31 August, 2009

Being Adult-y

I live in an apartment now. I pay rent, which for the moment is amusing and novel and makes me feel really important. I've been told this feeling will not last long, but I am relishing it nonetheless. I can play my music as loud as I want, which would be impressive if I wasn't always able to play my music as loud as I want. But this seems to be an independent thing to say, so I thought I should reiterate it. Loud music = freedom.

I live in a room that, had I been given it in college or grown-up in it, I would have whined incessantly until I got a bigger one. But now my little room is MINE, and therefore I love it to infinity. Times they are a'changing. The word spacious is not in the room's vocabulary. It isn't exactly filled with sunlight as I wish it were (as I am part plant). But it faces another window across the street, which is both interesting in the social voyeurism view, and possibly embarrassing in the futurity of my living here. (Dancing? Changing? Having a stranger know that I lie on my bed on the computer for an embarrassing amount of time reading gossip sites? Embarrassing.)

Living here in the city is different. Not bad different but definitely... different. For one, there is so much NOISE. Cars and trucks and people yelling and laughter and air conditioner sounds float up to my little window and the fire escape outside. It reminds me of the musical In the Heights, minus the Cuban flavor. I sometimes sit on my fire escape and listen to music, and it is quickly becoming my new favorite place in the world. It is a little metal haven that almost reaches the sunlight that doesn't quite hit my side of the 3rd floor walk-up. But because I can still see it, I don't feel quite as bad. The power of positive thinking.

There are a lot of people in my neighborhood, but it is not what one would call particularly diverse. Everyone seems to run on the river listening to ipods, and many of them are young women, running alone. I don't know why I was that surprised by it, as I am both young and a woman listening to her ipod while running on the river. My neighborhood seems allure upper middle class largely white people and tourists. There's a Whole Foods ridiculously close by, so maybe that explains a lot of it.

The Whole Foods is a whole (pun) new world- I've never seen so many organic and vegan friendly foods in one place. Granted, I can't actually afford most of it (8 bucks for a jar of peanut butter? Does it do magic tricks?!) but as a vegetarian and general all-around healthy-ish person, I have somehow not managed to set foot in a Whole Foods my entire life. So it's a big week for me.

Now I am listening to music AS LOUD AS I WANT in my apartment as I hang posters and frame photos whilst frolicking around the rooms Mary Poppins-style. Because that's what adults do.

26 August, 2009

Our Dog Sparky

I had a dog once. Sparky. When we got him, we asked our grandmother "Nana", who was the matriarch of the household, to name him. She wanted to name him after Agador Spartacus, the flamboyant butler from the movie "The Birdcage" with Nathan Lane, (the one that follows two gay men as their straight son comes home engaged and they prepare to meet the fianceƩ's family. Yeah.) So, as a compromise, we officially "named" him Agador Spartacus, but we all just called him Sparky. (I sometimes even called him Sparkle, because he really could be quite flamboyant much like his namesake.)

There was always something a little... well, off about Sparky. My house is configured in a way that you can loop through the kitchen, family room, laundry room, and sunroom endlessly if you wanted. Sparky wanted all the time, but especially after bathtime. For some reason, soap was Sparky's personal crack, and once clean, toweled off, and placed on the floor, he would run through the loop over and over and over again. I guess he thought it was fun. I would be watching tv, and every 30 seconds Spark would tear through the room, skid or crash into the couch, and then fling himself through the laundry room/sunroom, only to do it all over again. One time he did this over 20 loops. For a little dog, that was a big run. Then he would call it a day and pass out in the laundry basket. It was a tough life.

There was the fact that Sparky, while only 8 pounds (that was mostly hair anyway) was able to jump extraordinarily high. They say that grasshoppers can catapult themselves to 20 times their own height. Sparky was kind of like this, but in furry maltese form. He was pushing a foot tall (if that) and sometimes when we came home we'd find him on our counter. Our counter that is 5x as tall as he is. Of course, after he jumped up, he was afraid to get down, so he'd be whimpering by the time we got home. He would look at us all with what I definitely felt was an accusatory stare, as if his own bizarre habits were somehow our fault.

