apartment, the rain stopped.  Seriously, just for the walk, rain?  You just wanted to keep me company?  Fuck you, rain.

I proceeded to rush into my apartment, make some vegetable beef soup, and curl up under a mass of sweaters and blankets in a desperate attempt to avoid a cold on top of my current nutritional deficiency.  At this point I feel okay, so I'm pretty sure I dodged that bullet.

I know I said I was going to write about something more upbeat this time, but it's not my fault that I got lost and it rained!  Really!  At least, it's not my fault that it rained.

This is About Malnutrition and Knitting

I just got back from a six-day extravaganza called the American Academy of Religion's 2010 National Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  It would probably be fruitful to examine my experience in some way, or at least put down on paper what panels I attended in order to remember them at a later date, but I'm not going to do that.  Instead, I'm going to talk about the absurd characters I saw traipsing around this conference.

There was a side ponytail.  Seriously.  On a woman most likely in her late forties.  There were also a bevy of men sporting the Denial Mullet (bald in the front, long locks flowing in a desperate attempt to overcompensate for said baldness in the back), and a couple of the special sort I suspect have such items in their casual wardrobe as t-shirts depicting bald eagles or disembodied wolf heads.

Best in show, however, goes hands down to the man I saw in one panel making a quilt.  It appeared to be some sort of patchwork deal, not to mention fairly well constructed, considering he was hand stitching it in the middle of an academic conference.  I was struck by the oddity of this at first, but then he reminded me of someone I used to know way back in elementary school: the Knitting Boy.

I don't remember Knitting Boy's real name, and this makes me sad.  I wish I could look him up and see what he's up to now.  I was probably in fifth or sixth grade, and he was a couple years younger, but me and my friends always saw him in the lunch room knitting.  It wasn't as if he was off by himself knitting, either.  He had his own group of friends that sat with him not knitting while they all shared lunch and what appeared to be perfectly normal conversation.  I was fascinated by this boy.  Eventually I went over and asked him about what he was knitting and why, and he turned out to be a really awesome kid.  We talked almost every day for the rest of the year, and he even signed my yearbook as "Knitting Boy", but I don't remember anything about him after that.  Hopefully he's doing well.

As soon as I got back from this conference, I felt terrible.  I actually felt terrible for most of the car ride, since I tend to get car sick, but it was especially bad this time, and persisted even when I moved to the front seat.  Once I got back to my own apartment, I unpacked and vegged for a few hours before I practically passed out.  When I woke up a few hours later, I realized that I had absolutely nothing to eat except bread and wine, so I made some toast, had a drink, and promptly passed out again.  The next time I woke up was about three in the morning, which is an odd time to suddenly become aware of yourself sprawled out on a futon with a P90X infomercial shouting at you about how out of shape you are.  It took a long time for me to reorient myself and actually get into my bed.

I figured this sleepfest was mainly because I had not slept much at all during my time in Atlanta.  Sleep is hard enough for me to come by, between my seemingly boundless potential for nervousness making it difficult to register "tiredness" and the fact that my pathetic excuse for a trachea has been struggling to keep this body operating from the very get-go, which has led to some mild sleep apnea.  This coupled with sharing a hotel bed in an unfamiliar environment would naturally lead to less sleep.  However, I realized this morning that something else was wrong.

When I woke up this morning/afternoon (11:45, you be the judge), I felt something along the lines of death being imminent.  I was shivering, I felt somewhat dizzy and achy, and I realized that the reason I felt so sick the day before was probably because I was actually getting sick.  Even so, I managed to get myself together and get to class, which was thankfully cut short, and then went to the store for a thermometer and some other sickness staples like soup and Gatorade.  Once I got all that stuff back to my apartment, though, I finally took my temperature and saw that it was normal.  What the hell?

Even if I wasn't the traditional sort of sick, there was still something clearly wrong with me.  I tried tracing back my symptoms to some previous malady, and it was then I realized that I felt similar to how I felt when I got home from England, indicating that I am short on iron.  Which is bad.

Looking back over my time in Oxford, I am realizing just how lean my diet has been in terms of red meat and leafy vegetables, which I require in order to function with any sort of efficacy.  My current state has probably been building up for weeks, and was exasperated by my lack of sleep over the past several days.  Luckily this is nowhere near as bad as the last time, and I'm already feeling better after my second day of rest and some hearty food.

It's hard for me to pay attention to what I eat, and when I'm feeling good in terms of physical health I tend to forget that I need to keep iron-rich food in my dietary repertoire.  I usually just buy whatever looks good or easy to make at the time and move on.  Oops.

You know, I was hoping I could make this blog into something other than a log of my various ailments, but it seems that's just a pipe dream.  I promise once I'm more lively I'll write about something more upbeat.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This is About Storms

There was a bit of a weather scare this morning, with strong wings and tornado sirens and whatnot, though all we really ended up getting was a short rain storm.  Even so, I spent about forty minutes in a basement jam-packed full of panicky undergrads.  I know I can't be the only person who was raised to love storms.  I just happened to be the only storm lover trapped in that particular basement.

