28 October, 2009

Ohhhh... McCarthy!

In 9th grade English I was introduced to Arthur Miller's seminal drama, "The Crucible." After reading the play, our teacher had us watch clips of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the senator that spearheaded the Red Scare in America, to have us draw conclusions between the action in the piece of fiction and the reality of what was happening in the early Cold War between America and the Commies. In class we really did refer to them as the Commies.

I had never felt more filled with absolute rage and loathing. Watching Senator Joe McCarthy accuse innocent people blindly was more than my bleeding liberal heart could handle, even if the whole incident had happened 4 decades before I was born. I was Outraged, capital O. This had taken place in the United States?! It was Unfair. It was Unjust. I hated him! I Felt for every Man. I HATED Senator Joseph McCarthy!!! 

I was so adamant about this hatred of "the Senator" (sometimes I couldn't even bear to speak his name aloud) that my family took on some of this animosity too. When they met with something bad or unjust in life they took to shaking their fists in the air in what I like to refer to as "The Fist of Justice," and proclaim "Ohhhh- McCarthy!" My sister Kate still uses the phrase to this day. I'm sure this perplexes some people.

But this story is not about a Senator named Joseph Raymond McCarthy. This story is about a boy named Jimmy.

After reading the Crucible, the second time in my life when I again felt such animosity towards another human being came three years later on one particularly innocuous fall day. The animosity had nothing to do with communism.

I was a care-free senior in high school now. My twin sister and I did too many after-school community service activities, leadership councils, and sports teams. We were never questioned about having a hall pass. Life was good. We felt so cool** because we drove to school everyday in the car we shared, a gift passed down to us by our older sister Keely. This is a story about the that car we loved. About the car that we shared. The car that was named Etta.

She was a black Toyota Camry. Made in 1987, an excellent year for both Camrys and twin girls being born. She was the color black and spunky, so Keely had christened her Etta (after James. The highest compliment in her book.) Etta had plush seats, seat belts that worked most of the time, and a pair of pink dice that hung off the rear view. She had a working radio, and rust on the bumper that couldn't be helped. Etta was our ticket to the good life.

Chel and I loved Etta L-o-v-e-d. She was freedom and a spare closet wrapped up in one. We had clothes, shoes, sports equipment, notebooks, and cds littering her dash and seats. She was cozy, and she felt like another home. For the drives to school we often chose upbeat, driving songs to carry us to school at the bright (ungodly) hour of six thirty, for Chel had to arrive at school early for before-school Honors Chorus. I had to go because we shared the car. The car that we loved.

The boy named Jimmy was a member of Chel's swim team. I knew him well enough. He seemed "nice."***

After classes let out there was a unspoken system in the school parking lot. Cars and buses filtered out using the zipper method, wherein one car goes, and then the opposing traffic has a car go, etc etc until everyone is happily chugging on their merry way. Chel and I were exiting our school's long driveway, zippering correctly. As we always did. I was driving.

It was Chel who noted that Jimmy was behind us in his entirely too large truck. (Compensating?) His girlfriend, "Dana" (name changed to protect the innocent) was in the front seat. This was of interest to us because in Massachusetts there was (and remains) a law that states that a driver with a newly issued license cannot drive underage passengers for six months. Chel had just celebrated Jimmy's birthday with the swim team; his license was new. Dana was an underclassmen, no where near the 18. But to do anything about it would require efforts on our part, and we didn't care enough. We just wanted to go home and sleep. (High school was tough.) It was a but a brief blip on our radar as we switched to another upbeat song and properly zippered out of the school's long driveway.

About a half mile away, Chel again noticed Jimmy. She noted aloud that there seemed to be no Dana. But where could she have gone?  It was a puzzle. Quickly it was discovered, by my friend Andrea who was also in the car, that something illicit was probably afoot. That was foul, and frankly way more information than we wanted. So we drove faster (while remaining within the confines of the law, naturally.)

About a half mile away from my school lies a large, four-way intersection. The light was red. We, as good law abiding citizens, slowed the car down to stop. We were sitting pretty for a good 8-10 seconds at this red light. A red light with cars lined up, waiting to drive, is rather difficult to miss. There was a line of four cars. We were fourth. Chel looked behind us. Jimmy's truck was driving towards us. It was not slowing down. Time stopped.