I've heard other dogs casually wander the house or nap. I'm sure some of our dogs did too, but since it's been years since we've actually owned a dog. All I can remember is that Sparky would sometimes get stuck in the Lazy Susan or locked in a cabinet. Then you'd realize that the house had been too quiet, and that you hadn't seen the little white dog in a while. If you paused in the kitchen, you would inevitably hear his little whimper coming from somewhere in the cabinetry. The Lazy susan was the most impressive, I think. It puzzles me to this day how he did this.

Sparky ruined my family from ever being a simple happy pet-owning family. My mother is so afraid that another dog will be like Sparky that we haven't even owned so much as a hamster in over a decade. There was this incident with a bat last week in my parents room, and while that was exciting, that was the closest thing I've had to a pet in a long time. And since my sister tried to beat the bat with a dust mop, maybe we shouldn't try to get pets any time soon. (Bad karma?)

We did have some nice dogs in my childhood. There was a pair of Greyhounds when I was growing up at our first house. Right across the street was a big field where we used to play, and Thumper, one of the greyhounds and a retired racetrack dog, would run the length of the field and back, circling Rachel and me a few times, and then run the whole field again. Since we don't have a field at our new house, I suppose life would be a little unfair to the greyhounds, but I'm sure we could make do. They were good dogs. There was also Mickey, our black greyhound, who weighed 40 pounds but thought he was no bigger than a teacup (and just as cute). On more than one occassion I would woke up not being able to breathe only to find Mickey would be lying across my chest, his eyes saying "love me." When he wasn't constricting you air flow, though, his unending adoration was wonderful. Sparky the crackdog seems to have erased all these happy pet memories from our lives.

In 9th grade I was sitting in English class, checking my email (a usual facet of my english class). My mom had been issuing vague threats that Sparky would be shipped away for months, and we all- my dad, my twin, and I- took it as an affectionate jab at our special puppy. My mom would complain about the lap running through the house, the fact that sometimes the toilet paper off the roll would wind up trailing through the room with puppy-teeth marks ripped through it (he was framed.) and other such trivialities. He may have been weird, but he was ours.

No one took my mom's threats seriously. So the shock of reading her email that she casually sent out informing Rachel and me that she had given the dog away to some "nice people" who had stopped by. She sent me an email. They lived in "Indianna" and owned a "farm" where he could "run free." It's not as if Sparky's little legs could really take him much farther than a few laps around the house loop, why did he need a farm? Who were these people? And she did told us through email. To this day, we have yet to fully forgive her. (Or at least I have.)

My best friend Shelley questions the whole transaction. She wonders who these "people" were. How did some people randomly happen to stop by our house that one time? Why did my mom invite them in? Why did Sparky need a farm to run around on, if he couldn't successfully walk down the street?

Shelley thinks my mom put Sparky down, the "farm" being a euphemism for that big puppy palace in the sky. I tell her again and again about the post cards we used to receive from these people at Christmastime, where "Sparky" would write and tell us how happy he was. As I was 14 at the time of these postcards. Talk about throwing the added salt on the wound: I was already decently upset that I didn't have a dog anymore, but now I was getting letters from people pretending to be my dog and telling me what a good time he was having. What was I supposed to be, happy? Amazed at the clarity of his handwriting? I'm sure the postcards were well-intentioned, but I hate them anyway (on principle). Besides, I am fairly confident that it is against the law to put down perfectly healthy pets. But what if Shelley is right, and my mom did put Sparky down? What if she has been sending postcards from "Sparky" from the (imaginary?) couple with the farm? That's much, much worse.

It's been years since Sparky's sudden departure. But sometimes I can almost hear his whimper as I come home, echoing through the Lazy Susan as I walk through the kitchen...

