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.