Jimmy's car hit Etta square in the back, and pushed us forward into the other cars and the intersection. There was a lot of noise, the sound of metal crunching against metal. Then it was over.

Jimmy jumped out of his truck. There was a lot of chaos. To his credit, the first thing he did was help us push Etta to "safety" on the side of the road. We were all shaken. Chel's neck hurt. But, we noted, we were alive! We looked at Etta. Poor, dear ol' Etta. She was totaled. Our baby, our ticket to freedom. Mutilated. Jimmy's over-sized bohemoth had suffered a scratch on his bumper.

To be fair, I probably wouldn't have punched him as hard had he not gotten Dana out of the car and told her to run away before the police arrived. A report was never filed, though, so this could all be heresay. He said Dana was never in the car with him. I said I never punched him in the face. We agreed to disagree.

The light at the end of the tunnel was that Jimmy's insurance did help to buy Chel and me a new car. While we could never replace our one true love, Etta, we did get a gold car, lovingly referred to as Asti because it was golden in color and vindicated in spirit. But there are some days still, even now more than six years later, when I think of Jimmy.  A feeling of unsettled rage comes over me, and it is all I can do just to say his name, pure deep-seeded loathing dripping from my voice. I hope, wherever he is in the world now, that he feels it. And I hope that McCarthy can feel it, too.

**In high school, cool is a relative term.
***Years of animosity have tainted any previous feelings of humanity toward the boy named Jimmy.

25 October, 2009

Whatever Happened to LFO?: An "Every Other Time" Lyrical Analysis

Recently, scrolling through my ipod while riding the t,  I've been harkening back to my childhood through song. A lot of what I'm listening is mid-to-late 90s boy-band pop songs.

Most (if not all) of the songs I listened to back then I only knew about because they had a huge amount of radio play. As a bookworm with no money and before the invention of Limewire,  how else would a pre-teen have found new music except through the saving grace of the radio waves? The INTERNET? Scoff scoff. (I wasn't allowed to use the computer without parental consent.)

LFO was (and is) still a popular choice.  LFO stood for "Lyte Funky Ones," which is a great indicator of the type of music they made. (Crap.)  I LOVE LOVE LOVED LFO's songs because they were played often on the radio and they were catchy. They talked about things that were near and dear to me (summer love, girls who wear Abercrombie and Fitch) and the guys in the band were seemingly very cute (to my 13-year old heart.)

My favorite song of theirs was "Every Other Time," off their album "Life is Good." (They loved the three-word phrase. Lyte Funky Ones. Every Other Time. Life is Good. They found a recipe for success, and they rode that puppy to 'til the bitter end.)

"Every Other Time" is about a rocky high school relationship. They highlight other opposites to demonstrate the opposite-nature of their love. What follows is lyrical gold:

"Sometimes it's black, sometimes it's white
Sometimes shes wrong, sometimes I'm right
Sometimes we talk about it or we figure it out, but then she just changed her mind
Sometimes she's hot, sometimes I'm cold
Sometimes my head wants to explode
But when I think about it, I'm so in love with her-
Every other time"

Tell me you haven't had a relationship like this (at least in high school.) Note the poor grammar, improper verb tenses, and the nameless "it" that changes color. After the second chorus, the best lyrics born by any boy-band ever were made:

"Sometimes we sit around, just the two of us on the park bench
Sometimes we swim around like two dolphins in the oceans of our hearts

But then I think about the time that we broke up before the prom
and you told everyone that I was gay.
Sometimes I walk around the town for hours just to settle down
But I take you back, and you kick me down
'Cuz thats the way- uhhu uhhu- I like it."

...What? So many questions raised here, LFO.

I like to think of this as "the prom debacle." In real life, if your girlfriend told everyone that you were gay, would you just shake it off with an "ok"? Probs not. 8-1 you would have broken up. This is high school we're talking about. Kids be ruthless. But in song-world, he laughs it off and chalks it up to the nature of their relationship. And though I can't fully comprehend the metaphor that LFO is going for, I like the idea of swimming like two dolphins in the oceans of our hearts. Also note the gratuitous reference to KC & the Sunshine Band's "That's the Way (Uh Huh Uh Huh) I Like It." Why did he take her back, just to use those lyrics? Genius.