04 August, 2009

Thoughts from a Road Trip

wind chimes from recycled materials, road side stand, mississippi

These past thirty days, I have been traveling across the country. It's like every college graduate's dream- road tripping, friends, a goodly amount of caffeine, a lethal lack of sleep from staying up late nights talking. Heaven. (but all good things come to an end, or should, so that the next good thing can start.) The only real qualm I had with the trip as a whole is that we did it in a minivan, a mint green Toyota Sienna. Not exactly the epitome of coolness, of American independence and collegiate intellectualism. I had high hopes for a rugged Jeep, something we'd throw our backpacks into and just take off. In this vision, we were also driving through the desert, and that was a bit dampened when I actually stopped to think that the eastern and mid-western parts of the United States were far too lush for these barren lands of infinite sands that I associated with road trips. But I suppose that if one is offered a free road trip and a stipend, you don't look a gifthorse in the mouth. Or gift van.
the buffalo bisons baseball stadium, buffalo, new york

In 32 days I saw 26 cities. I added up at the minimum an additional 12 states to my official (officially in my head, as yet not on paper) How-Many-States-in-the-U.S.-I've-Officially-Been-to Tally, bringing up the whole amount to 33. We tried to do one iconic thing in every city we went to, to get an essence, a true taste of what that city's culture is really like. (*note: this was almost impossible, as we spent an average of 18 hours in each city before trekking to the next event hundreds of miles away.) I saw buckeye's in Ohio, endless corn fields in Kansas, the St. Louis Arch in Missouri, philly cheesesteaks in Philly, and the Miller Brewery in Milwaukee (maker's of such American staples as Miller Light and the "Beast", Milwaukee's best. Woo.) However, because our speed was nearly break-neck, and I was endlessly loopy from long hours in the van, I can no longer remember in which city we saw or did which event. I know that I sat by the Mississippi and speculated with others as to its depth (we are intellectuals, after all. and what with our tiredness, this amount of thinking was all we could muster)... but was that actually in Mississippi, or later on in Louisiana? I have a state marker on my map in Arkansas, but what exactly did we do there? Did we even stop in Indianna, or just drive through? Was that the one with the cornfields? I am not entirely sure. I hope these memories sort themself out unconsciously in the weeks to come. Otherwise, the wicked epic-ness of the road trip, while successful, is going to be seriously confused in the story-tellings that will (inevitably) happen in dimly lit bars this fall. (Because that is where epic road trip stories are shared.)
water fountain outside the atlanta aquarium, atlanta, georgia

There's one crucial element that you find yourself obsessively focusing on in every road trip: when are you going to eat again? I'd get up, have breakfast at whichever host's house we were fortunate to be staying at, but I'd be in the car for approximately an hour and then I'd start thinking about lunch time. Would we be stopping for food soon? Are there any cookies in the car? Has anyone seen a Waffle House sign recently? (Mm... Waffle House. So bad... so good.) And then after lunch it would only be a matter of time (minutes.) when I would start to think about dinner again. What kind of food would be at the event tonight? If it was only appetizers, would we have time to go out after the event? What kind of local fare was the city going to have? Was it going to be vegetarian friendly? Are there any cookies in the car? It's hard not to think about food when you're passing a cornfield every second of a six hour drive. I have seen with my own eyes why the midwest is called "America's Breadbasket." It wasn'tjust some cute but not really fully accurate motto, like New Hampshire's "Live free or Die!" (...kind of threatening.) or New Jersey's "Liberty and Prosperity". (Jersey?) But no. Corn. Every which way. So what else could you really do but think about food?
ducks, the world war II memorial, washington d.c.

Road trips: Long. People-filled. Little sleep, much driving. Incredibly amounts of bonding, over music, over stories from home, over communal hunger. And depending on where you are- views of corn. Very worth it.
the road trip team: me, jen, jason, & ko, washington monument, washington, d.c.