My father is an avid storm watcher.  At the first rumble of thunder he is outside on the porch in his rocking chair (yes, rocking runs in the family).  My mother is usually not far behind, though I'm not sure that she actually likes storms, she just likes my father.  I don't know at what age I joined them, but I know that I was never afraid of thunder or lightning like I hear many children can be.  In fact, my mother used to read me a book about a grandmother and granddaughter that ran around outside while a storm approached collecting ingredients for something called thunder cake.  She'll still bring this up if a storm gets particularly bad.  "Too bad we didn't make some thunder cake!"  But we never actually made any, even though there was a recipe on the back of the book.  My mother was a cake tease.

Aside from the occasional quip like that, though, our storm watching is spent in silence.  Nature is doing all the raging for us, so all we have to do is sit in our self-made bubble of calm and observe.  It's not as if anyone in my family unit does much raging anyway.  If you ever hear any of us start shouting, it's because all other options have already been exhausted and there truly is no hope left.  We are for the most part a quiet and lighthearted group.  Unless, of course, you get us laughing.  We all have absurdly loud laughs. 

The worst storm I ever saw was when I was around ten during a family vacation in North Carolina.  We had rented a beach house for the week.  The house was on stilts so you could park underneath, and also to protect it in the event that ocean came in too far.  When the storm hit, the wind was strong enough to make the whole structure sway, though not in a scary way.  Just enough so that you could feel it.  Rain was falling so hard and fast that you couldn't see two feet past the windows, except when the lightening flashed so bright it hurt your eyes.  The thunder reverberated in my chest as I sat at the foot of my grandparent's bed staring out the glass sliding doors that led to their deck.

Along with my grandparents and myself, my parents, brother, aunt, and a couple cousins were all in the house.  Within an hour of the storm's hitting, all of us slowly gathered in my grandparent's room, which had the best view of what was going on.  No one said much of anything the whole time, we just watched the beach fall apart.  This is honestly one of the best memories I have.  It has all the best people in my family all alive and in one place and getting along.

For me, I guess storms give me that "the world is amazing" feeling that makes people go hiking or watch the Discovery Channel.  When my parents lived in Hawaii, decades before I was even a blip on the radar screen, my father used to wake up my mother at four or five-something so they could watch the sun rise.  Once it had come up, he would drive a little farther down the island so they could watch it again.  I was raised by this person, so it only figures that I would share his amazement with the natural world.

But for me, storms also remind me of how meaningful silence can be.  Words are hard.  I often find it difficult to know what to say to people, or how to articulate myself properly in the rare event I think of something I really want to say.  Nothing means more to me than a good amicable silence, where I know that I'm wanted, and I don't have to try and justify my presense with some sort of small talk I can barely navigate.  Conversations have their place, of course.  I really do like talking to people once I get to know them well enough to leave behind the awkward introductory subjects.  However, I like not talking, too.

I can't really think of a way to end this post.  So... the end?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

This is About the Rap Music

I have no explanation for the low moods that plant themselves in my mind sometimes.  They are random and groundless and often leave me confused and a little lost.  The hardest part is trying to explain myself to other people when this happens, since problems usually have sources, and you are expected to reveal them when someone asks "what's wrong?"  My mumbled "nothing" is usually met with skepticism, which I know is not unmerited, but I don't know what else to say.  Nothing is wrong, I'm just like this.  In a couple days I won't be.

However, I have managed to find a couple things to temporarily relieve these fits of melancholy when they present themselves.  They are frivolous things, like finding an open road I can drive down at an unreasonable speed (which, thank you Oxford, for having an abundance of those), making myself cookies (I'm munching on a batch of no-bakes right now), or playing hidden object games online.  By far the best Band-Aid, though, is watching hip hop and rap music videos on YouTube.  Seriously.  And the worse they are, the better.

The classic one I always turn to is "Ghost Ride Ya Whip" by Mistah Fab.  It is, quite simply, the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen.

Honestly, watch that and not laugh.  Here's another one:

You know this one's a little older because he references Myspace.  Even so, "Shake them dice and role 'em"?  That's poetry.

So that's how I make myself feel better.  I'll end this post with one more video, this time from Cee Lo Green, who I actually listen to even when I feel fine.  He's great.

Monday, October 25, 2010

This is About the Zoo, and Also Barbara Walters

Over this past weekend, I had a conversation about standardized testing, specifically the OPT (Ohio Proficiency Test), the passing of which is required of all Ohio high school students in order to graduate.  It is, to put it lightly, an absurd week-long extravaganza that does nothing but take away from a student's learning experience.  I had largely forgotten about test until it was brought up the other night, but the conversation made me think of two things.  The first is a pun that goes something like, "The OPT?  Can I opt not to take it?", which I really wish I had come up with back in ninth grade when it would have been applicable.  The second is this story about the last day of my testing, which does a lot prove both that anxiety disorders are crippling and that standardized tests are terrible judges of proficiency:

The last day of the OPT consisted of writing essays based on given prompts.  You had two prompts, and a certain amount of time to brainstorm and write for each one.  I can't remember both of the questions, but I know one of them was something along the lines of "if you could meet with anyone in the world, alive or dead, who would it be and why?"  The classic.  For a lot of people I'm sure this was easy, and they chose someone who was classic themselves like Jesus or Einstein and breezed right along.  However, I am a very meticulous writer that takes extra time to plan out and over think everything I put down, so I usually struggled during standardized tests to finish essays during the given time.  This time in particular I was also worried about passing all the sections of the test, because if you failed one you had to take it over in the spring and that sounded awful.  These factors combined served to generate the opening stages of panic at the start of the tests, namely a touch of the shakes and the complete inability to run a mental process.