LFO gave me the hope that one day I, too, could write top Billboard hits. Their lyrics were so nonsensical that they probably just used a random phrase generator to string ideas together. Take, for example, their hit, "Summer Girls", which debuted at #3 on the Billboard Chart. (#3!)
"Hip Hop Marmalade spic and span, met you one summer and it all began
You're the best girl that I ever did see, The great Larry Bird Jersey 33
When you take a sip you buzz like a hornet, Billy Shakespeare wrote a whole bunch of sonnets
Call me Willy Whistle cause I can't speak baby, something in your eyes went and drove me crazy
Now I can't forget you and it makes me mad, left one day and never came back
Stayed all summer then went back home, Macauly Culkin wasn't Home Alone
Fell deep in love,but now we ain't speaking, Michael J Fox was Alex P Keaton
When I met you I said my name was Rich, You look like a girl from Abercrombie and Fitch

New Kids On The block had a bunch of hits, Chinese food makes me sick.
And I think it's fly when girls stop by for the summer, for the summer."

If we were to divide the song between the girl-romance storyline and the informative, unrelated pieces here's what we get:

"Met you one summer and it all began, you're the best girl that I ever did see
When you take a sip you buzz like a hornet, something in your eyes went and drove me crazy
Now I can't forget you and it makes me mad, left one day and never came back
Stayed all summer then went back home, fell deep in love, but now we ain't speaking
When I met you I said my name was Rich, you look like a girl from Abercrombie and Fitch

And I think it's fly when girls stop by for the summer, for the summer."

Why... except for the fact that it doesn't rhyme, this is actually a half-decent song! Now let's look at the lyrics that were omitted:
"Hip Hop Marmalade spic and span
The great Larry Bird Jersey 33
Billy Shakespeare wrote a whole bunch of sonnets
Call me Willy Whistle cause I can't speak baby    (Ed. Note: What?)
Macauly Culkin wasn't Home Alone
Michael J Fox was Alex P. Keaton.

New Kids On The block had a bunch of hits, Chinese food makes me sick."

What? We're left with some interesting pop-culture tidbits and a bunch of uncomfortable facts about the singer (possible speech impediment and he has an allergy to Chinese food.) Not a song, just mostly random. But edifying? I guess. And this was top five of the Billboards in 1999.

Oh, LFO. Why aren't you still popular?

22 October, 2009

I've Got (PCBs) in the River

My hometown of Pittsfield is known for a few things. Teo's Hotdogs, where one can order twelve mini hotdogs with a "special sauce" and eat them all in one sitting. We hold (depending on who you ask) the earliest record of baseball playing in the country, an ordinance not to play baseball in the town square. We have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. You can still get a half-foot of delicious softserve for only a dollar seventy five at King Kone on First Street. And we've also had a few problems with pollution.

This is not a "normal pollution", the kind that can be cleared up with a few colorful awareness posters downtown and maybe even a coin drive. (Though I was really good at those once upon a time. Clean up the trash from the park! Paint over the graffiti on the highway! De-asbestos the high school! -True story.) No- our pollution stems from having the main plant for the manufacturing company General Electric, aka GE. (Which, interestingly enough, we don't have anymore.)

In the 1980s Pittsfield, Massachusetts was on the map for technology. (This according to Wikipedia. I'm not sure what map we were on. But we were on it.) GE employed over forty-thousand people, more people than actually live in my town today. Everyone and their uncle was related to someone who worked at the plant, if they themselves didn't already work there. It was a city of people deeply tied around one company. Which is why, when GE collapsed sometime in the 80s, our town effectively collapsed with it.

GE manufactured Polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs, used in transformers. The problem for Pittsfield was that after a transformer was retired, GE didn't know what to do with it, or the PCBs inside it. So they decided lump it all together, throw it into barrels, bury the barrels in the ground and at the bottom of lakes, and then be done with it. The ol' out-of-sight, out-of-mind method of chemical waste disposal, which has a long storied history in the U.S.  Unfortunately for GE (and nearly everyone living in or around my hometown) over time the metal on the barrels can (and does) rust through. One might question whether GE was cognizant of this fact, as they are a manufacturing company that works with metal. Carelessness? Oversight? Cruel joke? Really, GE? 

In my teens I worked as a lifeguard at a local lake, Moorewood. The EPA would come every other week to monitor and record the water conditions. None of the lifeguards thought twice about this, as it had been happening For Ever. And since the administration was the one arranging the meetings with the EPA, we thought it was all Standard Procedure. No one knew that a problem might emerge. Literally.

As it turns out, my lake was one of many that GE buried the PCBs in. The very same lake that I visited six days out of seven during my summer vacations. The lake that I swam in, splashed in, bathed in (hey, it was summertime. Showers were scarce.) It was the lake that I inadvertently and inevitably swallowed during aforementioned swimming, splashing, bathing. We found out that Moorewood was a PCB depository for GE because one day a barrel popped up from the middle of the lake. One side of the barrel had rusted off; it was empty. We told the administration as well as the other powers that be, who told us to Not Worry, that it was Ok. Though we were now a bit wary, we continued splashing, bathing, inadvertently swallowing.

The lake was closed for a few days after barrel that had popped up. At the time, I was most concerned because that lifeguarding job was my bread and butter. I had school clothes to buy! And movies to rent! But in the end, maybe it was for the best that the lake was cleaned out.

I sometimes try to visualize the years of PCB invested water that has leaked into my system. Was it gallons, tons? If I ever seem a bit off, PCBs in my system is most likely to blame. (It was hard to swim with my mouth closed). But maybe it will achieve the superman effect, and the PCB water will actually give me super-genius intellect and/or the ability to turn into a silver puddle. It worked that way for Alex Mack.

The PCB thing was a problem for Pittsfield that never really has gone away. It certainly was something I grew up knowing, and played a recurring role in my life.

David Grover is a popular children's songwriter in my neck of the woods. He writes catchy songs for elementary schoolers to sing along with. In sixth grade he did a performance at my middle school, which was great because we got to miss class (he was already a winner in my book), sing (whee) and where (fun fact!) my twin sister got to sing the solo with him. (Chel, from an early age, was a Pittsfield prodigy. But that's a different story entirely.)

One of his classic songs was "Peace Like a River." It goes:

"I've got peace like a riiiiver, 
I've got peace like a riiiiver
I've got peace like a ri-verrrr,
And in my so-oul."

There were plenty of peace signs and expansive hand motions that went along with it. Because we had grown up with the knowledge that our water system (and all that the water system infected-vis a vis: everything) was polluted by PCB's, the song was quickly re-interpreted from the heartfelt "Peace in the River" to something a little more Pittsfield-specific:

"I've got PCB's in the riivers
PCB's in the riivers
PCB's in the riverrrs
And in my soul."

Even as sixth graders, before we knew what the acronym PCB stood for or understood the ramifications of having a deadly toxin in our drinking water, we understood the problem and embraced it as best we could: through song. Our hand motions were changed from peace signs and river/water flowing signs to new signs that spelled out "PCB" (we also learned the alphabet in sign language in sixth grade. It was a big year). It was followed by the international signal for choking. PCB's in the riivers, and in my so-oul. It was more true than we knew. Maybe the PCBs had positively affected our intellect. Too bad, though, I really would have liked to morph into a puddle.

I went to college not far away from Pittsfield. It was far enough to not really be called a townie, and close enough that I still got made fun of for being from Pittsfield. (Sorry, mom.) Many students and their parents had to drive through Pittsfield to get to college, and had some pretty firm opinions about what they saw.

"It looks kinda depressing."
"You live in Pittsfield?"
"We locked our car doors! It was sooo sketchy." (Thanks.)

It was all us Pittsfield-ers could do to joke that we have been trying to kick the crack habit and that we had the toddlers at home.

I still hold a raucous amount of pride for my home town. Sure, there's a pretty high crime rate, a resurgence of massive drug problems, lingering teen pregnancy issues, and the fact that the PCB-infected Silver Lake hasn't frozen for the last thirty years. And the fact that I may be a little "off" from years of inadvertently swallowing that water. But doesn't every city have its own problems? At least we're up front about them. And we do it through song.

16 October, 2009

Music Videos That Rock

I, for one, love music. And I also love videos. What greater thing could there be in the universe, then, than music videos? Answer: Nothing. (Except backrubs.) Did you know there are people that still make them? Who cares if VH1 and MTV don't actually play anything but bad reality tv anymore, the music video is alive and well. So says I. Yay!