Our time began and I read the question.  I read it over again.  I'm sure I did this several times before anything else happened, because that's what I usually do when I start to panic.  The meaning of the question sunk in eventually, and then I began the desperate search through my brain for a person worthy of being written about, which proved entirely fruitless.  I couldn't think of a single person.  It was as if my state of total distress caused me to forget that anyone else had ever existed.  However, I did remember that I had seen some people on television at some point, so I decided to pick one of them to write about.

I disregarded everyone from all fictional programs immediately.  I couldn't write about someone that wasn't real.  I just couldn't, though in retrospect this may have been the better route.  Somehow I came to Barbara Walters.  How this happened is hard to recall, though I know immediately after it happened I thought, "No!  Not Barbara Walters!" which of course kick started the second stage of panic, a complete and somewhat irrational fixation on a single object or phrase.  I assume my brain does this as a coping mechanism, as if to say, "There are far too many things to worry about here, so I'm just going to pick one of them and worry about it with all of my worrying capacities.  All the other things can just go fuck themselves.  There's nothing I can do about them anyway."  It's most unhelpful.

So there she was, trapped in my head, and clearly not going away any time soon, so I did what I had to do.  I wrote about Barbara Walters.  I wrote about her with all the frenzy and incoherence my short-circuiting brain could muster.  As for what I actually said, your guess is as good as mine, as I seemed to have blocked out the essay's content out of either sheer inability to store information properly at the time or self-defense because it was just that bad.  The only one who knows anything about that essay now is whoever it got sent to for grading, who I'm sure could only assume it was the work of an unfortunate, deranged soul (which it really kind of was).

But surprise!  I passed.  Pity may have had something to do with it, but still, the product of my temporary insanity was deemed a worthy response.  Either that, or no one actually read it.  Both possibilities prove that the standardized testing system is flawed.

I have no transition for this, but I went to the Columbus Zoo today.  My cousins were taking their children to Boo at the Zoo, which is basically just a frightening number of children in costumes running from exhibit to exhibit collecting candy.  I didn't actually know I was going to Boo at the Zoo when I drove up, and I was a little annoyed when I found out what the day was going to entail, but you know what?  The zoo is awesome.  They've got some crazy stuff in there, like this:

 Is that not the cutest wild animal you've ever seen?  Yes this image is from San Diego, but it was on the first page of Google images and Columbus wasn't.  Anyway, it's called a Pallas' Cat, and it's from Central Asia.  I had no idea these things were wandering around the planet until today.  I also got to see a lot of little kids in Spiderman outfits, which is almost just as cute.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

This is About Non-Love

We're going to have to start on a sour note, as I've recently discovered that the guy I'm in like with is in what appears to be a bit more than like with someone else.  The real problem is that I know the likeage was mutual at one point, but due to a combination of my horrendous relationship skills and my leaving the state he has, quite reasonably, moved on.  I have a sense of mini-loss about this, kind of how you would feel if you didn't get into the school you wanted, only instead of getting rejected, you had just neglected to send in the application and realized a  couple weeks after the deadline had passed what you did and that you were shit out of luck.

My romantic past isn't exactly rife with failure, but only because it isn't exactly rife with anything.  The only time I was asked out before college was by a guy who was doing it as a joke to his friends (I was pretty bottom of the barrel back then, I like to think I'm at least middle of the barrel now).  Things did not improve when I got to college, where the number of suitors increased, but the quality remained frighteningly low.  Seriously, if there was any sort of unsavory character on campus, he wanted me, which prompted my roommate to come up with the "5 and below" theorem, stating that any man ranking 5 or below on a scale of 1-10 would ask me out.  All of this did wonders for the self-esteem.

There were one or two precious exceptions to this rule, but in these cases my own terribly stunted social skills would inevitably cause them to give up on me.  I often find it hard to believe when a decent fellow takes an interest in me.  I feel that I must be misunderstanding the situation, that they are simply being friendly, and that any attempt on my part to take things further would be met with both confusion and revulsion.  Also, I am particularly backward when it comes to affection of any sort.  The root of this problem has been cause for much speculation amongst friends and family members, and I myself am not even sure what the deal is there, but in any case, it makes for slow going in a relationship.  In short, I require persistence.  As of yet I've not found a man who deems me worthy of such persistence, but I'm hoping there's one out there somewhere.

Of course, I'm also trying to work on being less of a borderline hermit, so maybe that will help things along.  I mentioned this to my parents the other day, and my dad said, "I'm praying for you that you'll find your someone special."  Really?  Now higher powers are involved, at the beseechment of my own father?  My dignity wept.