The following are some amazing music videos that you know and love/ should already know and love.

Asher Roth- I love College
Sure, maybe my college experience wasn't exactly like Asher Roth's epic night. While we did love the red solo cup, my college maybe didn't have the fraternities/ sororities with the doric columns (but isn't it something that I can identify them?). Our small contingent of overly-diligent security guards didn't really let us have "fun" outside of the library (...yay learning.) We sure as hell didn't have ragers like the one depicted in the video. C'est la vie.

But I'd like to think that my college (and hopefully yours too) was time well spent. Dancing on tables, celebrating being young and reckless by being reckless and young, and maybe wishing you remembered last night a bit better than you did. Hey, we've all been there. (But Asher Roth had the foresight to edit his into a 3minute video and turn it into a platinum album. I tip my hat to you, sir.)

A small PSA: it would be in your best interest to not glean advice from Mr. Roth's lyrics. His gems include "when it comes to condoms, put two on" (is that how those things work?) and "time isn't wasted when your getting wasted" (while interesting logic, I don't think that's what your parents are paying the tuition for.)

My friend Jake has a really big problem with the song, namely because at the chorus Asher sings, "I love college, hey! I love drinking, hey! I love women, hey! I love college!" Could Asher not think of one more thing to love about college? Just one more? What about intramurals? Dining halls and froyo? Sure, *maybe* these don't rhyme, but let's be honest- it's sort of like he didn't really try.

But I digress. It is a super good song to listen to if you need to be reinforced for decisions you want to make but may feel a little hesitant to do before you're consumed the appropriate amount of alcohol. I love college! (Hey.)

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers- MaryJane's Last Dance

This song has been a staple for nearly every summer mix I have made since I was in high school. I wanted to be that idealized Mary Jane in Indiana, before I caught on that Mr. Petty was making a drug reference to a similarly named drug, "Mary Jane." That may or may not have been junior year of college, and I may or may not still believe that there is a beautiful girl in the midwest named Mary Jane who blew all the boys away and was more than they had seen. Let me have my dreams.

The video, admittedly, is a bit creepy. Tom dances with a corpse (played by Kim Basinger) because he is a coroner and is in love with her. This happens all the time. It is clearly a thinly veiled metaphor that the video's director ran with, and thus efficiently confused me until late college-dom when I discovered the drug reference. (It is a reference, right?)

The song is still haunting and pretty. And frankly, any song that has a harmonica solo is grade A in my book. You go, necrophiliac Tom!

Lady Gaga- Beautiful Dirty Rich

Beautiful, dirty dirty. Rich rich, dirty dirty. Beautiful. Dirty. Rich. Why, it's Lady Gaga in a cape! Rolling around a mansion without any pants and being young and reckless with a group of friends! (Exactly the same reasons why I love Asher Roth! Minus the pants thing.)

Lady Gaga is the preeminent entertainer of our generation. There, I said it. Anyone who can consistently refuse conventional legwear AND throw in onomatopeic language into mainstream choruses (proof! Just Dance- 'just dance da doo doo'; Poker Face- 'mah mah poker face mah mah mah'; and Beautiful dirty rich- 'bang bang we're beautiful and dirty rich') as well as refer to the male anatomy as "disco stick" and have it be just so catchy clearly has something going for her.

But if "honey, ain't got no money" then what is all that greenbacks you're throwing around, Gags? Sure looks a bit like money to me. Dare I call her a liar? No. Artistic interpretation? Maybe. But perhaps I should be singing this song instead of Lady Gaga. I can relate a bit better to the lyrics. I can saunter around being angsty in sunglasses at night and hold choreographed catwalks. I already know I look great in a hood. Why not me, life?

15 October, 2009

Communing with Fishes- Day 1

Why, hello there.

My first day at the Aquarium was, in a word, scrumtrilescent.

I received my (super legit) aquarium badge that says, "Emily Flynn Intern: Fishes- Wet Lab." Chills. I get a set of keys (the power!) and access to all the behind the scenes labs, feedings, and tanks, which makes me feel like running around to all the tanks and playing with the aminals. Aminals.

I have two areas I work- "the Swamp", a little computer station/wet lab area on the 5th floor of the main building (no elevators!), and the Wet Lab, which is behind the Imax theater. In the wet lab, where I can play music and got the okay to sing along to the songs from my boss, Dave, there are jelly tanks, baby jellies ("polyps", in the lingo), dogsharks, and sea urchins. I am more or less their glorified housekeeper: I feed them, siphon out their tanks, clean up after their mess, and sing along to 90s music. Like all good housekeepers.

Suspended between the front wall of the lab and the hallway is a pretty sweet jelly tank that someone decorated for Halloween with fake bloody handprints. The jellies, I'm sure, appreciate it.
Pacific Sea Nettles swimming in a tank in the Wet Lab

This is NOT the same tank that my boss, Dave, told me to stick my hand in and get stung so I would "get used to it." Um... no thank you. But that wasn't really an option because a) I want the internship and b) Dave was watching and waiting for me to stick my hand into the jellyfish tank. Is this like that Eddie Izzard sketch Cake or Death? 'Cause I choose cake.

Dave says he gets stung a lot- cleaning tanks, feeding, moving them, etc. During my first day, in addition to the stings, I got sprayed with protein skimmed from the filters, was poked by urchins, battled crabs in an fight to clean filters in the tide pool (I fear being pinched. It REALLY hurts.) I carried some dead fish, defrosted shrimp to feed the seahorses, searched through starfish to rescue the sick ones, and played with a few baby flounder. I may have also forgotten to dump out a bucket of dead animals that I collected from the tide pool, and then it ended up hanging out at the tide pool all day long. Not a great equation: Dead animal, very little sea water, and out in the air for 8 hours. Whoops. I'm sure the trainers and kids loved that one. My b- it was my first day. And maybe the kids needed to learn some facts about life and death.You're welcome.

The aquarium is fun because I have a very interesting sense of direction. It's interesting in the way that, most of the time, I don't have one. The best part about having a bad sense of directions is that I am constantly surprised by what I see when I open a door, turn down a hallway, or walk up a stairwell. I love discovery.

However, the aquarium is large. Very large. For a young intern with a poor directional intuition, I was a goner. My boss, Dave, brought me around the entire facility throughout the day and would stand in front of doors asking me if I knew where they went. If it was a gameshow, I wouldn't have done too well, but I did get a little better throughout the day. (There's hope, ma!)

Dave: Where does this door lead? (standing in front of a 3rd floor stairwell)
Emily: Um... (note* I have no idea) The temperate water gallery?
Dave: No, the cold water labs!

And we'd laugh and laugh and laugh. (And later on when he called me to tell me he was in the cold water labs, I would try to get back there, and the stairwells would move like in Harry Potter and suddenly the 3rd floor stairwell would lead to the Rescue and Rehabilitation center. It was a long day.)

All in all, I went home smelling like ocean water and low tide, which I view as a plus. And I only witnessed the death of one seahorse (the autopsy report showed that he had a bad liver. Sad.) And as for tomorrow, Communing with the Fishes-Day 2, there will be no carcasses left behind! (But I can't guarantee navigating to the Tide Pool area successfully without a little help from Dave.)

10 October, 2009

Getting on the Other Side of the Fisheries Industry

Yesterday, from 5:31pm (or as I like to call it, the geriatric special!) at the "restaurant", we already had an hour wait. At 7pm the wait time had inched up to past a 2 hour wait. People were less than pleased. And some "guests" are not shy about telling you how they feel. At one point, when the line was 10+ parties, with the other 7 tables we were trying to fit in, and with no one actually leaving the restaurant, and with both phone lines ringing off the hook for the better part of an hour with people asking me what the wait was (while I politely try to tell them- don't come!), a man pulled me aside to ask me if I "knew we were in a recession."

I wasn't exactly following his logic, but I try to be as friendly as possible (that's what they pay me for?) so I played along. I told him that the good people and tourists of Boston were trying to bolster the local economy by spending money, as that is what Obama would want. (or W.W.O.D.) He asked me if I was trying to be funny.  For the record, I would like to believe that what I had told him was more or less true. Then he asked me 'Didn't I know it was only a Thursday night'? As though I did not. (Truth, I didn't actually know it was a Thursday. The days blurred together for me when I worked nights.) Then he proceeded with "Didn't I know that people shouldn't be out spending money because we were in a depression?" I didn't think that logic was quite right, but what can you say? The customer is always right (except when they are throwing up on your nice clean and freshly sanitized hostess stand. See previous entry.) After maybe three more questions in this fashion, he was pushing my happy hostess stand smile to the very limit.

So I informed him in my curt "I've-drawn-doodles-more-intelligent-than-you" voice (rarely used, always enjoyed [by me]) that I hadn't eaten in seven hours (more or less true), had spent 200 thousand dollars on an ivy-league education (...less true) that had paved the way for at least ten other people who wanted to yell at me that night because they felt a little bit hungry (sadly too true).

There was a pretty awkward moment of silence. I thought for sure I was going to get fired (but since it was on my last night, I was kind of excited by the prospect of going home early!) His response can only be described as a bark of laughter. Frankly, far more frightening just getting yelled. At least I was used to that. The man laughed a lot more and gave me a business card, because he "liked my spunk." He winked. I love people that wink.

His business is apparently dealing art in California- according to the card- but if I ever happen to find myself out there having developed a love for selling art, he will be the first one I call. And that was my last day. No cakes, no fanfare (except for the jubilant singing in my heart when I walked through the doors for the last time).

Though it's only been a few short weeks, the amount of all that "character building" from the stress, getting yelled at, the general ennui that comes with doing a job that I loathed has given me so much in my life. I'm not sure what exactly quite yet, but I'm sure it will come to me in time. Maybe just PTSD. Either way after my last night at the restaurant, there were brighter shores waiting on the horizon...

Today I started my first day at The Aquarium! YAY! Instead of helping to serve fish, I now help to study and conserve them! And all is right in the world. I also nanny for my sister. So instead of being yelled at by hungry strangers, I get hugged by hungry nephews. I get asked to go on walks, watch "Sid the Science Kid," read stories to two enraptured toddlers, and kiss away tears from bad naps. I also got asked to put a tattoo on Cole.

Me: Cole, where would you like the tattoo?
Cole: Penis.
Me (A little taken aback): No. How about your hand-ie? Or your cheek-ie?
(side note*: most body parts are turned into cuter names when I'm nannying.)
Cole (emphatic): Penis.
Me: Okay it's going on your hand here. Yay!
Cole: Aunt-ee Emma-leee (giggles giggles giggles)

You gotta be quick when it comes to tattoos, or else that could be a potentially very sticky situation. I'm sure there is at least one PSA about that. All in all, it's a pretty good gig.

08 October, 2009

An ode to Skype & Modern Technology- Te adoro

Modern technology is kind of awesome. It's one of those things that I don't fully understand, but I fully appreciate. If I were to be lost on an island and the future of humanity relied on my expertise in constructing the internet- we'd all be in a little bit of trouble. I'm not even able to reliably operate our new comcast remote control. (Why so many buttons, DVR?!) But that doesn't mean I can't be obsessed with it.

The other night around 6pm my friend Tanya came over. Online was our friend Ko from college, who moved back to Taipei, Taiwan after graduation. Taiwan is a 12-hours difference in timezones. Where as before the invention of Skype and google, that would have meant monumental phone bills (or even more monumental phone bills, in my case) and emails, which are never quite as good as the real thing. But now, with gchat video and skype, I spend long hours talking with Taiwan and with my sister and her family in Chicago for FREE (which is always a magical word for me). The best part is that instead of just spending a more formalized ten-to-fifteen minutes catching up, we can now talk for as long as we please. This inevitably means that because we can talk as often as we want, the conversation quickly devolves into the types of conversation I loved and adored when we lived together.

Embarrassing Ko with our terrible chinese.

Ko is a very patient woman. Tanya, who is originally from Bulgaria, and I, with a shaky knowledge of any language other than (and sometimes including) English, spent the better part of an hour saying things in Chinese to Ko off of google, who would then try to decipher what we were saying. Usually she just told us that we were making sounds (Which is start! Gotta crawl before you can sprint, people.)

Later that night I talked to my sister Keel and her husband Peej, who regaled me with all the colorful backgrounds that their skype can add, including (and not limited too), a bulls-eye target shooting background, where you can place your face in the screen so it looks like it's going to be shot, a cupid-and-heart theme, a moving gif of something resembling a lollypop land, and (my favorite) a polaroids collage background. I liked this because, if you frame it correctly, one can look especially angsty and emo. (Which is something I strive for in my day-to-day, anyway.) Keel and Pj, both actors in Chicago, are very photogenic. At least I have an excuse. (unemployment.)

 The beautiful family.

A particularly emo-looking Keely.

All this frivolity might be lost if we were to be bound by antiquated modes of technology, like "email" and "telephones." Or something. And therefore, I appreciate that skype and gchat allow me to continue with my relationships in the same familiarity as if we were all still living together. That's kind of awesome.

05 October, 2009

Another Monday in the Real World

Boy, real life just keeps getting better and better.

This past week alone at my "part-time" job at the restaurant (side note: do other part-time jobs work 40 hours a week too? I think they are mistaken...) my hostess stand has been thrown up on twice. Let me repeat that: there were TWO separate occasions of vomit at the hostess stand. Both were by grown men and occurred during daylight hours, and the second time was amazingly at 11:00am. I feel fully justified in my assertion that this restaurant is not like a normal restaurant. Lucky me.

Secondly, my roommate and I have finally won the war with Comcast. It's the little things in life. Like the fact that I can now watch Glee outside of Hulu.com. Hello, pop culture! How much I have missed you.

Thirdly, I actually went out to eat at a restaurant with friends on Saturday night. This excursion had many perks- I had no dishes to clean afterwards! I got to leave my apartment! I still have friends! All of which were pleasant surprises. And I got lost both on my way there and on my way home, so it felt just like always. (read: i take the "scenic route" most places. A big apology to RyanJane and Dan, whom I led into Charlestown last night taking the ol' round about 40 minute walk instead of the 15 minute one googlemaps had told me to take. But the city is gorgeous at night! So there was an upside.)

This week, the majority of my earnings have been from doing psych studies. I get to talk about myself (yay) and answer questions about my life (sweet) and get paid (awesome!!) as well as feel that I am in however small a part contributing to the greater good by furthering the study into the human psyche. You're welcome! What other wonders will this week bring?

01 October, 2009

Speech Impediments

When I was litte, I had a speech impediment. It wasn't the worst in the world by any means, but I've seen videos of myself when I was younger and even I can't understand what I am saying. That's when you know, I guess. Happily, I still had some friends in grade school, in large part because of my twin/translator Chel who would relay to friends, teachers, and even sometimes my own parents some semblance of the things I was (trying) to say. I worked on the speech thing a LOT and today sound reasonably like a normal human being. The only times it ever really presents itself is when I am tired, rushed, or intoxicated. I can usually be proactive about all three causes, so there are very few times in my life when people cannot understand me.

However. My name is consistently a problem for me to pronounce. My own name. On bad days, I rue the decision my parents made about my name. It's odd that a speech impediment would show itself in the single most thing I say everyday. My name is not hard. In fact, both my first and the last names are shockingly common. Emily Maureen Flynn. One might not feel this is an especially hard name to say or to understand (but one would be wrong). It's especially worse over the phone; I loathe introducing myself over the phone. "Emily Maureen Flynn" still comes out exactly like it did when I was four- something kind of like "Emewy Mo-ween Fwin". Nothing makes you feel quite like a college-educated adult than when you mispronounce your own name.

I went through a few (...many) periods of my life when I decided to be done with the speech problem and simply change my name. In third grade I decided I was going to go by 'Abby', which I felt was beautiful and sophisticated and was a name I could actually say. I'm not sure where I got this name from, but for about a week I wore my hair in pigtails and exclusively wore overalls (so people would know I was now 'Abby', as 'Emily' had not worn her hair in pigtails). I only responded to that name, and pretended that I didn't hear people when they called me Emily. I'm sure it was a trying time for everyone. Then in middleschool I decided I was a far better "Tessa" and wrote stories about my life in the role of Tessa. No pigtails were worn this time, which is probably why people didn't particularly take to this name either.

My family calls me "Emma" because I think it was easier for them (and for me!) to say. At the restaurant I introduce myself as Emma when answering the phone, because I still get tripped up on the Emily. Maybe one day I will finally grow out of it, but for now I guess Emma is going to have to do. But maybe I'll just go back to Abby. If you see me rocking pigtails and overalls, you'll know what to do.